death by paper cut

{August 5, 2012}   re-defining the all-rounder

it is espoused in school, that the recipient of the all-rounder award goes to the student who is excellent in everything; all academic subjects, extra/co-curricular activities, and takes up conspicuous leadership roles. yes, there will always be this one or two market-spoilers in each cohort that raises the bar higher and higher each year, making the rest of us feel less inspired and more inadequate.

i’ve been pondering another related and consequential matter – the elusive and virtually unattainable notion of work-life balance in workaholic singapore. we’ve been imbued since young that success comes at sacrifices, to the extent where personal interests and down time has to be put on hold until a certain level of success is attained. and only at which time you are allowed to think of being happy.

maybe us adults had it coming because we feed back into the vicious cycle by telling our young that their studies are their sole and allowable preoccupation since this period of literally pre-occupation will determine their future occupation which will then (fallaciously-known-to-us-but-we-will-not-tell-the-kids) land them a bright future (i.e. a well-paying and stable job) and they will be set for life.

there are two inherent problems here that the adults perpetuate.

firstly, we know with experience that because of many factors beyond our control, no one is set for life, and we are therefore doing our youths a disservice by setting them up for failure.

secondly, kids strive to do their best for very extrinsic reasons who will later on in life work for similarly extrinsic reasons. this generation will ask by default, “what’s in it for me? how will this advance or impede my goals? are you useful or a hindrance to me? will this help me to attain perfection and be an all-rounder?” Because they are taught implicitly and explicitly that everything comes at an opportunity cost and to therefore count the cost. in the early stages, the question raised with the same impetus comes fast and furious in the form of, “is this counted for the exams?”

what happened to the love of learning? of curiosity? of a genuine zest for life? i guess such an outlook that makes for an authentic all-rounder has been assaulted and replaced by the award-winning certificate-certified all-rounder.

therefore, the definition of the all-rounder needs serious consideration. from youth, an all-rounder needs be given and encouraged to have the time and space to pursue interests whether or not it may lead to fame and fortune so that the all-rounder is not a groomed candidate for an award, but someone who already has in place a sense of work-life balance and will continue to treasure this ethos. the all-rounder will then be a self-assured, reflective person who is able to form opinions, have convictions and maybe even advocacy. the all-rounder, from young, is not taught that happiness, gratefulness and a sense of balance are only reserved for the successful and lucky. i am not advocating being mediocre or lazy, but that the pursuit of achievement needs to be balanced with also finding joy in the here and now because we know all too well, that for many, happiness never comes.

if we raise our kids to believe that happiness can only be a result of prosperity and progress (for our nation), we are then raising a broken and cynical generation that will know how to make a living, but not know how to have a life. and since the change agent will probably not come from a national directive – teachers, parents, adults, it lies with you to buck the trend and stake your claim to happiness.


{April 13, 2011}   Class of 87′

today i visited my alma mater of which i was from the class of 87′ – galilee kindergarten. i might have made a mention to my kinder years in passing before, but i’ve never stepped through the doors for the past 24 years although i can see it from my bedroom window.

i was on sick leave today so on the way back from the doctor, i met my mom to pick up the kids when they were dismissed from school. yes, also galilee kindergarten.

this is them now.

David Goes To School 2

this was me then.

Galilee Kindergarten Class of 86 (2)

this is the niece participating in the end of year concert 2 years ago.

Noelle Pre-Nursery Year End Concert

this was my graduating end of year concert.

date stamp included.

Galilee Kindergarten Class of 86 (5)

Galilee Kindergarten Class of 86 (1) Galilee Kindergarten 25th Anniversary 5

i seemed to be quite a sport on stage, but the performances were not the most memorable part. what i enjoyed most were the free form art pieces we did on easels with big brushes and massive murals. the vivid memory of my kindergarten days came in handy when, while studying in melbourne, i was volunteered by my mom to contribute an article to the galilee kindergarten’s 25th anniversary book. the fact is, my earliest memories did not begin in kindergarten, but a couple of years earlier when i was 3 years old at YMCA nursery. i remembered the conversation with friends, the mass baths, the unfair punishment for not nappingĀ  in the afternoons, some teachers i still grudge, and others that were very nice. yes a 3 year old can grasp injustice and fairness and be indignant for life. but i digress.

the organiser of the 25th anniversary book was very glad to have stumbled upon me. she actually went door to door at the teban and pandan garden estates in search for alumni to contribute articles.

within a year, it was published. my article took nearly a full page and a few pages behind, the niece was featured. i was sent a copy for good measure.

Galilee Kindergarten 25th Anniversary 1

Galilee Kindergarten 25th Anniversary 3 Galilee Kindergarten 25th Anniversary 4

the article in full, which also mentions the serendipitous encounters with fellow alumni in tertiary education.

I attended Galilee Kindergarten when I was 5 and 6 years old (1986-1987). I have fond memories of my time here. Although I have no recollection of the faces or names of the teachers, I can remember vividly some of the activities I did there. Since young, I’ve developed an inclination for drawing and colouring. Therefore I loved the times when I was given an easel, a large brush and free reign to paint as I wish. I also remember a mural that was done collectively as a class – the teacher spread out a huge piece of paper on the floor and encouraged us to draw on it. The paper was so big that we had to crawl on it to get to the other side. Other lasting memories of my experience at Galilee Kindergarten was the preparation for the graduation concert. I think 7 of us were given a large single-coloured oversized “dress” to wear to represent a colour. On cue, I was to do a star jump when my colour was sung. I was decked up in shimmering pink.

I never made an active effort to keep in touch with my peers when I went on to Primary school. However, more than decade later I have bumped into people that recognised me as school mates. One such incident happened during a General Paper lecture at Yishun Junior College. A random school mate I had not known was instructed so share some document with me. He introduced himself as Jason (from the modern dance CCA) and asked if I was “the Wynnie” from Galilee Kindergarten. He remembered that both us used to wait for his grandfather and my domestic helper to pick us up from school and walk home together. He did not recognise my appearance – it was my name that rang a bell.

A few years after that, when I was doing my teacher training at the National Institute of Education, I had another serendipitous encounter with a former school mate of Galilee Kindergarten (Serene). She was to be my assigned roommate at the Hall of Residence in NTU. We found each other familiar and tried to identify associations and former school affiliations to make the connection. It was only when we’ve exhausted the list and mentioned Galilee Kindergarten that we realised we were acquainted 14 earlier. In fact, she performed along side me as the shimmering Green in the graduation concert.

A generation later, my 4 year old niece is also enrolled in Galilee Kindergarten. The programmes are more extensive, the activities more varied however the fundamentals remains the same and that would be the dedication of the teachers and the high level of engagement that Galilee Kindergarten sustains their students with.

Happy 25th Anniversary Galilee Kindergarten and continue to be a blessing to other young tots.

{November 10, 2009}   The Botak Jones Report

Botak Jones latest promotion takes the cake.

The Botak Jones Report

The staff at Botak Jones should beware however, of parents haggling for marks for an “upgrade”.

{July 11, 2009}   goodreads

Anybody out there who is a parent, if your kids want to paint the bedroom, as a favor to me, let them do it. It’ll be OK. Don’t worry about resale value of the house. (Page 30)

The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people. (Page 73)

– The Last Lecture

i’ve decided to read avariciously again now that my new job situation allows time for that and many other work-life activities.

i’ve also decided to conciously mull over what i’ve read and record my musings on my virtual shelf at

we are only given one life to lead, but we can experience and be enriched from a myriad of lives by journeying within the covers of books. mort, a recurring character in terry prachett discworld series describes visiting death’s library. the never ending sky reaching shelves contains row of books that are actually self-contained spirits of the dead. all mort had to do was open the covers to uncover their mortal days. if i remembered correctly, the spirits that inhabit the books carried their own voice like an audio book.

morbid as it maybe, a conventional library or a personal collection of books isn’t far off from death’s library. authors spend years and even life times to distill the most poignant alchemy of their experiences and imagination.

its therapeutic to write and catharic to read.

{June 14, 2009}   the old dame revamped

two weeks ago, i made the most of international museum day’s free entrance to the major nhb museums and did a museum crawl with xh beginning with the national museum of singapore, singapore art museum at 8Q.

the usual $10 admission to this singapore history gallery was also waived that day. this was my second trip there but i believe that i’ll never manage to cover every exhibit even after my nth’s visit.

one reason is that there is a myriad of exhibits and the other is there you can choose to take the personal path or the events path or switch between the two paths at the various junctions.

Singapore History Gallery (2)

a picture that i did not notice on my first trip was a photograph of the museum in its early years.

Singapore History Gallery (28)

the facade has not changed much over the centuries. according to wikipedia, “its history dates back to 1849 when it was started as a section of a library at Singapore Institution. After several relocations, the Museum was relocated to its permanent site at Stamford Road at the Museum Planning Area in 1887.

in 2009, it still does not look a day older. in fact i think its more white washed.

National Museum of Singapore

the insides however are unrecognisable. the name change from singapore history museum to national museum of singapore is already a telling change in its direction. no longer will history be the only discipline explored in this public institution but the foray will be multi-pronged and multi-directional. the coalescing of history, art and contemporary culture is evident in its displays and public programmes.

a decade ago, the haut cauture of christian lacroix would not have found its way into its walls.

Christian Lacroix Exhibition (21)

in fact, the static diorama detailing what was considered to be the milestones of singapore’s founding and development were the main feature of the museum as i remembered it.

in my recent massive spring cleaning exercise, it was my good fortune to have uncovered the full collection of the diorama in postcards.

check out the european haut couture a century ago in this diorama.

Diorama (7)

view full set here.

et cetera