Sunday, December 31, 2006

...and we have touchdown...

Well, we are finally here. We landed in minus 3 degree Celsius weather under hazy conditions on a Friday night. As we disembarked, the first thing that hit me (apart from the frigid cold) was the smell of smoky fumes. Don't know if this was from emissions from the plane engine or the parking garage of the airport or from the famed pollution I've heard so much about...but I think air filters will definitely be a must in our new home.

We are in a serviced apartment for now until our new home is ready for us to move into in a couple of weeks.

No homesickness yet, however, saying farewell is never easy, especially to family members. That familiar cliche: 'Home is where the Heart is' is so true. Although I have my husband & children with me, part of my heart will always be with my other family: parents, sister, brother, best friends.

I have been nursing a cold the last couple of days, something I picked up during our last few days in warmer climes (no, one doesn't catch cold from, cold weather, thank you very much!). The dryness & cold here don't help my symptoms a lot, making my nasal & throat passages feel terribly uncomfortable especially compounded by taking antihistamines to stop the continuous sneezing & nasal discharges. Been trying to load up on fluids too - no need for silica gel here (humidifiers will be another must-have in our new home).

Hence my present entry at the unearthly hours of 5 a.m. in the morning...having been woken up by a very dry mouth (having to breathe through my mouth since my nasal passages are clogged up) & mild attack of asthma. No worries, I am fine - nothing that 4 mg of Ventolin can't fix. My good ol' trusty medicine pouch has served me well; it's something I always travel with - my own form of personal insurance, one may call it.

Ok, I am going to go read a bit, & allow the Ventolin to kick in & hopefully go back to sleep for a few more hours .

Weather aside, my first impression of BJ has been a good one - the people seem to be warm & friendly, very willing to help, and with customer service that beats Singapore. It has made this alien feel very welcome.

More later.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Holidays

Hijacking my husband's laptop to wish everyone a happy Christmas, & happy 2007!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Zai4 Jian4*


Chinese for farewell

Well, my trusty ol' computer will be lovingly packed away tonight by my husband in preparation for our move.

I will continue blogging when/if I can during the interim. Once we are settled, I hope to write about the trials & tribulations & hopefully, joys of life in China as an "alien".


Oooooh....I feel a tidal wave of reactions coming in response to this letter in today's Straits Times:

"Dec 14, 2006
'Hua Yu cool'? No, boorish Mandarin-speaking youths spoil the image

I can attest that Mr Peter Donkin's observations of young Singaporeans are true. I have many negative opinions of young Singaporeans too, despite being a youth myself.

My observations of inconsiderate behaviour among young Singaporeans almost always involve the Mandarin-speakers. While not implying that all Mandarin-speaking youths are rotten (nor are all English-speaking youth angels), an overwhelmingly large group of offenders are observed to be from this group.

This seems to stem from the Chinese school of thought which advocates 'If I don't take, I lose out' and 'If others can do it, so can I, otherwise I lose out', among other factors.

Before anyone takes offence at my discrimination, go on a MRT ride across the island first, and my theory will come to life.

On a train ride from Jurong East to City Hall last month, I saw three groups of Mandarin-speaking youths huddled with their handphones playing Chinese songs at full blast.

The three groups were in the same cabin. It was terrible. One couple left the cabin for another because they couldn't take the racket.

Many people glared at the youths. A girl from one of the groups declared in Mandarin and English 'Wa, wo men hen attract attention leh!', which translates to 'Wow, we are attracting a lot of attention!'.

Was she thinking that people saw her group as 'cool' just because her handphone played MP3 music and they were the latest Mandopop hits? I was outraged at the inconsiderate behavior.

The Mandarin-speaking Singaporean youths also seem to ignore rules that make the world an orderly place. For example, they ignore repeated reminders to keep to the left on escalators. They also ignore the markings that serve to allow passengers on trains to alight first.

A Malaysian classmate who recently visited Thailand spoke of how gracious the people there were, and their good etiquette on the train.

Step into a shop and you will notice that the Mandarin-speakers are rude to service staff and they never say 'please' or 'thank you'.

Based on their interactions with my peers, they take offence easily,

yet they have no qualms about being sarcastic and rude to foreign teachers.

Many young litterbugs are also Mandarin-speaking youths. When I visited Melbourne some months back, I was greatly impressed at the clean streets. I saw everyone putting their litter into bins, and there were no cleaners around.
While many Mandarin-speaking youths are nice on a personal level, their mentality can manifest the antisocial behaviour that I have mentioned.

My friends and I belong to the minority English-speaking

group and we are ashamed to speak in Mandarin in public. No, we are not elites, just normal teenagers.

Unless the association of bad behaviour with Mandarin-speaking youths can be negated, 'Hua Yu Cool' isn't going to work on us anytime soon.

Ang Lixing"

A rather unfair generalisation on the part of Ms Ang, I feel. There are boors in all segments of society, no matter what language they speak.

However, I must say that this boorish behaviour she describes is becoming more prevalent locally. It's the Me generation - forget about proper & appropriate CIVILISED behaviour.


Thursday, December 07, 2006


There is a loud resounding silence as far as response to this letter is concerned.

