Just who can you call… when you’re being harassed?

On the job, Sulaimi Abd Rahman’s presence is great relief to harassed residents. Rats would curl their tails in fright and roaches would take flight if only they knew what their fates would be. The 38-year-old vector control technician has spent five years working in the pest-management industry. He has wrestled a variety of creepy crawlies ranging from termites to pythons, saving numerous properties and lives.

Sulaimi’s typical work day reads like a police officer’s. On an uneventful day, Sulaimi clocks in hours from 7.30am to 5.30 pm on weekdays. Together with a colleague, he would conduct routine checks around the client’s area for pest infestations, illegal feeding of strays and any other actions that lead to the population of pests. Certain abnormalities may warrant the attention of another team that specializes in dealing with it, in which case, Sulaimi would report back accordingly to his company Pest-Pro Management.

Night surveillance is sometimes required, especially when dealing with sewer rats. As sewer rats are active at night, dusting powder is used to track the rats’ movements. When the burrows are discovered, poison is placed inside to kill the rats.

Fortunately in Bishan-Toa Payoh where Sulaimi does his rounds, rat infestation is mild and manageable. Bin centres, as well as dark and wet conditions in manholes and sewers make the presence of rats inevitable, but there is something that can be done to reduce the presence of rats, and that is to stop feeding strays, or at least clean up properly after feeding the strays.

“Many residents like feeding cats and birds, but they leave after putting out the food, and there are often leftovers. The wrong strays are then attracted,” reasons Sulaimi.

Ad-hoc emergencies disrupt the day’s peace. There is no switching off her phone for P.Jothii, Sulaimi’s colleague and a coordinator who liaises between clients and the company. She has to be available 24 hours, along with a special team that the company has designated to deal with such emergencies. The duo reminisced about a particularly memorable incident where bees stormed an entire HDB block, constructing hives on several floors. Taking into consideration that bees had poor vision at night and would not attack, the extermination was conducted from 1 am to 3 am.

“It was like a police raid on Crime Watch,” Jothii agreed laughingly.

Pest management is tricky business, and there is no one-size fits all solution. Every pest responds to different baiting techniques and chemicals. Detailed diagnosis must be carried out before a solution can be arrived at. As such, all vector control technicians must attend a course by the NEA where they would learn about all the different types of pests and how to get rid of them. In fact, vector control technicians have to learn to use technology to aid them with their work. For example, when handling termite infestations, Sulaimi’s company utilizes an equipment called the T3I Thermoscan, which detects the location of termite nests through changes in temperature and movement patterns beyond surfaces without the need to knock down walls or unscrew furniture.

On bedbug infestations, one of the peskiest problems a household can be ridden with, Sulaimi explains that the solution is a complex and time-consuming one, possibly involving several visitations. A thorough inspection is first conducted on the house to find where the bedbugs lay the eggs. Chemical sprays are used on the adults, but the eggs cannot be killed or destroyed, so a residual chemical is used on them. When the eggs hatch, the newborns come in contact with the chemicals and die. Sealing up of cracks and crevices in the apartment is encouraged as they are cozy hidey holes for bedbugs.

Sulaimi has the following advice, “Don’t press your fingers over the bed bugs or attempt to burn them. The scent from the dead body will attract more bed bugs. Instead, stick a scotch tape over the bedbug, then pull it up and dispose it.”

As bed bugs are usually brought in due to travels in other countries, one should wash all clothes in hot water upon returning, and sun the luggage under direct sunlight. A steamer can also be used as heat kills bed bugs. Sulaimi shrink-wraps his luggage when he returns to Singapore.

The willingness to learn and passion for the job are essential qualities for a good pest control, as there is so much that they have to know, on top of working long and odd hours and the tiring nature of the job. Sulaimi and Jothii are also at the mercy of some unreasonable residents who blame them for the continued presence of rats.

“Good communication and interaction skills come in handy in pacifying angry residents, or people who don’t understand the nature of our work,” Jothii says.

Despite the various challenges, Sulaimi derives great satisfaction from solving the client’s problems.

“Seeing how grateful they are makes me really happy,” he smiles.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine


Taking the chore out of housework

Housework is often associated with feelings of dread, considering its laborious and non-glamorous nature. Nevertheless, it is mandatory activity to keep your life and living space in order. Instead of hating it and having arguments with the significant other over the assignment of penalties… sorry, tasks, you can turn housework into something enjoyable for everyone in the family.

Put something on the radio that cheers you up

It can be your favourite music, a joke CD, or an interesting radio programme, anything that keeps you grooving. If you do a search on iTunes for “music for housework”, you are bound to turn up plenty of upbeat tunes. Compile a playlist of your favourite music, which can be updated regularly to prevent mundanity from sinking in. If you like karaoke, put together some songs that you enjoy singing along to. Just don’t forget to do the housework.

If you’re not music-savvy, ask your child to recommend some music and put together a playlist for you. It is a good way to show interest in your child’s hobbies without being intrusive (he/she will be impressed with you for this), and who knows, you may actually enjoy the music.

Multi-task with your favourite acitivities

Take your mind off the chore at hand by pairing it with something you enjoy. For tasks that do not require too much focus like mopping the floor or plucking bean sprouts, you can do them while accompanied by something good on the TV or even a chat with a friend over the phone. Share household chores with your family members. Time passes quickly when you chat while working. Be sure not to get too distracted or you will end up going a mediocre job. However, practice makes perfect and you will eventually get better at multi-tasking.

