Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Feedback… comments

Feedback is an important aspect of my work…not just that I provide feedback to new colleagues about their work, but I also try and actively seek feedback on the work that I have done.  Sounds like I am a good employee who constantly try and do a better job huh…like real….haha:P

In reality, giving and recieving  feedback and comments are really part of my job.  I often get asked to do some classroom observations, comments on curriculum and assessment plans that my colleague have done. …Not that I am better than them ( NO…I really am not!), but just to take a look as an external person giving comments and thoughts about the piece of work. 

It is not easy to give feedback and the “giver” seems to be in a more superior position.   This is not true, as many of the constructive comments I have received are from people how are viewing what I do with “layman’s eyes” and giving me a fresh perspective on my work. Many people think that “feedback” tends to be negative and are often defensive about it.  Some people even chose not to give constructive feedback in order to maintain the “peace”.  Like many of my students who had to do peer evaluations of their team mates…..many would say neutral things about their team mates…unless they are really really bad.  And I think that is the reason why people are so wary about feedback & comments.  Usually when it comes..not matter how nicely packaged it is, it still brings along the tone of  “ you didn’t do well, that is why you were given feedback”.  

But have we all just gave “feedback” a bad reputation? I have always found feedback useful for my personal reflections, and I do take them seriously.  But I realised that people have a tendency not to give comments, be it good or bad.  Is it because we don’t know what to say or we cannot be bothered to say it?  Personally, I would much rather say it ( be it good or bad) than not to say anything…..cos when you don’t say anything, it shows that you don’t really bother very much with the person/event.  Then again, this attitude has often being mistaken as arrogance and judgemental…just for commenting a little more than others.

My good friend KH once said this to me…. “when you stop commenting, you are telling them that you no longer care about them, cos you only comment on people and things that you think are important and you want them to improve and learn….and when you stop commenting, you no longer bother with them anymore and there is no need to teach them to be smarter”.

Would I still continue to make comments? I think so…but I have also learnt to be smart about it.  I don’t think I am being selfish, but just cautious about how receptive comments and feedback can be.  Like KH says, I should be selective.  It is not that I don’t “care” any more but just that I have not need to “teach others what they don’t want to learn” :P

Another year has come….and gone

I know it seems a little late to be writing about the new year since 2011 has already started for about 12 days! But then again, always better late than never!

2010 has been an extremely challenging year ( and if you are my FB friend, you would already know that!).  There are moments when I was not sure how I made it through…and even times that I thought I must have depression. But I am glad to say that things are on the mend….and are getting more settled.  This is not to say that things have gone perfect, but then again, there is no such thing as perfection isn’t it?

Since this IS about a new year…then we should resolve to make 2011 a better year! ( Just like the Olympics…the last one is always declared the best one ever!).

Have a good start to 2011….you may already have!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Let the Air Out!

Have you ever had the experience of chatting with friends about work, and then a torrent of  emotions would suddenly pour out? Usually, the emotions tend to be negative and full of frustrations?  ( and everyone raise their hands and nod in agreement!)  Yeap…this is what we call “venting” or “angsting”.  We do that all the time, just to let up the pent up steam inside us when we have to deal with people that are unreasonable, irritating, irresponsible, and basically one who seems to go against our principles and morals in our work place!  and the worst thing is that…..there is very little that we can do about it…that’s what we angst!

I have had the experience of angsting with my friends over coffee many a days, and you know what? It is a great bonding activity! We get to let our frustrations and angst out, and get to have people nodding in agreement with your over-whelming emotions, and enjoy your coffee, tea & waffle at the same time.  Come to think about it…it does not seem to be such  a bad thing right? :P ( see I like to see the positive side of things!).

