Sunday, June 24, 2007


So, we've been "home" for over a week now. It's been wonderful seeing family & friends, & of course, eating old familiar fare!!! The humidity has been awfully draining though. I am sweating even as I sit here typing this! Even though it gets HOT in Beijing, it is dry so it doesn't leave you with that sticky layer of oily sweat that makes you just want to jump into the nearest pool & stay there all day. I am looking forward to our short sojourn in Phuket in a couple of weeks...white sands, clear waters, sea breezes, relaxing spa massages...aaahhhh...

I have been amazed by the number of buildings that have disappeared & appeared! Scotts shopping center now just looks like a construction site shielded off from the world by protective netting & wooden partitions. Centrepoint has a spanking new wing which I have yet to explore. There is a new mall called Central in the business district. An old condo near the Farrer/Queensway has been replaced by a huge block of what I assume to be a new condo development.

I guess it shouldn't surprise me to find all these changes. Singapore has always been terribly efficient at tearing down the old & building the new. In Beijing, buildings half-finished when we first landed, remain half-finished now, 6 months later. Repaving of roads which, in Singapore, would have taken at most a week, takes at least a month, if not two. During the Great Leap Forward & the Cultural Revolution, many historical buildings & sites were torn down in the interest of "progress". Now, the government is starting to prevent more historical relics & sites from being destroyed, especially by money-hungry Chinese developers eager to make the most of the booming China economy. But I see all the massive buildings & apartment blocks & villas being built & can't help but wonder how these will eventually be filled. And if they do get filled, what does that do to the quality of life there? The population of Beijing is already over 12 million, & seems to be growing, judging from what I see of migrant workers coming in by the bus loads from the villages looking for work.

This en-bloc fever is scary. Left, right & center, I see banners asking for tenders of buildings & shophouses. I read about the ludicrously high prices achieved by certain condos. Progress is one thing, but I hope Singapore will learn from China's mistakes, & preserve what's left of our lovely old buildings & historical sites before it's too late.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Krispy Kreme....YUM!

Believe it or not, I only just discovered how good these donuts taste. We didn't have them in our neck of the woods when we were living in the USA although my bro was raving about how great they were.

Then last weekend, on our ladies only shopping/eating trip to HK, I told myself that I HAD to try them, by hook or by crook. Someone had told me that the franchise had set up shop in Hong Kong. So after several hours of walking through shopping malls, we rested our weary feet & filled our hungry stomachs at the Krispy Kreme donut cafe in B2 of Times Square in Causeway Bay. Oh. My. God. They were so good.

My friends had told me about the crazy queues that form at the Donut Factory in a mall in Singapore. Hours of queueing just for donuts!!! Well, I am not sure if I would do that, but honestly, the krispy kreme ones were delicious. And the customer service was amazing. The store manager took our orders for delivery at our hotel on the day of our departure, so that we could feed our respective children with the freshest Krispy Kremes possible. (We ordered a total of 72 donuts between the three of us!!! And that didn't include the 15 that we consumed in total before leaving HK!!!) He was so accomodating with our requests, from the size of boxes to use, to labelling them with our names, to the time of delivery (which was EXACTLY at the pre-determined time).

Singapore customer service could take some lessons from Hong Kong.

By the way, my favourite Krispy Kreme donut was the original glazed. No need for all the extra frosting & fillings. Just pure donut....mmmmmmm.....

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Calling

June 6, 2007; ST Forum
To raise professional standards, perhaps law and medicine should be postgraduate courses

I WANT to thank Mr George Lim Heng Chye for highlighting the importance of professionals adopting high ethical standards and values in the discharge of their duties ('Vital that we reinforce good industry practices to uphold our clean image'; ST Online Forum, June 6).

The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) has a clear Ethical Code that 'represents the fundamental tenets of conduct and behaviour expected of doctors practising in Singapore. The Ethical Guidelines elaborate on the application of the Code and are intended as a guide to all practitioners as to what SMC regards as the minimum standards required of all practitioners in discharge of their professional duties and responsibilities in the context of practice in Singapore'.

