Saturday, 26 May 2007

MIA 2007- Plunge into Darkness....

The MIA Trail 2007 was made up of 2 sessions, one at 5.30pm and another at 6.30pm. The revision of timing was made as the last year's event ended rather late (12-1am!) and both the participants and the guides were worn out. Manpower, however, was more of a problem this year. With many of the guides unavailable for various reasons, Ooi Yee, Airani, Wendy and I set out bravely to bring a total of 80 participants on a trail that they (hopefully) would not forget!

Ooi Yee and Airani took the first session while Wendy and I took the second session. Being the man and all (just kidding, last year it was done by Airani!), I took up the role of the Bus Guide, who is in charge of introducing the Trail on the bus by using the on board microphone. Being a poor karaoke singer, the fear of handling the mike coupled with my rusty guiding technique spelled for a rocky introduction. As I silently swore under my breath, I prayed that the guiding session at the Raffles Museum would go much more smoothly.

When we reached the Raffles Museum, which is home to more than 500,000 specimens from all over the region, we caught a glimpse of the guides and participants of the earlier session. They have overshot the supposed timing! Well it wasn't surprising as the Museum gallery, with it's multitude of amazing specimens, has a wealth of interesting stories to be told.

Now it was my turn to give a tour around the Museum! With a time limit of an hour (which seemed very long to me), I secretly hoped that the previous year's training, my secret cheatsheets and hours of Discovery channel would help me spin interesting and realistic stories of the various exhibits. And that is what I did!

Amongst other things, I talked about the various types of natural habitats found in Singapore, how to handle a live tree climbing crab (with alcohol-preserved specimens), King Cobra Encounters "Do's and Don'ts", ultra environmentally destructive Facai harvesting, man eating sharks... Wendy managed to do it too! It seems that as long as you have a passion for nature and willingness to learn, you can tap the treasure trove of information of the Museum Gallery! Hence guiding is a piece of cake, so do come join us if you are interested. You'll have a swell time too!

Next stop: Kent Ridge Park. The view of the Pasir Panjang port, ships at sea and the Southern Islands from Kent Ridge Park was stunning. So many lights!

The participants were brought through the "Tembusu Grove", where the enchanting scent of the flowers of the Tembusu filled the air. Participants would be more at ease with the aromatherapy if only the guide hadn't linked the fragrance to the female vampire, the Pontianak, of Malay Mythology. A little mischief on our part :-)

But it seemed that the park was up to some mischief itself, for when I tried to find cicada moults on the rough tembusu bark to show the participants, I had no luck. It must have been the recent rain that washed the moults away.

And when I tried to look for graffiti on the barks of the Eucalyptus tree bark, I too had a problem cos they were all MIA. I guess the park was trying to fit into the night's theme as well.

Then came the final straw. The bats were all MIA too! Oh well, except for one, which gave me face by flying over our heads while we were on the broadwalk. The rain does seem to affect life in the forest in many ways, most of which I have yet to learn.

We then headed to Reflections at Bukit Chandu, which is an interactive visitor center which is focused on the Battle of Pasir Panjang. There, the National Heritage Board (NHB) guides gave an in-depth description of the events leading up to the Japanese invasion of Singapore and the valor of the Malay Regiment who fought bravely to defend the island during the Second World War.

I took a break at this point, and slipped into an uneasy repose as the "Sounds of Battle" interactive show raged on. My unease was quite expected as the realistic explosions and screams tend to switch us into a reflective mood, as we remember the horrors of war and the value of living in peaceful times.

The final stop was at Memories at Old Ford Factory. As there were NHB guides too at this location, Wendy and I said our goodbyes to our charming participants who were very engaging and inquisitive. I hoped that they had as much fun as we had guiding them. See you next year!