Fresh off the boat

There is a deep sense of satisfaction that comes from binging on a television series, a new form of pleasure. (There’s also the pleasure of waiting for the series your addicted to week after week, but it’s a pleasure I don’t have access to anymore since we cut cable).

Anyhoo, my latest obsession is Fresh Off The Boat. One of the weird things is how a number of my TV series picks come from fashion websites (e.g. the And Then There Were None miniseries, and Outlander Season 2… strangely, I never felt like watching season 1) and feminist sites (e.g. True Detective and I’m pretty sure Fresh Off the Boat). I can’t remember what the site said about Fresh Off The Boat, and having watched it, I’m pretty sure its politics aren’t up to scratch, but unfortunately, I’m addicted. There’s an added pleasure of watching it through my familiarity with Chinese culture though

First of all, I’m in love with the kid Eddie (though the other two are pretty darn adorable as well), and his swag. Now that I have kids, I’m gobsmacked as to what it would take to get a kid to act. And that kid really can act. Unless that’s his personality. In which case, I want to be his friend. Although I’m not into the Beastie Boys. Eh.

But more than Eddie, I’m into Jessica. That woman is so badass, I want to be her. Also I identify with her even though I’m totally not her.

For example, in the opening scene of the first episode, Jessica grumbles about having to move to Florida at all. And this is so going to be me when we eventually move back to India. Except some episodes down when Jessica concedes that her dear husband was right. That is not going to be me. Unless it all turns out to be wonderful, in which case, yes, I will grudgingly concede. In the matter of the move, Jessica is more of a softie than I would ever be.

Jessica’s reaction to encountering someone better than her at something she has decided she is good at is also familiar to me. I’m scared at failing at things I really want to be great at (e.g. making a career in academics), so I might just cop out instead. This could also apply to cooking: the best or nothing.

Obviously, I’m not tiger mom. In fact, I was telling a friend the other day that I’m more Panda Mom (I just want to lie around sleeping and eating bamboo shoots while the children do likewise, preferably feeding themselves but since I’m too lazy to teach them to properly do that, I end up spoonfeeding) but I have certain standards that I expect my kids to achieve. Thus, I now do some “alphabet” practice with the kids every day. Just 15 minutes but it feels like 3 hours.

Mainly I wish I had Jessica’s thick skin. She is utterly confident really does not give a shit. She does not feel bad to be a cheapo, an auntygiri trait I’m trying hard to master, and she she tells it like it is. I never thought I’d be the groupie of an Asian Tiger Mom but there you have it.

 

Girl alone

 

