30.1.02

So remember how a couple of months ago, I had this eye infection? Well, I've woken up with the same thing --- in the same eye. It's totally my fault. I remember vaguely rubbing my eye last night before I turned over to go to sleep, and if I'm not wrong, even in his sleep, drugged daze (Terz has been home sick for two days and heavily medicated in that time), my husband growled at me for it. No use, man. I'm incorrigible once I pick up a bad habit. Just ask my mom. To this day, if my nails aren't polished or at least covered with varnish, I'll be chewing on them till thre's quite literally nothing left to chew on. I'm not sure when I picked up the eye-rubbing thing, but I know that it was conscious and it was some time before I went off to college. And now Terz is trying to break me of both habits.

Anyways.

So instead of hopping into the shower, as I usually do once I get up, I started doing the warm-cloth-over-the-eye thing, so that hopefully I don't look too much like a hideous ogre when I go down to the doctor's at 8:30. I don't think the warm cloth is helping much this morning, which means my hopes that I'll look normal enough to make it to work by ten-ish are likely over-optimistic.

As it is, I'm going to have to call a colleague to have him fill in for me. I'm supposed to be coordinating a small briefing this morning for two visitors from the Hong Kong Education Department --- someone else is going to have to pour tea and make with the small talk for me, 'cause it's scheduled to start at 9:30 and I'll be lucky if the swelling's gone down by then. I also have a Very Important Meeting at 10:15 (it's for everyone in Public Affairs) and then a lunchtime media dialogue that involves our Ministry bigwigs, members of the press, and (again) everyone in Public Affairs. This, on top of the your regularly scheduled public outcry over this and that. I can't go into the details, alas, but if you read the local papers, you'll know what I'm talking about and yes, I'm working on that case.

The not-fun part about being in Public Affairs, truly, is that I can't tell stories anymore. Bah.

Terz's going to the doctor with me. He needs more medical leave. He's got a very peculiar flu, and the doctor did say on Monday morning that she thought it was going to be a really pernicious bug, and last night he was suspecting tonsillitis. I'm trying not to catch his flu because I really can't afford to be out that long.

While I'm here, I might as well catch up on the last two days. Work has been horrendously busy because of the case I can't talk about (see three paragraphs above). Monday night, however, was a happy evening for me because I finally sat down and watched the pilot and second episode of The West Wing. I missed them when they were broadcast here because I was trying not to pick up a new TV series at the time and so I adamantly refused to watch it even though I'd heard all the good things about it from the US. How foolish I was, I know. Now I can say I've seen Bartlet do the First Commandment (and then some), and even Mandy's not as irritating as I thought she would be. Her presence is jarring more because I know her character inexplicably vanishes in season two than for any other reason; watching season one with her is like watching what you know is the ensemble cast and then wondering, hey, what's this extra appendage they've got? (Does that make Mandy the appendix of the season one cast?)

It was also refreshing to get a dose of TWW when the third season hasn't hit our TV screens yet. I can't wait. My cousin's got the season finale of season two on tape and those are the other episodes I'm going to re-watch next. They should show TWW all year round, not to mention release it on DVD and everything. Oh, and they should make it a point to end the show while it's on a high, thankyouverymuch, not slipping into an unstoppable, misguided free-fall like the chronicles of a certain vampire slayer.

Speaking of said vampire slayer, last night's episode was not bad only because I remembered (at the start) that it was the ep where Buffy tells off the entire Council of Watchers at the end, so I lingered to watch it. The knights were pretty bad, though. I like the idea that there are two 'bad' guys going after Dawn, so what's the deal with that, and are the knights bad or misguided or is there a third category besides good and bad --- but knights? Come on!

Fortunately, the good central episodes of the season are coming out. I don't think I can take much more of this paltry plotless stuff. And have I mentioned how much Glory irritates me?

Public Service Announcement: If you didn't know already, MightyBigTV.com has become TelevisionWithoutPity.com. However, the old domain name will link to the new one, so you don't have to remember the new one much. In fact, the old Dawnson's Wrap domain is still there, now linked to TWoP instead of MBTV.

