Sunday, November 19, 2006

PACM member runs in Cambridge and ermm....

Trophy at stake. The Chris Brasher run started since 1949.

Yesterday was my first race in Wandlebury, south-east of Cambridge. I was one of the 8 who represented for my college. The race was organised by the Cambridge University Hare and Hounds (CUH &H). If the words "Hare" and "Hounds" have made you think about the Hash House Harriers (HHH), don't worry, I thought the same too initially. But it's a running club in Cantab, just like our Pacesetters Athletic Club Malaysia.

Race registration

It was the Chris Brasher 10k Run (actual 6.3miles or 10.13km). I came back with pride and confidence partially bruised. I am still trying to recuperate emotionally (as if...) from the hideous and humiliating finish of my first race in Cambridge. Considering the distance was more than 10k, my timing was still consistent despite a 2-month hiatus in training. I finished 48minutes and 49 seconds based on actual timing (and 49:44 on published time), with an embarassing position of 72 (out of 83) in the Men's category. Details on

The start line. Race was held at the Wandlebury Park, about 10 km south-east of Cambridge.

Coming out in the sub-50minute category, I didn't think the timing was that despicable to say the least in the Malaysian context, but in Cambridge, competition has proven to be too much for that timing to be anywhere near "respectable". The fastest was at 32minutes, 29 seconds.

Running a 10k race with the Singapore Marathon vest...

O well, for you 4D-number buffs, my race number was 578 (or you can bet on 0578) case you have a vested interest to read on.

One of the track and field facilities for speed-work training, located at Wilberforce Road.

The Chris Brasher run was also a prelude to nominate cuppers (rookies) to compete in the bigger competition between Cambridge and Oxford University later on.

But who is Chris Brasher? Why named a run after his name? Chris Brasher was the co-founder of the London Marathon in 1981. Chris won an Olympic gold medal for the 3000m steeplechase in 1956 . He was also a student at St. John's College, University of Cambridge. Chris passed away in 2003, at the age of 74. Because of his immense contributions to the running history of the UK, his affiliation to the university and in commemoration of him, having a run after his name was only logical.

Clear sky, sunny day, but bloody cold...

Yesterday's race was held in good weather. It's autumn, it was sunny but cold....bloody cold. I suspect the temperature was below 10 deg C. There were frost on the ground and there were also lots of sheep faeces! When the race started, I paced myself accordingly, but after 6 minutes, I could hardly breathe. The weather was just too cold for me! I was wearing a vest and a pair of shorts. I slowed down but the people were like rampaging bulls. I had no choice but to keep up. I was already at the bottom pile of the race. Then, the sight of people kept moving farther and farther away. I lost sight of the last runner ahead of me within 5 minutes. But I was not the last. That was the only consolation I guess.

I clocked my first 2k at 10minutes 05 seconds. Again, this time has proven to be too slow to catch up with the rest. I didn't know what else to do, so I kept to my pace and hoped that the race would finish soon. When I crossed the finishing line, it was a great relief! My leg muscles were aching and the sole of my shoes was creamed with sheep faeces. Yuccks! Haha....

The team from Wolfson College. The two Asians whom you see in the picture; the first guy is from Japan and I'm the other Asian. Still faithful to the Pacesetters running club, man!

Anyway, Wolfson College finished with an overall 3rd. First and second were taken by Jesus and Queen's College.

So, would I go again for another race under CUH&H? Errmm, yes, because training with them would only improve my timing further. But that is also assuming that I have time to do that....

P/S: Can someone tell Ronnie See (PM1) to do something about my PM score? I am way behind man!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Lunch with Shell Centenary Scholars

The highlight for the week was a lunch organised by the Shell Centenary Scholarship Fund. The event was also held in conjunction to tie in with an individual photo-taking session. The photos would later be inserted into the Shell Scholar website. So stay tuned, and you will be able to view this year's scholars, UK and Europe wide, by the end of this year.

Trying to break tradition, I wanted to pose with a Mickey Mouse smile but was obviously stopped from doing so. So, I tried the Bugs Bunny's showy teeth pose, and the guy asked if I wanted a clip to clamp my lips. I was joking...

We had our lunch at a 510 year-old college, Jesus College. If numbers do tell stories, then 510 would give you an image of an old wooden dining hall with ancient wood carvings on the ceiling. Again, think Harry Potter. Yes, and Jesus College's dining hall fits that description.

