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It's a holiday! I am glad my cold had gotten better. My head is clear and I had slept well. I went to bed before sunset last night, and got up after sunrise this morning. This has got to be the longest I have slept for decades. I didn't even take medication for my cold, but went to bed yesterday completely exhausted. The cold is hovering around there somewhere but I am good enough for town. I have to get something appetizing - nutritious would be good too - to make up for the junk I swallowed yesterday. Got to go now...
I read this piece in the Straits Times, the local newspaper, entitled "How a celebrity's gut feelings can trump real Science". The celebrity in question is someone called Jenny McCarthy. We here are not familiar with the name. She blamed her son's autism on vaccinations! In her appearances on Oprah and CNN in 2007, she spouted some nonsense, calling vaccines the autism shots. The author of the piece - Frank Brumi? - wrote, "When did it become all right to present gut feelings like hers as something in legitimate competition with real science?" People who are famous should watch what they say.
We had a workshop yesterday from 1pm to about 4.30. We hadn't expected much, what with the last one on "Empathy", where nothing much was new. This time, however, the keynote speaker was rather special. She had been the principal of a school for under-achievers. They did not use this term, of course. It's a school for special children.She was told she could say "No". It was a daunting task. She had to look for her own teachers. She had to garner community support. Of course, she had to deal with "special" students. She accepted the job!
I learn that part of being empathetic is that I need not always win an argument or make others see my point of view. I need, however, to express myself clearly, having thought through what I needed to say. And when others speak, I must learn to listen and understand what is being said, without judgement and without interruption. To think that at my age, I have not learnt to speak clearly and to listen to others! John Dewey says the mere possession of knowledge or experience is not enough. We have to reflect on it. This is so true.
I have not done much writing these days. This is a very busy month. There were exam papers to set, papers to vet and papers to grade. I wish I could have written more interesting stuff, but the daily grind had taken the creative juices out of me and my mind is hung out to dry. But, wait a minute, all those things that I had to do needed creativity too! Yes, but those can be done without feeling, without soul. They are mindless activities, repetitive and exhausting, and can be done by anyone who had been assigned the chore.
I won this 3D/2N trip to Taipei at the staff dinner last November, and I am glad the details of the trip are all worked out, and we are good to go. I have never been to Taiwan, so although I had not planned on going there this year, it is good because it's paid for. I extended the trip by another three nights, and had to top up quite a bit. Ah well, it's still partly paid for so I am not complaining. There is still one month to go, but I am already looking forward to it.
It was about 9.30 in the morning and I was thirty minutes into the lesson on "The landmarks in the environmental movement". Somewhere near Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, I started having trouble breathing. It was as if there was a lump in the throat pushing against the airways when I talk. I felt like I was going to throw up. I got to a point at the presentation where there was a hyperlink to a video clip. I took this opportunity to move to the back and breathe slowly and calm down. Did I just have a panic attack?
It happened again today. This time I actually felt a lump to on my neck. It hurt when I pressed against it. I spoke slowly and projected my voice without straining at the throat, and in this way, managed to teach three classes for a total of four hours. Back at my desk, I had coffee and it helped calm me down There was no urgency to see a doctor. My gut feeling was there was some kind of inflammation, and all I need was rest and some cooling tea. After lunch I had sweet potato soup with red dates.
The discomfort and swelling has subsided. I should be back in top form soon. However, in the past two days, I had actually entertained some morbid thoughts. Just last weekend, I attended the wake of a friend from church. What is this life all about? We work hard all our life and finally, one day, we go. Is that all there is? My friends told me this is called an existential crisis. Most people have this at some point in their lives. I am told we will get over it, and go on our merry way until the next crisis.
My son is moving out today. I am happy for him because he finally has a new home with his wife and daughter. Every parent looks forward to this day. And yet, I am saying this with a hint of sadness. He has flown the coop. Both my sons have set up their own homes now with their families. I have them with me for more than thirty years, so naturally, there is a sense of loss. My husband and I are entering what is probably the last phase of our lives. What will life be like from now on?
I have not seen my elder son for a long time, since the Lunar New Year. Wow. That long? He had whatsapped me and had dropped by in the night when I was asleep to borrow a luggage bag for his trip last month. He also dropped by in the day while I was away at work to pick up his mail. Am I seeing some kind of a pattern here? He is not avoiding me, is he? He has no reason to; I don't nag, I don't ask for money and I don't ask him to sit and chat.
