Wednesday, October 29, 2008

BIG walk on ~w~a~t~e~r~

Date: Sunday, 2 November
Flag-off time: 7.30am
Start point: Suntec City Fountain of Wealth
End point: Marina Barrage
Distance: About 5km

Monday, October 27, 2008

National Parks' latest addition - Admiralty Park

Admiralty Park, with phrase 2 recently opened, is a 27-hectare nature area with a rich variety of animals and plants. This is the largest park in the North West district to offer both recreational amenities and a mangrove swamp. There is a hilly terrain shaped like a river valley to reflect the history of the site, which used to have a river (Sungei Cina) running through it.

Home to over 100 species of animals and plants, the park offers 3 types of habitats - open grassland, tropical rainforest and mangroves. It has three boardwalks and a 2-km nature trail for visitors to enjoy its rustic surroundings. The boardwalks and the trail are carefully placed to minimise disturbance to the existing mangrove swamp and habitats. The trail is very straightforward with signboards which enable visitors to better appreciate the various species of flora and fauna found in the nature area.

We entered the park through the west entrance. First, check the map of the park and mind the trail manners.

Top left: The pond infront of the Sakura restaurant
Top right: amphi-theatre facing the pond

Top left: Nipah Palm from which "attap chee", an ingredient found in local desserts, can be harvested
Top right: start of the trail from west entrance

Top left: Acrosthicum leaves are fire resistant & can be used as roof thatch.
Top right: one of the boardwalks

Above: the trails are easy and straight forward

Here's the main attraction - the mangrove swamp
Mangrove tree has buttresses and kneed roots. The leaves are elliptic-oblong and stipules are often red. They can be used as timber for house poles and rafters and the bark (astringent) can be used to treat malaria.

Spot the mudskippers...

another boardwalks...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's Great Eastern Women 10km today...

This day finally arrived. It was dedicated for women only, especially those who have fought or are fighting breast cancer and cervical cancer. More than 10,000 women from all over the world race either 10km or 5km to raise fund for the Breast Cancer Foundation and the Cervical Cancer Prevention Fund.

The weather this morning was great, the sky was covered with clouds, no morning sun, just the right weather for women who worried about getting sunburn. The difference this year was the running route... no more running down boring Shenton Way. Suddenly Nicoll Highway was flooded with women in red... then part of the F1 route... gosh, the scenic skyline really helped to forget about sore and aches...

< the new route

Top left: assembled at the new starting point...
Top right: all ready to go...
Left: cooling down exercise

Left: sponsors' booths
Right: BCF booth

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Great Eastern Women 10km

Event Details: Great Eastern Women 10km 2008
Distance: 10km
Date: Sunday 26 Oct 2008
Start Times: 7.30am
Start/End Point: The Padang

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cambodia – A vibrant culture, charming people, jaw-dropping sights (part 8)

Together, Anything is possible

This trip to Cambodia wasn’t all about play and fun. We actually spent more than a week restoring, rebuilding, repairing and repainting a village school and its neighbourhood which was partially destroyed during the flood just months ago. Work started as early as 5am and we slept not later than 3am. Also, a few of us were down with diarrhoea and all sorts of injuries. However, none of us lamented or complained because these were what we expected and what we wanted in order to accomplish our mission. Fortunately, we received great help from our local World Vision such that we were able to complete and contribute our little bit to the community.

Our group of 28 consists of people from all walks of life, including a doctor, students and housewives. Some of us have been donors of World Vision while some have foster Cambodian children and took this opportunity to visit them.

Many of us can have a choice not to live in poverty and despair but the Cambodians can’t. Needless to say, Cambodian children are among the most deprived and abused in the world. 19,000 street children and orphans of Cambodia are among the most desperate of the poor. Statistics show:
1. 46% of the street children are scavengers
2. 18% are beggars.
3. Approximately 9% of female are street kids.
4. About 5% of male ones are involved in prostitution.
5. About 2% of street children in Cambodia die every day from hunger or hunger-related causes.
6. The majority of hunger deaths are caused by chronic malnutrition, sickness, and disease.

