Celebrating Chinese New Year
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - January 29, 2005 Posted: 12:30:56 PM EDT

What is Chinese New Year celebration to you?

What was it like to celebrate Chinese New Year. 'How is that different now?', someone asked.

A lot.

I should know. I am an expert in this topic. Why? Because I loved Chinese New Years. And I've celebrated for more than 35 of them. Chinese New Year was the highlight of my life, every year. Back then Chinese New Year was all about meticulous preparations and delicious anticipation.

Here's my story. To begin, here's the backdrop.

typical small town

I grew up in a small town called Kulai in the 70s. It was a predominantly farming and rubber small-holdings town. Kulai, the town is 20 miles north of Johor Bahru. I had neighbours who were mostly Chinese (Hakka, Hokkien, Cantonese & Hainanese). We spoke Hakka in the 70s even though I am a Hainanese. The Singapore Broadcast Corporation made us all Mandarin speaking from the 80s onwards but the 'lingua-franca' of Kulai in the 70s was Hakka. I spoke Hakka to my friends and my friends' parents and their grandparents.

About 200 meters from home was 'Kampung Melayu' and further along the railway and across the river where the estates were, lived my Indian friends. As a kid, I went to a 'no-longer English-medium missionary school' but most of the kids of my neighborhood went to the Chinese primary school.

That was 1971.

2 years after 1969.

People were not rich then. But they lived and celebrated their festivals, each and everyone of them. The festivals were important to them as markers of time when life was tough and there wasn't much to look forward to.

You lived, you toiled, you die. In between you celebrate a little.

Every year, for us, there was Ching Ming (Ancestors' Grave Cleaning) in April, Chung Chet in May (Chu Yuan- Dumplings Festival), Kui Chet (Festival of the Hungry Ghosts) around August, Chung Chiu Chet, the Mid-Autumn OR Moon-cake Festival in September. Then it is Koh Tung, the Winter Solstice in December.

When the Winter Solstice was celebrated, with a steamed chicken on the altar (chinese lettuce between its beak) and the sweetish fragrance of rice wine poured over burnt paper offerings, and 'thong yen' or glutinous rice balls eaten at night in sweetened ginger soup with pandan fragrance, you know Chinese New Year is just around the corner.

And Chinese New Year was one event my town celebrate with riotous joy. The sounds, the smells and the colors. The expectant days of fun seemed to come into vivid contrast in my mind. I remember the rituals in preparing for the coming of Chinese New Year was wondrously elaborate.

Before all that, to mark the coming of the New Year, the north-easterly wind must first arrive at our doorsteps, blowing from across the South China Sea. You will hear the wind when it comes, calling out sometimes like the cry of a home-sick child on the Casuarina trees, along the Chinese school grounds. 

And by then, the sky would have brightened from the rainy monsoon nights into sunny hot afternoons, with playful wind that would lift and flap Nyee Sim's (2nd Auntie) pink bedsheets hung out to dry. This is the time of the year to send red and yellow kites into the blue sky specked with white fluffy clouds, kites hand-made with splices of bamboo pulled out from under vegetable baskets discarded at the pasar.

Mom told me the same wind dry the waxed duck and sausages across the South China Sea.

And you will always hear the rustling of the Angsana trees that grow neatly in the 'padang' in front of my house, (they eat colorful kites for lunch, those...) where we play 'police and thieves'.

In the evening, the attap of my neighbour's house will shed pieces of nipah-leaves to the sudden gushes of wind that would curl into the dusty corner against hollowing-out plank walls, where you can see green wasps lead 'obedient cockroaches' into crevices and holes in the walls. And at night, the zinc roofs of my plank-walled home will rattle and creak to the odd interludes of sweeping sounds atop the roof. It was like the branches of the nangka tree were conspiring with me in my restless, joyful anticipation.

And when all of that have come together, the Chinese New year songs will start to play. Over radios and the record players from almost every other house. Over and over and over again.

Loud and noisy songs but oh so joyful a feeling they stirred in my heart! We kids would holler the songs out rascally loud and in unison as we walk along the kaki-lima;

'Tung tung tung chiang, tung tung tung chiang, Gong xi ya gong xi, fa ya fa ta chai, hau yun dao dou, huai yun ya jiu li kai...'

