Feeling appreciated

I have been working since 2000. Contrary to my coursemates who applied for prestigious jobs in the cities once they graduated, I decided to work as a research assistant in the university and do my Master of Science (Environmental Science) at the same time.

It has been 17 years since then, and I have worked for all manner of employers, from tiny three-person companies to sizeable international ones, but somehow, the interest wanes after one to two years, and boredom sets in as I do the same thing over and over again, year after year. In my last job, in my fourth year, I tried to apply for a transfer to another department to have a change of environment and job scope, but my application was unsuccessful. I then did the next best thing. I set out on my own, choosing to become self-employed.

Of course, this does not mean self-employment is for everybody, nor do I recommend it for anyone who is having issues with boredom at work. Self-employment is a major life-changing decision, and can only be made after careful consideration of all important aspects of one’s life, and everybody’s life is unique and different.

There are many pros and cons in relation to being employed by a company, but I feel the top reason why employees stay on even though they are unhappy is perceived job security. Sometimes, the only reason they bother to wake up and go to the office is to get a pay cheque at the end of the month. It has become a mechanical action for countless people every day – to get up, dress up, and show up. And that is how they pass their time, year after year, decade after decade, till retirement. The retirement age in Malaysia used to be 55. Now, it is 60. Maybe 10 year later, as the workforce ages progressively and costs of living rises steadily, the retirement age might be raised to 65. Who knows?

However, in these trying times of economic uncertainty, I sometimes feel that job security is somewhat of an illusion. Terms like ‘retrenchment’ and ‘VSS’ are becoming increasingly common. Even though staff do not want to think about it, it is there, lurking in the dark corners of their mind.

In times like these, it would be useful to pick up a new skill, or learn a new trade, or even take a hobby to the next level. Perhaps, the new experience might spark passion in a previously undiscovered area, and lead to a new direction, and hopefully more interesting times ahead. Let’s face it. How many people will not get bored working in the same job for 10 to 30 years?

Another area of concern for me in full-time employment is the lack of appreciation from employers. Since staff are paid for their time and effort, it is easy to take them for granted, treating them as if they owe the company, simply because they are paid to work. It is like deja vu. In large organisations, sometimes staff are like hundreds of cows or sheep. The top management simply thinks of their workers en masse, and not as individuals with unique aspirations, interests and needs.

Strangely, I have found appreciation in other areas, all of which do not concern full-time employment. Since a young age, I have always had an interest in volunteer work, serving the community and environmental conservation and protection. It is the organisations and individuals in this area that are the most appreciative of my contributions.

In 2008, the Selangor Branch of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) gave me a branch award in recognition of my contributions as a volunteer.

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About 10 years later, our MNS Selangor Branch chairperson Pasu brought back a certificate of appreciation from the recent national AGM in Langkawi for me. It was a pleasant surprise that an award was presented to me at an AGM that I did not attend. 😀

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Even though I will not likely be awarded any long-service awards by any organisations in the future, these NGO awards will always remind me that I have contributed meaningfully to worthy causes and people have taken note of my contributions. And that is how I would like to be remembered.

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My first volunteer experience with the Nature Guides

In September 2017, I volunteered with the Nature Guides for the first time, helping them to conduct nature walks in the gardens of Carcosa Seri Negara, as part of the Jalan Merdeka programme in conjunction with Malaysia’s Independence Day 2017 celebrations. I wrote an article about my experience, and it was published in the Pencinta Alam November 2017 issue.

Here is the article, as published in the newsletter. Pencinta Alam is the national monthly newsletter of the Malaysian Nature Society.

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Here is the text version for easy reading:

On the Trail as a Nature Guide

Article by Khor Hui Min
Photos by Angeline Siok and Norazmir Mustapha

In all the years I have been a member and volunteer of the Malaysian Nature Society, I had never volunteered to be a nature guide. I had joined various walks conducted by nature guides once in a while, and found it interesting. The wealth of information about nature, beneficial plants and animals the nature guides had was enough to fill volumes of books, I imagined.

At last in September 2017, I finally volunteered myself to assist the nature guides to conduct walks as part of the Jalan Merdeka programme at Carcosa Seri Negara.

I missed the initial briefing for volunteers on 19 August due to other commitments, but reported for duty on 16 September, which was Malaysia Day.

