Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Tip Of The Iceberg

I have been keeping myself active in sports over the last few months, and I spent the time participating in several races, ranging from the full marathons in the Borneo International Marathon and the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (achieved a personal best in 3:52:08), to a half marathon in the local La Salle Charity Run (finished 8th); to Challenge Iskandar Puteri (Half Ironman Distance Triathlon—2nd Runner-Up), to the Labuan International Duathlon (finished 6th).

All these races were just a few weeks apart, but my next event will be a full Ironman race in Langkawi in mid November. I don't intend to join anymore short races until after the Ironman, so that I can really focus on endurance training. Although I'm happy with my general fitness, I'm a little worried about my endurance. You see, the Ironman is altogether a different beast. It comprises a 3.8km swim, 180km bike, and finally a 42.2km run, all to be done one after another in that order, and to be completed within a cut off time of 17 hours.

Last Saturday, I finally cycled 120km, a distance that I haven't done on my bike for ages. It was such a painfully exhausting workout because it just so happened that it was a windy day. Then yesterday, I rode another 120km. I had wanted to do more than that, but a freak storm forced me to shorten my workout. It was still an exhausting workout anyway; enough to result in sore legs today. Then in a short while, at about 2pm, I'm going to run 21km in this ridiculous heat. Hopefully, if I'm still alive after the run, I will go for a short recovery swim at the Likas Sports Complex at around 5pm. I much prefer to swim at the Sutera Marina, but it's closed for repairs; it's been closed for a few weeks, and I'm not sure how much longer they'll be closed. So I have no choice but to swim in Likas where the water is just too awfully cold. Since tomorrow will be a public holiday, and if the weather permits, I will go for a short recovery ride, followed by a short run.

The reason that I'm sharing all this is because when I do reasonably well in races—and I don't do well all the time, mind you—way too many people would say that I'm gifted, that I'm naturally strong or fast, that I'm genetically made for sports, that I have some sort of unfair advantage over others. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Some people would be pleased to get such comments from others. But not me. To be very honest, I'm rather frustrated when I get these comments, because for the simple reason, it's just not true. The truth of the matter is that I had to put in a lot of time and efforts in order to do well in races. It most certainly did not happen because I'm gifted; neither was it due to genetic superiority.

People have the general tendency to judge one's abilities from his or her performance during races, but they are not aware of what happens when he or she is not racing. It's a lot like seeing just the tip of the iceberg floating in the sea. For that portion of the ice is just about 20% of the whole thing; the remaining 80% is below the surface of the water and therefore hidden from sight.

It's too easy to forget that like many other things in life, in order to get good results, one has to put in the time and efforts to achieve them. At times, the kind of sacrifice that needs to be made is beyond imagination to most people, and a lot of the fight actually happens there rather than on the race day itself.

It's very hard to appreciate the value of proper preparations for a race until one experiences it for himself. This is overwhelmingly true in whatever "race" or competition in life. The sooner one can accept this as a fact of life, and start putting in the efforts, and sacrifices, to achieve whatever it is that he aims to achieve, the better are his chances of achieving it; and achieving it well. Pay more attention on the part of the ice that is submerged in the water, because after all the part that is above the water is supported by the part below it.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Scientific Study & Its Implications On Some People

Having been postponing my Ironman training over the last couple of months, I finally embarked on an intensive programme from last week. Typically, one would require at least 4 months (6 months for most people) to train for the Ironman race. But now I only have about 2 months to train for the Ironman race in Langkawi in November. 

Frankly, I'm somewhat in panic mode right now. Luckily, I've been keeping up with shorter races, and I'm sure the training for those races can help at least a bit for the Ironman. Last Saturday I cycled 120km, and then ran 21km on Sunday. I woke up with epic sore legs on Monday morning and had to rest my body. It's at times like this that I would wonder why I registered for yet another Ironman race.

This evening I had to force myself to go for the usual 10km run, and thankfully, I met Dr Peter at the track. If he were not there, I might have been tempted to shorten my run to 5km only. We ran together in the rain. I got home, had a shower, dinner, and then just shortly ago, received a message from my friend, Teo Chen Lung, through Whatsapp. He sent me a newspaper cutting of a study, which I have since searched online. Here is that study.

