Sunday, November 6, 2022

Singapore to Atlanta, alone.


From my home to Doha, it was a 19 hours journey. Stop over 3 hours. From Doha to Atlanta hotel, it was a 17 hours journey.


At Doha Airport to Atlanta.



Total of 39 hours traveling one way to attend a 24 hours workshop by the International Society of Arboriculture. Leaders from all the world chapters would come to attend. This year, they talked about the governance and management tools of non-profit organizations.




At the immigration, it was easy. However, for Singaporeans, we have to apply for an ESTA pass 72 hours before the flight, or else on the Singapore side, we will be rejected. That's why I changed my flight in Singapore

So, the immigration officer asked the standard questions. It was quite easy as I have all the hard-copy documents in a file.


Immigration: hey, you are good to go.


He didn’t stamp on my passport.


Immigration: well, we have the i94 and that’s good.


That i94 is a federal electronic system.


Me: how do I prove that I have entered the USA? For example, my wife would be questioning me about where did I go during these few days?


Ok. He made a physical stamp.



While picking up my luggage in Atlanta, I saw a movie crew taking a shot of the series 'Border Security. It reminds me how difficult it was to answer those questions carefully or else I will be locked up.



After picking up the luggage while exiting, a big black man in plain clothes showed me his police pass and wanted to have my passport. I asked him how do I know if this is a real badge. He said his colleague at the counter can verify.


Police: did you pack the luggage all by yourself?

Me: some only. My wife did some.

Police: Will you be fully responsible for whatever is here?

Me: Yes.


While he was searching my luggage, he was asking me some technical questions like when are you returning to your country, what are you here for, do you have an email about your conference?


Well, everything cleared, and I'm free to go. While packing up, I asked: can I see your batch again because it doesn’t have any serial number or face ID.


Police: Hey, I got all the stuff to be the police.

He flip up his shirt, showed me those weapons, and walked off.


Cool. That was an experience.



Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Adding salt to the wound.

This post is not about hating foreign workers, don’t want them to come Singapore or things like that. It is about the reality of situation that is happening.

To start off, I will share with you about a fine I got today, then about me, in the landscape industry, trying to change the thought of contract owners in employing Singaporeans, like how other country is doing for tree surgery work.

Ok, went downstairs after dinner for a smoke with mask during covid outside the provision shop, wanted to buy some cold drinks. I took my time enjoying the puff, looking at the trees around and many shops closed. There are still some people hanging out there. I can understand their stress… I saw 2 young dark skin guys walking around as if they are looking for an address to go to. They have their backpack with them and mask. Looking at the tree, I was thinking to do a lesson for my students this Friday on what I can show them during this COVID circuit breaker season. I would usually dump my butt somewhere neat but I throw them into the nearby drain. When I was browsing for the drinks, the 2 ‘lost’ dark skin guys came over and said, excuse me… I thought they are young foreign workers that lost their way and at this time they should be in their dorm. Serious.. sorry to say being dark skin but that’s what I want to say. Because everyday I am handling things with young foreign workers.

And so, excuse me… I am from the NEA, you threw your cigg butt into your drain, can I have your IC?

so I gave them, I told them don’t go away, I am getting some drinks.

I bought some cold packet drinks, some stout, line up to pay, that’s about 7-10mins. I come back to them and they are still keying in data from my IC. I said, covid season, can u quickly take a pic of my IC and do what ever you want so I can go back fast. Then they bring out a wireless printer to issue me the fine…. Explaining to me whats what. I ask them, can I see your pass clearly? One on right showed me he is from NEA, the left on is from cisco, doing video recording.

When they want to return me the IC and the fine slip, request them to sanitize the ic, leave the IC and the fine slip on the floor and they should leave, keeping social distancing.

Serve me right. I should not have litter. Its S$300. Ministry of Finance just gave every adult Singaporeans $600 for this Covid situation. Very kind of them and we always receive perks when near election period.

So, about me trying to change the industry by advocating the service buyer in implementing using local workforce.