Carter Road Beach, Bandra

  • Slipped off to India for a friend’s wedding. It was to the be reunion of our group of girls after Bali fell through last year. One got pregnant and bailed and another got really ill and almost bailed but in the end we were six ladies in Goa including the bride (not me, the one getting married).
  • Landed in Mumbai with a slight tummy upset. Okay, I had had too much wine at dinner the previous evening, but I swear there was something wrong with the food on the Jet Airways flight in. That airline is really degenerating in quality. The food used to be stellar; now, even I, certified crazy “airline-food-lover” that I am, getting give it a pass. Moreover, the reason Cathay Pacific was my last choice on a flight to India (cost factors being almost equal) was the racist unpleasantness of their staff on the flight. Now it seems like Jet Airway’s hostesses are doing the same thing. I have never seen such grumps serving me on an Indian airline.
  • Five flights must have landed at the same time because the immigration queue was packed. I noticed a strange phenomenon: white people cutting the line. I told off one lady, only to have her stand right behind me and the Indian people let her. Then another first-world privileged soul comes up and asks if there’s a separate line for British passport holders, chats and ends up standing right there. Then another white couple come and start talking to the original queue jumper, and tried to pretend that they were with her (they weren’t). They switched to French, and I was on the verge of telling them off in that language when the Indians behind the original queue jumper did. I watched the room and all over were white people queue jumping while looking clueless. The Indians who let the original queue jumper in were talking to the “separate British line” woman about how Indians never stand in queues except in foreign countries. Hello, the room was chaotic because there wasn’t an immigration staff around to organize things but by and large the Indians were queuing up. I wanted to scream.
  • Someone left a bag unattended in the line. Two days after Brussels, we all moved away from it. Wanted to call security, but there was no one in sight. Eventually, someone claimed the bag. The same thing happened on the way back with a box of mangoes. This time a foreigner in the line called out asking who the box belonged to and it was claimed by its sheepish owner.
  • I am beginning to learn how to do Indian Standard/Stretchable Time. I arrive ten minutes late for everything. Usually that means I’m on time for the other person or waiting only a further ten minutes. I am managing not to stress about being late.
  • Before I left, at dinner with friends in Hong Kong, a male friend mentioned that young people in Hong Kong don’t have enough money to buy their own home and so each lives with their own parents and they meet in the week. My girlfriend and I looked at each other and said this would be a very good arrangement. Later, discussing this with the girls in Goa, one said she had actually proposed this arrangement when she got married. It solves the problem of which house parents should move into when they get old, apart from just leaving one in one’s comfort zone. Another friend said that she could never live with her parents. It was pointed out that my relationship with my parents was unusually cordial. By the end of this trip though I realised I could never live with my parents. Heh.
  • Spent the first whole day doing stuff with my mom. We went to the spa together, where I was fully deforested and pedicured while mum got a much overdue facial. Then we went for lunch to Raj Bogh (the thali was too sweet for me though), then we shoe shopping on Linking Road, where we serendipitiously ran into one of my friends. I haven’t been shopping in the shoe shops there for years, as these days I prefer to just do everything in Shopper’s Stop, but there are some pretty good deals to be had in those shops (compared to Hong Kong prices). Whether the shoes hold up is another matter.
  • In the evening, went with my dad to pick out a colour for his new car, and then met my cousin for tea at Birdsong Cafe in Ranvar. We giggled endlessly about the unbearable hipsterness of Bandra and whether bruschetta is pronounced brusketta or brushetta. My theory is if you pick one, someone at your table or the waiter will correct you and say the other.
  • Next morning got my curls in order with a haircut. The heat got to me and I ruined it by tying it back in five minutes.
  • I had limited time in Bombay and although I had severe FOMO, I did not meet friends when I was there. I visited my closest uncles and aunts, and I’m glad I did. It is tempting to skip out on the older folks, but there is something to be said for the affection that flows in these encounters.
  • Every time I caught up with a cousin, I ending up spending more time than originally planned. Met my cousin after work, went for a drink to Otters’ Club and ended up chatting for two hours. Finally, finished up when the parents called to find out where I was.
  • I did most of my shopping on Hill Road. It’s hot but honestly, those export surplus t-shirts are great and you don’t get that variety as well as quality anywhere else.
  • The most charming encounter of my trip was when I walked into Happy Book Stall, a little bookstore on Hill Road that we used to go to as children. I ended up having a long chat with the owner, who it turns out knows some people from my building who are regular customers. He was also the kind of owner that actually reads the books in his shop and can talk about them, something that is quite rare nowadays. When he saw me lurking outside waiting for the Himalaya shop next door to open, he invited me in to sit in the air conditioning and wait. I ended up buying a very beautiful book of sketches of Bandra houses. He told me how the author of said book rudely turned him down when he requested a few books for his shop, but ended up bringing the books over himself. I feel like a heel ordering books from Flipkart on my trips home, and resolved to patronize his store more. It is hard surviving as an independent bookstore in this day and age when even chains like Crossword are struggling and filling their shops with stationary. I asked him how he does it, and he said, “Trust in God.”

 

 

Goa girls

  • Six girls. One wedding. Goa. The perfect recipe for shenanigans right?
  • I’m not sure what I think about marriage anymore, but weddings are good for reunions. Our group has never managed one otherwise. Admittedly, it was an act of nature that foiled Bali, but still.
  • This time, the group that gathered had been whittled down to six, including the bride, who almost doesn’t count because how much can a bride hang out during her wedding? We were to be seven but one dropped out as she got pregnant, and Curly almost couldn’t make it as she fell ill. One of the group brought a boy and was pretty much on her own trip. When we took a photo of our feet on the beach, we were four. Still, we managed to make a lot of noise.
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  • The best part of the wedding was the music. It was like the DJ had the soundtrack to our youth. As ever, someone tried to jive with me, and failed. I am a disgrace to my Bandra roots.
  • This time, people brought partners. I was the only one who didn’t, partly because of logistical difficulty – V and I will both not leave Hong Kong without our kids even though we trust our helpers – partly because I get so little bonding time with these ladies, I’d rather not spend even a little bit of that babysitting V, as inevitably happens. This becomes a vicious circle because how does V ever integrate into the group, if I never push him in, but honestly, I’m too lazy to make the effort.
  • As a result, I did the wedding march with a priest.
  • I arrived in India with a tummy upset. I did my best to adult (unlike last time) and ate cautiously, and did not drink at all. I compensated my smoking. Ahem. Then on the wedding, I went all out and drank like crazy. I managed to hover on the edge with my stomach just about holding out. I’ll admit I ate chicken malai kebab (a melt in your mouth kind) instead of prawn curry rice for the final lunch, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Target goal of not landing up ill on the flight back achieved.


