The NEWater Plant Visit

This is a monthly post on 'Educational Places'. Every 4th week of the month I will post on local educational places we have brought AJ to.

Jan - The Coins & Notes Museum

During school holidays, together with some friends, we went to visit the NEWater plant with the hope to instill the 'water is precious' mindset into the little minds. There are free guided tours Tuesdays to Sundays, you may book your trip here.

The children, together with other visitors, were briefed how Singapore collects its water via a large multimedia wall. 

Singapore has 4 sources of water, namely, local catchment, imported water, NEWater & desalinated water.

The children learned that Singapore has 17 reservoirs (I didn't know there are so many too) to store rainwater.  With the opening of Marina, Punggol & Serangoon reservoirs, Singapore's water catchment area has increased from half to two-thirds of the island since 2011.

The NEWater supply plans to make up 50% of Singapore's water supply by 2060 (but I think that the recent recommended population hike to 6.9 million was not in the equation yet). & the desalinated water to contribute up to 30% of our water supplies.  Certainly, this is to ensure we will be water self-sufficiency & will not have to rely on imported water when the contract with our neighbouring country expiries in 2061.

There is also an area where visitors can play some games before everyone adjourn to more serious stuff.

After some fun games, we were briefed on the NEWater.

The water for NEWater is collected via underground (20-50m) deep tunnel sewers.  They received used water from the exisiting sewerage systems via link sewers.

There are 4 NEWater plants in Singapore:
2010  Changi NEWater Plant
2007  Ulu Pandan NEWater Plant
2003  Kranji NEWater Plant
2003  Bedok NEWater Plant

Currently, most of the NEWater supply is for commercial use.  Only a small percentage is pumped into the reservoir.

We were told of the 3-step water purification process to produce NEWater

After the tour, I was a little concerned that these 7-8 years old children might find the tour too difficult to understand.  After all, they were not taught Science in schools yet, let alone filtration, reverse osmosis & disinfection.

However, I was surprised that AJ blurted out that the molecule of the water is smaller than those of germs & bacteria.  I asked how did he conclude that.  He answered, "Otherwise how could the water pass through the filters?"  Ah! Don't underestimate young minds!

When we got home, we tested the NEWater with our liquid pH tester (more accurate than litmus paper) because I know reverse osmosis process makes water acidic.  But the speaker told us that sodium hydroxide is added to all bottled NEWater to boost its pH to 6.5-8.5 which is the recommended pH for drinking water by World Health Organisation.  Much to my surprise, the NEWater turned out to be acidic (orange in colour means pH 4.5-5.5).  After this horrible findings, I concluded that NEWater is strictly meant for commercial use. I will not drink it, neither would I allow my family to drink it too.  :(

Acidic NEWater is not recommended for personal consumption

Nonetheless, I find the tour beneficial to older kids or children who are more mature.  The brief on scarcity of water was stressed which we hope that the younger generation will not take clean & abundant water supply for granted.  

[Screensavers] Screen Tip #1 - Set Duration On Screen

We have an IT geek at home.  He is none other than the father.  Without a doubt, you would expect AJ to be exposed to electronic gadgets pretty early?  Yes, I have to admit to that!

At this age (turning 8 end of this year), he is already using the Microsoft Powerpoint software application to do animated slideshows, Gimp software to do photo editing, video editing software to create videos & learning Python for computer programming.  On top of these, he has a tablet, a kindle reader & a hand-me-down laptop.  He also knows how to use the Google search engine, Google Translate, Google Drive to store his files, Google Hangout & of course, Youtube.  Cool IT kid huh?  Thanks to the father.

The mum here is not falling behind.  I also signed him up on e-learning courses on English, Math & Science.

Are we concerned whether he is overly exposed to the flickering screen?  Of course we are!  Although it sounds like he is spending long hours facing the screen, in reality it is not a lot.

