A ministry dedicated to the environment

Click here for the source.

With a change in the government after the recent general election in Malaysia, there is a sense of optimism across different sectors, not just about fighting corruption, improving the economics or reducing the cost of living.

As a conservationist, I feel that there is hope for our environment under a new government. We have members of parliament like Hannah Yeoh who is dedicated to preserve the greenery in Taman Tun Dr Ismail. Perhaps more politicians will go towards this direction, to also conserve our marine, freshwater, mangrove and freshwater resources.

When our Prime Minister first announced the 10 ministries to be in place, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) and Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry (MOA) were not on the list. Why MOA is a concern too? That’s because the protection of sea turtles and all marine resources fall under the Department of Fisheries, which is under the MOA.

Before Tun Dr. Mahathir further announced that there will be 25 ministries but not more than 30, members of Society of Conservation Biology – Malaysia Chapter has started a petition to pledge for a ministry led by a Minister that is dedicated to the protection of the natural resources, biodiversity and environment.

It would be a positive change if this happens. Can’t wait for the Prime Minister to announce the full list of ministries as well as their ministers and deputy ministers.


GE14: A historic day to remember in Malaysia

9 May, 2018, the day I voted for the third time in the Malaysian general election since I turned 21. Before I reached the age eligible for voting, I used to watch the TV with my parents for the announcement of the results. The results were almost always as expected. The previous ruling government, the National Front (Barisan Nasional, in short BN) always led by a huge number of votes and there was no doubt they would definitely continue to be the government for the next 5 years.

As much as I hope for a change of government in Malaysia, I was not too confident that the Alliance of Hope (Pakatan Harapan, in short PH), which is the other coalition party, could actually sway enough voters to win the majority seats contested. It has proven to be so in the past. For this reason, the 14th general election (GE14) is definitely a historic moment showing that nothing is impossible. It shows how strong the power of people is and Malaysians have made their voice loud and clear that they want a change in the government for a better future. I, like many others, had spent hours watching the changing numbers of seats won by various parties. At some point, it looked like a close tie between BN and PH. The anxiousness and excitement of not knowing who would eventually win the majority were similar to watching Dato’ Lee Chong Wei playing against Lin Dan in a badminton match.

I am not a big fan of politics. I always term politics as dirty, a game played by players who put their personal interest in front of the interest of the people and nation. Even for someone who does not keep abreast with the current news on politics and economics (pardon me for my lack of interest and knowledge across a diverse field), the news 1MDB scandal was so huge that I could not contain my curiousity on that matter but to read it up. Then I learned a new word – kleptocracy and when I checked its definition, OMG. I was wordless. From conversations I heard around me, names came up and issues came up. Although I couldn’t quite make sense of the stories, they all smelled fishy, leading to none other than corruption and misappropriation of citizen funds that do not benefit the citizens but we citizens will bear the debt from these scandals.

So since the GE14, on every social media that I frequently visit, I came across videos taken during the campaign period as well as articles from the past and videos of the debate between members of parliaments on many dubious development projects in Malaysia. Not only that, there are constant updates every day that capture my interest and makes it hard to not follow them. When will Tun M be sworn in as the Prime Minister? What happens to the hung assembly in Sabah and Perak? What, our previous Prime Minister and his wife are blacklisted and barred from leaving the country? Wow, we have a Council of Elders! Seriously, this is like watching a series of Malaysian politics in episodes, revealing the story plot bits by bits, except this is real, not fiction. One thing for sure is we have a government that shouts for transparency, accountability and corruption-free. We have done our part to make the impossible possible, it is now the people whom we have voted do their part to uphold their promises.

What puzzles me still is, how did the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) win the state of Terengganu and Kelantan? I was so confused. People said vote for the moon, to change for once. I thought ubah (or change) means vote for PH. Besides, PAS is not in the coalition party of PH, neither are they part of BN. I must have been living in a different planet to be missing the point here. All these years, BN and PAS have the strongest and longer presence in Terengganu. When people want to vote for the opposition, it has always been PAS, without fail. Rumours are many rules and regulations will come to place like shutting down of the cinema, etc. In my opinion, these are just speculations, which may or may not happen. What will happen is what we will find out along the way. They are the government the people chose so let’s give them one term to serve us, the people in Terengganu.