2 weeks before all these begin to happen, Mom would have started rearing chickens. Why was this important, you ask? Because you need a lot of chickens to get through all the 15 days of the Chinese New Year.

OK, here's the 'chicken math' so you understand:
---------------------------------------------------
Nen Sam Sit (Eve) : 2 Chickens
Chor It (1st Day of CNY)  : 2 Chickens
Chor Nyee (2nd Day of CNY) 1 chicken
Chor Luk (6th Day of CNY) : 1 chicken
Chor Kiu (9th Day of CNY) : 1 chicken
Chor Sit Ng (15th Day of CNY) : 1 chicken

I might have missed out some details. But as you can see, Mom will need at least 7 chickens to get through the festival. But wait, that's not correct math in a small town like ours. You need extra chickens to give to your relatives and neighbours and to reciprocate when others give you their chickens or ducks.  No, you can't switch chickens and pass them off as gifts of your own. You give away you self-bred chickens only. I know we recycle our birthday gifts, baby full moon hampers nowadays, but in those days, people know their chickens!

Mom will rear about 15 chickens, from little yellow chicks bought at the pasar. She needed only 10 adult chickens. Why rear 15 when she needed only 10? Ah, because chickens can die, my friend... ;-)

Around the same time while the chickens are growing and the noisy CNY songs are being sung, Mom will sun-dry her fish & prawn keropoks in bamboo trays in the afternoons. At least 7 days under the hot and windy January/February sky. The drier the keropoks, the better it is for frying. And on a glorious day, after I get home from school, mom would toss them into hot oil and I would watch the 'magical awakening' of the speckled 'biscuits' into their full glory with joy in my heart and freshly fried keropok in my mouth. 

With keropoks in hand, we will sweep the eaves with extended lidi brooms, throw away old things, tidy up the house and paint the plank walls. The smell of fresh paint wass the smell that marked the nearing for the celebration of those loud, red days.

About 1 week to the Nien Sam Seet, Ah-Por will begin making Nien-gao (kueh bakul). Seeing Ah-Por, in her silvery sam-foo and loose black pants, grinding soaked pulut on her pestle into milky solution and then steaming them in cut Milo & Nestum cans layered with film was a lot of fun. Eating hot, freshy baked, sticky nien-gao from chopsticks like a lollipop was the very essence of the taste of 'anticipation'.

Then Mom will buy 2 crates of F&N Orange & Sarsi, big bottles that are no longer found, for the guests who will come visiting. Ah Ngew, the boy from the sundry shop will bring them strapped behind his big metal bicycle and Mom would ask him to place them under the bed in her dark bedroom. (Why, you know why, they won't survive in open air)

Yes, finally the prerequisite shopping for shirts, pants and shoes at the Pasar Malam or the neighborhood shops. Extra big size so that it will fit  for the next 3 years.

Lion Dance for Chinese New Year

Once all these were set in place, Chinese New Year was ready to be celebrated.

And celebrate we will, with thunderous drums and dancing lions, firecrackers firing in rapid successions from bamboo poles, carpeting the roads and kaki-lima in red. And feasting...

We would feast, morning noon and night. And visit relatives and friends, bearing live chickens as gifts, tied in brown papers, or just a plastic bag of mandarin oranges. 

As you can see, a lot has changed.

We don't prepare so much anymore.

Yes, Chinese New Year used to be very different then…

'Kor nen lor....ah chiau chai, yu tai it nen, chin heh fai lor, yit nen kor yit nen' ***


 

***It's another year, little kid, you are 1 year older, so fast, year after year...' in Hakka.

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Everything is created twice.
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - January 29, 2005 Posted: 11:20:18 AM EDT

Everything is created twice, first in the mind, then in the space we call reality. A building is first created in the mind of the architect before it rises into the air. A car is modeled in the mind of its master designer first before it cruises down the highway.

You are created twice too.

You've made yourself you. Nobody can force you to become who you are today, unless you have permitted your mind to believe what they say of you. Your are your vision, your beliefs, your values, your habits, your actions. You don't have a vision? O right, that's your vision.

If you want to go far, be conscious of who you are making yourself to be, in your own head. Change your mind. Model a different set of behaviors. Start designing your new self. Map your Self out, write down those specs. Remind yourself every morning.

Act differently. Think differently.

BE, don't blame.

