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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Not so fun place afterall - enrichment centre review

I was trying to check out a programme for my 10-yr old niece and called up Our fun place.

Me: Hello, is this Our Fun Place

OFP: Yes.

ME: May I make an enquiry?

OFP: Sure.

ME: I’m looking for speech and drama course for 10-yr-old

OFP: yes, we have it on the website you can take a look under speech and drama, the photos, and videos

Me: (clicked speech and drama): Oh but it says from 5-12yrs old, do you group all the children together?

OFP: no, we put same age group together.

Me: So what’s that like? 5s, 6s, 7s, 8s,?

OFP: No, we group them, you can look at the photos on the website, we’re on you tube too.

Me: How do you group them, 5-6, 7-8 ...?

OFP: hm, like 5-7, 10-12.

Me: So what happens with the 7,8,9 yr olds? I am trying to find out the age range here. You know there is a lot of difference in each age group …

OFP: of course …

Me: and are you able to tell me because I am not getting that from you

OFP: (sigh , slightly frustrated), its 5-7, 8-9, 10-12.

Me: I see. So your speech and drama is for 5-days only?

OFP: There’s art, public speaking, singing …

Me: no, no, I’m asking about speech and drama. You mean you have speech and drama for a month-long?

OFP: Er, we can stretch up to 2 wks for you

Me: Oh, you mean you can customise for us, is this a 1-to-1 class or a group?

OFP: It’s a group of course, you can look at our photos on the website, but depends on the demand.

Me: So who is teaching speech and drama

OFP: Professionals.

Me: (????) Of course, professionals are everywhere. I mean who, do you have the name?

OFP: Its on the website, you can refer to it.

Me: (at this point), excuse me, can I maybe speak with the person-in-charge?

OFP(slightly annoyed) I, am the founder.

Me: I see, are you teaching speech and drama?

OFP: No, we get speech and drama experts to teach. The teacher’s profile is all on the website.

Me: I see, so what makes your program so special compared to the other speech and drama programme?

OFP: (pause), we are all-rounded and our class size is small.

Me: how small?

OFP: 10. Oh, that’s it? Ok, thank you.

This is why I think some centres are so profit-centric that they can't be bothered to invest a few minutes to talk to their customers. They seemed to think their customers have all the time to study their website and take in every detail and just walk in and magically register. Parents, don't gloss over great websites with virtually all the information and wonderful photos. If they can't tell you in detail, how great they are, how they think it would benefit your child, I think we can forget about them training our children. The entire time, this lady was trying to sell me her programme without trying to understand my needs. Sorry, this really is a not so fun place afterall.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Environment ( a holiday reflection)

This is really my idea of a holiday. Yep, just a nice drink and a good book. Because this is what I love. I guess that means I can have a holiday anywhere anytime isn't it? ;)

This is my probably 5th or 6th visit to Indonesia, my husband's hometown, Jakarta. Among the many things that I have seen one thing was plain. The wealth divide is enormous. That Chinese people are mostly bosses and the locals are mostly workers.

I have experienced the best service in Indonesia, from hotels, to villas to restaurants and small eateries. The locals are generally warm and very obliging. No where in China or U.S have I encountered such level of service.

My husband's family's driver is a blessing to us in many
ways. This time, while out in the countryside, my younger boy was in need of urgent medical attention. The medication which he needed was not available and the only 'solution' from the local public hospital A&E was circumcision! In the end, we used some table salt in warm basin and heaps of prayer. The next day, Elias was healed. God is good! However, to prevent the infection from reoccurring, the driver rode on his motorbike for about 3hours all the way up to deliver the medication. I also got to know that the travelling time between his home and ours is about an hour. With the infamous traffic jam in Jakarta, it is not unusual for him to travel 2 hours, just one-way to work.

I caught up with a long time friend of mine who is a lawyer in Jakarta. In addition to her existing law firm, she had started 2 other boutiques. With so much wealth, she told me, she literally don't have to work. To pass time, she travels around the world!

In my short stay of 2 weeks there, I am constantly caught breathless between the irreconcilable difference of outrageous extravagance versus simple humility and servitude. I'll be seeing a kid with no slippers on the road stealing fuel from trucks (so they could resell it for money) who stop at the red light and then at a huge malls (much like that of United States), shoppers buying big ticket items without battling an eyelid.

People in Indonesia are closely-knit people who like the Thais and Filipinos value families and friendships and loves living in communities. It is common for Chinese wives to stay home and husbands out at work. It is also common to see women chatting endlessly via their blackberry.
Every family has a chauffeur (they call them drivers) and a maid. There was no labor shortage among their own people. The locals, almost always the servants and the local Chinese almost always the bosses.

This was pretty much the life there.

I concluded that people everywhere are shaped by the very culture and environment in which they are placed in. Ideology permeates their lives and we began to "follow suit". It reminded me of the story of Pied Piper of Hamelin. We could be following a beautiful tune and march to its beat without a single consciousness if this was the way of God.

How foolhardy and dangerous life is to let the culture shape us! The single most powerful environment we live in is community. Most people have herds mentality. We follow the majority. That means idealogies spread quickest in places like families, organizations, churches, nations ( in order of size).

In this time and age of lifestyle choices and information overload, it is difficult even to focus on one thing once a person is at his laptop. There are emails, news feed, social network and stock market windows all opened at once. Sometimes, I find myself having to look away from my laptop and focus on what needs to be down. Or shut every window except one which I am working on. Or make a list and keep to it. Or turn off my phone so I will not get interrupted. So much effort is spent just to focus on one thing. No wonder people follow the majority. We did not realise that we had probably lost our stamina and had naturally chose the easy way out.

But there is a choice. We could start at the lowest level; families. As a parent, I find myself having to ensure environmental influence are positive during a child's formative years (below 6 years old). This window is a moulding, nurturing time where we could input nuggets of wisdom into their hearts.

Proverbs 13:20 says "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companions of fools suffers harm".

Make a decision today. Don't let what everybody else is doing distract you from God's highest calling for you. Walk with God, not with the world.