December 28, 2010

The best year


There are only a few days left for the year and I must say as far as I could remember, 2010 is the best year for me in my entire 48 years of life. There were several bad days over the year but the rest were quite easy going, though at times it seems a bit sedated but they were mostly enjoyable days. Even though I am not working nowadays it doesn't mean I have nothing to do ... just that I am not paid to do things for other people now. So, I do have the luxury of time and the days seem a bit longer but I don’t mind it at all. I really enjoyed the rush-free, pressure-less day to day activities.

This year I am glad to have spent a great amount of time with my family, wife and kids and also had plenty of time for myself and my friends. I used to be just a father to my kids and a husband to my wife. But now from my kids, I learned that I don’t have to be just a father, I can enjoy being a child again building a stronger bond with them. For my wife I don’t just to hold the responsibility of a husband but I am also a good friend.

I used to put up a mask to face the world and many times I felt so lonely when it seems that the world walked out of me. Now I can be exactly who I am … no mask, no show … just myself and I found out that when others walked out on me, my friends walked in.

I had the time to read some very good books and tried out many mouth watering recipes to the delight of my dinner guests. Though I have gained a few good pounds but I am fitter and healthier than ever, trekking regularly and playing a few good games of badminton every weekend with my sporting friends. I learned to stop and smell the flowers, appreciate the wonderful nature and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

I am looking forward to the next year and all the years to come. Though I may be an old school type but I am not an old fashion person. I accept changes, welcome new ideas and I will continue to learn to be a better person. I am sure there will be a lot of changes and new things as I move on year to year … some may be planned, some expected, some already happening and some may not even exist now. And then there will be more changes. I will be happy to accept, adapt and embrace whatever that is coming. Like I always say “I am happy in advance”. Why? Because now I am already happy (in advance) with whatever life throws at me tomorrow ... accept it, adapt it, make do with whatever that it has to offer and make the best of whatever I already have. 

So I am really looking forward to some good years ahead. And on second thought, I shouldn’t say 2010 is the best year of my life … actually the best year is yet to come. 

December 10, 2010

It is never enough for one’s greed

I was struck speechless in a conversation during a social gathering. A few of us were talking about success, how one defines and measures success. One of the guys in the conversation group said something which I thought was really arrogant. He introduced himself as a senior manager of a large stock broking firm. From his outlook and disposition, you can tell he is a show off.  What he said really show how materialistic a person can be.

In a quite a boastful manner, he said that how successful a person is, depends on how greedy that person can be. His exact words were “To be successful, a person must be greedy … must never say enough”. Then he continued bluntly “Like it or not success is measured materialistically”. Honestly, I have no good words for this person and I don’t want to argue about what he said. He can have his point of views.

Of course I totally disagree with what he said. Let me tell you my opinion on success, greed and what is enough. Everyone is different. I may have simple needs, maybe you may need a little more and others may need a lot less than you and I. But then there are people who live on greed.

I am not sure about others but I make do with what I need and just “fit” things into my life. To me, whatever situation I am in, I don’t really have to worry about the “need to haves”. Somehow I make do with what I have and I don’t really have to struggle. It is always enough. My success is measured by how I pull through every day with what I can afford.

It is actually the “nice to haves” that people struggle to get. And it is always not enough because greed is pushing them perpetually to “fill” things into their lives. Their success is measured by the things they have to show. They think they are happy. They have forgotten that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting things they don’t have but rather of appreciating things that they already have.

Do you measure success materialistically? Nah … I don’t think so. I give you a good example. To me, my dad is a very successful person but he has nothing to show except for an old car and an old flat. He worked hard all his life and provided his wife and 5 children with all that is needed but nothing more. He died penniless but he lived his life well and done his part as a husband, as a father, as a provider and as a protector of his family. He has many friends and everywhere he goes, people always welcome him. If you search for the word “success” in my dictionary, you will find a picture of my father there.

You tell me you don’t have enough? I tell you this … you can never get enough of what you don’t need to make you happy. It is always enough for one’s need but it is never enough for one’s greed. The great Mahatma Gandhi once said something similar. He said “There is sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed”.

It is good to know when to say it is enough because enough is as good as a feast.

November 25, 2010

Of confidence, arrogance and stupidity

Recently I met a guy I used to work with many years ago. I admired him because while struggling in the corporate world he was such a confident person full of enthusiasms. I worked with him for a while and I knew then he will go far. As I have expected, he is now a high level executive in an international company. I am glad to that he is successful now but on the other hand I am disappointed to see that he has turned into quite an arrogant person.

I really hate to see people who started well with confidence, believing in themselves and knowing that they are doing a good job but when they achieved success somehow they changed displaying arrogance. Too bad when someone has financial power, authority, status and influence, it is so easy to slip from confidence to arrogance. 

