090 What Makes A Good Staycation?

What makes a good staycation? Is it the quality hotel amenities, great breakfast, ideal location, or simply anything that adds up to your overall sense of value for money? These considerations are necessary but they are insufficient to make a good vacation. I discovered one most important ingredient from our first family staycation last weekend. That is, spending quality time together.

As a family, we all enjoyed watching a Chinese movie from the comfort of the hotel beds. It was an action movie, titled the “S-Storm”, starring some of my favourite Hong Kong’s male actors like Louis Koo and Bowie Lam. I was pleasantly surprised that the children enjoyed watching the same movie. All these years, our choice of movies has always been based on the children’s liking.

Separately, I enjoyed listening to my younger son, Conan, about his school life, his friends’ antics and exchanged thoughts about his brother’s future while we were spending time at the jacuzzi pool. I also enjoyed watching the light moments between the two brothers in the pool.

As for my wife, one of her best moments was probably with our elder son, Cairn, as she gleefully told me, “Last night, Cairn was stealing my blanket in his sleep. But the next morning, I woke up finding him putting cover over me.”

So if you have not used the $100 worth of Rediscover SG e-vouchers that is meant to support local tourism, I suggest that you use it to spend some quality time to do things that you all enjoy as a family. Do it before it expires by the end of June!

William WK Tan

28 April 2020

089: How I Handled A Devastating Piece of News?

A Terrible News

If you receive a devastating piece of news from the school, what would you have done?

Several weeks ago, on the day that my sixteen-year-old son, Cairn, was supposed to attend his school graduation ceremony, he was abruptly removed from the list of graduates! Instead of receiving his certificate in robes like the other graduating students on the stage, Cairn was told to sit among the audience to applaud the achievement of others.

Out of concern for Cairn’s feelings, his class teacher kept a close watch on him and assured me that he was unaffected. I was told Cairn cheered enthusiastically for his friends who went up the stage.

“Class of 2020” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

When Cairn arrived home from school, all I got from him was a sealed envelope containing a letter that said his application for admission to a senior high school for students with special needs was unsuccessful.

The rejection letter carried big implications. Cairn would remain in his current high school, and make another attempt for admission to the senior high school the next year. But if he were to be rejected again, his special school education would end the next year in the current school as eighteen is the cut-off age. That is tantamount to an off-the-cliff ending to his adult education.

“Off the Cliff” (WordPress Photography)

The biggest headache at hand was we were clueless about the reasons for rejection. By all measures, Cairn had always been held as an exemplary student in his junior high school. We were under the impression from both schools that Cairn would certainly be accepted because he had met all the stipulated requirements. Without knowing the reason, we would not know what could be done to improve his chances in the next shot.

I felt indignant for my son as unpleasant memories surfaced. All the these years, Cairn had put in so much effort in everything he did. But not all his efforts paid off. For instance, last year, Cairn won his first swimming competition, but was bizarrely disqualified. The ridiculous reason was he swam a lot faster than the timing submitted before the race. In the spirit of participation, we cast aside our disappointment and did not pursue the matter further. But this time, the issue is more than dealing with disappointment, Cairn couldn’t graduate despite his good performance at school!

“Touching The Wall First!” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

I lamented to my wife, “Just when we thought that everything is moving smoothly for him at last, this has to happen!”

My wife was visibly upset as she spoke, “They gave us hope, then took it away! ”

I told her with resolve, “I’ll settle this.”

“An angry fist” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

Take Thoughtful Actions

I thought hard about the content of my appeal letter to the school principal of the new school. After I drafted the letter, I showed to my wife and fourteen-year-old son, Conan.

My wife seemed pleased that I had backed up my appeal with strong arguments and proof. Conan, however, remarked, “Dad, shouldn’t you preface with some niceties? After all, you want to work with the new principal.”

I took his advice and edited the letter accordingly.

Dear Principal,

Sorry to take up your precious time. I need to consult you regarding school admission criteria. I am also writing to appeal for my son, Cairn Tan on the following grounds:

Cairn has met the two key criteria for school admission: the WPLN ( Work Place Literacy and Numeracy) Assessment and the independent traveling requirement.

Moreover, Cairn was graded “excellent” in Housekeeping. In addition, Cairn has actual retail work experience. On a daily basis, he has been operating his snack vending machine for nearly a year since December 2019. The operation includes the checking and replenishment of stock; and changing the prices and items. Cairn can do all that independently.

“Tending To A Vending Machine” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

Cairn also knows how to key in data of inventories and keep account of daily sales in excel spreadsheets. In addition, he is also responsible for proper packing of goods ordered from our e-commerce website, for delivery to respective customers.

“Packaging his merchandise” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

Recently, we even discovered that Cairn can memorize the value of pi up to 20 places, and do square roots and indices of two and three-digit numbers mentally! That shows the boy has much more potential than we imagined!

“Solve square roots of 4 digit-figures mentally” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

To prepare Cairn for the transition, we have also trained Cairn to travel independently to and from your school. See attached pictures.

“Taking a bus ride myself” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

During the admission interview, we were told for certain that Cairn will be offered a place in your school because he meets the admission requirements. The only purpose of the interview was to find out which vocation is most suited for him.

Even his current school was under the impression that Cairn will be moving on. That was why they had him participate in the graduation ceremony rehearsal. But only today, we were told that he had been taken off the list of graduates and denied his spot at the graduation ceremony. Despite working hard to qualify for your vocational programme, Cairn will be retained for another year!

