I'm not quite getting my life together at the moment, and, the compensatory things I'm doing are not admirable. Well not all of them, but most of them smack of self-indulgence and escapism.
Joyce will be glad to hear that after The Straits times decided that the drivel that passes for journalism would actually have to be paid for on the iPad, and one of my friend's husband's implored her to give up their print subscription (he's also on garden leave at the moment, while he was working and traveling he insisted on a subscription, and now he's at home and actually has to read it, he came to his senses), I finally took the plunge in consultation with the husband to take out a subscription to the IHT. It was a close call between the FT and the IHT, (and we already get the Economist), but we decided that the IHT was both more relevant to people not living in London, and somewhat more entertaining. I could just scrape in with a student's subscription as my student card is still valid, and was most happy to find out that it also gives me online and iPad access to the NY Times as well.
Anyway, so my meaningless existence involves too much reading of blogs and newspapers and too much eating, and too little getting out there and too little exercise. So the old weight is creeping up so badly that I've actually taken the drastic measure of not even weighing myself every day anymore. Which is not a good thing, as the shock after a week of denial is NOT good.
I was rather pleased to find another couple of well written SG blogs, (some on the so called top 10 of various sites, including expat women are really pathetic infomercials), and started reading. And then I was called to arms. I'm assuming this is a SG advert that these bloggers are referring to, and I'm surprised that the whole country is not up in arms about it. Ladies and gentlemen, watch the advert below, read the comments of Singapore Actually and Anita Kapoor and the translation by Kirsten Han (not that much translation is required, it's pretty obvious what the advert is driving at.)
The "before" pictures are the reality of many a woman who has given birth. And it often remains their reality for a number of reasons, not all within their control for a good many years after. In a world where we should be promoting compassion, for ourselves and for others as a starting point, this is despicable.
As my fellow bloggers have pointed out, underlying problems don't disappear with weight, or with changing countries, or with divorcing a spouse or with the purchase of the "right" car, perfume, handbag or designer shoes.
Ladies, gentlemen, mothers everywhere, let's work together to get this off the air. And a donation made by the company to a woman's organization.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
I'm not quite getting my life together at the moment, and, the compensatory things I'm doing are not admirable. Well not all of them, but most of them smack of self-indulgence and escapism.
Friday, September 23, 2011
I'm constantly challenged to think about books and reading. Of course primarily because I love reading, love books, want lots of books around me, have a huge attachment to my books, buy books obsessively from all sources, online, kindle, in bookstores, where-ever books are to be found.
As most of you know, I'm also rather compulsive in ensuring that I pass this love of books and reading onto my children, in all and any languages around us.
And yet, books aren't easy. I don't want to be an old fogey and say 'it isn't like it used to be and therefore it's worse" because it isn't. In so many ways it is better. Way better. Children (and adults), have more access to books, easier and cheaper than I think at any point in history and in a richer and more varied form than ever before. A friend of mine forwarded me this article, reminding me how authors like Dr. Seuss who we take for granted, used to be revolutionary in their time. She also highlighted the great work being done by the Feng Zikai organization in ensuring there is money around to create great children's books in Chinese as well.
So what is the issue? Well, you know that before I've blogged on why the heck when my children were in Chinese medium school there was no concept of "just right" books. And now we're in the English system again I'm wondering about the whole thing about "just right" books.
One of the most fantastically wonderful things of their new school is that they get a mere 1/2 hour of homework every day Monday to Thursday. The homework is dished out on a Monday, handed in on a Friday and weekends and Friday afternoons are homework free. Can I tell you what a wonderful system this is? May I briefly praise it to the skies? And in addition to this they are expected to read for 15 - 20 minutes aloud. And miraculously, there is now time for this reading.
So now I've discovered a rather strange thing. My son is attracted to the most wonderful books. He brings the most interesting (and often heavy) books home from the library. On food, on trees, on music. He's suddenly discovered poetry and brings home lots of poetry books. Lavishly, beautifully, deliciously, sumptuously illustrated books. Books you want to touch and look at. But they are books that are wholly unsuited for the task of read-aloud as an exercise. They are distracting. They lead your mind in all sorts of directions. They make your fingers itch for pen and paper and paint and gouache. They consume you and subsume you. They have their place and I love them. But not for this task.
