Thought of the day

I thank whatever gods may be / For my unconquerable soul. / I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul. ~William Ernest Henley, Invictus

Government's promises are like the Ringgit, they depreciate with time.



Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

在美国看洋媳妇教子

儿子去美国留学,毕业后定居美国。还给我找了个洋媳妇苏珊。如今,小孙子托比已经3岁了。今年夏天,儿子为我申请了探亲签证。在美国待了三个月,洋媳妇苏珊教育孩子的方法,令我这个中国婆婆大开眼界。

不吃饭就饿着

每天早上,托比醒来后,苏珊把早餐往餐桌上一放,就自顾自地忙去了。托比会自己爬上凳子,喝牛奶,吃面包片。吃饱后,他回自己的房间,在衣柜里找衣服、鞋子,再自己穿上。毕竟托比只有3岁,还搞不清楚子的正反面,分不清鞋子的左右脚。有一次托比又把裤子穿反了,我赶紧上前想帮他换,却被苏珊制止了。她说,如果他觉得不舒服,会自己脱下来,重新穿好;如果他没觉得有什么不舒服,那就随他的便。那一整天,托比反穿着裤子跑来跑去,苏姗像没看见一样。

又一次,托比出去和邻居家的小朋友玩,没多大会就气喘吁吁地跑回家,对苏珊说:“妈妈,露西说我的裤子穿反了,真的吗?”露西是邻居家的小姑娘,今年5岁。苏姗笑着说:“是的,你要不要换回来?”托比点点头,自己脱下裤子,仔细看了看,重新穿上了。从那以后,托比再也没穿反过裤子。

我不禁想起,我的外孙女五六岁时不会用筷子,上小学时不会系鞋带。如今在上寄宿制初中的她,每个周末都要带回家一大堆脏衣服呢。

一天中午,托比闹情绪,不肯吃饭。苏珊说了他几句,愤怒地小托比一把将盘子推到了地上,盘子里的食物洒了一地。苏姗看着托比,认真地说:“看来你确实不想吃饭!记住,从现在到明天早上,你什么都不能吃。”托比点点头,坚定地回答:“Yes!”我在心里暗笑,这母子俩,还都挺倔!

下午,苏珊和我商量,晚上由我做中国菜。我心领神会,托比告别爱吃中国菜,一定是苏珊觉得托比中午没好好吃饭,想让他晚上多吃点儿。

那天晚上我施展厨艺,做了托比最爱吃的糖醋里脊、油闷大虾,还用意大利面做了中国式的凉面。托比最喜欢吃那种凉面,小小的人可以吃满满一大盘。

开始吃晚饭了,托比欢天喜地地爬上凳子。苏珊却走过来,拿走了他的盘子和刀叉,说:“我们已经约好了,今天你不能吃饭,你自己也答应了的。”托比看着面容严肃的妈妈,“哇”地一声在哭起来,边哭边说:“妈妈,我饿,我要吃饭。”“不行,说过的话要算数。”苏珊毫不心软。

我心疼了,想替托比求情,说点好话,却见儿子对我使眼色。想起我刚到美国时,儿子就跟我说,在美国,父母教育孩子时,别人千万不要插手,即使是长辈也不例外。无奈,我只好保持沉默。

那顿饭,从始至终,可怜的小托比一直坐在玩具车里,眼巴巴地看着我们三个大人狼吞虎咽。我这才明白苏珊让我做中餐的真正用意。我相信,下一次,托比想发脾气扔饭碗时,一定会想起自己饿着肚子看爸爸妈妈和奶奶享用美食的经历。饿着肚子的滋味不好受,况且还是面对自己最喜爱的食物。

临睡前,我和苏珊一起去向托比道晚安。托比小心翼翼地问:“妈妈,我很饿,现在我能吃中国面吗?”苏珊微笑着摇摇头,坚决地说:“不!”托比叹了口气,又问:“那等我睡完觉睁开眼睛时,可以吃吗?”“当然可以。”苏珊温柔地回答。托比甜甜地笑了。

大部分情况下,托比吃饭都很积极,他不想因为“罢吃”而错过食物,再受饿肚子的苦。每当看到托比埋头大口大口地吃饭,嘴上脸上粘的都是食物时,我就想起外孙女。她像托比这么大时,为了哄她吃饭,几个大人端着饭碗跟在她屁股后面跑,她还不买账,还要谈条件:吃完这碗买一个玩具,再吃一碗买一个玩具……

以其人之道,还治其人这身

有一天,我们带托比去公园玩。很快,托比就和两个女孩儿玩起了厨房游戏。塑料小锅、小铲子、小盘子、小碗摆了一地。忽然,淘气的托比拿起小锅,使劲在一个女孩儿头上敲了一下,女孩儿愣了一下,放声大哭。另一个女孩儿年纪更小一些,见些情形,也被吓得大哭起来。大概托比没想到会有这么严重的后果,站在一旁,愣住了。

苏珊走上前,开清了事情的来龙去脉后,她一声不吭,拿起小锅,使劲敲到托比的头上,托比没防备,一下子跌坐在草地上,哇哇大哭起来。苏珊问托比:“疼吗?下次还这样吗?”托比一边哭,一边拼命摇头。我相信他以后再也不会这么做了。

托比的舅舅送了他一辆浅蓝色的小自行车,托比非常喜欢,当成宝贝,不许别人碰。邻居小姑娘露西是托比的好朋友,央求托比好几次,要骑他的小车,托比都没答应。

一次,几个孩子一起玩时,露西趁托比不注意,偷偷骑上小车,扬长而去。托比发现后,气愤地跑来向苏珊告状。苏珊正和几个孩子的母亲一起聊天喝咖啡,便微笑着说:“你们的事情自己解决,妈妈可管不了。”托比无奈地走了。

过了一小会儿,露西骑着小车回来了。托比看到露西,一把将她推倒在地,抢过了小车。露西坐在地上大哭起来。苏珊抱起露西,安抚了她一会儿。很快,露西就和别的小朋友兴高采烈地玩了起来。

托比自己骑了会车,觉得有些无聊,看到那几个孩子玩得那么高兴,他想加入,又觉得有些不好意思。他蹭到苏珊身边,嘟囔道:“妈妈,我想跟露西他们一起玩。”苏珊不动声色地说:“那你自己去找他们啦!”“妈妈,你陪我一起去。”托比恳求道。“那可不行,刚才是你把露西弄哭的,现在你又想和大家玩,就得自己去解决问题。”

托比骑着小车慢慢靠近露西,快到她身边时,又掉头回来。来回好几次,不知道从什么时候开始,托比和露西又笑逐颜开,闹成了一团。

管教孩子是父母的事

苏珊的父母住在加利福尼亚州,听说我来了,两人开车来探望我们。家里来了客人,托比很兴奋,跑上跑下地乱窜。他把玩沙子用的小桶装满了水,提着小桶在屋里四处转悠。苏珊警告了她好几次,不要把水洒到地板上,托比置若罔闻。最后,托比还是把水桶弄倒了,水洒了一地。兴奋的小托比不觉得自己做错了事,还得意地光着脚丫踩水玩,把裤子全弄湿了。我连忙找出拖把准备拖地。苏珊从我手中抢过拖把交给托比,对他说:“把地拖干,把湿衣服脱下来,自己洗干净。”托比不愿意,又哭又闹。苏珊二话不说,直接把他拉到贮藏室,关了禁闭。听到托比在里面发出惊天动地的哭喊,我心疼坏了,想进去把他抱出来。托比的外婆却拦住我,说:“这是苏珊的事。”

过了一会儿,托比不哭了,他在贮藏室里大声喊:“妈妈,我错了。”苏珊站在门外,问:“那你知道该怎么做了吗?”“我知道。”苏珊打开门,托比从贮藏室走出来,脸上还挂着两行泪珠。他拿起有他两个高的拖把吃力地把地上的水拖干净。然后,他脱下裤子,拎在手上,光着屁股走进洗手间,稀里哗啦地洗起衣服来。

托比的外公外婆看着表情惊异的我,意味深长地笑了。这件事让我感触颇深。在很多中国家庭,父母管教孩子时,常常会引起“世界大战”,往往是外婆外公护,爷爷奶奶拦,夫妻吵架,鸡飞狗跳。

