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05/01 Direct Link
Labour Day.
It's a holiday and I went to town for lunch. The weather is dry, but it usually rains later in the afternoon these days.
It was raining most of yesterday when I was at work in school. Near noon, I was on my way to the canteen when I saw two students stop to look at something. It was a squirrel.
My colleague pointed out that a squirrel is also a rodent like the rat.
'Ah yes,' I said, 'but it is better looking. At least, it's slimmer. Slim people got all the attention!"
05/02 Direct Link
I started the day well, getting up early to do the laundry, vacuum the floor and mop it, and then getting down to write. I took a two-hour break for lunch, but when I got back, it took me more than three hours to get back to my writing. Precious time went down the drain. The goals I set myself today were left unaccomplished. I basically let my brain melt away in front of the flat-screen TV, channel-surfing for Korean dramas.
It's easy to do nothing, but it is not satisfying. There's a lot of guilt.
05/03 Direct Link
The reason I write...
I fumble over words when I talk in English, like I'm listening to myself, and don't like what I'm hearing. In speech, there isn't the opportunity to edit, and so I correct myself, re-phrase, or explain myself, even in casual conversation with close friends when there's really no need to. Then, there are the interjections of dialect, colloquial expressions and local nuances. I'm ashamed when my words come out in such an inelegant concoction of tongues. So, I choose not to speak.
And so I write. And hope it comes out just right.
05/04 Direct Link
I am not international enough.

I live in a tiny country and my memories of other parts of the world are from stories I read rather than from my travels. I do travel quite a bit, though, but the smattering of French, German and Spanish I pick up are just functional.

When I read stories like Anthony Doerr's "All the light we cannot see", the French and German words make the story more authentic.
Maybe I should just set my stories in Asia then. Hey, I do know this region well enough to be authentic.
05/05 Direct Link
I am at a stage in my life when I should not wait for things to happen. There isn't that much time left. I have to be deliberate and purposeful about what I do with my time.

No, I don't have a terminal illness. I'm just growing old.If I am not careful, the remaining years- or days - will swoosh past me like a dream.

I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of not living.

I only just realize how much I enjoy painting and drawing. Is it too late to train?
05/06 Direct Link
To live with less is not to get rid of all our stuff so as to unburden ourselves. It is to know what are important, and to let go of those which are not.

What are important to me that I can't do without? Maybe I have not given this enough thought, but at the moment, I can only think of money. I know that's not the right answer, but - correct me if I am wrong - if I have money I can buy those things which are important, right?

