mental indigestion

In defence of Chinese teachers in Singapore November 29, 2009

Filed under: Life in general — mel @ 11:07 pm
Tags: ,

Chinese teachers are the best teachers.

I get rather irritated whenever I read about the ‘sorry state’ of Chinese language standards in Singapore. Mostly because the blame tends to go all on the Chinese teachers themselves and how “boring” and “hopeless” they make the subject out to be. To me, that is absolute bull because I know that most Chinese teachers have a genuine passion for their culture and language and hence, are some of the most dedicated, nurturing educators I’ve encountered.

In primary school, I was put in this short-lived SPECHLL (no idea what that stands for, but yes, acronyms were already hip in the early ’90s) programme that was meant for students who did “considerably poorer in Chinese compared to their other subjects” i.e. jia kantang. This meant that we had to stay back every Friday for “enrichment” courses and sometimes, a moustached MOE inspector will visit and give us sparkly sharpeners. However, the biggest bonus of being in this programme was getting the best Chinese teacher in the school, Mrs Su, to teach us Chinese from Primary 4-6. I adored her. I LOVED Chinese lessons because she made lessons interactive and fun (e.g. teaching us to sing along to Faye Wong songs, watching “dramatic” Channel 8 Iraqi war news clips and getting our current affairs on par simultaneously) and took a genuine personal interest in our emotional and educational progress . I was totally motivated with her lessons and my Chinese composition skills improved so much such that one of my essays was even printed in the school magazine (before that my storyline was pretty much limited to a windy bright day with Xiaoming going to the market).

The point I’m trying to make is, it’s not so much the teachers but the system (as with most things in the world). I am still very much hopeless in Mandarin not because I hated the subject in school, but I just really wasn’t able to get much practice with the language thereafter. This seemed largely due to this not-talked-about-but-you-know-it-is-there-East-West cultural divide whereby:

a) My “kantang” friends take pride in how hopeless they are in Chinese (no guesses as to which schools they are from). Inversely, there is this subconscious condescension towards people who speak predominantly Chinese. Damn post-colonial hangups.

b) My “cheena” friends totally cringe when I attempt to speak in Chinese with them. There is this disdain of my “alien angmohness” and lack of pride/knowledge of my “roots”. So really, it’s not that I want to be “cheem-angmoh” but more like I don’t have the zi(1) ge(2) to banter in Mandarin with them.

I found that the only time I felt my Chinese improving in recent years was in Melbourne, where I made friends with PRCs who very patiently conversed with me in Mandarin (even when angstily bemoaning about dramatic relationship problems!) I truly felt a new intimacy with the language but that of course totally dissipated once I returned to Singapore and had the “don’t speak Chinese lah” label slapped back on.

The thing is, I really did and do enjoy learning Mandarin  and still read Lianhe Zaobao at my MIL’s place whenever I can. But if I’ve been relegated to “don’t even try being cheena” (with the exception to hawkers and taxi drivers), I think it’s going to be a while more before bilingualism truly succeeds in this country.


Funny Girls November 28, 2009

Filed under: Whee! — mel @ 8:15 am
The Funny Girls

Tee hee

In every job I’ve had, I always go in determined to be a loner, to do my work as fast as possible, and then get out to lead my Real Life.

In every job I’ve had, I realise that damn, things just get too boring not to chit chat. And the lovely, serendipitous thing is, there will always be some kooky, funny people to talk shit with.

The ladies in the picture are just some of the wonderful people who have a knack for turning jaded cynicism into goofball comedy. I miss the laugh-until-stomachache-sessions!

Joke of the night: “He’s like an uglier version of James Lye. He’s James Cannot-Lye.”


Funny music November 25, 2009

Filed under: Whee! — mel @ 5:18 pm

1) Bohemian Rhapsody by The Muppets: Total awesomeness, just couldn’t stop laughing at this music video. All the good stuff from childhood and adolescence combined into this hilarious, nostalgic music video. If anything, watch this for Animal’s solo. Jim Henson + Queen = CHAMPION

2) Make ’em Laugh by Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I thought he was quite cute in 500 Days of Summer but now I think he is VERY cute with this Saturday Night Live opener. C’mon, he likes Singin’ in the Rain (I haven’t met any guy besides my dad who can stay awake through through my favourite-musical-of-all-time) and his Donald O’ Connor impression is adorable!

3) Ok since I am at Singin’ in the Rain, I suppose I’ll put in Moses Supposes – another ditty from yes-it’s-really-my-favourite-musical-of-all-time.


NUH Phobia November 19, 2009

Filed under: Life in general — mel @ 3:58 pm

Humans are imperfect, and as a result, hospitals will be imperfect.

But when a mistake happens that personally affects the lives of your loved ones, it’s hard to forgive and forget.

When I read about how NUH has been sued for medical negligence by two different parties, I couldn’t help but think, “Serves them right.”

Because of two rounds of  erroneous diagnosis, my mum had a false sense security that this particular lump was harmless.

For two years…it was left there, festering. Until her female intuition kicked in and she demanded a biopsy even though the doctor told her she was “worrying too much”.

And then began the nightmare of chemos and radiation that lasted for a year.

My uncle who was a doctor was so angry. How could a Professor in Medicine get away with this? He personally went down to confront the specialist doctor-to-doctor and ended up in tears.

There was financial compensation, there were personal apologies made. But you just don’t get some things back.


Quiet Fashion November 15, 2009

Filed under: Life in general — mel @ 2:40 pm

“Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.” 2 Thess 3:12

During Bible Study, we were taught how to check on Greek translations and because I became so drawn to the term “quiet fashion” I went to check it out:

In quiet fashion = hēsychia (ἡσυχία)

a) Quietness: description of the life of one who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others

b) Silence

Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for hēsychia (Strong’s 2271)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2009. 15 Nov 2009. < http://
Strongs=G2271&t=NASB >

Now if that is not a stamp of approval on the stay-at-home, free-from-meddlesome-office-politics freelancing life, I don’t know what is 😉


Gross, is everyone here for Gaiman? November 2, 2009

Filed under: Life in general — mel @ 9:38 pm
Tags: ,

My friend J. overheard this conversation at the Singapore Writer’s Festival book signing session of Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer and in her own words, “suddenly felt very old”.

Girl A: I don’t know why everyone is here for Neil Gaiman? I just looove Amanda Palmer. She is waaaay cooool.
Girl B: Oh my god! What if when we get to the front, it’s just Neil Gaiman? I mean, gross, I don’t want his autograph. I only want Amanda to sign my book.
Girl A: Let’s check with the organisers. Maybe we can jump the queue since we just want Amanda’s autograph?
Girl B: You are like, so, practical, Tricia. God, that’s why I love you! You’re so fucking radical.

You know when someone is below the age of 20 when they use vulgarities in the least pressing and most trifle of circumstances.

Realisation: Amanda’s Palmer website is titled “Amanda F***ing Palmer”.


At this point November 1, 2009

Filed under: Mopey mops — mel @ 11:39 pm

I think I have tried
But it has not been enough
For you deserve more