Monday, 31 March 2014

"Save the Rainforest" Walk - 29 Mar 2014

By XianJin:

The "Save the Rainforest" Walk was organized by an NGO, PEKA, to create an awareness of the importance of rainforests in Malaysia. This was their first 'in-city' forest walk at Sungai Besi forest reserve in Cheras - near to our home so all the more we should support this event. In teams of two, we had to walk about 8km (which was far for me) from Alam Damai park to the forest and back. Over 2,000 participants took part, and the place was crowded and chaotic.

Already feeling tired from the previous day, I was determined to complete the Walk. Each participant was given a goodie bag (with an energy bar, a water bottle and food vouchers). I couldn't imagine how tough 8km was at that time, thinking it's OK, not knowing what was to come.

I took part with my father and brother, along with our friends so there're 6 of us in 3 teams.

A briefing and a warm-up session. I couldn't wait to start.

After what seemed like hours, the Walk began. The crowds were pushing to get to the starting point. 

From the park, we've to walk more than 1km to the forest. I already felt hot and tired. We couldn't move any faster because of the crowds.

Finally we reached the entrance to the forest. There're checkpoints to ensure our safety so we needn't be worried. 

PEKA has arranged a tree planting activity for us. The forestry department will then follow up with the maintenance of the trees and reporting to PEKA after the Walk. So for the time being, this forest will be spared from saws and land clearing. I was surprised that there were people who love nature so much and willing to do anything they could to save rainforests. 

There were several challenges on the way which made the Walk more interesting. 

Solving a puzzle before we could move on.

Getting the soil and fertiliser for tree planting. I was enthralled by the scenery of the beautiful forest.

I was annoyed by the lack of coordination. I had to wait for a long time for the people to cross certain places, like climbing up the forest in a single file. And there were people who cut queue which was rude.

The missing plane, MH 370, was a big blow to us, not to mention the relatives of the passengers. There were people who couldn't hide their feelings for the missing plane.

The climax of the walk - each team was given a dedicated hole to plant a tree. We finally unloaded our soil and fertiliser that we had carried for half the trek. We quickly planted our sapling. Wondering about the fate of our sapling which would be a tall tree .... in years to come.

A healthy sapling was planted...

Going down was pretty tough, holding on to the rope to prevent from slipping or falling. But then I still could not help being distracted by the sounds and sights of mossies.

We finally reached the road to the finish line, but we brought back the mud and dirt from the forest.

Though I was staggering to the finish line because of my super tired legs, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and hope to do it again.

Stopping at the roadside for coconut water. It's sooooo refreshingly good. Besides, this is how a couple of coconuts can help you find things..... :)

'Colouring the Sky' - 28 Mar 2014

By XianWei:

6th Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Hot air balloon! Hot air balloon!
Some as big as money tree from a tycoon.
This in Putrajaya,
Don't get wrong and go to Cyberjaya.
But riding the tethered balloons have long queues,
Everybody lines up and says "Phew!"
Hot air balloon so many shapes,
I wonder whether they make them with Superman capes.

Taiwan, France, UK, Hong Kong, Malaysia,
Spain, USA, Belgium, New Zealand, Vietnam and Australia.
Darth Vader, ice cream, motorbike balloons,
Almost anything you could think of like cartoons.
But watch out for the fire,
It's super HOT like a fryer.
At first crowded with hot air balloons,
After that like empty cocoons.

May the Force be with you!

Something fishy happening inside??

Botany Fun Hunt - 22 Mar 2014

We joined FRIM 's celebration of this year's International Day of Forests at the Kepong Botanic Garden. Entrance to the forest was waived on this day and FRIM had also organised many free activities. It's so good to be in the jungle on a day with clear blue sky. We've registered our family for the Botany Fun Hunt which is something like treasure hunt. I would prefer something straightforward like the tree planting activity - minus the mind-boggling exercise - but the guys overrode me.

From FRIM, we took a free shuttle to the botanic garden, didn't expect to see such a big park in Kepong. There're already many joggers and people exercising at the park. A short briefing before we started the Hunt.

Poring over the questions and 'clueless'! We have not the faintest idea about plants or botany. At least it's a great family team activity. There were 18 teams in the Hunt and surprisingly many youngsters took part - good idea to unplug them from computers, phones and tv.

"Doggie, do you know where's the "Pride of Burma"?...what - you've never been out of the city??"

