Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 Favorite Things

Here are my favorite things of 2010:

  1. My handy dandy Brother ES-2400 sewing machine which I have used to make so many quilted gifts for family & friends!
  2. My iriver e-reader & Nookbook (technically my husband's but then what's his is mine too :)) - it has widened the choice of books available to me infinitely, especially here in English books -deprived China. Now it follows me to the gym & makes my workout much shorter than it seems (thank God), & I can carry it along with me if I am stuck in traffic (a frequent occurence in Beijing) & yes, I will admit it, it also makes for bathroom reading. And don't forget that it is much greener than buying actual paper books!
  3. The Garmin GPS navigator - one of our best buys of the year! It was invaluable during our road trips in the US, enabling us to find not only our destinations, but also last minute stops at supermarkets/movie theater/restaurants/department stores etc.
  4. My new favorite restaurant in Beijing: Hatsune! I usually am not a fan of sashimi, but the salmon here is to die for...
  5. One of my favorite reads of the year, "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortensen.
Merry Christmas & Happy 2011!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Impressions from China - Corruption etc

For those who have lived/are living in China, this article should not come as a surprise.

Sad to say, I do not have a favorable opinion of the Chinese insofar as ethics is concerned. Money is the god that is worshiped here. Anything goes. Contaminated milk, medicine, toothpaste and what have you...ethics be damned. Anything for some extra money in ones' pockets. Whether you are a government official or a private entrepreneur does not matter.

It is fine & dandy that those who get caught are punished (severely, by world standards: some are executed). And Chinese history has shown that breaking the law comes with harsh punishment (if caught, that is). But this has not seemed to deter those who are determined to make that extra buck, no matter the consequences.

Doing business here, or the mere simple act of shopping in a local market can be dicey. For those new to these shores, getting cheated or being charged exorbitantly is not uncommon. Hence my aversion to bargain shopping at places like Silk Street or Hong Qiao, where foreigners are seen by the vendors as prime bait carrying wallets full of cash, ripe for the picking.

This aspect darkens the glory & achievements of the Chinese civilization. Along with civilized social behavior, & proper traffic etiquette, the Chinese need to catch up with the rest of the developed world in realizing what ethical behavior is.

Otherwise, China will remain, essentially, just one big cowboy town with a heck of a lot of economic clout. A scary thought indeed.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Cheer

Our house is decorated with Christmassy paraphernalia, both old & new.

There are our precious ornaments collected over the years, hanging on our Christmas tree...


Nostalgic pieces...



This was hand-made by Z. in preschool...


And this by W...


A fairly recent addition...



Then there are our Christmas stockings which used to hang over our fireplace in Pennsylvania but have since hung on staircase banners or wooden decorative grills or whatever else space I could find to hang them from, for lack of a proper fireplace!



Then there are these two snowmen buddies, & our snowman sitting on a wreath, bought right here in Beijing 3 years ago...


And our latest addition, this Christmas bunting, handmade by a very craft-y friend here in Beijing; the very same friend who introduced me to the world of Quilting. I will soon have to say farewell to her as she will leave Beijing in several months' time :(...but this memento will stay in our collection of precious Christmas possessions that have followed us around the world ...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reconnecting again

Z. comes back to Beijing in less than a week to spend his Winter break with us. We are all looking forward to the reunion.

I met with a couple of friends, ex-classmates from medical school, who were here with their family on holiday recently. Their kids are younger - one in primary school, the other in secondary school. He asked me how I feel about being an almost-empty-nester to which I reply that I am looking forward to the next phase in my life.

However, to reach the next phase, we will have to go through the transition of separating with W. Now, THAT, I do not look forward to.

Monday, December 06, 2010

New York

For some reason, being in New York City always seems to put me on edge.

Maybe it's the crowded & dirty sidewalks, with people milling around or walking to their destinations or tourists/locals talking loudly to each other.
Or the heavy traffic & honking & often heard sirens of the police car/ambulance/firetruck.
Or the sight of the homeless drunk stumbling along or trying to stay warm under his pile of raggedy blankets & cardboard boxes.

Great place to visit. But I don't think I could ever live here comfortably. Give me the wide open spaces or suburbia anytime.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Yearnings

I felt rather depressed walking through the supermarket this afternoon for the last time before heading "home" to Beijing.

The abundant variety & availability of anything you may need to stock your pantry was almost too much to bear. The high prices of imported goods (the limited selection that is actually available) in Beijing add salt to the wound.

The locals take it for granted, this convenience.

We have packed our suitcases to the brim as we prepare to head home in a couple of days.

Until next time, America....

Sigh.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

20

I guess ours was, what one would call, a whirlwind romance. We knew within 6 weeks of meeting each other that "This was IT". We knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, as mates, partners for life.

To call it being 'madly in love' was an understatement. We spent almost every single free minute we had together, in each others' company. We were an unlikely pair: an American Naval Officer, and an exhausted intern who had never met that special someone who sparked even the remotest of romantic interest. Until him.

That was just over 20 years ago.

Tomorrow, we celebrate our 20th year together as a wedded couple. The intense, passionate, fiery feelings have smoldered into a deeper and lasting emotion. As with most marriages, we've had our ups and downs, but through it all, the constant love has always been there.

Happy Anniversary, A. What a ride it has been.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In America

Whenever I come back to America, I
  • don't have to look at the air pollution index before venturing outside
  • enjoy unfettered internet access
  • don't worry about being knocked down at a pedestrian crossing when I have right of way
  • wander the aisles of the supermarkets in wide-eyed wonder
  • say hi, how are you to virtual strangers
It's wonderful.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving

On this day of thanks, I am thankful for

the love & support of my family, both nuclear & extended
the chance to explore & experience this world way beyond what I have ever imagined being able to do so
my two darling boys who have grown into strong dependable young men

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Separation (again)

Much as I am happy that Z. has transitioned well, it doesn't make separating any easier.

We will see him in three weeks when he comes back to Beijing for his winter break. But saying farewell still tugs at my heart.

I suspect that the separation process will never be absolutely painless, no matter how old my children are.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reconnection

It has been wonderful for A. & I to see Z. again. He looks well, enjoying college life, having made some good friends to hang out with & to study with.

He has transitioned well, my teddy-bear-son.

I am content.

Now for Round 2 with W.....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reconnecting

It's been 3 and a half months since I left Z. halfway across the world to attend college. This is the longest we've ever been apart since he was born. I have to say, though, that the separation DOES get easier. I suppose it's the natural progression of life after all, the young separating from their parental units.

I see him again this weekend when I travel with A. to the US of A. I can't wait, thrilled at the prospect of being able to see him, hug him, talk to him face to face (as opposed to via Facetime), see his dorm room, meet his room mate, his friends, see whom he hangs out with, where he has his meals - basically stuff that moms are concerned about.

