Thursday, April 26, 2012


So, I injured my right wrist and it has to be completely rested for at least a couple of weeks, so heavy-lifting plus most the usual physical activities I do have to be halted. That means I get an irrational (really? irrational?!) fear of gaining weight within this period. I mentioned this to a friend at my dance class last weekend - yes, I still can dance, albeit with one arm stiff in a bandage - and she rolled her eyes.

"What's this talk about gaining weight? So you hurt your hand.... your LEGS are still working!"

Ah, so brutally honest... (but I like it!)

Except I don't run. What else are legs alone (without arms) good for other than cardio? Sigh.

So, I strolled on the treadmills and I danced. I bought a high-quality wrist brace, complete with a built-in metal splint and wore it as much of the time as possible. I let my incompetent left hand take over all the usual tasks that can be done single-handedly (literally!). The first time it made tea, it spilled the right-at-boiling-point liquid out of the mug and scalded 3 fingers. The first time it tried to use chopsticks, it couldn't, so had to thereafter switch to the sissier fork. The first time it had to stick a key into the keyhole, it took 3 times a long as it would take the right hand - it still does. Every day is a struggle, but the rewards are more than worth the troubles.

My right wrist is healing well - the pain has reduced rather significantly and although the swelling hasn't completely gone, I'd say I'm much better than when it first started to hurt. Today, I felt well enough to rejoin my yoga class.

Sure, I've decided without deliberation that I will not attempt arm balances - that's pure madness - nor will I persist in holding any poses if the injured area as much as hints discomfort. I thought I ought to have enough knowledge to make up feasible variations for poses I can't do. So I thought. I informed the teacher of my "delicate condition" before the class started. She said I musn't do the Plank or Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). That's right, I thought, and definitely not handstands, which are one of her favourites, right after headstands.

I must be in good fortune today, for we started off with a lot of poses targeting the core, in which arm strength was almost unnecessary. Then, we moved to Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana). I stayed in Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) and sort of felt proud that I could actually do something in the place of the one I can't do!

Instead of Plank, I did elbow Plank. Still good. Instead of Downward Dog, I did Awkward Downward Dog on elbows. Yikes. I don't even want to describe how I elbowed a Cobra (Bhujangasana) To my great dismay, I realised the extent of my knowledge of pose variation is replacing hands with elbows when your hand hurts. Gah!

What's worse? During one of my elbowed Downward Dogs, the teacher addressed a newbie who happened to be right next to me.

"Don't follow what she's doing! Her hand is injured!"

I realised she was referring to me, and that the poor girl had actually been doing all the "variations" I'd been doing. Not only had I succeeded in showcasing weird, ugly "yoga", I'd inadvertently caused a first timer to pick up weird, ugly "yoga"...

I don't mean to be mean, but when I related this to my roomee, we both had a good laugh. New girl is so silly but adorably so! I hope she will continue her practice and if I have to resort to "variations" still next week, I hope she'll remember to ignore me!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Nanyang Wall

Early morning on a bright, beautiful Sunday, I received a message from my climbing buddy. Some of our climbing friends would be at Nanyang Wall later that day, and asked if we'd like to join them. At first, I was undecided - the place is quite a distance to drive to. I'm not sure I can find the exact spot even with GPS navigation (mountainsides have no formal addresses) and frankly, even though I was real excited about trying the outdoors, part of me was still terrified. Terrified, but all the same excited about the whole prospect of going outdoors!

By the end of the morning, however, I'd decided I would go (you'd already guessed, I'm sure, for this post wouldn't be otherwise!)

My faithful GPS navigator brought me safely to the given address. I was in front of a couple of rows of shops and facing a residential area. Although I could see vast rock faces surrounding the buildings, all the way into the distance, I had no idea where I was suppose to head to. I decided to wait for climbing buddy to arrive, but after 15 or so minutes, it seemed too much of a waste of time (later, I found out he was late because his not-so-faithful GPS caused him a wrong turn and he ended up going for a spin in KL). I walked to a nearby guardhouse (hauling along all my gear, including the rope! Seriously, I don't know why I do things like this...) I asked a security guard the way to the climbing spot. He pointed me down a somewhat deserted lane, which ended in a sort of rickety old wood-and-wire-mesh gate, secured by a metal chain with a padlock. Beyond the gate was a stretch of sheer rock wall. I followed the curve of the road, separated from the wall by a huge drain (or a tiny river) and saw some climbers at the far end. Great, I found the place - but with the locked gate in the way, how do I get to them? I walked back to the guardhouse.