The study, as you can see from that article, found that "sex later in life puts men at a higher risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems like strokes and heart failure, but actually lowers the risks for hypertension for women."

According to Teo, he's sharing the article with me in order to warn me to reduce sex. Didn't know that he's so concerned about my life, but that goes to show how blessed I am for having such a friend in him. I'm not sure what's giving him the impression that I'm overly active in sex though, but truth be told, I'm not even sure what's the use of this study. I'm thinking, maybe a lot of men would say something like, "To hell with heart attacks—it's worth it bah!... if I die, die lah!"

While I now have a scientific explanation for my mother-in-law's hypertension, I must say that I'm not fully convinced with this sort of study. I mean the kind of sports that I indulge in is much more demanding on my heart than sex, and I'm inclined to believe that if I'm gonna die because of exertion, I will die in one of my races, rather than while I'm pretending to try for a second child.

Having said that, however, I've been seriously considering toning down my indulgence in sports this recently, for I feel that my body is finding it increasingly harder to cope. Over the recent months, I feel like it's taking longer and longer for my body to recover after a long training session, or after a gruesome race. Perhaps that is the cue for me to take a rest from the Ironman after November. Maybe I will just limit my triathlons up to the Half Ironman distance only beginning from next year. That's what I said to Dr Peter during the run just now. This is not a promise to myself, of course, because I do realise that this kind of promise is extremely difficult to keep!

Oh well, it's impossible for me to know when I'm gonna die—maybe tomorrow, maybe next year, maybe in 20 years from now. But one thing is for sure; I plan to live life doing the things I enjoy doing, until my body can no longer do it. If I die while doing what I enjoy doing, then so be it—that's just too bad!


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Labuan Duathlon Challenge 2016

I'm supposed to be training hard for Ironman Malaysia in Langkawi in November. Instead, I've had quite a busy racing calendar over the last couple of months. I've actually registered for the  Bukit Merah half Ironman distance triathlon, but I decided to withdraw from the race and do the Challenge Iskandar Puteri instead.

I thought the Iskandar Puteri event would be the last one before I embark on serious training for Langkawi. But a friend, Teo Chen Lung, talked me into registering for the Labuan Duathlon Challenge 2016 about 2 months ago. Regular visitors of this blog would already know about Teo; I have mentioned his name several times in numerous articles in this blog. For example, here and here. Well, this is another post in which I'm sharing an adventure with him!

The Labuan Duathlon Challenge 2016 was for a distance of 5km run, 32km bike, and finally 5km run again. I was reluctant to join at first, because I'm not a big fan of fast and short races. I'm not one of those athletes who're bestowed with plenty of fast-twitch muscles in the body, and I therefore don't have enough speed in my legs. That's why I'd shy away from the many local 10km running events here in KK.

However, if you knew my friend Teo, you'd know how difficult it is to say "NO" to him. That fellow just never let up, and he can go on and on about the subject until you say "YES"! It's a wonder that he didn't choose the law as his profession. I sometimes fancy that he'd make a good lawyer. Well, at the very least he'd make a good loyar buruk!

So anyway, to cut the chase, I found myself in the ferry with Teo, departing Jesselton Point in KK at 8:00am last Saturday, heading for Labuan. I brought my bike along, which was arranged on the deck with the rest of the participants' bikes from KK. The journey to Labuan took about three-and-a-half hours. Don't pay any attention to the 3 hours that they published in the website—that's total rubbish.

Now in order to get the full story of this adventure, you simply must know the story of the 2 months prior to the race. As soon as I registered for the race, Teo started bombarding me with his analysis—almost on a daily basis—of past years' results of the race. He made thorough analysis of the names of past winners, their respective finishing times, as well as his predictions of the possible winners for this year's race. At the end of it all, he tried to gauge his own chances of sneaking into the top 10 finishers of his category. Of course while he was at it, he took the liberty to analyse my category too, including searching high and low through the net for photos of past winners, times etc. He has a curious obsession for that sort of thing, you know. He then came up with strategies on how we're gonna race in order to enhance our chances to be in the top 10 finishers in our respective categories. In fact, he made the whole thing look like a complex and sophisticated project akin to one that NASA would formulate for a human space flight to Mars!