‘Jalan Merdeka – Traversing the routes to Merdeka’ was an exhibition on our country’s journey towards Merdeka from 1896 to 1957, showcasing the historical Carcosa and Seri Negara buildings, which were next to the Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur. Jalan Merdeka was organised by the Asian Heritage Museum, and ran from 1 September till 31 October 2017.

Being a nature guide is not easy. There are a lot of plants and trees to recognise and remember, and we have to memorise their special qualities, medicinal uses, as well as other interesting facts, all of which are supposed to be interesting to the visitors joining the walks. After my briefing on 16 September, I could only remember half the plants, to my disappointment.

After some revision, and following on guided tours conducted by seasoned nature guides, with notes in hand, I finally conducted my first tour on 22 September, which was the following weekend. I was finally like, “What the heck. Just do it.”

It went rather well, which was a pleasant surprise for me. The large group of visitors, consisting of a mixed crowd of nature enthusiasts and casual drop-in visitors to the
exhibitions at Carcosa Seri Negara, spread out rather too much somewhere in the middle of the walk, so I had to wait for the people at the back to catch up with the people in front, but the weather was good for a walk, and I thought they rather enjoyed the fresh air and their morning exercise.

There was no prepared script, and we decided whether to share more detailed information or stick to the basics, or even shorten the walk, depending on the interest
shown by the visitors who joined each walk and whether they were in a hurry. Furthermore, I was not naturally good at public speaking, and did not need to speak to
customers at work, so this volunteer opportunity took me out of my comfort zone and forced me to talk (albeit rather loudly) to strangers. Thus, it was an opportunity
for personal growth and development, which was beneficial to me.

By taking the effort to recognise and remember plants, their flowers and fruits, and to memorise interesting information about them, I learnt so much more about our
garden plants over two weekends than I had ever done so in school. All in all, it was a good learning experience for me, I enjoyed spending time with the nature guides,
and I would definitely do it again.

🙂

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Journey to Shangri-La

I have been publishing articles in bodymindsoul magazine in the last few issues. In Vol.13, an article on my most memorable adventure to date in Shangri-La county, Yunnan, China was published. You can find it from page 38 to 42 in the magazine.

Shangri-La article

Shangri-La county in autumn time is cold and beautiful, especially in the Mount Meili National Park. We hiked 24km uphill in one day to reach our lodging for the night. After 2 days, we hiked 20km back out. It was the hardest physical challenge for me, which made it all the more memorable.

 

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Photography trip to Kuala Kurau

In early September 2017, I joined a photography trip to Kuala Kurau, Perak organised by the Selangor Branch Photogroup of the Malaysian Nature Society. I then wrote an article about it, and it was published in the October issue of the Pencinta Alam, which was the national newsletter of the Malaysian Nature Society.

Here is the article published in the newsletter:

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Here is the article text in plain HTML format:

Photographing Fishing Villages, Paddy Fields and Wildlife
By Khor Hui Min

The last time I joined a photography trip organised by the MNS Selangor Branch Photogroup was many years ago. We took photos for Dr. Ruth Kiew’s plant book in 2010. At that time, I did not have a DSLR camera yet, and the coordinator Alex Foong was wondering aloud when I was going to get one.

Then, in early 2017, I bumped into Alex Foong in Ikea, of all places. He asked me if I had sent in photos to be considered for the first-ever Photogroup exhibition at WhiteBox, Publika in June 2017. I said that even though I had put it into the Pencinta Alam while editing it, I had forgotten about the deadline. I asked him when the deadline was, and he said the deadline had already passed, but the committee was still looking for more photos to add to the pool for consideration. Please send by tomorrow, he said. So, I went home and looked inside the folders of my hard disk and managed to find a few to submit. Three were selected for the exhibition and the rest was history.

The natural progression of things led me to join a photography trip to Kuala Kurau (8-10 Sept), organised by KK, George and Alex. The trip had about 24 participants, mostly with assorted DSLRs.  Our trip started with a visit to the Taiping Zoo and Lake Gardens.  Although it rained at the zoo, I was lucky enough to get a few good shots of the beautiful animals, before the rain became too heavy. My favourites for the day were the Baby Hippo, Crowned Crane, Flamingos, African Spoonbill, Milky Stork, Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron, Lions, Axis Deer, Bawean Deer and Sambar Deer.

