Wednesday, 30 June 2010

My World Cup Runneth Over

This is the month of sleepless nights. This is the month we go to work with uncombed hair and dark rings around our eyes the size of the Jabulani.

This is the month when potato chips, instant ramen and Coke are consumed every night in lieu of square meals. This is the month I am permitted to go to work in my electic collection of football jerseys representing my favourite clubs and teams.

This is the month cheers of triumph and groans of dismay are heard from every house in my street, from 2230 - 0000 hrs and 0230 - 0400 hrs on an almost nightly basis. The cable TV-equipped little coffeeshops in our neighbourhood are doing a brisk business and closing later than ever since mid-June. This is the month we high-five random strangers in restaurants and coffeeshops, as long as we are all cheering for the same team.

This is the month all of us afficionados become know-it-alls who are smarter than the 'stupid' managers and 'blind' referees. This is the month when it is acceptable to celebrate Father's Day in front of the TV with a pizza dinner and a South Africa 2010 Official Licensed Merchandise polo shirt ("I haven't the time to wrap it or to get you a card, sorry Dad").

My friends and I have set up an ad hoc support group for People-Who-Suffer-Chronic-Neck-Pain-From-Falling-Asleep-On-The-Couch-Every-Night-Since-June-11. As the popular sportswear TV commercial goes, I have Footballitis. There is no cure. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, 20th June 2010: Of Piñatas and Potluck Parties

The children of Compassion Home had a good time at our MNS Open Day on World Environment Day, and so my blog buddy Ellen, who is a member of the
Fun Club that takes the children out for outings and buys food and provisions for the Home, deemed it fit to invite me over to the Home for the end-of-school-hols barbecue party. How could I refuse? She was lovely enough to make sure there was plenty of meatless goodies for me to enjoy!

I made my way to the Home after the World Refugee Day celebrations bearing with me a non-food contribution -- a Back-To-School piñata that I made out of recycled/reclaimed materials and stuffed with school supplies, World Cup themed merchandise and teeth-rotting candy.

My piñata is as gaudily hideous as can be. Most piñatas are made to resemble cartoon characters or burros or something recognisable. Mine looks like a gay pride hanging flowerpot or something equally frightful.

A birthday cake for all those born in the months of May and June.

Olé! A palpable hit! Our little champ is actually looking at the piñata from under his blindfold!

Collecting piñata swag is as much fun as the hitting part!

Please meet the best-behaved kids in the world! You can leave cigarettes, alcohol, great big scissors and all manner of contraband items on the table and it won't result in an 'incident'.

The two youngest boys were sorting out piñata swag. All the swag was to be shared out equally. There was no fighting and no claims of "I got it first". Even I can't boast of that level of discipline and self-restraint.

Mad Props to Ellen, the Fun Club and the wonderful children and caregivers of Compassion Home for an awesome party!

Thursday, 24th June 2010: Project Second Chance Updates

Whoosh has been adopted by the family of one of my colleagues. I've been told that the little girl for whom Whoosh was adopted has a learning disability and having a companion animal has helped boost her confidence tremendously. The child has become calmer, more responsible and less shy after having the little cat as a companion. I am touched and gratified that Whoosh has found her calling in life as a Therapy Cat. Perhaps it was meant to be. Perhaps it was destined that I was to bring Whoosh home and rehabilitate her and then rehome her with this loving family with a lonely little girl who was just waiting for a cat who would love her unconditionally.

Estel, on the other hand, went in heat a few weeks ago, and so I arranged with VJ and Sara to have her spayed as soon as her cycle was over. As usual, I made arrangements with the SPCA vets and our cat caretaker, Kak Mazni, to enable Estel to be spayed on a weekday when the vets are able to fit an extra surgery into their schedule.

Kak Mazni would not accept any payment from me for boarding all my strays and fosterees, and she told me it was because she sees me as a friend and not a client. The night I went to pick Estel up after spaying, I gave Kak Mazni a canvas shopping bag filled with chocolates, potato chips and coffee mixes, and told her that she must accept my gift in lieu of payment for all the times she looked after my Project Second Chance fosterees for me.

