Review of year 2011

It is sometimes scary to know how fast time flies! Ever since I left in September 2010, I have been living abroad and by the time I fly back to Malaysia in January 2012, it will have been 16 months. 2011 has been a really rewarding year! I have learned, gained, achieved and travelled a lot.

JANUARY – I flew back to London after celebrating Christmas in Switzerland. My friend, Suat Cheng, visited me at Falmouth for a few days before I left for Kenya. The 2-weeks Africa fieldtrip was awesome! I have always wanted to visit Africa. That trip really felt like a childhood dream came true. I slept in a tent, went on safari tour and boat trip, did wildlife identification and cencus, tried local food, climbed Mount Kenya, amazed by the number of bright stars every night…etc. I was really impressed by the diversity of wildlife and friendly people in Kenya. I have met wonderful people and learned so much on human-wildlife conflict and management. After a wonderful two weeks under the sun, I was happy to be back to proper civilization in England.

FEBRUARY – It was a very hectic month. After all the fun during Christmas and Africa fieldtrip, it was back to serious business. For a student, it meant more deadlines approaching for submission. I spent so much time doing R assignment and a poster for Kenya, as well as preparing for the one and only exam. I definitely remember watching many series too, couldn’t spend the whole time just doing assingments, would have driven me crazy!

MARCH – It didn’t all end with the exam as directly after the exam, it was time to write a literature review and do a presentation for our dissertation project. It was a tough choice to decide on a topic. I did not get the choices I want but after discussing with Sarah, I had decided to do one of her desk study on banded mongoose. I started off knowing only the very basics but ended up understanding their behaviour well. The offside of a desk study was not having any lab or fieldwork as I spent all of my time analyzing a 15-years database on banded mongoose. I made it off by helping my other coursemates on their lab and fieldwork. I helped Diana in the lab, experimenting the mating preference of beetles from different lines and accompanied Kristy once on a bat survey around Penryn. I wanted to follow Deena on her bird survey but the timing was pretty bad as she always left at 4am. I also applied for a RA position with the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Costa Rica and had an interview end of March.

APRIL – The good thing about studying in the UK is the term time is very short and there are more holidays. Before I was ready, it was Easter break. I felt like I had so much analysis to do but I was looking forward for the trip to Germany! Anna had invited us months earlier to spend Easter over her place. Christie, Anna and I went to Germany together and it was a really relaxing and enjoyable month. Together with Anna’s Mum, Ulrike, we visited Bielefeld, Osnabrueck, Muenster…etc. Anna even drove us to Luxembourg to visit Sonia for a weekend and we celebrated Christie’s birthday there. Suat Cheng came over too, after her plan to Egypt was cancelled. We went to Berlin for a few days to visit Christopher. It was really nice to see him again after years. He was our guide around Berlin and I really had so much fun. Before the holidays ended, I received an email from STC that I was selected as one of the RAs. I was even more thrilled to find out that Carolyn got it as well!!!

MAY – I always bring my assignments or work on holidays but based on my past experience, I hardly spent my holidays doing the work. After I came back from Germany, I started doing serious data analysing on Microsoft Excel and Access. It took me longer than I expected as it was a huge dataset. To my surprise, my supervisor, Sarah had not given me the full data and all the analyses I did before was just a part of the whole dataset, thus I knew there would be more to come! However, I actually enjoyed doing it. I found it fulfilling to analyse the data and to discover a trend or test my hypothesis using the statistical software R. Besides, I had started working part time at Mayflower, a Chinese Take-Away. Jie was working there but she had exam in June and I wanted to earn some money so decided to work every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Amy was pregnant at that time, thus they needed help in the take-away.

JUNE – Most of my time was spent in front of my laptop and working at the take-away. Occasionally I went out with my friends. All my undergraduate friends finished their exam and were excited for their summer holidays. I went down to London to apply for an entry visa for Costa Rica. It was really nice of Aunty Helen to allow me to stay at her place. It was not part of my plan to stay longer than intended but I could not get my visa immediately so I decided to stay a week and collect my passport myself. I had fun roaming around London and was lucky enough to meet a very nice lady from Korea. Debi came down and we spent a day in London. I went over to Oxford and stayed with Suat Cheng for the weekend. By end of June, most of my friends had gone back home for Christmas holidays. Luckily, Debi was still around the country and I could move in with her for a month after the contract ended in the beginning of July.

