September 2010 archive
One of the next things on BF’s major to-do list is to get another tattoo. Preferably more. Lots more. I’m not a big fan of the idea; I don’t want him to look like a biker or a skinhead and I would like it not to limit him in his career. (Hey, it’s not my own prejudices I’m worried about! It’s unlikely he’ll ever work a desk job, but you never know. He’s already such a formidable physical presence that tats all over his arms will just be the icing on the cake.)
While I’m not principally opposed to getting inked myself, I just can’t ever imagine what I would want permanently stamped on my body, at no small cost either financially or physically. But lately I’ve been thinking about family and life and tradition and culture and all sorts of heavy things … And one night when I was walking home, I had a revelation: why not get a tattoo of my Chinese name?
The thought lasted all of a second. While I don’t actually know how to write my birth name in the language, this is not good enough reason to give myself a permanent reminder. The name has little meaning to me. It’s the name on my birth certificate, yes but it’s not the name I go by on a daily basis. If you called it out to me on the street, I would probably not even blink twice.
That being said, it’s the name my parents saw fit to give me, which they took the time to choose carefully for their firstborn daughter. Aside from sheer laziness, I think that’s another big reason why I probably will not ever get around to legally changing it to my English name. And I’d like to make some small effort to recognise that today, although I wouldn’t have said that 10, 5 or even a year ago.
So, here it is: The next time I visit my parents, I’m not leaving until I learn to write my name in Chinese. (Or at the very least, take home a copy of it to stick on my wall. I’m realistic about my abilities.)
When I was little, I wanted nothing more than to be white. I wanted to look like everybody else, I wanted to lose my accent, and perhaps most of all, I wanted my parents to act like all the other parents. The kind who would welcome me having friends over to play. Who knew why other kids knocked on our door on Halloween night dressed in all manner of weird costumers – because I didn’t. Who didn’t shop at op shops and garage sales or buy me baby bonnets instead of sporty caps. My parents were by no means stereotypically FOB immigrants, with broken accents, who struggle to catch a bus or dispute a bill. But they were just different enough to set them apart.
I remember borrowing a cheongsam to wear on Cultural Day in my first year of primary school. I wonder if I looked as awkward as I felt in it From then on, I wore my own jeans and a tee.
I hated in-class exercises where everyone was urged to get in touch with their heritage. People would look at me and say, “Oh, you’re so lucky, you actually have a culture!” Uh, no, not really. (This is made even more complex by way of hailing from Malaysia but being ethnically Chinese.) We’re not religious, we speak English at home, the extent of our CNY celebrations are gorging on moon cake (the one time of year I halfheartedly lay claim to my heritage). Name a traditional custom or ritual you associate with the Chinese and I’ll probably never even have heard of it. We ate rice almost every day, though. That counts for something, surely.
And yet, I’m not a total cultural vacuum. Celebrity chef Rick Stein was in Malaysia on his Far Eastern Odyssey this week. Mesmerised by the familiar accents, the hearty laughs, the general conduct of the locals, I watched, entranced, as they whipped up fish head curry and beef rendang. If nothing else, culture, to me, is associated with cuisine. And no matter how long ago, the “aiyahs” and the inability to enunciate the h in “three” still instantly transport me back to a certain place.
There are things that are going to stop with me, that I won’t pass down to future generations. My kids will have straight English names. They won’t hear their parents talking on the phone in another language, or hear foreign words peppered throughout conversation – random pet terms substituted for English for no real reason, apart from maybe habit. They may occasionally eat dishes featuring strange ingredients like shrimp paste, but most likely they’ll eat steak and pasta and my version of Thai curry.
That’s okay. Because what’s really important is that they learn to be decent human beings. Hopefully they’ll be intelligent. Not weakling klutzes like me. And ideally semi-attractive, because life is enough of a bitch as it is. But ultimately, as long as they appreciate the importance of hard work, doing right by others and themselves, and grow up with a respect and appreciation for people of all backgrounds.
Some things may be more prized, where I come from, than they are for others. Family. Pride. Standing on your own two feet. But ultimately, these are values that transcend time, space, and ethnicity.
Tags: culture, family, life, reflections
Just a quick note to say that I’m jumping on the Yakezie bandwagon!
Like with most other things, I’m late to the party. When I first started hearing about the challenge, I didn’t really understand what it was all about.
Okay, so I’m still not quite positive, but I’ll make it up as I go along. I mean, how hard can it be? I waste far too much time blogging already, so why not add a bit of focus?
From what I understand, it’s about community. Not unlike, say, participating in carnivals. Some retweet love, some more material in my weekly link roundups, some more great posts for me to comment on.
I’m starting with an Alexa ranking of 742,699, so I’m ripe for climbing the ladder.
Hopefully nobody minds that I’m kind of PF-lite, life-heavy. Take me as I am. Love me and accept me. Or else I’ll..er…slink back to my far corner of the world and sulk.
Image via Wikipedia
Wow, that went fast! I can’t believe it’s over.
This month I set out to challenge myself to eat better. Namely, eating fruit and/or vegetables every single day (previous weeks’ diaries here). I love – and eat a lot of – potatoes, and that was one of the parameters. Potatoes only counted for a half mark. I missed three days in previous weeks, and despite two days away plus T’s birthday this week, only missed one in this last week. (Well, half, considering how many servings of ‘taters I consumed. Still.)
Breakfast: Cereal and milk
Lunch: Banana, egg sandwich, choc chip cookie
Dinner: Mild bhuja mix, bacon and veggie quiche, banana fritter and ice cream, banana/choc chip muffin
Breakfast: Cereal and milk
Lunch: Banana/choc chip muffin, Japanese donburi (crispy chicken and salad)
Dinner: Udon noodles with crispy pork, bacon, onions and cauliflower
Breakfast: Two pieces of white toast with Vegemite
Lunch: Banana, egg sandwich, chocolate chip cookie
Dinner: A bit of quiche, a bit of left over noodle stirfry, a bit of pizza
September 25 (Weekend out of town)
Breakfast: Cereal and milk
Lunch: Half of a lamb kofta at farmer’s market, piece of apple cake, scallops and green salad
Snacks: Bhuja mix, bread and jam, instant noodles
Dinner: Angus steak and salad
September 26 (Weekend out of town)
Breakfast: Handful of crackers, nachos
Lunch: Spring roll, hot chips, some Asian noodles with cabbage, carrots, mixed meat
Dinner: Pork roast with kumara/potato mash, red cabbage and watercress salad, cookie and ice cream
Breakfast: Cereal and milk
Lunch: Red cabbage and watercress salad, two minute noodles
Snacks: Cookie and ice cream, bread and dips – hummus, babaganoush
Dinner: Leftover roast, apple pie and ice cream
Breakfast: Cereal and milk
Lunch: Custard slice, Wendy’s chips
Dinner: Steamed mussels, chips, sausage and mash
Snacks: Bread and dips, cheese and crackers, apple pie and ice cream
Errr, so, yeah, a rather snacky week. And quite possibly my unhealthiest week to date. Yet, I feel GREAT – probably mostly down to the amazing weather, Daylight Savings, and my upping the ante exercise-wise. (Two runs this week! And with the longer days, I can totally see myself going almost every day.) You’ve probably noticed that sometimes there’s a lot of repetition going on. What can I say? I try to cook in batches.
I am officially converted
I still have a sweet tooth. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a cheeseburger or a pie or even a pile of golden hash browns.
BUT – my body wants to eat healthier. Not only do I feel guilty about eating poorly, I sometimes crave greens. Once, I would have cringed at the thought of a veggie stirfry for lunch. Now as I get more confident in the kitchen, my lunches are getting more varied and – from time to time - well-balanced, even?. The downside is it takes time, of course. Cooked lunches take way more work than sandwiches. But I’m not a big sandwich fan anyhow.
Tastes change as you get older. I’m still not a huge fruit lover (I’ll eat berries, bananas, apples and citrus, but I won’t go near any of the tropicals like peaches and apricots) but until recently, I never used to eat spinach, or eggplant, or carrots.
And perhaps most amazing of all is the fact that I am converted to lighter dinners. There are still plenty of days I practically crawl in the door after work, ravenous and impatient, and practically inhale whatever food is easiest to prepare. But a little control goes a long way. I feel so much better when I’m not groaning from fullness, so much more alive and energised. And running on a full stomach is, well, just not a good idea.
Tags: food, health
Image by kiki99 via Flickr
For me, $10,000 is the magic number. When I see five digits in my savings account, I’ll have achieved my main financial goal for the year.
Handily enough, I also settled on $10k for my rainy day fund. A nice round amount.
And then today I started wondering just how far that would really go. Yes, we live in a welfare state, but the rules on cash assets are pretty strict. Plus if you have a working partner, that basically seems to rule you out for assistance.
$10,000 would cover about four months at our current expenditures (obviously, without saving anything during that time). That’s not a very long time.
Then again, I would save about $100 a month in transport. We’d trim the grocery budget, maybe our internet package, and we could cut Sky TV. T could step up and shoulder more of our costs – I’m talking everything household, from rent to insurance to car maintenance.
But if he was laid off again – incidentally, his ex-employer that made him redundant after virtually promising him an apprenticeship has gone into voluntary receivership – things would really have to change.
How many months would your EF cover, and how stable is your employment? If you’re in a couple, how does that affect your E-fund?
Image by Anirudh Koul via Flickr
One of my best friends is home after a six-month stint abroad. You name it, she’s ticked it off: international romance, meeting new friends, hitchhiking even. How did she afford it? She taught English, and while she was based in Turkey, she had the opportunity to see tons of other places while in Europe.
