I wrote the following two paragraphs in the train on my way home from work on Saturday, before I got aggravated by how much the train was vibrating and making it thusly difficult to write in the Palm. Anyway:
So this has been my amended morning routine these past two days: I wake up, put on the coffee (because Terz is on holiday and doesn't wake up before me, for a change), take a shower, log on while drinking coffee, load the local newspaper's webpage, poke around for education-related articles --- and promptly see something that makes me go "Oh, crap," and suddenly, dawdling over coffee and e-mail isn't an option anymore.

Not that rushing into work accomplishes anything, necessarily, since this is the civil service after all, but my job is just to report on what's in the news.

And then I gave up writing. And when I got home, I slept. And when I got up, we went to dinner. And when we got home, I got lazy to write. And today I spent the entire morning and the better part of the afternoon roleplaying, so you know I didn't write. And then we went out to dinner at our friends' the Bs'. And now I'm home, and actually just tidying up e-mail and stuff, but then I thought I'd better write or I'd have journal guilt.

See, I spend all this time everyday reading other people's journals, I feel guilty if I don't contribute something in return. Also, I don't want to leave a false impression that I'm too busy to write (unless I really am, which I'm not, to which my many "slacker" comments in the past week's journal can attest). So in the interest of maintaining a fairly accurate picture of how my life really goes, here's the (fairly) regular Sunday night entry.

From what I wrote yesterday, you can see that it's been a hectic couple of mornings. Fortunately, those are only the mornings. The funny thing about my job is that if we panic, the people making decisions generally don't, but if we're blase, the people making decisions turn on us and ask us why we're not panicking. Catch-22, you say? Perhaps, perhaps. I let most of it slide off me --- just call me Teflon Gal --- but I can see how the temperamental shortcomings of my job might aggravate others. Terz wouldn't last a week, I don't think.

But enough about work. Friday night was awesome 'cause I came home, and Terz was winding up another Battletech game with his boys, and after he got them out of the house, he made green curry with chicken (okay, we used a canned sauce, which was only so-so) and cabbage with sambal and dried prawns. Quite the meal, for a Friday night. He should get week-long holidays more often. He made so much food that we have leftovers still, which we'll probably eat tomorrow.

Survivor on Friday night was not awesome. Maraamu voted out Hunter. The only reason I have left to watch the show is to watch the other tribe totally cream Maraamu when it comes to the merge (and probably before then). The Amazing Race on Thursday night was much better. We got to see two back-to-back episodes, because AXN was catching up so that it would be in sync from next week on, and it was nice to see so much of Rio de Janeiro.

But enough about TV. Today we had dinner at the Bs'. Mr B made steak *-- and when I say steak, I mean that he slapped a whopping 850g steak on Terz's dinner plate. Terz ate about 2/3 of it before giving up. Mr B himself had maybe a 500g cut and ate about half of it. Mrs B and I had far more normal-sized servings, and I'm pleased to say I'm the only person at the dinner table who finished all her food. I can't decide if it's because the amount I was given was just right (plus we'd skipped lunch today in anticipation of the steak dinner awaiting us, though we hadn't realized there would be 850g for Terz alone) or because I've been drilled by my mom since I was about eight to "think of the starving Ethiopians" and not waste food. Which reminds me of that joke about the Ethiopian and the Rolex watch, but it's in really bad taste and I won't repeat it here.

After dinner, the three of them played loads of games on the Bs' XBox and PlayStation2. I don't play such games well nor do I particularly like them, so I sat by and watched and flipped through Mrs B's photography books and magazines. While watching, it occurs to me that with all the toys the Bs have, they're like grown-up kids who can afford the latest cool toy on the block. And I don't mean that derisively at all, because if Terz and I had more money, we'd be doing that too. Which just goes to show that we (human beings) never outgrow the need for toys.

Terz's staying up to watch a football game, even though he has to go back to school tomorrow. I, on the other hand, am ready to call it a night. Just call us an Old Married Couple and be done with it. :)


After dinner yesterday, Terz and I hung out at his parents' place for a little while, before coming home to watch the previous night's Buffy. Hence, I did not quite finish that entry.