The lunch menu

L to R: Bettina (Argentina), Me (mother's womb), Phuong (Vietnam), Khooi Yee (Malaysia), Danish (Pakistan), Nic (South Africa) and Maria (Colombia)

At the welcome reception. Receptions here usually go with sherry, juice or plain water before proceeding for lunch
This year's scholars have some surprises. Phuong (pronounced as Fung), for example is the first Vietnamese to be awarded a Shell scholarship to study in Cambridge. History was made. Bettina, Phuong and myself are from the same course and we represent the largest group from the same course. Engineering for Sustainable Development rocks! Shell attested that.

The lunch was a great opportunity to meet the other scholars in Cambridge. Otherwise, we may never know who they were.

The fine custom-made cutleries at the dining hall of Jesus College.

Lunch is served...

FALL-in University

Leaves are dropping, making way for winter. In fact, it should be winter now. Global warming and all may have altered the changing of season to a later date. It's a pretty sight now with the changing of colours from bright colourful leaves to dull brownish yellow.

The maple tree or Momiji as it is called in Japan

A shot taken at the Lammas Land, on the way back from lectures.

Looking high and low for a good shot of the autumn colour. In the end, the best scene happens to be in front of my college!

Fallen leaves acting as ground cover. More of a nuisance to the maintenance guys to clean them up every morning.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Week That Was...

Diplomatic representative from the Holy Father, Papal Nuncio Arcbishop Faustino Sainz Munoz, who presided mass last Sunday. I never knew the Fisher House had also been host to then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before he became Pope last year.

DeepaRaya Open House organised by the Cambridge University Malaysian Society (CuMas), held at the Newnham College.

Another Formal Hall at Wolfson College.

I still don't understand why did the olden days of England used a two-tap system. I mean, who would want to burn their hands by just turning on the Hot tap?!! And there is no way of mixing the two types of water. Can anyone explain??

Visit by Kartini and her university mates to Cambridge. Picture taken at St John's College. Background is the Bridge of Sighs.
Kartini, who made a visit to Cambridge yesterday.

The group from London, including Hafezin (first guy from right), Assistant Director of the Malaysian Tourism Board for the UK-Europe Division. Picture taken at Trinity College. Background is the Great Court where The Fountain is located.

The Week and Month That Were....

I have successfully survived UK for more than a month. I quietly sat back and looked at myself and asked, what I initially thought about this place, how I still think about this place and what I missed about Japan.

1. I am still trying to understand the erratic weather pattern here.

2. It's an English-speaking environment, I like it!

3. Things are not as fast as Japan, I sort of prefer the faster pace of things there.

4. Courtesy....I won't comment about what I'm experiencing here but Japan is definitely a country worth commending for their courtesy, politeness and tolerance. I missed all that. I missed all the smiles and high-pitch voice of the Japanese ladies customer service officers!

5. Cycling here is extremely dangerous. We share our cycling path with the vehicle lanes. Traffic signs for drivers are the same as cyclists. So, we have to go through roundabouts, stop at traffic lights and not allowed to cycle on pedestrian footpaths! I have been yelled at many times for my initial ignorance...gosh this speaks volume of what I just pointed out in Note 4. It's easy to be killed here. I like Japan's regulation for cyclists to use the footpath. It's not only much safer, but it promotes cycling in the community as cyclists have the first right of way.

6. Though Basmati Rice is an expensive commodity in Malaysia, and is the common type of rice available here, I have been "spoiled" by the koshihikari. Nothing beats the quality of the koshihikari. I am also beginning to miss sashimi alot! Eating fish here is a luxury.

7. Living in a college community is a wonderful experience. The collegiate system in Cambridge enhances this experience because colleges are very self-sustaining with loads of activities, characteristics and facilities. There is the authentic punting experience which itself is a Cambridge experience. It just makes leaving this place harder next time.

8. I missed having a kitchen of my own like what I had in Japan. But whenever I thought of what I'd get in IUJ, I'm always thankful that I am here.

9. Cambridge is much more convenient and vibrant than in Urasa and Niigata. Everything is within walking and cycling distance. And I definitely do not have to go through a huge pile of snow here, like in Urasa.

