Others (under construction)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lunch at the Hospital Canteen

Today I had my lunch at the hospital canteen again. This time it's briyani rice and 1 veggie. Cost me RM 2.80. Nice lunch. :)

Bukit Kepayang Again after Mt Kinabalu

It's been more than a month since I went to Bukit Kepayang for my morning walk. This morning, my parents decided to join us. They came here once but at that time, my mother didn't have the stamina to walk up to the top. Later we encouraged her to walk round Lake Gardens for a few months before attempting hiking up at Bukit Kepayang again. My mom decided, maybe not Lake Gardens but walking around their housing area would be more convenient. And so they walked... most mornings and sometimes in the evenings.

Today, my parents made it to the top of Kepayang Hill. YAY!

While my parents were enjoying the view at the top of Kepayang Hill, I spotted some beautiful flowers planted by some of the hikers.

It sure look nicer through the lens of my camera. :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How short is short?

You are looking now at the back of my head. The older sister was trying very hard to stop the hair stylist from cutting my hair too short. I wanted it to be short... I mean I just only had a hair cut last month and it has become so unmanageable the last 2 weeks.

So this morning after my morning walk (yes, walk, not jog), I went to the hair saloon to have a hair cut. Then I went to the twin's house. Tusi greeted me. She said something like "Ai Yuh... potong rambut, pendek sangat" . Then the twin said, "you have never cut this short before". Oh well... My head feels much lighter... haha.

Mctc says it's too short. Mctc's mom said I look younger. (I AM young). Tusi said she wants to have this hair style when she balik kampung. (return to her hometown). Well, Tusi IS having this hairstyle, only thing, hers is curly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Today, I ate my first piece of mooncake this year.

Today, at 1pm, the weather forecast rain and thunderstorm for most parts of the country.

Today, at 1.15pm, I was at the hospital.

Today, at 1.15pm,I used an umbrella to shield my head from the scorching sun.

Today, there was a function going on at an Indian temple near the hospital.

Today, the carparks surrounding the hospital was jam packed with cars due to the function.

Today, I ate at the hospital canteen again. 2 veggies and an egg. The same person mending the cash counter. She charged me RM2.70 this time. Mctc also had the same. She charged him RM3.40.

Today, I went to work at 2.30pm.

Today, it never rained at all.


Waffles with vanilla ice-cream, jam butter and syrup. I never had this for a long long time.Last Wednesday, after a heavy meal at a Chinese restaurant, the guys decided to go to A & W's for ice-cream. Each ordered their own ice-cream. This waffle was shared by 4 men and 1 lady.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I was here

Today : I was here almost the whole day. Mctc's mom was warded. :(

I was there at 11.30AM till 7PM. Had lunch there. I like the food in this hospital. :). I had mixed rice - 2 veggies and 1 egg. Cost me RM3.60. Hmm.... I think that's kind of expensive. Maybe it's suppose to be RM2.60 because the price listed on the board was rice - RM0.60 - RM1.00, veggie - RM0.70, Egg - RM0.60.

Next Few Days : Not looking forward to be in the hospital. :(

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Refreshing time of worship!

I walked into the church today and was surprised to see the youths on stage. They took over the whole worship session and I must say, it was a wonderful time of worship.

A Fruitful Time at Cell

We had a "fruitful" time at cell on Friday. We discussed about "worry". The bible text was taken from Matthew 6: 25-34. We seemed to worry about tomorrow's troubles... and who by worrying can add a single hour to our lives? (Matt 6:27). But then we humans tend to worry, even when we have God on our side, worry seemed to creep into minds and dominate all of our thoughts. The bible says in 1 Peter 5:7 "Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you".

And I love this passage taken from Philippians 4:8&9
Finally my brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

So instead of worrying, tell God about your situation and think only about the good things. Let God be Lord in your life, trust in Him to take care of your situation. God will certainly see you through good and bad times in your life, only if you allow Him to take control of your life.

So anyway, after our cell lesson, we had a time of fellowship.. with food of course. We had the usual fried noodles, sandwiches and this time we had 4 different kinds of fruits - Durians, mangosteen, rambutan and guava. Matthew brought a 2.5l bottle of L&P carbonated drink from New Zealand. It taste like lemon with lemon grass.

(Note to Ruth: There are lots of durian this season and they are really,really delicious. Wish you were here, so that we can feast on them. If you ever think of visiting us, please come during the durian season.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Spinning Tops!

Two days ago my mom (grandma to Sze-En) bought Sze-En some spinning tops from Toys"r"us. My mom, feeling tired after the shopping expedition in Mid Valley asked me to play with Sze-En. I, being so lazy, asked my dad to play with her. My dad had no choice but to entertain Sze-En but I guess they had fun together. See all the tops spinning happily. :)

Friday, July 25, 2008


Look at this!!! Gosh.. isn't this a beautiful fruit? Yummy! Yummy!

My very first taste of durian this season. I ate 7 seeds (right after I had my lunch). It was that good. I always believe, if you want to eat durians, it has to be the best ones. Why eat lousy ones and suffer the after taste/effects of them?

I wasn't feeling well these few weeks and had to forego a few durian parties. :( and I still haven't recovered from my cough when I had these delicious durians 2 days ago.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Jusco Member's Day Sale at Mid Valley

Yes, I admit, we were crazy to even think of going to Mid Valley on a Jusco Member's Day Sale. (24 June 2008)

The elder sister and our parents were part of this mad idea. We started our journey at 8.30am. When we got nearer to Mid Valley, (at 9.45AM) we were amazed by the jam this sale had created. The car parks at Zone A and C were marked full. We were forced to park at The Gardens. I complained to my sister, " Why can't all these people carpool?" and she replied "They are already carpooling!!!" meaning that there would be much more people shopping...and we would face another kind of jam... human jam... sigh..

My parents thought the sales were good, but once they saw the long queue at the cashier counters, they started putting back the things they wanted to buy. The daughters however, were smarter. When we got what we wanted, one started lining up to pay, while the other help to count to see if we bought enough to get cash vouchers. (Just trying to get as much out from the mega sale). Jusco had set up extra counters in each station. The queue might look long, but it was moving fast.

