My Dameon

December 14th, 2007

A world where your soul resides out of your physical self.

What is the soul?

If it exists as a separate being, sharing similar traits yet able to have its own separate identity, what is the inner core of the physical being?

Is the soul a mirror of what we are capable of and what we truly feel of?

Is it what drives us to insanity, to perform actions that defy our common logic and moral being?

Is it the reigning force that cleanses all the bad thoughts and actions and allow us to grow into a better being?

As I strive to be a better person daily, I realise that when I look real deep inside, it scares me.

The struggle continues. 

My first full marathon

December 2nd, 2007

My first full marathon

 

For someone who hated running and ran 20km once only before this, I am quite pleased that I managed to complete a full marathon today. If not for the free running pass, I don’t think that I will ever pay to run 42km..and I did it without walking throughout the distance. Which my friend said that I might have performed better if I walked a bit, so that the lactic acid can dissipate…..duh.

 

I enjoyed the first 30km, listening to the drum beats, the cheering by the motivators, the school band performance and feeling the cool breeze against my face while running through Shenton Way, Marina Bay and East Coast Park. Met a few colleagues and was pretty amused by the various reasons that people had for running. One of my favourite was from a very petite person: ‘Who says size matters?’ A true celebration of the human spirit.

 

The last 12km was a bit agonising as the strain on my right inner thigh worsened. Was damn worried that it will cramp up and I cannot run back to the finishing line. Along the way, I kept lathering on the deep heat rub cream and rehydrate at every water station to prevent it from cramping.

 

With the finishing line in sight, supporters cheering away and upbeat music blaring in the distance, my feet automatically picked up speed to race all the way back.

 

Pure satisfaction. 🙂

Freedom

November 24th, 2007

Freedom does not come easy.

A life rooted in the past will not bring forth any change to the present outcome.

I need to move forward, to live in the now and to look to the future.

Regrets

November 8th, 2007

verb (used with object)

1. to feel sorrow or remorse for (an act, fault, disappointment, etc.).

2. to think of with a sense of loss: to regret one’s vanished youth.

noun

3. a sense of loss, disappointment, dissatisfaction, etc.

4. a feeling of sorrow or remorse for a fault, act, loss, disappointment, etc.

 

How does one live a life without regrets?

My life seems to be full of them.

Regret for wavering in my decision…regret for uttering a harsh word…regret for jumping to conclusions too early…regret for not spending the time to build bonds and relationships…regret for making the wrong judgment call.

Especially when one is in a position to make or break another’s livelihood. Mistakes made were more costly than others.

Caught in a dilemma between living out my ideals and doing what was pragmatic..it had been a tough call. To reward based on performance or potential, what is the tipping point to decide who is the more deserving person?

A trusted friend and a mentor who guides and advises me, he is the best person that I have worked with. Ever supportive, going beyond the call of duty to lend a helping hand. Always a problem solver who took upon himself to see things through.

Not that he is incapable, in fact, he has the capacity to deliver more than most people. Not that he did not do his job, he puts in his best for every task that he is given and he delivers.

Yet, setting aside all emotions, I made a conscious decision to set the criteria based on the amount of workload done for the year. So, I had placed him lower than what others would usually do when solely judged by potential and capability.

Turn of events indicated that it was a wrong judgment call and I had let my most trusted right-hand man down.

Apart from disappointing him, I know that I had discredited myself.

Even if he can forgive me, I will not be able to forgive myself.

 

 

A Brief Encounter

November 4th, 2007

She shared her travel experiences of younger days, of how she defied her parent’s orders to visit some of the world’s troubled countries such as Yugoslavia and Israel etc on a travel scholarship.. During a visit to Aswan dam in Egypt, a machine gun was stationed at every 100m, yet in her feisty manner, she requested to visit the dam, citing the reason that she would only be at that place once in her life. She did it with the security guards escorted her throughout the visit.

 

Her passion for life extended to helping the less fortunate. While visiting a polio centre, she noticed that the chickens reared by the centre were all without feathers..only to learn later that the feathers had been plucked off to make feather dusters. Puzzled over the fact that there were a high number of polio victims despite the low cost of the vaccine, she found out that it was the remoteness of the area that caused the vaccine to spoil by the time it reached the needy people. Setting her mind to do something about what she had experienced, she worked with polytechnic students to design a cooler box to store polio vaccine so that the vaccine last longer when transported to remote areas. Plus designing a chicken incubator that allowed more livestock to be reared.

 

In a life where our daily conversations revolve around bread & butter issues and climbing the corporate ladder, it is rejuvenating to learn that there are others who had chosen to follow a different path. To make a difference in whatever capacity that they have.

 

When I told her of my plans to scale Everest next year, she made an interesting comment of the significance of this trip:

It is not the journey, not the suffering but a reconditioning of the soul.

 

Words of wisdom from a 65yr old who looks barely past her fifties.

 

Dr Elsie Yu. I like that.

 

I wonder

October 7th, 2007

‘His platelet count was 16.’ my mother recounted in tears of how my father nearly died from dengue fever while I was away..

