All’s well that ends well

My first work day started with a virtual trip to Australia. For one, at the train station I was surrounded by people pulling their trolley luggage around. Then I sat next to a couple on the train, who had just returned from a three week holiday to Australia. We exchanged travel stories and I was reminded of the wonderful things we had done on our trip in 2010.

 

Things even got better. Since I was too early, I decided to buy buns for breakfast at a supermarket close to the company. Strangely the single open cashier had a long queue of people with full shopping carts. After seeing that I had only one item, the lady standing in front of me in the queue let me overtake her. The same thing happened again and again and I was in front of the line in no time at all. Everyone has super friendly to me today.

 

I ended yesterday with terrible backaches and a nagging fear I would oversleep. After taking a bath and a pain killer, I went to bed feeling extremely tired. However my nagging fear did not leave me alone and I dreamt that I had overslept. I woke up all nervous and looked at the alarm clock. The time was 4:48 am – way too early for me to wake up. But I couldn’t fall asleep again being all revved up as I was. I took my time getting ready and before I knew it, it was time to leave the apartment and I had to skip my breakfast. 😦 Not a healthy way to start a working day. However given how the day proceeded, I have to admit I couldn’t have had a better first working day.

 

All’s well that ends well. Looking forward to work tomorrow. (Wow! Did I just say that?)

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The first day

Do you remember your first day in kindergarten? I do not have memories of my own of this day but my mother has told me hers. I am the eldest child and as a result my mother was apprehensive when the day came for her to leave me for the very first time in foreign care. Kindergarten in Singapore is not a playgroup but rather a pre-school. Children learn how to read and write in Kindergarten. I even attended Mandarin lessons as a second language. Unfortunately I was not allowed to continue it in primary school.

Where was I? Oh yes, kindergarten! My mother put me in my uniform, packed my school bag and walked me to the kindergarten. As we approached the building, she saw children freaking out to varying degrees. Some were hanging onto their family members refusing to enter the classroom. Others were crying their hearts out. Some even ran away and were caught and carried back to the classroom. My mom couldn’t bear the thought of seeing me crying. (Actually she admitted that she felt like crying herself.) However I surprised her by taking my school bag from her hands at the entrance and entered the classroom willingly. She still couldn’t bear leaving me alone and peeked through the window to see how I was coping. She said that when I saw that I waved at her; waved at her to go away that is. 🙂

Tomorrow I have another first day ahead of me. On the one hand, I am really excited and looking forward to starting a new job in a new company. I will pack my back tonight, pick out the clothes to wear tomorrow and check out the train schedule. Things I imagine little Irene might have done the day before she went to kindergarten for the first time too; except for checking for the train schedule. J

But there is a part of me that is feeling apprehensive, and afraid. So many ‘What Ifs’ fleet through my mind. I wonder if little Irene was afraid that day too? Did her joy to learn outweigh her fear being left alone, being with strangers or to fail? Maybe I am thinking too much about it. After all my instinct says that it was the right decision to take on this job and that it is exactly the kind of work I enjoyed.

What are your experiences on your first day at a new job?

The Quantified Self

A blast from the past.

366 Degree

Have you heard the terms “Quantified Self” or “Self-tracking” before? I have to admit that I have heard them for the first time last week. A radio talk show host was kind of against the idea of self-tracking. She saw this leading to others knowing about her personal data like when and how often she has gone to the toilet that day and what she ate for breakfast, etc. I find her stance on this topic absurd. After all self-tracking does not necessarily mean, you have to publish your personal data to the world but you can if you want to. It is like just because there is the functionality to upload photographs on Facebook you do not have to upload photos of you dancing on a table with a bottle of vodka in your hand but you can if you want to. I guess it depends on how extroverted…

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Racism has many faces

At several points in my life, I have been confronted with racism. These occurrences were not life threatening but they were hurtful nonetheless. When I started going out with Mr.M, I often heard that he was only with me to have fun on his holiday. You know white guy goes on holiday to South East Asia. He promises the innocent Asian girl that he loves her. But we all know what he is after, right? Wrong! I am glad that I trusted my instincts in this case because Mr. M turned out to be my soul-mate. But he had a hard time convincing others of his honest intentions. Once we were walking down a street and a man passing by on a scooter, shouted profanities at us. Since we were the only ones walking on the path, we assumed he was offended by the fact that we were a mixed couple. We could see his face; he was one from my race.

I live in Germany for more than eleven years now. I am often asked, if I have faced racism during that time. I can only say that wherever I have been, I have been welcomed in a friendly and accepting manner. In fact my physical difference seems to add a certain level of exoticness to my being. People often want to know where I come from and what it is like there. The Germans I have met so far are extremely open to other cultures and love travelling, which I think helps to expand one’s mental horizon. They love foreign cuisine too; evident in the number of döner, pizzeria, Chinese or Thai restaurants in most towns.

Having said that, after we moved to the village we are living in now, I heard from several sources that the area we moved to was a stronghold for neo-nazis. The first time I went to the post office, which is actually integrated into a small store run by an old lady, I was hurt by the abrupt way she treated me. She was grouchy and unfriendly. I assumed that the rumours were true and was in tears when I related my experience to Mr.M. I dreaded going there again but I had to post Christmas cards. This time she was extremely friendly to me and chatted with me for a long time. The next day when I came back to post the second batch of cards, she even told me that she had pasted Christmassy stickers on the cards. She was probably having a bad day when I first met her. However the “news” I had heard caused me to interpret her actions wrongly. Imagine how it would have been, if I had only gone there once? I would have unknowingly and falsely confirmed the racism claims.

However recently I had an upsetting conversation with a German teenager. The teenager was never interested in excelling academically. He has the minimum school education. He was complaining about the fact that he had difficulties finding an apprenticeship. He has been rejected with the explanation that he was not qualified for the position he applied for. I thought he was going to admit that it was a mistake that he did not take school seriously. Instead he said in an angry tone, “Instead of training me, a local citizen, they rather employ skilled workers from overseas. They support foreigners, who only come here for the money.” If you asked him, he would not say that his remark was racist. In fact he feels as if he is being discriminated against. Is this the beginnings of racism? How to make it clear to such people in similar situations that their anger is misdirected?

I watched a documentary on the Ku Klux Klan aka the Knights Party yesterday. The reporter followed members of this group for a certain period of time. One of the men interviewed admitted to being a Neo-Nazi as well. He said that his parents did not share his sentiments. However he has felt the hatred against Jews since he was a child. He hated Jews for being Jewish, not because he was taught at home to hate them or because he was hurt by them.

Where does racism start? Does racism sprout off stereotypes? Do clichés fertilise racist ideas? Like we all have the propensity to do evil; do we all have a racist part in us? Does ignorance and hatred cause this side of us to surface and take over our minds and guide our actions?

It cannot be said often enough, be our differences are only skin deep. Inside we are all the same. We have the same anatomy. The colour of our blood is the same. If you need a blood transfusion to save your life, only the blood type and not the race of the donor matters. The same things can hurt us physically. We go through the same cycle of birth, life and death. Ultimately we all want to live a happy life. Living itself is complicated and it is unnecessary to further complicate it with racism.

The Hate Game

Amanda closed the cubicle door. She lowered the lid and sat down. Her pulse should have been racing, given but she felt extremely calm. She took a box of Panadol out of her school rucksack. She had bought one at the pharmacy last week to add to the package she had found at home. She popped one pill out of the blister package. Her fingertip traced the groove in the middle of the pill. Would breaking them in the middle quicken the effect? She held each end between a thumb and index finger and pressed. It was harder to split the pill in the middle than she had expected. She decided to leave the remaining pills whole. She couldn’t risk dropping any of the pills; she needed every single one.

Her heart skipped a beat at the shrill ring of the school bell. She prayed that no one would enter the toilet. She had chosen the one on the third floor because most of the rooms were only used for Extra-Curricular Activities. She had one more free period before her next lesson started. How fitting that it would a Math class; since she hated it and hopefully wouldn’t have to live through it. It would have been nice, if it were music instead because singing made her happy. Amanda wiped the tears on her right sleeve.

There was no other way out.

She needed to put an end to the pain. She threw the ham and cheese sandwich, her mom had made for her lunch, in the bin in the cubicle; the lunch menu has changed. She removed the remaining pills from the blister packages and put them in her lunch box. She concentrated on the monotonous action and managed not to think about the chain of events that had brought her there. She had 47 pills in all. She hoped it was enough for her plan to be successful. She stuffed the empty packages in her rucksack. She stood up, righted her uniform, swung her rucksack over her right shoulder and left the cubicle.