I'm done. Gotta start calling colleagues to let them know what's up with me for today.

27.1.02

Okay: resolution. No matter how tired I am, I need to start writing mid-week journal entries, or this whole web journal idea is just going to go to hell.

I'm not going to tell you what went on all week. For one thing, it wasn't too exciting. Really. What I did today was more important anyhow.

Today, I:

- roleplayed in the morning. This is important because I've been on hiatus for over a month. I just kinda got sick of the whole routine. Somewhere along the line this past week, I got un-sick of it. I think being on Search Crew for one of my games got me out of my funk. So while this is scarcely the Most Important Thing In My Life right now, it's still there, still something I want to do on the weekends. Maybe because I only have the odd weekend to spend on it, it's all the more appreciated now than in December, when I was lolling around on vacation and really wasting my free time.

- lunched at Parkway with Terz, then he got a haircut and I went shopping. It's just as well I didn't get anything at G2000 last weekend even though things were on 50% off, because today they were on 70% off! I would've felt very pained had I bought anything last week. As it turns out, G2000 suits don't suit my body shape (or whatever) very well, so all I got, despite the extra sale, was a shirt. I need more work-like shirts. I used to wear all these T-shirt-y tops for teaching, and they look really casual without a jacket. At least with a half-sleeved or long-sleeved shirt, I don't look too shabby.

- finalised my masters thesis proposal. It's still kinda crappy but considering that until yesterday, I didn't have half a clue what I might be interested in pursuing research in, that's not bad. I'm hoping that whoever reviews my application and thesis proposal will realize that the latter is highly mutable as I read more into the subject area --- and won't hold it against me. On the other hand, if I fail to get into the IR programme, I will first raise a big stink (since they're promising me 'special consideration') and then probably go find myself a media studies or pop culture studies programme to get into.

- napped. Napping is very important on the weekends.

- washed my hair. Also very important because after three-plus days, it was getting truly grody and my sheer laziness wouldn't let it be anymore.

- watched Deep Impact on TV. Either the local TV network butchered it grossly, in trying to fit it within a two-hour time-slot (including ads), or it wasn't very good in the first place. Elijah Wood is hot, but he and Leelee Sobieski just look odd together.

- watched last week's Buffy (the one with the troll whom Anya used to date) and the Survivor reunion episode. Both were mildly entertaining. I have to confess that watching sappy old Kimj (the older one) on Survivor talk about how important her family was to her kinda made me wonder about whether having kids is worth it after all. And then watching Kelly work from home on her laptop editing things (I love editing) made me wonder if maybe editing is the perfect job for a stay-at-home mom.

Oh, no worries, we're not having kids at the moment. Terz and I both have very unhealthy bank accounts --- current/checking and savings --- as well as various other short-term plans that would be greatly inconvenienced by having a kid at the moment. A friend of his recently had twins though. Aren't twins neat? Two for the price (read: nine months of ickiness) of one. On the other hand, Terz has a pair of twins among his latest NCC recruits and he suspects they're more antagonistic than twin-like.

I'm still having trouble finding suits for work. The problem is a combination of being fussy, wanting suits that aren't totally boring, and not having much money to splurge on nice ones like they have at Blum.

21.1.02

I have to confess something before I start this entry proper: I'm writing this because I fear if I don't, I'll have so much stuff to catch up on by the time I do --- and then I'll never write again --- and this will be my shortest-lived journal yet.

On with it then.

Monday: Work. No e-mail. However, I did get a phone call asking me if I had received my e-mail set-up disk and information yet. I told them no; they checked on it. It turned out, due to some ingenious searching on my part, that while they had created an e-mail account for me, the dolts had neatly truncated my name while they were at it, rendering me balasingam_chow@moe.gov sg -- as though Chow were my last name and Balasingam my first name. Dolts, as I said already. I had to bicker with them a little over the phone to straighten out my name ([Ed: Actual email addressed deleted to avoid spambot], thank you very much). They promised me I'd have my mail stuff by Wednesday. I found out later that the reason they'd called was 'cause my boss ([Ed: identity deleted]) had sent an e-mail to their boss to politely bitch them out. Heh.

