"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open." ~ Jawaharal Nehru

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The toilet's leaking and I can't do nuts about it!

Yup... this post is all about me letting my frustration out!

The toilet in my room is leaking. The hose connecting the water source to the cistern decided to break off for no apparent reason at all. I can't shut off the water supply as the tap is stuck. So the water drips, and drips, and drips...

Decided to borrow a monkey wrench from the clinic to fix it. That is when my troubles really started. No a single hardware shop or kedai runcit in Song stocks the broken part. Trust me, I went to almost all the shops, as there aren't many to start with. I asked them when the new stock would arrive, all they could answer was "Dunno when!", in Iban or Hokkien obviously! I asked if they could order the part for me, all they could say was that they would try but could not promise when it would arrive. Since they did not even bother to ask me for my contact number, I guess they're not even going to try. So I guess I'll just have to let my tap 


until I next go to Sibu, in 2-3 weeks time!

The thing about living in a jungle is, what I used to take for granted in KL/ Seremban now comes at a price... in terms of time, effort and money!

Take the tap for example, I now have to pay more for my water bill as those precious drops literary flow down the drain. And my wasted effort & time looking for a part that is non-existent in Song!

Then there was an issue with bulk photostating. Wanted to xerox about 200 pieces on a weekend. The only photostating service (that charges a whooping 40cents per copy) decided not to open on a Saturday afternoon (think Murphy was on overtime) when I needed the documents copied and bound by Monday morning! Thank God there was a patient being sent to Kanowit, so I thumbed a lift with the speedboat for the 1 hour journey, got my photostating done as the case was being handed over and got back just before it got dark! 2 1/2 hours to get 200 sheets copied. Must be a record!

On with my ranting...

In Song, you do not get much choice when it comes to groceries. There's no Giant, Carrefour or Tesco which you can just pop into to get whatever you need. Like that day, had all the ingredients to make a tom yum soup but discovered I ran out of tom yum cubes. In the end, my tom yum became a mixed veggie soup as the only kedai runcit that was still open at 6.30pm did not stock tom yum cubes! 

Going to the local market is also like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're gonna get!  Aside from the local Iban veggies, most of the stuff here is brought in from Sibu. Including the meat & fish. Chicken wings come frozen by the boxes. You want fresh chicken, there's plenty of live ones clucking around in the market but you'll have to slaughter them yourself (which reminds me I need to blog about a miring ceremony!). When it comes to fruit and veggies, everything is seasonal. Like that day, bought some baby corn. It was soo good, I decided to go back for more, only to be told that what I bought was the last for the season. Sigh! Here, you plan your menu at the market and not before hand as you might not get your essential ingredients.

For luxury items like chocolates, Pringles, crisp, biscuits, milk tea or even certain 'brand' items, this calls for a shopping trip down to Sibu! Yup, so during my trips to Sibu, I stock up on everything from coffee, Ribena, instant noodles, bug spray, toothbrushes, shampoo, toilet paper, fresh food to replacement fluorescent lamps & other hardware!

My stash for the month!

I never thought I'll be one of them, but I now carry my groceries like the locals in one of these ugly China plastic bags! Hahaha!

Joining the masses!

Just an update:
Discovered to my horror there was a puddle at the ground floor sitting area 2 days later. When I looked up, saw a vile looking perspiring damp, fungusy patch on the ceiling. The water from the leak had somehow seeped thru the tiles, all the way from the top floor and was now pooling on the ground floor.
In the end had to SOS a church member for help. He came, took a look at the problem, sped home on his MB and reemerged with the part needed (rummaged from his collection). Although the spare part was probably a cast off from some other plumbing job, it stopped the leak alright! Thank you Cikgu Nawang for saving the day!

Friday, December 28, 2012

The unlikely tail (oppps... tale) of 3 Swans & a Dolphin

Need to apologise. My blog post have been getting erratic lately. I was initially tapping into my housemate's Streamyx line which was supper fast. Sadly, she has since moved and taken her Streamyx line with her. So I decided to go for a Celcom broadband package as I wanted something that allowed me mobility as I do travel quite abit for work. When I signed up for it in Sibu, I was assured an uninterrupted, speedy connection since there's 3G coverage here in Song. Unfortunately, the connection has been horrible. It takes ages for my webpages to load and its frustrating when you know it could be better. Am thinking I should just cancel my subscription, pay the RM150 penalty and just get Streamyx fixed at home but that will mean I won't be able to assess the internet while on the road. Hmmmm... though decision to make!

