Hanging tough and keeping it real

So the first few days of being back in Lombok for a longer term this time to try and take off the business from Lombok itself hasn’t exactly been the easiest, though I have to admit I am still growing and learning and meeting the most amazing people.

The odds just stack up sometimes and I’d still say keep the faith because this too shall come to pass…

I have been in Lombok since last Thursday 21st November and with the help of kind souls and willing hearts of angels I have been increasingly blessed to meet, I was allowed to go lean and rent a villa on a hill for a great price for the month I am going to be here but recently some slight turn of events and kinks with regards to finances (without going into too much detail) got me wondering if I have it within me to carry this further. I ran a boat trip at a loss even though it was only one guest because I really wanted her to have a great time while in Lombok and get to see what we are trying to do, yet when we saw the many sharks at the fish market on the day of the trip, I really truly felt at a loss as I wondered how long more would it be before I could turn things around entirely and would I be in time or would I run dry on finances before it actually comes to fruition? The frustrations and odds just leaves me wondering if I actually do lack the resilience to get this going.

It reaches a point sometimes when you have nothing much left and all you can find within yourself is to just give what you have and that is something I have learnt from the villagers here in Lombok. I was walking up the hill back to the villa with a guest just a couple of nights ago and we only had one torchlight between the 2 of us so a villager ran towards us and offered us his torch without even leaving a name. I had a hard time seeking him out to return him the torch but beyond that, I was grateful for his extended arm of help expecting nothing back and that was a lesson in life for me to just give anyway, all the time. I sat by the porch of the villa this afternoon and teared up while feeding a stray dog who followed us up the hill despite fear of some other territorial dogs in the region who started growling at her. Thank goodness Spotty (she’s got a lovely big brown spot on her hip which makes her very recognizable and hence the boring doggy name) was smart enough to hide amongst us and make it up the hill unscathed (not without my shooing the offensive dogs away of course) albeit with her tail between her hind legs in fear. For her fighting spirit, I thought she deserved a piece of bread I still had left in the fridge and a bowl of water with tears in my eyes wondering about the odds that had stacked up.

As I trudged up the hill alone in the dark tonight armed with my torch and a misstep made my light waver, it served as a moment’s epiphany to me that the light must be kept stable for the path ahead in spite of the gravel and soft ground that would trip you up. Keep the light shining even if it is shaken up a little. I can fight this battle and I have different plans ahead of me. Let’s go, The Dorsal Effect, we need to meet more kind souls to take us further. I am a trooper. :)

Focus on the genuine and sincere connections I have made and remember to always give first. Keep keeping it real and it will all work out.

It is this beauty of what conversion entails (taken at yesterday’s amazing trip) that will keep me going, the seas are for protecting and enjoying in its wild beauty we can plunge into over and over again, not for ravaging and plundering and I will keep plunging in to be awed with my dear guests:

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The Chaos Asia

I had the honour and privilege of being invited to speak at The Chaos Asia at Neverland II with Dixii and had the most amazing and humbling experience meeting lots of interesting people and learning a lot about giving an impactful pitch.

When I have been only a teacher most parts of my life, I love talking to and interacting with young impressionable youths. You can talk to them impassioned about making positive change to the world and in turn, their eyes will sparkle right back fueling you to go on. So I thought talking to adults would be right the same but when I wasn’t getting the feedback I usually do with youths, after sharing a story close to my heart about an encounter with a beautiful juvenile whale shark to start my 180 seconds pitch, I think I lost my composure a little (coupled with the technical failures at hand) and actually told the audience there and then that sorry I am blacking out right now…well done. And hence the humbling experience. Nevertheless, I was touched when someone came up to me on day 2 telling me that They saw my eyes dazzled with such brilliance when I was sharing about the whale shark experience, that they had to take cover form the brightness (yes, a little extreme, but still encouraging.)

