Parents opt for daycare centres with no live-in maids now

The decline in the number – and the rising cost – of domestic maids has forced more young, working parents to send their children to daycare centres.

Daycare Centre

Chris Hong, who runs two kindergartens-cum-daycare centres in Subang Jaya, said she and her staff looked after 40 to 50 children from 8am to 7pm daily.

The centres, which only cater for two-month-old babies to children aged six, provide lunch, homework coaching and other activities in the afternoon after the kindergarten session.

“There are even parents-to-be who register at the centre even when they are in the early stages of pregnancy.

“There is very high demand now and parents are looking for safe and trustable daycare centres,” said Hong, adding that she did not plan to set up more daycare centres as she wanted sufficient quality time with her three children.

A daycare centre operator on Penang island, who wanted to be known only as Sarah, said she and her partner were planning to set up two more centres on the mainland.

She added that she had received many enquiries for her services in Butterworth.

“We’re now working out the extra costs we have to bear for hiring more people and rental,” she said.

Technical services manager M. Manimaran felt that increasing the number of daycare centres was an effective alternative for the shortage of maids.

“After all, parents are looking for a safe and good daycare centre which can work around our working hours.

“The place I send my son to even provides transportation from his school to the centre.He gets proper meals and time to do some reading or his homework.

“We have no worries, even during the school holidays,” Manimaran said, adding that he received constant updates about the whereabouts and condition of his 10-year-old son from the daycare centre through WhatsApp.

Working mum Lim Lee, 46, said she would opt to send her child to a daycare centre and hire a part-time maid if her Indonesian maid could not multi-task.

“There is no way I can afford to get two maids,” she said.

Malaysian Maid Employers Association president (Mama) president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein urged the Government to encourage more nurseries or daycare centres run by properly trained and certified Malaysians.

Such facilities, he said, would not only ease the burden of having to pay for maids but would also give parents peace of mind while they were at work.

Engku Ahmad Fauzi said the expense of using these centres should be tax deductible, adding that it was the Government’s responsibility to solve over-reliance on foreign workers.

These centres, he added, would also provide the local workforce with jobs, ensuring less capital flight from the country.

Ny Royce Tan The Star

Working mums ‘maid’ to pay sky-high fees for childcare


Back-up plan: With maids becoming a scarce commodity, more are turning to childcare centres

PETALING JAYA: Dr Subhashini Jahanath is highly educated, hard-­working and does 11 calls a month.

Like many other working mothers, she is now facing the added frustration of sky-high fees for domestic help.

“It’s the childcare that’s difficult – what happens if I get called up in the middle of the night? At the same time, I just cannot afford the fees for a new maid,” she said.

Even then, Dr Subhashini, 35, is one of the lucky ones as she can call on her family for help.

The Miri-based doctor’s father has flown in from Selangor to help take care of her four-year-old son Harraen.

“On days he has to go back to Selangor, I have to send Harraen along with him, which means increased cost and Harraen missing school. But it’s the only way.”

Lawyer V. Shoba, 37, is also blessed with parents who help look after her seven-year-old twins, but still needs a maid to help them.

“My parents are both in their early 70s and need some help with the kids. Having domestic help is not a luxury,” she said.

In 2009, she paid RM6,000 in agency fees and a monthly salary of RM650 for her first Sri Lankan helper.

“In 2011, I got another Sri Lankan maid. The agency fee was RM7,500 and monthly salary was RM850. In 2013, I got a Filipino maid. The agency fee was RM9,900 and the monthly salary was RM1,200,” she said.

The agency fee, she added, has now gone up to RM12,000 and the monthly salary to RM1,500.

“I also have to pay for her toiletries, food and utilities used. That is a chunk of money that could be used for education or even holidays.

For those who are away from their families, babysitters and part-time house help provide alternatives.

Not everyone can call in the grandparent squad, and some parents feel that childcare options out there are not good enough to make them viable alternatives to live-in domestic help.

Corporate communications manager Sonia Gomez, 30, said she could not find any childcare options that were both good and affordable.

“Independent babysitters aren’t regulated, so it would be very tough to cope without my helper, Lia. She is reliable and has a very strong bond with my son,” she said.

