Monday, October 27, 2008

Who are we?

Few days ago, my lady boss made the most atrocious remark over a magazine to my colleague who is the Brand Manager. This was what happened.
My colleague happened to see her boss carrying a copy of The Peak magazine and asked " Hey, Sue! How did you get your copy of The Peak? We've been hunting high and low for it, only to discover that they are not on sale!"
My lady boss replied, " Oh, they deliver it to my house every month. And of course, you won't get it - Who are you? Huh, who are you?"
The tone of her voice was an extreme sarcasm which left my colleague reduce to a state of hopeless perplexity!
Her question was simply out of genuine curiosity and surely, one does not expect to be bombarded with such sarcasm.
As a Brand Manager, my colleague felt ashamed, demoralized and dumbfound when she confided in me. Later, I tried to console her and explained to her that it doesn't matter who you are or who she is?? It really DOES NOT MATTER.
Who are we? We are all the same in different bodies and different forms. When we die, we will all be the same, like it or not! We can't bring along our status, wealth or anything at all with us...Nothing! When we die, we will not be remembered for the high profile career we have. Rather, we will be remembered for the person we were when we were alive. Were we kind? Were we a good friend, wife or sister? How many people will actually miss us when we are gone?
Once upon time, I must confess that I was also caught in the rat-race...working very hard to get to the position I'd always hoped to be. Coming from a poor family, position to me means success. Success means respect or reputation. Then when I was there, I realized that the position is sometimes not so important after all. For the higher I climb - the greater the pressure mounts up and guess what, with all the marathons I blood pressure went up to 180/120! Walking time bomb - I could explode anytime and that's it...curtains closed. Today, I must say I've come a long way into learning to let go and look at life at a different perspective. I believe I still have much to learn...
"Success is waking up in the morning, whoever you are, wherever you are, however old or young, and bounding out of bed because there's something out there than you to do, that you believe in, that you're good at - something that's bigger than you are and you can hardly wait to go at it again today. It is something you'd rather be doing than anything else. You wouldn't give it up for more money, because it means more to you than money" - Whit Hobbs

Roasted or Toasted...

I was supposed to join my fellow Pacesetters for Breakfast Run at Mon't Kiara yesterday. Instead, I changed my mind later and decided to join Tony Quay's group 'Powerman Stimulation Practice RBR' at Putrajaya and wow, what a day!
I caught the flu bug last week after the Mizuno Wave Run but I believe I'm recovering. I had no idea how many kilometres I can cover - so, I just allow my body to reveal her condition to me and she did.
The initial stage of my run was nothing but pain. Breathing was hard as my nose is still congested. My back ached and my legs felt like iron bars - perhaps, I'm still trying to fight off the effects of the flu pills and at the same time, still trying to recover from the killer Hoki Stadium's slope the day before. Every step was so laborious that even Jezamine was running ahead of me! Anyway, it was okay as we were not in any competition and I moved on at snail pace...struggling slowly to finish the first loop (10km). My second loop (which was only 7km) was slightly better. After that, I decided to stop for a break - to hydrate and stretch out those aching muscles.
At about 11am John has already completed his 60km cycle and moving swiftly into his last 10km run. Unhappy with my current pathetic level of fitness, I was gamed to run another 10km loop even with the sun on top of my head! So, I just trailed behind John...This time, I thought I did it well. My back didn't ache so much and I managed to beat the heat to complete another 10km at 12.20pm.
All in all - I ran 27km, roasted and toasted.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Almost Paradise

All our meals were as simple as can be. So we ate simply - buffet most times and each meal was very Malaysian. No complaints; we ate what the people cooked which were mainly fried rice, fried mee and meehoon, vegetables, fried fish and chicken or tofu. Oneday I overheard someone ordering a cuppa at a cafe asking, "what coffee do you have?" And the reply was, "Our coffee is nothing more than normal! No latte or mocha." Ha! Ha!

CI Lodge was very basic but clean and decent. At least housekeepers made sure that they changed our sheets and towels everyday. People there are not greedy. We left all our belongings at the lodge almost everyday without fear of things being stolen or missing.
Christmas Island is a worry-free zone where crime rate is almost zero. Imagine this; they never need to lock their cars, they can even leave their car keys inside and not afraid of theft because it never happened! We were told that we can 'borrow' any of the vehicles that has a key in it..drove and have it park at the same parking spot after that. Believe it or not, it is really that safe!

Pulau Tenggol
Christmas island actually reminds me of another island in Malaysia which I visited some 20 years ago with a group of colleagues and scuba-divers. Pulau Tenggol in Terengganu was then still a very virgin island with just one hut. We set our own tent and camp there. Everything was so back to basic and the sea was beautiful with crystal clear waters. Now it's being so commercialized with resorts and pubs etc.