Nevertheless, I was truly inspired by Hayk Hakoban’s pitch about the evolution of life (the only one that stuck other than dear buddy and fantastic photographer, Wei Yuet’s one of course) although it hurt a little that he did not remember me at all when I approached him but oh well, just happy to get to share with him that hey, I really liked your pitch, it was different. :)

Thank you, Noritaka, for pulling off such an amazing and indie event without any sponsorship and going out on a leg for a dream. You have inspired me with your innocent passion and sincere and candid ways when speaking to the crowd. I respect the fact that you believed in getting a bunch of 88 presenters of innovation together, and practiced due diligence in getting the right speakers. You and your team have definitely left me with a lesson to learn about being fired up and just going against all odds when you want to make something work, indeed.

I am blessed to have met many other amazing people through The Chaos Asia too and may like minded people form strong communities that can leave a positive impact to a world in need. :)1400417_234401776720110_341280623_o-300x235

YSE final pitch and reflections

So the weekend went by in a whirl and I was pretty much still in shock by Monday at having been one of the winning teams for Singapore International Foundation’s Young Social Entrepreneur’s Programme 2013. For the days leading up to the final pitch, I was actually fraught with a bag of mixed emotions that ran the gamut from fear to uncertainty and even doubt. Even the weeks leading up to the pitch saw me still meeting people but having them share that they find me losing steam already. Perhaps the strain of financial instability and lack of interested tourists willing to come for a boat trip was taking its toll on me.

Being the extrovert that I am, I decided to just let loose and go for a retro themed networking party 2 days before final pitching day and meeting all these new people really got my energy level up as I learnt to let loose and share about The Dorsal Effect in a charming and playful rather than serious way, hoping that would be the lure for the excited traveler. What I was definitely not expecting, was to meet Nicholas Leong of Kenyan Riders (wasn’t he supposed to still be in Kenya?). Imagine my shock when I saw him and shouted his name out as if he was an old buddy when the only time I had ever met him was one-sidedly, on the TV screen, in a TV show that showcased Singaporeans abroad and the amazing things they were doing. Thank goodness he took to the star-struck me kindly and we ended up chatting heartily and soulfully about life, windows of opportunity for creatives, the Singapore expectations and being active vs reactive, most parts of the night. It was a much needed pick-me-up, to actually hear from a hero I look up to, about the uncharted path he had chosen to take and press on with, and he left me with a hearty bear hug and piles of encouragement by the end of the night.1390642_10151702139920687_903320160_n

So pitching day 12th October morning came and as I made my way up the Scape escalator to the pitching room, emotions flooded me over as I looked back upon this journey on The Dorsal Effect thus far…the conception, the trips to Lombok, the countless networking sessions I had put myself into, the many rejections from potential social venture capitalists and government start up grants, the competitions I had taken part in and failed to make it through subsequent rounds, the naysayers who admired my courage but said the idea was never gonna work, the not having a comfortable teacher salary to travel freely anymore…everything culminated and I just broke down before stepping into the room. But I eventually listened earnestly to each and every pitch before and after mine to truly be rejuvenated and reinstate believe in humanity in me again, truly heartened by all these efforts and amazing projects for change that I hope would come to fruition, seed funding or not, and when it was my turn, I think I really put my heart and soul into the pitch and ended with me choking up.

Fast forward to results announcement and prize presentation after the showcase to public session and when I heard “The Dorsal Effect” announced as the third winner, I was left in a state of shock that by the time I made it up on stage, tearing ceaselessly, I fell into the embrace of SIF’s dear ED, Ms Jean Tan. Even as I gave my 90 second pitch after the plaque presentation was I still choking up and fighting back tears, repeating phrases, truly the worst pitch ever…haha. Finally, beyond the seed funding amount, the win lent a lot more legitimacy and credibility to the business plan than ever before and that was truly a milestone.

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So the last few days thereafter gave me moments to register and properly take in what had happened and look at things retrospectively again and I started again to see just how amazingly and magically beautiful life truly is and that everything really happens for a reason. Right from the point when I bumped into lifelong Irish band loves, Ash at the Bangkok airport after Sonic Bang which became a sign for meeting the most amazing Irish couple Elisha and Aidan (who happened to be travelling in Southeast Asia at that time! What were the amazing odds besides the stars being aligned??) on The Dorsal Effect’s first ever boat trip. And then I realized the Kenya link too, and how I really wanted to meet Nicholas Leong when I volunteered in Kenya earlier this year but didn’t get to because someone up there had a better time for me to meet him, at my lowest just before the YSE final pitch, to give me just the believe in me too and the boost I needed…wow personal heroes are truly special like that.