  • My most memorable meal in Goa was at Terry’s on the Mandovi. This is not a “cool” place but the food was excellent.
  • When in doubt drink whiskey. Do NOT top that off with a glass of urack and limca. Always specify when you want a small because being Goa they will bring you a large.
  • Eating sausage pulao with a plate on sausage chilli fry on the side might be pushing it.

  • I’ve never spent much time in Panjim. But this time we walked around, and went to a most beautiful cafe located in an old house that has been turned into an art gallery. I was tagging along with a friend who was meeting friends, and since I had just spoken to the kids over the phone (they spent 20 minutes telling me about how they dried their hair in the clubhouse because I had taken away the hairdryer), I took charge of the couple’s five-year-old daughter. The thought of me voluntarily babysitting is incongruous to anyone who knew me growing up. But there I was collecting sticks in a courtyard and throwing them down an edge and having a good time doing it.

  • Swimming pools do not have to be big because anyway we just bob about at one end exchanging confidences. For that matter, it would help if they are not deep either, because spilling the beans while balancing one tip toes is not ideal. Frankly, a jacuzzi would have served just as well.
  • Average time of sleeping was 2 am across one week. Average wake-up time was 7 am. For a person who needs 9 hours of sleep a night, this was not enough. Frustratingly, I was never able to nap.
  • To feel like I’m in Goa, I need to enter the ocean. One morning I woke up and 6 and since noone showed signs of waking up, I went to the beach on my own in my swimsuit taking nothing but a bottle of water. I walked for some time and then entered the ocean. It’s the first time I’ve ever gone into the sea myself, without anyone at least watching from the shore. It was choppy but I didn’t let myself go beyond the waves breaking point. After being bashed around for a bit, I set at the waters edge and contemplated the world. I recalled my childhood in Goa when were would dive through huge waves like fish. Or was it that the waves seemed bigger than they were because we were children?
  • All of us have quirks: one has FOMO (“fear of missing out” not “four more” as one of us thought), one keeps falling over, one drinks too much, and I cannot make a decision without going back and forth 500 times. These we have developed in our old age, except for Curly who has been falling over since college, and accepted them in each other in good humour.
  • I explained to the girls my Theory of the Strikes: I apply the three strikes rule to most people. You piss me off three times, and you’re out. By this I mean, I cease to make any effort with you, though I will remain cordial. For close friends, a five strike rule applies (close friends would have already been in the danger zone when the five strike rule begins to take effects). “What about your sister?” K asked. “She gets 100 strikes,” I replied off the cuff. “So bad. You’d think it would be unconditional for her.” Hmmm, I guess I’m not an unconditional type of girl. Also, my sister is never going to hit 100 strikes. “What about me?” V asked when I got back and told him about it. “You get 10,” I said. “So little,” he whined. “Yes,” I said. “And you exceeded them. That’s why I cut you off. You’re only just coming back.” Striking someone out does mean they are out forever. It just means that I need a break from them emotionally, because investing time and energy in them is not worth it anymore.
  • Of course, people started asking me about their strikes. I told Curly about a strike I had never voiced before. It was cathartic. She reminded me about another I had forgotten. It’s interesting the things that cut more than others are not always the expected ones.
  • I have not mastered the art of posing for photos. Because I’m scared to my wattle showing, I tilt my head up, which I’ve realised is a most unflattering angle. I end up looking fatter than I am. I am only satisfied with myself in the photos a

Writing a PhD

I rarely write about my academic life here, but I feel I should record bits of it at least.

A lot of it is reading. Reading frenetically, with excitement, all the time. A girl who finished her PhD in Anthropology once asked me: “Are you one of those whose research i mostly sitting in a library?” Why yes. Not specifically the library, but I do read there sometimes for a change of scene. (Mostly, I tend to behave in libraries as if I’m at a buffet. I go there for one book, and come back my arms full, some of which I will not get around to reading but I can’t find it in me to return them yet).