As usual, going anywhere (most of the time) with the elder sister meant we don't have the whole day (and night) to shop. She always had to go home early for other appointment. We left the shopping mall at 3.30PM.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Being Twins

We looked alike when we were young. The aunties and uncles often called out our names together whenever they see one of us so that we would answer.

She was the mischievous one and me.. I was an angel... haha.... It's true.... ask my mother if you don't believe me. :)

We are the middle "child", so to speak. My elder sister, since she was baby number 1, had so many baby pictures. My brother who was baby number 4, had lots of baby photos too, since he was the only male child in the family. As for the twins... I don't think we have any photos at all when we were babies. :( So unfair.

We shared the same birthdate, so naturally, some of the presents were meant to be shared. :(

Thankfully, when one fell ill, the other was not subject to the same illness.

And thankfully, we don't think alike, but we know exactly what the other would feel if the feeling was described in detail.

It was good to enter Standard One together. We could refer to each other in case we forgot which homework had to be done or something like that. And if nobody "friend" us, we still got each other.

We do fight of course, and I always end up crying. Hmm... she's a bully.. haha

Did we chase the same boys? No, not really. Surprisingly, we have different taste in that aspect. :)

Our voices are the same over the phone, and up till today, we still play tricks on people, so watch out.. :)

I always have trouble remembering faces, so sometimes when I meet someone on the streets and I can't recognise them when they acknowledged me, I will say, "I think you must have mistaken me with my TWIN sister.."

Occasionally, when the mood strikes, we don't mind helping each other (yeah, both of us are very lazy) finish a project.

When we were planning to go for a vacation, it's good to have her plan everything, knowing that I would have like whatever she had planned.

We are both lefties :)

I'm sure there are lots more to tell, but it'll do for now.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Shack

I have never come across a book that speaks so much to me (apart from "Heaven is so real"). It's truly an amazing story that touched my heart and I would like to share it with you. (I was up till 4.15AM this morning reading this book)

The Shack by William P. Young
When I first read it, I thought it was a true story. The author started of by saying he knew Mack (the star in the story) for more than 20 years. As you read on, you feel as if you understand a tiny weeny bit of how God works (of course no human can fully comprehend God), how God could heal a broken bitter heart just by having a loving relationship with man. God intended good for His people but we chose to be independent, to be away from God's Light.

Here are some of the things I learn from this book:

1. Many people (including me) think that we know God, His goodness and His love for us, but in actual fact, God is far more than that, above and beyond all that we can ask and think. (pg 98)

2. God knows everything, even before we speak, he knows. When we tell him things, he listens out of respect for us. It's like - we don't play a game with a child to show that we are better. Instead, we choose to limit ourselves so as to facilitate and honour that relationship. We even lose in a game to accomplish love. (pg 106)

3. There's no hierarchy among God. God is in a circle of relationship not a chain of command. It's us humans who made up hierarchy and cause so much problems. We are governed by rules and regulations that end up destroying relationship rather than to promote it. (pg 122-123)

4. God respects our choice, so He work within our systems even while He seek to free us from them. (pg 123)

5. God creates everything that exists and human beings can only take what already exists and from it, fashion into something different. Poisonous plants, stinging nettles and the likes are all part of what we called science, for us to discern and discover and to explore the wonders of God's creation. Just like playing hide and seek. (pg 132)

6. What do we determine as good and what do we do we determine as bad? It is we who determines them and in our small minds, judged what is good and bad. It allowed us to play God in our independence. (pg 136) And by being independent, we have separated ourselves from God.

7. God had never taken control of our choices, even when what we were about to do is destructive or hurtful. To force His will on us is what love DOES NOT do. (pg 145)

8. With Wisdom, everything is perfectly normal. Because we are so lost and independent, we bring Wisdom many complications and we find her simplicity profound. (pg 172)

9. God's idea of His bride is not a man-made institution, rather individuals who together form a spiritual city. His Church is all about people and life is all about relationship. (Pg 177-178)

10. Those who love God comes from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats or Republicans.. etc. All roads does not lead to God, but God will travel on any road to find us. (WOW!) (Pg 182)

11. Grace does not depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering, you will find grace in many facets and colours. (Pg 185)

12. You have to read Chapter 14 yourself... It's really very interesting..

13. Forgiving those who caused you grief. The only way true forgiveness is ever possible is for God's presence to be in us. (pg 226)

It's fiction but let this book speak to you like it did to me. :)

God still love us very much, no matter how messed up we are. If we allow God to be King and Lord or our lives, we have to learn to let go and fully trust in Him no matter what circumstances we are facing. God is full of goodness, and only good can come out from Him. Let go and let God love you.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Meet my Class Teacher

This is Mrs Ong, my Standard 6 Class teacher. She taught us English. She still looked the same. She cannot recognise us though.... that's so sad.

I met her at the Curry Leaf Restaurant last Sunday, and guess what? She once taught the proprietor of Curry Leaf. Rachel and I were wondering how old she was. :)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

HIV/AIDS.. what do I know of it?

Nothing I guess.

Today Rev Bruce Sonnenberg (Ed of HIV Hope USA) stirred the hearts of many people when he spoke of his experience with having HIV+ members in his church. He WAS of the opinion that AIDS has nothing to do with him, it's a self inflicted disease and they got what they deserved... he held that opinion until God opened his heart and showed him that no matter what kind of disease a person has, God still love him or her.

He preached of the tsunami of AIDS that was hitting the world and some questions that many would ask.

1. How would Jesus respond to someone with HIV?
He would be compassionate (Luke 5:12-13)

2. How would Jesus see HIV and AIDS?
He would see it as an opportunity - for God to show his mercy (Isaiah 40:29-31)

At the end of the service, he asked Jennifer, who was tested HIV+ 11 years ago, to step out from her seat and if anyone cared to hug her, please come forward to do so. Many people, men and women came forward with tears in their eyes, hugged her. Unfortunately, I wasn't one of them. I was having a bad cough and runny nose.