That day, when my father sang me a birthday song over the satellite phone, I had sensed something amiss. I felt that he was trying too hard to show that he was happy and I asked whether all was fine and whether my maternal grandmother was all right. Not knowing that my father was already in critical condition in the hospital, awaiting for plasma transfusion..and that my father was in tears as he sang the birthday song for he thought that he would die…

It was only upon my return that my mother told me the family crisis, how my father was admitted to the hospital after 5 days of fever, how my brother had to scramble to source for blood donors after the hospital revealed that they had run out of the platelets..

These are the times that I wonder whether climbing has brought more harm than good to my life..of the times that I failed to be there when my family needed me most..and I am sad about it.

Post Mortem

October 7th, 2007

It was painful to turn back when you could see the end…just when I thought that I had cleared the difficult sections of climbing, the yellow band, rock band, the steep slopes and could finally take a break of trudging uphill…my oxygen tank ran out on me (or rather insufficient for me to descend if I were to proceed to summit)…

This trip made me realise that climbing a 8000m peak was a totally different ball game. It was not enough to have the will to carry on, other factors such as oxygen which we depended on and effects of altitude that could affect you very subtly, rapid changes in the weather played a part in determining the success of a summit bids as well as survival rate from attempting it.

Dr Mok said that we were very lucky to have got off the mountain after both of us had spent the 2nd night in Camp 3. If weather had turned bad and we had to stay a 3rd night in Camp 3, there would be a high chance that we could develop fatal complications such as cerebral edema and pulmonary edema.

The descent was far from pleasant. Plodding through thigh-deep snow, navigating through a whiteout where one could only see Camp 2 intermittently, down climb where a part of section was affected by avalanche gave me a taste of the potential pitfalls of 8000m peak. Making to the summit is only half the journey, it is more important to ensure that we live to tell the tale.

A few key learning points:

– Build my fitness further so that I will get sick less and not miss another acclimatisation cycle. It was a gamble to go for summit bid with the body acclimatising up to Camp 1 and I lost on that one try. Bad weather prevented a second summit bid and indeed, expeditions who set off one day after our summit bid were all affected by bad weather.

– Find the optimal breathing rhythm for climbing so as to maximise the time, strength and oxygen that I have.

– Stop wearing my balaclava with the oxygen mask…apparently, in doing so, it could have contributed to some oxygen leakage as the mask fit would not be tight fitting.

– Use the new oxygen mask which is suppose to give me 3 extra hours over the older model that I had used for Cho Oyu.

– Get to the summit quickly and descend as low and fast as possible…Dr Mok had warned that if we were to stay in Camp 4 of Everest, one would die as that Camp would not be a place for resting at all.

Everest will be far more challenging than Cho Oyu and it will be better to learn these valuable lessons on Cho Oyu than to make the mistakes on Everest…

 

 

=(

September 16th, 2007

If my morale can be measured like a thermometer, it will hover around where it all began; the mercury bulb…

I had missed out on the final acclimitisation cycle to Camp 2, and that happened because I had vomitted my breakfast before moving out for the climb…

Strangely enough, I had been feeling strong the night before and was feeling good before the mixture of 2 cups of milo, 2 slices of cheese and one packet of oreo biscuits decided to come out on its own.

Cause of vomitting was unknown (on hindsight: I have decided to forsake cheese as part of my high altitude food) and it was decided that it would be better for me to descend than to carry on with the ardous long climb from Camp 1 to Camp 2 that day…

That evening, Kim Boon came back with the shocking news that one of the chinese expedition’s climbing schedule consisted of only acclimitising up to Camp 1 and then they will go for the summit bid…Joanne also shared later that she had read that some expeditions only acclimitise up to Camp 1. The rationale was to conserve the physcial strength as much as possible, coz anything above 6200m, the body will no longer acclimitise but instead will deteriorate…and our Camp 1 is already 6400m.

So, I am now classified to be under the special chinese acclimitisation schedule which is Camp 1 and then summit bid…

Even so, I cannot help but feel worried that this change of acclimitisation plan will upset my chances of a successful summit….

Nevertheless, I am trying very hard to keep my spirits up. Eating and resting as much as I can while I am in Nyalam..

Focusing on each section of the climb, keeping my fingers crossed that I will stay strong and make it to the summit.

My thoughts…

September 9th, 2007

Climbing is a sport that is not only physically and mentally demanding. It is a sport that also demands considerable psychological and emotional preparation, especially on how to keep your emotional state sane when waiting out for good weather. How do you keep your emotional state a healthy one in the absence of all creature comforts and being in the realm of constant physical discomforts such as the cold, the altitude, the unfamiliar food and not seeing your loved ones…

Even in this harsh environment, we are not short of love and concern.. Mother’s love was best expressed in the form of physical food delicacies, such as Joanne’s mother painstakingly prepared one-month-before-the expedition cooked ‘hae bee hiam’ and fried ikan bilis to go with our daily porridge. Despite Yihui’s mother strong disapproval of mountaineering, her mum still prepared her favourite ‘hae bee hiam’. My mother also went out of the way to buy quality salted fish for my high camp food.