Yet, on the other hand, why do we feel so frustrated? Many times I realised, we are frustrated cos we feel we are not able to deal with the infuriating siltation or person, and the only way seem to be to “talk” it out of our system.  I personally don’t think it is a bad thing to do, but if we consider it carefully, is talking the only way?  I don’t think so…

I think many times, I vent cos it is the easier way to deal with it, then to confront the situation or person.  It is also a much “safer” way.  We don’t want to create tension in our workplace by challenging another person or situation cos we all would prefer to maintain that facade of unity rather than to get into actual disagreement with the person or situation.  And if anyone is bold enough to actually confront, the person is deemed as one who is rocking the boat, rather than one that is trying to make the a bad situation good. So not many people would actually want to be that  “bad” person.  But is this right?  We are not helping to improve things by tolerating bad behaviour or situation, in many cases, we are only making the situation worse by not speaking up…yet how many of us would be willing to do just that?

It is not an easy choice.  My philosophy has always been….one can afford to lose a battle, but don’t lose the war ….chose your battles carefully.  If confrontation means a temporary reprieved from frustrations which may lead to a worst situation, then I would prefer to tolerate the pain, and wait for “deliverance”.  But it is your fight…you make the choice…:)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

We survived the Expo!


Yeap..we did and came back to share the tale.

We spent one day at the expo and really, that was not enough at all, but since we only had 1 day to spare, we had to make some choices about what we wanted to see and what we were willing to give up ..(some like the China Paviliion was not a choice at all, cos we just couldn’t get in as the tickets were all given out in 10 mins when we were still trying to get in!)

This is probably the only part of our Shanghai trip that we did some planning about. We bought our tickets in Singapore at CTC Travel. It cost us $36 per ticket which is the same price as what you pay there. The only difference was that we had to get to the Expo site ourselves and we didn’t have any tickets to the “popular pavilions” which usually reserve part of the daily tickets to group tours. You can easily purchased the tickets with local travel agents as well, but do make sure it is one with credentials cos there are fake tickets on sale.

We avoided the crowded main gate of the Expo by taking a cab to Entrance 3 – Bansong yuan Road. This entrance is furthest away from the subway station, so the crowds don’t really use this one. Plus this is located on the Puxi side of the Expo where the smaller exhibits are. But the queue to enter is the shortest, and it took us less than 20 mins to get in. (Tip : Get the English version of the Expo maps outside the entrance. I st ood in queue while S went to get the brochures) It just felt like waiting for your turn for a ride in Disneyland :) It was a moving queue, so it was ok. Although you are not allowed to bring food & water but many people still managed to sneak them in. You can see many families with lots of food having a picnic :)

Our plan was to visit the less crowded places so that we “get” to see some things and to get some stamps. In case you were wondering….Expo has a tradition of issuing ‘passports’ which will be stamped whenever a pavilion was visited. This is to mimic the ‘travel’ experience when in the past travelling was quite difficult. Now it has turned into a “sport” as many people seems to be more interested in the stamps than the exhibits itself. On a more pragmatic not, one fully stamped passport can fetch up to 6000 yuan online…so there is a monetary reason for that rush. If you are keen to join in the fun, I suggest you get the passport from the store at Nanjing East Rd where you get to have more than the usual passport and get one like mine..all for the same price of 30 yuan but looks much prettier and it does get a lot of stares :)

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Visiting the City Pavilions on Puxi end was a good choice as the queue was much shorter. We visited Taipei ( where I got a souvienir pic taken and heard Wang Lee Hom sing…he was there!!!!), Paris (where we got 2 black bags from Galeries Lafayette), Hong Kong ( email picture & wrist-strap) and lots of bits of stuff from all over :) i love freebies!! We also visited Liverpool, Barcelona, Suzhou, Osaka…

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We had a quick lunch (Pizza and beer!) at one of the booth. We decided on non-Chinese food cos the queue was shorter. Another tip about food is that try to avoid eating between 11am-1pm. Somehow the Chinese seems to want to eat then, and the eateries does get VERY crowded. So you either eat non-Chinese food or eat at odd hours. Another tip, there are lots of water coolers that provide both hot an cold water so just bring a bottle along, or if you want to look like a local, bring a bottle with tea leaves inside, then fill it with hot water :)

We took a ferry to the Pudong end of the Expo was greeted with the sight of the Chinese Pavilion :)