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Tapestry of the Heart & The Launch of Ellie Zhou Performing Arts (EZPA)
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - January 27, 2005 Posted: 5:13:22 PM EDT

Some weeks ago, there was an article in The Star about Ellie Lai and her husband Zhou Gui Xin. Ellie Zhou Ballet Studio will be holding a show to raise awareness of their EZPA.

The article was very generous with its praises for Ellie Lai. Ellie, a Malaysian who did well in the international ballet scene, had returned home with hubby Zhou, to set up a ballet school.  Ellie went to the 'Harvard of Ballet', the paper said. Ellie will bring light into our lives with her dances. The paper didn't say that, but I caught the slant in their words. Before this, all was bad. FAB is bad. Aurora is bad. Jean Gan is bad. Now, Ellie Lai is back...and we are going to celebrate the rise of the glorious culture of professional ballet right here, in Petaling Jaya.

I was keen to see her dance. I was also looking forward to see some great folk Chinese dances choreographed by Zhou.

Li-ann, my 8 years old daughter who is taking up ballet and modern dance was practically begging us to go for performance. So we went on Sunday 23rd Jan, to the Securities Commision, Sri Hartamas.  The event was held in the auditorium.

It was a crowd of perhaps 300, 98% middle-class Chinese. A few expats. No Malays. No Indians.

Why?

I bought 3 tickets for RM105 and bought the Program Booklet for RM5.00.

Puan Sri Ena Ling is their patron. I also saw a whole list of Datins, Datin Sris, etc, on the acknowledgement page. I figured. Now it made sense.  

Then the show started.

The first item, I forgot the name, was OK.

And I was thinking, 'Alright...this is going to get better and better! I am going to just sit back and enjoy myself. Hit me! I am ready for a night of exquisite dances.'

But then the show turned from a dance performance into a tragi-comedy.

All the folk dances (about 8, I think) were performed by old folks except the first one. That's right, I think it should've been called 'An evening of Chinese Folk Dances performed by Zesty Old Folks'.

To be fair to them, the old ladies all danced with much gusto. The choreography, from what I can see, was very good.

But watching old ladies dancing wasn't what I was expecting. I would be very happy for my mom if she picked up those steps from an instructor in a badminton court of some schools on weekends. And I was very happy for those old folks on stage. They really enjoyed their workout.

But this was to be the center of excellence for Performing Arts. This event was supposed to show how they will 'raise the bar' for the Malaysian dance scene.

Professional dancers were supposed to be up on stage.

We felt misled.

Wait.

I felt misled.

You see, it's a little odd but the crowd that night was most appreciative. There were loud thunderous claps and cheers after each dance item. Our folksy ladies were given the honor of being sent off the stage with ear-splitting wolf-whistles.

Did someone shout 'Encore'!??

Picture this.

8 old ladies (in 45-65 range) in tight fitting red samfoos, shaking their heads with red ribbons and hopping around to chirpy Chinese folk music, to '...welcome the return of Spring'.

Music speeds up. They swayed their heads and hopped faster.

Music chirped to a crescendo. They raced around with fearsome speed. Smiles flashing.

Music stopped.

They froze, all in cutsie poses. Head sideways, wide smiles, perfect dentures showing. Heart-felt excitement were written on all their faces. Visible heaving shimmered their silk sam-foos.

Loud wolf whistles from the crowd.

Louder cheerings.

Thunderous claps.

Loud cheering and wolf-whistling from backstage. (!!?)

...

Did I walk into unreality?

Was this a set up?

Those thoughts played in my head all through the show.

Raising the bar? Professional Dancers? Center of Excellence for Performing Arts? 

Between the words and the dances, somethings didn't quite add up. Ellie didn't dance. Zhou came on for less than 2 minutes. He looked overweight...

'Papa, why so many old 'poh-poh' dancing one?'

...

'Li-ann, good question, go ask Ellie Zhou...'

 

 

Some Notes:

5 Comment(s)

Will your friends bleed for you?
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - January 26, 2005 Posted: 2:12:34 PM EDT

I got an SMS from my good friend Jansen, yesterday. 

Jansen said he can't get my work done as promised (I asked him to sort out my invoicing system by month-end). He's been warded into the ICU ward of Gleneagles, Jalan Ampang.

What the...?

