Archive for May 2007

Happy Vesak Day

May 31, 2007

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It is Vesak Day today, a special day which signifies the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha. I popped by the temple this morning for brief prayers. I am not a very temple-going Buddhist. Neither do I have much interest in Buddhist scriptures or chantings. I’m quite bad, I know.

But last year, my mother took me to a Taiwanese temple in Pasir Ris for our weekly Yoga lessons, and I realised that Buddhism need not be all that.

Instead of the usual green-tiled roofs and orange walls, this temple is in a cool grey from top to bottom. No incense pots. No offerings. No flowers. No monks or nuns. Few furniture. The main hall has a mural of the Buddha, but no idols anywhere else in the building. It is quiet, simple and peaceful.

People congregate to learn Yoga, Gu Zheng, floral arrangement, Chinese calligraphy, and to help sort out recycling materials. Every week, we bring our plastics and papers here to recycle.

This place is about putting Buddhism into practice. It teaches Buddhist ways not through talk, but through action. E.g. The recycling efforts focus on compassion for others, including the earth, while Yoga and calligraphy tames the mind and purify our thoughts. 

I’m glad I found this little haven which allowed me to see Buddhism in a different light and made me more motivated to embrace its unique philosophy.

I am sorry

May 30, 2007

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Sorry seems to be such a hard word for anyone to say, which is why I have all the respect for people who can muster enough courage to mention it.

CL is a funky mother in her forties with sharp observations about life. She unfortunately has an equally sharp tongue though she never means any harm. Her blatant way of talking is what makes her so charismatic and special. But it’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes in the process of “play-acting”, people get offended by what she says.

Last week, CL happened to be present when I was asking a favour from my front desk colleague. I had something which some students were coming to collect, and I asked my colleague she could help give it to them when they come. “Eh hello, what do you take her for? You just dump things here, and expect her to do this for you. If you buy something for your students, you should give it to them in person, “ CL interrupted.

I knew she was being herself and trying to be funny. But on that particular day, I wasn’t in the mood for jokes, especially those which were difficult to understand. So I kept quiet and walked away.

I did not speak to CL for a couple of days, both because I didn’t have the time and also because I didn’t have the opportunity to do so. And of course, I was still pissed off.

My head was buried in a pile of exam results when I found CL standing next to my desk. “I am sorry I snapped at you the other day. Even a mother should apologise. Don’t take it to heart,” she said. I swept my messy hair aside and said, “Don’t worry about it. I was angry, but not anymore. Really.” I was taken by surprise. I thought she had swept this under the carpet, but she had chose to address the issue once and for all.

I treasure a person’s friendship a lot more when he/she can put aside his/her pride to apologise for his/her mistakes. It goes to show he/she has a keen sense of self-awareness and values our friendship enough to swallow his/her pride and ask for forgiveness.

I can never understand why we find it so difficult to say sorry. Even more so for the politicians. Are we afraid we would get laughed at? Are we afraid that in future people would expect us to bow down all the time? Is it because we don’t want to others to know we were wrong?

While saying sorry may demonstrate our shortcomings and imperfections, I think we should also realise that we will in turn gain respect and appreciation for our honesty and remorse.

A person may forgive, but finds it hard to forget, until sorry is uttered.

Live life. Do nothing.

May 30, 2007

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 “Omigod, Cher, is that you?!”

On Sunday I went out for 2 hours and got absolutely fried under the sun and soaking wet by the humidity. To make things worse, it was the first day of the school hols so all hell broke loose and Orchard Road was pretty much like Nathan Road of Hong Kong. I was very claustrophobic and grouchy.

Thank god I managed to quickly retreat to the sweet comfort of my home. A cold glass of water. Fan on full power. Mooching around in shorts and t-shirt. Far from the maddening crowd and obsene heat. Bliss.

For the past 2 weekends I haven’t had any interest in social interactions of any kind. Barely a few weeks ago, I used my weekends to catch up with friends, run errands, gossip over lunch, check out the shops.

I never stayed at home because I would feel I was wasting my weekends doing nothing. But then I realised I talk so much during the week, that I would really rather hide in my little room during my days off, without having to utter another word or make any decisions.

