Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Third Day of Taman Negara

What a day! This was easily the most tiring and hardest day of all, but we all enjoyed it immensely. Well, I did. And that’s saying something. I woke up surprisingly refreshed, and made my way down to the beach, where we prepared breakfast. I cannot exactly remember what we had for breakfast, but it was a far cry from what we had for dinner.

We went to check on our fish traps that we had set the day before, much pardons for not actually describing it in the post below. There is a lot to remember from this trip nearly a month ago. Below is a photo of us at the fish traps. I am sorry; this is the best image I can get from Ben, as we did not want to risk bringing the camera out of the boat for fear of it becoming wet and therefore useless.

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As you can see, the photo above shows nothing resembling the fish traps, but this was the location at which they were set. Oh well.

Anyway, after a trudge in the relatively warm water, we made our way back to the boats with our catch (about four fishes, moderate in length, I’d say about 6-10 inches.) and were ferried back to the orang asli camp. There we prepared our lunch: Tapioca!

Now, tapioca is an extremely tasteless root, found in the ground, obviously. It is used as an ingredient in many types of food, and is commonly eaten with gravy. However, all we had for lunch was tapioca. Only tapioca. Now, imagine trying to eat nothing but potatoes with no sauce, no honey (Which I gracefully tried to obtain from Mrs. Purser, but was dissuaded by Mr. George.) and no side-dishes. To add to this insult, we had to make a fire by hand. That means no matches, you pyromaniacs. The orang asli showed us the precise method of creating a fire, though, so we weren’t totally lost at that. Basically it involved taking some intricately constructed wood and rubbing it against another piece of wood, thus creating sparks. We would then blow the embers from the hot wood onto sawdust, which would then ignite, hopefully. I am proud to announce that our group was the fastest group of all, and managed to create a fire much faster than the other teams. Behold:

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Now, I know that there is nothing much to see here, but if you look closely, you can see the fine yellow lines that depict a fire. All thanks to Thomas’ and Ben Bradley’s hard work of course. I did not do much, neither did Yi Xuan, but I managed to bargain for some extremely big tapiocas to put on our fire, a mistake which I would later regret.

Tapioca is “Ubi Kayu” in Malay, which means “Wooden Potato”. I should have heeded those words carefully. Wood indeed was the food. I had no problem finishing my first tapioca, but Ian kindly offered me his share of the tapioca, so stupidly, I accepted. And there it was… absolute torture, urgh.

I finally managed to finish that tapioca with Ben’s HP sauce and tomato ketchup which I had the foresight to bring. And after that, the orang asli brought us up to a nearby hill, and told us which types of leaves to cut, in order to build our shelter. At first, I thought that we were just meant to build the shelter, and go sleep in our tents. On the contrary, however, it appeared that we needed to sleep IN the shelter, THAT night. So, a substantial amount of planning was in order. We were supplied “parangs”, swords by the orang asli, and told to cut palm leaves, which were meant for the shelter. One team was rightfully supposed to have one blade, but due to my excellent negotiating skills, our team had TWO knives instead. All thanks to Mat Leon, though. It was a tiring ordeal; cutting the surprisingly heavy leaves, de-thorning them, and then lugging them back to the campsite. It was all good fun, though. The photo shows the leaves we were supposed to cut. This is a young version of a leaf.

And then, began the gruelling process of folding. We had to weave the leaves into an criss-cross pattern in order for them to prevent the rain from coming in, if there was any rain that night. And so we kneaded and weaved. We weaved like there was no tomorrow. We weaved for two hours straight, and then began the gruelling task of constructing the shelter. First, we cut several sturdy, elastic sticks from the jungle, and stuck three sticks; the longest of them all, into the ground. Then, we bent them and tied them to the other sticks that we had pierced the ground with, opposite to one another. After that, we began tying the leaves to the sticks, eventually ending up with not a bad shelter.

The tool for tying was rattan that Mat Leon generously collected and gave to us. We cut it up into nice pieces and tied all the leaves to the sticks accordingly. The photo below shows our monument of primal civilisation. Behold:

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It was about five thirty in the evening, as you can see from the darkness of the wood, and we were extremely sweaty and irritable. We rushed down to the river and dived into it… well, not dived, but ran into it, more like. We welcomed the cool and calm waters and went headfirst into it without qualms. It was then, after borrowing some shampoo and soap from Ann-Marie that I spotted Weng Yew leaning on one of the boats, not joining in the mud-throwing goodness. I took five as well, and sat beside him on the boat, arms bumping with every jolt of the boat. And then I inquired as to why he did not join in the fun. And that was where I found out that he was physically unable to swim. I thought this was not possible, but either way, I did not poke fun at this at all. It is simply uncouth and under mannered to do so. And there we sat, throwing random blobs of mud at people who were unsuspecting.

Even Mr. George and Mr. Matthams were coining in on the fun as well. It appears that, during my team’s absence, the entire host in the water was ganging up on Jackson Au Chee Ming. Surrounded by a mob of upraised fists of mud and sand, accompanied by wily grins on faces, Chee Ming found himself centred by this mass. He crept over to the teachers and claimed that they would support this injustice. He turned and cheekily grinned at the approaching horde, when both Mr. Mathams and George dipped their hands into the river, gripped a large dollop of mud, and flung it full force at Chee Ming’s head. Everyone then screamed with delight and apparently lobbed all the mud at him. The teachers then ended the fight immediately. To good avail, of course.

And then we had an incredible dinner of “Tempoyak” which is an absolutely delicious meal consisting of durians (Mmm) and fish, broiled into a chop-licking curry. The teachers detested it, Mr. George in the lead. I, on the other hand, loved it. I guess it is a love-hate thing. You either like it or you don’t. And that’s that. I was so hooked up on this dish that I went for a fourth round, much to the amazement and detest of Mrs. Purser. After that, we had to ready our equipment for our shelters. We could take a maximum of five goods, a water bottle being one of them. Compulsorily. I knew exactly what I wanted to take; some Famous Amos cookies that Ben had very kindly brought along on this trip. So we rushed down and got our things. However, I forgot one important thing; the carry mat that accompanied the sleeping bag. I was distraught; as the teachers would not allow me to return down to retrieve it. Rules are rules; they are there for a reason.

