22 November 2010


When you're about to leave, they tell you many ridiculous things. For instance, how you have to get a photograph of the family taken with you in your ceremonial dress. This is so they can make you a souvegnir of your service history and the bases in which you have served.

They want all the copies of documents that you have already tendered into record since the day you were married and bore children, like nobody knew you existed.

You must consume 90 days of accumulated leave but you can still be hauled in to attend meetings that nobody else is qualified to be in because they don't have another senior helicopter pilot as a staff officer. You have given them 26 years of your life and yet these last days as you leave, they have not been able to get your replacement.

Then there are other things that they don't say that tell you that you are no longer relevant to the system.  Crewmen whom you once flew with and ate with in remote places nod at you but have little to say. A cycling tour is organised for all air force participants but nobody tells you about it though they see you cycle all over Labuan.

Then there are other events that spell out whom will stand as friends and who had you hanging around just to bolster their confidence because they were too afraid of the dark to face the civil aviation exams on their own.
I can say that I have finally settled it. I know that some who believed better of me will disagree with my decision as I opt for the unprofessional way to earn a living. I have decided to become a bush pilot in the civil world.

Though I have been told that being an offshore helicopter pilot is the way to become a professional pilot, I have witnessed the offshore doors drawing to a close on me. One other company while being keen on me, cannot take me in till June 2011. As I will be out of a job in December, I am treading a time-critical line here. The one company that has been compelling me to be amongst their livery of pilots is a general aviation company operating in Kota Kinabalu. Yes, general aviation pays less than offshore flying. However, there is a draw I feel to this company, and seeing that I will be based in Kota Kinabalu, I am wondering if all these transpirations are ominous portents.

I know the terrain and the landing points I will be serving, as these are the same ones I have flown through in about six years as both copilot and aircraft captain in No 5 Squadron. The flying will be Visual Flight Rules, which means I will remain a bush pilot and not puncture weather. The thought of flying a single-operator helicopter is growing more appealing as the days pass. I have not flown solo since my days as a flying student in the Alouette.

Owing to courting this prospective job in KK, it appeared that December would be a bit of an unpredictable month for me. Brenda conferred with the kids and the consensus was that their annual trip back to KL would be forfeited on the air force's ticket in favour of a short holiday by way of joining me in attending a friend's wedding in KK.  We took the evening ferry to Menumbok and drove the Vios through the single carriageways till we hit the duals of KK.

The first day, the  morning of the wedding, was spent on shopping in the 1 Borneo mall. Brenda was convinced to buy a nice LBD, while the girls scoured the racks for their personal delights. Ethan was not to be seen as he devoured the bookstores for his own fetishes.

The second day I met up with various realtors to check out the kind of place I would live in while working in KK. Yes, found one, just 5 minutes from the hangar. Very sweet!!

Then on the third day, the day of our return, just for the heck of it while driving about town, I stopped over at my childhood supermarket at the harbour side of the city. Rowena had a near cardiac event in the aisles at the sight of all the various olives, chocolates, snacks and what Labuan would not shelve or stock in its freezers. I too, could see that the living here would be good. The draw was just getting stronger.

It may be that all was indeed a blessing in disguise. It may not be the ideal academic choice to exercise, but if I don't venture this open door, I will not know what I originally intended to defer in favour of an offshore flying career. Furthermore, I want to see if Datuk Donald Mojuntin would keep his word when he told his entourage one lunch encounter we had, that if I joined this helicopter company, he would make me his personal pilot. It tickles me to think of checking out the extent of his rhetoric.

I now wait to sign my name and begin learning to handle this contraption as my next breadwinning machine.

15 November 2010

It's All In The Delivery

90 days of pre-retirement leave does sound generous.

How on earth can I possibly put 90 days to good use on a wild tropical island, duty free for all possible vices, and avoid running out of all 3 months and not plead for more? After all, Labuan is such an exciting place.

I fill my time cycling.

With one admission of guilt.

Being on leave does not make me cycle any more frequently than when I was at work. That says a lot more about my work than the quality of my leave. Really.

Yet, it is cycling that helps my mind undwind, to induce some measure of expenditure so to sleep and to help me keep my eye on what really matters.

I often take the eastern coastal road that faces the mainland. I like the view as I can spot the weather changes over the mainland and see if Kinabalu has unveiled her face in the amber evening light, or sits in mysterious blue silhouette in the pale morning sunrise.

On one such morning ride, coasting downslope from The Chimney, as I passed the juction to Anjung Ketam I spotted a pair of storks from the Chinese Egret flock, looking busy on the grass next to the refuse bins.

Labuan's storks are ubiquitous, and when I first got here, I was fooled by them. They are so porcelain white, I was convinced they were decorative plaster figures planted in the playground. Till one moved and I laughed at my own gullibility.

But here they were, and by now knowing they were real, I admired their satiny plumage as I freewheeled approaching the junction.

They were quite voracious as they pecked at some white moving mass on the ground like a couple pawing at popcorn in a cinema.

Then what they were feasting on registered as I swept by.

Maggots that had hatched out of crabshells from Anjung Ketam's seafood swill.

I am glad I am done having kids.

I wouldn't want any infant of mine being delivered to his crib underslung in one of those beaks.