Monday, December 20, 2010

Conquering My Water Anxiety

Not many people are born comfortable with water. Despite spending more than 9 months cocooned in our mother’s womb surrounded by water, many of us instinctively developed fear for water as we grew up. Many reasons contributed to this intensification of fear, mostly probably to our lack of association with water and lack of encouragement from our surrounding to promote ease when dealing with water.

I have never been that comfortable with water until these past few years. I was not actually afraid of it, and I didn’t panic easily either. I simply didn’t feel comfortable like I did when I was on dry land.

You see, I grew up in a kampung environment at a Felda settlement and playing with water was part of my daily life. Playing in a stream called “Paya Licin” (due to its slippery banks) is one of the fond memories of my childhood days. Then there were the times when I waddled through shallow muddy rivers during dry season looking for fish hiding in the mud, as well as the countless times I braved the rain to play soccer or just simply playing whatever in the monsoon splash. Despite all these experiences with water, I was still not a good swimmer and my dog peddling style resembled more of my scrambling for life especially when I could not feel my feet standing on firm ground underneath.

My childhood days were filled with many days like this

The next phase in my life at a boarding military school saw me learning to swim properly under the care of PE teachers, Mrs Ooi and her late husband Mr Ooi. These two, especially Mrs Ooi with her famous term “Libas Keribas”, helped me to learn the basic techniques of swimming and after 5 years in high school I could already swim the 50m Olympic-size swimming pool.....barely. I was much more comfortable, but the niggling fear of water was still apparent.

On to university days at a place called the United States Naval Academy. You’d imagine me swimming like a fish by the time I completed my degree, but that was not really the case. Yes, I passed every single swimming test there. They were not easy either. I jumped from a 10m platform into the deepest end of the diving pool every semester, I swam 1km in 40 minutes (it’s called “the 40 year swim”) while dressed in full uniform, I treaded water for few long minutes while converting my uniform to become a temporary float and many other swimming tests designed to make us as a capabled swimmer. And yet I found water to be a little intimidating at times.......and I did not welcome the opportunity to jump into water, I’d rather be doing something else......period.

The exact view if you look down from a 10m platform....a big no, no!

The breakthrough came when I was sent to work in France for 2 years. The apartment complex where I stayed had a 25m swimming pool right in front of it. For a good 3-4 months in the summer and early fall, the pool was available, with crystal clear water up to the brim, gesturing me to take a dip. I also met this wonderful neighbour Gill, who could swim back and forth the full length of the pool effortlessly for eternity, while I struggled amateurishly to complete even a full lap. Upon seeing my struggle, he offered a few tips to improve my technique. He helped me to improve my breathing, and he also showed me how to make the most out of every stroke. And as they say it in French......Voila! I got it. My swimming improved tremendously and I didn’t feel the struggle to gasp for air. It was far from perfect, or else I’d be competing in the Olympics.....hahahaha, but I felt a whole lot more comfortable in the water.

The wonderful swimming pool infront of my apartment

The swimming lessons by my neighbour Gill was the turning point

Since then, my anxiety with water has significantly reduced. I can now enjoy swimming as part of an exercise, as well as a form of relaxation and stress buster. It’s God’s gift to me as I have now found a low impact exercise that is kind to my post-PCL operation knee. However, I don’t get to swim as much as I’d like so far. I intend to change that next year. The fact that there is going to be a big pool near where I’m going to be staying should help my cause.

The icing on the cake in my progress to conquer my anxiety with water came through my experience doing Helicopter Underwater Escape Training with navy pilots and helicopter crew. I’ve done it three times so far and the latest one was just last week. Just like the course’s name, it’s about taking turn and tumble underwater while being strapped in the mock-up helicopter, and eventually trying to exit through a designated escape route. It was intimidating to say the least. And doing that at night as well? I did it, I didn’t really enjoy it, but I did it......It got easier the more you do it. And as I said, it helped further to ease my anxiety.

Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (me in white helmet) was all about dealing with your fear being trapped underwater

Dealing with water is never easy for me and I’m glad I’ve got this far by now. Chance of survival in water is significantly enhanced when we have the ability to swim comfortably and we do not panic easily. I would definitely like my children to comprehend both at much younger age. It’s never too late to learn but I sure hope my children don’t have to endure the anxiety as long as I did.

