NN Header

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Dinner at Senki Japanese Restaurant

My friend, *Charliez and I read about Senki Japanese Restaurant in reviews, and it seemed pretty good, therefore we decided to pay a visit to see how this one fares.

Located conveniently in a row of shophouses in Somerset area, this traditional, lovely restaurant was easy to locate. It is situated at 109 Kiliney Road, Singapore 239548, and the number to dial is 6734 5565.

When we got in, the waitress showed us to our table and handed us a pretty rose-toned menu. We decided to go for the buffet dinner. The interior was dimly-lit and the place was quiet, hence it was perfect for a few hours of catching up without being disturbed. Going for buffet would be the best choice since we could slowly enjoy our dinner.

We had starters as shown in the above two photos.

For the first photo - these are the plain salad and peach salad respectively - both tasted very lovely, blends of the crispiness of vegetables in sweet-sour tones.

The second photo shows the remnants of some small dishes we ate before the mains were served - such as the Edamane Beans - a preparation of immature soybeans in the pod, found in the cuisine of China, Japan and Hawaii. The pods were boiled or steamed and served with salt; the Cheese Potato Croquette and Agedashi Tofu (pronounced as "aga-dash-shee toll-full") - Japanese way to serve hot tofu. Silken firm tofu, cut into cubes, is lightly dusted with potato starch or cornstarch and then deep fried until golden brown.

Next, we had the Cha Soba (Japanese cold green-tea noodles) - the first time I ate this, I had drank the soy sauce served together with it in a teacup, thinking it had to be green tea!

And a platter of grilled eggplants, ladyfingers, mushrooms etc, that was tasty and nicely grilled to perfection - tender and not overly done.

Me, being a Sashimi lover, ordered my must-have item whenever I visited a Japanese restaurant. Sashimi is a Japanese delicacy consisting of very fresh raw meat or fish sliced into thin pieces, usually eaten with a spicy green paste named Wasabi. The small platter consisted of very succulent Sashimi of salmon, tuna, swordfish and squid.

I also tried their Chumwanmushi Japanese steamed egg, usually with a small piece of mushroom, gingko nut and chicken / crabmeat inside. I loved the smoothness of Senki's chumwanmushi.

*Charliez had the SukiyakiJapanese hotpot with meat, vegetables, mushrooms and egg in soup. It was scrumptious and she was extremely satisfied at the quality of the ingredients.

To our surprise, Senki served us a Dragon Maki (sushi "mat roll") on the house... a lovely sushi creation arranged to resemble a dragon, made of Japanese rice, avocado, mango and prawn fritter roll. It was a very lovely surprise, and the Dragon Maki was heavenly - a blend of savory crispiness toned down by the sweetness of mango and softness of avocado. We loved this absolutely.

We spent around SGD$90.00 in total, after three hours of eating and catching up, bidding the dimly-lit restaurant and its friendly service crew goodbye, and we walked out with stomachs pleasantly bloated with delicious goodies within.... yummy!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Recruitment / Human Resource Roles

The Beginning
Back at the previous company, recruitment was a very direct, face-to-face affair. Hiring managers would stand at roadshows and do their talent scouting while the executives continued on about their hunts for prospective clients.

We would approach suitable candidates directly, invite them to take a seat and share with them the perks of working for us. We had presentation slides ready, alongside with our payslips to impress the candidates with (not so much as to show off, but more of a proof to convince them that they could earn this kind of income too).

Other times, we would partake in Recruitment Drives or Career Fairs to acquire more candidates. These were often fruitful methods, as well as the method mentioned in above paragraph. Candidates these days are rather fickle-minded and sceptical, hence we needed to strike in the heat of the moment - arouse the interest, ignite the fire in them, and close the deal before they change their minds.

Of course, we did place job advertisements in various online portals as well, but that was a very slow way of recruitment as applicants were few and far in between.

The New Environment
This was a company that did  not believe in the face-to-face recruitment approach. Granted, the management here is of a more mature age group, hence their mentality is more conventional as well.

When I first joined, I wrote them a proposal of the various methods I would use to generate candidates and recruit for them - including the methods I used back at the previous company, as well  as hiring surveyors to conduct career-satisfaction surveys at central business districts.

They took my plans into consideration, but in the end decided to stick with the current way of recruitment here (which, is a dying trend, especially for our industry).

Hence, what I did daily here was to place as many ads as possible in various job portals (at least they approved all the advertising budget I asked for) and contact the applicants.

We also purchased resumes data mining rights - in which we could log in to search for, and view job applicants' profiles as well as their curriculum-vitaes (CVs). I would conduct a search to shortlist a list of candidates that fit our hiring criteria - in terms of qualifications, age group, languages spoken etc. After that, I would call them up one by one to inform them that our company had an opening, and would like to invite them down for a presentation or chitchat session.

