The theme of theme parks is to make money by attracting visitors, there are many attractions in it to make the visitors goes in awe and makes them want to come back again. Theme parks need to continuously upgrade their attractions to make sure visitors are not bored with the same old thing.
There are 2 distinct groups of people in these parks. The visitors, and the staffs working there. Occasionally, we will get visitors wanting to actually join the theme park as staff, and occasionally we do get staffs, who use the theme park like a visitor.
This is not too far from the reality of life we are living right now
In every Theme park, there is a ‘staff only’ door, where, obviously if you don’t work in the theme park, you don’t get to go in.
What’s behind the door?
Well, that is where the ‘hard truths’ of the reality comes in, every theme park comes to life because there are many workers, working to make the rides safe, clean the streets, wash the loos, there are also the marketing folks who design attractions, sell them so that tourists will flock to the rides.
Many, many things are happening behind the door and none of the tourists nor visitors gets to see, should see, nor want to see. This is where the employees stays and be themselves behind the scenes, This is where the staff can let down and talk about life. The employees of the theme park isn’t always going about chatty, and pretending to be magical and all that. They have real lives, and once they walk through that ‘Employees Only’ door, they can drop their image of a happy trooper, and head back to real life.
Singaporeans= Theme park Employees
I can’t be more blunt than that, I feel a sense of hollow in our society, the blank stares are everywhere. Singapore, as a land exists as a hub, a trading port for people, goods, to come and go, that’s all. We have the best Airports and Sea-Ports for a reason, it is a place where ships, brings goods, come and go. Nobody ever really stayed really. It is a way-point for transactions, and in the midst of that transaction, we make money.
Money which we use for other transactions. We use money to make more hubs, so that more visitors will come. As long as we, as a hub stays relevant, and current, people will come, we will make money, just like Disney land. As long as money is the centre of our social fabric, we will remain shallow, and our whole lives, go from deal to deal, without actually getting anything meaningful out of staying here. We live in the constant hype of the high, created by the rides and theme park attractions.
When we end our work, we leave the office, we step through our metaphorical ‘Staff-only’ door, disrobe our banker hat, doctor mask, sales person costume, and go back to real life, we go back to our screaming kids, ailing parents, rising taxes, claustrophobic train rides, and of course, our 5 inch world.
The next day, is simply another Groundhog Day. Live, Die, Repeat.
The Government=Theme Park Management
People gripe at the government all the time. The government is always in a damn-it-if-you-do/ damn-it-if-you-don’t duality. But honestly, the government are mostly interested in the theme park, and how to keep it running. There will always be complains from employees now and then, but as long as the employees gets paid, everyone would just bear with it.
I’m not anti-government, just so you know. Why should I? The government don’t care about me and my opinions, because the government is never personal, they are always big picture; they have to, they need to keep the entire theme park running, if the theme park closes, due to mismanagement, all the employees from top to bottom loses. The tourists? They will just go to the next theme park!
Can Singapore be less of a Theme Park?
Honestly I don’t think so. As long as Singapore remains a hub, we will always have people come and go, and those who are here, the citizens, will always face short-term socio-economic cycles. We will never have a longevity of an heritage, people will never feel that they have a part of Singapore they really have and hold, and called their own. As with all theme parks, change is the only constant, attractions will need revamp. Those specific rides we love will go away, and we will be left with only fickle memories, which will die when we die. Even those who are dead, will be dug up and their places, replaced with something new, and swanky.
Lines between employees and visitors become blurred when the employees are often caught up by the fun and hype of the theme park, and join in as visitors, and play on the rides, get all high and excited, have all the fun. While there is nothing wrong with that, it comes with a price (yes money again) When the employees play visitors, who is playing employees? This leaves the theme park short handed, and the management has to resort to other means to fill the manpower shortage. That created another set of problems that warrants a new post by itself.
Here’s the rub
Well, boys, if you think working in this theme park is bad, don’t. At least the employees here gets a decent education, healthcare is taken care of. Nobody steals from the staff canteen. Most of your colleagues, gets together well. The management are genuine and listen to the gripes of the people and have the heart of the theme park in everything they do. It’s not an easy job running the theme park, and keeping everyone’s morale up. They are not perfect, but they are trying.