I confirmed with the fella that the way is through the gate, and told him that the gate was locked. He referred me to someone else - an elderly gentleman, whom I think might be the "gatekeeper". He was probably supposed to unlock the gates for climbers, but was having his afternoon tea and snack and didn't appear too eager to leave his meal. He started telling me of another guy I could go to, when I decided that if it takes that much trouble to get it, I really should wait for climbing buddy to reach first, so we wouldn't need to trouble these chain of "gatekeepers" twice. I told him in the nicest way possible that I'd wait for my friend to come before asking again. Then, I went across the street and walked around a little, with my bags of rope, harness, shoes and water bottle still hanging off me.

Several minutes later, I thought I saw climbing buddy's car go by. As I went back near the guardhouse, the "gatekeeper", still not done with his late-afternoon teatime, called out to me. He explained to me how I could get past the locked gate, with a stern warning to not tell anyone. Whoa, seriously. I think I must've looked so very pitiful - wandering aimlessly, waiting for a seemingly no-show friend, wearily shouldering huge bags of gear - that the good man was overwhelmed by sympathy.

In the manner taught by the "gatekeeper", climbing buddy and I managed to gained access to the wall where the other climbers had been since a couple of hours ago.

We were greeted by this delightful sight -

We were eager to start, and a fellow climber would teach us how.

"There are several easier routes here," he said, leading the way to the other side of the wall. "5c's and 6a's..." He pointed to an easy 5c route which he said we could start off with.

One of the first things he taught us was the proper way to do a "system", which is something (oh, gosh!) that should be done with the rope at the anchor once the climber has reached the top, so he can be lowered safely. For the first climb, expert climber friend started by breezing up the route with climbing buddy belaying. He placed all the runners in the series of bolts along the route and an anchor right at the top. Once secured, he called out a command which we thought sounded like climbing buddy can stop belaying now, and thought we must've heard wrongly. While we were giving each other confused looks, the rope supposedly attached to him fell to the ground. Our jaws dropped.

Ah, us inexperienced fools! He was meant to be safely anchored at the top so when the new outdoor climber leads his way there, he could supervise the first-timer in correctly doing the "system". Well, well! So, climbing buddy tied the rope to his harness, started climbing and made it to the top without any problems. He did all he was supposed to do - the "system" - under the diligent eyes of expert climber friend, and was lowered back down the usual manner.

But our friend was still up there. We wondered if someone should belay him for his descent. There's no need, he said. Once again, we gave each other confused looks - how would he get down? While we were not done trying to understand, he was already on his way, rappelling using his Grigri, collecting the earlier placed runners along the way. Oh, but he's using just one side of the rope, I wondered aloud, so how does it not slip, with the other side seemingly hanging down loosely? He landed beside us, safely, soundly and gracefully, some 10 seconds later. Then, tugging the other side of the rope, he pulled down the section at which a clever loop was tied to a carabiner and around the strand he rappelled down on. Unfastening the knots, he retrieved all his equipment and the rope was left hanging through the anchored loop, ready for top-roping attempts. I was so impressed! (Oh, don't roll your eyes... it was my first time!)

I top-roped up the 5c without too much fuss (oh well, there was a little fuss halfway through, when I decided it was a little too scary, and needed a little motivation, that is - scolding, from climbing buddy). The rocks were rough on the skin, but not too sharp. They reminded me so much of the time I hiked Bukit Tabur. In retrospect, that was a dumb, borderline-suicidal outing. The memory actually put rock climbing into perspective for me... with proper equipment and all safety measures in place... sure, I could still fall and sustain scrapes and cuts, but at least, I will not die!

While the seasoned climbers went to the higher walls (with tougher routes) to have more fun, climbing buddy decided to use our already in-place rope to go up the other side of the 5c route we'd just finished. As he fastened the rope to his harness, he told me to strap the camera to him so he could snap some photos when he's up there. He, the one who always gave me narrow-eyed looks for wanting to photograph anything and everything...

"We're like tourist climbers..." he grinned.

And so he went, and came back down with several shots similar to this -

Then, it was my turn. With a little less fuss than the first time, I made it to the little ledge (the same spot climbing buddy stopped to snap photos in his ascent) where I could stand rather comfortably without having to hang on with my hands.

I took several shots of one side, like this -

Then, I turned to the other side and took several more, like this -

And I made climbing buddy walk to the other side so I could include him in the next few shots, like this -

Of course, I had to have some of the sky, the trees, the "river", like this -

And one of my ugly hand against the rock -

By then, climbing buddy's patience totally ran out and so he rattled the rope... "HEY! Enough!"

