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?


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