English Teachers Are Happy To Share

English Teachers Are Happy To Share

Random Thoughts by Pauline

May 17 2014, Saturday
Auf Wiedersehen!

I’ve been visiting Delicateseen Corner since the 1980s at first only rarely then more often and now regularly, my Sunday sanctuary and where I treat my friends. May 25 is the last day of its operation!

Styled after the wood panelled taverns in Europe, Delicatessen Corner provides a warm and rustic atmosphere. The quality of the German and Austrian dishes featured is always reliable. The service is excellent and I know the waiters and waitresses by their first names. They know the dishes well and remind you not to order too much because the portions served are really generous. When I dine with my mom there, we usually order our favourite mushroom soups followed by the fish and the sausages or the knuckles. Each time we cannot finish the two main courses and have to take away the leftovers which become my packed lunch the next day! But my full stomach always has room for the German cheese cake complimented by double espresso.

I love the food, the service and the ambience of Delicatessen Corner. After May 25, where am I to go at 2pm on Sunday after my indulgence routine? I am missing it already. I have made reservations for both lunch and dinner on that last evening. I will surely take photos with those courteous young men and women who have served me so well for so long. I wish them all the best in their career.

You know what has this restaurant succumbed to? A monthly rent of $1.3 million! A chain store selling second-hand handbags is to be opened!


Random Thoughts by Pauline

May 16 2014, Friday  

       In combat     
Over dinner, my son posed me questions that I found hard to reply.

“What kind of character traits do high-achievers possess? What kind of parents do they have?”

That was hard. Trained as a historian, I believe it is dangerous and even criminal to generalize! Not parents! Not children. Every child is unique. Even when we try to draw some patterns and commonalities, there are bound to be exceptions. 

It is obvious why my son is asking for such information – he wants Hayley, the daughter to be successful in life and he and his wife successful parents.

I bet such questions have never come across the mind of my mom and dad, parents of eight children. Parenting these days has become quite a huge “curriculum” with experts of all kinds having a say in it. Parents themselves are not lazy either. Those with children born in the same year pro-actively pool their experience for the betterment of their children by creating chat groups and Facebook accounts to share almost everything. They also hold various parent-child activities to meet and have fun. While they are cementing unity and support, they are also unknowingly brewing trouble.

When one child starts babbling, parents of other children who haven’t begun doing so panic. When the travel photos of a family are posted to the Facebook, other families begin to plan a similar trip. As children grow up, parents begin comparing the schools their children go to and then their performance in academic and extra-curricular activities. The peer pressure is so oppressive that there is no time and space to keep a sane mind but to keep catching up with the norm. These parents set high targets for themselves and their children. Family life can become stifling and children overwhelmed. As the family wrestles with meeting high expectations, anxiety, anger and even depression will be built up. I know times are different and that Hong Kong is a highly competitive society but life cannot be all about meeting targets especially not for children.

I did try to generalize a few common traits for my son’s reference putting much emphasis on “exceptions”. But still my heart was not at ease.

Random Thoughts by Pauline

May 14 2014, Wednesday           
The Help

It was an unusual Friday evening – I was alone at home accompanied by Bean Bean, my dog. By chance, I saw a movie on television, The Help, a film adaptation of a 2009 novel of the same name by American author Kathryn Stockett. At the 84th Academy Awards in 2012, Octavia Spencer won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Minny Jackson in this film.

The story is about African-American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi, during the early 1960s. Though long ago in 1863, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, had already declared the emancipation of slavery and proclaimed that everybody including the black was free and equal, racial equality did not really exist.
The Help is about three women: Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. Aibileen Clark is a 50-year-old black maid spending her life raising white children. Her best friend Minny Jackson, an outspoken black maid who has worked for Mrs. Walters for so long that they are very comfortable with each other. Skeeter Phelan is an liberal young white woman returning to the family home after graduating from the University of Mississippi. She wants to pursue a writing career. She gets a job with the local paper as a "homemaker hints" columnist. Increasingly, Skeeter becomes uncomfortable with the attitude of the whites towards their "help" such as believing that "black people carry different diseases to white people".

Skeeter has the idea of writing about the relationships between whites and their black help. The maids are very reluctant to cooperate, afraid of retribution from their employers, but Aibileen agrees. Eventually Minny cooperates. The other maids approached are not interested. Skeeter submits the draft book to a New York City editor and the book goes to print. It is a big success.

The film is witty, heart-warming and inspiring. Here in Hong Kong, we have the Filipina helping us at home. Many of them have left their children to the care of their family while they raise our children. They are selfless saving every dollar to send back home whether it is for their parents, siblings or children. Maria, our helper since 2009, is now my mother’s best companion. They understand each other. My mother manages to speak a few words of English and Maria has already mastered quite a profuse Cantonese word bank. When Maria is away on leave, my mother counts the days she will be back. She urges Maria to see a doctor for the slightest coughs. Maria secretly tells me how my mom argues with the taxi-driver for detouring and over-charging. I have taken Maria as a member of our family. These helpers are closer to us than family members we meet once or twice in a year! They cook for us! We live under the same roof! How can we not love them?

Random Thoughts by Pauline

May 3 2014, Saturday                     
As the lift doors opened, I walked in and there were already two grown-ups and a school girl aged around 5. I assumed they were parents and the child was their daughter. What the parents were doing and how the child reacted astonished me.

The father was tidying up the girl’s uniform which was quite crumpled and combing her hair which was messy. The mother was stuffing the child with a bun murmuring that she had to be fast or else she would miss the school bus. The girl, still drowsy, didn’t react much.

I felt odd witnessing this family scene. What a terrible way to start a day for all three of them! Couldn’t the parents manage the morning routine better?

“Is this happening every morning or just this morning?” For the girl’s sake, I truly hoped that it was an extraordinarily hurried morning because the alarm was not working! 

Breakfast is important for everybody especially kids. Their growing bodies and developing brains need regular refuelling from food. When kids skip breakfast, they don't get what they need to be at their best. Besides, when breakfast becomes so sloppy, parents are transmitting the wrong message to their children – breakfast is not important.

A healthy breakfast does not have to be elaborate. Simply splash some milk over cereal with fruit such as berries or banana added. A toast with cheese and tomato slices is refreshingly tasty!

Stuffing a child with a bun and dressing her in the lift is no way to start a morning!

This is an incident that happened in the lift at around 8 in the morning.

Random Thoughts by Pauline

May 1 2014, Thursday                    
Have Mercy On Them!

One of the highlights of our Ningbo trip (April 18 – 22 2014) was a visit to the Putuo Buddhist  Mountain which is on one of islands of Zhoushan Archipelago in Ningbo. Putuo Mountain with an area of 12.93 square kilometres is one of China’s four great Buddhist Mountains. It is a Five-A tourism destination in China.

That day, we were lucky as it was only drizzling. The mountain would be closed in bad weather. The walk or rather the climb up hill was quite exhausting especially when there were crowds of people including hundreds and hundreds of pilgrims. Hands were all over my back pushing me to move faster. But when I did not have to watch my steps and could spare a moment to look around, I savoured the green mountain with its native vegetation and plunging cliffs and rare rocks inscribed with famous calligraphy. The big bronze statue of Kwan-yin or the Goddess of Mercy shrouded in clouds watching benevolently over all the worshippers did transmit a feeling of mystery and sanctity.

Putuo Mountain is a famous Kwan-yin ceremony centre with a history tracing back to Qin Dynasty. The day of our visit, April 19 was Saturday but not any of those particular days in commemoration of Buddhist events and yet the mountain was bustling with old and young, men and women. Some of these were organized pilgrims in uniforms of grey Taoist robes and geared up with padded knees and palms. They were chanting and performing the “kneel three times, kowtow once” ceremony all the way up the mountain. Among these worshippers were some elderly who could hardly get back on their feet after kneeling down. One old lady was wobbling so much that I couldn’t help offering her my hand. I didn’t know if it was proper for me to disturb her in her “trance”.

Our tour guide explained that these pilgrims were either going up the mountain to ask the Goddess for favours or they were expressing their gratitude because their wishes had been granted. It was believed that the more effort was shown, the more pleased Kwan-yin would be. These pilgrims had to pay several thousand renminbi or Chinese dollars to join.

By the time I was face to face with Kwan-yin, I dared not ask for favour fearing that I would have to be back to thank her once my wish did come true. I might be too old or too feeble to return