Just keep swimming, just keep swimming

Swimming has always been a good activity. The problem is when Matthew decides that he wants to go swimming, he wants to go swimming at that moment. For some reason, he seems to be the only one in the family who is allowed to make up a plan on a whim. It becomes a small problem when either one of us would be unable to go with the plan because he tends to go on a tantrum (lasts for about two minutes). He also tends to go on a tantrum when we change a plan that he had been made aware of (lasts another two minutes) but that should be for another time.

So he planned to go swimming one Saturday. One hot, scorching, burning, Saturday. I naturally declined the offer and told him that it was scorching hot and that we should make plans for another activity. That was the day we went to Bounce.

Soon enough, another Saturday came. I had a doctor’s appointment very early that Saturday and I left the house with both Matthew and his mum still asleep. I did finish early at the doctor so I decided to lay out a plan to walk around and do some photography. It turns out that Matthew had other plans. As I was on my way to nowhere-in-particular, my phone rang. It was Matthew asking me where I was and what time I would be coming home. At the time he called, I really didn’t have a place in mind that I wanted to go to. I just wanted to go on a stroll. So he went on saying that the weather was good for swimming. I was already outside and I couldn’t argue with that, the weather was perfect for swimming. So I scrapped my plan and headed on back.

I got home, got packed, got dressed and we were off to Wild, Wild, Wet. The thing with ad hoc plans is that you learn not to expect anything and be prepared for anything. You also make the most of everything. You don’t have as much time as you think you would (although you will be surprised how much time you actually used up) so you do as much as you can. You also spend as much as you reasonably can because you normally don’t have a plan B in case your plan goes awry. You eat what you can because you don’t know if you’ll actually find another place (whether good or bad) to eat at. But through those unplanned and unmanaged events, you have as much fun as you can too. And that’s what it was always about for me. Having as much fun as I can with Matthew. I don’t know what it is for him, but he seems to just have as much fun as I do when we’re out. What happens after the fun is a different matter (depends whether its homework or something utterly mundane such as making a mess). Hope that its the fun that matters is always what I think about. And I often wish that Matthew would think the same way.

Hi mum! Bye mum!
Hi mum! Bye mum!

We finished the day soaked and tired but thankfully not sunburned. And since we just went on with the flow that day of unplanned events and decided on just having fun, we didn’t even bother taking photos like we used to. We swam and had fun at the attractions. That was our day. Our only take away from this day was a photo on the bus telling mum that we were almost at Wild, Wild, Wet.

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What is it really like to ask for donations?

Volunteer work is fun. Really.

That’s what we found out when we signed up as volunteers for Causes for Animals, a non-profit, non-government organization that is helping with the management and care of homeless animals. If you have ever wondered why there aren’t so many stray dogs or why stray cats are all so fat, then one way or another, CAS may have been involved.

Of course there are regulations followed with respect on handling stray animals. The best place to look these up is actually through their (or other partners) websites. The links would be at the end of this post.

There were several types of volunteer work. The one that we got ourselves into is getting monetary donations for the care of fostered animals. You see, while stray animals are caught and housed in a safe shelter, the running costs of these shelters aren’t free. Add on veterinary care and the roof will cave in on you. Those who have their own pets know just how expensive it is to care for our furry friends.

Volunteer work is fun. Really.
Volunteer work is fun. Really.

So we came. We got our cans. And we already knew where we were going to go. It was a Sunday, and church lets out a whole lot of people every hour. Luckily for us, the church is merely a few meters away from the mall, the MRT and the bus interchange. So we bravely stood alongside the brick road that connects the two areas and ask strangers if they would like to donate for a good cause.

It turns out, people are quite willing to help. Especially if they see younger people volunteer for these types of activities. Matthew probably collected three times more than what I did. In fact, he didn’t even have to say anything, people who saw him holding out the can just came by and dropped their donations in his can.

It may have been easy getting people to donate for the cause, but it wasn’t all that easy. Standing there under the heat (even if you were in the shade) is no joke. We finished our bottled water halfway through our shift. And then the people started winding down. And it became more difficult to ask people. The fatigue from the heat hit us. We couldn’t even stay in our place for very long. Other volunteers have stepped around the area we were at and it became saturated very fast. And then we got hungry. And thirsty. On a personal note, the volunteer guide clearly states that the volunteers’ well being is a priority. So keeping your hunger and thirst quenched is not only recommended but encouraged.

We had lunch when the time hit 12 noon. We had ice cream too in order to cool off. That was it though. After lunch, we both felt very tired and decided together that we need to turn in our cans. We did so, happily. Not because it was over, but because we managed to do our work and helped out in a way that we have not done so before.

Volunteer work is not easy. You need to have dedication and the will to see it through. It was a great experience for both of us, and we definitely would think about it again when the opportunity comes.

