Sunday, 2 September 2007

My new job

I just changed jobs, yes for those who know me, again! As some of my friends would know, I hate a desk bound job. While I don't like travelling, I love getting out and about. As part of my work, I have travelled to parts of the world most people don't think of visiting or want to visit, and to some places, even cannot visit.

This new role I have taken up is quite exciting as I now get a chance of visiting some fascinating parts of this country. My five weeks on the job has been really exhilirating. As part of my induction, I was sent to see what we do as an organisation and how we work.

This is just two of the modes of transport to work.

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This one was taken as we disembarked on Tiritiri Matangi, a beautiful island 30km North East of Auckalnd.

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Here is one with two of my colleagues at Karamea, one of the remotested parts of New Zealand.

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This is the view from my transport to my place of work. Flying across the Southern Alps from the skies.

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If only all offices are like this. This is the Heaphy Hut on the Heaphy Track.

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Views from the hut.

And these are some of the living things I share my office with.

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A native protected New Zealand bird, Kea.

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A Takahe, an endangered New Zealand flightless bird.

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Another endangered, New Zealand creature, the Yellow Eyed Penguin.

All in a day's work!

Saturday, 1 September 2007

New addition

It has been about 3 months since I last wrote anything down. I guess it is a bit like once you have settled in well, everything around you is no longer a novelty and there is nothing much that catches your eye!

We have been in New Zealand for 2 years now and we like it here so decided to add another member to the family, a four legged one. We were looking for a pet for awhile and came across this adorable face on a website. We went, we saw, we liked and Jasmine or Jazz for short, followed us home.

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We have had dogs before and we, actually it was just me, never knew what Beagles were like. She has an energy level like you would never have guessed. She loves to play and she has not learned that the word "stop" or "enough" means we are tired. She is not only an extremely intelligent dog but also an extremely mischievious one.

After she came to live with us, my perspective of dogs has just changed!

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Father and son fishing expedition

If you have ever suffered an itch to catch a fish, the advice would be “don’t do it”. Instead, what you should do is to go down to Pacific Catch and buy yourself a nice sized blue cod or snapper. That way, you won’t need to put up with an eight year old whining, when one fine Saturday morning you decide to go fishing and spend time with your son. Shopping for fish is a lot easier and hassle free, to say the least.

Fishing has been a passion of mine for sometime but we lived in a land locked part of Malaysia for many years that the only fishing I could do was to walk down to the local fish market and feel, see and smell the fish. When we arrived in New Zealand, the sea was just a stone’s throw away and my interest in fishing was rekindled.

When I told Vera that I was going to take up fishing, she was a little sceptical and at the same time gave me “The Look”. A look that suggested “What do you think you are doing?”. Obviously she would not have known about my fishing as when I met her, I was already “land locked”.

So, how did I get hooked on fish?

My compulsion was probably inherited from my dad. He wasn’t a fisherman but he is one who loves his fish. It was my dad who taught me how to love fish. Penang, where I grew up, was surrounded by water and to find a fish was never too difficult, even if you can’t fish. My dad had a friend who was a fisherman and we used get all sorts of fish to try and often more than we can consume. Of course, being only my dad and I, who loved fish, didn’t help.

And the times I now recollect as the closest I ever came to my dad were when he would shake me awake at four a.m. on a Sunday morning, say in a whisper, so as not to disturb the whole household, “Hurry and get dressed before the fish gets sold out”. I would climb out of bed and get dressed quietly, then slip out of the house and hop on my dad’s motorcycle. It would still be dark but we would set off down to wholesale fish market, Chowrasta Market. We would pick the best catch of the day before it got sold, take it down to the corner restaurant, and turn the catch into a delicious pot of curry. We would then sit and have coffee and curry for breakfast. A weird combination but it worked for us.

These are the moments when everything that was unexpressed between father and son would fall into place and we would share all the love in our hearts without a word being said. This is the only time I had all of my dad as he was one who always worked long hours.

My son on the other hand, is not one who loves to eat fish, so the least I thought I can pass on to him is the love of catching fish. I am begging to find out even that is quite a daunting task, given his lack of patience.