Dinner at Buckaroo's all the way north in Sembawang because I felt like it and Terz didn't mind driving up, even though it wound up being just the two of us. On the other hand, because we'd mixed up MRT stations, he wound up waiting for me at a different station and then I had to take the train back and so on and it really wasn't that bad --- but I was glad when we finally had food in front of us. Buckaroo's --- yum. But I don't recommend their hot dog.

Tuesday: Work. Still no e-mail. I told myself to give them till Wednesday, as they'd promised, to get their act together.

Wednesday: Still no e-mail. Calling didn't work. I bitched louder because I told them I needed the account to send some important stuff up to the bigshots for approval. This was a half-truth; my colleague, with whom I was working on that case, could've done it for me, but it would've been better if it had come from my personal e-mail account. You know how these finagly work things are.

Thursday: STILL no e-mail. More calling. A promise that the thing would be ready --- and it finally was, after lunch. I told them in no uncertain terms not to dispatch it up to the twentieth floor, but that I'd head down to the seventeenth to get it. Get it I did, install stuff I did --- and voila! E-mail. Finally. But I didn't get to play with it right away. First I had a Division meeting that lasted about two hours, and I was happy to report to my Director that I finally had e-mail.

Of course, once I had my own account, the deluge of work really started flooding in, plus I had (still have) to figure out e-mail etiquette. Who do I CC stuff to, and in what order, etc. The whole protocol thing is starting to drive me wild, although it's still much better than the days of sending documents around in files and requiring them to be dispatched in a certain order to various bigshots.

I think last week was tiring because of all the going out we did, though. Too much of a social life makes focusing on work all that harder the next day. On Wednesday night, I had to go to this Press Club/Public Relations Academy New Year Party. My bosses were hoping it would be a good chance for some of us to meet the press, but as it turned out, the members of the press were mostly male, old enough to be my dad, and all keener on their beer than on any real schmoozing. Also, they were largely Business Times reporters, which meant they really weren't keen on meeting education people. My colleagues and I hung around a while to be polite, then ditched the party --- insofar as it was a party. I walked over to Brewerkz to join Terz and his cousin, and we had a much funner time over there.Terz hadn't seen his cousin in over two years and it was my first time meeting him; all in all, it was a perfect meeting of minds (and alcoholic propensities, though we didn't consume much that night) and we're sure to hang again.

Thursday night, I hung out with my best friend Tris. Terz, meanwhile, continued his photography project by taking pictures in our apartment of our friend J. I can't wait to see the pictures. Tris and I talked and talked and talked, and then shopped a bit, and I got a big brown faux leather bag. I'm into big bags --- the kind large enough to stash a jacket into --- these days. I think it's because I want to be able to carry home work files (if necessary) without them being visible to the public and marking me as a Civil Servant.

Friday night, we saw Black Hawk Down. I was going to write a review of it over the weekend, but I got lazy. I was also going to start work on my thesis proposal (due January 31) over the weekend, but that didn't happen, though I did think about it some --- in as vague terms as possible so I could tell myself that I was thinking about it. Black Hawk Down was all right. Terz and I figure that this system of watching a movie with each other (he saw Serendipity with me and I saw BHD with him) seems to help us cull good movies to watch, so maybe we'll keep up with it.

Saturday I went to work and spent several hours surfing on the internet. I mean, I did some work, but most of it couldn't be done because I was waiting on e-mail replies from other people, and since our organisation operates on alternate Saturdays, they probably weren't around to reply to me. Saturday night we had dinner at X's --- he and his girlfriend are really excellent cooks --- and then lolled around watching Legally Blonde. That movie is not as objectionable as I thought it would be. Another couple, whom we rarely see, was at X's too, so we spent some time catching up too.

The really (non-)exciting thing over the weekend was that I got to take home the crisis phone. It's a cellphone whose number is given out to all school principals to contact in the event of a crisis. It hardly ever rings, but when it does, it's bad. So here I was, new kid on the block, taking the phone home on Saturday and praying so hard that it wouldn't ring all weekend. I wound up carrying three cellphones around with me all weekend: my personal cellphone, the crisis phone, and the work cellphone assigned to me, because that one had all the contact number of my colleagues on it (which I intend to keep separate from my personal list of numbers). Fortunately, none of them rang.