If you would like to help Causes for Animals, please visit their website for information on volunteer work. Believe me, there’s actually a lot to do.

http://www.causesforanimals.com/

A Trip to Playeum and Gillman Barracks

Gillman Barracks

I am a guy. And it is a guy thing to not ask for directions even if we are completely lost. It just so happened that we weren’t very lost. Just a little bit lost because we were still just at the MRT station. While we had planned on going to Labrador Nature Reserve that day, it seems that fate had other plans. We never did find our way to Labrador Nature Reserve and actually headed in the opposite direction where the signage pointed to Gillman Barracks. I had no idea what Gillman Barracks was but it sounded cool and we didn’t really have a plan B for that outing. So we trotted along, Matthew and I, and found our way to a rather long covered walkway with the words Gillman Barracks tacked on the ceiling (of sorts).

Gillman Barracks
Gillman Barracks

Luckily we are now in the Internet age and information is easy enough to get as long as you are connected. A little bit of Googling told us that apart from food, we might find ourselves a little place called Playeum over at Gillman Barracks. Again, that sounded cool. So we went.

We didn’t really know what to expect since it was our first time at Playeum, so we asked. The theme for the month was Hideaways; Creating with Nature. The lady (and practically everyone) gave us a quick tour of the facilities and the exhibit which piqued Matthew’s curiosity and interest immediately. It was a no-brainer then that we were going in. It wasn’t such a bad idea since I couldn’t see much more that we could do in the area. They charged a reasonable amount for entry that included access to the exhibit for parent and child plus a discount on food and drinks at the nearby cafĂ©. Not a bad deal at all.

Through the Looking Glass
Through the Looking Glass

At Playeum, play is encouraged and parent-child bonding is enforced. So if you do pay them a visit, please play-it-forward.

We had a go at the Creature Cave which turned out to be too kiddy for Matthew (who is ten by the way). Reading about its description, it was designed with younger kids in mind. So is the Dark Space which was right beside the cave. We had a good time inside a pitch black room that were littered with motion sensors that activated sounds and lights to show young ones the different animals that they might encounter in the dark. Matthew had me crawl across the floor just so I don’t trigger any of the sensors and keep things quiet. With my bulk and girth, it isn’t a wonder that I failed. Miserably. Not that he did much better.

The next exhibit featured a micro-projector. Okay, I made that one up, but it’s a cross between a microscope and a projector so I do make some sense. The exhibit was called “Knock, Knock; Who Lives There?”. It showcases some of the insects and their habitat that can be seen in and around Gillman Barracks if you were adventurous enough to wander through the foliage surrounding the area. We recognised most of the fossilised insects (Yey!) but not so much the flats that they lived in. So it was cool to learn about these. And you can even make your own habitat using recycled materials over at the crafting section of Playeum.

The other exhibits are more for expressing one’s creativity using natural materials and being inspired by natural habitats. The Welcome to My World exhibit gives kids a variety of materials that they can use to build their own habitats as if they were one of the insects that were presented cleverly in Knock Knock. There were bamboo shoots, bamboo sticks, string, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, flower petals, dried leaves and then some. While our tent-like contraption did not quite become habitable, it was a decent creation nonetheless. Our moth habitat was better decorated with flowers and leaves. There were better examples, but hey, we all have our good building days. This was Matthew’s first encounter with a glue gun by the way, and they bonded with each other like … err … glue. Which brings us to his masterpiece, a spiderweb. It was just cool to play around with the glue although you have to remember that melting glue from a glue gun is quite hot.

Hot Glue! Yipee!
Hot Glue! Yipee!

On the other side of the crafting area is Sounds of the Earth. Again prompting the use of natural recycled materials, one is expected to make a musical instrument of some sort. While not exactly orchestra material, Matthew and I managed to build up a few things that make music. Okay, maybe not so much music but they do make sound. Matthew made one he called The Snapper. It was basically a frame made of popsicle sticks with rubber bands that made a snapping sound when you flicked them. I made something similar that was made with cardboard instead. Then there’s the Tie-Fighter-esque seed shaker that was made out of egg cartons and bamboo sticks. The creme de la crop I would say was the bamboo pole that I filled with seeds and more bamboo and the ends were then covered with cloth. It was a decent instrument if I do say so myself.

On to the clay moulding area then. Make-Believe Hideaway they called it. One was meant to create a creature hideout with the clay. It would then be attached to the already growing nest of hideouts on the nearby table. It was like build-your-own apartment that would then be stuck onto a bigger apartment building. Matthew being free to create, he made an Onyx instead (yes, the rock Pokemon). Naturally, he made me create a matching creation which yielded a Geodude (yes, the other rock Pokemon). We then looked for suitable apartments in the habitat area to put our creations to be immortalised in clay.

It's Geodude!
It’s Geodude!

Through all the artsy fartsy stuff that we were doing, friendly staff were around helping, cleaning, creating and just being friendly. At the end of the day (quite a long day in fact) we left the place happy and stamped our own creations into the exhibit. We even found someone who watches One Punch Man and this made Matthew really happy. We took home his Saitama and Genos action figures that he made from toilet paper rolls. And we’re hoping to go back before the exhibit ends this October. You can still make it before it ends.