Help needed!


Update: I’ve made this email a sticky so that anyone who lands on this page will see it. If you’re open to being interviewed for my study on reading chick lit, please contact me via email (

So as most of you know, I quit my job to do a PhD last year. What I didn’t mention was what I’m working on. I’m studying Indian chick lit novels (the Bridget Jones’s Diaries and Sex and the Cities of India, such as the books written by Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan and Anuja Chauhan), focusing on how a certain kind of Indian woman emerges in the novels. Cool no? Well obviously I think so.

As part of this project, I need to interview readers preferably based in India. So I’m putting out a call:

  1. Do you enjoy reading Indian chick lit? (Basically, the popular romantic fiction with a 30-soemthing protagonist looking for love).
  2. Would you like to talk about it? (ie. talk about why you enjoy/dislike the novel/s, characters you like/identify with, etc.) It’s easy peasy.

It will be fun, I promise! I need to do Skype/telephone interviews, and need limited personal information. You will be anonymous when I write up the research, though you will need to sign an informed consent forms and provide me with some general info about yourself.

While chick lit has now apparently expanded to include almost anything written by women, my working definition of the genre is  books that “feature everyday women in their 20s and 30s navigating their generation’s challenges of balancing demanding careers with personal relationships.” I should add that the tone of the classic chick lit novel is typically lighthearted.

Anyone willing please please please email me at

Voting day

Last week, I voted for the first time in Hong Kong. As a permanent resident (something akin to a green card holder), I’m entitled to vote and I registered as a voter promptly.

Hong Kong holds democratic elections to the district councils, which like the municipal corporations except that they are more advisory than executive (since it is the government bureaus that actually executive the work as far as I know), and the Legislative Council, but not to the highest office, the Chief Executive, who is elected by a cherry-picked electoral college.

Last year’s Umbrella Movement was triggered by the demand for universal suffrage for the Chief Executive election. While that demand was stonewalled by the powers that be in Beijing, the result is that Hong Kong society has become more politically aware and this election was seen as a test case. The voter turn-out was expected to be high, and it hit a record 47% (1,468,000 registered electors). Honestly, I thought more people in a city with 100% literacy would vote. 47% seems pretty poor to me, and this is only of registered voters, who do not comprise the total population. For example, V was eligible but did not register.

I, however, am an enthu cutlet about elections. I registered to vote in India almost as soon as I turned 18, without anyone nagging me to do so. To get me to get my driver’s licence, however, required some cajoling on my mother’s part. I guess I’ve always been politically inclined, and when I moved to Hong Kong, I got into Hong Kong politics. It’s a very interesting time to be in Hong Kong if you, like me, have somewhere to run if it all goes bad (which means if Hong Kong becomes just another Chinese city under the CCPs thumb); if you have nowhere to run, the impending reality is scary and thus, last year’s protests. I admire Hongkongers, particularly the youth, for their desperate bids to retain their city’s independence and identity with whatever tools they can device from the box. The protests last year were creative and inspiring, even if the wealthy grumbled about the disruptions to their regular commute.

I had four candidates to choose from for the district council election, one of whom never bothered to campaign much and so I have no idea who he was. One guy stood at the entrance to the MTR station every morning and evening, waving at commuters, which did make me feel that at least he cared to put in that time and effort. Another guy did the same, but for just one day. He was affiliated to a pro-democracy party and would have had my vote if he had made more of an effort. In the end, I voted for our building committee chairman, who although didn’t seem to do face-to-face campaigning bothered to send an email in English with his manifesto, which included everything I could have thought of for improvement of the district. Since we moved here, the district has really improved – we now have a beautiful waterfront promenade/cycling track and a public library and sport facility. I know the building committee lobbied for some of these things, and our estate itself is excellently run.

On the day of the election, V started giving me gyan on who I should vote for, which I thought was rich coming from a guy who declares himself cycnical about the democratic process enough to have not registered to vote. I pointed that out and he shut up. A couple of days before he had thrown my polling card into the rubbish by mistake, thinking it was just more bureaucratic mail and got a earful for that.

The election was held in a local college. I went early, and trailed in with the grandmas and grandpas. I presented my ID card, my name was checked off a list and I was handed a form with the four canditates name and a stamp with a tick mark which I had to put against one name before folding my ballot and placing it inside a box. The whole thing took two minites. Quite similar to India, actually, except that in India the voting room is more secretive (here there were just a series of partitioned spaces.

