Sunday, April 27, 2014

R is for relationships

I fail at ABC. I just realised I posted P after Q. *facepalm*

So anyway. Last night I was at a cousin's wedding banquet, and my brother and his wife had been asked to emcee the event. 10 minutes before it was to start, they were going over their script, deciding who was to say what, and an interesting fact emerged: he likes to ad-lib, she likes to stick to the script. You can imagine her chagrin!

Most couples I know do have somewhat opposite traits or personalities, so perhaps it's true that opposites attract. I don't know whether it's a subconscious thing that draws people together, recognising that this person has strengths you don't and therefore would be able to help you out, or if it's just something that happens. My brother and his wife have commonalities (among other things, they're both careful with money and share the same religious beliefs) but they're very different in other ways. She focuses on details, he sees the big picture. She observes the conventions, he gets impatient with them. She's an introvert, he's an extrovert.

I like observing couples interact because people and relationships fascinate me. We all know people whose relationships haven't worked out. You can read a lot of advice, but living it out is different, isn't it? What makes one relationship gel, while another doesn't? How do you build a relationship that not only lasts, but thrives? Is it possible to have a joyful, fulfilling relationship after being married 30 years? Coz you know, my parents aren't showing such a great example of that. They're still together, but they don't seem happy.

It all seems like such a mystery to me. The scary thing is that relationships have no guarantees and I've always been one who likes things to be certain. I want to know that if I put my heart into a guy's hands, he's not going to take it and walk away. But you just don't know, do you? People change, couples grow apart instead of growing together, or sometimes the person you thought you knew wasn't who he seemed to be. In some ways relationships feel like such a gamble. Perhaps that's why I'm still single; I do want to find love, but at the same time I'm afraid...

Saturday, April 26, 2014

P is for play

I play games. Like, you know, computer games. On my iPod Touch, though, not on a computer. But still, they're games.

I've always felt vaguely guilty about that. Like a 36-year-old has no business playing games. Nobody has ever said that to me, it's just me being weird (and weirdly judgemental of myself). I feel like games are frivolous and I should focus on more... err... productive things. Things which are useful and constructive rather than just for play.

The truth is, I most likely got that mindset from my parents, who both have a strong work ethic. Rationally, I don't think there's anything wrong with playing; all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy -- there's a time for everything. But emotions aren't logical, and I can't get past the feeling that I shouldn't be playing. In this sort of thinking, even play is work: you can read a book in your spare time, but it should be an improving book, not a mere trashy novel.

I use games and play as a sort of "time out" from the mad world. Sometimes I do puzzles, occasionally I'm playing word games, but the majority of the time I play mindless games that don't require me to think too hard. Lately I've been playing Reversi, which obviously isn't mindless, but I play it sort of mindlessly, in the sense that I don't have any real strategy: I do put some thought into where to place my next piece, but I don't think too hard about it and often just move intuitively (read: impulsively). My aunt was like, "I don't believe you don't have a strategy! How did you trounce the computer so completely?!"

The answer is: I don't know how I did it, and I don't know how to replicate it, but I'm going to have fun trying!
**I'm so behind on the A to Z challenge that I'm just going to post in order of the alphabet from where I last stopped, and quit worrying about what day it is. Apologies for falling down on it >.<

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for queue

So now I have a whole queue of unwritten A to Z posts. They're unwritten not just on the blog but also in my head, which is another way of saying, "I ain't got nuthin' fer ya." This week just completely did me in and the only reason I managed Tuesday's post was because I had pre-written it the week before. I've been working flat out, sleeping 4 hours a night on average and generally doing a great imitation of a zombie. Braaaaaaains... gimme some braaaaaaains...

I swear teachers must be masochists because we like to generate more work for ourselves. Assigning the students homework means this homework has to be checked or marked later. If they don't do homework, I scold -- okay, I don't scold, I am nice, but I raise my eyebrows and give them The Look™ -- and complain to my fellow teachers: "Can you believe it? Only TWO STUDENTS did the homework today!" when I should really be jumping for joy because I'll have less work to do.