After we all arrived at the meeting point, we proceeded to Kurau Inn Homestay, which was about an hour’s drive from Lake Gardens. It was a lovely place to stay in the middle of a traditional village and surrounded by paddy fields. My room upstairs was spacious and had nice comfortable beds, fans, air-con, as well as a little pantry with electric kettle, mugs, forks and spoons, mini fridge, small dining table and chairs. The common area upstairs was big and airy, and our trip participants would gather for evening chit-chat after dinner there.

The next day, we drove out at 6.15am to set up our tripods for a sunrise photo shoot at the nearby bridge. In fact, we set up on both mornings there, but since it was the rainy season, there was thick cloud cover that blocked most of the sunrise. It was nice on the bridge, and I particularly enjoyed the blue hour before the sunrise. Besides setting up to snap photos of the sunrise, we also busied ourselves taking photos of the fishing village lining the river on both sides of the bridge, the fishing boats and the fish cages floating in the middle of the river.

On the first evening, we went to the seaside to take photos of the sunset. Instead, we took photos of dark thunderstorm clouds rolling in and flashes of lightning. In the waning light of the setting sun, I thought the landscape was really dramatic, accentuated by the strong winds. I loved it.

Other highlights of the trip included snapping photos of smelly salted fish as they dried in the sun along the road, and salted eggs in the Joo Hong Chan salted egg factory.

On the last day, we visited a small cockle processing plant beside a river in Kuala Gula, but since it was Sunday, it was closed. I entertained myself by snapping photos of the docked boats and makeshift jetties, while most of the group had a discussion with the boss of the cockle processing plant.

Last but not least, it would not be a great Photogroup trip without endless varieties of food, to which we owe KK our thanks. We sampled the hawker food of Kuala Kurau for breakfast and lunch, and enjoyed delicious pre-ordered seafood dinners beside the river.

All in all, it was an enjoyable and productive photo trip, with great company and wonderful food. I shall look forward to future Photogroup trips.

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Fab at Forty

Well, technically, I just turned 41 yesterday.

I have never written an exclusively birthday-related post before, because left on my own, my birthday is just like any other normal day. I would wake up in the morning, and go… oh, today’s my birthday. Then, I would do what I do on any other day.

However, this year, I feel different. Since the beginning of the year, I wanted to do things differently. When do I want to do the things I have always wanted to do? Do I wait until the right time, or do I do them now? I decided to do them now, because actually, we create the right time ourselves, when we are ready.

A change in direction

I have always wanted to do what I love, and go where I want to go. Unfortunately, I did not have the guts, because like everybody around me, I was brought up to cherish the security of the 9-to-5 job and look forward to the pay cheque at the end of the month.

I would land a piece of freelance work once in a while, but it was never enough to warrant giving up my full-time job… till now. Good fortune finally smiled on me, and I was seeing the blossoming of abundance and opportunity at last. The universe was most kind.

So, in mid-2017, I decided to resign and be a freelance writer. I became a full-fledged freelance writer right before my 41st birthday. I estimated that my earnings would be finally enough to sustain me in my new direction. I like to read business, career and financial articles from time to time, and I have come across a disturbing trend. When people earn more money as their income increases over the years, their expenditure would naturally grow with this increase in income. I decided that this did not have to be so. I wanted to live a simple life, and I wanted to reduce my expenditure, in line with being self-employed.

What do people do on their birthday?

Well, this birthday turned out to be the busiest ever. I decided that I wanted to start the day by pampering myself. So, I went for a facial. After treating myself to a nice birthday lunch of sushi and matcha ice cream, it was time to work, because well, my birthday did not have to be all about me.

I wanted to do something I enjoyed on my birthday, and one of the things I enjoyed most was volunteer work. I had with me some donations from an earlier Sparkles of Heart meditation at the Golden Space. The recipient selected by Beatrice for this session was SUKA Society. I had called a few days earlier to find out what they needed at this moment in time. I was informed that the money could go towards buying food for the food bank for refugee children. They gave me a list of what they needed – rice, pasta, red kidney beans, tomato puree, and cooking oil. The contact person emailed me a list complete with photos, too.

