Life shorts

After I finished eating at the world-famous Coffee Express 2000 (again) today, I picked up my plate and headed to the tray return point. Usually, I’d sit around sipping kopi slow and long enough that cleaning uncles and aunties have already circled the premises a dozen times and picked up my plate and bowl and cutlery on one of the rounds (to go with a mumbled 谢谢from me). Not this time – thanks to infernal summer, I was in a hurry to flee.

Today, on the way, I ran into the cleaning lady – tiny, stooped, grey-haired, shuffling – pushing the seemingly gigantic trolley. She saw me, plate in hand, and reached out to take it from me. But not before smiling at me, smiling.. she smiled at me!

I’ve never seen her smile before.

She’s always been grim of face and seemed so weary you can almost feel her exhaustion, and I’ve always regarded her as part of the.. foodcourt, just there, abit heart pain whenever I see her but nothing I can do.

I smiled back and then, for some reason, was awash in shame.


What is it with that particular proclivity towards birds? After Penguin-gate, we have (It Looks Like A) Rooster-gate.

I’ve seen that drawing before. In fact, I spent some time looking at Vincent Leow’s notebooks and scrapbooks full of writings and drawings and what not – which I thought showed him to be a True Artist. I mean, I have a collection of seven, eight notepads and sketchpads but these, reflecting my wannabe artistic output, are 99.7% blank.

And my first thought coming across this artwork of a nude human on (it seems to be) a rooster was: Ooooooh! Cheeky! I get it! The guy has a big cock! Ha! Ha! Heh! Ho!

If anyone’s values are shaken by my less-than-pure-minded interpretation of the drawing, let me know please. I’ll be thrilled to know I am finally a legit social media influencer.


Back when..

Am rereading old journals for inspiration. And perspiring because it’s eternal summer and also because that tap has run dry – for now.

This one – both incidents and my juvenilia – is quite fun to reminisce/cringe over. (Also, I think I somehow violated the ‘clean wage’ policy by buying stuff for my students, or are hidden costs borne by teachers all along been legitimate? But then, sped teachers are not civil servants nor MOE employees..)

Monday, June 30, 2003

<< Primary (Five) Students >>
(This is only interesting if you happen to be in the teaching profession too, else it’s drier than dust. Fans of weepie auntie-agony dramas or bloodthirsty pirate tales of the corporate seas will only find wilted weeds here, and they are advised to seek greener pastures elsewhere.)

First Day of Semester 2. Their tentative first steps into the forbidding world of Primary 5. Confidence isn’t exactly overflowing when none of them have passed Primary 4.

* Only 5 kids to lord it over today as 2 went MIA. 
Hali down with appendix problems and hospitalised. Sara is just… plain, mysteriously absent.

* Swamped with admin work right from the start. 
Had the luck of being arrowed as the teacher I/C for the visit to the Asian Civilisation Museum on Thursday; never again will I take for granted the logistics behind organising an outing. The nightmare involved booking a bus (and chasing the approving staff for her, duh, approval), liaising with the museum staff, trying to pick out two of the more articulate kids to be interviewed by kaypoh journalists (which is ridiculous.. can’t we go on a simple outing without being pestered by the media?) and the most off-beat of all, having to find out if anyone’s allergic to milk.

* Having WL and Starlet burst into spontaneous cheers–complete with arms raised high in V-for-victory poses–when I announced my absence on Wednesday (cos of the stupid NE Day briefing at the National Stadium). Ungrateful wretches! They sure quieten down fast when I glared at them, though Starlet continued to keep beaming as if Britney Spears herself will be coming to relieve my class.

On the other hand, this could be slotted under highlights too cos I, erm, actually also want to cheer along. No class for a day! Rejoice!

* Scolded the star for being so very irresponsible last week. I’m getting to be an expert at scolding.

* They were rather taken by the mini-whiteboards I bought for them. No more slacking and day-dreaming during lessons, as they will have to write down their answers to my spot questions on the boards and flash them instantly. I wonder when they will realise the depth of my devious scheme.

* Probation over! I’m now confirmed (GTO). Unqualified and confirmed (GTO). Or, unqualified but confirmed (GTO)?

* More time with the primary (five) primates as one speech therapist is on maternity leave, causing out-of-class speech therapy sessions to be halved. (Mmm. Should this be under lowlights instead?)

AOPAD 32: Puno

There’s something about handmade puppets that brings out the 7-year-old in you. (Or bring back? Perhaps that child is hiding all along and has never left.) You want to be told how to get to Sesame Street, you are reminded of the sock puppets you had (and who hadn’t made one as a kid), and you thought you have left those childish things behind. But as I have belatedly realised, puppets speak to grown-ups too, in different ways, in deeper ways even.