Outside, a girl with an iPad asked me to participate in an exit poll. Honestly, she wasn’t very aggressive at approaching people and only came to me because I caught her eye. Most of these polls are conducted by pro-government parties, who I do not support, but I’m a sucker for polls. That done, I sat outside and watched for a bit. Noone else agreed to do the poll. Heh.

After voting, I felt this smug glow of satisfaction that I had done something, participated in something bigger than myself that could influence events bigger than me, albeit in a small way. I am aware that democracy doesn’t solve everything – India is a prime example, but India is also a prime example of the power of democracy. Stuart Hall has an essay on how people vote based on parameters that are not necessarily intelligent, and while I take his point, when one has so little power, however, you take what you get. Especially when it isn’t too much effort.

In the end, my guy won. That made me feel happy too.




Five questions

[Update: Since my dear Curly actually awoke from her blog slumber to take up this tag, I’m keeping the questions the same and tagging her restrospectively, and basically the peeps who commented: Perspectives and Prejudices, Made to Misfit, and Brown Girl in the Wring. My Era, if you want to take on the extra questions, please do.]

A long overdue tag from Boiling to participate in the Sisterhood of the World Q&A. She blogs about gender issues (which is how I found her blog, I think), random issues in her head, the environment, and stuff she gets riled up about.

In true Boiling style she trimmed the question list to a succinct five, which suits me because these days I don’t have time to write a coherent long post. (Note to readers: If you notice my posts are filled with more than the usual amount of typos these days, please forgive. I literally write them up in 10 minutes, with no time even for a read through. See it as a peek into my online notebook rather than a polished blog per se).

Now on to the questions:

  1. One beauty product you would recommend to your girlfriends

Knowing Boiling, I feel I should be recommending something eco-friendly here. In fact, one of my aims is to only use cosmetics that do not test on animals. However, I am sad to report that I have not achieved this, though if I do notice that a product that works for me is not tested on animals, then I will stick with it. I really like Bath and Body Works body lotion, particularly the Shea Butter one, and the company’s policy states that it does not test on animals except when required to by law. (Unfortunately, since I live in the China region, many brands that do not perform animal testing in other markets, do so for this region because the law requires it. However, I am buying Baths and Body Works directly from the US or through parallel traders since the brand isn’t retailed here officially. So I’m getting the animal testing free ones).

OMG, I could have skipped all this and recommended Himalaya kajal. It is my make-up must have. Yes, it smudges off but I like that.

Of the top of my head, I also like Revlon’s lip stain range. There, you got three for the price of one, which just goes to show that once I get started, I cannot stop blabbing.

2. Three books everyone must read.

Ok, if I couldn’t cut myself off on the beauty question, when I’m hardly a beauty expert, you can imagine how this one is going to go down. Honestly, I can’t say this is my final word on the matter, but for the moment, I’d say:

a) Bridget Jones’s Diary: What? It’s a my Bible a contemporary classic. I’m doing a PhD on chick lit, whadja expect? But honestly, the more I think about it, it’s a suberbly clever book. If I were to intellectualize it, I’d call it an inter-textual bildungsroman in the grand romantic tradition.

b) But first read Pride and Prejudice. It is now officially literature so you can feel smug.

c) Mary McCarthy’s The Group. I am surprising myself by putting this out there but I love how this novel about women coming of age covers a lot of themes of the early feminist novel without being laborious about it.

To include the last one, I had to knock off Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, a personal favourite (though right this minute, I think The Moor’s Last Sigh might edge out Midnight’s Children, which is a surprise to even me). But I kind of like having an all-woman list so I’m going with those three.

Frankly, I’m not sure I think everyone must read anything. To specific people, yes, I’ve been known to go, “You must read this (and then talk to me for two hours about it).” But when people generally ask me to recommend a book, V has told me I kind of freeze, and when I think about it, it’s because I cannot suggest a book without knowing the person.

3. Favourite online shopping site

Flipkart. It was the first one I tried, and I primarily still use it for its original purpose, which was buying books. It’s heartwarming in a weird way that the whole thing started with books. Which goes to show that books can be a business model. Maybe. Also, though I’ve heard some negative stories, I’ve never had a bad experience (except for the annoying thing where the delivery comes staggered and my mum has to keep answering the door). Maybe because I mainly order books, and who would want to steal those

I barely shop online though because with clothes and even shoes I can never remember my own size and then I still feel I need to try. With cosmetics, I used to use until I realized some local retails stores are cheaper. Generally, I now shop very little and am currently typing this is an old T-shirt of V’s that has multiple holes in it. Operation Budget is succeeding y’all.