The right to vote has never felt so meaningful. The core of democracy – a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Looking forward to a better Malaysia.

Earrings and Bracelets Holder ~ Recycled Crafts

It has been a long time since I have time to do any arts and crafts. As I was spring-cleaning my room, I found some old magazines and unused CDs. Instead of throwing them away, I decided to make something out of it, and a birthday gift for a friend would be the perfect reason for it.

Materials and tools I used include:

  • 2 used CDs (one for the base and one for the top where I drilled holes to hang earrings)
  • 1 toilet paper tube (to create the stand in the middle for bracelets)
  • Old magazines (to make the base thicker and to decorate around the stand for bracelets)
  • Black cardboard paper (to stick to one side of each CD)
  • UHU glue
  • Pencil/Pen
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Drill
  • Sharpie (to doodle on the CD)

This is relatively easy to do. The only thing I found quite difficult was drilling holes on the CD. The CD has two layers and while drilling, these two layers tend to split apart. The base took quite a long time to complete as I had to cut the magazines into strips and fold them before rolling them. As I was doing that, I realised it could be used as a coaster as well. This could be my next project since I still have tons of magazines at home.

Adopting the Pomodoro Technique in Transcribing

After the fun part of collecting data, it is time to transcribe the interviews before I could start any data analysis. I never knew that I dread transcribing to the point that I simply hate it, like no kidding. It is that bad. Probably because it feels funny to listen to my own voice. Besides, it is frustrating to keep rewinding in order to capture some words and understand the context correctly. Obviously, I understood the conversation during the interview, but for some reasons, it sometimes sounds unclear over the recording.

I am guilty of procrastination. I would find something else to do, as long as I don’t have to transcribe. But then it also means I am not progressing towards completing my study. Deep down, I know damn well that the interviews have to be transcribed eventually. I had also underestimated how time-consuming transcribing is.  In short, I just have to do it, no matter how much I do not feel like doing it, or no matter how long it will take.

When I read about the Pomodoro technique, I became intrigued to see if it would help me to just start and keep transcribing until I finish it. Pomodoro is, simply put, working 25-minute on a task, uninterrupted. So set the alarm for 25 minutes and spend the entire pomodoro time on the task you set out to do until the 25 minutes is up. Then take a 5-minute break before another round of pomodoro. After completing four pomodoros, it is time for a longer 20- to 30-minute break.

Professionally, a one-hour interview takes between 4-9 hours to transcribe. Of course, how long it takes depend on many factors like the number of speakers and audio quality.  In my interviews, there were at least 3 speakers, and sometimes up to 7 speakers. Therefore it takes multiple attempts to listen to the recording over and over, especially when everyone was talking at the same time. Still, I wanted to know roughly how longer it will take me to finish transcribing all my interviews. One month? Two months? So I started to time myself. I tried the Pomodoro technique. Surprisingly, I didn’t want to stop even though 25 minutes was up. But I still took a break, which often ended up being more than 5 minutes. I did it for a few times, but later decided to push one pomodoro to over 25 minutes.

Now, on average I can transcribe about 40 plus minutes before taking a break. The longest time I managed to stay put was 102 minutes. But it happened only once, more like a marathon final sprint to just finish the last part of the recording. So I need 14-20 minutes to transcribe a 1-min interview, which means to complete a one-hour interview, it will take between 13-21 hours over 1-5 days with plenty of breaks in between. So instead of setting 25-minutes for one pomodoro, I set a goal to complete two minutes of interview every pomodoro, even if it takes more than 25 minutes. Once I complete two minutes of interview, I try to push further before taking a break because once I take a break, it is never 5 minutes, ever.

My transcribing productivity is far behind the professional standard, but I am slowly, slowly progressing towards completion. Perhaps and hopefully with practice, transcribing gets easier and faster. As for now, just keep on transcribing. One pomodoro, two pomodoros, three pomodoros…until I finish them all.

