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It's the start of February 2016. Many have predicted economic slump and political upheaval for this year, but it's February, and still nothing much has happened, besides the usual avalanches, train crashes, terrorist bombings, airstrikes on some countries and the typhoons and wild fire.
Yep. Nothing much has happened. It's been a pretty quiet start to 2016. I hear there's lots of snow in the Northeastern parts of US. There are floods in parts of UK. There are more than a million migrants or refugees making long and hazardous journeys into Europe.
That's pretty much it.
This year, we've decided not to get our place ready for the Lunar New Year which begins on the 8th. I mean, no spring-cleaning and no festive decorations. The re-union dinner will not be at my place, so I'm counting on not having to receive guests. We only have to bring a dish to my brother-in-law's place for the dinner, and some gifts for each family. I am looking forward to the holidays to catch up on my reading. After more than six decades of doing this, I think I am entitled to a year off.
Is there poverty in our country? Does good governance mean lifting people out of poverty? Is this expected of the government in a meritocracy like the one we are living in?
We go back to more fundamental questions in order to answer these and other ensuing questions: Why are people poor?
Someone contends that a person's state of material being is a result of the choices he made. But isn't it true that the poor have few choices compared to those who are born rich? So they are poor not because they made the wrong choices.
It's only 8.50 and already I am so sleepy. I haven't done very much since dinner. Maybe I'm lethargic because I had a very heavy dinner. I didn't mean to eat so much but when food was left, the cook usually eats it or it will go to waste.
See? Maybe that's why I am so sleepy; I bored myself to sleep. Can't believe I have written such boring, mundane stuff.
I do have some exciting stuff: Julian Assange tells UN to rule for or against him so that he could leave the Ecuador Embassy.
Today we had lessons up to 10.30 and then we were treated to a Lunar New Year concert at the Auditorium. Each year, we looked forward to this because of the drums and vibrant dancing. The beat was exhilarating and set us in the mood for the Spring Festival. At the end, two "big-head dolls" danced through the rows of students throwing "ang pows" or red packets to them. Students scrambled for these, inside each was a treat. The atmosphere was electric.
But the real treat is, we don't have school for the next six days!
In my first dream last night, my husband and I were on this trip with a big group. We were on a hike. My husband wasn't keen and we went back to the hotel. This wasn't like him. Usually, I was the one who opt out of hiking. Usually, also, we don't travel with a group. But then, this is only a dream.
In another dream, an ex-student was showing me sections of the newspapers where she was featured.
Pretty mundane stuff, I know. But I have just gotten up, and they're still fresh on my mind.
Promises are meant to be kept, or we shouldn't promise in the first place. This is all the more so with wedding vows. I'm not about to judge anyone, because there are very difficult marriages. Two people who choose to live together need to make a lot of adjustments to maintain a harmonious relationship. Being in love is not enough.
I kept working at this because I've made a promise and I must keep that promise. It's a commitment I hold myself to. If we do everything we can to stay together, we might just make it work.
This is the first day of the Spring Festival, or the Lunar New Year. It is the most important day, and we set out in the morning to pay our respects to the oldest in the clan, my parents-in-law.
For myself, I have dispensed of the formality of requiring my sons to pay respects at my place. Instead, we all gathered at my parents-in-law's place and exchange greetings. When we got there, our cousins and extended family were already there.
We had lunch. That's it. The formalities were done and we left.
I have been thinking long and hard about my retirement. Do I just take it easy and enjoy what's left, doing the things I like?
That thought scares me. It's like saying I will wait to die. It's like there's nothing more to be done. I told my class today that there's something I need to see before I die: the Northern Lights! Then, it hits me. Do I mean that I am ready to die after that? That's when I say, "No. I'd rather not see it, so that I'll always have that to look forward to."
On days like this, I'm glad I am confined to this body so that I cannot be in two places at the same time. I can't attend the staff meeting at 3 because I am on course this afternoon.