Sidetracked to bird-watching.

At least a dozen Pacific swallows on the tree.

Looked like a Paddyfield Pipit.

A common sandpiper.

Unidentified bird and its beautiful reflection on the water.

'Come on guys - we need to catch up! I'm melting under the heat'.

We're the first few teams, or maybe the first team to return the Q&A to the counter within the timeframe. We didn't even know there's a cut-off time and walked unhurriedly round the park. Boys were anxious to see how many we got correct. 10 out of 12 correct!! Yeh!!

We almost couldn't believe it when we heard the announcement we got 1st!! Apparently, most of the other teams came back after the cut-off time, and some just disappeared. This was like a bonus to our effort, our 1st time winning something as a family and our 1st Hunt together! So proud of you guys cos I've given up halfway (hehe) due to heat.....

Happiness cannot be bought, but can be planted here - a "Happiness" tree, origin from the Philippines.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

When it rains, it pours - 18 Mar 2014

It's only mid March, and it feels like a long time in Malaysia. 

The weather was hot, extremely hot and dry, with hardly any rain for weeks. We took turns falling sick in the family. A drastic rise in dengue cases has raised the alarm, and everyone was very concerned about the disease. Then, without warning, two of our dams were contaminated by ammonia, forcing an immediate shut down and leaving thousands without a drop of water for weeks. That's during the Chinese New Year! We're one of those lucky ones in our residential area to be first hit by water disruption. Imagine how we've survived the water disruption - for 16 days and in such extreme heat! For most people, it's life as usual. 

Family 'gotong-royong' time. 
During this time, we've relooked at the ways we use water and come out with our survival skills and water rationing plan at home!!

He thinks it's play!

Day and night - every day...

A chance to meet and greet our neighbours!
We're so thankful for the daily water supply from the water tankers.

Soon, the prolonged dry spell forced the Selangor state to start water rationing in many areas, now affecting 3.6 million people. By then, we're more than ready, and the water ration was good news to us, cos we get 2 days supply of water and 2 days off. It's like a blessing to have our water back! 

 Prolonged dry spell causing trees to drop leaves. 

In the midst of the chaos, there're forest fire, bushfire and peat fire igniting everywhere, releasing billowing smoke into the air. Not forgetting to give credit to our firefighters who are working round the clock to fight the persistent fires in this hot and dry weather.

Our boys were cooped indoors most of the time due to the worsening haze. The Air Pollution Index (API) changes our lifestyle, where we go and what we do. 

Brandon's sketch - 'Pray for passengers, SAR teams'

But the most 'unprecedented' news, as we hear it over and over this past week, would be the disappearance of a Malaysian plane enroute to Beijing from our airspace in the middle of the night on 8 March. I've yet to take stock of everything that happened after that. Our nation and leaders are in spotlight over the missing plane. The international scrutiny and endless speculations and theories that flooded the news coverage everyday were just overwhelming. Todate, 26 countries are helping with the search. We also saw Malaysians from all walks of life join their hands in prayer and hope, as well as leaders from different nations put aside their differences to offer help with the search. Even our boys were glued to the tv news for the daily updates. There're just too many 'unprecedented' in this crisis. The world is still perplexed that even having the technology might not prevent these incidents. Whatever the outcome, it'll surely leave a mark in many lives.

Some of the things that happened this year, to us as well as our nation, took us out of our comfort zone abruptly. We like our routine, and when we have to live in uncertainty and unfamiliar grounds, we feel insecure. I did ask 'why us', when the whole nation has no problem with water supply, we're one of those affected by water disruption. So many people also asked how we'd survived. Not by positive thinking. But by taking one day at a time, doing what needs to be done for the day, stop worrying about the future and taking our concerns to God and learning to trust Him. 

This disruption from our routine has forced the boys to see things beyond themselves. We, as parents, love tending to their needs and whims all the time so they end up thinking the world revolves around them. This year they could see those things happening around them and in the nation, also affect them. And they realise that they're part of the bigger communities. We do not live for ourselves only. It's easier to explain these things to them now, when we're all not in the comfort zone.

The much awaited rain and strong winds came in the last few days bringing brief respite from the heat and haze. We've blue sky again and we can hear the birds chirping - it's such a precious sight though it's always there, we never realise how much we miss it. We can only hope and pray there'll be good news coming - especially on MH370.
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