Sunday, 29 January 2012

A Quiet and Simple Celebration

Like every other year, I went back to Malaysia with my family for Chinese New Year.

 I was looking forward to eating the home-made 'beehive' crackers and pineapple tarts. Unfortunately, my cousin, the expert who used to make these faithfully every year, was too busy this year apparently. According to her mother, my aunt, she 'had to bother with two ducks fighting at her door too'.

The spread
I have always fancied home-cooked reunion dinner. Yum! 
 Lo Hei

 The fireworks I never got to see
I was nursing a cold and was very sian about my sprained ankle. I was in bed early on New Year's Eve. Although I heard the fire crackers loud and clear, my sprained ankle made it a chore to get out of bed.
 The kids playing with the sparklers right after the reunion dinner

 My tangy wear on the First Day of New Year

More and more kids each year
I can imagine how it was like when we were young - exactly like how it is now.
I am at my mother's stage when she was my age.
My little red riding hood

It was a wet Chinese New Year this year, raining heavily on the First Day.
I didn't manage to capture any fireworks or fire crackers' pictures. The kids didn't get to play much either.
Oh well, it was a safe journey both to and from home.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

I passed!

I passed my Basic Theory Test yesterday.

The test started at 6.45pm. By 6.53pm, I had printed my 'pass' result slip from the kiosk outside the testing room.

It was a perfect score: 50/50.

I was sitting beside a young man during the test. I peeped at his IC number. Oh my goodness, his IC number started with 'S93'. Isn't that a primary or secondary school student's age? I peeped at his date of birth while his head was turned, all ears to the instructor's briefing: that's right - 1993. Just 18 years old. I am just so overdue to learn driving!

In case a technophobic like me comes across my blog and wonders if she (technophobics are mostly shes) should take up driving, and if she ever does, would she even clear the Basic Theory Test, I am anecdoting my learning process here:

I had registered as a student at the driving school, gone for the 2 lessons for Basic Theory, 2 practice sessions and 2 trial tests last Saturday, and finally, 2 practice sessions just right before my actual test today.

I managed to attempt more than 350 questions within each practice session of 45 minutes so I had adequately covered all questions that were in the test.

For most people, I would come across as being too gan chiong (overly anxious) to go for so many practice sessions, but for someone who has always thought that the Expressway sign represents a tower or pagoda, and 'No entry', 'No waiting', 'No stopping' signs mean 'STOP', my worries are not too unfounded.

Furthermore, I had overheard two young strangers telling their friends that they had failed their test by 2 marks. I thought I'd better not be overconfident. Better be humble and careful and pass the test than be overconfident and fail the test, and worse, retake the test and thus wasting time.

On top of my worries of technophobic nature, I felt that a failed test would greatly demoralise me and I might not be resilient enough to face the failure. My enthusiasm to learn driving would then be watered down.
Anyone who is wondering if he or she should sign up as the centre's student should not hesitate to become one at all, because it's worth it.

The next step would be passing Final Theory in April.

Gee ... what a long wait!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Do Something You Have Never Done

You know the line:

'Do something every day that you have never done'?

I did something I have never done in my life on Friday:

I took part in a logo design contest by the ministry.

The contest details were out since last November. I didn't give any thought to it till late December.

I told myself I would give it a shot since there was cash prizes involved, meagre as they were ie. $300, $200 and $100  for the top to third prizes respectively. The most attractive part was that they would inform your school about it. I think the glory that comes with it is more appealing than the cash itself.

The loser within me tells myself: I won't win anyway, so why do it lah?

The Ah Q in me says: but maybe there aren't many people doing it, you know?

I recalled having to design a logo for a music school, ABC, as an art assignment during Sec Three. I didn't put too much effort into it. I just drew what I thought on the spot, painted it, and handed it in. The very next day, while I was on the bus home from school, I saw a secondary school girl wearing a collar pin almost exactly like how I had designed the logo, just that the name of the school or band was different!

So Ah Q won.

I had wanted to do it since Monday, but the week had been a long one. We had to stay back till 5 or 5.30pm every day. I caught a flu bug this week too. By the time I got home, I was so tired the first thing I went to was the bed. So Friday, the deadline, was the only day I got around to do it.

I searched for some related images for inspiration in the morning.

In the evening, at about 7 plus, I started drafting.

By ten, I was painting.

I was a little nervous though. I had to submit the artwork and the explanation of the logo by 12 am.

After touching up and typing furiously and nervously on the computer, I clicked the 'Sent' button.

