7 Jalan Harom Setangkai


I spent my formative years growing up in 7 Jalan Harom Setangkai. It was the family home that my grandparents had bought in the late '70s as an investment for them and their 3 children, and it became my home from 1997 to 2001. Around 1997, my parents decided they couldn't afford to pay the mortgage on our current house, so they decided swallow their pride and move back to my grandparent's place. The move made sense, after all my grandparents now had 3 free rooms because all their adult children had moved out, and at 7 I was an absolute pest about being separated from my grandmother. We ended up staying there till end of 2001 (I don't remember moving during the school year), so I spent a good chunk of my childhood in that place, and it definitely left a strong impression on me.

Living in that house as a chid was great. My grandparents were always around during the day time (OK, not great when my grandmother came after me to study) and there were lots of area to play around in. There was the old wooden bar which was a massive dust bomb because the maid completely ignored it - felty green carpet and all, the staircase landing in the middle that had its own little window and curtain - which was excellent for playing 'house' in, and the large garden complete with all sorts of plants and trees. The house was also filled with all sorts of odd knick knacks. I once found movie film canisters in my grandparent's room [see: second floor, area on bottom right labelled 'junk'] sitting next to a rusting treadmill, and I would play with the wood shavings and various substances my dad would use for his luthier hobby out on the back balcony. Fruit season was fun too, because the rambutan tree always blossomed like crazy, and there were always rambutans to eat.

I have many memories associated with that place, all of them warm and fuzzy, from a time where I was less anxious and less scared of everything. Thinking about it makes me feel happy and safe, but it also makes me feel a little sad because I know that the 7 Jalan Harom Setangkai I remember only exists in my recollections. After we moved out in 2001, the house was completely torn down and rebuilt, then my grandparents sold it and the new owner decided to rebuild the house from scratch (again! Ahaha).

Today after picking my grandparents up to go to lunch, we ended up driving past the old house. Of the entire row of houses along Jalan Harom Setangkai, number 7 was the only house that had been altered completely beyond recognition from my childhood. Still, I should be thankful that I have so many vivid and nice memories of my childhood home. 

Preliminary Reading

"In the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith thought that the primary role of education in the eighteenth century was to compensate for the 'almost entire corruption and degeneracy of the great body of the people', that resulted from the mind-numbing jobs which most people were expected undertake in return for increased wages"- Introduction in Education, Globalisation and Social Change.

I giggled. Am not looking forward to work starting again tomorrow.

Today I saw Two Hubcaps

I don't know when I first learnt the word "hubcaps". I remember knowing it from a young age, and I seem to vaguely remember asking my Dad what it was when I was about 6, because I kept seeing the word in Archie comics. Several of the running gags in Archie comics involve Archie's sad jalopy that keeps failing, including a few which featured both the wheels and hubcaps flying off in the midst of being driven. Thankfully cars aren't actually like that.

Today I had yet another driving lesson. While driving around (we seemed to have moved on from parking to refining my road skills), I saw a hubcap lying about on a grassy kerb area. Later on the way home on 156, I saw yet another hubcap lying on a grassy area, this time pretty far from a road. Pretty odd to see two abandoned hubcaps in one day.

Random Things to Note, Lest I Forget

Met up with Rufus for brunch today at Holland Village. He brought along a friend, Boon Guan, whose name seemed familiar but whose face I couldn't place. No matter, we had a great brunch together at Breko. By the end of brunch I wanted to run off and rest my horribly winded lungs - we had talked so much that I felt like I couldn't speak anymore. I suppose that's one way to determine great meal partners.

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Last week we had a lesson on protecting the high seas. It was bits of climate change, pollution and overfishing all rolled up together in a ball of bad things. I decided to concentrate more on overfishing, because I didn't recall it being taught very much in school at all. All the bits I knew about Bad Fishing Styles and overfishing came from outside reading, so it wasn't till I pieced all my information together when I was planning my lesson that I finally realised how dire the whole situation is. As it is before that, I had already refused to touch pomfret because I know they're horribly overfished, but still kept chomping away on tuna and shark's fin.

Anyway, I had heard about dynamite fishing before, and set about trying to find some clips. Everytime I think of dynamite fishing, I cannot help but laugh blithely, because despite how incredibly destructive it is to the environment (which makes most people sober), the act itself seems to me so ridiculously over the top and overly aggressive that I cannot help but laugh. Bombing fish! That's like throwing a grenade to catch a rabbit. It's the stuff of movies like Naked Gun. Except it's real life, which makes it even funnier and sad at the same time, and so makes me laugh even more.

I ended up typing "dynamite fishing" into youtube (as you do), and realised that the first result given was possibly one of the most funniest things I have ever seen in my life. It wasn't until I watched it for the first time with audio with my students that I realised some parts of the clip has been dubbed over for comedic effect, which made the video even better.

