Monday, December 30, 2013

Come! Or don't! As you decide...

Perhaps it's that time of the year again, where folks tend to look back in-review and look forward with new dreams/hopes. Just too many thoughts buzz through my mind as I passed the 3rd year of Canadian residency, entering my 4th.


[20-Dec-2013 Footprints in the snow at dusk]

As I was trudging my way home through the snow 10 days ago, the footprints in the snow of each passer-by going one way or another made me think of how personal the migration decision and journey is. No 2 persons have identical situations, and thus each must forge his/her own way. 
Aside: Another thought I had was that until the 'aha' moment, I never thought that I -- known to be afraid of even the air-con while in Singapore -- would put up with living in a snowy landscape for a (hopefully) more stable/sustainable future.
For some, the decision to come (to another country) is the best one made in their lives; for others, it may make more sense to return to the familiar; and yet, for some it takes more than a few attempts at settling to decide which path is in their best interests.
E.g. Last week I met another PRC with a, by now, familiar story of PRC-to-Canada migration story. PRC comes to Canada with high hopes and expectations -- after all just being able to qualify for immigration makes him/her the crème de la crème since he/she has thrived in the cut-throat competitive environments of the major Chinese cities. First attempt at settling-in failed miserably (whether in B.C. or other provinces), and he/she quickly scooted back to China. At his/her second or subsequent attempts, PRC returns with more realistic expectations.

Indeed, over the Christmas period, I've had more than a few reminders (i.e. stories from various new acquaintances whom I've met) of a common factor which affects one's migration experience -- social support, or lack thereof. Migration can be a lonely journey.
E.g. My good friends EM and AA decided to host a Christmas Eve party given that many of our friends are immigrants who have "no family to return to for Christmas". [Note: Christmas in Metro Vancouver is like Chinese New Year for the ethnic Chinese in Singapore, very much a family-oriented event.] There were many last minute inclusions to the party troopers -- via my "referral" alone there were 5, excluding one that cancelled due to work. According to my last-minute guest R, his friend K called him as he was heading to the party and "she was almost crying because she had nowhere to go". Of course, EM and AA quickly embraced yet another last minute addition to the party. There was only 1 Canadian (EM and AA's neighbour) at the party  of 19. The rest were from France, the Caribbean (I don't know which countries exactly), Singapore, Malaysia, China, Iran, USA, Brazil and Japan. And the guest who cancelled was from The Philippines.

Last Friday (a day after Boxing Day), someone mentioned in sharing with me, "You'll never know what will happen. How long you'll live? How long I'll live? Maybe I'll die in 6 months. Maybe I'll die tomorrow. Maybe you'll get an accident and die tomorrow. Maybe I'll get an accident and die the following week. Who knows?"

I replied, "Yes, we just have to take each day as it comes. Count each day as it comes."

I agree, especially when one thinks about “天有不測風雲,人有旦夕禍福。” ["The skies have unpredictable storms, humans have sudden changes in fortune."] 

Indeed, when I arrived home that evening and logon to Facebook, I saw a Facebook post by a Singaporean ex-colleague of mine thanking friends for coming to his wake and funeral. It was actually posted by his widow using his Facebook account. My ex-colleague passed away suddenly on Christmas Day while shopping in a mall.

"You'll never know what will happen..."


I see that my friend Down Under has been writing a couple posts recently (click here and here) advising the potential Singapore-emigrant to make up his/her own mind about whether to take that leap of faith. IMHO, he is very kind and patient. I would usually ignore those who are essentially asking me to make a major life decision on their behalf.

Come! Or don't! As you decide... but remember, you'll never know what will happen either way. The future is unknown.
E.g. There are those who came to Canada without a job/kin/kith who nevertheless settled-in. There are those who arrived with a job-in-hand, but life did not meet their expectations and/or various conditions change and they find themselves back to square-one, asking if they should stay or leave.
As ASingaporeanSon wrote in his blog entry "13 Months of Perth":
"A committed decision means we rarely regret the choices we made, even if they don't turn out well. Each of these are opportunities for us to realise who we really are, the real self that we chose to veil due to societal pressure."
So true!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Old Man Winter

While my friend Down Under is fighting against Summer, I am wondering when I'll get used to Old Man Winter. He likes to play games, as seen in the advertisement below.

In fact, this year Old Man Winter gave a sneak preview of his plans for White Christmas 2 weeks ago. Thankfully he left after the weekend sneak preview.