Estel is currently still in my Bachelor's Quarters, waiting for her family to collect her, and is as rambunctious as ever. Further proof that spaying doesn't necessarily make them more placid or docile.

I am beginning to suspect that the tiny black lightning bolt climbing up the living room curtains is a cat-monkey hybrid after all.

Saturday, 26th June 2010: SPCA Saturday

It was a genially chaotic day at the SPCA when I arrived at the animal shelter on Saturday morning. There were gaggles of schoolchildren in the front area arranging trestle tables and merchandise for the Jumble Sale the following day, and our general workers were busy scrubbing and disinfecting every surface in preparation for the hundreds of visitors and customers who would be coming over.

I got to work bathing and tick-washing the dogs in the B-Extension Kennels and Hospital area upon receiving my instructions from the vets. It was perfect dog-bathing weather, and it didn't matter to me that there were no other volunteers available to assist me. I sang as I worked and managed to bathe at least 18 dogs in a little under 3 hours.

"I don't like the way the shampoo makes me tingle all over!"

"Put that tickwash spray away or I'll eat your glove!"

I cleaned the kennels and Cattery after I had finished bathing the dogs assigned to me, cleaned myself up and went on my merry way back to the parental home, where more housework, yard work and dogs await me. The weekend has just begun.

Sunday, 27th June 2010: Newest Family Member -- Kuchbhi the Baby Koel

Took the parents out to a Sunday lunch before making my way to the SPCA in the early afternoon to help with the post-Jumble Sale cleaning and reorganising.

I was in the midst of cleaning the office and front area when a man and his children dropped by with an injured young bird in a plastic bag. They found the bird sitting helplessly on the sidewalk, surrounded by belligerent crows.

I took one look and guessed what had happened. The baby koel, being a member of the cuckoo family, was born in a crow's nest. The crows figured out that the big, ungainly nestling wasn't one of them and threw the poor little mite out of its nest.

I assured the kind man that I would take over the care of the koel and he made a donation to the SPCA. The SPCA supplied me with a cage and Ilium Dermapred for the bird's wounds and I purchased some bird food from the mini market across the road. Kuchbhi the Baby Koel was to be my latest fosteree under Project Second Chance.

"Kuchbhi" is Hindi for "anything", sometimes used to mean "What The Heck?!?"

I posted Kuchbhi's photo on my Facebook profile and kind words and offers of help came in almost immediately. My friend Loretta offered assistance as she has a heat lamp and no indoor cats. I brought Kuchbhi over to Loretta's house after completing my work at the SPCA for the day.

Other friends offered less than practical advice. "Give Kuchbhi a pencil", counselled a fellow birder, Tang. "Why?" I wanted to know. "So she can pass the time by solving the crossword puzzle," came the ludicrous reply.

It took what seemed like a lifetime for me to stop laughing. I am glad, though, that Kuchbhi is surrounded by so much love and concern. Loretta and I both hope she grows up to be a big, noisy, pesky koel.

Tuesday, 29th June 2010: Blood Donation Update

I learned something new today.

I learned that if I eat a big breakfast and drink 2 glasses of water and wear my heaviest shoes and leave my wallet, 3 bunches of keys, Blackberry, coins and Swiss Army Knife in my pockets during the weigh-in before donating blood, I could bring my weight from a paltry 46 kg to a whopping 50 kg!

I totally rule. Now nobody can declare me ineligible for blood donation.

The Blood Bank was festooned with red and white balloons in conjunction with World Blood Donation Day on June 14th. I just hope the balloons are made of biodegradable latex, if they are going to end up in a landfill.

During my last blood donation, I could only have a hot beverage because there wasn't any other refreshment suitable for vegetarians. I am pleased to report that they had quite a variety of refreshments this time around and I did not have to leave hungry. Thank you, National Blood Bank.

Across the Continent, my Special Someone was also donating blood at the same time. Bound together by our love of service and our concern for living beings, we are closer to free. The fact that I have found my Special Someone is enough to persuade me that even in the disorder and insanity of the Universe, there is room for equilibrium and perfection.