As a parent yourself, can you imagine the big disappointment to our family to receive the rejection letter? As the reason for rejection is not stated, I have no choice but to seek help directly from you.

“Help me!” (WordPress Photography)

I believe that as a respected school leader, you will help us in this matter. We have been looking forward to Cairn starting a new chapter at your school. And we are very supportive of school efforts and are most willing to work with you. Please call me to arrange a meeting ASAP.

William WK Tan

Shortly after, the principal replied with warm and encouraging words, expressing delight to receive updated information about Cairn’s ability to travel independently. A week later, the good news came. Cairn’s appeal was successful!

Immediately, I wrote another heartfelt letter to Cairn’s current school’s principal. A few days later, Cairn’s class teacher called me up cheerily to inform me of the school principal’s decision to arrange a make-up graduation ceremony for Cairn! I felt so thankful to the school leaders and teachers in both schools.

All things ended well at last.

“I have graduated!” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

Parents, what’s your takeaway from this story? If anything, I hope you pick up the following steps about how to be an effective advocate for your child:

Be An Effective Advocate For Your Child

Step 1: Do not get emotional. Think about the real issue you want to solve.

Step 2: Know your child’s rights and strengths.

Step 3: Organise your thoughts with supporting evidence.

Step 4: Seek support from stakeholders.

Step 5: Show appreciation and a strong intention to work together.

Children with special needs are often incapable of speaking up for themselves. They need their parents to be their voice. Therefore, we need to learn how to speak up on their behalf, rationally and passionately. Don’t you agree?

“Be An Effective Voice!” (WordPress Photography)

William WK Tan

28 December 2020

087: How You Can Unleash Your Child’s Potential?

It’s hard to identify our preconceptions, let alone breaking them because most parents believe that they are always acting in the best interest of their children. On hindsight, however, we would probably admit that there were occasions when we could have made better decisions.

Using a personal story, here are four steps to breaking preconceptions that could unleash the potential of your children:

(1) Uncover your preconceptions

(2) Re-discover what your child can do

(3) Start a new learning journey

(4) Walk the journey together

Uncover Your Preconceptions

“Could I have held back my son’s development?” This startling realisation dawned on me after my sixteen-year-old autistic son, Cairn, demonstrated his Maths prowess at school recently by doing square roots of 3-4-digit figures mentally two weeks ago (See 85: “How Far Can This Child Go”). In retrospect, I had stopped teaching Cairn Maths in the last three years.

“Cairn tries to solve square root mentally” (Photography by Ms. Lim WT)

The realisation made me uncover two preconceptions— beliefs that had hindered me from pursuing my son’s abilities in certain areas further.

Preconception One:

Cairn should focus on developing independent-living skills and enhance his employability, even if it means disregarding his strengths and interest.

“Cairn packs the inventory for his e-store.” (Photography by William WK Tan)

Preconception Two:

Cairn should learn only English since he is already facing daunting obstacles in language acquisition due to his poor receptive and expressive communication ability.

“Cairn’s recent English homework.” (Photography by William WK Tan)

Do not get me wrong. Of course it is good to develop independent-living and enhance employability. And it is also prudent not to impose the burden of learning an additional language on the child when he is already struggling with learning one. The bigger question is, even as we work on these priorities, are we compromising on their strengths and interests?

Re-Discover What Your Child Can Do

I deliberated on the things Cairn can learn by utilising his strength in Maths—coding, computer literacy skills, memory and thinking techniques, and high school Maths topics such as algebraic equations and calculus. The more I thought about it, the more possibilities I could see. I felt a renewed sense of excitement, a feeling that’s often lost in parents when their children get older.

Out of curiosity, I tested Cairn’s memory using the value of PI. Cairn memorised up to 10 decimal places (3. 1415926535 ) effortlessly and could recall every digit correctly even after 2 weeks. His memory astounded me!

“Cairn writes the value of Pi” (Photography by William WK Tan)

Then I thought to myself, “Does Cairn know how to read and write any Chinese word?”

I turned to Cairn and asked, “Do you know the numbers from one to ten in Chinese?”

Without hesitation, Cairn recited and wrote the Chinese character of each numeral. Those were the characters I taught him more than ten years ago!

Start A New Learning Journey

“Would you be willing to do something for your brother for just fifteen minutes every day?”

That’s the question I asked Conan, Cairn’s fourteen-year-old younger brother, after I showed him the Chinese words that Cairn could remember. Conan started giving Cairn 15 minute-lesson from the next day.

“Conan guided Cairn to write Chinese Characters.”(Photography by William WK Tan)

“Now you copy the word, “thousand” which is “qiān” (千) in Chinese three more times,” Conan was telling Cairn to learn from copying the words that he didn’t know.

“Next, do you know the Chinese word for ten thousand?” Conan asked.

Cairn replied, “wàn“(万)!”

He had actually stolen a quick glance at the book and copied the character.

“You ah!”, Conan laughed and moved on to teaching Cairn more words. Towards the end of the session, Conan was praising and hugging his brother, who was also beaming a wide smile.

Conan told me his observations, “Cairn can read and write many words like “dà” (大-big) xiǎo” (小-small), shàng (上-up), xià (下-down) even before I taught him.”

“Words that Cairn recently learnt.” (Photography by William WK Tan)

Walk The Journey Together

“I really appreciate that you are spending time with your brother like this. It takes commitment to do it daily. Thank you!” I told him.

I also told Conan my observations of his lesson, “I like how you motivate your brother with praises and encouragement. You didn’t reprimand him when he copied the word. You just moved on. That kept his motivation going!”