I work in a tree management company. In 2013, one of my landscape friend got a 3 years job in a famous park. He need to set up a tree work team. Very nice of him to hire me to be his trainer and I get paid S$1500 monthly to set up his tree work team. I helped him with his current resources. I managed to train up 2 good foreign workers to execute tree maintenance and managing the need of the park management. 

In 2016, my friend got the contract again but with bigger area. He is having headache where to deploy his current team. I told him, Mr X, why not I do the tree maintenance for you in this park and you deploy your guys to other contract places, with a fee of $xxx. Ok, I got a good deal and he was a gentlemen. What I did was to gather some of my Singaporean friends to join me as tree surgeon to manage this place. I also told the parks manager what is my plan, they said, we shall see, make sure you can carry out the works as before.

The team consist of 2 full time surgeon and myself. Sometimes I bring in Singaporean interns to do some odd work and teach them as much as possible. They work 7am-5pm Monday to Friday. For urgent issues happening on sat and Sunday, I will get some others to settle.

I walked around the contract area, they are all foreign workers. I asked, they say the park management prefers foreign workers because they are more willing to carry out instructions and able to work for long hours. True.

I am the only tree maintenance company in Singapore that employs local young, educated workforce. I want to show to the whole industry that this is possible, like how other countries did, perhaps other than middle east countries. Then with this, it can influence contract owners and business owners on decision making, paying $4-6k a month to a professional tree surgeon to make trees safe in a productive manner.

No.. I failed. After 10 months, I was sacked from the contract. MR X says that my performance is not good from the feedback of the park management. The way I managed the trees is and operation is not what they want. They prefer the foreign workers to be more straight to listen to their instructions. Yes, I debated on issues but it can be solved. The whole reason is the operations have to suit the contract and hiring Singaporeans. My negotiation failed.

I was asked to leave. I told Mr X: I hired these people to serve your contract, we don’t go outside to do part time work, now you ask us to leave, how am I going to answer to their family? Mr X said: ask them to join my company. For your information, in the landscape industry, for every Singaporean that we can hire (pay above $1350), we can get a quota to hire a foreign worker.

For those that have traveled before, to first world countries… have you seen many foreign workers? Cost of living is high, but the money goes back to our Singaporean pocket.

What’s worst. When I told the industry engagement agency that the only company in Singapore that hire all locals to carry out tree maintenance is going to disband because this and that. You guess what they tell me?

To be continued.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The landscape industry (private sector) in 10-20 years time.

I am very worried.

Many landscape companies are family run organization. The succession plan usually is usually passed to the descendants or the trusted members within the family. If there is none of the children willingly or able to take over the business, there will be a trend that many would end up being selling the company to overseas developing giant country corporation.

There will not be many local owned landscape companies in 10-20 years down the road.

The phone call that I received yesterday triggered this thought. My friend’s health is not getting any better; he has no descendants; he has been always relying on foreign labour/worker/manager to run the company. Now he wants to sell his landscape company.

We are facing a manpower succession that is in competition with the public sector.

Is this a trend of a developed country?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Memories of our trip. Proud of fellow bikers.

24th December 2008,

we reached the most Southern city of America Continent. It gave us much memories and the first to come in our mind during that time was the friends we made and had great time there.

Today, 24th January 2017, I received a message on facebook from Surinder Pal Singh, fellow biker from Singapore that went traveling with a few friends from Singapore on their own motorbike from Columbia and to Ushuaia, and I think also to many other places. He found something that I had forgotten about and maybe, if under the Singapore Law, I might get some canning.

 Behind that banner, he found our signature. Are you able to spot it?

Sam and I are proud of them and few other Singaporean Bikers that set off on trips that they ever dream about; achieving their fire in the heart for so many years. Good job!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Fear with trees in Singapore

Why are we punished?

I came to stay in this condo since 1979, easily been 37 years. At that time, the soil volume were small and I still live with it.  I was happy when I see cars chose to park below me because the afternoon sun is so strong. I provide free fresh oxygen to the surrounding human and animals and taking in carbon dioxide that they gave out. A group of us were so happy living in this urban city.

One fine day, an old man came and tell us:

you know, you should be in the woods, not in the urban city. But mankind has put you here and they must give u special care. They should not just leave you living with the concrete and humans. The tree wizard must come and tell the humans how to take care of the you that should belong to the woods. 

