Monday, 14 April 2014

Monthly Bucket List: March 2014

Sometime in early March, I decided to come up with a Monthly Bucket List on top of my Mighty Life List. Let's face it -- I am not going to be able to cross "Christmas in Provence" or "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" off my main list anytime soon. And yet there are so many things I can do on a monthly basis to break my life out of a rut, welcome new experiences and improve my life incrementally. 

So this is what my monthly bucket list will entail. 

Monthly Bucket List
1. Make a new friend. 
2. Help a stranger. 
3. Eat something/at someplace new to me. 
4. Go someplace I've never been. 
5. Learn something new. 
6. Declutter and cull 100 items. 
7. Give up something for a month. 

1. Make a new friend. 

This does not include people I meet in passing at parties or volunteer events, or other Postcrossers that I send postcards to as Postcrossing members, or friends-of-friends who try to add me on Facebook. The friendship has to be meaningful and sustainable, and both parties must show some degree of effort in maintaining the friendship. 

I made at least 2 such new friends in March, the first of whom is Mandy, the friend of my friend Pelf of the Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia. Mandy had just started to help a new animal shelter in Melaka, and decided to raise funds and awareness by designing and selling a series of t-shirts with adoption messages. Pelf promoted the t-shirts, I ordered a couple, I met up with Mandy to collect the shirts, and found that we both have a lot in common apart from a desire to help shelter and stray animals, and the rest is history. 

(The t-shirts designed by Mandy)

The second such friend is Nicholas, Amanda's visually-impaired friend who used to be the librarian at the Malaysian Association for the Blind. Amanda needed someone to help Nicholas out with audiobook downloads and other online errands before she left the country, and so I stepped in and offered to help. Nicholas is intelligent, well-read, courteous and friendly, and would rather not inconvenience anyone with anything he could do himself. 

We started communicating regularly so he could inform me if he needed help with anything, and I started dropping by to help him with downloading books. He celebrated his birthday on March 31 and I dropped by with a box of cupcakes from Bisou and we had a cupcake supper together with 2 other visually-impaired friends, Mokhtar and Linda. This friendship is off to a good start. 

2. Help a stranger

"Helping a stranger" includes helping organisations as well as people that I have not previously assisted. It does not include one-off minor acts of kindness such as giving directions to lost drivers, giving a harried waitress a large tip or carrying out the same responsibilities that I have always had for the same organisations that I have always volunteered with, but must consist of acts of service and assistance that are significant, sustainable and have a lasting positive impact. 

I would count my weekly sessions with Nicholas as an act of "helping a (former) stranger". The audiobook library he builds up will benefit others in the visually-impaired community. Also, it is good that he will have a sighted friend he can call upon for help in the event of an emergency. 

I now also offer weekly rides home to my kickboxing classmate Hiro after class, to save him the trouble and expense of getting a cab at 10.30 p.m. 

(Photo reproduced from Project 'Light A Home's Facebook Timeline)

When my friend NJ's mother passed away in March, I sponsored 3 solar light bulbs for an impoverished rural family via Project 'Light A Home' in her memory, in order that her light may shine on thousands of miles away. 

(Dakota undergoing treatment at the vet's. I miss her so much. I loved her the moment I met her.)

I also set up the Dakota Fund in March following the demise of Dakota, a badly-injured FIV-positive cat that Aravind and I rescued last September. When she succumbed to her FIV infection and injuries, we still had money left over that friends had donated towards her vet bills. All the donors unanimously decided that the money should be used to help other needy animals, and so I set up the Dakota Fund. 

(I bought treats for the PAWS shelter dogs and cats)

On the day after her death, I went to the PAWS animal shelter with treats for the cats and dogs in Dakota's memory. I will commence volunteering with PAWS once the water rationing ends and the weather is less unpredictable. 

(The rottweiler-cross with mange. She is now recovering well under Shyam's care)

The first beneficiary of the Dakota Fund is a rottweiler-mix rescued by my friend Shyam hours before euthanasia. The money went towards the dog's vet bills, as she has mange and a host of other medical issues. The next cause to benefit from the Dakota Fund are 13 dogs saved from the municipal pound by my friends Eugene and Mary

(One of the stray kitties post-bath, pre-neutering)

The rest of the money would be used to neuter and spay the stray cats we pick up on our rounds as ReachOut Malaysia volunteers. 