Conan looked pleased.

“There is, however, no need to keep testing him with questions. It can become stressful. Read to him more. You can tailor the lesson in any way to match his liking.”

Conan remarked with a chuckle, “He obviously likes to copy.”

“Cairn enjoys writing Chinese Characters” (Photography by William WK Tan)

Two weeks had lapsed since we embarked on this new endeavour. It has become a routine for Cairn to take the Chinese textbook and his Writing practise book to the sofa after dinner, where Conan would start working with him.

I have no idea how long Conan can sustain his efforts. One month; three months or a year? But I hope it would be long enough for Conan to realise that he benefits as much, if not, more than Cairn from walking this journey together with his brother.

“Rainbow” (WordPress Free Picture)

I hope our endeavour offers you some useful insights to how you can unleash the potential of your children.

William W K Tan

083 A Touching Love Story- I Love You

It’s late at night. A young man was waiting patiently for a lady who was ascending the steps hurriedly. The lady said, “I’m late.”

Hiding a ring box behind his back, the man nervously told the lady, “You know, I’ve been thinking about a lot of things…”

That was his prelude to a marriage proposal.

But before he could finish his sentence, the lady said, “Let’s go separate ways.”

Taken aback, the man exclaimed, “What?!”

“Let’s end our relationship.” She said resolutely.

Just when It seemed that a love story had abruptly ended, it did not. 

One day, the man unexpectedly received a parcel from his lost loved one. Opening the parcel, he found a sketchbook with these words written on the first page— “It’s quiz time!”. 

Flipping to the second page, the first question emerged,

“Q1 How did we get to know each other? (Time limit: 3 minutes)”

The man’s mind drifted into the memory lane. His memories were mostly sweet. But some became sour, and even turned bitter. Then, as if the lady could read his mind, she wrote her second question, 

“Q2 Recall the happy memories we had together. Multiple answers allowed. (Time limit: 10 minutes)”

This is the love story of Takaya and Yumiki, the man and the lady in the music video— “I Love You”. Why did Yukimi break up with Takaya? And why did she pose those questions to Takaya? My curiosity was aroused. But more than anything, I had a sense of foreboding when Yukimi said, “I think a life like fireworks would be nice. Fireworks make people happy in a burst and then scatter away without a trace.” 

Needless to say, the biggest draw of the music video was the soulful voice of an American black man, Chris Hart who successfully broke into the Japanese music scene in recent years. I could hear the authenticity in his emotions and a tinge of melancholic tenderness in his voice. No wonder the song has amassed more than 30 million views on YouTube. For days, I watched the music video repeatedly and learnt to sing the song. 


Chris’s music and the beautifully-made music video got to reach more people outside Japan! I searched high and low for a version that comes with English translation of the lyric and the drama, but to no avail. I know I can deliver a good translation, but it would take time and effort. Still, the idea did not go away. I have long known that learning language from songs is one of the best ways to learn a new language. 

I have always been keen to impart language skills to others as a part-time hustle.  As a matter of fact, before I started working from home three months ago, a friend JO had been receiving one-on-one Japanese-lesson coaching from me for several months. Another friend SK from Malaysia picks up new English phrases from every blogpost I wrote and expanded her vocabulary by guessing the meaning of those phrases. And most recently, I started giving pointers to a new friend from Myanmar, RM who shared her self-constructed Chinese sentences on the Facebook. Thanks to these friends, a teacher thrives on in my heart.  

Convinced that this music video will make a good lesson material for Japanese learners, I made a recording of the video and was about to input the subtitles. But I do not have the permission to use the video. It will be an infringement of copyright even though I have no motive for personal monetary profit.  In the end, I decided to transcribe, translate and write a review instead. For those who are keen to enjoy the entire music video, please go to its official YouTube channel with the link below:


Don’t worry if you do not understand a word of Japanese. For the benefit of Japanese language learners, I am providing my translation for free below.

If you find it useful, I’ll make time to write another review for the sequel, “Still Loving You”, where you’ll get to know the full story of Takaya and Yukimi.
It’s a tear-jerker and makes a great stress relief if you still believe in love stories.

William WK Tan

14 June 2020

Document1 : Drama Transcript

Translation by William WK Tan

Title: I LOVE YOU 爱你

Artist: クリス・ハート Chris Hart 克里斯 哈特 Album: Song for You 给你的歌

Lyricist: H.U.B.・坂詰美紗子 Misako Sakazume Composer: 坂詰美紗子 Misako Sakazume

< Scene 1>

: 遅くなっちやたね。

On’na: Osoku natchiyata ne. Woman: I’m late.

: 我来迟了。

: あのさ、俺、色々考えたんだけど。

Otoko: Ano sa, ore, iroiro kangaetan dakedo.

Man: You know, I’ve been thinking about a lot of things.


: 別れよ。

On’na: Wakare yo.

Woman: Let’s go separate ways.


: ええ?!

Otoko: Ē? !

Man: What?! :什么?!

: 私たち、もう終わりにしよう。

On’na: Watashitachi, mō owari ni shiyou. Woman: We’re done.


< Scene 2>


Otoko: Hai.

Man: Yes


配達人: こんばんは、鈴木孝也様宛てに届き物があります。ここにサインをお願いします。

Haitatsunin: Kobanwa. Suzuki Takaya-sama-ate ni todoki-mono ga arimasu. Koko ni sain o onegaishimasu.

Delivery man: Good evening. There is a delivery for Mr. Takaya Suzuki. Please sign here.