Just turn off my phone, and read the papers, nap till lunch, watch a couple of DVDs, drift off to sleep till dinner’s ready then continue to read, enjoy more DVDs and sleep.

I only recently discovered the joys of doing nothing perhaps sometime in August last year. I used to insist on having holidays with jam-packed activities, and felt uneasy just sitting around at home.

But then this job came along, and I used up a lot more energy during the week. Doing nothing suddenly became a concept which appealed greatly to me! My colleague, Kim, made Shir-leen and I laugh the other day when she revealed she spend hours just sitting on the floor of her living room, staring into space. It was her very Zen way of relaxing.

“Surely, you can’t be doing nothing! You must be reading, or listening to music, or sleeping or watching telly,” I said. “Sometimes, but sometimes I just do nothing!” And we broke into more laughter. Ah, Kim, then we laughed but now I finally understand, how just enjoying the quiet moments on your own can help to recharge your souls.

I’m quite happy with this arrangement for now. Especially since the weather’s warming up each day and streets are going to be packed with school children and their families.I might have tried too hard to get ahead of myself over the past years, and am now starting to relish the joys of quiet contemplation and master the art of couch-potatoing.

When your kids grow up

May 28, 2007

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Guess who are the students?

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Chui San and Eric 

My students from last term graduated last week. I got a few invitations from different classes to attend their big day, however, due to teaching commitments, I was only able to catch the last ceremony on Thursday. Many of them from this class are now studying in Nanyang Polytechnic, and many boys are waiting for army enlistment.

I was both surprised and touched that Chui San so openly shared her touching story about the journey toward her next step in life when we met. I was glad she found support in God and her family about her career decisions. Chui San is planning to pursue a diploma in counselling.

Eric Yam, the undiscovered acting talent, has now become my colleague! He joined the School of Info-Comm as a teaching support assistant, and we now share some same students. How odd is that? Well done, Cher! A very driven individual with clear goals in life, Eric is one whom I know will definitely go far in life. I have a funny feeling he will end up becoming my colleague once again some years down the road.

Looking at our pictures, it’s hard to imagine that these well-groomed people clad in crisp officewear were the same ones I screamed and shouted at merely months ago. Students should be made to wear office attire everyday if this is what it takes to make them well-behaved!

The feelings I have for my students remind me of GM, a lecturer I had in Cardiff. The class saw him very often and he soon grew very attached to us. He organised lots of social outings for us, and he even celebrated his birthday with us. Then, I thought he was a rather lonely man. But now I realise how it’s possible for you to develop such closeness to your students, that you sometimes just miss seeing their faces. That’s really how I feel about some of my ex-students sometimes! Just like how you miss an old friend.

I suppose that’s why it makes me proud to see them all graduate as confident young adults full of dreams and drive for life. Congratulations, PI0504X! You left me plenty of special memories; do keep me in the loop of things!

I suppose now you can drop the (Miss) before my name? 🙂

Should men be castrated for sex crimes?

May 27, 2007

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Candies aren’t all sweet. People aren’t all good.

Are you hiding a dark secret? What if one day you have to pay for your mistakes? If you have had enough of boring blockbusters, check out this indie film made in 2005.

Prey turns predator in this gripping thriller, when a 14-year-old girl finds fulfilment in terminating the lives of internet paedophiles. Insane, witty and streetwise, Hayley meets 32-year-old Jeff through a chatroom and traps the successful photographer in his home in an attempt to dig out his scandalous past.

She insists on castrating him for all the hurt he has caused to girls like her, and eventually convinces him to end his own life. Intense, extraordinary performance by Hayley, played by Ellen Page.

When you make a mistake and get found out, would you rather come clean or choose to end your life and take with you the evidence?

p.s If you have not watched Born Into Brothels, please go immediately or you’ll regret terribly! It’s still showing at GV Vivocity. The main takeaway I got was – there is only so much you can do to help as a third party. The people you are helping must first see value in what you are trying to do. Go watch and we can discuss.

Twister!