So yes, I had a panic attack yet again yesterday, thinking about my dwindling finances (the YSE $10,000 grant is meant to grow the business after all) but today I got white roses from dear Pam as a form of congratulations for the win and a reminder to always remain pure in my intentions and vision for The Dorsal Effect as I take it forward. As I plan for the upcoming return to Lombok hoping to make more headway and legitimatize the business amidst trying to actively get tourists already in Lombok to sign up for the boat trips and preparing for the upcoming talks at NUS, Ecosystems SG and Chaos Asia, I will go forth with believe as I look out for the signs and persist in the dream for the sharks, the beautiful giants of the deep whom I hope my grandchildren will still get a chance to swim freely with in the oceans. Stay pure in the dream, stay focused, keep walking on, and perhaps that is how the stars will decide to align again and help things fall into place. :)1375807_10151713762835687_1331326847_n

The Dorsal Effect goes live! – first boat tour 4th Sept 2013

It is truly a milestone getting one first boat tour going for The Dorsal Effect indeed. Feeling like we have been in the woods most parts of this year, to be able to take my first group of tourists out on the proposed boat trip really felt like a mixture of a dream come true a la Christopher Columbus discovering new lands.

So the weeks leading up to the actualization of the one day boat excursion with my dear first trippers Victor Chan, Victor Toh, Aidan Kelly and Elisha Hickey, saw me a nervous wreck and all worried about whether it would go well and if they would enjoy it at all. I know these dear ones signed up for it in good faith with no expectations and yet were still willing to pay for the trip so I had to make it a good one for them.

We set off for Tanjung Luar bright and early at 6am on a Wednesday morning on 4th September 2013 with Agus, armed with our beach wear and snorkel gear if any. Packing lunch of mixed rice with vegetables along the way at Praya, the pleasant company on the road made for a less jittery me.

Walking around the fish market for a while before departing on the small boat, we noticed there wasn’t any sharks in the abattoir area that morning but instead it was filled with many species of rays. I did wonder if indeed they have depleted all the sharks in the waters around Lombok already, or we were a bit late and had missed the sharks. But one of the fishermen who recognized me came up and told me there wasn’t any “ikan hiu” (sharks) that morning. Honestly, I didn’t know what to feel about that information.

The moment we boarded and set off on the boat, everything started feeling magical though, as we passed Gili Merangke and some pearl farms (Segui beach) as well as Squid Beach and to have a dip for our first snorkelling experience at the reefs of Gili Petelu (Tree Island). Gosh were we enthralled the moment we jumped into the clear waters, at how pristine and untouched the corals were! There was such a wide variety and colour of corals and marine life that we could not stop being in awe of it all.img_2151img_2153 img_2194 img_2218 img_2235 img_2252 img_2269 img_2279 p1150634 p1150686 p1150699 p1150800 p1150844 p1150848 p1150853 p1150855 p1150865 pink-beach snorkelling starfish

Next stop was pink beach off Tanjung Ringgit where the sand IS really pink and we could climb up a beautiful cliff for dramatic views of the beach on one side and a calm cove on the other. There was even a cave left behind from the Japanese Occupation times that we could explore right at pink beachimg_0383

After savouring our packed lunch on the boat, we were ready for our second snorkel site at Teluk Semangkok which proved even more breathtaking, with its richer array of corals and fishes that we spent nearly an hour in the water taking it all in!

The last stop was a sunken sand island that we boated over on our way out in the morning, due to the high tides, Pulau Pasir. It was a most interesting sand island teeming with starfishes, slugs and other life forms that enthralled us happy explorers indeed!