4. Favourite phone app

Facebook? Mundane I know, but I use it a lot. If you’re looking for recommendations, I also use Wally to track expenses, PeriodTracker to track, well, the obvious, and I found XE Currency Converter very useful on holiday

5. One dish you are really good at making and its recipe





  1. I am saddened by the news of what happened in Paris. I cannot help but feel empathy for the victims and families of the victims. The attacks reminded me of the ones in Mumbai. Paris is not the only tragedy I have been upset by, nor will it be the last one. 
  2. I learnt about the attack when my sister posted on our whatsapp group asking if our cousin who lives there is okay. I checked Facebook soon after. It is a reflection of the people I am friends with, or the ones that are show up on my newsfeed anyway, that my wall was flooded with people reminding us that refugees are not to blame, that the state should not crack down indiscriminately, that neoliberal US policies are ultimately to blame. I had not even seen anyone suggesting that refugees were to blame at that time, though I’m sure someone would/did eventually. However, I have come to feel uneasy about these standard intellectual responses: a) The timing and how they immediately truncate the assimilation of shock with the reminder that we have to intellectualize. b) The unimaginative nature of them – how they repeat the same counter-discourse every single time. Part of being in academia is thinking up something new. But the articulation, down to the repeated use of neoliberal, is the same every time. c) The whataboutery. (but what about this and that?). Many of these people who are asking what about Beirut or Lebanon, never publicized Beirut or Lebanon themselves, so they too are not that far off from the empathizing only with Paris because they remembered Beirut only in relation to Paris. I hope not, but that’s how it looks when I never see Beirut on your timeline but suddenly Paris happens and it’s all about Beirut. Someone termed this “tragedy hipsters” and while I agree the motivation for this response is rooted in the good intention to critique, it increasingly seems to be to be the other side of those that selectively mourn deaths in first world countries.
  3. I am impatient with those changing their profile pictures into a tricolor. V said to me: “This is not about Paris. It is about terrorism.” If Facebook wanted an icon, it could have a more general one, even if it had to choose Paris as its launching point. People could also show sensitivity to those they did not mourn by not going overboard in their selective mourning. On the other hand, academics can also be sensitive in their critique. 
  4. I am sad to see Muslims yet again have to do #notinmyname posts or risk getting called out as terriers themselves. Can it not be taken for granted that people don’t support terrorist attacks unless they say they do? 
  5. I think there needs to be a complex assessment of why people mourn some deaths and not others. Maybe it is not to do with life but with place. That certain places stand for ideals such as the ability to speak freely and when these citadels are threatened they threaten even those in places where these freedoms are not enjoyed because they are aspirational. That when death in certain places or regions become routine people cannot mourn them with the same intensity because then they might be able to even get out of bed in the morning.
  6. This article uses Judith Butler’s concept of “precariousness”. To recognize precariousness is to recognize the  vulnerability of each life and the value of protecting it, but we have different recognitions for different people, what she calls “precarity”. How to combat it? She suggests shifting our frames of reference. The thing is, the lives perceived as more precarious (French) are probably in reality less at risk than the ones that are perceived as less so (those in the Middle East). I think this is a clue. When people’s lives are constantly at risk, other people do not have the energy to track them, they suppress the knowledge and only express shock when a life that is relatively secure is threatened. This is shitty, but it doesn’t necessarily mean one actually values other lives less. Maybe.
  7.  I am not sure I am right here, but I think labelling everyone who mourns Paris a fool in love with the first world is not very imaginative.



I’m feeling crappy today. For the past few weeks, Mimi has been angsty about going to school. It would start with her not wanting to put some item of clothing on, or the correct uniform (they have a separate uniform for PE and regular days, which is subject for another rant which I may engage in if this rant doesn’t get too long.

It doesn’t help that the whole month of October has been unstable because we’ve had visitors, and then a Mid-Autumn break. The latter seems to have given her the idea that school is not inevitable. I was surprised that she went fairly peacefully the first couple of days, but after that it started degenerating. One of the mums on the whatsapp group for her class told me that she heard Mimi saying she didn’t want to go to school, and later, my helper also told me she had made a bit of a fuss. I hoped it was a one off, but a couple of days later she did a full fledged meltdown in school, clinging to the helper and refusing to go in.

The school’s suggestion was that the helper drop her off and leave quickly, which is such a standard school suggestion, it annoys me. Yes, this solves the problem for the school, but it does not address why a kid who has been peacefully going in and is doing well in school, is suddenly not wanting to go in. We had wanted to wait a week or so and see if the behaviour resolved itself, but I decided to have a chat with her teacher.