Sunday night, we took my dad (and mom, of course) out to dinner 'cause it was Dad's birthday several days before and, bad girl that I am, I hadn't taken him out yet. We had Thai food at Lemongrass at South Buona Vista, which is always nice.

And now I'm tired already. Today, work was busy and I barely got to surf the internet at all. So this is what a real job feels like.

13.1.02

I failed to mention something fairly important in my earlier entry. I'm (temporarily) dropping out of graduate school, to take it up again in July. More accurately, I'm abandoning international studies for international relations.

See, when I applied to the local university last year, I was actually shopping around for an IR program. Alas, they didn't have one and international studies was the closest thing I could do to it. So I signed up, took a rocking foundation course in IR, and had a really shiny A- to show for it after the exam (the exam was probably what pulled my A down to an A-). Then I discover that the local university has started a Masters in IR program after all.

Several e-mails later, I'm told that I can withdraw from the international studies program and apply for the international relations one, except that I don't have to re-submit any documentation or references for the latter. They'll take me with "special consideration" for the July term (for which the deadline for application has officially closed anyway) since I passed the "stringent requirements" needed to enrol in the international studies course.

Personally, I don't think admission to the international studies program was terribly competitive in the first place, but I'll just smile and nod and thank them, so I can do my IR degree instead. It's more thesis-oriented rather than coursework: I only have to take two classes, then I write a thesis, and I have a total of three years to do it. Woo. And I don't have classes till July.

So as compared to last year's frantic pace --- when I had two classes a week, plus tuition engagements on two other weeknights --- the next six months will be quite leisurely, even with the new job to account for.

I went shopping today, ostensibly for suits. When we were at Suntec for dinner on Friday, I checked out the offerings at one of the stores and went back there today. Actually, in total, I went to six stores today: Mango, Export Fashion, Iora, Southhaven, GG5 and Dano. If you throw in the shoe stores I was browsing in, that adds another three to the list (though I didn't buy anything). Clothes I did buy: a suit for work, a generic black jacket for work (because the one I have dates back several years, has a tacky gold button --- why did I buy it? --- and hangs on me several sizes too large, proving again that I have lost weight since I moved back to Singapore, probably because it's being leached out of me by the tropical weather), a blue shirt and a funky skirt. I've realized over the past two weeks that while my teaching wardrobe wasn't altogether casual, most of my T-shirt tops aren't really going to cut it at this new job, unless I throw a jacket over them. Hence the need for sleeved button-down shirts.

Don't ask me about my credit card bill.

In the evening, Terz and I went to Parkway Parade for dinner and errands: I had to make a new pair of glasses and get shoes to match the new suit (since I'd had no luck at Suntec), and he had to check on something at the mobile phone store for his mom. Oh damn. I just realized I didn't talk about why I need new glasses (because the old ones snapped, but are temporarily mended, but oh damn, it's a much longer story than this). I guess I'll recap it tomorrow.

I got brown shoes. They're two-toned. Terz disapproves and says he'll never walk next to me when I wear them. But I love them! We'll have to see how this plays out. He's never actually disapproved of my shoes before.

And now, it's past eleven pm and I'm going to bed. Oh, here's another story I forgot to mention: our airconditioning in the bedroom is broken too. More about that tomorrow.

Goodnight!

I have not forsaken thee, O online journal of mine. I just didn't have time nor energy the past eight days to write.

To be fair, it's not the fault of work. It hasn't been that busy. For a start, I still have no e-mail account. The saga proceeds thusly.

