Monday, November 26, 2007

Revisiting the past

History teaches us that a situation or an event or perhaps even a place has as much or as little value as a historian endowns upon it. At the same time, the amount of value that one accords to it changes over time. And that's where nostalgia comes into play.

I learnt that and some other more sophisticated concepts in History at NUS and appropriately enough, it was where they became part of reality in the most plebian of ways. When I was in uni, the worst time to have lunch was between 12 and 2. The canteen was hot and crowded. It always seemed more dark and dinghy at that time and hot to manoeuvre through because of unruly meandering queues that formed anywhere there was space.

But strangely enough, despite all its flaws, I have fond memories of it. So much so that when I went to Melbourne, I would still go back during my vacation just to eat there. There were stalls that had great food and others that had ho-hum food but all in all, it was a pretty good mix. I even introduced Packrat to it and he loved it, partly because it was good and cheap, partly because he just loves, even now, being part of the uni mix.

Now that we actualy have real jobs and lives and cannot just revel in the good things past, we hardly go back although on occasion when we're in the area, we'd swing by. Yesterday was such a day and when we got there, we were aghast! The dark dhingy 'hawker centre' had turned into a clean, pristine, airy, sanitised and clinical food court complete with a Christmas tree. How can???

To add to the travesty, the good food stalls were no more. I had good memories of the beef hor fun stall with long queues that didn't feel so long because one was just mesmerised by the guy who fried the stuff and danced and jigged at the same time, all in sync with the frying. Neither was the chicken rice and a whole bunch of other stalls. Packrat decided to be adventurous and ordered dried chilli chicken on rice and it was awful because it looked like it was cooked in ketchup and nary a dried chilli in sight. I thought I was playing it safe when I went to get some fruit, but even that was a challenge because my idea of fruit wasn't pineapple or jackfruit. A fruit stall that just sells that shouldn't call itself a fruit stall.

Oh! And on top of that, there was a Burger King, a Dome and a Thai place on an upper mezzanine level. Even more outrage. Packrat declared that unis shd not be a hotbed of commercialism. It should be independent and allow undergrads to discover their anti-establishment sides, not buy into and encourage the fast food, cafe culture that they're already doing so much of. Sigh. Isn't uni supposed to teach them more about life than just to perpetuate what they already know and do so well in?

Thankfully the iced lemon tea remained the same and I was brought back to the day where we drank copious amounts of it, I think that was when my addiction to the stuff began. We'd sit in the canteen and just drink and while away the afternoons instead of attempting any real work. Who could blame us? They were cheaper than bottles of water were. And tastier too.

$1 for the 2 cups. $0.70 for half a litre of water. Do the math.

So perhaps, I won't go back as much now. I'm disappointed and sad and want to remember an easier and simpler time.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Ondine tossed this thought in at 23:20

2 thoughts...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

It is on days like this that I hate Singapore physically. It's hot, sticky, humid, when you breathe, hardly any air goes into your lungs and your skin could work as fly paper.

It makes me feel ill, grumpy, whiny and cross.

It makes me wish for winter and cold. It makes me bitter that I'm not going to a nice wintry country for a vacation.

I need a shower. I need some snow.

At the very least, I need a cold cold drink.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Ondine tossed this thought in at 18:08

0 thoughts...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Big Businesses

Much as I like romantic comedies, I hated You've Got Mail. The only one thing I liked about it was the little bookshop that Meg Ryan owned. And when I went to Melbourne, I found such a little bookshop selling children's books called the Little Bookroom. It had all sorts of children's books, it had staff who knew all the books they stocked and what they were about. They were also able to recommend books for every type of child out there. It was one of those places where you went just to feel good, warm and fuzzy. On one of our trips back to Melbourne, we went in search of the Little Bookroom and realised that it was no longer where it stood. The child in the both of us was heartbroken to have lost that little nook of books. We blamed Borders for nudging this little book store out of business much like how Tom Hank's Borders like bookstore bought out Meg Ryan's charming quaint store.

When Borders opened in Singapore, we didn't really care all that much. It was there but it didn't really seem like the icon of commercialism that it came to represent in indie-cultured, anti big-business Melbourne. Not until this week or rather this morning when I receive an email from Borders Singapore announcing a 20% discount off all books at the opening of Borders Parkway Parade. Parkway Parade is pretty much the equivalent to a suburban mall. A suburban mall that I have great attachment to. And I knew exactly what Borders was taking over. The local (well, as local as can get) MPH bookstore that has been there since I was a child. It's not as tiny as independent bookshops or the Little Bookroom but it had its charm. It had been one of the flagship stores of Parkway Parade since it's opening and after twenty over years has been pushed out of its home by the American conglomerate (okay, I'm exaggerating here, but my point stands).