Anyway, on Tuesday I:
  • Taught 2 hours of class
  • Facilitated 1 hour of language lab
  • Finished setting one testpaper
  • Formatted two other testpapers
  • Renamed and uploaded audio recordings of the students' speaking assessments to the database

By the time I'd done all that, it was 7:40pm and I still had to mark the students' homework and prepare the lesson for the next day. Not complaining, but after this week I will bitch-slap anyone who dares to tell me teachers have an easy life!!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for MBTI

I am an ISTP.

For those unfamiliar with the MBTI, or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, what I just said probably just looks like a jumble of letters to you. ISTP? Do I have a lisp or something?

The MBTI instrument breaks down various aspects of one's personality and gives you an understanding of how you make decisions, gather information from the world around you, interact with people, and order your world. These four different aspects provide quite a comprehensive way of looking at a person and how he or she functions. I've found it extremely helpful in understanding myself better and realising why I am the way I am.

For many, many years, I tried and tried to make myself into a J (judging type). Now, when MBTI uses the word "judging", it doesn't carry the same meaning as it would in layman's terms; it refers to the way you prefer to order your world. The judging types like to have life all planned out. They follow rules and schedules, they love order, they want things to be settled and organised. They don't like surprises and they HATE working last-minute.

My parents are very neat and disciplined people, especially my dad. Oh the Js! They were always trying to instill discipline into me, and of course you have to admit that being organised and neat and disciplined are good things, things to aspire to. So I always wanted to be J and despised myself for not being able to be J; each time I failed as a J, I felt like a mess, the sort of mess that my desk has always been -- a terrible useless human being who couldn't get her act together. What is wrong with you? I don't remember my parents saying this, but I said it to myself all the time. You can't even do such a simple thing like keep your desk neat.

When, in 2010, I realised I was actually a P (perceiving type), the direct opposite of the J -- random, spontaneous, rather messy -- and that I had been fighting against my very nature all along, I was devastated. I wrote this:

    All I feel is grief, grief because I have to accept myself and how can I accept myself as a P when I think I ought to be a J? Yet how can I be a J if I was made a P? And then I realise how screwed up I am because I don't want to be a P, because I still think J is right and P is wrong, and no wonder I always feel wrong... I can't accept that there are good things about being P, I can't accept that P might be acceptable too... in my world there is no space for P.

I didn't realise until that point that I had never liked myself.

The P in me is the impractical dreamer, the artist, the pianist, the poet... all the unimportant things, the things that I had believed needed to be discarded in favour of Getting Things Done, things that wouldn't get me anywhere; things that were a distraction, a waste of time, that didn't really count. And in trying to be J these were all the things that had fallen by the wayside, swept away.

It was a friend who pointed out that we need both Js and Ps:

"Look at the clouds. Clouds are P. Look at the wind. The wind is P. Look at snowflakes. Snowflakes are P. Everywhere you see creativity and beauty, it's P."

I nearly cried.

"Sure, the process is J," my friend added. "The snowflake structure is very J. The water cycle is J. Water freezes into ice at 100ÂșC; that is J. But look at the ice formations -- they are P. So you need both J and P."

It was so hard for me to find beauty in my P, when all my life I had looked at it as a liability, something to be hated and torn out and destroyed -- and if not, then at least pushed away and banished. I still hate the fact that I have a messy desk. But at least I don't think I'm a mess any longer.

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for lacklustre

Monday, 8:31am
Guy: "Working?"

Monday, 11:52am
Me: "No, on a cruise in the Caribbean lying by the pool sipping cocktails and gazing at the starry sky"

*      *      *      *      *      *

I was going to write about online dating under O but I CAN'T STAND IT ANYMORE. What is it with guys these days -- or the guys I'm meeting, anyway! And to think some of my friends said I was mean to him. Hello? In my family there is a saying: "Ask a stupid question, you'll get a stupid answer." As if Monday mornings were not bad enough without inane time-wasting questions being added to the mix.

