Saturday, 30 April 2011

My First Time

For the first time in my life, I sit up and listen to speeches.

For the first time in my life, I start to look at the political candidates.

For the first time in my life, I ask about the impact of the votes.

I didn't know that the Prime Minister, Senior Minister and Mentor Minister could lose their positions and jobs if they are 'voted out'. I thought the positions are mandates, just like kingship. That's how ignorant I am.

And yes, it's all because of the gutsy girl, Nicole Seah. She is my first political awakening (pun intended).

I am thoroughly impressed by this Singapore-born-and-bred girl. How many of us have gone through the grind and have succumbed to the system, and believe that the world belongs to a particular party and there will be no change forever and forever, amen? How many of us have given our dreams up just to live a life of money-earning just so that we could live from hand to mouth?

She is just 24 years old, and yet have so much to live for. How many of us, by that age, would have believe that life is all about waiting for and buying a flat and supporting it till we die?

Someone said that one should be at least 35 years old to enter the parliament because of maturity issues.

I beg to differ.

I am not sure how many of us mature at an astronomical rate within 10 years to qualify for that 'maturity' statement, but what I do know is, the opportunity cost for that marginal rate of maturity is passion, guts and dreams.

At 35, most of us would have settled for a belief, and for Singaporeans, mostly 'dreams are just that - dreams. Earning money is more important'.

At 24, this girl has got a lot of guts to stand for an election.

At 21, this blogger wrote an article on his reasons for not voting for the mainstream party. Because of what he wrote, my memory of how my father tried to tell me about the story of Lim Chin Siong was jolted. I didn't think what he said could be completely true since facts could be thwarted by human opinion. But this article tells me that my father has not been partial to the historical facts.

We condemned Japan for hiding the truth about World War II from their younger generations by not publishing the facts or truths in their school textbooks, but we are doing the same about our politics history in our primary school textbooks. How upright are we?

How many 35-year-olds can write articles like that? How many 35-year-olds would have the guts to stand up for what they believe in? It's when you have nothing to lose that you would go all out. When you have a family at stake, you are more hesitant, more cowardly, because you have alot more to lose.

For a 35-year-old's cowardice, I am glad I don't have to vote. To me, a decision is always painful. So while voting is a privilege for others, it's a relief to me, and more so since I am in the public service industry.

Voters have been urged to 'vote wisely' over and over again. I hope they really do.

Why I haven't been blogging, not that anyone cares

My passion for blogging has not waned. I am just tired. Tired from the 11- to 12-hour working day almost every day. The only day that is not so long is the day I take an MC for.

Every single day, we have some after-school activities for teachers, until 6.30pm or 7.30pm.

I really feel tired. When I get home, I still have kids who need my attention. It is my elder kid's examination period, I too, like many other parents who are worried about their kids' academic achievements, want to coach her in her studies. I am not like the colleagues who can dunk themselves in bed the moment they reach home after a long day in school.

Most of the time, when I get home, the only thing I want to do is to plonk myself in front of the TV and let the box feed me. Sometimes I get so tired I don't want to say a word. I once watched a documentary about a China youth who had ventured out from his hometown in the rural area to study in the city. He mentioned a time when his family members used so much of their physical strength in one day that at the end of the day, they sat on the ground, and could not spit a word at all simply because they were too exhausted. The only way they communicated was through their tired eyes.

I didn't understand how someone could be so tired that you can't utter even a word. But now I do.

The new boss advocates 'equitable workload'. I too agree that those who get higher salary should do more work, but I do not agree that the only way to do so is to stretch their working hours and make them stay in school longer than those who are not paid as much. If that is the way to go, then the ministers ought to be working more than 24 hours every day!

I have always felt that I am efficient and fast. I send in my students' remarks for the report book for the Second Boss' vetting before most of my colleagues have completed typing them. I did not use to have backlogs in marking until these two years when I have to stay in school for more than 10 hours so often, so that when I get home, I refuse to do more work.

