Wednesday, June 29, 2005

National Recycling Program

Probably the most convoluted thing I have to deal with so far - apart from the cutting of trees in my neighborhood during upgrading - the National Recycling Program.

Most of you probably know of this program which involves a contractor from NEA and the town council that comes around every fortnightly to give a plastic bag where you can contain your recyclables and they will collect it from your door step.

There has been much grievances between these contractors and my parents. The accusations from my parents are as follows:

1) They haven't come ever since upgrading started a few months ago.
2) The last time they put their newspapers (3 or 4 bags of it) out for them to collect, they put it in the lift and forgot to take it away. This resulted in my family being scolded for littering in the lift.
3) There's only one plastic bag per household! How do we contain all our recyclables? Furthermore I scolded my mom for leaving the "trash" outside without using their bags. How would they identify? She also forgot to empty the recycling bin I set up in my house for other recyclables and I quickly emptied it in the bag provided and tied it to my mom's.

My personal complaint was:
3) The bag was only given yesterday for today's collection. It was a bit of a hurry since I only got it at 9pm last night.
4) On the bag it says 29 June and 1 July. So which exactly is it?
5) It says leave your recyclables outside at 8.30am and since then I have been staring at the door with no sign of them.

As the 'newly appointed' project manager for the whistle blower program (ha ha ha) of toddycats, I decided to be extremely proactive and called Altvater Jakob Pte Ltd which was listed as the contractor for my block. The first time I got the voice mail and was exceedingly upset. I left a message and realized that I forgot to leave my number (doh!) and called back again. This time, a lady named Janet answered the phone and was very helpful in answering my questions. My only disappointment in retrospect is that she did not apologized for her men leaving the bags in the lift. However, I was satisfied by her not giving lame excuses but instead sounded appalled that they forgot. She also gave me the impression that she could not forsee what happens in the field. The workers told her they left the bags every fortnightly and she has to take their words for it. In retrospect again, she told me they will replace a bag immediately after collection but I did not see them give me any. Bah. I do not wish to have to call them every alternate week to come and collect.

I found out a lot of things from my phone conversation with her:

1) the program at my neighborhood is (just like Budak's whom I got a second opinion from) every alternate wednesdays. She claimed that there were collections on two other occassions this month but then my mother claimed there were no plastic bags given. I will monitor for the next collection.

2) the collection is not at 8.30am. It is from 8am to 8pm. Leaving it outside the whole day will ensure it to be collected.

3) They should not have abandoned it in the lift.

4) The date on the plastic bag is not always accurate. But now that we know it is every alternate wednesdays, it should not be as confusing. Better mark my calendar now.

5) you need not use their plastic bag only. Each household is only allowed one plastic bag. HOwever, if you use your own plastic bag, all you have to do is put a note there with big bold letters that says RECYCLING and they will collect it.

6) Sometimes they run out of plastic bags when they distribute and if the date is wrong, it is because they don't have any markers on hand to change the date. Shouldn't that be improved?

7) I can't know who was right or wrong about the last few months but it was good that I found this bag yesterday. at least now I know I don't have to go all the way to the MRT to dump my drink cans at the recycling bins there. It was also a relieve to see on the bag written that clothes, cans, plastic and glass bottles are also accepted on top of paper products.

Janet was nice enough to get my block and unit number and within 30 minutes of the call, my recyclables were collected. This makes me a little weary that otherwise it would not have been collected.

Lets just hope they don't fail me in 2 weeks. I would hate very much to call again. If it does happen that way, I will be sure to complain all the way to NEA and Town Council and I would not hesitate to demand for a change in contractors if they do not improve.

[update: I just heard a rustle, they came to collect!!! boy my complaint was superbly effective. now i just have to go make sure they don't leave it in the lift or in the void deck.]

[update 2: I just did a round downstairs, checked both lifts and found no sign of any bags of recyclables abandoned, but neither do i see any trucks with loads of recyclables. It's gone...!]

[update 3: I just met the contractor, an old chinese man, who collects things at my block. He came and did a round. Got to talk to him personally and found out that he really didn't do it during upgrading because he felt that because everything was blocked off so nobody would put the recyclables out. I asked him if he had any extra plastic bags and he told me to go downstairs with him to his truck and I got a whole stack from him. The truck is not that big even and is unmarked and he only has one indian worker to help him. I saw that he managed to collect from some others as well which means that there are people who are recycling. That's good to know.]

