Thursday, July 31, 2008

Angie's An Angel

Yes, she is finally gone.

I cannot help but with watery eyes bit her farewell in my heart when Wifey told me about her death this morning.

"Ayah," Wifey paused, "it still is heart-breaking when they die." She started saying right before she gave me the sad news. Angie died.

It is so ironic!

Angie, Aged 3+, Died 31 Jul '08

I knew Angie, our feistiest hammie in all HamsterVille, was old, but she kept herself so active and responsive to our calls every time... with zest.

Even when we knew she could not see well any more with her clouded pupils, most probably from cataracts, if hamster do get them.

I have been feeding her 2 syringe-full of lukewarm water mixed with pure honey. Being old, she needed her energy to match her determination to live long. She loved it most, the other hammies only would drink up to three-quarter at most.

I checked on Angie last night. Wifey was telling that she was so exceptionally active during the day; running on her "treadmill" tirelessly while the rest of HamsterVille were asleep.

"Aren't you going to tire yourself, Angie." Was Wifey's last words to her.

We got to talking about her because as usual, she always manage to get our attention to her. I came to thinking that she should get more nutrition out of her food.

Rather than just feeding her with the usual dried fruits, seeds and fresh corns, like the vet suggested, feed the sick or old hamsters with bottled baby food using a syringe.

I think she would have loved the vegetables and the fruits flavors.. I was to stop by the grocery store after work today to buy her the baby food... but alas she had to leave us sooner than we expected.

Angie, oh Angie. We are already missing you, dear Angie.

We will always love you.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Betty And Scruffy

I received a call at the office today. It was Wifey baring sad news... again.

"Ayah, another one just died..." she paused...

"Angie, is it Angie?" I asked cutting her off before she could continue. I hate this type of news, but I know it was bound to happen at some point.

Angie had been the most feistiest of all hammies in her hay day, but still has a very strong will to live. Though she has shrunk in size, she is still agile and responding to our calls for treats. She is eating well, but her age is showing.

Scruffy, Aged 3+, Died 21 Jul '08

It turned out that our infamous scruffiest of all hamsters, thus Scruffy was the name, had died most probably at night.

"I called onto him, but he did not respond to get out from his sand bath to me." Wifey told her sad story, "I thought he was sleeping since he was lying on his side."

Like all hammies in what is left of HamsterVille... Scruffy would come to the front of the cage when his name was called for treats. He did his last the night before. Poor boy.

This happened only four days ago after Sonny had buried Betty.

Betty, Aged 3, Died 17 Jul '08

She died on Thursday last week.

It was a total shock because she was thought to be an expectant mother. Sonny believed that she was pregnant with her large stomach and lazy attitude. It could very well be an underlying illness that took her life away.

We could never have suspected it since Betty eat very well and always snatching the food away from her room mate Natie.

Betty was Sonny's favorite. Simply because she liked to be held and patted. She would stay still in our palm while being patted to sleep. She would wake and nibble on our palm or finger after realizing that we stopped patting her, telling us to start patting again.

She will stop her nibbling and go back napping once we patted her again. We would purposely stop patting just to witness her antics. She was an adorable and gentle girl.

Just like Scruffy, Wifey only realized that Betty was dead when she did not come to the food bowl while it was being topped-up and when being called repeatedly in the morning.

She was lying on her side behind her sand bath container. Her room mate Natie came out from behind the sand bath when he was called but kept going back to where Betty was as if trying to attack Wifey's attention to Betty.

Wifey was saddened by her discovery and called my cell phone quickly several times, but I was not aware when the phone rang. I called her back after realizing the miss calls to get the unpleasant news.

"Sonny will be very sad when he comes back from school today." She predicted.

True enough. That late afternoon, Sonny came back from school late and went straight to play with Betty after changing out of his school uniform.

"Where is Betty?" He asked Wifey while we both were at my gym room, "Was the cage door left opened when you feed them this morning?"

"What? Why?" Sonny asked when told of her death. We had no answer. Just like most deaths of our hammies before with no apparent reason, we think it must have been old age.

