Monday, August 30, 2004

The Singapore Fan

The Singapore Fan

I had a classmate in SAJC who was a born cynic of any government or any semblance of authority for that matter. He would make out every leader – Bush, the PAP, and the school principal – as Satan reincarnate. While I admired his critical way of thinking at some rare points when his extremism did not come forth through his comments, I nevertheless remained a committed supporter of the Singapore government.

His main line of argument always seemed to lie in the Singapore government aims being to brainwash the contemptible masses, cruelly but quietly suppress the opposition and limit our psychological freewill. His extreme one-sidedness was such a turn off that it made it almost impossible to even attempt to seek some truth in his words. Having not been in contact with him since SAJC and hence being more mentally objective now, I may agree to a negligible extent that what he said has some faint trace of truth.

Nevertheless, my faith in the Singapore Government has been reaffirmed with our new Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s debut National Day Speech.

It is in a big way a blessing that we do not vote for our leader (or as that classmate would probably have phrased, “that the PAP does not allow the people to choose their leader and simply, in a seemingly natural manner, assure continuance of the party”) because that saves a lot on campaigning funds, political bitching, and most importantly, selfish political agendas to gain favour from the masses by playing the popularity card and making promises not based on the objective good of the state.

On LSL’s Fatherly Character
“…as parents, I think we have to let go a little.

“Take some risk as parents so that the children can learn, take some knocks, take some risks, grow up.

“It's okay for children to get hurt. They fall down, bruise their knee, knock themselves, a few scrapes, can't be helped, that's part of growing up. If you grow up with no scars anywhere, you've never fallen off a bicycle, I think you are a different sort of person.”

What struck me was how he brought in his own parenting style and sincerely but casually advised Singaporean parents not to fret over having their children getting injured while playing because it is simply part of growing up.
I absolutely love this enlightened and westernised attitude towards bringing up children, because I have seen how detrimental it is for parents to be over-protective of their precious (which does imply that I hold the belief that most of my generation are softies). While working in the preschool, I wish I could tell the parents that too, with the way they express disproportionate concern and wag the accusing finger at the caregivers, over a small cut or knock their child brings back from the play session.
When my father was around more often during my earlier childhood, he used to give hell to the maid when my sister and I cried, fell down or even when we got a mosquito bite.
Thankfully, my mother was the enlightened one, and she was the one who did our entire upbringing – with an ecosystem perfect balance too.

On the Too-Good-To-Be-True Pro-Family Package
He definitely pleased the crowd with the jokes he collected from the Singapore community and more than pleased many with his family-friendly policy package. I was one of those who applauded the extended maternity leave (that would also be borne by the Government to ensure the employability of women), the reduced maid levy, the extra parental days off to “bring your child to the zoo on a Monday” and the 5-day workweek.

Yet, I do not suspect Junior Lee of attempting to curry favour with his new charge. I honestly believe he is bringing in his own style, and being very sincere about it.

On The Future Of Singapore
I am at this point quite assured that Singapore has been transferred to yet another pair of capable hands.

Sometimes, Singapore really spoils us too much with the unfailing security and decently good life she gives that we pampered babies take for granted.

I cannot decide whether the demographic, natural and circumstantial aspects of Singapore, or the leaders’ ingenious political moves and approaches have made the Government’s job relatively smooth-sailing (with regard to having the people’s support, or at least the lack of dissension) and successful.

One thing I do notice is how the Singapore government has always chosen the moderate path. It is very much the Singaporean character to me – not very daring, playing it safe. The leaders here avoid taking sides, but when required to, are very careful to downplay their stand on international or contentious matters.

My political apathy, and probably that of most of my generation, is a good sign that this government is doing a terrific job. Elsewhere, people get themselves involved in politics because there are things they want changed and government stands on issues they do not agree with. It is hard to get Singaporeans interested in local politics because there is not much to complain about, and hence, little to contend with, hardly anything to take it out with the Government.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Housewife In Distress

In the past two weeks, the main activity of my day at home has been mopping the floor. The pre-school stint changed my understanding of mopping being a backbreaking job that did not proportionately produce the same amount of cleanliness for the effort put in.
Upon quitting the playschool, I bought a mop and pail-on-wheels that weekend, and have since religiously run the mop over the floor every morning.

