Wednesday, May 30, 2012

PLANTATION LIFE (2) – jungle clearings and earthworks

Whenever I had the opportunity I would tag along during my husband's routine site inspections, to take pictures of the goings on in the plantation. Sharing here are photos on jungle clearings and earthworks activities in oil palm/cocoa cultivation - Tenegang, Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysia.

Greenpeace, Wetlands and Friends of the Earth are currently running elaborate campaigns against palm oil, pressuring developing nations to reduce or even eliminate the land conversion necessary to cultivate this basic food ingredient.

These green activists claim oil palm cultivation causes tropical deforestation, poses a serious threat to the global climate.

But these NGOs are silent on soya bean, rapeseed and sunflower farming causing deforestation in temperate countries. Too many questions remained unanswered:

……"How come these NGOs do not lobby for reforestation in Europe and the US? At the very least they should campaign for 10 per cent of the 100 million hectares planted with soyabean, rapeseed and sunflower to be with replanted with trees to absorb carbon dioxide from the polluted air there?….. quote

…..How come these NGOs do not tell their own governments to replant forest and restore the habitats for racoons, beavers, frogs, wild foxes, deers and bears?" …... quote

……Surprisingly, there is no such call by these NGOs for a moratorium on cars, ships, airplanes, oil exploration, coal mining and petrochemical processing industries, which all emit more carbon dioxide to the air than agriculture.

 "Isn't it ironic that the carbon emission of 3.5 tonnes from one tonne of depleting fossil fuel is tolerated while biofuels, which have the advantage of being renewable, are abhorred even though they are proven to be 35 to 65 per cent less polluting than fossil fuels?" …….quote

At the Malaysia-Indonesia Economic Seminar 2009, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad advised the two top producers to speak with one voice to counter the anti-palm oil lobby by Europe-based environmental activists.

For more interesting read and a better understanding of this controversial environment issue please follow;

Everyday we consume palm oil without even knowing it. 
It starts with the toothpaste we use when we wake up in the morning; to the moisturizer we rub on our skin, to frying oil at restaurants. Even our electricity grids are powered by biogas plants at palm oil mills. Here.

The Impact of Oil Palm in Borneo
Rhett A. Butler. Here

Is Harvesting Palm Oil Destroying the Rainforests? Here


Environmental impact of palm oil. Here

Among The Great Apes With Michelle Yeoh :  A must watch!

This 50-minute documentary, which took 18 months to produce, tells of Malaysia's conservation efforts to protect the orangutan, which are among the planet's most endangered primates. Being the only great apes found in Asia, they now survive only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Here

Remembering Michael Jackson and 
his beautiful “EARTH SONG” here.
“What about the bleeding Earth
(What about us)
Can't we feel its wounds
(What about us)
What about nature's worth”


Part 1: PLANTATION LIFE - How to Get there

Monday, May 28, 2012

PLANTATION LIFE (1) - Oil Palm, Rubber, Cocoa, Jelutong Plantations

Malaysia is one of the world’s largest exporters of palm oil and rubber. Many of the huge plantations are under private ownership or plantation companies. The plantation I was in grew oil palms, rubber trees, cocoa and jelutong (for chewing gums) all on one contiguous block of land of approximately 50,000 hectares located in the oil palm belt of Sabah.

During the initial development stages to open new plantations, Planters endure harsh living and working conditions coping with the minimum of basic necessities. A couple of years before we went in, security was tense as these areas were constantly under the threat of pirates and heavily armed robbers. 

Sharing here are some photos taken during my 10 years living in and around the jungles of Borneo (Kinabatangan, Tabin and Sukau). 


Traveling in or out was greatly influenced by the weather, the sun, the moon and vehicles must be in perfect condition (breakdowns you huff and puff and scream and walk for hours to get to the nearest help - consider yourself lucky if another vehicle passes by).  Good weather and bright sunny day means you will reach your destination as scheduled. Distances are not measured by kilometres but by the hours. 


The fastest was by air - Malaysia Airlines System Bhd flies in twice weekly. Our airport, ooops, a shelter with some benches and the landing strip were managed by the Plantation. This part of the plantation (block) is fully developed with mature oil palms/cocoa/jelutong trees, factories, administrative center, research facility center, clubhouses, mosques, temples and a Primary school.

During bad weather air travel can be a heart thumping experience, choppy and bumpy sometimes flights were cancelled without notice - while on your way to catch your flight you may suddenly see the plane taking off. For urgent/ emergency cases we charter helicopters from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.


From Sandakan to Lahad Datu you will come across Sungai Kinabatangan and Sungai Segama. The nightmarish daily traffic crawls, queuing and the wait to get across these rivers is bound to test your patience. 

Depending on the weather and pray that no over-loaded lorry slips or overturns on these cable ferries; it may take from 3 hours to an overnight snooze by the roadside for your turn to get on the ferry. 

The slightest rain may cause the river to swell and fast-flowing water will make it impossible to cross.  Either you wait for your turn or head back home and hope for the weather to improve. BTW there were no public facilities such as toilets or restaurants, in cases of emergencies;  just leave this to your own imagination Okay! 

We can get the villagers to help us across on small boats (private sampans) for a fee and have another vehicle wait for you on the other side of the river. No public transportation available here.

Today these cable ferries are no longer in operation. 
(Photo: Bridge under construction).

River crossing inside the plantation.


 The narrow and bumpy jungle track winds through Tabin Forest Reserve. If staying atop the bucking bull for eight seconds is considered a risky sport and claimed as "the most dangerous eight seconds in sports" imagine you having to sit on the bull every 15 minutes for the 5-7 hours journey. For security reasons night travels across the forest reserve are not permitted.

During heavy downpours jungle tracks may completely disappear under water, log/timber bridges get swept away by the dangerously swift flash flood waters.

What are these? Logs lay across jungle tracks - dare to venture this trail will take you deeper into the forest and you may discover illegal logging activities going on.


Rivers are used mainly to transport heavy goods to the plantation. (Photo: Friends visit to the plantation – boating trip/cruise and to watch the villagers retrieve prawns traps/bubu from the river).


PLANTATION LIFE (2) – jungle clearings and earthworks

Sunday, May 20, 2012

DRAMA-MOVIE ADDICTS – how to become one

“Phew Ma, do you know that Wilson refused treatment?” my eldest greeted me as I entered his room yesterday. 

Immediately I knew he was talking about "that" Wilson. (House M.D. "Holding On" Season 8 Episode 21).

Wilson who is the head of the Department of Oncology at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital is being diagnosed with cancer with a projected five months to live. 

Having watched the transformation of hundreds of dying patients, Wilson tells House he's not going to do anymore chemo; he would much prefer to have five healthy months than a year or so laid up in a hospital room suffering terribly.  

House series is finally coming to an end this week.

Last week my 2nd son came home for the weekend and as soon as he saw me “Ma, Rowling is going to launch a new book this September – The Casual Vacancy.., I asked him why the sulky expression on his face, “Ooo that means no more Harry Potter, I sure am going to miss him, I kinda grew up with him you know” came his serious reply!

Details of Rowlings new novel, The Casual Vacancy were released by her publisher. The new book, to be published worldwide on 27 September including ebook and audio formats, begins with the unexpected death of Barry Fairweather, whose demise in his early 40s leaves a space on the parish council. 

And just two days ago my daughter came to me with red swollen eyes.

What happened, now who else got shot and died, or was it that old lady with cancer? Anyway, why are you so unhappy, I asked giggling at her.  

“Desperate Housewives has ended, I don't care who died, it is the end of the series that saddened me; I am really going to miss Gabby and the gang” was her reply.

Over the years ever since my kids were little I am forced to blend in and keep up with many of their favourites, even sing and dance to the tunes of Teletubbies, Barney and Friends, Barbie, Doraemon, Power Puff Girls, Dragon Ball etc.


Who says being a mother is easy?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mother’s Day – My Special Amah.

Happy Mother’s Day Ahso!

This special lady is my house-help, my dear Amah who scolds  and ticks me as though I am her”naughty little daughter”.  We dearly love this lady, a mum to me and a grandmother to my kids; she is a 77years old Chinese lady! (Photo: my son and Ahso).

Buy or spend anything excessive, she will yak yak nonstop to teach us to be thriftier. She will nag my kids for not keeping their rooms clean or if they don’t listen to me.

When any one of us fell sick, she dots and fusses about like a bossy nurse, forcing us to eat all her home remedial specially prepared dishes. (she will wait until the whole bowl is empty!)

I have advised her many times to please please retire but no, she insisted saying that she loves working and will die if she stops.  Such a hardworking, dedicated, passionate and lovable lady she sings as she tends to her daily chores.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

TEACHERS DAY - To Sir With Love


To All My Wonderful Teachers – Thank You
To all my kids’ lovely teachers – Thank you
“Al - Fatihah to Cikgu Zaiton”