Job Applicants' Attitude
Many of the appointments fixed did not turn up. Some of them were polite enough to inform, whereas others did not. I would reschedule some who said they "forgot about the interview" and blacklist those who could not make it or had accepted another job offer in the meanwhile.

For those who turned up, I would first let them complete a Personality Test. Then I would interview them, and share about the company and job role to them.  This would be followed by a rather impression presentation of the company's success system, and the reason why we were different from other companies in the same field.

Once the candidate finished listening to my presentation and I addressed their queries, I would pass them on to one of the directors to undergo the second round of interview.

Those who were keen, we would sign them up for the training and examinations. Those who needed to think about it, we would contact them on an agreed date. And for those who expressed no interest, we would let them go. In fact, there were some who were keen but we chose to reject them because they were not of the right fit.

It was as simple as that. A job that I felt, undermined my creativity and ability to truly perform. I take it as a great learning curve though, another experience that I gained into my rather diversified portfolio.

Dinner at Kushi Dining Bar

A good friend raved about Kushi Dining Bar after her first visit there, therefore she brought me to dine there to satiate her own craving.

It used to be located at Windsor Hotel, but recently moved to 36 Newton Road #03-01 Hotel Royal, Singapore 307964. The contact number is 6285 6525.

I have been to Kushi Dining Bar 2- 3 times, but not the new outlet yet.

This tiny Japanese restaurant boosts a very traditional and cosy interior, complete with low tables, sitting mattresses and ancient Japanese paintings. I heard that the new outlet is much more spacious, with more tables to accommodate its guests.

The restaurant has both the buffet or ala-carte order options. We decided to go for the buffet dinner. The waitresses would bring the food to our table.

 This is a close-up shot of the small, cosy table with small, pretty plates painted with traditional Japanese designs as well.

 We had quite a wide array of food, including sushi, grilled vegetables, and tempuras as well, but our favourite (and most memorable) items are:

(I) The Oysters - fresh, juicy and totally heavenlicious - I swear I could eat 10 at a go;

(ii) Sashimi Platter - fresh and definitely chewy, exactly the way quality sashimi should be; and

(iii) Shabu-Shabu - a Japanese dish where the thinly-sliced meat is cooked and stirred in boiling water along with vegetables - scrumptious! The soup base was good, having absorbed the rich flavors of all its ingredients.

This is always a good place for fulfilling Japanese cuisine with excellent service.  The price was around SGD$80.00 per person.

Embarking on Sales Career

Before the Game Started
My impression of salespeople was bad, terrible in fact - false grins that did not meet the eyes, over-zealousness at the products they were pushing, and overdose of compliments towards their intended prospects.

I hated them, god. Whenever one came near me, I was quick and brusque at brushing them off. I always wondered why one would choose to go into sales - couldn't get a normal, well-paying job? Hence the need to harass other people for sales, earning pittance for commission.

This was why the thought of going into any kind of sales never crossed my mind.

Joining the Sales Force
It was by accident that I landed myself a sales job in a huge investment cum insurance company - the recruitment agency was superb. The lady managed to make the career sound like  a breeze, and the job boosted a good remuneration package overall. I was tired of deskbound jobs, so I thought, why not?

It was only after I signed the contract and began training, I began to wonder what I got myself into. Could I really do sales? Smooth-talk and persuade people to buy from me? Would I have the confidence to do that?

Then I realized I had also been "sales-talked" by the recruitment manager into accepting this job.
Everything was about sales these days - even professionals like doctors, lawyers and certified public accounts were advertising aggressively, trying to convince potential clients that they were the best firm amongst the fierce competition out there.

I made many friends during the Sales and Product Trainings before I was posted to a branch officially. To my surprise, many people had actually came into the company on voluntary basis, because they wanted to excel and earn big bucks; some of them even had passion for sales-related roles. I nearly could not believe it.

Hands-On Experience
After I was discharged from training, I was assigned to my team. This was where my managers worked very closely with me on sales script and presentation skills, as well as professional grooming.

I remember having to approach potential clients at branch or roadshows. It was rather intimidating. What if he or she rejected me? What did they think of me? What if I managed to get them to sit down and listen to me - would I be able to remember my script? So I would hide at a corner and watch more aggressive colleagues approach the potential clients, eventually leading to closing cases.