So, I went shopping in TESCO, because I was informed that the TESCO brand red kidney beans were most suitable for the refugees. Most urbanites in Kuala Lumpur would think that RM376 was a tiny amount, but with the right approach, it could actually feed a whole lot of people.

Shopping cart for SUKA1In fact, RM376 bought us:

1. 10 bags of rice (5kg)
2. 20 packs of pasta
3. 5 bottles of oil (5kg)
4. 14 tins of red kidney beans (400g)
5. 11 tins of tomato puree (215g)

So never underestimate our ability to stretch our ringgits!

I was really satisfied that I had filled up the shopping cart. Pushing the full trolley around the hypermarket and loading and unloading the goods was a workout by itself, no gym required. Luckily the wheels did not break before I reached the car in the basement.

Waze brought me right to the doorstep of the SUKA Society office, and the staff were pleased to help me unload the goods and bring them all to the storeroom where they kept the items for the food bank.

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Surprise party mastermind (left) and surprised birthday girl (right)

An unexpected surprise

After freshening up, it was time to go for El Herington’s free preview at the Golden Space. El came all the way from Hawaii, and her sessions were quite interesting.

When I arrived, my meditation classmates literally pounced on me with a cake and sang the birthday song. That was really sweet and thoughtful of them. ❀ I don’t remember the last time somebody threw me a surprise party. 🙂

I am really happy to know all of these nice people at the Golden Space, who are supportive, kind, thoughtful and non-judgemental. They turned my good day into a super awesome day. The cake was light and creamy and delicious, too.

El Herington’s session was really nice, as always. I hope she will come again next year.

Opportunity knocks

When I went back, I found that my application to be a Shutterstock Contributor had finally been approved. I had to take a photo of my passport for them to verify my identity, before they could approve me! It was a very pleasant end to the day.

To find my photos on Shutterstock, click here.

Earlier, at dinnertime, I received a call from a new client, confirming that I will be joining their team of freelance writers, too. This birthday was becoming the best one ever!

Busting myths

When I turned 40, I felt just like when I was 30, except that now, with wisdom acquired from my experiences, I had learnt to appreciate my body and take better care of myself. As a result, at 40, I was healthier, stronger and fitter than I was at 30, or even 20.

So, ladies in your 20s and 30s, do not believe it when people tell you that you are old and over the hill at 40. It is simply not true. Every individual is unique and different, but if you take care of yourself properly – eat healthy food, exercise regularly, get enough rest, and have a positive mindset, you will be all right.

I have seen too many people worry too much about other people and what they think and perceive, and this has unfortunately become the focal point of their existence – to please others, to be better than others, to prove others wrong, etc. Stop worrying about how people look at you and what people think of you, because you can never please everybody. Best thing to do is to be comfortable with yourself and be happy.

Always make it a point to schedule some ‘me’ time to do things you enjoy. It could be anything, from a manicure, to a sewing class, or learning self defense moves. As long as it makes you happy, and gives you some satisfaction, then you are on the right track.

Looking forward

Who knows what lurks around the corner? It is my second month as a freelance writer, but I am getting the hang of it, and settling in, slowly but surely.

I have decided not to fret too much about the details of where I am going or where I will end up. Instead, I am going to enjoy my life in the here and now, and spend more quality time doing meaningful things that enrich my life. Perhaps there is an adventure waiting for me around the corner. 😉

❀

 

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Do Chic In: A Memorable B&B in Cameron Highlands

Once in a while, I feel like I want to go travelling alone. The first time I did it was a trip to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah in April 2016. Mesilau Highlands in Kundasang was awesome, and I loved the view of Mount Kinabalu (but not enough to want to climb it. LOL). Poring Hot Springs and Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park were also wonderful.

So, what’s next? It has been over a year. I decided to take a bus ride to Cameron Highlands, Pahang. I go to Cameron Highlands every year with my parents and brother, but this would be the first time I would be going alone.

Where do I stay? Since I am going to be walking around, it has to be a location accessible on foot, and not too far from town and the bus station. I went to check out places to stay in Tripadvisor and Booking.com.

Since I had a great time with my first homestay/B&B experience in Taiwan in 2015, I thought it would be nice to stay in a B&B again. Finally, I found Do Chic In at Tanah Rata, next to Heritage Hotel. It is ranked the #1 B&B in Tanah Rata by Tripadvisor. In fact, it was awarded Traveller’s Choice for five years in a row (2013 – 2017) by Tripadvisor too. It has a superb rating of 9.0 in Booking.com. Best of all, it had a discounted rate for single travellers.

