Teachers’ meeting under a tree


A teacher meeting under a mango tree. I can be seen playing soccer with some of the kids there. Good times, good times. Circa 2008




This is a provision shop in a refugee camp in Gummidipoondi, Tamil Nadu. Picture taken in 2008.

5 loaves and some cookies…bags and coffee

The Assisi hospice charity fun day was a great way to spend the Sunday. So the kakis rounded up some used stuff such as bags, books and clothes to sell at the fun fair. We had ensured that the stuff coming in from friends and all were of good quality stuff so quite a few things were branded actually. And I had “let go” of some of my books as well that would have just collected dust on my shelf anyway.. They were nice books.. Like my Aung Sang Su Kyi book which I bought for 47 bucks and went for about $5 or was it $2? Well that depended on our mood. At the end of the day, Ivan was giving free collectibles or bags with each book sold.

Here’s Ivan demonstrating the read the book and then when people are around just tell them “5 for 1 dollar” move. it worked! Such business acumen!

Besides that, we baked cookies and Amy and Thomas made their homemade bread for the kaya toast section. I woke up at 6.30 to make some coffee (Sumatra Mandheing) to support the kaya toast sale.


Su Yin on the left sorting out clothes with Ivan. Clothes were hard to sell but the Polo Ralph Laurens, AIX and Timberland shirts from Charles disappeared soon enough from the displays.

Peck Wai and Oi Yee would have added to the already fun atmosphere but the stuff they parted with were valuable. Not to mention Oi Yee’s Gucci bags! Ah material things!

The day before we had gone to drop off stuff at the stall and realised that we didn’t have decor and a name… but as Ivan pointed out, that won’t really matter to the crowd who would mill around and have more fun sifting through the mess. Which is true as I found out when they rummaged through the boxes of bags which we had planned to arrange nicely on the table; so we dumped the bags into a big box and left it on the floor…. soon, women came and were busily going through the items..amazing.


Books were another great performer… it was nice to see people going through the books and we had our Rambling Librarian to artfully arrange the books. I was impressed at how he had done it in about 20 mins… He had a personable way with people and they took to him… it must be his height ..ha!


Otterman checking out the books


Otherman – a satisfied customer and fellow stall organiser blogs about the day

It was a busy day ferrying the family to the stall and back. But luckily the rest were manning the stations busily so I could bring the kids and wife to the stall. Jen had donated quite a few books and quite a lot of her own bags and helped me organise collections the past month.

What’s a funfair without the candy floss.


My sis, Natalie looking rather pooped out after spending 830 to 5 pm on the opposite end of the retail therapy.

Pix of the day goes to the lovely couple of Thomas and Amy who with much resilience and hard selling, got all the cookies and Kaya toast sold off.


This lady has the honor of being the first ever person to buy the Seastars album. She got her photo taken with us and also another free album to distribute. What a great person! 2 more came to buy our album so Ivan and I may be seriously thinking about launching our commercial album….


At the end of the day… a job well enjoyed and done with a couple of books, bags and clothes left.

Well, the hospice managed to raise over $550,000 according to the CNA news. So I guess our little stall added to that. Well done kakis!

Last year, the hospice saw over 1,000 patients – an increase of nearly 200 from 2006. This year, it expects to spend over S$6 million on improving its programmes.

A third of that amount will be covered by government grants and revenue, but the remainder of S$4 million will have to be met through donations

Free song to download from Queen

I love songs when they are free. But I also think we need to buy them… or else how the musicians survive.. then again, some of them survive too well.

Here’s a free song from Queen entitled, “Say its not true”. Its really a heartfelt song about raising Aids awareness dedicating it to Mandela’s work.

Here’s a quote from the website –

“Taylor wrote the song as a gift to Mandela and performed it live for him for the first time with Brian May and Dave Stewart at the inaugural 46664 concert in Cape Town that month. The song carries the message that HIV AIDS is something that can affect any one of us no matter our sexual or racial status.”

Go download it. Click on the picture below to go to the website.

Queen Online › Official News Archive


We were suppose to have gone to Tamil Nadu last December to do some community project “Project Uthavi“, but as I was monitoring the Hindu (a free national e-newspaper in India) WHO, and CDC travel health using my RSS news reader (Omea on Windows, and NetNewsWire on my iBook), we got a little worried. I also bookmarked it on my del.icio.us (after a tutorial from techsavy Siva) using the tags chikungunya and dengue.

So at the last quarter of last year, India was on two-pronged Dengue and Chikungunya alert and soon enough Chennai was hit by both. Some of the numbers of suspected cases were staggering (amounting to several lakhs, i.e. hundred thousands). I saw this 17 Oct 2006 WHO India report on Chikungunya. The figures are based on suspected cases… so may have been grossly estimated but still its a WHO report and I was taken aback at the numbers.