My managers gave me more motivational coaching, and I decided to cast my fears aside and began to do my own prospecting. If I was at branch I would boldly walk up to the customers queuing up, to offer them my brochures and share about my products / services since they were waiting in line anyway. The first one rejected me, so I was embarrassed, headed back to my desk cubicle to act busy. In actuality I wanted to recompose myself to prepare for the next approach. I walked confidently out from my desk cubicle but chose the prospect standing furthest away from the one who'd rejected me earlier on.

This went on for a couple hours, until I was tired, and just spoke to them one by one in line, regardless of whether I got rejected or not. Then suddenly I hit jackpot - a pleasant looking elderly gentleman expressed interest. I led him to my desk cubicle, spoke to him in details about my products, and he signed up on the spot. That was my very first customer.

Of course, being new and all, I had mixed up the explanation for some of the product's functions, and the paperwork had missing fields. When my manager came to branch to visit me, I showed him the forms proudly; he was happy I finally made my first sale, but grimaced at the paperwork. I had to go down to the client's place to re-sign the forms, but he was very understanding.

Continual Sales Process
We also had to learn prospecting for clients on the streets or at shopping malls - sometimes without the luxury of roadshow booths to facilitate the prospecting process. With roadshows at shopping malls, we could still entice the potential clients to sit down with us using "lucky draw" or "free gift" concepts.

Without roadshows, we basically walked around "doing surveys" with spotted targets, but we had to do it to generate leads.

Sometimes we would actually do door-to-door sales, combing rows of houses and apartments to promote our products / services and generate awareness. There were actually results as some of the homeowners welcomed us into their homes to chat further and listen to our presentation.

Of course, for this manner of prospecting, all of us had to be extra cautious. We never knew if we may walk into the home of a serial killer or rapist, whether we were male or female. Hence we often used the "buddy system" in which we would work in pairs, and if we did not feel comfortable about anyone or any unit, we would not enter their homes.

In office, we would make calls using leads we generated on the streets, called our warm markets or cold leads purchased from various sources. We also went through telephone directories, since back then not everyone had mobile phones, so it was still alright to reach them at home.

My portfolio grew and business flourished. Sometimes clients would also refer their contacts to us, so the job got easier with each passing month.

Passion for Sales
Our hours were rather flexible, and the colleagues grew close from working long hours together under harsh conditions - be it day or night, sun or rain. Sometimes we would also go for meals or tea together to de-stress, and trade gossip. Other times, we went partying after work to celebrate or lament, depending on whether it had been a good week for us or not.

Motivation and encouragement between colleagues were important, as well as support from the bosses and clients.

I began to enjoy my work very much. I had very supportive bosses, yes, and I also had close colleagues whom I would brainstorm with, partner with for new projects, and hung out with.

Some of my clients also became my friends, and we would meet up just to have tea or meals. They were wonderful people from all walks of life - directors, HR managers, nurses, executives, pilots etc. Some of them referred clients to me every now and then because they liked my service, and I tried to do the best I could - I was generous with gifts, helpful with all their tasks related to the products / services they got from me, and I even sent them tonics when they fell sick.

This was a career that allowed me total carte blanche to get creative on how I acquired my clients and serviced them well. The money was good, and I was able to plan my own schedule (the latter requires much self-discipline and self-motivation).

Sometimes it did not even feel like work to me, even when I stayed till eleven on weekday nights or returned to office to do paperwork on weekends.

Promotion and Incentives
Best of all, for sales careers, how much we wanted to earn pretty much depended on the efforts we committed to doing the job. That said, it does not mean that putting in 20 hours a day would definitely bring in sales.

Besides committing work hours, I think it is very essential to also devote some time to read books or watch videos of successful people, so that we could improve on our sales skills and rejection handling techniques. Setting time to keep ourselves updated on latest news (especially those related to our industry) and reading up more about competitors would help, too. There is nothing like being equipped with knowledge that would both impress the client and makes oneself feel empowered.

Monetary rewards aside, the company also tossed incentives such as overseas trips, celebratory dinners at posh restaurants, Ipads or vouchers etc to motivate us further. I myself had enjoyed some of these perks and would always strive for more.

Seeing my name on the notice board of "Top 10 Sales of the Month" or "Top Rookie" were also motivational factors that kept my drive going. It was an honor to be on the Hall of Fame, and I enjoyed recognition.

When I received news of promotion, I was elated, needless to say. I felt that I had earned it, truly, and that my hard works have finally been paid off.

Now my roles would include training and coaching people, managing them so we could all work together to achieve greater heights.

Now, I no longer look back with loathing at salespersons.

In reality, salespersons in many companies earn a lot, some even more than their managers. It is also not all about fake smiles and product pushing all the time - though, granted, there are industries that practice hard-sell pretty commonly - but if one were to think carefully, every industry, every trade is all about sales.

