Envirofest’08 – reflections

The “See Dugong” team had a great outing and a fruitful session, surviving the heat and talking to the crowds non-stop but we were supported and revived by the company of our peers in the many booths at Envirofest’08 and the ice cream!

And it was all thanks to Wen Hua and her team from Kolam Ayer Youth Executive Committee!

For a list of blog posts and photos from Envirofest’08, see Habitatnews.

Now for some observations off the top of my head:

  • Everything we displayed and talked about was news to the heartlanders, so it was very exciting to be able to share our stories. Hmm..wait a minute! Don’t we get the same reaction from undergraduates when we exhibit in NUS?
  • The “See Dugong!” mascot is a head turner – as I carried it from the carpark to the booth, heads turned in our direction and mouths were agape. We should do this as one-man mobile teams in the heartlands. But we’d probably be mistaken for snakeoil salesmen and end up creating a demand, uh-oh!
  • Several old men come up to ask if the snake in the bottles are tonics for sale. Sorry, ah uncle, they are in poisoned industrial alcohol and we hope to keep them for centuries – in a museum!
  • At least no one tried to pick up any of the Toddycats. Can’t say the same of ahem, some other volunteer at another booth!
  • Louis of ACRES reminded me not to dismiss market vendors – he has seen captive animals even in the past year, including snakes, in the ‘performances’. Take a closer look, he urged. And call the authorities. The guy in Toa Payoh was harmless though (yes he was scrutinised).
  • I missed the videos that we all contributed to Vegetarian Society who had the giant television at Tampines in 2005 and Envirofest’06. Hey where were they this year?
  • An LCD screen might have been helpful in pointing out webpage resources like organisation sites and event listings – Debby of Hantu Bloggers did pick up a wireless signal on her MacBook and used it to show her website.
  • We could screen some of the videos we participated in to highlight Singapore’s nature and green issues. We did that successfully in Museum Fest 2002. It would also give the guides a respite from talking non-stop.
  • I miss the activities we created for Envirofest’06 – again also respite from talking non-stop. The audience loves to be challenged so we must revive that. Got to find that white board though, its gone MIA!
  • Our posters were felled by the wind multiple times and their corners were well beaten up. Adds to a rustic look and muses the public, but its nice not to have to pick them up yet again!
  • It was really, really hot that weekend, thanks goodness for water Hamsa bought and the nearby supply of ice-cream! I think we were lucky, though; the other wing was warmer and experienced little wind!
  • The Sunday 1pm – 5pm shift was the quietest time of the two days according to Hamsa, the See Dugongs Project Manager who ran shop the entire stretch.
  • Luckily we had three shifts with enough people per session – even then voices were frayed after some time. And it was nice to see the fresh voices belt it out at the beginning of their shifts!
  • Never ever believe we’ll keep specimens overnight at any location – we always chicken out. Sure enough we packed up and brought all the specimens back to the museum for safekeeping for the night.
  • Its amazing how much we can stuff into a single car or taxi, A-frames and all. And nice taxi drivers make it all pleasant!
  • Our A-frames fell apart even as we brought them back to the museum! Maybe the mechanical engineer Toddycats can try fixing them up for the umpteemth time. But seriously folks, we need something sturdier!
  • The ice cream man next to our booth dealt us much larger ice-cream bricks than his miserly competitor – we discovered as much on Sunday evening, hmph! Thankfully most of our business had been given to the generous ice-cream man.
  • Besides ice-cream for Toddyats, I finally bought the vertebrate book from NSS and a t-shirt from Cat Welfare Society. The rest of my cash went to a donation appeal by some persistent, humourless kid.
  • My cycling gear was quite the hit when I returned on Saturday afternoon. This crowd is certainly very appreciative of the green transport mode I had adopted that sunny day. It was very encouraging!
  • What did I do while Toddycats toiled? Why catch up and plot of course! Exhibitions of this nature have always been the best time to network and plan, and Envirofest itself was the main topic of discussions that I had with various other groups.
  • Unable to cope with numerous festivals and exhibition requests, I would like at least one major predictable festival that the community can plan, prepare for and collaborate on. And collectively offer activities to the public in the weeks after Envirofest. Everyone I talked to was game, so Wenhua, call for a post-Envirofest debrief!
  • I received comfirmation from Waterways Watch Society about lowered water levels in Kallang for the coastal cleanup; so its on! Sure beats email.
  • Stella (manpower) scheduled my interviews with new volunteers at Envirofest’08. I suggested to NParks they arrange for poster-pickup during Envirofest as well. We’re there for two days, may as well schedule in meetings.
  • I was encouraged by the passion, patience and dedication the Toddycats displayed as they informed and educated the public at Envirofest’08; well done y’all!