January 2 -- I report to work and the resident IT guy takes care of applying for most of the required computer access passwords for me. Halfway through the day, we find out that in order for me to apply for a new e-mail account (the Ministry of Education headquarters runs on a different system from the shitty one that hosts teachers' accounts), I must delete my old one first. This strikes me as a silly administrative task that could've been taken care of on December 31, since every year, a whole bunch of teachers join the Ministry from teaching and all of them would have to fulfil this criterion. But hey, I fill out the form and get it faxed on its way.
January 3 -- I check on the status of my old account. It's still undeleted.
January 4 -- Ditto yesterday's status report. I call the helpline. They inform me that it takes four days to a week to delete an account. I refrain from making snide comments about the amount of time and intelligence it must take to hit a "delete" key.
January 7 -- Monday morning. The old account is deleted -- finally. I can finally apply for a new account. Unfortunately, my direct supervisor's name is not in the drop-down menu of approving officers because the list obviously hasn't been updated since September or so last year, when she joined the department. I have to put down another supervising officer whom I also work with, but who is out of the office that day.
January 8 -- The same supervising officer is out of the office. Dammit.
January 9 -- She's back! But she scrolls through her e-mail and hasn't received anything requesting her approval for my account. I call the IT people and rag them a bit. I also learn that after she approves of my account application, it takes (say it with me now) four days to a week to create the new account. Bah. I double-check with her that she has received the resent approval e-mail (she has and responded promptly) and sit and stew some more.
January 14 -- Yes, tomorrow. If I don't get the e-mail account, I'm going to yell at someone over the phone, or perhaps just present myself in person at the office and make noise. Or smile sweetly -- whichever works.

My first staff suggestion (all teachers/Ministry staff have to make at least two per year to prove that you're a creative, innovative employee and also to prove that there continue to be many kinks in the education system) will be to streamline that entire process. It's ridiculous to have to wait a total of eight days to two weeks (assuming no delays with one's supervisor or the application processing system) just to get a simple e-mail account that is essential for one's work. Everything flies around by e-mail. I felt like a dolt handing my speech to one of my bosses on a disk.

Anyways. Everyone's been asking me how the new job is compared to teaching, so here's what I wrote in response to one of my ex-student's queries:

"Working at Public Affairs is busy --- but a different kind of busy from teaching-busy. For one thing, I don't have to bring any work home. For another, it's quite impersonal. When I teach, I usually have some kind of vested interest in what I teach (a love for the book, or an interest in the current affairs topic); so depending on how the lesson goes or how the students or I respond, it's quite a personal experience? In Public Affairs, work is just that --- work. I mean, I'm not saying I don't also experience frustration or satisfaction or other emotions if something goes poorly or goes well --- but at the same time, it's safely locked away in a box marked "Work" and it's not part of any baggage that I bring home with me."

I think that pretty much sums up why I wanted a change from teaching and why I'm enjoying this new job, even though I haven't really done much yet and certainly am not yet swamped with work.

My current to-do at work list, which will surely expand once I get my bloody e-mail account, isn't long --- just a couple of public and media queries to handle. I need work. I feel guilty when I sit at my computer and have nothing to do. I have, however, been to various meetings and met other people in the Ministry. I'm so glad I didn't take a job with another department (that shall go unnamed for now). They're basically the people who try to improve the corporate culture in the Ministry, make it more innovative and such, and when I had a meeting with them on Friday, it was frightening how much they throw these catchphrases like "learning organisation" and "personal mastery" around, sounding as if they're preaching a newfound gospel. I don't believe in all that, see, so it's going to be tricky working on this committee with them --- but at least I'm not in that department.

Besides work, this week has been busy with the usual social engagements. Monday evening I went to class, then Terz and I joined Mr and Mrs B at Somerset's Bar for a couple of hours of jazz. Tuesday evening I was so tired after we got home from dinner that I taped Buffy and went to bed instead. Wednesday night I met some friends for lunch and drinks 'cause one of our friends was visiting from DC where she works. Thursday night was blissfully spent at home, except when we popped out for dinner and to return an overdue DVD. We have borrowed three lots of DVDs from this store and only returned one set on time. They hate us, I know they do. Friday night we had dinner with an ex-colleague of Terz's, then plonked ourselves in front of the TV when we got home for the three-hour Survivor finale. I'm not saying it was quality TV or anything, but it had its moments. Ethan got the prize money! Yay for Ethan!