Covert Operations, OUT.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

World Refugee Day Celebrations in KL Sentral

The global theme for World Refugee Day 2010 (which falls on June 20th) is "Home", which expresses the hope that refugees will either be able to safely return to their countries of origin, or rebuild their lives in new countries.

It was with the objective of creating public awareness on the plight of refugees and of celebrating the strength and resilience of refugees that UNHCR Malaysia marked World Refugee Day 2010 with a massive outreach event in KL Sentral, Southeast Asia's largest public transport infrastructure, over the past weekend. Our celebrations included rousing cultural performances, interactive exhibitions and a refugee bazaar to raise funds for refugee communities.

The event was successful beyond our wildest dreams and drew an enormous crowd on both days. We had many interested members of the public signing up to be volunteers, and the booths at the bazaar enjoyed brisk sales.

My colleagues and I were on duty on Friday night to help set up the booths and exhibition panels. It was more tiring than I had expected, because I was still on medication following oral surgery the previous week.

Come sign up at our booth to be a UNHCR Volunteer!

Our little refugee bazaar, offering everything from buns and cakes to shawls and costume jewellery, in an effort to help refugee communities, especially women, be financially independent.

Our refugee bazaar was also a good way of helping refugees network with potential customers.


What does it feel like to live as a refugee, away from home? To escape to an unfamiliar land, with nothing but the clothes on your back?

You don't speak the language, but somehow must provide for your family.

You live cramped in a small room with 40 others, and keep alive the hope that someday you will return home.

"We don't want charity. Just give us the chance to work and to be independent."

There are no 'refugee camps' in Malaysia, only Immigration Detention Centres.

Most refugees in Malaysia live in small, cramped flats or houses in cities. They are almost invisible in the cities they live in, living quietly side-by-side with Malaysians.

Due to displacement and trauma, many refugee children are denied a normal childhood and the right to play. In the indoor courtyard of a flat, refugee chilldren steal some precious play time.

This man rents a tiny room in a flat with 8 other men because it is all he can afford. Within the confines of this small space, the men conduct their daily activities of sleeping, praying, eating and even cooking.

Refugees wait at a free clinic run by UNHCR and an NGO in order to get treatment. The health needs of refugees are often neglected due to the cost of medication and treatment. These free and low-cost clinics help make healthcare more accessible for refugees.

Like many refugees, this hospitalised patient worked at a construction site. In an accident, he fell 13 floors and escaped near death. The steep hospital fees became a great burden to him due to his meagre wages.


Choose your own adventure, UNHCR-style!

Enter our maze and walk a mile in a refugee's shoes:
What's it like to be a refugee?
To witness your family torn apart by war and conflict?
To lose everything you value -- family, friends, your home -- and be forced to flee in order to save your life?
To travel hundreds of miles, on foot through dense jungles, into a strange land.
It's difficult to imagine this journey and the life-changing decisions that must be made, often with little time to prepare.

Soldiers are coming to your village within an hour. They've threatened your life before. This time, you won't be able to buy them off with cigarettes. You've got nothing left. Nothing but your aged parents who urge you to run.


You plead for mercy. They show none. They pillage your home. They take away everything of value. Worse still, you are taken away. You may never return. Your life, as you know it, is over.

Many who flee war and complex human rights situations may never find the safety and protection they need.

Their journeys are very much like what you have read in this exhibition today. They need your support. Help them rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. Visit to learn more.


You hardly have time to pack. Just a lighter. 3 shirts. The pants you're wearing. That's it. No food or water. You trek through the foliage for 4 hours. You stumble and injure yourself. But you have escaped a certain death in the village. You come to a road. At last. A way out. You hear the hum of a car approaching.


You wander in the jungle for 2 days, until you pass out from dehydration. You didn't make it. Your journey as a refugee ends here.


He gives you a ride to the nearest town. After 2 hours, you arrive at the town bus stop. You need to find someone to help you leave the country. You can't go back home. It's probably ransacked or burned to the ground. You can't stay in the town. The troops will find you. They will kill you for running away.


