Monday, January 29, 2007

Passport, please

I have no gripes against Singapore accepting more foreign-trained doctors into the country to practice medicine. If standards are in place to ensure that these doctors are adequately trained, & able to practice good medicine (whether as a GP or as a specialist), I think we should welcome them.

What I feel strongly about is the double standards that SMC seems to have for Singaporean foreign-trained doctors & non-Singaporean foreign-trained doctors. What one’s nationality is should not play a part in deciding whether one is fit to practice or not.

Why just a pre-requisite 2 years of conditional registration (for a Singaporean) as opposed to 6 years for a foreigner (according to current guidelines on the SMC website)? It used to be just one year for Singaporeans. The 6 year conditional registration for foreigners will be changed to 4 years as announced by Minister Khaw last week.

Still, why the discrepancy? Is it assumed that Singaporeans trained overseas are better than foreigners trained overseas?

I can understand that SMC may want to “protect” its own citizens. But when it comes to the practice of medicine, who will protect the patients & ensure that they receive proper medical care no matter which country the doctor may come from?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Impressions from China - Market Day

I am so happy I have found a wet market in Beijing! Somehow, FFV's* in supermarkets don't cut it for me. So when a neighbour (a fellow newcomer with similarly unconventional life experiences as me - originally from HK, married to American, have lived in US, then Suzhou/Shanghai & now Beijing) brought me to not one, but two wet markets on Wednesday, I was so happy! I found my leafy greens & fruits which don't look dehydrated/manhandled like the ones you find in Carrefour or Walmart (yes, they have a Walmart here). And prices were cheap too. I bought chicken legs/breast, pork ribs/loin, siew bak choy ,water cress, dou miao, ginger, apples, Chinese pear, watermelon, mandarin oranges (the mini ones which are intensely sweet - yum), mango & paid the princely sum of about 100 yuan** in total.

The northern Chinese don't eat a lot of leafy greens, for some reason. They mostly like gourds & beans & peppers in their food. Hence, one finds it difficult to find things like choi sum & kai lan in the supermarkets (local or otherwise). Well, you do see them occasionally in the aforementioned supermarkets, but most are wilted & not something I would use to cook.

Yay! Now I won't miss my Holland V vegetable ladies & Farrer market fruit man too much!

*fresh fruits & vegetables
**approx. SGD20 or US$14

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Impressions from China - Grey


That seems to be the predominant color in Beijing. In the almost 4 weeks that we've been here, we've woken up to grey skies most days. The number of days that I've actually seen clear blue skies can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Driving into the city on the highway, one sees a shroud of grey haze enveloping the cityscape. Even the trees are grey. The "evergreens" are a sickly dark greyish green in color.

I don't remember the winters in Pennsylvania being so grey. I recall blues & greens even in the dead of winter.

It's like everything is waiting for Mother Nature's magic wand to wave away the dreary greyness, & breathe life & color into everything again.

I await with bated breath.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

For all the Mothers out there...

I received this from a friend. I usually delete chain mails, but I couldn't resist putting this up...


A woman, renewing her driver's license at the County Clerk's office, was asked by the woman recorder to state her occupation.

She hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.

"What I mean is," explained the recorder, "do you have a job or are you just a ...?"

"Of course I have a job," snapped the woman.

"I'm a Mom."

"We don't list 'Mom' as an occupation, 'housewife' covers it," said the recorder emphatically.

I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time at our own Town Hall.

The Clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, efficient, and possessed of a high sounding title like, "Official Interrogator" or "Town Registrar."

"What is your occupation?" she probed.

What made me say it? I do not know. The words simply popped out.

"I'm a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations."

The clerk paused, ballpoint pen frozen in midair and looked up as though she had not heard right.

I repeated the title slowly emphasizing the most significant words. Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written, in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.

"Might I ask," said the clerk with new interest, "just what you do in your field?"

Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, "I have a continuing program of research”, (what mother doesn't),

“In the laboratory and in the field”, (normally I would have said indoors and out).

