Up next for our #RaleighPassItOn series, we speak to Dr Alen Liaw, who read about Raleigh in the papers and was intrigued by the idea of community work in faraway lands.
He went to Chile in 1991 just after National Service. He shares some of his most memorable moments (including a close shave with death) and why he has no regrets becoming a part of the Raleigh fam.
“I signed up for the Selection Weekend while I was a Medical Officer during National Service. It was gruelling; we did casualty evacuation through the infamous swamp that ate shoes for dessert. Back in the day, we could have fun with critters like baby crocodiles (we had to count their teeth) and live chickens (we had to slaughter and cook).”
Dr Liaw was among 7 medics on the Chile 91G expedition. Because of this unprecedented number of medics, he was dispatched to project sites instead of being based at Raleigh Field HQ.
𝗨𝗽 𝗰𝗹𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗴𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗶𝗲𝗿𝘀: “Clearing a visitor path in Quelat National Park: we were boulder labourers in the beautiful glacier park. It was always raining but it added to beauty of the glaciers. As we hunkered down in our bivvy bags, sounds of glacier falling (like distant thunder) filled the night to lull us to sleep.”
𝗦𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴: “On the Nireguao Mountain Trek, we excavated 2 snow holes for the 14 of us on the slopes. It was U-shaped and it was real cosy. The blue light peeping through the chinks of the domed ceiling made one imagine being in a crystal palace inside the mountain. I slept in the middle, so there was no way of getting out for a nocturnal pee!”
𝗔 𝗰𝗹𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝘀𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲:“Cerro Catedral almost became my final resting place. On my 27th birthday, we discovered the joy of bum skiing down the mountain slopes. Being Singaporean and typically poorly equipped, I had to borrow a plastic raincoat to cover my down jacket (courtesy of Dr Tan Chi Chiu). The Venturers recounted how they saw this bright yellow object zipping down the slope and they yelled for me to stop as I neared the cliff edge. As for me, I recall blithely zipping past the Venturers (unable to hear under the plastic hood) and decided to do a timely ice arrest with my pick axe. Luckily for all, I lived to see my birthday and the Venturers still had a Medic.”
Since his expedition, Dr Liaw has stayed connected with Raleigh. “I initiated collaboration with the Social Group for the Deaf in 1993/4 to provide outdoor activities for their energetic youths. The first outing was The Quiet Weekend. Raleighians had to learn sign language to communicate with the deaf. The second outing was canoeing to Ubin and the third one was cycling to Desaru. The deaf were very "chatty"; they kept stopping their bikes or canoes so they could sign to their friends! After I left for Hong Kong in 1996, Chong Hai Yen took over the reins. I also provided medical support for Operasi Geranting under the able leadership of Lee Yoke Wai and Chia Meng Tze in 1996. In 2018, I supported Operation Amar Sain in Mongolia to provide health education to the people.”
In Hong Kong, he sought out fellow Raleighians immediately and helped out in a number of Selection Weekends, making fast friends there. “It is really gratifying to still be in touch with people like Haiyum, Monk and Mui Hong whom I witnessed growing from being freshly selected to becoming leading lights of Raleigh Singapore. It is my pleasure to make the acquaintance of our pioneer Raleighian Phua Siew Geck in Sydney.
As in Hong Kong, I have witnessed Raleigh marriages, carried their newborns in my arms, and now playing with the Raleigh second generation as their Uncle Liaw. I must add that joining the Raleigh Family was one of the best decisions I have made. I look forward to joining the next Mongolian expedition to see my Ulan Bator friends again and to see how tall the Sea buckthorn plants have grown.”