10. I missed the technology in Japan. I remember whenever I am lost somewhere, I could quickly do a navigation search with my mobile GPS function and within seconds, I could identify my location. Here, I have to find out where the sun is to get my eastwest locations. O yes, emails. I could no longer receive and write emails with my phone. And the sms here is bloody expensive!

11. Malaysian ingredients are more accessible here than in Japan, whether it's in Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya. Here, almost every city has a Malaysian grocery store.

12. I could find a whole-chicken in the supermarkets here. In Japan, the chickens are processed and sold according to parts. I could hardly find chicken bones in the Japanese supermarkets.

13. Souvenirs here are not as attractive as those found in Japan. When I thought back about the bakeries from the departmental stores in Japan, I salivate. Here, I'm not that impressed.

14. Instructions here are all in English. The websites here are very much "more useful" to me now. I no longer have to "translate hardcore Japanese webpages" with the Google pulldown menu or "look as if I understand" when the other person is explaining, like what happened in Japan. In Japan, when you converse in Japanese, very automatically, you would be explained and bombarded with loads of information in Japanese. It was a tedious process especially when you are still learning the language. So, you mix and match words that you understand and make out what the other person was trying to say. Here, it's smooth flow!

15. The speed of travelling! I take an hour to travel from Cambridge to London with the train. The distance is only 60km. In Japan, it takes 2 hours to cover 300km with the bullet train. Of course, travelling here is a fraction of what you pay in Japan.

16. I like the idea of separation of garbage advocated by the Japanese. The culture that I was instilled apparently made me feel very guilty when I lumped my garbage here, whether it was plastic, paper or food materials. I think the UK government should emulate the success of the Japanese. Apparently, Japan recycles 65% of their garbage, while it is still a far cry here. And sustainable development and climate change is a hot topic here.

17. The smaller figures in pounds could be quite deceiving until you have paid and do a conversion in your mind. I can't believe I have spent more than RM100 on a few stacks of greeting cards!
18. I feel my spiritual life here is more meaningful than it was in Japan. I am more comfortable with the celebration of the mass now as compared to Japan when I could hardly understand many of the Christian terminologies in Japanese.
19. It is more afforadable to participate in Marathons and Triathlons here than in Japan.
20. The different time zone is still a sore when you needed to call home.

Guy Fawkes Day

The Guy Fawkes Day is widely celebrated across the UK. Sometimes it is also called as the Bonfire Night. It is a day to commemorate a criminal called Guy Fawkes, to put it simply.
This is how the day was commemorated...

Guy Fawkes was an English soldier who attempted to carry out an assissination of King James I and members of both houses of the Westminster Palace on 5th November 1605. Guy Fawkes was in large part responsible for the later stages of the plan's execution. His activities were detected, however, before the plan's completion. Following a severe interrogation involving the use of torture and a trial, his conspirators were executed for treason and attempted murder. Guy Fawkes' failure is remembered with this day on November 5th.

A shot of the event taken at the Midsummer Common, Cambridge under the bright full moon.

The bonfire

The 15-minute fireworks display.

Friday, November 03, 2006

All Systems Go!!

I have told myself not to blog anymore until next week or so. Blogging is first of all, very time consuming and secondly, time is a luxury to me now. But I am extremely elated, ecstatic, excited, overjoyed, happy, energised and whichever adjectives synonymous to any of them because my long-awaited parcel has finally arrived! I just can't help expressing this feeling now in my blog. After 2 months of waiting and winter is coming, it is finally here! I was waiting faithfully for my winter clothings which I brought over from Japan via shipment from Malaysia. Without that, I'd be in deep trouble. Already the temperature has gone down tremendously from 10-ish to below zero at night. Thank you Irene, for coordinating this delivery.

My much awaited winter clothings, direct from Japan, via Malaysia

No way I am gonna share this out. This can stay in my room....

Luckily Irene wrapped this up in plastic. The oil leakage was terrible.

This was the content of the leaked pack...tom yam paste!!