I have many great memories of MPH at Parkway Parade. For the longest time, " meeting outside MPH" had a ubiquitous meaning for anyone living in the East. It meant you loitered outside MPH and if you were bored, you could venture in and be rest assured that whoever you were meeting would be able to find you inside. There was only one entrance and it was the most reliable place to meet. Now, there will be generations of kids who will never know how universal that phrase was for the people of the East.

Packrat and I face a dilemma. Do we, in a show of solidarity, boycott Borders at Parkway because they pushed MPH out or do we buy into commercialism and make use of the storewide 20% since it is about time we did our Christmas shopping?

I looked up the Little Bookroom and to my joy found that it had not closed down in Melbourne but had moved into one of the suburbs. And the article that illuminated this fact to me gave me my answer. If, in the face of pressure to reduce the price of books just to get a bigger cut of the book market, it refused to buy into the hype around Harry Potter and went about its business as if it were any other day and any other book that it carried, we should be able to do the same. The book should not represent what the world has turned into- one where loyalities are superficial and tossed around without any true sentiment and the nature of disposability and dispensability reign supreme. The question is whether we are strong enough to resist the lure of the dark side.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Ondine tossed this thought in at 22:35

0 thoughts...

Dream on

The following events occurred in the last few weeks and have been on my mind.

1. My cousin got into a relatively bad accident which required her to be taken away in an ambulance and filing a police report.

2. I panicked because I couldn't find the birthday present I'd bought for our friend's one year old. Her party's on Saturday. I eventually found it. My helper had stashed it into the cupboard with the children's new clothes.

3. My children have started eating semi-solids and the experimenting has gone from banana to apple to sweet potato.

4. My brother is looking for a new property so that my parents can move in with him.

5. I lament and dream of playgroups for my children and Ru and I hang out online egging each other on with online stories and tales of our offspring, feeding and everything baby related.

6. I've decided to contribute some of my breast milk to research since my attempt at donating breast milk brought out the worst of Singaporean traits and was rather off putting for me.

7. I, now, fully understand why parents worried about money so much because I do the same thing too.

All in all, none too interesting.

It did however culminate into an interesting dream early this morning when I went back to sleep.

I was in a big house, for some reason, one that looked like that mournful picture of Katie Holmes with Suri Cruise in the background and looking forlornly out the window during what must have been her very long confinement period. And the birthday party was held there where Ru shows up with her boy asking for a breast pump. When one is presented to her out of thin air, the bottle is already filled with water and it looked like there is a sweet potato submerged in it. Upon closer inspection, it wasn't a bottle to collect milk but the test tube that the milk for research would be collected in. Bizarre because I actually did not see the milk tubes till after I woke up this morning.

The dream goes on.

I needed to go home because, even in the dream, the kids are cranky. And Packrat picks me up apparently after a court date. So I ask him how court went and whether he got sentenced. The sub-conscious background story here is that he'd been caught speeding and had gotten involved in an accident and was therefore charged in traffic court. And for his offence, he was both jailed and fined. I didn't seem to care too much about that because all I seemed concerned about was how there wouldn't be money for the month even though he reassured me that he would be fine. My only reaction in the dream was "serves you right" while flapping my arms like a chicken in heat. As he's driving, I end up brushing my teeth and the teeth of my children, totally disregarding the fact that they are 5 months old, but strangely enough, even when we're done, the sound of brushing still continues.

That is when I awake to Packrat brushing his teeth.

I yawn, I stretch and I scratch my hair in puzzlement. I haven't had such strange vivid dreams since I was pregnant. What's up with that?

Technorati Tags:

Ondine tossed this thought in at 19:50

0 thoughts...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


This was what I found in a children's store just now. I blame Brittney Spears, Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan and the Olsen twins for this.

Can you say prostitot-tish whore fast enough? Tsk tsk.

Technorati Tags: ,

Ondine tossed this thought in at 22:33

0 thoughts...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Let them eat cake.

I have signed a new contract with a new work place. And in the contract, I'm specifically told that I should not be party to any pro-communist activities. Darn, now I can't knit socks for the members of the Malayan Communist Party that are still hiding in the jungles. And totally out of the question would be to lead a call for the revival of armed struggle.

Darn, all my political ambitions gone to waste. :)

Technorati Tags: ,

Ondine tossed this thought in at 00:24

2 thoughts...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Negative Demonstration Alpha

At a gathering recently, Packrat and I were asked what we did for a living. So, we told the truth. Because this was a bunch of middle aged couples with children, they were very interested in what we did because they thought it would give them the inside scoop to what the education system was like and hopefully chance upon a secret way of getting round the system.