We've recently finished "The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle" as "HIS" book to read to me, and "Matty Swink" (entirely unsatisfactory book as it didn't have an ending, only a pointer to buy book 2 which doesn't yet exist, if it ever will, talk about bad strategy for winning customers) as my read to him book. So we needed a follow up book. We briefly tried "Illustrated Stories for Boys" but there were way to many pictures to distract, and funnily enough, for stories with so few words, the words were too hard. On to "Treasure Island" which he couldn't get into, then his sister suggested "Huckleberry Finn" from the same Classics Starts series as Doctor Doolittle, and within 3 pages he was captivated and hooked and reading like a pro.
So "just right", it seems has variations, gradations, and is about "just right for what". Just right for being entertained, just right for enjoying the art, just right for reading fluency without distraction, just right for information, expanding vocabulary, just right for sinking into a story. Just right for listening to (thank heavens for Naxos audio books for kids!)
Ok, I'm off to pick up my daughter after her 4 day absence and then to the hospital to have her leg and stitches seen to.
We took a trip to little India the other day - here are some pictures and my rather irreverent comments.
|The chinese original somehow sounds so much better ...|
|I really like the idea of this - multi-functionality enhanced by extra hands - even one over to smoke a cigar while the man with the facial hair and big belly...|
|tries to hold it all up - beauty ideals obviously differ.|
|check out that NOSE!|
|well trodden floor untouched by renovation (yet)|
|how to sit comfortably ...|
|in the back of a truck.|
|Singapore has sensibly kept it's shop fronts with overhang - great in the rain|
|anything you need, I mean anything ... wheelbarrow|
|oven for making something I'm not sure what|
|and thus he got the idea for the chainsaw massacre ... bizarre|
|Nice place to rent if you can't invite guests along... or is this Singlish?|
|Yup, let's just keep it nicely ambiguous that way no-one get's hurt|
|those pesky low heads ... got to watch out here.|
|got to love the fire escapes ...|
|Singapore does a darn good job of preserving old buildings - a whole ROW of terrace houses ... unimaginable in HK|
|but everywhere the trucks and builders are to be found...|
|Inventive ways of carrying an umbrella 3|
|How much is that girlie in the window ?|
|and other delicacies ...|
|I guess the CDL is the SG version of the URA of HK|
|renew, renovate and remove ...the "r" s of any modern aspirational city|
|Inventive ways of carrying an umbrella 2|
|Husband thought it would be nice to live in a shophouse - until he realized who our neighbors would be|
Inventive ways of carrying an umbrella 1
Thursday, September 22, 2011
There's tons of stuff I could / should be doing, but for one reason or another - mainly motivation, I'm not. Like sorting out the 3 (big big) boxes of stuff from my children's school lives for the last 8/9 years that really really doesn't need to be kept, but some of it is really sweet, so I do want to keep it... or their clothes which they're growing out of at a rate of knots. Or all the toys and puzzles that they received for birthday presents in the days before we realized that there were better things to ask for around birthday time than presents. Or I could be packing our winter stuff up getting ready for Switzerland. Or finding a diet to go on. Or reading "The waves" (our book club book which I'm finding EXTREMELY hard going - and that's after I cheated by looking at an online "swot" site as to what, why and who of the book, or doing some Chinese self study. Or...
As it was pouring with rain this morning, our jog around the reservoir was scuppered and I spent a boring time jogging on the treadmill at the gym instead (why the HELL do they insist on making us all watch reruns of NFL?????), so then hubby and I decided to visit what is supposed to be the pinnacle of shopping here in the Tanglin Mall. Not my idea, his. Someone had told him that was where it was happening, so it was on his list of things to do before he starts work. Before you think us terribly shallow (we have our moments), we did go and do a walking tour of little India yesterday. Photos to follow after I find the camera cord. That's another thing I want to do. Invent a way to sensibly keep, store and retrieve electronic cords.