Today, I was attempting to stir fry my cold and hardened duck/seoh-bak rice with the brine from a can of mushrooms and a few pieces of canned pork ribs. My gas supply did a fast one on me. I know I have a spare tank, but I simply am not macho enough to handle exchanging the two tanks by my single feminine self (or at least I did not want to be that capable – I still need to leave some things for the men to do right?). I naturally called the all-knowing Mum, in my dependent-daughterly instinct, who provided me with a simple way out – microwave. Not that difficult, really, I thought to myself. A couple of weeks having my brain under-utilised with so much free time certainly has dire retardation effects on my everyday problem-solving abilities.

My average day during this pre-posting-to-a-primary-school and post-hectic-12-hour-days period begins after a luxuriously sinful 8-hour beauty sleep. I wake up with the first thing on my mind being mopping: should I vacuum instead, do both, use the terrazzo-treatment cleaner or give mopping a miss today? Difficult decision to make first thing in the morning.
If I am feeling motivated or desperate enough to maintain my 48kg frame with non-meeting upper thighs, then the first thing I would do is go for a 15- to 20-minute jog round Aquarius.
Feeling soaked and achieved (immediately feeling energised after a jog is a downright lie), and refreshed with my Gatorade, I would indulge myself in the newspapers, reading leisurely while having my breakfast.
By the end of this cooling down activity, I would be ready for my Big Mop, part two of the day’s workout, before I realise I have to rush for lunch and my bath if I wanted to get to tuition on time.

One of the little joys I get in my day is squeezing an online session while having lunch and finding a personal mail among a daily portion of “Farm Girls”-“Lonely Grannies”-“Prom Nights”-“Chicks With Dicks”-“Her First Time!”-“Paris Hilton”-“Meaty Sausages” spam mail. Another would be having a friend-to-friend chat with my Mum over the phone, or with Ly when we eventually have a common break in our day.

I realised my life has been reduced to a companion-yearning, activity-seeking one. I would have my hopes all high when I finally get to talk to Ly and awfully disappointed when the conversation isn’t fulfilling. I get all excited planning
what to wear just to watch a movie with my Mum and sister. I thumb through my handphone’s phonebook to find someone to call out. I have nothing to write in my blog.

I understand now why housewives in Tampines Mall (a mere heartland mall) on weekends overdress (donning on the full regalia of a woman – sexy clothes, heels and cosmetics), and why housewives nag their husbands when their men return.
What these women need is activity outside their menial mundane indoor jobs, a
chance to dress up and feel beautiful, words of appreciation, emotional intimacy
and sometimes, simply human interaction.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th of August was the day I passed my driving test, graduated from Comfort Driving Centre and bought my overpriced P-plate (those people at the 3M company really know how to capitalise on the unthinking state which the euphoria of getting that much-coveted license in Singapore brings about).

I can legally drive now – 6 months after getting into a driver’s seat for the first time and after one unsuccessful and traumatising test a month ago that reduced me to tears.

My first tester chastised me so severely that I felt as though I had been brought back to the days in my SAP primary school and getting a good admonishment from my Chinese teacher or the Chinese-speaking discipline master. With all seriousness and graveness of death, Foo Shou Way slowly passed his judgement, “Tsk tsk tsk, you’re a VERY dangerous driver,” slowly pronouncing each word clearly to make sure it sunk right to the back of my youthful and seemingly reckless face, into my head.

Then I went to the toilet and cried. It was only a test that some people I am aware of attempted more than 10 times. Yet, I could not help myself. Things were looking awful for me then too, with me failing everything I put myself into (screwing up my A Levels, not being able to get into a local university, having failed both my basic and final theory once each and being a wreck teaching Sunday school). But I had to stop myself from crying in the cubicle because I desperately needed to pee too and I had run out of tissue. My last bit of unsoiled tissue went to my face again when I emerged from the toilet and caught my red face in the mirror. So that meant that I could neither cry nor pee anymore. And that had made me want to cry more.

Anyway, back to Friday the 13th.