You see, AJ doesn't play Angry Birds, Minecraft, Candy Crush, etc. on his laptop or tablet.  The mum here did not download any of those apps, nor does she allow that kind of activity.  So, when he is on-line, it is solely for learning purposes. We have set the maximum hours that he can spend facing the screen per day as 2, some days he does not use the gadgets at all, most days he uses them less than 2 hours.  After shutting down the device, he would have to rest his eyes by looking afar for a while.  He is also not allowed to use tablet or phone in a social setting as those times are meant for interacting with people, not devices.

I personally find that as long as parents make a conscientious effort to monitor the no. of hours our children are on screen, we will not cause our children to be overly exposed to these electronic gadgets.  Of course, we should also be mindful not to use these electronic gadgets as digital child minders.

This post is brought to you by Screensavers, an initiative by students in NTU  who are working on  a campaign encouraging healthy digital technology habits amongst children.  Please feel free to download their e-handbook on Guide to Digital Technology.  They are also on facebook.  Do like their facebook page so that you may be informed of their exhibitions & workshops.

They have an exhibition at Choa Chu  Kang Library now (till 28/2) & Lot 1 Shopping Centre on 15 & 16/3.  Click here to check them out!

Nurturing Our Children Biblically (Seminar)

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. - Proverbs 22:6

Bringing up children in the fear & knowledge of God has become more & more challenging as the environment gets more & more corrupted.  We, as Christian parents, should equip ourselves in the knowledge of God's Word in order to guide our children to walk the righteous way.

Nurturing Our Children Biblically is a seminar organised by Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church.  We welcome all Christian parents to come & attend.  Please feel free to bring along your children as there will be children's programme for aged 4-12. 

Tips on Learning Chinese (Part 1 of 5) [克服障碍。华语我爱]

AJ loves Chinese, that saves me a lot of headache coaching him on this language.  But 1 thing you didn't know is the love for this language was not inborn.  The father is not a Singaporean, he did not study Chinese at all.  He does not speak Mandarin, he understands some, after coming to Singapore, but he can't read or converse in whole sentences.

The coaching of Chinese to AJ is very much left to me.  I came from a dialect-speaking blue-collar family.  I learned my Chinese from TV drama series & listening to songs.  Fortunately, I went to a Special Assistance Programme (SAP) secondary school after PSLE.  That was the time I was truly drilled on this language.  We were forced to memorise Chinese proverbs (背成语). I dread that but now I am glad we were forced to do that.  Until today, they stay with me.

A well-known Chinese Language educator once told me, "不论是学习什么语言, 学习的过程都是一样的。 一定要: 听 - 说 - 认 - 读 - 写 。"  How true!  To master a language, one must 1st have the opportunity to listen to it, then the opportunity to speak, recognise the word/character, then read & lastly write.

When AJ was very very young, he was only exposed to English.  My helper then was an Indonesian, so we only converse in English.  The father can't speak Mandarin, so we only converse in English.  Thus, for the benefit of everyone in the family, we only communicate in English.  

It came to a point I suddenly realised that I should not delay in conversing Mandarin with AJ.  But it wasn't easy.  There was a lot of conscientious effort to overcome the habit of speaking English. 

I made the effort to speak to him in Mandarin whenever possible.  It was tough, I tell you.  When you started late in immersing your child in another language & you want him/her to do this new language well, the child WILL resist.  But I have persevered on.  Whenever I asked him questions in Mandarin, he would answer them back in English. Familiar scene?  So I had to re-word the answer in Mandarin to get him to repeat the answer.  Fortunately, he was a co-operative soul.  I know, there are kids out there who would not.  But, perseverance is the key, yah?!

Sometimes he would answer back in a mixed of English & Mandarin, due to the limited vocab. Again,  I would re-word the answer in Mandarin & get him to repeat the answer.  Tough start.  But who says learning a less-used language is easy?