17 October 2006 (http://www.who.int/csr/don/2006_10_17/en/index.html)

“From February 2006 to 10 October 2006, the WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia has reported 151 districts in 8 states/provinces of India affected by chikungunya fever (see below). The affected states are Andhra Pradesh, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Delhi. More than 1.25 million suspected cases have been reported from the country, which 752,245 were from Karnataka and 258,998 from Maharashtra provinces. In some areas reported attack rates have reached 45%.”

I was soon on a daily lookout for any new cases since the trip was to be in early Dec 2006 and the monsoons were on. I was glad the Hindu was really updating the nation on regular basis. We postponed our visit to this May where it was the dry season.

Today I was at 7-eleven and the StraitsTimes report that Singapore has “imported” cases of Chikungunya. It reminded me of this CDC “Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, USA” Oct 24 travel notice. The US has also had Chikungunya imported as well.

Some of the page’s links

About 30 mins ago, Siva called me and asked (told/ordered?) me to blog this cos it was pertinent in the light of the StraitsTimes article.

Some of the articles that were of interest to me end of last year are highlighted as below:

Here’s an exerpt from one of the reports from the Hindu:Tamil Nadu dated Saturday, Oct 21, 2006. The Hindu is a free online newspaper in India.

“Students sought to be enlisted in the drive against chikungunya”

“The self-limiting disease, which persists for 15 days with or without treatment, was first identified in Tanzania in 1952, the Professor said. It then spread through Bangkok, Cambodia, Burma, Sri Lanka and the Phillipines.

In February 2005, 2.58 lakh persons were affected by the disease in the Reunion Islands, and 3,500 in Mauritius. In December 2005, 80000 people were affected in Karnataka and 2000 in Andhra Pradesh in 2006. The disease was first identified in Calcutta in 1963, 1964 in Madras and 1973 in Maharashtra where the cases numbered several lakhs.

In Tamil Nadu, all districts barring the Nilgiris and Tiruvannamalai have been affected by the disease, he said. The Nilgiris does not have any incidence of chikungunya because of the cold weather conditions there. The disease has not affected Tiruvannamalai, where even malaria and filarial are prevalent, because of the awareness generated through students, Prof. Appavoo said.

First report

In Tamil Nadu, 1063 villages out of 58,105, 26 out of 104 Municipalities and the Salem and Chennai Corporations have recorded incidence of chikungunya, he said.”

Just a few days before that there was a report on Saturday, Oct 14, 2006 which described a massive rally on Dengue and Chikungunya awareness in Nagapattinam (south of Chennai)

“Dengue awareness rally
Staff Reporter

NAGAPATTINAM: People’s Development Association (PDA)on Tuesday conducted a massive rally to create awareness of the causes and consequences of chikungunya and dengue viral diseases among people.’

More on this CHIK (as WHO termed it) disease

WHO website

“Chikungunya Fever, a re-emerging Disease in Asia

Chikungunya fever, is a viral illness that is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes. The disease resembles dengue fever, and is characterized by severe, sometimes persistent, joint pain (arthritis), as well as fever and rash. It is rarely life-threatening. Nevertheless widespread occurrence of diseases causes substantial morbidity and economic loss”

More on this WHO website


The etymology of the CHIK disease is particularly interesting… From the wikipedia on Chikungunya

“The name is derived from the Makonde word meaning “that which bends up” in reference to the stooped posture developed as a result of the arthritic symptoms of the disease. The disease was first described by Marion Robinson[1] and W.H.R. Lumsden[2] in 1955, following an outbreak on the Makonde Plateau, along the border between Tanganyika and Mozambique, in 1952. Chikungunya is closely related to O’nyong’nyong virus[3].”

The FAQ on this National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, India website is also pretty useful.



100 sea coconuts


I was staring out into an open field while the rest were negotiating prices for teachers file cabinets for the school in Tamil Nadu. I had always wondered what sea coconuts Borassus flabellifer tasted like… sure enough, the few men that were harvesting the sea coconuts from about more than 50 m away waved at me. I decided, why not.. so I made my way down and soon was feasting on the sea coconuts. There’s a special way of eating them and you need to use your thumb to scoop up the kernel. Its aromatic and subtly sweet. Very juicy and great for the 38-40 degree celcius heat we were experiencing. They were really generous and they even gave us a basketful for our students to eat.

It was just one occasion of many in Tamil Nadu’s friendliness I encountered. Another was across the road from a teashop where I was observing a shopkeeper making tea. Soon enough they noticed me and waved at me to go. I was a bit reluctant this time cos my stomach wasn’t up to it after a roadside limejuice I had a few days back. But in all you could really make friends there by just taking an interest.