This reason for this was soon to be ascertained. They were meant to be bent. We had to go down for a dance around a bonfire that the aborigines had constructed for us. They taught us a song. It was primitive, some members of the group complained.

“You would have thought that after so many millennia of living, they would have thought of something more creative.” One member was heard commenting.
I thought inwardly. If I were entertaining a foreigner in my country, in my own environment, I would devise a song that would require the least amount of memorising. And so, we danced around the fireplace, singing that song. I shall not attempt to transcribe the song onto this blog, it would only humiliate me. But if you were to ask any of us, we would be delighted to perform our own version of it to you.

And then, we played our musical chairs, the orang asli joined in as well. It was good fun, Mr Matthams pushed everyone out of the way before sitting down on his chair, but he eventually lost to Thomas Maxwell, who was proclaimed winner of the event. Hooray!! We then headed out to the tall grass for a last minute piss before going to bed. It was then, when I decided on a reconnaissance mission. After my piss, I immediately grabbed my carry mat from beside the tent, in one swift motion, and tucked it under my shirt. I then ran as if the devil himself was on my tail, up to the shelter. Nobody spotted me. The rest of the team congratulated me on my brilliant effort and result. It was because of me, that the team had a good night’s sleep. Good old me.

Before we slept under the shelter that night, however, Ben suddenly began a “What If” game.

“What if the mountains suddenly expanded in size, and the moon was shrouded by the trees?” was the first question asked.

“That would be freaky.” Thomas answered. Then I started.

“What if you suddenly felt long hair upon your face, and you knew that there was nobody in the shelter who was a girl?”

Thomas started getting the jitters.

“Shut up, okay! I’m seriously starting to get freaked out here.” He exclaimed. Ben continued.

“What if you woke up on the other side of the river where Matt Rust was the other day, and suddenly saw blank faces staring up from that water at you? And it was pitch black. And then these people started rising out of the water?”

At that point, Thomas could not take it and told both of us to SHUT UP!!! And there it was, Day Three of our expedition in the wild. Day four coming up!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Taman Negara Expedition, Day Two

Day 2 of the Taman Negara Ordeal… errr… Expedition

I just realised that I forgot a vital part of our experience in Taman Negara. We had just come back from the river when I asked Thomas about some martial arts trickz. He replied, and demonstrated accordingly, when suddenly Kit Perry emerged. He then demanded a touch spar with Thomas. (Touch Sparring is based on the concept of real fighting, only that if one person touches a body part of his opponent which is not defended, he gains a point. Shoulders and knees not counted.) And then, I witnessed what could be described as one of the most hilarious fake fights in my entire life. I opted not to join in, for fear of damaging my spectacles. I could have removed them, yes. But I would have faced an unfair disadvantage in the aspect of visibility. Anyway, I really wish I could have taken photos of the incident, but it shall remain in my memory forever. Please pardon me, Thomas, Kit, for what I am about to relate is based on my own memory. I shall not be biased to a particular person. Forgive me. Only Mr. George and Matt Rust can accurately relate what happened, for it was only they, who bore witness to such a hilarious incident.

Kit adopted the basic fighter’s stance, with both hands to the head to protect it, and hopping about similar to the boxing matches you see on the television. Thomas, however, was using the classic Taekwondo sparring technique, which consisted of placing your hands to your hips, and leaning your head forward. And then the battle of the two warriors began. Thomas’ experience in Taekwondo appeared to have been wasted, as he attempted cheap slow roundhouses to Kit’s thigh, which were duly blocked. Kit, on the other hand, was attempting to get in close for punches, but failed, as Thomas kept backing up. All in all, it was quite a fair fight; i.e. no dirty fighting, eye gouging, choking. Kit even managed to land a decent punch on Thomas’ right shoulder, while shouting out “Kiaaa!!”, a basic Karate exhalation method. After the match, Thomas was insisting that Kit got his arse kicked, while Kit was saying that he owned Thomas. I for one could not determine the sole winner, because it was such an unguarded fight. No referees, no ring, and plenty of space for error. And there, the funniest moment of day one occurred. Now. Time for Day Two of our journey into hell.

Well, we woke up grumpy and sweaty after a whole night of unrest. Yi Xuan, was being particularly crabby that morning, and I arose to find Ben laid beside us, almost lying diagonally, due to his massive size. I was none the better with my mood as well. I had a tremendous headache, accompanied by dizziness, accompanied by the usual grumpiness that comes after one has had a long slumber.

So I got up, and headed out swearing to the stupid structure where I then politely asked Mat Leon for some breakfast, if he had any. In Malay, of course. Very generously, he offered me pieces of bread along with Milo and jam. I was elated, and rushed off to tell my team mates. No, actually I just wolfed down as much as I could, and waited for them to come out. After that, we had to pack our tents up and trudge BACK through the forest, out to the same jetty that we arrived at yesterday. Damn it, and I didn’t even see a bloody tapir. So… there it was… life sucked that morning. We dutifully packed the tent up; well, me and Yi Xuan anyway, and managed to fasten it onto my brand new rucksack. Of course, it did its job well by supporting the added weight, but I most certainly did not appreciate two more kilograms of added weight. All for the good of the team, however. Mrs. Purser and Mr. Saundercock were extremely concerned about the distribution of the weight, because it appeared to be focused on my back, when it was supposed to be centred on my shoulders. All corrected and rectified however.

And then we set off. The tiring trek through the jungle was only intensified by the morning sun become hotter and hotter, and that mosquitoes were present. Nothing much helped the situation a lot, except for mosquito repellent and some water to quench our everlasting thirst. I did not bother with anti-leech cream, although I’m not altogether certain that people brought it. Ben and I tried to add to the atmosphere by whistling, but Mr. George, I think, was a exceptionally grumpy that morning. We ceased at his command.

This walk surprisingly took only an hour and a half, compared to the two hour hike yesterday. We arrived there refreshed, nonetheless sweaty. Back at the jetty. Hurrah. The boat was already waiting for us, and ferried us over to an Orang Asli (Aborigine) settlement. Along the way, plenty of people got splashed by water from the rapids. A photo of such a torrent may be visible below.