The same guy, by the way, texted me at 1:13am this morning: "Awake?" Luckily my phone's on silent mode when I'm sleeping.

I get accused of being too picky, but surely one ought to have standards. It's not like I expect scintillating conversation via text, but it could be a tad better... just a tad, mind you.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for kilograms

I've fallen off the wagon in a big way this week -- with regards to sugar, not alcohol. Cake, ice-cream, chocolates, Pepsi... I swear, they're so gonna be my downfall.

The sweet tooth comes from mum. It is mostly undiscriminating, but I love sodas especially. The other stuff -- I love those too, but I rarely snack (THANK GOD). It's sodas which are the most accessible thing. After all, a body has to drink, right? Right???

Two years ago, I made a concerted effort to cut down on my sugar and carb intake. One way was to limit myself to a single can of soda a week. I'm not militant about it, like I don't set a particular day for my soda and tell myself other days should be soda-free, or make a mark in my diary whenever I do get a soda, or anything like that. Some weeks I will pick up a can, and some weeks I won't at all. The "one a week" decision has more to do with being aware of what I'm consuming than anything else.

Well, this week I've been aware that I'm consuming more than usual. The one problem I have is with impulsiveness: "I feel like having this, so I'll have it". Because sometimes I will feel like having a soda, sometimes I will feel like having a slice of cake, and sometimes I will feel like having chocolate. Not all at the same time, of course (phew), but if you have one of them every other day, it's going to be a problem. Sometimes I try to talk myself out of it, but other times I don't. Sometimes I feel like I deserve a little treat, or I don't want to deprive myself of one of life's little pleasures... amazing, the things you tell yourself to justify bad decisions!

Some researchers say that a can of soda has 10 teaspoonfuls of sugar. Ten! Knowing this makes me feel guilty sometimes when I drink it. And my dear dad told me that if I eat a single M&M, I'd need to walk the length of a soccer field to use up all the calories. Just ONE M&M! Dad said every time I eat something, I should think about how I'm gonna work off the energy later. I told him I can't live like that: I'd never be able to enjoy food again.

So I don't count calories, but I eat half the usual portion of pasta or noodles or rice, generally avoid french fries and potatoes, and drink at most one can of soda a week -- choosing water most other times -- and over the past two years I've lost enough weight that people have been taking notice. Oh, I'm far from svelte and slim, but at least I have a bit of shape back (I know round is a shape, but it is not the shape I wanna be!).

I'm trying not to beat myself up for falling off the wagon this week. I think I have drunk at least 3 cans of soda, eaten a small bar of chocolate and one slice of chocolate cake with icing. Logically, I think my sugar intake will even out, because there are weeks when I go without eating anything unusually sweet (that is, just sticking to my usual meals and water). But I'm having an "I'm feeling fat" moment tonight. Sigh.

Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for judging

I don't know why we always tend to be hardest on ourselves, but I know I am. Perhaps it's because I can see all my own small li'l faults and failures and weaknesses. Perhaps it's because I know the private, messy me as well as the outward, polished and glossy me. Perhaps it's because I know that sometimes when I try, I'm not really trying 100%, and sometimes I say I'm trying, but I'm really not. Whatever it is, I think I judge myself a lot, and I don't think I'm alone in this.

So for the longest time I've thought I'm a bit of a slacker. I get my work done but I also seem to goof off a lot, at least to me. I scramble to meet deadlines at the last-minute and often end up a day late. I ignore my paperwork, and things get piled up until the situation is so dire that I have no choice but to do my filing, because the pile is getting so high that it's becoming the Leaning Tower of Pisa and everything's going to collapse all over the floor at any moment. It just feels like so many things which should get done aren't getting done in a timely manner.

But this semester I started teaching a new subject (after four years of teaching the previous one) and suddenly I am realising that I'm not a slacker. I've had this erroneous view of myself all along. I work very hard and I do a lot of things, just that I do them in pockets or bursts -- and then I have moments where I do stop to play a game on my iPod Touch or look at Facebook.