In the words of Borat, I am so excite!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Impressions from China - winter

You know Winter is approaching when
  • you feel the frigid, chilled-to-the-bone cold when you go outside
  • you smell the distinctive odor of charcoal smoke (in the area where we live, charcoal is the main source of heat)
  • you are reluctant to leave the warm & steamy shower stall after your shower
  • your skin starts to dry up, looks like fish scales, and feels like sandpaper
  • riding your bike to school no longer seems very appealing

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Maternal Pride

Tonight, I watched as my younger son, W., give an absolutely fantastic performance on the timpani in "Carmina Burana". At the post-concert reception, many parents congratulated & praised his work; his band teacher walked up to me, extended his hand to shake mine, and said what a great job W. had done, not just in his performance, but also in his leadership skills as section leader in class.

Nothing warms a mother's heart more than to hear such kind words & unwavering praise of one's offspring.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Impressions from China - Chinese wedding

I witnessed a bizarre scene today while working out at the gym.

See, our clubhouse has a lakeside al fresco area that is popularly used for events like, in this case, a wedding. Thing is, it is in full sight of the people working out in the gym.

This morning, I saw the area decked out for a wedding. Orange streamers, orange flowers in bouquets. I saw the groom dressed in a formal suit, the bride in a Western-style cream-colored bridal gown holding a bouquet of orange flowers (I'm thinking the theme is Orange).

The bride was waiting near the entrance to the lakeside area, just adjacent to the gym. We heard the MC speaking over the PA system, at full blast, in Mandarin, then a child's voice, speaking in a cutesy way, something about switching off hand phones (I think).

Then the introductory part of the theme from Star Wars starts playing, at which point the bride starts walking into the celebratory area (& where A. asks softly into my ear, "Where's Darth Vader?" to which I burst out into uncontrollable laughter - fortunately, we were in the gym, out of earshot of the bridal party - in any case, with the volume at full blast, I doubt we would have been overheard anyway). The Star Wars theme segueways into the theme from Exodus followed by a few bars from the Amazing Race theme song.

I am not kidding you.

Then the groom starts speaking & shouts "I love you" (in Mandarin) among other things which I did not understand.

Then I was done with my workout.

It was pretty surreal.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Aches & Pains

Groan.

Moan.

I played basketball today for the first time in 26 years. And boy, am I sore. The knees are wobbly, and the back aches; I can't imagine how much worse it will be tomorrow as these things generally feel worse the next day.

I used to be extremely active in university. Softball, volleyball, tennis, basketball...even played for my Faculty. However, after graduation, my physical activity level dropped tremendously due to work, and then motherhood.

Now, with age catching up, I try to make it to the gym every other day, in the hope that it will improve my cardiovascular health.

Despite my fairly regular gym-ming, I realize that competitive basketball is way way way beyond my capability now.

Sigh.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bookaholic

Despite have an e-reader, I still find myself inexplicably drawn towards bookstores in the USA & Singapore.

Something about the rows & rows of bookshelves, & browsing through the books according to authors' names, & thumbing through the pages to read snippets of the books before deciding on whether to buy or not....the experience cannot be replicated digitally.

Although now, I have to stop at the stage of thumbing through the pages & remind myself to buy said books online instead.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Survivor

Forget about the reality TV series.

It is heartwarming to watch the rescue of the Chilean miners who have been trapped underground for 69 days, being pulled out painstakingly, one by one. The resilience of the human spirit is amazing.

The miners have been brave, but the true heroes, I think, of this saga, are the supporting crew, who have helped maintain the physical, emotional & spiritual well-being of the miners & the engineers who managed to figure out a way of getting them out.

These days, we need more good news like this.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Next Generation

I was browsing in the toy department of a store a few days ago, looking for a present for my nephew's first birthday. I noticed a few other parents in there, with their kids, mostly toddlers. And then it struck me that they all looked soooo young. (The parents, I mean.) I saw them & thought to myself: "Wow, what young parents."

And then I realized that I, the half-empty-nester, could, physiologically speaking, be a grandmother (although I DO NOT WANT TO NOR DO I EXPECT TO BE ONE ANY TIME IN THE NEAR FUTURE!!!) and that once upon a time, I was in their shoes running after my two little boys in the toy department.

And then I suddenly felt old.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Big Chill

Dinner and drinks.

Scintillating conversation, nostalgic reminiscence.

Laughing till tears roll down our faces.

Chatting about anything & everything.

That was what we did a couple of nights ago, a group of friends from medical school.

Recent deaths within our circle of peers has made us all more aware of our own mortality. We cope in different ways: some becoming more conscious of our health, while others, like me, try almost desperately, to get in touch with old pals. My trips to Singapore happen once, maybe twice a year. During these trips, I try to connect with old friends - classmates from high school, medical school, previous work colleagues.

We try to catch up on a year's (or more) worth of updates in a few hours. Death, divorce, separation, our children's milestones - we try to cover all that in the short time we have together.

We always have a good time; and we always end the night reluctantly. This time, we chatted till after 1 am, till we all could not fight the sleepy yawns & heavy eyelids, before we said our farewells.

Good friends, good times, always.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Long Distance

Long distance parenting means interpreting one's child's mood via Facebook, & the emoticons used in his/her status.

Example - ...beijing :( means he is missing Beijing, more specifically Beijing food. I guess mid-western US cuisine does become monotonous after a while. And I inferred correctly that this feeling of woe has been triggered by the increasing work load of college and the realization that being in college does not mean one continuous party without supervision from the parental units.

After a month and a half, the honeymoon is finally over.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Metamorphosis

Once upon a time, I wished there were more hours in the day because I had to
  • work
  • supervise my children's homework
  • make sure the household was running smoothly
  • make sure we had meals on the dinner table
  • sleep
  • have some kind of leisure time/activity (if at all)
Now, I find myself wishing there were more hours in the day because I
  • preside over the parent organization in my son's school
  • quilt
  • get body/foot massages
  • have lunch with my friends
  • shop
  • play mahjong
  • watch the latest movies & TV series on DVD
  • volunteer in school
  • and soon, take painting lessons
If the Me of today could go back in time and tell the Me of yesterday about my current lifestyle, I am sure my previous Me would scoff & say,"Ha! If that ever happens, I will eat my hat!"

I am thankful for what I have had the chance to experience, and for what I have.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Labels

People need to remember that behind the labels of "Doctor", "Lawyer", "President", "Engineer", "Captain" etc, lies a human being who does the best he/she can in what he/she has been tasked to do, sometimes makes mistakes despite the best of intentions and has real emotions & real feelings which oftentimes get hurt by thoughtless words and false assumptions.

Peace.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Three Cups of Tea

This is a must-read for everyone - the story of this amazing man who made a difference to thousands of children in one of the poorest parts of the world.

Greg Mortensen, ex-mountaineer turned humanitarian, is an eccentric character, to say the least. The book is written (by Mortensen together with David Relin) in a captivating narrative which captures the reader & refuses to let him/her go till the last page is read.