Anyway... back to what I was going to blog about. As you know, Sibu is the main gateway to the Batang Rejang and the towns of Kanowit, Song and Kapit. For some reason, the swan has been chosen as Sibu's mascot. Maybe its Sibu's location near water. Although there are various swan sculptures around the town, I have yet to see a life one here. Personally, I think Sibu's more like the ugly duckling waiting for its miraculous transformation into a swan! Sometime I think its an obscure reference to what Sibu aspires to be like - more magnificent, elegant and tons cleaner.

The main Swan sculpture is located at the waterfront, just a stones throw away from the Kapit Wharf. Right next to The Ark, a fancy fusion dining place.

The Mother of All Swans
Aptly located on the Batang Rejang 

The 2nd swan sculpture is actually part of a fountain structure. Of all the swan sculptures, I think this one is the most tastefully done. Its located in the Sibu Town Square, which has boasting rights as the largest town square in the whole of Sarawak. It also sits in the towering shadows of Wisma Sanyan, the highest building in Sarawak! Memanglah Sibu boleh!

Keeping an eye - on the ground and in the air! 

The final swan sculpture (or at least the one I know of) is located near Sugarbun, Sarawak's very own fast food chain. It is surrounded by granite animals of the Chinese zodiac calender. Will post a pic once I remind myself to take one!

I googled the significance of the Sibu Swan and apparently during the early days when the first Foochows came to populate Sibu, the then crystal clear Batang Rejang reminded them so much of a certain river back home in Fuzhou province - the Swan River! Tadah... now you know!

Funnily enough, the swans had to share the limelight with another unlikely animal - the Dolphin.

Beached dolphins

This sculpture is just located just across the Sibu Central Market. Those marble balls are supposed to be fountains but I've never seen water in this sculpture at all!

You would imagine that a place as exotic as Sibu would have more exotic mascots - crocodiles, hornbills, pangolins or even the musang, but no. They choose a dolphin.

Apparently "The dolphin has universal appeal, symbolizing freedom, joy, grace and serenity as well as uplifting the spirit of many people." as stated on a plaque nearby. As the dolphins were a gift from the Sibu Yu clan, they were made to face South-East cause that's the best fengshui for prosperity and harmony. Whether you believe in that stuff, it entirely depends on you!

So if you're up for some bird watching or dolphin stalking... Sibu's the place to be!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Its that time of the year again!

Credits : http://ferragusta.wordpress.com

As the year draws to a close again... do take the time to reflect. 

On the dreams fulfilled, and the opportunities missed.
On the friends found, and the enemies acquired.
On the various blessings bestowed, and the trials tempered.
On the good times, and the bad. 

But importantly remember... the REASON for the SEASON. For without HIM, we will not be who we are today!

Selamat Ari Krismas enggau Taun Baru

PS: Spending my first Christmas away from home - in a longhouse up the Batang Rejang!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Generally in Sarawak, FDS stands for the FLYING DOCTOR SERVICE. The Flying Doctor Service was introduced in 1973 to provide basic health services to people living in remote areas. The service operates 3 helicopters that are rented under a contract with a private company. The helicopters are based in Kuching, Sibu and Miri and together, they cover 141 locations in the remote rural parts of the State with a attends of about 70,000 outpatients, children and antenatal mothers every year. The Flying Doctor team comprises a medical officer, a medical assistant and two community nurses who visit the locations once a month or once in two months. The Flying Doctor Service also provides medical emergency evacuation (MEDEVAC) of seriously ill patients from the locality to the nearest appropriate hospital, from rural health clinics to hospital and from hospital to hospital. It also served as cargo run to rural health clinics in delivering medical items and drugs. During disease outbreak in the state, the Flying Doctor Service helicopters are also used for quick transportation of field investigation and control medical and health teams. (Taken from the Sarawak Health Department's website)

However, here along the Batang Rejang the FDS takes on a new form - the FLOATING DOCTOR SERVICE. Good serviceable roads end near Kanowit. From then on, the only way to reach the towns of Song & Kapit is by boat. The Batang Rejang is a lifeline to the various settlements and longhouses along its banks. Not only do people rely on it for transport, water for household chores, it also provides a livelihood in the form of exotic wildlife - think buaya, empurau, labi-labi!

