Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Technology That Divides

There is so much technology everywhere now. We are all so high tech compared to a generation ago. A lot of the tech stuff that we have now would have been science fiction stuff in those days.

I was in my teens when we got our phone and I think most of us felt that the house phone was an awesome thing to have. I remember World Cup 1984 when my friend and I would call each other during the matches in the wee hours of the morning. And there were other wee hours too when we would sometimes sneak the phones to our rooms or we'd sneak to the phones tot talk. The urge and yearning to talk were great those days... still is. I used to earn Mom's admonishments once in a while when I was caught during those wee hours.

But the phone back then offered us so much opportunity to keep in touch with our friends. I used to get so much talking pleasures out of it. It enabled us to connect with our friends... And being teens, it was a great way for us to continue yakking past curfew hours.... 8)

Fast forward 20 years... we now have so many apps and gadgets for us to stay connected. Instant messaging, social networking apps like FaceBook, Twitter.... and the other gadgets like the iPads, Galaxy tabs, etc which has made computing and staying connected very mobile and convenient. We are supposed to be a very connected society. Everyone seems to know what everyone is doing, the holidays they have taken, food they have eaten, people they have seen and so on... even your emotions are not sacred...

Yet.... this technology which is supposed to make us closer seems to be doing the opposite. I saw a newly married couple at a coffee shop a couple of days ago. They were there for quite a while... Yet the whole time I was observing them, I noticed that hardly any conversation was going on. Instead both were preoccupied with their smart phones. Both were communicating but it just wasn't with each other.

Families go out for dinner and we see the same thing. Everywhere, you see gadgets which are supposed to connect us, yet they seem not to be bringing us any closer. We seem to holding many conversations yet many of these conversations are just surface conversations. We seem to be doing a lot more of those communicating stuff but they just don't seem to be bringing us closer to each other. An ongoing effort to project an image seems to be the focus of some, I feel, sometimes. It's quite easy for the art of conversation to get lost in all these.

We broadcast our statuses. We 'talk' incessantly into the cyber world. We project our image over the internet. But many of us have become poor listeners. We 'talk' so much that we have forgotten how to be good listeners. I find this to be true in many of my classes these days. Kids just don't know how to listen. And I don't know whether it's also due to too much stimulus from the media. There is just so much media content everywhere now.

Technology is supposed to enhance our lives. Yet I am not sure whether it's enhancement that I am actually seeing because I notice that it seems like it's doing quite a good job at dividing us and making many of us drift apart unknowingly.... all the iProducts and its wannabes.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Midlife... Second half

My generation of women has it different from previous generations of women. Many of us work and are financially independent, successful. I am at midlife, or Second Half; Bob Buford's book would label this as the Second Half of my life. I find myself thinking more about many things... Some say the financial muscles, skills and independence are causing many women of my generation to act out their frustrations and resolve them. I don't see much of that resolve in my mother's generation. Most women of her generation bore out their roles as mothers and wives with stoicism, but often at a cost much later in their lives. I have seen many of them sink into depression in their later years, very often, I suspect, due to the inability to resolve many of their frustrations.

Most of us spend the First Half of our life, busy building our lives... families, careers. Much if not all our energy is spent there. And many of us forget to set aside time to reflect. For some, it's a luxury not afforded because there is just so much we needed to build, we feel. And through the years, we forget... we forget to reflect and pause... pause for the important things in our lives. The work and sacrifice which are supposed to give meaning sometimes become the quicksand to our own selves....

Add that to a society which expects them to play out their roles with no complaints and husbands who were clueless that their wives are complex creatures who need support, you have a whole forgotten generation Unlike men, certain studies show that midlife renewal for women seem to see them achieve more. And midlife crisis for women often stems from family problems or events, through introspection. Family life stresses the wife more than the husbands. An interesting study from the UK came to this conclusion that women need friends, men need families. Increasingly I find too that most of the household tasks fall on women. As children grow older, the stress builds up. And it can become quite numbing. It is very probable that as women hit their late 40s, in a household with growing teens, midlife crisis sets in.

And so the second half becomes of time for reflection... of values and traditions that sometimes seem to make not much sense. And because of that sometimes life feels intolerable... As women grow older, many become sicker and sadder. Sicker probably because women often take on the overfunctioner role. Women work outside and they are the domestic engineers too... I don't think the human body (or mind) can take on this charade of the two worlds without getting sick or going crazy. There're just too much to do.