The roadblocks faced by this man as he tried to build schools for the voiceless in Pakistan & Afghanistan would have stopped the average person. But (I think) because of his eccentricity, and a huge amount of persistence, with perhaps a bit of recklessness (or stupidity, depending on whom you are talking to), he literally built his first school stone by stone.

His achievements are inspirational. This should be mandatory reading for The Powers That Be who sit on the governments which send troops to the Middle East or Afghanistan.

This paragraph sums up quite neatly why the war on terror is not being won by the politicians:

"We only stayed a minute, while I was introduced," Mortensen says. "And I wish I could tell you I said something amazing to Donald Rumsfeld, the kind of thing that made him question the whole conduct of the war on terror, but mostly what I did was stare at his shoes.

"I don't know much about that kind of thing, but even I could tell they were really nice shoes. They looked expensive and they were perfectly shined. I remember also that Rumsfeld had on a fancy-looking gray suit, and he smelled like cologne. And I remember thinking, even though I knew that the Pentagon had been hit by a hijacked plane, that we were very far away from the fighting, from the heat and dust I'd come from in Kabul."

His work has inspired me.

This book has made me see that in the greater scheme of things, we need to appreciate what we have instead of focusing on what we don't, and yes, it is cliched, but there are always others MUCH less fortunate than us. Oh, I have known it all along, but reading about the people in Pakistan & Afghanistan & how the live has made me appreciate this so much more.

It has also shown me that sometimes, we need to take small steps at the beginning to reach a seemingly unreachable destination.

I think I will take my first step now.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Impressions from China - Wildlife No More

Well, they're gone. The ducks, I mean.

Yesterday, I saw the guards catching the two ducks with large nets & carrying them off somewhere, with a small audience of children & ayis watching & asking "Why??" I heard something about fish & assumed that the ducks had been feasting on the koi in the pond.

Poor things. Driven out of their home. I just hope that they have been "relocated" somewhere else & not end up on someone's dinner table.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Impressions from China - Wildlife

It is unusual to find wildlife in Beijing. I am surprised at the paucity of fauna here. I think most have either been eaten, or chased away by urbanization. We live in a very suburban area, but it seems like most "wildlife" we encounter here are the occasional magpies & sparrows.

This pair of mated ducks just took up residence in out compound last week. They spend their time in constant company with each other next to the koi pond, eating when the other eats, swimming when the other swims, resting when the other rests, sleeping when the other sleeps. They are more loyal to each other than many humans I know.

I hope they hang around & are able to survive the winter. Do ducks head south for the winter, anyway?




Thursday, August 19, 2010

Impressions from China - Tired

We've been here four & a half years. It has gone by in a flash. My older son completed high school here, I have a good circle of friends, made a difference volunteering in my kids' school, and generally have enjoyed life NOT working as a doctor & exploring different interests & the local culture.

But I am tired. Tired of China, to be honest.

Coming back from our summer in the US this year was especially hard. I have missed the lifestyle of America: the clean air, blue skies, not having to worry about the drinking water/food, the accessibility to groceries & supplies which many living there take for granted, the unfettered access to the Internet, English movies, English bookstores, being able to converse with someone without "ums" & "ers" & sign language, the traffic (more aptly, drivers & pedestrians who actually obey the laws of the road), being able to find clothes in the stores that actually can fit me...

I do appreciate that there are advantages of living here: the cheap local foodstuff, cheap massage, cheap domestic help & drivers. There are always pros & cons for whichever country we live in.

But at the moment, I miss Home. We've lived away from the US for just over 10 years now. Although Singapore is my home town, to me, the US is Home.

I want to go Home. But I don't know when we will be able to do that.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Weather the Weather

I find myself in a perpetual sheen of sweat ever since the official end of Winter in March. We had a short Spring this year, just about 2 weeks of nice, cool weather before Someone decided to turn on the "HOT" switch & Summer descended on us in wrath.

Even in the US, whether it was in the East Coast or the Mid-West or the Deep South, the heat followed us relentlessly, leaving us with deep tans & sweaty faces, & a deep longing for the cooler weather of Fall to quickly get here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Generation Gap

W. just started 11th grade. In his junior & senior years of high school, my artistically-inclined child will have to
  1. perform instrumental solos as part of his course requirements
  2. compose music
  3. make a 7 minute long movie that makes a social statement
in addition to his core subjects.

When I was in the equivalent grade levels, I studied Biology, Chemistry, & Physics.

Where his artistic bent comes from, A & I are not sure. Perhaps we had it in us all this time; but in our day, such pursuits were only encouraged as hobbies, if at all, and not as part of one's academic curriculum.

What a difference a generation makes.

Moving on

So Z has arrived safely in University, settled into his dorm, met his room mate (whom he describes as "pretty cool"), bought his textbooks & is already in the swing of orientation activities.

When we called him yesterday to check up on him, he sounded happy, & to be honest, sounded like we were interfering with his socializing (although he did not say it outright!).

I am glad that he is transitioning well, but at the same time, am wistfully a bit disappointed that he is not missing us more. I have to say though, that I much prefer this happy-go-lucky attitude than the separation anxiety that some of his peers are experiencing; I have heard that one of his fellow graduates from high school, cried daily for the whole week before leaving for college. If my kid had done that, I would be a total wreck!

So I am happy to report that the take off stage of college life has been a great success!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

PB & J

Sometimes, it is nice to indulge in comfort food.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Absence

It's strange how the the ebb & flow of the rhythm of a household changes with the absence of a single person.

With Z away in the US, it suddenly seems quieter. There is a deafening silence that comes from his bedroom, where he usually blasts his music or at least one can hear the sounds of the Youtube videos he so loves to watch.

Its not that W. is a quiet presence...he's not.

But still, there is something missing.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Bad service

So we just returned from the US to Beijing, and it was probably one of the worst flight experiences I've ever had in my life (and I've had pretty vast travelling experiences on various airlines).

We traveled on Continental Airlines, our first experience with this airline. The trip there was pretty uneventful. The plane itself was new with a good entertainment system that is up to par with what SIA has to offer. The service was OK during our onward trip. However, it was a totally different story coming back.

The flight started off OK; we boarded the plane in Newark, after a transit of about an hour & a half. We got to our seats, strapped our seat belts on & waited. And waited. And waited. After over an hour, the pilot finally informed us that due to a technical problem, we would have to deplane & they would try to arrange for a different plane to take us on our journey.

And so we did. And they manage to arrange for an incoming plane from Europe to replace the original one, taking off after a delay of about 4 hours. Not too bad, I thought.

So the time comes for us to board, and we are boarded according to our seats. When it is our turn, we find out as we go through the gate that our seat assignment has been changed, from 2 aisle seats in the front cabin, to 2 middle seats in the back cabin, separate from each other. "What the h***???!!!" I think.

When we get on board, I ask the flight attendant for the reason, & she said that the plane has a different configuration. To us, the explanation of the change being a result of the plane having a different configuration did not make sense at all as the plane seating arrangement looked the same as the previous one. When W. tries to explain that we had done the internet check-in so as to ensure that we each get aisle seats as we were both mildly claustrophobic, & could possibly get motion sickness, her response was extremely discourteous, & accusatory (that he "had an attitude"). This left a bad taste in my mouth, but not wanting to delay things any further, we went to the assigned seats. She grudgingly said that she would try to help us.

