Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Chinese Inferiority Complex

Though our increasingly race-obsessed authorities love to lump all the supposed immigrant Chinese into one homogenous, monocultural group, it has been quite evident since we were schoolkids that we're all incredibly diverse. A particular clear dividing factor amongst the Chinese would be our medium of instruction peculiar to our multicultural nation, whether it's from our national schools where English / Malay would be our lingua franca or from our vernacular Chinese schools where Mandarin would be the medium of instruction.

Basically what we would have termed English-ed boys and the Chinese-ed boys. Communicating in different languages certainly made it even more difficult when we all met in our later secondary years. While my erstwhile classmates in my mission school spoke English as a matter of usual practice, our new emigre students tended to speak only in Mandarin.

And... never the twain shall meet it seems.

Umm... what did you say? Could you say it in English please? 

Not that I was ever wildly prejudiced against them. Honestly didn't have much of an opinion about them either way. How could I when I didn't know half of what they were saying? Apart from the usual muthafuckin curses spewed by my brutish seat partner Bastard Beng.

However according to an extremely resentful Diffident David, that didn't seem to be the case for his still bitter buddies- supposedly slighted by the horrifically monstrous English-ed boys.

David : Ah but you arrogant 'English-educated' boys always look down on us 'Chinese-educated' fellows.  
Paul : You're obviously thinking of someone else since we never did. 
David : Don't tell me you never made fun of the way we speak and call us names. 
Paul : We didn't. I don't know which idiotic bully did that to you but it's certainly not us. 
David : Sure boh?
Paul : Think we got made fun of even more with all the inane banana 香蕉人 comments.
David : And weren't you angry? 
Paul : Not really. Sticks and stones and all that. 
David : Not even a little bit infuriated? 
Paul : But why? The little pidgin Mandarin I knew I learnt on my own. Some of the boys who taunted us have been learning English for almost a decade and can barely string a sentence. Why should I be angry?  
David : True also. 
Paul : So you'll retract that 'English-educated' boys statement?
David : No, I still hate you guys. 
Paul : Wow. You know what, I am starting to believe there is a Chinese Inferiority Complex. 

Talk about holding a grudge.

Though David denies it repeatedly and vehemently, it's pretty obvious there is a deep-seated enmity going on there. No doubt some inconsiderate 'uncomprehending' English-educated bullies really did a number on him back in his vulnerable schooldays.

Seriously though, I don't think my friends and I ever teased or made fun of them ever. Why would we when we had other handy targets around :P Don't even think we even had a pejorative epithet for the lot till that asinine UCLA girl came up with the infamously racist ching chong ling long bit.

Even then I refer to myself as quite the ching chong ling long as well.

David should at least take heart that the divide shall become almost nonexistent in time with the rise of Mandarin as a world language - and the accompanying decline of Chinese students in our national schools.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Calvin's Red Packet

Although my cousins have known about the existence of Charming Calvin in my life - quite evident from all our lovey-dovey pictures hand-in-hand together in exotic locales, very few have actually attempted to discover more. Some like Lispy Lori have just accepted the fact that he's my boyfriend with very little persuasion; others like Lanky Lacey barely even blinked.

Surprisingly the most reserved fellow of all, Macho Mike, was amongst the curious few - which prompted an unusual conversation on our family chat group a few months back.

Mike : Oh so this Calvin, he's a good friend? 
Paul : Yeah. And more. 
Mike : What does he do? 
Paul : He's an engineer. 
Mike : Well that's really good. 

And that was it. I have no idea exactly what he was trying to unearth about Charming Calvin - was that his idea of a subtle interrogation? - but he seemed satisfied with the minimal explanation given.

Handing out questionaires didn't seem to be the usual way though. Obviously attuned to my sexual proclivities after our one scandalous summer in London, my shockingly canny cousin Hard Rock Harriet didn't even need any explanations. Catching me in one of the darkened alcoves back home, she pulled me aside and handed me an envelope.

Harriet : Here. 
Paul : Is this a bomb?
Harriet : Of sorts. It's a red packet. 
Paul : For me?
Harriet : Yes, I give to my younger siblings. 
Paul : There's more than one packet.
Harriet : One for your Calvin. 
Paul : My Calvin?
Harriet : Yes, your Calvin. 
Paul : Oh. 
Harriet : Bring him over to Hong Kong next time. I want to meet him!
Paul : Oh. 


Like w-what just happened?

Small brief poignant moment that left me speechless. Definitely Hallmark-worthy. At the rate my cousins are coming around, looks like I really will have more guests on my side if we did have a wedding.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Gripes of Work

We all gripe about work. Even those in what we erroneously assume would be the cushiest of positions would have the most seemingly frivolous grievance about their job. While we would probably dismiss their concerns, for these embittered souls their woes are certainly real enough.

That's why it's called work. Otherwise it would be a paid vacation.

Though I am comfortable enough in my new position, I still dislike being on-call seemingly forever 24/7. Terribly irksome. Rare though I get called after office hours but each time it happens, I do get more than a little frustrated. Expect the unreasonable hissy fit whenever I receive the dreaded call.

Hmm... I think he's working much less than me!

With all my cousins at least with a foot in the working world already, it's common to air our grievances aloud over the common dinner table. Call it a game of Who Has the Worst Job. Usually the doctors in the family have a generous lead since let's face it, we do work terribly crappy hours. Even the paragon of perfectionistas - our very own Hard Rock Harriet - can whine dreadfully after a cup of chrysanthemum tea.

Harriet : I find so little time for myself these days! I seem to be at work all the time!
Paul : Yeah, I just wanna do nothing at home during the weekends. 
Harriet : But you're always on Facebook!
Paul : The workplace has wifi!
Harriet : Don't you work office hours only? 
Paul : Actually it's less than that. Maybe three to four? 
Harriet : I hate you. 
Paul : But why!
Harriet : I work twelve hours a day including weekends. That's not including oncalls. 
Paul : OMG. 
Harriet : Yes, now go pour me some tea. 
Paul : Now I love my job. 

Certainly gave me a whole new appreciation for my job. Even the occasional 3 am calls doesn't seem so bad anymore.

About the hours she works, I'm starting to wonder whether Harriet actually bonded herself to an inhumane gulag or the paediatrics service. In her case, guess there's not much of a difference. Think my domestic servant actually works less hours than she does!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Baa Baa Black Sheep

'Have you any wool?'

Turns out his parents aren't giving him any. Proverbial bags of wool - or money, in this case.

As always, Chinese New Year is a great time to catch up with friends and family, spinning sensational stories new and old over mountains of kuaci and rivers of oolong tea. Though tales of triumph are always welcome, we all know it's the salacious scandals that always get our ear; from ludicrous adultery to the occasional blacksheepisms.

Said the Black Sheep... 'Now how should I most infuriate my parents today?' 

Yes, I just made up a word but when it comes to the black sheep in the family, Richie Runt, we'd need an entire chapter devoted to his peculiar anachronisms. Rather than reveal a new shining coat of wool with the coming of spring, Richie has instead returned with his usual dour black.

Paul : I heard Richie's taken a job. 
Lori : Yeah, as a sales promoter. 
Paul : That isn't code for ah long, right?
Lori : God I hope not!
Paul : That's a relief. Guess we don't have to bail him out anytime soon yet. Why isn't he attending college then? 
Lori : His parents refused to send him since he only wants to be a deejay. And Richie refuses to study anything else. 
Paul : He wants to be a deejay? That's certainly new!

Okay. It's not the deejay bit that has annoyed me.

Look, lots of talented musicians become extremely successful disc jockeys. But I am pretty sure they worked very hard to perfect their craft; collected records, sampled tunes, mixed their own music etc. With the wonders of sound technology and the various nifty applications these days, amateur deejays can practically do everything on their own - even up to publishing their own songs on public platforms such as Youtube and Soundcloud.

Isn't that what you do when you have such a dream? Back in school when I dreamt of taking up graphic design; I sketched, I drew, I painted, I took part in competitions, I did posters for schools plays and musicals etc. Not a day went by when I didn't have a pencil in hand waiting for a quick doodle.

Unlike what little effort Richie has made to achieve that hypothetical dream of his. When questioned further, he didn't seem all that enthused about his sudden decision either. Not only were his disinterested grunts particularly lacklustre, he didn't even know much about the skills needed to be a proficient disc jockey.

It's like Richie suddenly woke up one morning with a petulant childish whim most guaranteed to drive his conservative parents up the wall. Is it any wonder Bo Peep didn't give in to her black sheep?

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

团圆 Reunion

While others might decry the smarminess of the bright, brash and bold Chinese New Year, I practically revel in it. After all it only comes once in a year - and without all that fiery pizzazz, it certainly wouldn't be the new year that we know and love!

Certainly a hectic trip this year as I only had slightly more than five days to fit three cities into the packed itinerary. Think Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Malacca. There were times I felt as if we - including my brother and his family - were all on a frenetic tour speeding from one must-see destination to the next with Waze as our guide. But it was worth it as this New Year definitely was cheerier than the last.

And we have the kids to thank for that.

Yes, the tiny tykes from the years before - all the promising progeny of my various cousins - have grown up enough to appreciate the fun and merriment that comes with the Chinese New Year. All the people, all that colour, all that noise - come to think about it, the festival must be tailor-made for kids! Rather than the anxious toddlers of before who would squeal at the raucous sound of firecrackers, this year the surprisingly intrepid kids are organizing fireworks displays right behind our family home.

It is as scary as it sounds.

Reminded me of the times we used to do the same as guileless children. Now we're the responsible adults watching over the frenzied rugrats tossing sparklers this way and that.

And trying to keep them from burning down the hapless neighbour's wooden house.

Certainly wouldn't mind lighting his cracker

Although we had some unexpected help from my niece from Hong Kong.

Niece : This is very bad, almost illegal I'm sure! We should play in the park instead! We could start a fire! 
Cousin : There are no parks here. 
Niece : The fireworks could fly into a high-rise building!
Cousin : There are no high-rise buildings here. It's okay. It's not that dangerous. 
Paul : Is she always like that? 
Cousin : Yeah she wants to be a policewoman. 
Paul : Figures. 

BTW my shockingly law-abiding niece is barely even five. And she translated her admonitions into Mandarin and Cantonese in case none of us understood what she meant.