Saturday, July 19, 2014

NP Runners’ Relay 2014

We are ready.
The lady in white is the COI lady runner. 
We did it!
Click here for more photos.
This year’s race is a straight fight between ECE and COI (Combined). Other than the first and last runners, we were always in sight of each other. The race was nail biting and very interesting to watch as the two teams have very contrasting styles. We knew all along that the COI team had very strong lady runners and they are fielding two teams while we just managed to produce one. Throughout the race, we lost the lead only once.

Our fastest runner, Alan, started the ball rolling. He is several cuts above the competition. He ran with such grace and power that even the competitors are singing praises to him. We all agreed that he will catch up with the student runners who started about 1 to 2 minutes ahead of the staff runners. The only question is how many students he can overtake. I would be happy if he could catch the last few. But no, he did much better; he came back with the bulk of the students. DP Mah, Director TLC and many others were asking, “WHO is Alan?” We have to assure them that Alan is a staff not a student. (I was told later that Alan collided with a passer-by who walked into his path).

Teck Soon ran the second leg which is reserved for the senior. He stood in for Sze KL who suffered an untimely leg injury. Among the senior staff, few come close to Teck Soon when come to physical prowess. He ran like a gazelle and sprint like someone 10 years his junior.

Yu Yang was next, he ran for ECE in the midst of a very intensive course. Yu Yang is proof that brains and brawn do co-exist.

Chen Ming took over the baton from Yu Yang. I salute Chen Ming for her great spirit. She was called up in the last minute and could not even complete the first training run and we have only one more week to prepare. On the actual day, she ran with a broken toe nail which was heavily bandaged to cushion the pain. Her task was to complete the race, never mind the timing and she did it.  Without her, we could not even form a team.

Chee Yuen is the hero of the night. He injured his back two week ago and was walking with a limp until one week back. His competitor was at least 70 meters ahead of him when he took over the baton. Chee Yuen was undaunted, he chased after the COI runner (also a SAFRA runner), like a bull dog who had just lost his favorite toy. He bit his way to the front again.

Chee Yuen handed over to Yang Fang with a 50-meter lead. She is the fastest lady runner we have ever have had. She clocked 6 min 43 sec for 1.2 km on flat ground. None of our previous lady runners have ever gone under 7 minutes over the same distance. Nang-Bun was so inspired that he folded up his pants and joined in the fun. He paced Yang Fang for most of the distance. Yang Fang maintained a small lead for our last runner, Billy.

Billy, our captain, is in a class of his own. When we saw how he pulled away from the rest especially the last COI runner, we were all smiles. True enough, he cut a lonely figure coming back to the stadium and we erupted in joy with him at the finishing line. We are now the champion three times in a row.

At the end of the day, it is a pleasure to work with the ECE staff. They give of their best, never ask what they will receive and take on challenges readily. I am very happy for together we bring joy to ECE.

List of ECE runners
Alan Tan, Teck Soon, Yu Yang, Chen Ming, Chee Yuen, Yang Fang, Billy (captain)
Meng Tiong (reserve), Li Yan (stand-by lady runner)
Special thanks to our supporters:
ECE Director, Yong Poo, Nang-Bun, Sim Bee, Wei Lian, Dr Chua KC, Leh Ee, Calvin Hoo, Dr Jen Hong, Zhao Min, Wei Juan
NB: Nang-Bun and Wei Lian volunteered to run in Team 2 next year.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Food Poisoning

We have had an unfortunate episode of food poisoning on the second last day and half the team were down with vomiting and diarrhoea. We had followed proper procedure for the food was consumed in a proper restaurant. In that incident, I saw how the team rally together to help each other. In particular, Ariel who stayed back in the hospital to take care of 2 of her teammates while I took the rest back to the quarters. I have no doubt that Izyan will also stay back if Syafiqah had to be hospitalized.