JULY – I moved out of Glasney Parc and moved into a house at Falmouth. I missed my room on the student accommodation as it was very cold in the house. I was living under the duvet everyday! Besides I spent most of my time, almost everyday, in the computer lab on campus as the thesis submission was on 29th of July. It was a crazy month. By that time, I had finished most of the analyses and was doing the write up. However, I was stuck on the results as I had problems using R to produce predicted graphs. I tried so many ways, googled for R graphs…etc. I had R module the last term but everything I learned was based on model question and answer, therefore no errors. However, using my own dataset, I often received error message for the output and it was a challenge to figure the solution out. After trials and errors, lots of editing and correcting, I finally finished the write up and felt pretty satisfied about it.

AUGUST – Once again, packing, packing and more packing. It was a busy week as I needed to settle everything before I flew off  for 3 months. I did some last minute shopping at Plymouth to buy some summer clothes. By the time I finished packing, I had three boxes of personal stuffs to be left behind, plus one box of duvet and pillows. I left Falmouth with a 21kg luggage and stayed over Darren’s place for two nights in London. Unfortunately, there was a riot in London so I stayed home the whole time and had to get a cab to the airport. The flight to Costa Rica was longer than I thought, assuming it would only take about 6 hours to reach (didn’t know what was in my mind). I transited in Amsterdam and Panama. San Jose was a busy city, some said dangerous in some places but I felt safe over there. It was really good to reach Tortuguero (turtles paradise) with the other RAs. The first two weeks was quite intense, had night patrol and morning survey everyday. However, everything was so much better than I had expected. Good to not have high expectations.

SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER – I had accustomed myself to the weekly schedule. 5 night patrols and 3-4 morning surveys per week, plus 2-3 times cleaning the equipments. Occasionally I would have a shift to work in the visitor centre in the evening and I enjoyed talking with tourists. Sometimes we had volunteers over and it was fun working with them. I got close to all the RAs and it was sad when some of them started leaving. The whole 3 months there was really good. I had never seen so many turtles in my entire life before and I was really amused with the number of turtles that came ashore per night on Tortuguero Beach. It was a memorable experience, bitten by sand flies, mosquitoes and ants, hit by turtles, cut by tags, bumped into logs and sticks, walked on the beach in the storm,  using sign language while working with Spanish-speaking RAs, watched more-than-enough movies, walked to the small village for platanitos and ice cream with Duki alongside…etc.

NOVEMBER – 11 weeks seemed to be very long when I first came but before I realised, it was time to leave. It rained a lot and I was walking in the rain almost every night. There were less turtles as the season was slowing down but chances of seeing hatchlings increased. It was so touching to see a nest of hatchlings racing towards the sea on my last walk on the beach. I knew I would miss everything so much. After leaving Costa Rica, I went to Brazil for vacation! Rio was an amazing place to visit. I visited Kelly at Florianopolis and I had so much fun there. I wished I had stayed longer. I was really lucky to be offered a job as a Project Leader at Perhentian Island from January 2012. I flew off to Switzerland immediately after I reached London to attend my host sister’s wedding and I stayed there for almost a month. Victoria came over and we visited a few places with Gabi. It felt so good to be back in Switzerland as it is like my second home.

DECEMBER – My stay in Switzerland was cut short as I had to attend a TEFL course over a weekend in London. It was really kind of Victoria’s aunt to let me stay a few days over her place. I went back to Falmouth (finally) to pack my stuffs and to see my friends for the last time before I leave UK. Unfortunately, Anna and Christie already left but hopefully I will see them over Christmas and New Year holiday. It was really nice hanging out with Jie, Debi, Lasse, Sonia, Nisa, Santi and my coursemates. I also met my ex-boss and his family and it felt really good to have Chinese food again. My boss, Daniel, came over Falmouth and I feel lucky as he is really friendly and easy-going. I have interviewed a few applicants for the positions of Volunteer Coordinator and Construction Leader. Everyone is really good and sounded friendly over Skype. I believe this job will be a good start after my Masters. I really thank Daniel for this opportunity and I am excited to start soon! In the meantime, my parents are coming over in a few days time and we will travel around Europe before attending my graduation in January!

It has been a great year. I treasure all the friendships I have made. Thanks for being part of my life! My life is colourful because of all of you!  I hope that the new year will continue to be great!

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