My First Ambulance Call

I had never imagined that one day I would call an ambulance for a painful foot.

At first it was the mild discomfort resulted from an exhausting 13 km jog (mixed with walking) on a Sunday morning. That afternoon saw a slightly reddened first toe joint on my right foot. I didn’t pay much attention because it happened many times.

On the following day, 13 June, Darling and I went to Legoland as planned. I applied medical ointment and bandaged the toe before I left home. At Legoland, I took off the bandage because it felt uncomfortable. It was mildly painful throughout the day.

The condition persisted for another two days. The joint became swollen on 16 June. Since I could not join Darling for jogging, I brought my Brompton to cycle alongside. Then we went to Changi Airport. The joint suddenly became seriously painful there, perhaps due to excessive exercise.

So I decided to go to Ho Hong Meng Chinese Physician and Acupuncture Centre at Tampines, which I had trusted for long time.

One day after the treatment, the joint was no longer swollen. But because I could not assert force on the toes, my body weight was mainly on the ankle, and that led to a painful right ankle on the following day, 18 June. I did the usual stuff: medical ointment, bandage, massage.

On the morning of 19 June, it felt a bit better, but still had great pain when walking. On the afternoon, however, it suddenly worsened. I could not walk without Darling’s help. Darling suggested we should go to see a doctor. After Darling helped — almost carried — me to the void deck, I realised that I could not make it even to the street to take a cab. So I asked Darling to help me buy some Salonpas patches. The patches were working, but once I started walking again, I almost collapsed.

Ambulance was the next logical option. Since it was not an emergency, I did not call 995 for SCDF but 1777 for private ambulance. I was in the ambulance after some 40 minutes of waiting.

This was the first time I called an ambulance and the first time I was in the ambulance as a patient. It was quite old and shaky. I held Darling’s hand, which gave me lots of comfort and warmth.

We arrived at A&E of Ng Teng Fong General Hospital at Jurong East. The ambulance cost S$150, cash only. We did not have so much cash. Darling had to go to IMM to withdraw money to pay for it.

While she was away, I tried to go to the toilet in a wheelchair. Although I had no problem navigating, I could not open the door. An old gentleman helped me. After using the toilet, I attempted to open the door from inside but failed. The same gentleman came to help me and pushed me to the waiting area.

After the initial examination by a nurse, Darling tried to push me to a wheelchair spot near the consultation rooms. A gentleman came to help us when he saw we had problems.

After almost two hours of waiting, we entered the consultation room. The doctor asked me the same questions that the nurse asked two hours before, and he said my ankle pain should be due to mild gout. He decided the five steps of treatment: blood test, to check kidney function; painkiller, both injection (Tramadol) and tablets (Suniton); lowering blood pressure; X-ray, to check my ankle joints; gout tablet (Colchicine).

My kidney function was normal. Like a few years back, Losartan worked well on me, lowering my blood pressure significantly. The painkiller injection and tablets  relieved much of the pain, but still I could not walk without assistance. The X-ray showed my ankle joints to be normal.

I requested to buy a pair of crutches. This was the second time I used crutches. The last time I used them, I borrowed from a clinic.

The doctor offered me medical certificate of three days, and prescribed Losartan (for hypertension), Colchicine (for gout), Suniton (for pain).

When we were waiting in front of the pharmacy, I felt a bit feverish. Darling touched my forehead and said it did warm up. It might be a side effect of the drugs. Darling went to look for the doctor but could not find him, but a nurse attended to me. Another nurse checked my body temperature and it was 37.2℃, half degree higher than usual, but it was not a fever.

We collected the medicine, made the payment. A nurse pushed me to the taxi stand. It was almost midnight and the taxi stand was empty. I requested a taxi through ComfortDelGo app and soon we were in a taxi back home.

Kindness

More than often, people shared chicken-soup-for-souls stories with me. One of the themes is it pays to be kind. In some extreme cases, the horrendously obviously made up stories tell how a kind person did small deeds of kindness and eventually the receiving ends of those deeds saved his or her life.

Of course it’s good and noble to be kind. But these stories focus on the benefit of being kind, and try to educate — or rather, entice — readers to be kind. That’s totally wrong: charitable people are kind not because kindness is profitable but because it is the right thing to do.

Another question is, should we save one’s life only because the poor soul had been kind to us? If it were a total stranger who had not done anything nice to us, and we had all the power and ability to save this stranger, shouldn’t we save him or her all the same?

Why should the authors of these stories treat good deeds as some kind of deals and trading? Why should we not be kind for a higher purpose than being helped in return? Are we so shallow-minded that we need such dear incentives to be kind? Why would people be touched and inspired by such nonsense, and pass it onto others still?

My problem is not with kind acts. A kind act, no matter what the actor’s motive is, is a kind act. My problem is with the ways those stories promote kind acts. It’s pure atrocity committed to humanity that kindness becomes a means and not the purpose itself.

2015 Review

I have survived the first year in the new school. There have been a lot of setbacks, mistakes, anguish, anger, stress and annoyance; but at the same time I have also enjoyed good comradeship and friendship with the new colleagues, found my new strength as a lower primary teacher, seen myself as an educator with more confidence. I have been much critical of some leadership issues in the school, as I always am in any bureaucracy; that is in my nature and unlikely will be changed.

I made my first intercontinental trip to London, UK, the No. 1 destination in my list; then I went to Kyoto, Japan, the No. 2 in the list. I enjoyed myself in these two historic cities, while mourning for the ever thinning wallet.

I have also found my true love after 12 years of loneliness. It is an unusual relationship: slow to build up, fast to peak, intense, passionate and yet invisible to many. Now I can’t live without her, nor can I easily bear the seemingly long emptiness if we were to part for more than one day. The mutual acceptance and love make us ever so close together.

Things happened lightning fast in 2015, be it good or bad. It is a difficult year, but it is also surely my best year.

In 2016, I’ll try to work better (not necessarily harder) and survive the second year in the school without much regret. I’ll also propose to my love, and I wish she would accept it.

Wish everything will be fine.

夜琴

钢琴曲悄悄流淌在暗夜的空气里,带着轻轻的忧伤,却不动声色,让人以为那只是一种温存。但是我却在床上坐了起来。那些本该褪色模糊的往事,那些与今日已然全无关联的躁动,那些枕边看不着摸不到却实实在在流过的泪,全部触手可及。

是二十年前吗?我的心也如此不安分地跳动着。分不清恐惧还是焦急,辨不明兴奋或者烦躁,就这么心跳加速,就这么睁着眼睛看时间从鼻尖前的虚空流过。也许是饥饿,也许是咖啡因,也许只是一时一地一人一事,作祟的不知为何,搅动死水的难分因缘。

我似乎忘了自己已非少年。我忘了青涩的抑或华丽的梦想在此刻毫无意义。这一场黑夜仿佛一个阴谋,让时间回拨二十年,让空间瞬移千万里。我躺在那张床上,收音机里传出钢琴曲。窗帘飞动,对面的霓虹灯照进已熄灯的房里,在地砖上映出忽明忽灭的五彩之光。朦胧之间有一刹那的恍惚,又幻化作琴声消失于空气中。

我到底身在何处何时?光阴虚设,重洋乌有,彼时此时,此岸彼岸,风起风去,花开花落,不可细想,难以言喻,何堪思量。正如这夜里的钢琴声,托着我心小小的悸动在房间里弥漫开来,并不曾计较时空与人事。

无泪可流,有心难伤。夜琴虽易醉,独坐到天明。

无根

这是个十年前我就写过的题目。十年过去了,无根依然,却少有感慨。

对于那个我出生的国度,我抱有十分复杂的情感。我讨厌那个流氓的政党所建立的无耻的政府,讨厌因无耻的政府而造就的低劣的国民性,讨厌因低劣的国民性而形成的恶心的社会。

然而我却依然沉醉于那个国度在悠久的历史中产生的美丽的文学和艺术。我依然深深爱着我的母语,爱着以我的母语书写的诗篇,以至于我现在的工作乃是把这份对母语的爱传递给下一代。

可是,我已渐渐失去了用母语写作的能力。我再不能用母语构建一个故事,再不能用母语指点江山。讽刺而且尴尬的是,我的第二语言,如今竟成了我主要的写作语言。并不是我的第二语言修炼到多高的程度,而实在是痛感母语受污染之严重,母语词汇所关联的意象已然被那流氓的政党、无耻的政府、低劣的国民性和恶心的社会所劫持并扭曲了。

远离那个国度,却依然感受到那个国度对母语施加的强大影响力。即便对这影响力有清醒认识,我却不能躲开它,而仍然在不知不觉间被它侵略。这股影响力,美其名曰“软实力”,已经让许多远渡重洋的爱国者们自豪万分,而于我而言却是一种耻辱。

既然根不在故国,在异乡又如何?我在异乡的时间,超过了在故国的时间;我在故国是异客,在异乡却是故人。孰为故国,孰为异乡,已不复辨识,亦无须辨识。国籍已变,乡音偶失,而我的根并不在现在这个国度:这个国度里并没有一处地方可以称作我的家乡。

就在这种复杂而无奈的境况中,我的所谓无根之感,除了偶尔做感叹的题材,又有什么实际的意义呢?

My Ideal Singapore

I followed some of the rally speeches, a few of which were very arousing, whereas the rest were boring. Some candidates resorted to emotions, which I disliked a lot. Some attacked the opponents without solid foundations, which I disliked even more.

The Cooling-off Day will start in 15 minutes, marking the end of the campaign period. It is time for me to calm down (thus ‘cooling-off’) and think: what do I want for my nation?

Freedom of speech

Also known as freedom of expression, this freedom ‘includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’, as stated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In everyday life, it translates into rights of opinions (or no opinions) without censorship or self censorship. Websites, press and films can be rated, but should not be censored. Public figures, including but not limited to political figures, should be confident enough to embrace critics. Lawsuits against political opponents should only aim to clear names, not to elicit large sum of damage.

Fair play

All constituencies, regardless of which party win the seats, should be granted unbiased consideration and priority in development. Town councils should be independent of partisan politics and run by professional civil servants.

Zero corruption

Singapore is almost there. Almost. She will be perfect if not for the ridiculous and largely unnecessary lapses. Transparency in the handling of our CPF is the least the government should achieve. I am not even asking about operations of Temasek Holdings and GIC.

LGBT rights

Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code is a remnant of the British law during colonial days. There is no state religion in Singapore, while there is in the UK, but the latter’s official attitude (cultural and legal) towards LGBT is far more progressive. In Catholic dominant countries like Spain and Portugal, same-sex marriages have also been legalised. Same-sex marriages have been legalised even in socially conservative USA — therefore having a conservative population (whether this is true is another story) should not be an excuse for the NLB to pulp books portraying alternative families.

Better social-economic coherence

I am not an economist, so I have no suggestion on how to narrow the income gap, how to make the infrastructure cope with the ever expanding and less impatient population, and how to make life affordable for the middle and low income groups. But I know it is very expensive to live in Singapore and I do not believe it to be inevitable.

Better transports

The MRT broke down even during this sensitive period. I have no word for this. But faulty railways are not the major problem here. The major problem is, why the buses and trains are so crowded, despite successive increases of fares?

Conclusion

As a public servant, I was reminded to stay neutral and not be involved in any politics during this general election period. No, this post does not imply any side-taking. In fact, I genuinely think that all parties are equally good — in another word, equally mediocre — regardless of their positions on the political spectrum. I am not a fan of PAP, neither am I a fan of any opposition party. I criticise the government much, not because I support the oppositions (I don’t), but only because it is not (yet) optimal.

Twenty Fifteen

So here we are, at the beginning of another year. 2015 will see the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta of England, the 50th anniversary of the Republic of Singapore, and my first year in the second school since I became a teacher.

I do not like to write resolutions because I seriously lack imagination. But anyway here they are:

1. To survive, and survive well, in the new environment

Having spent 3 days in the new school, I am still trying to adapt to the new environment. There are new colleagues to befriend with, new facilities to make use of, new pupils to educate, and new leaders to work for. I will try my best.

2. To get fit

Getting fit does not just mean slimming down. I will try some strength training, and also not to get sick. The new school is just 1km away, so I can walk to and back from work every day. Bukit Panjang Plaza is in only 1.4km walking distance from my house, and 1.4km from the school; I can walk there too. Eateries are very convenient at Fajar Shopping Centre, which is only a few steps away, and the proximity of eateries has effectively reduced my tendency to over eat; in the past, I needed to walk quite a long distance for meals and tended to eat too much, or to order food delivery too frequently, because of the high time cost in travelling.

3. To save more money

Renting a much cheaper room already saves a lot. The nearness of my school and shopping centres also cuts down travel expenses. Since I eat less now, I will also spend less on food. With my newly opened OCBC 360 Account, I will earn more interest from my deposit too. And I no longer need to buy so many photography gadgets, as I have moved from Canon EOS to Olympus OM-D. Just hope that I will not develop a new hobby in the new year!

4. To get a driving license

Hopefully I can get my license within this year. Bukit Batok Driving Centre is very close, 3.8km away, just in the distance between my previous house and previous school. With an emphasis of ‘working smart’ and a work-life balance policy in the new school, I believe I can manage my time and accomplish that. Whether to buy a car — and whether I can afford one — is another question.

UPDATED: It looks like I will not be able to learn driving after work because I am mentally exhausted by the time I go out of the office. Look at it this way: at least I save another 2000 dollars…

5. To travel out of the Malay Peninsula

I am not a traveller. My first step out of my comfort zone was taken 16 years ago from Swatow to Singapore, and the second 10 years ago from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. I think maybe it is time to take another step, and a longer one. There are four options: Britain, Taiwan, Japan, and New Zealand. I shall make the decision according to my wallet size — and my mood.

That’s it. I know I am boring. Whatever.