Gifts Made of Seaglass

It has been years since I did something using seaglass. It is very common to come across tiny pieces of seaglass in various colours and shapes while doing beach cleanups. Back then, we did a seaglass project – making bracelets, anklets and necklaces.

This time I was thinking what to give as a birthday present to someone special to me who has everything, and I decided to make something using seaglass. I got a small plastic bag full of broken seaglass and ceramic from Perhentian Islands. Most of the pieces are relatively big, compared to the ones I see others used in making arts. I needed a frame, but I could not find a suitable one in Kuala Terengganu (so much about living in a small town). In the end, I just got whatever I could find here. Arranging pieces of seaglass into a shape did take some time, especially when my seaglass collection was not abundant. Nonetheless, I had enough for a birthday gift. Plus I also did two Christmas cards for my host family and neighbour in Switzerland.

I will need to look out for more seaglass on the beach before I can make more of these. UHU glue worked pretty well, but due to the transparency of the seaglass, the area where I added glue was visible after I glued the seaglass, I might need to look for an alternative glue. Looking forward to making more of these. It is fun actually!

Phu Quoc – a Vietnamese island

Phu Quoc (pronounced as Fu Kwok), the largest island in Vietnam, has its own charm as a tropical island but the beach and sea are far from paradise as promoted. Phu Quoc caught my attention because of this article, plus AirAsia has started flying there since November at a reasonably cheap price. The island has more to offer on land than in the water.

(For us) some of the highlights of this trip were:

Riding the world’s longest cable car from Phu Quoc to Pineapple Island

The view along the 8km-ride was genuinely breathtaking. The ride itself took around 20 minutes, overlooking the An Thoi Archipelago. We were lucky as there were not many tourists so on our way back we were alone in the cable car. It also means that we could sit and stand wherever we wanted to take photos. A return ticket cost VND300,000, which is around RM56. Free shuttle (provided by SUNWORLD) was also available three times a day between a few selected places at Long Beach and the cable car station at Phu Quoc. The cable car station looks nothing like Vietnam. It felt like we had arrived in Rome. Meanwhile, the cable car station at Pineapple Island looks like a theme park, almost like Sunway Lagoon or the Lost World of Tambun. Apart from a cafe and a souvenir shop, that whole place was still under construction so there was nothing much to do or see at the station. They provided free buggies to the beach.

Playing the inflatable slides in the water

The beach where the buggy dropped us looked nicer than the one we went to at Long Beach, and the sea looked inviting too. It was free to use the inflatable slides, kayak and lie on the deck chairs. Little did we know that inflatable slides could be so much fun!! That was all we did the whole afternoon. There was a shower area and the toilet is clean and fancy. We chilled on the deck chairs for a while until it started raining. When the rain stopped, we took the buggy to the cable car station.

Watching sunset at Long Beach

Searching for a public entrance to Long Beach was hell. We forgot to ask the hostel and ended up entering Long Beach at its worst area. We thought it would be like the beaches at Boracay but nothing like that. Luckily we found another entrance to another part of Long Beach which was much nicer to lay on and swim in the sea. We also managed to catch one of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen.

Visiting Phu Quoc Night Market

The night market was a 2-km walk from our hostel. Both of us forgot our universal adapter and for that we dragged our feet in the rain to the night market. The will to charge our handphones! The night market looked interesting at first glance but after a while, we realised there were not many variety of stuff they sell there. Almost all the shops were selling the same kind of clothes and souvenirs. Many stalls were selling ice cream rolls. We stopped and tried something like pohpiah but folded like apam balik. There were also a few seafood restaurants. It is a good place to try street food like Bahn Mi.

Visiting Ho Quoc Pagoda

After visiting a few farms, it was refreshing to be in a pagoda. The guide said it is the biggest pagoda in Phu Quoc, built in 2012. When Yun Xin and I heard 2012, we looked at each other and laughed about the memorable year that was full of craziness. The best thing about the pagoda is its location. The view was amazing, overlooking the ocean. I would love to live in a place with such a view.