I wonder too for the generations of women before me, those who had no financial clout nor the confidence to question. They suffered in silence, bore with the expectations of traditions and culture, silently; living with their frustrations and dealing with all of that the best they can. They are a generation who had no opportunity to realise their potential nor live their lives as they see fit. They lived as expected of them. Women tend to lose out.

I guess midlife crisis (or maybe call it Second Half) is probably due to the fact that many women are trying to come to terms with the loss of youth, beauty and roles. I guess too many start to get tired of nurturing and want to be nurtured. I think women sacrifice more because of this role of nurturing... For most husbands, life goes on with less adjustments...

Midlife... Second Half... or even Menopause.... They can be engines of change, either for the better or worse. And I approach mine with caution.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

This Is Our School...

Can you imagine a Pengetua Cemerlang yelling 'dajal', 'bangsat' and all kinds of other derogatory terms to students? Can you imagine a Pengetua who keeps boasting about his achievements when all he has to show is a bad track record of teachers under him applying to transfer almost en bloc? Can you imagine a Pengetua who prints poster of himself and plaster them all over the school? It feels as though he wants to turn himself into an idol. (I thought that is against his religious belief) The list of his tyranny can go on... but the saddest thing is, our system promotes such people to head schools.... Such heads focus on the outward. The first thing they do when they go to a new school (apart from being a despot and tyrant once they have settled in) is to give new coats to everything... change the form of things.

I supposed they initiate such physical changes to placate themselves that they've done something. But the sad truth is they are just clueless as to what to do. These are people brought up under a system of patronage with many special rights and many of them have forgotten how hard work feels like... so they go for the superficial. And when the superficial fails to get them what they want, they turn into monsters.

These kinds of Pengetua(s) are bullies too. They bully their subordinates. I supposed they forget that they are human too... someday they are going to grow old. Someday they have to give up their posts. It's at such times that I thank God for making us mortals. Mere mortals die. Imagine if such tyrants live forever. The world will be a dreary place.

Our education system is going down the drain. The PISA and TIMMS results have both indicated that all is not well with our students. Our students are getting dumbed down. National type schools (Chinese and Tamil) dumb kids down by being rigid.... National schools dumb kids down by stereotyping and hypocrisy. The whole system is crumbling because ours is a nation not build on what is morally sound and right. And the rot begins from the head. We have many unqualified heads actually but they still get there because the system favours skin colour over everything. And everywhere, the skin colour precedes... from thoughts to behaviour down right to our policies. And we professed to be a country with a religious soul. LOL!

The new school term is just 3 weeks old. And such kind of tales do not augur well for our education system. FaceBook posts are full of many shameful acts... the recent Listen, Listen UUM lecturer fiasco is another such idiocy of our education system. Schools and higher institutions of learning are supposed to be places to nurture our next generation. Instead, we seem to be getting students of inferior quality because we have such kinds of Pengetua and lecturers.

We talk about budaya penyayang... it's mostly crap. We promote 1Murid1Sukan... that's another whole load of look-nice-on-paper plan. Face it, not everyone likes games, camping and other outdoor activities. We are just trying to shove everyone down the same pipe, in the process stretching resources really thin. And when you try to make sure everyone takes part, teachers get burned out too.... and guess what? Talents are missed out too cos teachers are just too tired to care...

My gal came home yesterday night with 9 homework... some of them were downright brainless activities. Her school performed below expectations last year in the UPSR. This year they are pushing the students really hard because they want the results to improve... so more homework, more extra classes, more of everything that reinforces the subject content... I supposed these are the things that matter more, more than the ability to think, the enjoyment of learning... Crazy existence that we lead these days...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Sarkies Corner @ E&O Hotel : A Journey in Friendship

This was a birthday treat for a friend...

Wanted to do something different and special. So I picked her up from her place in the morning and told her that we were going to Penang.... was a surprise for her and she was surprised. 8)

I had actually wanted to take her to Amelie's Cafe in Armenian Street but after waiting till noon, we discovered that it was closed. So E&O became the next choice, partly also because neither of us had been there before.

