Saturday, August 30, 2008

RSAF Open House

It is a miracle!

Well, for the first part of the day at least.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force Open House 2008 celebrates its 40th birthday today. The day held up its sunny side fortunately. It was totally wet in the late afternoon, but we will never know how wet the visitors were since we were already home when the skies opened-up after 5:00PM.

Paya Lebar Airbase was before Singapore's second airport terminal after it moved from Kallang Airport.

Air Force Converted Paya Lebar Airport Control Tower

The constant need to accommodate for travellers throughout the years, Changi International Airport is now and will definitely be the last move we will see, since it has grown to 3 world-class terminals and a budget terminal as well.

Back in those days, Paya Lebar Airport was practically my neighbour. Our village was separated by the airport high-wired fence. Every now and then, big aeroplanes would fly pass our village with its wheels out ready to land.

RSAF Open House 2008

The big jumbos were flying so low that I felt I almost could touch its belly with my hands stretched out... at least in my dreams as a child. The Concord would rattle the knick-knacks in our homes the worst whenever it flew over.

At times we would see large bellowing black smoke up in the sky. Everyone in the village would rush over to the edge of our village, hands clamped to the wired fence to see the "commotion."

Nothing terrible had ever happen though. No planes ever exploded as far as I can recall. The thick smoke would be coming from the air-crash landing practices the airport fire-fighters did every now and then.

Air Show Opening 2 of 8 Parachutes

Taking a cab ride, I could still see the warehouse which became the landmark a few years before our village was bought-over by the government for redevelopment. It brought back so many memories, yet so many more had faded or already forgotten from my mind.

Boy, if I had pictures back then, I would share them with Wifey and Sonny... and you too.

Well, back to the present.

The day was hot. Cannot complain as it should be else there will be no air show. We reached the entrance at about 10:15AM.

There was already a large crowd queuing through security checks. It was a tough time for some children and old people especially waiting for their turn in the hot sun, frying on the tarmac.

The 8 parachutes welcomed everyone there at about 10:30AM. Then came the F-16s, Hercules and Chinook Helicopters, making the beginning of the Open House 2008 with an air show.

The static displays were impressive. We would have gone through them all, if not for the long line waiting. The heat wave rising from the burning tarmac had us retreated to the displays in the hanger for most of our visit.

I especially like the night vision experience. The totally darkened rooms became impressively clear using the night-vision binoculars. Wonder if such gadget is sold legally here? It would be a great toy for me. Camping or nature watch for nocturnal animals would be great!

Trying my hands to blow-up the control tower

We had hands-on with SAM or Surface-to-Air-Missile that weighed 18Kg. I also got to try shooting down enemies from a helicopter... I felt like Rambo for a moment, only less ripped.

Sonny had his hands on the explosive finder. He found the buried 25gm "bomb" within seconds.

Sonny aiming at the Cessna flying above

The Hot Air Balloon, oh, the hot air balloon...

As expected, it was probably the highlight of the day. Everyone tried their luck by means of a lucky draw coupon dropped in at the centre stage, instead of queuing for a ride. I think this method is ingenious to avoid frustrated visitors not getting a ride eventually after queuing for hours in the hot sun.

Copter assault gun, just like in the movies

We did not have a chance... neither did thousands too. We waited for the hot air ballons to take off from the carnival field, but it never did take off... even until we left the place. Not really sure cloudy weather prevented it from taking off.

It would have been great as it would have been the first few hot air balloons floating in Singapore skies. It would have been a rare sight here captured with my own camera.

Wifey in front of the RSAF hanger

Ahh... weapons of destruction... so intriguing, so destructive. Hopefully we will never need to use it either for defense or strike on our soil or others for a long, long time.

Friday, August 29, 2008

RSAF Open Skies?

Today is Friday. I am alive again.

I am bracing myself to have a last-ditch family outing before the Ramadhan month starts on 1st September. Taking into account the unusual rainy days we have been having for the past two weeks or so, I am hoping that we can enjoy ourselves outdoors this weekend.

Tomorrow, the Republic of Singapore Air Force or RSAF is having their open house. Lots of aircraft to see and touch... a ride in the helicopter and the first time ever, a hot air balloon ride too.

It will be my first time to step into the place since they converted it into an air force base from a commercial airport after Changi International Airport was built to replace it.

It will be a relentless queuing extravaganza for the hot air ride definitely, as it will be the first time something like this gets the go ahead in space-constraint-high-rise Singapore.