It was so touching. She told us that she just went for her check-up that Monday and the doctor exclaimed that she was just like a normal healthy person, in fact her immunity system was even better than a non-HIV+ person. Praise God.

BTW,She is blessed with a loving husband. :)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Brush with Celebrities!

Here are some famous artistes, some of whom I had the chance to meet and shake hands with personally.

Boney M
They came to my office after work. Those who stayed back were fortunate to meet them.

Jim Brickman
When my boss heard that I like Jim Brickman's music very much, he gave me a Jim Brickman CD entitled "no words" that no one in Malaysia had (I think). It was produced in Taiwan when he was the Managing Director of a record company.

When Jim Brickman had a press interview in Singapore, my kind hearted boss made arrangements for me to meet this great pianist. I was overjoyed.. but I guess I blew my chances of having him play just for me because when he spoke to me I was tongue-tied.... too awed by his mere presence. Gosh... I should have said something...I felt so embarrassed and ashamed of my tongue. :(

This was taken in Singapore. They came for a press conference and to do a little promotion of their new album "Coast to coast. I actually shook hands with Shane.. yay!

Westlife again, this time in Malaysia. Did not have the chance to be near them, but got to watch a football match between them and our local team. Westlife won 7-0.

Went on a trip to Langkawi with some local artistes. Def-Gab-C and "Black" from the group Search.

Aaron Carter
Brother of one of the Backstreet Boys. He was in Singapore for a promo show. He was 11 or 12 at that time.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I missed playing volleyball

Anyone who knows me would know that I'm short. No one would have guessed that I was once in the volleyball team in my school. Well, I was!!!!

Yesterday I was at the Blossom Heights Pasar Malam (night market), I came across 2 groups of students wearing their school volleyball jerseys. My first thought was, they had just played a match against each other at a nearby school. I never asked, I never knew.

It sure did bring back fond memories of my own school team. I started playing since I was 13 years of age. Got chosen for the under 15 girls team and later for the under 18 girls team. We were the best team in the district. :)

Here's a picture and I'm sure all of us in this picture can remember what happen during that year. We won the championship title for the State's level. :)

The Chronicles of 2008 Mount Kinabalu

I think I've said all I want to say of this trip. It's time to wrap things up.

My Mt Kinabalu stories were pretty long-winded. Probably because there were so many things to share. :)

You may have read, got bored along the way and wondered where's the ending and the beginning of the next day.

Here's the link to all my Mt Kinabalu 2008 posting : -

Experiencing Mt Kinabalu for the 2nd time - Day 1
Experiencing Mt Kinabalu for the 2nd time - Day 2
Experiencing Mt Kinabalu for the 2nd time - Day 3
Experiencing Mt Kinabalu for the 2nd time - Day 4
Experiencing Mt Kinabalu for the 2nd time - Day 5
July 2008 Mt Kinabalu - Meet the Team
2008 Mt Kinabalu - planning and organising
Mt Kinabalu - thinking back
Summiting and Admitting - Esther's story
Sick after the Mt Kinabalu climb
2008 Mt Kinabalu expenses

Hmm.... I didn't think I had so much time to blog.... probably because I was sick... :)

It's not a good thing to be sick though.

Will I see this mountain again? Probably from a distance. :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My father's pictures of Kota Kinabalu

My father take good pictures. We gave my parents a simple 3.2mp canon camera 2 years ago and my father had been making full use of it. He took it everywhere he went.... Cameron Highlands, Genting Highlands, Perth, Hong Kong, birthday parties and other events. Nevermind the LCD screen is only 1.5 inches width, nevermind his long-sightedness, he made do with what he had and focused fully on his photography skills.... :)
Early this month, my parents were in Sabah and they were staying in my cousin's condo. My cousin lived very near the airport. From her balcony, you can see the Airasia airport.

My father managed to capture this awesome picture of a plane taking off. :)

And this sunset scene, I don't think I can capture the same thing if I were to stand next to him and shoot with my IXUS950. :(

Sick after the Mt Kinabalu Climb.

During my recent trip to Mt Kinabalu, the team leader, had a bad cough. Most of the time he coughed without covering his mouth, thus spreading all the germs to everyone near him. By the end of the trip, I started coughing. Well, I didn't drink much water while I was up in the mountains due to the fact that the yellow drinking water they served up there didn't agree with my body system. Those who knew me would know that once I started coughing, it would take like more than a month to recover.

We came back on Sunday, 6th of July. I did the accounts for the Kinabalu trip and emailed to the rest of the team on Monday. I wanted to get it over and done with.

Tuesday, my cough was beginning to irritate me. and I felt... sick. The team leader was concerned. He went to GH to get a bottle of cough mixture for me.
I had classes on Wednesdays. I went for the morning classes but felt too ill to go for the afternoon one. I slept instead. I was feeling hot all over.

On Thurday, I went to church for a while and got some work done. I still felt unwell.

On Friday the fever came again and I slept most of the day.

On Saturday (afternoon), I thought I should go out and get some fresh air... no matter how sick I felt. I went to Rachel's house... and slept.

I ran out of cough mixture and I missed the church service on Sunday. :(

On Monday, 1 week later, I felt much better... I started blogging about my Kinabalu adventure. :)

I'm still coughing very badly now... wonder when I'll be free from it...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summitting & Admitting - Esther's story

Icy Rain. Numbing Cold. Excruciating Pain. Lack of Strength. Lack of Breath. Nausea. Endless Agony. Premeditated Stupidity.

Those (and everything else along the same vein) were all I was feeling and thinking coming up the last 500 metres of the Mesilau Trail to Laban Rata, the mid-point of Mt Kinabalu. I was teed, wind-breakered and rain-coated. But those were not enough to stop the windy rain from chilling me to the bone. It was a miserable day indeed, and I wondered again at what possessed me to agree to this climb. I cast my mind back to that fateful day…

We did it, ETC! We summitted the highest peak of South-East Asia!

That was the exuberant cry of my utterly delighted twin sisters last September. It was their next words that triggered my downfall into insanity…

You could do it, too!”