To make matters worse, the flight was a full one, & because our seating arrangement had been changed, all the overhead compartments in the already-boarded back cabin were already full by the time we got there, hence, we both end up having to place our carry-on bags under the seats in an already-cramped space.

That flight attendant? Well, she never returned to us to let us know if she was able to help us or not. To me, good customer service means following up on requests by your customer, whether the problem has been resolved or not. This person did not even have the courtesy to return to us to let us know that she had been unable to help us. Whether or not she even tried, I will never know.

To add salt to the wound, my attempts at calling a flight attendant using the call button were ignored.

I will certainly think twice about taking this airline again.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Woes of long distance traveling

Every time I take a long haul flight, I
  • dread it
  • wish that I could afford to travel business class all the time
  • wish that the transporter in the Star Trek universe actually existed in real life which would make traveling SOOO much easier
  • wish that all airlines could have the same level of service as SIA
  • need a body massage to iron out all the stiffness & soreness resulting from being cramped in a cattle class seat
  • wish that someone could give me IV sedation for the entire journey & wake me up when we arrive

Transitions - Finale

Saying farewell, & coming back to China without Z was probably one of the most emotionally difficult things I have had to do in my life so far.

No tearful histrionics (although I will admit to tearful private moments in the last few months), but still, a wrenching tug felt in my heart.

I cannot imagine what it will be like when 2 years from now, I will have to do the same with my "baby" W.

The last time I felt something like that was in the last trimester of my pregnancy with Z when I had a minor panic attack thinking about his impending arrival - doubts & insecurities about being able to be a good parent surfaced for that short moment in time, & made me wish that he could remain protected within my womb for just a while longer.

I suppose this is what parenting is all about - the anticipation, excitement, nervousness, anxiety & exhilaration that come with loving & nurturing a child & the eventual, inevitable letting go.

However, what I know in my head, does not make it easier for my heart.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Transitions VI

  • registered for classes
  • set up a bank account
  • set up a mobile phone line
  • set up a meal plan
  • bought health insurance
  • temporary storage for belongings
  • air/land transportation to college dorm
  • bought textbooks
Well, it looks like the most important tasks in preparation for Z to start college in a few weeks have been completed.

When I leave the US in a couple of days with W to go back to China, I will be leaving behind a small piece of my heart. But I am confident he is well prepared, physically, mentally & emotionally to start off his new adventure.


Z & I enjoying a Texas sunset


Friday, July 30, 2010

Wise Words from a Wise Man

Oh, Prof Feng, I love you...


Good health not just about weight, says a 'lighter' doctor

I AGREE with Dr Yik Keng Yeong ('Excellent doctors despite wide girth; July 19) that doctors should look their part.

Since my girth has been mentioned, your readers may wish to know that I have lost 10kg after three years, but am still trying to lose another 5kg, which so far has proven to be mission impossible. This is because I enjoy food, in particular, roti prata, cheesecake, char kway teow and ice kachang.

However, obesity is only one of the risk factors of poor health. Recent research has shown that about 20 per cent of obese people are perfectly healthy with normal cholesterol and blood sugar, and a good family history. They also live a long and healthy life.

My late friend, Professor Chao Tzee Cheng, used to tell me that 30 per cent of people who die suddenly of heart attacks are not obese, but they indulge in unhealthy habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake, lack of exercise and risky sexual behaviour, and have a poor diet and poor family history.

Good health is a lifelong journey and you start when you are young. Parents must instil in their children healthy lifestyle habits such as having a good diet, regular exercise, not smoking and not drinking alcohol, as well as prevent childhood obesity.

Good health is not a number, be it your age, weight, body mass index, how often you jog or the number of kilometres you run. It is a sense of well-being physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.

In this regard, the National Arthritis Foundation, together with a geriatrician, is organising a number of seminars and talks in the latter part of the year and next year to address issues of health literacy, active ageing and patient empowerment.

We need to change the whole concept of health, focusing more on prevention and self-management. The present debate of 'girth and health' is simplistic and does not address the more important issues of good health.

Professor Feng Pao Hsii
Chairman, National Arthritis Foundation

Prof Feng was one of our professors in medical school. Like the late, great Prof Chao (mentioned in his letter), he was (still is? Have not seen him in years) rather rotund & a wonderful teacher.

I wish that more people could appreciate the truth of what he has to say about health being more than just a number. Today's society is incredibly obsessed with appearances especially how heavy one is. Look at how popular weight loss drugs are, to the point that many doctors have been charged (in Singapore, anyway) with indiscriminate dispensing of appetite suppressants like phentermine. I used to have patients with BMI's of 18 coming to my clinic asking for weight loss medication!

Open your eyes, people. Good health is not just skin deep.

Movie Mania

Summer in the US usually means movie mania in our family.

Our list of "have-watched" so far with my verdict in a nutshell:

The Karate Kid - pleasant enough, but I still prefer the original one
The Last Airbender - awful
Inception - one of the best made movies I have ever watched
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - better than the first two...but then that really doesn't mean much since the first two were pretty darn bad. The Twilight movies, like the books, are like whirlpools - fascinating to watch from afar, and then it pulls you in & draws you, unwillingly, into its swirling maelstrom of bad writing/acting, and you can only but helplessly allow them to do so......

Movies to watch before we return to the land behind the Great Firewall:
Dinner For Schmucks - starring the ever funny Steve Carrell
Charlie St. Cloud - a tearjerker starring Zac Efron - perhaps this may give him a chance to prove that he is not just a pretty face.

Movies that I want to watch but will probably be able to only catch on bootleg DVD's:
Eat, Pray Love - starring Julia Roberts, it is based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert. A great & inspirational read.
Easy A - admittedly, this is targeted towards a teenage audience, but looks entertaining
The Other Guys - starring another funny guy Will Farrell
The Expendables (although this one has a high likelihood that it will be played in the Chinese theaters since one of its starts is Jet Li) - pack load of action movie stars
RED - another action movie with the unlikely Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich & Bruce Willis as aging retired ex-CIA agents. Helen Mirren wielding a gun is enough to make me want to watch this!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nationalistic Fervour

I had to smile at this letter to the Straits Times...

Pointless to have new ones every year
IS IT necessary to compose new National Day songs every year?

My sense is that these new compositions seem to be written to promote the artists singing them rather than as a song that Singaporeans can truly connect with.

There is nothing wrong with the two classics, Count On Me Singapore and Stand Up For Singapore, which are inspirational and tug at the heartstrings.

It would be wrong if the organisers' intention is to cater to the young generation because this would suggest that older Singaporeans are left out.

It would be better if the creative sparks organising this year's National Day Parade re-record a fresh, uptempo version of the two classic songs. Then they will be recognisable and easy for all to sing or hum along to.