But longer working hours do not suit me. They may suit people who like to be seen as 'busy' and 'have alot of work to do', but to me, that's being 'slow' and 'inefficient'. Long hours frustrate me. I hate taking 30 minutes just to submit a sum of money to the office. I hate having to wait for 'another 10 minutes' just so that I could print worksheets for students. I like to do things fast and quick, so inefficiency exasperates me more than an average person.

But teaching nowadays seems to be about long hours. They seem to have forgotten that Asia is known for its efficiency. They also forgot that teaching is manual work - we stand for hours to teach in a classroom, with no fan directed at the person doing the teaching. We get all sticky and hot after 1.30pm, so that would contribute to the fatigue, but we don't go home and get a bath, we have to soldier on and have meetings that have little to do with classroom teaching.

So that explains why I have not been blogging.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Storm in a Teacup to Others. Big Deal to Us

My younger brother is contemplating applying for Singapore citizenship.

It causes a big stir in our family.

We object to him doing it.

We could see why he wants to although he does not wish to admit it outrightly: his beautician girlfriend is from Malaysia and she has been turned down a few times when she applied for Singapore permanent residentship.

I thought about how I could word it before or without bringing his girlfriend into the picture as I knew he would get defensive if I did it. As it is, they are lovey-dovey now, even in our presence. So I was sure he wouldn't listen to my advice if I attacked the ground using his girlfriend.

I began with a recall:
They say you want to apply for Singapore citizenship. I remember you rejecting the citizenship when you were offered during your National Service (NS) days.

For the unaware, Permanent Residents (PR) must carry out NS. While serving NS, they would be offered citizenship without having to apply for it.

He countered it saying that he rejected it because my father did not want him to take it up, and that there was no obvious benefits then. Now, if he were to get married, he can get a flat directly from the government and enjoy the subsidised rate. On top of that, he could get a $3k top up in CPF (Central Provident Fund) next year if he converts by then. It was 'a lot of money' to him.

I felt that what my elder sister surmised was right. He wants to be a Singapore citizen to apply for PRship for his girlfriend. The first-hand flat was more of a bonus.

I countered his reasons one by one:
1) $3k top-up in CPF in exchange for his Malaysia citizenship is too cheap.
He would be stupid to sell off his citizenship for a $3k offer that he cannot even touch!

2) He should ask his girlfriend to apply for PRship herself.
If he converts to apply PRship for his girlfriend, I would feel that their relationship is built on convenience - for the girlfriend.

If the girlfriend gets her PRship, they can buy a resale flat like the locals do, for location.

3) My elder sister had to convert her citizenship about 10 years ago because our block of flat was due for upgrading and the majority of the residents voted for the addition of a utility room which cost $60k in cash for permanent residents, and most people do not have $60k cold hard cash sitting in their bank account for a small utility room.

By converting, my sister could get the room at a subsidised rate, payable through CPF.

She was forced to convert, but he wants to give up his citizenship over someone else's PRship.

4) If he really wanted the $3k, he should go earn it himself.
I gave him examples of how I earned what I wanted:
With a gross pay of just $1.9k, I gave tuition, coupled with my hard-saving-and-scrimping to save up $20k within two years so that I could go study for a degree.

5) My father has a oil palm plantation that he wants to transfer to him. Being a traditional Chinese, my father does want to pass his legacy down to his only son. If he converts, he won't be able to inherit it.
You wouldn't believe what he said. He said that what my father does to the plantation is no problem of his. He probably thinks that the plantation is worth less than S$3k.

I don't want to judge the girlfriend. I am a woman myself and understands her needs and wants very well.

My brother wants to get the citizenship by next year so that he could apply for a flat soon. I can understand how she feels about getting a flat before getting married:

1) No woman wants to be an old bride.
2) It's just about every woman's wish to have her own place right after marriage.

I have no issue with all these and I think it's only right that she gets all these.

But I am so fiercely protective of my permanent residentship that I won't give it up unless a lot is at stake. And I don't want my brother to be a sacrificial lamb for her permanent residentship. I feel that it's unfair to make my brother convert his PRship to Singapore citizenship just so that she can be a PR.

My father applied PRships for our whole family after he became one.

My uncle did the same for his family.

So PRs are able to apply for PRship for their family.

The only thing that we can't do is to get a new flat from the government, which means a lot of money.

I really don't have issues with the fact that the girl is a low-income earner - which explains why she cannot get her PRship despite the previous attempts to apply for one. I am just unhappy that my brother has to sacrifice his PRship to get one for her. I see it as the girl gaining an edge at my brother's expense.

I have nothing against Singapore citizenship. If I had been born a Singaporean, I would have been glad and proud of being one.

The fact is: I am born a Malaysian, so I want to keep my citizenship.

I have never exercised or utilised my rights or benefits as a Malaysian. I live in Singapore all my life. Never voted in my own country. But, like what I told my brother, as long as I keep my citizenship, I have the option of returning to Malaysia one day - to retire or buy a house there. If I give it up, I burn my bridges.

To be honest, it scares me when I read articles of lonely old people living in one-room flats.

I don't ever want to be like that, but with the high cost of living in Singapore and my supposed-to-be-high-but-actually-not-high salary, I don't think I am able to retire comfortably in Singapore. I may well end up like those old folks, waiting for young secondary school students involved in community work to give me rice or canned food. It scares me. It really does. If I become a Singapore citizen, I will be 'trapped' here forever, with no option of retreating to a country with a lower cost of living.

I love Singapore no doubt, but I don't want to lose what I am born with. If anyone feels that I am an ingrate to the land that nourishes and feeds me, do put yourself in my shoe: would you want to give up your Singapore citizenship for another country's?

I probably have said it before, but I wish to say it again: Malaysia is akin to my natural parents, and Singapore my foster. There is no way you can negate either tie with me. Both have their benefits, just that I am not keen to find out more about them for the moment.

After all that is being brought on his platter, and if he still insists on changing his citizenship for the girl's sake, I will let him. After all, he is not my little brother anymore. This is his life, ultimately. I am not living it for him. I cannot make the decision for him. Whatever consequences that come with the decision, he will live with them himself.

Young but Impressive

I am a political idiot - I don't even know who the important ministers are or even exactly what ministries are governmental or privatised. I have problems with the term 'stat-board'. My sister is from one and she tried explaining it to me in vain. The short cut for me is to remember it being a governmentally-linked board, although my sister claims that they don't get as much bonus payout as civil servants. I don't comment on government policies or matters related to the government simply because I am politically ignorant and like most Singaporeans, I accept what is given to me since questioning them is futile.

But I chanced upon this video on Nicole Seah, the youngest candidate for the opposition party. And I am impressed with the way she speaks and combats the incessant questions from the reporters.

She shows that she is very well-prepared to face public bombardments, has high EQ, and is highly aware of what she wants to do. She says she is not an elite, but she sure sounds like one without the bad side of elitism.

Let's hope she's as genuine as she sounds.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

I want to go

I am very pissed off (first time I use this phrase I believe, which explains the 'pissed-offness') with my racial discriminating workplace.

I was having a meeting with the level representative of English when I realised that she was doing what I was doing last year, minus probably 3/4 of what I was doing, and still getting help from a relief teacher. I am very angry because they would not have let me off by letting me do so little work.

What cheesed me off is that this rep is a senior colleague who receives extra allowance and high pay for her years of experience in this job.

The things she need not do:

1) Prepare lesson plans, the accompanying powerpoint slides and resources for at least 2 lessons every week.
2) Prepare supplementary lesson plans and, the accompanying powerpoint slides and resources
3) Prepare answer keys for every practice paper and revision paper given out to the teachers
4) Collate pertinent components from other school papers to roll out as focused practices and prepare their answer keys

She only needs to do:
1) Prepare a general overview plan of what teachers have to cover for the term (which I did way before terms started)
2) Select appropriate worksheets so that teachers don't have too much to do (which I did anyway)
3) Send worksheets and papers for printing (which I do all the time) which she delegates to a relief teacher

So technically, she only needed to do 2 things out of the many things I did, just because she is a good friend and of the same race as the Head.

And that bitch tried so hard to give me a D when I had worked my ass off doing more than 2 persons' jobs.

The only word that came to my mind was the F word - you cannot imagine how injustified I felt for those few hours when I first realised it. I know people politics in inevitable in every line and every place, but being treated badly and character-assassinated for the sake of giving you a D for all the work you have done just because you are a minority in that place suck like nothing else.

It's 4.30am.

I woke up because I slept early - before 9pm. I was tired from the 10-hour day in school. I felt like crying but there was no tears.

What happened in that 10 hours of my life:

7.10am - 7.30am: Reached school, finished up a very important online survey required by the Second Boss, morning assembly

7.30am - 8am: Checked email, emailed colleagues on how to conduct a training session for their charges, marked Spelling worksheets, got ready for English lesson

8am - 9am: English lessons

9am - 11am: Went to 2 classes to collect a consent form given out for a training session. Got down to do lesson plan, found online powerpoint slides, created worksheet and pre- and post-test worksheet, found many pictures on Fungi and Bacteria and adjusted their sizes on Word document for Monday's remedial class.

Had a luxurious 20-minute lunch.

11am - 12pm: Observed and gave written feedback about a trainee's lesson

12pm - 12.30pm: Started to print the pictures for Monday's remedial lesson and stood at the imbecile printer to press the stupid 'print' button and helped the machine to push in the papers one by one in an attempt to print 32 pieces of picture-filled papers. Halfway through the idiotic printing, ran down to office to get laminating pouches for the pictures. Started to laminate pictures as the printing continued.

12.30pm - 1pm: Lesson time

1pm - 1.50pm: Collected student-made toys from students and checked the accompanying forms submitted for a competition. Helped fill in the teacher-in-charge's name and email address and school number. Helped the children to think of the working principles behind these toys to make them valid for the competition. Helped a child to pen down the process of making the toy. Put the toys in a room allocated for the toys.

1.50pm - 2.30pm: English meeting where I found out all about the shit

2.30pm - 5.10pm: Vetted English papers (to be continued on Monday 4pm)

5.10pm - 5.35pm: Continued to print and laminate the pictures.

5.35pm: Bring the laminated pictures home to cut.

See? Practically no rest time. It's one rush after next. True, we don't do the same thing every day, but we have other things to do that take up the same kind of time on a typical day.

Oh, this sort of crazy agenda is only for the ordinary small fry, not the senior ones or the Heads.

If I can see myself holding out till the end of the year, I'll probably ask for a transfer.

Just read on the private forum for teachers that someone is looking for a good place to mark books on afternoons.

I am so very tempted to pm the person where he or she works at, because going off in the afternoon is so rare now ...

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The me within

After the last post, I went into the bedroom, trying very hard to sleep.

I covered my head with the blanket, closed my eyes hard, and tried to fall asleep.

Sleep is a strange thing. The harder you try at it, the more you can't get it.

I woke up to play Bejeweled, but found myself thinking of Coco's plight, and how it came to all these. I reflected on the hurts within me, the insecurities I feel about this marriage and how it is affecting the way I live, the way I educate Coco, the way I talk to William.

I am doing the part-time job because I feel insecure about losing my full-time. Unlike my friends who stay at home to look after their only child, I don't have a husband who brings home enough bread to support Coco and me.

I don't have anyone to co-save with me. I have only myself to depend on for old age. So I save hard, and to save hard, I need to earn enough for savings as well as for spending.

I am treating Coco so harshly because I have this great fear of having my effort wasted. I know I should not have told Coco this, but I was so disheartened I told her that I have staked my doomed future happiness on this marriage. I don't want to see my years invested in this unhappy marriage wasted. The least that she could do was to get into a good secondary school because a large part of why I married William had to do with her primary school education, which was a headstart for her.

My elder sister recorded and played my talk while I was on the phone with William, so all the audience could hear was what I said to William. My nephew guessed that I was talking to William. He said that I only talked that way when I talked to him. It sounded horrible. I kept scolding him "Crazy! You are crazy!" and my tone was foreign to even myself. Do I really talk like that? Like a shrew? Yikes!

But I guess I really speak like a boorish shrew when I talk to William. I have no respect for him, the man I gave my word to honour at the altar.

I was chatting with a chatfriend earlier on. William read that he was looking for an accommodation in Singapore. He blurted out his grouses when I remarked that most girls who enjoy a happy marriage seem to have a similar pattern - they are plain-looking but their husbands are much better-looking. He said,"Because such men will look for plain-looking wives, knowing that the not-so-plain ones will look for other men outside marriages, and it makes life easier for themselves!" He proposed that we divorce the moment my chatfriend comes to Singapore.

I kept quiet. Not because I was speechless. Not because I felt guilty. I just don't want to fight, at that moment.

I only feel that it's a fair exchange - if I work so hard for my keeps, I should also have the right to pursue my own happiness. And if I can't find that happiness within my own marriage, why should I bury myself in a marriage doomed for a divorce, when the husband is a gambler? You like to gamble, I won't check on you. Go ahead. But you have no right to stop me from finding another man to love, because you have given up your right to when you decided not to work at building a marriage with me.

A marriage is hard work. But he doesn't seem to know that. Since our ideals are different, I'll just do my thing and you'll do yours. I won't interfere with yours, so you don't intervene with mine either.

Tears flow. Not because I feel heartached for this long-gone marriage. I am reminiscing about the woman who so wanted to have a simple and happy marriage, and have a complete family for her child.

He said that I wanted something extraordinary, that's why I am pursuing another relationship. How ironical is that! I just want to have a simple and happy relationship. I just want to remain sane. I don't know how others remain sane in a loveless and respect-less marriage.

I asked myself if I still love him. And I know that I can no longer love him. The love I had for him were wasted away. Love and respect for a man go together. Without respect, how can I love him? And he has eroded that respect I had for him before marriage.

He is angry that I am spending his money on expensive meals. How else can I feel like a married woman if not for the digging out of his money for something?

I think about what would happen if we divorce. Actually, it would be for the better - for the kids, and us. I wouldn't feel so frustrated within. I wouldn't feel so terribly insecure and uncertain - isn't that what a marriage should be - to provide a sense of security and eliminate uncertainties? I wouldn't feel so shortchanged as a legally bound woman. I wouldn't feel so cheated after marriage, and continue to be cheated in the marriage. I wouldn't treat Coco so harshly. I would treat her more humanely because I would have been free from this set of shackles.

Is that why my favourite authoress refuses to get married? Because she knows that most marriages go down the ugly route?

Mother Forgets

I can't sleep.

I walked into Coco's room. Saw her Nokia handphone on her table. I picked it up and pressed on 'Sent Items'.

A message sent to one of her best friends read 'Can chat? Thinking of commit suicide'.

The friend didn't reply. The call history didn't show a chat either.

It was Sunday. The day I screamed at her and rained a cane on her.

She spent an hour on a Chinese composition and didn't finish it. She was doing another Chinese assignment.

I jumped and screamed at her like a mad woman, and beat her all over.

She finished it after another thirty minutes, but she took another 2 hours to edit and copy it out. Close to 4 hours spent on a Chinese compo.

I told her she would not have been able to finish writing a compo under exam condition.

I have been harsh on her.

The part-time job wears me out. And having two jobs that keep me teaching makes teaching or coaching my own kid the last thing I want to do when I reach home.

And I don't have time with her. The fact that she wastes time on Saturdays irks me immensely. I get very irritable at the slightest mistake she makes.

I have two more weeks to go before I am free from the part-time job. I worry that the damages done within the weeks I was away from Coco are irrepairable.

The part-time job was meant to be a gateway for me to make an exit from my full-time.

But before I could hold out till I quit my full-time, its cons have outweighed every little benefit it could possibly give me.

I'm so sorry, Coco.

You're the best gift ever in my life, but I have not given you the best.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

I Quit

I have tendered my resignation at the tuition centre.

It has proven to take a toll on quite a few things:

1) Coco is slacking in her studies.
She does not do a thing for 8 hours on Saturday. If she ever does, it is practising her piano for 10 to 15 minutes and do half a topic of Maths from an assessment book.

2) I am very tired.
I have a full-time job, a part-time job, and am a mother to two kids. I feel torn apart and me-not-enough. I am close to dead every Saturday. I keep visualising that I would plonk into a bed if one were to appear right in front of me, no matter where I am.

Last week, I had so many things on my mind I didn't realise I'd missed my train stop. And I almost alighted at the wrong stop - I stood up getting ready to alight, then I asked myself if that was really the stop I ought to drop at and it wasn't. Just yesterday, I almost missed another stop because I was thinking of Coco and job stuff again, plus fatigue.

3) I don't have time for just about anything else
I don't take pictures anymore. I don't read to my kids anymore. I struggle to find time to do my things for my full-time job. I don't go for Saturday breakfasts anymore.

I was hoping to quit as soon as possible, but the centre insisted that I give a month's notice, so I am left with 2 more weeks to hold out.

'Hold out' - I feel like I am 'holding out' for the major things in my life - I am holding this marriage out. I am holding my full-time job out. I don't know how long I can hold out for.

I thought I was the only one 'holding out' at this job, until I read a blog of someone in the same line. She replied her friend that she had changed the environment but did not know how long she can hold out for.

Yeah, I wonder how pathetic it has become. Everyone's simply holding out. Every day, people who sit around me say,"Very tired." It's every single day that you feel 'tired'. Isn't that amazing? Yet it's true. I attended the business sharing, and the guy said 'Go beyond what's expected of you'. You know, teachers do love to go beyond what's expected of them - in the teaching arena, not the administrative or programme-running or logistics arena.

I still remember how my colleagues and I would stay till 8pm or 9pm in school, till the school cleaner had to chase us out, and being chided by a PE Head about how 'inconsiderate' we were (for delaying the home-going time of the cleaner), just to do stuff related to teaching - mark books, decorate classrooms, creating teaching resources.

But we are not willing to spend that same amount of time doing things that take us away from teaching, and of course, marking. And we are seen as 'not willing to go beyond our teaching duties'.

'Why has teaching become such a long-hour job?' a part-time colleague asked me, rhetorically. She was glad that she was not a permanent teacher now.

I can't sleep sometimes because of the amount of work I have to complete before a certain deadline. I worry that I do not have time to meet the different demands of the different programmes and Heads within the same curriculum time.

Just last Monday, I was supposed to have 4 free intermitten periods for me to do my administrative work:

For remedial class
print remedial worksheets, print teacher's copies for a colleague and myself, laminate and cut out teaching resources

For Science Head
give out consent forms to students from five different classes and explain to them separately on what they were in for and what to do

For my Head
type out a weekly lesson plan

However, I often have to take on at least 1 relief period on Monday, and the assembly period always ate into my free period. I felt stressed that I might be left with just 2 free periods to do my stuff and I could not sleep.

Fortunately, by some divine intervention it seemed, I did not get a relief period to do, the assembly period ended almost just on time (the first time this year!), I managed to do my weekly lesson plan within 20 to 30 minutes (been a long time since I could do that!), and I had a trainee to cover a one-period lesson for me. And I realised that those 5 free periods was just nice to cover my administrative work.

I shudder to think what could happen if I did not have a trainee to free me of that one precious period.

I wake up early on weekends because I am very troubled by work - the first thing on my mind when I wake up is: I better get those worksheets designed and the lesson plan out, on top of the powerpoint slides and resources. I don't have time to do them on Monday and I need them on Tuesday.

I am not sure if others who have jobs of an equivalent pay go through the same grinding process.

A colleague whose kid goes to one of the better secondary girls' schools shared that the teachers don't teach. They flash the questions on the screen and asked the girls to do them. After that, they flash the answers on the screen and ask them to mark their work themselves.

For CCA, the teachers appear at the beginning of the session to take their attendance, and they disappear for the next 2 hours because they have senior students to take over the CCA. They only reappear at 5pm to dismiss the students.

... ...

I can only blame myself for not studying hard when I was in school.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Troubled. Sleepless

I am troubled by a few things and tried as I might, I could not get to sleep:

1) preparation of a lesson plan for a lesson observation

2) the lack of time for both my kids

3) Coco's coming exam and her piano exam

4) Coco's wrong method of playing the piano and her refusal to change

5) my stroke-stricken English Boss

6) how I can ever get out of the vicious cycle of not having enough time with my kids

I keep telling myself I ought to be grateful that I have a job and have a stable income, but yet, I am not exactly happy.

It's 3.30am.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

So cute

My mother told me about this cute incident a few days ago when she took Baby to my sister's place after a 20-minute walk.

Upon reaching my sister's place, my mother felt really hot after the walk under the sun.

She was about to take a bath when she saw, to her horror, that Baby took off her own blouse and shorts.

She asked Baby, totally surprised,"Baby! Why do you take off your clothes?!!"

Baby replied,"Popo (Grandma), I am hot (我很烧)!"

My mother could not stop laughing.

A Fruitful Experience Sharing Session

I went for a free business sharing by this apparently popular guy, Hart, on Clubsnap forum. I wouldn't really call it a 'business sharing' though. It was more of sharing about experiences in photography business.

He does offer a course in business sharing, teaching you how to set up a photography business step by step, but I am not sure if this is really what I want and have doubts about how useful a course like that is, so I jumped at the chance at this FREE sharing - to see the sensitive and new age guy in person as well as to have a glimpse of how the paid sharing might go.

It was in a fairly small one-storey shophouse.

I was about 5 minutes late and when I tried pushing in the door (because the gadget that looked like a doorbell failed), the guy just opened the door and there the audience and main sharer were, seated in a couch and chairs right at the doorstep, because that was how small the studio was.

The session started at 7pm and was slated to end at 10pm. The sharer spoke and shared so much about his own views and personal experiences that it went on to 11pm and had not ended yet! I would very much love to stay on, but on top of being a little tired (my day started at 6am and work ended at 5.45pm), I had unreceived calls by my mother, a friend and William. I didn't want them to get too worried about me not picking up the phone. So I had to be rude and interrupted the sharing so that I could go.

The characteristics of a successful photographer

It was a fruitful trip nonetheless. I am intrigued by the Indonesian-Chinese sharer. He looks and sounds similar to Sean Lau, another photographer I took up a package with. They both speak softly, even-tonedly, phlegmatically, and are good with words.

For the record, he charges at least $1000 for a photoshoot and does not sell soft copies. He has 300 clients every year. He dumped every dollar he earned in his first 10 months in Singapore into a studio, and covered the $2k monthly rental for the whole year within 1.5 months. That is $24k in 1.5 months, on top of his other family commitment. How do you like that?

How he started out

He said he didn't have anyone asking him to take pictures for. He was the only one who liked his own pictures. He shared about how he used to work as a retoucher. He had only 5 hours to learn to retouch and after that he was on his own.

He was required to come to work at 8.30am and submit the finished product at 12pm. He came to work at 4am instead to do his work because he was unfamiliar with the work at first. Then he gradually came to work at 4.30am, 5am, 5.30am, and eventually, he came to work at 8.30am and finished by 10.30am.

The bottomline of the story was: go beyond what your employer expect of you. Do more than what is required.

He came to Singapore end 2007 knowing not a single soul, and started out shooting outdoor. A year later, he acquired a rented studio, but he still shoots outdoor mostly to date.

His image

He is very insightful and sensitive with his words. Like a thoughtful female inside.

And he knew just how others look at him. There was an outing organised just for him. He went. And the crowd was surprised to see how he looked like, because everybody was expecting a tall, blonde, handsome, well-built guy, but he looked every bit a Singaporean guy - short, fat (in his own word), capable of speaking Singlish just like everybody else.

He explained that his ability to converse fluently in Singlish was due to the time spent with Singaporean friends during his overseas studies in Sydney. He spent 12 years in Australia and roots himself in Singapore since 2007 after his brother's death.

He is concerned with even his online image. He would read what he wants to post over and over again, before he actually posts. I guess that really works, because most people who attended the sharing wanted to see him for who he was, and that included me.

His fall-back plan

He shared that he did not have a fall-back plan.

He told his friends he wanted to do family and children portrait, and wanted high-end customers who pay at least $1k for his service. They told him no one had ever done that and it was impossible to survive as a children photographer.

He did it anyway, because he believed that he could do it. And he did.

He shared the drawbacks on having a fall-back plan:

1) When you feel tired and have a shoot the next day, you tell yourself you have a full-time job anyway and don't have to be so hard on yourself.

2) When a client is difficult or unreasonable, you tell yourself you have a full-time job and do not have to take this kinda nonsense.

When you don't have a fall-back plan, you have to make things work, do or die.

How he designed his package

He said he took out whatever he himself didn't like in his package:

1) number of people
2) amount of time

He said he had people asking him how much he charged for extra people and he thought it strange because it does not make a difference how many people there are. He thought about why other photographers do that, and he could only derive at the answer that it was to earn more.

Someone asked how he cut off the time with a client if he does not put a cap to the time spent with a client.

He gave an example: He tells his client,"9am would be too hot for your child. We will start at 8am."

The dense me didn't understand - some people actually don't mind the heat, you know? He elaborated that the customer himself would start asking,"Are you hot? Do you want a drink?" at 9am and beyond, and the child would start to be restless and uncomfortable. The customer would want the photography session to end anyway.

I am not sure if that really would work for me, someone who doesn't talk well.

A People Person

He is very communicative and is very good at linking ideas. He said that he is a people person, and it is easy to see why. He just has this very relaxed and no-intention look about him and his tone when he talks. I don't know how he does it.

He said that he had a friend who told him this,"Every word that comes out of your mouth is negative. Change it."

His take was: if someone bothers to tell you something for your own good, you better shut up and listen.

From then on, he changes his speech, his words and naturally, his thought, eg. instead of using the word 'problems', he uses 'challenges'.

I thought it a wake-up call for me too. I was surprised to hear that from a positive thinker and speaker. How can someone who oozes positivities be someone who spoke negative? Can this be possible?

People Photography

He and another veteran photographer shared that of all photographies, children photography is the hardest.

They cry all the time. Refused to be photographed etc.

I hear that all the time, but haven't tried it yet. Of course, the only ones I take pictures of are my kids and nephews. I cajoled Baby with a tiny teddy and threatened my nephews with 'no play' so that they let me take their pictures. Threatening sure won't work with others' kids. Haha ...

He said that teenagers are the hardest to take pictures of, especially the seventeens, because 'they want to look beautiful, but do not want to talk to you'. I thought,"Isn't that just what they are - want to look beautiful, yet aloof to others outside their world?"

I had a whale of a time listening to the rich experiences and sharing. I was just like a sponge, totally doused, and immersed in an environment I enjoyed.

A nice long sleep

I just woke up from a 12-hour sleep, with the intervention of lots of nonsense dreams no less.

The only ones I managed to recall are:

1) Zhang Hui Mei unveiled her non-existent MTV male lead to the crowd. He even had a name - 春林.

2) The MTV male lead was actually Jaclyn Tay's kept lover.

3) I lived together in a house with this kept lover, and he tried to get fresh with me. I felt so disgusted with the whole idea of Tay having a lover when she was married, and this lover was also unfaithful to her.

4) I was at a studio photography session (must be the session I just had last Sunday and the photography sharing session I just went to last Friday night). My camera had an external exposure adjustment gadget. And a guy who thought I had problems with it took it for repair when I did not ask for it. I had a hard time finding it back.

Phew! I woke up with a slight backache - a feeling you get for arching it back too much!