Yesterday, we went on a fishing expedition at the Mana Wharf, complete with rods, reels and some fool proof power baits. Of we went, cast our rods, and “nada” not a single bite. After all of 5 minutes, Anil started checking to see if he had hooked a Barracuda. After about half an hour, it was stomach growling time. And an hour later, I was quite sure I did not want to continue to hear “I am hungry” like a broken record and neither did any of the fishermen in the area.

So much for our father and son bonding fishing expedition!

Next time, I will need to set a fish finder and find a spot in the sea with lots of fish. Then I need to find a super-duper bait that will find a fish to hook it (not the other way around). Failing which I will probably need to dive and hook the fish for him. Just to get him excited about fishing.

Imagine the things a dad needs to do to get his son to love fishing! Or shall I put it another way…the things a dad needs to do to spend time with his son!

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

On a roll...

The population of Wellington is rather small in comparison to KL. I maybe wrong but I think it is in the region of about 300,000 or so. And due to its size, the likelihood or probability of being able to win anything from a contest or a draw is also relatively high. If there was one prize to be won in KL, the chances of getting that one prize would be one in 4 million and in Wellington it would be one in 300,000, assuming of course every resident participates.

A few weeks ago, there were tickets being given away by a local radio station (The Breeze) for the movie "Mr Bean's Holiday". Each winner was to get 2 free tickets to the movie. Vera called one morning when they said "Be the 5th caller...." What do you know? She was the 5th caller and won 2 free tickets. Having just 2 tickets, when there are 4 of us would mean someone needs to baby sit the kids, so we tried calling for another chance on another day. Bingo! We got another 2 tickets.

After the first win, I went over to their offices in the city to pick up the tickets. Had no problems picking it up on behalf of Vera. No identification was asked – just mentioned her name and got the tickets. Then a few days later when we got the second 2 tickets, I had to go to their offices again to pick up the tickets. This time the receptionist asked me "Didn't I see you earlier this week for tickets?" I said "Yes, but this is for someone else" to which she replied "At the rate you are doing favours, you better get yourself invited as well".

Last week, there were tickets to be given away for the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle" movie. Kids were asked to call and talk about their strangest pets for a chance to win a family pass of 4. Anil called up this time and talked about his pet "fly" called William, which mysteriously fled from captivity moments after he won the tickets.

And just this morning, yet again another chance for a free family pass to "The Robinsons" was announced over the radio. This time, Anil and Ashwini called but only one won. Anil managed to get through and got himself a family pass for 4. As it coincides with Ashwini's 6th birthday, it will be her treat courtesy of The Breeze!

After this, we need to keep a low profile or might be banned from getting free tickets to the movies.

I was thinking...since the population of New Zealand at 4 million is only slightly smaller than the population of KL, I might try my hand at Lotto. Mathematically the chances of winning Lotto in New Zealand is surprisingly higher.

I read somewhere that the adult population in New Zealand is approximately 60% of the total, which is about 2.4 million people. I am assuming that of that, only 60% will play Lotto, which brings the number to 1.44 million. If 20% of that were out of town, out of the country or are in a hospital somewhere and could not buy a ticket, that brought the number down to 1.15 million. If half of that bought more than one ticket to increase their chances, that would make the total number of tickets competing for the $2 million, to be 1.73 million. So, mathematically, the chances of raking in the $2 million is one in 1.73 million.

Ok, I can start building my castle in the air. The foundation can come later.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Rain is rain by any other name

How many different ways can we say that it is raining? That is the question!

We were and still are the last time I checked, planning on a holiday during Easter, which is a 4 day break here, to Taupo. So, we regularly check the weather forecast to see what the weather will be like. Which direction the wind is blowing and hence how cold it was going to be.

The heat and the lingering summer seem to be coming to an end as the holidays are approaching. It was bright and sunny with temperatures in the mid to high 20’s up until yesterday, but this morning when I checked, the temperature has dipped a few degrees and is now hovering around the lower end of the 20’s band. Still relatively warm I think (depending on the number of layers you have on) but given the fact that Taupo is situated on an elevated part of the country, the nights are going to be a lot colder.

Somewhere there, along with the lower temperatures, are those mean dark rain clouds coming our way from Australia. The website we use to monitor the weather is run by the New Zealand Meteorological Department (or Metservice for short) and is usually pretty accurate and changes every 2 hours or so. It uses these symbols of dark clouds to describe a rain cloud and with it a short narrative to describe the kind of rain. You get to see the forecast for up to the next 5 days usually but I was so tickled by how they described rain for the next 5 days.