I was young at that time and couldn't understand why my friends laughed at this old man. The old man shook his head and walk away. 

As  time passed by, we grew stronger together. We stayed close to each other to protect ourselves against wind. We grew muscle to fight against wind load. We grew our roots longer to drink more water and to be more stable but there wasn't much space for us to grow anymore. It was when I become older, I realized that the soil is not the same as what my mum had in the woods. 

There were times that we were involved in fight and we are always in the loosing end because the tree wizard did not speak for us. Excavators are our number one enemy.

As usual, every evening the sparrows will come to me and chat about what they did for the day. One of them asked me a question:

didn't they make you short and fat to live in urban conditions? They should do this when you are in your teenage years. You might be a little old for that operation but still able to do it.

I didn't understand what the sparrow means and continue to grow leaves and photosynthesis to make food.
One day during a rain, I hear my friend cry:

I thought I can stay the way how my mum was in the woods. I can't take it anymore. 
Goodbye my friend. 

What I saw was he went flat after standing for so many years. Human came with chainsaw and machine to bring his dead body to cremate. Now my neighbour is not around, I could feel much stronger wind load on me. My muscles can't develop on time. I hear gossips from others saying that it will soon be their turn. Now I understand what that old man means. Where is our wizard? I need to stay short, I still need leaves to photosynthesis.

Last month, all of us were punished. We have nothing to eat any more. I am left with one bag full of food to survive and struggling to produce leaves as much as possible from everywhere to make food. I saw my friends not pretty and handsome anymore. I feel virus attacking into my body after the chainsaw cut. My body and arms feels more shaky when the wind blows. 

Now all of us feel so weak, trying to survive on our last will. 

The sparrows don't come to us anymore.

What wrong did we do?


Mature trees in the urban condition need special attention, professional care and advise, especially when the tree missed the mid age of care and careful planning. 

Do not believe when some so call tree work company recommends pollarding, topping or 'botak'.
Do not believe when they say: Crown reduction is same as botak/pollard.
Do not believe when they say: same as road side trees, raise up the crown / remove lower foliage.
Do not believe when they say: you must do this and that else the tree will fall.
Do not believe when they are a company and only owns much lorry crane and loads of chainsaw but no book on pruning standards or research. 
If they do not have a sustainable low cost treatment plan, you will need to pay them every year to come back to waste money.

Ask them: what is photosynthesis? what is crown beginning? what is live crown ratio and H/D ratio? what is mass damping? What is the mathematical formula for structural defect reduction? Does your team knows what is topping a tree and how bad it is? Does your team knows what is clean final cut just above the branch collar? Does your team knows how to decrease H/D ratio and what is the tree longevity plan?

Conserving a tree can be low cost if you know 'where the screw should be', not ' how much screw you have or how big the screw is'.

So, which arborist in Singapore?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Food for the needy? Singapore style?

Today I went to visit my client and their foreign worker gave me a packet of biscuit. They said that an organization gave them 5 cartons of it. I took a closer look, it is going to EXPIRE TOMORROW.

The giver will say: I know it is going to expire but don't waste, give to these people they will be happy one. in their country they don't have this.

The receiver will say: Thank you so much, you are so generous.

The giver's heart says: You see? don't waste food. If I give this to other people, they will not appreciate. I give to these people and they treasure it.

My heart says:

- There shouldn't be the case of food wastage if inventory and logistic management are properly planned.

- Giving away the expired food to innocent people will make the giver less guilty; reducing their guilt of poor management and food wastage, and able to answer to their boss.

- this is unethical!

This goes the same when Singapore calls for humanitarian aids from the public, asking for food and clothings to assist other country that struck with natural disaster, then the public will make use of this chance to 'give away' their unwanted clothes.

Food for Thoughts?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A night with Tanglin Secondary School

20150611, we went to attend Tanglin's night of performing arts. For a moment I thought, how much did the school pay for these performers? They are simply professional. National day Parade standards! I envy the performers that they are able to smile when they perform, because when I was in the military band of Tanglin, the mouth piece is always sticking on my mouth.