Jansen was down with dengue. Apparently his platelets count dived from a normal of 300K to only 17K. In short, his life is in danger.

I called his wife Lynette to asked for the details. Jansen needed platelets transfusion. He's being given lots but his system was not regenerating.

Not so good.

The last time I called him about 2 weeks ago, he was 'recovering' from his Dengue fever after being discharged from the hospital. But last Sunday, a regular blood-test indicated that his platelets count was way below normal. His doctor referred him for admission. 

I drove to see him. He looked confused and tired. Perhaps he was scared.

I would be scared too.

I avoided saying the wrong things as much as I can. You see, he's one of those who's got an irreverent sense of humor. Standing in front of him, with tubes and lines all over his body, it suddenly felt wrong to be funny. And it was difficult. I was wondering how he managed to SMS me with all those IV lines running into his hands and oxygen tubes taped unto his nostrils.

Yep. Standing on the edge of this life, with the door to the next half opened, was not funny.

But one thing got me thinking. And it was touching, really.

I found out he's got a lot of people rooting for him.

Yes, my friend Jansen, he has a lot of friends. Real ones. These friends, prickly hairs, broken English, over-weight and all,  drove all the way, beating the Jalan Ampang traffic to get to the hospital to donate platelets to him.

His wife told me he needed B+ blood and I was one. So I went quickly.

After spending 5 minutes with him, I went down to fill up 2 forms in a hotel-like waiting room. By the time I was donating my 500cc of juice, there were about 8 people in the small room, all eager to give their life source to him.

Think about it, if you are sick and in need of blood, how many friends will be there for you? With a SMS from his wife, he's got about 8 keen donors, all there within an hour. One guy, he looked around 45-50, even made a big fuss about donating his platelets even though he'd just donated less than 3 months ago. Apparently Gleneagles didn't have the machine to extract platelets only. They needed a full blood donation and that disqualified him.

And he was upset.

I am not sure I will get that many friends over, ready to bleed for me. Well, I don't have that many friends. Lucky guy, my friend, Jansen. That says a lot about the person he is, I believe.

Good guy.

I told him to get out of ICU and get my job done by next week. :-) He looked eager in a dazed sort of way.

He better not quit on this one.  

Not when he's got 2 and a 1/2 kids. 

I called his wife an hour ago and his platelets came up to 28K. Not excellent but I think he is recovering. I hope he is recovering.

I think you know, there's no medication for Dengue. It's between Dengue and your immune system or you. If your system gives up, you die. If your system gets up, fight and regenerate its own platelets, you win more hours on this earth.

Funny thing, some die, some live.

Why?

I am not sure.

Anyway, I look forward to Jansen wise-cracking about his experience in the ICU ward.

Haha?

 

 

 

Update 28/1/05:
Jansen is out the the ICU and is recovering in the common ward. His last platelets count was 65K.

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Strawberry Park, Kijal, Terengganu
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - January 20, 2005 Posted: 7:04:02 PM EDT

Weds morning, Jan 19.

Four of us from XiMnet hopped into my car at 8.30 am and headed towards Kertih, Terengganu. We are going to kick-start a project with a foreign Petroleum multinational. It will be a long drive so I've decided to put up a night at Terengganu.

A few months ago, I saw a little ad on The Star about a place called 'Strawberry Park, Kijal'. Yes, I know, the name Kijal seemed exclusively 'owned' by Awana Kijal. But no, there's more to Kijal than Awana Kijal, I found out.

There's Strawberry Park, Kijal. Yes, related to the one on top of Cameron Highlands.

I saw some photos of the place. It had some apartments on stilts, sitting on top of what seemed to be a lagoon or a swamp. The glorious South China Sea is a stone throw away.

I was gamed to check out the place.

I made a call the day before and we arrived there around 1.30 pm. I was told by the manager that it is an abandoned resort. The investors pulled out of the place after PAS came into power the in last 1998 election. The place is about 7 years old.

The apartment suites, that I booked are completed and furnished. There were a couple of permanent residents and a few odd guests. Maybe 5 in all.

We were the odd ones too.

After our meeting at around 5.30pm, we went to check out the beach.

It was a beautiful location. Exclusively so. There's nobody here but us. 

Stop.

And look...at the pristine beach. Layers of white surfs roaring in against the windy blue sky.