No traffic jams, only boat jams!

Here in Song, other than the main Klinik Kesihatan Song, there are 4 other rural community clinics along the Batang Katibas, the main tributary of the Batang Rejang. They are:

1. Klinik Kesihatan Nanga Tekalit
2. Klinik Kesihatan Nanga Bangkit
3. Klinik Keishatan Engkuah
4. Klinik Kesihatan Chemanong

Follow the river
From Pasar Song down to KK Chemanong!

The first clinic, KK Nanga Tekalit is located 45 mins from Song. It is the only clinic accessible by road. The other clinics are located 1 hour away from each other, all only accessible by boat.

Here is where the FDS comes in.

The clinic's sampan

Usually the FDS team, compromising a doctor, a sister, a nurse +/- the dietitian as well as the boatman and navigator makes the 1 week trip upriver. The only way is by sampan. I have inquired why fibreglass hulls are not use, since they are much lighter. Apparently, they are too fragile and will not withstand all the knocks by flotsam and other floating whatnot. Rubber dinghies are also out of the question as they won't be able to hold all our cargo!

Loading up
Notice the extra fuel we carry in jerry cans
Plus, you have to do a balancing act on the log to get to the sampan! 

We carry everything from medication, instruments, rations for the 1 week trip and bedding. There are no shops along the way, so we need to load up on everything in Song. Sometimes if we are lucky, we get local villagers selling deer, fish or local jungle produce. Usually we stay in the clinics serviced but sometimes we  op for the longhouses, especially if invited by the tuai rumah.

It's a beautiful journey upriver. Lots of overhanging trees that provide shade but it still gets hot and a tan is inevitable! Along the way, the banks of the Katibas is dotted with long houses and schools. I have yet to see a crocodile but herons, eagles and hornbills are regularly spotted.

People pay tons to do boat journeys like this.
For me, its part of work!

The first day is usually spent seeing patients in KK Nanga Tekalit. Then we push on to spend the night in Nanga Bangkit. The journey to Nanga Bangkit is particularly exciting as we have to transverse a series of rapids. Usually, it means nothing more than getting a big splash to me but most of the female staff gets jittery when we near this place. I'm definitely not taking chances with these rapids, despite being able to swim and a life jacket. I have called off a return journey as it was raining cat & dogs with the rapids turning to a Grade II-III. Its fine in a whitewater rubber raft, but not in a rigid sampan!

Bangkit rapids

A welcoming sight after the Bangkit rapids.

Klinik Kesihatan Nanga Bangkit

After Bangkit, its another 1 hours journey to KK Engkuah where we usually spend a night. Engkuah's also the place where I get to mandi sungai. Despite my healthy paranoia of croc infested rivers, I still jump at the chance to mandi sungai. Thank God the river is clear here... at least I get to spot the croc before it spots me!

KK Engkuah - won an award for best rural clinic

Finally, the last clinic KK Chemanong is slightly more than 1 hour away from Engkuah so we sometimes stop for a breather midway. When I mean breather, its usually a ciggie & pee stop for the guys! Hahaha!

With the boys!
L-R: Navigator, health inspector, medical assistant, captain, doc

As these rural clinics are only manned by a MA or dresser, the local folks take the opportunity to get checked by a doctor during the FDS clinics every 3 monthly. I see anywhere between 25-50 patients per clinic session. Its tiring and draining, living conditions aren't the poshest, I get bitten by mossies, feas and other thingamajigs but compared to what the folks of the Katibas go through daily, I have no right to complain. In fact, I look forward to the next trip upriver.