I didn't realise how much stuff I do until I started showing my colleague, the one who heads this subject, what I had prepared for the course. She was amazed. I guess she hadn't expected me to develop a lot of stuff on my own, because I'm new to the subject, and also because she had passed me a bunch of materials -- handouts, worksheets, notes, and so on -- which she and the other teachers have been using. But I found much of it very general; I like to develop stuff which exploits the material in the textbook and takes it one step further, so that my students can see the application of whatever principles or skills we're teaching. It also helps my lesson to flow more smoothly.

Previously, I was the head of the subject I was teaching, so I never had to show my work to anyone. I would distribute whatever materials I'd developed to my fellow teachers of the same subject, and of course roll it out to students, but everyone seemed to take for granted that such things would be done and such materials should exist. But now, showing stuff to my colleague, and hearing her amazement, I realise that I actually do a lot of work!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I is for Introvert

Nobody ever believes me when I say I'm an introvert.

Okay, okay, that was a wild exaggeration. MOST people don't believe me when I say I'm an introvert.

Because I'm social! I like people! And I go out to meet them!

But they don't notice I only go out to meet certain people, really. In small groups. And am usually the observer. Or, in a one-to-one situation, the listener.

And they don't notice that I sometimes disappear in the middle of social events. You know what's a godsend for an introvert? The washroom. Yes, I said it. You can lock yourself in a cubicle to take time out from everyone, and no one will bother you there. It's the one place in the whole building where you can retreat to and be guaranteed complete solitude.

Sure, some other people might enter and stand at the sink area talking loudly to each other. But you, you will be hidden in a cocoon from everyone's view, and be in a blissful bubble of your own.

Unless, of course, the washroom stinks. Which quite often is true of public restrooms in Malaysia, alas. Then the bubble isn't so blissful.

But it's still a bubble.

A place where I can take some time to collect myself and fortify myself before I need to go out there and face The Masses again. Where I can stare at my cellphone without anyone digging me in the ribs and labelling me anti-social. Where I can breathe.

And the other thing about being an introvert! I like my personal space. Quit trying to get in my personal space and make me talk! Yes, I'm referring to you, hairstylists, and also to you, cabbies! It's nice that you're being all friendly and chatty and all, but when I go to a salon, I really just wanna get a haircut and get out of there. And when I get in a cab, I really just wanna arrive at my destination and get out of the vehicle. I do not want to talk about the weather. I do not want to talk about politics. And I definitely do not need any advice on how to snare a man!

Sheesh, now I sound like a crabby old woman. And I'm only 36.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for hero

I always liked Batman better than Superman or Spiderman.

Not because I liked Michael Keaton better than Christopher Reeve, either.

Batman is real, in a way that Superman isn't. Superman has super strength (not to mention x-ray vision, as well as the ability to fly and emit laser/heat beams from his eyes), but Batman's just your ordinary average joe. He can bleed, he gets exhausted, he needs food and drink. Superman is indestructible and needs no one -- not even Lois Lane -- but Batman couldn't do without Alfred, at the very least. Oh, I know he would never admit to needing Alfred, but he does. He couldn't survive alone: when he's wounded, he needs someone to tend to him; when he's weary, he needs a safe place to rest; and when he's raging inside, he needs someone to be his voice of reason. Alfred provides all this, in his own poker-faced butlery way.

Even better, Batman is a tortured soul. He can't forget how his parents died at the hands of a mugger. He can't accept how helpless he was to help them. He's driven to fill some void in his soul by being this masked vigilante. Contrast that with Superman, who's all about "doing the right thing" and using his powers responsibly. What drives him? Nothing, just a strict moral code and an unshakeable belief in upholding justice for the sake of upholding justice. That's... noble, but boring! He ends up looking like a two-dimensional caricature next to Batman.

Even Spiderman is more interesting than Superman. Spidey is of course famous for the line, "With great power comes great responsibility", and is haunted by how his failure to stop a thief gave said thief the opportunity to later kill his Uncle Ben. But he, too, has superpowers. Batman has none.