It was a great virgin trip for us all indeed and we do feel a little sad that most of you did not get a chance to be our first trippers to experience all this firsthand but we definitely need to you come with us and make a one day boat trip booking if you are in Lombok, so that we can do our part for responsible tourism and do our part for shark conservation by providing this alternative livelihood of ecotourism to the shark fishermen while enjoying pristine beaches and coral reefs! (Thank you, Victor Toh, for sharing your photos with us here too!)

Book with us:

www.thedorsaleffect.com

or email us:

kathy@thedorsaleffect.com

This fantastic bunch thinks you should join us too!:

Lessons from Ash and the magic that comes with them

On the boy’s nudging, I took a trip to Bangkok in order to catch my favouritest band ever perfoming at Sonic Bang, Ash. The one band whose every album I have owned since I was 14 to date.

Sometimes when you love something long enough, the whole idea of biding one’s time suddenly makes a lot of sense. Ash was truly one band I have waited half of my whole life now to catch performing live. As if catching them up front at Sonic Bang was not reward enough for the waiting, more surprises awaited me at the Bangkok International airport en route back to Singapore…

Memories flood back whenever songs by Ash play and they have been the one band I grew up with, without them ever knowing it. The songs that saw me through teenage years, exciting 20s and I am sure unrelentingly through the rest of the chapters of my life too.

I screamed at the top of my lungs and bobbed so vigorously, as if unaware of my own real age, as Ash rocked the stage away at Sonic Bang, every single song a masterpiece of their brilliance and nostalgia for me. The iconic number, Girl From Mars, that got me hooked on them in the first place. The songs shared with a dear friend of secondary school days, Rendy, who adored their wonderful sounds too. A Life Less Ordinary, Shining Light, Burn Baby Burn, Oh Yeah, Walking Barefoot, Kung Fu, Angel Interceptor…oh the same invigorating and timeless tunes for me. I felt like a million dollars when I screamed for the set list and the band’s manager saved it for me at the end of their set that I just wandered around at Sonic Bang holding it proudly like a prize yet still keeping my eyes peeled for Tim, or Rick, or Mark, hoping to get their signatures on the set list…who would have thought dreams come true when you wish for them with all your heart and soul like that. I did not see them again for that night at Sonic Bang but the very next day at the airport as Wilson and I were walking to the departure gate D8 for our fateful 3K516 Jetstar flight back to Singapore, I took a glance down at the crowd gathered waiting for the flight and then I saw… Ash bassist, Mark. My heart almost stopped beating for a moment and I pulled the boy over to look down as well, asking him if I was dreaming or was that actually Ash. His verification was all I needed to trigger off hyperventilation mode for me. I went weak in the knees and I could barely speak as the flight attendant tore our boarding passes for us to enter the waiting area…the tickets that are now immortalized and have become even more powerful than Sonic Bang’s magic. I took out my set list carefully from my bag and walked towards the band and the moment the band manager saw me with the set list in hand, he giggled and grinned at me. I didn’t have to say a word as the tears streamed forth. Tim took the set list from my trembling hands, whipped out a marker and signed on it before passing it on to Rick and Mark to do the same as well. “Would you like a picture with them?” of course, I have dreamt of this moment since wanting to be Mrs Tim Wheeler at the age of 14. The photo revealed a teary eyed me, still in stunned disbelief but I think I was the luckiest girl alive on 25th August 2013. Who would have guessed I would one day end up on the very same flight as Ash?

The encounter really left me in a very very very emotional state, despite the band’s down to earth demeanour. It was the epiphanic moment for me that ANYTHING can happen if you put your heart and soul to it. I wished, I waited for years, I met a lovely boy who egged me on to go for Sonic Bang in spite of my poor financial health, and on our one year’s anniversary together, the whole belief I have always held dear of biding one’s time made so much sense to me.

I am a sucker for constants in life and Ash had been a constant love of my life over the years. Blessed am I to have seen this day come to light and I cannot be more grateful indeed.

The band dearest to my heart, stuck together and with me through my life of growing pains and joys, and now they are the ones to lift me up and inspire me to believe that truly ANYTHING is possible. Thank you, Ash. I will forever remain a loyal fan and avid lover, to trust the changes in my life with your music and our magical encounter of a lifetime.