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Finally! Civilisation! We settled at a virgin white beach, and I spotted a family of Aborigines taking a bath in the river. Without clothes. Of course, being the open-minded person, I immediately assumed that this was their culture, not that they were oblivious to our customs, but on the contrary. This island was shaped in quite an astonishing way. On the far left corner of the beach, further up into the island, there was a wavy path hewn through the tall grass that surrounded the entire area. Up there, was presumably the orang asli camp. We made our way up the beach, taking care not to get sand in our shoes (Nasty) and then pitched our tents on the top of the hill. We did find out that the orang asli lived at the top of the hill, as seen by the huts and the fire that they had already kindled.

Our relaxation was short lived, however, when Mat Leon announced that the orang asli would take us deep into the forest for sightseeing and to demonstrate the method of building shelters to rest at night. Not after we had had some lunch, however. The orang asli were really kind: they prepared food for us to eat. And even though it was only bread and sardines, we cherished the taste like no tomorrow, as we had not had a good meal in days. Well, two days to be more precise.

While we were eating, I took the liberty to descend down the hill to retrieve some water for my team mates. When I got down there, I realised that Kit and his team were taking a little dip in the river. Much to my mortification, I saw a brown head bobbing up and down on the water, heading toward some rocks on the other end of the river. Now, we had been blatantly and severely warned by the teachers that we were not allowed to venture any further than a quarter of the river. And now, I saw one of our friends heading out into impending doom. Mrs. Purser spotted this person and summoned Mr. Mathams, who shaded his eyes for a moment, and exclaimed “That’s Matthew Rust, isn’t it!?”

And so it was. I admired the spectacle for a few more moments before declaring this white boy insane. He actually managed to make it to the rocks on the other end, AND return back to the shore, although he reported that he was facing a bit of a challenge on the return journey. I guess he was lucky not to have been carried all the way downstream to the tall grass which held various excretions and faeces of both the orang asli and surrounding animals.

Suffice to say, the trip that ensued after our lunch was informative and illuminating. I never knew exactly how many thorns each leaf that I touched held. I was duly rewarded by scratches on both arms and feet. And this was where a tiny little leech had decided that he would commit suicide by drinking my blood. So there it was. Yi Xuan claimed that I was “Owned” by a leech, when he spotted a miniscule blood patch on my sock.
I stand corrected, for the poor thing had already met its demise when I eventually shook it out of my sock. There we go! I remember saying. “No need for salt!”

It was a two and a half hour trek through the jungle, eventually ending at a tourist resort that I remember staying at five years ago. Again, more memories flooded through my mind as I walked through that area. We made our way down to the resort’s jetty and awaited the ferry, while we threw leeches obtained from various members of the group, of varying sizes, into the river for the fish to eat them. There was something immensely satisfying about seeing those little buggers get eaten by something out of the deep. Mrs. Purser was offering everybody menthols, and of course, being a large eater, I accepted gracefully.

The boat eventually arrived, and we headed back to the orang asli encampment for a much needed swim and bath. Along the way, our members were splashing one another with water from the river. I think sticking hands in the river in a moving boat should be illegal and the person doing it castrated. Ben and I were seated at the front, so we did not get the full brunt of the jokers behind. Poor Thomas got drenched by Kit Perry, who would not cease his relentless attack. I looked around when I felt a jolt in the workings of the boat and found out that Thomas had stood up, banging his head on the zinc roof of the ferry. He had an extremely serious expression on his face, signifying anger, and was looking daggers at Kit. He was annoyed that the bag that he was holding was wet in several places, and that the bag contained his phone. Much as I found that extremely hilarious, it was unfortunate that MY own phone happened to be in that bag as well. Damn it. Mr George called out to Thomas

“It would be wise for you to wait a moment and cool down before you do anything you’ll regret.”

That was cool. Besides the fact that Mr. Saundercock got drenched by the rapids, nothing else happened during the short boat ride. We hurried out of the boat, and could not wait, but flung ourselves into the water, clothes still on. We threw mud at each other; Andy was particularly aggressive, and Thomas was just being a sneaky little bastard, coming up behind you while you were occupied and messing up your hair with mud. We buried Rust in the ground, as the photos below showed. Thomas was being a woman and shovelling sand in defenceless Rust’s ear, and he was screaming about it. Ian Choong had a hand in that as well. We even made sand boobies and sand penises for this brown haired extremist. He later claimed to have sand scratches on majority of his body. Oh well, there’s always the black side of things. Ben took some excellent photos of the entire incident.

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You can see Thomas kicking sand in Matt's face on the second photo.

The fun had to end, however. The teachers said that we were to go on a night trek after dinner. Fun, isn’t it? When you’ve just had a much needed bath and then informed that you’re about to sweat again. Priceless. Excellent. We cooked mushroom soup and baked beans along with tortilla for dinner. Yum yum. You can read about Thomas’ escapades with Matt Rust in his weblog :

I shall not bother to reiterate it here, but Thomas wanted some food, and decided to steal it off Matt, and of course, if you take food away from an eating dog, you will get bitten. And that is exactly what happened to Thomas. He was tackled to the ground and had sand shoved in his face. Even I, who is such a big eater, resisted the urge to ask for spare food, let alone steal it. I enjoyed my dinner and was content with it.

After dinner, we had to go for a boring old night walk. Not before we gathered around some candles and made small chat, of course. They were talking about things that happened before I was here. Made me feel extremely out of place, that conversation did. Chee Ming kept saying

“You know what would be funny, guys?” and proceeding to put out the candles with sand, engulfing all of us in the darkness. I had to rush up to the aborigines and ask them for spare candles. Not cheap, these sort of things.

And THEN, we had to go for the inevitable night walk. Pretty uneventful, except for some glow in the dark leaves that Mat Leon showed us. Said it was the chemical component of the leaves that made them glow like that. I took him to his word, never questioning, ever vigilant. I wanted to collect some of them leaves to take back to the camp, but it was near impossible to find them in the near-pitch blackness of the jungle night. Pity. I would have liked to take it back home and frame it up.