To me rain is rain is rain. However way you see it, rain is when it spits down from way up there and you get all wet. The degree of smile on your face is relative to your age when it comes to rain. The younger you are the more you smile as you get to soak yourself with your clothes on and it is beyond your control. As you get older, you need to attend to the wet clothes and foul state of health after the rain all by yourself, so the smile slowly creeps away and we seek shelter. How else could one describe a weather so miserable when the clouds are dark, the air is humid and you feel gloomy.

The Metservice, on the other hand, has an interesting array of words to describe this. Here is what I saw describing rain!

Day 1 – Overcast with occasional rain

Day 2 – Periods of rain

Day 3 – Outbreaks of rain

Day 4 – Rain easing to showers

Day 5 – Showers clearing then rain developing

In short it was going to be raining for the next 5 days! Period! However, I still have not figured out what the difference is between rain and showers, though.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

All in a day's fun

This afternoon we attended an International Food festival here in Kapiti. We arrived at 11 in the morning and the dances had begun. There were lots of different cultural dances and food from the various communities that make up Kapiti. We sampled food from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Brazil, England, China, America and of course host New Zealand.

At the event, we migled with people from these ethnic backgrounds and had an invitation to an Indonesian get together next Sunday and an open invitation to camping with the Filipinos! Not bad for a day's event. We also got to meet and speak with Nathan Guy, National MP and the Alan Milne, Mayor of Kapiti Coast District Council.

All in a day's fun.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

McDonald's Fun Run

Summer is still here! It is still a balmy high 20's for now and the weather is good for all that outdoor sports.

This morning McDonald's together with Kapiti's Rotary Club organised a Children's Fun Run as part of the Children's Day celebrations. Anil took part representing his school, Paraparaumu Beach School.

At the start...

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And, at the finish...

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Saturday, 10 March 2007

Save Hector

New Zealand is home to the world’s smallest and rarest marine dolphins – the Hector’s dolphins.

Once distributed in waters all around the New Zealand coast line, these very special animals have now declined to just 7000 individuals and have been fragmented to a degree that threatens their survival. Read more about this on the Forest and Bird website.

Anil's school distributed this leaflet he is seen holding and asked students to go the beach and create a sculpture of Hector using things you find on the beach. His creation is below.

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It was a real nice warm day for an end to summer but who's complaining? In about a month's time, anywhere near the beach would probably require a thick sweater.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

My encounter with the former Prime Minister

Yesterday was a memorable day for me. Not because it was Valentine’s Day. Actually that too, but in a different context which I would not dare to explore here. Red roses, chocolates and all even getting a chocolate at the Railway Station from a complete stranger was quite memorable in its own way. But, let’s not delve into that.

Now, coming back to the other memorable event. I attended the audit committee meeting of the company I work for. I have attended and presented at audit committee meetings in Asia but this was the first here in New Zealand. That wasn’t the memorable event but the people I met certainly qualified for that event.

One of the attendees at the meeting was the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Rt Hon Jim Bolger. I am sure to some corporate high flyer, meeting dignitaries like that is an everyday affair but not to me. I was quite honoured to have met him, introduced to him and have a conversation with the man.

This morning, I tried to find out about his background, what he was like and what he did for the country while he was the Prime Minister. I learnt that he was Prime Minister from October 1990 to December 1997 and under his leadership, the country’s economy transformed itself from having the lowest growth rate among 29 OECD nations to one of the strongest. He now sits on and chairs several boards. What I really found interesting was that after he retired as Prime Minister of New Zealand, he was appointed Minister of State and Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He then was sent to Washington as New Zealand’s Ambassador.

In contrast, a Malaysian Prime Minister like Tun Mahathir Mohammad, after retirement has left public office altogether, officially at least. Imagine what it would be like if he remained in politics as the Minister of Finance or something like that. As it is now, he is causing a stir, outside of government.

Like Jim, Mahathir was also a memorable Prime Minister whom I had the honour of meeting in person. Mahathir, changed Malaysia from a agricultural nation to an industrial powerhouse in that part of the world.

