Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Caretaker of the islands of the Great Barrier Reef

Apparently 34 000 people applied to be the caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef, well the islands of the Great Barrier Reef. Apparently, it is the Best Job in the World. Hence, 34 000 people want it. Apparently, of the 16 that are shortlisted, one is from Singapore. But as with anything great that has to do with Singapore, the person involved is a foreign import. An American School Phys-Ed teacher. Teaching in Singapore. So, we take the opportunity to boast that someone from our sunny shores got shortlisted.

I wondered about it for a while. If anyone would take it. I wondered if I could do it. Scanning the list of requirements,

- Excellent interpersonal communication skills ( Who am I going to communicate with? The birds of the sky and creatures of the seas? Anyway, check, interpersonal communication skills)

- Good written and verbal English skills (Check. I blog, I teach English, I speak English)

- An adventurous attitude (Not sure about that. I was adventurous enough to risk having twins and had twins! Does that count?)

- Willingness to try new things (Hmmm.... so so I guess. Depends on what new things)

- A passion for the outdoors (Depends, do I have a clean bathroom, a nice bed and air- conditioning to come back to?)

- Good swimming skills and enthusiasm for snorkelling and/or diving (Swimming yes, snorkelling and diving... right family, wrong Ng)

- Ability to engage with others (I used to make a pretty good living out of teaching and engaging people. So, I guess... Check)

- At least one year’s relevant experience in terms of

a) feeding the 15 000 species of fish (I'm not sure if I can count up to 15 000. Does it involve feeding them wriggly worms?)

b) cleaning the pool- I'm not sure if they mean this figuratively or literally. Whether it is really a swimming pool or they are referring to the ocean is a swimming pool.

c) collect the mail (I'm guessing, that doesn't just mean, walking up to the mail box and opening it)

So, I'm not entirely sure if I'm qualified. Although it is appealing for various reasons.

  1. I'd be able to sleep as much as I want and need.
  2. Get a tan.
  3. Read all the books I'd want to.
  4. Blog to my heart's content even though I'm not sure what I'd blog about.
  5. Take a break from everything and earn quite a pocketful of small change.
But Packrat scoffs at me and says I won't be able to do it for various reasons.

  1. I need social interaction.
  2. I'd miss my kids. Packrat, I'd pack him along.
  3. There are no spas at the Hamilton Islands where I can get my brows and nails and whatnot done.
  4. There are no shops.
  5. There will be no McDs on the island and hence, no iced tea. How would I survive?
I think the most important reason is that I am a social person and find it a regular necessity to do things with other people. Packrat, on the other hand, has got no problems going it alone. Of course, had he applied and got it, I'd still insist he takes me and perhaps I'd make regular jaunts to the nearest city.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 09:32

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Friday, April 24, 2009

The goat has been got.

I've stayed away from blogging about the whole AWARE fiasco that has gripped Singapore the same way TT Durai and his gold taps did. I generally feel like there is enough sentiment and bloggers out there who would have given the issue enough air time. But early this morning, something in me snapped and I was roused out of my usual morning sleep-deprived stupor, as was Packrat as he was the receiving end of my overdue tirade.

Lawyer Thio Su Mien was in this morning's papers stating that she felt that she needed to lead the coup that toppled incumbent AWARE leadership because of the AWARE Sexuality Education programme that introduces homosexuality as a 'neutral' word rather than a 'bad' word.

'I started thinking, 'Hey, parents, you better know what's happening,'' she said. 'I talked to parents. I said: You better do something about this, otherwise your daughter will come back and say, 'Mum, I want to marry my girlfriend. Or your son will say: 'Dad, I want to marry my boyfriend.''

These parents were flabbergasted, she said, adding that such sexuality education was taking place in the United States and Europe and was not new.

'What is happening in society is that we are redefining marriage, we are redefining families,' she said.

'So I'm a concerned citizen and if people are so ignorant, I think I want to teach them.'

At that point, the only thing that stopped me from swearing and spitting at the newspaper was the presence of my 22 month old baby girl who was picking up words faster than the filters in my brain could work.