John dropped by to tell us he had left the school he was working in the past ten years, and joining another institution. He tried to look for me but I was not at my desk. I didn't want to tell him, but I knew he called but did not answer because I just had to finish grading this pile of scripts and hand them over to the next marker by this afternoon. When he finally got hold of me, I had a class to teach. They told me he was very disappointed about not being able to see me.
Chapel today is on Love for your Siblings. This kind of love is so low on our priorities that we hardly hear sermons on this. It is difficult to make sacrifices for our siblings because most of the time, they are our rivals - for our parents' affection, space and their time. I could be wrong, though. This generation of children have either only one other sibling or none as birth rate goes down as a result of our hectic lifestyle and the high costs of raising children. With only one other sibling, it is possible for more love than rivalry.
Pangkalan Kerunci is a small town of 68,000 in the province of Riau on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. We are on a recce trip to a paper mill, RiauPulp, that produces PaperOne printing paper. The company jet picked us up at Seletar Airport and flew us first to Pekan Baru Airport for immigration clearance. Another thirty minutes and we were there at their own airstrip at RGE. We were shown their research lab, the pulp factory, the paper factory and their community development project. They showed us their commitment to sustainable agro-forestry and zero-waste industrial production.
Back in class, the kids had many questions: so what is the private jet like? Do they serve drinks? Is there a cook on the plane? Is there a bar? It's not the Air Force One, for goodness' sake, I say. It's just a 20-seater jet, with twenty seats! The trip is all of 45 minutes from one point to the next. The engines are so noisy you can't even hear yourself. I was trying to bring their expectations down, because I am seriously considering bringing them on this field trip to Indonesia this September, if the school permits.
I asked my daughter-in-law if there's anything I can get her for her new home. She said she needed a wok. That's all the excuse I needed to go down to Robinson's and blow two hundred dollars on a wok, a pair of cutters, some place mats, a steamer, and... I forgot what else. That was retail therapy. I needed to get out of school quick, and I needed to go to the mall. I felt a lot better after that. I don't usually spend money to feel better, but, hey, it's not for myself. It's for her.
I saw a huge bird with a cigar-shaped body flew over as we were parking the car. It was a heron. The other day, it was an eagle. Sometimes, there are cranes too. It feels good to be able to tell my friends I see these big birds on a regular basis. When you live in a city like ours, you don't get to see them quite so often. Ah, but I do! You see, I live in that part of the city called the Lake District. Their nesting places are in the two huge gardens by the lake.
This is no way to spend Sunday night: grading Mid-Year Exam papers! It would have been a breeze if the kids had written sensible answers, but no, they don't read their questions right, and so I have to plough through a mountain of dribble. Ah well... Occupational hazard! I love Geography but I do not have the same delight grading Geography scripts. To think I do this for a living! I was saying today that Khaled Hosseini gave up being a doctor to write stories. To which someone retorted: at least he followed his passion. And I don't because...?
Someone just wrote a book about the missing MH370, just 77 days after it went missing. No wonder he said his home is like a book factory! His theory is that the plane was shot down by US or Thailand who were having war games at the time. It was hit by a land-to-air missile. That is why so many countries were involved in this elaborate cover-up. He based this theory on a New Zealander engineer who said he saw a burning plane coming down over the South China Sea. Can someone confirm the war games thingy?
Why do people talk so much? I was trying to work, but it was impossible to concentrate in the cacophony of noises all around me. Someone went on and on about where to get the best peanut pancake. Another was droning on for more than thirty minutes in his native language with a country man. Why do people talk so loud? I wish they would blog, or twit or post on Facebook. I'm not a fan of social media, but at least I don't have to read if I don't want to. With noise, I can't shut the voices out.
Why is there a need for deadlines? If there is a reason something got to be done by a certain date, then that will be motivation enough to get it done by that date. But then some people set earlier deadlines because they are afraid that we will not meet the actual deadlines. The deadlines then become unrealistic. There's just not enough time to get the work done. So, we ask for extension, and they grant us the extension. So, why, for goodness' sake, do people bring forward deadlines in the first place? It achieves nothing but stresses us out.