11.36 pm.

It feels good knowing you have done something you have never tried in your life. And it wasn't a slipshod kind of thing. I did put in effort to do what I wanted.

The feeling is very ... ... Shiok!

Where is my ang pow money?

One busy, exhausting and blurry week after I had changed my notes for brand new ones with my sister at my mother's place, I suddenly remembered I should have a sum of $300 notes for ang-pow packing somewhere.

I looked high and low for it, then was frantic, and was almost on the verge of being hysterical when I calmed myself down, challenging as it was, to recall the series of events that happened.

I vaguely remembered I went to my mother's place to pick up my sister's evening clutch for a wedding dinner.

Thank God for Facebook! I looked up the post I made that day:

All in a limping day: Send kid to birthday party, buy medication at woodlands polyclinic, go mum's place to pick up evening clutch, pick up kid from boon lay, return home to meet carpenter, go wedding dinner at fort canning.

From there, I tried very hard to recall what I did after getting my brand new notes:

1) I was worried that I might crease the notes.
2) I asked for a red packet to put them in.
3) What my sister replied was a blur.
4) I was happy to find a 'thing' to put my notes in.

But, what was that 'thing'?

According to the post, I had gone to the polyclinic. I had bought an ankle support and Coco's medication.

I might have put the money in the ankle support box!

I searched for the box in the rubbish bin:

I remember bringing it to the bin the other day. Shaking the box, I could hear some papers hitting against it.

But what I did after that was a blur!

I went to our medication toyogo box.

It's not there!

Then my eyes fell on the ankle support box - on another toyogo box not far away from the medication box!

I opened it.

And there they were: all $300, beautiful and crisp.

I must have thought I could keep my ankle support in the box next time when I don't have any use for it, and that's why I kept it.

Thank God for junkies!

At H&M

I was at H&M yesterday, explaining to a helpful staff that the cashier on the previous day had keyed in my items wrongly. Instead of $19.90, he scanned the same barcode of another item priced $29.90 into the cash register, so I ended up paying $10 more.

I'm glad it was quite hassle-free to get that $10 cancelled in my credit card repayment.

My sisters were telling me they would argue with me about how my complaint could not hold water since I had taken the stuff home already. They would not be able to verify if I were telling the truth or hiding a $29.90 item at home.

I told my sisters that I didn't think it would happen, and if it did, I was prepared to make a fuss over it.

It's the money, not the principle. ;)

What happened at the cashier's while I was waiting there was even better:

I saw Leonny, an Indonesian family blogger who resides in Singapore, pushing her baby's pram away from the cashier's unassumingly.

I caught up with her just in time to see her family standing altogether at the lift.

For the stupid and naive person that I am, after the first not-so-pleasant experience of approaching a blogger, I called out to her,"Leonny."

She looked at me in surprise.

I stated simply,"I'm your reader."

She was a likeable person. Not pretentious or proud at all even though her blog is quite known in the local blogging circle.

She was very friendly and was those kind of person who are good at making small talks.

Her voice was a little husky as she was losing her voice, but it still sounded very 'earthly'. I'd imagined that it would be a saccharine-sweet one from her all-positive blog.

I just checked out her blog and she just did something that I have always wanted to do:

Take pictures for individual orphans and give to them.

Hers is not even a DSLR, but her photography and editing skills are amazing!

Thursday, 19 January 2012


I have been feeling uneasy about the need to stay till May before I can apply for no-pay leave from July onwards.

I was dropped with a bigger bomb yesterday: I have to set Science paper for P6 CA1 within one week, and Science practical test for P5 and SA2 for P5 Science during my no-pay leave!

Any teacher would know that Science paper is the most difficult paper to set. The questions alone are brain-wrecking (no mistake on that word. Yes. It's 'wrecking'). And what makes it even more dreadful by a hundred times is the need to look for pictures and diagrams to suit the questions. I have resorted to look for diagrams before coming up with questions. The pain is reduced by half when you do that. But still, it's the most painful paper a teacher can set.

Now, I'm teaching P4 Science, P5 Science and P6 Foundation Science. I have no business with P6 mainstream Science. Just because I've a daughter sitting for P6 mainstream Science at PSLE does not mean it's easier for me. In fact, I've to do double work because I'd need to read through the text and understand the concepts the students are supposed to understand and know how the students can demonstrate their understanding before I can set the paper.

