Thursday, March 30, 2006

Updates on grandma

I probably should've blogged about my grandma a long time ago, but never got round to it. I guess most people already know that for the past couple of years my grandma (my dad's mum) was staying with my family, before which she was staying in Ipoh under the care of my dad's sister-in-law. She's really old, over 85 at least, and her memory is fading such that she can remember things that happened a long time ago, and she remembers family and friends, but she can't remember things that happened recently, even a few minutes befoerhand. And she could only walk around on a cane. That is, until January this year, when I was taking her out and while going down the stairs, she buckled on the lowest step and landed on her bum on the floor. I took her back home straight away coz' she said it was painful, but it wasn't until later on in the day when my parents realised something was seriously wrong when she couldn't even stand up. And my grandma is such a quiet old lady, she didn't even tell us that she was in pain, and kept insisting that sooner or later she would be able to stand up. Well, eventually my dad called up this nursing home in Cheras and got them to come help her there, since we were too afraid to move her ourselves coz' it might injure her further. There was a doctor there to check up on her and after an x-ray, they found out that she probably had a fracture in her right thigh.

So she's been there for the last few months, and during that time, everytime we went to see her and asked her how the place was, she would say it's very nice and the helpers are very friendly and all. At the beginning, she would mostly be sitting in a wheelchair watching the big tv that they have there. Then after some time, we noticed her getting thinner and frailer because she was eating less and less, and she would spend more time sleeping. I would keep telling her to eat more and everytime she would smile at me and say ok, but the caretakers always told us she would only eat a bite or two each meal. I don't know why she didn't want to eat, but because of it, she kept getting weaker and weaker.

Last week when I went to visit her with my dad, she was lying in bed but not sleeping. She really looked like skin and bones, with some red rashes on her arm, and her feet were swollen because some blood vessels had ruptured in her leg. She said she was hungry so we asked her what she wanted to eat and she said she wanted some 'Char Siu Pau', or 'Siu Mai', or Popiah. Considering it's not easy to find 'Siu Mai' and Popiah around there, my dad went off to look for 'Char Siu Pau', while I stayed by her bedside and just talked to her. I told her it was recently my birthday and also my brother's birthday (which was two days after mine) and that I went to Swenson's to stuff myself with ice cream. And I told her about a whole lot of other nonsense going on in my life. At one point she reached out her hand, and I just held it after that and kept talking to her til my dad came back. When I fed her the Char Siu Pau, she only ate one small piece then refused to eat any more. Then I asked her if she wanted to drink some water, and she said yes, so I went to get some. But when I got back, she didn't want to drink anymore and said she'd drink later.

Since a week ago, my dad got news that my grandma had a stroke and now she's on an IV drip coz' she's dehydrated and won't eat. Some relatives and friends from Ipoh came down yesterday to visit her. And I'll be going tomorrow to see her. We all know that my grandma doesn't have much time left, and my dad and his brothers have been discussing funeral plans. My dad just asked me today whether I would like to say an eulogy for her at the funeral and 'represent' the grandkids. It's kind of funny coz' my dad is always the one who hates to talk about anything to do with death whereas I don't mind talking about it, but here he was talking about who's going to represent who in giving eulogies and I didn't like it coz' grandma isn't even gone yet!

I know grandma will be leaving us soon, and I though I wasn't all that close to her, I think I will miss having her around. She was never one to complain about anything and everytime I took her to church she would have a smile for everyone. At this point, I suppose the best thing to pray for her is just that she will be comfortable, at peace and not in pain.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Oh, my kingdom for a nice warm bed...

Last weekend from Friday to Sunday I was away on a camp, organized by this British organization called Raleigh International. I read about the camp in the Star newspaper and decided it sounded like fun so I thought I'd go see what it's all about and also to find out more about the organization. From what I found out from the website beforehand, and during the first day of camp itself, Raleigh International (no, nothing to do with bicycles) regularly organizes expeditions to other countries to do community, environment and adventure projects, and each expedition lasts 10 weeks. And it's a real ten weeks of roughing it out, with a whole lotta trekking, sleeping in the outdoors and all. They also organize smaller scale community projects closer to homes, like visiting children's homes, helping our at PAWS and also at Zoo Negara to clean out the cages and stuff like that.