Anyways, Battletech update: Terz beat the boys --- again. Of course, he has like a fourteen-year headstart on them.

Today I discovered that NTUC at Paya Lebar (the giant SingPost building) does not sell beef. When I asked why, all the woman behind the counter could tell me is that the manager had decided not to. This --- after I spent ten minutes wandering around looking for the beef and thinking I had missed it because it's not our usual supermarket and I wasn't familiar with its layout. Why would NTUC not sell beef? This is Singapore, not India. What self-respecting supermarket wouldn't sell one of the four major meat groups?

I was aggravated. Terz and I had been nursing hopes of a rib-eye dinner; instead we made do with Mickey D's. Ugh. Needless to say, I'm not shopping at that NTUC anymore. I only stopped there because it's a convenient stop on the ride home from work.

(Note for non-Singaporeans: NTUC is the 'cheap' supermarket here in Singapore. NTUC stands for National Trades Union Congress. Don't ask me why unionists --- not that they're anywhere as vociferous as their counterparts in just about any other non-totalitarian country --- are running a supermarket. I don't usually shop at NTUC because their aisles tend to be narrower and range tends to be smaller, though their prices are marginally cheaper.)

So we had Mickey D's and watched Combat Missions and lamented the fact that TelevisionWithoutPity.com isn't recapping it. While channel-surfing, we discovered that AXN is showing The Amazing Race tonight. It starts at 10 pm, so I thought I'd dash off a journal entry to appease my conscience for now.

Work continues to be slack-worthy. I even had the time to read TWOP's Survivor recap for last week, while listening to an old man (okay, not that old, but he sounded like he was older than my dad) maunder on on the phone about how young people today smoke and kiss and speak horrible English and how important education was. I tried to cut him off, really, since he didn't have a solid complaint for us, but it was too hard to get a word in edgewise and I amused myself by reading TWOP instead.

By the way, the girl who sold me my hamburgers at McDonald's wore a tudung. I'm just saying. (She also looked just a little too young to be working, but was very pretty and efficient.)

Terz and I sat down on Monday night to talk about our respective monthly finances, i.e. why he seems to spend more than I do yet apparently doesn't. I resolved to stick to a new weekly budget after that. I've now spent 47% of the money that's supposed to last me till next Tuesday night. I can't decide if that's bad or good enough for starters. Sometimes I feel like I've been talking about being broke since I was thirteen, but when I look at all the junk I've accumulated along the way, I know when I say I'm broke, it has a whole different connotation from what it ought to mean.

On a brighter note, this week is the one-week school holidays and Terz is enjoying the luxury of sleeping in till --- well, he could, theoretically, sleep as late as he wants to, but he keeps getting up before I go to work (7:45 - 8:00 am) and blaming it on my being allegedly noisy in the shower. He forgets that every morning, when he hits the bedroom light to get dressed after his shower, I start awake. Ha!

The other good thing about it being the holidays is that Terz can go buy us some lightbulbs tomorrow. The lightbulbs in this computer room and the games room (i.e. room in which we play mahjong and he plays D&D or Battletech) are both blown. The games room one died months ago, but we bought the wrong bulbs for it and were too lazy to go back and exchange them. (Procrastinators 'R' Us.) Now we have to go get them because we need the computer room light.

Oh, and he's been watching rented DVDs. I mention this only because he rented, among other things, Battlestar Galactica and Memento. The latter will be our weekend viewing, but he watched Battlestar Galactica the other night when our Relatively Newlywed Friends came over. I watched about the first half hour before I felt the sleepies and said goodnight to them. The important thing about Battlestar Galactica is that it's shamelessly derivative, has heroes named Apollos and Starbucks (Starbucks!), and a very young Jane Seymour. If you grew up in the '80s, as I did, you owe it to yourself to sit down and give it one good viewing.

On that note, I'm off to watch The Amazing Race. I've totally turned into a TV junkie since I started this new job this year --- and this is without them showing Gilmore Girls or The West Wing!


Instead of talking about my usual boring stuff, I will tell you about the three kittens who now live at the bottom of our apartment block. There are three, they've been around for about a month now (although Terz could give you a better idea of their age, since he actually had a cat one time), and they are rather adorable. But then, most cats are. One is jet-black, one is tabby, and another is that generic brown-gray that I like so much. There was an older brown-gray cat that used to live at the next block whom we were so tempted to bring home because it was very friendly and yet never needy. I'm not sure if it's still around.

Anyway, these three cats might be new in town, but they already know how to be wary of humans. The black cat is the boldest, the tabby is the wariest, and the brown-gray (there must be a proper term for this) is the prankster in the group. He kept nipping the others in the butt and chasing them around the table on the void deck (ground floor of the apartment building) two nights ago. Someone is feeding them, so I think they're happy.

The other cat I'm familiar with lives in the grassy area besides the walkway that runs from our housing estate to the train station. I see it every couple of mornings, snoozing on the grass, and then I think being a cat ain't bad. Other times it's chasing bugs or, on more ambitious days, a crow or three. It's one of those cats that totally ignores human beings, too --- I guess because living near such a busy pedestrian stretch has taught it all too well that most human beings don't give a damn about its welfare.

* * *

I'm waiting for Terz to get done playing Battletech with three of his students so we can go get dinner. He had them over today and on Monday, when he trounced their teenaged butts soundly on Monday. I'm not sure what today's outcome will be like. The kids are okay --- boys, aged fifteen or sixteen --- and we had dinner with them (at Kim's Place) on Monday, but I think I'm a little too tired to listen to them today.

Not that I had a particularly tiring day at work. I've been rather off this week. I actually let myself surf the internet when I'm supposed to be working on stuff. That's what happens when deadlines aren't immediately pressing, I guess. I mean, I'm not totally slacking, but this is the least efficient I've been since I got my e-mail account.

Last night, we met our Relatively Newlywed Friends for dinner. We hadn't seen them since we saw Black Hawk Down back in --- January? I don't remember. Anyway, we agreed to meet at Buckaroo's, which is way up north in Sembawang, but we forgot it's not open on Tuesdays. So Terz and I pull up, and I call them, and we rearrange to meet at Casuarina to eat crabs at the corner coffeeshop which has good crabs --- except guess what? That was closed too. Bah. So we had dinner at Tamako's, which is this sorta home-cooked Japanese place. The food was decently priced, but the quality was so-so. I think eating giant sushi in Vancouver last June really spoiled my palate for Japanese food.

Speaking of which, I really should sit down and plan all the places I want to eat at when I'm in Chicago in May --- within a reasonable budget, of course. I might even try to convince my old college roommate to go up to Northwestern for a nostalgic campus tour. They've put up new buildings since I went to school there (which was barely five years ago).

Oh, and this morning I was trying to review the daily media coverage of education issues, but got totally sidetracked by a full-page Northwest Airlines ad, offering flights to Chicago for $999. I called my mom promptly, but of course she had already been quoted that same price by the travel agent the day before. But that's a lot cheaper than what we were quoted earlier.

Gotta go eat now. Terz is ready to abandon his boys and he wants us to slink off and not eat with them tonight, either.


Whee! So if I don't restrain myself, I'm going to pre-empt the multitudes of good news I have, and that would be so bad, not to mention confusing for my loyal readers, so I will exercise great restraint and proceed chronologically and (somewhat) logically.

First of all, I went to work yesterday and the vague butterflies in my stomach were immediately dispelled because I had an e-mail labelled "Angus Ross Prize" and when I opened it, ahhhhhhhh, I found that both the Angus Ross Prize winner and one of the runners-up were my ex-students! Ahhhhhhhhh! I just went ballistic in the office. My colleagues were highly amused. I was like, "Yes!" and "Yes!" and --- well, pretty much, that was it. I felt so high.

The Angus Ross Prize, by the way, is the prize given out for the best English literature script written in the entire November sitting of the A Level scripts. It's given to the best script out of, like, 10,000 scripts. And Peggy won it! And Sabina got runner-up! And I'm so happy!