But also, the couch in my living room, my bed, the MTR, escalotors, and of course, my office. (Actually, in my office, mostly I’m writing.)

My object of study is novels so I read those too. That’s a different kind of fun, and a built-in change of place.

I read along different, seemingly random and endless trajectories. Today, I decided I needed to define “the middle class in India”. I know that there is no easy definition but I still wanted to a) see if there was one b) if there was none, cite those people who say so. I asked my friend Curly how she would define the class the protagonist of chick lit novels in India belongs to and she said, “it’s complicated.” Ha! So Curly was in agreement with current scholarship on the subject. However, I still needed a concise and articulate explication of that.

So I found a book on the anthropology of society in India. In one essay on the body and call centres (a superb one), I found some references to the middle class. I tried to find that book but it wasn’t in our library system. I googled and found the pdf of the book online! I proceeded to read book. I should probably have just stopped at the introduction but no, that wouldn’t be me. I never stop at the introduction, because reading for me is not merely goal-oriented.

I get fascinated by things that might not necessarily be directly useful to my work and I tumble down the rabbit hole. And then at the end of that hole, I tumble down another. The problem is that while the stuff I’m reading may not be directly useful, it is always going to be indirectly useful. There is no useless knowledge. So I don’t limit myself, though I should.

I like reading theory. I try to tell myself that the theory I’m reading is relevant to my work, and again it’s hard to argue that it’s not. I want to use every theory I have read somewhere in my work, and my supervisor gently tries to tell me it’s looking like a mess. But all these ideas are so cool and I want them all.

Amid them, I have to find my own. Ideas that is. It’s hard to remember that sometimes, surrounded by all this brilliance. I would be happy to bask in it without offering a thought of my own.

Eventually, I have to dig myself out of the rabbit hole of ideas, and write something. To write my two lines or one paragraph on the middle class, I’ve read some 10 things or more things. It’s serendipitous when the paragraph I was writing before I tumbled into the rabbit hole connects nicely with the paragraph I start writing when I dig myself out.

It doesn’t always happen, and I wish the connections would make themselves or the reader would just get with the programme.

Only there is no reader right now. It’s just me.

So tell me… how do you define the middle class? Do you think the protagonist of Indian chick lit is a middle-class girl?

 

 

 

Reading and writing

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So as I mentioned earlier, Nene is not exactly writing or spelling or close to reading yet. Personally, I wouldn’t see this as a great problem – kids in Norway song start writing till 6 and they go on to top every educational indicator internationally at the end of schooling age (there is no evidence to suggest starting these skills early indicates greater level of general success) – but in Hong Kong , kids have to transition into primary school and the private schools have certain expectations. The government schools are not allowed to use these kinds of assessments so it’s essentially one big lucky draw which is how it should be. But pretty much all these schools are Cantonese medium or teach some subjects in Cantonese and so don’t work for us. Not to mention their teaching method is traditional and homework heavy (similar to India). In addition to our need due to language and the personality of our child to go private which meant I needed Nene to catch up a bit, I now have the impending joy of India admissions to look forward to if we move there in a year. So yeah. I should be starting on that any time now but I can’t bring myself to.

So even though Nene got into the school of our choice, I need to continue reinforcing phonics with him because of India admissions. Plus as one of Nene’s friend’s mum who has an older kid told me, when you kid is the only one in a primary one class can’t do something it’s bad for their self esteem. Though it’s also bad for their self esteem to push them before they’re ready I would think. So it’s a bit of a catch 22.

The question is ‘is Nene not ready?’ There’s a difference between can’t and don’t want to. I think Nene is in the latter group and needs to be pushed a bit. He’s a bit like me in that he likes to do what comes easiest (except in rare cases that he is so into something that he’ll persevere. Unfortunately reading is not one of those things. Footie on the other hand…)

Then there’s the fact that I am not a natural teacher. Of small kids at least. I can do the small class readings and presentations and I enjoy these but if they start acting up I lose patience. I’m also not one of those who thought to make this into a fun activity whereby every moment can be a teaching moment. Or at least in this regard. I’m pretty good at answering the “what is that?” and “why is that questions?” so my kids have a fair bit of knowledge on a range of random things. E.g. Nene surprised his playschool teacher by being able to identify President Obama at the age the age of 2 years and 7 months (and now unfortunately he can identity Donald Trump). He would also be able to give an adult a run for her money explaining menstruation (a post on that later). However, alphabets not so much. Writing this, I realise that I’m a learner led teacher – so if the child asks the question, I will answer it, but I don’t actively push topics. Hmmm this explanation makes me feel better.