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Chiharu Hatakeyama and self-sufficiency in the 21st century【People we love】

All of us could learn a thing or two from inspiring and strong willed people in the world, like Chiharu. Although I am a vegetarian now, I would really like to be able to attend her workshop one day. After all, a friend, Denvy, says one deserves to eat the meat only if they have killed the animal with their own bare hands

Bukit Brown and a nation’s unwritten history

Having been a history teacher for 6 years before, I must admit that I was truly humbled by how little I know about Singapore’s history, through our Bukit Brown tour today. Cuifen lovingly organised a walking tour for her friends and friends of friends on a beautiful Sunday morning and although only Wilson and I turned up for the tour, I am deeply grateful for the passionate and enthusiastic ones like herself who guide with a conviction and love for saving the cemetery grounds and preserving a nation’s unwritten history.

We began right from the overhead bridge while crossing Adam road to get to the Lorong Halwa and Sime Road intersection entrance of Bukit Brown where I hadn’t actually noticed the heritage boards just outside the SICC (Singapore Island Country Club) before. Those which spoke of a time when the British actually cornered the Japanese into open cemetery grounds so they could hide behind tombs to ambush the Japanese soldiers, but the Japanese eventually won the battle.

You can go on one of the monthly (I think) Battlefield Tours led by Jon Cooper:

https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=208524362450694978161.0004cc9d065f2a171893d&msa=0&ll=1.336901%2C103.817351&spn=0.003566%2C0.005681&dg=feature

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As we traipsed through the many tombs, the first interesting one pointed out to us being Oon Chin Neo’s tomb right into the heart of a clearing. One cannot help but be in awe of its resplendence and how well thought through the structure and feng shui of the tomb had been. Here’s a link with more information about her:

http://mymindisrojak.blogspot.sg/2013/01/oon-chim-neo-seh-ong.html

We saw a tree that had lovely fig fruits in abundance on it, albeit still green and not in their red brilliance yet, and the rain trees that provided shade for the tomb keepers and were truly fascinated by their wild magnificence that put pruned trees along the roads of Singapore to shame.

We loved how each tomb reflected the significant story to it’s owner’s colourful life and I was particularly inspired by the feisty revolutionary, Tay Koh Yat, who raised an army of 20,000 (Some say 10,000) with his own clout to fight against the Japanese during the Japanese Occupation in Singapore and came back after that to obtain compensation for the families of those among the 20,000 who lost their lives fighting in the war.

Who could forget the amazing story of how a Brownie (Bukit Brown heritage tours guides), Mill Phuah, found the graves of her great grandparents giving the tomb keeper bare information she had that they were close to a tree and the shrine only, and mind you this was a pair of tombs already shrouded over by the thick undergrowth at the point of search.

I particularly endeared myself to the story of the tomb of everlasting light, a name coined after a researcher of Bukit Brown noticed how a man regularly came to this Christian tomb to physically light a lamp as often as he could. Amazingly the lamp was lit when we visited it. (http://bukitbrown.org/post/44373419936/let-the-light-continue-to-shine-in-bukit-brow)

Most heartening to have the honour of visiting Lee Kuan Yew’s aunt’s and grandfather’s tombstones and be enthralled by the story of how the aunt, Lee Choo Neo, was one who was way ahead of her time in the way she fought against societal norms to get ahead in life, yet was a member of the family Lee Kuan Yew only gave a line of passing mention in his book as he wrote about his family.

Loved how there are 30 pairs of Sikh guards at tombs around the cemetery and we got to see the most photographed pair just a stone’s throw away from Tan Boon Liat’s tombstone. I allowed myself to be lost romantically in the story of Tan Boo Liat’s (Tan Kim Ching’s grandson, Tan Tock Seng’s Great grandson) life as a revolutionary and having housed Sun Yat Sen at his Golden Bell mansion at Mount Faber (named after his grandfather) during Sun’s 9th visit (15 December 1911) to Singapore.

