Saturday, November 28, 2009

Again and Again

Once again, the issue of the teaching (& learning) of Chinese as a second language in schools continues to be discussed after MM Lee Kuan Yew's recent interview was published in a magazine.

I see the same old arguments in the Straits Times Forum page: those who are die-hard "all or nothing" pro-Chinese-at-the-highest-possible-standard; and those who had struggled with the language when they were in school & who are happy that FINALLY, the Power That Is, announces publicly that the original bilingual policy may have been a mistake.

I have blogged about this before, so am not going repeat my opinions.

I am skeptical, though, if the changes that have been made to the system will work better than previously or not. I still hear my friends who still have kids in the Singaporean education system, lamenting about their childrens' struggles with Mandarin, and can only breathe a sigh of relief that my own two sons do not have to go through that. And yet, they can get by with the Mandarin they have learnt here in Beijing (and I am going to go out on a limb & say that their accent is a lot more authentic than the Singaporean accented Mandarin we hear in Singapore), and have enough vocabulary to be able to communicate (for the most part!) with the local Chinese in China for the usual activities of daily living.

If they wish to pursue a higher level of Mandarin as they eventually move into tertiary education, they can still do so, but for now, they (and I) are quite happy with what they have achieved so far.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Germs Germs Germs

Our home is a hotbed of germs; cackling viruses, rubbing their filthy hands with glee as they spread like wildfire.

From different corners of the house come sounds of coughing, sneezing, hacking, sniffling, groaning.

I should buy some shares in Kimberley-Clark (owner of Kleenex) - we certainly have given them good business this past week.

Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Aleve, Benadryl, Ventolin, Piriton, Sudafed....we've used them all between the three of us.

W. remains healthy, probably because he already caught the bug last month, resulting in being absent from school for almost a week.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


My guys are in a rock band. They have performed in school events, community events & even clubs in downtown Beijing. They perform covers and also write their own music and have now started recording these songs with the intention of burning a music CD/putting their music on iTunes, youtube, or some other website that allows music sharing. Maternal pride aside, the songs are pretty good & have found their way to their friends' iPods.

They have a passion for music, especially my younger boy. We have, at last count, a full drum set, a keyboard, a cajone drum, 2 bass guitars, 4 acoustic guitars and seven (yes SEVEN) electric guitars, each lovingly given unique names.

Neither my husband nor I discourage this passion. As a matter of fact, we are occasional roadies, helping them cart their instruments & various accessories (a couple of times, this included the ENTIRE drum set!!!) to the different venues for concerts. We offer constructive criticism on their performances, listen to their new compositions in order to offer advice, chaperone them on gigs. My younger son may eventually pursue the music business as a career path.

I know that my parents would NEVER EVER have encouraged me nor my siblings if we even showed any inkling of any form of musical or artistic talent or showed any tendency towards pursuing these areas as careers. And I don't blame them as they grew up in an era when poverty was rampant & the only way out, for many, was a good education & career in the traditional professions of law or medicine or engineering or accountancy.

My older son heads off to college next fall, followed by my younger one 2 years later. I always tell them, when we talk about what they want to study, that it doesn't matter to me, as long as they have passion in the field that they eventually end up working in.

To me, if you have the passion for what you do, half the battle is won...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Impressions from China - More crazy weather

10 inches of snow dumped on us overnight in a heavy snowstorm. The boys' school had to call it a Snow day which meant no school today for them, much to their glee & joy.

We spent the morning making a snowman, & the boys & their friends having snowball fights.

They say more snow is expected either tomorrow or Thursday. The kids await with bated breath, hoping for another Snow Day.

I hope not. (I don't mean the snow; I mean the kids missing another day of school while frolicking in the snow then bringing home a horde of teenage boys whom I subsequently have to feed.)

Much of the snow is gone now, since the ambient temperature was in the teens. My guys had their coats off and were outside in their tee shirts within 30 minutes of rigorous snow play! The snowman has also since collapsed and lying sadly on his face in our backyard.

As I said, crazy weather.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Impressions from China - Haggling

Location: Yashow

Products in question: 2 pairs of winter gloves

The exchange that ensues (translated from Mandarin):

A.: "How much?"

Vendor: "150 kuai"

A.: "60"

Vendor: "100"

A: "60"

Vendor:"No, it's too cheap! 100!"

A: "60"

Vendor: "80!"

Me: "I'm hungry - let's go have dinner."

A: "65"

Me:"Let's go eat, I'm hungry."

Vendor: "80, it's very cheap!"

A (giving in to a hungry wife):"Ok, OK, 80"

I hate haggling. A. loves it. It's like a game to him. That's why I drag him along when I go shopping at places like Hong qiao or Silk Street or Yashow where bargaining is part of the shopping process.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Impressions from China - Crazy Weather

Poor trees...

Willow trees with leaves still green & covered with snow!

We were dumped with at least 6 inches of snow on November 1st after the Chinese authorities seeded the clouds. Temperature that day was a max of 6 degrees Celsius. The poor trees hadn't even had a chance to lose their fall foliage yet. As a matter of fact, many of the leaves are still green! Some of the branches on a couple of trees in our yard have snapped due to the heavy weight of wet snow which was caught on the leaves (as you can see in the pictures above).

It was frigid the next day with a max of about 4 degrees.

Today, just two days later, the max temperature was at a relatively comfortable 15 degrees (thought it felt warmer than that to me). I only needed a light sweater outside.

Next week on Tuesday, more snow is expected (whether due to seeding or not, I don't know) with max temperatures of 2 degrees expected!

All this yoyo-ing of temperatures is really quite annoying. The snow that arrived over the weekend caught us by surprise. I hadn't even taken our winter coats out yet nor our winter shoes! So now, on our heavily laden coat rack hang lightweight sweaters, a denim jacket, a couple of leather jackets, a couple of layered thickly insulated coats, and a couple of medium weight coats - all this to accommodate the rather wishy washy weather pattern we've been experiencing.

Global warming? El Nino? La Nina?

Whatever the cause is, I wish the weather would make up its mind already.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Road Bumps

Whoever said that parenting gets easier as the kids become older have got to be kidding.