In actuality, sales jobs are not easy too. The salespersons face rejections on a daily basis but have to learn to be strong enough to deal; the constant chase for targets is very stressful,  and the skills of talking well is not something that everyone can do.

I am proud of my chosen path, and hope more people get to see the truth behind a good sales career, too.

Dinner at Chef Daniel Kitchen

This is another reminiscent entry about a restaurant that has ceased to exist since March 2013. Having been introduced to Chef Daniel's Kitchen by an ex-client, I found it delightful because it sat on level 7 of the ex-Iluma (now Bugis +) mall, had a great ambience, and best of all, served delicious food at affordable prices. One could choose to sit in the classy indoors or alfresco dining on the sky garden of Iluma itself. They even had live bands at night.

Since the first visit, I have brought different friends there and therefore,  must have visited at least four times in all.

The address was 201 Victoria Street, level seven (7) Singapore 188067.

Ok, here are glimpses of the restaurant's interior with mirrored walls, cushy seats and clean-cut wooden tables.

I chose to eat different items during each visit, but unfortunately only managed to capture photographs of one evening's visit.

The soup-of-the-day that was served with each main course.  The one in this picture was Cream of Chicken. It tasted good, and the soup was not too diluted nor thick, just the right amount of smoothness.

Next, we had the Escargots baked in cream cheese - which had been succulent and definitely treated our tastebuds well.

The plate I was holding is the Foie Gras - tender and lightly-flavoured. It literally melted in our mouths. My cousin-in-law and I loved it.

She went for the set with the Steak with Caesar Salad on the side and an iced lemon tea. I tried a piece of the steak - it was juicy and very fine, surprisingly.

I went for the set with Spring Chicken with Glutinous Rice and Black Fungus, and a Coke. It was another tantalizing dish with delicious chicken cooked to tenderness. The combination was a good play on one's senses - light, soft, crispy, chewy.

Dessert of a rich, sweet slice of brownie cake was served after dinner.

It was a very enjoyable place to dine at, and each visit I never paid more than SGD$30.00. It is indeed a pity for this place to go, but I guess what will be, will be....

Hope it makes a comeback someday!

Corporate Sales in Medical Industry (Hospital)

The Job Application
Well, I have always been fascinated with the medical industry and hospitals. Which was why when I spotted job openings for this relatively-new and posh hospital in town, I sent in my application as a for corporate sales / services positions.

The job sounded important - to acquire and grow corporate clienteles for the hospital, managing the portfolio, and servicing the accounts under me. I never knew that hospitals actually had sales teams, and hence had thought this role was rather new. I was excited to develop business for such a pioneer role, and was sure I could convince the companies to sign up with this hospital.

I got the job after two rounds of interviews, so I was elated. The pay was not much to speak of, honestly, but I would be drawing commission on top of the basic package, right?

First Day of Work
Like the law firms, the hospital appeared elegant and posh from the exterior, even at lobby level (think marble floors, gleaming elevators and a grand piano) - ok, the wards looked good too. However, the working area was just another cluster of tables, folders and wooden cabinets.

There was an entire department doing this, and we were divided into sections covering different parts of the country - north, central, east and west zonal segregation. Newbies like myself were placed into an orientation cum welcome program that lasted for a few days, in which we would familiarize ourselves with the different departments in the hospital, the key persons in each department that we had to take note of, product and services knowledge, and of course our individual job roles.

I made quite a few friends at this program.

The Days Went By
With orientation completed, it was time to put me out into the field - oh well, after setting up my desk and computer systems, of course.

So I had to update the company's internal system with protocols and instructions for all the clinics across the country to follow. It was an integrated system, and ours was a medical facility with many clinic branches outside of this hospital building itself.

Then I paid social visits to the existing clients under my portfolio to introduce myself. After that, they would start addressing their queries or complains to me, which I would handle accordingly.

I also had to upsell them.  For instance, if they have signed up to use our services, their staff need not make payment on the spot. We would consolidate the medical chits and send invoices to clients accordingly. But the package most companies signed up for were usually the basic services such as consultation and medication, and maybe hospitalization benefits.

It was my job to persuade the clients to add on to their suite of services - such as annual healthchecks, various immunity vaccinations, or to include dental check-ups as benefits too.

The best part of my job, though, was to handle complaints or complications. These cases required me to do investigation, and I could get creative. Then I would harass the other departments for clarification before drafting reasonable settlements or furnishing explanation to clients.

Besides taking care of existing clients, I also had to source for new corporate clients through online research or referrals. For the prospects who were currently under other medical groups, we would attempt to pry their business over. After all, we were an established group.