So what did we discover? Well, it's not exactly the type of mall that we're into. In fact at one point he said this must be the mall where all the white people go, since I've not seen any local people on the shopping side of the cash register. And everyone was either pregnant or had a kid in a push chair. And all the shops catered for up-market motherhood. In fact the only discerning factor I could find in it was that most of the shops were "independent" rather than part of a chain. But the bookstore was bloody useless, stocking just about everything except for books, besides best sellers and a few kids books. So, thumbs down. Although the organic shop did have my favorite Yogi tea (at a price of course) albeit with all the benefits blacked out with a marker ... anallllllllll.
We did have a rather nice lunch in Yantra, where the lunch buffet was a mere S$18 each, and there were plenty of vegetarian options and the waiters clued up as to what was and wasn't vegetarian (one of the rice dishes had meat lurking underneath). And there was a more "multi-cultural" tint to the cliental.
I'm missing my little girl, who is on a 4 day 3 night camp. I'm wondering how things are going with her stitches, her brother also wanders around in the evening saying "where is she, when is she coming back?" even though he full knows the answers to both the questions. He was away 3 days 2 nights, and somehow that went much quicker and was more bearable. Also because I knew he was closer and H had gone with the crew to help with the border crossing and could give me pictures of his room and room mates and tell me about the whole situation.
I'm trying to think now what would be a good shopping mall for me. Besides having a huge bookstore of course... What would be yours? Actually I really really don't like shopping malls, I like shopping in the street.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
One of the best ways to get out of a funk is to go off to lunch with a friend. A long lunch, that when you emerge and look at your watch you realize it's already past 4 o'clock. What wonderful things friends are.
I've been spending a lot of time in the car. A LOT. SG has many things going for it, including luscious green, the joys of a garden, and space, but you spend a lot of time in the car. And there are a lot of cars on the road. And they crash a lot. So there are many traffic jams. I was reading the other day about how the HDB flats are having an issue with a lack of parking as so many of the residents have one or more cars ... as with many things in the media here, what is more interesting is what is not said and not questioned - which is how come people with supposedly low income to qualify for such a flat, can afford a car or two which can cost as much as a flat would cost in some other countries...
Luckily I'd brought with me a small stash of unlistened to audiobooks, which I'm now getting ample opportunity to work through (both for myself and the kids). My latest foray into literature has been Julian Barnes' "A history of the world in 10 1/2 Chapters" read by Alex Jennings. Yes, all 9 CD's of it have been polished off in the last 2 - 3 weeks. It's been tremendous fun, and I'm not sure I would have bought and read this book, whereas having it narrated has been great. My favorite chapter was 10, where there is a story about heaven and the afterlife. Somewhere in the story, the protagonist feels the desire to be judged and is taken to the kindly old gentleman who has reviewed all his files, and declares that he's "OK". Naturally he's rather disappointed at this. But he felt the need, as apparently many before him, to have someone pass judgement on him.
So at lunch, my mGF, who is going out of her comfort zone and has started up an informal meditation group for some mums is telling me how the thing she struggles most with is the fact that she doesn't feel "qualified" to run this group. Let me add, she doesn't charge anything, and the group is mainly about spending 90 minutes sitting meditating and sharing the experience of meditation. Out of most of the meditating people I know she's probably the most qualified to run such a group by virtue of the fact that she's been meditating consistently for the longest.
We've had long discussions about getting "approval" for what she's doing. She's spent hours researching how she could become "qualified" - the rigorous requirements for retreats and on-site in America training for running the MBSR course for example. The logistics of trying to satisfy your need to be "qualified" with the practical facts of having two young children at home and a traveling husband. I've told her to hell with qualifications, she's got the experience and the wisdom and embodies what it is all about. And then yesterday I told her about this chapter, and told her now I know what she's trying to do "get a small stamp from the big guy".