How can we help the children in Cambodia?
1. Become a foster Mom or Dad.

2. Child Sponsorship. Send a fixed amount of donation per month to provide food, clothing, medicine, education and shelter.
3. Donate school supplies. For many children, an education is their only hope to escape poverty. However, many of them are not able to attend school because they lack the most basic educational tools like papers and pencils.
4. Donate medical supplies. Even people fighting to survive deserve to have the dignity and health inspired by warm clothing, shoes and personal care items. Such a gift can reaffirm a child’s worth as well as provide a practical necessity.
5. Donate personal care. Soap and clean water are one of the most effective ways of combating sickness and death for children and families living in the poorest communities around the world.
6. Donate children's toys. Every child deserves a proper childhood. No childhood is complete without toys although they may not be necessary.

At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to see families and communities reach a point of self-sufficiency, thereby giving every child a better and healthier place to live in.

If you need more details, please contact your local World Vision Organisation.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cambodia – A vibrant culture, charming people, jaw-dropping sights (part 7)

The Killing Fields...

The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek is situated 15km south-west of Phnom Penh. All the victims who were detained and tortured at Tuol Sleng were later sent here for liquidation. This was the place where at least 20,000 civilians were killed and buried in mass graves. Many of them transported here after they were detained and tortured at Toul Sleng during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, where at least 200,000 people were executed. This place gave us a chilling reminder of the brutalities of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime.

More people became aware of this place after the "The Killing Fields", a 1984 British motion picture told the story of a Cambodian journalist, played by a Cambodian actor and his journey to escape the death camps.

The executed were buried in mass grave here. In order to save ammunition, the executions were often carried out using hammers, axe handles, spades or sharpened bamboo sticks. Some victims were required to dig their own graves. The soldiers who carried out the executions were mostly young men or women from peasant families.

In the center of this area is a 17-story glass stupa which houses more than 8985 skulls exhumed from mass graves. You can see that the skulls were neatly arranged by age, through the acrylic glass display of the stupa. Walking through the mass grave site, we came across bone fragments and even teeth. The place surely made us felt eerie and disturbing but what’s more important was we learn and never let history repeat.

There are more than 8000 skulls in this stupa.

click on the pictures and take a closer look...

enlcosed mass graves...

more mass graves...

open mass graves...

more and more mass graves...

above left: children were beaten here
above right: the leaves were used to slash the throats of victims

don't be alarmed if you spot bone and teeth fragments while walking in the Killing Fields...
- - - R I P - - -

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Cambodia – A vibrant culture, charming people, jaw-dropping sights (part 6)

TUOL SLENG Museum - Museum of Genocidal Crimes

"TUOL SLENG" Museum of Genocid Crimes is in Phnom Penh, the captial of Cambodia. In the past, Tuol Sleng Museum was one of the secondary schools in the capital called "Tuol Svay Prey" high school. After the Khmer Rouge outlawed education in April 1975, the school was transformed into a prison called S21 (Security office 21) which was the biggest in Kampuchea Democratic. It was surrounded with double wall of corrugated iron, surmounted by dense barbed wire. The classrooms on the ground and the 1st floors were pierced and divided into individual cells, whereas the ones on the second floor were used for mass detention.

Several thousands of the victims including peasants, workers, technicians, engineers, doctors, teachers, students, Buddhist monks, ministers, Pol Pot’s cadre, soldiers of all ranks, the Cambodian Diplomatic corps, foreigners, etc were imprisoned here. They were subjected to all kinds of inhumane tortures. The torture system was designed to make prisoners confess to whatever crimes they were charged with by their captors. Prisoners were routinely beaten and tortured with electric shocks, searing hot metal instruments and hanging, as well as through the use of various other devices. Some prisoners were cut with knives or suffocated with plastic bags. Other methods for generating confessions included pulling out fingernails while pouring alcohol on the wounds, holding prisoners’ heads under water. Females were sometimes raped by the interrogators. Although many prisoners died from this kind of abuse, killing them outright was discouraged, since the Khmer Rouge needed their confessions. Even after confession, the prisoners would still have to face execution and sometime was exterminated with their wives and their children.