There, the seed of stupidity was sown. It was watered and nurtured by phrases of deceit encouragement like “It was really not difficult” and “The next climb is not until next year, plenty of time yet to train,” and later, “The new group’s average age is 46, i.e., most people are older than you…

Never mind the fact that I was the least athletic of all women. Never mind the fact that I abhor all kinds of physical exercises, except that of using [or is it overusing?] the muscles in and around my mouth. I had in my possession the strongest of persuaders in the twins. And solely on that alone, I agreed on this hare-brained scheme to “whip ETC [that’s me] up to shape.”

Anyway, by December, it was already decided that the climb was to happen sometime in July of 2008. A group of about 13 people had already signed up. Flight tickets were duly booked by January, and everyone started to exercise in earnest.

When I say “exercise in earnest” what I really meant, for me, was climbing up a slope at Kepayang Hill in Seremban (a 1.5 km hill) once a week. It being January, I calculated there was enough time yet to get into the swing of walking up the hill several times a session before July comes…

February and March passed by in a blink and it was now April. EuT gave me an ultimatum one Thursday morning, and I duly (although unwillingly) started doing that same, dull Kepayang Hill twice that day. In my defence, I was already climbing that unexciting slope twice a week (though not always faithfully). On April 26th, I went for my first ever long climb – Mt Angsi. It lasted 9 hours for me, ascent and descent. I traumatized a toenail, crocodiled a pair of Nike shoes, fractured a pinkie, weakened an ankle and spent 5 full days recuperating from muscle aches.

I asked KGT (who was with me, and who was also the leader of the Mt K Climb) if some of the tougher parts of the Mt Angsi climb (like the ropes section) would be repeated in Mt Kinabalu. He gave me a firm “no”, and told me that Mt K’s trail was much neater than Mt Angsi’s. I was comforted.

May came and I tried (again, as much as I can) to keep my twice-a-week hill-climbing activities regular. In June, I went for another mountain climb training, this time with RT my sister, in Mt Dato. It was a much shorter but much steeper mountain than Angsi. I felt confident climbing up that short mountain. Descending was hard work, though. I split my pants slipping, falling and bouncing so many times along that steep trail. This time, I took about 4 days to fully recuperate from the aches. But altogether a much better concluding condition than that of Mt Angsi.

Looking back, I believe I wouldn’t have freaked out before the actual Climb if several things hadn’t happened almost about the same time two weeks before July.

Firstly, my fractured right pinkie was brought awfully back to my attention when my daughter one day squeezed my hand in her excitement over some matter. As I am right-handed, there was a niggling concern I may not be able to fully use my hands (should it come to that!) to pull myself up any slope.

And then KGT started messaging me with the tentative proposal of using a tether to help me in my Mt K climb [Wha…..!! It’s going to be that tough???] And then my well-meaning sisters looked through my climbing gears and pronounced that I had too-slippery shoes, and inadequate attire and climbing helps. And then Pete01, who went for the climb last March with a bunch of testosterone-filled males pronounced that we were physically un-ready for the Big Climb. Later, HCheah (one of our team mates) kindly notified everyone in the climbing team that the weather in Sabah for the week of our climb was forecasted to be stormy. To my mind, Stormy + HighAltitude = Slippery + Hypothermia = A Certain Unpleasant Death. Finally, KGT wrote and asked me if I was really ready for the climb. His non-confidence in me was palpable in that very loaded question.

The destruction of my confidence was almost complete. I wondered over and over again if I was being uncommonly daft to follow through. But I had already paid over RM1K for the whole trip. It was nothing like the lack of a paid job for over 6 months to bring home the fact that I cannot afford to not go and not feel a complete wastrel. So, stupid or not, I must go, if only just to realize satisfaction from the sum I paid over…

The day of departure arrived. True to forecast, we stepped out of the plane at Kota Kinabalu to rain and wind. Out of our anxiety for our climb, we began to murmur and “scold” HCheah for “forecasting” bad weather – even though it could hardly be his fault for relating the predictions of the Malaysian Metrology Services!

Fortified with lunch at the city, we travelled 2 hours from Kota Kinabalu to Kinabalu Park HQ, which was at the foothill of the mountain range and also the centre for hostel registration. Park HQ looks up to a scenic view of tall, majestic, imposing mountains beyond the park. Their glory was quite lost on us, however, as visibility was 600m or less on that foggy afternoon. And at 16 C, we were none of us too motivated to venture out far from the warm, roofed lodge either.

We settled at the hostel at Mesilau, had dinner, had a simple praise and worship session, and retired for the night. At least, I tried to retire for the night. I was unsuccessful. There were 8 of us ladies in that dorm (one later went out to try sleeping in the common room cushions). The room was cold, the bed was lumpy and the pillow was flat. I tossed and turned restlessly, listening to the rain and wondering what the morning would bring.

It arrived soon enough, bringing with it a bashful sun and, thankfully, no rain. The team of us (which had grown to a grand total of 19 since last December), in good spirits, weighed out our soon-to-be-portered bags, met up with our climb guides and took a team picture before starting off the climb in 3 groups.

I was placed in the middle group. The steps were steep from the word “go”. Much steeper than Mt Dato’s. Pete01 wasn’t kidding when he said we did not train enough, for within 10 minutes, I was breathless. I was wondering I how could finish 8kms of climb at the rate of 1 km an hour. I persevered – tried as hard as I could to go as fast as I could. But with 7kgs of stuff in my backpack, I was soon left behind, and had to join the 3rd (and last) group when they caught up with me. The group comprised EuT, KGT, Pt and KLGan, with DJ and HCheah as sweepers. I’m mentioning them here because they make up a major part of my arduous journey to Laban Rata.

It is tedious to go into the details of the whole trip to Laban Rata, and it is not my intention to bore my readers to tears; thus I would not waste too many pages elaborating the gruelling passage. However, there are a few things about the journey that must be highlighted so as to explain the nature of the trip for me. (Err….this would probably mean a few pages will be taken for this purpose…[sheepish grin inserted here…!])

