I do everything fast. I do not
procrastinate. I hate my desk cluttered. Documents are cleared every day before
clocking out. Deadlines are met promptly. Matters affecting others are dealt
with first and foremost. Trivialities are handled right away as they are easily
forgotten. My limbs are still dexterous. I can make all the basic yoga poses. Wearing
the right shoes, I walk fast. I get out of bed when I wake up. I don’t lie in. I
am proud that at my age, I am still agile and very much alive.
But last weekend, my back pain
humbled me. Since two days ago, it has tailed off to an intensity I can bear.
Now when I am writing about my
anguish, I realize that it’s very tough to translate my personal experience
into language others can understand. I will try.
It started on Friday night. As
usual on all Friday evenings of a work week, I was exhausted. I went to bed
early. But when I sat on the bed ready to lie down, pain gripped me at the end
of my spine, more severe to the right and a little less so to the left. It was
like someone was drilling me round my waist with an ice-pick! I had already let
my back land on the bed inch by inch hoping to lessen the agony. But even such
gentle moves brought excruciating pangs. I screamed! My hard of hearing mom
dashed into my room. Upon knowing my situation, she took out two pain relief
patches and pressed them on my back comforting me with words like “they work
I went through the night taking the
soldier or rather the corpse posture because the slightest movement would bring
another round of twinges. Yet it is the foetus posture that sends me to sleep
quickly. So you can image what a night it was for me – getting glimpses of
sleep in between tortuous ordeals!
Unfortunately I had a heavy
schedule for the weekend. I attended the events surprising all my friends with
a “slow version” of me – walking with small steps, standing up and sitting down
with both hands on the table. In other words, I had to slowly manipulate each
segment of my spine whenever I changed postures.
I have survived the pain test on
the daily change of the patches administered by my mom!
The Macmillan Dictionary defines
a ruler as “an object used for measuring or for drawing straight lines,
consisting of a long flat piece of plastic, wood, or metal marked with units of
measurement”. These units of measurement are standardized meaning that 1
centimetre is of the same length across the world. The same dictionary explains that
the rule of law is “a situation in which everyone in a country is expected to
obey the laws”. Hong Kong has been my home since
my parents brought me here from mainland in 1949 when I was barely 2. In this
liberal though many denounced as undemocratic society of Hong Kong, equality
and rule of law are our core principles. We believe we apply the same rules and
standards when we judge.
But in recent years, these
treasured values are put to test. I falter in my convictions as I find that 1
centimetre no longer a constant length or distance. It is stretched for some
groups and shortened for others. And yet, such inequality is accepted as necessary
for proclaimed bigger causes. I am confused. I am not happy.
Rude and disruptive behaviour are
branded as righteous. Legislators throw objects at government officials during
meetings. Schools and private buildings are stormed. People speaking on behalf
of the police or the government are spat on. Use of fake identity cards is to
be pardoned. Differences are not tolerated. Nobody has the patience to listen.
Yelling and cursing are the trends.
It is a showdown. The demarcation
is clear. You are either with me or against me.
children grade their teachers “like” or “dislike” according to whether
the lessons delivered are boring or interesting. Pupils enjoy participating in
activities but their enthusiasm easily evaporates once they know what to
expect. So conscientious teachers have to keep updating the strategies adopted
to sustain students’
interest and motivation. What worked last year with a particular class cannot be “copied” and
“pasted” for even the same class this
year not to say a different class.
said than done! No matter how hard teachers try, they cannot reach that level
of sophistication comparable to the audio and visual impact offered by online
games which students are so used to enjoying. And the crux of the issue is that sometimes
the means becomes the end. And the lesson objectives are not achieved.
Or teaches can become so engrossed in designing activities that the lesson
content is thinned.
Last week, I observed how a Primary 1 English teacher successfully incorporated meaningful and
interesting activities to guide the students in learning the targetted
language. Thiswas one rich and vibrant
lesson. A total of 25
fully engaged using English all the way when interacting with the teacher and classmates alike. Information
technology was utilized for the starter. The teacher designed a simple animation with herself as the
news announcer. It worked! The students got aroused. Transition
between activities was also smooth.
For consolidation, there was the worksheet. How did the teacher help the students check
their answers? Instead of the usual practice of asking the students to stand up
and give the answers, the teacher had designed a routine termed as “Decision
Alley”. All students stood up and got
into two rows facing one another. When one student gave the answer, the others
would say “Yes, you are right!” When the answer was wrong, the others would
give the answer. In this way, the whole
class got spirited and involved.
secret of success is simple. Be reflective and think out of the box.
What makes a perfect match? Compatibility in age, zodiac signs, family
background, credentials, richness, views and habits? In Chinese saying, there is “doors must be
compatible with the wooden doors for the wooden doors and the bamboo doors for
the bamboo doors”. In dynastic China, there were strict rules regarding the
style and structure of houses based on the office held by the owner of the
house. These covered the height and design of the doors, the eaves and all
decorative structures. The dragon design symbolizing the emperor was for
palaces only. In these days, there is a more accepted view that couples should be
complementary of one another. If one is concave, then the other should be
convex! If one is kind of short temper, the other should have a cool
temperament to manage adversity and for harmony to be maintained. If one likes
to cook, then the other should love food! But falling in love, in most cases, is more a “heart” rather than a
“head” matter! We don’t follow a compatibility checklist to evaluate our
partner. Neither are we calculate how far we can complement one another. Of
course, I know falling in love in one stage while putting down the signature on
the wedding certificate is another. Modern people commit themselves to
marriages for a variety of reasons, some being despicably monetary! Even at my senior age now, I still hold fast onto the fairy tale
version of destiny bringing a man and a woman together though we have all read
about how a woman painstakingly choreographed for her to “bump into” a
multi-billionaire etc. Why look for perfection? The pursuit of perfection is so exhausting!
Life is too short. Once again, I want to bring in my life motto: chose what you love
and love what you have chosen! If destiny puts you two together, then embrace
it! Perfect or not, till death do you part!
Do you have time to answer these five questions? Rate how you felt from 0 to 10 with 10 being
the most satisfying. These are the very 5 questions used in an international
study to identify the people of which countries are the happiest or not happy
Were you well
Were you treated
with respect yesterday?
Did you smile
or laugh yesterday?
Did you do
something interesting yesterday?
Did you have
any feelings of enjoyment yesterday?
Let me see! My five answers are: 4,
6, 3, 0, 0! Oh, dear! I am one very unhappy person! It’s time to reflect on my
life and how it is impacting on my mood.
It is true that when I don’t
sleep enough and have to handle a long day, I am agitated and exhausted longing
to go home and lie down. When my views are not taken or worst simply swept
aside, I am disappointed and frustrated. If the day is like that, certainly
there is no reason to smile!
Of course, I can still do
something to salvage myself from the dark valley – do something silly or maybe
interesting. That was what I did on Monday in the middle of the afternoon after
a meaningless meeting. I walked up to an ice-cream store nearby and bought a
sundae with marshmallows! I devoured it with a very guilty conscience and
halfway through it, I decided to stop! My palate was not satisfied neither was
my morale boosted! I did not feel any sense of enjoyment!
That is life! There are mood
swings and we have to be our own savior all the time. Do what we can and then
extract ourselves from the dead ends. Move on. The next moment is an unknown to
"That's the phoenix wood (鳳凰木). Say
it after me, phoenix wood. Good! You can recognize this tree by remembering the
red top with the small flowers and the tiny green leaves.” Pointing to a Flame
of the Forest growing by the roadside, the mother in her late twenties was eagerly
explaining to her young daughter who looked like still in kindergarten. All the way along Ede Road, that is the
route of the mini-bus I was aboard with this mother and daughter pair, there
are several Flame of the Forest. I just
love this tree. When in full bloom, the broadly-spreading scarlet, lacy foliage
creates a gorgeous almost regal crown. And yet, when all the leaves are shed,
it can remain a bare trunk for months. The mother and daughter attracted my
attention because this mother was taking her role most seriously. She made full
use of each opportunity to teach her daughter about general knowledge,
etiquette, road safety and more. The moment they walked up to join the queue behind
me for the mini-bus, the mother ordered the little girl to say “good morning”
to everyone! I was pleasantly surprised. “Here is one good mother.” But I was
making my judgement too early! That part about the Flame of the Forest
was repeated four times because there are three growing by the roadside and one
stretching out from a private estate. Then there was another incident of a man
dashing out from the pavement to cross the street when the light for pedestrian
crossing was flickering. Time for road safety lesson. “You should never cross the road like
that! You know what will happen to him? Yes, hit by the car if not this time,
then will be the next time. ” A few minutes later, the bus passed by a
street cleaner. The mother pointed to the man and said to the girl, “If you
don’t study well, you will be the one cleaning the street 15 years later. Do
you want to do that? No? Then you have to get 100 in all your dictations.
Undertstand?” All along, the girl uttered responses not
very audible to me but definitely loud enough to her conscientious mother. By
the time we parted at the bus-stop, the girl had all my sympathy! It was
exhausting listening to this mother during a 10-miute bus ride! Well, the girl
has to listen to her for no less than 12 hours a day!