I know. Some things can't be bought!
05/07 Direct Link
Today's video lesson is one on drawing portraits. The main point is to draw different faces freely, and quickly, without worrying about details and accuracy.
Draw what you see, says the artist. The hands will move as the eyes see. Let the hands move with the eyes. Let the hands produce what the eyes see without processing the picture in the brain.
We tend to overrate the importance of the brain. We're told that all actions are controlled by the brain. I like this idea: draw what the eyes see, not what the brain tells us we're seeing.
05/08 Direct Link
I didn't know we could get a Justice of Peace to solemnize a wedding in a private home.
The bride and groom were decked out in wedding finery. The JP checked their IDs, and asked a few questions. There was the exchange of vows and wedding bands. The groom kissed the bride, pictures were taken and champagne bottles popped. We raised our glasses in a toast to the couple. We feasted on the sumptuous spread of Filipino and western fare prepared by the bride's friends.
It was like a Church wedding, only much simpler. And more intimate.
05/09 Direct Link
I've been coughing like a hag most of the day. This thing about health and sickness being our own doing is not entirely without merit. In my case, I know exactly what brought this cough on: lack of restraint.
I had Milo for breakfast on most mornings last week, binged on nuts and prawn crackers and drank lots of lemongrass and ginger tea everyday except Friday, when I had sixteen sticks of barbequed meat (satay) with peanut and chilly sauce for dinner.
I have to be careful about what I eat. Don't want to bring on worse problems.
05/10 Direct Link
It's Sunday. I attended two services today for different reasons.
In the first service, a native speaker of English was preaching. His sermon was delivered easily in impeccable English.
I don't remember much of what he said. It's a Mothers Day message, so I guess it's about Timothy's mother.
The second sermon, in a very different church, was delivered by a Korean pastor. Although he has excellent command of the language, we strain to make out what he's saying because of his pronunciation. As a result, we heard a lot more, and related better with his sermon.
05/11 Direct Link
He came to perform at our school once on an instrument that was part guitar and part something else (drum?). He made the instrument himself. Anyway, the point is, he gave a two minute performance. When the applause had died down, he said, "What you've just heard is the result of thousands of hours of practice."
His point, then, was you can be very good at anything, if you just put in as many hours of hard work as is necessary for you to get to where you think you are truly good. You need determination and hard work.
05/12 Direct Link
These days I try to draw something everyday. This evening, I just practise shading and drawing texture with a 2B pencil and a Sakura Micron ink pen. As those lines form on a once empty page in my sketchpad, I feel as though I have created something, and I find the exercise satisfying. It is only lines and shapes that I have drawn, but it's creative.
I don't get this kind of pleasure from being entertained, from watching television. In fact, it's not a nice feeling. It's a sense of guilt, like I shouldn't have wasted all that time.
05/13 Direct Link
How do you get others to want to listen to you? Well, what kind of people do I want to listen to?
I don't want to listen to people whine the whole time about what a bad deal life has dealt them, or complain about other people, or people who talk about themselves all the time.
So, if I want people to listen to me, I must be humble, honest, positive and, if possible, cheerful. I should be interesting.
It would help if I also have a deep voice that is calming and easy on the ears.
05/14 Direct Link
The first class in the morning was Pastoral Care. I had all the girls with me to talk about sexuality. I posed some questions and got them to discuss. When there was nothing forthcoming, I assigned each girl to play the role of a named boy from our class and asked them to role-play how each of those boys would answer those questions.
It worked. The class came alive with arguments and counter-arguments, and before you know it, the one hour lesson was over.
Wonder how the boys did in their lesson in the other room...
05/15 Direct Link
I haven't been writing for a week! I guess I have to play catch-up, write backwards, bring up the rear... that kind of stuff. These dark colored blocks sort of keep time for me, telling me exactly how many days I have let slip by without writing. It's true then. Time and tide wait for no man. If I don't do anything, the day will just go on by and it's one more day down the drain.
I came to the end of each day and asked, shall I just write tomorrow? Then, the day is gone. Whoosh!
05/16 Direct Link
It's so hot in India the roads are melting! It feels that hot today. The car was parked in the open when I went to work in the cool morning, but when I left at about two, it was burning hot inside and out. I threw a rag over the scorching leather seat, and turned on the fan. Only hot air came out. I drove on, occasionally winding down the window. It was taking a long time to cool, I thought. Another ten minutes of hot air and I began to wonder. Oh no! The airconditioner was not turned on!
05/17 Direct Link
These days my friends come to my cubicle for lemongrass and ginger tea. I set up this tea set at my desk. Someone brings the tea bags and I provide Manuka honey for sweetener.
These days are crazy. It's the end of the mid-terms and there's this mad rush to complete the grading of the exam scripts for the release of results at the end of the week. At the same time, there are classes to teach, and out-of-school activities like supporting our teams in matches.
The tea break is a respite from this madness.
05/18 Direct Link
Nic came to visit today, and he made sure I had time to sit down for lunch with him. He had brought me a carrot cake he made himself. In the one hour at lunch, he filled me in on what he's been doing since I last saw him. It's been a good three years or more.
He had been very busy. Most of his time was taken up with this NGO he and his brother were involved in, giving medical assistance to children in a rural area in Cambodia.
Wish there are more young people like him!
05/19 Direct Link
We were invited to this talk on palliative care. It's not that we need it. At least not yet, I think.

The young doctor spoke in a matter-of-fact way: there are the stages of decline; do not offer answers for questions like "Why me?"(you don't know); let the patient do what he still can; what he can't, assist; the end will come quite swiftly once the patient begin losing his functions; keep him comfortable; wash him, clean him. Keep him comfortable.

Guard his dignity.

Dignity! Sometimes, that is what goes first.
05/20 Direct Link
It's high tea at the Shangri-la after school today. We have been looking forward to this for weeks now. It's Peter's treat, and we appreciate it. The four of us lways have fun when we are together.
When I do finally retire, probably in three years' time, I would surely miss my friends at this school where I had taught for about 19 years. It is these out of school social meetings and the laughter that we share that lift my spirits when the pressure becomes too much to bear. My friends! What will I be without them?
05/21 Direct Link
Everyone who has tasted Nicolas' carrot cakes, from the time he was a student about five years ago, until now, say he makes the best carrot cakes. He is in college now, but is in business selling the cakes that he makes himself. He is in school today to deliver six cakes that my colleagues had ordered through me.
Matthew, our History teacher, has an excellent voice and he sings beautifully. He left us at the end of last year to pursue a music career.
I'll give my life wholly to be really good at just one thing.
05/22 Direct Link
Would I rather have extreme heat or extreme cold?