So Sonny buried Scruffy beside Betty under the palm tree that evening, but with a funny story to tell this time.

We Move On...

"A family of 4 came near me and asked what I was doing under the tree..." Sonny recalled telling us right after entering the front door.

"I told them that I was checking on the ants colony..." which started the mother sharing with him about hers daughter's past ant farm school project.

Tonight, Sonny did not touch his PC at all. Instead, he sad together with us watching TV until his bedtime. I guess he wanted company and not be alone. I noticed he watched TV quietly, mind wondering at times. We deal with our loss in our own way.

From the peak of 57 hammies in HamsterVille at one time, we are left with only 5 today and lots of fond memories after... beautiful and sad ones too.

Like the hammies before them, we love Betty and Scruffy just as much. We know that they both are in a better place now.

Farewell our loving pets...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Back-packed And Ready

Since all 3 of us enjoyed our first guided tour of Seletar Camp Nature Walk last Saturday, we have signed-up for another free tour this coming weekend too.

An emailed sent by Wild Happening In Singapore recently offers several free tours organized by the various government and interest-activist groups.

There are so many different and similarly interesting guided tours available this weekend that I wished we could go to all of them, but can only manage to go to one.

We picked Nature & Heritage Trail organized by NUS' Toddycats group. The tour will last for 4 hours. Each hour on a specific topic and experience after a short break.

As the tour details stated, we will visit the National Biodiversity Museum showcasing Singapore's diverse flora and fauna... some had long gone with the encroachment of its habitat for human development, while others still hardy and survived despite the odds.

After a short break, another hour will be spent walking through Kent Ridge Park and visiting the Normanton Pond. There, behold of the living specimens the museum showcases.

Malay Regiment Sculpture at Reflections

We will then continue for another hour tracking through the Heritage Trail to learn about Singapore's past. Then onwards to visit the Reflections at Bukit Candu Museum, to witness and honor the Malay Regiment who fought a fierce fight during World War II to defend our island against the invading Japanese Imperial forces.

There are two sessions being conducted starting at 8:00am and 9:00am. We picked the second one that will end just about 1:00pm.

I was very happy to receive a successful email reply from the organizer the next day after registering on-line for a spot since there was limited number of 30 people per session.

Sport Connection Shop on 3rd Level Tampines Mall

To equip ourselves for the walk, since I am the official camping cum biking, cum nature walk equipment carrier, I got myself an ideal biking/hiking Karrimor Airspace K41 Cinder Haversack for S$90.00 bought at Sports Connection located on the 3rd storey of Tampines Mall.

My new black haversack props away from the back of my body to allow ventilation so I will not get too hot and sweat so much and with reduced friction straps against my skin for more comfort.

An attachment pouch for S$10.00 to keep my cell-phone to the haversack's shoulder strap sits ideally on my left chest that will allow me to hear when the phone rings, and provides easy reach for it too.

I also bought a convenient one-hand, flip-top cap water bottle that can be secured to the bag while on foot or strapped to the bike's water-bottle holder while riding at half-price of $11.00.

Now only to pack our camera, binoculars, insect repellent, water and snacks... topping off with our enthusiasm for the historical nature and heritage learning experience about our island this Saturday!

Like a child eager to learn, I get excited just by counting down the days!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Today In Seletar

The Seletar Nature Walk tour group with Keng Seng extreme right

Today's walk in nature took place at Seletar East Camp.

It was my army camp for the most part of my army life of two years as a medic, more than 2 decades ago... it was that long ago.

Being an army camp to so many divisions, it was a tightly secured camp then, with the Main Gate serving as the first security screening for only authorized army personnel.

For some years already, unknown to my knowledge, the place is no longer an army camp, but in its place a recreational place for golfers and nature lovers.

The familiar Seletar Army Camp main gate

When an email I received from Wild Happenings In Singapore I subscribed offered free nature walk tour in Seletar Camp, I jumped to the opportunity to see that place again.

Unknown to me, though precarious to see that the guardhouse was unmanned and closed but with the red over-sized warning signs still so prominent, I still thought the place was reserved for military use.