Oh well, Reader, you know how I can get carried away.

The next route we tried was a 6a. He wanted to try to do it from scratch, meaning, to place all the runners onto the bolts as he led. Since it was our first time, we were ill-equipped for it. These are all borrowed gear -

The 6a was not easy, mainly because a first-time climber would have no idea where the good holds are. He stumbled a little at a "tough spot", but being a tough one himself, climbing buddy reached the top and finished the route. Being so used to indoors climbing, the moment he clipped on to the anchor, he sat back on his harness and I lowered him down. We totally forgot about the "system" he was supposed to have done up there.


So, expert climber friend graciously waltzed his way up the wall to do it, in order for me to be able to top-rope safely afterwards.

In my Bukit Tabur post, I wrote about expert hikers strolling through the very dangerous trail in Crocs. Well, here's a climber doing a 6a in flip-flops -

I feel tiny. Microscopic. What are these people made out of?!

Finally, it was my turn to try it. It was definitely more challenging than the previous routes, and especially so for me, given my lack of height. I had to be scolded, encouraged, scolded again, argued into submission and threatened, before I found the courage to get over the "tough spot". Once that was overcome, though, the rest of the way wasn't too hard.

Here's a shot of me as I reached the hardest part, right before I shrank back, defeated, to the comforting safety of the ledge, and started arguing with climbing buddy -

Is it my imagination or do I look kinda fat? Oh well... at least I did not startle any bats like I worried I would =D

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Screamer

I was torn between naming this post either "The Screamer" or "The Squealer" (the decision was finally made by random selection). What exactly is the difference between a scream and a squeal anyway? Not that it matters much... this high-pitched irritant escaping my lips when it really shouldn't.

When I first started climbing, I had to work very hard at overcoming my fear of heights. It's not gone completely, but I've learned to trust my gear and my climbing buddy / belayer such that I'm OK clinging to a spot on the wall, 20m above ground. That trust however, simply cannot rid me of my irrational (really? irrational?) fear of falling. It simply cannot. Once, I proudly declared to climbing buddy that I trust him with my life (literally) and he narrowed his eyes and retorted with "You still scream every time you fall!" which, sadly, is true.

Well, not every time, though. I've been rather successful in not screaming (or keeping the volume down to an absolute minimum) in these recent months. Honestly, I'm quite proud of myself. Not today, though - today, I was a mad banshee on the wall.

It could be the crazy 6a+ (well, not that crazy... just that I'm not there yet) or it could be that, in these past few weeks, I've been harbouring way too much repressed anger, frustration, disappointment etc. that subconsciously, I wanted to cry out. Either way, there was totally no motivation for self-control. I screamed nearly every slip, every fall, every near-fall. In fact, I even screamed when down-climbing (which, really, is an ugly sort of scrambling back down) to the last clip, which I always do whenever I'm half-way to the next clip, but am certain that I'm not going to make it without falling off, because I'm extremely terrified of falling from above a clip (and yes, this is totally frowned upon by climbing buddy). If you have not been in a climbing gym, Reader, let me say this - given the high walls and the vast space, any sounds made in there get major echoes. Seriously.

After lowering me down from another failed attempt at a(n evil) 6a which I can never seem to finish, we heard a scream from the top-rope section, and climbing buddy immediately exclaimed "Hey, that's your friend there... screams just like you do!"

(It was a girl, and she was belaying a guy. He fell, probably quite a distance, and the pull lifted her clean off her feet. I would say her cry was justified... right? Right? Agree?)

"Oh, she's worse than you... belay also scream," added climbing buddy. In case you're wondering, Reader, no, it wasn't meant as a compliment for me.

Right then, one of our friends came by and asked when we would join them for some outdoor climbs. They usually climb at Batu Caves on weekends. I chuckled and said I'm not sure I'm ready to go outdoors. He said, why not, and started talking about the easier routes that I could start with, the fun, the feel of real rocks, etc.

All I could picture in my head was - a gazillion bats fluttering in mass panic out of the cave, rudely awaken from their slumber upon the first fall I'd take, complete the thereafter-will-be-famous banshee-scream. It'll be a stampede on wings whilst the echoes of the scream are still ringing!

