Sunday, December 31, 2006

Be careful what you wish for...

After numerous comments upon my return about how much weight I've gained (Wah, pui liao! ...Ni hao xiang pang le...Eh, have you gained weight ah? etc etc), I was already planning out a whole exercise regime to stay in shape. However, how was I supposed to resist consuming all the local fatty goodies, knowing that I may not get to eat them again for a year or so??

My problem was miraculously solved just after Christmas, for I was stricken by a terrific bout of food poisoning. I've scarcely eaten any solid food since Monday, and scarcely retained whatever scarce amounts I've consumed, mainly subsisting on mint tea, fruit juice and Pocari Sweat. Even when faced with my fave foods (like the thought of having satay for supper), my stomach churns and a wave of nausea overcomes me. As you may imagine, I'm superbly miserable. So this is what it feels like to have a tiny appetite. Eeews! Plus I don't know how some women can tahan taking laxatives in order to lose weight. They must be pure masochists.

How lah? This stupid problem has been hanging around for one week already, and I'm due to return soon! Plus I haven't even eaten chili crab yet!! Waugh...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Always too late to say goodbye...

The first time it happened, I was devastated. This second time, I don't know what to feel. Is it some weird coincidence, or just a really twisted cosmic joke? I don't know, I probably should not read too much into the meaning of it all.

My maternal grandfather had a stroke some years before, but his condition worsened in June 2004. My mother and brother went up by car the same day they got the call, while I was still at work. She told me not to worry as they had quite a few false alarms before, plus I was supposed to leave for Okinawa to attend ICRS in two days. Somehow, I couldn't stop worrying. I took the first flight out to Penang the next morning, but he passed away shortly after the plane took off. All I could do was to attend the wake.

My paternal grandmother lived in Kuala Lumpur with my grandaunt. I suppose she always liked to be independent, and still drove around on her own in a manual car. A few weeks ago, my sister emailed saying that she suffered a fall and broke her hip, and so was hospitalised. My brother stayed back in KL to keep an eye on her for almost three weeks. I tried calling my brother to speak to her, but the first time I called my uncle's cell instead, and the second time, my brother was going to visit later. I meant to call again, but time passed, and I guess I just figured I would talk to her in person instead, once I returned to Singapore. There were a few moments when her condition would worsen, such as when she suffered a partial lung collapse, but she recovered a lot, and even moved from the surgical ward to a normal patient ward. So we made plans to visit KL on Saturday, and I thought of bringing my laptop to show her pictures of my life in US.

After a rather gruelling 20+ hour flight, I met my brother-in-law outside the arrival hall, and he told me that my grandmother passed away earlier in the morning, around 5am, probably when I was still somewhere over Alaska on the plane. It was certainly not something I was expecting. So we're all still going to KL tonight, but this time, it's for the funeral.

It's really cliched, but you do think of the times you could have said or done something, but didn't. Like if only I had tried calling again, if only I visited more often while I was in Singapore, if only...

She really was a feisty woman. As far as I could remember, she would volunteer with the St John's ambulance brigade, and always seemed to be travelling somewhere. In fact, she was planning to visit Australia again, but fell a few days before departure. She always doted on us, and brought us souvenirs from wherever she went. I knew she was the independent type, but I didn't realise how strong she was until my sister did a project on our family tree. I never got to know my grandfather. He walked out of the house one day during the Japanese Occupation in WWII and never came home. As a widow with 2 young kids, my grandmother struggled to feed the family and reverted to her maiden name as my granduncle (or great granduncle) could get rations, but only for his family members. That's why I share the same surname as her.

The last time I saw her, was when I travelled to KL for an aikido seminar just before I left for the States. We had lunch at her favourite noodle restaurant, which dishes out huge servings of dumplings, and she insisted that she buy me satay for dinner, together with Aunty Mona, before I left. Driving there was quite an experience as Grandma's eyesight wasn't as good as before. I was thinking that the next time, I'll be the one driving her around instead. The power at the coffee shop was out that night and we had to eat by candlelight. The satay (and fried noodles), were really good though. As Aunty Mona dropped me off at the taxi-stand, they both told me to take care of myself in the US, and I told Grandma to take care of herself too...

Friday, December 01, 2006

An open letter to REACH, on proposed developments in the Southern Islands

I read with interest the news articles recently on developing the Southern Islands off Sentosa into a playground of the rich and famous. Although I'm glad these lovely islands are in the limelight and receiving attention to promote them as attractions, I view the proposed plans with some trepidation.

As a nature guide with the Blue Water Volunteers' ReefWalk programme, I have brought numerous visitors to explore the marine life on the reefs of Kusu Island on several occasions. Over the months, we have spotted myriad creatures including dolphins, stingrays, anemone shrimps, clownfishes, seastars, and a hodgepodge of brilliantly patterned flatworms and sea slugs, as well as entertained and educated over a thousand enthusiastic visitors.

Many of the articles mention some form of development- luxury homes, hotels, spas, or even a second Palm Island. Ms Pamelia Lee was even quoted on Channelnews Asia as saying that plans to use coral stone as construction material would be considered! Remarks like these make nature lovers wonder if the existing, natural marine life holds any importance in the minds of the planners. Corals are living things, the very foundation of the coral reef ecosystem, and are so slow-growing they only extend by a couple of centimetres a year! Furthermore, it is doubtful that any medium to large scale works will have little impact on the surrounding reefs, which have already endured so much stress from decades from reclamation and dredging works.

Why am I making so much noise about these supposed 'murky water' reefs?

Simply put, I love Singapore's reefs. I've dived at Sipadan, Manado, Lembeh, Okinawa, the Andaman Sea and Florida, and in all honesty, I still rank Singapore among my best dives ever. I pursued the elusive soft coral cowrie on two trips to macro-heaven Lembeh Straits, only to find out that a volunteer Hantu Blog dive guide recently photographed 3 (!) at Pulau Hantu. When the waters clear (through some fluke of currents or a reduction in coastal development intensity), the colours and sights to be seen are truly dazzling. Researchers in Singapore still find new records of marine life, if only the reefs and shores remain for them to explore. These reefs, although small, are products of millenia of existence and evolution, creating a world full of wonder and complexities, something that man could never hope to replicate.

I hope Singapore's reefs could find a place in the hearts and minds of the people planning the latest slew of Southern Island developments.