Special Watch

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Leaving the old, ushering the new

Hi hi,
Just a little note to close 2005. 2005 has been one of the most fruitful years of my life. So, what have I done?

In chronological order:

Visited NY and Niagara Falls, Canada.
First time having to drive on the right and on snow.
Had a great time catching up with Kim who works in NY.
Brought a dog and a cat back to Singapore from NY, plus getting them quarantined and all.

Started contract teaching in a Sec school.
Was really busy but was happy to see young cheery faces.
First time having to deal with fighting students.
Building rapport with students, esp during CCAs and outings.

Content Upgrade for Lit at NIE.
Visited Bintan with mum, dad and sis.

July - November
Started with NIE proper.
Started blogging.
Knew lots of young frens.
First attempt at producing video clips.

November - December (such a fun-filled period)
Visited so many parks/nature reserves in Singapore - Botanical Gardens, Peirce Res, MacRitchie Res, Sungei Buloh, P Ubin, Bukit Timah Hill, Pasir Ris Park, Labrador Park.

Lovely star fish at Chek Jawa.

Learnt Flash and Authorware.
Learnt mass dance and taught mass dance to children in home.
Visited uncle's nursery and had a great time catching up with some uncles and aunts there.
Celebrated Christmas with frens and extended family, some of whom I have not met for a year or 2, and gaining 2kg in the process. Terrible.
Gathering with different groups of frens and ex-colleagues.
Finished reading Narnia, Harry Potter.
Watched Narnia (with my little cousins), Harry Potter, Oliver Twist, Charlie & Chocolate Factory (always found watching movies a waste of money when we can watch them on HBO or get VCDs later on, hence, so short my list).
Visited WA.

hmm... Such a long list. And lots of first times too.

And 2006 arrived much too fast. Sigh...


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Little Patch of Heaven

Hi hi,
Here I am again. Been having withdrawal symptoms. My body and mind refused to do anything other than curl up with a book, and popping chocolates once in a while. Sigh...

But am glad to say that I've finished reading all the 7 books in The Chronicles of Narnia. Just in time for the movie. Hee... Am now hooked onto Harry Potter. To be honest, I could not understand all the hoo-ha when it first became popular. But after Ms Chua's 'Have you been reading your Harry Pottie?', I decided to to pick it up. Finished up the first 3 books within a week. Am about to start with the fourth. Then, I will catch up with the movies. :) It's good!

Ok, my previous post had no picts. So, here's one that will grossify everyone out.

Taken on Bukit Timah Hill. Couldn't post it up with my last post because the picts were not with me then. This is the reason why I could not stand caterpillars, big or small. Once, when I was still a kampung girl, I came across a guava tree infested with these creepy crawlies, while I was on my way to the ma-ma shop. A came car speeding along. And because the roads in the kampung were so narrow, I actually lost my balance and almost fell onto the little tree full of those caterpillars. From then onwards, they never fail to make my hair on my head stand. Yucks...

Ok, have not done any more walks recently. But discovered a little haven out of Singapore:

Unsurpassed tranquility. Silence and more silence.... Peace has never felt so sweet.

No matter how hard I try at home, I can never get away from any man-made noises in Singapore. Not even in the deepest of forests here. We will always be hounded by noises from vehicles, either travelling on land, in the air or on water; or else it must be some other loud-mouthed fellow countrymen. Sigh... But here, the only beautiful sounds are: the winds rustling the leaves, the birds and the crickets.

This little patch of heaven is Boshack, the name of a 25-ha farm in Western Australia. It is not the usual cattle or wheat farm. It was also here that we heard aboriginal dreamtime stories, tasted bush chocolates, bush damper, bush tea in a billy, almost had to eat a grub, ate bush tucker (like kangeroo, croc and emu meat) using the spikes off a plant in place of our satay sticks, tried playing the didgeridoo, saw how improvised bush refrigeration or air-conditioning work, canoed in the beautiful lake at sunset, had an authentic Australian bbq dinner, sang Waltzing Matilda with the owner Christine, and asking myself when I could next come back and stay with her in one of her little zinc-roof shacks. It is a nice get away, especially when Perth is but so near to us. Highly recommended if you ever visit WA. Check out their website.

One other thing related to Geog that I did on this trip is to visit the Wave Rock. It is a long drive snaking thru the wheat belt of WA. But during the harvesting time in the Australian summer, one can see combine harvesters at work, and see how grains are stored. Makes a good agri lesson. But.. agri is out. Sigh...