I sometimes find myself in enormous awe when seeing tons of messages from Teo through Whatsapp, mainly on his detailed analysis on the event. The fellow just never fail to amuse me. Whether intentionally or not, he is a good source of daily entertainment, really!

Having made all those daunting analysis, he came up with a PLAN, one that would bring us both glory in Labuan. According to this bombastic plan of  his, we should start the race with a 5-minute-per-km pace during the first leg, which was the 5km run. Then, we should start the bike leg together, and we would take turns to draft each other so that we can save energy. However, if we could find other fast cyclists to draft, then both of us should just tag along for a "free ride". Sounds like a great plan, doesn't it? I won't dwell too much on Plan B, Plan C and Plan D for the sake of sparing my readers from boredom, but rest assured that Teo had plenty of back-up plans too; he always does!

Now Teo typically would challenge me whenever we join the same race, but in the case of the Labuan Duathlon, he decided that we should work together instead. You see, we were in different categories of the race, and he reckoned that we both had a chance to win cash prizes. That's because there were up to 10 cash prizes for the top 10 finishers in each category.

So anyway, we started the race together and we soon realised that we were actually running at around 4:30 mins per km, a pace that's much faster than planned. We both eventually slowed down a bit after about 1km, although he slowed down a bit more than me. Soon, he was already lagging behind, and I began to worry about our little plan to help each other in the bike leg of the race.

When I reached Transition 1 (T1), Teo was no longer in sight. I hesitated for a moment, but seeing other competitors embarking on their bike leg, I reluctantly started pedaling too. I was sure that Teo would be catching up soon with his mighty Cervelo P5.

So I waited...and waited; and still no Teo in sight. I found myself in an unenviable situation of being too slow for the fast cyclists, and too fast for the slow cyclists. I had to work hard on my own for about 20 minutes until a cyclist from Team GP Riders pull along side. He was riding perhaps close to 40kph, and I took the opportunity to draft. It was such a relief, but my legs were already a bit tired from the earlier section of the bike leg. Later, we had to climb hills and then undulating terrains before finally arriving at Transition 2. Teo was still nowhere to be seen. I wondered what was he up to.

After racking up my bike, I started running. As usual, it was tough to suddenly switch to my running muscles again. But I was also feeling tired from the tough ride. I was down to about 5:20 mins per km, but I was gradually getting slower and slower. When we reached the hill, I started walking a bit, and that was when several people overtook me again. I tried to keep up, but I soon gave up as I knew that I couldn't hold the pace. There was nothing left in my legs.

Photo credit: Jack Ah Beh

After making the turning point and coming back to the finish line, I saw Teo struggling uphill on the other said of the road. He was perhaps close to 10 minutes behind me by then. If you have read previous mentions of Teo—for example here—he has this awesome skill in conjuring up the so-called killer face during his races.; and the Labuan Duathlon was no exception. Check out this killer face photo below.

Photo credit: Jack Ah Beh

Well, in the end, I finished 6th in my category in about 1 hour 53 minutes, but sad to say Teo was nowhere near the top 10 finishers of his category.

Photo credit: Vachel Voon

I think there is still a lot of room for improvements in the Labuan Duathlon Challenge. For example, they could use bigger pipes to construct the bike racks, so as to be structurally sound to support the weight of the bikes. Even the layout of the transition area was all wrong and needed a thorough overhaul for future events. But there is little doubts that the cash prizes on offer are among the best in Malaysia. So I think it's fair to expect many of our friends from the West would consider joining this race next year.

And as for Teo, I guess this means back to the drawing board to plan again for next year. I can foresee a bigger adventure in 2017, which in turn means even more analysis and racing strategies from him...


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Challenge Iskandar Puteri 2016

I had quite an adventure, racing the Challenge Iskandar Puteri in Johor Bahru last Saturday (13 August 2016). It's a half Ironman distance triathlon comprising 1.9km swim, 90km bike, and 21km run.

In the months, weeks and days leading up to the race, I experienced a bit of anxiety, not only because I felt that I didn't train sufficiently for the race, but also because the organiser seemed to be in a mess. I have lost count of how many times the race routes were changed, but of course in the end what mattered most was that the event went ahead as planned.