While change is good, it must be for the better. I hope that next year's organising team will bear this in mind. It is the song and not the singer that matters.


I have always wondered who composed the annual National Day songs, all revolving around the same theme (I'm so proud to be Singaporean; Singapore is such a great place to live in; Singaporeans are wonderful; no where else compares to Singapore etc...you get the picture). Most of the songs that have come after the two classics mentioned in the letter have been cheesy at best, with forgettable melodies& lyrics which made me cringe.

If this is not a form of propaganda, then I don't know what is.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Driver's Ed

Z. got his learner's permit a couple of days ago. Because we do not live in the US, his acquisition of a driver's license has been delayed, compared to his peers in the US. His previous classmates now living in the States got at least their learner's permits at the age of 15 or 16 (depending on which state they live in), and now, at the ripe old age of 18, have their full license to drive. (The thought of a 15 year old behind the wheel makes me shudder).

He has driven under the guidance of our driver in China on the mostly empty suburban roads of Beijing. He is, apparently, a steady driver, according to our faithful driver. He has also acquired some degree of road sense from riding around on mopeds around our neighborhood.

Having said that, it does not lessen the nervousness of riding in a car whilst one's first born is at the wheel. I am trying to let him practise a bit more before his road test next week. I hope my nerves survive, though I have to admit that he is more steady on the road than I ever was at 18.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Heat Wave

video


It's been hot, hot, hot everywhere we've been - from New York to Indiana to Texas to Louisiana to Tennessee. Hot, hot, hot. And we got hail today in Texas accompanying a severe thunderstorm.

Temperatures hitting the 90's is the norm these days down south. I hear that it is not much better in Beijing. And of course, in Singapore.

Maybe the perimenopausal hormones in me are acting up, but I, for one, am ready for the cooler weather of the Fall to arrive. Even the frigid Winter of Beijing sounds like a welcome respite from this draining heat.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Reunion

This weekend, my schoolmates from secondary school will meet for our 30th year reunion. I will not be able to join them as I am here in the US for the summer, but my thoughts will be with them as they get together & reminisce.

It is hard for me to come to grips with the fact that is has been THREE DECADES since we graduated from secondary school.

THREE DECADES.

That seems like a heck of a long time to me...much longer than it feels. I haven't seen some of them since the last day of school back in 1980. I have connected with a few through Facebook, and to be honest, if I didn't know it was them, I may not have recognized their faces if I were to pass them on the street somewhere.

Thirty years ago, many of us would not have been able to imagine that we are what/where/who we are now - wives/mothers/widows/divorcees, most still in Singapore, but many scattered throughout the globe, working/having worked in politics/education/health care/finance/law/banking/media. I like to think that most of us have made our mark in whichever arena we have chosen our careers in, and that our teachers would be proud of us.

I am sure they will have a great time remembering our school days, ex-classmates & teachers.

I wish I could be there too.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Impressions from China - Demolition Derby

There is a whole lot of 拆-ing going on (chai - demolition).

Next on the radar of the blood-thirsty developers in Beijing is an area around Gulou (Drum Tower) where hutong-style buildings & structures still stand. Many that line the streets of Gulou Jie (Drum Tower street) are music stores selling various kinds of instruments. It's a popular mecca for musicians looking for supplies. It is also home to Mao Live, a popular venue for live music, but was recently closed for "fire safety violations"...or so they say.

Even the area around where we live, in the north-eastern suburban area of Beijing, has not been spared the encroaching bulldozers. Acres of rubble & flat vacant land now stands where there used to be villages & single story buildings surrounding the new metro line that is being completed now, which will eventually urbanize the once-rural landscape.

I am all for progress & improvement of living standards.

But when the old is so completely wiped out in this way, with no effort to preserve the heritage & old way of life, well, it's just sad.

Unfortunately, I think that this trend is not going to stop anytime soon. With the Chinese hunger for the almighty dollar (or the yuan in this case), any thought of preservation will likely fall to the wayside. Heck, the track record of how unethical they can be all in the name of making a buck speaks for itself.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Supersize Me

The average US supermarket never ceases to amaze me.

The wide, wide aisles, the VAST variety & quantity of produce & products, all make it seem like a consumer's paradise, especially for those of us who live in a country where imported goods are

a) very limited in supply, and
b) taxed a whopping 40% resulting in exorbitant prices (RMB 268 for a box of
Tampax, for crying out loud)

I love the supermarkets here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Musical Journey

Koa. Maple. Spruce. Mahogony. Rosewood.

Headstock. Neck. Fretboard. Body.

Frets. Humbuckers. Pick-ups. Tuners.

I am outnumbered, not just by gender but also by interest. Over the last several years, by sheer osmosis, I have learned some basic electric guitar anatomy. An electric guitar, apparently, is a work of art, and not just some pieces of wood put together, with electronics & strings. I have tagged along to guitar stores - Sam Ash, Guitar Center, Tom Lee, City Music, Davis, Matt Umanov, and most recently in Nashville, Artisan. My guys oooh & aaah over the different instruments, occasionally trying them out. Guitarists tend to be passionate about their music, & their instruments; it doesn't matter if you don't buy, the opportunity to teach or learn is enough for most of them.

This recent road trip of ours has revolved around college visits, music & guitars. Heck, even one of the highways we traveled on is nicknamed The Music Highway (I-40 between Nashville & Memphis). We have seen the famous music streets in New Orleans, Memphis & Nashville, and visited the Gibson Guitar factory. & listened to the Blues at BB King's. And the guys have discovered three new boutique brands of guitars - Collings, Santa Cruz & Bourgouois. I suspect my presence in the store was a deterrent against an addition to our already ample family of guitars at home.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Southern Warmth

We have traveled from the birthplace of jazz to the birthplace of the King of Rock & now the birthplace of rock & roll.

I find the people in the South much more friendlier & more polite than their fellow countrymen on the east coast or even in the north-east. Strangers on the street greet you regularly with at least a "Hi", and "Sir" & "Ma'am" are terms of address used very frequently.

Garmin

I have to say that having a GPS system is pretty cool. Not only does it help with mapping the routes from point A to point B, but it also helps to search out locations of interest nearby. Things like restaurants, hotels, shopping malls, movie theaters etc etc.

Our Garmin has turned out to one of our best buys.

Friday, July 09, 2010

NOLA*

*New Orleans, Louisiana

We literally drove over bayous & lakes to get to New Orleans. The sight of trees growing straight out of the Louisiana swamps was an alien looking landscape, especially for "newbs" like us.

First stop: Bourbon Street - a rich history, lots of color, raucous crowds, music bars, plenty of alcohol (including huge ass beers :)), & a dash of sleaze pretty much describes this area in a nutshell.
We went to the French Quarter of New Orleans, where Bourbon Street is located, going on a walking tour of the allegedly haunted buildings in this notorious part of the city. We didn't see any ghosts but learnt some interesting history & trivia of the city, including how jazz music originated (music played for prostitutes - "Jezebels"; hence Jez -> Jazz) on their day off, why prostitutes are also known as hookers (hooks were a means they used to pull men into their brothels) and why excrement is also known as "shit" (Ship High In Transit - referring to ships which were used to bring in excrement used for manure).