Homosexuality is not a neutral word. But she is not against homosexuality. But she has counselled and ministered to them. But they are in pain and are the product of abuse. But she fears that one day there will be a society full of lesbians. And the contradictions go on and on.

I know some who read this will disagree with me. Who feel that homosexuality is something that is bad and that these new women in charge of the only women's advocacy group is doing a wonderful thing for family values.

So let's see if I can deconstruct why this pisses me off. First off, I am Christian and I know that homosexuality is a sin against God. But as are a whole host of other things that aren't open to social and civil persecution. I know that I would raise my children heterosexual imbue upon them that homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice we would encourage or condone. But that said and I know this makes the angry radicals out there brand me as hypocritical, I have no issues with people who chosen to be so. But that's because I separate my own beliefs and values from what I expect of society. My views of how I would like to raise my children are based on my Christian values. Our society chooses and is proud to be a secular one. So, in a secular society, why the judgement?

Why the roll back to the closed conservative values of the 80's? Because we have come some distance in acknowledging alternative lifestyles? Of course, one can take comfort in the fact that these fundamental extremists are social activists and social activists only exist in a society that has progressed to the point where civil action is acknowledged as an effective instrument of expression. But we are not the US or a European nation where the citizenry is large enough to be divisive but every group, including minorities get to be represented. In Singapore, we have ONE women's advocacy group, that champions the rights of women, regardless of sexuality. And if this group decides lesbians are not women worthy to be championed, then what use are they if they are marginalising the very people they are supposed to be protecting?

And that's where this woman pissed me off. She claims that the Sexuality Education will encourage an entire generation to grow up gay and want to marry their gay spouses. She worries about lesbians, basically taking over the world. And therefore this coup was necessary to prevent it from becoming a disaster.

I constantly rail at students in class for giving me such stupid, narrow minded and obviously flawed arguments when we speak of gender issues in class. Acknowledging homosexuality does not make an entire generation gay. It's the same stupidity that gives credence to the 'giving out condoms will encourage people to have sex' argument. And it pisses me off that the educated are such bigots.

Perhaps, I am a bigot too, because I have gay friends but would do what I can to prevent my children from being gay. But by that logic, I am then guilty on various fronts. I have Muslim friends and Hindu friends and Buddhist friends. I like them and am close to them. I would not encourage my children to convert but I have them as friends. So am I hypocritical and a bigot? Am I not a true friend to them? But perhaps, I am different because I am not out to crucify them and to deprive them of rights.

Packrat thinks I should join AWARE just so that I can cast my vote of no confidence. I will give it serious thought. I think the both of us truly grew up when we were both living in a society much more liberal than Singapore is. And we have no qualms bringing our children back there to raise them. We do not fear that they will be made gay just because there is Mardi Gras celebrated once a year and that the uni lounges have Gay and Lesbian movements. In fact, we quite like the idea that our children be taught not to judge, that they see that different people live in different ways.

In my mind, it's simple. There is an order to this. Before a woman is gay, she is a woman. Before she is a woman, she is a person. And I believe, respect and rights should be accorded in that order. What so difficult about that?

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 10:11

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Saturday, April 18, 2009



That's usually the reason why people join clubs. The more expensive, the harder to access, the better. It gives the member a feeling of belonging and superiority. It is very hankered after, people do what they can within their power and sometimes beyond their power to get in. What do they do when part of a club? The really hard core ones would pretend that the only world that exists is within the walls of the club and anything outside of that is inconsequential.

And those from the outside who look in, whether it is because of jealousy of not belonging or whether it is pure disapproval cannot wrap their heads how a collective group of people can be self-absorbed or imagine the world is that small.

Bring it down a notch and group dynamics are the same.

Those in a group think nothing about it. Those who watch from without, either yearn to be within or bitch about why it is a big deal. Those who yearn will then either bitch or find ways to worm their way in. Often this happens by preying on the most harmless, nicest person within the group. Be friends with that person and hope that pays off in group dividends. It doesn't matter if a new persona has to be adopted, after a while, it fits like second skin. After a while, the chameleon becomes so comfortable in the persona she adopts, she forgets who she is.