_DSC0462 The Pudong part of the Expo is where the country pavilions are. They are also the most crowded!! We had to skip many of the popular booths that included Korea, Japan & Taiwan ( 4 hour wait), USA, all the Asean booths (3 hours) and of course China & Saudi Arabia ( 5 hours). We decided on pavilions that had a “moving” queue so we ended up visiting Australia (one of the best!!), Nepal, New Zealand ( filled with lots of NZ flora!), Canada, Israel, Demark (saw the Little Mermaid sculpture!), Turkey, Slovakia & Cambodia. There were also others that we visited, but didn’t get the stamps….There are also announcements and electronic notice boards that tells you how long you may need to wait for the pavilion, so you can decide if you wanted to spend the time waiting. Thoughtful don’t you think? You will also see many young people standing all over the place ready to answer any questions that you may have…but if you can’t speak in Chinese, you will have to make do with heavy accented English. I have come to the conclusion that Shanghai and the expo is pretty difficult to navigate and understand if you don’t know Chinese :P ( and now thank my Chinese Tuition teacher!)

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From right clockwise (Saudi Arabia, Thai, India & Israel)

The Expo is a very big and you do get quite tired walking and waiting, but there are lots of. seats around for a quick rest – Some people take this literally and lie on the benches to sleep! Men & women, boys & girls…everyone does it! There are also shuttle buses that takes you from one end of the expo to another so do catch one of those when you are tired. There is no shortage of food & drinks in the Expo as there are many reasonably priced food courts and restaurants to chose from. Many of them are specially selected to be part of the expo…so you can just catch up on yummy local food at the expo too :)

You would notice that as the evening approaches, it gets quite cool there, so do bring a coat along it you intend to stay until the Expo closes. Although it is supposed to close late, most pavilions would have closed by 9:30pm, with some closing as early as 6pm. So if you have a place that you really want to visit…do it early as you never know if it would be close by the time you get there!

The Shanghai Expo was one of those things that I wanted to do and actually got around to doing it. I have always wanted to visit an Expo since the Brisbane one in 1988. Now that I have been there and done that…I must say it is not what I really expected. I had expected to be immersed in the different cultures of the world but what I realised was that the Expo felt more like a huge NATAS fair, cos many countries were showing how nice their place is …in hope of gaining the interest of the Chinese people and them visiting. Chinese Tourists are the most sought after people in many countries now…really! I guess the exhibits didn’t really resonate with me partly cos I think here in Singapore, we are quite exposed to many different cultures and have visited many different countries plus the fact that I do watch Discovery Travel quite a fair bit.., so the popular pavilions are not really high on my agenda. There are also many pavilions that I had missed out, but looking at it from the outside was good enough, cos some did look better outside then inside!

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The Expo at night is really quite beautiful, especially when the lights from the pavilions are turned on. It gives you a whole different feel, much like Shanghai itself. It makes you think you are in a different place altogether. So I suggest..take your time to enjoy the place, don’t can caught up with going to all the pavilions ( which you cannot do in 1 day) or even the popular ones…just browse and see what you want.

We finally ended our day by exiting from the main entrance, where it is nearest to the subway station :) And what a sight greeted us at the exit…the flags of all the nations taking part in this :P


Shanghai Surprise..

It was a totally unplanned for holiday, cos S and I normally don’t take a vacation in the middle of the year. We usually take a couple vacation at the end of the year after the family vacation. But this year was different, thanks to expiring frequent flyer points. It was also unplanned cos both of us didn’t have much time to read up about Shanghai. All we did before we left was to book the tickets and hotel…and we our long post-poned trip. ( the last time we wanted to go to Shanghai was 7 years ago, right before I found out I was pregnant with D, and the trip had to be cancelled)

We flew the mid-night flight out of Singapore and arrived in Shanghai bright and early at 5:30am :) We took a ride to the city on one of the fastest trains in the world, the Meglev. It was rather ‘slow’ ride as it only went up to 301kn/hr even it could have done more than 400km/hr. The trip took only 7 mins when a cab ride would have taken at least 30 mins. Oh well, for the fun of it and the bragging rights :) We took the train to Loyang Station at Pudong, and then Line 2 to People’s Sq where it was only 1 block away from our hotel.

