Friday, 19 June 2009

Autopilot Mode

It has been a little over one week since I left my former workplace. I took a calculated risk in leaving, but I know I made the right decision for myself. Things have been going well for me as a freelancer. Of course, not everything went swimmingly. There were delays in getting the contract signed and having the assignments emailed to me. But once the initial hiccups are sorted out and I begin receiving a steady stream of work, the advantages of working from home will far outweigh whatever benefits I used to derive from working in a firm. Freelancing suits me, as I only have to concentrate on producing results, and not on office politics, endless bureaucracy and tedious meetings and dinner sessions. Doing away with the daily commute is not only easier on the pocket and on my conscience as an environmentalist, it also means I have an extra 2-3 hours a day just to focus on generating deliverables. I cannot say for certain yet if this will be a long term arrangement, but I will continue to be on the lookout for job opportunities that will capitalise on my passion for humanitarian work and working with people and the community at large. In the meantime, it is good to be able to take a break from the insanity of legal practice in the City.

Friday, 12 June 2009: Green Living Talk at the UNHCR and Blood Donation Day

World Environment Day Message: Use Less!

A UNHCR staff member had contacted the MNS and asked if they could send a representative to the UNHCR office to speak on the topic of recycling to the staff, asylum-seekers and refugees. Since we (Branch volunteers) could not trust the MNS HQ staff to get anything right (especially if there is no payment involved), I volunteered to deliver a presentation on basic environmental responsibility. I shudder each time someone requests that I render a ‘talk on recycling’. The trivia that I will deign to give out on recycling are that it takes more energy to recycle a plastic bag than to make one from scratch, that polystyrene packaging are virtually impossible and needlessly expensive to recycle, and that less than 1% of the plastic you dutifully dump into recycling bins are eventually recycled. I would prefer to deliver a talk, instead, on reducing consumption and waste.

I arrived at the UNHCR office in good time. My good friend and fellow volunteer Pasupathy and her daughter Sumi were already there to see if they could be of assistance. We proceeded to the waiting area where approximately 250 refugees/asylum-seekers and about 15 staff and interpreters were assembled for our presentation. With the help of the interpreters who translated my speech into Burmese for the refugees from Myanmar, I talked about the impact of environmental transgressions on the lives of the people and the importance of being environmentally responsible even in times of adversity and economic uncertainty. I am comfortable with working with marginalised peoples, due to my many years as a legal aid and Pink Triangle outreach volunteer, and so I understood my audience and their background enough not to patronise them. I think this was the key to why my presentation was well-received -- I was not condescending or pedantic.

Later, we met the staff in their office to hand over some Green Living booklets and factsheets, a recycling directory and Green Living’s Reduce, Reuse and Recycle checklists. Pasu, Sumi and I then adjourned to the canteen for lunch, where Pasu insisted on buying me lunch. We parted ways after lunch as I wanted to go to the National Blood Centre in Jalan Tun Razak to donate blood before going home.

The cool interior of the Blood Bank was a welcome respite from the heat and haze of the city. My haemoglobin count this time is only 13.2, but it was sufficient for me to donate my usual 350ml of blood, which I accomplished within 2.56 minutes, a personal best. I was given sandwiches, coffee, cake, biscuits, an apple and the usual iron pills after donating. I cleared my own tray since the matron was not around.

My goals for the earlier part of the day accomplished, I returned to the BOQ to attend to other matters.

Saturday, 13th June 2009: SPCA Shenanigans

It was a good day for washing dogs. Wonder Boy was back and was helping Rose groom and wash the dogs when I arrived. I got to work helping them tick-wash the dogs. When I ran out of Tactik EC, I went into the surgery to mix up a fresh batch in my spray bottle. There was a puppy with a severe case of diarrhoea placed under observation in the surgery, and I cleaned out his cage so he wouldn’t feel so miserable. The surgery waste bin was full, and I decided to help clear it.

As I lifted the garbage bag of waste from the surgery, something small, pink and covered with blood fell out of the bag and onto the shelter floor outside the storage cabin.

Muniandy, Samy and I stared at the object with what can best be described as a mixture of reverence and revulsion.

"What's that?" I inquired, pointing with my rubber-gloved hand.
"It's... a chicken heart", ventured Muniandy, who was as mystified as I was.
"No it's not," I countered. "Chicken hearts don't come out of the surgery." I had a moment of epiphany. "It's a dog's testicle!" I blurted out.
"Aaaiiiieeee!" The three of us shrieked in unison.
"What do we do?" asked Muniandy.
"I'm not going to pick it up," I announced with a grimace.
"Why not?" Muniandy wanted to know.
The cogs in my head spun at top speed. I had to come up with a good excuse.
"I can't pick it up because I am not married. If I were to pick it up, I won't be able to find a husband. The men... the men would be able to tell, and they... they would stay away."

