English Teachers Are Happy To Share

English Teachers Are Happy To Share

Random Thoughts by Pauline

No short-cut
I have often been approached for tips to master the English language. Every time, I would give an answer more like a cliché reply and people would think I am brushing them off.

Listen more! Speak more! Read more! Write more! Think in English more!

I am serious! I have been doing so ever since I was introduced this second language. Those who are not able to reach satisfactory English proficiency like to complain or rather excuse themselves saying that there is a lack of English language environment in Hong Kong.  I cannot agree with that. Hong Kong, a former British colony and branded as “Asia's world city” since 2001, abounds with English not only verbally and literally but also in the wide world of internet. An English environment is at our fingertips.

Then what has gone wrong that has thrown Hong Kong down to the category of “moderate proficiency” in a 2018 study of English proficiency in countries where the language is not the mother tongue?  Scoring 56.38, Hong Kong was ranked 30 just above South Korea with a score of 56.27. We can, of course, doubt the validity of this study but proactively speaking, we can take this as a chance for reflection.

Among others, the post-1997 cocoon mentality may be the main reason. Since or even prior to 1997 and especially after China’s rise in world status, many in Hong Kong and not only the young have been gloating that English would no longer be as important as it has been and that Chinese will soon replace English as the world lingua franca. This complacency is pure naivety. The position of English as a world language has not been built over decades but centuries. True, Chinese as a language is gaining international recognition and popularity and a day will come when it might be the one language for world communication. But we do not have to sit there and do nothing to wait for it to happen not to say, it might not happen in our life time.

It is this ignorance that has ostracized our young people into eluding the hardship of mastering English language. But no pain, no gain. There is only one straight road – surrounding ourselves with an English environment. Back then when I was at school, I would have to resort to listening to radio or spending a fortune to purchase cassette tapes.  Books would be in the library. There were English-speaking television programmes but they were quite limited and television sets themselves were luxury items. Now, the internet provides all that we want or desire. So nurture that thirst for English and you are already one step closer to mastering the language!

Random Thoughts by Pauline

My hands
Every time when I look at my hands, I think of my mother.

There was one time when we were at the jewellery shop. She was trying on a sapphire ring. As she stretched out her right hand to see if the ring looked good on her finger, she sighed and took off the ring.

"No ring will look good on my fingers. You see, they are so wrinkled."

Now I realize the heaviness of that sigh.  My hands look exactly like hers then.

People age if they are blessed with longevity. But is long life a true blessing? It is, generally speaking, if one possesses these three basic assets – fund, friends or family, fitness. Missing one, life can be very miserable. Think of these scenarios - rich and surrounded by lots of family members and friends but bed-ridden or rich and healthy but lonely fearing that everybody is after his wealth.

Even those who have the good fortune of being healthy, well-off with no financial worries, loved by spouse, children and grand-children can still be unhappy. These are the people who are reluctant to accept the fact that they are aging. No matter how healthy one is, he has to admit that he is no longer young and that his looks, his life vital signs etc. are changing. How one deals with all these determines whether he can age gracefully and happily.

Often we hear adult children nagging about their aged parents saying that they are like babies again. Sarcastic as this remark is, there is truth in it. The elderly want attention. To solicit that, some might “fake” sickness such as coughing their lungs out. They render themselves a burden. Others would stretch out their helping hand and putting their fingers in all their children’s pies. They make themselves a nuisance.

How should the elderly behave so as to be loveable? Well, be like good children – don’t speak unless asked, don’t ask if not told and above all, always be there when approached.

Random Thoughts by Pauline

The Senior Citizen Card saga

Rita treated me to a beef hodai (all-you-can-eat) in Tsimshatsui as an early celebration of Mother’s Day. This was so sweet of her!

We arrived at 7 and were told that we had two hours to enjoy the food. So we did ticking off our favourites from quite a number of colourful forms. There was broad variety ranging from salad to seafood and of course, all kinds of meat. Drinks were also included.

We had lots of fun barbecuing the meats, burning some and chewing over others. It was good value for money. Then at about 8:15, it was time of the last order. We had some sweet potatoes as desserts.
The whole evening was rather uneventful. We had our usual laughters and selfies. Customers were not that many.

We asked for the bill at about 8:45 stating that the charges would be for one adult and one senior citizen. The waiter, with the broadest smile, asked for my Senior Citizen Card. I showed it but he insisted to have it taken to the cashier. And I gave it to him obediently.

A few minutes later came another waiter with the bill and my card. He said to me that since we did not clarify our status when were seated at 7, I would not be entitled to pay the senior citizen charge which was about 60% of that of one adult. I rebutted that if that was the policy, then they would have to state it on the phone when the reservation was done or when we were seated. Our years of experience tell us that this claim is always made when the bill is asked.

The waiter explained that we were ourselves to blame, I was irritated and threatened that I would post this mal-practice online. Then he retreated pleading that he would lose his job if I were to do that. Rita, not wanting to spoil the fun of the evening, asked me to let him off. I stood firm. The waiter begged that he would pay the difference in cash to me because the company has this policy and he was to blame for not asking me when seating us down in the first place.

Why should I accept that? Redemption? Personal favour? I did not even know him!

In the end, Rita paid for two adults and I am writing here instead of posting this on popular dining websites!

Random Thoughts by Pauline

Animal care in great demand

We adopted Mimi about 15 months ago when she was already 10. She was not in the best of health - overweight for being fed with “growing” diet, dry eyes with sticky lashes, blood in urine, dry skin etc. On top of all these, she sometimes gasped with the tongue out.