Some mothers are opting out of the workforce entirely to take care of their kids.

Stay-at-home mum Evelyn Thong, 37, said she had heard too many daycare horror stories to consider it.

“It’s also too much money to risk. If your maid runs away, you cannot recover your money,” she said.

By Suzanne Lazaroo The Star

Maids for specific tasks only 


PETALING JAYA: The days of having a multi-tasking maid who does everything from cooking and washing to caring for the baby and the elderly and even washing the car is as good as gone.

Malaysians must now be prepared to pay more for specialised help.

Source countries such as Indo­nesia want to send upskilled helpers for specific jobs like caregiver, babysitter or nanny, and not the traditional domestic maid.

Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa) president Jeffrey Foo said all that was needed now was a mechanism to ensure these helpers were properly trained and certified.

Foo said Papa was ready to work with the source countries to create a win-win situation.

“Local employers will be satisfied if they get what they are paying for, which are skilled helpers who can do the task they are hired for,” he said.

The Star reported yesterday that Malaysia is in a fix because neighbouring countries are not in favour of sending domestic help here.

Foo said Indonesia, where most of the foreign maids are from, is not closing the door entirely.

Instead, it is adopting a more professional approach with its policy to stop sending live-in maids from next year.

A possible solution, according to Foo, is for the Government to license companies to supply part-time domestic maids to households who need them.

These companies could take care of the maids’ lodging and food but this would require a shift in government policy.

Foo pointed out that foreign workers brought in as cleaners were not supposed to be sent to work as domestic maids at individual homes.

Malaysian Maid Employers Association president (Mama) president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein pointed out that the current system of having maids stay under the same roof as their employers for two years was not always ideal.

“If you’re lucky, there’s harmony. Otherwise, you get two years of disharmony,” he said.

He echoed the view for local agencies to be allowed a supply of part-time maids.

Engku Ahmad Fauzi said there were currently different expectations between local employers and source countries such as Indonesia.

In Indonesia, helpers are hired and trained as caregivers to take care of infants, children and the elderly or as domestic workers who cook, clean and tidy.

M. Sarkuna, a 40-year-old Indonesian maid working here, said those who took care of babies, children and the elderly earned at least RM800 in Jakarta, while those who cooked could take home about RM700.

“The starting pay for those who do household work is only RM500,” she said.

In Malaysia, Engku Ahmad Fauzi said employers often took for granted that maids had to multi-task.

He said the best and most well-trained helpers were not sent here, yet “Malaysian employers want to pay the lowest for the best”.

The way forward, at least in the short term, was to hire maids from cheaper and better source countries besides Indonesia and Philippines, he said.

“But Malaysians need to stop depending on domestic maids in the long run,” he added.

By Neville Spykerman The Star

Leftover women and men: the sheng nu and sheng nan (guang gun)

Pro-singledom ad goes viral

Women in China who don’t get married after a certain age
are often called ‘leftover women’. By telling what many of these single
women are really thinking, a cosmetics ad has gone viral.

Studio interview: Leftover women a popular label in China

 Now for more discussion, we are joined in the studio by social affairs critic Han Hua. Ms.

Marriage isn’t the only path to bliss

“I AM a sheng nu,” Jenny Yan, 30, proclaimed.

The car sales executive has been single for about a year after breaking up with her boyfriend of three years.

“I am now searching for my life partner with the frame of min

d of a sheng nu,” she said.

Literally “leftover women”, sheng nu is a derogatory term in China for single women who, in the eyes of society, have passed the ideal time to get married and still remain unattached in their late 20s and beyond.

The term sheng nu suggests that Chinese society sees the singletons as undesirable, almost like the coarser particles that are left on a sieve.

Single men, on the other hand, are known as sheng nan (leftover men) or guang gun (bare sticks).

The situation seems to be more dire for men, as they will outnumber women by 24 million by 2020 due to the country’s gender imbalance, but they are less stigmatised than single ladies in the patriarchal society.

While Yan said her parents look forward to her settling down, they are not putting too much pressure on her. She is taking the initiative to search for a suitor.