Go with the flow..
The whole Island's experience would be perfect if things were a bit more organized. We wasted sometime waiting. Waiting for immigration clearance - waiting for the Chief to arrive before we could start dinner - waiting for race to start etc. But then again...very often, we tend to forget that we are on holiday and more so, in an island where everyone and everything is so complacent and almost worry-free. So while we're there, we just need to go with the flow...

Perfect Getaway
Otherwise, Christmas Island is a perfect choice for anyone contemplating a getaway to a destination where time and nature have stood still for a million years. You get the best of both worlds - prehistoric trees, plants and fantastic robber crabs that can so easily be seen; while unique birds seen nowhere else in the world cruise the skies of one of the last bastions and where people are learning to live with nature.
If only this rare ambience could be maintained for as long as possible.

10 things I brought home from Christmas Island :
- Smiles of warm & friendly faces
- Nature's Best
- Memories to cherish
- Pictures to share
- Additional friends
- Two fridge magnets (1 for my nephew, 1 for me)
- A medal
- An extra piece of running vest
- Prize money (from the Marathon)
- Suntan

I would like to thank Julie Wong for arranging everything and making this trip possible and memorable. I do believe I'm very fortunate to have a husband, my soul-mate who has been running and going places with me all these years...many thanks to you, John!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nature Unlimited

By 5.30am, the sun rise up and began to brighten the whole island. John, Francis, Teresa and I were ready to do an hour of recovery jog around the vicinity of our lodge.
Beautiful beaches and birds
After breakfast, we were fortunate when one of the locals volunteered to take us to Lily Beach and Ethel Beach. He even loan us another car as his car couldn't accomodate 8 of us. So, John drove the other car and followed him.
Along the way, we passed through the rainforests which are so alive with unique species and subspecies of birds; noisy flocks spreading their wings everywhere. Being laid-back islanders, all of these birds are very approachable.
Ethel Beach and Lily Beach are next to each other - isolated and picturesque sand beaches with coral reef. I mesmerized as sea birds flirt on the thermal updraughts. We spent sometime there and then moved on to visit 2 ancient temples at South Point and the mines.
The afternoon was spent at leisure at the Poon Saan Community Club. Some tried their hands on the snooker table, sing karoeke or just lazed around, not doing anything.

Later that evening would be the Event of the Year (?) for the people of Christmas Island as celebrated their 50th. Territory Anniversary. Excitement filled the whole island as locals as well as tourists came all dressed up for the occasion. Each community work together to put up their best performances; lion dance, malay dance amongst many others.
Ocean Planet
While waiting for the parade to begin. We sat near the beach and there, I looked out to the wide Indian Ocean right in front of me. It reminded me of a poem 'Ocean Planet' taken from the book 'A Fish In My Heart' by Ron Stevens. This poem is kinda fun...a debate between the ocean and the earth. Let's read it here :

It's not really hard and it's not really moist
Depending on location, view point and choice.
Yet the place we call earth is mostly quite wet
It's not a big problem for most, I would bet.

Now the earth was quite firm the name was his,
And the ocean got mad cause the volume was hers.

So they both made comments about size and scope,
To own the name was each of their hope.
Back and forth they made tremors and splash,
And the earth responded with the occasional gash.

With very big waves and monstrous icebergs
The ocean made wet some parts of dry earth.
With volcanic action and piping hot sand,
The earth made a splash and regained some land.

In time it was all done and none was won,
The earth would stay hard and trimmed by some sand,
The ocean would be more and cool the earth's core.

The fish had the vote and this was quite grand.
They voted for the water and not for the land.

The name would stay earth but the ocean is boss;
For the ocean will flood
And the land will be lost.

Many of Ron's poems come with a message : that we can live in harmony with the oceans.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nature's Wonder

Sight-seeing and Nature's Beauty
The afternoon was occupied with sight-seeing at various spots in the island. The saying "A picture paints a thousand words" are some scenes to behold!

As it was a Saturday, there's an open-theatre where the locals can watch the 'almost latest' movies under the stars at Poon Saan at 7.30pm. But that particular Saturday night, we had dinner cum stage performances put by the locals which lasted like forever. Therefore, after the fireworks some of us decided to call it a day. Indeed, we had such a full day.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

One with Nature

Just where is this island?
Christmas Island is a dot in the vast Indian Ocean, an Australian territory and its closest neighbour is Java which is 360km away.
It is an island with steep limestone cliffs, a rugged coastline and a plateau that supports rich rainforests. On mostly calm days, coral reef is visible beneath metres of clear turquoise water. When the water swell is up, blowholes spout impressively.
63% of it is national park containing species of flora found nowhere else in the world. The island 80km coastline is an almost continuous sea shift of up to 20 metres in height. In a few places, the cliff gives way to shallow bays with small sand and coral shingles beaches. The largest of these bays forms the island's only port, Flying Fish Cove.

