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mj chinese book

If you’ve been keeping track, you might remember that I spent the last few months in the midst of learning Mandarin alongside my husband.  One evening, I interrupted his after work TV time to ask him his thoughts on the experience.

Me: Hey hon. Can I interrupt you to get you to help me with something?

Husband: Is this about Mandarin?

Me: Yep, Just wondering – What made you want to learn Mandarin?

Husband: It’s a major language in the part of the world we live in. It would be foolish not to try to communicate.

Me: Good point. What are your general thoughts on the lessons?

Husband:  I enjoyed them but I don’t think I’ve had the opportunity to exercise what I learned other than when I visit Din Tai Fung, so I am frustrated about that.

Me: So you aren’t dazzling anyone with your ability to speak in Mandarin then?

Husband: I don’t think I’ve impressed anyone with my Mandarin, but the effort I put in to learn it might have impressed a few people, especially my Mandarin speaking colleagues.

Me: What could be done to improve your Mandarin language skills? What about the free weekly speaking club Elite provides? Would that give you an opportunity to use the skills you’ve learned?

Husband: I think going to the club would help, if the teacher could assist more toward the first visit.

Me: Do you think a few catch up privates would help?

Husband: Perhaps, I’d see how that works. Our class size of five was small so I don’t expect to see a huge jump in learning productivity with privates. The better they can do to get students somewhere to practice what they learned, the more chance of success. They have that with the language club, but I need a little more reassurance to get there to the club and participate. I’m not sure how that could be done.

Me: OK, so what did you enjoy the most about the experience?

Husband: I take enjoyment in learning, but the wider cultural lessons offered were interesting and enticing. They helped me maintain enthusiasm.

Me: Do you have an example?

Husband: We talked about the cultural significance of how time and events are communicated in Mandarin. Also the lack of tense in verbs means the language is very direct. Now we better understand Singlish in Singapore because we know a little about the other root language that makes it up.

Me: What was challenging about learning Mandarin and the lessons themselves?

Husband: The course material itself was relevant and focused on survival Mandarin. That was good. But it has been a long time since I was in a learning setting like that – at least a decade. The time spent away from a school-like setting put me on a learning curve in terms of absorption rate compared to my peers. They seemed to pick up things quicker.

Me: You didn’t appear to struggle to me. Do you think maybe you are being hard on yourself?

Husband: No, I struggled. I wouldn’t want it more challenging. I felt like the rate and pace was as good as I could have followed at a level of commitment of once a week.

Me: So they hit a sweet spot with pace?

Husband: Compromise between everyone in the class, isn’t it?

Me: Speaking of everyone in the class, what did you think of your classmates?

Husband: It was an intimate but wide range of people in terms of age, experience and income. I was apprehensive beforehand, but I found the clientele they attracted to be warm and friendly and the setting was comfortable and not intimidating, unlike other language classes. Everyone in the class felt comfortable enough to stop and ask questions at any point.

Me: Between you and I, who do you think had an easier time learning Mandarin? Which one of us had more of a natural talent for it? 

Husband: I put more effort into it, but it was easier for you.

Me: I’m not sure I agree with you, but what do you think caused me to have an easier time with it?

Husband: You’re younger and your mind is a little more receptive to picking new things up.

Me: I gave birth to our daughter during our 12 week course. I’m sure that affected my learning. How do you think it changed my learning pace?

Husband: You missed 2 lessons, but you didn’t feel like you couldn’t come back. The other students were supportive of you and I think it was neat to everyone to have met her when you brought her to class.

Me: We can tell her she had her first mandarin lesson at two weeks old!

Husband: Yep! She’s got no excuse for not learning Mandarin.

Me: So overall, the experience – good? Bad?

Husband: Very rewarding.

Me: And was it difficult to carve out the time in your schedule to attend?

Husband: No, not unduly.

Me: Thanks, hon. You can have your TV back.

Husband: Woohoo.

 

Editor’s note:

 

If you are interested in enrolling (and I encourage you to consider it!), Elite Linguistic Network offers corporate, private and several group classes a week in Mandarin. Group classes are held at both Bugis and Jurong East and are currently $420 for 12 sessions. They offer a steal of a trial lesson at only $3 if you would like to check out the group courses prior to enrollment. Classes are 2 hours long and average between 6 and 8 students.

Elite has graciously offered an exclusive promotion to TexasOnThames.com readers of 15% off for two person / 10% off for one personKindly quote “ELN-TEXAS” when you call in to enroll at 6565 7166. 

To learn more about Elite’s language courses, check out http://www.languageasia.com/

Laura’s tuition was provided free of charge by Elite while Husband’s tuition was paid.

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New project alert!

pregnancy

We are expecting! ETA September.

I don’t know how normal people react when they find out their pregnant, but for me, my thoughts were along the lines of 1.) holy shit and 2.) what do I do now??