Turn your housework into an exercise routine

Standing still while cleaning the dishes doesn’t make you lose much weight, and neither does sweeping the floor. But shaking your booty while standing still, or keeping your back straight up and squeezing in your stomach muscles as you sweep can help you to lose some weight and shape up! When performing any sort of task, maintain a good posture, and move different body parts as much as possible. Stretch frequently so that you don’t find your muscles constantly in the same position at all times, which can lead to poor blood circulation and aches. Using exercise and weight loss as incentives, increase the pace of your housework activity and perspire more. This helps to release stress, while encouraging you to finish your housework earlier. However, as with exercise, be careful not to over-exert yourself. If you experience pain or strain, reduce intensity or cease it.

Get the children involved

If they are old enough to help out, give them some chores within their ability. Children hate housework; it interferes with TV time and Facebook time; thus you may be surprised by the creative ideas they may come up with to get the work done faster!

Housework promotes character-building in children; it gets them becoming more independent, reliable and handy. Your children will also come to appreciate the difficulty of housework and learn to become neater. Doing the housework as a family provides the opportunity for more interaction.

Inject some glam

Who says you need to look like a plain old housewife, or 黄脸婆 while doing the housework? Understandably, you want to be comfortable and not dirty your nice clothes. Yet you don’t want to wear something that will embarrass you when you open the door for the postman. Consider getting aprons to keep your clothes clean while giving you a more presentable appearance. Places that sell household and lifestyle items like Daiso, Japan Home and Ikea stock a variety of aprons – from plain to chic to feminine floral. http://www.flirtyaprons.com offers a large variety of aprons for men, women and children. A head scarf will keep your hair out of your face and prevent grease from settling in your hair. Wear a cute or cool facemask when dusting to prevent pimples and sneezes. Say no to messy buns!

Use nice equipment

It is human nature to enjoy being surrounded by nice things. Expanding on the previous point, brighten up your work zone with some fancy yet practical items and decoration. The Japanese have an intense fondness for cute, and this is reflected in their large variety of pretty household equipment, commonly flanked by the likes of adorable cartoon characters Hello Kitty and Rilakkuma. They may not make your housework easier, but they’ll lift your spirits. You can find a large collection of unique kitchen utensils and appliances on http://www.qoo10.sg for reasonable prices. Prefer to DIY? Try customizing your faithful kitchen helpers with colourful stickers or vinyl decals of things you like.

With a little imagination and tie-up with your favourite things, you can make housework a routine to look forward to each day.


Quick Tips to getting housework done faster

Clean as you go, instead of leaving the mess till the end. Not only does it feel a lot more tedious to wash up many items at one go, the dirt may be harder to remove.

Focus. Don’t try to sweep the floor while dusting. Finish up one task and then go on to the other. Focus on one room at a time. If you can’t mop the floor for the whole house in one evening, do one room, then go one to another the next day.

Start with the chore that’s hardest and takes the most effort. If you leave it till the last, you may lose the energy and determination to finish it.

The less you have, the less you have to clean and organise. Keep only the necessary things outside and in your workspace, so that you have less to dust and less things that get in the way. Everything else should be in your storage cupboards and boxes.

Use the right tools. It is more economical and tempting to use one wipe cloth to wipe everything, but different types of stains and dirt require different tools for effective and quick removal. Invest in good-quality and appropriate equipment; you’ll be grateful for the time and effort saved in the long run. Regularly maintaining and cleaning the equipment helps to keep them lasting.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.


When fall season is just the beginning for scholar Adil Hakeem

If there’s one person in Singapore who is looking forward to the Autumn season, it is likely to be a Toa Payoh youth, Adil Hakeem Mohamad Rafee.

For 20-year-old Adil Hakeem, the fall season will mark the start of his four-year study at one of the top universities in the US, the Yale University, a private Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut.

He is one of the President scholars who will be in Yale University to read Ethics, Politics and Economics. The President’s Scholarship is generally awarded concurrently with another Public Service Commission scholarship and in his case, he will take up a scholarship with the Police. After graduating he will be bonded to serve the Police Force for six years.

Adil Hakeem, who loves the outdoors, said, “I think it is an interesting job where you get to do field work. I have been on attachments with them. It is a lot of hands on work and I am looking forward to the day I join them. My parents also encouraged me to take up this scholarship.”

But for now, this Army 2nd Lieutenant has his National Service stint set aside while he goes for his studies overseas. He will have to serve his remaining National Service commitment in the Police Force when he returns.

When interviewed just before the Hari Raya, Adil Hakeem was all set for his trip, having already been abroad previously. “I will be able to adjust myself and learn to be fairly independent,” he added. “I will have three Singapore classmates at the same university.”

On what his thoughts are about leaving his other friends behind, he said he hopes to be back every year to catch up with them. “I am on Facebook and we will still be in touch,” he said.

Adil Hakeem lives at Lorong 2 Toa Payoh with his parents Mr Mohamad Rafee bin Salleh and Madam Zulinah bte Mooksan, younger brother Arif Izzuddin, and grandparents.

He was among the top “A” level students at Raffles Institution in 2012 and is the first Malay recipient of the prestigious President scholarship in more than 40 years. He is also a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Book Prize.

– This interview first appeared in a Town Council newsletter.