February was such a short month that I had hardly noticed that it had come and gone. The good thing is that this is mostly because we had almost a full week off for the Lunar New Year, and so my days were a whirlwind of activities with friends and family.
1. Make a new friend.
During Dr. Jane Goodall's visit to Malaysia in late Jan 2015, I had the opportunity to give her a present -- a pewter turtle necklace from the Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia, a bird card letting her know how much she means to me, and a copy of my blogpost on reading The Watcher to the boys of Anbu Illam, that I had hestitated to print out for days and then finally decided that no, it wasn't too silly and she wasn't going to toss it into her recycling bin, and even if she did, I would take a chance and give it to her anyway in the hopes that she would read it.
She didn't merely read it. She LOVED it. I didn't leave my contact information in the card, so she contacted the Roots & Shoots Malaysia project manager, Jyunichi, and asked him to help her track me down so she could thank me for it. Jyunichi and his partner Beatrice succeeded in tracking me down and contacting me, which of course left me ecstatic and giddy with joy.
When our other Jane Goodall Groupie friend Holly informed Petra and me that she would be coming to KL for a few days, it was decided that we would all meet up for a slap-up vegan dinner to celebrate Dr. Jane and the inspiration that she is. I got to make 3 new friends -- TP Lim, Jyunichi and Beatrice -- over dinner at Radhey's that night, and was really impressed to meet people as passionate and mindful as they are. I signed up with Roots & Shoots Malaysia the same night and will assist as a volunteer whenever required.
2. Help a stranger.
Two new stray cats received help from my Project Second Chance in February, namely Tauriel, one of the food court cats in my area that I have been trying to trap for spaying, and Sophie, a week-old kitten I found abandoned in the same food court.
Tauriel was supposed to be boarded until she gave birth and her kittens are weaned, but she gave birth to one stillborn kitten, and on Dr. Pushpa's advice, we allowed Tauriel a recuperation period of 2 weeks before spaying her. She turned out to be very affectionate and the SPCA offered to help me put her up for adoption rather than have her released back on the streets, so here's to yet another 'Stray No More' success story!
Tiny baby Sophie was found sans littermates and mother in the same food court, possibly abandoned by a cruel human being, and would almost certainly be dead if I haven't taken her in. A very kind Facebook friend banked in some money to me for Sophie's vet bills and basic needs, and this enabled me to have Sophie boarded with Kak Mazni, our SPCA cat caretaker, for a week, as Sophie still needed to be bottlefed every 2 hours and I cannot bottlefeed kittens in, or bring animals to, this office. After 4-5 days, Sophie discovered she has teeth, and decided she liked the taste of Fancy Feast, and has not looked back since.
Here is Sophie, back with me and able to eat on her own. The little one had a case of the flu this week so she is not completely out of danger yet. She is on medication and supplements, however, and her condition seems to have stabilised. She is active and has good appetite, and there is hardly any discharge coming out of her eyes and nose anymore. We will keep our fingers crossed for her!
I haven't volunteered for any new causes in Feb (I signed up with Roots & Shoots Malaysia but have not started doing any work for them yet), but I did conduct cleanups in 2 new places.
On 22 Feb 2015, 4 friends and I decided to take advantage of the festive break to explore Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, and I brought along rubbish bags to clean the forest reserve up with. We did a pretty good job and the garbage came down with us.
On 28 Feb 2015, Aravind and I volunteered with Reach Out Malaysia as usual, but this time as helpers for their Chinese New Year street party for the homeless and urban poor. My friends Nicole, Karen and Shamini turned up to contribute food and help, and while our homeless friends were enjoying the food, we walked to the underground pedestrian crossing areas with our rubbish bags and claws and cleaned up the entire area. We did a really good job on this one, too.
My friends are beginning to enjoy volunteering very much and are not embarrassed or squeamish about helping me clean up the streets anymore.
I'd consider this a double win -- I cleaned up a part of town I have never previously cleaned up, for the benefit of strangers; and I recruited friends to help out and now they are no longer strangers to volunteering and public clean-ups.