Since the days of the old Raffles College and King Edward VII College (a forerunner of the National University of Singapore) in the 1920s, the then college accepted Upper Sixth graduates and later GCE A-level holders in its medical school to pursue a medical course. Likewise the Law Faculty accepted Higher School Certificate (HSC) and now A-level holders in its law school.

Perhaps the admission committee and selection board of our local universities need to make a paradigm shift in admission criteria from their erstwhile and present policy of admitting young A-level holders and polytechnic graduates to law and medical schools in view of the rogue lawyers and wayward doctors who have surfaced recently.

In this regard, it would be good to study the criteria United States universities have adopted in admitting students to their law and medical schools. To be considered for admission to study for the Juris Doctor degree, an applicant must have a bachelor's degree awarded by a regionally accredited US college or university or equivalent degree from a recognised non-US institution. He must also have taken the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) within the past three years.

Most Ivy League universities require candidates to be well versed in a wide range of subjects, such as English, philosophy, mathematics, government, history, economics, literature, sociology, psychology, natural sciences and the classics. This is because these non-law subjects are all believed to provide exposure to intellectual tasks encountered in the study of law.

Competition to get into law school is intense as each year there are more applicants than places. Law schools usually look for specific courses in the applicant's transcript (political science, philosophy, sociology and history). However, they are more interested in the well-rounded individual than the young specialist. Some law schools also look for applicants with quantitative courses such as economics, business, mathematics and finance. The thinking is that once out of law school, the graduate will deal with the business world daily and will need to understand it thoroughly.

US medical schools usually look for applicants who have clearly demonstrated an aptitude in the biological and physical sciences but not to the exclusion of the humanities and social sciences. Applicants need good passes in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, expository writing (writing skills are deemed important for the study and practice of medicine) and statistics.

Harvard Medical School states specifically that candidates must have 'completed at least 16 hours in literature, languages, the arts, humanities and the social sciences and become familiar with computers'. Most medical schools require applicants to be good in English (grade B or better) and 'English As a Second Language' is not acceptable.

Perhaps our local universities should make law and medicine a postgraduate course and only those with a first degree (including those from seminaries) need apply to these prestigious schools. Hopefully, a more stringent selection process and interview will reduce the number of unscrupulous professionals churned out by the universities in recent years.

Heng Cho Choon

I agree, to a certain extent, with what this writer has suggested about making medicine a postgraduate course. (Not being a lawyer, my comments refer only to Medicine). Not so much because I think it would "reduce the number of unscrupulous professionals churned out by the universities in recent years", but because I think that the tender age of 18 is too young for the average teen to make a firm decision about what he/she wants to do with the rest of his/her life.

I can almost hear the collective groans of doctors-to-be at the thought of an additional 4 years of undergraduate study before med school + residency +/- fellowship. I know there will be added cost, & with the so-called shortage of doctors in Singapore, it would take a longer time to train a fully qualified doctor.

However, I think that the additional pre-requisites of the humanities & social sciences would not only make for more well-rounded doctors, but the extra years of study would also add much needed maturity to potential doctors, & perhaps give them the chance to make the right decision with regards to their career path. At 18, many are still not emotionally mature; with the added years of studying something else in addition to the sciences, it could make the difference & produce doctors who can truly regard their profession as a calling.

Friday, June 08, 2007

My Son, The Rocker

My 13-year-old has discovered the advantages of being a really good lead guitarist in a rock group. (Before anyone starts accusing me of being a biased mom, there have been quite a few other more objective people who have commented favorably on his skills as a guitarist at his age - heh heh).

For the last couple of months, my basement has been turned into a rehearsal studio for his band to practise for a Middle School "rock concert" which happened last week.

This was the song they did:

It has been loud. Real loud.

There were teenagers running in & out of our home after school almost everyday. And recently, I discovered that among these teens were also a bunch of groupies - MY SON HAS GROUPIES??? But he's my baby boy!!!

Anyway, apparently, he has become quite popular among the ladies due to his reputation as a rock guitarist, especially after the performance. He pointed out from his yearbook who were the girls who like him (although, he clarified, he doesn't reciprocate the feelings).