Dec 2, 2006
Mothers deserve more support from Govt

I READ the articles under the heading, 'Disparate housewives' (The Sunday Times, Nov 26), with much interest.

I am a housewife by choice, having previously worked as sales support manager for a US-China joint venture after completing my Master of Science degree. I also have an MBA.

When our first son was born nine years ago, my husband and I decided that I would give up my career to be a full-time mother/housewife. This decision drew sneers from well-meaning relatives and friends, while my parents thought I was wasting my education and talents.

We now have four lovely children. Motherhood is truly a sacrificial and demanding task but I have no regrets. No childcare service can replace the mother. Mother is often the best caregiver and teacher.

However, what bothered me is the inconsistency in government policy. When I applied recently for permanent residency for my parents, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) rejected my application with the statement, 'You may wish to submit another application for our consideration after you are gainfully employed for a period of time.'

Does the Government think that full-time mothers are not gainfully employed? As reported, stay-at-home mothers/housewives contributed approximately 8 per cent of Singapore's GDP, not counting the long-term impact on Singapore's future. This has been clearly documented in academic-research finding after finding worldwide, including Nanyang Technological University Associate Professor Euston Quah's findings, as was also reported.

Since around 1999, the Government has been actively encouraging Singaporeans to have more babies, offering baby bonuses and tax rebates in the face of a declining and fast-ageing indigenous population.

While one can understand the Government's wish at the same time to encourage mothers to return to the workforce, a policy conflict-of-interests and dilemma is inadvertently created.

The future of Singapore is in mothers' hands. It takes commitment, patience and, above all, sacrificial love to nurture children, for the future of the country.

The letter I received from ICA was a true dampener. Should not mothers deserve more support and understanding from the Government?

He Ruo Fan (Ms)

I guess one of the spin doctors in ICA is trying to craft a response that

a) empathises with Ms He's sentiments that SAHM's are important in the process of child-rearing;
b) will support the Government's call to have more babies;
c) calls for more companies to be more pro-family so that more SAHM's can return to work at least part-time (like being a mother is not work???);
d) will also support the Government's call for women to return to the workforce.

Maybe the silence from the general public is because many Singaporeans feel that housewives/full time moms don't really have a job? Forget about the night calls (i.e. night feeds/diaper changes for infants), nursing (i.e.sick child/sick husband), chaffeur (i.e. driving kids to/from school & activities), housekeeper (i.e. housework), accountant (i.e. keeping track of household accounts & making sure bills are paid), cook (self-explanatory), teacher (i.e. reading to kids/revision/helping them with assessments), COO (of the household). Oh, and also you cannot take MC as no one will be able to take over your duties, and also no vacation days either, for the most part.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


As the date of our departure encroaches, I find myself reflecting on what Friendship is, & how hard it is to find True Friends. In our new home in a foreign country, making friends is something I think of with some trepidation. Will it be easy? When one is far away from one's extended family, friends are such important & valuable commodities to have.

"Friends are relatives you can choose." I heard this somewhere that I can't recall at the moment. How true it is though. True friends are hard to come by. In my lifetime (so far), I have met so many different kinds of people & made different kinds of friends.

True Friends
These are the ones I have known from childhood or college. There are a couple whom I met as an adult, & despite being separated by continents, still consider ourselves dear friends. These are people whom I can share comfortable silences with - no need for small talk.

Good Friends
These are friends whom I feel comfortable chatting with, & who have gone through similar experiences (eg. Medical school classmates). When we meet, there are no awkward silences; we eagerly catch up with each other's lives & occasionally organise get-togethers to maintain this friendship.

Social Friends
These are the ones whom I may meet at various social gatherings or school functions. We may smile & nod at each other, then, if we happen to be seated next to each other at the table, are able to strike up a fairly interesting conversation about common topics like current affairs or the school system or medical cases (if they happen to be fellow doctors). Apart from these events, we would probably never see each other ever again.

It's a mystery to me how a friendship forms. Why is it that Person A can become one's closest friend while Person B, who may exactly the same interests as you, can not?

When I first moved away from Singapore to the US, I was petrified that I would be alienated, being a foreigner & all. This proved to be unfounded fears as I found a group of people in my neighbourhood who eventually became my Good Friends.

Returning here, I thought that I would be able to make more new friends, this being my home country after all. My True Friends have, needless to say, remained close, & we literally picked up where we left off. I also resumed contact with some Good Friends & made a few new Good & Social Friends along the way.

However, making new friends hasn't been as easy as I thought. Neighbours here tend to keep to themselves (at least the ones that I have had). At work, my life experiences although enriching, have made me into a strange amalgamation of being a local with a foreign "twist". In my kids' school, where foreign parents are abundant, I realised that befriending some of them is not as easy as it looks, as people still tend to be cliquish when they are in a foreign community...which leaves me sandwiched somewhere between the "locals" & the "foreigners". Plenty of Social Friends to be had, but hard to find Good Friends; & True Friends?....virtually impossible.

So I hope that in our new adventure in China, there will be more Good Friends to be made. If I am lucky, I may even find a True Friend.