Listen...to the glorious sounds of Nature, undisturbed.

Strawberry Park, Kijal, Terengganu

A 2 km of white sandy beach fringed within nature-sculptured rocks from both sides, that rise into the hills covered with thick verdant forest. The South China Sea roars up to meet the shoreline, sending white fizzling seawater onto the beach, caressing its sandy brow here and splashing playfully on the rocks fringes there.

Rocky edges, Kijal, Terengganu

We walked the length of the beach. (Yes, the beach need to be cleaned up a little. Flotsams and dead tree trunks, etc. Easy stuffs)

But Nature speaks here...

At about 10pm, I sat at the verandah of my suite, the stars bright and plenty above. A little hill with insects thrilling, rise up ahead of me, its trees silhouetted against the glowing sky. On the foot of the hill, 20 meter across where I sat, 2 spotlights cast shimmering images of the brooding forest onto the silent waters. The calmness of the night, the starry skies above, and nature's symphony that plays over the hill, it's something I haven't experienced for a while.

You can enjoy this too.

But don't expect luxury. Don't expect great service. This is not Awana. This is not Pangkor Laut. The breakfast was bad.

But get there if you want quiet moments where the forest meet the sea. A weekend escape worth the 5 hours drive from KL. A unique experience, especially for those who are confortable with silence and being alone with nature.

Yeah, get there, to this place where the forest meet the sea.

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P is for...?
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - January 17, 2005 Posted: 10:53:31 AM EDT

It's Monday morning.

I was driving to work from Subang Jaya to PJ New Town via the New Pantai Expressway. On the elevated stretch, just before the Jalan Templer exit, a car flashed into my rear mirror.

Dark Grey Iswara. A lady driver.

She wasn't there a second ago. And now she's too close for comfort. I was driving around 70 km/h. I  remember the speed limit to be 60km/h. Yep, I know but we are on an elevated stretch. 

She swooped in like a vulture. On my rear mirror, she looked expressionless. Perhaps she had a bad night. Wait, it was a deadly look. A sleep-swollen and mindless, 'I don't know what I am doing and I don't care' look. She must be doing 120KM/H on an elevated highway packed with cars.

I got worried for myself. I squeezed left to let her through. She blasted her engine and drove towards KL. I worry for her after that. 

P is for 'Pelatih', they say.

P is also for 'Pembunuh', I think.

We are paying the price for a system weakened by corruption. We are putting killers on our roads. Even if they kill themselves out of their own recklessness, it is still killing.

Asian values? Women are the gentler sex? Malaysians are friendly people?

You must be joking!

You don't believe me?

Drive along the Federal Highway after 12.00 am. You will  change your mind. Something is terribly wrong with us Malaysians. It shows on the road. 

I really wonder about all those generous souls who donated so much to the Tsunami Fund, are they charitable on the road too?

What is the basis for giving?

Love?  Compassion? Wanting to do good? 

Can we drive with more love and compassion on the road too?

We can give too, when we drive.

We can give way. We can give time. We can donate our extra minutes to others. We can give the space in-front of us to another. We can do good on the road too. We can wake up earlier and drive with extra minutes to spare so that we can give them to others. If enough of us do that, we can have safer roads.

Strange it is and it doesn't make sense.

We give so much to the disaster-stricken, we give nothing to our neighbors on our roads. It makes me wonder about this spontaneous overflowing of generosity over the newspapers.

Why do we drive like a people stricken by a tsunami of fear and desperation. We rush, jostle, bully, and intimidate to get what we want. We act like desperate immigrants in our time of plenty.

Give Time, Give Way, Photo credit, 2001 Mark Furqueron

If only we can give more on the road.  If only we know we can give time away, like we give our money away.

Give way, give time, give chance, give face.

That's giving too.

Or do we need a big mock check to quantify the value of giving on our roads?

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Live Like You Were Dying...
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - January 13, 2005 Posted: 10:35:36 AM EDT

I heard this great song while driving to work this morning. Just want to share it with you, when you have 5 minutes...between tasks. Save this for home if you are busy.

We get caught up sometimes.

Hope this year is going to be a special one for you.

Live Like You Were Dying ~ Tim McGraw

Listen to the song hereSelect song No. 5 and click the PLAY Button.
You need QuickTime Player.
Download here.