Are you finding something strange about all this? Shouldn’t Nene be learning all this in school? Why yes. In fact, I am paying a tidy sum to the school, and frankly I feel they’re not holding up their end of the bargain, or my kid is just a super poor learner. Why I think it’s the former is that at the start of the year, they asked the kids to write words when they had not reinforced the alphabet the previous year (I suppose they expected them to magically acquire it over the summer). Then, they send worksheets home but there’s no communication on what the worksheets are supposed to be reinforcing. I’ve only belatedly realised that each sheet was to reinforce a phonetic sound contained in the word and not the starting letters of the word. If I had known, I would have ensured that I reinfornced this with Nene, but now it’s too late. Apparently, they have completed all the sounds. There is also a list of sight words (a concept I didn’t quite get the meaning off until I went on one primary school tour) which I only learnt about during a PTA meeting halfway through the term. But their list is so long and I have no idea how the kids are going to remember them unless the parents practice them at home – but how do we know which words are being taught unless the school tells us. I find this odd, but maybe it’s the norm?

So now I’ve been doing a bit of practice with Nene (and Mimi when she’s willing) every day. I started off trying to follow the list of phonetic sounds they had ostensibly covered over the term (ai, ie, ee, oo, etc), but then suddenly decided I’d do the simple sight words first and teach Nene how to make bigger words out of those so two birds with one stone (e.g. sight word “at” can make “mat” “cat”. I’ll admit I’m tempted to teach “shat” because I know Nene would love it and it might actually reinforce the concept. He’s all into potty these days). I’ve seen a significant improvement since I started this. I only do about 15 minutes a day, so I hope it’s not too onerous.

Version 2

A gamechanger for us was when I let Mimi open one of her unopened present from their birthday party (yes, we’re still opening them, though we’re down to the last few) coincidentally on the day of Nene’s primary one interview, because she was upset that she had to go to school and not hang out with us. And guess what? I thought it was going to be a mini hockey set but it turned out to be whiteboard. It has been brilliant for practising words with the kids. It came with magnets so sometimes I use those or sometimes I use whiteboard pens. The kids like it so much more than writing on paper, and Nene’s handwriting seems better too.

Now my question for parents of 4-5 year old kids…

  1. Do you do a bit of alphabet, word, spelling practice with your child independent of school?
  2. Is there any method you follow? Free online resources you could point me to? (I’m trying to follow Jolly Phonics which the school does but their material is not available free)
  3. Are there writing/spelling/phonics resources I could get in India since I’m making a trip there soon?

 

 

 

 

Home can be two

10 March is Tibetan National Uprising day. A friend posted this poem on Facebook:

The Tibetan in Mumbai
is not a foreigner.

He is a cook
at a Chinese takeaway.
They think he is Chinese
run away from Beijing.

He sells sweaters in summer
in the shade of the Parel Bridge.
They think he is some retired Bahadur.

The Tibetan in Mumbai
abuses in Bambaya Hindi,
with a slight Tibetan accent
and during vocabulary emergencies
he naturally runs into Tibetan.
That’s when the Parsis laugh.

The Tibetan in Mumbai
likes to flip through the MID-DAY,
loves FM, but doesn’t expect
a Tibetan song.

He catches the bus at a signal,
jumps into a running train,
walks into a long dark gully
and nestles in his kholi.

He gets angry
when they laugh at him
“ching-chong-ping-pong”.

The Tibetan in Mumbai
is now tired,
wants some sleep and a dream.
On the 11pm Virar Fast,
he goes to the Himalayas.
The 8.05am Fast Local
brings him back to Churchgate
into the Metro: a New Empire.

— Tenzin Tsundue

It’s a reminder of the alienation that exiles feel. And the complicity of ‘locals’ in that.

Strangely, when I read the poem, my dominant feeling was homesickness. [And I fully recognize here that there is no parity between my homesickness and that of the Tibetan in exile. My homesickness is marked by the transnational privilege to return – home for me is a just a flight away, an expensive one that precludes frequent returns, but the possibility is open.]

There was a time when this homesickeness would trouble me, not for the fact of it, but because when I moved to Hong Kong, I felt the need to pick a side. And after five years in Hong Kong I picked Hong Kong. The end. Or so I thought.