On the one hand, we were very amused but on the other hand, somewhat disgusted. Leaving the gathering I told Packrat that he was to shoot me if I became one of those mothers. This was the conversation that led to that declaration.

Mother No.1: So, my daughter is streaming this year. And I can't decide if she should do Physics of Biology.
Mother No. 2: Why can't you decide?
Mother No. 1: She scored very well in Physics but is interested in Biology.
Mother No. 2: Ai yah, there're two teachers here. Why don't you ask them?
Looking at us expectantly, Mother No. 1: So how? What should I (not her daughter, by the way) do?
Me: Well, I'd say go with her interest.
Mother No. 1: But she does better in Physics.
Me: Yes, but the subjects get harder once she hits O Levels and more so at A Levels. So if she's interested, at least she stands a chance.
Mother No. 1: But she does better at Physics.
Me: Yes, but she's only Sec 2. And you said, she doesn't do well in Math. Physics and Math have quite a relationship.
Mother No. 1: Oh, like that. But tell me lah! Which one is easier to score a distinction in? Don't tell me about enjoyment. I just need to know the bottom line. Which one will she get an A1 in?
Me (trying not to look goggled at what she just said): She will get a distinction in the one that she is most interested in because that will be one she will spend time studying.
Mother No. 1: But what can you do with Biology?

This goes on for a while and I'm aghast and tired of it so I join in some other conversation but I overhear the continuation of the conversation.

Mother No.1 to Mother No. 2: How??? They say do Biology but Physics is more prestigious and she scored very well in it.
Mother No. 2: I tell you what you do. You go to the school and see which one, Physics or Biology, has got a higher distinction rate. Then you pick the one that has a higher rate. That's what I did for my daughter.

Even though I wasn't involved in the conversation, the thought bubble forming over my head was "WTF???" quickly followed by "Seriously???" If I wasn't so intimidated by these rich (this was a gathering at a house in Queen Astrid Park), educated tai tais, I'd have very snarkily told them, regardless of the distinction rate of the school, if your daughter's a dud at the subject, she's not going to get a distinction rate and will probably be the reason the distinction rate drops and she will be crucified by the school for affecting their results so. But since all these people knew my in laws, I figured it wasn't a good response or suggestion.

I lament to Packrat after about how we, desperately try to imbue in our students the love for learning and knowledge and that education is about the journey of learning rather than the, as she so aptly put it, bottom line. And this is what we're up against. Parents who want distinctions rather than knowledge.

So once again, I reiterate, if I become a parent or mother like that, all you out there can take a number and throw tomatoes at me!


Technorati Tags: , ,

Ondine tossed this thought in at 19:28

4 thoughts...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mozzie attack!

The mosquito translates into the little fly. That sounds like an apt enough description. Fly = buzz buzz irritating and the mosquito is indeed annoying, irritating and very very pesky.

My arms and legs are covered with bites. And we're not talking about bites made in the heat of passion although I suspect the amount of heat generated by my body has something to do with it. i know that it is my own bloody fault that I didn't bring insect bite cream but my punishment is somewhat ridiculous!

Bites galore. I counted, 15 red angry hives on my left leg, 8 on my right (is there a difference between the blood that courses through my right leg compared to my left) 3 on my right arm, 2 on my knuckle and none on the left. But I do have a totally unglamourous one on my right temple. I feel hideous and right now, the cartoon caricature of me will have things buzzing over my head.

Someone told me that every single living thing on earth had a purpose. So what is the purpose of the Little Fly? I can only think of one, to drive people crazy or at the very least, irritate the heck out of them.

Technorati Tags: ,

Ondine tossed this thought in at 07:04

0 thoughts...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bad everything

Because as an educator, I am a civil servant and the civil service has Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for everything, there is a circular out there that says I am not allowed to blog about work. And my work is often correcting bad English. The problem is that it is so tempting to mock bad English, not bad students, just bad English. Now that we've been specifically told not to do that, I have to find other outlets to release the need to mock.

Thankfully, I live in Singapore, where we pretend to be an English speaking society but actually, most of us really suck at the English. So all one has to do is to cast one's eye around and you get enough to fill a journal. I know a friend who used to sit at MacDonalds and eavesdrop on conversations for a linguisti
cs paper.

Anyway, in the last week, I have been presented with opportunities to mock two weaknesses of Singapoeans. One, the aforementioned bad English and two, bad logic.