At the border, you realise you have no passport. Soldiers handcuff you and send you away on a truck, to where you came from. You are thrown into jail, indefinitely. Your journey as a refugee ends here.


You give him all your money. He's got a car. But you don't get a seat. You are asked to lie in the trunk with 3 others. You pass out many times along the way. You almost suffocate. But you survive the 10 hours of hell. You pass the border. You've made your way out of the country.

What happens now? You have no money. No friends. No future. In a very real sense, your journey as a refugee has just begun.


A very macho and rousing dance by the Rakhine community of Myanmar to show loyalty to their King.

Children from the Mon community of Myanmar performing a traditional dance in absolutely regal-looking costumes.

A very colourful music and dance troupe by the Mon community of Myanmar.

What a spectacular costume! A dancer of Shan ethnicity performs the Peacock Dance.

Lovely ladies from Shan State performing a New Year song-and-dance number.

Young people from the Kachin (Myanmar) community performing the Myitkyina dance.

Adorable Kachin children performing a traditional dance.

Young people from the Chin community of Myanmar performing a dance to celebrate the birth of a baby boy.

The double standards practiced in most societies do confound me, I must admit.

Endearing little Afghan girls performing a demure little dance.

Afghan women performing a rather melancholic-sounding number. From the looks of it, I think it's a song about women's place being in the kitchen. The women stand around the pot, stirring, and clapping at the beat of one clap a minute or something excruciating like that.

Afghan boys performing a lively bhangra-like number, and dancing with each other. I was waiting for the womenfolk to join in but they never did. I guess the women were all stuck in the kitchen with that there big ol' pot, huh?

Young ladies from the Sri Lankan Tamil community performing an Indian classical dance.


Refugees may have lost their homes, but let them not lose hope for a better future! Find out how you can assist them:

Choose A Project:
Look for a Refugee Self-Help Project that interests you and make a difference with your time, skills, resources and purchasing power! Visit our Social Protection Fund Blog at and choose to make a difference in the lives of refugees!

Be Our Volunteer:
Contact the Social Protection Fund at 03 2141 1322 or to offer your skills and services.

Contributions In Kind:
Your donations of used but wearable clothes, travel bags, soap, household items and personal care products can help out those who are not yet able to help themselves. Refugees and asylum-seekers in Immigration Detention Camps, especially, have a need for clean clothes and hygiene products. Think you can help? Then drop me an email or give me a call before you drop by with your donations. I will help you get your donations to those who need it the most.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Celebrating World Environment Day with MNS Selangor

The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Selangor Branch celebrated World Environment Day 2010 with our Open Day at Taman Lembah Kiara on Saturday, 5th June.

Our first Open Day was held at the MNS HQ itself in January 2008, and it was such a success that we have since held 3 other Open Days -- at FRIM, the Shah Alam Agricultural Park and at Taman Lembah Kiara. We used to only have annual Members' Days in out-of-city-limits locations such as the Boh Tea Plantations in Cameron Highlands, but sometime in late 2007, the Committee decided that in the interests of public education and environmental outreach, we would conduct Open Days where members of the public and local community could participate in nature and conservation-related activities and have a sampling of the activities our Special Interest Groups have to offer.

This year also marks MNS' 70th Anniversary, and so it was appropriate for our Open Day to adopt the theme of "70 Years of Conserving Nature, Celebrating Life". Our Open Day this year focused on the call to cherish and protect our country's increasingly threatened wildlife and habitats.

As usual, we offered guided nature walks, the Single Rope Technique exercise, exhibition booths, campaign and petition booths, Arts and Crafts, face-painting stalls, activity booths by most of the Spesh Interest Groups and booths by partner organisations such as MYCAT and Wild Asia to bring home the urgency of saving our wildlife from loggers, poachers and infrastructural/agricultural expansion.

We also introduced new activities this year, including a Scavenger Hunt, a Storytelling Session (by my highly talented blog buddy Keats) and Stream Ecology sessions (conducted by Hashimi).