Last month, I gave a lecture on Salman Rushdie’s essay Imaginary Homelands, in which he talks about writing in the diaspora. I reflected on an incident that happened when I was in Bombay in December. Or rather, as I was leaving Bombay. As the plane was taking off, I pointed out the city spread out below us to Nene who was peering out of the airplane window. Suddenly, I trailed off. V, who was sitting in the row behind us, poked me and whispered, “Are you crying?” And I realised that I was. Ten years after leaving Bombay, I realised that some roots are never severed. Something is always left behind.

I have finally realised that home can be two or more places. On does not have to pick a side. When I leave Hong Kong, there will be a part of me that will keen for it. I have put down roots here too. My ties to Bombay are the ties of birth, the ties of familiarity, of blending in, of roads that can be navigated unconsciously. My ties to Hong Kong are the comfort of safety and ease, the exhileration of the aesthetic beauty of the skyline and the buzz of the international, the jolt of the strange, and the nostalgia of the early years of marriage and learning to be an adult. If Bombay is family, Hong Kong is a friend.

I lived two years in Hyderabad too. I should have put down roots there. But I didn’t. The city didn’t take to me and I to it. I fled every opportunity I could, and when I had no reason to be there any longer, I packed my things and never looked back.

 

 

 

Application madness

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Those of you who have read this blog for a while will be familiar with my periodic drama over school admissions. The latest ongoing crisis was Nene’s admission to primary school.

Our stress had eased somewhat after he gained admission to two schools. Of the schools he applied to and which we ended up going for the interview, he got into two out of three.  Yes, I applied to schools and didn’t even go to the interview because a) my nieces were in town that day and the school was far b) the school was far and we decided it was no longer worth the journey c) V decided it was too expensive and too far, you get the drift. The problem was I applied to a range of schools because when I was applying, I hadn’t made up my mind which school type (government funded, private but not international, or international) I wanted Nene to go to – partly because I’m indecisive but also partly because our financial status was not crystal clear at the time of application.

All this made more complicated by the fact that my top choice school – international but not crazy expensive (though more expensive than all our other choices) – would only schedule their interview in January after the deadlines for all the others. So we had to confirm and in one case pay for the place at the school because we didn’t know if Nene would get into our top school or not.

As time went by, I decided that I would forgo the government school place. It looks increasingly clear that barring a miracle, we will not be in Hong Kong after one year (sob!) and so I am not going to break my head on Nene surviving two subjects in Cantonese even though the cost saving (zero fees) would be great. Were we planning to stay in Hong Kong long term, this would have been my top choice.

So, it came down to the new English medium private school near our home and the further away, more expensive international school (our top choice). As the interview date at the latter drew nearer, I got more and more stressed out.

For one, I learnt that as I had suspected, the interview would involve reading and writing simple words and unfortunately, Nene was not there yet. In fact, over the Christmas holidays he seemed to have forgotten alphabets, never mind words.

So despite myself, I began doing a bit of practice with him everyday. And I must say, I am not the soul of patience, and the clock ticking down to the interview didn’t help. Nene also tended to fool around and do anything to get my to go, okay go play. I may have told my poor son “If you don’t learn, people will think you’re a dummy.” (Yeah, not proud of myself.) Later it dawned on me that I had let slip in my desperation that he needed to learn this for an interview, and that may have worked as a disincentive because he is scared of leaving his kindergarten and he knows his friends aren’t going to be at the same school.

V had to intervene on several occasions. He is hyper sensitive about this because as a child, he was least interested in thsi academic stuff and/or slow to pick it up and he would get yelled at or shamed and it put him off academics for life. I got it, but I’m like Nene is going to be in a worse situation if he doesn’t get into a decent school because I know my kid and the environment he needs (which is the opposite ironically of my own teaching methods).

Then, I scheduled a playdate in the week that Nene had the interview and he ended up falling sick and I had to reschedule, which thankfully the school was understanding about, though of course I was wondering if it would impact our chances. That gave me more time to prepare Nene though this might not have been a positive from his perspective.

Finally, the day dawned. V was able to come with me and we took Nene to the school where they made us wait in an office (and Nene asked, where are the other children?). He was then led by a teacher to another room somewhere far away, requiring him to climb stairs. There he took a test, then after what felt like an hour (supposedly 20 minutes) he was brought to the principal’s office where she had a chat with him before calling us in to tell us the results.

Which was basically that Nene had been accepted! Huzzah!

