Monday, December 31, 2012

Street Protest

I just want to share what an organized peaceful street protest looks like. 

18-Dec-2012. We were on Vancouver, West side, waiting for the bus when this street protest passed by us. There was police at the start, middle and end to direct the traffic (and even on the opposite lanes). There was also a public transport police car at the end to ensure that the buses, although delayed with the reduced traffic speed, would keep-in-line for the safety of the protestors. It was a long procession (I think it stretched between 2-3 blocks), causing a huge jam along the normally busy West Broadway, Vancouver, from Heather St to Yew St (if I remember correctly).

A street protest to save Hotel Rainier, 
a shelter for homeless women in DTES.

For those who would like to read more about the underlying trigger for the protest, Google for "missing women inquiry" and "serial killer Robert Pickton". Hotel Rainier was launched in 2009. I guess budget cuts are threatening its existence.

Of course, there were people who grumbled about the delay to bus services and the long time it took for them (trapped in the bus travelling behind the protestors) to arrive at their destinations. That said, the bulk of the complaints were related to the timing (pre-Christmas week), route (a road with busy traffic), size/method of the protest which contributed to the traffic jam. I guess implicitly, people recognized that although the issue (raised by the protestors) mainly affects the homeless poor females in DTES (Down-town East Side), it means that everyone shares the problem (or at least people had the decency to keep quiet otherwise).


Anyway, just a few thoughts with regards to what Singaporeans have surrendered over the years.
  • The right to protest peacefully to bring attention to issues of widespread/public concern.
  • The critical thinking faculty to recognize that "protest" does not equate "violence".
  • The "helicopter vision" to recognize that problems of the "poor" are not just the responsibility of the underclass to "shape-up or ship-out", but each member of the society shares a responsibility in the laws (and politicians) we support.
Will Singaporeans, and thus Singapore, change for the better in 2013? Your bet is as good as mine. [Click here for a prediction that echos my sentiments.]

Happy 2013!

Happy 2013 to all my blog visitors!

This Metro Vancouver winter is the warmest since I landed in Canada back in autumn 2010. There was only one morning of significant snow. [See photo and video below. The white blobs/dashes that you see across the screen is the falling snow, blown by the wind.] For most of the days with snowfall, the snow melted soon after it fell, so it wasn't really a white Christmas this year.

Bus interchange was actually cleared of snow earlier, 
but the snow returned to blanket the place in white.

That's good for me too, since I have had enough fun with snow for the past 2 winters. Now I am beginning to feel cons of snowfall. E.g. Walking on slippery icy/snowy pavements. E.g. Waiting for the bus in the cold and dry air.

That said, winter in Metro Vancouver is mostly rainy. If you can get used to the rain in Singapore, the rain here is typically 丝丝水 [fine drops of water] in comparison.

A guy in love

I recently re-connected with an ex-colleague JW, having been reminded by Facebook of his December birthdate. The thing is, sending him birthday wishes and a couple FB private messages exchanged bring back sweet old-memories of what a guy in love would really do.


I first met JW in the early-2000's. I was based in Singapore handling an Asia-Pacific (AP) server consolidation project. JW was based in Korea and assigned to liaise with me for his country. As usual, we chatted while working on the project. At one point, JW asked if I was single. I replied, "Yes." He then immediately ask if he could be my boyfriend! I laughed jokingly and teased him that he must send in his application. I also teased that he surely had multiple girlfriends given his good looks and sociable nature.

You know what? JW took my word for it and I received his photos and resume in my office email the very next day! I guess for Koreans, being a good provider equates being a good mate for the men. I was flabbergasted. That said, with such a 眼捣 ["handsome"] guy applying to be my boyfriend, I could not help but feel flattered. I decided that despite my rule (by-then) not to share about my personal life at work, I had to tell JW honestly that I do have a boyfriend although he was not based in Singapore with me. JW sounded disappointed. I thought that was the end of the matter.

Some months later, JW had an opportunity for a business trip to Singapore on another project. Upon arriving at the Singapore office, he contacted me, and as usual (for my foreign friends), I showed him around "my Singapore" with pride after work. Besides the obligatory Orchard Road, we tried durian (he actually stated that he liked it), did the Bugis street-side stalls, Night Safari, and Sentosa, etc. He was particularly impressed by the Sentosa musical fountain. 
This guy was freaking fun to hang out with. It seemed that he really enjoyed himself too. E.g. Once JW was sitting on a bench while waiting for me outside a MacDonald's. When he saw me coming, he pretended to be talking with the Ronald MacDonald clown statue seated next to him. Actually, I was in a rush and not in a good mood, but I could not help laughing at his gag.
The thing is, our hanging out together was for me a "show-and-tell" about Singapore. But for JW, it was a date (or several dates, actually). E.g. Along the way he told me that he lived alone in the apartment that he owned, a rarity for singles in Korea. I only realized the discrepancy in our views (on the purpose of our hanging-out together) while on the cable car heading to Sentosa. We were both facing in the same direction to get a good view of approaching island. He asked me something earnestly (I forgot what it was). When I turned to face him to answer his question, I realized that his arm was already around my shoulders (on the cable car seat), and his face (and those kissable lips) were only centimetres away from me. I was too stunned to give a proper reply. But I held back, because of my other (long-distance) relationship. JW returned to Korea still single and unattached, as per his arrival.


It was a year-or-so later when I next met JW in the mid-2000's, again in Singapore. I had already left my previous job. Once again he contacted me when he arrived for his Singapore business trip. 

We met up for dinner. I was feeling sad at that time because my long-distance relationship was not going well. JW saw that immediately and tried to cheer me up over dinner. He updated me that he was engaged. From his description of his fiance's background, it seemed like they were a good match. [Yes, they were introduced to each other through some match-making efforts.] However, I could tell that he seemed sad. 

