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who am i
Thursday, March 24, 2011 @ 2:34 pm
Remember my concerns about hiring a domestic helper (Officially: a Foreign Domestic Worker. Unofficially: A maid)? I've had my helper for about 3 months now. So how is she doing? How am I doing? Are my concerns founded?
First of all, I must say that this is just my experience with my helper. Secondly, hopefully my experience will be of value to those who is considering hiring a domestic helper or already having one.
A little introduction about my helper. She's in her early 20s, from a transportation-unfriendly village in east Indonesia. She has never been to a city but with the help of television and books, she has an idea of what city-living is like.
We chose someone young because she would have the energy to look after 2 very young children. That is her first priority. Household cleaning is secondary. Unfortunately, getting a young and experienced helper is very rare, like finding a diamond in the mud.
When she first came on board, it was very obvious that she was very green. What did you expect from someone who had just come from the village? The training provided by the maid agency was very basic, just enough for her to get through the daily grind of a Singaporean household.
Thanks to God, she is willing to learn. That is very important. You may be born stupid, but if you're willing to learn, you can become smart! I emphasise to her on willing to learn and taking initiative because these attitudes will not just benefit me as an employer but also her as a person.
Some people don't have the time to train their helpers especially in the crucial first month. I was lucky because I was a housewife (not anymore soon). I had time and patience to teach her skills, both the practical and the abstract. Skills that can only be learnt through experience and worldly knowledge.
Maybe I was a born teacher. It gives me a thrill to teach anyone who is willing the learn. That's the only motivation I need.
Anyway, from a shy person, my helper is now more confident in her abilities. From no cooking experience (she couldn't even hold the kitchen knife properly), to a decent house cook. She has managed her tasks like clockwork without me having to remind her. My children are comfortable with her now. My husband and I can leave them with her to go on dates without worrying.
Before we had gotten a helper, people kept telling us it's all about luck. Yes, luck do play a part but it's not entirely it. This isn't some game you play in the casino or lottery. Some people actually forget that domestic helpers are people too and they're working for a living!
Just like we expect to be respected as employees from our bosses, these helpers deserve our respect too. Yes yes yes. Respect has to be earned. I hear you. But did you expect to be treated like slaves when you first step into your office?
Often, we forget to give credit where the credit is due. Just like we thrive when praises are heaped on us, domestic helpers will definitely be self-motivated if their good work is appreciated, no matter how tiny it is. If her cooking is delicious, compliment the chef! If she did an unexpectedly good task, say "Good job!". Remember to say thank you for her help and sorry if you've made a mistake.
These are rewards that don't cost anything. You don't have to wait when her contract ends to give her a performance bonus. I don't think many employers do give their helpers bonus! We haven't given her any monetary bonuses yet, but we do have other ways to reward her.
For example, to encourage reading in the family, we bring the kids to the library once every 2 weeks. We encourage my helper to borrow books too. She likes to read. I've seen her devour the books that she borrowed during her break times. Yes, people. I've set break times in her schedule.
We also encourage her to write letters or send postcards home. Once a week, we remind her to call home. This is so that she won't feel homesick too much. Homesickness is one of the common causes of unproductiveness among foreign workers. Another reason for encouraging communication between her and her family back home is that this will regularly remind her of why she came to work here in the first place.
When we're outside, she eats with us. We're not calculative with food. If we can afford to eat well, then we should share it. If she has certain Indonesian cravings, I'll try to include it in my groceries. In a way, we are learning from each other's cultures.
We are not saints. We do try to be fair employers. My husband works overseas often. He has experienced the hardship of working overseas. From the homesickness to the local's treatment of him. So he understood very well how foreign workers feel.
Often, we remind ourselves of how we want to be treated as employees by our bosses. If not, then as a person. This helps in our role as employers and sometimes, guardians to our foreign domestic helper.
Lastly, pray often that God blesses you with the traits of a fair and respected employer.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011 @ 9:19 pm
I think the whole world (via Twitter and Facebook) knows by now that I've finally bought the Macbook Pro. For a Mac virgin, this is quite exciting. Confusing at times, exciting nevertheless.
On the first day, I had to make conscious efforts to remember that I was not using Windows anymore. Thankfully, there are websites that help Mac noobs like me. There was even a website on how to let go of Windows for Mac converters!
Mac users are just like Christian missionaries aren't they? They won't stop proselitysing about the wonders of Mac until the whole world converts to Mac. They should just chill, soak in their coolness and accept that differences are good for the world.
Anyway, my Macbook Pro is definitely cool. I won't gush about it. Seeing and feeling it speaks volumes of its coolness. Of course, in Windows-dominated Singapore, I have to accept that I can't do certain things like Windows user can. This is vice versa.
Enough about Mac. Let's talk about ice cream. I've been in an ice cream-making frenzy ever since my father-in-law brought back some strawberries from Cameron Highlands. Knowing that the strawberries would stay untouched forever in the refrigerator, I decided to do something about them before they go rotten.
I remembered my rarely-used Philips ice cream maker, a birthday gift from my sister. The last time I used it was to make double chocolate chip ice cream. That was a year ago. I googled ice cream recipes and I came across James Martin's "Easy Strawberry Ice Cream". Super easy recipe but the ice cream was delish! I like James Martin by the way. He makes doing dessert look so easy on TV. He's not bad-looking too!