He said I was in my early forties with a lot of life before me
when a moment came that stopped me on a dime
and I spent most of the next days looking at the x-rays
talking bout the options and talking bout sweet time.
I asked him when it sank in this might really be the real end
How it hit you when you get that kinda news?
'Man, what you do...'

and he said...

I went sky diving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named 'Fu Manchu'
and I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter
and I gave forgiveness I'd been denying
and he said someday I hope you get the chance
to live like you were dying.

He said I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn't
and I became a friend a friend would like to have
and all the sudden going fishing, wasn't such an imposition
and I went three times that year I lost my dad
well I finally read the Good Book and I took a good long hard look
at what I'd do if I could do it all again

and then...

I went sky diving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named 'Fu Manchu'
and I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter
and I gave forgiveness I'd been denying
and he said someday I hope you get the chance
to live like you were dying.

Like tomorrow was a gift and you got eternity to think about
what'd you do with it what did you do with it
what did I do with it
what would I do with it?

Sky diving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named 'Fu Manchu'
and then I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter
and I watched an eagle as it was flying
and he said someday I hope you get the chance
to live like you were dying.

To live like you were dying

To live like you were dying

To live like you were dying

To live like you were dying

6 Comment(s)

Reinventing The Self
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - January 12, 2005 Posted: 8:01:18 PM EDT

I've always been keenly aware of how our world-view affects our assessment of who we are. More importantly, how we see ourselves impact what we think we can achieve or limits our journey towards self-actualization. This knowledge is critical in staff development efforts. To change someone's performance and achievement-orientation, you need to make him aware of his/her misaligned paradigm and modify his/her world-view.

I remember, I used to see the world in black and white.

In my 20s, it's either you are right, or you are dead wrong. The 'moral clarity' made things easy for me. It gave me grounds to construct a sense of self-righteousness within a world of the redeeemed and the condemned. Looking back, I was perhaps trying to weave a spiritual skin to cover my sense of bewilderment with the 'big bad world' around me.

It helped shield me and reduced the wide unknown into a small, manageable binary.

Then I saw grey in my 30s. 

I saw how reality can be understood within context. I saw how your truths are my lies. My lies are your realities. I saw how men and women struggle to make sense of life and try to create meanings within the brutal realities of day-to-day struggles. I saw 'good' things done with bad intentions and 'bad things' done that results in positive outcomes. 

Self-Portrait 2005

Now I think the full extend of life's colors come through to me.

Perhaps I am shedding my skin again. And I see manificent colors radiating from every individual in my life.

Color originates from Light. With Light, there's color.

With knowledge, there's light.

Power to the source of Light.

Color your Lives!

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Back ALIVE....Tsunami at Langkawi?
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - January 10, 2005 Posted: 3:07:56 PM EDT

We've just got back from Langkawi Retreat 2005. It was themed 'The Leap Year'. 'What leap year?', did you ask? It's a year where we will be making 4 critical 'leaps' in our journey as a team. Let's call them,

  1. Sales Target Leap
  2. Technology Leap
  3. Brand Leap
  4. Team Leap

Ready to take-off at KLIA

We left KLIA in an oldish AirAsia bird at about 12.55 pm, Thurs, 6/1/05. We arrived at Langkawi at about 2.00 pm. 

It was sunny and windy at Langkawi.

The travel agent assigned to pick us up waved a 'XiMner Team' signage at the Arrival Hall.

XiMner..? That's us!!? 

OK, that's not that bad sounding for sure. But, what/who are we? XiMnettes? XiMnetians? XiMmers? XiMs? Nettes?...I don't know.

What about 'X-Men'? Hrm...Our newspaper vendor down our office at MPPJ call us 'X-Men'. He simply can't say the odd looking, weird sounding (to him at least),  'XiM Net'. Our 'now on another job that thrills' Founder left a permanent 'scar' on us...an unspeakable word for a name...

'Aahhh, X-Men, you punya paperrr, 'The Starr', itu lagi ambik 'Ed-gee', (The Edge, he says it as 'Edgy') sudah mari'.

Back to the trip.

We got to Holiday Villa and unpacked quickly. By the time I went to the beach, I saw Deb walking away, Pinky 'sun-bathing' with a white tower over herself (!!?) and Andrew and Daniel walking aimlessly.