Wifey sounded excited to go when I told her our weekend plan, but is always subject to the weather. It will be not much of an outdoor event if it is in the pouring and often thunderous rain.

Not to be negative, but from the looks of things, chances are 30-70 in the favour of the wet weather.

Still, there is shopping for Hari Raya celebration clothes and curtains for the home... at least one family member will be happy regardless of the weather... Wifey.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Eco-Fun Time!

It finally came down to a wonderful day as expected today.

All those weekday nights spent man-handling a pair of scissors cutting card-board boxes until the knuckles got so sore.

All those weekends spent indoors cutting and creating more handicraft works against my innate sense to be outdoors and near to nature.

Nonetheless, it was a fun time spent with Wifey doing creative work together... brainstorming on the project to do the panel work decorations. We came up with the earth with "Saving Gaia" message under it.

Our Globe & Saving Gaia Main Panel Deco

The globe was made from carton box pasted with colored magazine pages crunched to make land. Saving Gaia was made from old newspaper rolled-up with a wire inside before being crunched, twisted and shaped to become letters. Wifey did a nice job painting it with poster color.

For activities, we came up with so many handicrafts limited only by our imagination and time we had in the evenings. We chose many that were easy to make and complete under 10 to 15 minutes.

Wifey's Caterpillar & Sunflowers

Wife did wonderful sunflowers and rain-makers among other things, while I added the final touches of cardboard frames with computer printouts of instructions on how to make them.

Wifey's Japanese Carp & Rain Maker

We catered to the young students and visitors while the other parents catered to the adults with paper basket and newspaper weaving... something that needed a longer time and lots of patience.

All our efforts together came together into one large panel display, combining with the other parents' eco-friendly message boards to be, in my opinion... yes, bias as it may sound, the best decorated booth in the event.

DSP Panel Group setting up with Principle in black blouse

I took an hour off work on Friday to help Wifey make the last few vines from cut-out magazine pages and pieces of knotted strings before we left for the school with all our props and decorations made entirely from used and recycled materials.

The decoration was set-up under two hours the night before the event, with only a few touch-ups here and there on the morning of the event that officially started at 8:00AM.

Wifey attending to young "crafters"

With more handicraft works from the other parents on Saturday itself, the panel looked beautiful... thought too many hands actually spoiled the panel... different than what I had envisioned it to be. But, it was to be a group effort... more coordination and planning for it would have made it even better.

Anyway, no one can deny the spirit the DSP group has and the zest everyone showed today.

Little Boy with his caterpillar & Girl with her scarecrow

Our booth was so popular with the young and old students... and teachers from other schools too stayed for long periods learning and making craft works.

Egg-painting was the most popular with the students. We had other schools' students stuck to our booth before they actually visited their own... their teachers came to our booth to tell us that!

We attracted lots of visitors throughout the event and still more came to make their own handicraft work even after the event was officially over at 1:00PM.

Wifey & Partner with Egg-People "crafters"

We received lots of compliments from many teachers from other schools. The most satisfying to me were the ones coming from our DSP-assigned teacher and Sonny's own school principle.

Throughout the event and towards the end, both Wifey and I, and I am sure the rest of the parents too, did not feel tired. It was just fun to be there and be apart of it.

It was heartwarming to see the children and students being proud of their craft works that they could take home with them. Each of them got a gift for completing making their craft. They also got the gift of ideas on how fun it is to turn unwanted items into masterpieces during the process.

Our slogan "From Trash To Treasure" really came true for many today.

Saving Gaia is really that much fun. Everyone should do it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

iThink i'll Wait

Finally, iPhone is here in Singapore today. All in its 3G glory.... phone, 3rd party applications and internet, as far as I am concern.

Such a wonderful news, yet I am sad about it because only one local telephone operator is allowed to bring this much coveted, lifestyle cell phone to this island.

Sad, because mine is a smaller competitor, the underdog of telcos here... the rebel in me seem to go for the underdogs somehow. So I have to wait out for it for the time being.

Again sad because since there is only one operator, there is no competition. So all who desire to own one will have to submit to the pricey-plan it dictates that are to me, almost merciless!

Competition makes for a win-win situation, thus my support for the underdogs.

Yes. There is that light at the end of the tunnel... months from now. The other two telcos will be able to bring in this revolutionary phone here. Then is when the prices become creative, affordable and more humane.

I am happy that my telco will always lead the lower, as it always has been doing... more creative price plans that make the others try to match them with no other choice.

