Wednesday, May 18, 2016

One Month with Baby YC

The story began when I met my son's Mother at the Orientation session of the 37th Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Programme (SSEAYP), which led to the Vietnamese Hand Massage facilitated by fellow Participating Youth (PY) Parveen, and partially deal-sealed with the Night of Destiny (thanks to our Vietnam PYs).

The Mother had all the symptoms of pregnancy that you could probably find, since the first day of pregnancy. We literally did not need a test kit to know that a new life was in the tummy.

4 hours before the water bag burst, we were having supper at MacDonald's for the first time ever since the pregnancy. The mother tried doing some squats, as advised by the Gynae to encourage labour since the baby is getting too big. 1 hour before we sprung up from our bed, I was finishing a movie to wind off the weekend.

The childbirth process is unforgettable. The brave wife rejected any pain relief methods and endured the incrementally excruciating pain for the first few hours. The gas mask went on, and after two hours or so, she finally relented to the suggestion (more like persuasion) by the nurses to be administered epidural. 

While standing outside the room, as requested by the anaesthetist, I started a conversation with another father-to-be who was waiting out too. His wife had endured 9 hours without epidural. Salute. (He would continue to support his wife for over 20 hours).  

The mid-wife came in and the breathing exercise began. An hour and a half passed, and we requested for the Gynaecologist to assist. After several rounds of trying to push, the Gynae shared that the assisted delivery still requires the mother to push hard, and if it still didn't work, the labour might enter the stage of emergency caesarian.

"Emergency Caesarian!!!" The mother must have been terrified by that thought. So much so that at the final round of pushing, a head popped out.

The mid-wife gave a pat on the buttocks, and the most beautiful cry was heard in the room. Mid-wife and nurses promptly commented that the baby was so fair. The weight of the baby, rounded to 3 decimal places, was deeply engraved into my brain. 

It was a very touching moment, but I heeded the advice of my colleague, Elangovan, who told me that the Father should not cry while holding the baby for the first time. It was very challenging.

Meanwhile, the brave mother was expressionless with the extreme exhaustion and the pain of labour. It was great she was not able to see how the Gynae was sewing her up with the thick strings. I now have a whole new perception of mothers, totally.

We tried to memorise the baby's face as the nurse starts tagging both the baby and the mother. It was the first time the baby had to leave us to be cleaned and dressed.

Lessons on breastfeeding randomly shared in great details during SSEAYP by Parveen to me and Ethel were recalled when the mother tried to feed the baby for the first two nights. We were so worried that the baby would be hungry but learnt from the nurses that babies are able to live without food for the first few days.

The first month with Baby YC has been amazing. Never mind the disrupted sleep which proved to be more effective as a weight loss method than dieting. Our lives have not been more complete with the new addition. 

I guess we become parents when we enjoy smelling the pee and poo of the baby to know that he is feeding and digesting well. The pee fountain on my hand brought laughter to both my wife and I.

I look forward to coming home inhaling the baby fragrance as I pace along the corridor. And now I finally realise why my late Father enjoys kissing me so much when I was much younger.

The mother and I have decided that we shall try our best to protect our baby's privacy. Much as we can't wait to share his cute images, we rather let him share it when he gets older and decides for himself. Sharing just a snippet:

We will hold on to you and always be there for you

We have many to thank for being so understanding and generous in sharing tips on pregnancy, childbirth and parenting, including my cousins and cousins-in-law (especially Yuan Feng and Shiyin who had to entertain simple questions like what to consider in looking for a gynae), Yuan Wei and Ruiping (for the great recommendation for us to attend baby seminars/talks); relatives; colleagues (one colleague was so kind to bring me for a tour at a departmental store to note the different types of feeding bottles and baby things to buy); neighbours, fellow grassroots volunteers; confinement nanny and friends.

Not forgetting our family members who were excited (can't forget the "Yes!" from my Brother when I break the news) and supported us throughout the journey.