[06-Dec-2013, 24-hour weather forecast]

Today, i.e. Winter Solstice, marks Old Man Winter's official arrival. However, the old one is ever so good with his publicity stunts -- he blew a good amount of snowfall all yesterday morning (and even into the early afternoon) to remind everyone to welcome the new boss for this season. See photo below of the "whitewashed with snow" school compound previously all-green in my other blog post.

[20-Dec-2013, Children having fun in wind and falling snow]

Still I can't complain, I could be fighting Down Under's Summer like ASingaporeanSon instead. Or worse, Old Man Winter could have decided to extend his preview period, much like how Singapore's Orchard Road Christmas Lights come up one month before the actual event. In fact, back in 2010 when I first landed, Old Man Winter launch his preview a month early, on 20-Nov-2010! Back then, a normally 15 minutes brisk walk was turned into 30 minutes worth of trudging (including several slips and "break-falls") thanks to Old Man Winter's frosty blessings. For now, his frosty blessings are expected to slowly melt away, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

[20-Dec-2013, Dirty road-side slush from melting snow]

[21-Dec-2013, 14-day weather forecast]

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes to all for 2014!


p.s. As they say in life, there's always a silver lining in every grey cloud. E.g. The snowy wintery weather makes for beautiful photo shots. E.g. If one has the time and is warmly dressed, it is nice to sit and observe what the creatures of nature do during this wintry season. I have seen squirrels (mainly brown ones and a black one) scampering around doing their "last minute Christmas shopping". Sometimes I also wonder about the birds -- the lone seagull who for whatever reason did not or could not travel with its flock. What would it do? How would it survive?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Barbaric posse

I just saw a shocking photo of how "Passers-by catch, tie up 'thief' at Chong Pang Market" in Singapore today. You can read The Straits Times online news article here and see The Straits Times Facebook photo here.

IMHO, it is shocking how some commented that the accused deserved the barbaric treatment. From the photo: the accused was tied like an animal for slaughter and his hands and legs looks like they've turned purple -- a clear sign of insufficient blood and oxygen flow. Who will support this guy if his hands and feet are amputated due to tissue death? What makes Singaporeans think that it is ok to be a barbaric posse -- regardless of the crime committed?
[Note: I am not opposed to tying the thief up, but the posse should ensure that it is done in a way that does not harm the suspect. Deterrence should be just enough force applied, not excessive, otherwise IMHO the "deterrence" is really a flimsy excuse for assault.]
In contrast, another story (from Oklahoma, USA) shared on the same Facebook thread by another commenter illustrates how the story could have had a different ended. Long story short: Man stole woman's wallet, woman caught man, offered to pay his groceries, man cried and apologize profusely.
"The last thing he said was, 'I'll never forget tonight. I'm broke, I have kids, I'm embarrassed and I'm sorry.'" -- Yahoo! Shine, Ellen's Good News, Tue Oct 22, 2013.
Think again. Has Singapore devolved back to the Charles Dicken's era?

[Extracted from The Straits Times online]
Published on Dec 04, 2013 at 8:33 AM

Alert passers-by foiled a theft yesterday, when a man allegedly tried to steal a fishmonger's takings while he was serving a customer.

The 50-year-old stall worker, who gave his name as Mr Ye, had been chopping fish when the thief was said to have snatched about $200 from a container on the counter at Chong Pang Market.

"He stuffed it into a plastic bag, turned around and ran," Mr Ye told Chinese evening paper Shin Min Daily News. "That's when I shouted for help."

His plea caught the attention of other tenants and passers-by, who caught the 55-year-old man and restrained him with cable ties.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Schooling in Metro Vancouver

After reading the guest blog entry "Secrets to Success (Part 1)" on ASingaporeanSon's blog, I guess maybe I should share my replies to reader NGS on my other blog entry "Boyfriend-brand dinner" and add a couple more comments. [And I'll litter the blog entry with some school-related photos at random.]

NGS was asking about where to stay in Vancouver, presumably with regards to his/her children's education. See his/her comments dated Thursday, November 14, 2013 9:20:00 PM: 
Hi, thanks for your comments. Actually I was referring more to Vancouver, which we intend to settle now.
A bit of myself, I have two young children, Primary 5 and Sec 1, and 3 teenagers ( two of them will be serving NS, and one of them will be following with the mum to settle in the year 2014.Thanks
[My reply on Monday, November 18, 2013 6:16:00 PM was as follow.]


I do not have any children and thus I have not done any research on education for the young. Here's some info and/or opinions that I've gathered from some locals and immigrants. Disclaimer: Take the info/opinions at your own risk.

For public schools, you will need to reside (i.e. official residential address) within the "catchment area" to enrol your child in a specific school. The school districts, covering each city, in Metro Vancouver, include (not full-list here):

For a full list of B.C. school districts, check Guru Wikipedia and ask Professor Google for details.

If you're looking for private schools, then it is an entirely different ball-game. Please ask Professor Google about it.

Generally, DTES (downtown East Side of Vancouver) is a poor-men's area, so poverty-related issues do creep up in schools too. West Vancouver is dominated by wealthy households. North Vancouver and Vancouver-west (i.e. Vancouver, west-side of Main street) has a more-even cross-section of the social demographics.

The folks whom I spoke to generally like bringing up their children in North Vancouver or Vancouver, west. That's all the opinions I've gathered.

Once again: Take the above info/opinions at your own risk.

Cheers, WD.


Yesterday when we were helping our friends (a PRC couple) move to their new home in Burnaby, the wife mentioned that they chose their home's location because it is within the catchment area of a good or highly-ranked school. That's when I heard about school rankings in Metro Vancouver. [Click here and here for more information.] Do note that the rankings are done by Fraser Institute, a research institution whose "research" invariably carries "right-wing" conclusions, so take the rankings at your own risk.

[Nov-2013: Kindergarten registration opens Nov-Jan]

One elderly Singaporean couple whom I spoke to told me that they were not too concerned about which school their children when to when they immigrated decades ago. In fact, they just enrolled their children in the public schools nearby as they were confident of the quality of education in B.C., Canada. Both their children are now adults holding professional/executive jobs. The caveat: They lived in North Vancouver. [See my reply to NGS above about North Vancouver.]

[Sep-2013 Classroom covenant at a private Christian school]

There are also private schools that market themselves to specific niche. E.g. Schools with a strong Christian emphasis. E.g. School with a specific education methodology -- say Montessori. One of my East Asian classmates believes in the value-add of a private education, despite its much more costly academic fees. She came from an East Asian society that is highly conscious of social class and, as a couple, both she and her husband were from the upper-middle class. Those who send their children to private schools should be prepared for endless rounds of donation drives and parent-volunteer activities.

[Nov-2013: Part of a public school compound]

Personally, here's what I have observed amongst the youths at my previous part-time retail job as they discussed about the differences between their school experience. [Note: This is a very small sample size, so please take my comments at your own risk.] Those from private schools were given the mobile phone numbers of their teachers and encouraged to speak to their teachers if they had any issues. At work, IMHO, the private school students/grads tended to "expect to be served" (e.g. "you have to train me for the job"), "treated with respect" and were more willing/confident to speak with (and/or take an issue up with) authority figures (e.g. managers). Those who went to "public schools" (mostly Vancouver, East side) were more likely to be treated as "just another student on the education assembly line" at school. At work, IMHO, they were more ready to adjust to their roles of being "cogs" of the retail chain (i.e. "just shut-up and follow the chain of command, and plot revenge later") and seemed better at the street-smarts of managing inter-personal politics at work.

[Mar-2013 Urban farm program in selected Vancouver public secondary/middle schools]

Some of the Canadians whom I spoke to preferred to put their children into the "French-immersion" public school system. One theory is that private schooling is beyond the average-family's affordability; parents who chose to put their children into French immersion obviously read and found out about the additional steps needed to apply for this "special" stream; and thus they (the parents) are likely to be more interested in their children's education; and thereby more likely to raise their children in "educationally-supportive" home environment which in-turns leads to their children mixing with others from such similar background.

[Nov-2013: Stream of Dreams mural that frequently adorn the fence of public schools]

[Nov-2013: A distant view of a Stream of Dreams mural that frequently adorn the fence of public schools]

I have also come across children who are home-schooled. These generally fall into 2 groups. E.g. Parents who think that "schooling is a form of brainwashing" and refuse to submit their children to be "stripped of their independent minds". The other group is wealthy and/or have "gifted" children; and the parents believe in developing their children's knowledge/skills as fast as they (the children) can learn/absorb.

Since I am not a parent myself, I do not hold entrenched views one way or the other. I think each parent will have to decide on what he/she thinks is in the best interest of his/her child/children. That said, don't be surprised if/when the child grows up and voice issues/disagreement with the parents' choice. There are no guarantees -- individuals can react differently to the same stimuli.

Bang, bang!

Yesterday (Saturday), a group of friends stayed behind to chat after helping a couple to move to their "new" home.
It is generally considered a happy milestone for Asian immigrants to "own" (i.e. pay mortgage) for the roof over our heads. For around half-a-million, it was a nice 2-storied duplex with (IMHO) enough living space for 2 families.
Somewhere along the way, we talked about the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". ZS the neurologist amongst us had always been interested in memory -- how it functioned and how it was stored -- which lead him to specialize in neurology, albeit his current research is not related to the memory functions of the brain.


Anyway, combined with Friday's indoor shooting session, it made me think about the current assumptions on childhood amnesia and how it may possibly lead to under-treatment of childhood PTSD.


For decades, I have had a recurring dream whereby I was with my older sister (as toddlers) and an adult (possibly an aunt). For some reason, we were squatting in a small alcove created by the concrete sides of the letterbox-mount and metre-tall concrete fully-covered banister and balusters*. In the dream, there was a sense that we were hiding from "bad people" [坏人] who would make use of us toddlers in their evil plots if we were found. After waiting for a while, my aunt decided to check if her friend who lives a unit away was home, as my grandparents' unit was too far down the block. My aunt cautioned us to remain in our hideout and await for her return. My sister said something to me about keeping quiet, and I responded that I understood by making a gun (thumbs up, index finger pointing straight, with other fingers bent) with my hand and mouthed-silently, "Bang, bang!"

[2013 photo of Blk 178 and 177 Toa Payoh Central
*Those who have passed through the "tunnels" (painted with orange strips in the photo above) of Toa Payoh Central apartment blocks would probably understand what I'm talking about.
Sometimes I would wake up at this point in the dream with my heart thumping quickly. Sometimes I would continue to dream on and the "next episode" in the dream would appear. We were now in a "friend's home", i.e. a 2nd or 3rd floor unit of that apartment block. The adults were awaiting anxiously for news that "all's clear". In order to hide their fear and to calm the children down, the adults plied us with yummy sweet warm drinks and a choice delicious cookies. [IIRC, the drinks were Milo, Ovaltine or Horlicks and the cookies were the delicious Kjeldsens Danish butter cookies.] The adults did not even dared to open the windows for fear of attracting the attention of the "bad people" [坏人] and/or stray bullets flying through the window. We kids were also told to stay away from the windows and the door. Eventually, "all's clear" was declared and everyone seemed relieved -- everyone except me. While my heart was no longer thumping, the fear just did not go away.

"It's just a dream", I would coax myself upon waking up, "Everyone gets nightmares of being chased by bad people sometimes."


One interesting thing that I noticed (as a child) one Chinese New Year was that I had suddenly grown frightened by the loud thumping of the drums during the Lion Dance performances. I have vague memories of previously enjoying those festive performances, so I could not understand that new found fear. In fact, even other loud and sudden "bangs" like the bursting of balloons would make me jump.  I concluded that, too bad, I just grew up to be a Scaredy Cat and tried my best to hide my fears, especially in social settings to avoid being teased.


One day in 2006 after I got my driver's licence, I was speaking with my older sister on a long-distance call. I remarked how nice it was that, "Now that I have a driver's licence, I no longer have the dream* whereby I was chased by bad people and I found a car (escape vehicle) but I could not use it because I did not know how to drive."
[*Note: That is another recurring dream that I had.]
My elder sister went, "Oh, we were ever running away from robbers before."

I was totally surprised, "Is that so?"

My sister replied in affirmative. We were toddlers strolling around with our aunt at Toa Payoh "New Town" -- at that time it was a newly built satellite-town, when suddenly there was a robbery at a goldsmith shop nearby. Our aunt took us through a "staircase tunnel", crossed the carpark to hide in a "staircase tunnel" of the opposite apartment block. She followed with, "You even made a gun with your fingers and mouthed 'Bang, bang!' Don't you remember?"

I replied hesitantly, "No... Yes... I thought it was just a dream."

But then, my sister proceeded to tell me pretty much the contents of my recurring dream (see above). 

So I went to the public library and researched the newspaper archives. There were 2 goldsmith robbery in the early days of Toa Payoh New Town. [See appendix below.] Based on the dates given, I was only around 2 years-old when the events happened, yet the memories were seared into my brain and returned to me via my subconscious mind (i.e. in my dream state) through the decades. Up until our fateful conversation in year 2006, no one in my family mentioned about that scary event in my young life. Thanks to my older sister for solving this mystery, I no longer have that recurring dream anymore since.



Five armed men took only 3 minutes to grab $10K worth of jewellery from a goldsmith's shop in Toa Payoh Central this afternoon.

The robbers, 4 armed with parangs and one with an axe, walked into Ban Loong Goldsmiths in Blk 185 shortly after 3:30pm.

They herded 3 sisters of the owner and a male employee to the side of the shop and warned them not to make any noise.

While 4 of the men stood guard over them, the 5th with the axe smashed the showcases.

They were scooping jewellery into a paperbag, when the owner Mr Chia Kia Gin, 28, who heard the commotion from the rear, pressed the alarm bell.

The robbers panicked, ran out and escapted in a green car pared at the rear of the shop with a 6th man at the wheels.

Later tonight, police said they were uncertain whether the car was a Morris or Austin 1100. Its number plate was SK 8122. They appealed to those seeing a car with the number plate to contact them.

Mr Chia said he was at the rear when he heard the noise of smashing glass.

"I peeped out and saw the robbers holding up my sisters and employee."


$200,000 double by gangs
- Gerry de Silva, N.G. Kutty

Goldsmith shop and a factory robbed

Armed robbers got away with nearly $200,000 in cash and jewellery in 2 hold-ups just before lunchtime yesterday.

Some 300 girl workers of Atlas Electronics Co. Ltd., a flatted factory in Lower Delta Road, stood petrified as 2 armed men robbed the firm of $70K just after 11:15am.

The money was part of a $107K payroll which had been delivered under police escort only a few minutes earlier.

An arrest

An hour later, 4 armed men strode into Fu-Heng Goldsmiths in Toa Payoh Central and escaped with jewellery worth more than $120K.

The robbers spent only 10 minutes in the shop. But they thoroughly ransacked it of all expensive jewellery.

Late last night, a police party, led by acting Deputy Supt. Sidek Ismail, arrested a gang leader in connection with the robbery. 


Robbery no. 2: 4 robbers, 2 armed with revolvers and 2 with parangs, walked into the goldsmith's shop, 30 minutes after it opened for businesss at noon.

They held up one of the 4 partners, Mr Quek Ah Heng, 42, and 3 employees and ordered them into the rear office.

While 2 of them -- one with a revolver and the other with a parang -- stood guard over them, the others opened the show cases and scooped up all the jewellery.

An off-duty policeman, Constable Donald Soh, 25, of Kandang Kerbau Division saw the 4 men getting hurriedly into a car.

Mr Soh went after them, "thinking it was a gang clash." But they escaped in a red Colt Galant.

He got into his Morris Minor and followed, but lost them in Lorong 4.

Road-blocks were set up all over Singapore but there was no trace of the getaway car.

Police were struck by the cool way the robbery was carried out. Unlike the usual smash-and-grab raids, none of the glass cases were damaged by the robbers.

Police spokesman Mr Lawerence Loh last night appealed to people who saw the Colt Gallant to report immediately to the nearest police station.


$120,000 goldsmith hold-up suspect arrested

POLICE yesterday arrested a man believed to be the mastermind of the $120,000 Fu Heng Goldsmith robbery In Toa Payoh on Oct 4. The 26-year-old leader of the five-man gang was arrested at his home In Lim Teck 800 Road, off Faya Lebar Road, ... [Note: News article truncated.]

Shooting for fun

Went with some friends to Coquitlam for indoor shooting last Friday. It was really fun. 

[29-Nov-2013 - Some of the guns we played with]

In our group of 5, there were only 2 of us who have ever used firearms. AA was trained by the French navy. I was trained by the Singapore Police as a teenager. [See NPCC Training from wikipedia.] It is a fun teaser when you tell others, "Oh, the last time I used firearms was a long time ago... as a teenager" and leave it hanging. Akin to the fun PN and I had when we told others that we met at a police station.

Having tried the above firearms, including a .38 revolver (not in photo above), my preference is the "heavy" automatic gun for its easy aim, thanks to the lower recoil. If you look at the Hello Kitty target that JD shared with me, it is easy to understand why.

[29-Nov-2013 Hello Kitty target]

JD was using the "light" automatic and her bullets left traces of gunpowder on the target. You can see that the recoil from the "light" automatic made her bullets go upwards towards the top of the target. I was using the "heavy" automatic, and most of my bullets hit Hello Kitty's chest (imaginary heart) thanks to the lower recoil factor.

All in, it was a fun experience and not too expensive either given that it was "Ladies Night", i.e. cover charges are waived for ladies that night. See total bill for the 1+hour of actual shooting fun for the 5 of us below -- 3 ladies, 2 gentlemen.

[29-Nov-2013 Bill for indoor shooting fun]

For me, there's an additional benefit that I know now that I have overcome my fear of loud "bangs", albeit with ear-muffs on.