Tulane University has a lovely campus situated not far from the Garden District. Damaged by Hurricane Katrina, this university has experienced an amazing resurrection with the highest ever number of applicants to its undergraduate program this year. We visited the school with W. who expressed that he really likes it. We will see what happens. :)

The Garden District, in which our hotel is located, has many lovely old homes with beautiful architecture. I wish we had had more time to go on a walking tour of this area. But with our tight time schedule, & the debilitating heat/humidity of the New Orleans summer, not this trip.One of many examples of the lovely homes along St Charles Ave in the Garden District

And we HAD to try the famous Cafe Du Monde chicory coffee & beignets! Scrumptious donut-like pastries, slightly crispy on the outside, tender on the inside smothered under a generous pile of powdered sugar, I had to control myself & limit my intake to just one & a half pieces (with great difficulty, I must say!). Like many things that are delectable to the taste buds, these unique snacks are, alas, highly caloric.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Transitions V

We leave for our summer vacation today in the USA. I leave with mixed feelings, as this time, we will be returning without Z, who will stay behind to start his freshman year in college. I know that he is excited about this new phase of his life, but is also sad to leave his friends & the comforts of home.

For third culture kids, I am sure there is also the added uncertainty of whether their "home" (wherever their parents/siblings may be) will still be "home" by the time they graduate from college. Rest assured, no matter where we are, they will always have a "home" to come back to.

I can only hope that during my boys' college years, they will find their place in this world, find something they are passionate about doing, maybe even that special someone who will stand by their side, no matter where they are or what they do, so that they can make their own Home somewhere on this Green Earth of ours.

I can only hope that we have brought up self-confident independent beings who will make their marks on this world.

That, in a nutshell, is parenting - Hopes, Fears, with a good dose of Love.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shakira - Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) (The Official 2010 FIFA ...

I am not much of a soccer fan but this song makes me feel happy. The haunting African rhythms that accompany the catchy melody, together with the energetic moves of the dancers just makes be feel so good!

Waka waka!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Transitions IV

Even though Z is the one going off to college this fall, W is also going through transitions. Apart from his brother leaving, one of his best friends will also be leaving this summer, returning back to his home country for good.

They hang out constantly with each other, trying to enjoy their last few days together in Beijing, before we head back to the USA next week. They try to make plans to visit each other, sometime, somewhere, soon.

I repeat: it is heartbreaking for me to see my boys go through the pain of these separations. I hope it will make them more resilient.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

e-booking

aliendoc is ecstatically happy.

I have finally found websites from which I can buy & download digital books on to my e-reader. This was something A bought some time ago, but was left collecting dust because at the time, I couldn't find non-proprietary sites from which to get e-books. Amazon and Barnes & Noble both had proprietary versions which would only work with their own respective e-readers (the Kindle for the former, & the Nook for the latter).

I started browsing for sites again recently & found these:

www.ebooks.com
www.kobobooks.com
and now even Barnes & Nobles has epub versions

From these sites, I can get either pdf or epub versions of books.

What a relief it is to be able to obtain books again in China albeit not of the paper variety. It is a bit of a hardship for me to not have access to English bookstores like Borders here.

Besides, I am running out of room on my bookshelves.

Impressions from China - Singapore @ the World Expo

This writer was being very polite in this letter to the press...

"Singapore Pavilion at expo lacks zing
I SPENT several days at the World Expo in Shanghai with a few Chinese friends last week. Compared with the other pavilions visited, the Singapore Pavilion gets a 6.5 rating out of 10.

While efforts on the building design, roof-top garden and video by Singapore artists are commendable, we felt that something was missing. The Singapore Pavilion did not make an impact and its features may not be enough to attract visitors."

I was not impressed at all by the Singapore Pavilion at the World Expo. 6.5 out of 10 is too much, IMHO.

A mascot named "Liu Lian Xiao Xing" (Little Durian Star)???!!! With a green durian for its head?? I was shocked & more than a little embarrassed, really, when I saw the mascot being led around in the pavilion. Who thought of this? More importantly, who approved it??? OMG.

The pavilion itself, seemed to me, a marketing opportunity for Fast East Organization. Albeit they did sponsor it; but when their ads feature more prominently than the main content of the pavilion, well, that's a bit too much, innit?

The AV presentation, vaguely named "Urban Symphony" which starred a few Singapore pop starts (I only recognized Steph Sun & Tanya Chua) left me & my family wondering: "Hmm...what's the point of this video clip?"

The highlight of the pavilion (in reality, it was outside the pavilion) was the snack bar selling Singaporean food. We had our taste of roti prata & laksa lemak to temporarily curb our cravings for "local" food.

So if anyone asks me if it's worth lining up 2 & a half hours to get into the Singapore pavilion (yes, the lines were AT LEAST that long when we were there during the Dragon Boat Festival Chinese holiday - another story altogether), I would say "NO"!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Road Trip!

Spent the whole afternoon mapping our road trip(s) in the US for this summer, one of which will involve driving 12 hours to Z's college for a one-day orientation program! Not that I am complaining as road trips are one of the highlights for our family vacations.

In the days before Mapquest & Google Maps (horrors! in my sons' eyes!), A & I would arm ourselves with our handy ol' Rand McNally Atlas, strap our boys into their car seats & off we would go! Lodging would be in a local motel chain like Comfort Inn or Quality Suites, or Hampton Inn; nothing 5-star for us budget-watchers! But it would still be fun family time for us as these motels usually have huge rooms with two double beds that could fit our family of four, and there's something about hotel rooms that kids love.

We have done road trips in the South-east, the East Coast, the New England area, the West Coast and the mother of all road trips - our trek across the continent of North America from Philadelphia to San Francisco just before our trans-global migration to the Eastern hemisphere. What a way to see the country -driving through plains & deserts & Rocky Mountain roads - seeing the Kansas roads stretch for miles ahead in a straight line bordered by fields of green on both sides; being buffeted by the Colorado winds as we crawled along the mountainous winding roads of the Rockies; seeing the great Salt Lakes of Utah & its surrounding desert; being awed by the majesty of the tall redwood forests of the North-west. To me, this is the best way to appreciate any country's beauty.

This summer, we will do a road trip in the South, an area we have never visited before. We will visit the home of rock & roll & blues, Jazz country, guitar factories, music museums & throw in a couple of college visits for W at the same time (sigh - it starts again).

With Z starting college in the fall, I really can't say when we will do another one of these family road trips again.

I certainly hope we will see many more to come.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Transitions III

Z. has to start packing for college soon. I do what I can to help him along, packing a set of stand-by medication to keep in his dorm room in case he has diarrhea/vomiting/runny nose/fever/cramps/sore throat when the college clinic is closed.