So Batman is, for me, the embodiment of a normal guy who's just trying to do his best to survive. I don't mean survive like eke out a living, I mean survive as in push on from day to day, finding a reason to live. The main thing that keeps him going is the thought that he's avenging his parents, that by ridding Gotham City of criminals, he's preventing some other little boy from the same anguish that he has suffered; he's keeping people safe. It's not about doing right for the sake of doing right -- how many of us are that altruistic? It's about all the hurt he's buried inside.

At the heart of it, he reminds me of all of us. We're all walking wounded. It's part of life. In one way or another, we've been hurt, only in different areas and different intensities. These wounds are part of who we are. Even when they're healed, they've still paid a part in shaping who we are. We carry the scars with us, and every day, part of the reason we do the things we do, say the things we say, connect with the people we connect with -- many of these actions can be attributed to what we have experienced. Some of us are haunted by regret or driven by pain, anger, frustration. Almost all of us seek peace, love, acceptance. We do this in our own way. Batman does it his way, by fighting crime under the cover of darkness, his identity concealed under a mask. It helps to keep the pain at bay, to disassociate himself from that hurting eight-year-old boy, to protect his heart from being exposed, because he's just so vulnerable under all that machismo. Like all of us.
**Image credit: Pencils by Rags Morales, colours by Nei Ruffino. Via Abduzeedo

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G is for grammar

I really hate grammatical rules, which is a strange thing for an English teacher to say. But I never learnt them, so perhaps my antipathy is justified, or perhaps not! Believe it or not, I only began to learn them when I had to teach them!

But I am convinced that there is no point memorising grammatical rules, because theory and practice are two totally different things. I have students who can answer grammatical quiz questions perfectly, yet when they write paragraphs and essays none of that comes through. Why? Because when we're writing, we're not thinking about the rules. We're thinking of ideas, and how best to convey those ideas... and when you're an ESL (English as a second language) student, it's about all you can do to think of the appropriate vocabulary to articulate your opinions. Grammar becomes secondary.

I didn't realise how influential reading is until I became a teacher. Reading helps one to internalise grammatical rules and sentence structure: it's how you "just know" something is wrong, because it "feels" wrong or "looks" wrong. You may not be able to explain it, but your brain has seen a particular arrangement of words so many times that it just knows that's the way things should be.

So in a way I feel it is pointless to teach grammatical rules, except to give the students some understanding of why certain things are right and others are wrong. But in the end, harping on grammar will get us nowhere. However many times I tell my students that verbs have to change depending on whether the sentence has a singular or plural subject, they still write "Many students likes"... and when I point out, "What did you just do there?" they're like, "Oh yes! Sorry, teacher!" and jump to correct their mistake. They know the rule, but they don't practice it. It's not a part of them... YET.

I also feel that grammatical rules are ridiculously complicated and full of jargon. Coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, adverbial clauses, noun clauses, relative clauses, independent clauses, dependent clauses, what?!? If all these things make my eyes glaze over, how much more will my students' eyes do the same! I feel that it's way more important you be able to write good sentences, than to know what all these things are called. Unfortunately, it's difficult to teach how to write a good sentence without using jargon. Especially when you have to explain where to put what and how to arrange all the words and blah.

All of which makes me a rather weird language teacher. But language is not about rules! It's about usage! I don't want my students to get sidetracked by all the details and focused on knowing every single grammatical rule. I want them to be focused on trying to write well. (And of course I'd love them to pass, too. Just sayin'.)

Monday, April 7, 2014

F is for favourites

"What's your favourite book?"

I get all flustered when people ask me that question.

Granted, I love to read, and I have many books. Toooooooo many. I have books in almost every room of my apartment, barring the kitchen (wouldn't want to accidentally set them on fire!). I have books of various genres: classics, general fiction, biographies and autobiographies, travel writings, short stories, poetry, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, crime/detective, general non-fiction, comics, crossword puzzles, writing, etymology... and I try to shelf them by genre, too, which is just mad.

But I don't have a favourite.