At the school office, there is a
big carton labelled “Lost & Found”. Each time, I pass by this box, I would
smile to myself. “How positive is this – lost and found!” How often does this
happen in life – you lose an item and then recover it? Of course, I know that is not the
meaning of “Lost and Found” as labelled. The carton is for storing items left
unattended and picked up around the campus. Owners with things lost could come
and check if they are so fortunate as to be able to reclaim their belonging. Last week, I lost a diamond ring
I bought for myself years ago when I needed “shopping spree” as therapy for my
depression. The strange thing was I didn’t feel devastated! It did cost tens of
thousands when I bought it! I might have taken it off when I put on hand-cream
and then forgot about it. Will I buy another one as
replacement? No, I certainly won’t! In these two years, I have been quite
successful in tuning my mood in face of material losses like the ring in this
case or the illegal parking ticket weeks ago or mental frustrations such as
being accused of things I have never said or being taken for granted etc.
Lost items do not have to be
found. I have far too many earthly possessions to enjoy! Lost hopes do not have
to be lamented. I can always knit new ones! My mood should be at my own
disposal and not in the hands of others. When others treat me well, I feel
blessed and am grateful. That is life’s bonus! When people do not appreciate my
kind words or good intentions, I step back without feeling upset. I don’t fight
back! I don’t try to convince! I am at peace. I’ve done my part. The diamond ring can be on
somebody’s finger or lying in a hidden nook in my wardrobe waiting to be
discovered! I don’t care!
How would you remember a number
like 8729? That is my car plate number. When I bought it in 2009, I had
difficulty remembering it. Well, I must admit I am not good with numbers except
for the years and dates in history. Do you know how long the Qing dynasty was?
This last imperial dynasty of China ruled from 1644 to 1912 or 1911 as some
historians put it. How do I remember 1644? 16 together sounds like “all the way”
and of course “4” sounds the same as “death” in Cantonese. So 1644 is “all the
way to death!
It was my mother who ingeniously
thought of a way to remember 8729! Multiply
the first and last digits, you get 72! Six years ago, she was already 82! I
wish I could be this clear-headed when I am her age! Readers of Babbling could all rightly assume that
my mother is my idol and dearest friend.
Despite her advanced age, she
wants to live! She is the patient all doctors would love to have as she follows
doctor’s advice to the letter. She is most punctual in taking her medication.
Walking cheerfully towards the dining table, she says in English to the helper “eat
medicine now”. As she has been diabetic for close to three decades, she knows
well what she should not eat. But all ladies in our family have a sweet tooth
and so every now and then she would be tempted by the dessert we are enjoying,
whether it is the crème brûlée, mousse or sweet dumpling. She would ask eagerly
if it is sweet expecting us to give her the answer she prays for. Then she can
have a bite!After her recent check-up at the
Queen Elizabeth Hospital, my mother was warned that the potassium content in
her blood is too high. She painstakingly memorizes all the food with high
potassium content and diligently instructs the helper not to have these items
on the table.
Seeing how the elderly try so
hard to live on, I can but sigh as I watch the young staying up late to play
games, stuffing their mouths with charcoal-like chicken wings or puffing away
My mother was rushed to
hospital at around 3 in the middle of the night two weeks ago. She was
feeling dizzy and vomitting. We all
but she did not. She even instructed us what to do and what to
bring. She was only very anxious
to know what was causing her situation. She is 87 and has been
diabetic for close to 30 years.
The emergency ward was quite
crowded with most of the patients being the elderly. They
were like my mom in stretchers lined up next to one another waiting to be
drunkards restrained to the stretchers and
accompanied by policemen were mumbling and screaming in extraterrestrial language. All staff was hectically
engaged attending to the
patients and rushing from room to room.
were only a couple of seats with the signage “For patients only”. So we dared
not sit and actually stood all those hours while my mother was wheeled from
room to room to undergo various tests. At about noon, we were told the verdict.
My mother had to be hospitalized to monitor the effect of the injections she
emergency ward is definitely the one place I would not want to be in. In fact,
in 1966 I was successful in my application to be a student nurse. But I did not
take the offer after careful consideration of two facts. Number One - I could
not stand the sight of blood! And I did not know how to say words of
consolation. Whenever I visit friends or relatives in distress, I have to keep
back my tears!And
after this visit to the emergency ward, I can add one more reason – the
situation is so stressful that I am bound to make mistakes! And yet every
minute has to be error-free as life is at stake.