Soon after KM1 (i.e., the 1st km), done in just 55 minutes, the trail went downwards. Apparently, the Mesilau Trail to Laban Rata starts off on a wrong mountain! We had to go up that mountain, then go halfway down it, pass a ridge between the two mountains, and then start up the right one. As a person who hates descending, the downward trail from KM1.2 to 2.7 was no walk in the park for me. By the end of it, I was shaken, limping, and weepy. The backbone was aching from too much bumping along the downhill excursion. The good thing was that we covered the 2nd km in 40 minutes, which made us 25 minutes ahead of our 1 km an hour schedule. Not bad, huh?

Then the trail went uphill again. My legs started giving way. We still had about 5kms to do. I lagged behind and had to stop many, many times. DJ and HCheah, the sweepers, urged me on. In my many hours with them, I was to discover the fact that they were not averse to coming up with jokes pertaining to my fitness level. I had these great, witty rejoinders for each of their disparaging remarks, but out of consideration for their consideration for me, had kindly refrained from speaking them aloud....for most of the time, anyway. Apart from joking, the sweepers also sang songs to keep boredom at bay. To be fair, walking with me was like keeping pace with a snail. [I did say earlier that I was the least athletic of all women, didn’t I?] Anyway, I did ask them on several occasions to go ahead of me. Each time, they told me to save my breath for walking up. By this time, DJ was holding my bottle of ORS water [which he re-named Diva Juice in honor of yours truly], HCheah my bottle of plain water, and KGT my whole backpack. All I had in my hand was my walking stick. Every once in a while, the sweepers would hand me a bottle to take a sip. That happened often, because I stopped about every 10 steps. Or less. To pant. And huff. And blow. And wheeze. Before taking another 10 steps. Or less.

It was in this rhythm I continued until I reached the pondok (or hut) at KM4. We met RT there for about 5 minutes. It was cold and it started raining. I put on my raincoat, ate a little of the packed lunch we brought, and moved on. At about KM5 (with 3.3 more kms still to go), I decided to surrender my backpack to the porter. Not that I was carrying it anyway. KGT was doing that honourable job. But since he was already sick with diarrhoea and had to also carry his own heavy backpack, I decided to relieve him of my 6kg burden (It’s now 6kgs because I had two sweepers to hold 1 kg of my drinks, remember?).

We walked on. Or rather, everyone else walked on. I straggled. This time to the rhythm of 6-steps – pant – huff – blow – wheeze – 6-steps. My leg muscles were surrendering. My breath was consistently coming short. My heart was continually beating wildly. I stopped too many times to count. Oh, did I mention that by this time, HCheah was already out of sight? He started walking ahead of us sometime after KM4, and disappeared completely by KM6, where our trail joined up with the KM4 mark of the Timpohon Trail. It was via the Timpohon Trail that we were to arrive at Laban Rata.

The Timpohon Trail had a different look to it. Instead of a trail of tree trunks and roots, dark mud, rivulets and wooden steps (as seen in the Mesilau one), it was mainly yellow/orange rocks and boulders with water running underfoot most of the time. By this time, it was just KGT, EuT, DJ and I. Of Pt and KLGan, we were to meet only intermittently, and for the last time at the KM5 pondok of the Timpohon Trail.

The altitude was much higher now. It got much harder to take in a lungful of air. This fact was compounded by the presence of persistent rain and wind. The numbing coldness in my hands was multiplied by wet gloves. I took them off and shoved my free hand into the pocket of my wind-breaker to warm it up a little. When that failed, I begged a fresh pair of gloves from EuT, put them on, and hid them both in the inside of my wind-breaker sleeves. That kept the wet off, and I found that when I kept my hands clenched, it doesn’t feel as cold. That helped.

KGT and EuT had walked on and had presently, also vanished from sight. Only DJ and I were left. Every step was now an agony. Added to the breathlessness and the heart pounds, there was also dizziness. Every time I stopped for a rest and wheeze, I had to lean heavily on my walking stick to counter the spinning world around me. Poor DJ had to trail behind me. I turned around to ask him to go ahead without me, but he would have none of it. Sweet man. I also noticed him lagging a few times. I asked once if he was OK. I’m thinking now that it was testosterones that made him reply a firm “yes” because he really wasn’t, though we weren’t to know it until after he arrived at Laban Rata. In any case, all my spare thoughts were on my legs and my energies were driven towards getting them to move – possibly in an upward direction. I was cold, dizzy, in pain and miserable. Not much left in me to think about DJ, save for that naggy, resentful reflection that he was adding stress to my life by being behind me, and unconsciously pressing me on. Noble man.

One of the guide-cum-porters appeared in front of us. His name is Hamiri. He had carted all our bags to Laban Rata and had now turned back to aid us stragglers up to that mid-point hostel. Hamiri offered me his hand. Just thinking of pulling my hand out of its comfortable cocoon in my wind-breaker pocket was too much, and so I shook my head in (hopefully!) thanks. He started walking with me, and talking to me. Well, he was really just murmuring nothings. I can’t remember everything he said, but it was generally to the tune of “It’s going to be fine; just go slow; here, hold my hand, it’s warm and nice. Climbing is a lot more fun and easy if you smile when you climb. Can you smile? Do you have a smile for me? Come on, smile for me…

In retrospect, I must have been a nasty person, because I replied him thus: “Would you just shut up? I can barely summon up energy enough to walk, and you want me to work up more to move my mouth into a smile? Get real! And by the way, puh-leeze stop talking. You’re making my eardrums and my ear-to-brain nerves work. I can’t afford to expend a single iota of strength for this. So please. Zip it!

Now, saying all those things has 2 major repercussions: 1) Much-craved energy is lost, making the possibility of ever reaching Laban Rata even more remote, and 2) Hamiri gets angry, stops talking, walks off in a huff and leaves me stranded.

I guess I must still have possessed a glimmer of sanity somewhere at the back of my head, because I did not utter those horrendous words out loud.

But I DID scream them in my head…

On and on we trudged, the guide speaking sweet nothings to nobody in general, and I tuning him out as much as I could. I was freezing by this time. The new glove inside the wind-breaker sleeve, inside the pocket, was not doing its job. Hamiri must have looked at the clenched fist and diagnosed my condition, for he said again, “Here, hold my hand. It is warm,” and stretched out his hand towards me.