I wonder if others feel this way. Do fashionistas have a favourite dress, or outfit? Does anybody have one favourite song? I like so many songs... The Piña Colada Song (Rupert Holmes), the theme from Mahogany (Diana Ross), You are the Sunshine of My Life (Stevie Wonder), Starting Over Again (Natalie Cole), Annie's Song (John Denver), and... okay, I'd better stop. See? I couldn't ever choose just one!

I don't even have a favourite colour. I love maroon and burgundy (see shoes below!!), but I also love a deep rich blue which I have yet to figure out the name of. And I love dark purple and turquoise. When I walk into a clothes store, those are the colours that catch my eye. Every. Single. Time.

So, no, I don't have a favourite book... and I think that's a horrible getting-to-know you question. I'm going to fumble and look like a flake who doesn't know her own mind, and you're going to doubt I read anything at all, much less like to read, and it's all going to end in disaster. I'll choose a book just to be able to name something, and in my panic I'll probably say something like, "the dictionary" and then you'll look at me funny and think I'm a total nerd. Which I am, but, y'know, didn't want to reveal on the first date. Ah well. The truth will out!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for energy (or the lack thereof)

Today has just been one of those days. I haven't had the energy to do anything. I woke up at two p.m. (there are definitely advantages to being single and living on your own) and then I just didn't want to get out of bed. I felt so tired I just laid in bed and read a book, then went back to sleep and when I next opened my eyes it was 9:30pm.

I don't have anything clever or witty to say. I'm afraid I might have depression because I've been struggling through unusual lows and sudden, random bouts of weeping the past two weeks. It isn't the unending dark tunnel that I experienced before, but it is alarming. There is a crushing loneliness that all the good friends and caring in the world cannot assuage. I don't know what to do with my feelings and am frustrated because it all makes no sense.

Some days are better than others. Some days I tell myself I'm just tired, or that maybe it's hormonal. Useful things to blame, hormones :)  I'm hoping it's just a temporary phase and that things will get back to their normal even keel again, soon. Meanwhile, I'm trying to hold everything together, do the stuff I need to do, and not do anything stupid or reckless which I might regret later!

Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for dream

Confucius apparently said, "Choose a job you love, and you'll never have to work a day in your life." Who would've thought that would become my dream? For the longest time, I didn't even realise that was my dream -- I thought my dream was to be a journalist.

But why did I want to be a journalist? Because I loved to write, because I knew I could write. In the midst of my very nerdy, bookwormish, slightly awkward teenage life, this was the one thing that stood out. Nobody ever encouraged me to write, but nobody told me I shouldn't, either. I wrote unceasingly -- not made-up stories, but stories about my life. I sent reams of letters to penpals all around the globe, and got frustrated when replies weren't forthcoming in a timely manner. I never found anyone who would write as much, and as frequently, as I did. Ever.

And there was the poetry. Startlingly bad poetry, which still makes me cringe to think of it. I'm sure every writer has stuff like that, bits of work you can't bear to throw away because they're something you wrote, part of your history, something you know you'll never be able to replicate if you were to get rid of it -- but that you fervently hope will never see the light of day!

Anyway. So I wanted to be a journalist, and I became a journalist, never mind the bumps along the way (like deciding to study law in university). And journalism was fun. It was easy. It was exciting. I was living my dream, or so I thought.

Until I realised it wasn't my dream any longer. I became restless. The work wasn't fulfilling. I wondered what the problem was. Was it me? Do I simply get bored too easily? What if I were to try something else and didn't like it, either? What would I do after that? Would I keep hopping from job to job? Should I just stick it out regardless of what I feel?

Driven by my real dream, the dream of doing something I love, I finally decided to try teaching. How I came to consider teaching is a whole other story, too long to get into here; but I can tell you that I never, in a million years, would ever have thought I'd be a teacher one day. If you had told me, ten years ago, that I would be a teacher today, I would have thought you were mad!

Yet I am a teacher, and at the end of my first semester of teaching, when my principal came to the classroom and sat through the lesson, watching me teach, evaluating my work, he told me, "You're a natural in the classroom." I was gobsmacked!