I am glad we Asians are a superstitious lot, because Muniandy seemed satisfied with my explanation and proceeded to use a scrap of newspaper to pick the testicle up and dispose of it.

I suppose if I were assisting the vets in the surgery, I would probably not think twice about handling and disposing of animal organs, but I was just too taken aback to want to handle that boldly glistening, bloodied testicle on the shelter floor.

In retrospect, putting biological wastes like animal organs into garbage bags for disposal in landfills probably isn't the best way of dealing with it, but there aren't many waste management options in Malaysia. There are no landfills dealing specifically with organic waste and with sufficient termophilic activity to promote the rapid decomposition of organic matter such as animal parts. There are no incinerators, and in any case, incinerators are constructed not to deal with potential biohazards, but to reduce the mass of garbage by 70% in land-scarce countries. The toxic ash generated by incinerators is highly polluting and presents problems of its own.

What should we do, then, with animal parts that are removed from living animals? I do not think that animals would have a practical use for preserved body parts in jars like humans do. This is not to say that my former office tea lady Katherine had any use for the appendix the hospital removed from her either, except to keep it at her bedside to scare us with when we went to visit.

I went back to washing dogs and cleaning kennels after our little scare. Wonder Boy led the dogs back in from the Dogs’ Playground while I scrubbed and washed the enclosures. I cleaned out the cats’ litter trays and baskets, repaired scratching posts and scrubbed water bowls and troughs. I cleaned and disinfected the Cattery, Maternity Kennels, Puppy Kennels, Front Office/ Reception/Admin area and Hospital while Sugendran cleaned the Kennels, Sick Bay and Central Area. We finished cleaning the entire shelter around 1930 hrs. I showered and changed at Mazni’s house next door, had dinner at the stalls and went back to the parental home in Rawang to spend the rest of the weekend in the company of Amber and Chocky and cleaning the parental home and garden.

Tuesday, 17th June 2009 – Thursday, 19th June 2009: 3-Day Diet

Not having to go to work means finally having time for TV, and so enamoured I was after 2 episodes of “The Biggest Loser” that I was inspired to go on the 3-Day Diet again after achieving some success with it approximately 10 years ago (although I couldn’t remember what I was dieting for then, either). I didn’t have an utterly compelling reason to want to reduce my weight from 48 kg (106 pounds) to a svelte 45, except that I would perhaps like to have some stamina and muscle tone back, and losing weight could be an incentive for me to get back into my football kit, shin guards and boots.

Within the first day, I realised that Garfield could be right: “Diet is a Die with a T”. I normally eat 8 square meals a day just to stay alive, and in amounts that would make a sumo wrestler proud. Finding myself restricted to 5 measly cheese crackers or 1 slice of toast was torture, but I bore it with characteristic good humour. When the 3 days were up, I weighed myself to find that I had lost a grand total of.... 0.5. kg. That was it. All that effort for nothing. I could lose more weight just playing Pick-Up-Stix. I didn’t see the point of giving up pretzels and frosted doughnuts for an entire 3 days just to lose a paltry 0.5 kg.

Of course, it could also be that I did not adhere strictly to the diet. I could not find beetroots or cottage cheese. I ate vanilla ice cream in a sugar cone. I didn’t see the sense in eating “½ banana” or “½ grapefruit” and ate the whole thing instead. I had such a hunger for carbohydrates on the second night that I ate a boiled potato with brown sauce. I had a lemon-lime snow cup on the third day. I ate 2 hardboiled eggs instead of just one. I drank a glass of 7-Up. I ate a bowl of Special-K cereal. You get the idea. I needed sustenance in order to be able to focus on work, and the 3-day diet was just too restrictive.

I realise now that it wasn’t weight loss I was interested in, but staying active, supple and strong. I have been really remiss when it comes to exercise. Sure, I love doing housework, yard work and volunteer work, but it isn’t for the purpose of getting exercise. I also enjoy cycling, skateboarding, ice skating, swimming and football, but that is for fun and I don’t have any structure to my leisure and outdoor activities, not since lymph node infection left me at death’s door in 2006.

Perhaps setting aside certain days for swimming and cycling are in order. But as of now, it is 0628 hrs, and my frosted doughnuts and coffee beckon to me with their siren songs.