Maybe it is none of my business how people become when they are successful but let me talk a bit about confidence and arrogance. So what is confidence and what is arrogance?

I would say that those who are confident don’t need to tell others that they are confident. They just do what they are comfortable with and display their abilities without exaggerations.  On the other hand, those who are arrogant often compelled to show off and display an attitude telling everyone that they are the best. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance and many people often mistakenly displayed their arrogance thinking that they are showing confidence.

Let me put it this way ...  if you walk as if you rule the world and everyone has to know what you have done, that is arrogance. Confidence is when you walk as if you don’t care who rules the world and it is totally okay if other people knows nothing about what you have accomplished. 

Yes confidence is good but then there are those who are too confident. Too much confidence blinds them from common sense and leads them straight to stupidity. Let me tell you a joke to illustrate my point.

There was a man who was so confident of his religion and his faith in God that he was sure God is with him always and will help him through difficult times. One day his village was flooded and all the villagers left but he refused to leave. When the flood got worse, a boat came and offered to take him to safety but he refused to go saying “Don’t worry, God will come and save me”. Later another boat came to save him but again he refused to go saying “I have faith in God and I know God will come to save me”. When the flood water rises further, he went to the roof of his house and waited. Then another boat came by and again offered to save him but he refused yet again saying “I am very confident that God will come and save me soon”.

Finally he drowned, went to heaven and disappointedly said to God “I prayed to you every day, I lived my life religiously and have done nothing wrong. I have so much faith and confidence in you and yet you did not come to save me during the flood. Then God said “I am very glad that you have shown such great confidence in me but I can’t help you if you are plain stupid. Look, I tried to save you. I sent three boats to you but you just refused to get on to the boats!”. 

Do you see my point? I am sure you do.

We all have different views of things that we do and how we live our lives. I can only say that if we know how to tread between the lines of arrogance, confidence and stupidity, we will be a much better person. 

November 05, 2010

Trekking Bukit Kutu


Bukit Kutu, nestled among the mountains in Kuala Kubu Bahru is an interesting place … although it is called a “bukit” (hill), its height at 3456 feet above sea level can actually classify it as a “gunung” (mountain). The local orang asli Temuans (indigenous people) used to call it Bukit Sekutu. According to sources from the internet, it was then renamed Treachers’s Hill by the British and made a station with a colonial bungalow built at the peak. While the nearby Fraser’s Hill flourished, this hill station somehow faded into oblivion and the colonial bungalow was abandoned. Later, new maps no longer show the name “Treacher’s Hill” but instead call it Bukit Kutu.

Many years ago this trail was quite notorious for trekkers as it was easy to get lost inside the jungle. It was also famous (as the name suggest) for the “kutu” meaning ticks (in Malay) and fleas as well as the abundance of blood sucking leeches found in the area. But now, the trail is marked out clearly by trekkers all the way to the peak and with good insect and leech repellent, this trail, though fairly tough, is an enjoyable trail for trekkers looking for a good place to trek.

How to get there? First, head straight to Kuala Kubu Bahru (KKB) and from KKB head towards Fraser’s Hill. From KKB to Fraser, the drive will take you alongside the KKB Water Dam. Driving along the road, keep a look out for a turning on the right side of the road into Kampung Pertak. This turning is just after a concrete bridge … sometimes there are people fishing along the side of this bridge. After turning into Kampung Pertak (it is a local Temuan kampung), you can see little “chalet” type kampung houses. Drive straight until you see a steel bridge. You can park your car in a small open space nearby. This is the first steel bridge and is where you start to trek.

Group photo before the climb ...from left, EM Shiek, GT Lim, CK Lim, ML Lim, CT Lim, Ms Yap, Steven Chin and Mr Hoh

On 16OCT2010, 8 of us in two cars headed for Bukit Kutu … we reached Kampung Pertak at about 8.30am. At the first steel bridge, we parked our car at a nearby open area. We crossed the bridge and started to trek into the forest on a muddy road. This road is used by vehicles going in and out of the nearby rubber estates and plantations. We walked along the mud road until we reached the second steel bridge. This second bridge has collapsed at the mid-section but still it can be used to cross the river.

We continued to trek for a short while when we came to the upper side of the river and here there is no bridge. The river is just about knee deep and one can walk across it but we did not want to take off our shoes so we walked on top of various rocks and small boulders to cross the river. After crossing the river, the trail leads into the jungle. There are some wild durians trees at the beginning of the trail. On our previous trip to this place, it was the end of the durian season and the trees were bearing their last batch of durians. Good for us, we found several tasty durians and had a good durian feast. This time, no durians … so headed straight into the jungle.