Check out my personal storage space in the kitchen man! All systems go...O yes, does anyone know how could I import a 10kg koshihikari from Japan? :)

That means I could now cook to my heart's content and most importantly, have the authentic Malaysian taste which I have yearned for all these while. I was holding back my purchases of the Malaysian ingredients because nothing beats the original recipes from home. No doubt I could get the ingredients in Chinatown, London but I was also expecting the parcel to arrive every day! Besides, I was pretty doubtful of a mat salleh signing off on the recipe bottles with the caption, "Authentic Malaysian recipe". Would anyone believe that, c'mon?! Now that I have all the ingredients, I could now cook some Malaysian dishes for my block mates and invite the Malaysians for a get-together. Haven't been doing this since I left Japan! Alright, now it's all systems go!

Akitaka Soeno from Toyota, presenting the company's Hybrid Technology at the Engineering Department

Apart from that, I have another encounter with the "land of the rising sun". No, I'm not going to say it's the haunting again, but I chose to go for this talk by Toyota. They were talking about the Hybrid Technology and future vehicles.

Jalan-jalan and Raya in London

So, I have been complaining about the lack of time and packed study schedule and what am I doing in London then??!! Well, for fun.

I can't be always sticking my bottom onto the chair, stare at the books (notice I used the word "stare" and not read) and not treat myself to some fun. Last week's Saturday, all things have to take a back seat and I was going to unwind in London with the other Chevening scholars no matter what was coming up for the week. Noris, Aeni and Fairuz came all the way from Glasgow, Scotland, en route to our compatriot's Raya open house in Turnpike Lane, London. How small could the world be? Very small. Aeni Hashim is actually Diana Hashim's younger sister! And Diana Hashim happened to be my ex-colleague who handled the Gamuda scholarship, from the HR Dept.

Me, Fairuz and Aeni at the Big Ben

This shot is to affirm that I have put on some pounds on my cheek. With the lack of exercise and falling temperature, one can't stop eating and hibernating in the room. Let me assure you, I could have gone much chubbier by now if not for the "regulating" activities in Cambridge. Well, I have to cycle for lectures every day, so it's kinda good exercise.
Noris, me, Aeni and Fairuz

Our London walkaround, one day prior to meeting Shahnaz for the Raya Open house. I was quite crossed with the way people take photos for us. They either crop the top of the Tower Bridge or the side of the bridge. This is the best group shot that I could get. The best shot should feature the flag of England on the left tower. O well, I can't complain much since I didn't have a tripod with me and that people actually did us a favour.

This is the Victorial Memorial and the background of Buckingham Palace. Apparently, the Queen was out for dinner, so we left for other places. This is my second time visiting the palace. The first was in 2004.

Wellington Arch, looking majestic at night. Trust me when I tell you that this shot was taken at 6.30pm. Yes, sunset time is as early as 4.30pm now. It's as dark as Malaysia's 8pm by quarter to 5. So, it's abit daunting at times when you feel like doing some grocery shopping and have to start putting on the lights, wearing thicker clothings etc. If you really want to travel in the UK, don't come around this time, because you get less daylight. If you are not an avid photographer, then don't bother about it.

I didn't want to inundate this section with too many touristy places. I think you could see them in my Yahoo photos. This is Portebello Market, located somewhere in or near Notting Hill. It's a lovely place for a stroll. It's like a flea market selling antiques and collectors' items.

Some of the cool items found in the Portebello Market. I will definitely come back to this place when I have my wallet loaded next time. There are so much to see and buy. And all of these items are really one of a kind, and could never be found in our average pasar malam in SS2. Am not sure for the next 2 years....

Again, how much smaller could the world be? I was staying at the Malaysia Hall and took a shared bedroom. To my surprise, my roommate was Adam Sharif! Adam was last year's Shell Centenary Chevening scholarship recipient. He was one of two Malaysians who was awarded the scholarship to study Economics in Cambridge. He's a member of Girton College. A mere coincidence that we met in such a time and place. I have only "read" about him in the Shell Scholarship website (, so meeting him in person was amazing. Already such low probability. I mean, what are the chances man....

Finally, this is Shahnaz's place for the Raya Open House. We had daging rendang, ketupat, kuih muih, cookies, and a great time! Kartini (the one in green) is currently studying in the University of London. She was one of the hosts for the 3R programme in Malaysia. Kartini has also put up a blog in the Hot FM radio station where she is attached to at:

The one in red is Sue Anne who studied in Cambridge before continuing her Masters in LSE. The rest of us need no more introduction. All of them are this year's Chevening scholars.

A video snippet of the group's interaction after the Raya Open house: