National Day Reflection

I know it is late but it is still the month of August
So it is still legal to hang up the red and white flag outside the window
Or stick flags onto your car and put red and white side view mirror covers
The flag that signifies a nation that born only less than 50 years ago
So it is still an appropriate time to reflect
What it means be a Singaporean

Despite the many incomplete posts that are still sitting in my draft, I felt the need and urgency to finish up this post.
I was too busy to put up the flag or the mirror covers
In fact, I was even contemplating going away for a short holiday
over the long National Day weekend

But I stopped myself
It just didn’t seem right
My husband and I went for a morning ride instead.
And we bumped into a group of jovial senior citizens out cyclying in the predawn hours, decked out in our national colours, with music and flags, all ready to celebrate the country’s birthday.
It was a heartening sight and a great way to start the day.

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We have spent a few years away from Singapore
And I think I have seen some things about National Days
both our own and others that stopped me from making that little getaway

For my American friends,
The Fourth of July is a day of immense national pride
Whether they were Republican or Democrat
Whether they were rich or poor
In fact, Americans must be one of the most patriotic people in the world
The American flag hangs on almost every doorway
regardless of the time of the year

And Americans are one of the most diverse in the world
There are Americans from all over the world
Some are black
Some are Chinese,
Some are Hispanic,
Some are Native American Indians
Some are first generation Europeans
But all are Americans
And they declare themselves as Americans above everything else
Bonded together by their star spangle banner
and the values of liberty, democracy, and exceptionalism
They are the loudest and biggest (including monster trucks and implants)
But make no mistake, they are Americans

Then I have friends from elsewhere who perhaps are from much humbler countries
but with far longer histories and cultures
swamped by American pop culture
And yet managing to maintain proud national traditions and language
To some, it may seem trivial
The traditional costumes and music
The food and the customs
But these are some of the things that bond them together

As I watched the National Parade via the internet, a day after it was broadcast live, I was teary eyed on many occasions.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I saw the old Mr Lee being helped to his
seat during the National Day Parade
If you worship him, you would know of his achievements and
sacrifices for our country
If you hate him, you probably disagree with the policies he has made
Perhaps you even blame him for what Singapore is today
Either way, you are agreeing that he is the founding father of modern Singapore
For whether you like it or not, great men are often hated
Even one of the greatest Presidents of American history, Abraham
Lincoln, was hated by many, even today
And he was eventually assassinated by a single shot to the head

It was our founding pioneers,
Who toiled hard, in the docks, in the office, or in government
and created a world that we grew up in
that is far from perfect, but which was safe, in fact safer than any
other city I have been in.

It is this heritage that we share
the national day songs that we grew up with
that my children are singing now
the horrendous traffic jams and the astronomical COEs
and the ultra competitve schools and the kiasu parents
And the splattering of Singlish that gives us a common identity
And our infatuation with and claim that shopping and food are our
national pastimes
It was all these that defines us as Singaporeans for good or for bad

Perhaps the propaganda has worked
On the other hand, who cares?
I am happy to be back in Singapore eating my bak chor mee
And complaining about the traffic and the weather
And feeling safe where I belong
I remember a video clip put up on FB by my Israeli friend recently
She and her family, like us had moved back to their country after a year in the States
The video showed balls of light shooting into the night sky which looked like the fireworks that lit up our sky on National Day.
But hell no, they weren’t fireworks. They were rockets shot by their neighbours and she wished they hadn’t returned home.
I wasn’t sure how to console her and felt embarrassed to tell her that while her country was waging a war, the biggest issue that preoccupied our local news was a debacle over a penguin book.

So while I sometimes lament about things moving too fast around here
It is better than not moving and becoming derelict
So, in short, I am perhaps irrational
a proud irrational Singaporean

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Every Baker’s Dream

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We celebrated my husband’s birthday a couple of weekends ago and I bought myself a Kitchen Aid mixer so that I could bake him a cake.
How thoughtful huh? Sounds more like I got myself a present for his birthday!
I guess when you are together for more than 2 decades, it doesn’t matter who gets the present.
More importantly is to be happy and quite by default, a happy wife usually means a happy husband.

So the KitchenAid Mixer is like every baker’s dream.
I won’t exactly call myself a baker and I have never really convinced myself that I would need a heavy duty mixer like this, not until recently.

I used to be a believer that one needn’t have to have the best equipment in order to be good at something. It’s like one doesn’t need the best bike to be the best rider, nor the best aerodynamically designed helmet in order to ride fast.
Perhaps I was preparing myself for failure, so that I have a perfect excuse for not being the best.
Or maybe I was worried that I would be like the Ferrari driver who can’t keep to his own lane when the road gets windy.

In the States, a brand new Kitchen Aid mixer costs less than half of the price here and I have to admit that I have been tempted, more than once, by the aesthetic beauty of it.
But the sensible me wouldn’t purchase one in the States due to the difference in the power voltage here.
How smart of the manufacturer to not make them dual voltage, so they could rip us off here.

So during our stay in the States a few years back and then recently, I have been surviving on my less than 20 dollar handheld mixer.
It worked really fine and I was pretty contented.
The Math showed that even if I broke 10 of my handheld ones, it would still cost less than a KitchenAid.
And I doubt that a Kitchen Aid would be 10 times better than my handheld mixer although it cost 10 times more.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I was at a local electronic store and I saw it on display in a medley of colours. I was tempted (again) but I managed to walk away through sheer willpower. You see, the hot pink one was on sale.

A few days later, I decided to bake some cookies with the kids for afternoon snack.
It was then that I realised that my old trusty handheld mixer was sold during the last garage sale.
I rummaged through the pantry and found a manual whisk.
Great, at least I found something to do the job.

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So my 4 year old and I spent the afternoon taking turns to whisk the butter and sugar till it was light and fluffy.
Trust me, I never had to work so hard for my afternoon snack.
And while we were working on it, my mind kept going back to that hot pink mixer that was on sale.
It was a battle between want and need, reason and emotion.
And guess who won?
I was back at the store the next morning and I brought home what my heart desired.
I was ecstatic and I realised, based on the number of likes I got on facebook, that I wasn’t the only one who was excited over this new haul.

photo-014Now, the all singing, all dancing, hot pink mixer sits glamorously on my kitchen top occupying prime real estate space.
The grime and grease hasn’t got the chance to settle on it yet.
But I am beginning to wonder whether the purchase was impulsive.

Maybe it was but what the heck.
It feels good and this could be happiness.

It took me this long, but I think I have came to the realisation that the journey matters as much, if not more, than the destination.
And being happy means letting your heart triumph over your head (once a while) even if it hurts your pocket.
Henceforth, my journey to becoming a better baker begins, accompanied by my glittering hot pink beauty.

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Excuse Me, Auntie

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For the longest time, I have struggled to define what it means to be an ‘Auntie’
My favourite online dictionary defines ‘Auntie’ as an informal way of Aunt.
The Collins English Dictionary defines it as informal, derogatory ( Australia ) an older male homosexual.

In the local context, apart from being an informal way of Aunt, which is your mother or father’s sister, auntie usually refers to a woman that is from your mother’s generation.
It is also negatively associated with being poorly groomed, unattractive, boring, uninteresting, frumpy and grumpy.

20 years ago, when I first started work, my colleagues’ children would call me Auntie Hai Fang.
But at 20 years old, I was young, energetic, confident and self assured and it didn’t bother me too much.
In fact, being called ‘Auntie’ could be a recognition of our coming of age.
that we were “real” adults with responsibilities.

But now that I have passed the 40th milestone.
It can become extremely sensitive.
As a woman, the self esteem usually take a beating when someone calls you an ‘Auntie’.
Yet it is not uncommon to see a young ‘Auntie’.
Imagine a young mother with frayed hair, flip flops and dons what seems like the husband’s boxer shorts.

2 weeks ago both boys started school in the morning and I found myself with 3 good hours to myself.
I used to be able to scoot off to shopping mall for an hour or two during lunch time because both kids were in school.
But now, the only shops that are open in the morning hours are the ones good for grocery shopping.
NTUC, Cold Storage, Giant, wet market, you name it, they are open.
The only people you meet at the park are grandpas, grandmas and clueless housewives with oversized sun hats.
It kind of depresses me as I could imagine myself sliding down the slippery slope of Auntiehood and the wet market butcher becoming my good old friend.

Perhaps being an auntie is not just all about age.
Maybe it is about the grooming or complete lack thereof.
Yet she could be fashionably dressed in designer togs but her only conversation topics revolve around the kids, school, tuition, and mahjong.
So it could be related to a narrow range of “auntie” like pursuits.
Maybe an Auntie has no time or energy for anything else.

Perhaps it could be a lack of a penchant for fun, a lost of self and the thirst for knowledge.
Yet my 40 year old Scottish SAHM friend with 3 kids who has (nearly) no life whatsoever outside her mothering duties doesn’t quite fit the auntie definition.
And I certainly didn’t mean it the derogatory way (see Collins English Dictionary definition above) when I urged my 4 year old to call her Auntie.

Eventually, I realised that across cultures, explaining the term is nearly impossible.
I guess defining auntie is like defining pornography.
Even if you don’t know how to define it, you know one when you see one.

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