By Friday, we pack up and head back to Song. The trip downriver is faster. It only takes 3 1/2 hours. Then its back home to do my 1 weeks worth of laundry and take some well deserved Zzzzz.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Miri walkabout

Here's a continuation of my short stint in Miri.

Usually post work, I will take a dip in the hotel's pool since I won't be doing any swimming in the croc infested Batang Rejang. Plus if you know me well eough... I just love chilling (or more like being lazy) in the underutilized pool while watching the sun go down.

Gorgeous... especially with a sundowner in hand!

However, on the last day of my stint there I decided to take a walk to the Miri City Fan and adjacent library.The City Fan is located at one end of Miri City and it took me about half an hour to walk there from the hotel I was staying in. The City fan is named so as aerially, it is shaped as a fan. It actually consist of an amalgamation of various gardens to form one gigantic one!

No prize for guessing which garden this is!

Good for a breather!

Lovers Crossing

As I was walking around the gardens, I spotted Miri's mascot (see if you can remember what it was without scrolling down or looking at my earlier post).

They must be male seahorses
since they have pouches!

Further on, reached the Islamic gardens with its intricate geometrical designs and water sprout fountains. Too bad none of the water features were turned on or it would have been quite a sight!

Pretty geometrics

Next was the Borneo garden, with its ferns and jungle flora.

Path to the Borneo Garden

In the center of the Miri City Fan is the Amphitheater. This is supposed to be THE venue for local council events and concerts. Pretty quiet when I was there. Apparently there's a musical fountain which is only turned on at night but I had no plans to come back when the sun went down!

Amphitheater with Miri City Library in the background

Also noted some peculiar seaweed like plants between the cracks on the paths. The weird thing, these plants were almost translucent, just like those you will find in clumps at the beach, plus it was SLIMY! It rained almost everyday when I was in Miri and the near proximity to the ocean could be one reason for the appearance for these growths!

Seaweed or landweed?

I detoured to the Library to escape the stifling heat. You know, that warm humidness which you get just after a short drizzle. I was not supposed to take photos but sneaked my camera out to capture this 2 beautiful paintings of local women. I think they're Kayan, as evident by their glovelike tattoos and long earlobes. Tried to google for the artist's name but my search was futile. If I'm not mistaken, he's Chinese but I can't recall even his surname.

Just across the Miri City Library is the monolithic looking Miri Unity Monument. Nothing interesting, but guess it just adds character to an otherwise drab roundabout!

Houston, we have a problem!

Sorry if I make Miri seem boring but the main attraction here is not man made. Most travelers use Miri city as a transit point to Mulu, Niah or Lambir Hills. Unfortunately, I did not have the time to explore them this visit. Some other time, perhaps!

Friday, November 30, 2012

I'm a child of the Katibas

I'm a child of the Katibas. 

There are no school buses here, only boats...

To get to school, I have to either walk 2-4 hours from my home, a rumah panjang up river or ask Apai to send me in our perahu. If Apai sends me by perahu, it will only take 25 minutes. However, every journey I make to school, my life is put at risk. I have to leave home in the dark to make sure I get to school on time. Most of the time I hold a torch, to look for logs and other floatsam while Apai steers our perahu. When it rains, the Katibas swells and the ride gets scary. Some days I have to help Apai bail water out with a Milo tin. Then... there are all those buayas. Apai has shown me the eyes of buayas peeking from the surface of the murky Katibas. They send shivers down my spine... Apai even told me there are buayas large enough to swallow an adult whole! I hope never to see them. 

There are also days when I can't go to school. When the weather is bad and Apai can't go into the jungle to hunt or collect produce, fuel for our perahu becomes a luxury. So I stay home till we manage to get fuel.

That's my school's boat

Sometimes, I think it's better for me to stop school and help Apai and Inai. I bet even helping to look after my brothers and sisters will ease those worry lines from Inai's face. But then Apai says I need to study hard so I can become an orang terpelajar and help my village.

So with a heavy heart, I packed a little bag with the few t-shirts I have, the pretty pink dress I always wear for Gawai and head to a place I will call home for the next 6 years.

