Saturday, December 17, 2011

ULUHATI: Five Ladies and the Jungle

ULUHATI: Five Ladies and the Jungle: I was not quite sure if they were serious when they called on rather short notice that they wanted to jungle trek and bamboo raft down Sunga...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Five Ladies and the Jungle

I was not quite sure if they were serious when they called on rather short notice that they wanted to jungle trek and bamboo raft down Sungai Langat all on the same day. They definitely were when they turned up on time all geared up and raring to go that Monday morning. The program that day was a "short trek" from Uluhati all the way to the rafting point and from there bamboo rafting down the usual route. Have to clarify the term "short". Its all relative. What is short for Tok Batin Andak (the aboriginal Headman) may not be entirely so for others. He may sprint through the jungle while we may have to literally crawl on all fours. Be careful when a aboriginal tells you that the trek is only a cigarette away. A cigarette last the entire day for them. After a couple of puffs they are put out to, only to be taken out at the next stop.
Are we good to go?
Thats right, show those smiles, while you still have them
watch your steps
Shaolin mistress showing how its done. Her diciples (behind) making a monkey out of her
"now this plant is good for...."
Amazing, they still have their smiles
"I shud have stayed in Hongkong..."

"is this ever gonna end..?"
True grit

Anyway the ladies certainly proofed they were up to the challenge. Pails of sweat and generous donation of blood to the resident leeches aside, they appeared in high spirits as the emerged from the jungle at the rafting point. On the way they passed through various types of vegetation and had good insight into their uses.
Barbeque under the stars. Obviously recounting their battle scars earlier in the day.
Thank you ladies. You all got what it takes. Do come again.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


The farm suddenly looked deserted as the last car turned the corner at Wak Sarip's farm. In fact I could have sworn that the tree branches seemed to droop lower than usual as if in mourning. Loui certainly looked sad. Having been locked up for three days he only had one hour to play with the children before they left. He lapped up all their love and attention, but too soon it was over.
For three days we played host to Menonproactive Sdn Bhd for their Teen Empowerment program. 11 children ages between 14 to 16 from the city came for the program. Joining them was a teenager from Hulu Langat itself, fully sponsored by Menonproactive, very nice and generous of them.
I could still remember their faces in the van windows as they drove into the farm, a mixture of curiosity, amusement and maybe even dread. What have they got themselves into? Another of those boring weekends strongly "persuaded" by their parents with promises of "fun and adventure". Yeah .... sure... lets see.

Tumbling out of their van they stood arkwardly in their new surroundings not quite sure what to make out of what they see, what more with all the new faces. They were shown to their tents where they will stay for the next 3 days and 2 nights. Not much use in trying to choose the right tent mates, they might as well be from Jupiter or Mars.

After the usual intros and layout briefing, the first order of the day was the customary farm tour. Almost immediately they melt. Very hard to maintain that unconcerned macho and cool serene looks with all those humongous, cute, adorable and fascinating animals around you. Very soon the questions came in torrents about the dogs, horses, deers, chickens, turkeys, goats, etc. The goats being the most tame were subjected to hugs and kisses.
Farm tour over it was back to the Kedai Kopi (Coffee Shop) for tea. Following which was an exercise in trust, teamwork and leadership, so it seemed to me from far. Everyone seemed to take it very seriously. Not often you see that from teenagers. Dinner was typical Kampong Malay cuisine to which one teenager asked if it is alright to give the cook (my wife) a hug. By all means young man. After dinner was more in-house exercises and discussions which went on till supper. Lights out was suppose to be at 11.30 p.m. but we could hear chattering and laughter in the tents way into the night. Mohan insisted to maintain vigil throughout the night though we informed him that our personnel will maintain guard and that the perimeter is well fenced and lighted.
 Next morning began early with a predawn exercise before breakfast. After breakfast the farm serenity was broken by the roar of Mat Brons's scrambler as he drove through the driveway - our instructor for the nest event - jungle trekking and survival demonstration. I must say this session must have been one of the highlights of the 3 days. The teenagers were given an introduction to new world altogether. They were taught to highten their awareness of the world around them, to appreciate and value the environment and to care for it as well as how to seek sustenance from the land without hurting it. They were taught that there are other ways of doing things, to think outside the box and how to make do with less. All essential traits to survive in the concrete jungle out there.

Setting traps
Rice cooked in bamboo
Chicken cooked in bamboo
As they walked through the jungle they were taught names of various trees and plants and what are their uses, be it for food or for medicine or even glue. They were taught how to find directions by using natural signposts, how to make shelter and animal traps and finally how to cook in the jungle without your shiny cookware.

We do not anticipate that they will use these skills in the daily lives, but the key learning point here is that LIFE IS FULL OF POSSIBILITIES. Do not be trapped in a certain mindset or way of doing things.

