The past two weeks have been quite a crazy whirlwind.
The week after the epic SG50 National Day was the last week of the semester and it was chock-a-block full of assessments and assignment deadlines. We hardly had time to breathe and then it was over. It felt like I had barely pushed my head out of the water for a quick gasp of oxygen before I had go back in again, to tackle the mountain of marking that awaited.
In the midst of it all, the littlest started teething AND jumped into his next Wonder Week. So sleep was not forthcoming.
Okay, what I am trying to say is, I IS TIRED. And therefore no bloggity blog.
It’s getting better now. I’ve cleared two-thirds of my work. I’ve been shopping online like crazy and stress binging on chips and chocolates. The husband got off work early yesterday and surprised us by being at home by bath-time. We had so much fun before the babies went off to bed. And I was so stressed and tired that I declared a holiday was much needed and we are off to a beach holiday next month.
YAY YAY TRIPLE YAY.
In the meantime, I still need to clear my head and make some tough decisions/plans. But that can wait – because my clunky mental CPU belongs to the noughties and simply lacks the capacity to think straight these days.
So I’ll show some pictures. During the long Jubilee Weekend, husband was dying to watch The Black Knights in action. On the first day, everyone got rained out and horror stories of crazy queues were spreading fast and furious on the social networks. When it started to pour on the morning of the second day, I was NOT IMPRESSED.
But he was really looking forward to it. And so I swallowed my skepticism, packed the boys into the car and we zoomed down to Gardens by the Bay to see if we could get a good view of the aerial display. Luck was on our side, the rain had subsided and there were parking lots.
After 90 minutes of waiting under the hot sun and sweltering in the humidity, the show started.
Did I say I wasn’t keen to catch the show? STUPID ME. It was amazing. Breathtakingly amazing. My jaw dropped open right from the start and by the time it ended, it had reached the ground. It was EXCITES MAXIMUS.
I shot these with my humble 17-50mm lens with Zac in a wrap on my hip. Picture this: he was sitting on my hip and I had my left hand pressing his ears into my body to prevent the noise of the planes from getting to him. I was virtually shooting with my right hand holding up the DSLR. Not the best set-up, I guarantee!
Bonus: the kid fell asleep as we were walking back to the car after the show ended.
So all in all, great show. We were thrilled by the spectacle and it was absolutely worth the wait. Thank you RSAF and thank you Black Knights for giving us something that we will remember for a long, long time to come.
After much fanfare for the past year or so, we are FINALLY here: August 9, the day that our forefathers declared our independence from our noisy neighbour up north.
While many Singaporeans chose to make use of the long weekend to travel, we opted to stay home. Strangely enough, it never occurred to us to go for an opportune holiday, we simply decided that we wanted to remain in Singapore to celebrate the golden jubilee of our nation.
Maybe we are patriotic, I don’t know. I never thought of us as that. We are just Singaporeans who love our nation deeply. At the same time, we are not entirely blind to the faults of our leaders and our government. But we know that it would be a massive injustice to equate our home with our government.
Like most Singaporeans, I love many things about this country. The food, for instance. The well-connected public transport system. The cleanliness. The greenery. The crisp air. The Singlish. The malls. The parks and playgrounds. The convenience. The relative safety. The education system. And like most Singaporeans, I dislike many things about this country. The education (yes, it’s a love-hate thing). The kiasu parents. The one-track way of evaluating and assessing our young. The crazy car prices. The ridiculous property prices. Policy makers who live in ivory towers and have no clue of the struggles the rest of us face. Social media lynch mobs whose mouths are larger than their brains.
But as I stood at the bridge connecting Gardens by the Bay, Bay East to Marina Barrage while watching the Black Knights take to the skies, I was moved. By the stunning and thrilling performance, of course, but also by the infectious joy and happiness that connected my fellow countrymen and me.
Despite what many critics and naysayers proclaim, Singaporeans are not a bunch of emotion-less, joy-less people. As a nation, we may not be adept at showing our emotions but this does not mean that we do not feel. I only have to look back at the past seven months to find great examples that show just how good and kind and compassionate we can be: the kindness rendered to us when we paid our last respects to Mr Lee, when Singaporeans rushed to pull up a truck that was pinning a man down, those who helped out frustrated commuters stuck during the massive MRT breakdown.
As we take a step towards the next 50 years of our short but fulfilling history, I think it’s time that we aspire towards Singapore 2.0. While the past 50 years was all about economic viability and progress, now that we have achieved that, it’s time we look at the heartware and build a better Singapore.
A home that is more compassionate to those who may not be measured by the same yardsticks as everybody else. A home that allows for responsible, open conversation without the fear or threat of being incarcerated. A home that accepts, encourages and allows for divergence. A home that respects all individuals, regardless of who they love, where they studied, what they look like.
Happy birthday, my beloved Singapore. It has always been you, and it always will be. Let’s make the next 50 years a beautiful one together, shall we?
Love letters to my nation:
Every single day, every single night, I look at these two and all I can think of is how much love I have for them.
And yet, there are moments on this motherhood journey when I feel completely spent, lost and doubtful. When I feel like I am simply making things up as I go along. When I am not completely sure and can only cross my fingers and hope that what I am doing is theÂ rightÂ thing.
Maybe I will sound like a wuss for saying it but man, life with two little people as a full-time working mother is freaking tiring. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, I love them, I loveÂ us. But that’s not to say that this gig is not hard.
It’s not even the fact that I wake up two, three times a night that makes this tiring. There are some evenings when I feel like I have given everything I have got left after a day’s work to them and it’s still not enough. My boys are blessedly not difficult children, they are funny and cute and loving. But they are also very physical and their physical need of me can be very overwhelming, especially when the introvert side of me is grumpy and needs a recharge from this noisy, intrusive world. So I heave a huge sigh of relief when they go to bed and I can retreat into the sofa with my laptop. Or ice-cream. Mostly the laptop though.