It was the first time I joined a race organised under the Challenge brand, and because it's a world-known brand name, I had high expectation of the event. Let's just say that the event fell short of its reputation, as well as my expectation by a long shot. I'm not suggesting that it was a lousy event; just that I thought it could have been better. But this post is not about criticizing the organiser. After all, under the circumstances, I'd say the organiser did reasonably well.

Being in the 50 - 54 category, I was among the last few participants to start the race that morning. I can still remember grumbling to myself when I did the Putrajaya 70.3 a few months ago when I had to struggle in the crowded swim. Well, the swim leg last Saturday was unusually quiet, and I realised then that that wasn't such a good thing too. Many of my loyal readers would know that I'm not a good swimmer. In fact, I've shared about my swimming ability in this blog, here. I haven't improved very much since then, and having to regularly sight in the open water is something that doesn't come naturally to me. Shortly before the race started, I made new friends with Henry Wong. This wasn't the first time I met him though; I think we met in Miri a few years ago, but then we became friends on facebook, and we finally met in person that morning. Dr Pui San was there and took this photo (Thanks, doc). It's always fun to make new friends.


I found myself swimming alone for the most part, but I'm fairly amused that I was able to catch up with some of the earlier participants. It must have been around 1.5km into the swim when I caught up with Wendy Tan, the sexy creature that you could just spend the whole day drooling and admiring, much the same way you could enjoy watching Kate Beckinsale over and over again in the Underworld series with the sound muted. Her long hair...and those wicked legs... oh! don't let me start on those! I've exchanged messages and comments through facebook with her—I mean Wendy, not Kate Beckinsale—but had never really spoken to her in person. Anyway, as I came up beside her, I had a glimpse of her graceful strokes, and of course my eyes were drawn to her legs for a bit; you can't fight instinct, if you know what I mean? I think I caught her turning her head to look at me for a split second, and that absolutely resulted in an adrenaline rush through my veins. Accordingly, I felt a little stronger and was able to swim just a tad faster.

A few minutes later I arrived at the end of the swim leg, panting as I climbed up the ladder. Damn! I really need to improve my swim! From that point, I had to run approximately 300m up the ramp through the shower, passing a drink station all the way up to my bike. I thought I'd take no more than 2 minutes for the transition, but it's not as smooth sailing as how it seems when seeing the pro athletes do it on telly. In the end, I spent over 6 minutes at T1. Finally I took my bike off the rack and started pushing it towards the mount line, and that in itself was quite a challenge.

There were several other participants at the start of the bike leg, and we were essentially quite close together. I'm not an experienced triathlete, and I wasn't sure if the fact that we were that close together would constitute a breach of the 12m non-drafting rule. Anyway, a short distance later, we began to disperse, and the gaps between us began to build up. In my mind, I thought that the 12m-gap rule was rather overdoing it by the organiser. I mean, I'm not even sure if there is any benefit at all in tailing a front rider at 6m gap, let alone 12m. But what do I know?

Once we hit the main road, I began to work on the pedal. There was this guy in front, perhaps he was riding at around 35kph, and I reckoned I'd just follow him from behind, making sure that I had that 12m gap between us. There were several U-turns in the bike loop, and we had to do 3 loops altogether. But it's strange that I saw no timing mat anywhere throughout the bike route; and neither was there any elastic bands handed out at any of the turning points. Sometime during the bike leg, suddenly there was a freak heavy downpour. But it was just for a mere 2-3 minutes. We also had some nasty headwinds at some sectors. There were ups and downs, but they were generally not very steep. By the end of the second loop, my legs were already a little tired. That's the outcome of insufficient bike training, so I'm blaming nobody but myself! And speaking of legs, did I mention Wendy's legs? Oh! never mind!

Photo credit: Cycling Malaysia Magazine

By the time I returned to the transition, I had been cycling for almost 3 hours. When I got off my bike at the dismount line, my legs felt like jelly. That's not supposed to happen, but, you know, getting old sucks sometimes. I can still remember saying to myself that I'd stop all this nonsense when I'm 50. Yet now, at 51, I'm still torturing myself on a regular basis!