The next day, I googled for more ice cream recipes. I came across mint chocolate chip ice cream recipe at allrecipe.com. I always order this flavour ice cream when I go to Swensen's. Since this recipe looked so easy, I was quite excited to try it out.
Strawberry and mint chocolate chip ice cream (the chocolate chip is "gone" because I used shaved chocolate instead)
The mint chocolate chip ice cream needed some refinement, aesthetic-wise. Needed a bit more green colouring. It was yummy though.
Easy Strawberry Ice Cream by James Martin
600g grams strawberry, hulled and sliced
600g double cream (whipping cream)
280g castor sugar (more or less, depending on your tolerance for sweets)
1. Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender.
2. Pour pureed strawberries into a mixing bowl. Stir in cream and sugar. TIP: Pour in sugar gradually. Then whisk mixture until well-blended. ANOTHER TIP: Do NOT over whisk the cream.
3. Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine. It should take about 30min for the mixture to look like soft serve ice cream.
4. Pour into a freezer-proof container, cover the surface with cling film and freeze till hard.
Easy Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream by Darryn Briggs
2 cups 2% milk (optional)
2 cups double cream (whipping cream)
1 cup sugar (more or less, depending on your tolerance for sugar)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla essence (I used 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp peppermint essence (I used 3/4 tsp. Your breath will smell minty afterwards!)
3 drops green colouring (may omit or add more drops to your liking)
1 cup miniature chocolate chips (I used cooking chocolate shavings)
1. In a mixing bowl, stir all ingredients except green colouring (if using) and chocolate chips till sugar is dissolved. Add green colouring to your liking. Whisk the mixture till well-blended. Do NOT overmix!
2. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker. It should take about 30min for the mixture to look like soft serve ice cream.
3. Pour into freezer-proof container, cover surface with cling film and freeze till hard.
For those without an ice cream maker, don't worry! You can still make these ice creams. After whisking the mixture, pour into freezer-proof container and freeze. Every 30min to 1 hr or so, take the container out. Using a butter knife, slice through the edges. Then stir the half-frozen ice cream with a fork. You have to do this several times (about 5 hours at least) until you get the consistency that you want.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011 @ 11:55 am
Now everyone I know has fallen sick at least once since the start of the new year. Like the newspaper has reported, we have a flu epidemic. That doesn't mean that everyone is suffering from flu though.
I get very agitated when people confuse flu with cold symptoms. Sometimes, one might just be down with a cold caused by a viral infection. Fever, runny nose and cough are common. Flu is much, much more serious than that.
This is why I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to get yourself vaccinated against flu. For about $30, you'll cut the risk of getting seriously ill from the flu bug. I was told by the doctor that the flu vaccination is best taken yearly.
My husband started the sickness ball rolling when he was infected with stomach flu about 3 weeks ago. It left him almost bedridden. Despite his many travels, he doesn't really have a strong immune system.
Then, my daughter had a serious viral infection that gave her high fever for almost a week! I am not surprised by that because she usually gets some viral infection almost monthly. When you put things in your mouth, it is most definite that you will fall sick often. Her fever is gone now but the cough and runny nose still stay.
Finally, my son caught her virus. Even though he only had low-grade fever, his cough was bad. For a 4-month-old, this is a cause for attention because his internal organs are still developing. Besides, most pharmaceuticals do not develop medicines for babies below 6 months old.
You have no idea how stressful it could be when young kids fall sick. Thanks to God, I was healthy enough to care for them. It gets worse at night. Fever temperature tends to increase at night. I don't know why.
Thanks to God too that I'm not a paranoid parent, unlike my husband. Just because a baby has fever doesn't mean his brain will be fried. Yes, there is still a risk but why only think negatively and of the worst? As parents, we need to be rational and patient at times of crisis. In that way, we won't cause more problems than there already are.
I have more or less made a list of what NOT to do when your kids fall sick. Not in order of importance.
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Wednesday, March 02, 2011 @ 10:10 pm
Lately, I have wondered if I might be commitment-phobic. Marriage has been stressful and after giving birth to 2 children, I find myself not enjoying this marriage even more.
It feels like I am losing a part of myself more and more each day. I am not sure if this is the sacrifice that marriage counsellors meant.
Marriage does provide a stability which I was desperately looking for when I was a wild child. But it sure is boring.
I thought I have found what I have always wanted when I got married. But I feel like there is still something missing in my life.
Perhaps the spark that illuminated my life when I was briefly in love is gone. Once, I had looked forward to his calls and our dates. Now, I am hardly even bothered.
It can get awfully difficult to feel that "in love" high again when I don't feel special. I am not even made to feel special! I am now just an actor playing a forgotten role in life's many dramas.
He told me a story about his colleague. His colleague's wife left him after many years of marriage because she was not in love with him anymore. She got bored with her domestic role. She was even willing to relinquish custody of their only child just so that she could live again.
I don't know if I could ever give up custody of my children. I am their mother after all. I may be brave enough to give up marriage though if this married life is really what it is.
If my husband is reading this, I am not sorry. It is time to wake up and see the cracks in our marriage.
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