There was so much more richness of the place to be mesmerized by and by the end of the tour, I knew I had to come back and visit again. I knew I had to sign the petition to save Bukit Brown. I knew the disconnect of history and the disappearance of lacking narrative would not be what I wish for future generations and I know the tender for the building of the new highway is already issued. Save for the silver lining of an environmental management team being contracted to oversee the construction of the new highway, I believe everyone of us have a stake in keeping Bukit Brown alive because there is so much more sections of the cemetery we should speak up for and save before further development plans for the bursting population sees us sacrificing heritage for the economic good that benefits its people least. So instead of allowing the narrative to be lost forever, do something for what we should cherish because after all, TripAdvisor also agrees that the Bukit Brown Heritage trails are one of the top ten attractions of Singapore too. :)

Visit this website for a centralised directory of Bukit Brown’s heritage and significance and to find out more about upcoming events there or weekend heritage guided tours:

http://bukitbrown.com/main/

Find out more about the Bukit Brown Cemetery and how you can help protect it:

http://sosbukitbrown.wordpress.com/

Share this with pride to friends overseas and planning on coming to Singapore:

http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Attraction_Review-g294265-d2547770-Reviews-Bukit_Brown_Cemetery-Singapore.html

Get in touch with the Nature Society of Singapore to find out how you can get yourself on a nature tour of Bukit Brown:

http://www.nss.org.sg/#

And I don’t want, neither do I think you would want, for this to be something we can’t see in Singapore anymore, do we?

movie – Menstrual Man and social enterprise inspirations

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Thanks to a very dear couple friend of mine, Vik and Steph, the boy and I got to catch a very inspiring film, Menstrual Man, over the weekend at the Arts House.

It tells the tale of the man behind the simple, cheap and easy to use machines to make sanitary napkins for rural women in India where menstruation is taboo, as a means to provide a source of jobs and income for empowering women.

Muruganatham, became concerned about his wife using cloth during her period and that served as his inspiration. For one, the cloth would get stained, and for another, the women would be too embarrassed to sun dry their cloths resulting in germs infestation and non-sterile menstrual cloths being used over and over again and resulting cases of womb infection.

A very sincere, dedicated and delightfully humourous man who sacrificed by having his wife and mother walking out on him,  Muruganatham pressed on and realized the eventuality of having as many rural parts of India’s women using cheap and easily produced sanitary pads as possible. His dream meant that women could have more hygienic periods and be empowered by being given jobs working in the factories he set up for them to make a living producing the pads.

There were several candid lines from him in the movie that rolled out in simple and accidental poetry but which stuck and inspired. It is the illiterate man who is fortunate when he always sees himself as illiterate and will then never stop learning. As he spoke about education, he saw it as a curse because the educated are always so concerned about making a livelihood rather than making a change, hence wasting the education away. That was really poignant for me, like an epiphany.

As the unlikely hero for the women in rural India, he truly believed in empowering women with spending power as he said men and women have different spending habits. Men spend on clothes, cigarettes and alcohol but women are the ones who spend on feeding the children and getting the children to school so when you give them the spending power, you are creating a positive impact on the future of India. That was one wow moment for me and for a split second I started regretting not being a mother and still indulging in spending on a dress here and a charm necklace there every once in a while, guiltily. So much for women having better spending habits, sigh..

As he talked about scaling deep than scaling up for his business, I am reminded about the need to get to the heart of a social enterprise and how such businesses will always stand out uniquely from the large profit making corporations that are all about looting and plundering the earth for what it is worth, in order to generate as much profits as quickly and unscrupulously as possible. Which was also why his answer to whether the sanitary pads making machines were only ever meant for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid would always be yes and he never sold out to the large corporations or venture capitalists who called on him to.

For someone who collected animal blood in the inner lining sacs of soccer balls in order to carry around his waist each day and pump it periodically into his first test pads when no women wanted to help him test them out, this was someone who would never give up and sought all forms of action, no matter how radical or unbelievable, in order to solve the problem. Solve the 3 problem As of affordability, availability and awareness he did, and even went on to getting the women who had already converted to using the sanitary pads, to reach out and speak to those who hadn’t, as his unofficial ambassadors because they shared in his vision too.

