Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sharon Stone Controversy

Lousy start to the day... Woke up at about 4 in the morning and couldn't really return to sleep thinking about current affairs, the China quake so hope I'm able to survive the day without pissing people off... :-)

Anyway, since I couldn't really go back to sleep went through some mails and was browsing the news channels for any good news on China but not much. Was also thinking about this article I read yesterday evening on something Sharon Stone said at Cannes about the China Quakes caused by Karma because of their stand on Tibet and I thought just how insensitive and obnoxious some people could be. Her exact phrase being "...And then all this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and I thought, is that karma -- when you're not nice that the bad things happen to you?"

My God!! How on Earth can she justify what is happening to all the children and farmers as being punishment for their government's stand on Tibet. She started it off saying "I've been concerned about how should we deal with the Olympics, because they are not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who is a good friend of mine" followed by the statement about the quake.

I would be sorely disappointed if the Dalai Lama were to condone such comments. Ultimately, he has been running all over the world criticising China and garnering support all over the world while his supporters are fighting the actual fight... So he doesn't appear to be someone who's comparable to people like Aung San Suu Kyi or let's say people like Hindraf back home who don't run away.

I realise that people should be allowed to voice their opinions... this pretty much is what I'm doing with this blog as well but I feel that people of Sharon Stone's stature should at least have common sense and have more brains to realise what she's saying and not just blabber about something that she does not understand... just because the Dalai Lama's her friend!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Why conservation? Conservation comes in many ways, water, electricity and so on but what I'm refering to or my main area of concern has been conservation of species and bio-diversity. For me, wildlife conservation is about preserving bio-diversity and this involves many areas... Habitats, ecosystems and species. Most of us wouldn't see the importance in doing so but just imagine life Without bio-diversity... What if there was only one type of bird in the whole wide world? One type of cat, One type of fish... Would be very boring, right?

Conservation has a very important role to play now especially with the focus on Global Warming... Why? Well.. consider this simple fact. Global Warming means our atmosphere is warming up and as a result of this warming up, Polar Ice Caps are melting... In other words, the Arctic & Antarctic is getting smaller as they are basically formed out of ice. But that's not all, when they melt, sea levels rise... in other words, land masses are shrinking so God forbid that one day Pulau Batu Puteh may dissapear under the Johore Straits... There... land dispute solved!!

But anyway... Almost everything in our environment is connected sort of like a circle of life... (Plagiarised from Lion King... :-)). For example, in the ocean... there are small organisms called Plankton which feed small fishes which in turn feed bigger fishes who are preyed on by sea mammals or even bigger fish who are then preyed on by man or also other animals. I know that's not the point that was sent across in Lion King but that's my interpretation but When one goes, so will the other. When there's no plankton, the smaller fishes will die and when that happens, so do the big fishes... Anyway, you get the point.

For me, I am all for conservation because I am nuts about animals and as well, I want to be able to show my kids and grandkids (Wah... still a long way to go) what a turtle is... What a polar bear is... not from pictures but I want to show them a live one. It's sad knowing that future generations may not know what Polar Bears look like. I am blessed to have been able to see green turtles and hawksbill turtles but sad knowing that it's unlikely I will be able to see a live Leatherback turtle (Penyu Belimbing)... at least not in Malaysia.

I am lucky enough to have seen Orcas, Polar Bears and Pandas (albeit not in the wild) but I'm sure many of you haven't. All the more reason why we need to do our part starting now.

One goal that I have in turtle conservation is that I hope in 15 - 20 years, when I return (ha ha... If I return) to Chagar Hutang, Redang, one of the nesting turtles will be one of the ones that hatched when I was a volunteer in 2003 or 2005.

How about you? What have you done to ensure that we human beings are not the only ones left on Earth in the years to come?

Quake Lake

Was going through some articles on the Internet and came across the above image. This quake lake has been in the news the past few days due to the potential for disaster. Basically, what has happened was during the quake, the river had been dammed by rocks, mud & gravel thus causing what has been called a 'quake lake'. Coupled with the rain, the lake has formed very quickly and will eventually burst causing massive flooding downstream. So apart from the human tragedy, authorities are scrambling to avoid further disasters.