Of course, he hadn’t done excellently on the test. He could write one word (“cat” that I had drilled into him based on a tip from another parent) and was able to answer questions and knew the alphabet but not all the alphabet sounds (which he does know, but you cannot rely on a kid to always say, or at least my kid). He answered the principal’s questions well though. So yeah, he was in, and we were elated!

Nene, however, was not so pleased. Later that night he told me that he didn’t like the new school. “Why?” I asked. “Because it’s so grey,” he said. And it’s true. The school building is old and painted grey, and so are the uniforms, though the classrooms are cheerful and the kids seem happy there. “In my school, we have rainbows.”

My son. How poetic. What could I tell him?  Sadly, the world is not rainbows, or we don’t have the pot of gold required to obtain them, and maybe you’ll like the grey or see the rainbows there too?

 

 

 

 

 

Oscar frocks

You know how everyone moans that the Oscars has become all about the dresses and nothing else? Well for me, it’s always been so. I mean, yeah, I might watch the whole awards ceremony if I had world enough and time, but mostly I don’t, and I can’t say I’m gutted either. A quick Google about the results tells me all I need to know without watching three hours of uncomfortable jokes and people trying to look happy (and succeeding because they are, after all, actors) when they don’t end up winning.

Anyhoo here is my belated and highly inexpert take on what I liked sartorially speaking:

First, my alltime favourite, Cate Blanchett.

cate oscar

It’s not so much the dress per se, but the beauteousness of Cate in it. Though I must admit I do have a partiality towards that style of embellishment. For example this:

jjl

In other weird things I liked, this. olivia

Yes, the neckline is ridix, but I’m a sucker for pleats and the whole Grecian thing, plus the back was interesting.

I also liked the oranges. Charlize Theron basically rocks anything she wears:

charlize

Also liked this, although her hair looked like she just scrunched into a bun:

olivia-munn-oscars-2016-academy-awards

Among the shiny things, I liked Naomi Watt’s the best:

naomi-watts-001-today-160228_9d220a844e9ff3a0480d869753c2fc6b.today-inline-large

And this:

manuela

Finally, as twee as she is, I think Tay killed it:

taylor

The end. Which were your top picks?

 

Abortion

I write on the first day of my period.

I spent the last one day wondering whether I was pregnant. Again. Even though the chances were very slim given the facts at hand, I couldn’t be 100% sure. And my period tracker app said I was late (more on that later).

When I mulled over the possibility of being pregnant, I realised that if I was, there was no way in hell I could continue with the pregnancy. The simple fact was that I am not mentally or physically capable of bearing another child and caring for an infant. If it were a choice between that and death, I would rather be dead. It’s that simple.

This morning I realised that the most traumatic part of infant care for me was breastfeeding. If I did not have to breastfeed – and frankly with the availability of formula there is no reason I could not simple put any future baby on formula straight away* – my antipathy towards the whole deal of infant care would be halved by 50%.

Even so I really really really did not want to be pregnant. And if I was, I would have opted for an abortion, as quickly as possible.

One of my straight-up problems with the Republican Party in the US (and with the Catholic Church) is its anti-abortion stance. V asked me why I felt so strongly about this, I said because I know from my own experience what it means to be parent. And I can empathise wholeheartedly with women for whom becoming a parent would be the end of their own life literally or in practice. The weird thing is that carrying two children to term and caring for them in early childhood, with all the financial and material help I had, made me even more sure of my stance that women must have the right to abortion backed up by the availability of safe abortion services, in addition to other forms of contraception. Because I know what it takes. And I can imagine what it would be like for women who have less control over their lives and for whom an unwanted pregnancy can be disaster. And I know that contraception doesn’t always work, and that many women don’t have the choice of using contraception and/or abstaining from sex altogether. And that those women deserve to have that final recourse of abortion if it comes to that.

Moreover, states that restrict access to abortion almost never make exceptions. So there have been cases like that of Savita in Ireland who was allowed to die rather than abort the feotus inside her, a rape survivor in Ireland who was denied an abortion, a woman who was kept alive although she was for all purposes dead so that the foetus inside her could live (even though this was against her own expressed wishes and those of her family), a woman who was accused of “aborting” her baby when she had a miscarriage. In all these examples, women are deprived of control over their own lives, sometimes literally, in order to save a foetus.

The most blinding irony is the case of countries where the Zika virus is rampant, where women who have little or no access to contraception and wehre abortion is banned are being asked to “not get pregnant.” Well good luck with that.