The upper side of the river .. no bridge here

Crossing a small stream heading into the jungle

From here, we crossed a couple of small streams and then the trail starts to lead up quite steeply. It was all the way up for quite a while and we saw plenty of bamboos along the way. In just about 2 hours (since we started) we managed to reach the “big rock”. This is a popular rest area for trekkers. This resting place is actually beside a very big boulder, almost 8 storeys high … it is HUGE! It casted out like a huge roof and provided a nice, cool and dry resting area for trekkers.

We rested for a while and then continue to hike up. We know we still have a third of the journey to trek to the peak. The trail from the big rock is a lot easier apart from the initial steep climb for a short distance and then it was a fairly easy trek all the way to the peak. Finally, we reached the open resting area at the peak. All in all it took us just about 3 hours to reach the peak. This is where the old colonial bungalow used to be … now only the tall chimney is left standing with several foundation structures and a couple of wells (or maybe some sort of bunkers).

The chimney ... remnants of the old colonial bungalow

An old staircase and one of the wells (or could it be a bunker?)

This is not really the highest point yet … the highest point of Bukit Kutu is just another short climb up to the top of a large boulder. We rested for a while at the open area and then went up to the very peak at 3456 feet above sea level. From here we could see the surrounding jungles and mountains of the nearby Fraser’s Hill area as well as the sleepy Kuala Kubu Bahru town.

For this hike, we brought along a young coconut tree and we planted it at the open area. Hopefully it will grow well to provide shade and bear fruits for thirsty trekkers in the future. We spent about 45 minutes at the peak and after a good rest and a quick lunch, we began our descent. The trek down was uneventful and quite fast as we did not really stop to rest. Our minds were fixed on getting out of the jungle and straight to the river at the first steel bridge for a cool refreshing dip. We made it to the river in 2 hours 30 minutes. The cool water was an appropriate reward for a long tiring trek. We took time to enjoy ourselves in the water and we also brought bread to feed the fresh water fishes which came in the hundreds to our delight.

Enjoying the cool water after a tiring trek

Very relaxing

Steven Chin enjoying the dip and Ms Yap freshening up

After washing up at the river we were all hungry again and it was time to pay a visit to the nearby Ulu Yam town for a good meal including a large bowl of the famous Ulu Yam “Lor Meen” before heading home. Though very tired, we were all happy to have accomplished another good trek and already looking forward to trek Bukit Kutu again soon.

October 25, 2010

Nobody says others must do good to you.

Recently I watched a historical drama series about the people revolting against the cruel Emperor Shi Huang Di of the Qin Dynasty and how the two famous rebel leaders, Liu Bang and Xiang Yu overthrew the Qin Emperor. Then Liu Bang and Xiang Yu fought among themselves to control the vast empire. The two fought many battles and history told us that Liu Bang defeated Xiang Yu by employing brilliant men like Zhang Liang, Xiao He, Fan Kuai, Chen Ping and the outstanding General Han Xin. It was actually General Han Xin who finally crushed Xiang Yu in a decisive battle known in history as “The Battle of Gaixia”. After that, Liu Bang unified the China again and declared himself as Emperor Han GaoZu of the Han Dynasty.

And when peace descends upon China, Emperor Han Gaozu felt that he no longer needs those who fought together with him in the times of war. Many of his able generals were stripped of power, some banished on trumped up charges and others were jailed. And the famous General Han Xin was killed although not by the emperor himself (Han Xin was tricked, captured and executed by the scheming Empress Lu Zhi).

The gist of the story? As the saying goes “when the hares are all caught, the hunter boils his hounds”. Some people are good partners in struggling times but when the hard times are over, they turn otherwise protecting their own interest.

Let me tell you a similar story … several years ago, a good friend of mine was asked by one of our old schoolmates to help run the business of a new food court. The business was operating at a loss initially but with the expertise and wide experience, my good friend managed to pull through the hard times and finally established a stable profitable business almost single-handedly. Since then, the food court business has made huge profits for the owners.

Then recently the owners felt that they no longer need my good friend anymore as the business is now stable and running smoothly. So they plotted to replace him with their own family members. Very soon they succeeded by purposely putting him in difficult spots until he finally resigns.

If you are in the same boat as my good friend, would you feel angry? Of course you would. It is OK, get mad but then get over it. As angry as you can be but in situation like this or other similar circumstances, sometimes you just have to swallow your anger quietly and move on. You did good to others but nobody says others must do good to you.

So, at the end of the day, whatever happened to General Han Xin thousands of years ago or how my good friend being treated just recently or maybe in the future you may face the same situation … don’t bear any grudges. You can treat people well but don’t expect people to treat you well. Understand this and you will be a better person.