Plastic-Free Pledge

When I was working at the Perhentian Islands, seeing how much waste humans had produced every day, and how much trash we had collected from beach cleanups, I had begun a mini recycling project (read this if you are interested to know how it all began). Instead of just removing marine debris and transferring them to landfills, I thought there could be better ways for us to recycle or reuse some of the things we had picked up. Some of the things that we recycled had required more research like recycling used cooking oil into candles, while some others like sea-glass accessories and magazine-made earrings were easier to make.

Now that I live in a town, blessed that the local municipal council keep most of the housing areas spotless. With regular cleanups by the local government, it does feel like we are living in a clean environment. It is not until I go to the beach or river banks that I see unsightly rubbish being washed ashore. No matter how regular the cleanups are, there are always constant supply of trash from the sea, although they definitely came from land. Not only that, it is really a challenge to recycle most things that we throw away.

I have been looking for places that accept recyclable items, but honestly recycling is not made easy or convenient in a town like Kuala Terengganu. In fact, Vincent Chung, the founder of Sampah Menyampah, shared that “there are seven types of plastic, but it’s only practical to recycle three types in Malaysia”, meaning only “plastic under the categories of one, two and five are 99% recyclable” here (click here to read more).

In a country where an effective and functioning recycling system is not in place, most of us simply have no clue how to appropriately discard unwanted things. During spring cleaning before Chinese New Year every year, I would stare at the stuff I put aside, scratching my head figuring out ways to donate or give away clothes, bags, belts, shoes, books, etc. Sometimes I give them to friends who are in need of these things, but I throw most things away. They are either junk in my home or waste in landfills, and neither is better.

So, to produce less waste means reusing whatever we have and not buying more things. I stumbled across this webpage showing 100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life, and I thought wow, there are actually so much more I could/need to change in my lifestyle if I want a plastic-free life. A lot of them are pretty much going back time, living like how our parents had lived just a few decades ago like packed lunch in a 4-tier stainless steel food container, nasi lemak wrapped in leaves and newspapers, freshly-baked bread packed in paper bags, heavy metal iron, etc.

Nowadays, it is not easy to entirely avoid plastic when buying products. For example, I still have to buy Milo in plastic wrapper (but not the 3-in-1 that comes with more wrappers) until I can find a shop that allows me to bring my own container for Milo refill. Nonetheless, I decided to be more conscious of plastic use, especially single-use plastics.

Always carry my own water bottle

I almost always carry a water bottle with me when I leave the house. It is not like I drink a lot, rather it is the fear of not having any water to drink when I am thirsty. A water bottle is a must on travel. I always look out for water cooler to refill my water bottle, and by doing so I can avoid buying bottled water. Reduce plastic water and save money.

 Use stainless-steel or no straws at all

I bought a few stainless-steel straws, and have always carried one in my backpack. But then when I change to another bag, I often forget to take the straw along. Sometimes I remember but sometimes I forgot to tell the waiter/waitress that I don’t want/need a straw. When I think ordering hot drinks could be an alternative to no straw, but it is not always the case because there are places that serve hot water/herbal tea with a straw. Good thing that I rarely eat or drink out, but I do need to consciously remind myself not to use single-use plastic straws when I am out for a drink. I hope it will eventually become a habit.

Bring a bag while shopping

I still remember when I lived in Switzerland, my host mother would constantly remind me to bring along a grocery bag until it became a habit. Neither I or anyone in my family has this habit. Therefore, I like how Giant in Kuala Terengganu charges 20 cent for a plastic every Saturday. Upon paying at the cashier, one of us would noticed “oh, it’s Saturday and we forget to bring a grocery bag”. Since we didn’t want to pay for the plastic bags, we would push the cart to the car and load every item into the car booth one by one. If I am on my own, I would stuff everything into my bag, but grocery load on family shopping trips is always more than what my bag can contain. So, in order to remember grocery bags, I would put some in the car. That way, it is less likely to forget them.