When I reached transition for the second time, there was a bunch of spectators near my bike, making small talks with me. They asked me how far was the bike ride; and I replied that it was about 90km. They responded with some sort of exclamation noises. And I tried my best to look like the 90km ride was no big deal, even though I felt so exhausted already! As I was taking a sip of my Carbopro concoction, one of the guys asked me if I was topping up petrol? I replied in the negative, explaining that I'm a diesel engine. That set them off in a fit of laughter. I think they said something about being in awe of my fighting spirit, and of course the customary "You can do it!", followed by "Run!....Go, Go, Go!". I merely responded that I'll take it slow and steady. Putting on my cap, I told them over my shoulder, that the tortoise beat the hare. And that set them off in a fit of laughter again. Damn! I should charge them for entertainment fee!

So off I went on a slow jog, conscious of the admiration of the spectators. But then, as soon as I made the corner at the end of the carpeted path up a small climb through the arch, I started to walk! I could tell that it was gonna be a long and torturous 21km for me.

A little further down the road, I saw a white man limping. He was obviously injured. As I was overtaking him, I said, "And this is supposed to be fun!"

The sun was up above my head, and although the organiser did keep the promise of tree-lined route for the run, they have forgotten to say that those were very young trees. Oh boy, it was an extremely hot day. I felt like vomitting, and the only logical thing to do was to quit. This was just not worth dying for! But then again, when in a race, sometimes we tend to do things illogically. So I continued torturing myself, jogging and walking alternately while gradually getting roasted in the hot sun. It did not help at all that the water stations were too far apart. It was perhaps about 2 hours 40 minutes later when I was finally approaching the finish line; and as the excitement was building up, so were the cramps that were developing in both my calves. I crossed the finish line in the official time of 6 hours 32 minutes and 22 secs. All the muscles in my body were screaming.

Photo credit: Jack Ah Beh

Anslem and Dr Shah had finished a few minutes ahead of me. After getting my finisher medal, I found a plastic chair that was positioned immediately in front of the finish arch. I sat there rehydrating myself as I watched other participants arrive one by one. 

Not very long later, I saw from afar Wendy Tan approaching the finish line. I don't know if it was hallucination arising from severe exhaustion, but I think I was hearing the song "Beautiful Girl" in my head, and seeing her running in slow-mo. Then the strangest thing happened. After she had crossed the finish line, she stood there for a minute, as if trying to savour the moment. And then suddenly she smiled at me and said "Hi!". She walked over and extended her hand. I was unfortunately too exhausted to stand, although still managed to muster enough energy to extend my hand to shake hers. After that, I was toying with the idea of wrapping my hand in an air-tight plastic bag and refrain from washing my hand for at least a week. But luckily I managed to shake myself out of that ridiculous idea! Oh! did I mention about her legs? Oh! never mind!

Then the funniest thing happened that evening. At the prize-giving presentation, I was announced as the 2nd runner up in my category. Not sure how that happened, but I'm obviously not complaining! I received a huge medal which caused a bit of a stir at the airport, when the officer saw through the scanner machine what appeared like hand-cuffs! I also received an impressive trophy and a 3-month free membership in a gym in Johor, but for which I have to pay RM49!

I have to admit that I'm thrilled for the trophy, but actually I was rather disappointed with how the event was organised. But keeping an open mind, I will come back for this event again next year if I'm fit enough to do so. And oh boy... those legs...


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Heaven, Hell & Happiness

People who know me would know that I don't believe in religions. I'm unsure about God since I have no scientific evidence of his existence, but I'm willing to keep an open mind. However, I'm not saying that I insist on scientific evidence for everything. It's just that I tell myself if God really does exist, then he is very different from that described in many religions. The God of the religions claims that He loves us all. But His love is conditional—that we must love Him first; that we must accept Him in order to be loved by Him. That, to me, is not true love. But that's my own definition of love, and I acknowledge that it may be different from the definition of others.

True love, to me, is like how I love my daughter. Even if she disobeys me, I will still love her, although admittedly I may be angry. My love for my daughter shall not be shaken just because she goes against my wishes. That is the true meaning of free will. Or at least that's how I perceive "free will".