We returned, and had a great night’s sleep. Well, I did. I went straight up the hill to the tent, as I was absolutely knackered. And once again, found Thomas there, already slothing. Nothing else to say, except that we were soon joined by Ben Bradley and Yi Xuan, who promptly settled down and fell asleep almost instantly. I have to admit, sleep does not find me easily. I usually have to toss and turn for a significant amount of minutes before I finally drop off. In truth, I was a little jealous of all these sloths around me. But, I settled in nicely and managed to fall asleep in good time. Thomas once again screeched with anguish as he discovered YET another leech sucking its glory on his ankle, again. I contained my laughs and continued my peaceful rest. And thus, Day Two of this Expedition ends. Tar rah for today. I shall update this tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Duke Of Edinburgh Award : TAMAN NEGARA, Pahang

DOE: Taman Negara
Two weeks have passed since I have attended the best Duke of Edinburgh trip. “Taman Negara” literally means National Park, if translated into English. Quite a fitting name. It is a shame that some parts have been converted into tourist attractions. However, majority of the forest has been left untouched for practically thousands of years. This forest is even claimed to be the oldest rainforest in the world by the travel brochure, although I leave the benefit of doubt to anyone who wishes to.

I thought I had blown it, when I submitted my payment for this trip three days too late, as the memo had stated: All payments submitted after the above date (I can’t remember for the life of me.) shall not be taken into account.

However, the minor slip went unnoticed, and I found myself in a loaded luxurious school bus on the 28th of the month before, wondering what on earth had persuaded me to undertake this grisly expedition. Oh well, at least I packed up nicely for this trip. I was fully equipped; own rucksack down to a Teflon pot which was meant for utilisation of the team. This stellar team consisted of Ben Bradley, the brains of the operation, Thomas Maxwell, the “worrier”, Yi Xuan, the crabby handyman, Julie, the second in command, and Supreme ME. Can’t actually remember what I did for the team, but I guess I was the odd job person. “Too many cooks spoil the broth” was my favourite motto.

My part of the deal was to bring as much energy bars and sweets to sustain the livelihood and morale of the team. And that I did, and effectively as well, may I add. I brought approximately three packs of muesli bars, and 4 additional packs of granola bars, which Thomas devoured aggressively, rummaging in my pack whenever he had the opportunity. Poor fellow, I should have given him a pack to eat by himself. Only joking of course. I probably ate as much, if not more than him.

The bus trip was quite an illuminating and insightful three hour ride into wonderful Pahang. Reall? I hear you ask. Aren’t bus rides supposed to be excruciatingly drab and colourless journeys? Actually, it was an incredibly boring and uneventful trip into a vast wasteland of greenery and animal dung that nobody wanted to go to, only lightened a slight amount by the whistling orchestra that Ben, I and Ernest, an absolute genius of a sixth former, formed. I have a vague feeling that we annoyed a few people in the long trip to the area of operation, but all for the better good. We were kept occupied, and that is the most important thing of all. The teachers even looked behind in incredulity at our antics. We began with Pachalbel’s Canon in D and ranged all the way to the Blue Danube Waltz. My musical skills and talent must have been heightened ever since that little ensemble in the bus. However, this was soon interrupted by the proposal that we watch a movie. The teachers made an excellent (Not) choice of watching “Singing In the Rain”, a movie that was made probably before any of us were born. To add insult to injury, it was a musical as well. Oh, the joy. I fell asleep sometime during the movie, and awakened when it ended. Thank god. We then stopped at a random place, in the prospect of having some Kentucky Fried Chicken, but ended up walking pointlessly for twenty odd minutes, before declaring that there was no KFC. Damn, we all thought, and re-boarded the bus.

Well, we finally arrived at the location. By that time, it must have been at least half past six, judging by the dark blue sky. Ah, goodbye sweet civilisation, we thought. And then we found out that we would be pitching our tents on the campsite of the main tourist structure. Right. Before we took the ferry across, we had our last proper dinner for five days. We chose one of the floating restaurants because apparently it had the English flag on it. Hey, it was not my idea. I think one of the people with us (Kit Jimmy-Koay Perry, Matt Rust, Jackson Au and my team) must have somehow noticed the red, purple and white banner that signified the British colours. Please do not make inappropriate comments about my colour blindness, which is becoming somewhat of a hindrance nowadays. I cannot do my driving because of that. So leave it.

Food was excellent there, considering the food that we would be having over the next five days. I ordered some fried rice and a moderately sized bowl of Tom Yam Seafood, which Ben Bradley gladly shared, complaining that it was a little too spicy for his liking. The champion managed to finish his entire portion and ask for seconds, though. What a brave man. I remember offering Kit Perry some soup, but he refused, saying that “It’s red, It’s hot and I see chillies in it. Why should I eat it?” Typical white boy, eh?

We finished in good time, and headed out to a little stone walkway where we sat for about half an hour, commenting about the weather and making random statements. It was dull until Matt noticed sparks being created from the stones that Kit was chucking around. And then, we started experimenting with various rocks and trying to create sparks from them. I am not certain whether they were flint stones or not, but we had good fun with them.

Finally, we were summoned to one of the restaurants and were made to sit on a ferry, which then carried us across the river to the campsite. It was quite a tiring climb up a relatively steep staircase in the dark, after we arrived. We had to watch our footing, because any mistakes would bring us tumbling down approximately five to six metres to our deaths. I was one of the first on the scene, followed by Thomas and Ben. Yi Xuan was nowhere to be seen. He finally appeared, looming out of the shadows like a hunter in the night, clad in orange and white, and bespectacled.

We made haste, and pitched our tents up, taking into account the advice that the teachers had given us. We were to set up tents as quickly as possible, and to keep food wrapped or sealed in an airtight container. Reason? Wild animals, such as boars and monkeys, not counting the occasional tent-raider, tended to frequent the campsite, and if we did not want to suffer tremendous losses in sustenance, we were to set up quickly and precisely. And so we did. In ten minutes, both tents were perfectly erected. Thomas and Ben were to share an eight man tent, and Yi Xuan and I were to share a four man tent. Despite the fact that they had abundant space in the shocking monster of a tent, Ben and Thomas were dissatisfied, and complained about the heat. Oh well, guess you can’t have it all in life.

I hated the first night. I was extremely restless, and was sweating like a pig (If they do sweat as much as the saying goes) till about one o clock in the morning, when I finally fell asleep with exhaustion. We woke up a little more refreshed than yesterday, and were quickly assembled before the guide and the teachers after a quick breakfast of Granola bars and tomato soup, courtesy of me. The guide, who was named “Mat Leon”, a name which drew many comments to Leon Jala, another member of our expedition, explained about the dangers of the forest, and the many attractions of it. Finally, he informed us that we would be going on a jungle trek along with the famous canopy walk. Now, that made me slightly more excited and willing. We received free water in the form of “Sea Master” water bottles, and began the relatively short walk through the tourist resort before the hike. The entire group was split up into two teams, one to follow Mat Leon and another to follow a fellow guide that was at the location.