I took it. It was warm. Blessed heat seeped in through my frozen fingers. It was a small relief that quickly turned into a great one when he started lending me his strength by pulling me up. It helped. A LOT!

We reached KM5.5. That is, 7.5 kms from the start of the Mesilau Route. The sun (or what we had of it!) was going down. It was after 6pm. The sky was darkening. All I wanted to do was just sit down and sleep. I was ever so tired. The air was so thin. And cold. And wet. Every pain that could be felt in the thigh and calves muscles was being felt. It seems the heart had even grown fatigue with pounding. The heaviness in the head was an almost physical thing. I needed to be careful not to jerk my head accidentally, because it can induce vomiting.

I felt really slow and stupid. “Why, oh why did I ever let myself be manipulated into doing this? Surely there are mental and spiritual struggles enough in my life without having to deal with physical ones as well?

I was still chewing myself over my obtuseness when KGT materialized ahead of us. He had sped up the last km, deposited the backpacks, grabbed a couple of headlights and ran back down the trail to meet us. Another good man.

About the 1st things I got him to do was to release DJ (who was still behind me) of his duty as a sweeper, and allow him to move on ahead. KGT did that, and DJ clambered past us. Then KGT took over from Hamiri, and we crawled on the last 300m. Everything was SNYSF – So Near Yet So Far.

Looking back, I think I knew deep inside me that should I have had to do it all alone, I would still have had been able to arrive at Laban Rata. Eventually, that is. For to turn back at that stage would be like saying “yes” to death in the cold and dark. And I was certainly not suicidal in any part of the journey. However, having DJ and Hamiri and KGT with me made a great difference. They were beside me, encouraging me and pacing with me. I was able to make it with a much more positive frame of mind.

6KM. Laban Rata came into view. At last! It was 7pm, and temperature was about 7 C. I was leaning heavily on KGT by this time. I looked up and saw a big white building against an almost dark sky, warmly beckoning me. It was a most glorious sight.

I stepped into the building and found myself in the warm, cosy cafeteria in the building. I was greeted by the welcoming faces of all my other team mates. All the pain and aches receded to a corner, and the nausea disappeared. The familiar, smiling countenance of team members was a blissful thing indeed. I had arrived. All was well with my world.

I took as much food as my stomach would allow at the table. It was there I noticed DJ with his head in his hand. He was in the throes of an atrocious migraine attack. Apparently, he ate some cheese residue (to which he is allergic) back at the pondok at KM2, and it started acting up sometime about an hour ago. Of course, having to trail behind me was no joke either, and I felt really bad about that. Pete02 attended to him. Our hopes that he would be fine enough to summit the next morning were smashed when we heard he was too sick to go anywhere except to bed.

I went up, bathed and came down again for a short pre-summit briefing. In that meeting, we found that 4 members of our team had decided not to summit – DJ who was sick, Pt & KLGan, and AuntyR (Pete02’s mom). It had been Pt and KLGan and Aunty Rose’s intention to make it to Laban Rata and no more. Thus, there were 15 of us planning to summit the next day…

I should perhaps make mention here that I had serious doubts about summitting. The Mesilau Route had almost totally undone me. I did very much so wanted to pull out from the Summit Push. However, I had to consider my sisters and KGT and all who had encouraged me to come for this trip. My sisters, especially. After having said that I could do it, and having helped me budget for the trip, booked my flight, rectified all the insufficiencies of my climbing gears – well, I was quite mortally afraid of what they would say if I revealed that I did not think I could summit. So I kept my silence. And my fears. To myself.

KGT broke the team up into groups of pairs and threes. I was paired with WLee. He and I were to be helpers and motivators to each other. Should one of us need to turn back due to extenuating circumstances, the other would have to abandon the Summit Push and accompany the partner back. I was terrified about letting WLee down, and asked him if we could follow KGT and EuT’s team, so that he would not need to be “burdened” by me, should it come to that. WLee, I discovered later, was an ex-triathlete – he did 2.1kms of swimming, followed by 90kms of bicycling, followed by 21kms of running – all within 8 hours – as part and parcel of normal practice. Scary, huh?

Anyway, it was 9pm, and we all went back to our bunks to catch a 5-hour sleep. Again, I could not sleep. My hair was still wet from the bath (or from rain, I can’t be sure which), and I was full of concern about the Summit Push. I had taken more than 10½ hrs to complete an 8 hr climb from Mesilau to Laban Rata. It was pure agony. From the testimony of many, I knew that the Summit Push would be much, much harder. How was I to summit? I was also very anxious to actually sleep, because I had not had sleep for the last 40 hours (I didn’t get any at the Mesilau lodge the night before, remember?). That anxiety to get some sleep made Sleep all the more elusive. I finally gave up sleeping, and tried to pray instead. I prayed to God and asked His help that I might summit, along with everyone else in the team who were making the summit trail. I asked for extra strength for my legs to make it up there and back. I asked for enough oxygen in my lungs to keep me from AMS (acute mountain sickness). I prayed for protection for my family back in Seremban. I prayed for everything and everyone else that I could think of.

And, oh yeah.. I also repented from not having trained enough. Though how one can practically repent from that sort of thing at a point in time when it is too late, I don’t know. Anyway, I thought that might invoke God’s pity on me and then His grace…

At about 1am, I observed my sisters stirring – they had not been able to sleep much, either. We started chatting, and soon it was time to get up and wash.

We had breakfast (well, at 2.30am, it was really a pre-breakfast) with the rest of the team, and then we got ready to start off on the Trail. Pete03 went out of the café, and came right back in, reporting that he saw stars in the sky. At 8 C, that was a good sign for good weather, and the news cheered us up. I brought a pair of water-proof pants (just in case), a large, thick winter jacket (which KGT insisted I took), a bottle of water, a flask of hot milo, and a few packets of power bars. All these I put into WLee’s backpack (I decided not to carry anything, see?) I put on my ski-mask, my headlight and my raincoat.

We started off at about 3.30am in the morning. The 1st half hour saw the same, bad steep steps. Again, I had to pause many times for breath. WLee gave me a push up every now and then. Hamiri came to my side and took my hand. Thank God for him! I think after the straggling adventure of the night before, he knew to keep an eye on me. We climbed on.