Learning about the history of Coconut Tree Prison (also known as Phu Quoc Prison)

Until now, I have not found the answer to my question which I forgot to ask the guide – why is it called the Coconut Tree Prison? I did not recall seeing any coconut trees in the vicinity. Nothing inside the prison felt like a place that is full of coconut trees. The prison used to be the largest place to keep sometimes up to 40,000 communist soldiers during the Vietnam war including political prisoners. There were depictions of how the inmates were ill-treated when they were held captive in the prison. Pure cruelty. The worst tortures were being locked up in a tiger cage or Catso cage. The prison was closed when the country reunited.

Strolling around Duong Dong City

One of the most noticeable things while walking down the street was the non-stop honking from vehicles. It made us feel that we were always in the middle of somebody’s way. Another weird thing was the locals really just watched or stared at us even when we caught them looking. Their gaze still stayed on us. There was quite a variety of food, ranging from Vietnamese, German, Italian, Chinese, Indian to Korean. The day market was eye-opening, especially the wet market. The seafood (dead or alive) found there was diverse. Of all the things I saw, I liked the temple by the sea the most. The view was beautiful especially the formation of Dinh Cau Rock.

Chilling at 9 Station Hostel

9 Station Hostel is a really nice hostel. It has a small but nice pool. The lounge area is huge. There is a pool table, foosball table, a bar and plenty of place to sit and chill. They serve good breakfast which was included when we booked the accommodation. Ladies get a free cocktail/fruit punch every night between 9-10pm. The ambience is nice at night, we just had to speak at the top of our lungs to beat the loudness of the music.

There are other attractions which didn’t really blow our mind away, as well as some that we actually skipped.

Visiting Ham Ninh Fishing Village

This was also part of the one-day tour we did. The village itself looks like a normal village like the one at Pulau Ketam. The most interesting thing was seeing all the live and dried up marine creatures that were on sales. Never in my life had I seen so many seahorses!! They are consumed not for the taste but for aphrodisiac reasons. Apparently, seahorses cannot be bred so these are all caught in the wild. The visit also included a walk on a very long bridge/jetty with floating seafood restaurants along both sides.

Visiting pearl farm, pepper farm, wine farm and fish sauce factory

We were picked up later to join the tour so we missed the introductory talk at the pearl farm and was ushered straight to the sales gallery. The sales lady kept showing us where the exit was, knowing that we were not going to buy anything. The pepper farm was not too spectacular. In fact, the peppers were brought in from Hainan Island. We didn’t see much at the wine farm as it was not the fruiting season but thank God for wine tasting. Fish sauce factory is pretty interesting. Coming from Terengganu where we also produce fish sauce like budu, I never knew how it is made. It is also fermentation, and there are different qualities of fish sauce based on the percentage of protein in it.

Chilling at Sao Beach

We were told it is the most beautiful beach at Phu Quoc but it turned out to be a disappointment. The beach is nothing near beautiful or clean. It looked forlorn and uncared for. We actually took the day tour as it would bring us to Sao Beach. It is quite a distance from Long Beach where we stayed. To rent a taxi cost the same as both of us taking a day tour, so we chose the latter. Good thing we didn’t come all the way to spend the whole day here.

Swimming at Suoi Tranh Waterfall

The one-day tour was supposed to include a stop at the waterfall. However, the guide told us that it is the end of the wet season so the stream is drying up so we skipped the waterfall. From the photos on the internet, the waterfall looks like fun place to cool ourselves down on a sunny day.


A few other backpackers whom we met at 9 Station Hostel, the place where we stayed, told us it was not worth to spend on snorkelling or diving. They said the visibility underwater was poor and there is nothing much to see except sand and small fishes (不是看鲨鱼,而是看沙和鱼). Some even wondered what we were doing at Phu Quoc, knowing that Malaysia has more beautiful islands that are truly paradise. So we decided not to join the snorkelling or dive tour.

Other than that, we also didn’t visit Phu Quoc National Park, Vinpearl Safari and Conservation Park and Vinpearl Land Amusement Park. We heard good words about the safari and amusement park but were not interested to go.