So the first day at camp at the Rakan Muda Clubhouse in KL was really for them to tell us what they're all about and for us to introduce ourselves to each other and get to know each other. After a few hours of icebreakers and presentations, we finally hopped onto the bus to go to our campsite. And after about an hour and a half's drive, we reached a nice spacy campsite in some jungle somewhere. It was a secret location until we got there and found out it was in Kuala Kubu Baru. Before we left, we had been divided into groups, and I was in the group named Charlie with 8 other people. So all the groups had to set up camp in a nice spot of our choice, in the middle of the pitch black night, with nothing but flysheets tied to rafia string for our shelter as well as our mats. When we were done, our group slept all huddled together like sardines under our 'shelter' (which we later found out wasn't much of a shelter. :p). I didn't even have any space to roll over coz' I was sandwiched between two people. Fortunately, my sleeping bag was pretty warm and I didn't freeze to death on the two nights I was there

The next day, we woke up probably before the crack of dawn, coz' there wasn't a even a hint of sunlight when we were awaken by the camp facilitators. We used the little portable stove provided to cook our breakfast, which was tasteless oatmeal with milk. Then we were off to our first activity of the day, which was a series of four team-building games. The games were actually more like puzzles coz' it involved a lot of brainwork as well as teamwork to complete the games. But they were all really fun and interesting to do, and the best part was that my team got the best times for some of the games compared to the other groups. And we managed to complete all the games except one, which couldn't be completed coz' of a technicality. We were basically supposed to figure out how to get a ping pong ball out of a long upright tube stuck in a pot of mud, and the tube had holes so filling it up with water would be difficult. We finally did manage to fill up the tube with water, but the ping pong ball didn't appear because it was stuck to the mud in the pot at the bottom. No fair. In another game, we had to use several planks of certain lengths to cross over to the other side of six short pots laid upside down on the ground in the shape of a triangle, without anyone touching the ground. The catch was that all the planks were too short to be laid across the pots that would make the shortest route across, except for one plank. The shorter planks were only long enough to connect the other pots. So basically we had to use the long plank to get everyone in the group halfway across, stand on the shorter planks and then move the long plank to the last pot so everyone could then get across. Took a lot of balance and coordination but my team made it through the first time without a hitch. In another game we had to figure out how to move a big plastic water container out of a big circled area using only two long ropes and without anyone stepping into the circle. We also could not drag the container on the floor or let the ropes touch the floor. That was a bit tougher coz' we messed up a couple of times by letting the rope touch the floor and we were penalised by not being allowed to talk for five minutes. But we still managed to do it in the end.

For lunch we had bread with sardines and baked beans, and the rest of the day was spent trekking around for a few hours. We took two hiking trips, which added up to at least 5 hours of walking around. It was tiring, but the best part was getting to play around in some very nice rivers along the way. I was kinda hoping not to get my shoes wet, but once I realised it was inevitable coz' of the many streams we had to crosss, I just went all the way and dunked myself in a few of them. That was pretty much my shower for the day too, coz there was NO shower at the camp (and no proper toilet too, for that matter. Unless a hole dug into the ground counts as a proper toilet. I also didn't brush my teeth the whole time I was there so I guess my breathe was really nice by the time I got back!). It 's quite fun soaking myself in all my clothes in a nice cool river then drying out during the rest of the trek. :p Did that everytime I came across a river after that!