Aerial View of TangJiaShan Lake & Surrounding Area

Mountain of Rubble

The above image pretty much shows the mountain of rubble that collapsed from one of the mountains damming the river.

Submerged Dam

The extent of the damming is so great that the lake extends 5 kms upstream and everything between the 'dam' up the river is submerged in water and water level at the lake is rising at about 2 metres each daily. The above image shows a constructed dam that has been all but submerged by the water and there are also concerns that these will be destroyed once the quake lake spills over wiping out everything in its path.

Even though the quake has not claimed as many lives as the Tsunami in 2004 (yet), I believe the extent of damage wrought in its wake is much greater and I do hope that things will gradually improve.

My heart and prayers goes out to all the survivors and those affected.

Sichuan 2008 Earthquake

It's been more than 2 weeks and there's still no letting up. Aftershocks & tremors are still occurring every few days with more deaths being reported. It's shocking & depressing reading about such disasters. Just a week before the quake, it was Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and it wasn't too long ago when the Tsunami hit Aceh wiping the whole town off the map. Makes one wonder if this is Mother Nature's way of fighting back and to show that she is still in control. However, this post is not aimed at talking about the depressing news as there's enough of that in our newspapers and Web sites.

Instead, it got me thinking back to 2004 during the Indian Ocean Tsunami. I never thought so much about it at the time but in retrospect, it gives me hope to see that at such times, people are working together to provide hope and assistance to those who need it. It's during such adversity that we are able to see the human spirit of co-operation breaking down the barriers and one person from one country helping another person thousands of miles away without expecting anything in return. All we want is to help ease the pain and suffering.

During the Tsunami, I actually got to know that the Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields was looking for donations & volunteers to assist with sorting and packaging of items to be sent to Aceh. There were hundreds of people there helping in so many different activities. Sorting of foodstuff, clothes by gender, size... Sorting through medication, packaging, organising and basically off-loading and loading the items into containers. Most of us have either taken leave from work to help or in my case, went there after work.

Like conservation work, it really felt like I was doing my part and it really made me feel good knowing that I have done my part to alleviate some of the suffering. Even then, I wish there was more that I could do now other than to just donate money.

Let's all pray for those affected and wish them well.

Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

He's small... he's hungry... he's persistent... Scrat's Back!! Pretty amazing how an acorn can last through the Ice Age followed by the great floods... and now dinosaurs!!

It's funny watching his obsession with erm... nuts... specifically acorns. I kinda' enjoyed the first one (The Ice Age)... Wasn't that particular about the previous one (The Meltdown) but I guess I'll be watching this third one. Let's see how many installments they can produce... :-)

Even if you don't stay for the whole show, you should pay the ticket just to watch this little guy in action.

Don't hold your breath though... Releasing only in July 2009.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Been pretty much out of things the past few days... Down with nasal infection, flu, sore throat and a slight cough... And with an MC in hand, I still had to attend meetings... groan...

But anyway, I was catching up on some TV series... one of which was Boston Legal... Very entertaining legal series... What got me thinking wasn't so much the show itself but one of the message. The episode was about the 2 main characters representing different sides on the same case. As the case involved an issue one of them felt strongly about, the topic of friendship came up and several quotes that struck me were as follows:

"That's the beauty of being good friends... Relationships with long shelf lives you can just stick up on the shelf..."

"...Friendships are a little like backyard gardens... We plan to tend to them. We just always seem to put it off till next week."

It kinda' got me thinking as I guess I've been pretty much guilty of neglecting my friends unless when I really needed them. I mean, it's not like I ignored them completely but I guess I have not been socialising much and it's been work and my personal life lately.

Maybe neglecting my friends wouldn't be that accurate a way to describe it... perhaps more of neglecting the friendships that I have. Over the years I have made many good friends, some that have helped me through some really rough patches. Some whom I've known since school days and there was also this French lady, a Finnish guy and also a Vietnamese guy that I got acquainted with while I was in Hanoi last year. The first 2 don't have access to e-mail but even then Pentti the Finnish guy actually sent me a post card... which I have yet to reply... The horror!! AArrgHHhh... Feel so bad...

