The Cameron Highlands Trip

My recent trip to the Cameron Highlands was a much-needed one, and certainly it will be one worth remembering. It was only the beginning of January and I was already feeling so drained with the mountain of paperwork on my work desk. Throughout the month of January I excused myself from choir practice and most social activities, the hermit in me just needed some alone time to recuperate from Christmas’ fun and exhaustion.

The moment Angie suggested we should head to Cameron, without hesitation I was the first to say yes. Yes to Cameron! Mark with his ever-wide network managed to get us three rooms at the Father’s House, which is also the residence of the parish priest of the Chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Two rooms for the boys and one for the girls.

25 January 2015

We drove in two separate cars up to the highlands, manoeuvring along the long and sinuous roads. About noon we reached our peaceful house, befitting for retreat. It is located right next to the church, on top of a hill. The chilly weather was inviting for an afternoon nap.

Cameron_Father House

Feeling refreshed, six of us then squeezed into one car for a short hike to Mossy Forest.

Cameron_Drive

The fabled Mossy Forest grows near the highest elevation point of Gunung Brinchang. The view along the boardwalk was simply fascinating as we see rich layers of moss covering the tree trunks giving them the soft green appearance. Just as the boardwalk zig-zag its way through the forest so does the boundary of the states of Perak and Pahang. We were told that on a fine day one can spot Ipoh city from here.

Cameron_Mossy Forest

We then stopped by at the Lord’s Cafe. It is a great place for a good cup of tea and a delicious scorn on a rainy afternoon. I ordered a strawberry cheese cake, scorn with strawberry jam, and chamomile tea. They are closed on Sundays though. The shop is located at the first floor, same row as Marrybrown in Tanah Rata.

Cameron_Lord Cafe

Evening came, we returned to the Father’s house for a steamboat dinner prepared by the residence’s caretaker. Bountiful of fresh vegetables and slices of pork meat to sweeten the soup, certainly feels home-cook. After getting our tummy filled, we went to the market to get strawberries for our supper.

As for our night time entertainment, we played Act-It-Out and the Game of Life card game. Feels like being a kid once again.

Cameron_Steamboat

26 January 2015

We had few glasses of wine the other night, at least that helps me to sleep and keep me warm and fuzzy. If not for the wine I would be tossing and turning over the plastic-covered bed as I take time to adjust to new mattress.

Awaken to the smell of freshly made scorns and nescafe, heavenly!

Cameron_Scorn

Right after breakfast, we headed for mass. Mass was celebrated by Fr. Eugene Benedict. If you’re here, there’s only one Sunday mass at 9.30am at the main chapel. Sunset Mass on Saturday are held at 5.30pm but rather irregularly, any announcement will be posted on the notice board.

Cameron_Church

No trip to Cameron Highlands is complete without a trip to the tea plantations.

Cameron_Tea Plantation

“Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t ever see them fading.” – Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go

Lent – Almsgiving Project

Lent has always been tied to the three practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It has always been that order – praying – fasting – almsgiving. As we were traditionally taught, the forty days of Lent is a preparation to draw our whole selves closer to God. What most of us do during this period of Lent has always been giving up food and drink that we like, or giving up the bad practices which engulf us. For some, it is allocating more minutes for prayer or frequent visit to the chapel. For some, it means giving money to the poor or donate to the church.

While I was still joyfully celebrating the Chinese New Year, a notification popped up on my phone screen. It was from Mark. He shared an article from Cardinal Nolan on collective almsgiving (read article). I took time to ponder on the words written by the Cardinal and we had a little chat on the topic.

Almsgiving – the Bible’s way of describing giving money to the Church to serve those in need.

We are supposed to fast and abstain on Friday and technically the money we save is supposed to be given as alms. This resonates with what the Cardinal mentioned – giving from one’s need to the point of sacrifice. Back in those days when I was a kid, our Sunday school teacher gives us a paper box every Lent. We fill up the box with the little pennies we have and return them on Easter Sunday. But when I moved to West Malaysia, the practice of almsgiving quietly drops off the radar and becomes less important in my life.

Over here in Klang Valley, there are just so many non-profit organisations and non-governmental organisations which we can pledge to help. Sponsor a child through UNICEF! Sponsor an Uganda child through Watoto! Donate to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul! With so many ‘distractions’ around we gradually forget about donating to the Church.

Apart from donating to the church and giving money individually to certain organisation, Mark mooted the idea of collecting alms, set up a fund among close friends and give directly to the people who need money (usually they need it quite urgently), for example, patients who cannot afford to pay for the ward or single mother who cannot afford to buy stuffs like milk and pampers, etc.

This is a creative new way to give more to the poor or to the Lord’s work. Giving generously is not because the Church needs the money or the poor need the money. Giving generously of our money is to break the hold money has for us.

This Lent, drink one less cup of coffee a week and use the money you save to help someone else…
Or instead of playing games at the arcade, use the money you save to help someone else…

Remembering the instructions of St. Benedict to his monks “nothing harsh, nothing burdensome”, it is also a call for us to approach Lent with zeal and to balance fasting, almsgiving and prayer in keeping a good Lent.