It was then, where I spotted the first spelling mistake of the entire expedition. Behold:


The trip was uneventful, but informative. Mat Leon explained to us about the various dwellings of creatures in the jungle and showed us a tiny gecko sticking its head out of the tree, collecting power from the sunlight. Fascinating. Ben and Xuan took some excellent photos which shall be shown below.

The Gecko
It is a wonderful photo indeed that you must witness it in full size.

He also pointed to a random tree, so we thought, and stated that a bear had previously sharpened its claws on the bark overnight. Of course, we believed everything he said; there was no reason not to. I felt a strange sense of trepidation. A bear had been here less than twenty four hours ago, and yet… there was nothing to show that he or she was here, except a couple of bear prints and a few gouges in the bark of a tree. We moved on.

Mat Leon was an extremely hilarious person, scorning a few people’s meagre stamina as we trekked up the hill. It was quite a relaxing hike, with only a few bumps here and there in the form of slopes or intricate roots. We finally made our way up to the first pinnacle of the Tahan Mountain. There, we rested for a few minutes (Several Minutes, as Mat Leon pointed out.) and back-trekked downhill to our initial checkpoint, where we waited for the rest of our team to arrive. And then, we trekked to the highlight of the day; the canopy walk. I remember coming here before approximately five years ago. However, most of the memories elude me, attempts to delve into my rusty memories rewarded me by snatches of glimpses, and emotions of déjà vu every time we passed by a certain token e.g. structure, trees. Behold: Chilling out at the summit.

The SummitPhotobucket - Video and Image Hosting

After another twenty minute walk through the crudely hewn path of the jungle, we arrived at the exit of the canopy walk, where we encountered our very first experience of humans in the jungle. An international school, judging by the amount of foreign students, was at the location as well, apparently preparing to leave. We did not stop to chat, but hastened down to the entrance, eager to walk the walk. Pictures from the Canopy Walk Below.

Canopy One
Canopy Two

The canopy experience was something that everyone who went to Taman Negara should have gone to. Unsteady, swinging bridges constructed by wood and netting, with only a few metal supports holding it in place. I figured that if I did not fall down five years ago, why would I fall down now? So off we went. We practised our jumping skills on the bridge, and even Mr. Mathams joined in, vigorously jolting the bridge and causing people to shy to the sides. I cannot begin to describe how wonderful and exotic the little walk was. So, after half an hour of peaceful serenity, we made our way down to the exit which we passed earlier and walked back to the entrance, where we patiently waited for our team to return. I was tempted to go on the walk once again, but was dissuaded by Mat Leon, who said that we ought to be getting back to camp; we needed to pack up and head off to “The Hide”, a grotesque concrete structure in the middle of the forest, exceptionally hot, not mentioning the hundreds of geckos and insects.

Anyway, we headed back to camp, and Matt Rust and Kit Perry decided to show us a “lake” where we could take a last minute bath before heading off into oblivion. Ben Bradley, Thomas and Jackson Au came along. Yi Xuan decided not to come for some unknown reason. The “lake” happened to be a part of the river where it was somewhat shallow and full of stones. I remember yelping with pain every time my foot connected with a sharp object. Rust happily announced that he would take a much needed shit in the river, and squatted in the middle of the river for what seemed like ages, while we laughed our arses off and threw stones in his vicinity to distract him. Unfortunately, the urge went, and he returned to the shallow area, seemingly downcast. We then proceeded to splash each other with water and play a little game which consisted of trying to hit a large rock that was thrown up into the air with our own small rocks. It was good fun. Ben Bradley, Thomas and Kit Perry returned while the rest of us (Rust and I) remained, still playing with rocks in the water.

We then got tired of soaking in the river and returned to the campsite, where my team was in the midst of cooking our lunch. Sausages and Mash… mmm… this was heaven compared to Cameron Highlands and Belum Rainforest. Oh, I savoured the goodness and godliness of the meal. After we were done, we packed up our tents and headed to the ferry, which then took us to “The Hide”, which consisted of a two hour long trek into the wilderness, accompanied by leeches, and mosquitoes. Now, I have absolutely no problems with leeches. My blood seems to be a bane to leeches. Or maybe I’m just a leech friend. Throughout the whole trip, I only sustained one leech bite, and it was a miniscule leech who died as soon as he sucked a droplet of blood from me. Poor fellow, he didn’t see it coming. Anyway, we had to carry our rucksacks along with us as well, resulting in a very hot, sweaty and extremely tiring hike through the muddy jungle. The stay in “The Hide” was the worst experience in the entire trip, in my honest opinion. Chee Ming had a leech in his arse, of all places, and Rust seemed to be a leech magnet. I can’t remember how many leeches he had accumulated in his shoes, but it was a double digit figure, I swear. He claimed that they “Made Babies” in his shoes. I discovered another spelling error here.


Well, there isn’t much to say after that. We pitched our tents outside the disgusting concrete structure, and had our dinner: Tortillas and SPAM with onions. I made the mistake of accidentally dropping the pot that was containing the cooked tortillas and hastily picked up all the tortillas in less than five seconds, remembering the five-second rule. Much to the amusement of the other teams, of course. After dinner, Ben Bradley and Yi Xuan kindly cleaned up, while I went to the tent. We were to share the eight-man tent that night, or so we thought. When I stepped in the tent, I immediately felt a soft sensation against the sole of my foot, followed by a scream of “CLEMENT! You’re stepping on my foot!”

It was Thomas Maxwell, of course, trying to get some shut-eye and sleep away his headache. Ooh, I pitied the poor fellow. I settled down beside him in the tent and used my rucksack as a pillow. All was quiet for a few hours. Until, Thomas let out another screech and held up a leech, which had been sucking for all it was worth on his ankle. I sniggered, and said “Never mind. Leave it. He won’t bite me anyway.” And then, I had a sudden feeling of nostalgia, back to Belum Rainforest, when Weng Yew discovered a leech in his underwear before adorning them. We had a good laugh then.

