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  wild people: Ai Lin

Ai Lin is fiercely passionate about nature and about life in general. You learn so much about both at her side.

I spent many memorable days with Ai Lin on Chek Jawa before deferment, learning about Chek Jawa, guiding there or just simply enjoying the place.

Professional and dedicated in her guiding and guide training, Ai Lin contributed significantly to the success of the guiding system before and after deferment. She kept us on the straight and narrow, yet infused us too, with the wonder of Chek Jawa.
Ai Lin was also among the few who helped me survive the Chek Jawa guidebook, with unwavering support and critical advice. The critical advice was also judiciously dispensed when needed for other life decisions. As were the necessary knocks on the head whenever I needed it ;-) Thank you Ai Lin.

Ai Lin's passion for our wild places is such that she has decided to make it her life work. I am in awe of her efforts and I am sure she will be a great success.

Here is more about Ai Lin in her own words ...

How did you first get involved in working for nature in Singapore?
I spent my early years in small towns in Malaysia. On weekends, I chased butterflies on the hills with my elder brother, and tried to help him net small fish for his aquarium. Fortunately for the little critters, I mostly caught nothing, but was infected with a permanent affinity for natural spaces.

For some obscure reason, I pursued a 1st degree in earth science, and spent 20 years working in the field of seismic exploration (for the oil industry). At some point, I decided to take some of the fuzziness out of my understanding of environmental issues, and completed an M.Sc. in environmental engineering at NUS.

I also started volunteering as a guide at Sungai Buloh Nature Park (now SB Wetland Reserve), then at the Botanic Gardens, and then Chek Jawa came into the picture and there wasn't time for any place else! Chek Jawa is when years of scuba diving and countless hours spent going through books on marine life were put to good use. I enjoyed nature guiding so much that I decided to see if I could make a living at it, and that is what I am working towards now.

What do you get out of working for nature?
In the natural world, everything happens in its own time. Sometimes it's slow rock-time, or tree-time, and sometimes it's ant-in-a-hurry time. Being in touch with these rhythms keeps me grounded. Infecting others with the rhythms makes me happy!

What is your approach/personal motto in your work?
Anything worth learning or doing takes time, sometimes a great deal of time, often more time than is actually available.

What are some of your current projects?
I am reshaping my life around outdoor guiding (I am a fully licensed tour guide), enrichment teaching, and storytelling. Nature is a giant story-web, sparkling with true-life tales of creatures great and small. The same can be said of human history and culture. Storytelling, of course, also has a fantasy element which is wonderful for my "inner child"! Getting into this doesn't leave much time for volunteer work. Researcher Ken Shono is currently doing a re-census of the trees in some areas that were replanted as part of National Parks' reforestation efforts, and I want to spend some time helping with that (along with other volunteers). This will involve counting, measuring and identifying the survivors.

Posted by otterman Posted on 31/08/04 10:06
Ai Lin was one the guiding stalwarts at Chek Jawa, always with one glove-encased hand and worked well with the public.

She has a very deliberate manner about her story-telling and is very studious in her examination of nature. She took great pains to pin a fact down and it was reassuring to have on the team as accuracy is one of the hallmarks.

This was very helpful when we discused the language for the guidebook as a misplaced word could result in an entirely different meaning. It was very tiring work and few have the tenacity to ensure the simpler-sounding language didn't compromise accuracy. But luckily Ai Ling was up to it, conscious of the responsibility to the eventual reader.

You don't stop learning and she epitomises this - one of the subscribers of the ecotax mailing list, she turns up for many film screenings and seminars, always ready to grace the session with an interesting questions. It made the organisers feel glad they set such meetings up!

I wish her the best for her guiding career; I hope the new ones are at least half as acccurate as she is!

More on how YOU can make a difference too...

these blog entries were first uploaded on MoBlog Singapore! Celebrate Singapore NDP 04
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