Water survival is "no play play" business

Water is not a natural surrounding for us human being, so we must learn how to be comfortable in it. Try we must, have faith and the rest we leave it to fate.

I even had the opportunity to enjoy water ski at Lake Zurich as I successfully dealt with my water anxiety

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why can’t we get it right the first time?

Prelude ~ My friend from Switzerland told me once that in his country, people do not need to re-confirm their appointments. He said once you’ve agreed, both parties will undertake the commitment to fulfil their obligation without having to be reminded to do so. Sounds really wonderful. When re-work/correction/re-check are not required, we have more time to attend to other pressing issues. Wastage goes down, efficiency goes up....voila, we have a very productive society and everybody goes home a happy camper in this beloved Bolehland. Sadly, more often than not, that is not the case here.

Judging from my recent encounters with various inefficiencies and obstacles when dealing with our own systems, I am afraid to concede that our society is a long way from becoming a world class......and to think that Tun Mahathir’s Vision 2020 is not too far down the corner already.....sigh...come on, wake up!!!!.

I was recently given the run around trying to register my twins for Year 1. I finally got my order to transfer to KL in late November, leaving me with no choice but to register my kids well beyond the stipulated deadline. I went to the state education department, and was told that all registration must be done online. Registration online –checked! I went to the preferred school after that but was told they have no say whether my kids can attend school there, ‘school placement will be done by the district education department-via online’. After waiting for the ‘2 week window’ for the process to take its due course, and still no news of the school for my kids, I decided then to go to the district education department. To my disbelief there were at least a hundred disgruntled parents there with all sorts of issues ranging from not being able to send their kids the school they prefer, to their kids being sent to schools in a different district. And to think there were that many ‘re-work/correction/re-check’ that had to be done.......what an inefficient on-line system!!! Anyway, in my case, I was told that while I’d done my registration on-line, the school had yet to ‘confirm’ my registration online, despite my showing of the school’s stamp on my kids’ birth certificates. has to be done online. I was dumbfounded but decided to remain patience......and asked, 'what does it take now for the process to move forward'. The lady said, ‘give it a week for the school to confirm online, and re-check after that’. I decided to go back to the school to ‘drive’ the process. True enough, with a little insistence, the ‘confirmation’ was done within half an hour-via online! I wanted to go back to the district education department immediately but was told earlier that the officer who could make the decision was not around. ‘You can call him personally on Wednesday when he comes back....Here’s his number’. Thank you!!! So, came Wednesday, I gave the gentlemen a call. He was very nice, and told me that he took extra effort to rectify all outstanding school placements and asked me to just check the system. Believing this could be the end of my misery I gave the system another try. And a false hope it was as the status had not changed beyond what I saw on Monday. A little agitated, I gave the guy another call. He said, ‘I may have overlooked some names, I’ll rectify them today and you should see it by tomorrow. If it’s still not rectified then, call me back right away’. Surprise...surprise...came next day, still no school for my kids in the system. He said, 'the system has been very slow, I will try to do it this weekend, so please check again on Monday'. Sigh....double sigh.....Still no confirmation of school for my twins......We are still at the ‘we’ll try’ stage and don’t know how long before we can get to ‘we can confirm’ stage.

The following are some things that didn't go right the first time related to my sister’s wedding preparation:

~ The hall for the wedding was filthy with trash and I had to clean it up myself. The guy responsible promised to send somebody to clean the mess up (which should have been cleaned before the hall was handed over to us). That somebody never arrived and the person responsible eventually simply refused to answer our calls.

~ The lady who was supposed to prepare the ‘pelamin’ on stage promised to come to set it up in late afternoon before the wedding day, then delayed it till early night, then delayed it again till before 11pm, and her final promise was before the next morning. Last I checked at 0120am, the pelamin was not there and she stopped answering her phone. She quietly set the pelamin up without our presence early next morning, and when we arrived later, we had to re-adjust the setting for the cake cutting ceremony because it was placed too far back. Sooooo very easy to get this one done right the first time and yet, so much rework and adjustment had to be made. After taking into consideration that she also ‘deliberately’ forgot and had to be reminded that she was supposed to provide fresh and not artificial flower bouquet for the bride, as well as trying to escape from her commitment of providing red carpet at the walk way, it’s is safe to assume that I’m not going to recommend her to others.