One of my suspicions is that Mimi doesn’t like school when she doesn’t have friends. From Nene’s experience, I know that friends make a world of difference. Which is why I was delighted when Mimi made a friend in school last year, and then frustrated when she appeared to be pushing him away. This has come back to bite her in the ass, just as I anticipated, because the little boy formed another gang and started rejecting her. And she couldn’t seem to break into any other circles because most of the kids in class prefer to interact in Cantonese.

I spoke to D’s mother and she was nice enough to restart the playdates. Mimi however after a couple started saying she didn’t really want to play with D and from my helpers’ reports it does seem that D and Nene seem to spend more time playing. It is so incredibly frustrating. While V’s suggestion is to just let her learn, the fact is that a little kid does not make the connection between her rejection of D and her having no friends, and instead I have to deal with the fallout in terms of tantrums.

Anyway, when I spoke to the teacher, she also confirmed that Mimi doesn’t seem to play with anyone in particular. Moreover, from her description it seems like the class time has a lot of “free play” which is all fine if you have a friend or two to hang out with while the teacher is working with other groups. But if you’re alone, like Mimi, I can see how it would get pretty sad. Mimi loves academic stuff, like homework, or doing craft and I can see how ‘free play’ would bore her and worse if she was not part of a group. The teacher has been kind enough to encourage friendships between her and other kids, but I know this easier said and done.

This morning again Mimi said she didn’t want to go. She refused to put on her PE uniform.* I said fine wear the other uniform and wrote a note to a teacher. Still, she continued to fuss. I told her that I could drop her. Instead she wanted me to pick her up. So I said fine. She instructed me “not to wear silly things” but to wear a dress. Seriously. It’s like I’ve raised the fashion police.

Unfortunately, I cannot go pick her up because I really cannot afford to spend the day at home and not work. And so I have essentially lied to her, and while there is a good chance she won’t even remember, there is a teeny chance she will. And I feel shitty. I wavered like crazy before coming in to work but because I anticipate more drama tomorrow as Nene needs to take a day off for an interview and it will be Mimi going alone, I want to save the staying at home for tomorrow.

The problem with flexible working hours is that you have to decide yourself how flexible to be. And your kids sense this. If I was working a regular job, I don’t think I would feel this bad, because I simply wouldn’t have a choice. And I wonder if Mimi would have raised possibilities that she knows are not going to happen. Today, a mom on a Facebook group asked: “How to deal with the mommy guilt?” It’s a familiar question, and the answers are familiar to. You just suck it up, remind yourself you’re doing your best, but at the heart of mommy guilt is really the question: Are you?


Now, the PE uniform is particular annoyance because Mimi has taken it into her head that girls don’t wear shorts. Even though clearly all the girls in the school are wearing shorts. First of all, I have a problem with co-ed schools having girls wear skirts and boys shorts. However, maybe that’s a blessing in our case because Mimi might throw a tantrum everyday if she had to wear shorts to school. Then, they have a separate PE uniform when they barely do any PE that requires a separate uniform. It seems like an unnecessary expense, not to mention that the PE t-shirt is white and gets stained easily. They also have a bag that we never use because it is boxy and large and I know my kids would fuss about carrying it halfway on the way home and the adult escorting them would be lumped with two kids bag and her own bag. Instead, we just leave the bag in school because there is really nothing of significance in it that needs to be carted home that cannot be transferred to one adult bag. Once I got raised eyebrows from the teacher about this but I held my ground. Bag-carrying is not a skill I am interested in enforcing at this particular moment.

Hair raising adventures

V claims that as far back as he can remember I’ve been moaning about my hair. This is not strictly true. When I moved to Hong Kong, I adopted a do-as-the-Romans approach and straightened my hair. That way, I could walk into any local hairdresser and get a decent and reasonably priced haircut, regardless of the English-speaking skills of the staff.

However, once I got pregnant, I decided to stop straightening. I was a bit tired of the lank look anyway. Unfortunately, I realised that my suspicion that Hong Kong hairdressers really don’t know how to cut hair that isn’t thin and poker straight was founded. They would tend to gaze in amazement at the mass of my hair (which frankly is not that voluminous) and try to thin it. Another thing they do that gets my goat is they don’t  use  a straight edged razor, but the thinning scissor because they are frightened of the volume of my hair but also because they feel the need to make the edges shaggy. Which is all very well but it is a bitch when it grows out.

I briefly identified a Pakistani hairdresser who understood hair that was not poker straight. It was great because we really got along and would chat away, except that the last two times I noticed that she kept snipping as we chatted and my hair ended up way too short. Also she’s based in Tsim Sha Tsui which is not exactly in my neighbourhood.