As we get engrossed in technology nowadays... facebook, friendster, MSN, Yahoo, e-mail, how many of us actually still send snail mails... postcards... birthday cards or even just drop by to say Hi. We even download movies more than going to the cinemas... Well at least I do! Unless it's a really good movie worthy of the silver screen.

I guess with work and life getting in the way, keeping in touch has been getting more difficult but I realise that this should not be an excuse to just drop a line and tell a friend that they are thought of and remembered. Even my 7 year old niece can send me a "Hello Khau Fu... How are you" hand-drawn card once in a while... I am so ashamed... Anyway... I think should actually work harder at re-establishing communications with all my long lost friends... I think it's about time I dusted off my facebook account as well and start sending some pokes and also some growing gifts.

This doesn't just apply to friends but also family members. How about you folks? Remember an old friend that you have not spoken to in a long while?

"A Friend May Well Be Reckoned the Masterpiece of Nature" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Thomas Cup 2008

Sigh. Another year goes by and still no Thomas Cup. Quite a waste actually. Again we were so close that we could even touch it. It's not like we lack the capabilities. Badminton is one of the very few sports that Malaysia has been able to excel in. A lot of us grow up playing badminton and have very good memories of it at one time or another.

Mine was in 1992 where the Thomas Cup returned to Malaysia. It just so happened that we had tuition at the time but fortunately, our tuition teacher was also hooked on the game so I easily excused myself every half an hour or so to check the results and update everyone. :-) It was an amazing game. Foo Kok Keong was at the twilight of his competitive career and his opponent Alan Budi Kusuma was in form. And theirs was the decider game. And you know what? Foo Kok Keong won! Not because of superior skills... Not because Alan was not playing well. But it was because Foo Kok Keong fought... and he fought hard. The nation's pride on his shoulders. He fought and he triumphed. Sadly, the pride in representing their country and also the fighting spirit is very rare in our athletes nowadays. Well... I could be wrong... Ultimately, I'm not a sports analyst and I was never really good in sports as well.

But anyway, through the years it has always been up and down and for some time, badminton was pretty much dominated by Indonesia and also China. Even Denmark & Japan has also improved significantly.

Recently, it seemed that we were finally catching up again and there were notable events such as Hafiz Hashim and most recently Koo Kien Keat & Tan Boon Heong winning the All England. Unfortunately, as is the case with most of our athletes nowadays, with the exception of Nicol David, the consistency is just not there. At any rate, our players have improved in recent years and except for the singles where I think the only reliable and consistent player is Lee Chong Wei, we have 3 reasonably strong doubles pairs.

Which brings us back to the recently concluded Thomas Cup 2008. It's really sad that Choong Tan Fook fell ill. With the performance that he and Koo Kien Keat gave us against Japan, I believe if they were paired off again, they would have easily beat China's top pair. It's sad considering how promising Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong's partnership was just a year ago but that's the way it is I suppose in competitive badminton. Their partnership is just not working and in any partnership, the feeling that you can depend on your partner is of utmost importance. This bond is just not there. As such, I really had a gnawing feeling that they were gonna lose. And I was right.

In the singles, Wong Choon Hann was just outclassed by Bao Chun Lai. Wong Choon Hann was one of our best players but the fact is, Bao Chun Lai's just younger and faster. And in a game like badminton, these qualities tend to dictate the winner and loser. And with Chen Jin in his prime...

Oh well, all we can do is ponder about what might have been...

Ultimately, I guess they have tried their best. And who am I to criticise them anyway... I'm not there and I'm not that great a player myself... :-) Maybe next Thomas Cup!!


Don't you just frackin' hate it when your PC's running fine and all of a sudden, along comes one of those Goddamn Microsoft Patches, Rollup Patches or Security Hotfixes that are supposed to fix problems that you have or close loopholes in your programs.

Whenever I debate about what Microsoft should do better (in the interest of having them improve) and how they have so many security loopholes, my friends at Microsoft would argue that it's due to ignorant people who don't patch their PCs. They just don't see the frustrations that others face using their programs... Upon induction into the company, they are provided with these white cassette tapes, that they listen to in their car while travelling to and from work , that turn them into bloody zombies that chant Microsoft! Microsoft! Microsoft! and they have this impression that Bill is God!!.