That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate their physical side though. These two can be so endearing and affectionate in showing their love, I think we lucked out in that respect. Aidan is so generous in doling out hugs and kisses to his sappy mama here, while Zac is a little more reserved, saving these mostly for mama. But the littlest loves to toddle over to me, tug at my shirt and go “eh eh eh” – his way of asking to be carried. And woe betide me should I dare to put him down before he is ready to go!
But I am…tired. I know the days are long and the years are short, I know all that. In the meantime, I am looking forward to NOT feeling so exhausted one day.
I had a serendipitous moment yesterday.
Background: I don’t get enough sleep. In fact, I haven’t had enough sleep for the past three years. So I am perpetually exhausted and in dire need of coffee. Also, I never used to drink coffee (it made my heart beat like those terrible dance music) until I became a mother. And now I am immune.
Alright, yesterday. I had an external meeting that went splendidly well and speedy. When I stepped out of the building, I decided to grab a coffee because I hardly have coffee during the week days. Coffee is a luxury and indulgence reserved for the weekends so whenever I get coffee on a weekday, I get deliriously thrilled. Haha, poor me.
There I was, back at my old stamping ground, back in the days when I was at the big O. The corner fish head curry coffeeshop is still there but the fruit stall next to it is now Park Bench Deli (run by my ex-colleague’s husband!). There are so many cool and hip cafes at every turn and corner. I was pretty amazed by just how much the streets have remained the same and yet changed at the same time.
I wandered down the street aimlessly, wondering where to go when suddenly somebody stepped right in front of me and said, “HEY!”
It was my ex-colleague from the big O. What were the odds?
Anyhow, we had a quick catch up about our lives and I mentioned that I was looking for a place to have coffee. She shook the bottle that she was holding and said, “Go check this place out! It’s just down Club Street. I got my coffee there.”
I made my way to Club Street, without really knowing the name of the cafe while simply relying on her instructions: “Club Street, you know the condo next to Spizza? It’s just there.” And I found it.
Stamping Ground Coffee.
To be honest, I was a little meh when I saw it. It was a tiny takeout corner and I was hoping to sit down for a drink. The place had a bench, and two bar stools and that was about it. Hmm. I decided to order my usual – flat white – and sat down on the bench to wait. There was just a young lady behind the counter serving up the drinks.
Instead of stoning and surfing the net on my phone as I always do when alone at cafes, I decided to break the ice and asked her if the place was new. She said yes, it was just two weeks old. And then we started having a conversation about how and why she started the place, how exciting it was for her to put it together, how she loved doing this gig.
We must have chatted for, what, 30 minutes or so? And it was a really nice, warm pleasant conversation in that little hole in the wall. I love listening to stories about people’s lives and this was one of the reasons why I got into journalism – to tell these stories. (Which I miss doing very, very, very much.) The coffee was pretty decent too, as she used beans from Papa Palheta. For someone who was more into baking and pastries, I thought the brew that she served up was nice.
All in all, it was a very lovely, unexpected way to spend the afternoon. I left with a little spring in my step, happy to have done something out of the routine for one day and to have listened to a good story.
One of the best things about being an educator is that I get to interact, communicate with and observe teenagers.
(Well, sometimes it can be the worst thing ever. Like when I am plastered against the wall and stuck in the lift with what smells like 20 dead and rotting teenage male elephants.)
Every day, as I try to impart some knowledge and skills to them, I have come to realise that they teach me a great deal about life, about people and about myself too.
One of the greatest lessons that I have learnt from them is to STOP BLAMING OTHERS. We see it on a regular basis. Kid is late, blames the bus/MRT/traffic/lift. Kid forgets to hand in homework, blames the tutor/computer/dog. Kid is falling asleep in class, blames the aircon/assignments/tests/tutor. Basically, it’s NEVER their fault. It’s always something.
In more serious cases, we often see kids who are straying from the path, who are clearly on the road to self-destruction. And when we investigate, we see that the reasons are staring in our faces: broken family, spoilt by overly-indulgent parents etc. The latter is beyond our control (and all hope, most of the time) but when I counsel kids who are acting out because their family SUCKS, I always tell them that it’s not about the kind of cards that life hands you, it’s how you deal with the cards that matters most.
It is a reason for your unhappiness, yes, but it sure ain’t an EXCUSE to whine and do stupid things.
And then I tell them about my life. How my father died when I was six and how different I have felt since then. How we were poor and we often walked home because my mother wanted to save on the bus fares. How I started working at 16 and that by the time I entered university, I was all but financially independent.
I had a terrible childhood, a lonely and isolating experience.
And then I tell them, look at where I am now.
There were moments in my life when I really wanted to disappear from this miserable existence. But I had no choice but to suck it up and move on, work hard so that I could get me out of that hole in the ground. Could I have blamed it on my dead father? Or my mother who had to slog it out to bring us up? I just did the best I could, did what I had to, and MOVE ON.
And later on in life, who could I have blamed my infertility on? God? Because He clearly didn’t love me enough to give me babies? My genes? My husband’s genes? My confused uterus?
I don’t know if things happen for a reason, I don’t really buy that theory now. Because, how do you explain starving children, dead children, abused animals and Donald Trump? But I do know that it’s how we emerge from what’s given to us that changes our present and forges our future.
And so I tell them, yeah, life sucks sometimes. But you just got to move on. Quit whining and playing the blame game and just DO.
At the end of the day, be thankful for what you have and not bitter for what you do not have. And there, really, are plenty of things to be grateful for, if you would just open your eyes and see.