When the important guests such as CEOs and directors of companies, or High Net Worth clients came for their healthscreening or consultations, I would also arrange for the proper "meet and greet" services to be engaged, ensuring they had a pleasant, smooth and flawless visit. If they were warded, we would pay courtesy visits as well.

The End
I mingled with my own teammates after a short period of isolation so as to observe them. Our department was rather close-knitted, so whenever any of us were coming back from appointments, we would buy snacks for the department.

It was also vital to build really good relationships with the people from other departments. We liaised with them very frequently, especially when our clients had special requests or negative feedback. I loved the efficiency at which we operated.

I also learned a lot from this job, especially understanding the medical procedures, tests and medicine names. It left me disenchanted though, that the medical industry was no longer a noble profession about saving / healing people. I learned that many of the departments and clinics tried to hardsell extra services (i.e. healthscreening packages or aesthetics services) or supplements to patients so as to boost up sales figure.

Yes, we are talking about medical centres and profits these days.

I guess that is what every corporation is about these days.

Anyway, I have completed my part-time degree, and the department had new heads who tried to flaunt authority around. Hence, I left for better paying career that would give me more attractive career advancement as well.

It was fun while it lasted, though, if I may say so.

Dinner at Lawrys

The elegant, much raved-about Lawrys, known for its prime ribs, used to be situated at Paragon Orchard. I heard about it for a long time, but it was always deemed a very pricey place, especially when I was still a student.

This fanciful restaurant has since moved to 333A Orchard Road #04-01 / 31 Mandarin Gallery, Singapore 238897. The number to call for reservations or enquiries is 6836 3333.

My friend and I decided to try it out on my birthday one year, after yearning to go for so long.

The elegant interior with appropriately lighting, plush high-back seats  and racks of wine. The uniformed waitresses and waiters were all polite in their greetings, and we were seated at our reserved table shortly upon arriving.

I had expected the interior to be more formidable, with everyone talking in hushed tones and the diners all dressed up. To my surprise, the ambience was rather family-style, and everyone looked comfortable and happy.

We placed our orders and awaited our meals to be served.

They let us have a bread basket of brown and white wheat breads, along with butter carved into pretty shapes. We hungrily dug in.

I also had a glass of red wine to go along with my steak, and my friend ordered a strawberry milkshake made using Haagen-Dazs ice-cream.

We had the Chef who came to our table to prepare the salad. She literally mixed and tossed it in front of us, in that large metal bowl. When she finally placed the salad on our table, we were pleasantly surprised at how fresh and delicious it was. This is what they call the Famous Original Spinning Bowl Salad, consisting of Crisp romaine and iceberg lettuce, watercress, shredded beets, chopped eggs and croutons, tossed with our exclusive Lawry's vintage dressing on a bed of ice

Our traditional lump crab cakes came next. They were tasty and one could really taste the crab in them instead of all-flour-and-no-crab. It was tender and springy to chew, truly a delicacy.

Now, the photo on top is my Lawrys Cut - their traditional and most popular cut for steaks. I chose medium-rare, my usual. The meat was very tender and easy to cut. The taste was good, with hints of my red wine sauce enhancing the flavors of the beef and the flavors were bursting in my mouth ... hmm yummy. The dish came with Idaho mashed potatoes, Yorkshire Pudding, and Whipped Cream Horseradish.

My friend had the US Korobuta Baby Back Ribs - juicy and scrumptious in BBQ sauce and comes with a side of fries.

We finished off the meal with Bread Pudding for dessert, and it was again, freshly prepared at the table itself.

Overall, we were very pleased with the whole dining experience at Lawrys, and the meal was simply divine. Both of us spent around SGD$180.00 for everything.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Teaching Path

How I Got Started
Well, being impatient, soft-spoken and ambitious, I never thought of imparting my skills to anyone even though I am very fluent in dual-languages. Up till high school, I believe the only ones I taught or tried to teach were a couple of close classmates any my younger sibling.

Then one fine day, I landed myself a vacation post as a Tuition Coordinator. What I had to do was extract email enquiries from the company mailbox, and handle inbound calls - all these were parents and guardians seeking tutors for their kids.

After jotting the requests down and checking on the budget, preferred days of lessons, preferred criteria of tutors, I would log into the system and conduct a search for the right tutor among our vast database of registered tutors. Then I would shortlist a few according to qualifications, gender, age and experience, call them up to see if they could take up my assignments on hands.

If they agree, I would call the parents or guardians back to confirm the matched assignment.

That was it, deal closed. Easy-peasy, and I would await my commission.

At the end of my stint, I came across an enquiry for a language teacher to teach spoken Mandarin to a group of foreign students studying at a local university. They had a good budget, and the assignment sounded easy enough.