I'm even more upset to know that I am expected to do work during my no-pay leave. If I'm on a paid leave, like maternity leave, childcare leave, yes, I can understand, even though I may curse and swear that the so-called leave is a 'work at home' leave. It's paid after all. But now I'm NOT paid. And I still have to work at the expense of my daughters!

I'm absolutely upset. I've decided to appeal for a transfer, and I've asked William to go to the MP to ask for a transfer on my behalf. I don't care if the MP agrees with my political inkling or ideology (not that I have any). I just want to get out of this f-up place!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Universal Studio II

We went to Universal Studio in the last week of the December holiday.
It was also William's and Baby's first time there.
He said I must take a picture of the expensive tickets. More than $200 for three tickets.
Our first stop.
Coco and I missed it the last time we came.
Everything was novel and new and we got lost and dizzy in the excitement.
The long queue - both the human and the crates
Me: Why do these people in the crate look so bored after the 'adventure'?
William: You will know soon.
What we saw in the dark tunnel

Okay, now we know why they looked so bored
Sitting in the last second seat, Coco was right beside a 'bomb' when it exploded.
That explains her boomed up hair.
One photo - $18 (?!!) Forget it.
At King Julien's Merry-Go-Round
At Shrek 4D Movie
Baby enjoyed the jerking chair but her legs were too short to experience the spiders' touch under her chair
Puss-in-Boots Merry-Go-Round at the Potion Shop
This time, I boarded it with the kids
View from inside
At Goldilocks'
What else but chicken burgers and chicken?
$11 for a burger if I remember it correctly.
More than $30 for a meal. Expensive, expensive ...
Steven Speilberg's 'Lights Camera Action' at the beginning of Hollywood Street

We could feel the heat from the fire. It looked realistic enough for a noob like me.
There she goes. The dare devil for the day.

Don't have to ask. She tried both Human and Cylone Battlestar Galactica.
And she went on Cylone at least three times.
She said that Cylone goes upside down three times in one trip.
A friend said that he only tried Human (the less scary one) and it already scared him out of his wits.
I asked William: Why are we able to identify China girls so easily?
William's answer: Their features, the way they look, the way they behave, the way they dress.
Universal Studio was opened till 9pm. So there you go, some pictures of the night.
At the Mummy Ride. No, I didn't take any ride. It's Coco's perogatives.
At Shrek's fountain
A vintage police car at the end of Hollywood Street
A stroller rented for $10 (non-refundable) at the customer service counter
Fireworks at 9pm

Before I left, I 'interviewed' a young girl at the gate while waiting for Coco to relieve herself at the toilet.
The kay-poh me could not resist finding out some things.

Me: How old are you?
Girl: 17
Me: Is this your full-time job?
Girl: No. I am studying. This is my part-time job.
Me: Oh, are there full-timers here in Universal Studio?
Girl: Yes, but most are part-timers.
Me: How many hours do you work?
Girl: Today? I work from 1pm. We need to fulfill 22 hours per week for part-timers. There are other part-timers who don't need to though.
Me: (Finally going into the REAL question) How much do you earn per hour?
Girl: $6.50

I would say the pay is good. William was telling me that a student he knows is earning $7 per hour for sweeping the floor at Universal Studio. Not bad at all for a road sweeper.

The Uncontented Me

THE pay review is out.

There are a few things I feel miserable not expressing them.

Firstly, one of my ex-bosses once told us rookies that we are in civil service, so do not expect bonuses of more than two months.

That had left me in disillusion for close to ten years - that the government service is also 'civil service', since they always call themselves 'civil servants'. And that their bonus would be 2 times their monthly pay at most.

The pay review splashed across papers gave me a shock of my life. 6 months' bonus? more-than-20 months' bonus???

Are they talking about civil service at all? There must be a mistake somewhere. It's either the ministers are not civil servants or ministerial posts have nothing to do with civil service. This kind of bonus is only earned by the oil or stock brokers.

Why are the other small-fry civil servants' bonuses be capped at 2 months as the maximum, which means most of us get one month or a fraction of a month, while the ministers get at least 6 months? It totally disrupts my equilibrium of the understanding of the word 'civil service'.

When I was doing my 'O' levels, there was a literature text titled 'Animal Farm'. It was a satire about Marxism (or was it Communism?). Nevermind which ideology it was making light of.

From my weak recollection, the book was about how the animals on the farm decided that enough was enough and stayed united to chase the human rulers out of their lives. From then on, they were on their own.

One day, the animals decided to call for a meeting to decide on some rules and government.