At one junction, we met Pete03 and HLai, two of our team mates. I know. I seem to have dotted my story with various different Petes, haven’t I? Well, there are three in this story – Pete01, the one who went before us in March; Pete02, a doctor; and Pete03, who is summitting for the second time with his wife, HLai. Anyway, HLai was in a faint, and Pete03 was trying his best to revive her. Apparently, she heated up too quickly on her way up, got really dizzy, and had to sit down for a spell. Our headlights marked out a greenish hue on her face. We were worried, and wanted to stop to help her, but Pete03 waved us off, and told us that he would take care of his wife. And so we moved on.

We were almost at the end of the steep wooden steps when we saw a cable hanging in the rocks. We were asked to climb up those rocks using the cable! The first thing that came to my mind was, “KGT!!! You PROMISED that there would be no such thing like this in Mt K during my Mt Angsi climb!!!” I articulated those words in a shriek. KGT snorted and said, “Get real. What are you going to do now? Turn back?” Well, maybe he didn’t really express himself so inconsiderately, but it sure felt like that to me!

Hamiri had gone up to help the team mates ahead of us who were having trouble heaving themselves up those almost vertical rocks. I found that I did not have much trouble getting up, as the soles of the Axel shoes I had were gripping very well. [Did I mention that those Axel shoes were bought by RT when she saw my incompetent Nikes?]. In any case, Hamiri did not leave me all alone to myself. He must have instructed Jeffrey, another guide, to look after me. And so, Jeffrey appeared in my life while I was in the middle of hauling myself up the cable on the rocks. Like Hamiri, he offered me his hand. This time, I took it without hesitation. What surprised me about Jeffrey was that he pulled me away from the cable and we walked up the almost vertical rocks without the aid of the ropes. Cool, huh?

We arrived at the Sayat-Sayat Gate; it was a checkpoint for everyone who was going through to get to the summit. We stopped to rest for about 15 minutes or so. It was very cold, and by the end of the 15 minutes, I was shivering and so ready to move on. Jeffrey held my hand and we walked up. I figured that since I needed to have enough oxygen, I would schedule my stops every 20 steps. That plan worked very well, and I found myself actually making 40-60 steps before every stop. Of course, the wheeze-hiss-huff stuff happened as well, but it was much more controlled than the day before.

I only had about 1.5kms more to go. In front of me were my team mates – FTan, Pete02, HCheah, WLee, and CChan. And behind me were JKok, RT, The Chans (BP, SK & LV), KGT and EuT. Save for CChan, I could see all of them in a row. Remember the cable at the hanging rocks? Well, it was really a continuous line until almost at the summit. So everyone sort of stuck close to it. And as there was just a vast expanse of black&grey rocks, I was able to see everyone.

Guess who passed me during one of my pauses for breath? HLai and Pete03!! HLai overcame her fainting spell, and decided to carry on. Hamiri went back for her, and he was now holding her hand and SK’s (Chan) hands, pulling both of them up. Hooray!!

Now I had three more people in front of me, and the peak was just about 700m away. Mists had started coming up from the valleys below. No thoughts of turning back now. My mind was completely focused on the summit point ahead and above.

The last two hundred meters were full of difficult, jagged, dangerous rocks.

But I made it.

I made it all the way to the top.

It is called Low’s Peak. What a peculiar name for the highest peak in Mt K. It was very cold. Maybe about 2 C. The mist/rain was visible, almost like flakish icicles. I had on KGT’s winter jacket and thick gloves.

About the first things I longed to do was to whip out my handphone and call VFui and Jes and Anne, and AuntyC and just about everyone else I could think of. I was feeling quite on top of the world. Literally. But I didn’t take the phone out. For one thing, it was buried in one of the pockets somewhere, and taking it out would be clumsy. For another, I would have had to take off my thick winter gloves to be able to press the buttons. I decided it was just too cold for that sort of activity. And so I didn’t do it.

I was twenty minutes earlier than RT, and so there I sat, at the top, huddling, and waiting for her to make her way up to join me. When she reached, she put her arms around me, and we sat there for a few minutes, before I started my climb down.

It took me 4hrs 50mins to get up here from Laban Rata. I went from 6000ft above sea level at the start of the Mesilau Trail, to 10,000ft at Laban Rata, to a grand height of 13,435ft above sea level at Low’s Peak. I was at the top of South-East Asia.

Was it worth it? Logically, the answer would be a resounding “yes!” But in reality, the sentiments were too much and too varied to tell at that moment.

Was it easy? Well, much easier than yesterday’s Mesilau Route to Laban Rata.

Have I conquered? NO! I found that I did not conquer anything after all. All I did was just…overcome. I overcame my fears, my fatigue, my faults. Myself.

Did I feel like I was a better person, having overcome? Yes, perhaps I did. And perhaps I am…

It took me another 3hrs to climb down to Laban Rata. At a couple of points in the journey, Jeffrey asked me to turn back and look at where we were at. I did. The first time I turned, I was awestruck at the sight of the massive huge rock looming above us. When I made the journey up, it was still dark, and I had only my headlight to show me the path for just about a couple of steps in front. If I had seen this in broad daylight while I was walking up, would I have given up? Probably. Or probably not. I’ll never know. But it was an intimidating sight, to say the least. The second time I turned around was when I descended (again almost without use of the ropes) the almost vertical rocks where the cable starts. I looked up, and again, felt great amazement that such a rock could actually be climbed…by me!

I reflected – isn’t that just like Life? When you get thrown a bunch of seemingly insurmountable problems (like no job, no direction, no nothing), you just gotta step ahead in faith, using the headlamp of God’s Word to light the next few steps in front of you [Psalm 119:105 comes to mind here]. You walk. One step here, half a step there, and another step forward. And then you reach. And then you walk on. After some time, you turn back. And get so amazed at the amount of miles you’ve covered. And so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. And so surprised that the bulk of the problems were really already behind you. And so grateful you had Someone at your side, holding your hands, leading you on...And so there, you’ve Overcome.