The island was named on Christmas Day 1643 as a British merchant seaman sailed past. But it wasn't settled until 1888 following the discovery of high quality phosphate.
Weird and wonderful structures - buildings, train tracks, and odd locomotive are feats of engineering in this remote place, marking its industrial heritage of phosphate mining.
People who live here are mainly from Australia, Malaysia and Singapore. Thus, a mix of culture. All islanders are permenant Australian residents. While English remain the official language, Malay, Mandarin and other Chinese dialects are widely spoken.
Christmas Island is in the tropics with an average temperature of 25C. The island is green, cool and lush when it rains; hot and steamy when the sun is out.
Crabs - The most noticeable local is the Red Crab with over 100million of these vivid red creatures living on the forest floor. However, no one is allowed to eat or catch these crabs (else, a heavy fine will be imposed if caught. they will also be banned from entering the island for life!) During the crab season (Nov/Dec), the traffic has to stop for crab crossing!

Birds - Birds of the rarest found nowhere else in the world flirts on the updrafts. You don't even need to leave the settled areas to get good sightings at close range of endemic CI Frigatebirds wheeling overhead and the graceful undulating flight of the Golden Bosun, an elegant CI form of tropicbird.
Nature Wonders - lush rainforest, underwater paradise, idyllic beaches and awe-inspiring sea and untouched, pristine and beautiful.

Day 1
We touched down on the island via MH8484, a catered flight which carried 140 passengers (abt. 36 runners and 104 line dancers). After the immigration clearance (which took ages!) we got up the bus which took us for a brief tour around the island.
We learned that the island's population is only 800 residents. There are 7 policemen, 2 taxis, 1 supermarket, 1 hospital, 1 school, 1 Community Center, 1 Visitor Center and a few restaurants in the island. Supply of food is air-freighted on a weekly basis. Therefore, whenever there's a group of visitors coming in, the villagers must be informed or otherwise, the island will experience a shortage of food.
After the introductory tour, we were taken to CI Lodge for check-in. The lodge is clean and as simple as can be. There's no lobby whatsoever. Yet, they made an effort to welcome us with a decent tea reception served with an array of local pastries and coffee.
Later, we freshened up and rested before dinner at Poon Saan Park nearby. It was a dinner and dance with the theme ‘Red Crab’ and as the theme suggests – the dress code was RED. Line dancers were dancing while runners were carbo-loading for the next day’s marathon! There was a dance performance put up by Chris Watson and the girls. After that, most of us (runners) went back to our rooms to retire, leaving line dancers to dance the night away! This brought us to the end of day 1.

Day 2
Flora & Fauna Run
The theme of this run is initiated by a runner Julie together with the locals. The running course took us a loop into the woods, then out to the open road into the woods again and then back to the road and into the woods to complete the 21km route.
We gathered outside our lodge at 6am and waited to be chauffeured to our starting point which was at the Christmas Island Cricket & Sporting Club. The weather was extremely windy and the race didn’t start until 8am (9am M’sian time). As everyone was in holiday mood, no one made a fuss about the delay in time. We mingled around and get to know one other. Fun Run started an hour earlier than Competitive Run and by the time, we finally got started – it was getting warm.

At first, I found it rather difficult getting my feet to adjust to running the uneven paths in the woods. However after awhile, I got used to it and soon gained momentum. I was actually enjoying my run and when I was out to the open road, I increased my pace and ran comfortably.
Lost in the reverie
Next, I returned to an easy mode again when I entered the woods. It was then I got diverted and lost! It was own carelessness. I was admiring the beauty of Nature and day-dreaming, trying to make poetries that I missed the turning at 8km marker. When I finally ‘woke up’ from my fond reverie…oh my god! I realized that I was all alone and there weren’t any distance markers. I turned and ran all the way back to locate the last marker which wrote 8km.

Aiyoh! By then, everyone else was ahead of me and I knew I was way behind…needless to say, I was the last runner! Still, I was in high spirit and being mentally strong I told myself to continue running the best I could. So I ran with absolute abandon and finally managed to catch up with Gail, Julie and Wai Keen who were walking then. Slowly, I ran passed other runners and overtook them one by one, the last one being Teresa. They were all surprised to see me coming from behind. But the last 7km proved to be rather painful as the sun was already high up and shinning mercilessly on us. The open road was hard, hot and a bit hilly. I stopped at the last water station and gulped half a bottle of water, which was so unlike me as I normally don’t stop when running a half marathon.
The last 4km was running in the woods again…not long, I was so relieved when I sighted John, who waited anxiously for my return. He was also relieved to see me! I told him that I lost my way but I didn’t give up. Then I realized that I’ve ran an extra 6km. The clock read 2hr 27mins (yeah, for 27km!). Despite that, it was a good run and I still managed to secure third placing.
to be continued...