后来,我和托比的外公外婆聊天时,提到这件事,托比的外公说了一段话,让我印象深刻。他说,孩子是父母的孩子,首先要尊重父母对孩子的教育方式。孩子虽然小,却是天生的外交家,当他看到家庭成员之间出现分歧时,他会很聪明地钻空子。这不仅对改善他的行为毫无益处,反而会导致问题越来越严重,甚至带来更多别的问题。而且,家庭成员之间发生冲突,不和谐的家庭氛围会带给孩子更多的不安全感,对孩子的心理发展产生不利影响。所以,无论是父辈与祖辈在教育孩子的问题上发生分歧,还是夫妻两人的教育观念有差异,都不能在孩子面前发生冲突。

托比的外公外婆在家里住了一周,准备回加利福尼亚了。临走前两天,托比的外公郑重地问女儿:“托比想要一辆玩具挖掘机,我可以买给他吗?”苏珊想了想,说:“你们这次来,已经送给他一双旱冰鞋作为礼物了,到圣诞节时,再买玩具挖掘机当礼物送给他吧!”

我不知道托比的外公是怎么告诉小家伙的,后来我带托比去超市,他指着玩具挖掘机说:“外公说,圣诞节时,给我买这个当礼物。”语气里满是欣喜和期待。

虽然苏珊对托比如此严格,托比去却对妈妈爱得不得了。他在外面玩时,会采集一些好看的小花或者他认为漂亮的叶子,郑重其事地送给妈妈;别人送给他礼物,他会叫妈妈和他一起拆开;有什么好吃的,也总要留一半给妈妈。

想到很多中国孩子对父母的漠视与冷淡,我不得不佩服我的洋媳妇。在我看来,在教育孩子的问题上,美国妈妈有很多值得中国妈妈学习的地方

Malaysia - Singapore KTM land swap - 2nd Link Toll Down

Follow up from my earlier entry, Second Link users will pay 30% less toll come Aug 1.

Currently at passenger cars would need to pay RM10.80 at Tanjung Kupang Toll Plaza (Malaysia) and another S$4.60 at Tuas Checkpoint (Singapore). A 30% discount would amounted to RM7.60 and S$3.30. This is still a far cry from the RM2.90 and S$1.20 for those using the Causeway.

If one uses the Second Link starting Aug 1, the monthly cost will be RM176.8 + S$75.9 as compared to RM248.4 + S$105.8 previously, and RM66.7 + S$27.6 via the Causeway.

Well, a 30% discount is better than nothing, but I think we could go lower, couldn't we?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Australia - Land of Dream


20100528: Touch Down

We reached Melbourne at a quarter before twelve midnight. My mind was still not at peace as I wasn't sure if our visa will actually get us through. Applied the visa online back in April and it only took me 5 minutes and 40 Australian dollars to complete the application for both of us. This was way too easy. The flutter in my stomach only ceased when the immigration officer finally stamped our passports and let us through.

Too bad, they confiscated our "bak gua", gifts for our friends in Aussie. Luckily the shrimp roll and broiled cuttlefish were undetected.

We felt the chilliness of the early winter even before we stepped out of the airport. We wrapped ourselves up with layers of winter outfits, mittens, scarves and hats and pushed our carts like two walking rice dumpling and headed to Thrifty to collect our transport. They upgraded us from a Toyota Corolla Ascent Hatchback to a Hyundai i30. Cool, though I don't know the difference:p Anyway, the i30 is really a good ride.

It was time to put our newly purchase Garmin to the test. We missed quite a number of junctions being fairly new to the device, fortunately it proved its valour despite kept directing us to the toll way (which after, we learnt from EC that we could set the device to avoid it). We finally arrived at the hotel at the wee hours in the morning. After a relaxing spa bath, we tucked ourselves beneath the cosy quilt.

20100529: Rise and shine to Philip Island

Woke up at 8.30am, scheduled to meet EC for breakfast at 9am. Met EC on the way out to grab a tube of toothpaste from 7 Eleven. EC brought me two kathmadu fleeces and lent us one of his cellphone. After a brief breakfast with our dear friend, CM and I hopped into the car and head off Philip Island. We stopped along the way whenever we came across any nice sceneries, starting only two blocks away from where we stayed. Pls pardon us because to "suaku" like us, any scene is breathtaking and worth cam-whoring:p

Churchill Island Heritage farm is a nice place to hang out and to get hands on the several farm activities like milking the cow, sheep shearing...etc.

Penguin Parade - It's fascinating to watch the penguins emerge from the sea after dark, preen themselves on the beach and taking counts before parading off to their nests. Too bad, I am not allow to take any pictures.

20100530: Melbourne City Walk

After a pleasant breakfast beside the manor operated by a Korean couple, we drove to the city, which was not a sound idea as it was pretty challenging to drive with so many traffics in a foreign land with weird rules like the hook turn, and scarce parking spaces. We finally landed a parking lot after wrestling with the seasoned city dwellers and risked almost being run down by the tram. ~wipe sweat off forehead.

There are many magnificent buildings and structures which caught my attention like St. Paul's Cathedral and Flinders Station. Even went to the Old Melbourne Gaol to check out the Ned Kelly legend, he is probably the guy who invented the first kevlar vest.

Went to Mulgrave to meet EC for dinner. It is a nice suburb he is staying, but he is moving to a better place:) EC brought us to Kingsway which is saturated with Asian food and we had a bud-tantalizing bowl of pho (Vietnamese beef noodle)! After dinner, we dropped by at the Philips in Boxhill, another suburb known to be occupied by many Malaysians. The Philips are staying in a rented heritage house, the exterior looks old yet cosy and the interior is spacious and homey. Love the kitchen, living room, and the veranda!

20100531: Great Ocean Road

We woke up pretty early for this as the GOR stretches more than 200 km. Along the way, we stopped anywhere we wanted to as EC's saying goes, "This is the beauty of free and easy tour."

We stopped at Bells Beach for some photo and had brunch at a little town in Anglesea. Right at the roundabout before the town, a grey kangaroo hopped like nobody's business beside us, overtook us and bounced across the roundabout and vanished into the bush across the road. After the meal, CM bought her shades and we moved on to Split Point Lighthouse, Aireys Inlet.

Pam, the tour guide at the lighthouse is a jovial petite lady and made us felt at home immediately with her cheerful laughter. We toured the lighthouse with 3 Indian dudes and 3 local ranchers from Queensland.

We made another stop at Separation Creek near Wye River as I was attracted by the wooden bridge at the river mouth.

Stopped at Apollo Bay tourist centre at about 3pm, the staff told us that we will be able to reach the Twelve Apostles by 5.30pm to catch the last glimpse of light. And this is the part where I started to drive like a rally driver, with my co-driver dozing off:p The GOR does not stick along the coast all the way, it leads towards inland somewhere after Marengo as it slices across Otway National Park.

We reached the Twelve Apostle at 5.15pm, still sufficient light for me to shoot some nice pictures. We think that the greatness of nature can only be felt there and then, no postcard-like picture is able to convey the message across entirely. Discontented with the time we spent with the rocks, we decided to stay overnight at the nearby Port Campbell, which was not in our plan.

We had a sumptuous dinner at Waves before we went searching for a place to put up for the night. We checked out a few places before settling at Port Campbell Hostel for AUD25/night, which is the all time favorite for backpackers. Pretty decent stay for such a cheap price, clean bathrooms and toilets.

Woke up at 6.30am and headed for the apostles again where we practically own the entire lookout deck all to ourselves. More cam-whoring before we dropped by Loch Ard Gorge and marvelled at the work of nature, how the wind, waves and rain craft the natural sculpture skillfully with time. And the best part is, it ain't finish till the end of the world.

20100601: Ballarat

We checked out from the hostel and had our breakfast. The owner has a collection of artwork, mainly paintings on the rocks and the port, it is ther work of the owner's mom. Refilled our fuel tank, and off we go to Ballarat in search of gold!

We visited Sovereign Hill, a mocked up gold mining town recreating the gold rush yesteryear in the 1850s. I was awestricken at the mining technology these people invented back then, how strong is the will of man to achieve something they strongly desire. And also we observed the dire condition our fellow Chinese ancestors were put through back in those days when they were lured to this barren land to seek fortune. At least now their younger generations live in a place where they can freely call home. Sovereign Hill is highly recommended for family with kids because you can shop, dine, and have fun all day long.

Next, we moved over to the Gold Museum which is opposite Sovereign Hill. Our eyes glittered at the generous showcase of gold nuggets and gold dust. The good news is that you're still able to stumble upon this precious element if you look for it hard enough in Australia. Who knows, you might find a nugget while you're gardening in your own backyard.

We returned to Mel city in the evening to meet up with CM's secondary school classmates, JY and HL. Initially, JY intended to treat us to Gordon Ramsay's restaurant but once we reached the place we turned him down as it's too posh for us:p So we detoured to a Greek restaurant for kebab.

20100602: Dandenongs

Yay, it's zoo and wine day! Healesville Sanctuary is located 61km to the east of Melbourne. It was a relaxing day since we do not need to travel very far. And so in the morning, we reached the sanctuary at about 9.30am and stayed there till noon. Saw the emu, roos, koala, tasmanian devil, wombat, platipus and dingo, which are the only one we were interested. And then we moved on to Yarra Valley to visit the vineyard.

Was back in the hotel at 6.30pm, waited for EC to pick us up and go to Little Italy. Sort of like a farewell dinner before we depart for Sydney. And again, it's not about the food or wine that night that matters, it's the moment together that counts. How unpredictable life can be when 2 years back, we hung out in Penang in search for local delicacies and 2 years later, we were dining in Aussie. God knows where we will meet again years later.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Big tight slap on the face, Dr Mahathir!

A day after Dr Mahathir uttered nonsensical remarks regarding the Malay Singaporeans kowtowing to others during the Gertak function, this is what we hear from our friend in Singapore:

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In Singapore, we don't kowtow

I READ with concern Tuesday's report, 'Malaysian Malays might kowtow to others if...', in which former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad claims that even though Malay Singaporeans enjoy the benefits of a more developed country, they have to 'terbongkok-bongkok' (kowtow) to others.

Tun Dr Mahathir could have been more sensitive towards the feelings of Singapore Malays.

As a Malay Singaporean living and working peacefully with fellow Singaporeans of all races, I cannot agree with what he said.

Singapore's leaders worked hard for many years to achieve racial harmony, tolerance and understanding among Singaporeans. Today, we live and work together as one family; and we have reaped the rewards of being one of the safest and most developed nations in the world.

While Dr Mahathir's opinion on Malay Singaporeans enjoying the benefits of a developed country is spot-on, we have never kowtowed to others. Singaporeans of all races, including Malays, engage in healthy debate and discussions with our Government. The decisions made by the Government, after hearing feedback from its people, are respected as we trust it is in the best interests of all Singaporeans.

Through community support and hard work, Malay students in Singapore have bettered their results in various national examinations. Such achievements are celebrated by all Singaporeans.

With better education, Malay Singaporeans have achieved a better lifestyle for their families compared with a large percentage of Malays in Malaysia. We worked hard to be where we are today and in no way kowtow to anyone to gain success. Meritocracy remains the benchmark of our society. While this works in Singapore, it may not work in Malaysia.

Having many relatives, friends and business associates of all races in Malaysia requires me to travel frequently across the Causeway. Over the years, I have seen and learnt that for the minority to succeed in Malaysia, they need to kowtow to others.

The irony is that many ordinary Malaysian Malays who have no connections, or fail to share their potential success with the 'right' people, will never have it easy to succeed. Perhaps, favouritism, cronyism and bribery are problems Dr Mahathir may want to address in his country.

As for me, a Malay Singaporean, I would like to say thank you to my Singapore leaders. You have made Singapore the best place to live peacefully in for me and my family.

Mustaffa Othman
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Once again, in the clash of the Titans, Lee Kuan Yew wins hands down. Nenenepupu.

Remarks from other Malay Singaporeans:

"Like others, Malay Singaporeans work hard for the benefits in a meritocratic system." Mr Ahmad Abu Bakar

"The Malays in Singapore stand shoulder to shoulder with other Singaporeans." Mr Niaz Mohamed