It poured buckets today. Whenever it rained like this, there would be flash floods all over town. But surprisingly, things aren't so bad these days. They must have cleared up the canals buried beneath the concrete and the roads. Rain is much welcome because the heat these days can be rather stifling in the afternoon. And here's the thing - the hotter the day is, the heavier the late afternoon showers. It's again about balance. When it is very hot, more water will evaporate and more clouds will be formed. When they get heavy, they poured down as rain. Cool,right?
We are supposed to be able to travel faster on expressways. That's why they are called expressways in the first place. This is so only during off-peak hours and when there are no break-downs or accidents. When there is a jam on these expressways, you better not be between exits, because there is no way you can get out. The wait can take hours. We don't see much of the traffic police these days. With no authority figure to clear the roads and guide the traffic, there really is nothing one can do, so no use getting angry.
Getting to sleep is a problem on some nights. I could lie ahead for as long as two hours, and the more I fret about it, the harder it is to fall asleep. It's not exactly insomnia. I think there is too much artificial light around us. Even when I turned off all the lights in the room, it is never total darkness. That's just the environmental factor. Our mind is too stimulated in the day, so that even when we go to bed, it takes a while to dim the thoughts, and calm the senses. Maybe wine will help.
I have been watching RZ's talks on youtube these days. I like his sermons. There is clarity of thought and he is articulate and engaging. I make a living talking - I am a teacher - yet sometimes I wonder if my students are merely putting up with me and my funny accent. There are times when I am so self-conscious that I stopped mid-sentence and became tongue-tied. I had wished that my accent were more respectable, but being a non-native speaker, I cannot help it. No, I can. My students had speech training. I should have too.
Before there was written word, communication was entirely oral. I wonder how the world was then. You need a good memory because you can't make notes. You won't have that wide a vocabulary either. I am just guessing, then, that people could really remember a lot more stuff than they do now. With the written word, and with the many gadgets that we have to store information, there isn't really the need to commit things to memory, except, of course, for examination purposes. Does that mean that in those days, we weren't expected to learn that much and remember much?
Balance is necessary for the natural order. When that balance is upset there will be chaos. Take for instance, the greenhouse effect. We need greenhouse gases to provide a thermal blanket around the earth. However, when there is too much, we have the enhanced greenhouse effect. This will increase temperatures, which will melt the ice and, among other things, thaw the permafrost in places like Siberia. When the permafrost thaws, the decomposing vegetation underneath will be exposed and methane is released. Methane is GHG and temperature will rise further. This is positive feedback. It throws the system out of order.
I saw a man at the train station, pouring some water into a shallow plastic dish near where a pigeon stood. He coaxed the pigeon to drink from the dish. It was a very hot day, and the pigeon needed no coaxing. It is nice to see someone show kindness to a common pigeon. I saw a man on a wheelchair along busy Orchard Road. He was playing on a violin. In front of the wheelchair was a cardboard sign that said "Born Blind". He was strategically positioned across the road from Paragon Shopping Centre. No one seemed to notice.
Avery was not in class yesterday morning at roll call. Someone had seen him later in the day. This morning, he was not there again. Again, he was in classes later in the morning. Ben says Avery was upset because his EE supervisor ran down his essay, and it really hurt this time because he had put much effort into it. In fact, he thought it was pretty good. His supervisor was very harsh with the criticism. Ben told me to cut him some slack and not throw the book at him in his fragile state. He is very discouraged.
This is the end of the term and it is time for another Parent-Teachers Meeting. I do not understand why teachers must sit in rows, each teacher with two seats before them to be filled by a continuous stream of parents each with ten minutes' time to talk about their children. This carries on from 8 to 12, with an hour's break for lunch and it goes on again from 1 to 5 in the afternoon. Any parent can come and see their children's teachers. It is really very stressful for the teachers, especially if the parents have complaints.
Another month has come to an end! What was it like thousands of years ago before the invention of the clock? How do people mark time? The day was marked by the rising and setting of the sun. The year was marked by the seasons and the harvests. I read they needed some way to get people to go for town hall meetings, to go to church, to close businesses, and so they had chimes and town hall clocks. Life must have been less hectic then, before the 19th century, because time is not measured in hours,minutes and seconds.
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