The haze

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Photo taken in Bedok area ten minutes before the PSI read 360 at 1pm on Friday, 21 June.
Taken by Wikipedia user ‘Wolcott’. Click to go to source.

Today at 4pm the PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) has dipped down past below 100, providing a respite that began yesterday afternoon. I hope it lasts. I hate wearing that mask thing. It’s uncomfortable, inconvenient and I look ridiculous. So this past week when the haze had hit us, I resisted when I left the house for work, but each time within a minute of that awful burning smell, I would be resigned to having to put it on. There’s always one in my bag now. Plus Strepsils for my throat.

I would hate to fall sick now, more than at any other time. I’m going up to Kuala Lumpur next weekend to participate in the marathon. The registration was months ago and the preparation for the trip was set up weeks ago. To be honest, between work and other commitments, my training for the marathon has long been largely neglected, so I’m going in with an ‘oh whatever, just do the best you can again‘ attitude. This will be my fourth one, and to be honest I’m a bit jaded and bored with it. This will probably be my last full marathon. But just two weeks ago there was that bad cold that meant I didn’t exercise at all for over a week, and now here was another week I couldn’t jog outside. Thank goodness for the free workout videos at HASfit.com which allows me to continue exercising at home so at least I’m doing something.

Bert is also doing his first event ever, the 10K. Back in February when I registered, I suggested he register for the 10K instead of being there as just my supporter again, and to my surprise he agreed. He started brisk walking, about 3 times a week, training seriously. Often our walks go over 10K. I’m still surprised by this and regret I didn’t make the suggestion sooner. I’m so happy and excited for him.

So if we fall sick now I’m going to be really mad. Just as mad, or more mad than if the haze hit KL too and causes the event to be cancelled or postponed. I hope that won’t happen but I just need to bear that in mind so I won’t be totally crushed if that really happens.

Ugh, I can be such a brat. Who cares about lil ole’ me when there are so many other people who would be affected more gravely. Hardcore marathoners who take it more seriously. Foreign participants who will be flying in for the event (We’re just travelling cheaply on a coach bus for a few hours). The hundreds of kids and adults who volunteer, giving so much of their time and effort to prepare for the event.

(Update Thursday 27 June, 12:30pm: The KL Marathon is indeed postponed, to 29 September. Me and Bert are still going up to KL. We can’t change travel plans now, and will try to make the best of the trip with indoor sights if the air will really be that bad.)

***

Well I discovered that I should be grateful I have masks in the first place because apparently not everyone managed to get some for their own use. I was shocked when I read that. It all seemed impossible and alarming that this could happen in my country, but apparently it was out of stock at the pharmacies. How on earth could that have happened, when the haze is an annual affair. It’s not new. This is not the first time. What about the workers who continue to work outdoors? What if conditions worsen even more than the previous high of PSI 400? Then there were the disappointing stories of jacked up prices of these masks. How totally f**ked up, really. Hopefully the efforts to ensure supply of N95 masks will work and people actually get their hands on them, and at a controlled price.

Our own supply is actually leftover from last year’s haze. Or the years before, I forget. Bert’s darling family in Rome got all anxious about haze reports, bought a box from a pharmacy there, and air-mailed it over. Quite fancy-looking ones compared to the ones we have seen on other people. We had laughed and thought ‘how sweet, but wow, over-dramatic‘, and ended up using them and giving some away when work projects took us working at construction sites. Well this week, I’m so glad for over-dramatic Italian family members. The masks gave some needed and appreciated relief, when we wore them during a haze for the first time.

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Masks by 3M. That’s my sweet Blackie on the left. He likes to stay close to me when I’m at my desk. (so he can get his slave to stroke him and scratch his back for him. He knows I quickly give in to his demands because he knows I find his meowing very high-pitched and annoying.)

***

It’s still hard to feel sorry for ourselves, masks or not. Many more people in Sumatra, where the forest fires come from, have suffered for years and I suspect so much more seriously. The fires are right in their backyard. We get the haze this time of the year due to wind conditions, for days or weeks, which is terrible enough. What about them, how many months a year? Like us, their lives need to go on, bills need to be paid, mouths need to be fed. But of course life is much harder and cruel for them, forest fires or not. If we in the so-called first world feel frustrated because we feel our voices are not heard, I imagine all they can feel is resignation because of the level of corruption and inaction they may have to put up with. From Wikipedia:

While much of the press has focused on the haze’s impact in Singapore and Malaysia, the local residents of Riau are feeling the greater heat. Residents have fled their homes in Bengkalis, with about 30% experiencing respiratory problems. The fires have burned through hectares of local farmland, decimating this season’s crops.The PSI in Dumai has also hit 492 on Friday morning. However, due to the wind patterns, most of the rest of Indonesia has not been hit by the haze.

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‘Motorists in Pekanbaru city, Sumatra. Forest fires in Sumatra have triggered an environmental crisis in Singapore.’
Image by: AFP. From gulfnews.com. Click to go there.

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‘A mother gives a drink to her son as she prepares to leave her house with her children after a forest fire spread close to their home near Dumai, as haze covers Indonesia’s Riau province June 20, 2013.’
Image by: REUTERS/Beawiharta. From finance.yahoo.com. Click to go there.

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A casualty of the Sumatran forest fires. (Photo from 2012). From Facebook of Radio 91.3. Click to go there.

I read a letter posted online where the writer shares how he and his family have decided to boycott Indonesian goods, and boycott Indonesia as a holiday destination. I do not agree with that.

What I would boycott are products that contain palm oil, from wherever in the world these products are from. I understand this is not easy, as palm oil is an ingredient very commonly found in not only many food products but even toiletries. But nothing good comes easy. When we choose to care about something or even someone, whether it’s a lover or our weight (haha), an environmental issue, etc, we’re never in for an easy time, are we. We just sigh and put up with any inconvenience and the challenges and patiently put in the time and effort; we just do it anyway. Even if I cannot totally eliminate palm oil from my life, some effort is better than nothing. I have to read up much more and educate myself on this issue, and see what I can personally do.

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2 thoughts on “The haze

    • Yes, it was awful, nothing I’ve seen before. It was the worst one ever. Thank you for your concern, Cindy, it’s mighty sweet of you.

      The marathon was postponed! From 30th June to 29th September. But we just went ahead to Kuala Lumpur anyway since everything was arranged. It turned out to be clear(ish) and sunny on 30th June, perfect weather, haha! But of course with the logistics involved in a major event, and different departments involved, the decision to postpone had to be made way in advance so it could not be helped. I completely understand the difficult position the organisers had to go through; whether they decided to postpone or proceed, they would still receive a lot of criticism, which naturally is so unfair to them.

      My brother and sister-in-law joined us for the long weekend, sightseeing together! So that was fun :-)

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