Yesterday, alas, turned out to be busy. I spent the afternoon doing alumni interviews for prospective Northwestern freshmen, which is something I do every year as much to keep in touch with other alumni as to see what the new applicants are like. The interview is totally laidback and fairly light work, but I must admit that the first three kids I interviewed weren't too inspiring, which made chatting with the last two far more enjoyable. I mean, I know that not everyone is gregarious and articulate, but I guess I expect a bit more from someone who shows up for a university interview, you know?

In the evening, we had dinner at a friend's place. He and his girlfriend always cook too much food, so they called us over since we were all going to a musical later anyways. They apologized promptly for the quality of food when we turned up, saying that nothing had turned out as it was supposed to, but I thought everything tasted all right. Yeah, so the chawanmushi could've used more salt and maybe using a new steamer is always tricky, but I enjoyed dinner, gastronomically and socially speaking. The only thing we all disapproved of were some Japanese yams he'd bought. You're supposed to eat them raw, dipped in soy sauce (or that's how it was served to him at the supermarket where he got them), but these are the first yams we've had that seem to be coated with a layer of saliva once they're sliced up. That just grossed all of us out, though we gamely gave it a try at first. Fortunately, he only served us a wee bit of that.

After dinner, we headed down to the Singapore Repertory Theatre at Robertson Quay for Re:Mix, a new musical by local musician/artiste/showman Dick Lee and performed by the young people's group of the Theatre. The music was catchy and I was laughing really hard at the song "Teenage Sex Dream" (about, predictably, young men's idealised version of women and sex), but the plot wasn't too great. First of all, it's tricky having a musical that hinges on teenage angst. Secondly, it's trickier when there's all this angst is played out on stage: the protagonist's boyfriend is trying to cheat on her, her sister also has a fake ID to get into the club and all sorts of sisterly rivalry rises to the fore, there's an attempted rape and so on. I really think it's hard to play out so many issues effectively in a short musical (and it was slightly shorter than the average musical). I never figured out why the protagonist and her boyfriend even started dating, since she was a goody-goody-two-shoes, he seemed to be a hornier-than-average teenage male, and they didn't seem to have anything in common. Why was the protagonist best friends with the other lead, since the latter was in so many ways the diametrical opposite of a good-goody-two-shoes? Too many unexplained relationships, and way too much angst, all flying fast and furious in a dance-club environment. It didn't work; there wasn't enough to lift the story beyond the realm of the stereotypical. And I suppose it's ultimately difficult to create significance out of an experience when the musical's message seemed to be that the very experience was meaningless.

But the music was fun, most of the singing was better than I expected, if not always sharply articulated, and the choreography worked quite well. The only really energetic dancer was, predictably, the guy who's had some overseas experience. Everyone else looked too much like they were limply dancing in a club rather than dancing in a club-in-a-musical. Our friend commented that some of the dancing was typical Dick Lee, but I admit to not knowing what that means since the only other musical of his I've seen was Hot Pants and I honestly don't remember it.

We were also sorta spaced out after the musical and not really in the mood to go clubbing ourselves --- perhaps that was the point of the soullessness of it? --- so we went back to our friend's apartment. There, we had mochi balls (a Japanese dessert: ice cream encased in sticky flour balls) and an Oreo ice cream sandwich, while watching the last half of Gladiator. That really is a good movie. I'd refused to see it when it first came out because I was shy of all the blood and gore, but Terz finally got me to watch it when he bought the DVD and I can see how it's got a really good story behind it all.

Yeah, I need a good story, at the end of the day. Sorry, Dick.

Which brings me to Sunday, finally. Gosh, it has been a busy week, hasn't it?

5.1.02

Work status report: I still have no e-mail account. I continue to read a lot of old cases of e-mails and other correspondence received from the press and the public, and continue to be amazed by the spectrum of inanity and insight that various people have shown. The first draft of the speech I wrote yesterday came back to me with few changes, which is a relief. I tweaked it accordingly, tried not to use the word "desultory" even though I really wanted to, but left "malaise" in, and will review it on Monday morning before I submit it to my boss again. I went home promptly at one pm.

After work, I had to meet some people to settle the proofreading job I'd done --- basically, to sit down with the journal's editor and designer and go through everything page by page so that they're both clear on what changes I've recommended. I didn't mind that, but I didn't expect it to last four hours! I was expecting to go visit a friend in the afternoon --- Terz's friend, actually, whose wife just had twins --- but by five pm, I knew that wasn't going to happen, so Terz went on his own. I don't really mind either way, except that twins are so rare and I just wanted to see them, even though I hardly know his friend. I'm thinking that twins aren't a bad deal, if one is ready to start a family --- you know, like two for the price of one. And if I had twins that were as intelligent and neat as the two sisters I saw on the train just now (not twins, but under five years and close in age), I'd have kids in a flash. Any kid that age who can tell her mom she needs to go to the little girls' room when they're already on the train, but then amiably agree to "hold it" for another six or seven stations till they get home is all right in my book. (For the record, the mom didn't make her "hold it" but offered to get off at a station so she could use the bathroom; the kid was the one who decided she could last all the way home.)

So anyway --- editing meeting. Milk Creative strikes me as a very promising design house, for any of you in Singapore that might be looking for such services. Mark, whom I think runs the place, is very cool also. I mean, I've been at a new job for four days now and I'm still not completely at ease with anyone; I met Mark today and within an hour felt completely at ease with him. I'm thinking I'll send some design or publishing jobs his way if I can.

I suppose the only thing I might fault Milk Creative for is their location: smack in the middle of our rapidly gentrifying Chinatown. On the other hand, it's not as if their relocation alone will restore the area to its original, pre-exoticised glory. I hate going down to Chinatown. It's too depressing: all these touristy-y shops selling identical ching-chong outfits and souvenirs that have taken over the storefronts from the original, no-frills shops. Bah.

Oh, and on Food Street (i.e. a street that was actually renamed thus, stripping it of whatever historical and sentimental value its original name conveyed), they have these hawker stalls set up, and wooden tables and stools where customers can sit.

Problem Number One: The whole area is too clean. I know it's important for health reasons, but honestly, any Asian hawker area has to be grubby and oily in order to be genuine.

Problem Number Two: The wooden stools are attached to the tables by silverish iron-link chains! I kid you not. It's bad enough in all the hawker centers now the stools are fixed (as in, cemented to the ground so that you can't seat more than six people at a round table), but to have these ostensibly movable stools chained to their respective tables --- words cannot begin to express the wrongness of it all.

Problem Number Three: The choice of food sucks, frankly, and it's not very good either. We were too lazy to walk all the way to Maxwell Hawker Center for real food, so we copped out and ate at Food Street, but on hindsight I think the walk would've been worth it.

If I had friends visiting from overseas, I wouldn't take them down to Chinatown unless they wanted to see kitschiness par excellence.

I think I'm done ranting now and I'm ready to post this.

4.1.02

So it's been three days at the new job and how is it, everybody wants to know? I should begin with a disclaimer that I can't say much about the nitty-gritty of the job, since everything's embargoed to the general public unless it's already been published or quoted in the media.

What I can say is that the first three days have been not bad, due to the fact that I have no e-mail account yet, and most of our work (like ninety-something percent) is routed through e-mail, so I have done next to no work for the past three days. I got to recraft a speech (i.e. take a first draft proposed by one of the event organizers and turn it into something a Cabinet minister would say) and sit by the cellphone that is linked to one of the public complaint lines, but that's about it. I've done a lot of reading, swotting up on everything that's been going on between the Ministry of Education and the media and the public over the past year or so. I've figured out how to use my voicemail and signed up for a library card. I know that most people turn up for work some time between 8:30 am and 9:00 am, so I don't have to panic if I'm a little late. And on my way home today, I realized that I left my Civil Service Card in the office, which means I'll have to ask someone to buzz me in tomorrow. (The card is required for security clearance to enter the building and I have to swipe it past various sensors to get into offices on the different floors. Call it another example of the ministry taking itself a little too seriously.)