Back the the wave rock, it makes the studying of weathering and erosion much much more exciting, doesn't it? The wave-like structure is the effect of erosion along a small little corner of this big piece of granite. One can never tell how big this huge rock is unless you see the aerial view.

I really think all Phy geog lessons should take to the air. Reminded me of the meanders and ox-bow lake I saw when flying above Indonesia.

And this one is a cave, called the Mulca Cave.

Ype, yep, that's all folks, for now. Back to Harry Pottie. :)


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Giving Thanks

Hi hi,
Am back again. This week has been most occupying and most fruitful. And I am grateful to the weather that held so that I could go outdoors. It has been most sunny for the past 10 days or so, except for one or two days of drizzle. Also, I am thankful to be born healthy so that I can roam Singapore without much effort. And of course, I am really thankful to all the helpful people whom I have met for the past 10 days or so.

Ok, what have I been up to? First, the wedding is done. It was a draining day, having to wake up at 0430hrs. Can't remember when the last time I had to be up so early was.

Second, went back to campus for 1 week of IT courses - Authorware and Flash. Flash is superb! We can do wonders with it. The problem now remains with my drawing which cannot be trusted at all. It's worse when I have to draw on a pc....

Third, went down to CAS for our service learning project. Our group conducted a Science workshop (primary school children), and 2 dance sessions so that they children (upp pri and lower sec) can perform on their Volunteers' Day. I was involved mainly with the dance. Ya, that's right, this is not a typo error. But anyone would have known that I have no dance genes in me. The Sci workshop people made a volcano and impressed the youger children with baking soda activated eruption. Seems like it is volcano everywhere I go for 2005. If only I can get to a real one before the end of of this year. ... :(

Ok, as for the dance workshop people, first, one of our brilliant groupmate choreographed a dance. Then, the lot of us took 3 afternoons, over 3 weeks to learn it. Then, we had to teach the dance to the children. Wow, they had only something like 2 x 1-hour sessions and they mastered it wonderfully and performed really well on the day. They really learnt fast. And not to mention they were really hyperactive. Had some problems getting them to co-operate. But once the music starts, all of them, as if touched by a magic wand, obediently did their steps accordingly. Wow! Music does wonders. Giving them a chance to perform does wonders too! Allowing them to be heard or seen does wonders as well.

Fourth, hee hee..., did something mainly done by teenagers. Went for a concert by MayDay amidst screaming teenagers. Oh well, I do like their songs. And it was a free tix (my young cousins were so jealous), thanks to my journalist friend. And my excuse for going, I need to be in touch with pop culture so that I can speak the teenagers' language. :P But then, even that is an excuse. :P Have been to a few concerts in my life, but mainly within the past 5 years. My frens say I am a late developer, doing stuff in the late twenties which are done by teenagers who are 16 years old. Hmmmphhh...

Ok, just one thought on the concert. Yep, it was superb, really engaging and rather funny too. And everyone was really co-operative and responsive. My, we have lots to learn from these idols. Pupils often give us problems. But when they attend concerts of their idols, they will respond accordingly and co-operate. Well, it is obvious that idolisation and education are 2 separate things. But I do see the parallels as well.

Fifth, of course went for a couple of walks by N parks again. I was at Lower Pierce reservoir on a drizzling morning. All the better. The place is less crowded. And I do love rainy days. It seems to slow everything down. And clean everything up. So, there I was, sitting on a bench, staring into space, awaiting the commencement of the walk. I might probably have continued in that state and gained enlightenment there and then, if not for the fact that I wanted to go for the walk. :P

As for the walk, we had an extremely good and well-prepared guide. He showed us the usual stuff. But he had some other props prepared. For eg, he was talking about the spikes off the big rattan trees, which were used by the Orang Asli as needles. He actually produced a couple of big ones, all of them drilled with an eye and equipped with a piece of thread going thru it. How wonderful! Thank you Johnny.

The following day, I went for the Bukit Timah Walk. It happened to be their Volunteers' meeting and lots of them were there. And the guides I have met since the start of my park visits actually recognized me. Some of them thought that I have signed up as a volunteer guide since I was so on. :P Hee... So got to explain now it's my hols, so must make good use of me time etc etc. :)

Ah, and we had an N parks staff to take us for the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve guided walk. He walked us right to the summit, something other guides did not do. In fact, we observed that the other groups weren't too far away from their starting point by the time the tour is supposed to end. And I am sure those following TS (went for his Prunus Trail walk and he ended 45min late) will end theirs late once again. TS is a great guide in instilling wholesome attitude towards nature. He has lots and lots to share, including his own world views towards nature.