货员: 晚上好。给铃木孝也先生的东西到了。请在这里签收。

(箱に書いてあることー受取人:鈴木孝也 ご依頼主:須藤幸美)

(Hako ni kaite aru koto. Uketori hito: Suzuki Takaya, Go irai-nushi: Sudō Yukimi)

(Written on the boxAddressee: Suzuki Takaya. Sender: Sudo Yukimi Takaya: Dōmo gokurōsandesu.)



Takaya: Dōmo gokurōsandesu

Takaya: Thank you for your hard work. 孝也:谢谢。辛苦您了。

配達人: はい。ありがとうございました。Haitatsunin: Hai. Arigatou gozaimasushita. Delivery man: Yes, thank you.


<Scene 3>


“It’s quiz time!”


Q1 2 人の出会いを答えよ。(制限時間 3 )

Q 1 futari no deai o kotaeyo. (Seigen jikan 3-bu)

Q1 Please answer, “How did we get to know each other?” (Time limit 3 minutes)

Q1 们是如何相遇的?请作答。( 3 )

<Scene 4>


Yukimi: Chotto,-kun, nani o shite iru no? Yukimi: Hey, you, what are you doing?



Takaya: A, gomen’nasai

Takaya: Oh, I’m sorry.


幸美:えー、ここ、私の場所だから。 Yukimi: E ̄ , koko, watashi no bashodakara.

Yukimi: Um, because this place is mine.



Takaya: suki desu!

Takaya: I like you!


<Scene 5>


Yukimi: attakai! Yukimi: It’s warm!


幸美: 私、花火みたいな人生がいいなあ。ぱぁっと人を楽しませて、潔く散る。

Yukimi: Watashi, hanabi mitaina jinsei ga ī nā. Pa~atto hito o tanoshima sete, isagiyoku chiru.

Yukimi: I think a life like fireworks would be nice. Fireworks make people happy in a burst and then scatter away without a trace.

幸美: 我想人生像烟花该多好。啪的一声令人快乐,然后干干净净地 散去。

<Scene 6>


Takaya: Nande yōji ga atte, nande itsumo renraku o torenai no? Otoko?

Takata: Why are you always so busy? Why is it always so hard to reach you? Is there another man?



Yukimi: ha?

Yukimi: What?



Takaya: Fuzaken na yo! Fuzaken na yo!

Takaya: Stop your prank! Stop your prank!


<Scene 7>

Q2 楽しかった思い出を答えよ。複数回答可。(制限時間 10 )

Q2 Recall those happy memories we had together. Multiple answers allowed. (Time limit: 10 minutes)

Q2 们过去的快乐回忆,请作答。接受复数的答案。( 10 )

To Be Continued



Document 2: Song Transcript

Translation by William W K Tan Title: I LOVE YOU 爱你

Artist: クリス・ハート Chris Hart 克里斯 哈特 Album: Song for You 给你的歌Lyricist: H.U.B.・坂詰美紗子 Misako Sakazume

Composer: 坂詰美紗子 Misako Sakazume

<歌詞 Lyric>

ねぇ 君はなぜ 哀しそうに うつむくの?

nee kimi wa naze kanashi sou ni utsumuku no?

Hey, why are you looking down so sadly? 欸,你为什么这样难过的低着头呢?

まぶしいほど 青い空 なのに

mabushii hodo aoi sora na no ni It’s such a bright blue sky. 明明这样耀眼的蓝天,

いつからだろう? 君と手を つないでも

itsu kara darou? kimi to te wo tsunaide mo


gyutto nigirikaeshite wa kurenai n da ne

When did it all happen? Even when I held your hand, you did not hold on to my hand back tightly.



何を言えたなら あの日に帰れるの?

nani wo ietanara ano hi ni kaereru no?

What can I say so that we can return to those days? 我要说什么才能回到那些日子呢?


mune wo umetsukusu fuan dake ga

My heart is wholly filled with anxiety.


泣いても 泣いても 消えてくれないの

naite mo naite mo kiete kurenai no

No matter how much I cry, no matter how much I cry, it does not go away.


I love you I love you I need you ずっと愛されたいあの頃のように

I love you I love you I need you zutto aisaretai ano koro no you ni

I love you I love you I need you. I want to be loved all the time, like those times back then.

爱你 爱你 我需要你 过去一直你爱着我的那个时候

叶わない願いでも この気持ちはいつもそうその胸に届いています ?

kanawanai negai de mo kono kimochi wa itsu mo sou sono mune ni todoite imasu ka?

Even if it is a wish that does not come true, has my feeling reached your heart?


I love you I love you I need you どうして 僕の心だけ奪ったまま

I love you I love you I need you dou shite boku no kokoro dake ubatta mama

I love you I love you I need you. Why did you still take away my heart?

爱你 爱你 我需要你 为什么你把我的心夺走?

叶わない願いなら さよならを告げて

kanawanai negai nara sayonara wo tsugete

Even if it is a wish that does not come true, can’t you just say goodbye? 就算是无法实现的愿望,也要向我说声再见呀。

ねぇ お揃いで着けていたあの時計は

nee wo soroide tsukete ita ano tokei wa Hey, that matching watch we used to wear


止まったまま 外しただけだよね?

tomatta mama hazushita dake da yo ne?

It had stopped moving. That’s why you had removed it, right?