Not exactly a pretty picture... *Ahem*

Footnote: Batu Caves is home to fruit bats - see here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Baby Shower

I have to confess I've never been to a baby shower, and I have no idea what ought to happen in one. It didn't matter much, for as usual, when the Roomees got together, it's all FOOD, conversation, laughter, FOOD and more FOOD. When it's the Roomees at Bee Ree's place, it's guaranteed SUPERB FOOD -

A shower cannot be complete without some small token for the coming-soon baby, so I made a little (or so I thought it was "little") cap, which turned out to be a perfect fit for the older boy instead! Here's him having lots of fun putting it on, pulling it off, and pulling it all the way down his face -

I don't have much else to write... perhaps not fully recovered from my glass of champagne (I have, in addition to an allergy, an extremely low tolerance for alcohol). I'll post the links when Bee Ree blogs about this (easy way out! =D)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

An Eye Tale

A few days ago I started feeling a slight discomfort in my left eye - it was like there was a foreign body in it. I felt it every time I closed my eye and upon closer inspection, I noticed a tiny dot on the sclera (the white of the eye) and my imaginative mind told me it could be a puncture! Quite how I am supposed to have sustained a puncture wound in my eye didn't matter to my imagination... for all it cares, a stray bit of chalk is capable of it.

It was irritating, but it wasn't itching nor giving me pain, so I thought I'd ignore it. I thought maybe the foreign-body-sensation will go away in a bit. Two days later, however, it was still there. Normally, I wouldn't be hypochondriacal enough to go running to a doctor's - however, I was conveniently going to take my mother to her eye surgeon for a follow-up, after her cataract surgery. At the clinic, after she had hers checked, my mother asked the doctor to have a look at mine, and the good lady doc graciously did.

Turns out, the "puncture wound" is nothing but a mole (which must have recently surfaced) on my eyeball. I know sometimes moles appear (and disappear) as they please on our bodies, but I didn't know it can happen in the eye. Anyhow, the constant irritation aside (doc said nothing needs to be done about it and applying eye-drops will ease the discomfort), I thought it kinda cool to have an eyeball mole. Really. That is, until I start telling people about it, and realise how common this actually is.

To date, I've told two friends. The first replied that he has a mole in his eyeball too. The second replied that her boyfriend has one in his eyeball as well. And no, she doesn't have any moles in any of her eyeballs, but she does have two pupils in her right eye. TWO(2)!

We spent a few minutes during our outing last night checking each other's odd-eyes out... fine, I spent several minutes checking her eye out (I mean, she only needed 2 seconds to spot that tiny, uninteresting mole in mine). Anyway, the lighting wasn't ideal, so I couldn't really see it. This morning however, she sent a photo of her eye in which the two conjoined pupils are quite visible, if not very clearly. This is way beyond cool.

Oh boy, I have a feeling I'd always be paying a lot of attention to her right eye whenever we meet up hereafter...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


You will agree with me, Reader, that it is grand to love one's job. It is even better when one is able to turn one's passion into a livelihood. Like scientists. Like musicians. Writers! Teachers... well, some.

And climbers! Granted, the opportunities to make an actual, decent living being a professional climber (sports or otherwise) are considerably rarer than mainstream sports (I'm not sure this is a valid phrase to use, but I'm using it anyway), but, there always are other ways to indulge in this passion while generating an income.

I'm sure I've mentioned this before - climbers are the nicest people ever. Most are friendly, generous and simply fun-loving. At least, most of those I've encountered are like that... so, it is either I've been very fortunate, or people who are inclined to develop a passion for climbing also possess innate niceness. *Ahem*

Anyway, before this post loses itself down an entirely different path from the one I intended when I started it, I should jump straight into the main point. A few of the nicest climbers I've come to know have realized a climbing-related profession - a climbing gear store, of course!

Verticale -

I don't know if this post will find its way to the screens of any climbers out there, but if it does... if you, Reader, are a climber, do check them out and if you would, do make a trip to the store this Saturday:

Yes, it's their official opening, and there'll be good deals on the products! =)

I will not be there for this event, unfortunately, for reasons I must not delve into (I'm trying to limit ONE veering-off-course per post) but if I do visit the store in the future, I'll (hopefully) post some photos with more (ir)relevant stories in-between.

Related post: Verticale

Monday, April 2, 2012


Early this morning, I received a single-word message:


Apparently, someone had mistaken the date.

It will be an online concert - and my very first too! I'd never purchased a ticket for an online show, and I think one of the reasons I did for this is that I truly admire this musician's courage, determination and extremely positive attitude post suffering a stroke and subsequently, heart failure. The other reason is, of course, his being a very accomplished guitarist, although I must admit I'm not too well acquainted with his music.

He's Pete Huttingler, and as of this moment, there are 38 seats left for his concert on 5th April (6th for me!).

Join me? =)