This is new territory for me. My older boy has lots of friends, both girls & boys, but not the target of adulation. I will have to tread carefully & slowly through this.

O, sweet child o' mine, is growing up...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Impressions from China - Mandarin 101 - Idioms

入乡随俗 (rù xiāng suí sú )

Literally, it means to enter a village, to follow the custom.

The English equivalent would be: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

I am sure there are many other sayings in other languages which mean the same thing; nonethelss, I was surprised to discover this saying in Chinese. Goes to show how limited my Chinese vocab is.

Sea Turtles

The Chinese here use a term 海龟 (hǎiguī) to describe emigrants who return to their homeland after a period of time spent overseas, much like the returning sea turtles who return to shore after spending most of their lives in the open seas.

I will be a sea turtle next week when we return to Singapore during the school summer break. We've only been gone less than six months, but it feels like it's been longer than that. I guess much of it is because now, we actually do feel quite at home here in this foreign land. We have a comfortable home, my boys have found friends they can "hang" with, we know where to go for groceries & shopping, we know where the good restaurants are(although the latter knowledge is always expanding!) & I have found exciting new things to do here which I probably would not have been able to do in Singapore.

I have previously blogged before, about the notion of where home is, given the fact that our family has lived in 3 countries over the last 15 years...not quite the norm compared to my extended family, my friends & the colleagues whom I have worked with, but still not as nomadic as some expats I've known who have had to move every 2 to 3 years with children & family dog in tow!

It will be nice to be "home" again - family, friends, familiar foods, places & sights - like a comfortable shoe that one slips into & say, "Aaahhh...that feels good..." (not that I am comparing family & friends to shoes, just the emotion that is evoked *Grin*).

Having said that, I also look forward to coming back here after the summer break, to meet up again with other sea turtles who will also be returning home to various parts of the globe during the summer before, again, going out to sea again.

I have found a comraderie with others like me, who, although (or despite) coming from different ethnic backgrounds & nationalities, have still been able to enjoy each others company, exchanging life stories & experiences. If only the rest of the world shared the same sentiments, & realize that the only important "Race" is the human one, the Earth would be a much more peaceful place to live in, wouldn't it?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Impressions from China - Massage Therapy

I am afraid that I have become quite addicted to massages, both body & feet. I can't do without my weekly fix of being kneaded/pressed/stretched, especially after riding, or sitting in front of the computer.

Before moving here, I limited my massages to once every two weeks or so. When I was working full-time, it was even less frequent, because of time constraints (although Lord knows I needed it more then, what with stiff shoulder muscles from prolonged sitting, & tension headaches from stress!).

I don't know much about the therapeutic value of foot reflexology - apparently, it can diagnose & "cure" conditions like kidney problems according to this article. True or not, it sure feels good.

I first discovered the pleasure of massage therapy at a spa in Phuket, during a family holiday at one of the resorts there (I think it was the Marriott) quite a few years ago. Hubby & I treated ourselves to a full body aromatherapy massage. When the masseuse kneaded my very tense & sore back muscles, I almost groaned out loud in ecstasy...aaahhh...the pleasure....

Now, living here, where massages are so cheap compared to Singapore (50 yuan can get you a full hour body massage; 80 yuan for 2 hours of foot relexology & body massage), I have had the pleasure of trying out various massage centers (I don't like the term "massage parlors" which seems to have negative connotations) to find the best & most value-for-money massage I can find.

I categorize the various methods of massage as follows:

a) The Kneader - usually found in spa resorts, and described as Swedish massage, this is great for tense muscles as it helps to loosen up the knots.

b) The Rocker - certain Chinese massage therapists use this method. They press & at the same time, rock the back/limb from side to side. Not too sure why, but it certainly helped with my sprained back!

c) The Presser - uses pressure on certain key tension points on various parts of the body. Don't know why it works, but it does. Sometimes is hurts like hell when the pressure is being applied, but after that, the tightness & soreness of the area is gone.

d) The Rubber - too light handed for me. If I need a foot rub, I'd do it myself. Sometimes, it generates a lot of warmth over the area, which I suppose acts like heat therapy to relieve pain.