My essentials for reducing plastic use – a water bottle, a stainless-steel straw, and a bag

The advancement of technology improves humans lives, but it doesn’t always improves the state of our environment. Plastic is perhaps the best invention for mankind, but it brings the worse consequences to mother Earth. I am still far from living a plastic-free life, but I will do my best to reduce plastic use and waste.

Beware of Scammers: Anyone Can Be a Target

It is not unusual to hear scam stories happening to family members, relatives or friends. Almost everyone would know someone who had been scammed before. Some are lucky to realise it before it is too late. Every time we hear such stories, we often wonder how it had happen, and how did they not “see” through such blatant scams. Nonetheless, anyone can be a target if they are not aware, and if they don’t notice the warning signs.

I was almost scammed today but I was lucky enough to see the warning signs and cut off the conversation. To begin telling the story, I have to turn back time to the day it first started. A scammer began texting me on Instagram like 10 day ago. I was wrong to believe that there would not be messages from strangers after I uninstalled WeChat a few years ago. As long as we are on social media, we are vulnerable to scammers. Conversation was casual, mostly daily greetings and how were things at work. So nothing sexual or too personal, but perhaps if the conversation had gone towards that direction, I would have cut it off then. A few days ago, the scammer asked for my address to post a parcel as a surprise. I thought it was weird to post a parcel to someone we barely know, but nevertheless I gave my work address. Yesterday, the scammer warned me that due to some paperwork issues, I might need to pay for the overcharge of the postage. I thought well, let’s see how much that would cost. This morning, the scammer messaged that the courier company couldn’t reach me on my phone. I received a SMS requesting me to pay RM4,600 overweight charges. How ridiculous! So I told the scammer that I did not have the money, would not receive the parcel and that they could deliver the parcel back. It was really weird when the scammer kept saying don’t worry, it is okay, just pay the overcharge to accept the parcel. He started to ask for my bank details to bank in little money. I insisted no, and said that I would report to the police if they force me to receive the parcel. My last sentence was “Ok. That’s it. Everything sounds very fishy and like a scam. I am sorry but I will have to stop the conversation.”, and I blocked their numbers.

Long gone are the days where people/strangers get in touch with good intention. Not to say there is no goodness in humans, but to remind ourselves to be more careful when strangers approach virtually or face-to-face. I am sharing this with the hope to raise awareness. Cops also warn of the new parcel scam. Ironically, we read about the scams going on in the country, we somehow know about it from newspapers, media, internet, but there are still people who fall for it. Scammers continue to do what they do best every day, targeting anyone, or simply everyone. There is no free lunch in this world, and wealth doesn’t come overnight unless you win a lottery. So, if something is too good to be true, it is. We might continue to receive scam emails or text messages, but we need to be aware and more careful not to disclose anything personal and end up as a victim. I am glad I noticed it before it was too late.

First Published Paper: Things I Learned

When the editors accepted the manuscript in March for publication, I was already over the moon. And seeing the paper being published in August, I was flooded with euphoria. I remember vividly the whole process, from deciding to start writing until it was finally published. Writing, for me, will always be a learning process. Writing the next paper wouldn’t be much easier just because I had done it before. However, there are things I had learned from this experience.

1. Just start writing as the first few drafts will not be perfect.

It all began in December 2015 when I made up my mind to write a paper and hopefully, to get it published eventually. However, I did not have experience in writing/publishing a paper so I wasn’t quite sure what I should do, or where I should even begin. All I know is there were photographs of sea turtles collected by our team and citizen scientists, allowing us to study the sea turtle populations at Perhentian Islands. Nonetheless, I started writing but got confused many times of how the outline of the paper should be. The idea was to share about the sea turtle populations, but in addition to that, a big portion of the paper would also cover photo identification and citizen science. There was so much to share about the methods, not just the findings, and it seemed difficult to put everything in a paper. Still, surprisingly the first draft was completed in about 3 weeks. During that period, a lot of time was spent analysing the data and reading papers on photo identification. Looking at the first draft now, it was terrible!