Beyond that, I don't believe in heaven and hell. If indeed there is heaven or hell in the afterlife, then I will leave it entirely up to God where He thinks I belong. But for the moment, while there is still life in me, I'm seeing heaven and hell around me now.

I've seen way too many people with a lot of  money and properties, but they're very unhappy. In fact, they're miserable, and life is hell for them! They're constantly struggling and living a life filled with stress.

On the other hand, I've also seen people with very little money and properties, yet they're very happy. They're unable to live a life of luxury, and in many cases they're unable to get many of the things they'd like to have. They're happy all the same.

Of course there're also many rich people who're happy; and poor people who're unhappy. So actually, there seems to be no clear cut pattern that would equate richness to unhappiness; or poverty to happiness; both rich and poor people may be happy or unhappy.

In the end, I'm forced to the conclusion that happiness and unhappiness, and heaven and hell, all depends on what we make of life. If we choose to be happy, then we shall get happiness; if we choose to make the world around us a heaven, then we shall see the world as a heaven!

This reminds me of a question a friend asked me once. He observed that I've been married for over 20 years, and he was wondering how did I keep it going for that long? I told him that my marriage hasn't always been like what it is today. As a matter of fact, about 4 years into my marriage, things were going through some rough patches. So rough to the extent that they're hanging by a thread, and divorce was a real possibility.

Over the years, I've gone through a gradual change. You see, sometimes it's not a matter of being in heaven or hell; rather, it's what you make of your surrounding, of your life. In the past, I used to fight with my wife because I was convinced that I was in the right. But after a long time, I realised that what's more important to me was to be happy. I therefore chose to be happy. But to be happy doesn't necessarily mean to be proven right. For in the end, there is little point to be victorious in proving myself right, but in the process of achieving that, I lose my happiness. Sometimes in life, you can't get it both ways.

I try my best to live life to the fullest. I'd like to use my mind to achieve whatever the mind can do; I'd like to use my body to achieve its full potential. I may not be rich when compared to so many people, but I'm still happy. I count my blessings for whatever little possessions that I have; and for what I don't have, I keep trying to get them. The challenge of trying to get them is in itself an exciting journey and a rewarding experience. 

I choose to be in heaven, even though it's not the heaven of the religions.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Living The Dreams Of Someone Else's

I arrived home this afternoon to find Mia and JJ having a conversation in the bedroom. Well, it wasn't really a conversation—JJ was crying quietly, and Mia was in the midst of lecturing her. Apparently, JJ was not keen to continue taking swimming lessons. She doesn't mind to swim every now and then; just not the swimming lessons. Mia was adamant about the swimming lessons, and was explaining at length why JJ should continue.

I sat there quietly for a while and listened to Mia's justifications on why JJ should continue taking swimming lessons. Some of the reasons were good ones; some not so good. But I remained silent until she's finished.

This reminds me of the time when I was a teenager, a few years after I escaped from the living hell, and was living with my father. My father was—and still is—quite a man. He is blessed with the thought that he is a very clever person, and he can do no wrong. Yet most of the things he does in life would end up in failures. I could easily write a book about his failures, but for this post I just want to talk about his parenting style.

Dad simply hated seeing his sons doing the things that he didn't enjoy doing. When I went jogging, he was fast to say that that's a stupid activity. He preferred his sons to play with catapults (lastik), play with rubber seeds, or go fishing for karuk or jalak in the swamps. In fact, he expected his sons to be exactly the carbon copies of him. It never crossed his mind—and he doesn't get it even up to now—that not everybody likes or enjoys the things that he enjoys.

Now there are some things that I'd impose upon JJ, whether she likes it or not, such as going to school and maintaining decent grades, because I know that that will be very important to her in the later stages of her life. So there is nothing to discuss about as far as education is concerned. The only thing that will be discussed is when it's time for her to choose a career, what field of expertise to go into.

As a kid, many of us might have wanted something so much, but unable to get it; maybe a toy or to learn a skill like playing the piano. There is the tendency to impose upon our children whatever opportunities that we've missed. It's very easy to forget that our children may not like the things that we liked as a kid.

Swimming is an important skill, mainly on grounds of survival. So I imposed upon JJ to learn it. But beyond that, I'm not expecting her to be an elite swimmer, unless of course if that's what she wants to achieve. Whatever she wants to achieve, if I can afford to support her, then by all means.

