Saturday, March 07, 2015

good, but not equal

Exactly a week ago i was doing some work at a cafe when i couldn't help but notice that some of the young people nearby were getting really excited about something. It wasn't hard to figure out what was exciting them - at least one, and possibly more of them were wearing ACS clothes, and one was remarking that there were six hours left to Founder's Day.

That has gotten me thinking - why do i still love the school as much as i do (even though i don't think i ever was nor will ever be as excited as those young people were)? There were plenty of good times over those six years, but many things that i didn't (and still don't) like. Perhaps things have changed for the better in the thirteen years since i've left, but i'm pretty sure that a lot of things still haven't - they're part of the culture, after all. Yet, even as this year marks the year when the school i'm at now takes over from the others as the school i've spent the most time at, i can't help but make comparisons, and have concluded that the extra eighty or so years of history does, at the end of the day, have a net positive impact on the school experience for the average student. The culture - both its good and bad bits - isn't something that you can expect to flourish overnight - or for that matter, over a few years. Regardless of the amount of effort that you put in, it still needs its natural amount of time to come of age, something which we may take for granted at so-called established schools like my alma mater, and which many regretfully and impatiently ignore at less established ones. I'm not saying that we shouldn't try, but let's not expect miracles either.

Friday, February 20, 2015


The highlight of this past week for me is very predictable, at least in what it wasn't (the Lunar New Year).

Ok, so maybe in a way it was, since it took place on an early Tuesday morning, and if it were not to be a short week due to the holiday, then perhaps i wouldn't have been in the mood to have bothered to offer my help to a middle-aged couple wondering if the early morning train that they had just boarded was actually heading in their desired direction (the airport).

It's not as simple as that, of course. So happens that this couple had boarded the train just after me, and i noticed that the man was closely scrutinizing the mrt map, while the wife kept on asking him if they were on the right train, which just made him scrutinize the map even more closely. Each of them had one big suitcase each, which made it easy for me to figure out where they were planning to head to. Otherwise, i might not have had a clue as to their desired destination, since they were speaking in French.

As always when i consider whether to start a conversation in any language other than English, i ran through the possible things that i would have to say in my head, and then assessed whether it was worth the risk (lest i ended up going "uh" a few times before scuttling off at the next stop in red-faced embarrassment).

Finally, when it seemed to me that the risk level was low enough, i almost ambushed them (they were hitherto pretty much unaware of my existence quietly sitting down with my marking in the next carriage), uttered a few things in rudimentary French, including an assurance, that yes, they were (literally and figuratively) on the right track. Then i plopped back on my seat and carried on with my marking, trusting that my timely intervention had been of help.

In retrospect, i probably could have helped them in English, as if they were not conversant in it, they probably would not have come here for a holiday on their own in the first place. It also might have come across as somewhat shocking for this random guy to pop up beside them at 5:50 in the morning to offer unsolicited directions to them while possibly butchering their Mother Tongue in the process.

But never mind all that - at least at that moment, and at least for me, it was as good as it's gotten this past week.

The latent dong dong qiangs prove my point.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

new year, old problems

It's been a long time since i did maths, but i do remember enough to note that, at least for me, work experience is inversely proportional to the demands of the job. In other words, as each new year has passed and i've correspondingly become more senior, there just end up being more things to do (and more difficult things, at that), and the result is that i end up as tired as i was the previous year. Not complaining though, of course. Just observing..

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas moods.

The arrival of Christmas has never been that exciting for me. That has little to do with the reason why we celebrate (or rather, why we should celebrate) Christmas in the first place, the sheer significance of which being something that i certainly don't appreciate enough. While for me cold weather is always welcome, bearing in mind the fact that Jesus's birth did not necessarily take place in December to begin with, i've even come to terms with the fact that such weather is at best very peripheral to the Christmas experience. (And for the record, i don't recall ever believing in Santa Claus, so that's got nothing to do with it either.) What kills a lot of the excitement of Christmas for me is how it signals that in exactly a week it would be New Year's Day, and therefore the new school year would soon be at hand. In fact, since i've pretty much never left school, this slight ambivalence towards Christmas has, one could say, lifelong.

So, in other words, work beckons. Am i doing anything about it? Not really. Hah.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

(belatedly) giving thanks

Yes, the (official) holidays have finally arrived, and as usual, i'm out of the country.

However, that hasn't necessarily meant that i've been able to relax since arriving here. This is partly due to lingering work matters, but also due to the fact that the backlog of work that i've had to do up to this point has meant that i've not had sufficient time to plan for the holiday itself, such that i've found myself in the not-unusual predicament of planning not more than a day in advance, which of course makes trying to relax somewhat difficult.

Over the past few days though i've had some respite since i'm spending Thanksgiving with some relatives, and hence have not had to make any concrete plans. However, there's still more than half of the trip left to make plans for.

This really does bring home the point for me that by nature i'm really not an efficient worker. At the same time though, it does make me thankful that in spite of that i'm able to get things done sufficiently, by God's grace. His grace indeed is sufficient.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


The last papers for my teaching subjects were today. For the record, i'm quite satisfied with what was tested and how it was tested, though inevitably some students still were unable to cope. We'll just have to wait and see how the results turn out. I still feel the same level of worry and stress over how the paper will turn out as i did when i had my first batch of graduating students though. Guess it's part and parcel of what to expect in the years to come.

A few years ago i'd have thought that the end of the final exams and the start of the holidays for the students would mean that things would start to wind down. Am certainly much the wiser now, and perhaps also much more able to tackle the final wave of work before the true holidays start. Nevertheless, it's going to be a long three weeks ahead.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

red season

It's full swing into marking season again (the so-called off-season seeming to have gotten shorter and shorter). As of late, in an attempt to do something purposeful apart from school-related stuff, I've been borrowing a book from the library every six weeks or so (or however long the maximum loan period is) and trying to read it during my free moments (which nowadays mainly would be the time spent waiting for and riding in public transport). However, the demise of the aforementioned off-season has put that plan to rest, at least for now, as it's back to marking on the bus or train while valiantly trying to keep my marking hand synchronized with each jerk and turn of the vehicle. Somehow i doubt that's an image that will be making its way to any recruitment ads anytime soon.