Another just finished winding her way across the US, and has now landed in the UK hoping to find work in the journalism field…and I will most definitely be watching with interest to see how she fares. Because I don’t want the “traditional” OE – quite frankly, I don’t think I could hack working any old service type job. I’ve been there, done that; I like my cushy desk job. In an office, the worst I can do is spill food onto my keyboard or fall off my chair (true story). I couldn’t be on my feet all day, especially when there’s so much potential to break glasses or spill wine on customers (the tipping point at which I quit waitressing).
Now I’ve nearly dealt to the emergency fund, it’s time to start seriously thinking about saving for a) a car someday and b) some real travel.
When I finally get to travel, I’m happy to do some backpacking and stay in hostels, but I want to be able to fully enjoy and experience the surroundings. Not interested in slumming it. Increasingly, I’m wondering if getting TESOL certified might be one way to do it – especially if we’re talking Europe. Or simply remaining based here, and taking, say, a one or two-week trip abroad every other year or so. I mean, I know they say visiting a place is not the same as living there, but I think the holiday experience would sate me just fine.
BF doesn’t have the travel bug like I do – and it didn’t really help hearing tales of how two friends ran out of money while overseas. He’s reasonably keen to visit Europe, but has no burning interest in seeing the States. Unless, of course, he gets to go see a live wrestling show. Or Letterman. I’ve promised we will. (Nor is he particularly keen on working overseas. If he’d decided to go down the teaching path after all, the UK would probably be a relatively easy option. But he didn’t, and instead, he’ll be staying put for a while to hopefully build a career.)
Ah, but the food! I’ve reminded him of all the amazing cuisines that we’re dying to experience firsthand. As I told Revanche, we would love to do a foodie tour of the US (Mexican! Cajun! IHOP! Seafood! Cheese steak! Bagels! Er….pizza?). And all the flavours of Malaysia. France. Spain. Italy. Surely even the UK has something to offer in that department. And then he concedes that yes, that would be nothing short of astounding.
Who’s lived and worked in a foreign country? What was your experience like?
Image by wenzday01 via Flickr
In my recent rant about dental charges, someone suggested looking into insurance to save on costs. To which I scoffed (mentally) But I live in New Zealand!
And then a friend of mine, who coincidentally happens to be a colleague as well, randomly mentioned something about how many deductions came out of my pay before he even saw it. One of those deductions was for health insurance. A little bell went off in my head. Southern Cross! We have a workplace scheme going with them. Hmmmmmmmm…………
Just my luck, a consultant happened to come into the office a week later. Here are my options as a young, healthy human being:
Cover for the catastrophic, should it occur, at $25.24 a month. Double that ($50.48) to add T onto the plan.
Odds are highly stacked against me needing surgery anytime soon, so I won’t go into all the details of coverage. I’ll just say that it covers up to $75,000 per operation. And pre-consults and post-op care. (I think it also covers wisdom teeth removal, although probably not the whole cost). Goodness, and sterilisation, gastric banding, breast reduction and overseas treatment.
Thoughts: Sounds like good value to insure me against the future. But I’m inclined to postpone signing on for a while yet. But a young, foolhardy person would say that, wouldn’t they?
Wellbeing Two, plus dental and vision:
Looks virtually identical to Wellbeing One at first glance, with the addition of $750 for psychiatric consults.
Add on vision and dental, and that’s $60.77 a month or ($121.54 to cover T as well). That’s up to $500 for dental a year, $100 for hygienist – whatever that is – $50 for eye tests, $400 for glasses or contacts, and $200 for audiology.
Thoughts: I could definitely make full use of the vision coverage, but I’m pretty sure my employer already has a vision subsidy in place. (I used it a couple of years ago and assume it hasn’t been canned.) I also haven’t worn contacts in a while, but I buy them MUCH cheaper online than through brick-and-mortar stores.
I seem to recall being quoted around $300 for a cleaning and filling, and $1500 for T (he needed more work, obviously). I don’t see much point in paying $729 for us a year to get $500 worth of dental work, although again, we are getting coverage should either of us need non-emergency surgery.
Right now, I’m leaning toward postponing the whole idea, and simply paying our dental costs out of pocket.
Anyone have any thoughts on the matter? I know health insurance in the US is a different beast altogether, but all input is appreciated.
Tags: health, insurance, money
Rachel at ExPRessions ruminates on meeting deadlines and doing the job right.
Copy editor Melissa’s tips on finding work and freelance writer Amber’s tips for getting into the industry.
News editor Crystal waves goodbye to her real-name blog (which kinda reinforces my decision to stay relatively-anon).
A Master of Nothing Employable on the things she hates most about job applications.
Ashley wonders how she can personalise her cubicle. (I don’t. I just have lists of important phone numbers on the wall, and sometimes deal vouchers pinned up so I remember to use them.
A great post – honest and entertaining – from World as a Muse: Confessions of a female sports writer.
Ms Career Girl has some great tips on acing your first annual review (suppose mine will be early next year – how time flies).
Airam gives herself a money checkup with a 10point guide for 20-somethings (I’ll have to do that when I get a chance!).
Amber gets the ball rolling with Operation Buy A House. (While that’s not even a speck on my horizon, here are my recent posts on my real estate dream.)
J Money takes a big hit as his work benefits get slashed.
Rainy Day Saver asks if tattoos are worth the cost.
Financial Samurai argues that renters should pay rent tax…because owners pay rates.
From Smitten Kitchen: Monkey cake! What more can I say?
The minimalist’s guide to creating a spice collection, via Stonesoup (I don’t have any of the last three, and I think we’re also out of paprika).
I’m not a fan of fudge - but perhaps you are? Courtesy of Aliens in the Apple.
But Closet Cooking’s hot cheesy mushroom dip? Hell to the yes.
Amanda Lee presents her ridiculously comprehensive guide to making heels bearable (wearable?)
On Bundle, Matt McCue shares his guide to self-publishing a book. A great, inspiring read.
At Blog Her, Ashley explains why her mother and not her father will be walking her down the aisle. Indeed. Why do you need anyone to walk you down the aisle at all? My dad and I aren’t especially close; I might just walk myself down.
At Stratejoy, Marian waxes lyrical about the meaning of success.
A Cat of Impossible Colour mulls over some unsolicited (and unwarranted feedback), and finds it a good way to resolve her own insecurities.
Michelle Woo rounds up some of the best movie prom scenes ever.
Hannah Katy gets inspired at the 2010 Millennium Campus Conference.
Image via Wikipedia
Remember the days of primary school when boys who had a crush on you would tease you and pull your hair to get your attention?
That’s exactly how my niece (or T’s rather) shows affection. She’ll walk up to me and give me a gentle smack on the leg. If I’m lucky, she’ll fling a purple plastic flipper at my head.
It was the first time I’d seen her in a few months, and I was expecting her to have grown in leaps and bounds again – but I think it’s levelled off. She’s still the same toddler-sized creature, albeit a little steadier on her feet, and among her streams of gibberish the occasional word emerges.
Example: She picks up a packet of cigarette filters. Waves them in her mother’s direction. “Mum!”
She also has a little brother, although he’s not quite as entertaining. He sits in his playchair (is that what you call them?) drools, and chews on his kingdom of neverending toys.
But oh, when they cry! There’s nothing like the sound of a distressed child. And they can stem from the simplest of things – not being allowed to follow their big sisters outside to play, for example. It reminds me of how frustrating it was for me as a kid, having to pander to my brother, as the lowest common denominator, all the time. Six years is a big age gap.
Kids, huh! Especially when they dip their plastic comb into the dregs of a coffee mug and proceed to rub it all over their head.
Tags: family, random
When Asian Pear commented on my last post about my dream house – she suggested starting with a fixer upper and doing it up. I’m totally on board with that.
Here are my parameters for a house:
- Decent off street parking (preferably garage).
- With a bath.
- Decent sized kitchen and pantry.
- Location. Good street (and not a main thoroughfare), good suburb. I have very fixed views about which areas are acceptable. I’m resigned to the fact that our budget will relegate me back to commuting hell, but that doesn’t mean living in the ghetto. I grew up in a nice, quiet suburb and would be more than happy to make my home around there. Or a little further out, more likely.
I don’t want to stretch too much for a house, but at the same time, I want to put down roots. Nest. I want it to be a place I could stay and imagine having my family, without knowing that we’d have to move to a bigger place once we had kids.
I won’t even go near apartments or terraced houses. Mainly because of construction worries – so many were shoddy rush jobs in the boom and no way am I getting caught up in leaky home syndrome. And it’s not the lifestyle I want, as per the previous paragraph.
But do-ups are not actually very cheap at all, not to mention few and far between. I thought I’d go out and hunt down a selection of houses listed as do-uppers. Take this one at over $500k. Or this one. Hardly ramshackle, right?
Further out in the suburbs there’s this or this. You’d probably also find some REAL doozies – some honest to God DIY projects especially out west and south. (We actually looked at this house the last time it was up for rent. There’s a reason there aren’t many interior shots…) But out in suburbia proper we’d probably just buy something nicer. For example: this or this at $419k. Or this for $395k.
Of course, even $400k is probably going to be beyond us. Which means hello, Waitakere city! (Although we’ll all be one under the new super Auckland council, west Auckland is always gonna be, well, west Auckland. Hello hour-long bus rides again, forty-ouncers at parties, and the Daktory.)