I have to frequently remind Mia not to force JJ to live her dreams, unless if those are also JJ's own dreams. The kid will be turning 14 soon, and she has her own dreams to pursue, not ours. We need to learn to respect the kid as a person, by letting her grow up, and with very little of her life plans dictated by us. In other words, I'm trying to correct the mistake that my dad made all those years ago.

As a general policy, I very rarely overrule Mia's decision on what JJ should or should not be doing. For I don't want JJ to think that whenever her mommy says NO, she can come running to me in the hope of getting a YES. But sometimes there are exceptions to the general rule. And this case about the swimming lessons is one of them.

I sat there listening carefully to the lawyer explaining to JJ why she MUST continue taking swimming lessons. After the lawyer had finished with her arguments, JJ, still sobbing, said, "Mom, I don't want to continue with the swimming lessons." 

I asked JJ why. She gave me her reasons, and I said, "OK, you don't have to continue with the swimming lessons. It's up to you."


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Backyard Monster

My house is located in a well developed neighbourhood within close proximity to the Likas Sports Complex. There are many, many housing estates in the area; and many types of development ranging from commercial estates to schools and churches etc. As a matter of fact if one were to view the area with the Google Earth, there are very few empty pockets of undeveloped lands.

Well, it just so happen that there is a small patch of undeveloped land at the back of my house. It's unlikely that it will be developed anytime soon, if ever, since it's made of an elongated land and probably not viable for development. So this vacant site is now overgrown with wild trees and thick undergrowth. At times, I can see huge monitor lizard roaming just outside the fence from my kitchen window. I have of course told a story about monitor lizard before here

There are many birds too. There are mango trees and a coconut tree, and whenever it's fruiting season, the squirrels would come in huge numbers. In the still of the night, one can hear the sounds of insects; and first thing in the morning, the birds would be chirping nonstop.

I bet there are many other creatures there among the trees, and from time to time, one can hear numerous weird sounds. It's hard to tell which animal is making which sound, but there is one specific sound that is spooking my maid. I suspect it may be the sound of frogs, but I can't be sure—it's hard to describe it, but perhaps it's fair to say that it sounds a lot like the sound one makes when feeling very satisfied with a big delicious meal. It goes something like, MMMMM!

That particular sound has been the subject of discussion with my maid for some weeks now. Of course we've been hearing that sound since a long time ago, but she only brought it up recently. From the way she talks to me, it seems like she's suggesting that there's a monster in our backyard. And me being me, I just can't resist spooking her! I said something like, "Maybe there is a monster there among the trees, just waiting to jump out if it sees you  in the backyard alone!"

I think she's still unsure whether I was serious or just joking. It happens that our washing machine is placed just outside our kitchen window, and of course each morning she'd have to go out there to deal with the laundry. But she's afraid of the "MMMMM" creature, so she would ask my mother-in-law to sit there to watch her while she does the laundry thing.

Now of course some of you would remember that my mother-in-law can hardly walk. She is forgetful; she sometimes wears her skirt nicely tucked into her panties when she dresses up for church. I'm just waiting for the day when she can't even remember her own name. That will be the cue for us to get professional help. I'm not sure what my maid expects my mother-in-law to do when and if the monster does emerge from the woods to grab her. Maybe she's expecting the old woman to do some Karate Kid stuff—you know—wax on, wax off? That is assuming that she won't faint before pulling off the stunt lah.

And then my maid has an even better idea. She told me that instead of using the kitchen door, she'd go through the front door and make her way to the backyard, so that when the monster decides to reveal itself, she can then run back to the front door. I was, like, "How is that gonna increase your chances of escaping the monster when compared to escaping through the kitchen door?"

Hmm...perhaps it's finally time for me to make a visit to Toys 'R Us to find a scary costume. I can then hide just outside the backyard fence and wait for the right moment to strike when it's time for the laundry chores. I guess Halloween will be much earlier this year; and it will be a lot of fun! The only thing that's stopping me is that my maid has hypertension; I suppose it won't be very funny if she suddenly drops dead. Oh well, sometimes my creativity scares me...