2. Find people to collaborate from the beginning of the research, not during the writing stage.

Not knowing what I should do next, I thought of collaborating with other researchers in writing the paper. I approached one researcher, explaining about our data and seeking for his advice on how to write a paper, and ended up telling him I would email him the first draft. I also emailed it to a lecturer to get some feedback. They never wrote back, and I was too shy to ask again after. At the same time, I also emailed it to a few friends, and thank God, some of them took the time and gave me really constructive feedback of what was lacking. By that time, three months had passed since December.

3. Decide on the most appropriate journal before writing

I did not have a target journal in mind when the first and second drafts were written. However, to find the most appropriate journal, I listed all the journals according to the papers I had read on photo identification and sea turtle population studies. Not all journals were suitable due to the aims and scope of the journal. Some required paying a publication fee, which was more than what I could afford. It was also important to consider the target audience. When I finally found one, I realised I had to rewrite after reading the guidelines for authors. All the sentences had to be rewritten in first person, not third person. There were also changes to made to the format of the draft. That really took time, as it was not easy to change from third-person to first-person writing. Therefore, one thing that I would do if I write a paper again is to first decide on the journal I target to submit.

4. Don’t work on the manuscript forever, just submit it to the journal, together with a cover letter.

Another two months had passed when the manuscript (the fifth draft) was finally submitted to the journal in May 2016. It would be pointless to sit any longer on it as I did not know what else more to write or improve on after incorporating all the feedback I could get. The best thing about submitting a manuscript is taking the mind off it until the editors reply.

5. Revision means room for improvement.

One month later, the editors replied, and the manuscript was not accepted. The editors also provided very constructive and insightful feedback to revise and resubmit. It was actually good news as I wouldn’t have learned so much on revising the manuscript without all the comments! I got excited, knowing what to add/edit. All in all, another 3 months went by.

6. Only resubmit if all the comments (for major or minor revisions) have been addressed.

It was September when the manuscript was resubmitted. This time around, the manuscript was sent to two annonymous reviewers. Less than two months later, the manuscript was accepted with major revisions. The reviewers and editors also provided detailed comments, which added up to almost 150 comments. I started working on the manuscript by addressing every comment and realised that (OMG!) it was indeed a MAJOR revision which seemed all too overwhelming at that time. I started off with minor edits as the major edits required looking for and reading up more papers or study site information, as well as analysing the data again. Some figures, like the maps, also took time, especially to include all the sighting numbers for each location on a map. I remembered working on it for almost two months, and finally sending it off before Christmas holidays in December.

7. Revise, revise, revise until it is accepted.

After two more minor revisions, the manuscript was finally accepted in March 2017, which was then sent for copy editing (by another editor). Due to the number of papers in queue for publication, it was scheduled to be published in August. In July, a few edits were made upon the request of the copy editor, followed by proofreading of the gallery proof in August before the manuscript would be published.

8. Yay!! Published!

The journey is finally completed. It is indeed very true that to publish paper takes months, or even more than a year. So from the day when writing  began until it was published, that would be 20 months (1.67 years)! Long but a very important learning experience.

So, if you are interested to read the paper on sea turtle populations at Perhentian Islands using photographic identification and citizen science, click here!

I am grateful to Daniel Quilter, Neil Hinds, Sabina Gramaglia-Hinds, Thomas Horsell, William Forster, Thomas Brown, Yun, Nicholas Tolen, Petros Persad, Azri, Charlotte Babbs, Terissa Ng, Csaba Szilvási, Kevin Heitzman and Department of Fisheries rangers. This wouldn’t happen without you all! Thank you!

Turtle Art

Sometimes I wish I could squeeze out time to indulge in anything that requires creativity, not that I have much of it but it is my wish to do so. For some reason and by chance, I had the opportunity to do some turtle art in August, and by some, I mean more than what I had planned or intended for.