Shaking hands with Jim yesterday reminded me of my meeting with Mahathir many years ago when he was the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Both meetings were in Board Rooms of large corporations of their respective countries. At both meetings, they were in control even when they were not on the Chair. Both elderly statesmen in their 70s. Both have a similar sort of charisma. Despite their power and influence, both appear to be very warm and friendly. Someone you know you can talk to and will listen. Both just as sharp and just as shrewd.

I guess that’s what separates us from the great leaders of the world, and why only a few will get to that position.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Weekend at the Otaki Forks

This weekend is the Wellington Anniversary and a 3 day weekend. We thought of going camping but then the weather was not all that great for camping. So we thought of going for a day trip to a nice spot.

We have passed the Otaki Forks turn off several times going up north but never knew what the actual place was like until a friend said it had a good campsite and a picnic spot. The Otaki Forks, obviously in Otaki (90 minute drive from Wellington), is the main western entrance to the Tararua Forest Park. Two tributaries, the Waiotauru River and Waitatapia Stream, meet the Otaki River here, and hence the name.

The forks is about 20km from SH1 and the journey is half the fun or shall I say half the adventure. The Department of Conservation officer I met told me that it was perfectly alright for a car to get there and I had confirmation of this from a work colleague who has been there. So off we went. After about 15km in the Otaki Gorge Road, we had to do a "river crossing" which we thought was so weird. The river actually flowed over a sealed road into the other side falling straight down a ravine.

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Okay, that was adventerous, but not that bad we thought. Then immediately after that thought crossed our minds, we came across a sign that said "gravel road ahead". Now that got me worried as there were no indication as to how long the gravel road was and whether cars could use it. We waited for a few minutes, not a soul in sight. We whipped out our cell phone, just in case we needed to call AA. No signal bars on the cell! Since we had two confirmation that it was okay, we went aead.

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The gravel road was actually not too bad. It was pretty much like this all the way with a small kilometre or so stretch of sealed road in between. After driving like we thought we were almost lost, we saw a sign "Picnic Area" and a DOC sign board. We took the turn off and came to the most beautiful picnic area I have seen.

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The grass was green and the river just next to the grass area was so inviting. The water was crystal clear and they even has a toilet that flushed. It did not have hot water though but that wasn't too bad. There were about 4 other families there but the place was really big.

We later went into the river for a dip only to find out the water temperature was 15.1 deg C, or at least that's what my trusted Casio said. We braved the cold and went in. It was so refreshing. There were seveal deep pools suitable for kids as well as adults.

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There are several bush walks from here from 20 minutes to several days cutting across the ranges. All the walks start from across the river on this bridge.

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We did not attempt any on this trip as we were not geared for any sort of walking. With the wild weather last few months, some of the walks aren't actually that safe for now.

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However, this picnic spot is very safe and we will be back when the weather is better. Afterall it is only an hour's drive from home to the picnic spot and is really great!

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Craving for that authentic Asian food?

Malaysia is a melting pot of three very distinct ethic groups; the Malays, the Chinese and the Indians. Vera and I belong to two of them. As people who have been to Malaysia would know, the food you get there is probably second to none. Food from Malaysia is quite different as the Indian food is not exactly what you will get in India and likewise, the Chinese dishes in Malaysia do not taste anything like what you might get in China. And don't event try to categorise the Malay food and everything else in between like the Nyonya and Mamak varieties.

We have patronised so many Malaysian food outlets here in New Zealand (some operated by people who have never been to Malaysia), but found the ones prepared in our own kitchen on a small scale is still the best. I am sure other migrants from other parts of the world feel the same.

We then thought of this concept of providing a "home chef" service in the form of a business, called Hire a Chef. We just started the website and are in the process of getting everything organised to get the ball rolling. It is still in its infancy stage and the website is pretty static at the moment. We will be filling in the "blanks" as we move along the process of setting up the business including some recipes that you could have only found in your mom's kitchen.

Click on the link above or the logo to take you to the website. Let us know what you think of the idea. Both the concept as well as the website itself. Any comments is appreciated. Thanks.

Monday, 8 January 2007

The world traveller

I discovered this website on S & J's Blog about a tool that graphically illustrates the countries one has visited. I entered mine and here is a graphical representation of the countries I have visited in this world.

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It is only 12% of all the countries on earth! That is only a fraction of what some others have been to.

I would be happy to have touched 25% before I leave this world!

Here is the link to this project. Click here to take you there. (I know, it sounds weird!).

