Friday, 31 July 2015

Monthly Bucket List June & July 2015

I had a draft of my Monthly Bucket List for June going, but somehow the draft was inadvertently deleted and I could recover nothing of it. Still, June is not a month I remember with great fondness. Shadow's illness and subsequent death is very hard on me, and threw many things off schedule, which is only proper, as my babies' safety and health must without exception be my top priority. Travel plans and mini adventures and projects were abandoned and home improvement projects were put on hold 'until Shadow got better'. Sadly, he never did.

Still, the past two months have been incredibly busy and eventful. Moving house, doing home repairs and improvements, taking on new duties and responsibilities... has it only been two months? I feel as though I have accomplished enough for a year. In any event, I did a joint Monthly Bucket List for June and July as I have forgotten half the things I recorded in June.

1. Make a new friend

In early June, Serina, Nurashikin and Shalan came over to the Wee Green Flat to help me with the move, and brought their friend Atan along. They worked like fiends, helping me clean windows and grills, repair cracked plaster skim, line the insides of cabinets and surfaces of furniture with clear Contact paper, and put up my Ikea bed and wardrobe. Atan is a diligent worker, expecting nothing but friendship in return, but after a grueling day of helping out, I treated the whole gang to a sumptuous dinner at Bubba Gump. I enjoyed their company tremendously and we kept ribbing Atan about his dance skills, which he refused to demonstrate for us in public. I will miss having Serina and Lan living so close by, and I hope to remain in touch with Atan.

My new neighbours have been nothing less than friendly and welcoming, and I am grateful for this. Although we are unlikely to drop by each others' apartments unannounced, it is good to have a community of neighbours who will look out for each other and do our best to keep our area clean, safe and comfortable.

The MNS Selangor Branch AGM took place in early July, and I was voted in as a committee member for the 9th year running. We have a new committee member who is also the founder and coordinator of a hiking and trekking group, Premkumar, and I found his company quite delightful. I'm glad we will be seeing more of each other during subsequent meetings and activities.

2. Help a stranger.

In May and June, I noticed a lady, most likely of a foreign nationality, begging for change from cars at the traffic light junction on my way to work. I know most beggars belong to a syndicate, so I did not give her cash. However, she always looked wretchedly hungry and miserable begging in the scorching midmorning heat, so I started to pack her breakfasts every morning, usually consisting of one beverage, two carbs (buns and muffins) and a fruit. She would accept the food gratefully and twice I saw her run into the bushes to eat hurriedly, as if afraid of getting caught eating on the 'job'. I tried speaking to her in Malay and Burmese but she would just smile, thank me for the food and go away, with fear in her eyes. I hoped to be able to reach out to her and find her assistance if she were a victim of trafficking or abuse, but by the end of June, she no longer made her appearance at the traffic lights. I know the pickings are slim -- hardly anyone gave her any cash. I wish I had a way of helping her and others like her, and I hope my packed breakfasts provided her with some comfort and freedom from hunger and thirst. I hope that she will be safe from harm wherever she may be.

In early June, prior to Shadow's diagnosis, my friend Katie McDonald came over to stay. It was the same week as the Mount Kinabalu earthquake and landslide which left many dead and many mountain porters without a means of economic survival. I attended the memorial service at Dataran MBPJ with Katie and made a sizable cash donation which would be distributed to the families of the porters. I know there are more efforts to keep these funds sustainable and help the porters find alternative employment, but soon I was so besieged with vet bills and worries about Shadow that it became impossible for me to contribute cash on a regular basis.

July saw me mostly continuing to volunteer with the SPCA, MNS, Homeless Hairwash, Beacon of Hope / The Revolving Library and my usual projects. As it was Ramadhan, I agreed to teach at the Beacon of Hope twice a week to replace the usual volunteer teachers who needed to break fast and attend terawih prayers with their families. It was exhausting, made all the harder because it was in between Shadow's feeds, but it was necessary. We could not let the children down. I have to admit that I am relieved Ramadhan is over and I am back to teaching only once a week after work.