3. Eat something/at someplace new to me. 

As a vegetarian gravitating towards becoming fully vegan, I tend to stick to a handful of tried-and-tested restaurants and foods, but now I feel I have much to gain from stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new foods at places where the restaurant staff will not know my name or usual order. 

The first "new-to-me" restaurant I ate at was Gandhi's in Brickfields, which surprised me with its offering of Chinese-style vegetarian hawker fare. 

The second "new-to-me" restaurant is Yarl Restaurant, which serves Sri Lankan Tamil food, and which I had previously not patronised because Amanda lived upstairs and had complained of the dirt and noise :P 

As for a "new-to-me" food, I had always wanted to try kale but could not find it easily in local shops. I finally managed to buy some and it is fast becoming my favourite vegetable. It is great in salads, sandwiches and in wraps with grilled tempeh

4. Go someplace I've never been. 

This doesn't have to be a trip abroad or a pricey, elaborate vacation at all. Anyplace new is an adventure in itself. Exploration is essential to keeping one's mind curious and creative. 

In March 2014, I went to two places that are new to me -- The Awana Genting Longhouse, where we had our Malaysian Nature Society Volunteer Appreciation Weekend,

... and Sekeping Retreat Serendah, where we had our little gathering before Amanda's departure to Cambodia. 

5. Learn something new. 

This doesn't have to be an entire course, diploma or degree either, but should ideally be a life skill and not merely a fun fact or vocabulary word. 

So in March 2014, I learned to download audiobooks, thanks to the fact that I had signed up to help Nicholas do the same. 

I also learned to grapple, do the Thai clinch and knee someone in the solar plexus during kickboxing class. 

6. Declutter and cull 100 items. 

I decluttered and removed between 5 to 10 items from our Bachelor Pad each day, mostly consisting of junk mail, packaging and tchotchke that my roommates never throw out. Achieved 100 items after clearing out the storeroom, closet, mail tray and sideboard box. Most of the stuff went into the recycling bins, while some reusable ones were donated to matching causes and charities. 

7. Give up something for a month

Giving up a bad habit for a month could be the first step towards breaking out of a bad habit or addiction for good. Mentally, we are telling ourselves, "It's not so bad, it's only going to be for a month," but it could lead to lasting change when we see how much we have gained from giving up a bad habit. 

So for a whole month I will give up something I previously did, ate or enjoyed, and at the end of the month, I will evaluate if it is something I want to leave out of my life for good. 

In March 2014, I quit two things: Eating fries, and sitting at my workstation for long periods of time. 

I tend to work really late and when I leave the office, it's usually only the 24-hour fast food places that are open. I usually swing by for a cup of coffee and a large portion of fries, not a healthy combination for a late-night snack at all, I admit. In order to quit fries for a month, I had to make sure I have enough healthy snacks in my bento box and desk drawer. I steered clear of routes with drive-thrus. It was tough but worth it. Although I didn't give fries up long enough to record any significant reduction in my weight, I felt more energetic and less guilty and sluggish when I went to to bed. I have since reintroduced fries into my diet but am restricting it to daytime on weekends when I am less likely to be sedentary, and no more than once a week. 

After reading about the health risks of sitting for long periods of time, I decided to convert my office desk into a standing desk, but without the additional cost. This was done using sturdy printer cartridge boxes, which in addition to providing height to my computer monitor, keyboard and mousepad, has created extra storage space for my files. I have detected an increase in my productivity and energy levels since I made the switch, but will need to improve my posture so as not to suffer from back and shoulder pain after standing at my desk for long periods of time. 

My Monthly Bucket List is just something I want to do for myself, and it doesn't matter if there is nothing very earth-shattering or newsworthy about the things accomplished. It is all part of my personal journey to live more mindfully, consciously and joyfully.


Bookface said...

What a great post!

I love Mandy's t-shirt design, and I wish her the best as she works with the Melaka shelter.

Wah! I also love Gandhi's, and honestly -- how was the food at Yarl? (Thank you for your loyal boycott before...) ;-) And finally, YES! Kale rocks!

I'm so thrilled that you've befriended Nicholas and will at the very least be available to help him in case of emergency.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thanks for coming over, Amanda! Nicholas is very easy to be friends with :) and the pleasure is all mine :)

The food in Yarl is good. Very authentic. But I read lots of complaints online about their hygiene standards and their disruptively loud cooker exhaust fan.