So I secretly closed the deal on the sly, deciding to take up the teaching task myself.

Day One of Teaching
I did not know what to expect, really.  It was going to be my first time teaching. I had a rough idea of the gender and nationality of my students-to-be. The group consisted of five of them, and I only needed to teach once a week for two hours.

So I prepared notebooks and Hanyu Pinyin (phonics) materials when I arrived in my smartest outfit.

I decided to teach them the very basic of learning how to greet each other, introduce themselves, and usage of the "what, why, where, how, who" questions and answers.

Time flew by. Two hours was up, and my students were exhausted but felt enriched. They were really gems - diligent, motivated to learn on their own, and polite. Not difficult to handle at all.

I did note that I had made a few mistakes in my Hanyu Pinyin spellings - not having used this system of writing for so long - and decided to brush up at home in time for the next lesson.

There, I was a teacher / tutor! It wasn't that hard.

Lessons flew by, and during local festivals, I would bring them snacks related to the certain festivals and tell them some stories.  They enjoyed their lessons and I enjoyed teaching, until I changed jobs and could no longer continue to commit my weekends to teaching them.

More Teaching Assignments
Eventually, things changed again, and a few years down the roads I was back on an office-hour routine. Bored, I decided to earn some extra income and kill time by looking for some tutoring assignments on the side.

I taught English mainly, to middle-school graders.

Having lost touch with current syllabus, I had to purchase a load of textbooks and assessment books to familiarize myself with that was going on currently. Ouch, the standards have risen by so much compared to the time I was back in school.

So I usually rotated my students on different assignments on a weekly basis - essay, comprehension , grammar-related tasks, cloze comprehension etc. Sometimes I would try to make learning more fun with small treats, or educational games.

I also prepared some reading materials for them, as well as sourced for past-exam papers from schools for my students to practice on.

Most importantly of all, I would ask them to show me their schoolwork for the subject I was teaching (i.e. English), and spot their weaknesses so that we could work from the root source.

Some of the mistakes they made were pretty funny, but as long as they were willing to learn, I was willing to help them out. Being a tutor, one should be firm and encouraging; I also had to be careful to not use words that would hurt what little confidence they had.

It was tiring work, so after I saw them through the exams - which I derived satisfaction from when they scored better than past semesters - I decided to stop teaching.

Voluntary Classroom Teaching
Currently, I volunteer at a center to teach some high school kids English.

We don't get paid much, but these kids come from low-income families that could barely afford to give them tuition. On their own, the kids would not study so their results tended to suffer.

At this center, the principal charge the parents a very low fee per subject, and we try our best to help them improve on their various subjects.

I had heard that this class was very naughty and often disobeyed the tutor. However, I did not find it hard to get them to do work and participate in discussions- by being firm when there was a need to, and rewarding if deemed fit, too.

It is gratifying to see their scores improving, and know that we have helped them in achieving it.

Being a teacher, one has to be patient, understanding and of course, keep updated on current learning trends. I never thought I had it in me, but I never would have known if I did not try.

It could even be pressurizing nearing examinations period, where both the schools, students and even parents start stressing the teachers. Being a teacher / tutor is definitely not easy, so students, do study hard so as not to let your parents, teachers and tutors down!

Chillout at Balaclava

This feisty, lively pub comes with its very own live-band, and used to be located at Suntec City. Even as early as four in the afternoon, passerbys could see well-dressed executives, bankers and businessmen etc chilling out on the high bar stools having ice cold beers.

At night, the live band would play good music. The ladies started pouring in, and that was when the mingling began.

One day, we heard that Balaclava was "gone"! What a pity.

Fret not, though, they have reopened at ION Orchard - now it sit daintily at the top of the posh mall, offering drinkers great views of Orchard Road itself. The current address is 2 Orchard Turn, #05-02 Ion Orchard, Singapore 238801. The number to dial is 6634 8377.

It still boosts a beautiful interior, friendly service crew and an awesome live band at night.

I really love the glass and chrome concept, and the circular shape of the pub. They have booths on the elevated platforms, but I usually prefer to sit by the window where I could look down for great views. In the daytime, it is fun to look down and look at the people hurrying by, and feeling blissful that I did not need to work; at night, the night views are rather lovely, really. I also find the lazy fan with the interesting blades cute.

 Here is a contrast between the window views of day and night. They used to have the one-for-one drinks promotion from 5pm - 9pm on weekdays, I think. Which was why my ex-colleagues or friends could join me for chilling out on hot, lazy afternoons.