After Shadow's passing, I assisted Aravind in picking up two of his rescue cats, Horlicks and Abby, from the vet. There was no way we could release these two, so Horlicks is currently being fostered by Aravind, while I am caring for Abby until she can be spayed and rehomed. She is a delightful little girl and a gifted climber. I have had her dewormed, Frontlined and vaccinated against the standard 'triple threat' and against Feline Leukaemia Virus, and monitored her closely following vaccination. Thankfully, she recovered well following vaccination and she is now a happy and rambunctious member of the Wee Green Flat family.

Tennessee the Cat

Two young females for spaying.

The final week of July saw me assisting my former colleagues at the UNHCR in trapping the stray cats in the area for neutering. Everyone wanted the cats neutered, but nobody did anything except complain and hem and haw for an eternity. Karen, Ju Li and I finally decided to take matters into our own hands and we went over late one night with carriers to lure and catch the cats. We managed to trap 3 cats, which is pretty good for one night, and as I had already made prior arrangements with the SPCA, it wasn't difficult for me to bring them over for overnight boarding and neutering.

Going to the SPCA with Karen, Ju Li and 3 cats in tow was a bit of an adventure in itself. After settling the cats into their cages in Klinik Kembiri, I discovered that I was ravenously hungry and I persuaded the ladies to have supper with me at Studio 5 up the road. Across the street, we saw a shirtless elderly homeless man sleeping on the pavement outside 7-Eleven. I grabbed one of the Homeless Care Packs I kept in the car (containing unopened bottles of drinking water I receive at events, buns with a long shelf life, and cans of unsweetened fruit juice) and we walked over to hand the gentleman the bag. Karen and Ju Li decided to get him a hot meal and so we did. He was groaning and grunting and trying to sleep when we gently addressed him, asked if he had eaten and served the food to him. He broke into the most beautiful smile we have ever seen and asked us our names. We talked to him as he ate and then bade him goodnight so we could hurry to our own supper. We reached home after midnight but were glad we took the time to get him a hot meal and keep him company while he ate.

3. Eat something/at someplace new to me.

Our company AGM at the Sunway Convention Centre in early June left me the only one without lunch as no one had catered for vegetarians, and so I walked over to the new food court, Taste Enclave, and had an Indian vegetarian meal by myself. The food was tasty, although a little heavy on sodium.

I had heard good things about BMS Organics Bamboo Charcoal Burger but never had the opportunity to sample it until June. I had the set meal, which was delicious, but have to admit that the salad and not the burger was the best part of the meal for me.

My best friend Nicole took me out to dinner in Bulgogi House in my neighborhood, and I had one of the most satisfying Korean vegetarian meals in my life. Trust Nic to know my neighbourhood better than I do!

My parents came to visit the Wee Green Flat for the first time during the Aidilfitri break, and I enjoyed having them visit tremendously. It was quite a relaxing visit, apart from the fact that Covert Mum developed an allergic reaction to my cats after petting them, and sneezed through most of the drive home. We had lunch at a Balinese restaurant I had just discovered in my new neighbourhood, Uma Restaurant, and found the food to be authentic, delicious and reasonably priced.

The weekend after payday, Karen cajoled me into going to dinner at DÍtaliane Cafe in Sunway Giza with her. I agreed as it was new to me, and we shared a pizza and had Belgian waffles for dessert. The meal was expensive and I am not likely to visit regularly. Considering the fact that I have just bought an apartment, this is the kind of restaurant visit I would reserve only for special occasions such as birthdays.

I am now living closer to a number of high-end supermarkets and independent grocers, and so in July I had the opportunity to sample new fruits and vegetables, including edible flowers...

 ... which I used in a bento and in ice cubes...

... and donut peaches and champagne grapes. I have a little tradition of bringing home little gifts of food for my parents every weekend when I return to the parental home, and this means that I often also have the chance to sample the things I bring home to my parents.

In late July, I purchased 5 tickets to a fundraising dinner for Nepal's earthquake victims at the Buddhist Maha Vihara, and invited 4 of my closest friends -- Nicole, Aravind, Karen and Shamini. We had a lovely dinner of vegetarian Sinhalese food which was new to all of us. In variety, cooking methods and flavour, Sinhalese food is rather similar to authentic Malay food and South Indian food, only they use more coconut and spices, especially cinammon and cardamom. We could not stop eating even after we were full to the brim, and to top it all off, there were 2 different puddings for dessert. We had a good meal and were entertained by young performers from the Vihara and raised funds for a good cause, so I'd say it was a good night.

