Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Visit Taiping

Seemingly, time is elastic in Taiping. How did we manage to squeeze doing a few things amidst  the busy Chinese New Year celebration? The 3 days spent there were more than fruitfully spent :

1. We visited The First Galleria/  Galleria Pertama - the 121 year old building, formerly the Topo and Survey Offic was restored by the Department of Heritage Malaysia  (JWM) in 2009 - 2010 at a cost of nearly RM 2 million, is now a private town museum of Taiping.
The visit was extra special as an exhibition , The Role of Sri Lankan in Taiping  since 1883 -1963,  recognised their contributions to the growth and welfare of Taiping and her citizens. The Acting High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, Major-General S W Lalith Daulaga officiated the launch on 13 January, 2013. It was just coincidental  that we were there while the exhibition was on, even during the CNY. It made us proud  as the grandchildren got to witness  their paternal grandfather's esteemed place among the other noble citizens of Taiping. They saw his pictures and read about their grandfather's achievements.
Do pay a visit to Galleria Pertama - there's much to know about Taiping's many firsts. No town/city  in the country can ever  hold this grand record.

2. We made a 40 minute drive on an evening to Port Weld or Kuala Sepetang, as it is now known, to enjoy seafood. The salty air lets you know you have arrived!

3. I would say a morning walk in the Lake Garden  rewards you a thousandfold.  The serenity and beauty  of the place makes it a popular venue for the locals to exercise and meet up with friends.

4. We paid a visit to our family oil palm estate and were briefed by the mandor on the happenings there - such as ' invasions' by water buffalos as evidenced by their tracks on the mud, frequent encounters with pythons as they hide among the clusters of fruits on the oil palm trees to ensnare their prey.

5. No kidding. We even made a visit to a shopping mall, Taiping Sentral and had to battle with the traffic to park! Also, as it is sited next to TESCO, another giant outlet , looks like all roads leads there!!Thought we had left all that behind in KL and not bemoan jams and more jams! We trooped into a frutti yoghurt outlet  looking for dessert. We came to the conclusion that Taiping folk have much disposable income judging by what we paid for the yoghurt, and toppings, all weighed! Do not fret for your cuppa Starbucks etc, you'll get to enjoy it there too!

One of the oldest clubs in the country-  has the distinction of the 1st golf course in the Federated Malay States.(FMS)

The District Officer's residence on a hillock - built in the 1890s.

The white on the head and the ring round the eyes makes this monkey so attractive.

Taiping's beloved  Lake Garden.

Dawn breaking through as seen from the reflection .
Happy to see Rotary Corner in the Lake Garden.
Galleria Pertama - do head there to get to know Taiping town better. Many firsts - a heritage town.

In the  Study of Galleria Pertama , we watched a video which explains  the room and its history.
A visit to an oil palm estate. The mandor showed us the water buffalo tracks .

Port Weld ( Kuala Sepetang ) - we came for the sea food.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Welcoming The Year of The Snake

Even if any of us felt squeamish or shivery down the spine just talking about snakes, this activity got us all excited. You got to be 'coz welcoming in the Year of the Snake is no small matter. And we did it a month ahead of the auspicious day.

First, at the regular activity session, there was the introduction by Sunshine lady, Janneke to the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac calendar. There are a few variations of how the year was named but that story told went down well. So, if any of the residents or the Sunshine ladies had had vague notion of the order the animals trot in year after year, it will be remembered. At least while the story is still fresh in their memory.

In the midst of the session, prodded by the teasing of one of the ladies, that  there's still some'culture' left in me, I rattled off in Hokkien : 'it choo ( one, rat), ji gu ( two, ox), sar hor (three tiger)... till the last animal, which, of course is the pig. Aha, a mini  'score'  won!

After some simple instructions  on the snake (pre-cut) from a paper plate, the residents decorated the snakes to their fancy. Some painted the 'poisonous ' colours that warn of the danger lurking should one encounter a live reptile.

Soon the coils of the snakes changed to springy creatures as they were hung from the centre of the multipurpose hall. The light breeze set them in motion as they swirled their slithery bodies suspending in the air. That unique  decor will be the centre piece for our planned Chinese New Year party for the residents on the 10th day of the New Year.

Janneke also recited a simple rhyme about the snake and we gustily sang it  to the tune of 'If you're happy and you know it'.

By then, some habits of the snakes were learned and hopefully any phobias were dispelled. One thing to remember : they do no harm unless threatened.

Back to ushering in the Year of the Water Snake. May you enjoy good health and and from it enjoy wealth ; for health and wealth  are entwined as snakes come! Wishing all my Chinese friends,'Gong Xi Fa Cai!'

A snuggy snake .
Sssuchh a lively activity.

Adding colours for a bright year ahead

Coils of good luck for the New Year!

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Enrichment at Zoo Negara

We let cry whoops of delight watching our jumbo friends at Zoo Negara searching for the packets of treats we had a hand in preparing earlier at the Enrichment Centre.

That capped an eye-opening tour of the Zoo: visiting our endangered wildlife at  their enclosures, listening about their vulnerabilities when humans seek to destroy their habitats or kill for their flesh, blood and all for ill-gotten fortunes.

Under the capable hands of Edwina, the Zoo Education Executive, it was fascinating to hear about the novel ideas and ways that are used to evoke an animal's interest  towards artificial objects, scents and novel foods to encourage  natural behaviours exhibited in the wild and to keep animals mentally and physically fit.
Zoo Negara has up scaled its Enrichment Programme and the Enrichment Centre  was built in response to Act 716 by PERHILITAN ( Wildlife Dept & Natural Parks) for better animal well-being. It is indeed good news  that since Nov 2011, enrichment is now part and parcel of the daily care of the animals.

Under the roof, we saw pinatas, ropes, hammocks, animal cardboard toys and industrial strength toys like the pvc piping, coconut husks, egg cartons, pine cones ready to entice the animals to play, explore, pounce, climb , hunt

With the necessary tools , the staff and volunteers create and shape the enrichment to suit the different animal s' needs. Put quite simply,  the animals have to think on their feet! Also, rousing their senses - auditory, sensory, perhaps using their tail, mouth to achieve their tasks. After all,  strange objects will only prod them to be curious.

The crux of it is to encourage  them to be active: as close to their natural instincts in the wild as possible. Zoo keepers can spot boredom which is exhibited by endless pacing, head bobbing - all unhealthy signs which stress  the animals and pose dangers to their caretakers too.

Safety is also a consideration before providing enrichment to the animals. For example, the pinatas are made of brown paper with flour solution. The balloons are taken out before  giving to the animals . Fruits, boiled eggs, sunflower seeds  etc are hidden in the pinatas.

The orang utan's playground

Heavy duty stuff to last. Thanks to the Education Unit Team  and the Zoology Team for their input in this article.

Mother Rokiah with baby, Maya  - it's bonding time in the hammock.

More hands make light work - getting ready the treats for the elephants - rice with brown sugar, papaya and cucumber. Members of the MCG using the banana leaves to make the food packets. 

Pinatas - what's hidden inside?

Enrichment Centre where ideas flow .

I spy  and smell food!

Food can be hidden in the coconut shells.