My school

There's a huge field for us to play, but we share it with another school

Teacher stays here in the school too

I live in a dorm with my friends. Boys stay in the Asrama Putera and girls stay in the Asrama Puteri. I like it that way... the naughty boys don't get to disturb or tease us.

A serious game of chess in the Boys Dorm

Chillaxing in the Girls Dorm

My friends and I

I sleep next to my best friend in the dorm. She sits next to me in class too. I like it cause we still get to talk (in a whisper) to each other when teacher turns the lights off at night. We get a little locker to keep our belongings. It suffices, as I do not have much. My cutlery is kept in a little shelf by the door so it's easy for me to grab it as I make my way down to the dewan makan or mess for meals.

Guess which is mine?

We get 5 meals a day. That's more than what I get at home. However, it gets boring sometimes cause the menu is repeated every week. I look forward to celebrations, cause we then get something special. Sometimes, kind people hold programmes in our school and give us a treat! I've heard of KFC but have never had it. Is it good? I've only had Marybrown friend chicken once.

Our menu

All smiles with a treat!

What do I do when I'm free?

First I have to do my laundry. There are no machines to help us wash our clothes here. I think only 1 teacher has it in her house.

Hope it doesn't rain

Then I have to make sure I get all my homework done. After that, teacher allows us to play. Usually its Saidina, congkak or snakes & ladders.

Playtime - my favourite!

I also play with the school cat. Don't tell teacher... I sometimes smuggle leftover food for her from the mess.

Cute, right?

My school isn't new. We do need new classrooms and furniture to replace the old and broken ones. We try to make the classrooms cheery by putting up pretty posters and floral curtains.

My classroom

So if you ever have a chance to come up the Katibas, come say hello. My friends and I would really love it! We also get to practice our English.

Come say Hi!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Of tams & magician capes...

Apologize for the lack of updates. Its been a busy 1 month or so for me. I made about 2 trips back home to Seremban... and for your information, it takes me 9-11 hours door to door from Song to Seremban. And thats with minimal transit time! Bukan senang tau? Kena naik bot, taxi dan belon! With that amount of time spent on the road, I could be sipping a cup of Earl Gray by the river Thames, with my eye on the Big Ben!

Anyway, I digress. The first trip back was for convocation. How could I not miss convocation? Dad told me to save the $$$ spent to come back home and instead go for a good holiday cause it was my 4th convocation ceremony (2nd for the year!) and it would be nothing new to me. Instead, I told him I would not miss it for the world. Why???

1. Ever since my first convo in UPM (when it was still Universiti Pertanian Malaysia), I have always wanted to wear a tam. What??? A TAM. For your info, a tam's the round, slouchy hat you get to wear instead of the square mortarboard. Kononnya, will feel more perasan in it! I also discovered that UKM is the only local university that allows its Master of Medicine grads to wear one instead of the usual mortarboard. Ya, God knows the desires of my heart so it wasn't just tikam-tikam that I selected UKM as my uni choice instead of the other more prestigious unis.

2. 4 years of BLOOD (more of the mau muntah darah type), SWEAT (hyperhydrosis of exams, running around red tape & chasing certain government officers) and TEARS (frustration, disappointment & despair) and give up my 8 seconds of FAME & GLORY, basking under the spotlights of the Great Hall & smiling at royalty? No way Jose. An extra RM135 to attend the ceremony is a small price to pay after taking into account what I had to endure and sacrifice in those 4 years. My SANITY included!

3. Parents. In a way, this was a tribute to them. For their unceasing love, prayers & support. I am what I am today because of your inpoyring into my life. I recall Dad asking me why I subjected myself to all this academic torture when he knew I was happy with my simple lifestyle and career path in Slim River, Perak. I remember telling him I was made for more. I wanted to be better, be someone, do something with my life. His answer was simple - "All this is I, I, I! Are you doing this for God or for man? Is this God's will for your life?". Despite going into the Masters programme for my own selfish reasons, I am beginning to see God's marvelous plans unfolding in my life. Especially where I am today. I was especially touched during the convocation ceremony where we were made to bow towards the parents in the stands. It was a literal act of acknowledgement and gratitude.

