Sunday, August 26, 2007

Teacher: Pest

I just read Chris' latest blog entry about his last day teaching at a local school in Thailand. He included a very touching letter his mom wrote to him that talked about his impact on each of his students' lives and their impact on his. Although its' nothing new, it was only after reading Chris' mom's letter that I suddenly thought about how my teachers had an impact on me as a youngster. And instead of anything inspiring, only negative memories and borderline resentment came flooding back when I think about most of my teachers during my elementary and highschool days. They certainly had an impact on me. They made me hate school, fear learning and think I was stupid. Wow, I've finally let it out.

Let me start by saying I'm not book smart. Add that to the fact that my parents were mainly concerned about how my brothers did in school and not me. When I was applying for college, my father even told me it didn't matter which college I got into because I would just get married someday anyways. So as you can see, I wasn't confident at all when it came to "intelligence".

For 13 years of my life, I was confined in my good ol' alma matter Immaculate Conception Academy. And when I think about my old school, I shudder as memories of my teachers come flooding in. Maybe there were 1 or 2 that were ok, but most did nothing in terms of inspire me or want me to be a better student.

I sucked at maths and sciences when I was in highschool. I remember trying really hard to try to understand what was going on. Physics completely eluded me. But because I was tired of getting crappy grades, I told myself one day that I will try even harder and study for a Physics quiz. After I finished the test, I was quite confident that at least I wouldn't flunk this time. But as I passed my paper forward, I turned pale as I realized I had copied a wrong number on the board. Before the teacher exited our classroom, I pleaded with her to please reconsider and at least make corrections based on the number I had used instead of the one she gave. But when I got my test result back the next day, she had given me a big fat zero. I knew I had done ok, but because I copied the wrong number, it all went to waste. My teacher knew I was having a hard time in her class and instead of saying anything encouraging or making a note on how I was trying harder, she simply turned a blind eye and rubbed my stupidity in my face with a ZERO.

Another time we were learning how to make soap in the lab. After a uniformed amount of ingredients were combined by every group, we were to go to our teacher and she would pour the final ingredient into our dish to make it form into soap. As our group leader was lining up, we noticed how much our teacher was pouring into every group's dish. But when our turn came up, she looked at us and poured us at least 30% less than what she had given everyone else. So surely enough our soap ended up looking more like soup. When questioned why ours ended up like it did, we all looked at each other and said it was because she didn't give us the same amount of the binding agent as the other groups. And what do you know, we didn't pass that lab session. And it wasn't a coincidence either that our group just so happened to NOT have a "smart" student in it.

I've hated science classes ever since.

And other than this particular teacher, all I remember was that they all liked the smart students and didn't give the time of day to those who were having a harder time. Granted some of the students may be getting bad grades because they were just lazy and didn't study. But for those of us who really wanted to do well but just didn't know how, we were left out as well. And I think for me, all I needed sometimes was some positive reinforcement to encourage me to try harder and make me realize I wasn't stupid to begin with. But I got none of that from any of my teachers. I seriously blame all of them for not giving me the love of learning.

For my freshman year I ended up going to St. Mary's College in Moraga because I didn't have the grades to get into Santa Clara University which was my first choice. I started college with the continued notion that I would suck and just a passing grade would be good enough for me. But thank god I had professors who actually cared. I was amazed that for the first time in my life I realized I might have brains after all. And I have the professors at St. Mary's to thank.

I had an English professor, Gaetano Bandieras (may he rest in peace), who was the first one to tell me I have a talent for writing and that I should work at it. Our cultural communication professor, John Knight, was full of encouragement. I actually felt smart whenever I was in his class. I actually made the Dean's List while I was at St. Mary's! And because I did so well, I was able to transfer to SCU after my freshman year.

I still have alot of insecurities when it comes to anything academic to this day. But I am grateful the negative impact my teachers in ICA had on me were greatly reduced by my professors at St. Mary's. And because of that, my confidence in other aspects of my life had also increased. Gosh, it really is amazing how a teacher can influence the course of your life. And Chris, if you're reading this, I applaud you for what you have done with those kids. By the looks on their faces I am sure you have instilled the love of learning English in their lives. My old highschool teachers should to take a few notes from you.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

Hubby claims he used to go out with Natalie Portman, Scarlet Johanson and Jessica Alba. But he dumped them because they became too clingy. He's such a funny man. Well now I'll just tell him I used to go out with Johnny. But it didn't work out either because the Sprites were always in the way. I know, it sounds pathetic, but my guilty pleasure at the moment is watching Johnny and the Sprites on Disney Channel. Now whenever the show is on on weekends at 1130am, I don't know if Boy Wonder is excited because he likes watching Johnny and the Sprites or because he sees Mama is so happy when it is on.

I used to find it annoying due to the realization that I had pretty much memorized all the cartoon theme songs on the Disney Channel. I used to find Barney annoying and on the border of scary. Hubby thinks Tony and Vivian of Out Of The Box are child molesters. I think the characters of Higglytown Heroes are just plain bizarre. Why create characters with no feet? If everyone could be heroes in their parallel universe, then what are they trying to tell our kids about podiatrists, cobblers and shoe sales people? And do I really want my kids to feel that they don't have to worry about being a garbage collector someday because they are heroes too? But anyways, I digress.

So one day when Johnny and the Sprites was introduced, I actually felt their songs were great. The lyrics weren't pathetic and the songs were almost Broadway-like. And of course Johnny ain't that bad either. He sure didn't look like a child molester to me. And there weren't any annoying, trying to be cute kids in it anyways! So I went online and did a search on my man Johnny. Turned out he was from Avenue-Q and that he created the show. No wonder the songs were such a step up from the other kids shows. Unlike the theme song to Higglytown and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse which were written by They Might Be Giants and Handy Manny by Los Lobos, the songs in Johnny and the Sprites are written by noted Broadway composers.

So this made me think, if the cartoon industry is trying to introduce our kids into the arts with shows like Little Einstein which features classical music and renowned artworks, then Johnny and the Sprites is a move toward the right direction as well. Why clutter our kids brains with crap and cheesy songs that were probably pumped out by some computer program when you can have actual good music written by real composers? My kids have watched enough Baby Einstein to be able to hum to classical music now, so I would hope they'll also grow up to enjoy Broadway productions. At least then they'll be able to join me at a Broadway show in the future while Hubby downs some beers and check if Jessica Alba might be free to join him.

But seriously, (well, not too seriously) at least now whenever Hubby and I feel like throwing up after listening to a full half hour of songs from Out Of The Box or High 5, I'll feel rewarded when I see and hear Johnny during the weekends. It's just too bad he's got a boyfriend.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Boy Wonder's First Day of School... Finally

And so the day finally arrived! Boy Wonder started his first day of school today. He was supposed to start last Thursday, but when we showed up at the school entrance, turned out it was shut due to a typhoon warning! Typhoon my ass! At least that gave me a few more days to settle my nerves. I was worried Boy Wonder would be a crying mess and stress me out the first few days of school. I hoped all the psychological prepping I've done to Boy Wonder will work and after today I think it has so far.

So anyways, we arrived this afternoon amongst other first timers. The first thing they did was check Boy Wonders hands which I didn't understand why. To see if they were clean? They then took his temperature and handed me a chart to fill Boy Wonder's temperature everyday! All the parents were then asked to put shoe covers on while the kids changed into their school shoes which we brought with us. Boy Wonder found his cubby where his shoes will be living until he grows out of them. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Tita Mayapapaya and Tito Mickey for the pair of white shoes which are now Boy Wonder's official in-school shoes.

After we picked up Boy Wonder's ID and some other hand-outs, we were led into the classroom. At this moment I was worried the crying would begin. But before we stepped into the lift that afternoon, I prepped Boy Wonder again and told him he had to be good and not cry. I reminded him that I would be there the whole time and that it would be a short school day for now. He seemed to have remembered what I told him because after we placed his school bag into his cubby, he picked a seat and sat down with all the other kids. Meanwhile I sat on another set of seats with the rest of the parents across from the kids. I felt good seeing Boy Wonder sit down with no drama. And I felt even better when I saw 2 other kids cling on to their moms for dear life and knowing Boy Wonder wasn't one of them.

After a short puppet intro and asking of names, the class was divided into 2 and Boy Wonder's group was led to the music room as they all held on to a really long fuzzy snake. Boy Wonder showed some apprehension, but I played it down by acting as if it was no big deal and told him I was right behind him. In the music room we were asked to form a circle then sang a few Chinese songs which none of the kids were getting into. I think other than the 2 Chinese teachers, I was the one that was into it the most, trying to get Boy Wonder a bit more enthusiastic. I failed though. The mom to my left was stiff as a log which really didn't help matters and her frightened child. She was in her office attire and you just knew she was completely embarrassed and lost in that circle. She looked more lost and apprehensive than her son.

When the music finally stopped, we were led out into the common area so the kids could play. The teachers asked all the parents to try and let their kids play on their own or with their classmates while we sat on the seats instead. I thought that was a good idea, and I was glad Boy Wonder was content playing by himself with all the new toys.

After a quick toilet run, all the kids were asked back into the classroom for snack time. Even though Boy Wonder spilled his juice and dropped some cake onto the floor, he still did me proud by politely asking when he wanted more cake and did his share when it was time to tidy up. I was a beaming parent at that point. Had I been more hormonal with my impending period, I would have been in tears by then.

All the kids were asked to sit down again after their snacks while the parents were asked to leave the classroom for goodbye time. Boy Wonder looked at me with abit of fear in his eyes at that moment but I gave him a big smile and told him I'll be waiting outside the door. To my relief he sat back down and didn't cry as I exited the room. The 2 other boys were crying though so their moms were allowed to stay behind. After a few minutes it was announced on their PA systems that parents can pick their kids up from the classrooms and to have their "pick-up" cards ready. I went, got Boy Wonder and the one hour, first day of school was over! Yey!

Words cannot begin to express how relieved I am that Boy Wonder did not cry. I know he will have some bad days as the month goes by, but at least I know he's not the most clingy in class. I think his 2 weeks of art class before school started really helped and me bugging him almost everyday that he'll be going to school soon helped as well. My worry now is when he starts taking the bus and also how he'll get back into the groove of school after we come back from our 2 Australia trips in September and December. I guess I just need to remind myself... one hurdle at a time Bandit, one hurdle at a time!

And when Boy Wonder does get into the groove of things and starts taking the bus to school everyday with no drama, I can start doing other things! Yipee! Freedom and more time to devote to Nachos.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Finally A Meal Worth Blogging About

Yearning for some romance, I asked Hubby if we could go out on a date one of these days. He happily agreed and said we'll make it my belated birthday dinner. He wanted to surprise me at first, but I figured out we were going to The Steak House at The Intercontinental. So I got dressed up last night and met him at the Central Ferry to get us some good steak.

I was quite impressed at the whole ambiance of the restaurant when we first sat down. Probably the only complaint I would have was that we were seated next to the waiters' station. Our server came to us promptly, took our drinks order and in less than a minute our breads were served. They had spicy pimento, mixed herb and plain butters for us to choose from. The breads were freshly baked too. I love fresh bread. Then our server came with our menus, introduced the special of the day and then brought a tray of imported tomatoes from Italy which went with the whole presentation of their special, separate menu which featured all these tomatoes. We ended up just ordering a steak each, some starters and side veggies.

First to come was my Classic Ceasar and Hubby's Shrimp Cocktail salad. I enjoyed my salad, because it's been a while since I had some good, authentic ceasar dressing, with real anchovies and shaved parmesan. The quantity and mixture was just right. Nothing overwhelmed the other. Hubby offered some of his shrimp to me, but since I was allergic I wasn't sure if I should try it. Good thing he insisted and said it was really fresh so I should be fine, because it was sooo good! I was blown away at how fresh the shrimp was and how perfectly blended the sauce tasted. I could have eaten Hubby's whole plate of shrimp, but I had to contain myself since I didn't know whether my allergies would act up and I wanted to be in perfect shape to enjoy my fillet mignon.

After our dishes were cleared, a server came over with a selection of steak knives! He quickly introduced each one and asked us to choose our weapon for the evening. Hubby quickly picked the one from Japan which looked like a switchblade that samuris would use. He had been eyeing that one since he wasn't able to use it the last time he was there. I chose the sleek one which was made in Italy with a bone handle. If only I could have discreetly stuffed the knife into my purse. I asked Hubby if they ever loose any knives by the end of the day.

Not long after we chose our weapons, our steaks arrived! Oh glorious meats! I had the 8oz. while Hubby had the 12oz. Before we could carve up our meats, an elegant longish tray of salts were presented to us. The server introduced each salt as low sodium, high mineral (I don't buy that) and where they were "harvested". Each had a different color with the one from Hawaii looking almost black. I was intrigued with the notion that each salt has a different taste, so I placed a tiny bit of the nearest 3 on my plate to have a taste. Hubby said I just have uncultured taste buds because they all tasted like plain salt to me.

My steak was great! My knife easily carved out a bit of my steak and it was almost melt in your mouth good. At the moment that steak rates number one amongst all the steaks I've had in HK. The only one that would top that would be the fillet mignon I had at the Wynn Las Vegas.

I struggled to finish my steak in the end, but there was no way I was going to let any of that meat go to waste. After my tummy was up to full capacity, Hubby suggested we go up to the hotel lobby and have dessert there instead for a change of scenery. I was glad we did because the view was amazing! I am totally going to suggest to the Thursday group that we have afternoon tea at the Intercontinental one of these days. And since we were there at night, I completely fell in love with the HK skylight for the first time in my almost 5 years living here. For the first time also, I said that the day we move out of HK I am truly going to miss living here. The evening was almost magical.

So all in all it was an almost perfect evening. We paid less than what we did for our meal at Petrus, felt fuller and more satisfied. The view, the ambiance, the service were all top notch. The only suggestion I would have made was for our server to speak slower since he had a very strong cantonese accent which made it hard to understand him at times. I felt really bad I didn't bring my camera, but I'm sure we'll be going back there again... and again.