Bad English first.
Packrat has been hankering for one of those remote controlled helicopters that seem to be so popular these days. So, while I was stocking up on baby supplies, he was off reading everything, including the fine print, on the helicopter box, hoping to find reason to buy the toy. I don't think he found a reason to buy it but we both found reason to photograph the toy though.

Specimen A.

And... Specimen B.

Actually, come to think of it, they are pretty good reasons why he should have bought the chopper. I mean, what's a better reason than to have something that is explosible!!! and is a choking hazard that's suitable for 14 year olds.

So that's Bad English. Now, my experience with bad logic. This one's pretty priceless. At a very high end restaurant that overlooks most of the Singapore skyline, I ask a simple question.

Me: Do you have non-caffeinated teas?
Waitress who is actually named after a tea (very confidently) : Yes.
Me: What teas do you have? (Expecting the very least for her to give me the tea that she is named after)
Waitress: We have coffee.
Me: WTF??????

I guess in a strange way, there is some logic in that- it is a non-caffeinated tea. But then again, it's only that because it's a totally different drink which is incidentally, full of caffeine. Will wonders never cease.

I shouldn't complain. If these faux pas didn't happen, I would be a sad sad person.

Technorati Tags: ,

Ondine tossed this thought in at 19:02

1 thoughts...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Working Girl

I'm posting this post on both blogs because this is one issue that concerns both facets of me.

The time has come for me to decide what I will do next year. It's been a very big struggle with a great amount of to-ing and fro-ing, trying to come to the ideal position. From the outset, even before I became a mother, I had already decided that the whole Stay At Home Mom schtick just wasn't for me. No offence meant to those who are Stay At Home Moms. I have utmost admiration for them. So with that option out the window, I had to figure out what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it.

There were parameters that had to be marked out first. And even that caused me grief. Do I work full time? Do I go part time? Do I stay at the same place? Do I move? Do I stay in teaching? Do I look for something totally different to do? Should I settle for less pay?

The last 4 months have been filled with frantic SMSes from my current boss trying to get a pulse on my intentions, me flipping through the Recruit segment every weekend lamenting the fact that I'm qualified as heck but trained for nothing. I applied for some jobs, interviewed for a couple and narrowed my options and was down to two. That's when it got tough.

It was between
a. part-time job that afforded a little bit more flexibility, was closer to home but meant I took a 1 grand pay cut and my career got put on hold.

b. a full-time job with a promotion that included a $500 pay raise, promising prospects, a challenge but would have meant longer hours, a half an hour drive one way, being the target for vicious politics and small mindedness.

I tried to figure out why it was so hard to come to a decision. At the end of the day, it boiled down to family vs career which should then make the decision an easy peasy one. It took me a while to figure out why I was reluctant to make the right decision.

All my life, I'd been taught to be independent, that my brains mattered, that I should always strive to do the best I could. If I stopped work, I'd be dependent on Packrat's state-controlled wage, my brains would be used for singing nursery rhymes and speaking in a most repetitive of manners and my job description was "mommy" and there were no promotional prospects. On top of that, there's that voice of my own father, booming in my head, reminding me like he did all those years ago that I was a. a girl and therefore did not need to be educated so much b. costing him a shit load of money to educate so I'd better not quit work once I had kids and c. to always look after myself financially and not depend on my husband.

On top of that is incongruity that exists in my head about how good I am at my job and how I am now deciding on whether to go part time and generally coasting, forsaking any opportunity I get to do well, get noticed and all those seemingly important things in life.


If I chose to do that, there's further incongruity and dissonance seeing that I do want to be around for the kids. I am not about to become a mother who has the kids and fobs them off to someone else to care for them. On top of that, something deep inside me chides me for considering going back to work full-time especially when we waited so long for them and wanted them so much.

So this wrestling match has been going on, day in day out on the battlefield that is my head. Some days, I marvel at the fact that my brain doesn't blow up from all this stress because this is but one of the MANY things that my brain's wrestling with and stressing over.

At the end of the day, I decided I had to stop trying to be rational because I was going slightly stir crazy and just go with my gut. So far, my gut hasn't let me down and finally, yesterday, I gave in and decided based on instinct. It felt good to have finally made a decision but at the same time, I felt a little bit panicky because I had closed one door and behind that door was actually a possible solution to my current woes!

Anyhow, it's all said and done even though the paper work hasn't been submitted. Next year brings about different things and hopefully it won't be half bad.

Technorati Tags: ,

Ondine tossed this thought in at 19:36

2 thoughts...

" Far in the stillness, a cat languishes loudly"