Wifey, Sonny and I waited outside the camp's main gate for the tour guide Mr. Keng Seng to meet us and the rest of the group this afternoon.

The Seletar Map without the military divisions camps

When everyone finally arrived, only then I got confirmation the camp is now open to camp as it is no longer a military base... the dilapidation condition of the guardhouse should have been a dead giveaway.

The free tours were given to the public to show the rustic nature of the area. The numerous mature trees and varied plants and shrubs there were the focus of the tour, since most of the species are no longer common-sight around urban Singapore.

Stepping into the camp brought back many memories of my army days. Flashes of young faces of my camp buddies appeared in my mind's eye, as we walked further inward the camp.

Almost in Britain until the coconut trees gave it away

Strangely, throughout my stint there, I had never been to the small roads with the colonial houses that the tour took us. It was in fact a totally new experience for me from the familiar sights when we stayed on the main road.

Keng Seng impressed us with his knowledge of the tree and plant names. Knowingly, he has a business doing landscaping. Growing up in a then village in Lorong Tai Sing, a stone's throw away from my former village of Lorong Ternak, inspired him to be what he is today.

Still a kampong boy at heart, his knowledge about the many local fruit trees growing in abundance there and their natural uses and cures, almost mistaken him for a herbalist.

Majestic Rain Trees amongst the colonial then military homes

The many scientific and Greek derived names of the flora there was definitely too much information to handle... the name of the previous plant got lost after the next was told. I am well known to be bad with names.

Though Chinese, he is still fluent in spoken Malay since he had been growing-up and mixing with the Malays from the nearby village. He knows a lot about the traditions and food the Malay people then used from the trees found in the village and the jungles then.

It is quite unfortunate that the rustic place like Seletar is going to be gone when the bulldozer come to clear off the treasure it holds. In replacement is a redevelopment into an Aeronautics Hub to serve the expanding industry, this part of Asia.

Sonny on the tree deck in Keng Seng's garden

There were just so many beautiful trees and plants... both native and those that were brought in centuries ago. I took so many photos of flowers and fruits that I have no way to show all of them in my blog, even with so many posts.

I still have so many other photos of blooms from my many bike rides and nature explorations that I have no opportunity to post.

So I have decided to create another blog to especially showcase the beautiful flora and fauna this island holds openly around the common paths and secretly in tucked-away pockets of nature.

I will try to include details of the whereabouts of my finds for reference. It may be here today, and wiped out in the next due to redevelopment or whatever.

A Military Open Mobilization field now a golfers' driving range

It will be more of a photo-blog of nature than it is a about photography... both of which I know very little... well, nothing about.

Since I am bad with names, the photos will be without its proper names, but hopefully I will find them myself in the months ahead and fortunate enough from the readers who happen to chance upon my blog.

So today, we were at Seletar Camp admiring its beauty and enjoying the laid-back environment unlike anywhere in our daily urban jungle homes and workplaces... for tomorrow, it will become a restricted area again, this time for the high-fliers.

Cool colonial homes shaded under majestic Rain Trees

Saga Seeds used by kampong children for playing Congkak

The unique Buah Sampan or Boat Fruit husk

Buah Rambutan or Jungle-Haired Fruits

The Buah Cempedak or Fragrant Jack Fruits

Friday, July 11, 2008

Our Simple Pleasures

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sunday's Simple Pleasures

Wifey with Whitey at Gallop Stable in Pasir Ris Beach Park

Wifey has been quite energetic lately... to my liking.

Since coming back from her follow-up medical check-up last tow weeks for her asthma condition, she has bounced back slowly, but surely to be her own adventurous self again.

After her spontaneous suggestion for an outing to Labrador Park last Saturday, she surprised me again when she wanted to join me for my Sunday biking.

"Yes! That's wonderful, dear!" Was my immediate answer to her.

And immediately too, I started thinking of a biking route that was easy and that I would follow her pace... she could take her time and turn back if she felt like it too. No problem. I was really happy to be able to go biking with her again.

Stopping at Nipah Lookout

"Can we take the cab to Pasir Ris Beach Park," was her request, "I want to see the ponies that you mentioned and the boardwalk too."