Friday the 13th’s tester was a precious Malay. There are only two Malay testers at the centre, and it is pretty well-known that the Malay testers are the nice ones. He was dozing off as I took my test. He took me on a heavily modified and very shortened Route 3. I was probably the first to finish my test. In spite of my temporal loss of time awareness during the tense procedure, I believe I was barely on the road for six minutes.

I thanked him excessively when he told me with a deadpan face, “OK, you passed your test.” At that point, I was simply thankful that I did not have to wait with uncertainty and plan for another test date at least a month from now; in a month’s time, I would have already been posted to a school and would have great difficulty trying to get time out to take do the retest. The gratitude was probably also a misrepresentation of the elation of simply passing the test.

Upon reflection, I truly had something to be thankful for. Mr Malay had not just closed two eyes to my mistakes; he had been both forgiving (probably taking into account the malfunctioning of my psychomotor skills under test conditions, and accepting that as a young driver, I am bound to make seemingly-unforgivable-by-the-Traffic-Police’s-standard mistakes which I will correct in due time if given the opportunity to practise) and accommodating (by appearing, whether deliberately by his kind nature or as a result of a heavy lunch on his alertness at 2PM, groggily unaware, as well as not updating his score sheet as I drive). The previous tester had furiously begun marking his score sheet as soon as I inched my car out of the parking lot to begin the test.

(I have bolded the two key words as I am fully aware that my long parentheses and multiple-conjunctions sentence structure tend to leave my readers, and myself included, lost in the original sentence.) (Do my entries make a very tiring read?)
Since then, I have driven to tuition in Tampines, to church and back home. I have also almost got into a nasty accident involving a taxi (it’s always the taxi), almost mounted the kerb in the middle of a straight stretch of road and driven my mother halfway to a state of hypertension since.

Monday, August 02, 2004

The Pre-Employment Medical Check-Up

MOE sent me on a medical check-up at Raffles Hospital yesterday.

First, I had to collect my own pee. I have never ever done that before, and even more so in a tiny approximately 3cm-diameter plastic container. I don’t have a kuku, so I can’t with my visual sense immediately take aim. So there I was in the one-cubicle toilet and figuring things out while my grandmother stood outside politely and probably over-genially informing those in the queue that I was “still” inside. I finally took a horse stance position, letting some pee out first so that it would disclose the position of my peehole, and then placed the vial under the estimated position (parallax error and all) and doing it. I still got my hand a little messy; blame the unpredictable stream.

The thin transparent plastic container lucidly exposed the strong shade of yellow my urine was. I regretted not drinking more water prior to the check-up. To deposit the vial in the designated place, I had to make my way there in front of the waiting area. Thankfully, Mama served as a convenient distraction as she walked by my “public” side to Location X.

Later, I had to get my chest X-ray. I was told to exchange my shirt and bra in exchange for a flimsy shower robe. Being braless was not the worst part (after all, I am rather accustomed to that). It was the waiting in the robe that threatened to reveal whatever was, or wasn’t, underneath, and in a common waiting area among men who did not have to undergo the same treatment, which made me extremely uncomfortable. A youthfully attractive boy in the white gown called me in for the X-ray. He was going to ask me to disrobe and place my whatevers against that cold metal plate while sharing the same room with only him – or at least that was the worst that I thought could happen. Thankfully, I just had to get into a constipated chicken position: head sticking awkwardly upwards to stretch my spine, chest pressed forward and arms hugging the metal plate, palms facing out, with the purple robe on.

While queuing up to change, an Indian nurse in distress asked me for the simplest favour – tell the two PRC girls there with her what they have to do with their clothes and robes. I readily agreed, then after a moment of processing what exactly I had to say, I hastily told her I did not think I could do so. How do you translate bra into Chinese? Anyway, I stuttered a barely cohesive set of instructions that included “nei4 yi1” and a lot of wild gestures. My sign language probably got the message across.

Then, there was the breast examination. I thought the female doctor would subtly slip her hands under my shirt. But no, perhaps because I was wearing a sports bra, I was laid flat while she lifted both my shirt and elastic inner garment up and in the bright fluorescent light, felt and stared blatantly. We were chatting throughout the examination, but when it came to that private moment, only an awkward silence was exchanged. Since there are visibly no mounds on my chest, I wondered whether she could feel any hint of a lump, besides potentially cancerous ones, at all.

Anyway, I cleared my medical.