Adhoc ramblings

I celebrated my 43rd birthday last week in a quiet manner. Well, as per my usual practice, I took a day off to have a break since Buddy was in daycare. My husband and I went to Pasarbella at the Grandstand which we hadn’t been for a long time. We felt it was a little cramped to take Buddy along, especially with him in a stroller. Perhaps because we had brunch at Jones earlier, but I didn’t have enough tummy room to indulge. Still we ordered paella, salad, and my husband had the crackling roast pork. The place is big on meat, you see it available everywhere. We’re surprised there’re not a lot more salads available.

Anyway I didn’t get any gift for myself for my birthday, instead, I bought Christmas gifts for Buddy and his cousins. Yep, it seemed a little early, but I enjoy getting presents for the kids rather than for myself.  In fact, I have no desire to get a bag, shoes, or jewelry. Even for clothes, the only thing I’ll consider getting is cheongsam. I actually find it quite fun to shop for pressies at woodwould, a quirky shop selling vintage toys, trinkets, planners, and accessories etc, located at Mandarin Gallery. We showed Buddy what we were getting for him, and luckily he didn’t clamor to open up the pressies. We told him he could only open them on Christmas Day.

Lately, in the news, there was significant publicity on a satirical group (or what some would describe as a mega trolling group), SMRT (Ltd) Feedback. I first found out about it after a couple of friends liked its FB posts on vigilantism against a hateful cellphone shop owner. Only then did I catch on to the news of how a poor Vietnamese tourist was scammed and humiliated. Briefly, this man, a factory worker who only earned $200 a month, came to Singapore on a vacation with his girlfriend, and wanted to buy an iPhone 6 for her. He was offered S$960 for it at this shop, Mobile Air, which he paid for it. Then the seller asked if he wanted warranty for the phone, which he affirmed, and was made to sign on an invoice. Following this, he was told he had to pay S$1500 for the warranty! He was shocked and declined it, but the seller told him he wouldn’t get his phone if he didn’t pay for it.  The Vietnamese man got desperate and went down on his knees and begged for the refund of the phone, while being filmed by the staff, who laughed at him. They told him they would only offer half the money back.

This said shop is located at Sim Lim Square, which is known for selling electronics, computers and cell phone products, but is also notorious for being a place teeming with fraudsters. The article from Vulcan post (in the above link) stated that the place is rife with negative reviews in Tripadvisor. But for those tourists who come from non-English speaking countries, it’s understandable that they might not have caught wind of the warnings. The bloody shop was also in the news a few days earlier for refunding a Chinese tourist S$1,010 in coins, after being ordered to do so by the Small Claims Tribunal.

SMRT Feedback then launched a vigilante movement against the shop and it’s owner, forcing the shop to close for several days (according to netizens, it reopened today). You can read all about the actions in this Vulcan post which includes an interview with SMRT Feedback. By the way, for those not familiar with Singapore, SMRT is the tube transport operator in the country, and of course, this is not the real feedback unit of the operator. As mentioned, this is a satirical (or troll) group, and apparently set up after a massive train disruption happened in December 2011. No one knew who the person or people behind it, though the administrator/s claimed there were four of them, one from each racial groups in Singapore: Malay, Chinese, Indian and Eurasian.

Since getting to know of the group, I’ve been following the posts on Facebook, and have to admit that I was intrigued and impressed by their investigative works of digging out information on the shop owner. Sure, I know some do not condone the vigilante behavior (like my husband who thinks that you can’t resort to chaos to counter chaos when there is still law and order within the country). I personally feel the bastard shop  owner deserves the “lynching”, since consumers here get almost no protection and rights. Though we have a Consumer Association or CASE, it is practically useless and should be closed down.