I joined the band because Mr Lee, then the principal, told us that there will be a very beautiful music room and can play under the nice weather. My friends told me that band always got alot of practice and can skip class for practice. Being a 13 years old, I am lured to it.

Practice and practice and practice... Actually I don't know practice for what!  The only chance is to wear nice uniform and perform during speech day,now known as the archiver's day. I remembered performing at the old Queenstown 'ta zhong' shopping, at the hdb void deck, at a fun fair in a open space in clementi. What is more exciting is the Singapore youth festival in secondary 2 and national day Parade in the national stadium in sec 4. This is the only motivation. Seldom, I hear cries and applause of being 'needed' as a group performer.

I love attending band practice because I can meet friends for non academic activities. Also I can be close to my puppy love... Heee.... It also taught me team work and responsibilities.

What I witnessed yesterday was a mind crash. It was absolutely entertaining. No wonder Tanglin has built a number of professional performers, now in TCS. They are able to express their talent. This is somehow what academic cannot the numbers of applause? You know what I mean if you are a performer.

End of this big show, something really touched my heart is when different group of performing arts presented their certificate of achievement from the National standard to the principal. What they have achieved, they give it to the principal. I feel so proud at that point and must say that the principal also felt honored for what her students did, for the school, Tanglin secondary school.

We also got a chance to meet ex teachers. Remembered Mr Singh? Come on, only one Mr Singh. Teaching lower secondary. I took his literature class (boring)  and didn't really pass the subject. At that time, he had a big turban and big beard. Yesterday, he had the same. We chatted a little and I have to guess his age. Actually, he looked the same with hi turban and beard and the sturn look with the perfect English accent. Literature is one of the lesson that I will find way to smoke out and avoid eye contact when he asked questions. He is now 78 and super fit.

I saw Mr Goh, teaching me physics. His famous quote is :eany questions?! (with an accent). Slim and fair with high forehead, still looking fit.

Mr See It Kee was my form teacher. To many of us, he was a steady person. I met him a few times in private functions and he is enjoying his retirement with the grand children.

Miss Leong, Mr Chan (don't have to mention his nick name), Mr Tan Puay Eng is still serving Tanglin. They are the ones that really go all the way and we must go back and say thank you to them.

Tanglin... It remains... The school grey is always on my heart, where I grew up with and had a great time in my life.

From the above, you will know how much I scored for my GCE O'Levels.

Don't say Bo jio for that night... Next year must come ahh!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

It's all about Teddy going Japan

Teddy loves photo opportunity.
But she has PPE (personal protective equipment). She is afraid of water and dust. water will make her shrink.

Her PPE is this ziplock bag and she insisted to be weighed with the luggage and boasting on how light she is to travel with.

Teddy wants to be hanging with other toys and says: look, I attract more attention than the locals.

Teddy wants a photo opportunity. She has not seen a Japanese deer in Nara. At the same time, she is afraid that the dear will bite her off.

Teddy says: don't worry. someone will buy food for them. they will not eat grass again.

Nagoya castle with Teddy. shhhhh, Teddy did not tell you that inside the castle there is a lift and it is like a modern building.

Teddy loves being in the photo. She wants to boast to her friend that she has been here and there. after the photo, she immediately goes back into the ziplock bag, afraid of getting dirty and insisted to be inside our bag. she is afraid that we lost her.

Teddy wants to take photo with the group of students that are visiting Daikaku-ji Temple in Kyoto, but shy. too many of them as it was a Saturday morning.

At least, she can take pictures with little animals of the same size.

Teddy tells me: its clean here. Although there is not much rubbish bin, but the people don't litter.

but you see, Teddy is afraid of dirt. that is why she is sitting on a piece of paper.

At Tenryu-ji Temple, the garden is worth a 30 minutes walk. Teddy sits on this pole for a photo shoot but falls because of the wind. it took quite an effort for us to take this photo.

Gravels can represent waves.

Instead of saying 'cheese', now we say: 'Asahi'!