"I'd love to, my dear!"

I love nature and I love being and doing stuff together with her too. It promised to be a nice Sunday with  just the two of us. Unfortunately Sonny was having his Malay Language tuition class that afternoon.

Like always, we left after our 4:30PM afternoon prayer. Took a cab that was only S$4.80 to reach the park.

Sunday is like a joyous, carefree holiday of the week for the people there. In-line skates, cyclists, joggers, and soccer matches filled the park with joy and happy noises.

Ponies Feeding Area for children

We took our leisurely walk with ice cream cones in our hands until we reached Gallop Stables where Wifey finally got to see the ponies, especially Whitey. He was still there, at the same place where I met him once.

Yep! Donna from Just Me was right. Those ponies were in fact Arabian Horses as it stated in the information board. That lady really knows her horses.

We walked further and talked, and before we realized it, we reached the Pasir Ris Mangrove Boardwalk.

Stopping at Bakau Lookout

Once inside, the sound of the people outside was dampened by the lush mangrove trees. In its place, the sounds of birds chirping and rattling leaves when the wind blew.

The show that day was not as exciting as I had witnessed the last time I was there alone. Wifey did not get to see terrapins or monitor lizards, but just crabs and mud skippers.

Wifey was quite disturbed by the sight of pieces of rubbish that got pulled-in by the tide and stuck in the mangrove roots, spoiling nature's beautiful foliage and habitat. I thought it was rather unfortunate too.

We spent some quiet time in there just listening to the sounds the birds and observing life in the mangrove. Just being together was a nice retreat for both of us.

Out from Mangrove Boardwalk to Garden Roof Walk

We spent hours there until it was too dark and nearing dinner time. Sonny joined us at Downtown East foodcourt directly after his tuition class ended.

The place was packed and the food we ordered came late. It was Youth Day the following day. School was closed on Monday, so most students were out enjoying the long weekend. We had to cancel our plan later to watch a movie.

I was on leave off work on Monday too, but to accompany Dad for his colonoscopy procedure at National Cancer Centre... which went really well.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Dad-icated To You

Dad & Mom at National Cancer Centre Clinic D waiting area

Though I was a quite worried for the past few weeks leading to the date today, I kept it in me and not show it outwardly.

I hid the worry lines on my face with smiles, but Mom saw little glimpses of them anyway. A mother's intuition is always so strong... I was like an open book to her.

I know the cab ride to the National Cancer Centre at SGH was a little quiet. A little unnerving for me actually. I worried for Dad. I cannot help but worry the both of you, my beloved parents.

NCC Level 2 Clinic D Reception

Dad. It has been 3 years since you had your operation, The removal of that growth in your large intestine was a benign growth as you knew it, but at stage 3, the cancerous tumor was the most devastating news your children had to bear.

The symptoms came to a painful realization to you, the prognosis had seen sleepless nights with me. I am sure to the rest of my siblings too, though I know we could never imagine the pain and extreme worries you had to endure.

We had to hide the truth from you and Mom knowing that you both will worry more than concentrating to have it removed and recover. You had more than enough to worry about.

So, what is like a routine annual colonoscopy procedure for you is actually heart-pounding weeks for me until the results come out. Remission is a good word to hear.

Five years is a determining time for survival. You had your third and it came out just as good, like the previous two times.

And like the previous two years, the unnerving feeling that I felt waiting for you outside the waiting room remained just as scary until you came out of the Endoscopy Theater, with your blue kimono scrubs... all smiles and pronounced "Dr. Ooi said everything looks good."

My heart could then stop pounding so hard. I said a silent prayer to The Almighty for that good piece of news. We are given the opportunity to be with you for longer.

So the cab ride back home was a total opposite from this morning. I know, I was chatty myself.

As we sat at your dining table eating good food for our late lunch, I could not help but stole little stares at you as my heart swell with joy.

The food we bought from the Woodlands bazaar never tasted so good to me.

So we are going to enjoy each others' company and live our lives healthy, happy and free. Time we have cannot be taken for granted but fully use and appreciate.

