No to Kopi Luwak.

Kopi luwak. Came across many shops in Jakarta airport selling kopi luwak, which is marketed as wild sourced & world’s most expensive coffee. A friend recently shared an email stating untold cruelty on civets to produce large amounts of kopi luwak. Then, this evening, I got to listen to Weiting, a local civet researcher, who showed us a video of civets kept in captivity for ‘wild-sourced’ kopi luwak production.

Check out this infographic on the kopi luwak issue.


A music video for Bukit Brown – Ukelady meets Ukebaba

It started off as a dream.

A dream to create a video where one or more musicians play beautiful music as they explore the ‘invisible’ gem of Bukit Brown. Music interpersed with quiet moments, with the lens zooming in on the happy people who use the place, the beautiful forest that grew back over the years, the animals that are sometimes easy to spot (if you know where to look), and of course, the tombs (some of which have the most intricate decorations).

“Why Bukit Brown?”, you may ask.

Well. There’s so many reasons, how do I even begin? But to keep it short, Bukit Brown is this “invisible place” that’s very close to my heart. Even though I may not be there every other weekend, I end up talking about it somehow to friends and anyone willing to hear about the place and why it is special to me. Because it is more than just a cemetery. I first went there to learn more about the plants at Bukit Brown, and the birds… I got to meet & befriend various wonderful people from all kinds of backgrounds… I also learnt more about Singapore’s history, how it really was 200 years ago, and how it all links back to my own search for my family’s ancestry. I also got a chance to conduct my own walks for friends, conquer my fear of public speaking & improve my Chinese-speaking skills! And there’s so much more…

The dream seemed unattainable for I’m no great musician or a video editor. Until, I shared my idea.

One thing led to another, and soon, I was in a cafe with a few other Brownie friends. And a new friend who happens to play the ukelele. We decided there and then that our intention to create this music video was to share our love & appreciation of the place to everyone, especially to all who may not have heard or stepped into Bukit Brown.

For we would like the “invisible” place to become visible.

Here is our work of love. A music video, entitled: Ukelady meets Ukebaba.

Come explore with us. Enjoy.

Bukit Brown. Walks with friends – and one resulted in a great blog post!

Friends who know me somehow associate me with “Bukit Brown”. It is one of the many big “rocks” I hold close to my heart.

Bukit Brown is this huge, beautiful, abandoned place right in the heart of Singapore. It’s a cemetery – but it has long been closed and abandoned. Being right next to a nature reserve, nature came back, and nature lovers like bird watchers and plant lovers love to check out the place.

It is on a plant walk with Nature Society (Singapore) that I first decided to check out Bukit Brown. It was sometime in 2010. I knew of Bukit Brown for many years because of a NSS masterplan, but never went there because, well, it was a cemetery. The thought of heading to a cemetery to check out nature was quite beyond me. But one day, I decided to go. It was a really good walk led by Shawn, who’s the current president of NSS. Now, Shawn is a really good story teller, and a really passionate plant lover. If you ever go for his walk – you’re in for a treat. Unfortunately that day, there was a huge storm – so we had to cut short our walk and head home.

Some time after that, I decided to head to Bukit Brown again. There was more to see, and I wasn’t about to let the storm stop me from learning more about the place!

I’ve been to Bukit Brown many times now. How many, I don’t really know.

I was amazed to see many passionate & inspiring individuals from all walks of life at Bukit Brown. Many of these individuals are now my friends. At Bukit Brown, I met nature lovers, journalists, videographers, artists, architects, lawyers, librarians, tile experts, story tellers, spiritualists, “tomb whisperers”, people who trace family trees of individuals unrelated to them, and even people who would actually bring their own water and cloth to wipe clean the tombs of unrelated individuals! and there was this “tomb whisperer” who would disappear into the forest, and come out excited with his latest find of a historically important individual.

It’s amazing how “invisible” this place is. It’s near to two tourist attractions – MacRitchie Nature Reserve, and Botanic Gardens – and easily accessible from Thomson and Bukit Timah housing areas. Yet, when I tell my mum about Bukit Brown, she gives me a blank stare. Then, I try again using the colloquial name “Kopi Sua”. Oh yes, it rings a bell – my mum remembers it from the time she visited it as a very young child. But where was it? She has no idea.

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Celebrating national day with coastal cleanup in Lim Chu Kang mangroves

“This is the last sign of civilisation,” Siva said, referring to the mobile toilet at the end of a lonely road before we headed for the mangroves to do our coastal cleanup.

Several minutes into the cleanup, someone said, “I thought he said it was the last sign of civilisation. I see signs of it everywhere!”

And so, we had 40+ people at the Lim Chu Kang mangroves this morning, and we picked up some 752kg of rubbish within 1hr, not including the bulky stuff (which included chairs, refrigerators, barrels…)

It is indeed a special Sat morning, spent with special people, most of whom are strangers to me. The work is tough, and it is just amazing when individuals come together to help one another. There were magical moments too as we take short breaks to admire the beautiful environment surrounding us.

Coastal cleanup at Lim Chu Kang mangroves. Siva giving us a debrief.

Coastal cleanup at Lim Chu Kang mangroves. Siva giving us a debrief.

Coastal cleanup at Lim Chu Kang mangroves. The collated rubbish.

Coastal cleanup at Lim Chu Kang mangroves. The collated rubbish.

The actual International Coastal Cleanup day is 21 September. There will be many coastal cleanup locations then – if you are interested, do check them out here.

Travelling. A day at the community farms

After some Googling yesterday, I told my cousin with unbridled joy, “I decided what I will do tomorrow – I’m going to spend the entire day at the community farms! Help at the Veggielution in the morning, and tour the Berryessa one in the afternoon.” My cousin looked at me wonderingly. Why would anyone fly to San Jose only to spend time in the farm??

But oh, it has been a most awesome day. Pure happiness :)

Veggielution community farm

Veggielution community farm

Dream project update

Dream project update – covered 3 houses last Sunday, and really enjoyed the conversations. Had a progress meeting with NParks / CIB, and we agreed to hold 2 workshops for interested neighbours in Aug / Sep. Sent out update on FB & email, and pretty much blown away by the email replies that are coming in ^^