When it reached nightfall, we got back to camp and had a dinner of macaroni with sardines and baked beans (which actually tasted pretty good. :p) and we prepared for the group presentations we were told to do beforehand. My group did our very bad rendition of 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight', with me in the lead doing some really dumb hand actions I'd made up on the spot. Well, at least everyone enjoyed it, and that's the important thing! But of course, there's this idea that bad singing will cause it to rain and that night, it actually happened. Right after my group was done, the next group barely started their performance before it started raining cats and dogs. And it continued raining cats and dogs for hours. At first every group just ran back to their tents and huddled under the pathetic little shelters that they had for about half an hour. Luckily I brought along a full body raincoat so I sat closest to the edge of the shelter and got the brunt of the rain so the less protected people didn't get so wet. Didn't really help though, coz' everyone still got soaked. After some time, the facilitators moved all of us from our tiny little tents to a larger, better covered area, where there was a table and some people could sit. Some, but not all. And I was one of the many who had to stand there for more than an hour, waiting for the rain to stop. After an hour, I was getting super sleepy and was practicing how to sleep and stand at the same time. My legs were also getting tired, and my knee felt funny too coz' of all the trekking earlier on. At one point I got to sick of waiting for the rain to stop that I wanted to ask the facilitators if I could just go back to my shelter alone and sleep there even though I was going to get more wet. But before I had the chance, the facilitators decided to do something and moved all of us to some other better tents they had set up for themselves. Although the floors of the tents were wet, they would completely protect us from the rain, so they stuffed as many of us as possible in each tent. Tents meant for 3 people would have 4, and I slept in a 10-man tent with ten others (which makes eleven people). We were like sardines again, and everyone had to curl up their legs to sleep, but I think everyone still managed to sleep coz' we were so pooped from the day's activities. Needless to say, that was not the best night's sleep I've had.

Next day, it was up at an ungodly hour for us again, followed by breakfast and more games. the first activity wasn't really a game but more like a simulation of a possible real life scenario. This guy was explaining to us how to use a 'basher' or a hammock, as a sleeping place and also as a stretcher to carry injured people. Just when he was done, some girls came running along screaming for help and they led to a small ravine where another girl was lying 'unconscious' on the back. Of course, we knew that it was an act, but we had to play along and pretend she really was injured and figure out how to help her. Basically, we were supposed to check for external injuries, prepare the stretcher properly and carry her onto the stretcher with as little movement as possible to prevent further injuries to any internal injuries she might have. Then we had to carry her off to a 'safe' location. Well, we got all that done, but we were all so confused at first and didn't know what was the best thing to do. And apparently, the way we carried her onto the stretcher as well as on it, we would've killed her if she had broken ribs or a broken neck. Not very successful at all, but it was a eye opening experience. Makes me wish I'd learned first aid in case something like that really happens. The later two games involved a lot more heavy lifting, coz' we basically had to lift each other through the smallest of holes! The first one was a game where we had to all get through this 'electric fence' made in the shape of a rectangle on the ground. The 'fence' was actually four sticks stuck in the ground with rope for 'wires' but the catch was that we couldn't touch the ropes, and we couldn't touch the ground within the rectangle. And all we had was a plank to help us. So getting each person from one side to another with just one little plank was pretty tough, but my team somehow miraculously did it! The next game was similar except that we had to get each team member through a 'spiderweb' made of string. The holes were of different shapes and sizes, most of which were just big enough for people to fit through. But each hole could only be used once, after which no other team member could use the same hole. Miraculously, we managed to complete that too.

So then it was time for lunch and to pack up before heading home to our nice warm showers and cozy beds. Whew! The next day (Monday), my calves were both so cramped up from all the trekking and my knee was swollen so much that I couldn't bend it properly without it hurting. It still can't bend all the way now, but it's a better. I really should get that knee insured.

Overall, it was a fun and challenging experience. I enjoyed the games and the trekking and dunking myself in the rivers. Didn't enjoy the rain though. Now, each team is supposed to carry out a community project, and my team is supposed to help out for one weekend at the Turtle Conservation Sanctuary in Malacca. And yours truly is the project leader for this, so I hope everything will run without a hitch. :)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I'm older! Ah!

Happy Birthday to me!
This year I'm 23!
Hahaha heeheehee!
Happy Birthday to me!