確かめたい でも答えは 聞きたくないの

tashikametai de mo kotae wa kikitaku nai no

I want to ask you. But I do not want to hear your answer.



shiawase na jikan made kie sou da kara

Because it feels like even those happy times are going to disappear.



haru wa saku hana wo mi ni itta yo ne

We went to see the blooming flowers in the spring



fuyu wa nukumori no heya de kisu wo shita And kissed in the cozy room in the winter.


あの輝きさえ 忘れたと言うの?

ano kagayaki sae wasureta to iu no?

Are you telling me you have even forgotten all those sparkling moments? 这些光辉的时光,难道你说都忘了吗?

もう一度 思い出して どうか

mouō ichi do omoidashite dou ka Please, can you recall it one more time?


I love you I love you I need you ずっと愛されたいあの頃のように

I love you I love you I need you zutto aisaretai ano koro no you ni

I love you I love you I need you. I want to be loved all the time, like those times back then.

爱你 爱你 我需要你 过去一直你爱着我的那个时候

叶わない願いでも この気持ちはいつもそうその胸に届いています ?

kanawanai negai de mo kono kimochi wa itsu mo sou sono mune ni todoite imasu ka?

Even if it is a wish that does not come true, has my feeling reached your heart?


I love you I love you I need you どうして 僕の心だけ奪ったまま

I love you I love you I need you dou shite boku no kokoro dake ubatta mama

I love you I love you I need you. Why did you still take away my heart?

爱你 爱你 我需要你 为什么你把我的心夺走?

叶わない願いなら さよならを告げて

kanawanai negai nara sayonara wo tsugete

Even if it is a wish that does not come true, can’t you just say goodbye?




079 I Am Back!

Time to wake up

I have not blogged for months since last November. Out of nowhere, a friend TS texted me one week ago,

“Hi, William. Hope you’re well. I miss your blogs.”

I replied tongue in cheek, “I’m in hibernation. Thank you for waking me up!”

Sensing my humour, she retorted, “Wake up! Your friends and fans are waiting for you!”

“Text conversation with TS”- Consent given by TS

TS’s exhortation jolted me out of my inertia. Now that I know someone misses my blogs, it gives me an extra impetus to get back to writing quickly.

It’s so fortunate to have friends who encourage us in our endeavours, don’t you agree?

Was It Just A One-Hit Wonder Blogpost?

Over the last few months, so much has happened that I have scant idea where to begin.

Last year, the blog was gaining momentum with more viewers for every article I wrote. By November, there was a sharp spike in the readership. I had 15,000 more views in 2019 alone, four times more than the previous year!

“Wordpress Statistics”- screenshot from
personal account.

It was not just the figures that made me sit up. I was motivated by the responses from readers. In the last post, some parents told me how my personal anecdotes helped them to solve the impasse they had at home with their children over the choice of school. I felt good knowing that my article made an impact on some readers. I had helped some families out there.

I was flattered when a private tutor contacted me for collaboration. I told him my rates for writing advertorial and my principle of writing only things I had experienced, so I needed to observe his teaching and interview his students. And I imagined that I would be able to give him some useful consultation. After all, with two decades of experience working with excellent teachers in Singapore and abroad, I do know a thing or two about helping children to manage their studies and advising people on running a successful education business.

It did not bother me when the tutor asked for my viewer statistics. But he made a remark about whether my latest article was “just a one-hit wonder.”

Alas! I naively thought that he was my supporter. Too bad, we were not meant to work together.

“Disappointment”: WordPress Free Photo Library

Nonetheless, the attention garnered made me rethink if I should focus more on education topics. As a matter of fact, friends were surprised that I did not write more about education issues all this while. The reason was simple. I started this blog for very personal reasons – introspection and connection with others. I had been a little reluctant to talk about work in my personal time.

Can I Up My Game?

I have a change of mind, now knowing that my writing can touch lives. To up my game, I contemplated to start a YouTube channel to engage parents on educational issues.

Thinking that it may be a great idea to bond with my fourteen-year son, Conan through this collaborative project, I tried roping Conan in,

“I am thinking of YouTubing. I think it will reach out to more people than blogging.”

“YouTube”: WordPress Free Photo Library.

Conan nodded, but he was kind enough to stop short of telling me, “I told you that long ago, didn’t I?” As if he knew what I was going to suggest next, Conan said, “It’s a great idea, but I don’t know how I can help you.”

“Well. You will make a better Youtuber than me. I think people would prefer to hear directly from your study experiences. And your personality is likeable and you certainly speak English better than me.”

“Oh yes, Dad, you really need to fix your pronunciation.” Conan chuckled as he made a dig at me.

I said, “Well. That’s why I cannot do this without you. But I am good at creating content. Let’s collaborate.”

Conan grinned in agreement.

But it was an untimely decision. My workload at the workplace unexpectedly increased dramatically in November. There were occasions I had to bring work back home to work over the weekends, something that I have always refrained from doing since five years ago. I became too tired to hit the keyboard. I had had enough of screen. I had to shelve the idea. The idea of Youtubing with my son hit a roadblock.

Try something else

Instead I turned to doing something else with Conan- cultivate a common hobby of reading Chinese martial arts novels (武侠小说). I was so glad to see that Conan, who had stopped reading Chinese books entirely for the last three years, has taken to the books authored by Jing Yong(金庸), the titan of this genre.

Source: https://wapbaike.baidu.com/theme/

Week after week, we devoured books borrowed from the public library. To encourage Conan, I tried to read at least one book ahead of him. However, after a while, Conan asserted his independence by picking up books that I had yet to read. I ended up chasing after the titles that he had read. The shared hobby brought me and my son closer.

Conan gave his consent to use this picture I took.

