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It's my first day back at work after I slipped and fell and broke my wrist on May 18. I've been writing about this in my June entries and I this is the last time that I mention this. It's a way of bringing things back to the way they were. It's when something like this happens that you know who your true friends are: those who offer to grade your exam scripts because your right hand is in a splint. Grading someone else's scripts when you have own quota is the ultimate expression of love. Thanks, Phil, Peter, Sandra...
I've just opened the window near the desk. The curtains started fluttering, the pages of the books on the table are flapping, and a sheet of paper that is not weighted down just flew off. I know it's the wind. But that has never ceased to fascinate me. No one has seen wind, but because of what it does, we're very sure of its existence. We know how it's formed. We can measure its speed and we can map out the planetary wind system. Yet, we can never see it. So we can believe in what we cannot see, right?
This past month, when my right hand was in a cast after I slipped and fell and broke my wrist, I realise how important it is to be able to use both hands. I've taken a lot of things for granted, simple things like writing with a pen and even picking up a spoon with my left hand. On the second week, I actually painstakingly drew a scene with bighorn sheep on a mountain, all with my left hand! I drew in ink and colour in with pastels and watercolor pencils. It feels good to be able to do that.
These days I am more relaxed because I have relinquished a position of responsibility that I held for almost a decade and become an ordinary teacher supervised by teachers half my age. In the beginning I felt slighted, wronged even. I have to step down because I have reached retirement age? Since when does having forty years of experience makes me a less capable teacher? I licked my wounds only for a while as I begin to enjoy the freedom it gives me. Freedom to walk away and do something I would enjoy, something that I can do post retirement.
I have just been to a wake.
We went to spend time with or friend in her time of grief. She used to work with us. In fact, she used to be our reporting officer. We got word yesterday that her eldest son was killed when he fell from a waterfall while on a picnic with his family.
But what comfort can we bring to the living if we cannot bring back the dead? There have been too many deaths among our circle of friends in the last three years. Yet, we move on and life goes back to normal.
One thing is certain: we will all die one day. I've attended funerals of family members, friends and colleagues. If they aren't struck down by disease, they still die of old age. Well meaning people always counsel others to live lives to the fullest, to enjoy every moment, to cease the day. And then what? Only to die at the end of diseases that rob us of our dignity? I like to think that this life is for "storing up treasures in Heaven", to do what is spiritually significant. Maybe our lives are not measured in years but in deeds.
What irks me most in the office? The smell of food. My colleagues eat their meals at their desks all around me. While I always make it a point to go to the canteen or the pantry, the others bought food from the canteen and eat at their desk. This is Asia. When I say the smell of food, it's not the smell of fries or sandwiches. It's noodles and rice and curries. But the issue is so sensitive I cannot bring it up. It is something I have to put up with, because everyone else seems fine with it.
What does it feel like to grow old? It's funny, but the older one grows, the less one feels. The reverse is, naturally, also true. A toddler cries a lot more, throws a lot more tantrums than a teenager. As an adult, we learn to control ourselves and behave in the presence of others. As we age, we show less emotion, are more even-tempered and tend to accept whatever happens. Is it because we lose the passion for life? Or maybe I should backtrack. Maybe, it's not the same for everyone. It's just that way with me, I suppose.
It's not easy writing on this iPadmini. Sometimes it stalls. I know it's not necessarily the fault of the device. It is more likely the Internet that is slow. But it can be frustrating nonetheless. We enjoy the pleasures that all this connectivity opens us to, so we should not gripe too much about little irritations like slow access. I like the feel of the keyboard. Yes, I bought a Bluetooth keyboard to go with this little device. I also like the ease with which I can just flip open the device and go to my last session without rebooting.
The cock was quite oblivious to the fact that it was the only one of its kind in the field. The adults were trying to teach the children the name of the bird that was strutting about and clucking. Then it struck me. These kids might not have seen a live fowl in their lives until now! When I was young, we bought live chickens from the market and have the farmer slaughter them and cut them up before we take them home. These kids have seen only cats and dogs in real life. Where did this cock come from?
