Monthly Bucket List, Oct 2014:
If October was a month of tying up loose ends and bidding farewell, November is looking a lot like a month of displacement and new beginnings. It's hard to uproot yourself from something you are familiar and comfortable with. Change is always hard. But harder still is failing to change and grow, and having to live with the regret of knowing that you failed to change and grow.
1. Make a new friend.
Of the new people I met in October, one of them, Navindran, became more than merely an acquaintance or associate, thanks to our shared interests in community service and providing food for the hungry and vulnerable. I got to know him when I ordered Deepavali cookies and murukku from him, the proceeds of which were for the benefit of Rumah Jaireh, a home for women and children living with HIV/AIDS.
Aravind and I found out later that Navindran has several friends in common with us and that he is a ReachOut Malaysia volunteer as well, although he usually goes for the food distribution run on a different night than we do. We also learned that Navindran and his friends packed and distributed Deepavali cookies and goodies for our homeless friends. Big guy, big heart.
2. Help a stranger.
My friend Sazlinur Manja Bidin ('Man') is by no means a stranger to me, but this cause involving him is a new cause to me. The organisation he works with, MYCAT, set up a crowdfunding initiative to help fund the cost for him to attend a conservation leadership course in Cambridge. I cannot think of anyone more deserving that Man, so I gave as much as I could spare. A few weeks ago, it didn't look like he could raise the entire funds before the deadline, and I was worried and had wondered how to help him out further. But we received the announcement from MYCAT that the target collection amount was achieved a few days ago, and Man would be going for the Cambridge course after all. Three cheers for Man! I know he will do us proud.
I've been a volunteer for the Malaysian Nature Society for over 13 years but I've never raised funds for them by running a marathon for them before, so my participation in the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon in October and the RM652 I raised for them is a first for me.
... And of course the cookies and murukku I purchased from Navindran helped to raise funds for Rumah Jaireh, and the goodies were then given to various individuals as part of my Random Acts of Deepavali Kindness. A jar of cookies went to Aravind's apartment security guards, another jar to my former colleagues when I dropped by to say hello, another jar went to the council road sweepers in my neighbourhood, and the remaining jars went to the SPCA staff.
On the occasion of Aravind and Serina's birthdays I made donations to two social enterprises with very worthy objectives -- The Lucky Iron Fish Project, which works to combat iron deficiency in impoverished Cambodia...
... and Kiva.org, a microfinance scheme that helps provide microcredit loans for socially and environmentally responsible causes and small businesses in the developing world. Under Kiva's gift section, I could make a gift of a donation and the birthday gift recipient (not the beneficiary, mind) will be notified of it by email and would get to choose the cause or beneficiary closest to their hearts to direct the donations to.
Both noble causes for two awesome persons.
When my friend Sara Sukor informed her friends on Facebook of Pak Arom, an indigenous community leader in need of funds for medical treatment, I helped to chip in a little as well. It's always good to know that you can depend on the kindness of strangers. I always have. And I'd like to pay it forward by trying to be that kind stranger to others whenever I am able to. We all do what we can, within our means.
3. Eat something/at someplace new to me.
October was, for some yummy reason, a good month for trying new foods and eating at new places.
I sampled physalis fruit (colloquially known as 'lantern fruit'), which I had previously thought was purely ornamental (hee hee! What a funny assumption for a natural history afficionado to make!). It tasted like a cross between a mango plum (kundang), a cherry and a cherry tomato...
... And vegan Coconut Ice candy that was pricey but absolutely delicious, with a fruity hint and a slight tart taste that sets it apart from the cloyingly sweet Indian coconut squares...
... And a Lemon Slice at Artisan Coffee, a cafe new to me, when I met up with my friend MamaTomAJ to deliver the cookies that she had ordered from Navindran through me...
... I also had a rich and luscious baked pumpkin penne pasta and iced lychee mint frosty at the aptly-named Delicious Restaurant in Bangsar Village...
... And when I met up with two of my best friends at work, Shamini and Karen, after leaving my former workplace, we had dinner at The Daily Grind and shared a tempeh and chickpea burger, roasted pumpkin salad and a slice of hummingbird cake, all 3 of which I have never tried before.
(Note: Despite all the good food, I still lost weight from the stress of the career change.)
4. Go someplace I've never been.
Inn October, I went to two places that I've never been, both destinations together with Aravind and my dear friends Serina and Shalan.
In the first week of October, we went paddleboarding at Tasik Biru Kundang...
... And in the final week of October, we checked out Jumpstreet, the indoor trampoline park, and gave our legs (and bladder muscles!) a workout by bouncing and jumping our way into utter exhaustion.
5. Learn something new.
In October, I finally learned how to paddleboard, which I have wanted to do for months...
... And in preparation for my new job, I read up on an industry I have no previous knowledge of. It's good to challenge ourselves intellectually, even if it means having to learn about things you don't find interesting or fun.
6. Declutter and cull 100 items.
One would have thought that after over 5 months of decluttering and culling 100 items a month, my Bachelor Pad would be bare by now, but nooooo.... thanks to my packrat roommates, there was always something else that needed cleaning and decluttering. I mostly work on a different cabinet, box or area each week.
Over the course of the last month, I cleaned out various baskets, boxes and cabinets in the house including the Tupperware cabinet, and removed over 100 items for recycling and donation.
All those toys, writing supplies, novelty erasers and child-friendly swag from events such as stress balls and notepads that I have accumulated over the years -- I put them into a bag for my friend Reita to bring to the children of the indigenous communities that she works with...
... Which resulted in these happy little faces. Makes my heart so glad. Not proud of the fact that I am giving out plastic toys and tchotchke, though. My next goal would be to collect pre-loved books and school supplies for them. Perhaps I can collect all the surplus t-shirts from events and marathons from the organisers of events in future, and have them distributed to the homeless and poor.
In late October, a youth environmental outreach initiative, MESYM, organised a recycling drive to collect items such as beverage cartons (for repurposing into lightweight roofing and construction materials), electronic waste such as old cellular phones and chargers (for materials recovery, recycling and safe disposal) and expired or unused medication (for safe disposal), so I managed to unearth a small bagful of unused and expired medication and a dozen old cell phones and chargers for recycling.
This is a good awareness-raising initiative, and I will try to organise one next year at a Malaysian Nature Society event, for example, during our annual Open Day.
7. Give up something for a month.
I think I gave up all semblance of work-life balance in October. :( Work-wise, it has been a very demanding month.
I unfortunately had to take a break from kickboxing and skateboarding for a month, which really, is not something I am pleased to report in my Monthly Bucket List at all. I hope to resume both in November.
8. Letter to the Editor
I am adding a new, optional category in my Monthly Bucket List. I am going to make a conscious effort to speak up more regularly on environmental, animal rights and social justice issues, and will try to submit a Letter to the Editor each month on a current issue I feel strongly about, especially an issue not previously addressed by other parties.
Writing calms me, and helps me organise my thoughts and express them in a lucid and balanced way. Just as sketching, drawing, painting and creating bento lunches feed my soul, writing helps me feel whole and alive.
Upon reading the lifestyle pages on 14 Oct, I was not pleased with the way a leading English daily misrepresented the sale of sharks (for consumption) as part of an ecotourism initiative, and wrote in to the paper. My letter was duly published, albeit heavily edited, on 20 Oct 2014.
Still, I'll take what I can get. Hopefully it has opened up the eyes of at least a few readers on the consumption of and trade in wildlife and wildlife parts.
The days go by so fast.
"We think about tomorrow then it slips away/
We talk about forever but we've only got today/"