It reminds me of Exploding Whale, which I saw a few years ago and absolutely loved:


Perhaps it's just because it's the perfect combination of things that makes me laugh: death, explosions, and black humour (though, what does this say about me as a person?)

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Today after dinner with my grandparents, they sent us back home. They took a different route from my parents and we ended up driving home via Old Holland Road. The last time my grandfather had been driving me along Old Holland Road was when I was still a student in MGS, probably circa 2006. He kept mentioning how he used to drive me, asking me if I remembered, and chuckling to himself. Then just as we turned the corner to enter Greenleaf Road, he asked me if I remembered how the wall of the house at the corner had collapsed, closing the road temporarily. I was quite amazed because it was EXACTLY what I was recalling just moments before, and made me feel a little warm and fuzzy inside. Ah, shared memories of other people's misfortune. 

So Close, So Far

Just watched So Close, So Far with Shu at the Iranian Film Fest. By a stroke of luck I manage to hop onto both 75 and 970 with minimal waiting and arrived home just before 12am, which is a great way to end the day, and put me in a more amiable mood to blog.

I liked the movie initially right until the last bit. I like foreign films that are slice-of-life, peeps into other worlds. The problem I find with this film was that towards the end it felt terribly improbable and depressing (unless 0.01% of every Iranian dies trapped in a sandstorm covered car), with some bits feeling a bit overacted and overwrought. It reminded me a bit of a Russian movie I had seen at the East End Film Festival years ago in 2010, which is still by the far the most depressing and bleak movie I have seen in my 24 years of existence. I remember running to the movie theatre from Stepney Green tube because the Hammersmith Line was delayed. I remember clocking the various fried chicken stores all over as I ran. I remember sitting in stunned silence when the movie came to the end because, WTF?!

Anyway I guess in comparison to that, the Iranian film was much less of a downer. It had some nice shots of Iran, which I really liked seeing, though the shots of the harsh desert landscape made me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps it's because I don't like the idea of being so utterly far from human life. True enough, that's how the main character dies (from being alone and trapped in the wilderness), confirming all my worse city-born stereotypical fears.

Have just started trying to select classes for the upcoming Fall Term, which makes me feel a bit better about things. Lately work has been overwhelming and (largely) unrewarding, which already makes for shit morale. Compounding the problem however is the fact that I know I am serving my resignation notice period, which makes me feel even less motivated, no matter how much I do love and care for my students. Although I know the lack of enthusiasm I feel now is only temporary, it still feels horrid. It makes me feel like pulling grumpy faces at the world. Talking to colleagues helps I suppose, because they understand exactly what nonsense I am talking about, and talking to Shu today over dinner helped too, because she feels similarly. Ah life and jobs.

Teary Eyes

Yesterday I made a silly mistake. I realised it mere moments after I made the error, and groaned inwardly at what a n00b error (for lack of a better word) it was. I had given out the coloured paper for Father's Day cards before I had finished all the work in class. As I walked out of class to grab the coloured paper, the thought of what a massive distraction it would be vaguely crossed my mind (for I am not that unaware), but then the thought of forgetting to give the paper out seemed worse. So while my students were still dutifully completing their full sentence corrections, I started to slowly distribute the paper only to see them jump out of their seats and clamour for their choice of paper colour. Oh dear.

Needless to say, the last Cloze Passage (on a dog nonetheless) was rushed through by the students as they eagerly awaited Arts-and-Crafts time. Which was just as well really because I felt utterly worn and exhausted yesterday. From 2 weeks ago I've been swamped at work with extra classes. The week of 27/5 to 31/5, I had 11 classes. The week of 3/6 to 7/6 I had 12 classes. This week I am back to 11 classes. I can only wonder what next week will bring.

Yesterday as well something interesting happened, which is that I walked into class and I was immediately greeted by a teary P4 student. My heart sank because I my mind ran amok of all the potential problems: Did someone bully him? Did an accident happen? Then, when he told me he fell down, I thought in horror that he had been injured In The Centre. The relief I felt when he told me he fell outside, in the carpark, was palpable.

I brought him to the office to get anti-septic cream. As we walked there, I noticed he seemed to be even more upset than I had initially realised. His voice was trembling, and he kept talking about how it hurt a lot and how he was in Great Pain (probably exaggerating). Rolling back the sleeve of his denim jacket, I realised he had a long scratch running down his left arm. As I dug around the first aid kit to find something that wouldn't set off his tears (read: alcohol swab) he started to look more and more worried. In the end I settled on letting him apply the anti-septic cream himself as he winced and got all teary, lest I be too rough and prompt a flurry of tears. Then we walked back to class and I told him an anecdote about how I had missed my English orals once because I was running around the quadrangle and fell badly, scraping my knees, and became utterly inconsolable until I was brought home. He seemed to perk up after that.