The enthusiastic crew at Envirofest:

  • Saturday, 11-2pm: Xiuli, Kenneth, Yin Fong, Mangai, Marcus, Dewi, Dongrong & Hamsa.
  • Saturday, 2-5pm: Xiuli, Cedric, Yin Fong, Anand, Hamsa.
  • Saturday, 5-8pm: Janice, Oiyee, Andy Dinesh, Hamsa.
  • Sunday, 11-2pm: Kenneth, Ya Wen, Alan, Hamsa.
  • Sunday, 2-5pm: Xiuli, Ya Wen, Ying Fong, Alan, Kaixin, Chee Kong, Hamsa.
  • Sunday, 5-8pm: Anand, Xiuli, Yin Fong, Joelle, Hamsa.

– N. Sivasothi a.k.a. Otterman

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4 responses to “Envirofest’08 – reflections

  1. Hmmm… didn’t notice I was in the first photo. Hadn’t got my Toddycats t-shirt yet.

    My thoughts:
    – Talking three hours at a stretch took some stamina. Amazed that Hamsa was there the whole time during both days. And she did the set up and take down too. Good job, Hamsa!
    – Some of the heartlanders did know some of the animals. Especially those that they’ve eaten before. A few claimed to have eaten horseshoe crab roe. And some said they’ve eaten stonefish. But surprised that the lots of the older folks weren’t too aware of the wildlife either.
    – Besides the dugong, the pangolin was popular too.
    – I got a very gruff and rude fellow who picked up the snake specimen bottle and asked how much it was. I told him nicely it wasn’t for sale, then he asked what all the specimens were for. As I began to explain, he walked away, waved his arm dismissively saying that all this was a waste of time. Thankfully, he was the sole exception. Most people were curious and happy to learn something new.
    – Heheh… Dewi and Marcus weren’t around long enough to have been picked up.
    – Yeh, a laptop would have helped with all the relevant sites ready in different tabs.
    – The pedestals definitely need major refurbishment or replacement.
    – Bought a Nature Watch edition from the NSS booth. The issue concentrated on Pulau Ubin. It’s a 1995 issue, so really nice to see photos of Ubin when there were still kampungs there.
    – Thanks to all the Toddycats who helped out. Terrific effort! =)

  2. Yeah, it was tiring to speak even for 3 hours.. So really kudos to Hamsa and whoever were there longer and even for the whole weekend…

    Well, don’t know about toddycats getting picked up.. I had no success picking up ex school mates from NJC.. thought we had a common history. Shucks…After this experience, I think I manage little boys and girls better…

    Oh.. I think the cheatsheet that Dewi prepared was cool. Maybe we could have just a folder on the table for any toddycats who need to refer for the next “See Dugong”

    And one last qn.. what do we say to people who ask ” what are we here for?” I always say it is to share the news that ” actually there are lots of wildlife out there in city Singapore”… only once a while, I get to link it to the coastal clean up posters and what they can do in their daily life. Anyone got a better answer?

  3. Yes, raising public awareness about local wildlife and ecosystems. Public knowledge is so poor that even our simple approach is an important first step.

    The follow up is the existing free activities in Singapore for nature appreciation which is available at the other booths.

    This first encouter may be very important. At Chek Jawa, most of the active volunteers had been introduced to some aspect of nature by teachers and parents.

    These days their first encouter might be at an exhibition or on one of our community’s many guided field trips.

  4. Hi Mr Siva,

    Vegetarian Society had to attend another event, that was why they were unable to accept my invitation to join us for Envirofest.

    And I want to thank Toddycats! for being at Envirofest. :)

    We will sure have a debrief … is beginning of Aug a good time? A Saturday ? or do you have any preferred time/day?

    Thank you very much

    Yours naturally
    Wenhua
    earthlink0506@yahoo.com

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