Here I was hoping to have a nice long weekend just catching up on movies and TV series with my Windows Media Center PC but I've got a couple of patches waiting to install... My mistake... instead of just leaving it as it is, I wanted my PC in tip top condition so I update my PC. BANG! There goes my PC with a persistent problem that goes "Strong name validation failed for assembly C:\windows\ehome\EHShell.exe"

Fine. I do a System Restore to an earlier time and it seems to be restored but somehow the problem recurs... and again... and again... Internet forums are no good... Not that I can't find a solution... Quite the contrary, as usual, many have encountered the same problem... But none of their solutions help. So I decided to reinstall Windows. But somehow it keeps failing!! Alright... time to turn in. I left it and decided to just go to sleep.

Next morning... Mood's better so I try again... Did more research, and found one that says something about CD-Rom that's causing the re-installation to fail... WTF!! Oh well.. might as well... I get a spare drive that I have lying around and I retry the installation... and lo behold... Installation finally goes through...

But then, I haven't realised at the time that the problem could be due to patches and assumed that somehow one of my files were corrupted... so there I go happily spending the whole day re-installing drivers, applications and the hundreds of patches that Microsoft piles on me...

BANG!! The problem returns!! And no matter which Restore Point I try to return to, it doesn't help!! ARRRGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! The whole frackin' weekend bloody wasted!! God Damn MS!!! And they ask me why I always criticise Microsoft!!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Tribute to Drew Struzan

Went for a movie on Friday and saw the new Indiana Jones (Indy) poster and I thought to myself "Wow!" This guy is really good! Well.. I'm referring to to Drew Struzan, the poster artist and not Indy. :-)

The first time I can recall seeing his art was way back during my studies in Canada when I purchased the movie poster for Ewoks : Battle for Endor. And I've also seen the ones that he did for The Goonies and also The American Tail.

Then came the Star Wars Special Edition back in '97 where George Lucas decided to edit his Star Wars trilogies to enhance the graphics and also to add in scenes that he felt was essential but never had the chance to do earlier. When the movie posters were released, I was blown away. Since then, I have been a fan... not to the point that I invest in his posters but this guy is way up there when it comes to art.

It's interesting to note that he has a long association with George Lucas & Steven Spielberg who gifted us with movies like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and many more. In tribute, this blog is dedicated to him and hope to see many more from him.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Comic Movies

Wooo Hooo.... Iron Man blasts into movie theaters everywhere... I wasn't too sure about Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Stark but I must say, he pulled it off. And Gwyneth Paltrow... ssssssssizzling.... The CGI and effects were really great and those of you who rushed out of the cinema after the movie... and didn't wait till after the credits... :-) Well.. you missed out on the cameo of ****... But.. I won't spoil the surprise.. go watch it again...

Anyway, to my delight, the past few years have seen an amazing onslaught of movies based on comic book characters and with the exception of the recent Superman Returns, I'd have to say I'm liking what I see so far and I can't wait for more, More, MOre, MORE!!!. So... what's coming up next??!! Read On...

The Dark Knight. The second remake of Gotham's nocturnal guardian. I used to say that Michael Keaton was the best Batman... That's until Christian Bale came along... And My God... Heath Ledger's Joker is gonna blow you all away... My only disappointment is the death of Heath Ledger cos' he should have been around to savour his masterpiece. RIP Heath!

Hellboy. Never really bought into the comics but the first movie was kinda interesting. I guess being a fan of Mike Mignola (the artist who created Hellboy) helped. From the trailers, the 2nd movie is gonna be more spectacular than the first one so... go watch it!

The Incredible Hulk
. Another remake of a cult favourite. There was one in 2003 starring Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly (sayang cos JC is such a babe!!!) which I felt was a flop... sub-standard CGI and effects... This new remake starring Edward Norton, I hope, will pulverize that to gamma particles... Oooohh.. I shiver just thinking those words... "Please don't make me angry.... You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" ROOOOOAAAARRR!!!

Thor. "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy shall possess the power of Thor!!" Thor is the Norse God of Thunder, banished to live among men by his father to teach him humility within Dr Donald Blake, a frail, partially disabled doctor. He however, discovers Thor's hammer, Mjolnir and lo behold, the God of Thunder has returned as protector of mankind!!