Amanda knew the perfect spot, where she could consume her special lunch in peace. There was a bench next to the canteen, overlooking the school garden. There was a rose bush right next to the bench. She loved sitting there because the roses smelled lovely. When she closed her eyes, she imagined being in a candy shop, surrounded by the sticky sweet smell of roses. She bought a can of Coke from the vending machine. She had read on the internet that carbonated drinks increased the effect of paracetemol. Even if it did not, it was much tastier than plain water.

She placed the first pill onto her tongue. She took a sip from her can and swallowed the mixture. The next 5 followed swiftly in the same manner. However she couldn’t hold back the tears for long. She wiped her tears with a tissue paper, folded it and blew her nose. She hoped no one noticed her crying, especially not a teacher. She was doing the right thing. She couldn’t live another day reading the lies her classmates spread about her on Facebook. The names they had for her went through her mind, virtually burning, hitting, spitting on and shaming her before hundreds of spectators. Some were strangers but most she knew personally. They encouraged her demons with their applauding and cheering! Why her? Some of her tormentors used to be her friends. She has looked for a reason many times before as to why they had turned on her. But she always came up blank. There was no sense to the madness that had overcome them.

Amanda had difficulties swallowing the remaining pills. Her throat felt constricted and she was sure that the slightest pressure could result in her puking into the rose bush. But she would see this through. She wanted her death to haunt her tormentors with guilt for the rest of their lives. She practically shoved the remaining pills one by one down her throat and washed each down with Coke.

The bell rang again. Amanda stuck the empty lunchbox in her rucksack and threw away the can. She was starting to feel ill, comparable to the time she had the flu. Her stomach was cramping as she slowly made her way to class.

“Amanda, you’re late!”

“Sorry! I don’t feel well.”

“What is wrong with you?”

“I don’t know.”

“You do look pretty pale. Cynthia, please escort Amanda to the sick bay.”

“Not Cynthia. I can go myself.”

“You look as if you would faint any moment. Now get to the sickbay quickly.”

Amanda and Cynthia walked to the sickbay in silence. Amanda wanted to tell her a lot of hurtful things but she couldn’t get a single one out. Instead as they stood in front of the sickbay she said, “Hope my death makes you feel happy.” The shock in Cynthia’s eyes was enough to make Amanda feel temporarily happy. At least Cynthia will suffer after her death.

“Here’s a pail my dear, in case you need to be sick again. Your mom is on her way here. She will bring you to the doctor. You have a slight fever. It is probably only a stomach-flu. Have had a couple of kids come down with it last week. You will be fine in a few days time.”

***************************

“Amanda! You have visitors.”

“Mom! Who?… Oh! What do you all want here?”

Cynthia and five other classmates entered her bedroom. Cynthia held a bouquet of roses up and spoke.

“We want to apologise for being mean to you. We did not seriously mean the things we said. It was only fun. We have deleted all the posts about you. We hope you can forgive us.”

Can you lose something that was never yours?

Yesterday I watched “Schlag den Raab” on TV; it is the German version of “Beat the Star”. Actually “Beat the star” is a copycat of “Schlag den Raab”. I wrote about Stefan Raab in one of my earlier posts. Yesterday’s candidate, Alexander, had the chance to win a million Euros. The game went on for more than 6 hours and was the longest show in the history of this series. Unfortunately Alexander lost the 15th game and with it 1 Million Euros.

Strictly speaking Alexander did not lose a million Euros. It was never his to begin with. What he had was the chance to win it. However I am pretty sure that after the show he must have felt the loss intensely. He was literally one shot away from a million Euros.

The 15th and final game was to kick a football through a rather large hole in a portable goal wall. It was also a game of sudden death; meaning that the game was over the moment only one of them does not score in a round. Just before he took the shot, Stefan Raab mentioned that it was a mean game. He said that people would not understand it, if one of them does not manage to shoot the ball through wall, because it looks relatively easy. He simulated the kick several times before finally kicking the ball. The ball sailed through the middle of the hole.

I wonder what Alexander’s strategy was, if he had a strategy in the first place? He kicked the ball relatively hard and hit the wall instead. The game was over after the very first shot! Six hours of hard work and nothing to show for it! Throughout the evening I was impressed with the strength and general knowledge of Alexander. He was as cool as a cucumber and a worthy competitor for Stefan Raab. Therefore I was surprised that he took the shot quickly and without obvious consideration.

How does he feel today? Does he feel the richer for the experience or the poorer for the loss? Would he be able to teach his kids play football in future, without thinking about how close he was to becoming a millionaire?

Can you lose something that was never yours?