When something is right, it just is right. I can't explain it, I don't understand it, I have no idea how this happened, but teaching is right for me. Within a year I was telling friends that I could see myself teaching for the rest of my life, which is a HUGE thing. It's so ironic that the job I thought would be perfect for me, wasn't, and the job I never saw myself doing, is.

So now I've achieved my dream and I don't know what to do with myself! What do you do when you already have the biggest, most important thing you ever wanted? I mean, I still hope to meet and fall in love with a great guy one day, and get married and hopefully, have a family, but I can't do anything to make that happen. (Sing with me: "You can't hurry love, no, you just have to wait...") Barring that, I don't have anything to work towards now. I completed my Masters in 2012 and don't particularly want to do a PhD (*shudder*), so what's next? What's next? Can one be happy, yet slightly restless at the same time? Humans, never satisfied... lol. I need a new dream!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for Chinese

I did not know the term "banana" until I went to college.

I can't even remember how I learnt it, because I don't recall anyone ever calling me a "banana", despite admittedly being quite banana-ish! Amazing.

What's a "banana", you ask? Someone who is "yellow outside, but white inside": a Chinese who doesn't speak Chinese. Not really derogatory (at least, I've never taken it as such), but it does imply that you've forgotten your roots and discarded your heritage.

Actually, I always kinda feel like I'm undeserving of the term banana. I can speak Chinese! I can! At least enough to order food in restaurants -- priorities, hello? -- and to exchange some social pleasantries! And I celebrate the Chinese New Year (yay, angpow!), I know what the mooncake festival is all about (even if I don't exactly know when it is), and I like origami. Oh wait, that's Japanese. Darn.

"I wasted all that money sending you for Mandarin classes," my dad says to me.

When you're 8 years old, and no one, absolutely NO ONE in the ENTIRE WORLD speaks Mandarin to you, why would you want to learn Mandarin? I didn't see the point. Now, well... okay, now I feel a bit regretful. Especially after my younger cousins laughed at my pronunciation the last time we met. Twenty years younger than I, laughing at me! I get no respect around here. *shakes head sadly*

My family is definitely not traditional at all, despite celebrating Chinese New Year, which is the only Chinese festival we do celebrate. Last CNY, nobody wore anything new (you're supposed to dress in new clothes on the first day of the new year), and not only that, only three of us cousins wore red! Gasp! (Red is an auspicious colour for the Chinese.) About the only CNY ritual we follow is giving angpow (red envelopes containing money... yay, money!). And, of course, eating. Chinese New Year would not be complete without lots and lots and lots of food.

To compound the problem, not only is my family untraditional, I also read! Reading is dangerous! It can change you. Having grown up reading timeless favourites like What Katy Did, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Heidi, Black Beauty, Little Women, and Anne of Green Gables, to name a few, many of my attitudes and ways of thinking are decidedly "western". At the same time, I can't deny that I'm Chinese and there's still a teeny weeny bit of Chinese influence floating around somewhere. I'm sort of stuck in between two worlds, and don't fully fit in either.

There's one way in which I'm very Chinese, though: I always eat noodles with chopsticks. It just doesn't feel the same if I use a fork and spoon!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

B is for besieged (did I spell that correctly?)

It's been one of those days when everything seems to be happening at once and I've been feeling overwhelmed and couldn't write anything. Now it isn't even Apr 2 in my part of the world any longer, but I know it still is in the US, and that's what really counts, right? Right?? I will cheat and adjust the date to Apr 2, anyway. I don't know if that's allowed, but in my head it's still Apr 2, okay? Shhhh... I won't tell if you don't.

Sooooo. It's too involved to get into but SOMEONE was supposed to do SOMETHING so that I could then do my work but this SOMEONE insisted it was not her job to do the SOMETHING and that I should do it instead. But this SOMETHING is a task I have never ever done before, and I wouldn't have any idea where to even start, so I was quite sure that it was SOMEONE's responsibility to do it. Then I found, in black-and-white, where it was written that SOMEONE was definitely in charge of this SOMETHING, and she finally agreed to do it... but at 7:30pm, when I was about to sit down to dinner, SOMEONE called me and said she was sure she wasn't meant to do this SOMETHING and told me I had better check with the boss!