In essence, here are some 'tips' I can offer after going through the '' learning ordeal:

(1) Communicate in Mandarin
Yes, in order for your child not to resist Chinese, you have to converse with him/her in Mandarin.  Even if the replies back to you are not in Mandarin, you have to persevere on.  If your child is more co-operative, get him/her to reply after you.  & please also set a good example yourself by not speaking in mixed languages, yah?

(2) Listen to Mandarin songs/rhymes
Children learn fast through songs & rhymes, so do buy or borrow lots of DVDs or music videos on this & listen together.  You have to listen together with your child so that the child can feel that you are interested to learn too.  At times, sing with them.  I particularly like those karaoke version which you could turn off the song singing portion while having the music on & both parents & children can sing together.

I am not ashamed to share with you that, after AJ has outgrown those baby & children rhymes, I bought these for him:

Oh, come on! Don't laugh at me! These are extinct items & I really had to hunt everywhere for them.  The shop owners were so glad to sell them to me for they had probably written them off from their account already.

These are oldies that have wonderful lyrics, almost poetry like.  I learned to sing these songs when I was very young & I find that listening & learning the lyrics of these songs help in building vocabs & making of beautiful sentences.  This will come in very handy when he writes Chinese composition next time.  If the child can keep these in memory, imagine the beautiful Chinese composition they can write! Oh my!


He listens to 梁文福 & 巫启贤's 新谣歌曲 on youtube too.  Because I love to sing, I often sang along as the songs were being played & his interest to this kind of songs grew.

(3) Watch Children Chinese Educational DVD or cartoon 
If you listen to Chinese songs with your children, then you should also watch Chinese shows with them (logically).  Better still if there are both English & Mandarin version in 1 DVD, this way, your children could watch the English one for understanding, then the Mandarin one for exposure to the language.  They tend to have less resistant to the language this way.

These are some DVDs we had watched diligently:

(4) Read 
When your child just started learning Chinese, he/she would have limited vocabs.  Thus, it is important for us to read with them.  Do not expect the child to read to you, you just read to him/her.  Revisit the same book once in a while to reinforce word & sound recognition.  Choose books with big words, words on 1 page & picture on another (not both together on 1 page).  I will explain why in the subsequent post on '认'.  Read with emotion, with feeling, in order not to bore the young learner.

(5) Use high frequency words
When you speak to your child in Mandarin in the early stage, use a lot of high frequency words.  This way, he/she gets to remember them easily.  Try to get books that use high frequency words too when you read to him/her.  I find books with localised content works wonder for beginners because they allow you to use those words very often.  

Since AJ has grown to love this language, I believe that somewhere along the line I must have done something right & proper.  I hope that this little sharing will help to ease the path to learning Chinese for your little ones.  I am no pro, I am just sharing what I have been through with my little one.   

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UpToTen (Boowa & Koala) Online Educational Website for Pre-Schoolers

This is a monthly post on 'Book or Web/Mobile Application for Children'. Every 3rd week of the month I will post on a review on books that AJ has read or web/mobile application that he has tried on.

Jan - Sherlock Sam & the Missing Heirloom in Katong

When AJ was very young, maybe when he was about 3-4 years old, he used to surf this website (under supervision, of course) very often.  I really like this website.  It has many interesting songs & short animated stories that teach meaningful stuff & other activities.  

At that tender age, AJ knew Red+Yellow=Orange, Red+Blue=Purple & Blue+Yellow=Green, through the short animiated story & song (  He learned that sugar is sweet, salt is salty (  He learned many things from this website.

The 2 main characters - Boowa (dog) & Kwala (Koala Bear) are best friends.  Together with the families from both sides, they are learning many things everyday.

Learning about primary colours

Learning about telling time

Learning when to add salt & sugar

This site is entertaining, full of educational stuff & the 2 main characters are cuteness to the max.  I am quite confident that this website will be a hit with your preschoolers.  AJ still loves the songs & animated stories till today.  :)

The Ultimate Property Workshop

When I started working in the financial industry, I used to attend many previews of seminar to listen for myself what was worth attending.  I knew I had to attend some workshops to better equip myself.  Self-investment in acquiring relevant knowledge is very important.  The more a person know, the wiser he/she becomes. Knowledge is Power. Technically & literally in any areas, this logic applies.

