Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Of pedals, butter lobsters and heat.

I haven’t been writing much about cycling so thought I’d better correct that, especially since the other topics have now been migrated to my other blog,
I’d seen the sign for ‘Pengerang’ at the Changi Ferry Terminal before but had no idea where it was until Johann enlightened us. A town on the south-eastern end of Johor, it is about an hour’s ferry ride from Changi and a nice place to cycle. Not to mention gorge on seafood…

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Johann, Mei and I had tried to go once, but when we turned up at the Changi Ferry Terminal early one Saturday morning, we found the queue was a long one that was expected to take 3 hours to clear so we gave up and went cycling along the East Coast instead.
A few weeks later, Mei and I were joined by Mei’s sister, Wei Yen, and her husband, Jeff. We turned up very early and this time were told we could expect to leave SIngapore around 9:30 which wasn’t too bad. Mei was prepared with a long-sleeved top and Wei Yen had a big hat which, as we discovered later, gave good protection but had a huge propensity to be whipped off by the wind.
We’d arranged for two mountain bikes for Jeff and Wei Yen through Tristan Group ( and their guy in Johor said he’d pick us up from the Ferry Terminal and bring us to where the bikes were. Tristan Group runs Tristan Park which has a dirt biking course and you can presumably have a great time roaring around on dirt bikes, quads and so on.
The boat ride took the best part of 45 minutes I think and on the way we saw a set of huge steel walls. They’re for land reclamation works and perhaps one day we will see Pulau Tekong joined to the mainland, for these areas were very expansive indeed.

Pictures: Part 1

Pictures part 2

The ride to Sg Rengit town was flat and got increasingly hotter. We chose a restaurant that was not frequented by Singaporeans and I think we might just have made the wrong choice. The food was pretty good, but I suspect the prices were less so.

We had Butter Lobster, baby Squids and more. Quite yummy I must say.

We hung around a little, but were mindful of the ferry time - we had been told to get back by 4pm and as Jeff and Wei Yen were not quick cyclists, we needed to set off back early.

A few km out of Sg Rengit and poor Mei couldn’t take the heat nor her increasingly bad neck (she has a history of neck problems partly from her work) and she had to stop and gave up her lunch by the road side.

We called Tristan Park who sent someone along in a van which he struggled to put Mei’s and Wei Yen’s bikes in. Jeff opted to ride back with me. I had planned to do a very quick ride but eventually ended up going slow so as not to leave Jeff behind.

Considering their lack of cycling, they acquitted themselves rather well, and despite poor Mei being unwell, I think we will certainly consider the ride again.

Been awhile...

I say I’m a thinker, talker, scriber guy and for the most part that is true. The last few months, for various reasons, have seen me doing much more of the first, a little less of the second and virtually none of the third.

I shan’t dwell on, nor get into here, the reasons why this has been so. Suffice to say I found a way to break through the wall that was preventing me from penning my thoughts. By keeping a private journal, I have allowed so much of what I’ve spent the last few months thinking about to be expressed on paper or screen and this has proven to be a cathartic process that is slowly but surely aiding my return to scribing.

I hope to publish more here soon. Thanks for waiting.

Don't wait too late! Five Regrets of the Dying

[cross-posted on the Amarajothy blog]

These words weren't mine, but I find they just make so much sense, hence I'd like to share them with you.

Recently I've been contemplating the topics of childbirth and additions to the world with two good friends soon to be parents - one for the first time and one for the second, and another who became a parent for the first time some months ago.

It's made me reflect on my own fatherhood, my successes and my failings and it has also made me look hard at a philosophy I've espoused for years:
Forget about life after death. It's Life before death that we should all be focussed on.

I've tried to live this way, with varying degrees of success and some extremely painful consequences. The regrets I have in my life are all from not living true to these tenets.

I hope you never have to have those regrets.

Five Regrets of the Dying
By Bronnie Ware, Platinum Quality Author

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, but in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip.  But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content.  When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly.

Choose happiness.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The 'other' blog

I’ve long struggled with sticking true to my objective of celebrating the good stuff in this blog.