It's hard for me to quite describe how I felt at that moment as I led him down the hallway to the office, and looked into his worried teary eyes. I felt so terrible that he was sad, and felt that my heart would break if he cried. This was probably compounded by the fact that he's one of the students I am fond of, and a huge history buff like me. I wanted very much to give him a hug and say 'everything's going to be fine!', but I'm sure that would've been wildly inappropriate.

When we went back to class, the place was in uproar. His classmates were happily chatting away and I ended up shouting at them to finish writing their content page. Then one of female students happily started 'ZX stabbed himself! That's why he's hurt' and the whole class started to get very excited about ZX's injury, pestering him with silly questions. I ended up cutting in and telling another anecdote about the Most Embarrassing Fall I Have Ever Had - one where I slipped on an icy patch in LSE and fell on my rump next to a group of tourists admiring the Old Curiosity Shop - and they soon forgot about ZX and started doing their work. 

Glass Classrooms

As my teaching careers draws to a close (and when I have the time!), I start to think more and more about the job as a whole and the things I have learnt. I keep thinking to myself: I should write this all down, but the moment I get home I get distracted by something soothing and forget at all about it. This is especially made worse by the fact that I've re-discovered the time black hole that is Civilisation and have been playing it almost every night since last week Tuesday.

For the past few Fridays, I've been assigned to a glass classroom next to the staffroom. I call it a glass classroom because it is literally made of glass. Glass windows look out onto Thomson Road where you can see flags from several nations fluttering away, and the walls and door are made of glass, giving you a full-on view of the two adjoining classrooms (and the other way round too). I am not particularly fond of the classroom because it feels like I'm teaching in a fishbowl, plus you need to awkwardly walk through another classroom to enter it. That being said, it is near the toilets and the staffroom, so I can dash about easily. Still a classroom is a classroom, and I'm getting vaguely used to it.

Recently however, I've been feeling a bit stressed out about teaching there, namely because of the teacher next door. She's a senior teacher, and the lesson plans she shares during meetings always sound fantastic, plus her students always look so engaged and interested. Watching her from my classroom I feel inadequate as a teacher. I can't command such gravitas, summon up such energy and spunk, and plan my lessons as well as her. Even though I tell myself she has a good 10 years worth of experience on me, I still can't help but feel slightly despondent and wish for better for my students. Wish that they had a better teacher who could help them a lot more.

All things said and wished however, I know (for better or worse!) that my students are genuinely of me as a person and an individual, rather than me as a teacher - and I cannot help but wonder if it just might be a good thing, that they will learn empathy amongst other things from the time I've spent with them. Only time will tell I suppose, and I wouldn't trade my students for any other in the world.

Parallel Parking

Just finished a driving lesson and will have another one on Thursday. Today my instructor (a kindly old man that reminds me of my grandfather) told me that the next lesson, we'll begin parallel parking, because my reverse parking seemed to be good enough. Granted while I agree I have been making progress, I'm still not very confident in my reverse parking skills. Oh well. Still, I'm happy to be driving. It's quite fun gliding along roads, and not at all as stressful as I imagined.

A few weeks ago on a Friday, I sat for my final theory test and scored 50/50. I was quite overjoyed because well, I don't recall ever having scored full marks for any sort of test before. That and if I failed my final theory test, it'd be months before I could take it again. Owing to my magnificent procrastination skills, I managed to time the whole learning driving + test schedule so tightly that I really only have one chance to pass both the final theory test and the practical test if I want to get my driving license before I leave to start my Masters programme. Well, fingers crossed for 18th July.

In other news I am still sick. I fell ill some 2 weeks ago and somehow muddled through work with my throat all swollen before leaving for a family trip to Boracay, Philippines, where I fell even sicker (hello heat!). Now some 4 days after coming home from Boracay, I am still sick. This also means that every time (2 out of 2) I go to the Philippines, I fall sick before the trip and get more ill during the trip itself. Talk about unfortunate.

That being said, I quite loved Boracay. The first disastrous hotel aside, the rest of our trip was fantastic. Our second hotel was cheap, cheerful, and right by the beach. The beach on Boracay was incredible, and easily the best beach I've ever seen. Its waters were so blue and clean that it looked almost permanently photoshopped and the beaches were filled with white sand. The food there was tasty too. I was happy to eat Chicken Inasal again we made many trips to D'Talipapa, a seafood market, to eat dinner. We had the tastiest baked scallops there, mmm. I feel hungry just thinking of those scallops again.