I find this a lot with the women I'm around. We're forever seeking official approval. We spend our lives chasing after qualifications and certifications and stamps of approval, so much so that there is little time left to get on with what we ought to get on with. I do exactly the same. I spent a couple of hours last night trawling the internet to see if I could spend another 2 years qualifying as a teacher so that I could perhaps do something along the teaching or counseling line.
This is in sharp contrast to some of the men I know. They're long on the BAD (big audacious dare) and short on the planning, permission and preparing. Unless it's planning and preparing to partake in a
BAD. We think BAD's are bad. They think BAD's are what life's about. I'll never forget the first time I met a guy who was into BAD's in a big way. He was a study friend of my husband, a couple of years older than us, and was off on a roll of interviews to jump a couple of corporate steps by switching companies. First he got his own company to up his salary and job title to a pleasantly inflationary level. Then, he went off and spent a sizable amount on getting a new, branded suit. Next was the car rental company where he rented a car he could never have afforded for a couple of hours so that he could pass this as his company car. He was a smart guy, sure. Was he smarter than any of the girls around? Not particularly. But he dared. And they didn't. We've lost track of him now, but I can bet my bottom dollar that he's on the board of some companies earning fees for turning up and signing papers. Whereas the rest of us?
One of my MBA classmates put it really well. Her opinion was that none of us would amount to very much anyway, because, we were all already over 30. And if we were going to be anything wonderful we'd be too darn busy achieving it to hang around a business school for a year getting permission and a rubber stamp to say we were worth anything. 15 years later, she's bang on the money. Sure many of my classmates have climbed the corporate ladder, those of us who didn't drop off the middle rung like myself, but exceptional beings? Nope. And I didn't notice any of their names on the MacArthur Foundation list.
Posted by Gweipo at 9:14 am
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
I'm in a bit of a funk at the moment. Just completed a technorati survey on blogging and realized that my blogging, what I spend a small portion of my day doing, everyday, is just about meaningless and insignificant in the blogosphere of things. I'm less than a blip. An old fashioned blip at that, as I still don't make any money out of it, am not quoted in mainstream media, haven't much increased my readership, have only 24 followers, aren't approached by brands to promote their product (if you exclude really, really dodgy ones). I'm having one of those big "why do I bother" moments.
That doesn't just extend to blogging, I'm supposed to go and get ready to go to bootcamp - I'm going for the fact that I paid for 2 months in advance. I'm not really enjoying it, I'm comparing too much to the great bootcamp run by the IHP at Sandy bay. Boy do I miss them. I do have the fatigue of purposeless ness. The other day I wondered if I could make getting my body into shape a purpose and then just gave up on the idea as self-absorbed nonsense. I've just finished a book a friend who was passing through left behind, "when hungry, eat" - talk about a whining South African trying to cope with the loss of privilege. I hope I don't come across in the same way.
OK, off to get dressed for bootcamp. enough of this.
Posted by Gweipo at 9:27 am
Monday, September 19, 2011
I received a bizarre email from a MOB member who is also a MOG (mother of girl) but definitely not a SMG (smug mother of girl). SMG's usually only have one child. A girl.
She sent the email to a group of MOBs asking how to respond to the following situation. A SMG had rung her up to organize a playdate between her daughter and SMG's daughter. So fine, so dandy. After all, in HK one can't take playdates for granted what with the 96.7% of the population that is a) chinese and b) firmly in the tiger mum camp and 3% of the rest that are too darn busy with extra this and extra that so times never coincide and the 0.3% of the rest of us who haven't discovered each other who are able, willing and dying to have our kids play with others, playdates are just not so thickly strewn. So when your children take a shining to each other, manage to organize their little selves to the point that the mutual parents are aware of the other child's existence AND are armed with the other's phone number and your phone rings - well whoopee you've struck jackpot.