At times like these, I'm also glad that there is a finite number of hours to one day, and no one can stretch it beyond the twelve hours of daylight so that we can do more administrative chores. The sun will set at 7, and the day will be over by midnight.
Thank God for these limitations.
"Look at that big bird. It's an eagle!"
"No, it's not," said my friend.
"How do you know?"
"It's flapping its wings a bit too much for an eagle."
An eagle, he explains, is so powerful it can glide on its huge wings. A smaller, less powerful bird has to flap its wings a lot harder to stay in the air.
I see an analogy there. Someone who is very good at something usually doesn't talk much about himself. But someone less so tends to oversell himself because he's lacking in confidence.
Oh my! It's been a week since I last wrote. This happens to be the most important week of the year. This is the week when more than a billion people visit another billion people to exchange auspicious greetings of good fortune and good health.
It's also a week of feasting and family re-union and noise. Malls and businesses hire lion dancers to usher in the New Year with drums and cymbals and pugilistic dancing.
It is the Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival. Today is the fifth day. Ten more days to go.
Today I will do better what I did yesterday. Tomorrow, I will do better what I did today. I got this from Patti Smith's interview this morning. They are launching her second book. I can't remember the title now.
If I keep this resolution, then each day I get better at what I do and I become a better, more accomplished person.
Let me see. What have I done better? At lunch, I stir fried French beans in XO sauce. It was cooked through and yet crunchy, an improvement over the soggy beans I cooked before.
In my school days I set good grades as my target and worked steadfastly towards that. By the time I finished college, I set my sight on a career where I could best serve society. I thought I have found that in a high school teaching job. Then I got married and devoted myself to my family, while still keeping that noble job.
I have done it all. Now my kids are married, and, after more than four decades of faithful service, I am looking at retiring in less than two years. What do I work for now?
My head hurts. Not the way a headache hurt. How shall I put it? It hurts when I touch it, when I turn it, or even when I frown. Hey, it hurts even when I apply too much pressure hitting the keys on the keyboard. It hurts on the outside?
Oh, now it hurts like a headache hurts. It hurts on the inside. It is a pulsating kind of pain somewhere top of the crown left of centre.
We don't know what goes on inside our body. Pain is one way the body gets our attention.
It doesn't take much to lift my mood. A swig of red wine usually does that for me. I don't have to drink til my head swirls. Just the taste of red wine, any red wine, gives me a sense of well-being and satisfaction, the sort that money can buy.
I can go on like this, dumping words til I'm 100-word full. But, seriously, I appreciate the half-glass of wine that my husband had just brought in for me. I had quite a rough day and I would rather drink wine than dwell on it.
The time between noon and four is the hottest. It is worse now at about four because the sun has been heating up the concrete for more than four hours already, and without the respite that an afternoon shower offers, this is really not the time for human beings to be out in the open.
Yet, I've been here at the pool all afternoon. It's the school's swimming heats and teachers like us are on duty here after classes in the morning. We'll be doing this all week right up to the Finals on Friday. My head hurts.
I still think of my sisters now and then, and I still regret not doing much for them when they were alive. My elder sis died last year after a short battle with stomach cancer. There was a period of about four months during treatment when I did not visit her. My younger sis died more than three years ago after a long battle with brain cancer. I had not shown much concern then either. They were right. i didn't care enough.
Or was it because I was afraid? Afraid of not being able to deal with death?
The train stopped about 1 km from the next station. I was tired and hungry. The train was packed with peak hour commuters. Then, a recorded voice came over the system.
"This train is delayed for a short while due to a technical problem. We apologise for any inconvenience caused." Or something to that effect.
We would hear this every five minutes for the next 30 minutes.
It would have been more re-assuring if a human voice had spoken to us instead. It was frustrating not knowing when the train would move again.
I am convinced there can never be time travel. The past does not exist once it's over. The future does not exist because it has yet to happen. I believe in the concept of the arrow of time: it flies forward. You cannot travel back in time. You cannot turn back the clock. You cannot relive the past. There is a difference between the past and the future. Things change forward. They increase in entropy, because there are many more ways for a system to be disorderly than orderly. I age because my biological systems become more disorderly with time.
