Second Terrapin Independence Day a success

On September 9th, we left for Sekolah Kebangsaan Penarik at 2pm.

When the entourage from KUSTEM arrived, the students were already very hyped-up and they all look so pretty with the same T-shirts. They were sooo excited that it was almost impossible to control them. We had to distribute the hand-held fans and the program and a motorbike sticker on each chair in the school hall so I thought it was best if we could enlist some bigger kids to help us. WRONG move. Because everybody wanted to help.

We brought the terrapins into the room instead of leaving them in the car because the weather was very hot. But once they were brought into the room, the students surrounded them, everybody wanted to touch the terrapins. I had to put on a very fierce face to get them out of the room so that the terrapins could breathe! And once I retrieved my camera from my pocket, they came back.. *smacks forehead*

The opening ceremony started at 4pm, on-the-dot. The VVIPs gave their speeches, which was followed by the prize-giving ceremony. Students who have won the colouring, drawing, essay and poem writing contests were given presents that we frantically wrapped in the morning. I’m sure the kids would say those “kakak dan abang” in the university do not know how to wrap presents nicely *winks*

Part of the audience. Most of them are egg collectors and we have invited them as well because we gave those who sold us eggs a hamper each. The more terrapin eggs one sells to the project, the bigger the hamper he will receive – this is a tactic to get them sell us more eggs, you know..

Before we adjourned to the exhibition room for some light refreshments, the school children gave a very colourful performance. They sang a specially-written song on the plight of the terrapins. And the amazing thing was that they only practised for a few days before the event! (We later learned that the Standard 6 students had just sat for their UPSR)

No prizes for correctly guessing what we did next. YaY! We all proceeded to the release site about a kilometer away from the school, which is also the MAJOR river terrapin nesting site in Setiu River (there are two other smaller nesting sites nearby). The students all got there before us because they rode their bicycles when we were still starting our cars *smiles*

I was busy taking pictures (in the river) of the VVIPs releasing the critically-endangered animals when my Supervisor signaled that it should be our turn – MY turn, since I raised them since DAY 1. Tears were welling up my eyes but I managed to avoid eye-contact with the many cameras facing our direction *blushes*

The release of the 40 animals happened too quickly. In less than 10 minutes, all the hoo-haa was over, and the kids were now standing by the riverside looking out for river terrapins that surfaced to breathe.

It had been a memorable day, despite the chaotic preparations before the release. But then again, we had it easier this year because we had experience managing a bigger crowd last year. We released 150 terrapins last year and managed about 300 guests, including 2 bus loads of Buddhists from Selangor and another bus load from Terengganu.

Here’s to the 190 released terrapins – Cheers! :)

P/S: More pictures here.

Preparations before Terrapin Independence Day

As I was uploading some pictures taken during Terrapin Independence Day, I realized I had earlier uploaded a few pictures that show our preparations BEFORE the event itself. I never got to write anything about it, obviously, and I was wondering whether I should include those pictures in this post instead.

OK. I shall go on with them, I don’t have much time to blog actually *winks*

It was four or five days before the event itself that my Supervisor suggested that we make hand-held fans to be distributed on the day itself. I did not object to the idea but argued that we did not have much time to do all the designing, printing (front and back), cutting the pointed edges to make rounded ones, laminating the individual fans, cutting the corners again and finally gluing the tongue depressor on the fan. I suggested we make bookmarks for the kids instead and she almost bought the idea. Almost, because when Rohan and Kate dropped by, they offered their help and we reverted back to Plan A.

Two days before the event, we went to the school to put up an exhibition. For certain reasons that I have yet to discover, the kids simply loved to take pictures! Some of them were practically following me my camera!

And we gave them separate talks – I was in charge of the Standard 1 to 3 students while my colleague was in charge of the older students. Our talks were basically the same, but the way we presented it was different – at least that was why we decided to separate the students in the first place.

I brought along sweets to encourage the younger kids to respond to me, as well as to ask questions. Whenever they looked like they couldn’t understand me, I asked them questions concerning that particular slide and if anybody could answer, or even attempt to answer them, I would gave them a sweet.

We also gave the teachers and students each a T-shirt and asked them all to wear it on the release day. And I briefed the kids on the things that we would do the following Saturday, and requested that they gave us their full co-operation.

Next: The Second Terrapin Independence Day

Project Happy Malaysia: Terrapin Independence Day

OK, OK. I know I said I was going to blog about Project Happy Malaysia today. I got my new DELL configured, and all the must-haves have been installed. But the problem now is… My broadband connection at home is way tooo slow and it is taking forever to load the pictures I am going to use. AARGHHH!

Anyway, I will still proceed and maybe just insert a link from here to the photo album so this post isn’t entirely picture-less :)

* * * * *

I do not remember having fond memories of the previous Merdeka days that I have celebrated. Merdeka day wasn’t celebrated like it was a family member’s birthday, or like it was Mother’s Day, or even Teacher’s Day. It wasn’t as “prominent” as New Year’s Eve when I would literally spend the last 30 minutes of the year in the shower cleansing myself in the attempt to rid myself of all bad luck. Heh.

Anyway, I celebrated my first Merdeka last year. And I am going to tell you how.

* * * * *

My M.Sc. project requires me to head-start the river terrapin hatchlings up to one, two and three years old before releasing them. So last year during Merdeka day, we released the first group of 150 one-year-old river terrapins back into the river. The “release of life” ceremony was also dubbed the “Terrapin Independence Day”.

Two days before Terrapin Independence Day, a team of us went to the host-school to put up an exhibition in the school hall. We gave a briefing to the school children and we organized terrapin-related activities for them. Despite the small school and run-down facilities in the school, we managed to reach out to the school children and to educate them on the importance of saving the river terrapins.

On the Independence Day itself, a small opening ceremony was held at the school compound. Some students performed a Boria dance and a student presented her prize-winning-poem to the audience. After some light refreshments, we proceeded to the release site.

Almost the entire village attended the release because we invited them all. Besides the kampung folks, we also invited the Buddhist groups from Selangor and Terengganu because they have been supporting us financially throughout the year. But what amazed me was that the Buddhists were chanting throughout the release but the Muslims did not make a big fuss out of it. In fact, when we learned that the Buddhists would like to do some chanting during the release, we tried arranging for them to release the terrapins at a separate site or time, but we encountered more problems that way – insufficient manpower, PA system etc.

I felt my chest tightened each time I passed someone a terrapin to be released. Because I raised each one of them for more than a year. Because I saw them grow, inch by inch. Because I treated the sick ones back to health. And when the time came for their release, I was worried-sick about their survival in the wild.

* * * * *

A year has passed since we released the river terrapins into the river. And if they were alive today, they would be another year older.

Happy 49th, Malaysia :)

P/S: For snippets of the Terrapin Independence Day celebrated last year, click here.