So I did what I think most people would do. I asked a few friends. While I had no idea what the normal process at this point was, I quickly found out that everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) has an opinion, often a very strong one, often clashing with my strong opinion.

There was the friend that insisted I spend (or waste, in my strong opinion) money on 3 at home pregnancy test just to “make sure,” even though I already KNEW the moment the first test showed it’s little two lines that it wasn’t lying. Afterall, my period was late, I was feeling super feminine, I had a violent aversion to questionable food, and I got severely loopy from a mere 2 glasses of wine.I didn’t need multiple tests to tell me my system had been highjacked.

I did some research on the most natural friendly doctors in Singapore, and made an appointment for my chosen doctor’s earliest availability. Some friends were appauled that I wouldn’t see the doctor until week 11/12. Others insisted it wasn’t necessary to seek early care.

The opinions did not let up there. One friend insisted I go vegan, another insisted I start eating meat. A coworker lectured me on the importance of finding out the sex ASAP because it was important in case it was a girl so I would know how to wipe, nevermind that I have the equipment myself. There were those that insisted I stop riding a motorcycle immediately regardless that my office is 1.5 hours commute by public transport. Others didn’t see why I should have to give it up, afterall people in Thailand, Vietnam and India ride at 9 months pregnant and even while wearing a sling. I won’t go into the riffs, eyerolls and exasperation when I shared my birth plan of minimal intervention and no epidural. I got called everything from naive to judgmental, until I got super selective in my sharing.

Among my American friends the opinions vary greatly, but add to that the even more diverse population of Singapore, its local and expat communities, and you get an even bigger range of customs, styles and traditions to wade through. For example, in the UK it’s so normal to have a midwife attended birth that Kate Middleton did it, meanwhile in Singapore it’s illegal to birth without a doctor present. C section rates in Brazil are 80 to 90 percent in private hospitals, about 30 percent overall in the US and only about 17 percent overall in Sweden.  In some countries doctors ultrasound frequently, some ultrasound hardly at all. While many in Asia insist upon the benefits of confinement practices, many of those from Western countries often perceive not leaving the house, not washing your hair, hanging out 24/7 with your in-laws and eating pig trotters as a quick way to achieve postpartum depression. Although rumor has it that the papaya fish soup is quite tasty.

So what DO you do when you find out you are pregnant as an expat in Singapore? Well, if you are asking my opinion as someone who is not a medical professional and you are not choosing to terminate, carry on reading. (If you are considering termination, it’s beyond the scope of my discussion here and you may find this post from AWARE more helpful.)

1.) Relax. Pregnancy is a marathon, not a sprint. You are going to be at this for approximately 40 weeks. Assuming you found out early on, you have several months to rearrange your life, your home, your mentality and schedule all the little fun to do items (like maternity/baby portraits and babymoons) and not fun activities (like discussions with your work HR).

2.) Brace yourself for the opinions of others. Learn how to smile and nod while singing rock ballads in your head, say “thank you, interesting idea” as you let their words go in one ear and out the other, or stand tall with a hearty “Thanks for your unsolicited opinion” accompanied by a 30 yard stare. Your choice. I personally like to mix it up.

3.) Evaluate your insurance situation. My insurance is not very comprehensive (meaning it’s actually utter crap) so that limits my doctor choices. Here are the costs of typical vaginal delivery by hospital in Singapore and here are the costs of typical C section delivery by hospital in Singapore. It’s probably too late to buy insurance on your own now if you don’t have it, so relax because there’s nothing you can do anyway. Most policies require minimum 10 month waiting period before covering maternity costs and/or birth. You can still get insurance going from day 1 for your little one, although it likely won’t be cheap. Try contacting Expat Insurance for quotes if you aren’t sure where else to turn.

4.) Start thinking about what type of medical care you would like or need to have in your pregnancy. In Singapore, decisions tend to be deferred to doctors and OBGYNs often explain little and err on the side of intervention. If you are OK with deferring but like to be informed, you will likely have to lead the discussions, so come in with questions. If you prefer a less medicalized experience than the norm on this small island then you are not completely out of luck. It just means you may have to research more, select providers more carefully and be prepared to be treated like an anomaly.You will still have some restrictions, for instance I already mentioned that home birth with a midwife is illegal (ie, birth by anything but a doctor). Don’t worry, I’m here for you. I’ll guide you through this in a later post.

5.) Book an appointment with a doctor that you feel best suites your needs, whether that be degree of planned intervention, location, cost or simply availability. Many expecting mothers have their first appointments at 8 weeks or so, but it’s also likely ok waiting until your 12th week as in my case. You can treat this first appointment like an interview. If you do not connect with this doctor, you still have time to change to another one. You don’t have to stay with a doctor you don’t like.

6.) Celebrate. Because you are a freaking life carrying goddess. Enough said. 🙂

Oh yeah, and congratulations! xx

See also:

What to Expect When You Are Expecting In Singapore: Belly Henna

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