Why am I so stressed out? This SOMEONE and SOMETHING are holding me up and I have a Tuesday deadline for submitting the work! If SOMEONE doesn't do SOMETHING, and fast, I won't be able to make my Tuesday deadline. And then other someones are going to be upset with me and everything will get backed up and... urgh. You know how it is.

Added on to that, I'm going to be teaching a new subject at work -- most likely, hopefully, if things work out the way my boss has planned, barring any unforeseen circumstances. Did you see that list of qualifiers? It all depends on the number of students we get and which levels they end up placed in... and I won't know until Friday. Guess when classes start? Monday. Exciting, eh? I'm looking at the new textbook, thinking up activities and making Powerpoints -- and can't decide if I hope I will or won't have the new subject. There's this nervousness about teaching something new and different with greater complexity, and I hate the uncertainty of it. Don't tell the kids: sometimes we teachers aren't totally sure of what we're doing!

Loads of other things going on at the same time, both in the office and on the personal/home front. I hate that feeling of being torn in pieces when I need to break up my brain and spread it over so many places, situations and things to do. I work really well when I can focus on just one thing, but the moment I have 5 things going on, I feel overwhelmed and stressed out. The only positive thing about being stressed out is that it's good for my waistline. Some people snack more when they're stressed. Me, I lose my appetite and forget to eat.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A is for annoyed

"Want to go to Puchong for lunch and eyebrow threading? I'll drive!" chirped my colleague.

Said colleague has been bugging me to thread my eyebrows FOREVER. And also bugging me to use make-up. Me, I go to work with a naked face. It's honest, it's easy, it's cheap. As for the eyebrow thing, I don't have a unibrow or fierce bushy eyebrows, so who cares?

Let me just clarify here: I've done threading before. It's not that I'm opposed to it. It's that I just couldn't be bothered to get it done regularly. Low-maintenance, that's me. I do dress up and do the accessorising thing (I love shoes and earrings btw) and I try to look pretty and presentable. But with a naked face! And natural eyebrows!

So anyway, in a moment of weakness, I caved and agreed to go with my colleague. You know every time you read "in a moment of weakness", the outcome's not gonna be good, right?


I tell the lady, "Don't make them too thin, just shape them." This has always worked for me before -- but of course, I went to a different place and person before. Guess what? Yeah. Now my eyebrows look like they were drawn on with a black marker. One with a thin nib.

"Oh, but you can fill them out with eyebrow pencil!" gushed colleague.

WHAT IS IT WITH WOMEN? You take out your perfectly good eyebrow hairs, then draw fake ones back in. What is the point?!

Just like how the orthodontist told teenaged-me I'd have to take out four perfectly good teeth in order to get braces in. I said no. My dad said, "Thanks for saving me four thousand bucks."

Back to my eyebrows -- because this post is about them, even though it's A and not E -- oh, they are now perfect little outlines of a semi-circle. They look freaking artificial. This is one of the things I hate about ridiculous conventional standards of beauty: you're beautiful only if you look like everyone else. We'd all be clones with high cheekbones, long legs, a slim waist (with no tummy! Which woman has no tummy, I ask you?!), long lustrous hair, thick long eyelashes, flawless glowing skin... oh, I could go on and on. I used to write advertorials for cosmetic companies. I know all the adjectives.

Of course, in times of stress the Voice of Mum™ always rings in your head. As a child, whenever I got a particularly bad haircut, my mother would always say, "Why are you upset? It'll grow back!" Yes, thank goodness my eyebrows will grow back. And in future I shall summarily glare at any woman who dares to suggest I thread them. Note how it's always the women who pressure you to do such things, not the men! Men couldn't care less about eyebrows, I'm sure. Unless you have eyebrows like a gorilla's -- wait, do gorillas have eyebrows? *goes off to google it*