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My purple room

My room had 2 single beds. It was a corner room, so it had windows on two sides. Both had views of greenery. The theme was purple, one of my favourite colours. The mattresses and pillows were firm and clean.

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Living room

The apartment was like a semi-D apartment. It consisted of two units side by side, with the dividing wall removed. Everything was neat and tidy. The whole apartment was very clean, and a lot of thought had been put into the arrangements and decorations. Nothing was out of place. There was not a speck of dust to be found.

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Living room

The hosts, Jaycee and Jezzica, prepare breakfast every morning between 7am and 10am for the guests. Every day, we will get something different, and it will be a delightful surprise.

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Dining area

On Saturday morning, we were served French toast with fresh slices of mango and dragonfruit.

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French toast surprise for breakfast

On Sunday morning, we enjoyed cheesy omelette on toast, and banana and peanut butter toast, with mango and dragonfruit. The breakfast every morning was made with much care, love and attention to detail. I felt it was this care, love and dedication that made Jaycee and Jezzica’s B&B such a wonderful success year after year.

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Omelette on toast (left) and banana and peanut butter toast (right)

Located on a hill on the fringe of Tanah Rata town, it is far enough to be away from the noise and the traffic congestion of the main road, but near enough to the shops and restaurants.

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Misty view from the living room balcony in the morning

It is an excellent place to stay – quiet, clean and comfortable. The tranquil atmosphere and nice scenery will be a relaxing treat for city folks needing an escape from work stress. 😉

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Morning view from the front of the unit (kitchen balcony), located on the second floor of the walk-up apartment

The hosts are really nice people. They helped me to buy my return bus ticket to KL, and also helped me to book a half-day tour to visit the mossy forest and Sungai Palas tea plantation. The tour was conducted by Eco Cameron, which had trained and certified guides.

They also recommended places to eat, and I particularly liked Singh Chapati Urban Restaurant, at Brij Court.

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Night view

Do Chic In has many international travellers frequenting it, and while I was there, there was a couple from Spain, another from the Czech Republic, and another from Switzerland. It felt like a mini United Nations, or rather European Union. It was nice to have such a varied group, and I would usually see them at breakfast time. 🙂

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Common area

All in all, I had a memorable time, and I would recommend Do Chic In to anybody wanting to stay in a nice B&B in a quiet place with friendly and helpful hosts.

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The awards wall 🙂

And yes, I would gladly come back to stay again here. 😀

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Kuala Sepetang, Perak

In December 2016, I went to Kuala Sepetang with my dad, mum and brother. I did not select the fishing village photos till a few weeks ago for uploading. For this series, I chose to have the village and boat photos in black and white.

My dad loves to draw watercolour paintings of fishing villages, which is why we visit various fishing villages throughout Malaysia quite often, and you can see some of his paintings at his blog, Colours of Heritage.

Kuala Sepetang  is a coastal town located in Perak, Malaysia. It was formerly known as Port Weld, named after a former governor, Frederick Weld. It is located approximately 72 km to the north-west of Ipoh city, the capital of Perak state.

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Part of the Larut, Matang and Selama Districts, Kuala Sepetang is a thriving fishing village, and the place where you can board a boat to Pulau Sangga, and visit the fish cage culture sites, which float on the river. There is a thriving Chinese fishing community at the river mouth which specializes in fish farming in cages.

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Historically, Kuala Sepetang was well-known because it was part of the first railway line of Malaya. The railway line was 12.8km long and was mainly used to carry tin from mines from Taiping to Kuala Sepetang, so that they could be transported overseas through the port.

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The old Taiping railway station was built at the location where the King Edward VII Primary School is presently located, while the Kuala Sepetang railway station was constructed in Port Weld. The railway was launched in 1885 and served for 70 years before being terminated and dismantled by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM). To read more about the history and legends of the railway, click here.

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The Port Weld railway station was located at the centre of town. Now, only the ticketing booth and the Port Weld railway signboard remain to remind us of the golden age of tin mining in the little town.