My neighbourhood hair salon is very trendy, but they don’t understand my hair. And the clincher for me was that they raised their rates, again. A few months ago, I tried a new shop that opened and landed up with a bob, that was very trendy … if I had straight hair. After growing it out for ages, I went back to the first salon and asked them to basically do anything but not a bob. The receptionist translated my instructions to the hairdresser. I walked out of the shop with, wait for it, a bub. Facepalm.

And a bob that was not even well done. At least the second shop had done a class act on the cut. This one, even I could see stray long hairs here and there right after the cut, so you can imagine after a wash. That ended up relationship with the salon.

But I still had a problem. My hair. In desperation, I tried calling the Pakistani lady, but it appears she’s changed her number. Then, I had a brainwave. There’s another old salon on the other side of our local shopping mall. I’ve never been there because it looks a tad grungy but not cheap enough for me to put up with the grunge. And I was pretty sure none of the stylists spoke English, so I didn’t want to risk the communication error.

However, my the grown-out edges of my hair was irritating me too much and I didn’t have the time to traipse across town. So I went in and I was quickly shown a seat, which is a refreshing change for the fancy salon where one is kept waiting even though I can see stylists just lounging about.

In the corner of the waiting area, a mother was pacifying a baby who clearly had a fever (she was wearing the strip to bring the fever down on her head). The lady at the reception was hovering and I figured they were family. Just as I went to get my hair shampooed, the mother started to give the kid medicine and she began howling the place down. I could hear it at the other end of the room, as I was getting my hair washed. Noone batted an eyelid.

When I came back to my seat, the mother ploked the kid down in the seat next to me and set her up with cartoons on the phone. Then she came up to me and asked me what style I wanted. Turns out she was going to be my hairdresser. She had almost no English and the receptionist mediated. I ended up having my hair cut with Mother Goose Club in the background. At points, another stylist came over and checked on the kid, but mostly it was her and the telenanny while her mother snipped two feet away. Occasionally, the kid and I snuck glanced at each other.

There was probably a time when all this would have been annoying to me. But now I appreciate it. For one, I can tune out kid noises. For another, I appreciate that there are spaces where kids can be kids and mothers can mother then, while working. When I told this story to V, he felt bad for the mom, that she had to work when her kid was sick. I agree. But in the absence of unlimited sick days – and in this case, I think it’s a family business – a tolerance for bringing kids in from proprietors and customers is refreshing.

And I got a really good haircut too. She used a straight-edged razor and did what I wanted – which was trim to perfection. I may have found a keeper.

Le Birthday

I recently celebrated a milestonish birthday. Let’s just say it didn’t end with the big 0, but halfway there. My group of girlfriends were meant to mark this momentousish occasion in Bali, but alas a volcano foiled our plans. So we were left to our individual celebrations.
It turned out my sister-in-law and nieces were to be here during my birthday. So I had a readymade plan. My birthday weekend commenced in Disneyland, which I am only a little ashamed to say I love. Considering we were going back after a couple of months, we really should have bought an annual pass (as V could not stop grumbling). However, I could not deprive the kids of the chance of seeing Disneyland with their cousins. It turned out to be the best possible weather, a little overcast with a hint of cool and no rain, and strangely, a lack of crowds and queues. So even though the nieces covered very little on the half day they were there before us, we covered a lot together on Day 2, thanks in no small part to what the sister in law referred to as my Disbey dictator tendencies whereby I marched everyone around in a predetermined order. As usual, from Tw moment I met the nieces, I became the Pied Piper with three children hanging off me at any point.

Also, thanks to many not-so-subtle hints, V got me the coveted mouse ears as a birthday gift. Alas, there is no being an adult and laying claim to the ears when there are kids around. My precious ears were appropriated almost immediately by Mimi who decided they were hers and what’s more, it was her birthday (the whole thing about having her birthday last is not going down well with the Meems). Then, oldest cousin Lala had her turn, and I only got to wear them before bed at night. Harumph.

However, I highly recommend them. At one point, V was arguing with me and he just gave up and said: “I can’t take you seriously in those ears.” Honestly, the Israel-Palestine conflict could be resolved if Netanyahu and Abbas donned a pair. Anyhoo, I digress.

The night before my birthday, I went out dancing with the sister-in-law, the bestie in Hong Kong, her sister-in-law and another girl who was scandalized by our behaviour. I have not been dancing and/or to Lang Kwai Fong in ages, but I got into the spirit of things quite quickly. One lychee martini helped speed up the process, which then had to be slowed down by an enormous bottle of mineral water and fries. Let us just say that we got home at 3.30 am.