The rest is up to him. I restrain myself from telling him what to pack. I ask him to enroll himself in the uni health insurance plan. He needs to do the pre-registration tasks on his own.; the housing application; registering for orientation etc etc etc.

All this a part of the transition & the letting go.

Both for him and for me.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Transitions II

When we moved from junior college into university, we did not have a graduation ceremony. I vaguely remember lining up in the school hall, according to our tutorial groups to collect our 'A' level results. Some of us cried with relief (or sadness) upon opening up that crucial piece of paper. And that was that.

Here, I see my #1 son hanging out, almost desperately, with his pals, daily, trying to spend as much time as possible with them before they all leave for college or university in different parts of the world. For some, they will return to Beijing during the Christmas break, where their parents still work, and get a chance to reconnect with friends again. For others, they will probably never see them again as they head for their home countries, unlikely to return to China again in the near future.

It's tough, this transition process. They not only have to deal with a new phase of their lives, but also with the separation, oftentimes permanent, from their good friends.

I suppose, it will be made easier with Facebook & Twitter & Skype & MSN & whatever Internet social networking tools are available out there.

Still, I feel for them, these third culture kids. It is bittersweet, this life they have, rich with worldly experiences but also poignantly difficult with frequent separations.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Transitions

It's that time of year again, of teary farewells, goodbyes & Bon Voyages.

We are a transient population, the Expats. The four walls & roof within and under which we live is not really a home. It is the things we surround ourselves with - the myriad belongings, pictures of family & friends, memorabilia collected from each location we have lived in or visited - that makes it Home.

Like the hermit crab carrying its shell on its back, we lug these precious possessions wherever we go, our scrapbook of Life made up of bits & pieces of our experiences.

Goodbyes have become a regular occurrence. Some friends we may never see again, except on Facebook or some other social networking website. Others will remain lifelong buddies whom we may meet again on another continent.

Such is the nature of our existence....and I would never regret it for a second.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

You & Me*

*warning - this post contains what some may consider sentimental drivel. But it can't be helped as aliendoc goes through an upcoming life-changing milestone. Bear with me, please.


"It was just you & me, kid. You kept me company when Daddy went off to work. Me, in a foreign (at the time) country, with no family nearby for support. You were what kept me occupied 24/7. You, me and the daytime talk shows, that is. For the first two years of your life, before your little brother arrived, we were everything to each other, an almost inseparable pair.


Look at you now, all grown up, ready to strike out into the Big World out there.

Part of me still wants to keep you close, like during those precious early years. But I know, you have to go, and let you go I must.

The special link between you & me will always be there. Never forget that.

I love you, kiddo."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Separation Anxiety

It's starting to sink in.

My boy is leaving the nest very soon. I guess I have been in denial these past months, but now, looking through his housing options in the university that he will be attending, I am suddenly struck by worrying questions.

"Will he like his room mate?"

"Will he eat healthily?"

"How will he like the college?"

"Will he make good friends?"

There is an almost physical pull where my heart is, and a lump in my throat when I think of the looming inevitable separation that will happen in a few months.

It is a fact of life, this rite of passage. However it is made worse by the fact that we will be geographically so far apart, on opposite sides of the world.

He will be fine. I know that. He is prepared to claim his independence.

But that doesn't make it any easier for me.

I can't imagine how much harder it will be when my younger son goes off to college in a couple of years.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Impressions from China - Shooting the Breeze

Seen on a suburban road of Beijing.

Gives a whole new definition to the term "Convertible".

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Crafty - Quilting

From this...
...to this...
...to this...


I am amazed by the way how such diversely different pieces of fabric can come together to form one beautiful quilted throw. How nice it would be if society could do the same.

I am even more amazed that I did it.
Me.
Who hasn't touched a sewing machine since Home Economics class in Secondary 2.

Wonders never cease.

Some of the fabric I used was taken from the sarong material belonging to my late grandma, which gives it a meaningful touch. This will be a special gift to a special person.


More crafty projects in the works....stay tuned...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Oolala 2

Watched Iron Man 2 again this past weekend. Did I say that Robert Downey Jr is sexy as h***?

Oh yeah, I did.

:)

Also, I can't help but keep staring at Mickey Rourke's clubbed fingers & wondering how damaged his body is from his previous "lifestyle of excesses".

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ooolala

After watching "Iron Man 2", I find Robert Downey Jr. sexy as h***.

(Hey, I am married but that doesn't mean I am deaf, dumb & blind).

;)

(...and he's a pretty good actor as well...)

Monday, May 10, 2010

AP Calc B/C



This is a summary of what my #1 son had to study for his AP Calculus finals last week.

Once upon a time, I think I knew some of this. I vaguely remember some of these formulae. Sadly, it is mostly gone from my neurons now. Age & disuse, you see. Never did quite need Calculus in Medical School. Nor in real life.

Just goes to show....when we (some of us, anyway)were struggling with this eons ago, and were cursing & swearing at the reason why we needed to learn it when we were never going to use it again...well, we were right.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Unstoppable


Spring is truly here, but it now feels like Summer. The locals say that in Beijing, Winter transitions straight into Summer & it certainly feels like it right now.

I want Time to slow things down a bit! It's just one month to our first born's graduation from High School and a few months later, he enters into a new independent life as a college freshman. He will be literally halfway across the world from us, making new friends, establishing a new foundation for his own life as his own person.

My head has always known that this is inevitable, but I think my heart is still in denial.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Frogs in a Well

I am going to stop reading the comments on the ST Forum online page.

Many self-righteous narrow minded locals making silly self-righteous narrow-minded remarks makes for frustrating reading.

I have better things to do, thank you very much.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sewing 101

I bought myself a sewing machine! A Brother ES2400, to be exact.

There was a time where the words "aliendoc" and "sewing machine" would never have been uttered in the same sentence. But I have recently discovered the art of quilting and am now frantically trying to put together two quilting projects before the summer holidays arrive, as they are meant as gifts for loved ones.

My first project is a simple throw made up of batik-type sarong material. A mish mash of loud flowery designs with bold colors. You would never imagine that such different & seemingly clashing designs could go together so well in the finished product. I guess it's a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts (Aristotle. Ha! Another first for aliendoc....quoting an ancient Greek philosopher...who woulda thunk).

I never thought it could be so much fun!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Recommendation

A friend sent me this link to a lovely photo journal blog that so beautifully captures a son's love for his father in pictures and in words.

Enjoy.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Xin Ba Ke (aka Starbucks)

Am bored. Whiling my time away in a Starbucks waiting for my significant other as he chats with one of many headhunters who have been "hunting" him. Apparently a sign of improving economy as many MNC's are looking to expand into Asia.

And with many laying off their expats last year, they are now starting to "restock their pond" so to speak. It's good to be wanted.

La dee da....am bored.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Impressions from China - Spring Awakening?

Confusion reigns on our coat rack. Here it is: a Levi's denim jacket hangs next to a Land's End fleece which hangs next to a hoodie, which hangs next to a North Face down. Jackets for all kinds of cool weather.