Do you know where you

Flo and Lydia were digging up hermit crabs...

I walked with Andrew and Daniel to the rocky edges at the left side of the sandy beach. After snapping some pics, we joined Flo, Lydia and Jasmin digging for hermit crabs and flinging 'beached' star fishes at each other. (OK, I was throwing star-fishes at them like a ninja...Andrew got attracted to the sliming star-fishes...for whatever reasons...')

Hermit-Crabs hunters

It must have been around 4.30 pm when we were soaking up the 'calmness of nature'...

OK, if you really need to ask. No...the tsunami didn't make a comeback. The sea didn't retreat or foam at us. It was strangely 'laid-back'. It was quiet...polite...but unapologetic.

The sea was just itself that day.

But the sea was cold. The land temperature must have been around 32-34 celcius. The sea water was about 24-26 celcius, I think. It felt that cold. And it was bitterly salty. I don't remember the Andaman sea being that cold or salty...not like the South China Sea. And it was full of algae...or were those seaweeds splayed from the bottom of the sea? I don't know...

I didn't want to think too much about the sea water. 

We went back to the hotel's pool at around 6.00pm. We slipped into the open-air jacuzzi and a few 'Mat-Sallehs' leaped out, as quickly as we came. 

Did we looked like we have SARS? But none of us look Japanese enough to be mistaken for Mr or Mrs Tsunami... 

That 's when I witnessed an Italiano senora walked up to her husband and twacked his head from behind. 

TWACK!

And as she turned and walked away, she was berating him loudly for all to hear. It was such elegant anger! Just like the operas but no music in this case. Just the giggles of 3 kids punctuating the pauses of her lyrical outbursts. Must be Italian kids...them. 

Imagine this...

--Angry stream of words & rolling of tongue. Pause. *Insert giggles*
--More angry stream of more angry words & faster rolling of tongue. *Insert louder giggles*

I sat there trying hard to focus on the bubbling water and positioning my body for the water jet to massage my back. 

'Mind over matter...mind over matter...Ohmm...', I chanted within. But it was no good...the opera was too intense for me to relax...

I dived into the main pool and swam away.

He was chatting up the pool waitress...that Italian guy, you know...and maybe she (the senora) had too much of pepperoni pizzas that day. Good thing it wasn't a rolling pin that landed on the back of his head that day...

Later, we watched a short movie called 'Legacy' and then worked through Steven Covey's, 'The 7 Habits' from 9.00 pm till past midnight. The session was capped with awards for 'The Apostles'.

The next morning, we aligned ourselves to our corporate goals and calibrated our compass for 2005. Flo talked about 'The 6 Thinking Hats' and we explored our team synergy rating with Human Synergistics' Sea Survival Game.  As I've always known, our team needs more work to leverage on individual strengths.  Later Andrew took us through 'The Branding Gap'.

6 Thinking Hatter

At about 4.00 pm, Lydia drove us on a Spectra van to the 7 Wells. We saw the effects of the tsunami on some kampungs along Pantai Cenang. It was bad enough. I think some villagers were having a funeral prayer. They were dressed formally and crowded silently around a house, the area surrounded by dried-up, muddy mess.

The 7 Wells was a steep climb. Everyone was panting by the time we got up there. 

Go to the mountains....

I took out my shoes and soaked my feet in a cold, gurgling brook with small fishes. Hrmm....the feeling was heavenly. Others joined in. I am not sure if we've disturbed the ecological balance of the forest with our act of selfish pleasure. I guess we didn't because I looked out for tell-tale signs but I didn't see any dead fishes floating downstream.

But there was a lone monkey who dipped his cupped hand and drank-up many times at the slippery edge (cheers to that!) before the stream cascade down the rocks to the waterfall below.

Did he taste something extra sweet that day? Ahh...I don't know...

The Exotic Tonic drinker

When we got down to our Spectra at the foot of the hill, another lone monkey sat on top of our green van and he/she was trying to get inside. I think he (...got to be a 'he', no mannerslah...) saw my 'Ngan Yin' ground-nuts inside our van.

Was it the nuts, or was it the 'Thumb Up' brand he was trying to have? Does branding work on monkeys too? Will he also eat 'Tong Garden's nuts?

Are you nuts?