Well, officially my birthday ended two hours and ten minutes ago, but it's never too late to celebrate. Yes, Carol is one year older, hopefully wiser but still as lame-O as ever. A great big thanks to everyone who remembering and bothered to let me know that they remembered with sms-es and e-cards and just plain ol' wishing me Happy Birthday! That includes Theng Terk, Mei Ling, Patricia and Alvin, Rachel and Rebecca, Caryn, Loretta, Wahome, Jack, Kelvin, Aunty Jolene and the kids, cousin Clement and Jennifer (though she only sms-ed me half an hour after my birthday officially ended, but nevermind, I forgive you. :P). I hope I didn't forget anyone... And also to sweet Gerald for being the first to give me a gung ho birthday greeting when the clock struck 12 last night. ^_^ Call already laaaahhh.... Also thanks to Lavy for buying me a nice big slice of San Francisco Coffee chocolate cake to indulge, right after finding out it was my birthday. Yummy! And doubly thanks to Theng Terk for arranging the dinner at Svenson's tomorrow (technically, today) so I can indulge myself even more with a humungouso Earthquake. And also thanks to my parents for planning to take me for buffet dinner this weekend but since I'm going for a camp, they'll only be taking me next weekend. Don't be surprised if I come out of all the birthday celebrations even more roly-poly than before...:P And for everyone who forgot it was my birthday, don't worry I still love you.... and you can make it up to me a nice birthday present. I've really been eyeing one of those Sony Ericsson Walkman phone models. If you get everyone else who forgot to chip in RM 100 each to make up the amount to buy that phone, you all won't have to get me anymore birthday presents for the next ten years. I promise! Of course, the deal does not include Christmas presents. :P Hehehe!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Of dead grasshoppers and taekwondo class-crashing cats

Oh well, my grasshopper finally decided to go to that (probably humungous) insect heaven in the sky on Wednesday. I suspect it was because over the weekend I fed it a different type of leaf from what it usually ate, and the leaf and the grasshopper's tummy didn't get along too well. So I watched in despair as it slowly wasted away over the next few days. Waaaaah. I even put it back on the plant where I found it while it still seemed to had some life in it, in the hopes that the sunshine or whatever would make it get better. But alas, poor grasshopper. I knew it well. Well, for like a week or so. Anyway, I think the insects hate me now, so I think I'll leave them alone for a while, at least until I figure out how to make them...not die in captivity.

Anyway, I had an interesting day at taekwondo class this morning. I was teaching the primary school white belts, and most of them are new students who just joined a week ago, so it's pretty fun to teach the young new kids when they're all so excited and willing to answer me when I ask them questions (unlike the older students who are usually all half dead and yell like they're half dead, and punch and kick like they're half dead, no matter how much I try to motivate them. *sigh*). So during the class today, this cat suddenly came along and decided to hang around my students. That of course, got them all excited and they couldn't pay attention to me coz' this dumb cat kept brushing up against some of them. And every now and then it would flop down on the floor next to a kid and roll on its back, like it wanted a belly rub or something. So I tried picking it up and putting it a little further away, but the cat came back again and started another uproar. I did it again, and it came back again, and a kid took it away, but it came back again, and it went on like this a few more times. And just imagine, the parents of some of these white belts were standing around watching me teach and seeing this whole episode, so I was getting pretty exasperated. I finally decided to tell the kids to all move to another area of the school for me to teach them. Luckily the dumb cat didn't follow us. *Whew!* After all that excitement, plus waking up early this morning, me thinks I'll go and catch some afternoon zzz's for a bit. I got quite a few papers to mark later, and I've been procrastinating as usual. So it's off the bed I go. Zzzz...

Friday, March 10, 2006

The silver lining...^_^

Ah, those HR people finally got my contract out today, and some good news is that they actually got my allocated hours right (Whew, no need to waste time changing it again!), and that I'm being paid the same rate as an honours student even though I'm NOT! My lecturer who allocated the hours recommended them to pay me as an honours students just coz' I did a double degree and therefore did an extra year. I didn't think the top guns would be all for that idea, but whaddaya know, I guess they're not so much the stingy pokers I thought they were. Woo hoo! Time for me to do my Chicken Little Numa Numa dance. ^_^

Still stuck at Monash for while...X_X

Well, I've been officially working full-time at Monash for one week now... although I really can't say 'officially' coz' those HR people haven't even gotten my darn contract out yet. Apparently coz' the lecturer in charge of allocating the classes to us lab demonstrators had trouble with allocating for a first year biology class since students were still coming in. And coz' of that, I, as well as that of a few other lab demo-ers's involved, probably won't get our contracts til next year, knowing the efficiency of the HR people. *Sigh* God, please give me that Singapore Zoo job soon so I can get out of this place!!!