It's Sunday, and today we went to this Church we tried out a few weeks ago. We have some very good friends there, friends we've known for close to thirty-five years.
Today, our singing was accompanied by a full orchestra and there must be at least sixty people in the choir. I like the service, the songs, the sermon and the people. The pastor preached on Genesis 6. Noah found favour with God. God's grace extended to the rest of his family. Noah was blameless, but not sinless. When he sinned, he repented and God forgave him.
Song came to visit. He was my student twelve years ago. He graduated, served national service, went to medical school and returned a year ago. He's now practicing at a local clinic. In the years in between, he had dropped by several times. He found me in the Geography Room. My students had started streaming in and I was having trouble with the equipment.
He tried to help, plugging in the HDMI cable, re-starting my Acer tablet and got my slides on the screen.
Just like twelve years ago, when he was in my class.
My friend whatsapped me with pictures of the beautiful blooms in her potted plants in her balcony. That's right. We don't have gardens and lawn. The more fortunate have balconies. Others place potted plants outside their homes in the common corridors.
But I digress. I have not set out to bemoan our lack of financial access to landed property - only millionaires own landed property here - but I wanted to draw attention to other parts of the plant. Why are we excited about flowers? Leaves can be beautiful too, right?
The good lookers always get the attention!
It's official. China is ending her One-Child Policy. Not that it concerns me, but I watched a documentary about what went wrong with the policy. In it, one man said no government has the right to tell people not to have kids, or how many kids they should have. Governments can encourage by giving some incentives or discourage by withdrawing them.
True. Maybe it is better that governments educate people on how their actions affect society as a whole, and let them make informed and responsible choices.
That is, if this is a perfect world.
Domaine Derey Freres, Fixin vielles vignes, 2012. 100% Pinot Noir, old vines. Very few bottles produced and sell out quickly. Made with a view to age well.
Refined nose of flowers and red cherry fruit with light hint of earth and summer blooms. On the palate, crunchy fruits with a touch of saline minerality. Silky tannins that is fine yet grippy. A very pleasant finish that lingers on. Approachable but better with a year or two more of cellaring. Goes well with carpet-bag steak or Bresse chicken with morels.
Soothing. The language of good wine!
Expressive nose with red cherries and a bit of earth. Mineral on the palate with persistent cherry fruit. Well balanced. A firm grip on the medium-long finish. Drinking well now but will benefit from another one to two years of cellaring.
Suggested food match: Cantonese roast pork, or suckling pig.
100% Pinot Noir. In a vineyard high up on the slopes abutting Fixin, Cote de Nuits, one of the best in Marsannay.
The wine is Domaine Derey Freres, Marsannay, Les Champs Perdrix, 2012.
So much for my first wine tasting class!
We attended the wedding of our friend's daughter this morning. I don't like church weddings because I don't like the pastor commanding the wife to obey the husband and the husband only to love the wife.
This morning the person giving the message was a marriage counsellor of sorts. He began by saying that this is the start of many difficulties that at times it seems love is not enough. Living with another person requires effort. They have to be generous towards one another and forgive any real or perceived transgression of their partner.
She was working as a maid in another country when she received news of her husband's passing. Her neighbours and her parents helped look after her three young children. Not long after, she came to work in our country and started attending this church.
This is a common story among the foreign workers here. Many had to leave their spouses and young children behind. It is heart-wrenching just to listen to her tell her sad story. I only hope that with her income, her children will have a better future, or her sacrifice will be in vain
Yes. This is a leap year. I am glad this day appeared here now. It wasn't there when I checked last night.
2016! I like this number. It's divisible by 4. It is an even number.
This is the year I resolve to live life with more zest. I'll not slip into my twilight years, but will rekindle the flame for life I was born with. I don't like people telling me I should retire and take it easy and enjoy what's left. I know they will retire me, but I'll find something else to do.
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