I have no e-mail account yet because they can't set one up till my school-based one (that I was using for the past three and a half years) is terminated. That alone takes four days to a week. I'm going to start practicing my new job here by saying, "No comment."

Gosh darnit. I just realized that I can't write about any of the really juicy things I read 'cause they're all classified. That leaves me with no stories to tell for the past three days.

I suppose I can talk about my colleagues. Everyone seems pretty cool. People have been nice in helping me out, printing stuff for me (since I have no access to the server yet) and so on. I like my computer. This is the first time in my life that my computer at work is faster than my computer at home --- not a whole lot faster, mind you, but it's generally fast enough that I don't complain about how long it takes to boot up or anything. I also have my own phone line, which is a luxury after sharing two phone lines with over a hundred staff members at my previous school, and I hear individual cellphones are in the works.

The job promises to be busy busy busy --- so busy that I think I'm going to sign up for just one class this term (for my part-time Masters') and see how things go first. I'd hate to sign up for two classes and then be missing half of them both, especially since the two I'd enrol in are on consecutive nights. There's another guy at work who's doing a part-time Masters' too, so I guess the bosses are reasonably sympathetic towards such endeavors. I stayed at work past six pm on Wednesday and Thursday, but that was more because Terz was in the area and picked me up for dinner rather than from any real need to stay late. Today I darted off at five-thirty and most people were still in the office. (Note: my immediate colleagues consist of less than twenty people, so it's a small bunch.) They tell me it's rare to stay past seven, but six-ish is the norm.

More importantly, I found out that the bosses are nice about leave applications, which is important since I'm expected to be at my brother's graduation ceremony in Madison, WI in May, and Terz and I are thinking of finally checking out Vietnam later in the year. Twenty-one days of leave doesn't go far, but it's important to be able to take it when you want to.

As for whether this job has a heavier or lighter working load than teaching, I'll need a few weeks before I report back on that. Remember: I haven't done any real work yet.

Ah, the blissful first days... I do appreciate them.

1.1.02

Aloha. I realize I have been sorely amiss in updating this journal for the past week, but I will freely blame the holiday season for this. I could blame a number of other things going on in my life, but I won't. I don't think I've got the energy to relive the past week in this journal, either. So you will have to be happy with the fact that since I last wrote in this journal, I have eaten a lot, drunk a lot (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and spent many nights staying up past my usual bedtime. The important thing, however, is that I can still fit into size 2 clothes, as proven when I went prowling at Parkway Parade today and discovered that size 4s and size 6s just Would Not Do.

Tomorrow, I start my new job. I've been okay not-thinking about it all day, but now that there's just a little while more before I go to bed, and then when I wake up I will have to think about what to wear, which entails thinking about what first impression I want to leave on my new colleagues --- okay, not first impression, strictly speaking, since I already met them at the workplan retreat in December --- and then I have to get dressed and go to work with the rest of the office crowd at 8ish (and my, this is a long sentence), I am getting a little tingly in my stomach thinking about it. Good-tingly and bad-tingly. I always get tingly before a new school term (whether I'm the student or the teacher) and now I'm tingly before the new job. I hope I can sleep properly.

Today's suit-shopping was for the new job. I've been told I need about two suits to start things off and I currently own just one. Unfortunately, although everyone was having fabulous sales today, I didn't buy anything. G2000 didn't have my size for the colors I wanted, Mango had my size but the suit wound up looking way too hip for the office, and GG5 had a cool jacket but no pants to match it and the skirt that matched it looked god-awful. Leaving me with no suit, as yet. It's gonna be a pantsuit, since my existing one is a skirt-suit. If you care.

Today, I also completed that proofreading job, which is a real relief because at first I thought I had until the 8th to do it, then I found out they would like it done by the 5th, so in typical Yu-Mei fashion I've crammed my work and finished it ahead of time. It's just as well, since I've gotten it out of the way before my 'real' job starts.

I really have nothing else to report at this point, or nothing that I have the energy to write about, so I'll stop here. I could make a New Year's Resolution about writing more regularly, no matter how tired or crappy I feel, but my resolutions never work out, so I'm safer just leaving things the way they are. Happy New Year, everybody!

 
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