Between 1975 and 1979, an estimated two million Cambodians, including children, died by execution, torture, over laborious and famine. The bodies were dumped in mass graves at a site later called The Killing Fields in the village of Choeng Ek, Cambodia's third largest tourist attraction.

Tuol Sleng Museum, also known as Museum of Genocidal Crimes, is second largest tourist attractions after Angkor Wat. It now houses exhibits, paintings and photographs of many of the victims. Walk around the museum and you can still find a lot of evidences proving the atrocities of Pol Pot clique - cells, instrument of torture, dossiers and documents, list of prisoners’ names, mug shots of victims, their clothes and their belongings, etc…

The Victims’ Graves...
The bodies of the last 14 victims were brought out and buried here by the Vietnameses.

When prisoners were first brought to Tuol Sleng, they were made aware of 10 rules that they were to follow during their incarceration. Below is what was posted and displayed at the Tuol Sleng Museum; the imperfect grammar is a result of faulty translation from the original Khmer:
The Security of Regulations
1. You must answer accordingly to my question. Don’t turn them away.
2. Don’t try to hide the facts by making pretexts this and that, you are strictly prohibited to contest me.
3. Don’t be a fool for you are a chap who dare to thwart the revolution.
4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect.
5. Don’t tell me either about your immoralities or the essence of the revolution.
6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.
7. Do nothing, sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting.
8. Don’t make pretext about Kampuchea Krom
in order to hide your secret or traitor.
9. If you don’t follow all the above rules, you shall get many many lashes of electric wire.
10. If you disobey any point of my regulations you shall get either ten lashes or five shocks of electric discharge.

Building ‘A’ is a 3-storey building. The classrooms on the ground floor of this block had been converted into interrogation and torture cells. The upper floors were used to detain prisoners.

Below are some of the interrogation cells. These cells were used to torture and extract confessions from the prisoners.

water torture...

These were the few out of the many inhumane torturing methods used on the prisoners.

The Gallows
These were originally used for students to exercise, but the Khmer Rouge found a more sinister use for them. Prisoners had their hands tied behind their back and were hung upside down until they passed out. They were then revived by having their heads submerged in filthy water (which was often used as fertilizer) in the clay pots shown in the photo.

Below is Building 'B' which is now used to display the photographs of the victims.

They were the few out of the thousands of pictures of the Khmer Rouge victims - men, women and children who were duly photographed, then tortured and killed. More than 20,000 people were captured and brought to Tuol Sleng, only 7 were known to have survived.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * R I P * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Block 'C' - The ground floor (1st floor) classrooms were partitioned into tiny brick built cells. The 1st floor (2nd floor) classrooms were sectioned with wooden partitions to make equally small cells (pictures below). The balconies were covered with wire mesh to prevent suicides; after seeing this I can understand why one would rather commit suicide. The ground floor classrooms were partitioned into tiny brick built cells. The 1st floor classrooms were sectioned with wooden partitions to make equally small cells.

Take a closer look at the wire mesh wrapping Block 'C'. Would any prisoner dared to escape?

top left: brick built cells at ground Floor (1st Floor)
top right: wooden cells at 2nd Floor

They are 2 of the survivors of the notorious Khmer Rouge. Till now, they are still not aware why they were captured and tortured for so many years.

This is the infamous skull map displayed in this museum.

These paintings were painted by Vann Nath, an artist-survivor of Tuol Sleng. He is one of Cambodia’s most prominent artists. It was this skill that kept him alive at S21. His life was spared by his jailers so that he could be put to work - painting and sculpting portraits of Pol Pot. He has played an important role in helping to revive the arts in Cambodia after decades of war and genocide.