On the subject of the period tracker app, I was relying on the app’s calculation of when I should get my period. It has been fairly on point so far, so when I was a couple of days late I panicked. Prior to using the app, I honestly could never anticipate my period. When I was pregnant and the doctor’s asked me how many days my cycle was , I would say 30 days although really I had no idea. I’m bad at counting. Then I tried this app and it was like magic. I could with some accuracy predict my period date even a couple of months ahead.

However, last night I took a closer look at the days between two periods, and I realised that there were only 20 days between them! WTF! Though now I’m back to 27 days which I still think is a bummer because shorter cycle more periods across my lifetime. I can’t wait for menopause.

 

 

 

*Except for the environmental and ethical issues. I am no longer convinced of the glorious health benefits of breastfeeding. Except in cases where babies have allergy to formula (but then they tend to have allergies to cow’s milk in breastmilk too, and then the whole saga of diet control, which I know only too well).

Mommy groups

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So I finally got added on to possibly the most popular Facebook group for moms in Hong Kong. It’s a closed group, but not hard to get into, except that I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to be on it. From what I had heard it is a cesspool of  controversies, and I wasn’t sure I had the time or inclination to be sucked into it.

However, while on the search for a primary school of Nene, I realised it might be useful to be on such a group so I can get more feedback on schools, so I got a friend to add me. And it’s been interesting. I’m not an active participant by any standards, but I keep a tab on the posts.

Despite the group’s name, there are men on the group. On the one hand, it would be more egalitarian to call it a parents group. On the other hand, I think it originated as a way for mothers to discuss without the “intrusion” of men, who on the aforementioned Geobaby would sometimes be overly cynical bordering on trolly. It’s actually quite interesting that by calling it a mom’s group, the group marks out the space as a female one, while not being averse to the presence of males. It’s that rare space where female culture is majoritarian.

The group is an updated version of Geobaby, which was the most popular online parenting forum in Hong Kong. However, unlike Geobaby, here everyone is identifiable by their Facebook identity which makes anonymity harder. Also, unlike Geobaby, where the posts were largely related to pregnancy, early childhood care, school stuff and mommy health, here the topics are pretty much anything.

It’s almost as if people have forgotten Google exists and ask any odd question that pops into their head. (for example, where to buy this or that or where to go on vacation). The fact that often these questions have been asked and answered a zillion times before notwithstanding, why not use a search engine first? It’s almost like we have been transported back to the time when Google didn’t exist and if you had a question, you’d ask your neighbour, who’d ask her neighbhour etc. It is kind of cool, this sense of extended community and yet, I feel that it is being misused out of sheer laziness.

Or if not laziness, the need to “be seen” by asking something on the forum. Or answering it. The randomness of the responses is also bizarre. For example, the one thread I participated in related to someone asking specific questions about the area I live in because they are considering moving there. The majority of responses consisted of women waxing eloquent about the amazingness of whichever area they lived in and suggesting that the poster move there instead. I simply could not understand why people would feel the need to respond to a question they did not know the answer to.

Although the group has gained a reputation for bitchery, I find by and large there is a sense of camaraderie, wherein women post random things that made them laugh or think and sometimes a discussion gets going. I sometimes wonder why these people don’t post on their own walls and discuss with their actual friends, but maybe they find a better ear here? Or maybe it’s a way to win friends and influence people with one’s awesome personality?

There are a few women on the forum who are chronic answerers. They will respond to every post with some general advice. In person, they are the confident mothers I wrote of earlier, but probably the annoying as hell variety who have an opinion on every.single.thing. What is the sense of self these people get out of commenting on these websites?

Apart from the randomness of questions is the generality – Can someone recommend a “reasonably priced …”? Immediately a slew of responses follow which indicate that what is reasonable for one is not for another. Actually, most of the responses do not seem “reasonably” priced to me, but maybe that is the slant of the group – expats with inflanted salaries who live around Central. Again, when people ask for suggestions they rarely specify the district, and most of the suggestions seem to be around Central (the last place to get anything reasonably priced). When district is mentioned, it’s usually New Territories which again confuses me because that could mean anything from Tseung Kwan O to Tuen Mun and Yuen Long, all at different ends of Hong Kong.

Last night, someone started a thread asking for recommendations for water filters for their baby. And one of the responses was that she only allows her baby to drink Evian, from the purest Alps. Dear me.

 

 

 

 

 

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