The rub is this, at least when you walk through that door, you see a theme park. In many other place, you get slums, you get landfills, you get polluted drains. We have a theme park going, so let’s try to make the best of it.
We live in the constant hype of the high, created by the rides and theme park attractions.
I asked Ian a straight question:”Are you stressed?”
“No” Came a straight answer.
I asked that when I read 2 articles from The Straits Times and it is all about children being stressed out. Recently there are some cases of children committing suicide due to ‘stress’. While I am a parent and father, I do not want to critic those incidents, other than to share my grief, I do not want to see either one of you die before me, by means of taking your own life. There are better ways to get things done, and solve life problems.
Committing suicide is a stupid, stupid thing to do and it solves no problem other than to bring grief to those who are left behind. Please don’t kill yourself.
So what is this ‘stress’ all about?
It starts with the parents.
I’m stressed out at work sometimes, when my boss gets to anal about my performance (He is a great boss, and I have great colleagues, but shit do happen at work!), so I do come home with a dour face. Bad mood, foul, quick temper, yes your dad has it, you both has seen it.
Which is why I am forever thankful to your mum. She knows how good or bad things are with me in the office, and she always tries her best to soften things up before The Papa comes home. She’ll give you both ‘advance’ warning to stay clear from me, put toys back in the right place, things neat and tidy, well as much as the both of you can help it. Live firing in progress.
More importantly, she soften things, by explaining what happens at work to the both of you. We try to be as open about the trials and tribunals of life. When we are cash strapped and we need to tighten a bit, she explained it to the both of you. When I have a shitty day, she explained it to the both of you. She also explains and tell me about the days for the both of you, and that helps me ‘adult-speak’ with her.
You both are kiddos, what do you understand about stress, if we do not explain it to you both? We as parents have long learned that you both learn fastest and best through example, good, bad, and the ugly. So we explain everything, the best we can. We do not want you both to pick up the sullen, dour, foul, depressive mood, without ever knowing why, or sorting out your feelings about it. So we do our best, not to shield the both of you from our sullen, dour, foul, depressive mood, we don’t try to pretend that everything is fine and dandy. We explain that life can be shitty at times, and you parents are doing our best to roll with the punches.
I think this is all where it went south for us as parents, now raising the new generation called cotton candies. I was brought up that way too. As a kid, my parents didn’t really tell me adult things, and they would rather hide these issues from my elder brother and me. These issues, were of course, complex decision making that was top down. We as kids, did our kids thing, while the ‘higher management’ deal with high level matters, such as finance, relationships, and other ‘adult’ things. We as kids, were not privy to such matters, nor were we guided in anyway.
Whenever we ask, they will tell us that it is adult stuffs they are handling and children won’t understand, and shoo us away. In fact we do, because when an ‘Adult’ says, “children should be seen not heard”, we as children, incidentally, sees everything and hears a heck a lot more. Shielded, protected, cocooned. For our own good these ‘adults’ often say! So we as children back then, learned these ‘best practice’ from our parents, and now as adults and parents ourselves, we do these to our kids since this is the best way to parent children. We have made a very conscious choice not to bring the both of you up like that. We want to provide guidance, to make sure you boys hear things as it is, and sees that life is highly complex and it is not a bed of roses. It never is and it never will be.
As your dad, the head of the family, I make the decisions, often dictatorial of course. You both, many a times bear the consequences of those decisions, good or bad. I always try my best to explain. In my lexicon, there is no ‘adult’ thing to shield from the both of you. Your parents also do not paint a rosy picture of happiness, materialism or good life to the both of you. We want to be grounded, pragmatic and transparent. There is nothing we don’t tell the both of you, and we expect the same in reciprocation. Thankfully, you both do, tell us, things that is happening in your life.
We here your pain
This is no typo error, we want to be present for your pain and suffering, physically, mentally, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. I never profess that I can wish them away, nor can I buy a upscale Nerf gun to soothe your suffering. We want to be there for your growing pains. We know you feel them, just as we felt them when we were younger. We cannot take away your pain, we do not want to shield you from your suffering, but if we can do something to lessen that, you boys know we will. Not just lip service, superficial rub on the head.
We are here for you, both, deep, long conversations, to help the both of your become stronger after you both are broken. We don’t have a sweep under the carpet mentality. You as our boys, sees life, our life, your life full on, in all glory.