Like my Mother who spent weeks after weeks slowly sieving out the husk from bean sprouts to make the baby pillow. And Brother who is always around to lend an additional hand to rearrange furniture, and carry stuff (to put it in layman's terms - saikang).

And my Mother-in-law who flew over to join us for the 1st Month Celebration, and keeping up to Vietnam tradition of making offerings to the 12 fairies who had looked after our baby from pregnancy to the first month.

The parenting journey ahead is full of uncertainty, but with each day of growth we see in Baby YC, I believe the journey will only be a meaningful and enriching one.

Happy 1 month birthday, my son :)

With Love,

Monday, April 04, 2016

Lessons from Batman vs Superman - Know your Enemy. Fight the Right War.

This post was first published on:

Spoiler alert. 

If saving lives and keeping villains behind bars were their calling, why would two superheroes pitch a war against each other? A large part of the reason why I decided to watch the movie was to find out the reason why. The other part, of course, is because of Batman (never mind that the Director prefers Superman). Suffice to say, the suspense generated by the epic battle was a great movie-seller but to think of it, such "wars" happen to our team and organisations from time to time.

In a nutshell, the movie sets itself in the aftermath of the destructive battle between Superman and General Zod (in the prequel Man of Steel) which left Metropolis in ruins. Batman saw Superman as a potential threat to humanity, and was manipulated by Lex Luthor to firm up his perception. Superman, realising Batman's actions, also viewed him as a threat. When both heroes realised they were not each other's enemy, they were confronted with a larger monster to deal with. After the victory, Batman and Wonder Woman set forth in their search for other superheroes to form the Justice League.

Whether the "war", silent or pronounced, takes place between the veterans and the freshies, the newly recruited Manager and subordinates who would have thought their career progression opportunity just got stolen. Left unaddressed, the energy spent by team members to engage in mini-"wars" among themselves will leave the team high and dry when the real "war" (think opportunity or crisis) comes by.

Forge Healthy Mental Models with Open Communication 
Amidst the hustle and bustle of our daily operational work, data can sometimes be hived up within a department or a work team, with the others oblivious to it. This is especially so when the team feels that the new data only concerns the team itself. For instance, a suspected increase in request for logistics support, due to a competitor suffering from downtime issues, might seem like data critical for the logistics department but the Human Resources department could have benefited from more lead time to respond to possible needs for contract drivers and overtime budgeting. In the absence of data and information, work teams can develop unhealthy mental models about one another.

Open Communication is, thus, crucial in forging healthy mental models within work teams and between teams. Besides promoting an open organisational culture and keeping one another in the loop via email ccs,these are some ways to encourage open communication:

  1. Ensure there is sufficient time allocated at each team meetings for each member to be engaged in discussing the bigger picture, besides their operational updates. Use the check-in/check-out method to facilitate such discussions which often produce gems. 
  2. Listen from the rank-and-file and the frontline staff. My experience working with unionised blue collar workers tells me that at the company canteen and at the shop floor, informal conversations thrive and data sometimes get pieced into very useful trends. 
What gets actually measured gets actually done 
Employees are driven by KPIs, and passion. No performance appraisal is perfect but spending organisational time and resources to conduct appraisal exercises only to subject it to be overriden by personal bias is counterintuitive.

When team members find that the listed KPIs are just to legitimise the appraisal process, they will soon determine what actually gets measured and gravitate their work correspondingly. In most cases, this leads to a contest of face-time with the boss (including staying back late in office and leaving after the boss does), and pleasing the boss (ultimately leading to groupthink and poor team cohesiveness).

While the other extreme of strict adherence to KPIs is not beneficial as well, organisations would need to find a balance on transparency and managing expectations.

Service Excellence with Team Excellence 
When your client lodges a complaint on your team member, how you respond as a team leader can affect team morale. Do you prioritise your external stakeholders' (clients, shareholders) interest above your internal ones (employees)?

I once came across a hardworking employee who works stealthily. His hard work was not as appreciated as employees who received compliments from customers. As a result, he submitted compliments to his company using his clients' names. He soon got a raise.