Well, congrats to the thousands who lined the Comcentre the day before the midnight release of iPhones 3G here and got to own one. It's a wonderful gadget... always changing, always evolving, always something new to keep you captivated to it.

They are going to love it!

The Wireless@SG makes the whole island virtually a hot spot for free internet, while Safari makes for the best web experience on a cell phone. The complementary party applications are phenomenal!

So, by December this year, Wifey will get my her iPhone as well... a wonderful thing to end 2008!

PS: I am not endorsing iPhone or its maker... I just love it!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Of All Days!

Between DSP meetings and handicraft works on Saturdays and attending weddings on Sundays, I was left with no time for myself.

These activities have been taking me away from my much loved bike rides cum nature watch for 4 consective weeks already.

If not for my daily gym workouts at home before I go to work, I practically stayed in doors most of time or stuffing myself on Nasi Beryani at weddings without breaking a sweat.

I longed for the breeze and sun felt on my skin when I ride my bike from one park to another.

I finally got the chance for my bike ride today and before the Ramadan month starts in September.

All set and geared to go in the afternoon... but then the skies opened up and let down the rain with loud thunder and lightning. It rained intemittently until it was going dark.

So the rain kept me at home again... watching Beowolf DVD movie and Ghost Hunters series with Wifey while binging on pineapple biscuits with hot red dates tea to drown my sarrows. Sigh.

Well, tomorrow is Monday... and I already got the blues for it starting when the rain came down this afternoon. Well, the plants and trees need their refreshments too. It will be even greener for nature walks after it rained.

Rain check? Maybe.

Hopefully sunny next weekend for my biking after the fair at Sonny's school.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Saving Gaia's Fun!

It has been a long time since I felt like child again.

Never thought saving Gaia can be this much fun!

Wife and I have been busy creating and making handicraft works out of discarded everyday household items for Sonny's Dunman Secondary School. That is why my posts have been slow.

For the second year, his school is hosting the Environment & Life Science Exhibition for the Primary and Secondary schools in the east zone. The event will be held on 23rd August 2008 at the newly built hall.

While students from the various schools compete among themselves in the Life Science competition, the DSP or Dedicated Support Parents are busy putting up on our own Saving & Caring For The Environment Exhibition to complement the event especially the visiting students and their parents on the day.

We are hoping that the message to Reduce, Reuse & Recycle will be imprinted in everyone's mind after the event. It will, however little, be helpful to save our environment and our earth.

Wifey was all alive during the DSP meetings on Saturdays with her ideas. It got me excited to help her as well. Her ideas were all excepted by the group and they have started to collect used and discarded items for the craft work materials.

So far, Wifey has made cute man and woman dolls. Their heads were made from empty egg shells while their bodies from Vitagen plastic bottles. Dashing couple, Mr and Mrs Eggdar.

I made a gold fish using the egg shell, but nothing as close to elaborate as Wifey's dolls.

She also made a hanging Japanese Carp.... circles cut-out from colourful old magazine pages and pasted on a cut-out paper fish to resemble scales.

The two animals proved popular among the Chinese parents in the group as they regard these fishes as good luck charms. They volunteer to make a few more for the exhibition and a few for their homes.

Wifey made totem poles and sunflowers from paper towel tubes... and beautiful cut-out butterflies hung with strings on straws ends, cascading and twirling when the wind blows. I kind of like it and offered to help her make another one for our home. Kind of therapeutic, in fact.

Her next creation will be a jewellery box and paper note covers to be made from carton boxes, while I offered to do picture frames.

All those wonderful creations will need some form of instructions on how to make them. I offered to make simple-to-understand instructions together with photos that will be printed on a piece of paper and backed with cardboard to hang at the exhibition.

Each creation is either hung from or placed next its instructions for the visitors to see.

There will be demonstrations on how to make them at the event, so the parents and with the help of the students are gathering enough materials for the visitors to try their hands at making them there.

This is going to be an exciting time to experience, since this is the first time we will be attending such an event.

Through the course of creating and making the handicrafts, I have been feeling happy and a sense of child-like accomplishment... however weird my creations came out to be when finished.

The feeling somehow spurs the eagerness to create another and another. I may have skewed from the actual message myself, but this project is pure creative Gaia fun!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Happy 43rd Singapore!

Today, the whole of Singapore celebrates our 43rd National Day.

Like a mother to me, you achieved your independence reluctantly from Malaysia a year before I was born. Suddenly you found yourself lost, but you found a wide frontier to explore.

Like all mothers in this land... such as mine too, you struggled to survive through poverty, you banded together as a people and you worked hard to get a better life for us all.