They selected the pigs, the smartest ones, as their rulers.

Then they cast some rules in stone. Ten rules if I remember correctly.

The last one being 'All animals are equal'.

As days went by, the pigs gave themselves more and more privileges while capping benefits on the rest of the animals.

Towards the end of the story, there was another line added to the last rule: All animals are equal. But some animals are MORE equal than the others.

When I was studying as a 15-year-old, I didn't think this scenario could apply to a democracy like Singapore, or any Southeast Asian country. Marxism and Communism seemed so far away.

Strangely, as I age, this book seems more and more apt, and relevant to today's world.

The next thing I am disturbed by is the observation that many people actually think that the paycut is injustified, or too much for the party to bear.

Their pay and bonuses for a year is probably enough to last most of us a lifetime.

How can anyone complain that the leaders' paycut is not justified? It baffles me.

And this is just the basic pay. We haven't factored in their directorship fees, allowances and other monetary benefits and rewards for their great sacrifice in serving the nation.

I find it laughable that some people actually said that other country leaders have their private jets and other luxuries that are not declared. How transparent is the salary package - all in all - remains a question to me. I haven't heard of Obama or Donald Tsang or other leaders receiving directorship fees either.

As for other leaders writing books to generate income, I think Popular Bookstore is selling books by a local political figure. On the forefront of shelves too.

I am surprised at how fiercely some of these supporters are. They tell you that you are ignorant, and that if you cut their pay, we are going to have an inferior government, the government will not be effective, and that Singapore owes its success to them, totally.

As if Singapore is made up of them alone.

For some reason, I feel sad that people think that way.

When a child does well, or gets into a good class the next year, I never for once think it's the teacher who sends the child there. I always believe that it's the child who works hard enough to get there. By saying that Singapore will not be where it is today if not for a group of people, you are discounting the fact that Singaporeans are a hardworking, competitive lot.

Another thing that disturbs me:

Most of our salaries are compared to other countries' employees in the same field, and - I am not sure about other fields, but mine seems to be pegged at a lower rate compared to some comparable countries, for the work we do and the hours we commit.

For the same yardstick, why isn't the leaders' pay be compared and pegged to, at a lower rate, other countries' leaders?

Why should a city-state, one of the smallest countries in the world, have the highest-paid leaders?

Why is their pay compared to the top earners in Singapore? Some people have mentioned Jet Li and Gong Li. I hope the review committee did not include the hollywood movie stars in the 'top earners' range. These two stars put in alot of hardwork for years and made tremendous sacrifices, including personal ones, to get to where they are today. They started out with little. Did the leaders start out with little too? Perhaps they did. Hey, there are students who work for pocket money in the holidays, you know? The stars have talents and good looks for all to see to receive worldwide accolades and recognition. Have the leaders proven themselves on a worldwide basis too? Perhaps they have, just that the ignorant me doesn't know it.

Perhaps it is the lack of transparency in the salary package that leaves people like me skeptical with the pay review.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Baby Goes to School

Baby is going to school tomorrow.

How ironical that I am feeling as if I am sending her off to a sacrifice when I am an educator myself.

Could it be because I know the going-ons behind that facade of education? Or is it the fact that I have contributed to the facade that I am filled with unease now?

I had hoped to place her in Coco's kindergarten. I had good vibes about the education and teachers there. It was like what I had when I was young. The gospel songs taught were original and edifying, refreshing. But because of logistic reasons, I am not able to.

The next best alternative would be this kindy - for logistic purpose as well. My nephew goes there too. But somehow I am filled with anxiety and a little of worries. Perhaps it has to do with the fact too that Baby is actually still 3 years old, not 4 as N2 kids are, since she is an October baby.

Coco worries too. She worries that the teachers might not understand Baby's language. William and I worry that she might get bullied.

I don't remember feeling the same way about Coco when she first went to school.

Oh well, whether I worry or not, Baby is going to school tomorrow.

Enjoy school, Baby!

You have been looking forward to school.
Every day, you tell us that your 'teacher' gives you this and that.
You envy your cousin for being able to talk about his teacher.
Tomorrow, you will get to have your own teacher.
In your blue-checked, oversized uniform,
Carrying your cute, furry, velvety-to-the-touch Hello Kitty bag,
You will go to school.
Handheld by your father,
Ponytails tied by your grandmother,
You will go to school.
Keep that smile on, Baby,
School is a place you will miss when you leave it.
Make lots of friends,
And come home to tell me about your 'teacher'.