Even more astonishingly, we actually woke up and went to the beach at 9.30 am, the day of my birthday. There was a typhoon in the Philippines and the waves were crazy rough but we had a lovely time nevertheless. Nothing like four munchkins collecting ‘special sand’ to rub over your legs to make you feel special.

V went out of his way to get me my desired very chocolate cake from Agnes B, which has been polished off at leisure all week. The candles however were blown out by Mimi and Nene.

The day ended with a huge pizza dinner at California Pizza Kitchen. We got a table overlooking an ice rink with extra space for the kids to move around though Nene still pissed off a neighbouring guest by bumping into her chair and thereby stressed me out. And then Nene slammed his finger in the toilet cubicle door. Oh well.

I have to say it was a lovely birthday. It has been one hell of a year emotionally. On the one hand, the PhD was going swimmingly, until most recently when I had a dreadful fall down to earth. On the other, the marriage was going not so swimmingly, but in the last month we seem to have simmered down and dare I say, made our peace? I feel like I’m finally getting off a rollercoaster and not a moment too soon.


I am going a bit crazy with work, panicking about work, not knowing whether I have my candidature exam coming up or not, and experiencing that bizarre situation that being in limbo entails. I haven’t had much time to blog, and yet I have to thank the awesome readers who contacted me about participating in my study. I really really appreciate it.

It doesn’t help that I have a lot of distractions. First, there are the primary school applications for Nene. After initially leaning towards international schools, we finally ended up going the other way and applying to more local English medium schools. We still have one international school on our wish list, but other than that, I am resigned to the local system.

The pressure of what would happen at the interview began to get to me when I realised that Nene’s ‘academic’ skills are quite poor and if he was asked to write, he might not do so adequately. As the date of the first interview neared, I started to resemble a Tiger Mom drilling her cub. After one particular rough homework session, I gave into the realisation that I could not cram a couple of months’ worth of learning into a couple of weeks and that I would just have to let Nene wing it.

I got V to take a day off and come to the interview but it turned out that they didn’t interview us at all, just Nene, who was taken into a room without us after a lot of waiting around. When he came back, V had warned me not to force him to relive the whole thing. So I gently asked him what happened, and he told me he was asked to count butterflies and then there were 10 and then he was asked to count something else and there were too many. After that, he said he couldn’t remember what happened! In retrospect, it is good that we weren’t allowed in as not knowing helps me to cede control. I can’t stress out about how badly he did because I don’t know he did badly. Heh.

It turned out that we got an offer from that school. It is the closest to our home from the schools we applied to, and seems fairly nice with a really beautiful campus. However, it is run by a religious organisation and is fairly new so an untested bet. Nevertheless, we have accepted the place and will keep our fingers crossed for our target international school.

In the meantime, I had visits from my sisters-in-law one after another. V’s oldest sister decided to do a work/pleasure visit on a whim. She hasn’t visited us for eight years. She is a fiesty shopaholic with a lot of cool hobbies, and while I’ve had my run-ins with her in the past, I enjoyed her visit this time. She told me not to be offended but I had changed for the better and seem more sensible. I only smiled. It is possible that I have changed – after all, I have had two children and am generally older – but also I think she has changed. She has mellowed down a lot (though is still as shopaholic, some things don’t change I guess).

I realise that I am less angsty around my in-laws. I always liked V’s sisters but sometimes I found them too strong as personalities. While possibly they have mellowed, I have less rough edges too. I am more secure in my skin, and not as easily affected by the things people say. In these matters I think time also helps.

Literally, a week later V’s other sister and kids turned up. V’s oldest sister was there over his birthday and the younger one over mine and it was nice. We don’t do a big hoo-ha on our birthdays anymore but having them there made it more special.

As for the birthday, details in the next post.

Blood Moon



We recently celebrated the Mid Autumn Festival which is arguably the second biggest Chinese festival in this part of the world, Chinese New Year being the first. Mid Autumn Festival is essentially a harvest festival, with a lot of excitement centering around the moon and the legend of Chang E, the moon lady. I know this because the kids were told the story at school and we bought a very nice book about it. Kids usually take lanterns and go moongazing. Our kids had a lantern parade at school for which I got Mimi a traditional lantern in the shape of a rabbit (supposed to be the pet of Chang E). I forgot to get Nene one, and he very sweetly volunteered to take a chicken that he had made last year.