Extreme cold.

If it's very cold, we can pile on clothing and have a fire burning to keep warm. If it's extreme heat, we will get heat stroke even if we have peeled off all our clothing and are in the shade. It's very draining on our energy and we get dehydrated
These rainless days the mercury tops 39 deg C and the heat is stifling in the afternoon. We seek refuge in air-conditioned buildings. They say thousands have died from heat stroke in India.
05/23 Direct Link
We are at the mercy of the elements, most of the time. There seemed to be nothing we can do about the weather. When it was wet, it rained everyday threatening to wash out our plans. Then the rain stopped, and now we are scorched out by the heat. They say it's because of global warming, but if you ask me, the weather has been like this ever since I can remember. We are in the tropics, so I have already made peace with the heat. But a bit of relief would be nice, and I don't mean torrential downpour.
05/24 Direct Link
Today I broke my own rule about not bringing work home for the weekend. I spent the afternoon setting exam questions. It's alright, I thought, so long as there isn't anything else I would rather do.
I even had time to go to the mall for lunch and then browsed through books in our favourite bookstore for a while before picking up something for dinner at Isetan.
Dinner was delicious. We had grilled salmon, greens and lobster bisque.
So, there's really no harm in taking work home if it doesn't keep you from doing the other stuff.
05/25 Direct Link
My husband is coming to fetch me after work. So I have time to kill. Yes, all ten minutes of it. How did that come about? Time to kill, I mean. Time will pass us by quietly enough, and soon enough, so it really shouldn't require any extra effort on our part. Why kill it? Let it go. Let it pass.
I like that phrase: Even this too shall pass. Can't remember where I read it but for those bad times at work, I survive knowing "even this too shall pass."
There! Wrote this in seven minutes flat.
05/26 Direct Link
Living with intention is called a Science? Seriously! Can we really use thoughts to change our life and the world? I dread the day when this can happen. Not everyone's intentions are positive, noble or good. I am just glad that so far it's still all talk, and the few who claimed they can, have not really given any demonstrable proof of this happening. Right now, it sounds to me as iffy as mind over matter.

It's easier to understand the notion of living with purpose. This can be a positive force that drives our actions - and, thoughts!
05/27 Direct Link
It was e-learning for the students, and for us, we had outings arranged. Mine was a trip to the zoo. We were shown the back end operations such as the kitchen and the hospital.

If they had ended the visit after the opening talk on the history, purpose and vision of the zoo, I would have walked away happy. But at the kitchen, I learn they feed horses to the animals, race horses that had to be put down because they were injured. People who love animals putting down wounded animals and feed them to the lions?
05/28 Direct Link
I hadn't wanted to do anything for this class because they are so unresponsive. There is no class spirit. It's been half a year, and we still have problem getting them to speak up in class. They didn't even want to order the class photograph for this their graduating year!

But my colleague has a generous spirit. She bought a cake and took them to the canteen for an end of semester celebration.

Well, the gesture got to them. We had text messages of appreciation from a few of them that evening. The semester ended well.
05/29 Direct Link
The semester comes to an end, sort of. There's another week of extra classes, but I'll live. I look forward to next three weeks break, and to being unreachable.

In the afternoon, my good friend came by my desk and asked me out for ice-cream. He took me to this swanky gourmet ice-cream cafe where we had to register at the door to get a queue number. It was the first time I rode in his new car.

Thanks to the sea salt with gula melaka ice-cream, I went back to work happy.
05/30 Direct Link
In her book "How to Make a Watercolor Paint Itself", Nita Engle says she believes in a carefree, unstructured approach to painting, one without limits. "Watercolor often requires a bold and daring attack. And if you lose, it's only a piece of paper!" She quoted what Winston Churchill said about painting with audacity. His friend had advised him to "hurl slashes of paint on an absolutely cowering canvas. Anyone could see that it could not hit back!"

I get it! I must paint with audacity. If it doesn't work out, I just throw out another piece of paper!
05/31 Direct Link
Watched a couple of youtube videos on how to draw faces. They were demonstrating Riley's abstractions of the planes of the face. One video uses pencil while the other, Photoshop. I like the latter better, because the artist was able to transform the planes in the abstraction to actual shading of the final face.
I am learning quite a lot from youtube videos, so that I am not sure if I want to spend the time - and money - going to NAFA for classes.
The obvious advantage is having a mentor who would guide and teach you real time.