Thomas would not stand for this creepy-crawly and proceeded to douse it in insect repellent before throwing its wasted body out the tent flap. What a pity. Poor guy. I meant the leech. So, Yi Xuan joined us after a few minutes, and there we lay, boiling in the heat of the hide. I managed to fall asleep, but woke up in short periods of time, for short periods of time. Ben was nowhere to be seen, and we found out tomorrow that he had spent the whole night up in that concrete structure, spotting a few creatures, e.g. tapirs, flying squirrels, civet cats. This was the whole of day one in the wilderness. Day two will be published as soon as I finish it. Cheers for reading.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A trip to Cameron Highlands; Steaming Bodies and SPAM nation, along with a couple of spelling errors.

It was indeed a busy weekend that passed for me. I am currently doing the Duke of Edinburgh award in my relatively new school. It basically shows how much knowledge one can acquire about living outdoors in survival. And survival means no food, no clothes and no lodging. Of course, we brought our own essentials and they weren’t that cruel to deny us a nice bath. It involved carting us off to unknown locations in the jungle where we were to pitch our tents and cook our own food using synthetic materials. Our first trip was to the Belum Rainforest in Perak. To all the international people reading this article, Belum Rainforest is an enclosed rainforest in Malaysia, enclosed to prevent any further damage to the luscious natural life within. That trip lasted 5 days, five bliddy days of sweat-filled, bamboo cutting experiences in the vast forest.

However, the concern now is the second trip that this award required us to do. I’m sure you all are well aware of the Cameron Highlands that are located in Perak. It is a well known tourist attraction and also a local attraction, for Malaysians who require a break from the orthodox, frequent, blisteringly hot weather that blesses Malaysia. Of course, our next trip was to Cameron Highlands, very well guessed indeed! We were all exuberant about the trip, as it provided a much needed recess from the constant nagging of teachers and obviously, humans need to let out some steam once in awhile. And so we did, literally in Cameron Highlands.

We met in school on the 10th of February, Friday, last week to head off via bus to the area of operation. I jogged from my home, 5-10 minutes away, and arrived in the nick of time, with seconds to spare. I hauled my luggage into a couple of minivans that were to be driven by the teaching staff (yes, we need to be babysat at our age) and rushed off to the bus to secure a seat amongst the reigning chaos of cacophonic chattering and relentless shoe shuffling. I took a seat behind Ben Bradley and Yi Xuan, with Fariq beside me. All of these people are my schoolmates, for Non-GIS-ers. We played a Chinese gambling game for the first few minutes of the ride, and tried as much as we could, we were unable to sustain a good game without feeling nauseated.

The trip lasted about four rather boring hours through the Malaysian countryside and up the winding hill. We did stop for a single break for the last civilised meal that we would have for a couple of days; KFC. Yi Xuan, Ben, Fariq and I were getting a bit hyped-up about the "X-Meal" that KFC had to offer, and Xuan was telling us all about how he should have ordered the "X-Meal" instead of the crummy little burger he ordered. All in all, we were contented and full when we finally reached the campsite in Cameron. I must admit, I was a little dizzy when we finally stepped out of the bus, although not to vomiting extent.

The campsite was situated extremely close to civilisation, surprisingly. Walking distance to all facilities located in Cameron Highlands, except maybe a stay in a hotel, which we were not allowed (for obvious reasons). There was a group of people playing football in the nearby field, and I briefly remember Zim saying something about Menzie checking out guys in the field, thereby subtly hinting that Menzie was a gay-boy. But of course, I, with my liberal, open-minded views, disregarded that comment immediately.

We trudged up the gloomy path to our campsite. I was duly surprised: I had thought that the campsite would resemble one of Belum Rainforest, with nothing but grass and bamboo shacks awaiting us. Instead, there were neat little spaces for us to set up tents, along with a all-purpose building, which housed a toilet (Much to my relief), an area where we could bathe safely, without the fear of being swept downstream or the attack of leeches, and an area for dishwashing. One complaint though; the water was extremely cold. Bloody hell, when we took a bath the next day, I did not dare to douse myself in the sub-zero degrees water, instead allowing Ben Bradley and Menzie to test it out. And was rewarded, when I got a splash of the water on my face. Freezing cold. Even though I was not wet in any way, the whole of my body was steaming, in contrast to the cold air there. It was as if a ghost was present, haunting us with its icy breath.

Anyway, we did not do much for the first night, save for fooling around near the campfire and making meals. Wei Jean is a really strong woman, she carried me up on her shoulders and walked around the camp with me there, without wincing at all. Wow, I worship her mighty prowess. I cannot forget that memory till now. Also, Ms. Dixon almost sprained her ankle when she tripped over a tree-root and plowed into someone I can't remember. Bit of drama there.

We set up our enormous eight man tent, and explored its contents. Wow, pretty huge, I observed. We would have fun sleeping there that night, Not. It was raining heavily that night, and some water somehow found its way into the tent, either by means of condensation, or by some devious method of seeping through the seems in the tent, resulting a little pool forming at the sides of the tent. I stayed the terror and managed to fall asleep for short periods, waking up to the cold, damp air. I finally could take it no longer, and sat up. I glanced at the time on my cell-phone. 6.30 AM.

I yawned loudly and woke Ben Bradley up, who proceeded to shake Yi Xuan as a means of awakening him from his slumber. I got impatient and looted in the side pocket of the tent for our spectacles, pressing the cold metal against Yi Xuan's face, while squinting in the semi darkness. And, Ben Bradley managed to snap a photo of us at the precise moment. Behold:

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And an absolutely wonderful day followed, which I shall describe in the following post(s), however long that may be.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The May 13th 1969 riot, for people who are unaware of what happened exactly.

On formation in 1963, Malaysia suffered from a sharp division of wealth between the Chinese, who were perceived to control a large portion of the Malaysian economy, and the Malays, whom some perceived to be more poor and rural. However, it was foreign individuals and organisations, and not the Chinese, who held the largest portion of total corporate equity in the country.

1964 Race Riots in Singapore were a large contributing factor in the expulsion of the state from Malaysia, and racial tension continued to simmer, many Malays dissatisfied by their newly independent government's perceived willingness to placate the Chinese at their expense.

In the May 10, 1969 general elections, the ruling Alliance coalition headed by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) suffered a large setback in the polls. The largely Chinese opposition Democratic Action Party and Gerakan gained in the elections, and secured a police permit for a victory parade through a fixed route in Kuala Lumpur. However, the rowdy procession deviated from its route and headed through the Malay district of Kampong Bahru, jeering at the inhabitants.