The long weekend started off well, when I decided we would go to the beach. We spent a good two hours of Saturday morning basking in water so clean that we could see the fishes swimming around us. V caught one for Nene in a bucket and he spent half an hour staring at it, trying to feed it seaweed and finally releasing it.

In the afternoon, our estate had a fun fair for the kids where for the princely sum of HK$25 they could try their hand at a range of games, including a bouncy castle. Regardless of whether they won or lost, they got little stuff like pencils or card holders. It was very well organised and for the nth time I thank my stars that we are fortunate enough to live in this building.

On Sunday, both our helpers were off and Mimi ended up not sleeping in the afternoon. Things were going peaceably enough when at 5 pm I decided to take a bath and asked V to watch the kids. Suddenly, I heard Mimi crying and V shouting. I didn’t think much of this because Mimi crying is a regular thing. Then Nene came into the bathroom saying Mimi is really badly hurt. I rushed out to find that Mimi had gashed her head and was bleeding badly.The irony was that I had just been congratulating myself on how I knew when to panic over a crying child. (Though later when I told V that I didn’t hear the shrill cry of a child in distress, he said she had initially been too shocked.)

She calmed down fairly quickly, and I would have left it at that, but V pointed out that the cut was deep and would need stitches. I was skeptical because my rule of the thumb is that if the child seems fine, leave it. Since it was a festival, our regular doctors were closed but again, we have a choice of three doctors in our immediate vicinity so got an appointment fairly quickly. One look and the doctor said we need to go to the casualty of the hospital, most likely for stitches. He was kind enough to not charge us.

Again, being a holiday, it was the worst possible day to get a taxi. Our security guard suggested there was no point calling one but we were likely to get one at the building roundabout as there were a lot of guests coming in. We managed to flag one down, but he initially said no. However, when V requested him explaining that we needed to take a child to the hospital, he agreed and drove us at top speed. I heard him call someone probably his wife, explaining the would be late.

We had a long wait at the hospital to even see the doctor, as is the case in emergency rooms. Mimi had calmed down by then, helped by the appearance of the iPad. The doctor on duty turned out to be a nice guy, but he also recommended stitches.

Then came the worst part of the night. We had to wait a hour longer till insurance cleared our claim and/or the doctor got free to do the stitches. By then Mimi was absolutely fine and I had to stop her from frolicking too hard lest she hit her head again. However, once we went into the room, they bundled Mimi into a towel and basically told V and I to clear out. I had heard about this from another friend who is quite a fighter and I had no choice but to leave. Thankfully, Mimi seemed ok, but obviously, a child alone being stitched up is NOT a nice thing. It was a 10 minute procedure but she screamed and sobbed the entire time. I had to leave the area as I couldn’t bear to listen. Hospitals do this for their ease, so they don’t have to deal with parents freaking out but I believe it’s a human rights issue. I think most parents would get a grip – or could be made to leave – and be strong for their child when needed. Instead I was outside crying for my child. Mimi was traumatised when she was handed back to me.

Since then she’s been fine save for wanting to remove the bandage on her forehead, which I think is more out of vanity than any discomfort. She’s been a bit more difficult to handle than normal, but healthwise seems fine.We bought her Elsa and Anna dolls (and Nene got a minibus just because) as a special gift.

We have to get her stitches removed on Saturday and I hope we can stay with her. Nene’s friend’s mom told me that when they tried to kick her out of the room she flat out refused and finally they let her stay. I had misremembered what she said, and now I feel guilty, but the fact is I wonder if they would have let us stay and what we could have done if they didn’t. Anyway, wish us luck for Saturday.

And of course, while all this drama was going on, I got my period.

Update: A week later, we were due to visit the hospital when Nene injured his foot. I couldn’t believe it because we were all sitting around and he didn’t jump, hit his leg or anything. V noticed that he could have twisted it. But the way he was going, it seemed like a fracture. So we had the embarrassing duty of telling the doctor who checked Mimi that our other kid needed attention too. I’m grateful that he didn’t call the cops on us. Thankfully, an x-ray showed no fracture but the doctor said sometimes hairline fractures don’t show up, but that they tend to heal on their own.

The removal of Mimi’s stitches was more peaceful and they allowed me to stay with her. Nene’s foot has thankfully healed without further intervention, though in a day or two he has started jumping around, even though he is still favouring that foot. Obviously more than a day’s rest is impossible with kids.

Application madness



I have primary school applications coming out of my ears and the process has affected me more than I thought it would. Who was I kidding when I believed I’d be able to escape the stress that is seen to be inevitable to this process? V tells me that I’m talking non-stop about it.