~ CO78, Over! ~


Unknown said...

You're such an indefatigable volunteer! I know I can't be slacking beside you:)All the more you should have the carbohydrates you hunger for.

I think you should get out there and give talks on volunteerism 'coz you're smack there offering your services and its what you enjoy too.

All the best in your freelance work.

Pat said...

I agree that your talk was well received mainly because you empathised with, and didn't talk down to them. Not many people have learnt this lesson, so bravo to you!

And hahaha about you dieting! And I, too, remember Garfield's definition of 'diet'!! Because it is sooooo true!

If you want to build stamina and strength in that body, the answer is cardio or going out and doing what you love! It certainly isn't dieting, that's for sure.

I need to lose a lot of my chubbiness, but I know the answer isn't to cut out food, but to eat more: more meals a day, and more of the kinda stuff that builds muscles, immunity, and makes me feel good.

I'm glad you're enjoying working from home. One of the reasons I liked going out to work, was just that: going out. If I stay home, I'm in my boxers and Tee, and I became a frump!

But you have no such worry. Your life is so full and diverse, your only worry, as usual, is going to be finding enough hours to do what you need to do!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thanks, Keats! I love volunteering because to me, sharing and serving is a privilege and a pleasure. I have given talks on volunteering before to new volunteers at the SPCA, MNS and Legal Aid Centre, and I always follow up with action. I'm trying to improve myself and be a better person and to cut down on all the swearing and the sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek comments, though.

Dear Pat, I sit around in scruffy tees and boxers too! But I'm the kind of person who would shower & change and comb my hair and spray on some Brut just to walk my dogs or walk up the street to put the recyclables in the recycling bins, ha ha! Thanks for the good advice on dieting. Eat more... I could live with that! But I suppose you mean more proteins and veggies, not more cake and chips!

Cat-from-Sydney said...

You go girl! Thanks to you all my feline and canine friends at the shelter are clean and healthy too...Please convey my thanks to all the other volunteers! Hugs and kisses and licks on the face from me...purrr...purrr...meow meow meow...

hobbit1964 said...

A diet?

But what about second breakfast?
What about elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper?

Anyway, did anyone manage to identify the missing dog who belongs to that testicle? Would he be able to join you cycling,perhaps?

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Cat In Sydney, what a clever and kind cat you are to leave me a nice comment! The cats and dogs at the SPCA are not as lucky as you are, so I hope by keeping them and the shelter clean and healthy, more people will come and offer to bring them home.

Greetings, Major! The severed dog testicle could belong to any of the young adult dogs. Castration is carried out every day and is a safe procedure. The wound heals within a day or two and the dog doesn't know what he's missing. It's like... getting to 'play' without the frustration or pressure of having to mate and procreate. The dog will be okay. Cycling... I don't think the dog's legs would be long enough to reach the pedals. I used to take my late dog Murphy cycling with me when he was little. He passed away in 2004. Now Amber just goes for car rides with me. Chocky hates car rides because he associates it with the vet's clinic. So do the cats. Speaking of elevenses, it is now time for my first round of afternoon tea! Ciao!

hobbit1964 said...

Aaahhhh, Lynn. So there is no possibility that one of those dogs answers to the name Lance Armstrong......

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Major, I am positive the poor dog is not related to either Lance Armstrong or Adolf Hitler!

mamasita said...

Ahh E.Lynn,
you tak payah diet lah..just lose weight by carrying out your favourite outdoor kokos.
Oh..I am so glad you recovered from the lymph node must have had a terrible time then!

You're a darling girl as always!!

Now go and enjoy your pastries and don't be afraid to enjoy eating..your metabolism macam furnace!
Just eat and enjoy the food while the teeth are still working right!hehe

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thank you, Datin, but my metabolism isn't what it used to be! Wish I could burn off the calories as easily as I used to. I contracted lymph node infection after being bitten/scratched by a stray cat whose babies I was trying to rescue. I was sick for about 3 months and my health was never the same again after that. I got tired too easily and it took me too long to recover from illnesses.

Cat-from-Sydney said...

CO78, can't even begin to tell how lucky I am to have found my Mama. My life would definitely be very different without her. She said if ever she becomes a billionaire, she'll build a feline sanctuary! And I'll be crowned Queen Angelina...bliss! meow meow meow...

Ellen Whyte said...

good to see you again. keep in touch!

Ellen Whyte said...

I'll check on Molly and Conan next week but I'm not sure if they can find someone to adopt them. However, maybe someone will help out with the operation...?