While the Gerakan party issued an apology the next day, UMNO announced a counter-procession starting from the head of Selangor state Dato' Harun bin Idris on Jalan Raja Muda. Reportedly, the gathering crowd was informed that Malays on their way to the procession had been attacked by Chinese in Setapak, several miles to the north. The angry protestors swiftly wreaked revenge by killing two passing Chinese motorcyclists, and the riot began. During the course of the riots, the loudspeakers of mosques were used to urge the rioters to continue in their actions.

The riot ignited the capital Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding state of Selangor, but except for minor disturbances in Melaka the rest of the country stayed calm. A nationwide state of emergency and accompanying curfew were declared on May 16, but the curfew was relaxed in most parts of the country for two hours on May 18 and not enforced even in central Kuala Lumpur within a week.

According to police figures, 196 people died, 149 were wounded and many women were raped. 753 cases of arson were logged and 211 vehicles were destroyed or severely damaged. Other sources place the number of dead at above 200, while some eyewitness accounts place the number of deaths at 700 to even 1000.

Singaporean response

The May 13 incident also stirred up some resentment in neighbouring Singapore. The Chinese Singaporeans, feeling unhappy about what has happened to the Malaysian Chinese in Malaysia, started some riots against the Malays in Kampong Glam and Chinatown. Road blocks were later set up by the military force to prevent further violence, but the number of casualties was not as high.

Repercussions of the riot

Immediately after the riot, the government assumed emergency powers and suspended Parliament, which would only reconvene again in 1971. It also suspended the press and established a National Operations Council.

The riot led to the expulsion of Malay nationalist Mahathir Mohamad from UMNO and propelled him to write his seminal work The Malay Dilemma, in which he posited a solution to Malaysia's racial tensions based on aiding the Malays economically through an affirmative action programme.

Tunku Abdul Rahman resigned as Prime Minister in the ensuing UMNO power struggle, the new perceived 'Malay-ultra' dominated government swiftly moving to placate Malays with the Malaysian New Economic Policy (NEP), enshrining affirmative action policies for the bumiputra (Malays and other indigenous Malaysians). Many of Malaysia's draconian press laws, originally targeting racial incitement, also date from this period.

The National Security Commission published an official report about the incident on October 9, 1969, pointing the finger at the Malayan Communist Party and illegal Chinese gangs for causing the riots.

The Rukun Negara, the de facto Malaysian pledge of allegiance, is another reaction to the riot. The pledge was introduced on August 31, 1970 as a way to foster unity among Malaysians.

Political references

The May 13 incident is raised during general election years to imply possible negative consequences to other ethnic groups if they fail to vote for the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. However, as the people who lived through the incident are replaced by post 1969 citizens, many believe that there is less to be gained from such statements.

In 2004, during the UMNO general assembly Badruddin Amiruldin , the current deputy permanent chairman, waved a book on May 13 during his speech and stated "No other race has the right to question our privileges, our religion and our leader". He also stated that doing so would be similar to "stirring up a hornet's nest".

The next day, Dr Pirdaus Ismail of the UMNO Youth was quoted as saying "Badruddin did not pose the question to all Chinese in the country ... Those who are with us, who hold the same understanding as we do, were not our target. In defending Malay rights, we direct our voice at those who question them."

Deputy Internal Security Minister Noh Omar dismissed the remarks as a lesson in history and said that Badruddin was merely reminding the younger generation of the blot on the nation's history.


Okay.. so the Chinese had a riot and the Malays retaliated, with the mosque spurring them on. I'm not a racist person here, but i do believe that equal rights SHOULD be given to all the citizens of Malaysia. However, the amount of Malays in the country should be taken into account as well. They may well be unemployed in the coming years, so I guess the quota system is reasonable.

Post your thoughts below about this article.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Increasing Interest Rates in USA May Kerb Economic Growth

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As you can see from the graph above, the official interest rates of the USA started off high, at about 5.7 percent in 2000 and rose to a rate of about 6.7 percent for majority of the year. After that, maybe as an effort to spark inflation, there was an unsteady but definite fall in the interest rates in 2001. Then, the interest rate fell to about 1.8 percent in January 2002 and remained in that position for most of the year. Then, it fell even lower to nearly 1.2 percent in November and stayed that way till July 2004. From then, the Fed has reported a steady rise in the rate of inflation.

Although it is a mere shadow of what it was in 2000, the pattern shown by the interest rates gives clear room for anticipation in the coming months and years. The interest rate may very well surpass its past highest rate of 6.7% if the government decides to keep increasing it. Alan Greenspan, the Chairman for the Fed has decided to increase the interest rates 13 times from 2004.

This bodes well for banks, because more people are going to be saving money instead of borrowing money, for fear of the high interest rate. But it does not look good for businesses that require additional capital for growth, as a higher interest rate also means a lower rate of return for the firm at hand, because of the additional money required to repay bank loans. Banks may see a lower rate of borrowing from firms at the current rate of interest rates.

Internationally, the capital account of the USA may suffer a deficit as consumers buy assets overseas and borrow from foreign firms, because of the high interest rates in the USA. They can probably get interest rates in borrowing overseas. After they switch to dollars, they get a better rate of return from other countries, like Japan.

Lower rates of borrowing may be observed in consumer spending patterns in the coming years, if it is not noticed now. How will the American economy fare in the coming months? Will the increasing interest rate kerb economic growth and cause the exact opposite : recession? Guess we'll have to just wait and see, right? Folks?

"Why put this here?" you may ask. And I shall answer. We have to keep an eye out on other economies because that will help us in our future. Most of us will have a job overseas when we eventually grow up and get our degrees. It is good to know what is going on in the world today, in different countries. You never know when it will benefit you.

For example, economists predict that China will have the #1 highest GDP by Year 2010. How will this benefit us, you may say. Well, if you know about this, you might wanna start brushing up your Mandarin and Cantonese skills just in case you happen to visit that country, or even better, open up a business in that country. We may even see a change in government policies there in the near future; Hu Jintao, the President Of China ( for the non-economists ) is preparing to maybe select a successor in 2006. This may mean that he's preparing for retirement, or is reaching the end of his life. (Evil of me, eh?). Things may change, who knows? Most important thing of all is to make sure you Benefit from these changes.