And this one was my experience dealing with the most famous rugby brand in the world....we are obviously talking about the ‘local’ company representing the brand.

~ How difficult is it to do jersey alteration? Piece of cake you say. That was what they said too.......but the truth is it’s been 8 months!!! ...and still they can’t get it right.

How about trying to change billing addresses and to cancel some services following the news of my transfer to KL? I have already called my credit cards companies, phone & internet service provider, satellite TV company, mobile phone company etc ....they all sounded very helpful and friendly over the least we’ve got to that stage now in this country. Should I be optimistic and run my hopes way up there that there will be no hick ups? I’d love to be proven wrong....please...please prove me wrong!!!!! However, after weighing the prospects I am already gearing up for another round of phone calls to these companies to straighten things out. As I said, prove me wrong....PLEASE!!!!

Well, I have already accepted that I can’t change the world we live in. I know though that giving up is not an option as we will continue spiralling down if nothing is done now. So let’s start small....let’s fulfil all our little promises and commitment. Let’s get things right the first time.....or at least let’s strife to at least make that a real objective and not accepting anything less unless there is a concrete reason for it. I’ve always believed that the place to start is within my own family. Then on to my dealing with others, be it at work place or in my social encounters with people. Let’s take our promises and commitment more seriously, especially so when we know that the way we react/respond affects others directly or indirectly.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Awal Muharam 1432H - A New Beginning In Many Ways

It's 1 Muharram 1432H, the first day of the new year in the Islamic Calender.  Lots of happening in my life.....too many to mention.  Wish to write blog entries about some of them but I doubt I'll have the luxury of time to do so.  A quick dumping of my thoughts then before I lose them.......

~ My youngest sister got married.  I had the privilege to perform the 'akad nikah' to give her away for marriage.  I was swarmed with the wedding preparation, in crisis mode most of the time but Alhamdulillah it all went well at the end.  The smile of content and happiness I saw on my sister's face was all that I needed to see......

~ I finally got my instruction a few weeks ago to move to KL in early January 2011 to further my study.  Suddenly overwhelmed with all the documentation and other administrative things related to my transfer.  Also had to come up with my thesis title and hopefully it's the right one.....'The Balancing Act-...bla...bla...bla.....'.  A mouthful but we'll see if the topic about the US vs China/India is good enough....

~ Now quickly have to work on the family transfer to Shah Alam to stay with my in laws while I stay separately near the college.......only 30+km separation for one year, I guess we can handle it....

~ Also had to register my twins for Year 1 in Selangor instead of Perak as a result of my transfer.  Obviously we did the registration well beyond the stipulated window to do so......and because of that, had to endure the running around between the state and the district education departments, and our preferred school.....back and forth....back and forth.  As of today, still no confirmation of the school.  My patience has been stretched but I still have much in reserve.....just bring it on.  Will call the 'officer' in-charge tomorrow to see if we can progress beyond 'we'll try...." to "we can confirm.....".  The 'on-line' system in place is really 'in-line' system as we always have to wait....and wait....and wait some more.

~ I finally have the taste of how much preparation is involved when your kids start to go to school.  The uniform alone....I lost track of what we have bought....pinafore, inner shirt, complete baju kurung for primary school and sekolah agama, tudung, shoes, socks, kapur kasut, stationery (hundreds of items, literally), school bags, water bottles etc.  Next will be books, school fees, orientation day and first day of school.  And imagine having to do this for twins......Aren't I glad that my wife is taking this like nothing.....I guess her skill as a former secretary comes really handy in this situation.

~ As a the midst of all these cacamerba, I suffered from sleep deprivation, lack of rest and over indulgence in good food (can you call this last one as suffering?) which eventually resulted in my blood pressure 'going upstairs' (naik atas.....?????..hahahahaha).  Border line as the doctor said but I really must do something about it........

However, despite this seemingly ultra chaotic life I've been leading these past few months......I must say that I don't have much to complain about.  Life could be better....but the life I have now is well and truly good enough......Alhamdulillah.