But all these workshops ain't cheap.  Those stock trading, forex trading, property investment workshops, etc are easily S$3,000 up.  *Gulp*

Thus, it prompted me more to attend more of those previews, to listen to the coaches of the workshops, what they had to say, how did they present themselves, etc.  I paid attention to whether the coaches merely gave sales speeches or were sincere in their sharing.  I was a sales person, I knew how to pick up those cues.

In the end, I did pay to educate myself in 3 different workshops, in 2007, 2008 & in 2012.  I was glad that I did my research well, the coaches in these 3 workshops are still holding their heads high up in this market, walking in true integrity.  They are also sincere in helping their students.  Even after the workshops, I would still approach them for advices at no cost.

Sharing with you today a similiar workshop I have attended in 2012.  The one I took was 2.5 days & cost a lot more. This one is a condensed version, & is customised to suit people planning to buy their 1st property, HDB owners & upgraders.  It covers strictly on local residential property only.  Both Ismail Gafoor (CEO of Propnex) & Nizam Gafoor (Ismail's brother) will be conducting this workshop.  There will be a preview on 21/2 on this workshop.  Please attend the preview to have a good idea of what will be shared in the workshop.  Please click link here to register for the preview.

Buying a property is a great investment because it is a big ticket item.  Buying the wrong one can ruin our financial status.  It is thus important to educate ourselves well.  This 2-day workshop is less than S$800 for 2 paxs.  It is a steal for those who are really serious to learn residential property investment. 

Before you could reap from your investment, invest in yourself 1st.

You Too Can Make Magic (Concert)

We signed up for this free concert for AJ to expose him to more orchestral instruments.  It was indeed a worthy one.

In the 1st 45mins, our ears were blessed with beautiful popular classical music pieces like  "Morning", "Anitra's Dance", "In the hall of the Mountain King", etc. Jason Lai, the Conservatory Orchestral's principal conductor, also made an effort to introduce the 4 major groups of orchestral musical instruments, namely, Strings, Percussion, Brass & Woodwinds.  The orchestra showed the audience their instruments (according to the group), the sound that they produced & the music that they could make.  We were given better understanding the capabilities & limitations of each instrument as such.

After the mini concert, we were given opportunity to sign up for the information sessions of each instrument group.  Everyone could only sign up for maximium 2, so we selected "Percussion" & "Strings". 

In these 2 Information Sessions, the faculty students & the dean gave the parents & the children an in-depth explanation on the different types of instrument in its group.  They also shared with us what is the ideal age to start learning that particular instrument, what is the foundation one needs to master that instrument, why the student him/herself chose this instrument, etc.  It really gave us (parents) an idea what other instruments our children could pick up as they grow older.  

The children were also given hands-on on some instruments (courtesy of Music Essentials & Yamaha). 

This mini concert cum information session was indeed very beneficial to the children who are already learning music or are considering about it.  In my opinion, the mini concert suit the age group of 5-8 well, but the 30-minute information session suit the parent better than the children of this age group.  The latter session was informative for the parents but was too heavy for the little ones.  The children have not reached that maturity level to digest the information given & thus I could see that many were restless.

Nonetheless, the father & I have gotten a better idea what kind of instrument AJ could pursue next time when he has gained stronger foundation in piano or when he goes to Secondary School when CCA is compulsory.

This is the Conservatory's 1st attempt on this concert & I think it was a success though some fine tuning is needed.  

The Cat Cafe

I have a special preference for cats.  I do love dogs, but if you put the 2 animals side by side, I will choose the cat.  I can't really describe why I love them.  Love needs no reason?