Over dinner, JW while cheering me up, also tried to ask me more about the status of my love life. At one point, he leaned forward to look directly into my eyes earnestly and asked if I was or if I would consider breaking up with Mr SMS (my long-distance relationship). I told him honestly that I did not know if my long-distance relationship would last, but at least I would try to work out the problems with Mr SMS. We then switched topic to other frivolous stuff.

After dinner, as we walked through the underground Citylink Mall to the City Hall train station, we passed by a jewellery shop. I paused at the shop display of a couple of wedding bands and sighed inside my heart -- I had very little hope of Mr SMS proposing to me then. As I turned to leave, JW stopped me and told me that if I liked the rings, he would buy them for me immediately! I was surprised and touched (I don't know if he was just going to buy me the rings as a gift or as a proposal); but knowing his engaged status, I gave him an honest round-about reply that I prefer gold bands, not the platinum ones on display. He then said something like, "Ok, let us go in and choose what you like." I thanked him for his generosity and told him that I did not want the rings from him.

We kept in touch on-and-off. Some months later, JW got married as planned. About a year later, he emailed a photo of his newborn baby girl. I was happy that he had settled into married life.


Years later, JW moved to Europe, instead of his original plan for migration to Australia. I dropped him a Facebook friend request when I started my Facebook account. I don't know why but his Facebook updates are sans wife, sans daughter. Given that we are "old-friends", I sent him a private Facebook message sending him my regards for his wife and daughter. He never replied to that message.

Still we exchanged Facebook wall greetings, usually during year-end when his birthday is around the corner. Re-connecting with JW on Facebook reminded me of a bygone period in my life. I cherish those old memories in my heart -- how sweet a guy-in-love can be.


[Update on 01-Jan-2013]

Ok, confirmed that he is back to "single and available" status. Curiosity got better of me, so I asked him directly via a private Facebook message. :-P

New Year greetings from Mr SMS

Just read a New Year greeting email from Mr SMS. Reproduced below as it is (i.e. sic). I am glad that I did not reply his previous email.


From: SMS
To: WD 
Sent: Sunday, December 30, 2012 9:37 PM
Subject: Happy end of the Year

Hi [WD],

I hope this mail will find you well and in good health. The end of the year is approaching and hopefully it has given you loads of sattisfaction.
For the coming year I whish you all best, health, LOVE, wisdome and money.

Some time ago you answerd a mail from me and asked what I wanted from you
Since you asked me that question I have been thinking of you even  more that ever before. Love ist the answer.
I do not know if you will read this mail or if you will even want to hear or see that word from me. I do not know if we will ever meet again or talk again but I want to let you know that you are always in my thaugts.
Next year my plans are to be in [an expensive location along the French Riviera] so that I can renovate the house. When that is done I will rent a part of it out to summerguests. It will be a nice job and will pay pritty well if the 2 appartments are rented out around 6 month a year.

This was what laid on my heart since a while. Now that it is shared with you I would be happy to hear from you, to see you to meet you.
Sorry if I bored you but in any case - all best for you in the year 2013.



In happier days, Mr SMS and I used to play the game of "wrong answer, right answer" to tease each other. In my mind, if we were still playing the game, the email would have evoked the following.
Question: Why are you contacting me? What is it that you want? 
Wrong answer: Love 
Right answer: To love you and to do my best to make you the happiest woman in the world.
We have long departed from those happier days. At this moment, my heart tells me, "Too bad that someone has missed the boat that was docked at his harbour for years."

Emigration: To DIY or not to DIY

Below is my comment on asingaporeanson's blog entry "Go the Easy Way, G". My gut feel tells me that this is an important migration consideration that is worth repeating on my blog. For more factors to consider, please refer to the original post from asingaporeanson's blog.


Winking Doll wrote on 31 December 2012 16:25:

For sure you can recover the costs eventually, but IMHO there is value in a DIY (do-it-yourself) migration approach. I don't know about the Aussie process since I chose Canada, so I am going to share based on my Canadian immigration experience. 

Many people are surprised that I DIY, but actually whether DIY or through agent, the time taken is the same for Canadian immigration. There is no "special immigration quota reserved for agents" -- it is a myth, probably propagated by agents looking to earn a quick buck. In the process of DIY, I learned a lot about the way the Canadian bureaucracy works and developed confidence in communicating with the Canadian authorities. E.g. There was some delay in processing my application (the receiving officer misplaced my medical examination package), so I spoke to an immigration officer who was most apologetic for the mistake at their end (i.e. the Canadian High Commission in Singapore). 

This confidence to handle issues with authority figures is something that I find missing in some of the other immigrants, especially the China Chinese and/or Filipinos who used agents to come into Canada. They would run to their agents or any 3rd party for help whenever they need to deal with "authority figures" instead of learning to stand/speak for themselves. 

E.g. A Filipino schoolmate, who has been in Canada for over a decade, claimed emphatically that English is her 1st language (bwah-hahahah! *evil laugh*), but asked me for help to write an appeal letter to the nursing board over the expiry of her English assessment. I turned down her request due to strategic reason. [I have another appeal in-progress that would benefit more of the internationally educated nurses, and so I wanted the nursing board's focus to be locked on that one strategic issue.] Anyway, she should be able to DIY if her English is as good as she claims and if she is as "Canadianized" as she claims from her decade of living here. 

In short, the confidence that one gains from DIY is not something that money can buy. It may affect how one handles challenges that one will inevitably face as an immigrant.

Best compliment of 2012!

The following is, IMHO, the best compliment that I received in 2012.