Appreciative Community

Bonfire Night
The show is on!
I'll show you how.
I performed a simple magic show for the locals at the closing ceremony. I told them, “I do this for my nieces and nephews during family gatherings. Today you are all my nieces and nephews.” 
I could hear grasps from the audience when the translator finished his translation. They were so happy just to hear that we are somehow related and connected.
I continued, “My nieces and nephews usually sit around me when I perform the tricks. But today you are sitting very far from me. This is going to be difficult but I will do my best.”
They cheered loudly at my effort never mind the outcome. This is the general feeling we get when we interact with the community be it overseas or local. This tells me that we are doing the right thing.

Friday, May 16, 2014

One Of My Proudest Moments as a YEP Leader

Painting the staff room
Mural I
Mural II
We do not speak the Khmer language and all our communications with the local are through translators. Based on my understanding, our painting job required us to clean, paint and then draw the murals for 1 staff room and 2 classrooms. The room size is quite standard except that the ceiling is very high, about the height of 2 HDB flats. We started cleaning the staff room which is packed full of stuff. It took a lot of time and effort just to move the things to create space for painting. The PSI in the room probably shot through the sky when we were cleaning the room. I am very grateful that the students preserved the hardship. It took us almost one whole day just to get the staff room ready for painting.
Unlike other YEP that I have been to, our Cambodian host made sure that there were sufficient tools to keep us purposefully occupied. No ‘eye power’ here. It took us just one morning to complete painting the room white. After lunch, we started drawing the mural. In the late afternoon, the school principal dropped by and told us that it is a staff room and there is no need for a mural. My jaw dropped …
 I could see the pain and frustration on the students’ face when they came to know about it. I was very glad that they did not kick up a big fuss. They just pressed on. We re-painted the staff room white and proceed to work on a classroom which is much more straightforward in terms of the furniture layout. The local children helped by moving the furniture outside the classroom. We were also getting better at our job; our painting skill improves and we know where the things are.
However, we had yet another unpleasant surprise the next morning. After seeing our yet-to-be complete mural, the principal told us that she had wanted something different. She showed us another classroom with a mural done by another group. That mural illustrates the concepts of regular shapes of square and rectangle. This time round, we had already done quite a fair bit of the mural. I just could not bear the idea of erasing it. This is bad for the team moral. To appease her, we offered to modify our concept by adding regular shapes to our mural. She relented after we showed her our modified draft.
Towards that late afternoon, the principal came by again. As she looked at the mural, she kept smiling and talking excitedly to some local children who happened to be there, I could see that she was very pleased with the mural. The next day, she asked, through the interpreter, that if we could draw a similar mural for her staff room! I have no qualm about it but I needed my team to agree as well. I could not do it alone. Guess what? They also agreed heartily. This got to be one of my proudest moments as a YEP leader.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Pumpkin Plant

1. Male Flower
2. Female Flower
3. Baby Pumpkin
Pumpkin is the second fastest growing plant I have ever planted. It grows by a few centimetres every other day. The champion is the Gar plant from Vietnam. I made the mistake of putting them on the same pot and they end up growing all over each other. Pumpkin leaves are relatively large: bigger than my palm.
You will find a flower bulb for every leave on a mature plant. Take a closer look at picture 1 if you have doubt about I said. Pumpkin flower blooms only for a few hours and most of them are male which means they will not fruit but just wither away.
Pumpkin has poor root system which limits its growth potential and is prone to aphid attacks.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sea Coconut

Sea Coconut Tree
Sea Coconut Fruit
A sea coconut fruit cut across
1. The Sea Coconut tree is also known as Sugar Palm. A Sea Coconut tree is either a male or female depending on the type of flower it produces. Both male and female will flower but only the female tree will produce the fruit. Palm sugar is derived from the flower juice. Almost all the Palm Sugar that we buy from the market contains 50% flour.  When you taste the real thing, you will realize how much you have been cheated all this while.
2. Sea coconut typically has 2 seeds per fruit while coconut is 1 seed per fruit.
3. Fresh Sea Coconut tastes like jelly but softer.