While volunteering for SEATRU at a hatchling release programme at Laguna Redang Resort, we sold merchandise which included turtle figurines. There was also a space for people, mostly kids, to paint the turtle figurines. It was a 3-day programme where we spent most of our time (10am – 6pm in rotation) at the booth, registering tourists who wanted to donate and participate in the hatchling release activity, selling merchandise (i.e., button badges, keychains, postcards, mugs, books, turtle figurines, t-shirts, etc), talking about sea turtles and painting turtle figurines. Since there was ample time to spare, I started painting a leatherback turtle figurine and ended up painting another bigger leatherback plus a green turtle figurine. I thought I would know how to paint leatherback and green turtles after learning so much about them. Yet, I had to google to get a more vivid picture to paint them. Initially, the intention was to paint them for display but I ended up buying two of them while Meena bought one.

Throughout my stay at Redang Island, I had been watching Meena doing watercolour painting every other day. I really love her painting and what amazed me was how fast she could finish one! There would be times where we would be sitting outside by a cliff or on the beach, watching over the ocean, and she would start painting while I would either read a book or just chill. The next thing I knew her painting was done. Watching her paint made me want to give it a try. It wasn’t as if I had never tried it before but I just couldn’t remember when did I last do it. During our last few days, I finally put off procrastination and started looking for something to paint in her book. I scrolled through all the photos we took at Redang to draw something on her book. I decided to draw a male turtle we frequently sighted when snorkelling at Teluk Dalam. I tried to sketch the facial scales as exactly as they were because these are the most important features in order to recognize any individual turtles. Watercolour painting isn’t something I’m good at but I did my best. Thank God, it looked like a turtle.

After my one-month fieldtrip at Redang Island, I was back in Kuala Terengganu, just in time to join the Peranakan Festival. I got a message from Pelf looking for volunteers to help out their booth at the festival. I wasn’t sure if I could come volunteer every night but I decided to put aside one night on the weekend to volunteer. Little did I expect to be doing anything creative but we had doodling session at the booth. I started on the big mirror where anyone could try doodle on it. After doing it for a while, I gotta say it is addictive. In a positive note, it was like doing meditation as all the focus was on doodling. It was fun doing it, also fun watching people doing it. I ended up doodling on one turtle-shaped mirror, which I also ended up buying as it could be a gift one day.

I realised I actually enjoy this but I could barely get myself to do it on my own if it wasn’t for an awareness programme or festival. So as much as I like it, I doubt I would do this very often but I always feel that I should. Let’s see what I will do next, when I can.

All in a Day’s Work

I thought it would be a leisure and relaxing day to go to Long Beach today. Lala was getting a boat back to mainland while Meena was supposed to meet her supervisor. Meena only found out later that her supervisor got the dates wrong and he would only arrive the next day. Thank God, Lala’s departure was smooth. Our plan was to snorkel after Lala left. Least did we expect a boatman informing us about a dead turtle. He saw us arriving on SEATRU’s boat. They had brought the turtle back. When he showed us, it was a hawksbill, still in the juvenile stage. So we brought the turtle to Laguna’s dive center. However, they did not have facility and tools to perform a necropsy, not even a measurement tape to take measurements!

We waited until the tourists left the dive center. Then we started checking on the turtle. There was no external injuries but blood was dripping out from its mouth. I tried to open the mouth but couldn’t. We measured the turtle using a rope and marked it using a masking tape. Before we left, we kept the hawksbill in a black plastic bag so that we could pass it to Mann from SEATRU. We went snorkelling after since we still have about one and a half hour to two hours to spare.

When we first entered the water, visibility was bad. As we swam further out, the visibility got better. We saw at least 4 baby sharks swimming around. So beautiful! We snorkelled at the other side after that, which had more boulder corals. We swam out until we found the underwater postbox. To the right, there was a big group of fusiliers. There were just so many of them!!

We left at about 2pm. We slowly walked back to Laguna Jetty. On the way we took many photos. While waiting for Mann, Asma tried to get in touch with Marine Park officer regarding picking up the dead turtle. Since we didn’t hear back from them, we left when Mann came. On our way to Tarras Jetty, Asma called and said Marine Park officer was going to pick the turtle up. After speaking to them again, it was decided to hand it over to SEATRU. They would do external examination and take measurements, but not performing a necropsy.