I like the cat's personality.  Cats, generally, have this 'no-chap' attitude (read 'self-centered') simply because they can afford to.  They only come to you when they need you but not vice-versa (haha).  They are aloft yet they walk gracefully. They also love to sleep, & can sleep up to 16 hours a day.  It is something I am so envious of!

Interestingly, AJ inherited my preference too.  He does like dogs, but he has a preference over cats, just like me.

Early this week, the father took leave for a day as his 1-day business trip was cancelled.  He asked where we could bring AJ to after school.  We have heard of The Cat Cafe months ago but we also learned that the place requires reservation & it is always packed on weekends & weekday nights. We have this burning desire to go, to be surrounded with our favourite animal.  So I told the father we could do there since it was a weekday afternoon & thus would not be crowded.  Still, we call the cafe to make a reservation just to ensure it would not be a wasted trip.

The cafe only serves simple snacks as the objective to visit is to play with the cats which are allowed to roam freely in the designated area.  Before one starts to play with the cats, one has to take off his/her shoes & wash the hands.   

The area where the cats can freely roam is about 600 sqft, which means the place cannot accomodate more than 25 persons.

There are 13 cats in the cafe & all of them are adopted. Every cat in the cafe was once abandoned, unloved & scrawny (very malnourished). But now most of they look chubby & have soft, shiny & silky fur.  It was a lovely experience for us to come that close to so many cats, stroking & playing with them.

You can check out the details of the cats in the cafe here

AJ did ask me a few times whether we could keep a pet at home.  Honestly, I am not prepared to be a slave caregiver to 3 creatures at home.  Maybe in the next 2-3 years when the boy is more independent.  Until then, I'll keep this love in the drawer.

If you are keen to visit The Cat Cafe, do take note that reservation is highly recommended, child under 7 is not allowed & do not bring along your own pet.

Cat Cafe Neko no Niwa
54A Boat Quay (Level 2)
Singapore 049843
Tel: 6536 5319
Mon to Fri: 11am - 10pm
Sat & PH: 10am - 10pm
Sun: 2 - 9pm
Cuddling Charges: S$12/hr; subsequent half hour S$5 each

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Investor, Entrepreneur, Author, Success Coach - Ismail Gafoor

This is a monthly post on 'Inspiring Individual'. Every 2nd week of the month I will post on individual who has crossed our path & how we were inspired by him/her.

Jan - The Music Conductor, Adrian Tan

He is a typical example of 'from rags to riches'. His father was poor, the family was so poor that his grandmother almost wanted the whole family to perish in order to escape from poverty.  Fortunately, his father had the will to live on.  His loud screams attracted passers-by who stopped to intervene, saving him & his siblings from drowning.

His father came to Singapore at the age of 23 with the determination to break out of this vicious cycle of poverty.  He landed himself as a shop assistant in this foreign land, & eventually, he started a newspaper business.

Still, life was tough.  The entire family of 7 squeezed into a 1-room apartment.  Ismail Gafoor, at age 7, has to help out in the 'family business' by delivering newspaper.

Ismail's schooling life was punishing.  He had to crawl out of bed at 4am everyday except Boxing Day to deliver papers in the wee hours.  Then he had to rush home for a quick breakfast before heading to school.  Coming back from school meant helping his father out at his sundry shop till 10pm. 

With Ismail Gafoor

Not wanting to be constantly strapped for cash to make ends meet, Ismail was determined (in his heart) to make a change to his life.

The turning point was when he met his wife who opened up his source of exposure.  She was the catalyst who sparkled off the change in his environment. 

In 1996, both him & his wife opened their 1st property company.  He owned his first property at the young age of 22 & made his 1st million at 28.