That good news promptly unstressed me. One main worry of mine was that Peggy wouldn't win the prize, see, because Peggy is an amazing student and if she didn't win, that might have implied that something went awry in the teaching of literature, which brings the entire finger-pointing exercise back upon my colleague and me --- and especially me 'cause I'm the younger and less experienced of us both. Let me put it this way: Peggy should've won it even if she hadn't attended literature classes for two years. But she did, and I'm off the hook (in a manner of speaking, not that I was ever really on it, but this is exam-crazy Singapore) and she did fabulously besides, and Sabina came up from behind to sneak off with the runner-up position, which is awesome too because her flair for literature really bloomed in the last 6-8 months that I taught her, and this sentence has gone on for just too long, which tells you how high I still am, more than twenty-four hours after the fact.

So that was yesterday morning. I piddled about doing some work, then darted off at 12:30 pm before any last-minute crisis or assignment could fall upon me. I met my ex-colleague, who works in another Division in the Ministry, and we headed back together. As it turns out, the teachers already had all the grades, just that the result slips weren't ready and the teachers weren't supposed to tell the students yet, so I spent some time exulting over all my ex-students' grades and also catching up on gossip with friends from the staff room.

And then it was 2 pm and the kids found out from themselves and there were so many moments. There was the kid who topped the class who never imagined he would and he started tearing and then he called home to tell them and after that, he was tearing some more. There was the kid who needed an A for math to get into Cambridge University and got a B and was heartbroken (though she did splendidly in everything else) and required much comforting. It sounds ridiculous, but in an atmosphere where almost half the school waltzed out with three or more As, it's pretty hard psychologically to be happy with two As or less, even if it's all the usual kids who got the straight As. Good stories, bad stories, lots of exulting and some hugging and solace as well --- and numerous thank-yous, to which I mostly shrugged and say, "Yeah, well." I mean, the kids did it. I didn't take the examination for them. But I will allow that my colleague and I did well to bring home a full bag of 53 As and 4 Bs and nothing less out of all the students we taught. I mean, some of them would've gotten As very neatly on their own (see two paragaphs above), but it's nice that no one got less than a B, though I can think of a couple of idjits who deserved Cs or worse.

So, after I spent two hours in the hall talking with ex-students, I went back to the staff room and recuperated with a Coke. Then I adjourned for coffee (except that I had a Sunrise Ice Blended at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, not coffee nor tea) with three ex-colleagues. Then Mel and I went hunting for a farewell gift with two other ex-colleagues for the school's vice-principal, who's leaving after this week. That hunt took quite a while. What do you get as a farewell gift for someone when you have $100 and everything tasteful and elegant (like the vice-principal in question) costs at least fifty dollars more than that? We looked at everything: pewter, china, crystal, attache cases, and even the Metropolitan Museum of Art shop. After two hours of shopping and walking the entire stretch of Orchard Road (which takes about half an hour without stopping to browse, for those of you unacquainted with our local shopping strip), we settled on the pewter and adjourned to Mos Burger for dinner. Mos Burgers are yummy, despite being a wee bit expensive --- $6.15 for a meal (burger + fries + drink) compared to the $5.50 or so they go for at Mickey D's. But I highly recommend their Spicy burger.

So today, I went back to work, blah blah blah workcakes. The important thing and the reason I was so psyched when I started this entry, is that when I checked my e-mail just now, I got an e-mail from the aforementioned sad-at-a-B-for-math girl. Now it turns out she has an offer from Duke to be interviewed for the Angiers B. Duke Memorial Scholarship, and Duke only invites 40 of its 15,000+ applicants to be interviewed for it, and they give out 15 awards every year! A full scholarship to Duke! Admittedly, she'd still have to worry about the living expenses (US$10,000/year at least) but she got chosen! Out of 15,000+ applicants! I'm so thrilled with her. I mean, she's a strong student, but I'm glad she has this awesome opportunity coming on the heels of her B-for-math disappointment, to prove that it's not just about the grades, baby.

So perhaps I've blathered on for too long about my ex-students' glories and successes, but can you blame me? It's all vicarious for me. I told her to fly over for the interview, of course, even though she'd have to find $500-800 to pay for the air ticket on top of the US$500 that Duke would compensate her for it. It's just amazing that she got invited.

