Living in Pressure Cooker…

I had heard of college towns and when we moved to this little town in the San Francisco Bay area, I felt that we had reached a school town.   In a radius of a few miles we have five high schools, six middle schools, seven elementary schools and a community college. Would one like to guess what is common amidst most main streets? They all sport multiple huge neon sign boards advertising SAT tutorials, College credits classes, PSAT/SAT/ACT prep classes, Kumon, improve math, home work help, learn Spanish, learn Mandarin, learn English and  much more. Individuals and small companies specializing in training, reviewing, editing and in some instances helping to write college essays to make them outstanding amongst a million such essays are cropping up in every street corner and Skype lessons/guidance are common norm. Let alone high school kids, middle schoolers are seen adding ‘voluntary’ service hours methodically, with professional capabilities enough to shame a corporate honcho. Though I feel that there is nothing voluntary or service oriented in something done to gain hours or enhance resume. If a school doesn’t offer ‘enough’ AP classes, students add those by enrolling in community colleges, and I do wonder on how much is ‘enough’. It does appear that the aim of good education is now getting good grades and not acquiring balanced learning. Isn’t it ironical that most are concerned about being proficient test takers rather than proficient learners and accomplished doers! tests-human-resources-cartoon-400px

The daughter graduated from one of these so called immense pressure  high school and was accepted into some renowned colleges and not accepted in a few. The common factors were that both the acceptances and the non-acceptances letters sang accolades of her accomplishments and the only difference was the first sentence of congratulations, you are accepted or you are in! Do note that I didn’t use the word ‘rejection’ using ‘non-acceptance instead. Have you felt that the  use of negative words in current days are not acceptable? We have been rebuked for saying ‘rejection’ though the daughter was least affected. For sugar coating I even looked up synonyms for the word and wasn’t impressed with elimination, exclusion, repudiation, dismissal etc etc.

The son is currently in high school and struggling like most others,  just as the daughter did because good is not enough in a class where everyone is good, constantly striving to be better if not the best. March is the time for college acceptances /non acceptances, and exactly at this time last year one of our high school kid ran away from home. The school, students, community joined resources with the law enforcement agencies to find him. Two weeks back another one was reported missing. Both were found, under huge pressure probably taking a break from a world created by students like them and parents just like their’s. The schools per se should not be blamed because they are striving to build a whole child repeatedly giving presentations to the community, stressing on grades being part of growing up similar to sports, drama, music, clubs and socializing. Do you feel you are growing up in an environment of imbalance? Or your child is under pressure while sleep evades you?

Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”. On that note I wish you all the geniuses out there, a great weekend…

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Killing me softly with synonyms…

The language that tops as the most spoken language in the world is English, followed closely by the languages spoken in two of the most populous countries in the world- China and India. Considering this, conversation, expression, communication, discussion, consultation, observation, query etc etc should not be difficult for anyone knowing basic language skills. That we would be challenged by the language we learned since kindergarten was unthinkable and when it happened it didn’t exactly shock us but yes, 20 years on it has the ability to make us grin.

It was Hari Raya, a much looked forward long weekend in Malaysia. The hubby and I along with some friends were planning to explore Taman Negara- the National Park a few hours drive from Kuala Lumpur. Not owning any tents between us, we needed to rent them and consulted the google of those days- the Yellow Pages and started calling stores renting camping gear.

The first call- “hello I would like to rent a tent” was answered with “what lah! no rent lah” and the phone was disconnected. Simply!  In the second call we explained better or so we thought- “hello, we are going to Taman Negara and can we rent a tent?”, which was followed by “can not rent lah, cannot lah” and were disconnected again. Maybe in the sixth or seventh call we were rewarded with a sliver of hope- an understanding, when the person answered, “we don’t rent lah, we only hire, you want to hire?”6a00d8341d417153ef00e553d24ceb8834-1 Hallelujah!!! Oh yes, you bet, we will hire the tent, no worries at all. And then the slightly risen hopes came crashing down when the gentleman added, “but you too late lah, all hire gone, you call someone else and ask to hire not rent. Hire can, rent cannot”. Armed with this new found knowledge, we again began the calls with renewed confidence and enthusiasm-“we would like to hire a tent lah”. We thought we were fast/quick/rapid/swift learners. And the answer was, “no lah, you cannot hire tents lah, but you can rent.” In my peripheral vision I could see the hubby holding his head, shoulders shaking, tears streaming down his face in helpless laughter while I gaped, flustered, sputtered and begged to hire or rent whatever. “But no lah, not possible lah, too late lah! Can not lah!”

People familiar with Malaysia would be accustomed to the suffix  lah to sentences as well as can-can for an affirmative and a long stressed cannot for a negative. However when I accompanied guests from overseas to a restaurant and their request of, “can I get a can of coke please” was met with a quizzical frown, followed by a quick understanding on the part of the waiter as he quipped happily, “can cannot lah, but bottle can!” Go figure!!!