Read full article here

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A reminder to myself

Taiwan's Aboriginals Try to Preserve Traditional Life in Face of Urban Encroachment
June 22, 2005 — By Annie Huang, Associated Press
WULAI, Taiwan — In a valley of pristine bamboo and cypress trees, Yasa T'iehmu painstakingly adds tufts of red and yellow flowers to his painting of a slender, nude aboriginal woman.
The woman has long black hair strangely reminiscent of the surging waterfall in the background.
"That's a fellow tribal woman I once saw taking a hot spring bath," Yasa says, leaning over a simple wooden table outside his red tin-roofed home in Wulai, a village about 20 kilometers (12 miles) southwest of the Taipei suburb of Xindian.
Wulai sits in the towering Fushan Mountain Range, seat of the Taiya tribe, one of 11 aboriginal groups whose 430,000 members make up a little less than 2 percent of the 23 million people living on this economically booming island. There are about 60,000 Taiya.
Anthropologists say the aboriginals' ancestors came to Taiwan from nearby Pacific islands some 6,000 years ago. Other groups -- mostly Han Chinese -- began migrating from the Asian mainland about four centuries ago, but the aboriginals long kept to themselves, hunting and subsistence farming up and down Taiwan's 400-kilometer (240-mile) mountainous spine.
In recent years, however, as more and more of their people have been assimilated into Taiwan's increasingly complex urban society, the aboriginals have been fighting a losing battle to maintain a separate cultural identity.
It is a phenomenon that Yasa says his art is dedicated to reversing.
"I draw from memories," he says, leafing through his rich paintings of tribal people farming, weaving, fishing and courting under a tropical moonlit sky.
"Our children barely speak the Taiya language. They look at my pictures and exclaim: 'This was how we aboriginals looked in the old days.'"
Yasa is not alone in seeking to preserve Taiya traditions.
Deeper in the mountains, T'iehmu A'yung and dozens of his neighbors are determined to keep tranquil Fushan Village isolated from the influences of a tourism center set up 20 kilometers (12 miles) away for visitors who want a look at aboriginal lifestyles.
Outwardly, however, the aboriginals aren't that different anymore.
Their bamboo and wooden houses have mostly been replaced by concrete structures equipped with basic modern amenities, although the homes retain traditional slanting roofs to sluice away the frequent downpours in the mountains.
Face-tattooing was once a symbol of aboriginal adulthood, but it has been given up as a remnant of a barbarous past. Many aboriginals reserve their colorful traditional clothes and elaborate head wear for tribal festivals that feature days of dancing and singing.
Wulai itself has become a gaudy collection of cheap souvenir shops and uninspiring restaurants catering to tourists from Taipei.
Yet tourism is a boon for the Taiya, giving them much needed work as tour bus drivers and small scale retailers -- reason enough to stay at home.
T'iehmu, 46, a small sturdy man, takes hikers on a daylong trek up and down narrow mountain trails. To supply the small restaurant run by his wife, he raises vegetables, traps wild boars and chops logs for growing delectable wild mushrooms.
He says his three brothers have already moved away from the village and fears his two young children might be tempted to follow them to the bright lights of Taipei.
He points to his latest overnight catch, a squinting boar trapped in a secure wooden cage.
"We don't keep more than one or two of these animals for fear of dirtying the water," he says, explaining that the nearby Nanshih River is the main source of tap water for residents in the capital and polluters are subject to severe fines.
He says his own fishing has recently been confined to a distant creek, because stocks in the Nanshih dwindled and tribal leaders imposed a ban. Now, he says, he treks over several hills to catch shrimp and indigenous fish in his newfound fishing preserve.
In another part of the village, Kao Chiu-mei is hard at work at the Fumiyo workshop, started with 10 other women to preserve the ancient tradition of weaving floral motifs and other patterns on white linen.
She says she originally learned the craft from her elderly mother and is committed to ensuring it is passed along to future generations.
"We would hate to see the art being lost forever," she says.
Still, with many tribal people attracted by the relatively easy life in Taipei and other Taiwanese cities, the battle may soon be lost.
"Life is difficult here even if we do have a great natural environment," says Lin Chao-hui, a town official in Wulai.
Source: Associated Press

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

SB Reflections

I was requested to write a bit about my exchange experience at UCSB by the geography department in NUS for their annual geography handbook.

After much procrastinating, I got my lazy ass to work.

Here's an extract:

Santa Barbara, the American Riviera, home to University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), the oldest environmental studies undergraduate program in the United States, where mountains and the Pacific Ocean are conveniently located in your backyard and the wine country setting for the academy award-winning movie “Sideways”. It is also home to the Channel Islands, an area of high marine biodiversity in the world where whales swim by in their merry way from Baja California, Mexico to Alaska.

Right... where is it again?

Most people have never heard of Santa Barbara or UCSB and I surely never heard of it even by reputation. It wasn’t even my first choice when I first applied to go on the Student Exchange Program (SEP)! I was absolutely upset when I got posted to this godforsaken place. Lo and behold, I begin to learn more and more about the place prior to departure that got me rather excited. For one thing, just before departing for USA in December, watching the Nobel Prize laureates on television, I found out that 2 of the winners – one in physics and one in economics – are current UCSB faculty members!


My time here in Santa Barbara has been the most amazing time of my life. I have never been more independent and more productive while learning the most amazing thing academically and about life at the same time. I met the most amazing group of people, made incredible connections with a wide range of people from world renowned professors to the most dedicated community members and it is almost excruciating painful right now to say my goodbyes. I managed to travel and see a lot of California, a landscape that is so unfamiliar to the girl who came from a tropical island where the highest point is no more than a molehill to these people here. I built my first snowman and saw my first whale. Best of all, I took 11 classes in the time of "one NUS semester" – a feat I would never be able to physically reenact again – while finding the time to pick up a new sport of tennis and earn credits for it! I even found time to publish a transportation alternative newsletter inspired by the relative excellence in transportation in Singapore as compared to California - the land of cars. There is time to work 18 hours a week and still go hiking every Friday, explore a new city every Saturday and visit the farmer’s market every Sunday. Every day seems endless – but it’s probably just daylight saving time “causing” the sun to set only after 8pm.


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