Oh, and All of The Above is My Own Work, and MAY be reproduced anywhere, anytime, with the exception of the graph, which I obtained from

Have a good one, folks!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Christian Camp: Sciffies and Sermons

It has been four very memorable days indeed since Monday. First of all, I managed to make plenty of new friends and second of all, I underwent an important transition.

As some of you may know, I am a member of the Glad Tidings Church in Petaling Jaya. I was first introduced there by one of my mother’s affiliates who is a born again believer. She persuaded my mother to take me to the church, as she wanted us to mix around and possibly make new friends. And so we went.

To my very great surprise, I met a couple of my friends with whom I knew since I was thirteen years of age. Ven Xhin and Li Yenn were members of that church as well! Praise the Lord?! I have yet to decide whether it was fate or divine intervention that brought us together at that place, at the exact same time, and for my mother’s friend to belong to that church at all, so that this meeting might have occurred.

Anyway, I was introduced to the youth pastor, Pastor Julie, after my second attendance at the church’s youth section. I found her speeches very anecdotal and spiced with humor. What she said I cannot duplicate exactly, but it was along the lines of “Very pleased to have you with us” and “extremely sorry about your father, will pray for him”. She seemed to be a very genuine person, and later sermons proved to confirm it.

However, this is beside the point. The church had a youth camp on Monday, and it was to last four days till Thursday, which was yesterday (DOH). I was a tiny bit tentative at first, I admit, but after four fantastic days, I have no regrets going to the camp, and would have liked it to last longer.

We met at the Glad Tidings Church in Petaling Jaya (It shall thus be referred to as “GTPJ” to save me the unwanted toil of typing this out) at about 9.30. Well, I met my friends there at 9.30 when they arrived, but I was exceptionally punctual at 9.00 am, sitting around doing nothing. Zhao Yuan, Ven Xhin and her bro, Yoong Jie, whom she refers to as “Jack” for pronunciation purposes and Li Yenn arrived at approximately the same time. He noticed my so called accent and commented on it, but Ven Xhin told him that I already spoke like that and always have. We took our seats and played Chor Tai Ti. My mother was very kind; she offered to send me to the church at such an unholy hour.

After we were assembled in the Parousia hall, we were then equally divided into “Bus Groups” to ensure stability amongst passengers, so that people would not change buses at their own convenience, thus stirring up Inconvenience amongst other people. By some weird twist of fate, Jack, Ven Xhin, Li Yenn and I were assigned to the same bus. Poor Zhao Yuan was transferred to Bus 4, and was thus separated from us. Li Yenn and Ven Xhin took two seats four rows from the back, and I sat with Jack. At first, I didn’t know what to say to him because I hadn’t seen him in nearly two years. But, I soon found out that we had a lot of interests and it wasn’t hard striking up a conversation with him, tearing his attention away from his Mp3 player. We talked about a lot of things non-stop, throughout the five-hour journey to Melaka, ranging from computer games to the simplest things such as personal habits and preferences.

We stopped at Ayer Keroh for lunch, and our group decided to have KFC for lunch. We made our way to the restaurant, and Lo and Behold! We gawked at the enormous crowd that was gathered there. And as chance would have it, Zhao Yuan was already halfway up the line, along with a blonde haired foreign male I immediately recognized as one of the fellow youth members. Zhao proposed sharing a chicken bucket as lunch. I agreed, but I was not too sure about how my stomach would take it, as I was feeling a tad queasy that day. In the end, the idea was discarded and we each got our own order. Zhao boobed up my order and got me a SMALL mashed potato instead of a LARGE one.

Anyway, we had a very uneventful lunch with the exception of Ven Xhin complaining about her chicken and offering to trade it with her bro, who promptly refused, and a brief visit to a sports store, where I bought a pair of slippers for use, which I regret doing now because it hurts when I wear them. We then journeyed back to the buses and got settled in, where we then continued our conversation of games, hardware and economic knowledge till we finally reached our destination a half hour later.

Melaka Watercity Resort. What a fancy fancy posh name, I thought. I half expected plenty of water parks and great water slides in which we could all enjoy, but well, for a hundred and forty bucks, what could you expect? We had three-star services at the resort, and it was pretty good, actually. We had an assembly in some hall when we arrived where we were introduced to the 10 camp commandments and were distributed amongst our groups. Again, with some twist of fate, I was assigned to the Sci-Fi squadron, which consisted of Li Yenn and Zhao Yuan, from WMS as well. Wow! Divine intervention or fate? I also noticed the blonde foreigner from before, as a side note.

Assembly was over quickly and we went up to our apartments to place our belongings. I chose a room next to the entire apartment’s noisiest snorer, which meant for the first night I could not get any sleep at all, drifting between dreamland and the world.

I chose to go out and play a bit of basketball in the court that was there. Sad to say, I didn’t put in the best effort that I could have, for fear of damaging my ankle again. Our team lost by 2 points to other team, out of five points. I returned to the apartment and took a cold shower before going down to dine in the main hall. The food there was good, compared to the amount we paid, but I did not enjoy it immensely. After dinner, Zhao, me and Jack went out to the lounge to play Chor Tai Ti.

We had settled down and were looking for a fourth player, when Zhao Yuan told me to invite the person seated behind me to have a game. I turned around to invite the person and, Lo and Behold! It was the foreigner from just now again! Divine intervention? Fate? Or just coincidence, I shall never find out, but I did invite him over and we had plenty of fun games.

I remember finding out that his name was Lewis, he was fourteen years old (although he did not look it, pardon pardon) and the first thing he did was comment about my accent (“You have a very English accent”) as Jack did, but I did find him a very pleasant person and so he joined us for each and every worship session that we went for, and also became the 4th person in our little party. Strangely enough, unlike most people, he was quite aware of what he wanted to do in the future. I was surprised to hear this coming from someone so young, and respected the steadfast attitude that he possessed. You see, I always admire people who have plans about their future like I do. It is not easy to find out what you want in life, and people usually decide what they want when it is too late, therefore anyone who can accurately describe their future plans for the next five years will gain my utmost respect.

Argh, it is getting a little late now so I will resume this post tomorrow about the next most interesting person I met. Goodnight, dudes!