Talking about the guides, everyone of them have their different personalities. Our guide, Ming, showed us the Singaporean Fern. Although it dows not attract attention like our national flower which is so beautiful, I think the fern deserves some acknowledgement too. It is not everyday that we get plants named after Singapore. The guide also tried telling us about the sounds of birds and insects we could hear there and then. I was told he specializes in frogs. He says frogs are adorable. Hmm... I certainly do agree.

So, I would like to express my thanks to N parks for their efforts and all the guides for all that they have done. :) Learnt so much from all of you. Thank you, thank you.

Then, I have been observing a few things. During the Lower Peirce walk, I met lots of parents who brought their young children along to get them acquainted with nature. That is worth commending. But then, some of them were talking like the whole world is deaf. Then, there was this kid plugged into his mp3. Sigh...

Then, I was at the airport at about 9pm a week back. Saw a couple of kids at the MacD surfing the net. They were wearing their pyjamas. Later, saw them walking with mum to wait for dad. Hmm.. What would foreign visitors think of that? First, students mugging away at the airport. Now, a pyjamas party?

Ok, got to stop before I get too critical on my own fellow country men. More, once I am back.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Green Iguana

Hi hi,
This post is dedicated to one of my dearest friend, who has been entrusting her car to me whenever she goes overseas. Without her kind gesture and unconditional generosity, visiting some of the remote corners of Singapore would be much more difficult. :) Thank you so so much MC.

And here are a couple of pics on the places I visited lately. So, for those who are disappointed with the lack of posts here for the past 2 weeks, my apologies. But here I am, back to keep you all entertained. :)

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
I was there on a sunny weekday (hmm.. sunny days are getting rarer and rarer these days due to the rainy season) and met a group of about 15 students, led by one or two teachers. Most children (ok, adults too) do not know how to appreciate nature, and more importantly they do not understand what rewards their silence would bring them in the reserve. So, when our paths first crossed, they frightened away the birds I was watching. And what happened next brought the male teacher some embarrassment.

Some of the shy students were pointing to some rubbish nearby, and an underwear was the center of attraction. Then, the most boisterous children started echoing one another, saying, "T'cher, that underwear must be yours" or " T'cher, that one look like yours". They were speaking to their male teacher so it was not done out of malice to embarrass the teacher. It showed a good rapport between the teacher and his class. But then, because of the presence of strangers (ie me), and a couple of parents following behind the class ... the poor t'cher turned red. A good rapport? Ah... sometimes children do not know how to judge where the boundary lies, if any ever existed.

Apart from this, the park was generally quiet. And every corner I went, I startled monitor lizards scrambling for their lives into the water. There are so many of them nowadays. A good sign? And here is a rarer sighting:

Er... no, not the man in yellow (he is there as a 'scale'). Look closer...

It's the...

... the humoungous green iguana. This one is over a metre long from head to tail. Cool creature.

Added this in because one can't tell its huge size from the earlier pict. And isn't she / he a beauty. Hee hee, am beginning to sound like Steve Irwin, Australia's croc man.

And I do love this (click on picture to see a larger version) :

Evolution Garden (within Botanical Gardens)

This is pretty new. It showcases the evolution of plants, from simple moss to ferns and to flowering plants much later on in time, and also a slight touch on other living organisms. Volunteers conduct 1 hour tour of the place on every 4th Saturday of the month, at 9am.

Besides the evolution of plants, there are some mention of the formation of earth, Pangea, Gondwana, and all that geological timeline. And here is something of geographical interest - a replica of North Ireland's Giant Causeway, a very unique volcanic formation of cooled basaltic columns:

Can't get to the real one. So, got to make do with this small and man-made one. Sigh....

Labrador Park

And oh, visited Labrador Park as well. Brought along an aunt to help me identify the plants there. :) And to be my 'scale' in my pictures, although her size can at best be described as Hobbit-size. :P Hee... the trip brought into mind an incident when I was still a kid. My family used to have picnics at the beaches once in a while. Everyone would scramble onto a lorry and one of my uncles would drive the whole lot of us, 20-odd people to East Coast Park or Changi Beach, all sitting on the open lorry. Once, my 6th uncle took a wrong turn and ended up in Labrador Park (we didn't know that of course since we were all simple country-side folks), right on top of a little hill. I still remember peering down a rocky cliff. And my uncle became the laughing stock of the family - how on earth are we to swim from up there? Here is what we can see from the viewing platform on that same hill today:

The park, apart from its educational value (rocky coast, rock cliff, history etc), is a nice place for evening walks as well.

Okie... got to turn in. More park visits coming up soon.