"You are in the "deserves eternal worship" class!"

Thanks, TGC! A good old-time friend who still thinks highly of you despite having seen you through the ups-and-downs of life certainly beats any "You've got me with your smile" stop-in-the-tracks stare from admiring strangers.

Yes, I will bear that in mind when considering any relationship, especially when it comes to dating. I certainly deserve to be loved, well-loved, by someone who worships my existence.

Recipe: Instant Rendang

Ok, this is the last of my quick-and-easy recipes for this season. For tips on sourcing ingredients, please refer to my previous post on "Recipe: Vegetable curry".


Instant Rendang

Ingredients for 4-6 servings:

300g (or 2 packets) Vegetarian stewed mutton (mock meat)

180g (or 1 packet) Rendang sauce

1. Put all ingredients into a microwavable container.

2. Add water and stir to cover all the mock meat in the sauce.

3. Microwave on high for 1 to 2 min. Serve warm.

Note: Optional, garnish with cucumber slices.

Recipe: Vegetable curry

This is my quick-and-easy version of vegetable curry that I served at various potluck events recently.
  • At the nursing unit where I did my preceptorship. They loved the curry and were surprised by the  realistic texture and flavours of the mock meat. That said, some of the Filipinos mentioned that they would prefer it spicier. Note to self: Can add more spice if cooking for Filipinos. 
  • At my GNIE completion potluck. It was a popular dish. One instructor asked my classmate to ask me, "Is there any weed in the curry?" I looked at my classmate puzzled, after all I do use some uncommon Chinese fungus/mushrooms in some of my cooking. Then it occurred to me that they are asking about marijuana. I laughed and replied, "No, no weed!" I guess the legend of a special Singaporean curry ingredient did spread to my Canadian instructor somehow.
  • At the Christmas eve dinner at my French friends home, the curry was not so popular. All except 3 (PY, PY's daughter and I) were French. 2 of the guests mentioned that the curry was too spicy for their taste. Note to self: Do not add so much spice and double the coconut milk if cooking for Europeans.
  • At Christmas dinner, my Iranian friend liked the curry but did not eat much of it since there were several other dishes.
  • Post-Christmas, I gave a box of the curry to my housemate AH. He said that his colleagues loved the fragrance when he heated up the curry using his office's microwave.

A short note about sourcing the ingredients. If you live in Metro Vancouver, you will not have any issue getting the right ingredients. You can try Asian food shops like "Smart N Save" in Lansdowne Mall (Richmond), or Great One Supermarket in Richmond (and Vancouver branch), or Chong Lee Market in Vancouver, or T&T supermaket all over Metro Vancouver.

For the curry sauce, make sure you buy the "Made in Singapore" or "Made in Malaysia" curry. The next closest is "Made in Indonesia" curry. Other curry sauce such as the Thai, Japanese, etc, will not give you the authentic Singaporean curry flavour. In addition, amongst the various Singapore/Malaysia curries, I found that the "chicken curry" typically gave the best flavour. If you read the ingredients list, you will notice that most of the "chicken curry" sauce is suitable for vegetarians as there is no animal ingredient in many of the "chicken curry" package.

Vegetarian stewed mutton

Sometimes I add vegetarian mock meat to cater to the vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. [Yeah, I am referring to those "meat-eaters" who swear that they would not eat anything without meat.] Using quality vegetarian meat is an easy way to reduce cholesterol intake in one's diet. [Note: I am mentioning this because at least 2 slim-and-healthy-looking persons in the above groups that I served the curry to actually told me personally that they have high-cholesterol levels.] I recommend the above "Made in Taiwan" soy-and-mushroom based mock meat which is sold as "vegetarian stewed mutton" at T&T. I found that the "Made in Taiwan" vegetarian mock meat products are generally of superior quality than the run-of-mill vegetarian mock meat products. Note: I avoid buying any "Made in China" vegetarian mock meat products. I just do not trust their quality control.

Lastly, if you have the time and patience, please feel free to use fresh ingredients. In addition, please feel free to add also fragrance like pandan leaf (a.k.a. bay thoy leaf) to the pot. My recipe uses pre-packed and/or frozen stuff to make it quick-and-easy for a fuss-free potluck dish.


Vegetable curry

Ingredients for a large 2L pot of curry (clockwise from top-left):

400-600ml Coconut milk [Note: Use more if cooking for people who aren't used to spicy food.]

2 packets of Chicken Curry sauce [Note: Use only 1 packet if cooking for people who aren't used to spicy food.]

400g Small washed potatoes

160g Tou-fu puffs

750g California-style frozen mixed vegetables (i.e. broccoli, cauliflowers and carrots)

1. Wash and chop the small potatoes (halves or smaller depending on the amount of cooking time you have). Put them in the pot.

2. Pour the entire bag of mixed vegetables into the pot.

3. Add the curry sauce. Add water to cover all the ingredients.

4. Bring to a boil and cook until the vegetables are soft. It should take less than 20 min. [Note: If you're using slow-cooker like I sometimes do, you can set it to slow-cook and stop the cooking in around 30 to 45 min.]

5. Add coconut milk and tou-fu puffs. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Serve hot with bread (French baguette is a good match) or plain rice.

Note: If the curry turns out to be too watery because you added too much water by mistake, fear not! Just stir peanut butter, or any nut butter, into the curry and it will add thickness and flavour to the curry.

Quick-and-easy curry,
ready for potluck!

Recipe: Flavoured rice 有味饭

I like all-in-one cooking because that means I don't have to "watch over several fires" [看火] nor do I have to wash multiple cooking pots. Here is one of my favourite all-in-one dishes. I served it to my French-Chinese exchange group during Mid-Autumn Festival [中秋节] and again to another friend for Christmas dinner.


Flavoured rice 有味饭

Ingredients for 4-6 servings (clockwise from top-left):

6 tablespoons of Teriyaki sauce

2 small Yam. The purple-veined flesh type is preferred for its natural sweetness

1 1/2 cup walnut pieces

1 square of smoked firm-tofu (around 100g)

A quarter of a small cabbage (on chopping board)

2 cups of rice (not in photo)

Note: All measures are approximate, add more/less as per your preference.

1. Peel and dice the yam.

2. Dice mushrooms and tofu.

3. Cut cabbage into thin slices.

4. Rinse the rice and add water to rice in the slow-cooker as per normal.

5. Add all the other ingredients and stir.

6. Turn-on the slow-cooker to "white rice" mode. When cooked, serve warm.

Note #1: No worries if you did not add enough Teriyaki sauce before cooking, you can always stir in more after the rice is cooked.

Note #2: If you eat meat, my mother traditionally uses 腊肠 [Chinese waxed sausage] and minced pork instead of walnut pieces and tofu.

All-in-one flavoured rice. Ta-da!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Early alert for Mayan end-of-world

This is a shout-out to folks who live in Australia, NZ and Singapore. If the Mayan Friday 21-Dec-2012 end-of-the-world happens to you in 3 hours' time, please drop a comment to give us folks in Canada an early alert. [We are only in the wee hours of Thursday morning right now.] Hahah! :-D

Otherwise, have a happy year-end and an awesome 2013, everyone!


[Addendum on 21-Dec-2012]

From Yahoo! News sourced from "The New York Times", a group of thieves stole $18 million worth of Canadian maple syrup from the "global strategic maple syrup reserve". Hmm, maybe the strategic reserve of maple syrup serves to sweeten relations with the Mayan gods to save the globe from imminent destruction.

When nurses hurt nurses

Since I get some hits from Singapore and Canada regarding nursing (e.g. search on the "Nursing in Singapore" blog category or Goggle for "IEN SEC"), I would like to share about relational aggression in nursing and an article on how to deal with bullies in the workplace.

I have recently finished reading a book, "When nurses hurt nurses - Recognizing and Overcoming the Cycle of Bullying" by Cheryl Dellasega. IMHO, it gives a good overview of relational aggression that was (and still is) so commonplace in nursing (especially in Singapore) such that it contributes to common refrains like "nurses eat their young".
About the author: Cheryl Dellasega, PhD, CRNP, works clinically as a nurse practitioner and researches extensively on relational aggression. Her published books include "Surviving Ophelia" and "Mean Girls Grown Up".
IMHO, ultimately the patients suffer when relational aggression in nursing is not addressed. At least in B.C., Canada, there are laws and organizations (e.g. nurses union) that push for and support policy changes to reduce systemic factors. In Singapore, with labour policies that supports discrimination and suppression of labour rights, one can't help but to ask, "What has changed? What will change?" My hopes are not high.


[Extracted from Appendix F - Nurse-to-nurse bullying: the RN way of RA]

Some examples [of relational aggression] include the following:
The Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organization (JCAHO), which is responsible for regulating acute care organizations, takes this issue so seriously that as of January, 2009, they require policies to be in place that will help detect and address relationally aggressive behaviours.

[Unfortunately in a really bad environment, the nurse manager may well be the bully himself/herself. Extracted from page 134 "How Managers Bully" - Nurse-to-nurse bullying: the RN way of RA]

These (managers' bullying tactics) include behaviours such as the following (to name a few):
  • Publicly discipling nurses who have made mistakes
  • Threatening consequences if nurses don't do what the manager wants
  • Playing favourites
  • Setting up certain workers to fail by withholding information
[Dellasega, C. (2011). When nurses hurt nurses - Recognizing and Overcoming the Cycle of Bullying. Indianapolis, IN: Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing]


I have seen a lot of ugly behaviours while nursing in Singapore -- the stuff that I wrote in my blog about workplace bullying is just the tip of the iceberg; i.e. stuff that won't get me or my previous employer (hospital) into legal trouble. I recognize that I have occasionally behaved as a bully too while surviving as a nurse in Singapore; and I am not proud of myself for that.


What should one do when one finds oneself working amongst these sharks dressed as angels-in-white? Barbara A. Broome, PhD, RN, wrote an interesting article of practical advice - "Dealing with Sharks and Bullies in the Workplace". Here's an extract of her advice.
  1. Assume all unidentified fish are sharks. ... In other words, you don't really know who or what you are dealing with, so be on guard.
  2. Do not bleed. ... In the case of bullying, remove yourself from their presence. Giving way to crying, using defensive behaviour or trying to provide an explanation only provides more opportunities for aggression.
  3. Those who cannot learn to control their bleeding should not attempt to swim with sharks for the peril is too great. When attacked, control your anger and state only the facts. Controlling your anger changes the power of the bully. The bully will be confused as to whether or not the attack has injured you and will be unsure of their advantage. ... Always document the interaction.
  4. Counter any aggression promptly. Sharks and bullies rarely attack without warning. Usually there is some tentative, exploratory aggressive action. It is important that one recognizes that this behaviour is a prelude to an attack and take prompt and vigorous remedial action. The appropriate countermove is a direct discourse about the inappropriate behaviour.
  5. Avoid ingratiating behaviour. One may mistakenly believe that an ingratiating attitude will dispel an attack. This is not correct; such a response provokes a shark attack.
  6. Use anticipatory retaliation. One needs to develop the skill to counteract inappropriate behaviour. A constant issue is that the bully will forget and may attack in error. ... This memory loss can be prevented by a program of anticipatory retaliation. ... Your response to inappropriate behaviours is unexpected and serves to remind the bully that you are both alert and unafraid.
  7. Identify disorganized and organized attack. There may be more than one bully acting in concert. ... It is essential that one know how to handle an organized attack. Confront the behaviour. Make it known that the behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. If the behaviour continues, a written complaint should be filed in human resources with the dates, times an details of each event. If there are witnesses to the event, their names should be included. A copy of all written communications should always be kept as a record of filing of the complaint and actions. As a last resort, legal action may be necessary. [IMHO, I am sorry to say that "legal action" is unlikely to work in Singapore, no thanks to its labour policies that supports discrimination and suppression of labour rights.]
[Broome, B.A. Dealing with Sharks and Bullies in the Workplace. ABNF Journal, Winter2008, Vol. 19 Issue 1, p28-30, 3p]


Mean Girls: Four Ways to Respond - by Susan Fee

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My heart melted

I just received an email from SMS today.


From: [SMS]
To: [WD] 
Sent: Sunday, December 16, 2012 1:21 PM
Subject: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Hello [WD],
I hope this mail will find you well. 
All the best from me to you.
Take care and with hope to hear from you soon.

[1 Attachment: joyeux-noel.pps : A Powerpoint show with Québécois French music and wordings.]


Sigh! I cannot deny that my heart melted when I read his email. We had good times together in the past, but the long-distance relationship just did not work out.

I don't know what to say to him. Frankly, I feel like replying to him honestly that unless he is prepared to marry me and live permanently in B.C., Canada, there is no point in him contacting me again. But I did not reply him. I don't want to feel vulnerable and possibly be made-use-of again.

Love and the weather
From Irving Berlin’s "White Christmas - The Musical"
[A song that I heard at a musical recently.]

Friday, December 14, 2012

Singapore's union says no to equal pay for all nationalities

I am referring to this report from the Business Times dated 15-Dec-2012.


[Extracted report from The Business Times dated 15-Dec-2012.]

NTUC says 'no' to equal pay for all nationalities
'Same job-equal pay' rule will put local workers and families at a disadvantage


THE labour movement has rejected a call for workers of all nationalities to get the same pay for the same job, and recommended instead "fair and reasonable wages" for all.

Labour chief Lim Swee Say, addressing a range of labour issues at a press conference, said: "We are highly uncomfortable with this idea of 'same job-equal pay', because we feel that this will actually disadvantage our local workers and their families, and we think this is not the way to go."

The "same job-equal pay" clamour arose when a group of SMRT bus drivers from China held an illegal strike last month to signal their unhappiness about their pay being lower than that of their Malaysian counterparts, among other things.

Mr Lim, the secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said it was a sensitive, complicated issue but noted the issues to consider.


See what Lucky Tan and Kristen Han (#spuddings) wrote about why that million-dollar minister's logic is flawed. IMHO, even an 18 year-old A-levels economics student would probably have a better grasp of basic economic principles of running a business than that million-dollar minister.

On other note, I am glad my foreign-talent friends ZS and JX (both from PRC and worked in Singapore for years) decided to give up their Singapore PR. They are indeed better off in Canada, given such government-endorsed discrimination in Singapore. In other words, with such government-backed discrimination, the kind of foreign workers that Singapore would attract and retain in the long-term are the rejects (at the bottom of the barrel) rather than the crème de la crème.

As for the nurses in Singapore, brace yourself that relational aggression resulting from such inequity will continue within the multi-national nursing workforce -- either until you retire/quit from nursing in Singapore or there is political change in Singapore.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Seduction of Feel-Good Messages

I just saw a Canadian friend M posting a feel-good message on her Facebook wall. 2 of her friends "Liked" the post.

What if Money didn't matter

I know this friend from my previous part-time job. M is a second-generation Canadian. Her parents migrated from India years ago and work in low-wage jobs (having climbed the corporate hierarchy to get above the minimum wage) to support the family. M and her sister P have finished their high-school in recent years and are looking at their career options. Her sister P is still waiting to start her nursing course, having been too late to beat the other eligible applicants earlier this year.

From what I understand, M has some education in Marketing. She keeps dreaming about starting her own business and shared with me her dreams while we were colleagues. When I asked her further questions, it became clear to me that M lacked the clarity to realize what "starting a business" really takes. For one, it took some probing questions before she decided to narrow her business to the food and beverages industry. For another, it was clear to me that M has no kitchen management experience nor even an appreciation of what it takes to run a kitchen effectively and efficiently for a food business to survive. [See videos below for an idea.] Upon further probing, M decided that she would run a party-catering business instead. When I suggested that she try her hand at writing a business proposal, her reply was that she will do it when she meets a (potential) source of funding. Obviously, she does not realize that the process of writing a business proposal may be a method to force oneself to think through the details of one's business model.

Red Rock - a behind the counter look at a food business

[Ok, this is a cartoon, but surely one can notice from the kitchen scenes that organization and management of a kitchen are crucial in a food outlet.]

Personally, I like M. She is an assertive and straight-forward person. However, she will need a really good mentor to guide her if she were to ever get anywhere in her business dream. Unfortunately I am not qualified to be such a mentor. Oh no, I am nowhere near it.

In the meantime, IMHO, M needs to learn the harsh realities of life. A video like "What if Money didn't matter" may make an aspiring youth feel good, but the honest truth is: for success to come, 'feeling good' alone isn't going to count for much, especially when one comes from a working-class family with the odds of success stacked against one. Don't take my word for it, read what multi-millionaires like LIFT and Dotseng have to say about the harsh reality of life. Thus I did what I do not typically do. I dished out my 2 cents of unsolicited advice to a young friend.


[My comment dated 12-Dec-2012, on M's Facebook wall in response to her "What if Money didn't matter" post.]

Please take the video's advice with a pinch of salt. Unless you're born-privileged such that "money really didn't matter", then it is not wise to rush blindly in pursuit of happiness/dreams.

IMHO, there has to be a balance somewhere between chasing one's dream and making a living. Earn your own keep and that of your family's if you should decide to start one. You gain personal dignity and learn valuable life lessons from the "boring life"; it is not as "meaningless" as it is made out to be in the video.

Once you make enough to feed yourself and your family, you can establish a S.M.A.R.T. plan to achieve what you desire. If your means of making a living happens to be what you desire, then congratulations. If not, then it's still ok, you can lift your head high that you have it in you to create a dignified life; you're not what some people call a "welfare king/queen".

I am saying this because I know from life experience what it is like to be born in a "working class" family, growing up "have-not". I came from a country without welfare, and extreme capitalism drives the rich-poor gap bigger with each passing year. I have observed what a growing rich-poor gap does to individuals and the society, you don't want to be at the wrong end of the totem in such a society. While Canada is more egalitarian and socialist, it also follows the global trends of a growing rich-poor gap. As I've said before, you don't want to be at the wrong end of the totem when the rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer.

If you really want to "make it", read research-based books about how successful people really make it. [Not those glossy self-promoting bullshit autobiography books by specific successful persons about how he/she personally made it.]

Some suggested reading list (the 1st 2 are research-based books):
1. "Outlier" by Malcolm Gladwell
2. "The Millionaire Next Door" by by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
3. "Letters of a Businessman" to his son by G. Kingsley Ward
4. "The Richest Man in Babylon" by George Samuel Clason


Click here for a Yahoo! Finance (Bloomberg) story about "McDonald's $8.25 Man and $8.75 Million CEO Shows Pay Gap".

See also the TED talk by Meg Jay: Why 30 is not the new 20, "get some identity capital."

Friday, December 07, 2012

Recipe: 4 gods soup 四神汤

Recently while on my preceptorship, my preceptor mentioned that Chinese people knows how to eat to maintain their health and asked me what I usually eat. I told her that I grew up drinking soups since I am Cantonese. Thus, she asked me to share my recipes for nourishing soups.

On another occasion at dinner with my good friends in Canada, JX and PN were enthralled to hear my opinion that the duration of the menstrual cycle may be affected by the food we eat. I cited as an example that if I ate too much soy-products, I find my cycle shortened (even down to 3 weeks). Recently since I started drinking nourishing soups regularly, e.g. the "4 gods soup" [四神汤], my cycle returned to its usual 30 to 31 days duration. PN was especially interested in the recipe for the "4 gods soup" [四神汤] as it is known to have multiple benefits.


"4 gods soup" [四神汤]

This is my version of the "4 gods soup" [四神汤]。 A chance discussion with a monk back in September reminded me of this nourishing soup. The recipe ingredients vary depending on who you ask, so my recipe is a combination of my mother's recipe and a common online recipe.

These are the actual amounts that I use in a pot of soup (serves 4-8). The ingredients clockwise, from top-left (clear rectangular container).
  • Clear rectangular container [Top white rolls with brown edges]: 茯苓 (Wolfiporia cocos)
  • Clear rectangular container [Bottom 2 white pieces]: 茯神 (Poria cocos, a.k.a. Indian Bread). Note: This ingredient is not in the usual "4 gods soup" [四神汤]recipes, but my mother adds it regularly to hers. It is supposed counter insomnia, to calm mental anxiety [宁心] and soothes "one's nerves" [安神]。
  • Red bowl: 芡实 (Euryale ferox, a.k.a. Fox Nuts)
  • Blue bowl: 枸杞 (Wolfberry Lycium). Note: This ingredient is not in the usual "4 gods soup" recipes, but I add it in because I like its taste and it is good for one's vision (eyes).
  • Green bowl: 紅棗 (Red dates). Note: This ingredient is not in the usual "4 gods soup" [四神汤]recipes, but I added it because it sweetens the soup naturally and it nourishes the blood.
  • Black bowl (six white pieces): 淮山(山藥) (Dioscorea opposita, a.k.a. Chinese Yam)
  • Clear round container: 蓮子 (Lotus seeds)
  • Not displayed: Soya source added to taste
1. Rinse all the ingredients.

2. Optional step: De-seed the red dates.

3. Split open the lotus seeds. Remove and discard any green sapling growing at the core/centre.

4. Put all (except the 枸杞 Wolfberry Lycium) ingredients into the slow-cooker. Add water. Slow-cook for 2 to 3 hours.

5. At the final few minutes, add the 枸杞 Wolfberry Lycium. Also, add soya sauce to taste.

6. Serve warm.

"4 gods soup" [四神汤]
Serve warm

Ups and Downs

In our final GNIE semester, we covered mental health. I want to share this excellent BBC documentary that explores the bipolar disorder.


Early last month (November), after one of our team meetings, AP, PY and I were gossiping idly as usual. We had just covered our mental health topic at school recently. PY, who had several years of mental health nursing experience, started to "diagnose" some of the people we know mutually. She was spot-on, both AP and I agreed with her.

Somewhere along the way, I mentioned that I may have some symptoms of bipolar. PY went, "You? Bipolar? Impossible!"

I countered, "Why not? I know I had been depressed before*, although never clinically diagnosed -- simply because I wasn't even sound enough to go see the doctor. I don't get manic episodes, but I suspect that I may have hypomania sometimes." [*Note: Albeit the depressive episode was almost 15 years ago, and I have never hit that rock bottom since.]

PY went, "No, not possible. X is bipolar but not you. You're doing so well at school."

AP disagreed with her. AP had spent more time than PY with both X and me. 
IMHO, thanks to my intellect, I am able to harness the optimism and increased energy (symptoms of hypomania), while ring-fencing its undesirable effects. 
It helps that I am financially disciplined. Even when I splurge, I keep myself within my "splurge allowance". I guess it helps that I am excellent with numbers and I track my daily expenses with a spreadsheet. E.g. Unlike X who whips out his credit card and go on a shopping spree (whether at the malls or online) when mania strikes, I shop at places that would not bring me to financial ruin, limit myself to quantities that I can physically carry on public transport, and keep within my "splurge allowance". E.g. AP occasionally goes supermarket groceries shopping with me. Once she told me to "put back" items that I didn't need immediately, although I could well afford those additional items. E.g. Every now and then I would buy too much food and other items, and only give them away. [That said, I am happy to give the stuff away, especially to the food bank, charities and/or my refugee friends.] E.g. Whenever I feel the "shop-till-I-drop" mood, I would try to keep myself busy at home. If that fails, I avoid shopping at the malls and head towards places like Value Village (a thrift store), Dollarama (a penny store) and The Real Canadian Superstore (a mid-range supermarket). After all, at the thrift stores, one can still experience the highs of finding a good bargain (i.e. enjoy "retail therapy") without going into the red. Plus, it takes a lot more time to sort through the "second life" items to find a good buy at the thrift stores, and thus limiting the quantity of purchase. [That said, I ever found some good quality finds at thrift stores like Value Village. E.g. I have a grey cashmere turtleneck that both JX and EM touched admiringly, asking me where I bought it. They were surprised when I told them, with EM remarking that she must make a trip to Value Village someday.]  
I think that it also helps that I was trained in acting. Thus, even when I feel blue, I am able to do the minimal socializing necessary to function and to meet my roles and responsibilities. After all, "all the world's a stage". Of course, I would prefer to withdraw to my comfy room/bed and/or to the libraryWhy spread one's misery when the world already has enough problems? Indeed, sometimes I prevent myself from sharing my misery even when asked, because I know from life experience that my blues will and do turnaround.
IMHO, it also helps that unlike PY, when it comes to sexual needs, I find Doing-It-Yourself as good as intercourse. Frankly, I do enjoy my solitude, thus dating is not high on my priority list. In short, the risks associated with hypersexuality (in many people with hypomania) is not an issue for me.
In fact, the last time a couple of mood swings happened was in November. I stopped blogging for a couple of weeks -- the brain kept hurtling on, while the body became slow/impasse (because the body felt that the brain may change its mind again soon enough). Interestingly though, since I paid more attention to my moods, I even felt a "click-click" in my brain once while standing along a supermarket aisle -- one moment feeling an urge to buy all the available options of take-away containers, and the next moment (after the "click-click") rationalizing that I had more than enough to meet my current needs. I had another of those "click-click" moments again in late-November.
PY was still unconvinced of my self-diagnosis. She then suggested that I could consult a family doctor (GP) to ask for an assessment and, if needed, a psychiatric referral/treatment and social support while I am still considered "low-income". I replied, as PY knows, that since psychiatric drugs are only symptomatic treatment and tend to have a lot of undesirable side effects, I would prefer not to seek intervention, especially since I am (seen to be) functional. [Note: Psychiatric diagnosis is often an art rather than a science. "To a degree that interferes with the functions of ordinary life" often becomes a defining line upon which the decision to treat is based.]


An interesting article from Yahoo!, "Does childhood stress stay with you for your whole life?"

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

GNIE: Completed program

Today marks for me the final milestone of the GNIE program. We took an examination today and reviewed through the results immediately. [I calculated that I passed this final unit.] 

Thereafter we had a "focus group" discussion to review the strengths and areas of improvement for the GNIE program. Finally, we had a pinning ceremony and a celebratory pot-luck. As the instructor puts it, today not only marks a milestone in the completion of our program, but also a milestone in our migration journey -- all the effort that we put in to get to where we are now.

"Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Graduate Nurse Re-Entry"
A token representing all the effort we put in 
to be where we currently are.

I am very glad that other than the 2 we lost on our journey, everyone else passed. I am especially happy to celebrate with AP, who despite facing much challenge early in the programme, pulled through all her challenges. After all, AP and I are now close friends having covered each other's back together in our studies, clinical experience, group projects and general socializing.

Beautiful double-rainbow in Surrey

It was a particularly rainy afternoon. AP and I caught sight of a beautiful rainbow when we stopped by to visit another GNIE classmate after school. [Note: Actually it was a double-rainbow. If you look carefully, the second rainbow was a faint one to the right of the first.] Let's hope that the rainbow is a sign of good things to come.

GNIE: Preceptorship close shave!

I almost got myself into trouble on my last shift (night duty) of preceptorship last Friday-night/Saturday-morning, and I could have failed as a result.

My preceptor decided to let the matter pass anyway. She knew from previous observations that I do assess my patients, and felt that I knew what I was doing, and thus there was no risk to the patient's safety. She decided that the problem was that I was too comfortable in the specific task such that I had forgotten that I am still playing the student role currently. [Personally I simply thought that I had forgotten, but when my preceptor analyzed the situation with me, I realized that her analysis was probably more accurate.]
Note: Whenever my classmates talked about the final preceptorship during previous semesters, we all agreed with the advice, "Never quarrel with your preceptor, try to get along." After all, we had heard rumours of students who did not get along with their preceptors and had problems during the preceptorship. Thus we were all worried about the luck of the draw on who we would get as a preceptor.
I am really grateful to have RN HH as my preceptor. I thank my lucky stars each time I think about it, especially when I compare to the horrors of my initiation into nursing in Singapore. RN HH is awesome! She not only taught me the finer techniques of nursing skills and time management, but also guided me on "negotiating" the workplace dynamics and understanding the stakeholders in the healthcare industry. I am really freaking lucky! I hope my lucky star continues to shine on me. Meanwhile, I keep thanking HH in my heart and hope that she will achieve her goals in nursing. [I also completed an "Evaluation of Learning Experience" feedback form to the health authority (where my preceptorship was done), expressing how RN HH is an awesome preceptor and also my appreciation of the supportive collegial environment.

p.s. AP passed her preceptorship too! This calls for a celebration!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Equal pay for equal work in Singapore?

Equal pay for equal work in Singapore? [Click here, herehere and here for online commentary arguing for it.] Here's the caveat: IMHO, this nationality-driven discrimination has become so widespread in Singapore that the bus drivers' situation is merely the tip of the iceberg. Are we ready to bite the bullet and do a throughout spring-cleaning?

Take a look at the healthcare sector in Singapore for example. Even nurses in Singapore are discriminated in their pay based on their passports. If you don't believe, just go check with the Human Resource departments of the various restructured and private hospitals. [I know about it personally from working at one such private hospital lodged upon a certain "mount", and heard about similar HR practices at another private hospital from an ex-colleague who transferred from there.]

Even monkeys know to reject unequal pay.

How do you expect nurses from various countries behave when they learn of the discriminatory pay in Singapore? Ever heard of "relational aggression" in nursing? [Click here for an example. In the example, SSN Y is a Malaysian who lived in Singapore for many years. SN J, SEN M and EN IV are non-Singaporeans. SSN R, SN SB, SN RB, SN M, PCA M and I are all Singapore citizens. I cannot recall if SSN L and SSN R are Malaysians or Singaporeans.]
Reading Vincent Wijeysingha's post on The Online Citizen, citing what he considered bad HR policies that risks passengers' and road-users' safety made me laugh -- cynically. My ex-colleagues and I have gone through similar (mis-)treatment as nurses at a certain private hospital in Singapore.

"their six day work week did not mean working Days 1 to 6 and then resting on the seventh. It meant being allocated a rest day at any time during each seven day period: Thus they could be off on Monday, work twelve days straight and then be off next on the Sunday of the second week."
> "This did not include the already existing practice of not paying the drivers for the time it takes to prepare their vehicles prior to starting their first run of the day and servicing their vehicles after the end of each shift. Workers estimated that SMRT sucked at least one hour of unpaid work per shift from each driver"
  • Checked. We were expected to arrive prior to the shift reporting time to complete various safety checks prior to the start of our shifts. Ditto to stay behind after the end of our shifts for various admin and add-on work. [Click here and here for examples.]
> "Constraints precisely designed to neutralise anyone who dares to ask for respect and dignity. ... Are told to go and join another company if they are unhappy with their pay and conditions?"
  • Checked. I have personally witnessed a foreign-trained nurse secretly crying as she was forced to return to work at a ward where she was being abused by the "senior" (i.e. long-service) staff. The bullying is real. My nursing buddy who was sent to that same ward earlier became physically unwell after undergoing the stress from the collegial abuse. My buddy threatened to break her bond with the hospital if she was not re-deployed to another unit. Fortunately for my buddy, the management believed that she could afford to pay up the bond, and thus she was quickly re-shuffled to another unit to retain her services. When I asked the foreign nurse why she didn't she try to speak to the management like my buddy did, she told me that she did. The management told the foreign nurse that if she could not take the abuse, she could quit if she paid-up her bond. [Note: Being newly recruited from overseas, the management knew that the foreign nurse did not have the savings to pay up her bond.]
Consider how such labour abuses compromise not only the nurses' physical, mental and emotional health but also patients' safety. [Click here and here for examples.] How safe do you feel if the nurses caring for you and/or your loved ones are all-smiles in-your-face but actually breaking-down or burnt-out inside? How many nurses left the Singapore healthcare system in disgust? [Some of these left comments in my blog.] Unless you have personally suffered such systemic labour abuse and are happy to accept it over your entire career, please do not chide me for leaving Singapore. Do not chide me for breaking my bond in favour of my physical (click here and here), mental and emotional health. Do not chide me for choosing to work in a country where having real unions and enforcement of workplace safety laws meant that labour is treated with dignity and respect. [Click herehere and here.]

Other industries in Singapore that I came across with similar discriminatory practices and/or labour abuses include: construction, hospitality (hotels), information technology (including banking and financial services sectors), food and beverage / restaurants, etc. IMHO, anyone game enough to hunt for discriminatory practices and/or labour abuse just have to close his/her eyes and pick any industry, ANY industry in Singapore -- dig a little deeper and one will open a Pandora's box of filthy discriminatory HR practices and labour abuses.


[Update Dec-25, 2014] Click here to read a blog post from "The Slim Rolly Polly Wannabe", another ex-Singapore nurse (now nursing in Aussie).

Sleep camel

This is the final week of my GNIE training, since I have finished my preceptorship ahead of schedule. I have an exam on Tuesday, and then I am done.

Looking back at my sleep pattern for the past year, I realize that I am quite a sleep camel. [Click here or here for description.] According to the Word Spy website, quoting "News" from The Guardian (London):
"Sleep Camels are ultra-workaholics who go for days without resting, then power-sleep or power-nap for most of the weekend in an attempt to store up energy for the week ahead."
Yup, that sounds like me alright. My good friend and classmate AP recognizes this so well in me. Some days, she would just ask me seemingly out-of-the-blue, "WD, what time did you sleep last night?"