The hotel was still undergoing some renovations. Parking was a breeze... and we didn't know that we didn't have to pay parking... we paid! Lunch was either ala carte or their international buffet. We decided to go for ala carte. As age catches up, our stomachs seem less able to take in huge amount of food. We decided to share our orders.
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Had this for starters... I've forgotten what it was called but it was just nice for the two of us. A bunch of salad on bread and the sauces complimented everything very nicely.
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This is their Grain Fed Australian beef steak, well done. Steak was tasty enough and even though it was well done, it was still nice. We should have it medium to well done. Would have probably been nicer. This is one of the better steaks I have taken for some time. The rocket salad complimented the steak very well. The potatoes were tasty. Divided into 2, the portions were just comfortable for the both of us.... As we hesitated in ordering because we weren't sure whether we could finish the food, the waiter kindly told us that they could divide our order into 2 servings. I thought it was nice of them.

We tried their mocktails too.... the Bora-Bora and Mango Mocktail. No photos though cos we were too busy having conversations. Dessert was yoghurt... again, the restaurant split them into two portions which I thought was really good.

The food was slightly better than average but the place is very nice. It still maintains that English classic charm. Other Half and I stayed here with our kids after it was first refurbished some years ago. I remembered being wowed by the classic look with tall ceilings and big white columns back then. It still impresses... very much.
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Friend and I sat by the sea after lunch... It was a nice afternoon. The trees made sure the place remained comfortable. The compound was impeccable and immaculately maintained. We had a nice time talking in the warm afternoon. We'd have gone on and on if not for time constraint. I had to send her back so that her family could celebrate her birthday later.... but it was nice just to sit there.

As the demands of family (and work for some) increase with the passing years, for the women, their own friendships are often the first to be sacrificed. In these last few years, I've realised that we need our women friends cos they are our lifelines very often in this mad and hectic pace that many of us keep. Good friends keep us sane... kindred spirits divide our stress and add to our joy. Conversations with a good friend are good therapy... It does wonderful things to us. A good friend provides the support in a very positive way only someone who understands us will.... and I am very blessed to have that.
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What was nice about this trip... well, for one, the company preceded everything else. However, the ambience enhanced the time we spent there... It's always nice to be in a place that has a character and E&O has that rich and charmed colonial history.... if only the walls could speak. There'd be lots of stories they would tell.

Lunch was nice... the birthday lunch reinforces what has been a most wonderful and busy end of the year hols. I shall miss much of the activities that we've done. I shall also miss the company of a familiar and comfortable presence at work. It has also been a couple weeks filled with an amazing journey of discovery into a wonderful friendship... I am blessed!

This one is dedicated to my friend.... for the patience, kindness, thoughtfulness, faithfulness and love shown to me all these years. I look forward to a lifetime of friendship...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013

This is a post long in coming. Been meaning to write but these days, the hours just don't seem enough. Too many things to do, too many things I want and too tired at the end of the day. The days just feel shorter. Time seems to fly by too... too quickly very often, especially when spent on the things that makes one happy.

New work place... loads of adjustments. Miss my familiar routine especially the ones that I have been doing with my friend over the years. It's easy to miss many things cos there are just so many things we share, a kindred soul. Every experience, every relationship that we go through, they leave indelible marks in our lives too. And this is definitely one of them...  more than anything, this is one that has helped me grow as a person too.

Enjoy the new teaching experience though.. it's been a long while since I enjoyed most of my classes. The students are quite fun to teach cos they are way more responsive than what I've been used to all these years. And thankfully, meetings have been kept at minimum, in every sense of the word. Many schools like to hold long meetings these days. Too many heads have this 'pegang mike, syiok sendiri' syndrome these days. What can be conducted in less than an hour can take up to 4 hours! They don't seem to think much about the time wasted.... There are way too many lousy heads these days... Non productivity can be quite deceiving. They can be hidden under many veneers of glossy paperwork and beautiful facades. But if you look beneath them, you will find much crap. If the government is serious about revamping our education system, getting good heads is a step to go first.

Loads of new experience, new feelings... been going on a roller coaster ride of emotions of sorts. I've lost more weight in 2 months and has not hit the figure I'm now at in more than a decade! And as I continue to move into the second half of my life, I am reminded yet again that life is about relationships. They enrich our lives, give more meaning, add more vibrance. I realise too that I am super duper blessed to have kindred spirits. I am thankful that God is gracious to me in sending me friends and family who help me discover more of myself. And I believe too that my second half will bring better things into my life.

Resolutions.. a bit late in thinking about them. A few came to mind, as usual and I hope to see some of them come to fruition in the coming months. But then again, very often resolutions remain just that... resolutions in thoughts. I remain thankful for the blessings that came my way (and are still coming) and ask that grace be extended to me for the challenges and trials ahead.