Enter the world of Gossip Girl and Queen B and Queen S. Where they knowingly or unknowingly exclude the lesser-bees and do not bother how their excluding others hurts them. TV mimicking the real world group dynamics. One wonders if it's a sense of cluelessness, entitlement or just maliciousness.

It's not hard to observe, in any social setting. And even within the group, there is an inner core and the hangers-on. The inner core are secure in the knowledge of their membership. The hangers-on try and work hard to make sure that they are at the right places, do the right thing, wear the right clothes, eat the right food and look the right way.

I keep seeing it around me. I see it in school, with the kids. How there are the groups that are loud to attract attention. How there are people who always glare at them but if you looked close enough into their eyes, you saw that it was not just annoyance but envy at being able to belong and being able to be known. I see the ones that have been turned away because they are too independent, too individualistic, too non-conformist; being too secure in their self-identity to be 'made-over'. And even those feel a sense of hurt and rejection because they are after all human.

Social psychology is interesting that way. It teaches you to read crowds and people in the crowd. It teaches you to distinguish the ring leaders and to actually look beneath and examine the motivations. It teaches you also to understand why the ones that don't belong, behave in a certain way and how it inadvertently affects who they are. Social psychology also teaches how as an individual, each person within a group has the potential to be nice and to be cruel and usually on their own, they are on good behaviour and they could be your best of friends. Put them into a group of like-minded individuals and strangely, 2 and 2 does not equal 4 but possibly 22. The safety of the group's unwritten regulations allow them to then get away with behaviour which could be cruel, appalling and juvenile. And worst of all, they do it because they know they can get away with it. They know that no one can point a finger at any one of them because, after all, on their own, they're all nice, decent people.

Guys and girls, men and women are affected in the same way. I hear of wives telling of how their husbands being bullied in school created in them a wall that has taken that long to penetrate. Men, themselves who hate being in group situations and prefer the company of their spouses and families because they rather not be put into a situation where they are made to feel like they are back in high school. Girls who are mothers and successful and accomplished in their own fields reduced to an insecure puddle of tears because they are brought back to the days where they were awkward, tongue-tied and excluded just because they weren't involved in the same ditzy pursuits as the in crowd.

It's difficult to comfort those who have this particular skeleton in their closet. It's not something that can be chucked out or overcome, come spring-cleaning. The only thing they can do is pretend it doesn't bother them and hope that it is years before they have to go through another ordeal of rejection again because that's how long it would take them to recover depending on how small they were made to feel.

Ondine tossed this thought in at 10:04

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Ice Cream nights

Since the kids came, we've eaten a lot of ice cream. It's been our way of bleeding off the stress, taking some time out and indulging in something sinful. Sneaking out for ice-cream was the ideal way to do that because there're quite a few ice cream places near us, an ice-cream duck out doesn't take that long (usually the length it takes to finish up the ice-cream) and they are open late.

So because of that, we've become veritable connoisseurs of ice cream. We have favourites. There are more than the 3 places we like but we like these 3 for various reasons. It's not really in order of preference. It's more in order of the frequency of us going there which has less to do with quality but more to do with the hours it stays open. That said, they are all yummy.

1. Haato at Ridgewood
Our oft visited joint. Mainly because it's the nearest ( a two-minute drive and Mr and Mrs Plentyfish live there), has got wifi, board games, yummy waffles and to die for sorbets. The gelato is ho-hum, nothing fantastic but the sorbets are super yum. I rediscovered my love for lychee because of their lychee sorbets which is divine and most yummilicious when mixed with Sprite. They also have yuzu sorbet and the most recent scrumptilicious one was pear sorbet. It's nice to just sit and chill there because it's by a pool (of the condo) and Packrat and I sometimes just sit and conversation flows very easily there.