The most obvious benefit was Conan became more conversant in the Chinese language. One morning during our regular weekend breakfast time, I intentionally prolonged the conversation to see how long he could hold the conversation in Chinese. Conan pulled it off very well! I saw in him a newfound confidence in the Chinese language.

It came as no surprise when his Chinese language teacher sang praises of his command of Chinese language at a recent teachers-parents meeting. The teacher said, “Conan is a rare gem who reads Chinese novels in his spare time. Hardly do I see any other students interested in reading Chinese books these days. I was therefore disappointed when he did not ace in his recent Chinese test like his other subjects.”

To this remark, Conan explained sheepishly, “Well, the reason is simple. I can read everything in Chinese these days. But writing the Chinese character is another matter. Those marks I lost were all because of writing.”

I laughed and said to his teacher, “It’s alright. Grades do not matter as much as his love for reading.”

The teacher nodded approvingly.

Stick To Purpose

Sometimes, we get derailed from the things we set out to do. But it’s not always a bad thing as long as our purpose remains the same, don’t you agree?


William W K Tan

8 March 2020, Sunday



077 Is There A Playground Where EVERYONE Can Enjoy?

A Fifteen Year Old Boy’s Wish To Go To A Playground

A day before the September term break began, I suggested excitedly to my fifteen year old son, Kyan, “School holiday is starting tomorrow. Dad is taking you out to play.”

Kyan is non-verbal and moderately autistic. He merely replied smilingly with an “OK”.

To encourage him to speak more, I asked again, “Where would you like to go?”

“Playground,” Again, it’s a one-word reply. But there was excitement in his voice.

I chuckled at his suggestion with mixed feelings.

Kyan has remained innocent like Peter Pan — a boy who never grows up. The obvious problem is he is like a little boy trapped inside a nearly grown-up body. At a height of about 170 cm and weighing 70kg, Kyan has clearly outgrown the playground facilities. He looks like a giant among the younger kids.

Picture from WordPress Photo Library.

I was about to say no to playground when Kyan suddenly blurted, “I insist to go playground.”

Wow! That was a rare sentence he was making! His answers were usually a one-word utterances.

I changed my mind and obliged, “Yes. We will go to a playground!”

But the big question in my mind was, “Is there an inclusive playground where EVERYONE can have fun together?”

Has the country become too expensive for ordinary folks?

The internet churned out a long list of recommended playgrounds in Singapore. But at the top of the search list were mostly public playgrounds for younger children – below the age of twelve, no taller than 140 cm and weigh less than 50 kg. Kyan did not fit the bill. I had to turn to private operators.

In the end, I found a positively-reviewed private indoor playground that was newly opened in Singapore last year. The place seemed perfect — slides, trampolines, flying fox, car tracks, obstacles tracks and more.

I was nearly about to book the tickets online when I saw the hefty price tag. A one-day ticket costs SGD$48 per person! The tickets alone for a family of four would nearly cost $200. That’s a hefty sum of money!

A deeper concern arose. Is Singapore an inclusive society where ordinary folks can afford to enjoy simple leisure?”

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/08/singapore/568567/

Singapore remains one of the most liveable countries in the world

I know that Singapore is reputed for being one of the most expensive cities in the world. But paradoxically, the country remains one of the most liveable places in the world.

I often tell my friends from overseas, “Singapore is not just an expensive place for crazy rich Asians. It is also a place for ordinary folks. There is no lack of delicious and inexpensive places for food. There are also plenty of free-to-visit public parks to go around; tree-top walks, nature trail, streams, where squirrels and monkeys abound. And I do not know of any country elsewhere that creates so much community space like community and sports clubs in every town for people to socialise and exercise together.”

A colleague from a neighbouring country, who often took his children to the public pools, remarked, “I am surprised by the $2 admission-fee to the public pools that are equipped with gigantic slides, Jacuzzi jets and wave pools. It’s simply fun and ridiculously cheap!.”

Source: https://www.myactivesg.com/Facilities/jurong-east-swimming-complex

His words reminded me that our family often headed to these feature pools when the children were younger. Surely, there must be an inclusive playground for everyone somewhere!

An amazing playground for everyone!

At last, I found an amazing public playground —the Admiralty Park Playground. Its most prominent feature: Slides! Slides! And slides!


I have never seen so many slides in one playground. A whopping number of twenty-six slides! And that’s not all. There were burrows, suspension bridges, tunnels and more.

We were not alone when we reached the playground. Many other families were having fun together. A big busload of Korean kindergarten children arrived shortly and they quickly filled the place with laughter. Luckily, the mega playground was big enough for everyone.

Self-taken picture: A school bus brought a load of young children to the playground.

Kyan and his thirteen year old brother, Conan immediately had their eyes on a 34-metres long curved roller slide which was far away from these toddlers. Climbing the cargo nets to get to the top, they tunnelled their way down in laughter.

Source: https://www.littledayout.com/2017/10/28/admiralty-park-playground-slides-awesome-all-terrain-fun/

Energised by the children’s laughter, I got into the fray by joining them on the flying fox next! Kyan was initially unsure how to work the equipment but Conan was quick to give him guidance.

Self-taken picture: Conan taught Kyan to ride on the flying fox.

Perhaps, the greatest fun for the children came from the parallel roller slides. The rollers on the slide accelerated the children’s movement. That gave an extra impetus to the two boys who were bent on racing each other to the finish! Upon touching the ground, Conan quickly pulled Kyan to go for another round!

Self-taken picture: The two brothers raced to the finish!