Even without the promotions, I do not find their drinks pricey. It is a small price to pay for a great atmosphere for catching up and relaxing. Their drinks go for about SGD$12.00 to SGD$16.00 per glass, depending on what you choose to order.

Usually I order their smooth red house wine, especially during the period when they newly-reopened and were running the promotion.

Sometimes, though, we would order something different - such as the cranberry juice with brandy (wine chiller or that was what they called it) and cranberry-grapefruit juice blends.

When we got hungry, there were always great bites such as tapas. Trust me, their salmon and oysters tapas are extremely heavenly. Look at the crispy, light pastry holding the goodies on top... mouth-watering, definitely!

When night falls, the service crew would bring on the artificial candlelights. It looks good against the dimly-lit bar and night skies.

 If anyone of you happen to be in town and want to look for a good place to get a drink, pop by. I bet many of you didn't know that Balaclava is hidden at the top of this posh mall, no? :)

Part-Time Work as a Tele-marketer

Snagged the Job
So I was hunting for vacation jobs again, and once again, *Tracy came to the rescue.

She had found herself a telemarketing position with a huge property firm, and it paid well. So when she asked if I was keen, I thought to myself, why not? The place was near my place, and paid well on a per hour rate. It meant I worked lesser hours but would be paid the same for double the hours put in, say, a restaurant or boutique.

The Work
The work was really easy. We worked for established property managers. They had a list of home owners' names and contacts for different housing projects. Our job was just to call these homeowners and fix appointments if they were interested in selling or renting their units out.

There would be rejections, granted - but we were told to be indifferent towards them, since these potential clients were rejecting the company and not us. Even if they were nasty or rude, we had to remain cool and professional and not be affected. They drafted a simple script for us on how to start the calls, handle rejections and end calls gracefully. We did not have much practice before we picked up the phones to make the first calls, but all of us did pretty alright because of the simplicity of the scripts.

Sometimes, we would help the managers with a bit of research work if they were out of office and had no access to the internet or computer. Bear in mind that this was at least a decade ago, when wifi, smartphones and tablets were unheard of. So they would ring us with instructions of what they wanted; we checked the information online and report accordingly. It was enriching as it gave me an insight of how property agents worked, and also taught me the different zonal segregation.

Back in those days, I had a calm, unhurried manner about me, and being a smoker (back then), I also had a low, husky voice. Somehow I believe it was the combination that enabled me to be able to fix more appointments than the other part-time telemarketers like myself.

However, to my chagrin, many of the male homeowners made the mistake of thinking it was me (yes, husky-voiced me) that they were supposed to be meeting instead of my property manager. I was certain I mentioned I was only the assistant calling on behalf of my manager, and she would be the one meeting them!

Nonetheless, this must've caused jealousy in her - she was probably more sensitive since she was heavily pregnant then - and she stopped my services with the company.

The Next Telemarketer Job
Nonetheless, with experience now, I snagged another telemarketing position with a large insurance firm.

Similarly, we had to call potential clients and fix appointments for the manager to meet them. My manager was a middle-aged, good-looking chap who was doing very well.

I could not really perform in this role due to the following reasons:
(I) the people we called were random people whose contacts my manager bought from banks, call centers etc, and most of them demanded to know how we got hold of their contacts;
(ii) yes, they were rude and unfriendly and some were downright mean - slamming the phones at us, demanding why I called when he was on the other line (helloooo, should I have known that?) etc
(iii) I was so nervous and stressed that I kept forgetting the script, and my voice trembled when I talked into the phone

So I moved on from that job and my manager did not attempt to retain me, even though on Day One he did suggest slowly grooming us to become successful financial advisers like himself one day.

Last Telemarketing Job at Call Centre
Another college break, and I secured me a job at a large call centre. The current project we were working on was for a large general insurance company.

We all underwent intensive classroom-style training for two weeks before they put us out on the field - training on scripts, handling rejections, handling outbound and inbound calls differently, and there were role plays as well.

With this set of knowledge and skills, I was not nervous at all. I got out there, strapped on the headsets, and started cold-calling. Here I truly learned that rejections were part and parcel of any telemarketing job, and took them in stride. I would hang up professionally after thanking them for their time.

We had to cross-sell the new health insurance via phone, and I was proud to be the top again. It was such a natural flair for me, to just talk to them, and the next thing I knew I was asking them for their personal details to key into the system for their sign-ups.

At the end of my contract, I had to leave as the next college term was starting. Fun as this short stint was, telemarketing full-time was not something that I considered a career. Furthermore, I felt somewhat unbalanced that I did not receive any incentives or commission for my sales because I was a temporary / contract staff.