We were dropped off at Tarras Jetty. On our way walking back, Asmadi’s boy drove past and gave us a lift back. We went for a birthday party after shower. Giulia and Jurita came later. About the same time we started speaking to the father of the family, who is looking after the hatchery under Marine Park. By the end of the day, it felt like so much had happened in one day.

No matter what, snorkel is a must!

Week 1 @ Redang Island

I am finally here, after all the time of postponing the trip to Redang Island. Everything happens for a reason, I supposed. I could have been here on my own if I had come earlier. Now there are three of us – Meena, who is a TROPIMUNDU masters students, and Lala, my friend who is here to help Meena with translation.

1 Malaysia Team

Although I have been to Redang village a couple times, it is still a foreign place. We are renting a room at Asmadi Guest House for a month. The village is not by the beach, therefore it doesn’t feel like I’m living on an island. Interestingly, there are sheep, goats and cows everywhere. It is almost impossible to avoid their droppings that are literally everywhere!

Sheep and their dropping everywhere!

We went to the nearest beach (Teluk Dalam) on our first day, which is about 10-15 minutes walk from our guest house. Teluk Dalam is also known as Turtle Bay as there is where people snorkel with turtles. Here, they feed the turtles so that they come closer so that humans can touch them. I am not very certain if feeding is good or bad to the turtles. We did see a turtle swimming away as a snorkel guide approached it with food. There were also some that swam towards the guide for food. It was during times that they were feeding that the tourists got to touch the turtles. There were quite a few individuals there. We saw at least four individuals, one with a tag on its left flipper (5756). However, we didn’t know which one was the famous JoJo!

A glimpse of Teluk Dalam @ Turtle Bay from the pathway.

On our second day, we started mapping the village by counting the number of houses. We counted 242, however some told us there are about 260+ houses here. They are also building about 160 new apartments for the second generation. Every house has more than one household, some up to four households. The village is relatively big. People usually ride a motorbike or bicycle. However, neither of us could ride a motorbike. I tried a scooter for the first time and it felt scary. I wasn’t sure if I could balance the motorbike.

Just like any other village…

Asmadi also invited us on a snorkel tour. It was definitely one of the best ones I have ever been at Redang. We went to four places, Turtle Bay, Long Beach, marine park and another site next to marine park. At all places (except Turtle Bay), we were the only boat there. We were the only ones in the water. Everything felt so calm and peaceful. We saw quite a lot – green turtles (a male with two tags), black tip reef sharks, boxfish, squids, moral eel, filefish, etc.

Snorkel with turtles @ Turtle Bay!

Pulau Pinang where the marine park is.

Watching sunset while snorkelling and I could see Lang Tengah and Perhentian from far…

For the following days, our routine has been the same. Apparently none of us are a morning person. We stay up quite late, sometimes past 2am so we did not wake up until past 9 or 10am. Our visit to local houses usually began at around noon. We would walk around the village and interview anyone who happens to be sitting outside their house. The villagers have been very friendly and welcoming. Some even offered us drinks and food. In the beginning, we managed to go to three houses and now we could interview six houses a day. Most of them are not at home during the day.

Always nice hanging out at Kak Pah’s stall!

We also met Giulia, an English Teacher working for SOLS. She teaches local kids and adults English every day, except the weekend. We met up once for dinner near the jetty. The jetty area is more happening than any other places in the village. A lot of local people hang out there. It is far from the village and not within walking distance, otherwise we would like to hang out there more often. We also met a few Chinese uncles who are working on a construction project in the village. They stay near our guest house and have been here for five years!!

Apart from swimming with turtles at Turtle Bay (as it reminds me so much of my time working at Perhentian), one of the most memorable moments was learning silat. A family invited us to watch silat in the evening. Meena was really interested to learn and I thought, well might as well learn together as I know I would never learn it if I were on my own. It was hilarious as they taught us using mainly in Malay and some English. It was a good experience, however I doubt if I could actually learn everything in less than a month.

Today is our 10th day here and time really does flies by quickly. As the days passed, we met more villagers and made more friends. I believe by the time we have to leave, we would feel sad to go.