Sunday, August 17, 2008

Twenty-One and Quartzite Heath

So I turned twenty-one not too long ago.

Seven photographs interspersed with six gifts. A glimpse into the three-fold celebration; college, PKV committee and family.

* * * * *

Yen orchestrated the celebration at 3rd College. Luke came all the way from UPM; Ai Wei and Li Ern joined from 12th and 1st Colleges respectively. Thanks, Luke!

After saving up for some time, I was finally able to afford this; I decided to coincide the purchase with the month of my birth and the second anniversary of my foray into the world of SLR photography. Tokina's 11-16mm f/2.8 wide-angle lens was responsible for the key seven pictures in this part of the post, which demonstrate in part what the lens can, and can't, do.

For instance, the lens will allow group shots in tight locations. Just don't use it with the camera's built-in flash, or the lens's shadow will appear at the bottom of the picture!

Yen's gift (Truman Capote's In Cold Blood) was hidden under layers of wrapping which each bore a task; there were hurdles as varied as posing for a photo with a junior to flashing a cold-blooded grin. Here, Luke and I are doing the two-face (or half-face?) look; the actual task was something else, but this is how we interpreted it.

The second part of my birthday celebration saw Kee Aun, Ai Wei, Li Ern and me trekking through Petaling Street in search of gifts for the graduating PKV seniors. There, we met this lady selling mochi. The mochi was lovely, the lens's work lovelier, and the lady, loveliest.

Before we left from Taman Jaya station, we bumped into Kee Aun's college senior, Roy, who works at the A&W there. That night, after the long day out, we (now including other members of the committee) found ourselves in A&W once again. I asked Roy to mix my Root Beer with something--anything--else as it was my birthday. He decided instead to throw about four scoops of ice-cream into the mug. Thanks, Roy!

We ended our short stay at Pavilion with a stopover at J.Co Donuts. This is how vertical close-up group shots look, shot with a wide-angle lens: observe Shannon's distorted shorts.

Leanne and family gave me this singing card. I've never received a singing card so you can imagine my surprise when I opened it!

Kee Aun descending the escalator leading out of Pavilion, towards KLCC. He, Zach and I were travelling by train to meet the rest at A&W; Shannon's MyVi wasn't quite Doraemon's pocket enough.

Sara also gave me a card, and a very unique one at that. She had a collection of animal stickers and so drew various habitats, sticking the animals amidst bushes, in the sea and on trees. The perfect card for an ecologist brother!

On Saturday, I celebrated at home with my family. Mum prepared a fantastic menu, which included Sara's rambutan yoghurt ice-cream as dessert. It was a great meal, especially since it will be some time before I can once again enjoy food so lovely. But that's a story for another day.

Dad and Mum got this for me. It's called Once Again, Again and is one of Swatch's latest watches, this year's special edition Club Watch. What makes it significant to me is that its design is a play on Once Again, the watch many will recognise it as the 'classic' Swatch first launched in the early 80s. The most recent Once Again was the watch Kung Kung wore till the day he died, and which I wore after that till it, in turn, died.

Denise is going to accuse me of copying her birthday idea! Mum prepared a key-shaped arrangement of cupcakes, departing from the usual cake. And I was wearing red.

Of course, Mum knew nothing about Denise's birthday theme. It was just so coincidental, heheh...

Some of the best gifts I received this year were gifts of words.

SooT's SMS was really special;

2 + 1 = august 18. 2 + 1 = one2many partners. 2 + 1 = a cross between a toad n a swan. 2 + 1 = a man meets a cyclops. 2 + 1 = 21. Happy 21st birthday, dear ben!

Victor & Munteng's gave me a notebook with this quote on the cover;

"Love generously. Praise loudly. Live fully." - Elias Porter

Yet there is one (material) gift which I really treasure receiving this year, perhaps even more than my lens. Unfortunately I am unable to blog about it at the moment, so it will have to wait.

* * * * *

A week later, I found myself on the Klang Gates Quartzite Ridge (the area commonly known to the locals as Bukit Tabur), the longest quartzite ridge in the world. It was the first field trip for my Tropical Forest Ecology class, and we were studying the heath forest in the area.

I decided to test my new lens on a 'real' landscape. The following pictures were all shot at 11mm (16.5mm equivalent on a film-based camera).

How didn't manage to complete the whole journey; this was his first appearance in a class since recovering from chickenpox. So, escorted by Mr Yong, he went down while the rest of us journeyed on, but not before I made this picture (albeit by accident!).

Thary really liked this particular tree. It is a Baeckaea frutescens tree, a.k.a. cucur atap in Malay. Technically, it is a type of myrtle, coming from the same family as the well-known tea tree and likewise bearing leaves with fragrant oils.

The quartzite ridge was full of near-vertical outcrops, and climbing was often challenging. Here, Shannon is scaling down one of the outcrops. The view of the dam was beautiful, even at midday. I can only imagine it would be much more breathtaking at dawn.

It was How's birthday, so the four of us celebrated with lunch at the new Nando's in Jaya One. Perhaps the words behind How are a fitting epithet for the kind of celebration he would find ideal!

* * * * *

Throughout the week between the moving of the PKV Booth and How's birthday, UM had its Convocation Week. I was busy running the PKV's Convo Celebration with Pik Tze and Samantha. You can find pictures on:

The 'blog' is up and running, but there's lots more to be added. Also, I haven't put up a copyright notice; basically all the pictures will be attributed to the PKV. At some points, the camera changed hands so frequently that it would be a futile (or perhaps forensic?) effort to precisely identify the people responsible for each photo.

This is one of my favourite pictures from the Convo Week. Partly because it demonstrates the sort of stuff wide-angles were made for, but mainly because so many stories are captured in this single frame, if you take time to observe and look across the room.

Recently I watched Kingdom of Heaven again. As I type this, I cannot help but notice how the theme of seniors and their legacies seems to mirror what King Baldwin told Balian in the movie:

"You see, none of us choose our end, really. A king may move a man, a father may claim a son. But remember that, even when those who move you be kings or men of power, your soul is in your keeping alone.

When you stand before God, you cannot say that I was told by others to do thus, or that virtue was not convenient at the time. This will not suffice."

Because of them, in no small way, we are who we are. And celebrating them is, in my opinion, in fact celebrating their faithfulness, their determination, their sacrifice, and above all their neverending quest to seek virtue over convenience.

* * * * *

The week ahead is the first of three holiday weeks this semester (the next being Hari Raya and the following being the study break), and I look forward to sorting some loose ends out.

Also, tomorrow is a very special day. More on that later.

I pray it will be a week in which I will learn much and be prepared for the weeks ahead. A week of pause and rest (even if it may be busy) with much time for reflection and a renewing of my sense of direction this semester.


1 comment:

leanne said...

Glad you had a memorable 21st ;)

Thought you wouldn't be able to take any photos up there but from the looks of it, I've been proven wrong! hehe should've known nothing stops u :P

Don't know how you managed though, the only thing I could do was shiver and shake :D
& I've yet to go up there again!!

A group of friends once went up before dawn to watch the sunrise -this was before my own trip. Shall let you know if they're planning a second. Perhaps you'll like to join if you're interested (i.e. have the time haha :P)