Had the pleasure of catching this play by Indonesia’s Papermoon Puppet Theatre at the Artground earlier in the weekend – thank you, Beng Tian, for the invite. A story about the love between a parent and child, and about death and loss, it was as much a visual treat as one for our imagination. And you think, surely Tala and her father are alive? At the end, as the letters to the sky appear overhead, you believe.

Check out

AOPAD 31: No job no income? You are not forgotten.

IMG_4116 2.jpgCaught my eye. Having been unemployed – and not by choice – for not insignificant durations before, I appreciate this.

I guess it was an honour system? Unless there’s a convenient and dignified way to prove one’s unemployment status.

p/s: Photo shows a poster for a performance dated 22 June 2014 at the Substation. It gives details of the venue, time, etc. Ticket categories included one for “students, senior citizens, unemployed” at $15, while advance tickets cost $20, and door tickets were $25.


When playback was first explained to me, my first thought was a quick-to-judgement one: This kind of improvisation won’t work. There will be be lots of awkward messy scenes. The end of days is a-coming. And so on. Yes, I’m a prophet like that.

In playback, members of the audience tell their stories to the performers. Then the storytellers get to see their tales enacted, spontaneously and on the spot, by performers with the gifts of empathy and telepathy. And it works most excellently. I was particularly touched by the teacher’s story and who said she wished she could have done what the performers imagined she did, and that seeing them do what she couldn’t was catharsis personified.

So what really matters? To be one of the 1%!.. oh wait, 17%! Seventeen. Basically, to be human. To look within. And to listen with your heart.

And someday, I won’t have to single this out because it would be the norm and doesn’t need especial mention, but that day is a ways off. So here we go – thank you very much to the good people from Tapestry Playback Theatre, for making the show accessible. Thanks also to the note-takers and sign language interpreters.

p/s: Photo shows a group shot of Tapestry Playback Theatre’s performers and crew, as well as access providers (captioners and interpreters).


Road shorts

The other day, as I was crossing the road, a young chap with a massive Deliveroo backpack rode past on an OFO bicycle.

I’ve seen people doing Deliveroo and Ubereats and Grab.. eh, a bite? (or whatever they’re called) runs on motorbikes, on e-scooters, on other personal mobility devices, and even on their own bicycles.

First time I met one on a rented bicycle.

This surely isn’t good for anyone in the long-but-within-our-lifetime run – I mean, the gig economy’s race in which the cheapest wins but everyone loses in the end.


At a straight stretch of the PCN along Loyang Avenue, the pedestrian path is wide enough for two large persons (or one and a half sumo wrestlers) to walk side by side with room to spare. Beside it is a cycling path which is similarly spacious, if not more so.

So when I saw this cyclist on the pedestrian path barrelling straight at me from about 50m away – as if on autopilot but with the anti-collision alert function deactivated – I was tempted to keep running straight at him. No one else was around then.

I mean, I have right of way! Get lost!

But resisting temptation is the better part of valour when it comes to idiots on bikes, or so I conceded, after the idiot on a bike showed zero sign of deviating from his hardwired pre-set path as we neared each other.

And so I meekly stepped aside.

You know it’s Teachers’ Day when…

This is for all former colleagues at the Singapore School for the Deaf. I think I meant to put it up again on Teachers’ Day last year, but I forgot. Well, better early than late this time ’round.


Saturday, August 30, 2003

* The day before, the kids ban you from entering the classroom after the final bell. There are even bouncers–ok, guards–to physically bar us. Had to beg them to at least release my bag.

* They are exceptionally quiet and well-behaved and sitting in straight rows during assembly. Very out-of-character for them.

* You get showered with spray streamers and assaulted by screams the moment you stepped into the classroom.

* Your classroom looks kind of different. There are sparkling silver-blue (“your favourite colour!”) paper strips snaking around the notice boards, window knobs, teacher’s chair. And a big HAPPY TEACHERS’ DAY message on the whiteboard. Awww!

* You get cards and presents from your kids, some of whom were rather furtive about handing it over, like Zola. Or the forthright ones, like Pixie, who practically shoved her nicely wrapped gift to me in front of everyone.

* You find out that you–living up to our nation’s reputation for excellence in everything–are indeed world class. This very cute gift is courtesy of Zola and his mum.

* The kids put up a totally amateur concert, with AWOL actors, mistimed cues, minimal props and forgotten lines. And the skits–Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and The 3 Little Pigs–seemed to be more warmly received by the lower primary ones than the intended audience, but who’s complaining? Highlight: Our school groundsman regaled us with a traditional Sri Lankan dance in his native costume.

* Out of the blue, there appears a buffet along the corridors outside the classroom, a joint effort from the various upper primary classes. Everything–food, drinks, table arrangement, cake, catering–was done by them. It’s a miracle all right.

* You have to sweep the floor after the party is over and the party-goers have, poof!, vanished in a cloud of smoke. It’s magic, I tell you.