“I'm working for my Masters”, (first the Lord and then the whole family)

“and already have four credits” (all daughters).

“Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities” (any mother care to disagree?),

“and I often work 14 hours a day”, (24 is more like it).

“But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are more of a satisfaction rather than just money."

There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk's voice as she completed the form, stood up, and personally ushered me to the door.

As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants -- ages 13, 7, and 3. Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model, (a 6 month old baby) in the child development program, testing out a new vocal pattern.

I felt I had scored a beat on bureaucracy! And I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than "just another Mom."

Motherhood! What a glorious career! Especially when there's a title on the door.

Does this make grandmothers "Senior Research associates in the field of Child Development and Human Relations"?
And great grandmothers "Executive Senior Research Associates?"
I think so!!!
I also think it makes Aunts "Associate Research Assistants."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Impressions from China - Counting Sheep & Blessings

On the way to dinner a couple of nights ago, we saw three flocks of sheep grazing on the side of the road, watched over by shepherds...sheep, I tell you! As my sons "oooh"ed & "ah"ed over this sight, I turned to them & said, "How random is that???!"

But on second thought, I figured that in China, this wouldn't be a 'random' occurence, & it shouldn't have surprised me; the same way how seeing mules still being used for pulling cartloads of goods/cargo shouldn't have surprised me either (we saw this while visiting one of the schools we were considering for our boys).

This country is such a unique blend of the old & the new, the urban & the rural, the rich & the poor, the East & the West. There is such a disparate difference between how & where people live.

The Shunyi district where we are is filled with "compounds" comprising of "villas" mostly occupied by foreigners & the well-off Chinese. These compounds usually have their own clubhouse with amenities like indoor/outdoor pools, gyms, restaurants, even spas on their premises. The houses are equipped with washers & dryers & dishwashers, satellite TV links & internet access.

Interspersed within this district, I see single level homes clustered together like a large village. From what I can see from the road, these buildings have sparsely furnished rooms, darkly lit, a single bed inside, laundry hanging on a line outside. These are occupied by local labourers & "migrant" workers who leave their rural villages to become "ayi"*s or manual laborers or taxi drivers in the greater Beijing area.

Truly an eye-opener for us.

*ayi = domestic helper

Friday, January 19, 2007

Impressions from China - I'm homesick

Yes, I miss my family, my friends.

But I also miss the efficiency of Singapore. There are so many procedures (many seemingly pointless) in place for the most simple things. Asking for a receipt (fapiao) here is a big deal especially for large items like furniture. Receipts here actually have a scratch off portion that tells you whether you have won money or not; it's the governments attempt at encouraging the public to ask for official receipts which retailers have to submit. This is their way of trying to stamp out under-declaring by the retailers.

I miss being able to look at road signs & know immediately what it says & where I am heading to.

I miss being able to say something to someone without having a puzzled look of incomprehension being returned to me.

I miss my vegetable seller in Holland V who helps me choose my veges for a great price.

I miss being able to drink water off the tap without wondering whether I am ingesting carcinogenic toxins into my system.

I miss being billed for gas & electricity. They use top up cards here for gas & electricity, for crying our loud!!! So if we forget to check the meter, we may end up sitting in the dark one night.

I know these are growing pains in the fledgling days of our time here. It will get better. It will.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Winter Wonderland

Winter is, putting it simply, very very cold. We all have romantic visions of snow-covered landscapes & tree branches encrusted in ice resembling jewels sparkling in the sun amidst blue blue clear skies.

Well, yeah, you do see that once in a while, but more often than not, the snow becomes grey with road dust & mud, cars become splattered with dirty snow, & sometimes salt, walkways become a hazard when the melted snow freezes over into ice & the landscaped is covered by a cloud of grey fog. With the short days & long nights, it is no wonder that people get S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

Good thing is that children still see winter through the rainbow glasses of innocence. Snow is something to look forward to & to play & frolic in. Catch a snowflake on your tongue! Walk in the snow instead of the cleared paths! Would that I could recapture that magical feeling!