Standing on your own to feet, relying only upon your self determination to set the conditions right, you inspire confidence to the people of the world to come and came were the jobs and our livelihood. A good one.

From the fishing villages on mud flats, you have reinvented yourself to be a modern country and now a metropolis with the world as your business partner, at the young age of 43.

Thank you for your sacrifices for all your sons and daughters for we celebrate your independence with the spirit of one people, we will strive for you for another successful 43.

Happy Birthday Singapore!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Between Two Messages

"Mak Kak Imah in critical condition."

I received a short message on my iPhone on my way to work Monday morning.

I was not as surprised as I was saddened that Wifey and I had not gone to visit her at the hospital sooner than we planned. We made a decision to see her after work that same night, but was just too late.

We did however, visit her at her home a month before when we heard she was not feeling well. I provided a family doctor contact that does house-calls since she refused to go to the hospital.

That doctor was the one who called the ambulance when her condition became serious.

She vomited what little food or drink she took. She lost so much weight and dehydrated that she was sent to CGH where it was finally discovered that a section of her intestine had shrunk and its inner walls fused together to block even water through.

My Sis-in-law's Mom passed away at about three in the afternoon. My Sis delivered the sad message. Her operation to remove part of her large intestine went well, but turned for the worst. She was too weak to recover. Her heart was too weak that made the operation a 50-50% chance of pulling through. She was 76.

That night, we went to her home instead to see her one last time. I kissed her cold cheek and still have tears in my eyes whenever I recall seeing her face the last time.

She has a special memory in me... her kindness and quaint hospitality towards me. She treated me like I was her own son. Something I could not figure out why. It just was nice to receive it.

She would ask what food I like to eat before we visit because she wanted to prepare it for us. She took the trouble to be a good host every time.

She would hold my hand for a little while longer when I salam or shake and kiss her hand as would a Muslim son to his elders, as we speak to greet each other whenever we me and parted.

She was a wonderful lady. I keep her in my prayers. I am happy my elder brother was blessed to have her as his mother-in-law. She is gone now to a better place.

"My wife has given birth to a baby boy. 4.2 kg"

An SMS I received while in the office the next morning.

"CONGRATULATIONS Proud Dad and Mom!" was my reply to my friend's message. A special message he sent only to his boss and me. He wanted to keep it on the low for some personal reasons.

That made me feel special somehow. I did not know I had that effect on him as a new close friend.

That also got me thinking...

Life is so dynamic... it seems to move at lightning speed when we are preoccupied. Too fast that we would miss important things we set out to do.

Planning is good, but putting it off for tomorrow what we can do today is really bad.

I learnt that and am but regretted I did it... or not done it. I missed an important moment in my life. She is always in my prayers.

May The Almighty bless her soul...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Our Labrador Love

I found this Slide Post residing in my dashboard still under draft.

The place is a revisit to our island's dark past. The peaceful surroundings now is a far cry from the war-torn jungle it once was, a British fort to defend Singapore against the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

Our Labrador Of Love outing was one of the best we had together. The place was serene with some spectacular views up on the ridge. Sharing them with you.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Clanking Bad Day

A few days ago I got to witness a cleaning lady at the canteen who had butter fingers.

She accidentally dropped a plastic plate onto the floor while clearing the tables. The sudden loud sound startled some ladies who were having their breakfast. It made a few people nearby a little agitated for giving them a fright. No one wants to be startled while sipping a hot cup of coffee.

After a few seconds of unwanted attention, everyone went back to their own business eating their breakfast. It was after all, just a normal, one-off incident. It was not.

Soon after, heading to the dish washing room, she dropped the whole stack of dirty dishes from her trolley just before the entrance. That sound reverberated loudly across the whole canteen like a collapsing building.

This time, it gave everyone a nice, good fright. Even the stall owners who were cooking inside stopped and came out to look.

It must definitely be an embarrassing long moment for that poor lady. It was really very loud... the second time around.

I could see her, for a split second, stood up motionless, shocked at herself and maybe thinking what was wrong with her that day.

It made her boss come out from the drinks counter and gave her a stern stare at her while she hurriedly picked up the dishes, helped by her co-worker. Good thing the dishes were plastics!

"What's wrong with her today, man?" A friend's reaction to the ruckus she kept creating.

"Well, it can happen to anyone..." I spontaneously replied almost sounded like I was defending her, as we turned our heads back to our table and continued with our mindless morning chat and jokes, "it is one of those days."