As we all know only too well, there is stuff that happens or indeed, is happening right now which just isn’t too good. And it’s just so difficult finding the good side of stuff when all I want to do is rant and rave.

My solution is separating the ranting and raving entirely from Celebrate Malaysia and to this end I have set up which will now allow me to scream and shout a little sometimes.

This blog will continue to be about the good stuff and there are times I may reference or cross-post stuff that happily sits between the two.

Go check out the ‘other’ blog and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Have we lost our minds?

Dave, who lives in the US and with whom I’ve been playing Backgammon online for some years now, asked me about the Allah issue and the subsequent church fire-bombings and I replied, in the little 1000-character space we have for messages every turn:

“It's a political issue dressed up as a religious one. It is also a spotlight on the divide between the west malaysian (or peninsular) states and the two states we have 500km away which we call East Malaysia. The East Malaysians have lived a much more peaceful pluralistic society, something we on the west could learn from. Unfortunately political power resides in the west and it serves the political masters here better to simply plunder the oil and timber resources of the east while suppressing their political ambitions. Very sad.”

I’m not going to say here how absurd some of the arguments are. Especially in the light of so many facts such as:
i. The world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, freely allows the use of ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims. This is the same country we’ve been buying Bahasa Indonesia Bibles from.
ii. Middle-eastern Christians have been using the name ‘Allah’ for centuries.
iii. There are clear verses in the Quran saying the desecration of a Christian place of worship is a big no-no. Forget the forfeiture of 72 virgins or whatever, I mean this is serious don’t-even-think-of-it-sonny shit.
and so on…

However, it seems some people only want to see one side of the coin. Nevermind if it’s the side with no indication of any denomination or worth.

Now, I try to steer clear of overly-political opinions on this blog as I feel this platform should be for ‘making a difference’. I have made concessions, notably when the Perak State Assembly was dissolved some months ago.

I’m making some concessions here again but mainly because I do think this is indeed an opportunity to make a difference.

What opportunity, you ask? Well, just two simple things:
1. Speak up - make your voice heard in a peaceful, rational way. Write to your MPs or even to the PM, leave comments on major blogs and the alternative press like Malaysiakini or Malaysia Today. Make sure there is a clear signal sent that the dissenting voices protesting against the sheer stupidity of the Home Ministry’s actions are loud and numerous. Strange thing here is that it really isn’t about what you say - it’s about how many people are saying it.
2. Vote. It’s some time away yet, but when you have a chance (a by-election perhaps?) exercise your democratic right and vote against stupidity, bigotry, megalomania and corrupt hegemony. If you haven’t registered to vote, do so without delay. A visit to the post office should sort you out. Malaysia may have lost many things in the last 25 years, but we haven’t yet lost the value of a vote. If it’s the last thing we hold onto, let it count.

So, take these two opportunities and make something of them. Make them count. Make YOU count. And make a difference.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Stuff I’m into: The Secret Millionaire

This is the third season of this wonderful show. It puts a successful person incognito into a volunteer worker environment so he or she can assess to who and how much of his own money to  donate.

It’s so easy for people who have cash to simply write a cheque out to a charitable cause. We see these PR opportunities so very often in the newspapers or on TV. The Secret Millionaire instead immerses this millionaire in one or more organisations of their choice for 10 days. During this time they mop, wash dishes, peel potatoes, clean toilets, pick up horse manure and so on. It changes the people who receive the donation almost as much as it changes the millionaires who are taken out of their comfort zone.

My favourites so far:

Gary Eastwood, a scrap metal millionaire who started with a £100 loan and who during his 10 days had to deal with issues he’d buried deep within - the loss of his twin sisters to drug abuse and never having adequately thanked his grandfather, a WWII veteran who’d brought Gary up.

Nick Leslau, a property tycoon who had to face his own fears of blindness and who worked with the disabled. For someone who has so much - he’s worth over £200 million - he has such a personal touch.

This shows never fails to bring a tear to my eyes - it truly embodies what ‘Make a Difference’ is all about.

Forever Falls - a day trip to Selama in Perak

Fishing in Oil Palm Estates It seems this part of Perak is all about waterfalls. We’d seen signboards for so many in our recent travel...