Back to the farm a short debriefing followed by lunch. After lunch was a visit to the Goat Farm, again  a new experience to most city folks and an exciting one it was by the look of it.
Apart from further debriefing, the later part of the afternoon was given to an  introduction to horse riding and fishing. The group was broken into two groups, one for each activity. Though the horse riding was short it was an exercise of confidence. Apart from one or two, most of the teenagers had to conquer their fear just to get on the horse. That in itself is lesson learned, how to overcome one's fears. The anglers did not however have to overcome any fear. Their's was more an exercise of patience, what with the spool getting tangled all the time. Nevertheless two good size fish was landed which added to the barbeque menu that night.

Dinner was a lamb barbeque ala Uncle Ba'ah's recipe topped up with bread pudding which received all round approval. We got news that some were hoping for some left over bread pudding for breakfast. Time to relax and enjoy great company under the trees.

The third and last day was spent largely in rounding up what they have learnt with another round of horse riding and fishing for those who did not do so the previous day. The last session of conclusions by the teenagers were simply astounding. Difficult to imagine such insight and understanding coming from the mouths of 14 year olds.Pearls from the mouths of babes, they'd say.

If there is anything I could have got from the 3 days with this group of teenagers is the renewal of hope and confidence in the human race. After spending 30 years in the corporate world one could be forgiven for thinking that corruption and disease is order for mankind henceforth, but the teenagers taught me one thing. That beneath every human being is a goodness waiting to come out. Cover them with love, understanding and respect a beautiful flower blooms. Surround them with filth and instant gratification then reap the consequences. So get them young.

Well done Menonproactive. I have been to and seen countless courses and seminars, but none like what you did. God bless.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

RAPIDKL shoots the rapids

And so it was that Rapidkl decided to find out what else they could do to improve the state of public transport in the Klang Valley. They asked Uluhati for ideas so we suggested rafting as an option. Without any hesitation they thought it was a novel idea which might win them the Nobel Price for public transport. So they came in two vans, all 14 of them sharp at 9.30 in the morning. I smiled as I saw the vans rounding the corner, old soldiers never die, they just fade away. Leading them was the Group Director Rail Operations, Major (Retired) Khairani Mohamed. For a moment I was afraid they might jump out of the vans and fall-in parade formation by the roadside, all in their civvies.

We started them off with a good old fashioned Malaysian breakfast by the riverbank. We reminded them to eat their fullest as the water has a way of making you hungry very fast. Some tried to be polite, but we shall see. Soon after we set off, all 8 rafts with the Orang Asli helmsmen as usual. Tok Batin Andak was present to ensure that none of his charges embarass him and the Orang Asli community.

Weather was great. Water was slightly higher than the last time so the trip was quite smooth save for some stretches. It was quite amusing really to see senior management of the leading transport company in Malaysia sitting with their bottoms wet on the raft. A few certainly wondered what on earth are they doing. But the cool clear water, great weather and the lush green environment proved too much for their dignity. Gradually the solemn looks gave way to sheepish smile, open boyish grins and finally yells and shouts of glee. It was fun and kinda touching watching them. We must have done something right that day to bring out the little boys hiding behind the grey to white hair and round pounches. After that, all hell broke loose and we were wondering who were the Orang Alsi, our helmsmen or the Rapid boys.  

Halfway we stopped for lunch at the Lubok Anggun Riverbank Hilton. Lunch was a generous barbeque, lamb and chicken being the main course. Whilst they horse around in the water we were trying our best to get the barbeque ready soonest possible. Before long a few came out of the water snooping around for some ready meat. That was about 11.00 a.m. in the morning, barely 2 hours after breakfast. We told them that it was not quite done yet, but they graciously said it okay. Who eats meat well cooked anyway, they said. They must be real meat connoisiers or just plain hungry. Funnily though when everyone was quite full and the rate of food demolition has slowed down they sagely commented, in their measured management tone, that some of the meat should be put back on the grill for a better cook.
Lunch over, back to the raft for the second leg. Everything went well and we reached the final destination at about 1.30 p.m. They were then brought back to Uluhati for shower and tea. When tea was brought we heard, "what food again?". But that did not stop them from enjoying it either. Round about 2.30 after the usual group photo they left.
So what did they think of rafting as an alternative transport. I forgot to ask them, but I don't think they would give high marks for practicality but most likely 10/10 for fun.

We must say, this was our most enjoyable and satisfying event so far and most of that is because it was so great seeing old friends again. It been three years since I left the company and it was most satisfying to see that they have all grown well in their careers. Many of them have grown into senior positions and though I have no role in that I feel like a proud father. It was wonderful to see their great sense of camaraderie, the ease they have with one another regardless of rank. And to hear the good works they are doing now is also good news. For a moment I felt a sense of nostalgia of my previous life, but it left as soon as it came. I have had my run and I am enjoying my new adventure now. As I said I am just glad to be able to still do something for them in my own little way - remind them that boys too just wanna have fun.

Thank you Rapid for spending your time and sharing your friendship once again with us. Live well and prosper and may the force be with you.