Whew. I need to breathe. And stop writing in such long sentences.

I think I'm going to stop now because I'm tired and also to talk about my own paltry life at this point would be too depressing. Much better to savor the sweetness of others' highs.


The A Level results will be out at 2 pm today. Well, I say 2 pm because that's the official time from which the result slips are physically handed over to students, but teachers usually know an hour or two beforehand. I'm taking the afternoon off to go back to my old school: get the cold hard truth, hand out result slips, panic/celebrate with my ex-students. It'll be an interesting afternoon, to say the least.

This doesn't cut into my annual leave, for anyone who's keeping track. I was owed a Saturday off (we work alternative Saturdays now) because my last one coincided with a public holiday. I'm on top of my work, so unless a crisis comes crashing down on us this morning --- and I've got fingers crossed and wood touched to forestall that prospect --- I'll slip off at twelve-ish, maybe grab a sandwich from the cafeteria on the way out, and hope for the best all the way.

I thought about spending my forty minutes between shower and leaving for work watching last night's Buffy episode, but then I decided it would be too depressing a way to start the day. So here I am, checking e-mail and printing crosswords and clearing Perngames foo as usual. Last night's episode was "The Body". I didn't watch it because stupid TCS moved Buffy to the 11 pm timeslot so that they could show World's Most Haunted Places or some stupid shit like that at 10 pm. Part of me doesn't blame them because Buffy's been so crappy lately, but I want to watch my crap at my time! I don't want to stay up another hour for it when I'm an old working woman who needs her sleep! And I don't want to be scared within the first two minutes of the substitute show because they have a creepy kid's voice doing the voice-over introduction and plenty of spooky footage!

Upon checking my video tape this morning, I'm a bit miffed that I didn't give the tape enough lead time so I missed the bit of the episode that comes before the opening titles and theme song (since when did that become the norm for TV programs anyway?). However, I checked the transcript and I only missed what was already the last two minutes of last week's episode, so I don't feel so bad. I'll watch it when I come home this afternoon or tonight. Whatever the results are, I'm pretty sure "The Body" will do me just fine.

Okay, gotta get dressed and go to work (and what awaits after) now. More later, for sure.


I spent ten minutes this morning staring at our overflowing bookshelves, and I still couldn't pick out anything to read. So here I am piddling away on my Palm again, which at least is something I can pursue in close quarters, unlike all the people around me reading tabloid-sized papers.

I wonder what most people used to do on the train before the two free morning weekday dailies appeared on the scene last year.

So last night, I distinctly remember dreaming that I was back as a teacher, and it was after the preliminary examinations in September, and I was panicking because I had only eight weeks or less to teach my kids The Scarlet Letter before the A Levels, and I hadn't so much as cracked the book open yet. It was pretty serious panic, dream-wise, though I didn't recall anything till my eyes fell on the book when I was perusing the shelves just now. (I needed close to twelve weeks to teach my kids that book last year; trust me when I say that eight aren't enough.)

By the time I publish this entry on the web, the press release would've gone out, so I can write this with impunity: the A Level results will be out on Wednesday afternoon, and the whole Scarlet Letter dream, I have no doubt, is symptomatic of that. I'm the only teacher who taught it, it's never been attempted before by kids from Singapore, so I might have singlehandedly fouled up the literature grades of the smartest kids in Singapore. I'm just sayin'.


So an old classmate, with whom I've been friends for over ten years now, just came in for an interview with my Director, and we might end up working together! I'm psyched, partly because I didn't know we had a vacancy in the first place (I suspect it's being created for her) and partly because I'll have a friend in the office again. Not that I lack friends there now, but it's different when you work with someone you were friends with first. Color me naive, but I was lucky in my previous job that a good friend and I began teaching there at the same time, so I had someone I could trust (and bitch to) from the start.

[Afternote on Mon ::03.04.2002 :: 7:30 am: That was a really short entry. That's what happens when a thought seizes me on the train, and I write it down, but after that my brain gives up 'cause it's the weekend, and I fail to add anything that would make it seem more of a journal entry and less of a brain-fart.]