Friday, 17 April 2009

The Zen of doing workshops

Started 10.06 pm, Thursday night, 16th April.

This is the winding down to two and half days of intense talking, negotiations, friendly badgering and teasing to come up with the roadmap and action plan for the APEX U people-centred sustainable development taskforce. The energy has been amazing and the camaderie fantastic. I can see where it is going. And I am letting it go in the direction where it is being shepparded. Is it where I want it to go? It is not about me. I have to practice being people-led. No, we have discarded people-led in favour of people-centred. We have very opinionated individuals who are not adverse to making their views known but yet willing to allow themselves to be nudged. I am happy, because I have learned so much in these 2 and half days.

So what does it take to conduct a successful workshop. What is the Zen of doing workshops? Picking the right people is one. I think I made the right choices. Choosing the right location is another. Langkawi, far away from USM is a good choice but the damn handphones keep ringing. Still not far enough. Perhaps Bali will be far enough. Choice of hotel is another. I chose this one because it claimed to have a 100 green ways. And we asked for a tour of the grounds. We were guided by a gardener and an environmental engineer. We saw the detox pond where the fish we eat at the hotel restaurants are placed in cleaner water to allow the toxins to waste out. Huh? Well, the fishes are rear in a pond at the back of the gardens and guess what goes into the pond? Grey water. Know what that is? It’s waste water from the baths and sinks (not the shit bowl). There’s kangkong and water hycinths to absorb the heavy metals. Don’t worry, you can eat the kangkong because the plants just absorbs the iron (says our hard scientist Nasir, a chemist). Then on the other side of the pond is where they keep the fish. So, I guess the fish eat our waste. That’s why they have to detox. I wondered aloud whether the detox actually works. The environ guy says, actually it is just perception. If the pond was toxic, the fished would be dead already.

(stopped at 10.30 pm and went for drinks with some buddies. Now 6.30 am, Friday morning. I keep waking up before 6 these few mornings.)

It’s still dark. Am sitting on the front porch with the porch lights on. The waves keep pounding. In the distance, lights flicker. I am told that they are fishing for cuttle fish.

Back to the Frangipani, the recycled hotel. Frangipani has been here for sometime. And then the current owner reburbished it to become green. So based on my earlier post and the subsequent tour, it looks a little like green wash. But we are divided. Kabilan gives the hotel a B+/A-. Janet gives it a C+. On the generous side, I would give it a B-, mainly for trying. There’s a lot of big plastic tanks on stilts collecting rain and grey water. Recycle bins everywhere. Vegetables, only about 40% comes from their garden. Manggo trees are abundant. There’s composting using old long bath tubs. The corn field is irrigated with perforated pipes underground feeding the it with grey water. What? There’s soap (not organic yet, but coming) and sampoo in the grey water, right? Our chemist says, no problem. Soap is just sodium. I was concerned about the water contaminating the ground water. I remember Adelaide tried storing the grey water in the ground and found out that the water became excessive salty and not suitable for watering the lawn. There’s chicken and geese everywhere, some 100 or 200 of them (they started with 20) and they eat the kitchen waste. I am not sure that it is a great idea given the composition of the food. Wan Fauzy’s family is in the catering business and they usually have leftovers which they pass to a friend rearing chickens. One day, the farmer said he could not take the left overs anymore. Why? The chickens are getting too fat from the fatty food! Oh, but did I say that the Uncle Wong’s (not Tong) fried kampung chicken is damn good?

(ooo, I see Lean Heng walking by, in the dark, with hands raised, working the Qi. 6.48 am)

And the pond. Wonderful idea. Treat the waste. The solid waste (the shit lah) goes to the sewerage treatment plant. Only the grey water goes into the wetland. But its green in colour. Its full of algae. So its not healthy – the eco-system of the pond. I asked again, What about seepage into ground water. They admitted that there is no waterproof lining under the pond. And the fish? We had it twice. The first time I skipped it but not because I was suspicious. I was told it was good. Yesterday we had fish again for lunch, western style and it was good.

After the 1 hour or so tour, we had frangipani tea on the beach. Hhhmm. It’s just “tea” – didn’t make an impact on me.

Yes, they are trying. And they are selling green. They need to work out the issues.

Alright, again it’s the long-winded way to what I am getting to. The Zen of doing workshops. Frangipani has nice beach and I managed to swim in it twice. The big sign that says “Beware of Jelly Fish” is like rumour-mongering – it scares people from going into the sea. While in the water yesterday with Matthew and Kabilan (and Janet and Lean Heng joined for a while), we found big and small plastic bags at the bottom of the sea and pieces of polystyrene foam on the beach. So you think we can solve this with recycling? The architecture is crappy. The staff here are all friendly. But there are little little things that take the stress off the intense brain work. Apart from the bottle of red wine, I will let these pictures tell the story.

The perfect Zen position.
Yoke Mui makes sure every word spoken counts

The second position is called the Frangipani pose, ala-Titanic. Lean Heng happy to be outside the ballroom.

Janet in the far away pose ... revitalising her Qi.

Matthew talking under the stars. He was a rascal and bad boy in another life. But making amends by taking the reflexivity route.

Here's where the fish gets detoxed. Also a place where a guy from the team got friendly with the actress shooting on location late last night. Did he get lucky? I understand the attraction was mutual. (update : he did get LUCKY)

This was lunch yesterday - fish . Looks good? Wait ...This was dessert. Cheese cake. Looks beautiful. Tastes good too. And all because we told Uncle Wong how much we enjoyed his cooking. And because Janet asked very nicely. (Sorry, I am told it was Lean Heng who asked; Lean Heng says the "greedy one"; Lean Heng says "requested persuasively")

Ah, but where does the fish come from? Right from this very green pond (wetland lah_.

Grilled kampung chicken with brown rice. The secret is the yoghurt.This was on the first day. Rojak with manggos from their garden. The sauce was all sugar and soya sauce, no prawn paste. But I couldn't tell.

My dinner on the second night. Damn good too. The first night we went out to eat and was terribly disappointed. The fish was fishy. The crab was crappy. And they charged us RM80 for the steamed garlic grouper. We thought it was night robbery. Janet told the staff we will never go back. It was too much hassle finding a good restaurant. There are many around but mostly desserted. It's either the off peak season of the effects fot the global economic meltdown.

In case you think its all good food and fun. Here's proof we work hard too. We are thinking maybe Bali next time? What do you think boss?

Endnote : we like uncle Wong's food so much we asked for a special dinner last night. He suggested duck. Yes, we all agreed. It was Chap Chuan (10 herbs) duck soup. It was great. And then came organic white rice and two vegetables. Hmm, sorry uncle Wong, it wasn't how we envisionaged it would be.


Abe said...

Looks like it is a great trip afterall..looking forward the much energy in the students as well..

Michael Peter Foo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Peter Foo said...

Enjoy ya at Frangipani... Hope that the students will produce a good valuable piece of document out on an island too but far smaller one..