I found out later that both sides of the parallel roller slides were lined up with bright motion-sensor LED lights that would be illuminated from 7pm to 11pm daily. That just gave us another reason to come back!

Another delightful discovery was the play equipment for people who are wheel-chaired bound. This is truly an inclusive playground for all!

Self-taken picture: A swing for wheel-chair users.

Rethink the significance of playgrounds

At the end of the day, I asked Conan, “Most people see little significance in building playgrounds. In some neighbouring countries, people argue that public fund is better used on other priorities. Do you agree?”

Conan replied, “No. That misses an important point — people need to have community space to enjoy coming together.”

Conan was spot on. Over the decades, I have witnessed how playgrounds in Singapore have evolved from simple sandpits with slides, see-saw and swings to important community space that draws families of all walks together.

Source: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/lifestyle/singapore-old-playground-mosaic-dragon-pelican-exhibition-10134506

Playgrounds are more than just outdoor places for children to play. More importantly, they are memory landscapes that leave indelible marks on the way we remember how we lived and played together. Don’t you agree?

William WK Tan (aka Uncle William)

22 Oct 2019

How to go the Admiralty Park Playground?

Admiralty Park Playground is a 15-minute walk away from Woodlands MRT.

Check out the links below for more information:





072 Counting Down The Remaining Days Of Our Lives

Our Days Are Numbered

I told a friend MM recently that my days were numbered.

“Probably no more than fifteen thousand day left,” I emphasised strong on the numeral.

MM was stumped for words.

I explained with a chuckle, “I am not dying. Just do your sums. It’s the same for everyone. Most of us do not live beyond 90, as much as I hope to live till 100.”

I continued, “My age has already passed the midway mark. Based on the simple calculation of 365 days a year, fifteen thousand days is probably as best as it can get. And it’s actually fewer if you count only the healthy years.”

Picture from WordPress Photo Library.

“Life feels really short after hearing the way you put it.” lamented MM, “All the more we should treasure our health and cherish every living day.”

Thirty Reams of Papers

Fifteen thousand days is indeed shorter than most of us can imagine.

I captured a powerful image of its brevity when I was in office one day: thirty reams of photocopy papers. That’s it!

Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/

With each ream containing five hundred papers, these thirty reams of papers exactly amounted to fifteen thousand pieces in total.

I thought to myself, “If one piece of paper represents a day, what I choose to write on each piece of paper is tantamount to how I decide to live each day.”

Every day counts only when you make deliberate decisions on how you wish to spend each day of your life.

Counting Down The Days Brings You Closer To Your Loved Ones

Counting down the remaining days of my life has certainly changed the way I spend time with my loved ones.

I decide to spend more time with my parents who are in their eighties. In addition to the fortnightly family gathering, I made it a point to have one-on-one conversation with them on every alternate Monday evenings.

I shared the reason with my thirteen year old son, Conan, “You have thirty thousand days more to go in life. Your dad here used up halved of that. And your grandparents are probably left with no more than three thousand. That realisation made me feel a pressing need to spend more time with them.”

A recent picture taken with my dad n mom at a family dinner on 3 Aug 2019.

Conan said, “I can understand why you are doing this. Time is running out faster than you think though. Even if you are visiting grandpa and grandma weekly, you have only one hundred and fifty times at best.”

I am heartened that Conan has taken to hearts these lessons of life. And I was surprised how a simple idea can trigger an action in me that made my parents happy. It probably also made me a better son, and perhaps, a better parent by example too.

Know What Matters To You Most

Out of curiosity, I wanted to find out how others would respond to the idea of counting down the remaining days of their lives. Interestingly, their responses were varied.

Some agreed that it also gave them an extra impetus to rethink and act on their life priorities quickly. Others rolled their eyes in disbelief at the silly idea and remarked nonchalantly, “Why worry about the inevitable? Life goes on all the same.”

A friend X made a most hilarious response. He said, “Imagine how many meals I would have left after counting the number of remaining days! I pledge myself to be a gourmand for the rest of my life!”

I laughed out aloud.

Picture from WordPress Photo Library.

Our response may all be different, but it certainly does not take a genius to figure out what matters to each of us most!

Taking a leaf out of the bible, know that your days are numbered and spend it with wisdom.

11 Aug 2019, Sunday

067 A Blog Hiatus

I have decided to take a break. A brief hiatus of two weeks from everything I usually do, including blogging.

It’s a month of school holidays for the children in June. And it’s also a time for the family to spend time doing something different.

Finally, after nearly a decade of patience, my wife has come around the idea that Japan’s fallout from Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011 is unlikely to make our elder son’s autism any worse. Still, to play safe, we have decided on Kyushu, the southwestern most of Japan’s main islands, as our next holiday destination.

Source: https://wow-j.com/en/Allguides/kyushu/

We will be covering the cities of Fukuoka, Oita, Kumamoto and Nagasaki, which are thousands of kilometres away from Fukushima. I was clueless about all these places, but I have researched to the best of my efforts. Hopefully, all the travel plans I have made will work out smoothly.

Photo: Cover summary of my 13-page itinerary

As a person who is fond of the Japanese culture and proficient in the language, I’m hoping a visit to Japan will develop in Conan, an interest for a third language and its culture. Knowing one more foreign language opens an entire new world for a person. I really hope that the charms of Japan will rub off on him.

I shall resume blogging from 15 June onwards. If anyone misses reading my blogs, even just a little, would you let me know? Often, it is the comments from you that encourage me to think and write more.