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We stayed at Citadines Shanghai at Beijng Xi Lu. This place is more like a service apartment then a hotel. We booked a one-room studio that came with a small kitchenette (S$140/night), but they upgraded us to a one-bedroom apartment with free broadband & breakfast. No complains there! :) It is very convienent as it is within walking distance to Nanjing East Rd where the shopping street is and also People’s Theatre where all the local day tour meets :)

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Since we didn’t really plan for this holiday, we relied heavily on the guidebook that I got from the National library. It was a pretty good guide and is the 2nd most recommended Shanghai guidebook on :) Yeap, it is in Chinese :) So, we just followed the recommendations of the book and off we went to Huanghe Road for some yummy lunch as recommended the guidebook - 小扬生煎包. All for 16 yuan. There are lots of small eateries there and they are all recommended places. Another place that we wanted to visit was the place that offered 汤包 opposite the 生煎包 place.

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Nangjing East Rd was our next stop. It was just around the corner, and is touted as THE shopping street in Shanghai ( of course, there are others now like Huahai Road). It is very crowded!! All tourists go there and plus it was the semi-golden week (dumpling festival holidays), the crowds were really in! There were some local stores, and also many familiar names like Uniqlo & Mango. There was also a large shop that sold all things from the Shanghai Expo! don’t really need to go to the Expo to get the souvenirs :) But other then shops I must say the night view of the street is also quite spectacular.

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We also had a ‘cultural lesson’ when we visited the People’s Park where there were scenes of local SDU in action…erm…matching making in the park…done mostly by parents and gradnparents. Check out the “advertisements”! S found the whole scene so amusing that he kept taking pictures. One of the parents thought he was interested and wanted to engaged him in conversation…but too bad…I came along…haha!

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We also visited Pudong and “saw”the Pearl Orient Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Centre. It was rather cloudy and the queue was soooo long….we gave up. We decided just to snap some pictures and went to the mall instead!

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_DSC0278We also visited 新天地 which is a nice place for alfresco dinning. You can get quite a variety of western food here if you ever get tired of local meals. It feels very much like Clark Quay cos this place is filled with expats and you would certainly not think that you are in Shanghai, but maybe in Taipei, HK or Singapore.

This place is within walking distance from Huaihai Road..another shopping street which sells high end stuff ( think LV, Cartier & Tiffany). The streets looked lovely in the night as the trees are all drapped with light bulbs…reminds you of Champs Elysee, If you are into Barbie dolls, the official Barbie store is also located along this street.

And of course, we had to visit the Bund!! How can you come and not visit this place? But I must say, I was a little disappointed cos it is so similar to Avenue of Stars in Hong Kong especially when you look across the river to Pudong. The only difference is the line of buildings behind you brings you back to the 1920s & 30s.

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There are also other places that we went to like Hangzhou and Shanghai Expo, i would probably write those experience in another post. Overall, the trip was certainly an eye -opener for me. I have not been to China for about 10 years, and things have certainly changed alot. Shanghai is very cosmopolitan yet has retained some of its old world charm. However, every where you go, you can’t escape the rapid modernisation of the place. Old and new Shanghai seems to have an uneasy existence. The places may be new, but the people are still very much Shanghainese. I still see people wearing their PJs walking around, people arguing in loud voices ( yeap…and almost a fight too..), and of course the infamous lack of “personal space” wherever you go. But this is the charm of Shanghai, to be able to still remain the same despite changes happening around it at a blinding pace. I wished I had more time to explore and to enjoy this city cos I think there are so much more to see then what the travel brochure tells you about. Sometimes i wish I could meet someone local when i travel so that I will go to places where locals go to..but I think I got a glimpse of what locals do when I joined a local tour to Hangzhou, but that’s for another post!!