back home for a week or so. had my specs repaired so i had to go without them for twenty-four hours; it was a good exercise to develop empathy towards the visually impaired. i could read - barely - when the page was open 5cm away from my face. even then i got a headache after a few minutes. i typed with my nose nearly touching the keyboard (still can't touch-type after all these years). while roasting chicken i had to get a second opinion on whether it had browned enough. television was only good for the sound; might as well turned on the radio. for 24 hours i couldn't do anything useful; i'm sure learning to play songs by ear on the guitar did not count as useful work.
that's for the indoors, where i spent most of my time. with worse than 6/100 vision anyone should stay indoors in a city with such haphazard traffic. as a pedestrian you should always watch out for potholes, ditches, ruts, puddles and the rest of their extended family. never trust planks or boards laid across as a bridge to safety, if possible always let someone else use it first and see what happens. on dirt roads, watch out for loose stones. better wear an ankle guard to be on the safe side. on busy streets don't even consider the pavements safe for there are a hundred and one other uses for them other than being a convenient surface for you to stroll on. be especially careful not to stumble across babies left out there to beg for loose change. these are non-traffic-related precautions. if i get started on the traffic i won't finish my admonitions until next morning.
no matter what a mess my hometown is - high unemployment rate, lousy infrastructure, poor maintenance, corruption from top to toe - every time i come home i fall in love with it all over again. people are generally friendly and helpful, creative and resourceful. there is relatively low crime rate - people still dare open their car windows while waiting for the light to turn green at intersections. and the buskers, they must be one of the first things a visitor will notice. in one trip downtown i heard at least five different instruments and songs that varies from traditional stringed instrument to a saxophone. add to that the fact that these buskers have to approach cars at the intersection, play music and pass a can around while watching for oncoming traffic out of the corner of their eyes. the ultimate multitasking indeed.
"A man began to give large doses of cod-liver oil to his Dobberman because he had been told that the stuff was good for dogs. Each day he would hold the head of the protesting dog between his knees, force its jaws open and pour the liquid down its throat.
One day the dog broke lose and spilt the oil on the floor. To the man's great surprise, it returned to lick the spoon. That is when he discovered that what the dog had been fighting was not the oil but his method of administering it."
this is one of the stories from de Mello's "the Prayer of the Frog", the closest approximation to a bible for me, agnostic that i am. was flipping through it when the story caught my eye and realisation dawned that for the past six years or so, i'd been the dog. it's not cod liver oil though, which i don't mind - thanks to early conditioning - but the way education is administered in this country. you do it this way. you better memorise this verbatim. why? never mind why, this is just the way we do things here (read: this was the method i was taught).
it used to be more bearable in pre-u. perhaps because i was not as jaded as i am now, or perhaps because the amount of knowledge i had to master was much less compared to university that it didn't take that much effort and i had the rest of the time to use as i pleased. different kettle of fish now. and all the more sickening because uni should have spelled greater freedom.
even then, the education system of this country is better than what i had before coming here. emigrating to a more advanced neighbouring country at the tender age of fifteen gave me the opportunity to contrast two wholly distinct approaches to education. here is definitely better than there. if i had to do it all over again, i wouldn't change a thing.
but it is ironic that the system that allowed me to stretch and expand has so soon become too stifling. maybe it has something to do with the size of the country, or maybe it is the national obsession for good, quick results. nevermind that they lack depth, we just want the simple, straightforward solution, thank you very much. or maybe the two are related; it's their secret of success. for a tiny, bureaucratic nation, they sure are efficient. so efficient that they started to teach creativity and entrepreneurship in the classroom, once the bigshots decided those qualities are desirable. no, desirability had nothing to do with it. they're necessary for the survival of the nation, that's all.