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Today, Kuala Sepetang is a thriving tourist attraction. In fact, it is one of must-visit places in Perak. There are lots of things to do and see, and they can be summarised as follows:

  • Visit Khay Hor Charcoal Factory
  • Visit the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, the largest mangrove forest reserve in Malaysia
  • Visit the 131-year-old train station sign
  • Eat prawn noodles
  • Eat curry noodles
  • Eat seafood
  • Take a boat ride
  • Visit Pulau Sangga
  • Visit a fish farm
  • Go eagle watching
  • Go dolphin watching
  • See the fireflies
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Assam laksa sold in the yard of one of the small houses in the fishing village across the bridge

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Hawker deep-frying nian gao sandwiched with slices of yam and sweet potato, and various other snacks in the town

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Traditional tau sah pea biscuits on sale in the town

Although Kuala Sepetang is no longer the important port town where tin was transported from Taiping via the first railway, and then shipped overseas, it thrives today because of its various cottage industries, fish farming and tourism. I hope the place will maintain its old fishing village charm for many decades to come. 🙂

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❀ Kuala Sepetang ❀ – view from the bridge

 

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Soil

Soil is everywhere, beneath your shoes, under your car, hidden under buildings and houses. It is something so ubiquitous that we take it for granted, but without soil, we would have no food and no environment.

An indispensable part of the natural environment, soil is important to plants, animals, rocks, landforms, rivers, etc. and it determines the distribution of plant species and provides a habitat for a wide range of organisms.

We need fertile soil to grow our food, and the food of our livestock. Without fertile soil, we would all be starving.

Today, we show gratitude for the soil under our feet, a reminder that we must care for our planet to ensure sustainability in the long term.

Here is a contemporary series of three haikus on the subject of soil:

Of soil and toil 

I

See the fertile lands
Fed by sunlight and water
Shoots growing gently

II

Touch the leaves of plants
Feel the soil in your fingers
From which your food springs

III

Now in this moment
Contemplate the miracle
That is our planet

 

Khor Hui Min
13 July 2017

Read more about soil here.

 

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A Time to Celebrate Volunteerism

I wrote an article for the July 2017 issue of the Pencinta Alam, the national newsletter of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) on the recent Volunteer Appreciation Day, organised by the Selangor Branch of MNS. The article is published on pages 2 and 3 of the newsletter. Hope you like it. 🙂

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Here is the text for the article in full:

A Time to Celebrate Volunteerism

Article by Khor Hui Min

From 20th to 21th May 2017, I attended the Malaysian Nature Society Selangor Branch’s Volunteer Appreciation Day at Ulu Tupai, Taiping. We stayed at the Ulu Tupai Waterfall Homestay for a night. It was a quaint little cluster of traditional wooden village houses on stilts located right next to a large and pristine waterfall. As a non-profit organisation, and a membership-driven organisation, this is one of the ways MNS (Selangor Branch) shows its appreciation to volunteers annually. For this, I would like to express my appreciation for their effort and thoughtfulness, especially the organising committee.

We spent the afternoon chilling out at the waterfall and getting to know the representatives from the different special interest groups. In the evening, after dinner, we went to the Night Safari at the Taiping Zoo and seemed to have walked for a few hours, following the guide on foot. The last time I visited Taiping Zoo was many years ago, but I always remembered the animals to be beautiful and well fed. Their coats were glossy and they came when our guide called out to them. They were healthy and well taken care of.

After we came back from the zoo, a group of enthusiastic nocturnal members went herping with Steven Wong, the coordinator of the Selangor Branch Herp Group till after midnight.

The next morning, a hike to a waterfall was arranged, and a sizeable group went. Since our chalet was already situated next to a huge waterfall and cascades, I decided to remain there to dunk myself in the waterfall and snap photos of insects.

I have forgotten the year I first stepped into an MNS meeting, but it was a Selangor Branch AGM at Rimbu Ilmu in University Malaya, and Khairul Anuar was elected Chairman of Selangor Branch that year. I attended at the invitation of Saras Kumar, the then Marine SIG coordinator. Since then, I have been an MNS member and volunteer. The first time I picked up a brush to try my hand at facepainting was at Tioman Island Fest 2006. It has been over 10 years. Through the years, my volunteer roles have changed. Faces have changed in the ranks of the volunteers and among the staff of MNS headquarters. However, the spirit of volunteerism and concern for the environment remains ever strong.