Teddy wanted to try the free beer after visiting the Asahi beer factory at Suita, very near Osaka. Reservation needed for being polite. She didn't want to listen to the beer making procedure and the history because camera was not allowed. She only wants to tell her friend that she has been here, did it and tick on her check list.

Maybe glass is too small and she can't reach the beer.

At last she found a Japanese friend of the same size. Japanese Whiskey is world famous.

So Teddy, where have you been?

I bet she can't answer. She just love being in the pictures.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Best Kobe Beef and cheap

Hi, very interestingly, Kobe is a very nice place that i liked, compared with Osaka and Nara, even i love nature of Nara.

what is even more interesting is this small little local eatery off the street, someone foot my bill!

My sense just directed me into this place.

Japan is another shock to me. there are many inspiring moments. maybe i need a beer or 2 to write about it. now my mind is full about work... 

Need Hope Too to get me back dreaming and inspiring.

Will try to write about it.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Leaving Singapore. migrate to Alistan.

It really hurts whenever I hear friend telling me:

I am going to migrate.

Today when I met up with a friend, he shared with me about how upset he is when he didn't get some documentation completed for the migration process. I shared with him my experience in that country that he intend to lived in, especially being a new migrant and carries a 2nd class citizen in the new country, not on paper but on the face.

His dad, came to join in the conversation. very soon, he showed his frustration about being in Singapore. He felt betrayed, he felt cheated. After being a honest and hard working blue coller owner of a small enterprise of 30 years, this is his final straw. He told me how the current policies had affected his life and how this country, my country, our country had been managed from his point of view.

I kept quiet, holding both hands together and looked on the floor when he talked about it. I did not dare to look at his eyes but i can feel his frustration. I feel so ashamed not able to let him feel that this is his home, my home and our home.

I am very sad.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

long time

we used to blog once every week when we travel… now? last blog was 3 months ago.


well, have a blessed holiday.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Singapore sucide case due to child's university fee

I had a busy day and night yesterday and reached home about 1120pm. Thinking to have a quite time alone with a beer at the coffeeshop.

Time wasn't alone when I met 3 senior residents, in their early 50s and they chat about heroic deeds.

My conversation with one of them started about the 3 funerals in our estate and Mr S, shared with me about his sad story regarding one of his personal friend.

His friend in late 40s committed suicide by jumping off.

Owe debt of $40k due to gambling.

Why gamble? Because he wanted to get quick money to pay off daughter's university fee of more than $10000.00.

Mr S shared with me that they are a group of friends that are always willing to help one another. If his friend would come and talk to them about this issue, they would surely helped him out with this sum of money.

During the funeral, Mr S arranged about 40 of his friends to contribute $50 every month until she graduate. That exclude personal contribution to the funeral (white gold). This money is able to help the daughter to pay off the university fee and living allowance until she graduate.

I am so touched about these people, they are in their late 40s and early 50s, willingly reaching out to personal friends when in need.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Left Singapore

One of my army friends left Singapore, he was disappointed about what happened. He came back today and retrieve his CPF. Prior to ty to that, the authority sent him a letter to ask him to reconsider and remind him about what's yes and no about giving up citizenship.

I feel very bad that we are not able to attract them to stay back.

Have we not done enough?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

ISA Certified Arborist? Review needed.

While I get to the car park this morning, i saw the tree work contractor getting ready to do some work. The manager whom i know from that contracting company talked to me. I was so happy that he had just certified as an arborist by ISA because it shows that he will be equipped with the basic tree knowledge. So I used my green laser printer to tell show him a topped branch and asked him to remind the foreign worker that is holding the chainsaw not to do such work. He replied : aiya, as long as no public complaints, the management is happy, our job is done.

We talked further about his other sites.

He was mentioning that he had suggested to do crowning and pollarding on one of the street trees. I further asked him to elaborate about the 2 methods mentioned.

Such methods are terribly not recognised and prohibited as a tree practitioner, especially when one is an ISA Certified Arborist. The idea of topping wasn't even drilled into him.

I am very disappointed with what the ISA  Certified Arborist program that was conducted by the training branch of a government agency.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Asia Pacific Tree Climbing Competition 2014 @ Cairns

Arboriculture Is About Continuous Learning.

Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!  That was what I heard from the crowd when I’m pushing my best for the 
Secured Footlock event. All spectators had their eye on me as I was the last competitor for the day. 

Before starting the event, I told the crowd that the objective for me was to break my own record because I had never touched that bell 15 meters above me. The journey seems endless when my heads up looking at the bell. All I can hear is the cheer and the support that kept me going when I was about to give up. ‘DING’, the entire crowd when crazy about it. I received hugs, applause and encouragement from the crowd when I came down and that was really good fun. It was my very first attempt to compete this event and it was done in less than one minute.

Weeks ago, I received an invitation from Singapore Arboriculture Society (SAS) if I am interested to participate in the Asia Pacific Tree Climbing Competition (APTCC) 2014 in Cairns, Australia. My reply was: why not?

Taking out time from my busy schedule, I start to go jogging, cut down on drinking, go for yoga classes, watching videos from previous competition, planning my gears and get guidance from experienced climber here in Singapore. It was a time juggle between training for skills and stamina, work, family and other regular commitment. The 3 weeks preparation did drove me to be discipline towards a set of fixed committed time.

The Singapore Team had our gears check when we arrived at the event site. While Rick was organizing with the judges, Lee and I ensured that all of our gears were in good working conditions and qualify the competition requirements.


The competition rules were set and reviewed constantly by ISA. In the 5 event stations, I gained different experiences.

During the Singapore Tree Climbing Competition 2013 (STCC), I have been ambitious on gaining points at the Throwline event but I received zero. After studying the scoring system, I made a strategy to score at least one confident target for APTCC, and I did! The biggest take back for this event was to remain calm and relax, but focus.

The APTCC organization made the Aerial Rescue event very realistic to factual work. Not realizing that if I were to borrow ropes and ascenders from other participants, it will not suit my climbing style and may cause accident instead of competition. I did not bring my usual ropes. The gear I had was not ready for this event and it had to be thought about when getting back to Singapore for work and improve on it.

Belayed Speed Climb event was one of the most entertaining stations. It relates stories from the elderly tree worker in Singapore when they said that they didn’t have any safety harness when they climb trees in the past. Again, it was also about cheering each other in this station and had made the event in high-spirited.
Be it fated, I was in the same group with the 2 times World Champion from New Zealand. This allows me to move in-group with him, witnessed his skills and get advice from him. Before starting the Work Climb event, both of us were on the tree and he advised me: be calm. Although the trees species in Cairns are not much of a difference with Singapore, I didn’t do better than my previous competition. I was looking out where the bell was during the competition instead of knowing where and how I should access to it before start. In the past, I strongly believed in: lets get up there and will know better what to do. This event proves me wrong.

The best 3 scored climbers from APTCC will enter a Masters’ Challenge. It had a different set of tasks to be completed. I was very honored able to witness the world-class climbers performing live. The champion will represent Asia Pacific region to compete in the International Tree Climbing Competition (ITCC).

As a novice climber, there was fear in me that I will not able to do it, I will lose face, I will make myself like a clown when I am not doing well. I fear because I am competing with world-class climber. I previously wanted to train and climb by myself until I am good, then enter the event. The purpose: to win. In fact, there is something so special with tree climbers is that everyone encouraged each other, giving pointers when one is competing, building comradeship, encouragement and willing to share knowledge. I put the fear aside, knowing that I participate this event for another reason. To learn, experience, have fun and make friends.



There was a good mix age of climbers from the region. I spotted the young climbers in their early 20s entering the industry and had passion with pride on what they are doing. The lady climbers absolutely convinced me that gender is not a barrier in the work but it’s the attitude.

Organizer for APTCC 2014 had showcased a well planned total event, integrating logistic such as set up, schedule, sponsors, industry out reach, volunteers, and networking opportunity.
Yes, I have done it, did it. After reading this, pick up a throw bag and do what a real arborist should be doing, with a right attitude.

I would like to thank Singapore Arboriculture Society and San Lim Transport & Construction Pte Ltd for the support and giving me this chance of my lifetime in this event. It parked a chapter of my life story for my grand children to read.