May 26, 2007

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While I was pouting at my desk after the Pete incident yesterday, Pete ran into the staff room excitedly to gather the teachers. “Quick! There’s a twister outside!” he shouted. “What? Where? Don’t make me run. I’m pregnant,” said Emily as she held on to her belly and waddled as fast as she could. I followed like a petulant child, angry and sulking still.

Students gathered along the corridor, filming excitedly with their mobile phones. It was a strange sight. Very dark clouds gathered in an otherwise clear sky. In the middle of the clouds was a white column which extended to the sea and was stirring up the ocean.

Today, I read about it in the Straits Times. It wasn’t a twister, but a water spout. “Water spouts appear when a type of cloud, cumuliform, forms during thunderstorms, creating low-pressure pockets. A column of water is then sucked up towards the base of the cloud.”

“The NEA said water spouts are common in tropical waters and there are usually one or two sightings off Singapore in a year. The last spout was seen in August last year.”

That’s really what I love about Singapore. Beyond a seemingly boring facade, there are interesting little surprises for those who are patient and observant enough to discover.

Pretty much like teaching really. You do the same thing day after day not knowing if anyone even cares. But a sudden word of encouragement, an out-of-the-blue thoughtful gesture, an unexpected change in behaviour, are the surprises, the rewards which keep me sane.

I want to kill my colleague!

May 25, 2007

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  Pete needs this stapled to his head

I am amazed by how irresponsible people get, or how they don’t think it’s so important to keep to time.

I was supposed to meet a group of Journaling Club students this afternoon at 2pm together with my colleague, Pete.

At 12.30pm, Pete suggested driving to Changi Village hawker centre with some other teachers to have lunch. We arrived there at 1pm and tucked into our food. It was an enjoyable lunch. We had chicken chop hor fun and yummy dessert, complete with good conversation and banana fritters.

Soon it was 1.40pm and I anxiously signalled to Pete that we should leave. It took another 15 minutes before the teachers could move their arses and walk to the car, and it was 2pm by this time. I kept reminding Pete that we should hurry.

In the car, Pete was singing along to his CD collection, and talking about songs he liked. I was having visions of students kept waiting outside the classroom and never wanting to come for another meeting again.

When we finally got back to school and ran to the classroom, it was 2.30pm. We were 30 minutes late. The students had all gone.

I was really irked by the fact that Pete didn’t feel the urgency to leave when I constantly reminded him nicely that we were very late.

He was a little apologetic, he said he hadn’t realised how late we were because he didn’t wear a watch. “Social lunches are long,” he sighed in such a pitiful, resigned manner. But what about my constant reminders? Maybe I wasn’t explicit enough? I should have shouted the time every few minutes?

When we locked up the classroom, he said that, knowing our kids, maybe none of them turned up. I wanted to kick his balls. He’s missing the point. So what if none of them turned up? The truth is we made a pact with them to meet at a certain time, and we had broken our promise.

We keep complaining about our kids being late and indifferent and here we are, more concerned about bloody chicken chop hor fun than keeping to schedule.

I’m sorry, call me anal, or uptight or whatever you like. But I think what happened today was extremely unprofessional. I am horrified that I did this. Because I pride myself on being reliable and trustworthy. I don’t really care if I teach in a lousy school. To me it does not mean I behave like my kids. We are supposed to have a positive influence on them for god’s sake.

I am disgusted and disappointed by Pete. I’m not trying to act all high and mighty or saying that I’m a saint and I never make mistakes. I am just so mad that Pete is so blind to his flaws and he has gotten his priorities all wrong. And I know while here I’m here fuming at my desk, Pete has probably forgotten about this and is thinking of what to eat for dinner.

Pete is an excellent friend to have. He showers us with gifts and sweet notes whenever we return from our holidays. But he is an awful colleague to have, and a poor team player in all aspects. He makes me feel like an awful naggy bitch who can’t relax when I work with him. Pete, if you can’t help me, try at least not to add to my problems.

Maybe I should just move to Germany. And stop having meaningless lunches with Pete.

p.s. I am in a really foul mood so if you are in a sarcastic, criticising mood, please look for someone else to arrow.