Punisher 2. Yet another remake. Never was a fan of Punisher but oh well... Shortage of good movies nowadays so we'll see how this one turns out. Starring Ray Stevenson, last seen in HBO's Rome as Titus Pullo... Pretty decent acting I might add.

Frank Castle's family was brutally murdered and he was left for dead after witnessing a Mafia execution. Angered with the authorities in ability to bring the perpetrators to justice, he became the punisher... bringing death & destruction to organised crime.

If I'm not wrong, he's the first vigilante in comicdom... amongst all the superheroes.

Origins: Wolverine. Everyone's favourite cigar-chewin', adamantium laced canuck is BACK!! And he's gonna' be spilling more blood, eh?...

The story will reveal Wolverine's past in the Weapon X project and very likely his connection to Sabretooth & William Stryker long before the X-Men came about.

Origins: Magneto. The master of magnetism... not to be outdone by Wolverine returns in his own origin story...

Justice League
. DC Comics' answer to Marvel's Avengers. A superhero team led by Superman with a membership including Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and so many many more... Unlikely that you will see that many characters in the movie. If you watch Smallville, you would already have seen appearances by some of the characters mentioned.

Conan. The word barbarian would simply have no meaning if not for Conan. A character most people would associate to Arnold Schwarzeneggar who portrayed the Cimmerian in the earlier movies.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Backpacking 101

I was thinking of writing this sometime back but never really got down to it... But after a friend asked me when I was going for my next trip and that he'd like to tag along, I thought I might as well. So here we go... A Dummies Guide to Backpacking... by a dummy!!

First of all, backpacking is not really that difficult as some may think. To me, I suppose backpacking is defined as cheap travel. And it basically means... well... backpacking... You chuck everything into your backpack including the kitchen sink... And God bless the porter who helps you carry that up Everest/ Mount Kinabalu.

Anyway, for the simple fact that you will be carrying that ton of stuff you are carrying, well... best tip I can offer is travel light. Trust me, I have tried walking around downtown Madrid with my backpack strapped on... It's not fun...

Anyway, backpacking is fun... it's an adventure... Freedom at it's finest - you go where you want to go, you do what you want to do, you sit where you wanna... ok... forget the last 2... You have to consider local customs before you do something in a foreign country... But anyway.. let's get down to it...

Step 1: Planning Your Budget

Know where you want to go. Know how much you have to spend. This is critical otherwise you'll find yourself sleeping in toilets (I'm not kidding... I have friends who did this...) or on park benches (which is not advisable even if you are a guy)... Remember American Werewolf in Paris?? Never know what's lurking out there... :-) Basically, you start with a destination. This is pretty simple cos' South East Asia (SEA) is quite cheap to travel on a shoestring. Once you have decided, go look around for cheap airfares. With Air Asia, land travel is not necessarily cheaper anymore. For example, zero air fare is a common feature nowadays and when I went to Vietnam in 2007, I paid only RM 238 on fuel surcharges and airport taxes... The fare was zero.

Next, the best guide you can get is Lonely Planet & the Internet. For example, try keying-in 'tourist destinations in Hanoi' in Google or Yahoo. You will get hundreds & thousands of results... Lonely Planet is very good... Why? Listings of accommodations according to your budget. This will give you a good idea of how much you need to spend on accommodation. Try to get an idea (from friends who have been there or even doing a search on Google) on how much meals cost at your destination. But a good guideline is about USD5 for each meal... This is for SEA.

Basically, after Step 1, you want to know how much you would have spent on necessities. Based on my scenario, this would have come to about slightly over RM600 for a 10-day trip inclusive of return flight & meals. Accommodation can vary. Again, factor that in based on research that you have made before hand and work within that budget. And whatever remains of that from your initial budget of let's say (RM1,000) is for your domestic travelling, land travel and so on. Depending on your research, you can get a better estimate because a lot of details are in Lonely Planet so make use of it.

Tips: Ask friends, Lonely Planet, Internet

Step 2: Planning Your Itinerary

Be practical. If you want to travel throughout Vietnam in 10-days... What you want is Superman to ferry you around... so don't try to achieve too much and most importantly, work within your budget. Think about your objective... Do you have specific places you would like to visit? Do you want to see a little bit of everything or do you want to see everything in a specific destination. For example, if you want to travel from Hanoi to Central Vietnam, unless you want to dish out several hundreds more for domestic air travel you'll be wasting time cos' a bus ride from Hanoi to let's say Danang/ Hue will take you easily 16 hours. You will have to factor the travelling time into your schedule so let's say you take 10 days off, you will lose about 2 days just for travelling...

Anyway, know the country you are visiting. Look at the map. Again, do some research on the distances and the kind of transportations available to you. In most cases, Lonely Planet will let you know how to get from one place to another and the cost and duration as well.

When you already have a list of places you want to go, group them according to localities. From there, you can cover all the places in one locale before moving to another locale. This is plain common sense. I sometimes consider where I will be leaving for home from and I plan in such a way that I cover that area last because I can relax and rest and just laze around.

A good way to travel is to travel at night but this depends on where you are going to. in some parts of the globe night travel can be dangerous due to bandits and so on. But on the good side of things, you can't do much so why not travel at night. In other words, get a night train or bus and just sleep on the bus. You depart at night and by the time you arrive, it's early in the morning. You have saved one day of travelling... and most importantly, lodging for the night. I have done this in Europe, Thailand & also Vietnam and it's something that I swear by.

Tips: Travel at night (consider the safety), group your travel sites by locales.

Step 3: Travel Documents

Travel documents. Most important document will be your passport. Make copies of all your documents and credit cards and leave them with a friend/ relative so in case you lose them (touch wood), you can get a copy easily.

Find out travel requirements. Some countries require visas or travel permits. This is important if you want to step out of the airport in the case of long stopovers. For example, if you fly from Kuala Lumpur to let's say Sweden and you have a 5 hour transit in Tokyo. Surely you don't want to stay in the transit hall cos' that's what you will be doing if you don't have proper travel documents. In other words, even if you are not travelling in Tokyo but you would like to look around/ even step out of customs, you need a visa (if it is required).

Step 4: Packing

Two very simple principles of backpacking... What you bring, you have to carry and what you need, you will have to carry. To put it simply, carry only what you need. Most of us would like to have a change of clothes everyday or even twice a day but this would be impossible unless you wanna backpack with 2 - 3 luggage cases. So don't pack your entire wardrobe in to your back, otherwise you will definitely be paying a visit to the chiropractor once you return... if your spine doesn't give way in between. Travel light!! Most of us will buy t-shirts as souvenirs... so bring less... you can buy when you are at your destination... You have to consider not just what you bring but also what you will buy. Unless you are so disciplined and will not buy anything... Nope... I didn't think so...

Check this site out ----> The Backpacking Site

Ultimately, things you need will differ depending on where you go. A camping trip will be different from a sightseeing trip. A trip to Antarctica will be different from a trip to South Africa so know where you are going and find out what you need...

Tips: Travel light, carry what you need, make copies of important documents and leave them with loved ones

Step 5: Money

Check out the current conversion rates. is a good site to consider. If you need extra cash at your destination, you may want to consider withdrawing from ATMs that have the CIRRUS logo. It's possibly cheaper than money changers. As well, for safety considerations, you might want to consider traveller's cheques if you travel abroad and bring large sums of money.

I have also found it useful to wear concealed pouches especially in certain parts of Europe. In countries like Italy, Spain, Belgium, France and so on, pickpockets are rampant. Never, never, never take this lightly. In Spain alone, I came across 2 attempts. Once in Barcelona and once in Madrid. So be very careful in enclosed and packed places. Again, be aware of your surroundings and don't go to dark alleys on your own. Keep your cash in concealed pouches so they can't be taken easily.

Tips: Concealed Pouches, Travellers Cheques, CIRRUS.

There's definitely a lot more to backpacking than what I've got here but this would give you a very good start. Give The Backpacking Site a visit. And most importantly, enjoy yourself.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

SEATRU Volunteer Work

Volunteering for SEATRU conservation work is pretty simple & straightforward... It requires effort but I guess I find it meaningful and most importantly, I like sweating it out and not really having to use my brains that much... That I can get loads of back in the office. It's really different from the normal routine of going to the office and sitting in front of the computer and way better than attending meetings. And it's really effective in helping you lose weight as well...

In the mornings, volunteers' tasks start with the documenting of the last night's nests. Documenting the nests consist of writing relevant information on a nest marker. This includes information such as the identity of the turtle, the nest number and also the date the nest was deposited. The nest marker is a 1" x 1" stick painted red on one side (indicating where the clutch of eggs is located) which is normally placed during the nesting, but more on this later. At the same time, measurements are taken to document the distance of the nest from the surf and the foliage.

Once that's done, it's pretty much free and easy. Volunteers are free to swim & snorkel (up to 3 pm). In addition, depending on the weather, the staff will bring the volunteers to Turtle Rock a short trek up the hill on one side of the beach providing some of the breathtaking views of the beach as well as the North Eastern coast of the island. There's also snorkeling at Marine Park if weather permits and also a hike up the river on the other side of the beach.

A roster will be drawn up whereby volunteers will patrol the beach throughout the day to ensure the nests along the beach are safe. This normally involves checking each nest to ensure there are no signs of attack by fire ants, monitor lizards and ghost crabs. Other tasks include beach clean-up and any other odd jobs such as cooking, cleaning the camp, preparing the marker sticks and so on.

Late in the evening, excavation begins. Excavation involves the examination of nests which reach a certain age. This is done to document the progress of the clutch of eggs. In addition, by excavating nests, researchers are able to track the progress of hatchlings. From this process, we would also know if the hatchlings will be emerging that night. Once the nests reach a certain age, typically after the incubation period, the contents would be extracted for examination. From this, we would know how many of the clutch successfully hatched.

Once excavation is complete, it's time to wash up and prepare dinner.

After dinner, everyone lazes around waiting for the tide to rise. Once the tide rises, the fun begins. This is when turtles start crawling up the beach to lay their eggs. The volunteers together with the staffs and research assistant(s) will sit on the beach and chat (softly) under the moonlight while monitoring the beach for any incoming turtles.

Any sightings will be documented on a sheet of paper including time of emergence from sea, the time the turtle starts crawling up the beach, the species and also the time it starts nesting. The nesting can also be sub-divided into several stages, body pitting (where the turtle digs a hole to submerge itself), egg chamber (where it starts digging the cavity to deposit its eggs, sand bathing (where it camouflages the nest) and last but not least, return to the sea. During the process, volunteers will be treated to one of the greatest wonders of mother nature... Watching a turtle lay its clutch of eggs. The processes mentioned here are typical of a green turtle. Other species such as the Olive Ridley, Hawksbill or Leatherbacks will differ.

While the turtle is laying it's clutch, the team would also be required to document the identity of the turtle and if it has yet to be tagged, to tag the turtle. Any parasites such as barnacles will be removed from the carapace.

Now, things may not be as quick as it seems... What was documented in one paragraph sometimes takes hours to complete. For example, body-pitting can take up to 30 mins and if you are unlucky, the turtle may decide the feng shui is not good enough and decides to relocate. There were times I have tracked the same turtle zig zagging up and down the beach before finally depositing its eggs... after 3 hours.

This process takes place until daybreak however, after midnight, the volunteers will again be divided into shifts so they don't look like zombies at the end of the week long attachment.

As mentioned earlier, in the morning, nests will be properly documented. This is done using the data gathered on the forms the last night.

And voila... That's pretty much all you need to do the whole week. For those of you who like it, it will be a very enriching experience and it's not necessarily routine as you may have different experiences each day. Each night, the volunteers will look forward to a productive night surpassing the previous night. The most I have had on a single night is 5 nestings... Boy it was a busy night.

Having volunteered 4 times, I have seen turtles being tagged, I have seen them laying eggs, removed barnacles... the whole works... And it's not just that. The excitement of spotting a turtle crawling up the beach is out of this world. And in 2005, we woke up at 3 am to find that the boat was sinking.
Some volunteers enjoy stargazing and watching shooting stars. Last year, some of us even went on a night safari tracking mousedeers, river prawns and crabs.