Saturday, 31 October 2009

To my sister

When I was young, I always wondered why I had her as my sister.

She was spoilt, bad-tempered and always calling me nasty names. She shouted and screamed at me when I asked her how to solve Maths problems.

I didn't understand what she was doing in my life until I was due to take my Maths paper for my O levels.

I was prepared to fail the paper the way I did the whole time I was in Sec 3 and 4.

That very morning, before I left for my paper, she happened to ask me,"How is your preparation?"

I shrugged and gave a non-commital reply which I can't recall.

She sat me down and spotted a few popular questions, and ran them thro with me.

She was a brilliant teacher for that day. I understood them immediately.

And went for my exam.

Most of the questions she spotted came out in the paper, and I could solve them.

I scraped through the paper with a pass.

That was when I realised why she was my sister.

Time and again, I'd imagine what would have happened to me if she had not been there.

One thing's for sure: I would not have an O level cert.

Then what? I would be working as a sales assistan in some tiny shops, selling clothes, or stationery, or shoes. I can't even work as an admin assistant or clerk. I wouldn't be able to become what I am today.

Thank you, my (elder and eldest) sister.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

A Good Reason, Please

I was called into the 2nd boss' office to explain why I threw away a kid's pencil case. I'm not sure if the counsellor had alerted the bosses about it or the parent emailed the bosses.

I didn't do it on purpose. I was questioning the kid on the whereabout of one of the loot and I dropped the kid's pencil case in my wastepaper basket while asking him,"How would you feel if somebody else throw your pencil case away?" Subsequently, I forgot to retrieve it and today, it's already gone.

I admitted that it's an oversight on my part and I would apologise to the parent, and would replace the item. The parent accepted my apology and she didn't want the replacement. But I insisted, because it's a matter of principle. I threw the item away, so I should make up for it.

But what gets me down is: my 2nd boss told me that I should close the case and leave it as that.

I'm disgruntled because we all know who stole the item. It's only a matter of principle that the thief should pay for it if the item cannot be found. If a company's fund is embezzled, as far as I know, the embezzler should return the money. But the 2nd boss quoted another scenario: the criminal is punished already, so he should be spared further questioning.

What punishment has the kids received? Scoldings?

No wonder thefts are so rife here. There's no consequence. Stealers keepers. There're more incentives to steal than not.

I also want to be a thief.

That aside, this matter, plus the impending big boss' talk with me regarding the crazy mother, which I got a bit of wind of from the 2nd boss, sets me thinking that perhaps these are cues for me to leave this place.

I think about going on study leave for a masters.

That would mean 'no pay'.

I'm not sure if I would be able to survive without pay. I won't be able to send Coco to her enrichment classes if I go on no pay.

If I can't go on no pay, I'll probably ask for a transfer next year, but that'll mean another one-year wait before I can leave this place. I hope I'm still in one piece by then.

But then again, many colleagues are asking for transfers next year, and their reasons are more valid than mine, so I probably won't stand a chance. I'm not even sure what reason I can give. Change of environment? A bit lame right? Disappointed with the place? Quite negative and not advisable to give such a reason. Probably might shift house? Also lame. He might counter that with,"Then wait till you shift house."

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Day 2: Temples, Lim's Garden, High Speed Rail, Dan Shui

We had our breakfast at the hotel every morning. The breakfast consisted of western and chinese-style dishes.

Western dishes included bread, sandwiches, ham and butter. Chinese dishes were some humble home-cooked dishes to go with porridge.

The small and cosy cafeteria

Chinese dishes
Coffee maker, with the porridge cauldron at the other end

Tian Hou Temple
Taipei has many temples. This temple is a stone's throw away from our hotel, so naturally, it was the first temple my mother offered joss sticks at.

Long Shan Temple
Subsequently, we went to the famous Long Shan Temple. It was very big and there were many believers offering prayers, incense and joss sticks there. A beautiful building too!

Lim's Garden
Given a choice, I wouldn't take my family there. We needed to wait for our sister before we explored more interesting places so I thought we could visit this place to look at the architecture built during the Qing Dynasty as well as to while our time away. After that, we could hop on the high speed rail just for the experience. However, we spent too much time there, the whole afternoon actually. It's basically a very big garden with different buildings such as the study and pavilions.

High Speed Rail
We took the high speed rail at Ban Qiao station on our return. A short trip nonetheless just to experience the train. The other stations were too far away ie. in eastern or southern part of Taiwan and we had nothing to do at those parts of Taiwan.

Dan Shui

Just before the sun set

The Wharf

Night scene on the waters

Lovers' bridge

The mango ice shaving that the whole world loves

We were kinda disappointed by the Ah Gei Fishballs. They were basically fishballs, just bigger, and with meat inside. Not much different from our Fu Zhou fishballs.

The ferry that took us to and from Dan Shui Wharf

I was amazed and amused by the boss of this stall. Behind the make-shift stall is the actual shop that prepares the assortment of fishballs on a stick. The boss was reciting his lines like his messages were pre-recorded,"We are shui dan qing nong (loosely meaning 'our water is tasteless
but our sentiments are strong'). Come and taste our fishballs blah blah blah ..." All these recited as he was going about his chores. His voice sounded as if he was touting his ware but his eyes were not making contact with anybody. I thought it very interesting, or entertaining, rather.

Coco finally got her wish fulfilled. A tall, tall ice-cream for her.

Barbequed squid

Tie Dan, basically century eggs.

Day 1: Arrival at Taipei

We arrived at Changi Airport T1 at about 8.30am and boarded the plane at 10.35am.
By the time we reached our hotel, it was already 5.30pm. Royal Castle Hotel The humble reception Our room key Our bed My parents' bed Dresser, bar fridge, cupboard, water dispenser
Nice bathroom with a bathtub

We were given a family room that had two adjoining bedrooms on our arrival. We liked the idea that our rooms were just a door away and the rooms looked spacious. The only thing we didn't quite like was the only bathroom the five of us had to share. At times when more than one of us needed the bathroom, it was inconvenient. But it was a little inconvenience that we could put up with, compared with the benefits of staying together that we enjoyed.

I like the cosy 3-star hotel. The service was good in my opinion. The staff were friendly and approachable. There was, however, no bell boy to carry your luggage for you.

We walked out from our hotel to find the MRT. They call it 'jie2 yun4(捷运)'. A milk tea guy laughed when I asked him,"Where can I find 'di4 tie3(地铁)'?"

Xi Men MRT Station

We patronised the famous Hao Da Da chicken cutlet stall. It was some uncut chicken cutlet sprinkled with chilli powder. Not as legendary as the rest of the world make out to be. In fact, the four of us couldn't finish the two pieces that we bought.

Some other stalls in Shihlin: Da Bing Bao Xiao Bing

Oyster omelette - my favourite food in Taipei. I had it on a daily basis. It's very different from the one we have in Singapore. Their oysters are smaller but seem to be fresher. No oyster smell. And the sauce that looks like chilli sauce is sweet and moistens the omelette. Very yummy!

I'm a sua-ku. I stared at the big, mo-beng, white fruit for a long time and finally, I plucked up my courage to ask the counter girl what it was. "It's bittergourd. Ours is white!"

The narrow and crowded pathway in Shihlin