Ismail is a fervent advocate of training & life-long learning, so he institutionalised a complete series of learning programmes that include developmental seminars, workshops, consultancy services & legal support for all his property consultants so that they can stay ahead of the competition & deliver the maximum value to their customers.  I have attended a 3-day workshop conducted by his company Propnex & will usually not give it a miss on the seminars/talks given by Ismail.  There are so many things to learn from this man, who is honest & sincere in his sharing.
He has won many awards, which I will not mention here.  You may visit Propnex's corporate website to read on more if you are interested.
He has authored 3 books, of which all I have diligently read.  If you are new to real estate investment, The Ultimate Guide To Real Estate Investment in Singapore is the book to pick up.  It is 1 of the most comprehensive guide you can find to learn more about this area.
You Can Fly is a motivational book he wrote to inspire individuals to persue their dream & do their best. (scroll down for giveaway)
The Timeless Gift is an excellent book to be read together with your schooling children to help them set their priorities right.  I have a book review here

Ismail also has a big heart for charity.  He is 1 of those who have made it (successful career) & is more than willing to give back to the society.  He championed many events & also encouraged his property consultants to do so.  You can read more about this in their corporate website here.

Just recently, Ismail went undercover to help an underprivileged family & it was featured in Undercover Happiness Series 2 Episode 6.   It is a docu-reality series, where an accomplished Singaporean coming out of his/her comfort zone, to spend time with a total stranger from an underprivileged background.

He is truly a man with great heart. I count it a great blessing to have crossed path with him. 

For my readers only!  1 copy of You Can Fly worth S$24, autographed by Ismail Gafoor to be given away.  Simply drop a comment on my blog to participate. Closing date is 17 February 2014.

Hong Bao River 2014 (春到河畔)

We went to Hong Bao River on its last day - 8 February 2014 as I wanted AJ to experience the Chinese New Year (CNY) mood.  He got so excited about the trip that he even made a booklet to write down the experience along the way (live recording).  So, instead of me writing, I invited the boy to 'transfer' what he has written on his booklet to my blog.  The video & photos were taken from my camera. So I have a guest post here, from AJ:

Wow! Mum said we’re off to Hong Bao River (春到河畔)!  It’s going to be a great trip! I can’t wait any longer!

By the way, Hong Bao River was at Marina Bay Floating Platform.  There were many Chinese New Year decorations & some performances.  I was wonder how it would look like.  Hmmm … …

Wow! The trip to Hong Bao River was gorgeous! When we reached there, we were greeted by a massive collection of food.  I saw some ice-cream & I wanted to eat some!  Mum agreed.  But there was such a long queue!  I asked mum to stay put & I rushed to the side to take a closer look.  Oh! No wonder!  The ice-cream man was playing with his customers!  He was shaking the ice-cream up & down (the filling didn’t fall out because it was Turkish ice-cream) & he also gave his customers just the ice-cream stick!  He was pretty good at his ice-cream sticks (I mean tricks!).

After that, we met a GIGANTIC 財神爺 (God of Fortune). Not bad, but he was a little bit too young to be a 財神爺 ( means ‘grandpa’). Some people also touched the ‘money’ hoping to get more money.

Then, we saw some statutes of the 12 Zodiac Animals, namely, the rat, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the rooster, the dog & the boar.  There were also some explanations given by fortune tellers to explain how each person born in that year will behave & how much luck he/she will receive.

We met a huge pagoda (look at the cover page of the booklet).  In front of the pagoda were 3 men, 張飛, 關羽 &劉備.  They were 3 sworn brothers & warriors in the ancient China.

There was also a stage.  Mum felt that it was a little bit wrong.  Why?  Because they were playing Malay music!  “Geylang si papu Geylang, Geylang si rama-rama, … …”.  She said, “I just do not understand why.”  Then I replied, “You do not need to understand why.”

There was also a place that explains all the Chinese festivals, including the Lunar New Year.  The Lunar New Year is divided into a few parts (important days of the New Year).  There are 16 days in Lunar New Year, I am including除夕 (eve of Lunar New Year) as well.

Then we went to a calligraphy stall.  We saw different types of Chinese art everywhere.  They were so beautiful.

It was also 18:15 at that point of time & mum said that it was time for dinner.  It was indeed a memorable day for us!