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Mid summer or mid winter

Well, that is the million dollar question. Is it now mid summer or mid winter. We just sailed through the longest day of the year a few weeks back and technically we are in summer. However, if you had seen the temperature gauge lately, you would think we are still in winter.

We have this temperature gauge gadget that records the indoor and outdoor temperature and this morning when I woke up, I thought it felt more cold than it should. I looked at it and could not believe what I saw. The outside temperature read 1.5 degrees Celsius!

It is January and I can still see a lot of people with winter jackets and coats. There are the odd ones that brave walking around in shorts and tee shirts but the vast majority still wrap themselves up. Same time last year there were lots of flesh exposed! This year it is all under wraps!

The newspaper this morning had a report that said this summer is one of the coldest in New Zealand in 60 years. In fact the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research said it was the coldest since records began more than 70 years ago.

We have not been in New Zealand long enough to see the trend but people who have been here longer tell us that last winter was also colder than usual and it is still lingering on longer than it should. We had so much rain and snow last year, a lot of people were affected either by their crop destroyed, farm animals trapped in snow, houses washed down cliffs and even the odd earthquake. While we were having more than our fair share of the rain, our neighbours in Australia is having the worst draught in history!

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

The way we camp

We have been camping even before we came to New Zealand. I was just amazed at how different the camping experiences are between what we experienced in Malaysia and how it is here in New Zealand.

This was our tent and how we camped in Malaysia. This was taken about 5 years ago and has not changed much.

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This is our tent in New Zealand and the scene of the campsite here.

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Note the differences in the access roads to the campsites.

The real difference the way I see it is back in Malaysia, campsites are not designated and you need to go and look for them yourself. In order to find one we joined a club. I belonged to the "Lanun Darat" or "Land Pirates" directly translated to English. Once found, most of us 4WD owners keep it a big secret so that no one else knows about it and it will remain clean and pristine for our exclusive use. Facilities are not even basic - it is pretty much non existent and you need to be completely self sufficient for the number of days you intend to camp. The only power source will be the odd car or truck battery used for lighting purposes. And due to its location and access you never went alone! We put up with wild animals and learn to live with them to some extent.

Here in New Zealand, campsites are well established. Most are privately owned and some by the Department of Conservation. A vast majority are located in cities or near cities where you do not need an all terrain vehicle to access. While we keep campsites a secret in Malaysia, campsites are widely publicised here in New Zealand. You can get brochures and maps and all are adequately sign posted. The phrase "self sufficient" here takes on a different meaning. You bring your own barbeque, fridge and stove so that you can cook yourself a meal without having to leave your tent.

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If you are not inclines to be completely "self sufficient", the camp kitchen usually has multiple, refrigerators, freezers, stoves, ovens, microwaves, toasters and some even barbeques. The laundry has washing machines, dryers and ironing boards. The showers have running hot water. Where do you get food? Some campsites sell food and others have huge 24 hour supermarkets at their doorstep.

We went to a shop selling camp gear in Wellington the other day to look for accessories to "upgrade" our camping experience and was surprised to find that you can buy a solar powered hot shower, complete with a shower tent if you wanted. You can get a chemically treated portable toilet to take with you. This really got me - a three power sourced, portable 1.5kg washing machine and dryer. The three power sources used are gas, battery and AC power!

When you pick a campsite, you get to choose between a powered and a non powered site. If you walked by a powered campsite, you will no doubt notice the array of electrical appliances I described above. We have even seen a satellite dish outside a tent. Since the weather here can get pretty "chilly" especially at night even in summer (depending on where you camp), you can even bring your portable heater.

And how do you bring all this stuff? A trailer, of course, which is going to be our next investment!

In short camping in New Zealand is like going on a holiday at a resort. Actually, some of the campgrounds actually call themselves a "holiday resort". The only difference between a real resort and a campsite is that you bring everything yourself and the "resort" merely provides you with a spot and facilities for a small fee. Which is actually not too bad. We had a real good holiday by the sea at a fraction of the cost we would have paid to stay at a "real" beach front holiday resort. Of course our son wanted to bring his TV and Playstation with him but we only had a non powered site and besides, we did not have room even for the fishing rod which I wanted to bring with me. But that is going to change when we have our own trailer!

Would this concept work in Malaysia? A business proposition maybe for someone with a large piece of land and don't know what to do with it!