I walked out of the theatre with reminders for myself with regards to The Dorsal Effect, thanks to this amazing man in India:

(1) scale deep, not up, that’s how you always focus on the beneficiaries you are doing this business in the first place for.

(2) Even if it reaches a point when you are running on empty and are not generating profits or growth, you still keep doing it because you are driven by the vision of a better world, not the profits you can generate nor the scalability of your business.

(3) Keep seeking other solutions to the social problem you are trying to nurse, no matter how radical it may eventually get.

(4) Remember you can never know it all, be humble, be in gratitude of the people who help you along the way and never ever ever stop learning.

Camera traps setting and love MacRitchie, petitioning against LTA’s Cross Island Line

In my recent interactions and engagements with the NUS volunteer group, Toddycats, at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity and Research, and (the highly passionate, hugely humorous and amazingly boisterous and vocal) Mr Sivasothi, I had the chance to assist in a camera traps setting survey with the Singapore Nature Society in the heart of MacRitchie Nature Reserve of the Central Nature Reserve of Singapore  (yes, jungle path bashing and the works). A morning spent deep in the beautiful forests of MacRitchie saw us carrying camouflaged camera traps alongside cable locks in huge backpacks to trek through the dense foliage armed with GPS and points to set up the traps at, on sturdy healthy trees.  The process involved keying in coordinates on the GPS, seeking out suitable trees closest to the coordinates, setting up and walk testing the cameras, clearing the paths in front of where the camouflaged cameras are set up and taking a test shot with the small whiteboard, bearing information on when and by who the trap had been set. We set a total of 8 cameras within the thick forestry of MacRitchie Nature Reserve and the cameras would be left for tracking the wildlife in the forest for a month or so before they are retrieved to be examined for data collection.

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It was quite the amazingly educational and nature appreciation trek, apart from having a task at hand to plant the cameras. It was an honour going along with nature enthusiasts Suay Hwee from the Nature Society as he pointed out and identified the many animal sounds and plants along the way to me. Those I would otherwise have missed in my lacking of a keen enough eye for nature. Save for the few cuts from branches and rattan plants along the way, it was an eventful morning of doing meaningful work. The highlight truly was beholding the breathtaking giant Jelutong tree right in the heart of the forest, with it’s significant giant trunk, lack of buttress roots and tall branches that reach to the sky. A pity I did not have my phone with me to snap pictures during the camera traps setting escapade but here is a photo I managed to find on  http://florasingapura.com/Dyera-costulata.php with regards to how magnificent the Jelutong tree was to us.

So why the need to set the traps in the first place and survey the biodiversity of the area? Perhaps most or some of you might have heard about the Cross Island Line by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore to build a MRT line right across the heart of the MacRitchie Reserve and which is a source of heartache should the project fall through as it would mean a permanent loss of a wide and rich array of flora and fauna significant to Singapore. An end to the pangolin, slow loris, the long-tailed macaque, forest walking catfish and the banded woodpecker it would entail, just to name a few. And perhaps even the giant Jelutong tree would have to give way to urbanization too. A concise and clear infographic of the impact of the new line, done up by David Tan of the Toddycats volunteer group.

I love Singapore for what it’s worth (country and incumbent are two different entities to me, clearly) and I believe there is much worth loving and passing on to the future generations, MacRitchie’s wonderful array of flora and fauna being one of them. In the many walks and treks I have taken within MacRitchie Reservoir over the span of my lifetime thus far, I have always loved seeing parents bringing their children to the boardwalks, treetop walk and off beaten tracks within the beautiful forest itself and envision a day I could, myself, bring my offspring to regularly as well. Education through natural experiences, I always believe.

Let’s do our part and love MacRitchie and make our voices heard to LTA. It is awesome work that the NSS (Nature Society Singapore) are doing already but we truly need the nation to speak up for the beautiful and unique flora and fauna of Singapore that cannot speak up for themselves.

Take a look at this site created by Chloe and David of Toddycats and you can chip in to love MacRitchie too! :)

http://lovemacritchie.wordpress.com/