There is no calm in life
Sorry, that is the cold, hard truth. Tell you both something, at my age and maturity, I (still) have a monkey mind, and the irony now is that they want to teach you kids how to be mindful so as to find ‘inner calm‘.They REALLY expect a kid to find ‘inner peace’??? First and foremost, I feel, if anyone needs that piece of mind(fulness), it is the parents, they are the ones transferring all the stress to the children. Even with so many years of martial arts training, your dad is ever so mindful, not to let the mind fool me, with mindfulness.
There you have it, reality sucks, really. I don’t want my kids to be raised with some esoteric, hippy mumbo jumbo mind tricks(Pardon my French), but I want the both of you to know life as it is, there is no calm. There is ups and downs, there are highs and lows. I want the both of you to be resilient. resourceful and responsible. If you boys do find inner peace along the way, then that’s good, but right now it is not needed to get through your childhood, what you both need is your parents to parent the both of you a little lesser, and let you kids, be kids.
Your mum told me one day you made this remark: “Friends are like drugs, some are good for you when you are not feeling well, but having too much of that will be bad, and makes you addicted to them.“
I think you’ve hit the nail right spot on the head.
This applies to many things in life, but for you I know where you are coming from. Friends and the social life are a big melting pot for you in school. You get to work with people you like, and don’t like. Sometimes, the teachers will assign you to a team where there are ‘enemies’. You don’t always get the sunny side of the deal.
Drugs are good when you need them, and you have to stop taking them when you no longer need to consume them, and instead keep them handy in the event that you have to take them again. If you continue to use them longer than necessary, you grow dependent on these drugs. They will have an influence over your life, and soon after that, you will grow to depend on them, whether you like it or not.
And drugs changes you, and if you are not careful, you’ll turn into someone you don’t like.
Friends: Boon or Bane?
In my formative years, friends are a boon, as I do not have a strong family base. I started working young and depended a lot on my colleagues, who turned into friends for support. Friends taught me a lot, and I was thankful I mixed a a good bunch of guys. I owe a lot to who I am to the friends I know.
For your mum, she was the opposite, the family bond was strong, even until now. She has no allegiance to friends or groups, she is still very close to her parents, and there is always a time for family gathering and parties. These are precedence and priorities that I sometimes are at odds with.
Friends fade way
People always have their own agenda. We taught you this early, as we have been through many of these ‘cycles’. From young, we have a group of fun friends, close and tight. Good people whom we thought will be great to age along with. Truth to be told, everybody grows up, grows old, and grows away. Those who stays are families. That is for me; your mum, you, and your little brother.
As you are now in your final years in Primary School, most of the friends you know now will go into separate Secondary Schools next year. All of you will go forth and pursue the calling and destiny of your choice.
It is good to stay close, but being close to a certain level where you have a void, is no good. There are friends toxic to you right now, will also part. Fighting them, dealing with them now, only to face the reality that they will too go their own ways, leaves you with a kind of withdrawal symptoms.
I’m glad you have a metaphor like that, at this age. You’ll learn to distance yourself and have a healthy perspective over things. Never get too engrossed ‘fighting’ that undesirable character in school. I know you have a certain classmate, who is constantly at odds with you, picking on you. He irritates you, but he too will go his way. And when that happens? What happens to your epic ‘Me against Him’ story?
More important thing in life
Drugs are important too, for our lives, you know that. So use them well, and learn about their properties, their side effects. When to take them, what kind of ailments specific drugs can fix.
Friends are like that too, you need to learn about them and be useful to them, and make sure they are useful to you. Have an independent mind, at the same time, use friends to give you the right support and opinion. But never get too dependent on those opinions.
I enjoyed my Aikido class this evening.
Firstly, I partnered Teck Lim for Katate-dori Gyaku Hanmi-Shihonage Ura waza. The flow between the both of us is good, and although Teck Lim is holding a junior grade, he does hold his technique well, sans a few mistakes here and there, he is technically robust, at least robust to develop a rhythm in our exercise. We can go on non-stop, and this gave us both a good work out. More importantly, we get to work at a pace that is faster and more intense.
Aikido as a more developed level, goes beyond the physical, and technical, it also goes beyond the breath, with Teck Lim, I can push this, as he is already fundamentally sound in the movement, tempo and awareness. Of course, I tire him out and from that fatigue, we can explore another level of training, which is to push on, and through the experience of fatigue, you draw the energy deep within you to continue, then the technique will improve, marginally. It is not unlike weights exercise, where you train to failure.
Train to failure
In Aikido sense, you don’t develop large muscles when you ‘train to failure’, instead your partner, with the incessant attack, compels you to move, force you to hold true to the technique and not lose focus and form. Sometimes, you train until your hands are jelly, and you can barely catch your breath, that is the ‘sometimes’ where you have nowhere else to go, except to keep going on. It is not easy, but this evening I think I managed to achieve that with Teck Lim.
It is important, but often lacking in a beginners class; the intensity of training. For beginners, there are is technical crutches, speed at slow, moving and getting the hang of thing, the principles and basics of Aikido. To add speed into a technically unstable environment is a recipe for disaster, and in our case, Injury.
“Aikido can be practiced by all age and gender.”
This evening, I can trust Teck Lim to take care of himself, while I take care of me, and when it comes to my turn to be a nage, I am able to execute the technique with him already sufficiently proficient in taking an ukemi, so I can be relatively hard with my move, knowing that he can take it. For a technique in Aikido to work flawlessly, both the nage and uke needs to trust each other, and trust themselves. Teck Lim and I have that trust and proficiency, that makes things work really well for the both of us.
It was a wonderful feeling, since there is little to talk about except action. It is the doing that makes Aikido comes alive, and that happens this evening.
Katate-dori Ai Hanmi-Shihonage omote waza
The other person that brings so much joy to my training this evening was Karen, who has always been a quiet and shy girl. The thing about Aikido is, you can be anyone, and Aikido as an art, a community will accept you. Karen is a girl who comes to class and goes home, she seldom mixes around, but personally, I appreciate her quiet presence. In Aikido, I’ve learned over the years, anyone and everyone in class is there to teach all of us in class something, never mind if you are introverted or not. As long as you turn up in class, there is a beautiful opportunity to learn something from each other.
So Karen came late, and I decided to partner her. She is still white colour in belt, so I go extra slow. She did her technique like a beginner, but she did it without a pause or stoppage, which is unlike a white belt. She didn’t check herself, check her move. when I held her hand, she moved, slowly, smoothly, from beginning to finish. There is no speed, but there is technique.
It goes without saying that, Karen as a junior belt, will expect little or no resistance from me ( ask the more senior belts, they’ll tell you a different story!). I am usually very cooperative with white colour belts. That said, she does not need coaching, perhaps once or twice at the beginning, then she is on her own.
It was a very beautiful feeling as she is naturally shy, so she don’t talk much, so we are only left with action and relation. That’s great, as it is what Aikido is all about, irrespective if my partner is a junior belt or not.
This is the very reason why they always use the well worn cliche “Aikido can be practiced by all age and gender.” This evening, this cliche came true, as Karen showed me that she knows Aikido, when she own the movement and both of us gets lost in the technique. We both come into the technique and allow the technique to happen, naturally and harmoniously.
You see it don’t take a senior belt to really master and enjoy Aikido. This evening, both Teck Lim and Karen has shown me, and I think more importantly themselves that Aikido is real, and when you are proficient to a certain basic fundamental level, there is harmony in the spirit of Aikido.
I was told quite recently that I should go ‘back’ for training, since in NUS, I only learn the basics, and the students come and go. Well, this evening, my decision to train with a bunch of boys and girls half my age is proven to be a good one, not to mention, totally enjoyable and wonderful.
Back when I was still staying at Bedok South, I cam across a little dog that was left at my block’s provision shop. The auntie at the shop say someone left the dog there and she was feeding the dog water.
It was an affable creature, totally lovable. I was probably 16 years old? There was only one response, bring it home!
It was a pug. True pedigree Pug. not a mongrel, not any street dog.
Fat little bitch. My mum and I named her ‘Nancy’, well for a good reason, my mum thought she looked kind of like the recent First Lady of US, Nancy Reagan. So we called her that ever since.
And it didn’t occurred to me why would anyone want to throw such a lovely dog away. It didn’t occurred to us to bring her for a medical check up. We just took her in and she became part of us ever since.
I’ve always been a dog person. Before Nancy came along, I was kind of frolicking with dogs and mutts. Back then they served a more utilitarian purpose, more like guard dogs. Those dogs I came across and played with are all mongrels, average size, hardy creatures, totally lovable.
There was a ‘Lucky‘, a mongrel who actually belonged to my dad’s neighbour. He had a shop/warehouse in Eunos, and the next door guys makes roller shutter doors, the company was called ‘Standard roller shutter’. I think they are no longer around.
Lucky was a great dog, he know his way around Eunos and live, came and went as he pleases. He eats whatever we feed him and I will always remember, cycling to the Eunos wet market to buy $2 worth of slop; scraps of food from the mixed vegetable stall and bring the big bag of rice+whatever the hawker have left, mostly meat. Lucky will eat them all up. Oh, yes, he eats ice cream too, but with a brain freeze look after that. Lucky also chases cars, trucks and anything that has 4 wheels on.
He was as loyal a dog as it can be, even though the mutt don’t technically belong to us, he followed me everywhere; he often followed me and my mum to the bus stop at the main road, which will need him to climb and cross an overhead bridge. He would wait with us at the stop, watched us board the bus and went his way. The very next day, we will always find him back at the shop.
As a mongrel, he’s not the cleanest mutt, and has his fair share of dog’s breath, stink, fleas and ticks. I would pluck them off him, take a hammer from my dad’s tool box, and put that flea out of its misery, between concrete and hammer. blood would splatter on some of these big fat, juicy blood sucking fleas. The fleas couldn’t flee fast enough from me. Ha ha.
Back to Nancy
So Nancy came to stay with us. and by then she was already a fully gown dog, so our attempts to house train her failed utterly. She pee and poop almost all over the house. We would get angry and beat her after she she mess up doing her business; she would give us the most sorrowfully sweetest look. We cannot be angry with her for long.
While she was with us, she is just the sweetest dog. My parents were going through a divorce and she was our constant source of comfort. Pugs are generally mild tempered, and Nancy was just that. Not the sharpest tool in the dog world, but she is certainly the sweetest. Sometimes, she do earn her keeps as a ‘guard dog’, as she would know the presence of a person before we hear them. And if it was me coming home, she would wag her small curly tail, happy like only a dog can be.
On quiet days, she’d be happy just to sit with you, while you rub her tummy, message her face, play with her fats. You can rub her chest, that little cluster of pointy fur that bunched up there.
It was only good for a year.
One day, Nancy wasn’t her usual self one day and we couldn’t figure out why. She lost her appetite and drank a lot of water. I was working then and I just couldn’t get my mind off her. She was not the jumping cheery self. Just tired and lethargic.
I bought her to the vet, and they checked on her. They pinch her and the skin sort of clumped together, a sign of dehydration, which could goes to show some kidney problems. They would have to keep her there overnight to observe her.
So I left.
She never came home.
The next day, the vet called my mum at home (those were the days mobile phone isn’t that mobile yet) and told her that Nancy’s condition has deteriorated overnight, and they will have to put her down.
That was that.
I never get to see Nancy, never got to say good bye.
Nancy, basking in sunlight, I often laugh at her doing this, it is as if, she is solar powered, recharging, her leash is like a power cord. LOL.
I have very little pictures of Nancy, these were the days digital imagery wasn’t prevalent. But my memory of her is deep and still is. Having a dog changes a person. You cannot be a complete human being if you have no relationship with an animal.
I finally can understand why she was left abandoned at the void deck by her previous owner(s). They’d probably knew about her condition, and couldn’t afford the maintenance. Or she has grown up, and they have grown tired of her. But even though she was only with us for 1 year, I’m sure we gave her the best possible life all the way to the end.
This is real life story and it happened to your Ah Ku’s friend.
Once upon a time, your Ah Ku’s friend was driving, on his way back from Johore Bahru (JB) to Singapore and he was stuck in a long traffic jam trying to clear the immigration, which is quite a frequent occurrence; then he had make a poop.
- He was in a traffic jam;
- There is no toilet nearby;
- His poop has reached the ‘custom’;
There is no other alternative, he gathered some bags from his car, and put them in an empty Louis Vuitton paper bag, it will do as a makeshift poop bag. He came out of his car, and ran to the bushes by the road side to do his business.
It wasn’t nice to just leave the bag there, so he held the on to the bag and walked back to his car. He didn’t notice trouble approaching, a motorcyclist with his pillion.
The bike zoom past him.
The pillion grabbed his LV paper bag.
And zoom off before he could respond.
We have a cinema multi-plex near our home in Punggol, and sometimes watching movies at cinemas during off peak has its virtues, you might have the feeling of having the whole cinema to yourself, enjoying a super wide screen, and superb sound system. Not to mention, that it is also cheaper!
During one of these days, we spoken to a Cinema Usher and chatted for a while since it is off peak, and the uncle was quite free. We told him the advantages and he did snickered a bit.
“You think the cinema is really empty?”
He said that sometimes, some of these cinemas, were build into a shopping centre’s basement, so there are some deep excavation works involved, and in the process of these digging, those spirits can be disturbed.
And with a spanking new, bring, often loud shopping centre taking over the space of those spirits disturbed, where can they go to seek solace? In the deep, dark, cool confines of a Cinema hall, which sometimes lacks that human traffic.
He claimed that his colleagues do have some of these encounters sometimes. Especially when the show has ended and everyone has left, the ushers have to go in and clean up the rubbish the patrons left behind. And being in a theater with the same door being the entrance and exit, the ushers will know who is still in the theater and ‘who’ is not.
Sometimes, the usher caught from the corner of their eye, a couple of ‘people’ in their seats, when the theater was supposed to be empty, with only one way out, those people would have to pass by the ushers on their way out, but when the ushers looked up the people are no longer there. It is as if they vanished.
Sometimes, their trash bag will also tip over for no reasons, and they get bumped, by an unseen shoulder.
The usher uncle also told us, that if you happen to be in a cinema, with a privilege of being totally ‘alone’, he advised us to put our bags, next to the empty seat next to ours, to keep it ‘occupied’, in the event that it is not.
Oh, we did ask him which cinema is the one which is the dirtiest? He told us it was hall….
We had the privilege of using your Ah Ku’s car since they are overseas for the holidays, and we headed towards the west. First to check out SPCA’s new abode, and we serendipitously wander to one of the least traveled backyards of Singapore.
Lim Chu Kang jetty
It wasn’t really in our plan to go there, after our brief visit to SPCA, your mum suggested that we go to Jalan Bahtera MOE adventure camp which Ian went last year. It was a hard to get to place and since we have the car, we decided to drive in to have a look at the place. It was a quick drive in with nothing much to see, so after that drive, we turn and head back for the road.
Well, we are not done.
Since we have the car, we should go check out Lim Chu Kang Jetty, since we, living at Punggol, has our own Punggol Jetty, at the end of Punggol Road.
But this jetty is a whole piece of work on its own. Firstly, it is not a concrete jetty, it is all makeshift wooden planks, tied to wooden pikes driven into the sea bed. Very retro, and very nostalgic. You boys had a great time running up and down, despite of my repeated warning not to. In fact, 弟弟 felled, stepping on the slippery mud on the Jetty floor.
I wanted to bring you boys there just for the experience, but something else happened. We noticed people sitting at the jetty picking off mussels. I was very well intended to be just a spectator, but it didn’t end up that way. We chatted up a bunch for cordial Malay guys and they were deep down and dirty, with mud up to their elbows, happily pulling out mussels from the sea, while the tide recede.
Your mum asked them about these mussels and how to cook them, one of them gamely passed us a bunch and we couldn’t say no. We took a bunch and since it looked so easy to get them, I joined in, and so did the both of you boys. Well as usual, it was the dad doing the work, while the sons played and pretended to do the work. Both of you got sticks and started poking and prodding into the soft sea mud, much to your glee and joy.
Using hands despite of having sticks, it seems like boys will indeed be boys, with mud being your best friend. In no time, both of you have mud, on your body, shoes and of course both hands. You boys looked as if you did all the work, when all the both of you did was play.
This is lesson learnt, and there is no better place to learn it than the great outdoors, while we do not have magnificent forests like Malaysia, nor beautiful pristine beaches like Maldives, we are still living on the same planet and very much connected to mother nature. this kind of life experiences and skills beats any mobile app, or smart phone games hands down. The virtual cannot fill your tummies, knowing how to go to these places, and pluck food from the wild, is a lesson I hope both of you remember, so that you can fill your tummies in ways only Mother Nature knows how.