I am especially grateful to those who read my blog regularly. It really helps to keep the connection between us strong. And it motivates me to write better with someone in mind.

Already, I have a hunch that I may end up writing more with the long flight hours. And hopefully, my writing style will evolve to a higher level after this break.

Have a good weekend! See you in two weeks’ time.

William W K Tan

31 May 2019

062 What you can do when vulnerable children go missing?

An Insensitive Remark

Two days ago, I received an alert to look out for an autistic child X who had gone missing. What would you have done?

Photo: Facebook “Reunite Missing Children”

Some people might have carried on with their own business without batting an eyelid. Some people might have taken a closer look to check if they had seen the missing child somewhere. Some people might have spread the word to others. And there might also be people who offered their help to assist the family.

I was not surprised that people thought and acted differently. But I was aghast at someone’s comment on the Facebook page that went,

“Looks like this is not the first time this boy has gone missing. Shouldn’t the parents just get the child a GPS tracker?”

“What an insensitive remark!”I thought. In veiled anger, I wrote on the Facebook,

 “Please feel like you’ve lost your own child. Do what you can. If you cannot, keep quiet. Don’t make the parents feel worse.”

Almost immediately, the man deleted his comment without a word.

Parents Fear The Worst

As a parent who had been through similar ordeal, I know that when a vulnerable child goes missing, it is a time that the affected family needs support most.

Photo: Facebook “Reunite Missing Children”

My thoughts went back to several years ago, to that day my elder son Kyan, who has moderate ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) disappeared into the lift in the blink of an eye while I was locking the door. Immediately, I dashed down ten storeys of staircase in the hope of catching him in time. But I was too late. The lift was empty by the time I reached ground floor.

He was nowhere to be found. Not anywhere within the parameters of the condominium. Could he have sneaked out of the side gate with the other residents? Could he have walked out of the main gate under the watchful eyes of security guards? In my frantic search, I asked every passerby. No one saw him.

My wife and I split ways to search in the neighbourhood. I feared the worst as I watched on the fast-moving vehicles on the roads. What if he ignored traffic rules and got hit by a car? Immediately, I alerted the police for assistance who quickly dispatched their patrol cars.

Our ordeal came to an end after two hours when our boy was brought home by some policemen in their patrol car. I thanked the policemen profusely. A policeman said,

“We found him near the highway with heavy traffic. A member of the public was petrified to see him crossing the road dangerously. Because he couldn’t get any contact details from your boy, he called the police.”

Blood drained off my face. And my wife broke down in tears as she held our boy tightly in her arms.

Photo: WordPress Photo Library

What You Can Do

The problem with ASD children is they look normal, and do not attract any attention until they display odd behaviour. They are likely to keep walking quietly without anyone noticing them. And if they are limited in communication, they will not be able to tell anyone their contact particulars. Unlike a lost child, autistic children often do not know how to seek help and attention. In such situations, having community awareness and support are crucial.

Photo: WordPress Photo Library

Here are three things you can do when an autistic child goes missing:

(1) Spread the news

The more people know the news the better. When the daughter of local blogger Lee Kin Mun, better known as mrbrown, went missing seven years ago, social media played a pivotal role in helping to find her. The girl was found 1.5 hour later by a train station staff member and then Mr Lee’s friend.

(2) Offer your help

After I offered to be part of the search party for the missing child X two days ago, the boy’s father told me,

“Thank you! Police are on the lookout now and the public has been helpful to spread the news. Another helpful dad like you digitally modified my boy’s attire to his school uniform, as he went missing in his uniform that day.”

These are the little things we can all do for the affected family. Do what you can.

(3) Keep a lookout

Safety is the key consideration in such situations. And time is crucial. Most children can be found within hours if the public keeps a watchful eye. The search becomes complicated if it is extended to days.

Your alertness in keeping a watchful lookout has the power to lessen the agony of families and can possibly save lives. We have heard of reports of autistic children overseas who met mishaps like car accidents, drowning or even falling prey to predatory characters. Let’s help to prevent tragedies from happening around us.

Photo: WordPress Photo Library

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child

On hindsight, that man who made that insensitive remark probably meant well to offer a solution. But a GPS tracker is not a panacea to all runaway problems. It is not uncommon to hear of ASD children removing, discarding and damaging such costly devices. Other well-meaning parents also shared their ideas to tackle the problem.  Unfortunately, what works for one child may not work for another. In the case of X, it is already the fifth time the boy had wandered off this year despite the parents’ best efforts.  

I could only imagine that the parents had exhausted all solutions they know, and are truly at their wits’ end. Rather than jumping to the quick conclusion that X’s parents are probably not doing enough, shouldn’t we give them all the help they can get? I am indignant that X’s parents become an object of speculation that they were not vigilant enough.

Photo: WordPress Photo Library

Many parents I know keep a watchful eye on their ASD children, holding their hands whenever they are out, and training them to know how to find their way home independently to the best of their efforts. The truth is many parents, especially those with ASD children whose conditions are more severe, are perpetually living on a high alert mode. They do not have a life of their own. Their lives revolve around their care-needy children, as they juggle with work and family obligations.  But no vigilance by the parents alone is water-tight enough; this is where support from the community is crucial.

It takes a village to raise a child. If neighbours make the efforts to know and interact with one another, everyone will be watching out for one another. In an event of vulnerable children like X wandering off from home repeatedly, there will be more understanding and less criticism. In this way, we can move a step closer to becoming a more inclusive society where people exercise grace towards one another.

William W K Tan

26 April 2019