That was that. Everyone survived and went on with their business.

No, it was not over.

She did it again... at lunchtime.

She dropped a another plate while coming over to her dirty dishes trolley from the table she just cleaned. The plate dropped onto the stool and down onto the floor together with the leftover food. It was not a pretty sight. A lot of work for her to clean up the mess though.

Though the sound was muffled mostly by the lunchtime crowd noise, the mess was an unwanted spectacle.

She stopped in her tracks. Stood there and stared blank for a few seconds in disbelief.

Unbelievable to me too. She definitely was having a bad day. Something on her mind that was distracting her that made her lady butter fingers that day. Poor Lady.

I can relate to having a bad day. Everybody does and hate it too. At least it shall pass... as quickly too just like the cleaning lady.

She is back to her own normal, non-butter-fingers self again after noticing her going about her work these past week. Good for her.

Hope everything is alright for her now. Hope everyone knows that everyone gets one bad day some time and every one else should give that poor soul a break... dishes and all.

Friday, August 01, 2008

There's Always Hope

Wow! I have not been posting anything for some time now.

It has been hectic these past few weeks.

Other than dealing and posting recent deaths of our hamsters... they were born the same time, so they die about the same age which have been heart-breaking, I have an extra job covering for a colleague at work who is away until next week.

Apart from helping Sonny cope with his class arts and design projects during the weekdays, Wifey and I have become active again after a good rest of being members of Dedicated Support Parents' group or DSP in our son's Dunman Secondary School on the weekends.

Their upcoming Environment and Life Science Exhibition had us busy doing craft work using recycled materials for the exhibition aimed at promoting awareness of care for the environment to the young.

Just last Saturday, as DSPs we were invited to attend and witnessed other parents' proud moments when their children received their achievement awards. It was our first to attend the school's 45th Anniversary & Prize Giving Day.

Impressive results attained by these students who took their GCE "O" Level examinations last year. Prizes were given out to student who had attained 5 to 9 Distinctions in the subjects they had taken... and there were many of them!

I started thinking of the amount of efforts they had put in, coupled with their determination and their gift of good genes for brains. One by one each student came to the stage proudly receiving their much deserved awards from the Guest of Honor.

I could feel how proud they felt and how happy they had made their parents to be... all elongated necks peering out of the sea of seats, arms stretched out with flashing digital cameras capturing their moments for posterity.

I was secretly hoping... praying then, for my son to be just as good and determined to be as successful in his academics as those students.

I would imagine Wifey and I doing the same paparazzi-parent thingy too with Sonny in the years to come.

In retrospect, if I had a coin for every thought I had about turning back time, I would be such a rich person. If I could turn back time, I would study harder and most importantly smarter too.

Back then, being a shy and reclusive student were a terrible combination. It spelled hard and confusing times as a student. The reluctance to ask questions when I did not understand the lessons being taught meant disastrous test and exam results.

It took a toll on my overall self-confidence.

I was not proud of my academic achievements because I did not achieve that much. So when I did scored some "As" in my GCE, it was quite shocking. Then again, the aggregate qualified me to only a few options in Polytechnic.

Being as ignorant as I was back then, I was blown to the direction of the wind that blew most of my cohort to Electrical or Electronics Engineering... a time when the country was evolving itself to be a manufacturing hub in Asia.

All this was against my interest. This kampong boy has always wanted to become a botanist. Yes, lame I know, but plants and trees are my interests. Animals too. Nature is my nature.

All these years, I had always wished to quit and went back to school for botany, but did not. I would be landscaping public gardens and parks with NEA! Then again, Engineer's pay has been very good and the opportunities to progress upwards were abundant. I sway with the flow.

At times, when I was in the low, I would look out the window and see my path that I did not take. I know the grass is always greener on the other side, but boy, do I want to see it for myself. I like grass!

Yes, I was a coward then when times were simpler. Being single, any decision I made in err would have been my own mistake or glory. How little money I would make would be mine, but nowadays, making that jump will mean affecting my family too.

Financially, I do not think I can take that risk. This body is too old, this mind too rusty. The enthusiasm in me has all been spent. What is left is the focus in my present job.

So here I am. Heading my test engineering group. I had come a long way though... persevered most of the time, but I believe I did a good and honest job all the while or my conscience would have killed me.

So here I am, providing Sonny, one of the best students I know and a great son, as best an education and constructive exposures as much as possible for him to excel in his studies and support him all the way to pursue and achieve his goals and dreams.

I have another chance because my son is my hope.