MNS events are programmes and outings I look forward to, because it is not only an opportunity to go into the outdoors, but also a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones, while spreading awareness about the importance of the environment among the visitors to the event. I am proud to say that many of my friends are volunteers of MNS, and sometimes I feel that this group of long-term volunteers are like a family of like-minded individuals brought together and bound by the love of nature.

I hope MNS will grow and flourish with the changing times, and still be the oldest and biggest Malaysian-grown environmental NGO many years from now.


 

To see the whole newsletter, click here.

To find out more about the Malaysian Nature Society, click here.

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Ulu Tupai Waterfalls

I went to the Malaysian Nature Society Selangor Branch’s Volunteer Appreciation Day at Ulu Tupai, Taiping last weekend, 20-21 May 2017. We stayed at the Ulu Tupai Waterfall Homestay for a night. It was a quaint little cluster of traditional wooden village houses on stilts located right next to a large and pristine waterfall.

I spent the time dunking myself in the waterfall, and chasing after dragonflies and butterflies with my camera. I took only macro shots on this trip.

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Close-up shot of a torch ginger bloom in the early morning

I decided to let my phone die and went off the grid. No phone. No Internet. It was the best way to chill out, de-stress and relax, while catching up with old friends and making new ones.

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Wildflower seeds, ready to flutter away on the breeze

It was awesome to just dunk myself in the freezing cold water at the waterfall for 2 days. A bit of yoga practice was a welcome treat. I also did grounding meditation to align my energies with the earth’s energies. I like it because I am close to nature, and it helps to give a calming, refreshed and peaceful effect.

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Seeds of plants next to the waterfall

We went to the Night Safari at the Taiping Zoo for the first time and seemed to have walked for a few hours, following the guide on foot. The last time I visited Taiping Zoo was many years ago, but I always remembered the animals to be beautiful and well fed. Their coats were glossy and they came when our guide called out to them. They were healthy and well taken care of.

While others went for a late night herping hike after returning from the zoo, I decided to catch up on my sleep, right next to the window. I drifted off lulled by the therapeutic sound of the waterfall. Luckily, I did not go herping, because people came back with five or six leech bites. :-O

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My favourite shot of a large metallic green dragonfly. It took me quite some time to actually snap some photos of it in focus and in the frame!

Ulu Tupai Waterfall Homestay is accessible only via 4WD, because of the condition of the roads. Perhaps because of the difficult accessibility, the waterfalls remains pristine and unpolluted.

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Red beauty finally posed for me, after I sat down on the rocks for some time

The flow of water is not too strong, making it ideal for visitors to dip in the shallow pools. Beautiful rocks frame the waterfall, making it an attractive place for photography. All in all, a visit to the waterfalls is a pleasant experience.

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Dark blue dragonfly on the rocks

I spent hours taking photos of dragonflies, butterflies and water striders (pond skaters). When I arrived at the rocks, the dragonflies and butterflies all sped off. I had to sit down and wait for them to get used to me. I wanted to become another piece of the landscape. Then, after a while, the dragonflies started to come closer, and finally landed in front of me.

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A brown and a red butterfly landed in front of me for a few seconds, and I only managed to take four shots before they flew off.

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Taking a photo of this water strider was not easy, especially when I did not have a tripod.

The water striders a.k.a. pond skaters were not easy either. When I inched closer, they would move faster. Back and forth, like clockwork. Their speed increased with my increase in proximity.

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Tiny little butterfly on my left arm

On the other hand, a tiny little brown butterfly perched on my arm for a long time. It would not leave even when I prodded it gently with a finger. So, I just left it there and snapped photos of it from time to time, holding the camera in my right hand and steadying the lens on my left upper arm.

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Seed pod in the shape of a flower, fallen from a tree beside the waterfalls

I was glad I joined the VAD trip to Ulu Tupai. It was an awesome experience in a beautiful place, and I test out the theory that I did not have to do EVERYTHING and be busy all the time in order to be happy (first brought up by Low last year). It was true. Just relaxing surrounded by nature, taking photos, swimming in the natural waterfall pool, enjoying chit-chat with fellow volunteers in nature made my weekend a fantastic getaway from the city. ❀ ❀ ❀

 

 

 

 

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