3. Eat something/at someplace new to me.
February was a month of feasting. My family and I ate at new-to-us restaurants in IOI City Mall on the day of our outing to the District 21 adventure theme park.
On one of the days I had to do last-minute Lunar New Year shopping, I stopped by a new-to-me cafeteria, Farmers Street, for a snacky dinner of pie tees, hot peanut dessert and an iced mango dessert. Everything was delicious.
On the second day of the Lunar New Year, I took my parents on a day out to see Lunar New Year decorations at Nu Sentral and we had hand-folded ice cream in waffle bowls at The Cream & Fudge Factory, also new to me.
4. Go someplace I've never been.
On 16 February, we had a family outing at District 21 Theme Park, IOI City Mall, a destination new to us.
On 22 February, my friends and I explored Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, which I have never previously explored except briefly while using a shortcut from the Dang Wangi LRT station to KL Tower. I didn't even know that the forest reserve has canopy walkways and watchtowers. We had a great time connecting with nature and hugging trees.
5. Learn something new.
On 7 Feb 2015, MNS Green Living launched a light bulb and e-waste collection and recycling programme at the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) headquarters, in collaboration with, and with the kind assistance of, a non-governmental organisation, The Electronics and Electrical Association of Malaysia (TEEAM).
An awareness talk was delivered in our auditorium by TEEAM's representative, Dr. Lai, an engineer, and the other participants and I learned many fascinating facts about mercury poisoning, dioxins, pollution and the recycling of scheduled wastes.
6. Declutter and cull 100 items.
My decluttering projects are coming along fast and furious. Each week, I pick out 2-3 different cabinets, boxes, shelves or bags to empty out and declutter. Hundreds of items went into the recycling bins or were donated to related causes.
When I was back at the parental home during the Lunar New Year break, I spring cleaned my room and removed many things that I have been keeping since childhood. I have an enormous collection of newspaper clippings on topics I find interesting or useful. Sadly, most of the content of these articles are either outdated now, or available online. I recycled most of the yellowed news clippings, and reduced the number of binders from 4 to just 1. I've retained only the clippings that meant a lot to me, in particular those featuring my friends and the causes we volunteer for, and my collection of "Shakespeare Today" articles by Ralph Berry.
Even my bookcase was cleaned out, although it has always been very neat and orderly. I love the way it looks even more now. I colour-coordinated my books in the 1990s, long before 'rainbow bookshelves' became a design trend.
It seems strange to think that someone who buys so little and practices environmental responsibility and minimalism would have so many things to declutter and dispose of. In my defence, most of the items were not things I purchased. Most, like newspaper articles, are things that are already there. Some are just items brought home from events, trips and outings -- foreign coins from my travels, programmes from a play, door gifts from dinner parties. Many are gifts, although I specifically ask for 'No Presents But Your Presence' from friends and family during special occasions. Even my parents can't get rid of their habit of getting me 'a little something' on their many trips abroad, despite knowing that I don't want 'stuff', and have always told them to bring back edible treats from their travels because food is not wasteful and allows a better glimpse into a different culture better than a plastic Made-In-China fridge magnet can. I hope one day my loved ones will truly understand that I mean it when I say 'no presents', and that more people will start to prefer giving and receiving experience and waste-free gifts.
7. Give up something for a month.
For the longest time, I have fallen into the habit of not exercising daily, using my weekly scheduled Skate Sessions and Kickboxing Classes as an excuse. For all of February, however, I gave up the habit of Not Exercising Daily. Several times a day, I make the time to stretch, limber up, do strength-building exercises (bicep curls, fist push-ups and wrist grips) in my room at work or even during my bathroom breaks. When I get home, I do abdominal curls and planks in between household chores. My back feels stronger and my neck and shoulders are not quite so stiff anymore. More importantly, exercising daily gives me a natural high, so this is a habit I am happy to continue for the rest of my life.