There can be established guidelines on handling complaints and feedback against employees but the team leader's attitude towards unproven, unverified claims can matter more than the final outcome.

I am eager for the sequel to the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Meanwhile, identify your Lex Luthor in your enterprise and may you build a strong Justice League!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Celebrating SG49 with the Community

Enjoyed a week's holiday in Vietnam and flew back just in time for National Day celebrations! At Changi Airport's Duty Free Shop, I wished the cashier a Happy National Day and she gave me the widest smile.

Took a quick shower and rushed to Eunos Community Club (CC) for the annual Eunos National Day Observance Ceremony. It is the first time in history that the National Day Parade is screened live at the CC and my first time emceeing on National Day.

The event kicked off with a performance by Tosh and Wei Liang, actors in the "Ah Boys to Men" movie, but not before a cool wefie.

The wefie uploaded by Tosh on his instagram

This is how it begun

To have war?

Immediately after the performance, National Day Parade was telecasted live at the hall. It was a touching moment when the founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew was on screen. All of us broke out in cheers and applause together with the many Singaporeans who were at the Floating Platform. 

And I guess singing National Anthem just gets more emotional each year for me, realising how blessed Singaporeans are in a safe, clean and green country, a small island that shines brightly in the international realm.

A segment of NDP 2014 acknowledged the workers of various professions and their contributions in nation building. For a moment, I thought that was a Labour Movement event. Nevertheless, it was a great showcase and recognition of the contributions made by workers of various collars.

And it coincided well with Prime Minister's message on recognising individuals based on their "skills, contributions and character" and not just educational qualifications.

Looking forward to National Day Rally!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Beautiful Sun and Sea at Cô Tô Island

5-7 August 2014

Situated in Quang Ninh Province of Vietnam, the Cô Tô archipelago comprises about 50 islets, including the Cô Tô Island and Thanh Lan Island we visited.

Getting to the island from Hanoi requires a 5-hour bus ride and a 1.5 hour ferry journey. Lots of touts and hagglers at the bus terminal. Fascinating marketplace of buses and passengers amidst the chaotic traffic flow. The long distance buses pick up passengers from any spot along the journey.

My Dinh Bus Terminal in Hanoi

First Challenge: Walking the Plank

Co To Island was only plugged onto the national power grid since 2013, but wireless internet had been made available since 2012. All households also have access to digital TV via satellite. The tourism is largely driven by local visitors. There aren't many cars around and there are no taxis. While locals travel by bikes, tourists commute around via electric carts or bicycles.

We bunked in at Starlight Lodge, which looked like a tram carriage. The carriage can be towed towards inland during stormy weathers.

Safety pins for snail meal

Bonfire by the waters

Timely wefie with Buffalo

Lots of development projects ongoing around Co To island. The local government actively encourages the local populace to adopt new ideas to promote tourism. This includes converting houses to homestay hotels, like the following house located at a land previously used as a poultry farm.

A random house

Cows and the green pastures

Some photos at Co To Lodge, a colourful and romantic place to stay at:


And this is how it looks like at night, with pleasant English music

The late Ho Chi Minh visited the island and gave the approval for the one and only statue to be built after him when he was still alive.

Uncle Ho's statue overlooking the sea. A temple to worship the revered leader is in the vicinity.

A construction site with the wharf in the background

Beautiful rock formation at Cầu Mỵ:

Photo with Mr Nguyen Duc Thanh, Secretary of the Co To district Party Committee, Chairman of Co To district People's Committee

A resting spot for visitors down the cliff

A 15-minute ferry ride brought us to Thanh Lan Island, which is a far more quiet place. The island is occupied by military camps, where tourists can experience life as a soldier for a day.

Jellyfish farm

The beautiful and serene beaches are a relaxing spot for visitors.

Photo with Chairman of Thanh Lan People's Committee

Probably the Cutest Dog on the island

That weighing scale

The moon shines bright

Okie, time to pack and leave

Market at the the central

Zzz along the bus journey back to Hanoi