There was this short piece in the news about a young mother who died ten weeks after her baby was born. She had stomach cancer but her pregnancy caused the doctors to misdiagnose the symptoms. She had abdominal pains and the doctors just assumed it was because of her pregnancy. When the pain got worse, they examined her and found she was suffering from terminal cancer. They delivered her baby daughter and put her through chemotherapy. But it was too late. This is so sad because if it had been found earlier, she could have been saved. So very sad.
My friend's son got accepted into med school. Most of our kids from better families are either in law or in medicine. I have never entertained either of these two courses, and so I have never envied them. I can't imagine being in a job where my primary contacts are sick people. It's a noble thing to do if I could save lives, and heal some. But I cannot forget what one student told me some twenty years ago. He said both his parents were oncologists. They had cancer and couldn't save themselves. He was a bitter 16 year-old.
Green is a very calming colour. I'm sitting in my classroom where the windows on one side open to canopy of the rain trees outside. I am enjoying the view. I love green.
I also like blue. Under the blue sky, the water beneath takes on the same hue and all is in perfect harmony. But blue is not my colour. I can't take blue. It makes me look pale and insipid.
Orange lights me up, while yellow is also pale. I cannot understand why some people always wear black when there are so many other colours to choose from.
UK has a new PM today. Theresa May. She started filling the key positions in her cabinet this morning. The lady has her work cut out for her. I am amused by the press outside No. 10 watching for who go in and whether they come out smiling. Do we need to know real time everything that happens? I am happy with just a summary of the day's events at the end of the day. But then, I can always turn off the telly. Nobody is compelling me to sit and watch. Of course, I could also switch channel. There!
I must've changed so much that I'm unrecognisable. There she was staring at me and listening to me tell her about what I have been doing, and not feeling any compulsion to interject to show attentiveness or comprehension of what I'm telling her. Maybe I said too much. Well, I haven't seen her since forever! There are lots to tell. And then I checked myself. What about you? How are you doing? I heard you got married. We should catch up. Would be great to finally get to meet your husband. "You can't. He died." That was all she said.
He quits his job because he didn't like to be bound by the 9 to 5 hours day after day, and looking forward to the same paycheck every month. His work day is all determined by the people he works under. They will tell him what needs to be done. There is no room for initiative or creativity. He works in a lab.How much creativity do you need to prepare specimens in glass slides and petri dishes? But to many people, this could be exciting. I can easily think of a lot more repetitive and mindless work than this.
He was already 67, but he was a sad man. He was convinced he could have been an artist but was denied the opportunities to train and to work in that line. He was turned away from art schools and couldn't get a job doing art. This country is too small, he said. There was no place for him to realize his dream. That was when I said, if I didn't go for it, I have no one to blame but myself. If I think I have the passion and talent, I mustn't give excuses. I must go for it!
Truth is so under-rated in today's society. Sometimes we distort it to suit the circumstances. We make light of such distortions, rationalising that as long as people are not hurt, or if there are benefits to be reaped, then it's all right. Truth is either truth, or not. If it's not, it's a...? Few have the courage to call it just that! A lie! Truth is sacrificed on the altar of public opinion, as is so often the case in the political arena. If the truth is inconvenient, it is couched in half-truths, vehemently denied or viciously discredited.
Today I found out that some of the things I was told, and believed, were not true. For instance, lemmings don't commit mass suicide. Rather, they migrate in large numbers and then when they come to the edge of a cliff, they fall off, pushed by those behind. I also learned that bats aren't blind. They just happened to have very acute sense of hearing, so they are guided by their hearing instead of their sight. Not that these bits of information matter to me, but in this digital age, we're continually being fed information that we often don't authenticate.
When I first took up this enterprise of writing 100 words a day, I thought the only difficulty is finding something to write about everyday. True, the hardest part is staying interesting when you have to do this daily. It's not the word count that's a limitation. It's my imagination. Today, I find myself committing to do yet another enterprise: to produce a drawing every day. I convinced myself that I should draw daily to become a better artist. I will revisit this notion next month and see if my resolve is matched with the necessary action. Should be interesting.
I don't know why I'm still feeding a pond full of small fish that were initially bought to feed the huge catfish in the pond. The catfish has passed on long ago, but I didn't have the heart to throw out the "fish food", so I continue to feed the "food". With the predator gone, the prey community has grown. It is silly, right, to go on feeding and rearing these dull coloured little fish that has no commercial or aesthetic value. That's just it. It bothers me that just because they are cheap and ugly, I throw them out.