As Mimi is a beloved member of the family, we have been doing our best to attend to her problems. The expenses involved are horrendous. Her special diet for dogs with urinary stones is $150 a bag of 1.5 kilo. Three small bottles of eye drops cost $922. We simply cannot understand why animal medical care is so costly.

But it is not just a matter of money, there is so much inconvenience  Last week, I took Mimi to the family vet to check on her heart problem. Recently, she pants and goes into spasm whenever she gets too excited such as when she hears strangers passing by our door.  The vet said that there are abnormal heart murmurs and advised us to see a veterinary cardiology specialist. She gave me the phone number to call.

I did the next day and was told that appointments for the week are only made on Tuesday. The lady said that I had to start making the call right after the line is open at 9 in the morning because time-slots are usually filled within an hour.

So the following Tuesday at 9 sharp, I made the call. But once the call was put through, it ended. Fortunately, I just had to touch that icon  to redial. That I did. Guess how many times in total? 183 times! My friend said that they had such experience when they were making online ticketing. But this was the very first time for me. At 9:23, I was put through and a recording told me I was number 21 in the queue. Another wait of 20 minutes! A human voice finally sounded at the other end at 9:43. In 2 minutes, the appointment was arranged. I was also told the charges, examination is $1800 and any thorough echocardiogram, electrocardiogram and thoracic radiographs etc. would start from $6000.

Of course, there is the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I am sure the charges would be cheaper. I would definitely look into that!

We need more animal care providers. Hurray to City University of Hong Kong for establishing the College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences.

Random Thoughts by Pauline

January 2018
I am a woman

I am a woman. In the eyes of the world, my function as a woman has been fulfilled – I reproduced. But I do not always look at myself as a woman, the female of human. In other words, I do not always show or exercise my femininity as some women are so skilled in executing. When I work with my colleagues or socialize with friends, my behaviour is never decided by the gender of the person I am with but rather a number of other factors such as the occasion, the degree of familiarity etc. In fact, I have been posed with embarrassing comments like “Oh, you’re too tough for men to get along with!”  The harshest would be “You are strong! You can survive the trauma!”

Women should always uphold themselves with pride and dignity. But the problem is we care too much about how others look at us rendering us live a life in others’ shadows. This eagerness to please or to reach up to people’s standards brings in compliments at times but more often disappointment, self-degradation and even self-destruction.

Women and maybe men can go to extremes to meet the expectation of their men or the circle they are in – plastic surgery to enhance their looks, child-bearing even in their 40s to satisfy their men’s hope of a descendant etc. But surgeries can fail, a child cannot hold a cheating heart. Children born of such relationship are most unfortunate. Horrific child abuse cases are not uncommon.

Women do not need men to live a fulfilling life. We do not need to wait for orders. But most important of all, we should not whine and moan and yet stay there in a victim mentality. We always have choices. We get stuck in a situation only because we allow it.

May all women love themselves and be their own masters! Happy Women’s Day!

Random Thoughts by Pauline

January 2018
 Last Christmas

I had never imagined that I would be left home alone for Christmas! Oh, yes, there was Mimi, the 11-year old Pekingese I adopted a year ago.

I was discharged on December 22, winter solstice, just in time for the traditional festive dinner with family. The doctor instructed me to wear that hard gear for a month so that the fracture in the knee joint could recuperate. But Hong Kong Women Teachers’ Organization had planned an exchange tour of 40 teachers to Chengdu from December 23 to 26 with me as the group leader. I could but forfeit the paid tickets. The Vice-chairperson and the Consultant had to take up the leaders’ role. 

To make my fate even worse, I had earlier allowed my helper to take extra days off since her mother was in town. That would mean from December 23 to 26, the situation was me, an old woman and Mimi, an old dog sitting in front of the television watching whatever programmes we were fed with. I began to contemplate how I was to spend the Christmas night.

At about 6pm on 24th, came Teresa, my youngest sister with her basket full of goodies – salmon sushi, pizza, pasta and even the Christmas cake from my favourite cake shop. That was a very pleasant surprise because she has a phobia of dogs and Mimi has a phobia of strangers. I could not imagine the two of them spending a quiet silent night together in the same room. But that evening, except for the initial few barks, Mimi settled down very quickly. Teresa could sit comfortably without fidgeting or worrying that Mimi would bark.  

Miracles do happen. After all it was Christmas! 

Random Thoughts by Pauline

January 2018
The treatment
Mandy and Ken kept me company until I was admitted. Their drowsy eyes told me they were very tired. They even brought my helper from home to get me a change of clothes. I felt so indebted.

My knee was x-rayed right after. Luckily, no bones were broken or dislocated but the kneecap was very swollen. I had to wait till morning to be examined by the orthopedist. At about 11, I was wheeled to the room of Dr. Chang, the Resident Consultant in Orthopaedics and Traumatology. He suggested magnetic resonance imaging of the injury to evaluate the situation of the ligaments and cartilage within the knee joint.

That took place after another hour. Later in the afternoon, Dr. Chang showed me the images taken earlier. Fortunately, there was only a slight bone fracture but the joint was surrounded by fluid causing the swelling and the pain. He suggested arthrocentesis or using a syringe to draw out the fluid so as to reduce the swelling and therefore, the pain. However, l had to endure twinges during the process. Arthrocentesis was a treatment I had never heard of but I did not think I had a choice. So I agreed.

With the needle inserted and the doctor’s hands pressing hard on the swelling, three syringes of dark red blood were drawn. To distract me from the pain, Dr. Chang joked with me saying that the process was like milking a cow. And I replied saying that too bad, the blood was not good enough for donation. Here was one good doctor with a heart!

I was discharged the next day, 22nd of December, winter solstice, carrying a heavy knee brace to actually immobilize the right knee joint for it to heal itself! But home is on the third floor of a building with no lift!