Congratulations for being at the pink of health. I dedicate this post to you, my beloved Dad.

NCC Main Waiting Atrium

NCC Endoscopy Theater

NCC many consultation rooms

Patients Locker No #4. Superstitious Cantonese for "death"

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Labrador Of Love

Aerial view of Pasir Panjang Jetty

"Let's go to Labrador Park..." Wifey suddenly uttered while I was talking to Sonny about geeky computer stuff, "it's been quite a while since I've been there."

Growing up in Clementi as a child and through her teens, she is familiar with the southern part of the island, especially the picnics she had with her family at Labrador Beach Park.

Though it was not reclaimed and still the rugged rocky beach then, she already got to see some of the more prominent and exposed remains of World War II relics there. The ones beyond the thick, over-bearing jungle were totally unknown then.

Sonny at entrance to a revamped historic beach

Since our marriage, we moved to Tampines to set our home in the eastern part of Singapore. It was this nostalgia that prompted her to suggest going to Fort Pasir Panjang today.

Fort Pasir Panjang and Labrador Battery were built by the British to defend the southern part of the island, anticipating a coastal attack by the Japanese Imperial Army before World War II. The fort was completed in 1878.

The fort and battery were upgraded further before the war with more gun emplacements and already with comprehensive labyrinth of underground tunnels and ammunition stores amid its numerous strategicly positioned observation posts.

The World War II Memorial Plague

The popular belief of the invasion to come from the coastal area was a terrible mistake when the Japanese entered Singapore from the north from Johor, Malaysia instead.

The fort with its mighty guns meant to fire off the steep cliff to invading enemy ships were turned 180 degrees instead and proved useless since the trajectories were flat.

The mistake in intelligence strategy cost the British army, together with the Malay Regiment a loosing and bloody battle. Thousands of lives were lost.

The 6-Inch Quick Fire Gun WWII relic

Nowadays, the old and forgotten war structures have been given a new lease of life accessible to the public especially for the young generations and tourists alike to learn some fractions of Singapore's rich and varied, in this case, bleak history.

To honor the brave soldiers who fought to the death for the love of one's country, one outstanding honor was given to a Malay soldier, Lieutenant Adnan Saidi who lead the 1st Malay Brigade to fight against the invading Japanese army to a bloody end.

They succumbed to defeat when the last ammunition rationed to them was fired and fought in hand combat armed with their courage and bayonets at the end of their rifles to the death.

To boast their might and shame this brave soldier, the Japanese hung his dead body to dry as a symbol of triumph.

Gun Turret at the beach

A museum located at Bukit Candu dedicated "The Battle of Opium Hill" to him and the Malay soldiers. Converted from one of the old Colonial building, it is situated not far from the Labrador Battery... but that will be our next visit one of these days.

The British surrender to the Japanese in 1942 saw the occupied country its worst treatment to its people by the ruler yet. My Mom and Dad, so do everyone still living who were caught in those bleak few years can attest to.

There were just so many gruesome stories to told, so many cruelty and hardships the people of Singapore endured during the Japanese Occupation period. Then again all wars are cruel.

Wifey & Sonny at Harbourfront Bus Terminal

I guess the atomic bomb was a cruel necessity to stop the prolonged cruelty to humankind itself A total human tragedi.

We took the MRT all the way to Outram Station to change to North-East line to Habourfront Station for the weekend bus Service 408 to Labrador Park.

Wifey & Me with Sentosa Island as background

We alighted at Carpark A to start our walk through Singapore's history in the jungles off Batu Belayar overlooking Pulau Belakang Mati which has been redeveloped and renamed to Sentosa Island Resort.

The following photos and information board tell the story as we walked through the darkest years of human nature.

The photos will likely load slowly.
Click the info to enlarge to read
if you are willing to wait for a while.

The Casemate & Labrador Battery

Gun Emplacements 3

Sonny at one of the Observation Posts

Gun Emplacement 4

1892 Storeroom Entrance sealed

The 6 Inch Quick Firing Gun

The 4th Gun Position

Red Brick & long-gone Iron Gate Fort entrance from sea