And then the SMG lays down the terms and conditions. Was she a corporate lawyer in a previous incarnation (yes we all did have previous incarnations, how otherwise would we have found our husbands ... ha ha ha, sick laugh), perhaps in mergers and acquisitions? A social worker who only saw the worst of the worst in societies. Perhaps a probation officer married to an ex white-collar felon who's reinvented himself ala FILTH. My imagination runs away with me. Perhaps she's just someone who took a heck of a long time to conceive and now she's erring on the cautious side. Perhaps she's volunteered once to often in the classroom or on field trips and SHE'S SEEN THE OTHER SIDE (the second sex that is, nope that's us, females the second sex, only now anno 2011 little boys are the second sex).
Ok, Ok, I'm taking huge liberties with possibilities. The bottom line was, the playdate could only take place either at her home, or if said little girl's brother was not present at the time of the playdate. I know said little girl, and I know her brother. I know my little girl and I know her brother. For heavens sake, I had TWO brothers growing up. Brothers are pains. They get in the way, they interrupt, they tease. They have different body parts and feel terribly sorry for little girls who are missing out. But they're mh. Yup, in the famous words of the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, they're mostly harmless. Particularly at this age when they find girls generally boring and prissy and not really worth the time of day.
The general consensus of those receiving the mail was that said mother was weird. The more benevolent amongst us allowed for the fact that either she or her daughter had had a traumatic incident (hopefully nothing more than her pigtails being pulled) which had led to this rather strange request. We all had to think back to the days that the whole neighborhood of kids under the age of whatever age kids started pairing off just all hung out and played and there was no need for any "dates" to be made. There was a period in our lives I remember when we didn't even have a phone at home, and we just climbed over the back fence to play with the neighbors as and when we wanted. Everyone was always at home anyway, unless they were out playing with you.
There was one less savory incident when the boy living behind us decided to play "doctor" with my sister, who was considerably younger than the rest of us, I guess she must have been about 2-3 and the boys about 6 years older. The boy was a bit weird. Maybe we just found him weird as he was a limey (from the UK) and spindly and pale, with braces on his teeth, not like the strong tanned african boys we were used to. I can't remember how it ended, but I think it was along the lines that my sister wasn't allowed in their house anymore, or the facts of life got explained to all and sundry or something. Playing doctor really wasn't more than a little bit of exploration as to how girls differed to boys (he didn't have a sister) and was reasonably innocent. Does my sister have a trauma about this - I doubt it, if I remember I'll ask her if she even remembers it happening, my recollections of it are pretty vague.
Thing is, neighborhood kids were neighborhood kids and you all played with each other. My husband can tell similar tales of the great melting pot of socio-economic backgrounds and emotional stability and cleanliness norms in households in his "hood". No-one had to point it out to you, censor it for you, you worked it out yourself. Did kids make wrong choices? Of course, that's part of being a kid. There was a pretty awesome article in this weekend's NY Times, along the lines that the secret of success could be failure. I like this bit: "the students who persisted in college were not necessarily the ones who had excelled academically at KIPP; they were the ones with exceptional character strengths, like optimism and persistence and social intelligence. " Yup, social intelligence. You don't get that from your mum smoothing the way to a flawless playdate. Heaven knows, I try. When one of mine has a playdate I try to even out the numbers so that there isn't a 3rd spoke. But if there is - well, move on and get over it. Who told you that every moment of your existence was going to be exquisite, memorable and kodakable or is that facebookable? Do you learn more from sitting prissy making lovely cupcakes - no make that - icing cupcakes that the helper has already made for you, or from out foiling younger brother, or even better still, finding a role for brother in the play that keeps him both amused and fits in with your ideas of a good time. (Nope, put away that scalpel and doctor's mask).
My friend is a better person, more tactful and considerate than I. She didn't blurt out like I would have "are you nuts", or "what's wrong with my son" or "shove your playdate where it hurts", nope, she took her hurt and shared it with us and asked us where did the norm lie. Was it a cultural thing? Was at a MOG / SMG vs MOB thing? How should she handle this without ruining her daughters chance for a rare playdate? Has the world out there gotten so bad that we don't trust little boys anymore?
In a follow up email to the saga, she penned some lovely words, which, if you're a SMG and reading this, I'd like you to take to heart: