A Nation of Noise

There are many countries qualified to this title. Singapore, unthinkable 20 years ago, is now one of them. Compared to two decades ago, the noise now is not only louder but also more prevalent.

Who contribute to the noise? The people. The people everywhere. Who are these people? They are locals and foreigners, old and young, male and female, highly educated and illiterate, happy and sad, intentional and oblivious. We, the citizens of the Noisy Country, pledge ourselves as one united people, regardless of race, language or religion… People nowadays seem to be constantly broadcasting themselves, in fear of not being heard by the whole world.

There is hardly any place in Singapore where you would not find unbearable noise surrounding you. On the bus, in a shopping mall, along a street, in a park, by the beach, in a food court, even in a library — there would always be people talking and laughing so loudly that you might just want to shut them up forcefully.

Whenever I hear a sudden laughter or some simultaneous human talking voices in an inappropriate situation, I cannot help thinking of Japan, England and Switzerland, where the people know when to be loud and when not to. Talking is a human right. Being free from noise is a human right too. There should be places where you can talk and laugh to your heart’s content, while you do not need to do so elsewhere so that other people, people who do not like loud conversations or merriment, can live their life peacefully.

This entry was started in a noisy food court and finished on a noisy bus.

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.


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.















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?


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.