I have now applied to nine schools. They range from the expensive international ones to a completely free government-aided school. Somewhere along the line, I fear I’ve lost the plot and applied to any candidates that seem to fit the bill willy-nilly. Surprisingly, I’ve not spent too much money, but I’m still wavering on one whose application fee itself is a bomb (according to me). Some random observations:

  1. International school fees are unconscionable. Well, the fees are one thing, but the debentures and the capital levies and the numerous names they come up with for what are essentially extortion amounts, are shocking. I’m not shocked they are run like businesses, but that they are subsidized by the government in terms of land leases at concessionary rates. The general attitude of people is – oh, if the fees for rich kids get higher, who cares? Parents should just suck it up or use the local system. The fact that the local system is deeply flawed, so much so locals are moving away from it, apart, it is a loss to the taxpayer to subsidize institutions that are pretty much fattening themselves and serving only the rich.
  2. In contrast, the government runs a system where you get into a pool based on where you live and your child is allotted a school at random. Each child gets a chance to choose one school during a discretionary placement week (which is currently ongoing). If the school offers you a place, good. If not, you go into a central pool and are allotted a place based on some algorithm. Of course, some parents move addresses just to be in the right net, but by and large, it by force removes the stress. I experienced this system when I went to apply for a discretionary place yesterday. The form requires only basic information. I did not even have to submit previous kindergarten reports. There are points allotted based on some reasonable criteria like siblings in the school or parent working at the school. Some schools are allowed to give points based on religious affiliation or membership to organisation of the school, which I think is dodgy but it’s a colonial legacy.This is how it should be honestly. Schools should work with kids, not cherry pick kids who have been drilled and grilled before they even enter.
  3. In contrast, private schools without fail ask for parents background, including office address and telephone number. Why they require this information before the child is enrolled in their school is beyond me. Well, except that they are selecting the child based on the parents’ background. This is the one place where my child looks good – okay unfortunately we’re Indian which is not favourable racially, but otherwise working in a bank and doing PhD sounds good. And yet, it sucks, doesn’t it? To be part of this elitism.
  4. On the way to submit an application, there were a number of international school students from a school on the MTR platform. A group of boys got into the train, flung their bags down, sprawled on the floor and began chatting, eating and drinking juice. Sounds harmless, but really no one does this in the MTR in Hong Kong. It is illegal to eat and drink in the MTR because they want to keep it clean, and while I have sometimes taken the occasional sip or bite, it’s always discreetly and carefully so I don’t spill. These kids were having a picnic, and something about their audacity rankled. It made me think of the cultural difference of kids in the same city – Desi (or South Asian) kids are the most racuous, Western kids can also be quite noisy and break the rules (like the ones above), and Chinese kids (especially the majority who go to local schools) are very well behaved. On the one hand, the tendency to play by the rules is admirable because it contributes to the sense of order that the city runs on; on the other, they tend to be unable to think outside the box. Surely there must be a medium which does not involve kids sprawling with a sense of entitlement on the MTR floor though?
  5. After I submitted the application, I was waiting for a bus and some kids from the local international school (another one) passed by. The group of kids looked like they were auditioning for parts in Sweet Valley High. Also, the skirts of the girls were so short. I never thought I’d see the day when skirts for the girls’ uniform is shorter than the shorts for the boys’. V told me I’m turning into a granny.
  6. Shortly after, a group of kids from a local school passed by. The girls’ skirts were too long. Okay, I am sounding like Goldilocks here but surely there must be a mean between schools where the kids turn out completely Westernized and the follow-the-book-no-matter-what Chinese system? I have to say I preferred the the way the Chinese kids interacted. Yes, I am regressing into the person who lived in mortal fear of her kids developing an American accent and generally behaving like they originated in a television serial.
  7. While the government school (if it has a school bus that comes near us) sounds ideal (because zero fees!). V pointed out that the crucial question is whether I would be able to leave Nene there. Because we semi-tried the local system with kindy and I chickened out. Fair point. But still, zero fees!
  8. I also visited a local school that is being turned into an international school. On my way to find that school, I landed up in two other schools which I know cater to local “ethnic minority” kids (i.e. us, but with less money). The reason I have not considered applying to these schools is because the kids seem to be from rougher backgrounds. I know. I sound like an idiot even saying it. And the irony was while touring the international school, I felt guilty that the local kids were losing a school.

See it’s not enough that I have to find a school. I also have to contend with my inability to even pick a school system or a budget and then on top of that I layer it with the guilt of being elitist even as I am unable to really take a stand and opt out of the international system. Bah.


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