2. The Daily Scoop.
Set up by a friend's friend and run by Packrat's ex-classmate, this place has the best ice-cream. Not low-fat gelato stuff but real ice cream and they mix it in a pan in front of you. It was one of the first places that started moving away from traditional ice cream flavours and experimenting with things like Honey Fig Butterscotch, Cempadak and Xtra Stout. The only problem is that it closes early and has become extremely crowded since a provision store sized Cold Storage opened in the same building. But when we get the opportunity to, we like going there. Yummy chocolate dipped waffle cones and a walk round Sunset Way estate is always great. We like fantasising about being able to afford a place there.

3. Ice Cream Chefs
Our least visited by virtue of the fact that we live on the other side of the island and we're hardly on that side of the island without the twins. Perhaps when the twins are older, it shall be somewhere to go to with them. When we were in Perth a few years ago, we were brought to this place called Cold Rock where they mix ice cream with what ever you want on a well, cold rock. It was awesome. Cold Rock made it to Singapore but the ice cream they used sucked. At round about the same time, Ice Cream Chefs opened, with the same concept but with home made ice cream and mix ins. So, it was a combination of Cold Rock and The Daily Scoop for us. Packrat had peanut butterscotch with peanut butter and nutella mixed in the first time we went there. That pretty much cancelled out conversation for us because his mouth was glued shut. They also did an awesome Granny Smith Apple pie ice cream and a Kaya roti ice cream with real bits of kaya toast in it. But it's a tiny hole in a wall and the only time we have been able to go there is Sunday evening which means we can't get a seat. But we've had the privilege of being at a birthday party where they were making ice cream shots for the kids. The adults had fun too.
Sigh, I need to go back there.

So all in, these are our favourite dessert stops. It's a wonder we're not larger than we are what with the number of times we go for ice cream just so that we can get some air. And right now, I'm dreaming of pear sorbet blended with apple juice and kiwi fruit. Hmm, a project for the Easter weekend.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 16:47

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Creatures of the night

Packrat bought a PS 3 recently, much to my dismay. I recall nights of going to bed alone, getting monosyllabic replies, basically more of what I've had to endure with the various computer games he plays. And he wonders why I've been annoyed enough in my sleep to fling pillows at him and the dastardly game machine.

Anyway, the only way he could possibly redeem himself was to find something I could play on it, because then, I couldn't be all that mad with him if I could play on it too. The trick was to find something I did play on it because in all our ten years of together, there'd been only one game that I had played on the Playstation. Super Puzzle Fighter.

But since his ability to play in peace depended on it, the boy managed to unearth it, buy it over the PS 3 network and load it up. And last night, after the twins went to bed and all our grown up chores were done, we sat on the bed, eye-balled one another and set out to decimate each other by unloading the destruction of huge gems onto one another.

Obviously, he is better at it than I am. All his years of gaming have taught his fingers to work on the controller at speeds that my fingers could not fathom. It was like a sprinter with fast-twitch muscles thundering down the track with a marathoner beside him, depserately trying to keep up but not knowing what muscles to make his legs go faster.

We stopped round about midnight only because I was tired to begin with after the day that I had and was basically committing puzzle suicide. But for half an hour, we weren't parents, we weren't adults with jobs, we weren't living with my husband's parents. We were in Melbourne, we were on our living room floor, we were telling each other to 'eat dirt'. Basically, we were being kids.

And that was great.

Tonight, there will be a rematch.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 08:11

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

A decade of Ondine and Packrat

10 years ago today, it was Good Friday.

10 years ago today, a girl got ready to go to a ball.

10 years ago today, a boy bought a girl a corsage and hoped that the night would be everything he dreamed.

That night, the boy kissed the girl. The girl chuckled and blushed into his jacket.

That night, they walked the city streets huddled in warm jackets talking about everything and absolutely nothing.

Unbeknownst to them both, that night, the both of them fell in love.

That was 10 years ago.

Today, that boy and girl are still pretty much in love.

Today, they miss those long walks and nights full of warm cuddles.

Today, they've grown up a little bit and have had some kids.

But their hearts are as full as they were, ten years ago.

Happy tenth year, my love. And here's to a many more years of being my lobster.

Ondine tossed this thought in at 01:35

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" Far in the stillness, a cat languishes loudly"