Felt a bit sad to come back to Singapore and WORK, but on the way home I was reading Marie Claire (the only female magazine I'd ever subscribe to) and they had a special on working professionals, plus career tips. As silly as it seems, reading that section made me feel all inspired and invigorated about work. I wanted to plunge right back into work and MAKE A DIFFERENCE YO! Of course that being said I've already tendered my resignation at M/s L because my notice period is 3 months. My last day of work will be 2nd August. Then I have 2 weeks to rest before jetting off to Romania with my parents for another family holiday, before heading off to NYC on 28th August to start my Masters programme. Talk about yet another tight schedule!

Disoriented

Today I woke up utterly disoriented. When my brother and my maid came barging into my room to put something down, they woke me up from my dream and I thought it was 7 am in the morning because he was still around and it looked dark through the curtains outside. Nope. It was 11 am, he decided he didn't want to go to school and it was about to rain something fierce outside.

My dream was a strange, disconcerting one. I dreamt that I was travelling to Ipoh again (but an Ipoh with winter?), but this time with friends and I was supposed to lead them around. I dreamt I had forgotten to take down the important details like hotel bookings and so on, and had left them in my email instead. Then came the odd part when I tried to retrieve the information and I could not access gmail OR agoda. That they didn't exist or didn't work! And I started to feel very stressed out. Finally there was an odd other bit where I had to charge over $200 worth of things to my credit card and I felt upset because I needed to save every bit of money I had and $200 was a lot!

Anyway I woke up confused. Heard the thunder roaring outside and drew back the curtains. Saw the odd lightning flash or two and decided to try and get a little bit of the errands I had meant to do, done.

I finally checked things online and realised how unhelpful the US system is to international students (or maybe I lucked out with LSE and how they bend over backwards for international students) and now I'm feeling stressed out about getting my passport/visa done in time. I worry too, that I might not be able to sit for my driving test on time before I leave. Meanwhile there's a slight problem with a student's parent that I neglected to call back. This could all have been solved if I had a greater sense of urgency, but no, all I do is sleep till 11am. Sigh. 

Exasperated

I've just spent more than 45 minutes typing up a few pages worth of vocabulary words to help my poor students when they face their mock exams tomorrow and on Thursday. I'm exasperated because 1) there are too many damn words that need to be explained, 2) this is supposed to be a MOCK exam, not a lesson where you introduce new words. Yes some of my students are geniuses, but the remaining 98% of them are struggling to tell the difference between 'enthusiasiastically' and 'enthusiastically'. They do not needed to be overwhelmed by vocabulary words like "adherents", "pensions" and "mildewed". Keep in mind that these are P4 and P5 students we're talking about - no wonder they're stressed! GRRRRR.

Last week while conducting oral examinations with my current P5 students, I ran into a bunch of my old P5 students who were having their class next door. They seemed really happy to see me, and one of the girls (a Sarah) told the student I was with that I was a "great and funny teacher" and I felt myself turn all warm and happy inside. Things like that remind me why I'm in this job I guess, despite everything I disagree with.

I realised today that I haven't been doing much at all. Right at the start of this month I went off to Ipoh with my Mama, Yeh Yeh, Kaugong, Aunty Sao Ping and my Sam Suk Kong for 4 days. We did the whole Qing Ming thing, visited Cameron Highlands and ate like pigs. I realised how pathetic it was that out of a carload of 75+ year olds, I was the only one that couldn't drive. Other than that, I went out for Mookata BBQ with Tiff, Andrew and HM one Saturday evening, and visited The Cider Pit with my colleagues after work last Thursday. I'm so happening I amaze myself. 

24

Hello hello hello, I am 24. Well technically 23 years, 364 days and 17 hours old (because I was born around 7:30 am in the morning), but for brevity's (and sanity's?) sake I am 24. Hello world, happy birthday to me.

Today after work I bought two slices of cake from Awfully Chocolate. Around 10:10pm I pulled both slices out from the fridge and started to eat them by myself because my Dad was upstairs and didn't want to come down, my Brother was dead asleep and my Mum was absorbed in trying to book flights on the SIA website while sitting next to me. So I sang a birthday song to myself and started eating the chocolately cake while watching a Channel 5 documentary about landmines in Cambodia.

Singing the birthday song to myself caught the attention of my Mum, so she stopped trying to book flights for a moment and started digging into the cake with me. About 10 minutes later my Dad came to holler at us to go upstairs and we lured him down instead with cake. He shoved half a slice of cake into his mouth and then switched the TV and lights off on us before heading up again. That left 1 slice left for my Mum and I to polish off in the dark. I started on the remaining slice and ate it till about half way before giving the rest to my Mum. So that meant my Mum and I ate about 3/4 of a slice of cake, so 75gms of chocolately sinfulness and my dad had 50gms.

After my Mum finished the cake I got her a cup of water in my Penguin P.G. Wodehouse mug. She was still absorbed in trying to figure out the best possible way to utilise the family's frequent flyer miles on the SIA website.

So anyway, Happy Birthday to me.


 

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