In July, I accepted a new volunteer role as a food reviewer for, and my first  assignment was to review Medifoods, an organic lifestyle cafe in Subang Jaya. I dragged Karen along and she was only too happy to come and have a free meal with me and explore new vegetarian restaurants and foods, and we were more than satisfied with our first visit to this cafe and enthusiastic about reviewing it.

4. Go someplace I've never been.

I didn't have the opportunity to explore much more than my immediate new neighbourhood in June, as Shadow's illness and care took precedence over everything else. Still, I managed to learn my way around the new area and even found a place I can skate safely at night as there is very little traffic.

I stopped by the newly reopened Atria Shopping Gallery in Damansara Jaya while on my way back from the vet. I didn't find it exceptional or worth frequent visits as there is nothing to set it apart from the dozens of shopping malls in Petaling Jaya, and I rather miss the dingy little neighbourhood mall it had once been, with its secondhand bookstores, toy shop and charity bins.

In mid-July I attended the Kasih Caregiver Workshop at the Kasih Foundation office, a place new to me in an older part of Petaling Jaya.

5. Do something that scares me (New category)

At the Kasih Caregiver Workshop, a day-long workshop for hospice volunteers and those caring for the ill and bedridden, I discussed death and end-of-life care with the caring hospice doctors and staff and faced the fear of my loved ones dying.

6. Learn something new.

Both months saw me putting into practice home improvement skills I had hitherto only mastered in theory. On my own, I repainted walls, repaired water damaged walls and plaster skim, replaced the showerheads, light fixtures and washing machine hose, and repaired preloved furniture.

At the Kasih Hospice Care Society Caregiver Workshop which I signed up for with Aravind, we learned how to provide for the physical and psychological needs of the critically ill and bedridden. We were given practical lessons on how to move patients from a bed to a wheelchair and into a standard-sized car, how to give baths to and change the diapers of a bedridden individual, and how to feed, comfort and ensure the safety and well-being of the terminally ill. It opened up my eyes to many things I would not have otherwise been aware of and helped me view terminal illness in a different (less fearful and more empathetic and compassionate) light.

7. Declutter and cull 100 items.

One wouldn't have thought that I would have anything left to declutter after conducting a major spring cleaning in my previous rented home prior to moving house, but when my friend Nick Jukes invited his Facebook friends to participate in the 30-Day Minimalism Challenge, I was game for it and did surprisingly well, decluttering not only the Wee Green Flat but also the parental home. Decluttering 465 items in a month is quite a heroic effort in itself and I think it deserves its own blogpost.

8. Give up something for a month.

Shortly after moving in to my new place in June, I made a pledge to give up Red Bull for a month, since I am now no longer living with my incredibly messy and dirty housemates and would not need to stay up cleaning for hours each night. This lasted for about 2 weeks, and then Shadow fell critically ill and I spent most of my nights feeding him every hour and cleaning up after him to reduce the risk of infection to the other cats. The exhaustion was more than I could bear and soon I was knocking back a can of Red Bull a day, especially in order to keep awake while driving or at work. I will continue to work on reducing my dependence of caffeine and energy drinks. I know that falling off the wagon because of exceptionally stressful circumstances doesn't mean falling off the wagon for good.

In July, I gave up going to bed without doing these five basic things:
 i. Cleaning the cats' litter trays;
ii. Giving the cats their wet food and medicines/supplements;
 iii. Washing up everything that is in the sink and giving the kitchen counters and most frequently-used furniture a quick wipe-down;
iv. Packing lunch for the next day; and
v. Getting my workclothes, lunch and vitamins ready the night before.

I realise that if I fail to do these and go to bed first, I will always end up late for work the following morning, despite my resolve to wake up early to get these things done. Each task takes only minutes to complete and makes my mornings run so much more smoothly and allows me to go to bed and leave for work with peace of mind.

  9. Letter to the Editor

So many things happening and so many bittersweet memories in just two months.

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