Since Lil, our preferred Master of Ceremonies, was indisposed due to wrist injury, I replaced her as the emcee, which wasn't an onerous role at all considering that I had offers of help from Cindy, Bernie and Ilyas. My other roles were in the planning and preparation of the Scavenger Hunt, photo exhibition, Green Living booth activities and Nature Quiz, all of which were finalised and running smoothly by the morning of the event, thanks to the help of competent volunteers.

The MNS Selangor Open Day was literally a walk in the park for visitors.

A sizeable crowd had gathered at the Arts and Crafts booth by mid-morning.

Interested members of the public learning more about our campaigns to stop the conversion of rainforests into latex timber clone plantations.

A young family had fun playing the Water Conservation board game at the Green Living booth.

Ben10 and family try their hands at the Green Living 3R Board Game.

The SPCA was invited to set up a booth as a partner organisation, but unfortunately City Hall would not grant them permission to bring in animals for adoption. The gang made a tidy sum from merchandise sales and donations, though.

I didn't get to participate in as many activities as I would like to, as I was stuck at the emcee booth making the announcements. I conducted a nature/conservation-oriented spot quiz around 1030 hrs and gave out prizes sponsored by the various Special Interest Groups. The Green Science Kits sponsored by the Green Living SIG were the most coveted prizes of all. These two young men were all smiles after winning a Potato Clock and Enviro Battery kit respectively. Well done, boys! Just add vegetables and water, and - voila! - you have your clocks and batteries!

32 teams registered for the Scavenger Hunt, which was flagged off at 1100 hrs. Teams had to look for and bring back (or photograph), among others, an epiphyte, a skeleton (animal or plant), a soil-improving plant and something which has no use in nature. One of the judges is seen here grading a team and awarding points for the correct items brought back.

Two of the Scavenger Hunt teams with their spoils! (Photo credits: Christopher Leo)

Keats got her audience involved in an interactive storytelling session about habitat destruction. Children and their parents are seen here playing out the role of the emergent canopy in a rainforest in Keats' original work, "Paradise Lost".

Keats and her young fans with the butterfly crafts they made using reused and salvaged materials. (Photo courtesy of Keats)

Happy trails is what you get when you go on a guided nature walk with our Nature Guides. (Photo credits: JC Tan)

I conducted a Nature Quiz for the children of Compassion Home. Many thanks to Ellen and the volunteers who brought the children to participate in our Open Day! (Photo credits: Alex Foong)

The event was officially over at 1400 hrs and Vegan Eugene, Mary and I were among the last to leave after tidying up, no thanks to the fact that Vegan Eugene spent hours trying to locate an LCD projector bag that didn't exist. The Cave Group gang was still around practicing climbing techniques around 1500 hrs, so the three of us accosted them and asked for the opportunity to do the Single Rope Technique.

The tighter the harness, the easier it is to climb.

Looka yonder! It's a spider monkey! It's a baboon! No... it's just me.

Two of the cavers caught in a compromising posish... Ooh la la... ha ha.

SH, one of the senior cavers, all kitted out to try out some new climbing and abseiling techniques. Cavers have the most fun. I really want to sign up for the Basic Caving Course next year. I've been putting it off for too long.

If you like what you see and you like what we do, please visit the links below!

* Join the Malaysian Nature Society and lend your voice to the protection and conservation of Malaysia's wildlife and green lungs!

* Learn more about Selangor Branch and find out what our upcoming activities are!

* Sign the petition to Save The Belum-Temenggor Forest Complex!

* Sign the petition to Protect the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge and Selangor State Park from the proposed Kuala Lumpur Outer Ring Road (KLORR)!

* Sign the petition to Conserve Langkawi Islands' Remaining Rainforests!

* Sign the petition to Save Peninsular Malaysia's Rainforests from conversion into Latex Timber Clone (LTC) Plantations!

Trees have no suffrage. We do! Please lend your voice and vote for better implementation and enforcement of conservation laws. We share the fate of our natural environment. A healthier Planet means a healthier human population. Thank you for your support!