I arrived back at Laban Rata. Had my lunch. Took a bath. Went out to take a few pictures. The weather was really good. Clear skies. God answered all of our prayers. All 15 of us made it to the top without turning back.

That night, the hostel was packed with weekend climbers who had just arrived at Laban Rata. After dinner, we created a spot near the reception, took the guitar, and had a short praise and worship session. I got to sleep a little that night.

The next morning brought rain. Huge, torrential rain. What were mere rivulets on the rocks while we climbed up the day before were now gushing, knee-deep rivers (rather like mini waterfalls). The masses that went up that morning were turned back at the Sayat-Sayat checkpoint. When we came down for breakfast, it was to a group of despondent, disappointed hikers. We ate our breakfast as quietly as we could, and then packed up and readied ourselves to descend.

We started our descent at about 8.50am. Water was running in small streams underfoot all the way. We descended the Timpohon way, which is only 6 kms down. I only fell about 4 times along the way, and further weakened my left ankle. But it was OK. I made it in slightly more than 4 hrs to the Timpohon Gate. Along the way, I met a lot of weekend climbers getting up. I offered only encouragements for their journey. What can I say, I was feeling magnanimous…

So, was it pre-meditated stupidity to pay for the afflictions I’ve been through in the climb? On hindsight, no. It was well worth the money to have overcome. Would I go again? NO! To attempt the same climb again in the same manner would really be pure lunacy.

But I will go again….only if……1) there is another hostel built somewhere between either gates (Timpohon or Mesilau) and Laban Rata, 2) they allow a three-day summit trail instead of two, and 3) there is a bike path built along any of the trail, as an alternative to walking…

A lot of my team mates talked about the awesome flora and fauna, and the changes in vegetation on the way up the Mesilau Route and Timpohon Trail. But I did not perceive much of it. The only time I really stopped to see anything was at the ridge between the two mountains. It was breathtaking. I rather think everywhere was beautiful, but I was too concentrated on my pains to notice. Perhaps if I had taken the time to enjoy the scenery, this whole Mesilau-to-LabanRata climb would not have been that traumatic for me…as it is, the Trail to Laban Rata may continue to remain disturbing for me for some time more to come.

Having said that, I must qualify that the Summit Push was a much more pleasurable experience for me. I got to see all my team-mates most of the time and I was not out of breath and/or in pain all the time. And then there is this point in the trail, when one is at the flattish terrain, about 1 km away from the summit, where one could look up, up, up at Low’s Peak in the horizon, and then turn around and look down, down, down at the minuscular towns of Sabah below. It gives one the simultaneous, contradictory feelings of greatness and of insignificance. Of vastness and of minuteness. Of arrogance and of humility. Of being too much and being too little. I guess no word or picture can aptly illustrate that sensation. It is Indescribable.

So yeah. If I can just get to Laban Rata without having to use my limbs, I would like to summit Kinabalu again, if only just to try to encapsulate that awesome feeling 1 km from the summit.

How many days did I take to recover from the aches and pain? Well, surprisingly this time, it took me only 2 days. I was fine. Maybe it was because of the Yoko-Yoko muscular ache potion thingy. Or maybe, just maybe, I am a little more fit than Pete01 suggested…

In any case, having experienced so much in just over three days, I now claim braggin’ rights for having summitted the highest peak in South-East Asia. Among other things.

And so, that’s my story.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mt Kinabalu - thinking back

As I was blogging about my 2008 Kinabalu experience, it brought back memories of the 1st climb last year.

Last year, Rachel and I were the last recruits. We had only 1 1/2 months to train.
This year, we were among the "firsts" (got such word ah?). We had 6 months to train.

Last year, the average age group was 38.
This year - 43

Last year we had 20 team members, 12 men and 8 ladies.
This year - same.

Last year's group were more adventurous. They ate wild durians before the climb.
This year's group were a bit cautious. They had oranges, pears and bananas.

Last year when we arrived at Park HQ the first day, we could see Mt Kinabalu.
This year, many who had never been here before were not sure whether to believe us or not.

Last year Day 2 at 7.30am we had to put on our ponchos.
This year Day 2 at 7.30am all of us were dry.

We had to weigh our bags for the porters to carry to Laban Rata.
Last year, we messed up Park HQ with our stuff. We had so much stuff. Last year's porter fees rate was RM6 for the 1st 10Kg and RM6.60 thereafter.
Last year, we averaged out the cost equally. Each had to pay RM88, if I'm not mistaken.

This year, we tagged all our bags and let Peter Lai and Gan do their job. They were in charged of weighing and recording the bags for the porter to carry. We had less stuff this year. Each had to pay according to what their bag weighs. This year porter fees are much higher. A flat rate of RM8.00 and they charged us extra RM4 making it a total of RM12 per kilo because we planned to stay in Laban Rata for 2 nights.

Last year we went by the Timpohon trail (Summit trail).
This year, the Mesilau route.

Last year me team took about 6 hours to get to Laban Rata.
This year, I took 10 hours 20 minutes.

Last year it rained at 2.30AM on the day we planned to summit Low's Peak. The wind was howling, the Laban Rata Resthouse building was shaking.
During the Summit Push, we had to wear thick warm clothing. My gloved hands were freezing and my cheeks numb with cold. Whenever I stop, my buddy had to hold me, otherwise I fear the wind would knock me off my feet.
This year, we had the perfect weather during the Summit Push. I don't even have to wear my balaclava, well, not until I reached Low's Peak.

Last year, Rachel went for a midnight drink (2.30AM) with someone.
This year I went with her.

Last year the weather was good when we descended from Laban Rata.
This year, it rained throughout the whole night and it was still raining when we started out from Laban Rata.

Last year I arrived at the foothill (from Laban Rata) at..about 3PM. (One of my team members was sick)
This year - 1.30PM.

Last year we had 2 climb T-Shirts - Red and Maroon.
This year - only 1, but it looked better than last year's.

Last year I had 1 coloured certificate.

This year - 2 certificates. :)

One is to certify that I had climbed to Low's Peak via the Mesilau Summit Trail, and the other to certify that I had indeed climbed to Low's Peak.