If I were to dwell on those things that others have and I don't, I would be so miserable. No, it's not that I've low self esteem. It's just sad that I'm surrounded by people with clever children, devoted husbands, loving families, wealthy relatives and a great start in life with the resources they need to succeed. The gulf between the haves and the have-nots is not mythical. It's real. But I'm happier today than I ever was, knowing that none of these things last forever. In the end, Death is the Leveller. I'm thankful for what I have.
During the month my hand was in a cast, I longed to paint, and swore that would be the first thing I'll do when the cast is off. It has been a month since the cast was off and I haven't done any painting. Maybe I'm not as passionate about painting as I imagined. Maybe I'm just lazy. I wouldn't put off something if I enjoy it, right? This will not do. I'm going to wake up one day and find my life all over, and I have nothing to show for it. How does one go about getting motivation?
The sermon this morning was on the discipline of meditation. It's easier to pray and fast, but how do I meditate? In most eastern religions meditation is an important part of their teachings. For us, we have been taught to meditate on the Scriptures. That still does not tell me a whole lot about how to meditate. That's why I appreciate the sermon this morning. It's a little more helpful. The preacher says it is to remember (God's goodness), to think (about what God's actions in history) and to wait (upon God). To meditate is to remember, think and wait.
My husband left for a conference in Batam this morning. Usually I would welcome this short break from him and do the things that I enjoy doing on my own. One big item on the agenda is the Garden Show in town. I'll try to catch it tomorrow, but today, I would just go down to the Library after school and chill. My friend made me foie gras so I had it with salad and quinoa for dinner. This is one of the things I don't get to do with my husband around. He likes traditional Chinese dishes with rice.
I did not sleep well last night. That is usually the case when I sleep alone. I had to leave some lights on, and I had to try to stop imagining things. With him around, I sleep better because there's a sense of comfort and security. I woke up with a dry and sore throat and stuffy nose. As the day wears on, it develops into a full-blown cold and I had to get some medications from the clinic, just so that I could sleep better tonight. It is a pity, because I can't go to the Garden Show.
It is no use. I never have faith in medications anyway. In the morning, I went to work medicated and tired from lack of sleep. My friend made me Expresso for breakfast, but that did nothing to perk me up. After my Environment Science class, I stayed in the room so that I won't pass the germs on to my colleagues in the Staff Room. Actually, it doesn't really matter. There are already rats, flies and cockroaches. We would get sick one way or another. Come to think of it, I could have caught a cold in the Staff Room.
My husband returned from his overseas conference this afternoon, and as we are expecting to host an exchange student, who would be arriving in the late afternoon, he wasted no time getting down to the task of clearing the clutter that I couldn't manage with my wrist injury. By the time our friend brought our boarder, the room was ready. We brought them out for dinner at the mall and left her to herself for the rest of the evening. After a twelve hour flight from Europe, we do not expect her to want to make small conversations with us.
It's PTM again in school. I have only two appointments, but I expect a few walk-ins. I do not mind meeting parents of my students. It is good to connect with their parents so that we have an understanding of the ecosystem that nurtures them. What piques me is the way it is done. Teachers sit in rows in a big hall, at assigned places, while parents go from one teacher to another spending a maximum of ten minutes with each teacher. I suppose this is the most efficient way to get the meetings done but it's too mechanical.
Bob Buford in his book "Stuck in Half Time" says " A purposeful Second Half is that place where work, meaning, and happiness merge. It is where you can be fully engaged in activities that match your skills, capacity, and mission. We were meant to work, but so much of what we have done in the First Half was drudgery - necessary busyness that contributed to tje bottom line but did not always reflect who we really were."
It's Saturday today. Come Monday and I will be back at work - the drudgery, the busyness and the emptiness. I'm way past half-time
I have reached the end of another month without completing a month of 100 words. I intend to catch-up before mid-month and hereby pledge to faithfully write 100 words on a daily basis- and not in bunches - for August. There. I have made a commitment. We shall wait to see if I fulfill it. Only time will tell.
Time tells? Time does a lot of stuff, really. Time flies. Time creeps. Time whooshes by. Time flows...
We cannot stop time from moving on and we just have to make the best of every moment before it's gone.
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