So ya, back to convocation. Drove up with the folks to UKM's main campus in Bangi 2 days before the actual date to collect my robe and tam. Was really surprised the whole process only took 10 minutes. Thank you officers for your efficiency & making the whole process painless.   

Then the 'kiasu' in me decided that I should just go and take photos around the Great Hall and campus instead of having to fight with the hundred of others on the actual day itself. Only slack was that I was in jeans, t-shirt & sneakers but hey, what the heck!     

The Dewan Canselor Tun Abdul Razak

The great hall - still empty!

After that, dad wanted to have a look at the UKM golf club. So we took a drive there to look-see and have lunch. Must say, the Western is pretty good there and not to mention, affordable. I had lamb chops, Papi had the grilled chicken chop, mum the fish and chips (as expected!)

My yummy nom nom

The actual day itself was... YAWN. Had to wake up early and drove from Seremban to Bangi. Got misdirected by lots of directionally challenged security guards to the respective entrances and in the process argued with them. Listened to lots of boring speeches. Almost got blinded by rapid fire camera flashes. Listened to the band play the same melody over and over gain. Waited for hundreds of others to collect their scrolls before my actual turn.8 seconds of fame and.... IT WAS OVER! Seemed surreal, the whole day.

The UKM mace followed by the Pro-Canselor UKM, Tunku Naquiyuddin

If you asked me if I would go for it again... the whole rigmarole of exams, academic life, stress?
Without skipping a heartbeat my answer would be... YES!   

I decided that if I do write a medical textbook,
this will be the pic on the back cover!
Hehehe ; )

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Striking black gold!

Posting this from Miri, Sarawak's second largest city!
Am here for gazzement. Am being evaluated by Dr M, my supervisor a little earlier than usual cause she's transferring back to Terengganu soon. 

Sibu has its swans, Miri has its seahorses!

Surprised at how modern Miri was, with its assortment of malls (inc a Parkson), hotels and international restaurants. Must be due to the oil & gas industry. They do see a sizable amount of expats here, plus a fair bit of tourist thanks to nearby Mulu, Niah caves & Lambir Hills.

Miri city from Canada Hill
Love a city that has it all - hills & the SEA!

However, got con by a taxi guy. Was going to Klinik Kesihatan Bandar Miri for work. Asked the concierge at the hotel where I was staying whether the clinic would be walkable (checked on Google maps, it was supposed to be at the end of the block) and she told me it was kindda far and it would take 10-15 mins by car. Since I wasn't familiar with the place, got into a taxi and the guy drove me around for 10 mins before arriving at the clinic. Got charged RM15 for the ride. At this point, it didn't occur to me I got fleeced. One of the staff then asked me where I was staying and when I told her the hotel name, she looked at me in disbelieve when I told her I had to pay that much taxi fare! Aiyoh... doktor kena con-lah!

Klinik Kesihatan Bandar Miri is located right smack in the heart of the city but is hidden in a little nook, thus making it not noticeable from the main road. The only give-away is the cars parked haphazardly and the little old ladies walking around that area with umbrellas as their walking sticks! As the main government clinic for Miri, this place is rather tight and squeezy. Being one of the older clinics, it wasn't meant to cater for the current patient load. Poor patients even have to wait in the parking lot! Saw a couple of patients from the Baram region. Fascinated by the Kayan women and their glove like tattoos and long ears. Hope to find the time to someday visit Long Lama and the upper Baram region.

Josephine, my assistant was kind enough to bring me up Canada Hill after work one day. 

Miri's Grand Old Lady

Right on top sits the Grand Old Lady, watching over Miri. The Grand Old Lady was Miri's first oil well. She was commissioned in 1910, and at her peak was producing 83 barrels of oil per day. By 1972, she was down to 3 barrels and was thus decommissioned.

Now, she's a tourist attraction. There are panoramas around her regaling Miri's rise in the petroleum industry. Theres also a viewing platform and petroleum museum which sadly was closed when I was there.

Part of the pump system

Couldn't cut it in oil & gas.
I should just stick with my job, ya?

After Canada Hill, Josephine drove me to the beach in Lutong to view the sunset. Pretty spectacular but first place still goes to Sabah!

Thanks Kak Josephine for the tour of Miri