Anyway, while lab demonstrating isn't much of a challenge coz' all I have to do is help the freshies figure out how to handle the lab equipment and act smart when they ask me questions (or in the eloquent words of a student, I get paid to walk around the lab!), I also have to do some tutoring for first year chemistry. That, of course, is more of a challenge coz' I got to prepare beforehand and understand my subject pretty darn well. And considering I haven't looked at my chem book for 3 years, it's not all that simple. Last week, if anyone asked me anything about Quantum Theory and Atomic Structure, I'd probably give them a blank stare for five seconds before running off screaming. After a few days of running through the text book, I finally got it down (sort of) and was prepared for my first tutorial, which was today!

I think most people in my position would've been freaking out at the prospect of standing in front of a bunch of people I don't know for the first time and trying to act like I know a lot about a subject I actually just studied a few days ago. But I think many years of performances have helped a lot in calming the nerves, so I was actually wasn't freaking out at all. But it was kinda funny to walk into a classful of freshie students, dressed and looking like I was a student myself! Some of them already knew me as a demonstrator for their biology class, but I think most of them were probably thinking I could be sitting right there with them and they wouldn't think it odd. Haha! Good thing about this job is at least I don't have to wear those stifling work clothes. Bleh. Anyway, as expected, they were all superbly quiet while I stood there and blabbered away. I tried to ask them the questions instead of just giving them the answers for the tutes, but most I usually got was the faint murmurs. *Sigh* Oh well, I was in their shoes before, so I know what to expect. Anyway, I think the class went pretty well, expect for the occasional spacing out on my part every now and then, when halfway through explaining the answers I'd be thinking " I saying the right thing or what?"

Yeah well, I got another tute tomorrow morning which means I gotta wake up early for, and you know how it is with me and mornings. They don't mix. Off to bed I go!

Monday, March 06, 2006

You know you're an entomologist-in-the-making when...

You start thinking caterpillars are cute! Like this little bugger I caught just the other day!

I caught it happily crawling around outside my uni's lab a couple of weeks ago and since I had some vials that are used solely for the purpose of keeping little bugs, I caught it and kept in a vial for a while. I had this nice idea of keeping it until it turned into a butterfly then releasing it. i even named it Bugs (after Bugs Bunny, coz' the of the two antenna thingies that look like bunny ears. Plus, it's a bug, so....) !Unfortunately, once I transfered Bugs to a bigger container to make sure it had enough space to emerge, it died after a few days. I suspect it was because God-knows-what-chemicals or other stuff were kept in that container before and the poor caterpillar got poisoned. Poor thing. Couldn't even give it a decent burial coz' I tossed onto the soil outside my lab and like ten seconds later, it was swarmed by ants. A couple of hours later, and Bugs remains were no longer remaining. So sad! Oh well, I still think it was a better death than the one my fellow research assistant was planning - a super fast spin in a centrifuge that probably would've resulted in instant caterpillar mush. Did I mentions he hates caterpillars?

Around the same time I caught Bugs, I also caught a spider, a smaller spider which my fellow research assistant put in the same vial together with the bigger spider and resulted in the bigger spider making a meal out of the smaller spider, another smaller green and pink caterpillar that jumped about when touched but died after a day, and a little grasshopper. I had the wise idea of trying to feed an ant to the big spider a few days after its big meal, but they ended up killing each other (and I even missed the action coz' I was watching tv after I put them together. :P). So right now, the only live bugger I have is the grasshopper, which seems to be doing quite well in its vial (I feed it, of course). I've had it for quite a few days and it's even moulted! So I'm waiting to see just how big it can get. It's still too small to take a good picture of it, though. Not quite sure if I should name it too, lest it dies on me again. Don't wanna get all sentimental with my bugs. Right now, I just call it Mr. Caterpillar and hope it's a male.

Oh yeah, I just started full-time work as a lab demonstrator and a tutor this week, so I might actually start getting too busy and stop harassing every cute little insect I see.