We were there for 5D4N, which would not be enough if we had actually gone to all the attractions. Since we did not, 5D4N felt relatively long and we were already looking forward to leave Phu Quoc before the end of our stay. Phu Quoc did not entirely live up to our island expectations yet we cannot deny that we did have a lot of fun checking out a new place and meeting new friends. Besides, we both needed a getaway and the trip to Phu Quoc was affordable.

Releasing River Terrapins into Kemaman River

The river terrapins release is an annual programme organised by Turtle Conservation Society (TCS). I have been wanting to join but couldn’t make it for the past few years due to work. I adopted a river terrapin once and named it Lucky. Although I didn’t release the terrapin, TCS sent me a photo of the terrapin I adopted.

I was really excited that I could make it this year with my family. I was quite surprised that they were interested to go. The terrapins had been headstarted. The ones we released hatched last year. There is always a lot of controversial when it comes to raising, releasing and taking photos with turtle hatchlings, be it sea turtles or river terrapins. What I learned throughout these years is everything in conservation has to be considered within its context. It is easy to misinterpret a situation from a photo or hearing it from someone else. A conservationist who puts the best interest of the animals in heart would strive to do the best for the animals.

Firstly, I remember wondering why is it okay to headstart, or in layman term, raise river terrapins as my experience with sea turtles told me otherwise. It is best that sea turtle hatchlings make it to the ocean upon emergence from their nest even though they are very vulnerable to predators. Imprinting is a process considered crucial in their life cycle, for them to return one day to their natal home again. After knowing the situation of the river terrapins at Kemaman, I understand the need for TCS to raise the hatchlings. Pelf shared that the population of the river terrapins are decreasing over the years despite conservation efforts. They are threatened mainly due to loss of nesting beaches along the river banks as well as egg consumption. A female sea turtles produce more nests with an average of 120 eggs per nest within a nesting season. Meanwhile, river terrapins lay eggs every year but only one nest with a maximum of 45 eggs. The latter requires 3 months to hatch whereas green turtle eggs take about 55 days or less to hatch. Besides that, unlike sea turtles, river terrapins do not migrate far. Their habitat range is within the same river. They can only migrate to another river if two different rivers connect, for example, from flooding. For those reasons, the river terrapin hatchlings are raised to increase their survival rate against predation.

Secondly, how do we justify manhandling hatchlings for selfies and wefies during hatchling release activities? The river terrapins are being raised so they have been manhandled since they emerged. They live in a human-made pool and are being fed every day until they are released into the natural habitat. This does not entirely justify posing turtles around for photos but is acceptable. On the other hand, in a natural setting, the hatchlings would crawl straight into the sea after they emerge from the sand. One of the compromises for hatchling release programme is to put them all in a bucket before releasing, which would cause a delay of these hatchlings starting their life journey in the ocean. The delay is longer when every human picks up a hatchling and starts posing and taking photos with the hatchling. By not releasing the hatchlings immediately after emergence, the hatchlings would end up using their energy moving around in the bucket when the energy could be used to crawl down the beach and swim out the bay. This is the reason why some hatchlings appear exhausted and not moving actively towards the ocean. This is when people like to gently tap or push the turtle from the back to make it move forward. Come on, give the little fella some time. When someone is giving birth to a baby, it is one thing to say “push” and another thing to tap on her buttocks so that she would push the baby out. I personally don’t think it is necessary for everyone to pick a hatchling up for release, I am okay just watching them being released. However, it might not be the same for others. Watching a release and releasing one is a different feeling. It can get very emotional releasing a baby turtle. I have seen joy, sadness, excitement, etc.

During this release, the river terrapins were put in a big black bucket and transported to Kemaman River. I was debating if I should just watch the release or pick one up and release it into the river. I got the green light from one of the organiser that it is okay to take one and release. So our family took one and released. The terrapin retracted its head inside when we picked it up. It only came out after we put it down on the ground. It took some time for the terrapin to go into the river, and thus allowing us plenty of time to take photos. It is really quite sad to know that their numbers are declining. There are only two known rivers that have river terrapins, Setiu and Kemaman Rivers. They are even more endangered than sea turtles. Let’s hope that conservation efforts and outreach activities can increase their survival by reducing the threats that they face.

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!