On Saturday morning, we took the cable car and went up to Gunung Mat Cincang. It was an worthwhile experience! The view from the summit was exhilarating. There was a suspended bridge at the top but it wasn't ready for visitors yet. The observation deck was well built and we breathed in the cool air and the took in the sights for about half an hour. 

The Team with wind-swept hair

Then we descended.

We hopped into our Spetra and headed for Kuah town. After picking up some duty-free items, we arrived at the airport. A strange Russian steel bird came by. The Russians discovered Langkawi...

We departed a windy and sunny Langkawi at 5.45pm and landed at a gloomy and rainy KLIA at about 7.00pm.

Landed and ready to run.

It had been fun. We all wished we could stay longer. Ah...that's an indicator of a good trip.

For now, we are reminded of the 2nd Habit of Steven Covey: 'Begin with the end in mind'

Homeward bound

And we are now ready to 'Make the Leap!' and take on the world, starting for 2005!

Check out the pics here :
http://www.ximnet.com.my/news/langkawi2005.asp

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Langkawi 2005, Tsunami or no, here we come!
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - January 5, 2005 Posted: 11:23:11 AM EDT

All of us at XiMnet will be leaving tomorrow for Holiday Villa, Pulau Langkawi for a 3 days retreat. We'll be there from Thursday - Saturday (6th-8th Jan, 2005). 

Our theme this year is 'Langkawi 2005 : The Leap Year'. Yes, we are gearing ourselves to 'Make the Leap!'

'What's this leaping stuffs', did you say?

No, we haven't been eating too much of frogs. To cut a long story short, we have been preparing ourselves for some years now, to build on our strength as a team to cross the chasm. It has been a perilous journey this far and we have made a lot of sacrifices along the way.

And we have made GOOD PROGRESS too!

It's time now! We need to move up, move forward, however you say it. 

Ready, get set, GO! *Insert cheers resounding in a stadium*

Up, up and away! *VROOOOOMM*

Hrm....I've got to get back to preparing for the sessions there. Slides, logistics, hand-outs, the lots!

Till then, cheerios! 

Holiday Villa, Langkawi, Malaysia.

Here's where we are heading. No, this hotel wasn't affected by the recent tsunami. Am I not scared to get so near to a Tsunami disaster zone? Not really. I am looking forward to getting some serious relaxation done along with high-voltage brain-storming sessions.

Read the post-trip blog here :
http://www.ximnet.com.my/thelab/comments/comments.asp?id=34

Check out the pics here :
http://www.ximnet.com.my/news/langkawi2005.asp

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Happy New Year, 2005!
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - January 3, 2005 Posted: 4:54:59 PM EDT

This is it! 2005. I am 40 now. I was 14 a few days ago! Honest! '-)

A lecturer of mine, Edward Dorall (he taught us drama, super guy with a wicked sense of humor), once told us that life gets better as you grow in years. I was 24 then. And he looked 104 to me then. (OK no, he was 54, I think) But I didn't buy what he said then.

I had this idea that you go down hill after you hit 30. Why? Because when I was a kid growing up in a small town in Johor, anyone who's more than 25 years old will look worn out and scarred by life. In retrospection, I think it was because of the hardship they had to endure. The menial works, the stress of making just enough to feed a family of 8.

Now I am 40 and I feel great. I read a book by Gail Sheeny, I forgot the name. In it she calls the 40s 'The Age of Plenty'. Or something like that. I'll go check if you really want to know.

Now here I am. 40, 2 kids, 1 wife (same one throughout). Happy! Challenged! Inspired! All ready to slay dragons!

I am ready to take on the world with my team at XiMnet! We are heading for Langkawi for a retreat this Thursday to Saturday. (6th-8th Jan, 2005).

Oh and I've bought Covey's The 8th Habit. What do I think of it? Here's what I thought of it.

WOW!

It's got to be one of those books that will make a difference in my journey ahead. And I am going to share this with everyone at XiMnet

The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness. Stephen R. Covey

Happy New Year 2005!

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Wiley Chin
Chief Alchemist
XiMnet Malaysia Sdn. Bhd.

An alchemist of the Internet and marketing strategies, leading the charge to put our creative and software talents into serving companies who are out to slay the global giants. Also known as Chief of Caffeine Consumption and hallucinates between projects. Yes, that accounts for his “giant slaying” stuff.

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