It's a sign of what has been happening with our weather here in Beijing. We had the heat turned off (yes, in China, they have this strange heating system that requires a maintenance guy to come turn it on or off, instead of a simple switch on the wall like we used to have when we lived in the good ol' US of A) when the weather hit the low 20's then suddenly the temperature dipped to less than 10.

But 'tis Spring (I think) outside.

Look at this...

...the white magnolia blossoms...


...and the apricot blooms...
...and it looks like it will be a bountiful fall with apricot jam galore again...



...the thorny rose bushes show sparks of life...


...and here come the rhododendrons (at least, I think that's what these are)...

But amidst of all this new life springing forth, the sad, still waters of our outdoor fish pond leaves a somber reminder of the harsh realities of the cycle of life. Our supposedly hardy outdoor carp have not survived the prolonged & frigid Winter.


We will restock our pond again. Once the weather feels more Spring-like.

In the meantime, back to woolly socks, down jackets & layered clothes.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Being a doctor is a tough business

ST Forum Wed April 7, 2010

"Being a doctor is a tough business

DR GARY Ang's reply ("More doctors may drive up costs", March 30) to Mr Choo Kay Wee's Forum Online letter ("More doctors, lower health bill?" March 25), suggesting that more practising doctors may drive up total medical costs, seems to fly in the face of conventional market wisdom.

Among other things, because we are now training three times as many doctors as in the 1970s and the doctor-to-patient ratio has dropped dramatically, doctors as a commodity have relatively depreciated in value and they command a lower asking price for their services. The increase in medical charges almost always is down to the escalating cost of medicine and other costs of doing business, with doctors' incomes stagnating.

That enterprising doctors create little niches for themselves to generate income is a sad but realistic reflection of how market forces have driven the practice of medicine to become a commercial trade.

Mr Choo delights in the prospect of having a trained doctor in every family, seeing this as a way of bringing down medical costs. A few years ago, the Government estimated the cost of training a doctor with a basic degree to be about $500,000. From a pecuniary point of view, Singapore would be far better off importing doctors of other nationalities; it would be far more cost effective and feasible than training a doctor in every family.

As it is, many patients have noticed that the medical staff in polyclinics and hospitals have turned into a veritable United Nations of sorts."


Let's see how long it will take before the snide comments come up in response to this letter to the ST Forum....

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Life Cycles

I hear of the passing of an ex-classmate & the birth of a new baby to another within days of each other.

Life & Death. Things which doctors deal with as part of their work. But somehow, in the way jadedness sets in with experience, it doesn't really hit you until it is in your face & affects someone in your life. It's a wake up call for you to smell the roses & other cliches like that.

"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."
- Abraham Lincoln

I think President Lincoln had it right. We need to make the most of what we have, live life to the fullest & be happy with our lot.

R.I.P. dear S.

And welcome to the world Baby E.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Maternal Brag

I'd be the first to admit that I live vicariously through my kids.

They are both in a rock band & have been playing guitar & bass guitar for a few years now. They have both shown musical talent which my husband & I sometimes wonder from whence it comes. A. doesn't play music & is just slightly tone deaf (*GRIN* sorry dear). And I can hold a tune & took the obligatory piano lessons growing up, but never was creative enough to write songs, which is what my guys do.

I remember trying to form a "rock band" with my sister & a friend. Very unsuccessfully - 'nuff said.

And now, here they are, my progeny, performing at gigs, occasionally earning money, writing music & lyrics, and tonight winning a recording deal at a music fest!

Whether or not they eventually make music their career, I don't know. But I know that if they have passion for it, I will not discourage them from following their dream, nor quash their aspirations.

I am a proud Mom.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Impressions from China - Google

A. worked for Google China till several months ago. In view of recent developments, we are thanking our lucky stars that he left the company to join another IT company, otherwise we would be in a rather uncomfortable situation right now, not knowing what will happen next, career-wise, for him, & in turn, leave our family situation in limbo.

Living in China, I now truly appreciate the freedom that many take for granted: clean air & water, safe (relatively, anyway) foodstuff, freedom of speech (relative, again, depending on whether one is talking about the USA or Singapore), accessibility to information on the Internet. I find it hard to understand much of China's policies with regards to (restricting) free speech & accessibility to information. I am not a politician (& probably will never be, in this lifetime). I don't understand the reasoning behind blocking social networking sites like Facebook, or Blogger. If China's government truly believes what it is doing is so right, why prevent its residents from seeing what the world is reporting about China? Why censor the facts?

I, for one, am glad that Google has decided to stand firm. For a large multinational company to stand its ground & stick true to its beliefs, despite the economic implications, is uncommon.

Much like how a doctor is supposed to Do No Harm, Google is staying away from the Dark Side. For now, anyway.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My New Hobby

Quilting and aliendoc = oxymoron. At least that was what I thought.

I have ambitiously decided to launch myself into a new hobby as soon as I get home to Beijing.
Inspired by a friend there, who has been doing this for years, it started as a charity project led by a group in my sons' school.

Then I figured that I should give my older son a memento from his loving mom when he goes off to college this fall. "A quilt!" I thought, "Using materials from different shades of his favorite color Blue!"

Then I visited my sis in Houston & stayed at her cozy new home in the 'burbs. And I thought, "How about a nice quilt throw with an Asian touch to keep her & her hubby warm during the cool winter nights?" And I got struck by the inspiration of using batik sarong material to make the quilt, & where better to buy this material than super mega-store Mustafa???

So off I went in search of quilting material, & ventured into hitherto unfamiliar territory in the "Sewing" section of a local craft store. What an eye-opener it was! All kinds of thread, sewing accessories, some of which I have no clue what they are for, yards & yards of fabric.

Then to Mustafa I went, & came back with a lovely loot of pretty batik material. Just take a look...

I can't wait to get started!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

John Mayer in Concert

I saved the highlight of my trip to Houston for last to write about. It was a tough fight between the Houston Rodeo & John Mayer, but in the end, I think John Mayer had the edge that appealed to the groupie in me...:)
He performed at the Toyota Center in downtown Houston, home of the Houston Rockets (basketball team). It was an impressive venue & though we were not in the best seats of the house, we were at a good enough vantage view to appreciate his performance.


The opening act for John was Michael Franti & the Spearheads, most well known for their one & only top 20 hit Say Hey I Love You. Their songs were catchy, with a touch of reggae, & blues thrown in. I couldn't decide if they were a reggae group or more of a rocky bluesy kind of group. In any case, they got the crowd moving & revved up in preparation for John's show.
He started it with a bang, going straight into the song "Heartbreak Warfare". Most of the tunes he performed were from his latest album "Battle Studies". He had great rapport with the audience, and did not mention a word about his latest foot-in-mouth bruohaha from the Playboy interview, and I don't think anyone cared anyway!
He ended up the night on the floor (literally), playing the guitar with it lying on the floor at the end of his encore performance "Gravity".



Thank you, John, for a great night!