For this trip, our team is most fortunate to have Dr Mok Ying Jang (our expedition doctor) and Mr Lim Kim Boon (our base camp manager) who have tirelessly showered their fatherly love onto us. Dr Mok, could not have showed it better by whipping up local delicaies such as bak ku teh and longan and red dates dessert. He kept nagging us to eat more red dates as they will generate more red blood cell production. Kim Boon was the champion when he surprised us with a complete make over of the dining tent while we were away for our first acclimitisation cycle in Camp 1. He fixed up the leaky patches of the tent, rearranged our medical supplies and food stash and even put in nice touches such as putting a ‘Welcome home’ plaque and plucked matching purple flowers for table display…

Back home, we have Esther whom has been tirelessly co-ordinating our email support. She never failed to remind us that there are people thinking of us. Here’s what she emailed us:

A SONG FOR YOU ALL
sorry, i know i shouldn’t send heavy emails, but i went for a musical recently and this song reminded me of you all. it’s sth along the lines of “come back when it’s cold” but in chinese “tian leng jiu hui lai”. i’m not saying you guys shd come home when it’s cold (then you might as well turn around now!), but i found this song very touching, and want you all to know that there is someone, many of us thinking of you all through the cold you’re facing there…”

Although I feel grateful and heartened that we are never alone in this world, I cannot help but feel a bit down the day before. Especially when my team mates played the song ‘Love, Me’, it reminded me of my grandmother. Throughout this trip, there were moments when I grieved alone. I wonder is it a case when devoid of the daily busy working schedule, where your life has been reduced to the basics revolving around eating, sleeping and climbing, that one has more time and awareness for such matters of the heart.

I guess that we should always keep in sight of what really matters and not let a change of environment or circumstances remind us of what not to take granted for.. Nothing puts it more aptly than Collin Raye in his song; ‘In this Life’..part of the lyrics go like this:

Every mountain that I have climbed
Every raging river I cross
You were the treasure that I long to find
Without your love, I will be lost
Let the world stop turning
Let the sun stop burning
Let them tell me love is not worth going through
If it all falls apart
I will know deep in my heart
The only dream that mattered has come true
In this life, I was loved by you.

Personal Tent

August 30th, 2007

The day before, we went for an acclimitisation hike trying to hit the base of the ‘killer’ scree slope of Camp 1 (or lakeside camp) but we stopped short of 1.5hrs of destination and turned back. By far, it was the most demoralising tasks that I have ever undertaken in my life. I know that it was demoralising when half the time I was hoping to see the never ending point and the morale dropped 50% after Kami (our chief sherpa guide) said that we were still 3.5hrs away from where we want to be. By then, I was gripped by a pressing headache. Felt like the Monkey God (Sun Wu Kong) with the metal crown pressing tightly against his forehead. At some point, we were debating to go on or not, whether the altitude gained was worthwhile or not, Yihui decided that we would go on until 1230hrs and turned backed.

Well, we had been walking since 8am, bypassed the ‘vivo city’ a mega campsite 20mins walk from us; ice blocks filled with morraine and ice formations and crossed a side of the mountain that could give us an idea of the scree slope of what we were going to climb; where we could see Camp 1 on the snow line. During dinner time, Kim Boon asked us what do we think of Camp 1 and no one made any sounds. Guessed that each of us were in deep thoughts on how to overcome this journey; we have to clear the scree slope at least 4 times. I was seriously doubting whether I can overcome it, but I figured out if Mark Inglis (the double amputee Everest summitteer) can do it, I don’t see why I can’t. Fatigue and exhaustion are bound to have, sooner or later, I’ll reach it.

Climbing gives you the weirdest dream. I dreamt that I had sashimi amongst all the things that I had dreamt. Slices of salmon (orange slices with white strips) and maguro filled up my plate and I was savouring each of them with wasabi and soy sauce. Then, my eyes opened up to a brightly lit orange ceiling and I found myself in a sleeping bag; far away from any possible sushi restaurant in this part of the world. I was rudely jolted back to reality that I have not finished climbing this mountain. Waking up at 6.30am; I felt a bit warm, for the first time that I was here in ABC, realised that the snowfall was not as heavy the previous night. Went out and was pleasantly surprised to see 5 pheasants roaming in our campsite. I took a lot of photos of them; they really provided a welcome change to the greyish, white dreary background of our campsite. They were plump and fluffy and I was happy just taking close up shots of them. According to the book ‘Medicine for Mountaineering’, birds can fly higher for much longer periods, but no mammals, including humans, live permanently above 5300m, suggesting that this is the upper limit to which they can acclimitise. This might explain why we only see alpine sparrow, pigeon and crows and now pheasants. Alpine, a convenient word that we coin for the birds that we saw. No baca, no marmots, no rabbits, no deers on this height that ABC was on.

Today, we tested our climbing gear, crampons and boots, down suits and harness. I was super disturbed that my harness was denounced as one that would give me a lot of inconveniences especially when we had to put on and remove it for peeing. At that altitude, every single movement is going to take up a lot of energy. One has to find every way to conserve our energy, including weighing every single item that we are going to carry up. Have to travel ultra light, no unnecessary item to bring up. This is one important lesson that I will not repeat in Everest.