Pros and Cons
Oh well, the pros of a telemarketing job is that you do not need to run around or do much paperwork. Basically all you need to do is to talk to people, listen to them talk, and reply accordingly.

The cons of a telemarketing job is that your mood may be dampened or affected by mean people who choose to be rude or abusive on the other line. Not hitting targets or fixing the desired amount of appointments could also be demoralizing. Plus on top of that, your ears may hurt from being strapped by the earphones all day long. Your mouth / jaw may hurt, and at the end of your shift you may not feel like talking to anyone when you get home.

TWG Tea Company @ Ion Orchard

This is one of my favorite hangouts at all times. They have outlets at Ion Orchard, Takashimaya, and Marina Bay Sands.  One could easily spot the classy white-gold setting of the elegant tea bar that serves a very wide selection of teas from all over the globe and great food. 

  I love TWG Tea Company for many reasons:
- its elegant, beautiful and sophisticated ambience (complete with great music)
- the impeccable service of its knowledgeable staff
- the myriad selection of exotic teas from many different countries
- the beautiful and classy tableware
- the tasty food and delicious pastries
- good for personal enjoyment as well as a perfect gift haven

One of the outlets situated at MBS is the prettiest - boosting a restaurant surrounded by a moat, as though the TWG cafe itself is on the water.  Once we reach, the friendly and polite wait staff would usher us to a table, and then hand us the menu.

One could choose to order just a pot of tea and ala carte main courses or pastries. If not, we could choose their afternoon tea sets that consists of a drink and pastry of choice for only SGD$19.00. They have a glass encasement for you to select your pastries.

TWG uses its own tableware such as plates, teapots and cups all labelled with the TWG logos proudly. Hot teas are served in huge teapots encased in gold or silver teapot covers - giving the diners a feeling of royalty. Believe me, the teapots and covers are pricey, hence do handle with care.

Whenever I am unsure of what teas to choose, I could either go to the front to sniff the different tea leaves, or ask for recommendations from their knowledgeable staff. One of the days I chose to deviate from the  usual hot tea, and tried their "Pink Beauty" - a fusion of watermelon juice and green tea; very delicious.

Lunch at this place is never disappointing. During one of the visits, two friends and I ordered main courses and everyone sand praises for the quality of food.

Starting from the top is my Roasted Guinea Fowl - rich in taste and the meat was succulent. Friend A had the Seared Salmon that came with a square of rice - another tasty dish that even she, as a gourmet cabin crew, was impressed with. Friend B tried the Cajun Chicken and she, being someone who has high expectation of food, commented that the chicken was tender and the Cajun flavor was "just nice" and not too heavy.

During another visit, it was a purely tea-time affair. It was the first time a male buddy of mine tried having high tea, and so I suggested we order different items to share so he could try more varieties.

We started with hot teas and a portion of their very-tasty fruit tart. Their fruit tart is one of the best I have had so far - pastry with the right texture (not too hard or flaky) with juicy fruits sitting atop - which was why I recommended this to my buddy.

Then the smoked salmon sandwich - another scrumptious delicacy. I was a little disappointed though, because a year ago when I had dinner there, their salmon sandwich used french toast for the bread, which made the overall taste very unique and we loved it of course. The combination of salty smoked salmon with the light, egg taste of the french toast was a heavenly combination. The waiter informed us that they no longer serve sandwiches made using french toast. 

No biggie- the current smoked salmon sandwich is just as tasty.

My buddy and I also shared a "Fortune Tea Set" comprising of an assortment of macaroons, one muffin, one scone and ham-cheese sandwich. It was a very enjoyable dining experience for me once again, and my buddy loved the recommendations too. Each of us paid just SGD$45.00 for a fun afternoon of good food.

TWG's macaroons are to die for. The pastry itself is light and crispy, and it is not toothache-sweet, as most of the macaroons are. I love them; and sometimes buy them as gifts too.

On other occasions, TWG is also my favorite haunt for desserts or high tea. These three photos were taken on my very first visit with Friend C and Friend D.

I had the tea and scones afternoon-tea set; their scones were huge and  not hard the way some scones are. The accompaniment of cream and marmalade are simply perfect.

It was Friend C who had recommended the place. She had discovered it, and knowing that i love fine joints as such, decided to bring me there for a nice treat. For this afternoon, she had the afternoon-tea set as well, and chose creme brulee cake as her pastry of choice. I thought it was a tad too sweet for me, upon sampling her cake.

Friend D ordered a slice of cherry greentea cheesecake. The cheese taste was not too strong, and we loved how the greentea-cherry mix was both exotic and flavorful. It was another great selection.

For those who love a good place for divine food and teas, you have to go to the much raved-about TWG for sure.