Singaporeans are aware of the scam tactics employed by a number of shops at Sim Lim Square, and this is because many were cheated previously. Now that the people have wised up, the bloody shops turn their targets to tourists, who are also easier to scam. When the public read about the plight suffered by the Vietnamese tourist, there was a lot of empathy and anger. A good Samaritan used crowdfunding to raise funds for the Vietnamese man, and within an hour, he reached his target. But the bloody shop was still operating because, apparently no law was broken, and so when SMRT Feedback took matters into its hands to punish the owner, many cheered and supported the action. I admit I was one of them, and I understand the feeling of the mob.

The locals are pissed that nothing has been done to these errant shops despite the numerous complaints in the past. And much vitriol was leveled at CASE, which, for unknown reasons, when it was called in to mediate on behalf of the Vietnamese, it resulted in the poor man getting even less refund from the shop.  (CASE, is also an organization which the locals avoid because of its notoriety for being useless.) Until and unless there are serious regulations in place to protect consumer rights, I think such vigilante acts will receive widespread support.

On an unrelated note, the other day, I read an FB  post written by a mother who crowed about her daughter graduating from college at the tender age of 17, after she left the Singapore education system which failed her. The article was  a criticism of the education system, of how  the school teacher didn’t bother to teach and  left it to the tuition teacher. It started when she decided to prep the daughter for the primary 5 science exam the day before it, and was shocked to find out she didn’t know the answer to a simple question. The daughter told her because she was in the top class, the students were expected to know their stuff, and the teacher just put the answers to assignment questions on the board. The little girl was also afraid to ask questions for fear of getting reprimanded for interrupting the class. The mother also revealed that she had not bothered to attend any parent-teacher-meetings previously because she wasn’t interested to know where her kid ranked vis-à-vis others, and she thought she could entrust her child’s academic development to the school since she didn’t believe in tuition. Anyway after realizing the problem, she took her daughter out of school and home-schooled her, and only returned to school to take the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Exam). I presume (though this wasn’t mentioned) that the girl was sent overseas after that and hence able to graduate at 17 (which is not possible in Singapore).

What surprised me is the naivety of the mother, that she was completely clueless of the Singapore education system, and also completely hands-off in her child’s developments until she realized the problem at the last minute.   I know I sound harsh, but I would call that irresponsible parenting. If they were from a poor family where both parents had to work long hours to make ends meet, I would understand  the predicament and be sympathetic. But this is obviously not the case, so how could the mother not monitor the progress of her child and wash her hands off any responsibilities?  Parents cannot just push the education of  their children to schools and expect them to emerge as top scorers. The teacher is responsible for a class of at least 35 kids, on top of administrative duties and many other stuff, and you expect him/her to take care of your child’s learning entirely? Parents, it’s your job to understand your children and their progress in school. You should inculcate the love for learning right from the beginning, and develop self-motivation and discipline in him/her. You should also encourage your kid to be assertive, to speak up, to confide in you when there’re problems or issues. You don’t outsource this responsibility. This mother didn’t even realize that her daughter was also bullied in school until much later.

Thank God the girl emerged fine from the negative experience. Though, to be honest, I am not so sure about the early college graduation, because one would have to wonder how matured she really is. Many top secondary schools make their students go through the process of tough competition, tons of project works, and learning to work independently and in a team, on top of academics, over the four-year period, followed by another two years of junior college (senior high in the US), because they will face the same challenges at top colleges. If I’m not wrong, Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford or other Ivies don’t accept students who are not of college age, because the environments are ultra competitive and complicated. Even at 18, some students struggle to cope, least alone the young teenagers. You are facing some really scary smart kids here who are also damn good at strategizing (or manipulations). You have better be equally good or have some sort of support behind you.

The truth is education is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to spend time preparing for the 42km race. It also doesn’t matter how long it takes, but as long as you finish  it, that is what matters. So parents should ensure their kids build a strong foundation starting at a young age , no matter how long it takes, and with a strong base, the sky’s the limit.

I am ultimately responsible for Buddy. If he doesn’t do well in school or he turns out to be a scumbag, I would have to reflect upon myself and ask how I have failed as a mother.

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