“When I was in my 20s, I relied solely on feelings and paid no heed to all the realistic factors, but now I won’t have too much expectations,” Yan said.

“To create more chances for myself, I’ll agree to meet and get to know the other person whenever friends recommend possible suitors to me.”

The stigma surrounding sheng nu often leads to heated discussions, with single ladies determined to shake off the shame and outdated judgment that society forces on them.

A recent advertisement by Japanese beauty products brand SK-II rightly triggered a flood of support from women in China.

Themed “Change Destiny”, the four-minute long clip walked viewers through the humiliation single ladies faced in China, which more often than not resulted in self-doubt and self-criticism.

“Maybe I should give up on someone I love for someone who’s suitable,” one of the ladies said to the camera, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

Their parents were a major source of pressure, urging them to stop being so choosy and quickly settle down. Instead of being supportive, they were critical of their daughters.

“I used to think my daughter has great personality.

“She is not too pretty, just average. That’s why she is a leftover,” a mother said with a light chuckle, while her daughter, who was sitting next to her, tried hard to contain her tears.

A father said: “As long as you are not married, I cannot die in peace.”

One of the single women featured in the advertisement said remaining single is considered not filial in China.

“Maybe I am being selfish. I want to say sorry to them,” she said, breaking down in sobs.

In the advertisement, the ladies decided to attend the Shanghai Marriage Market, a weekend fair at the People’s Park where parents “promote” their single and available daughters and sons with details such as age, height, profession, income and assets.

In a turn of events, it was revealed that the ladies were not there to look for partners but to tell their parents that marriage isn’t the only path to happiness.

Professional portraits which depicted them as confident and glowing women were exhibited in the park, along with a personal message.

“I don’t want to get married just for the sake of marriage. I won’t live happily that way,” one of them, identified as Li Yuxuan, 33, said.

Another lady, whose mother has previously dismissed her as just average-looking, said to the camera: “Even if I am alone, I can be happy, confident and have a good life.”

Since it was posted on SK-II’s official Weibo account, the video has recorded two million views and was shared 25,000 times.

Sindy Huang, 36, said she was touched by the advertisement.

“The details in the advertisement were moving, such as their skin condition, their sleep-deprived look, and the helplessness in their eyes. I feel like I am watching myself,” she said.

The Beijing-based journalist who hailed from Zhejiang province said Chinese society has the tendency to sympathise with single ladies.

“Many people think sheng nu is the main cause of an unstable society, and parents are desperate for us to get married because they don’t want us to grow old alone,” she said.

Both Yan and Huang said while they yearn for true love and a family of their own, they would not rush into a relationship and preferred to wait for the right person to come along.

Huang said girls have to have a strong inner centre to help them face the pressure from society.

When ridiculed by married friends, she said she would retort by asking them if they are in a state of perfect happiness.

“That shuts them up. Some of them even conceded that I was right,” she added.

However, not everyone held the SK-II advertisement in high regard.

Some were in the opinion that the short film has exploited single women’s weaknesses to boost views.

A writer identified as Gu Yingying likened the advert to “a bottle of dirty water splashing onto (women’s) independence and confidence”.

Towards the end of the short film, one of the mothers exclaimed, “Sheng nu should be proud!”

In taking an apparent jab at this particular line, Gu wrote on her WeChat official account: “Sheng nu is not an honour, and neither is marriage. This is just a life choice and has nothing to do with honour.”

She said the women yearned for marriage and love but had to emphasise, with teary eyes, in front of the camera that they are okay being single.

Huang disagreed with the comments that dolling the ladies up in the advertisement is just a typical way to confront the dominant ideology of patriarchy.

“There isn’t anything wrong with dressing up. Those who are not sheng nu will never understand the pain of singletons.

“I am okay with the creative execution of the advertisement. It isn’t targeted at men or housewives, after all,” she said.

As for Yan, she said she won’t search blindly, but she won’t slack either in finding a suitor.

“Since I have reached the appropriate age to get married and get pregnant, I should be more proactive,” she said.

“I am planning to participate in mass dating events. Let’s see how it goes.”

By Tho Zin Yi Check-in China

Old and ageing abused by their own Children

PETALING JAYA: When his son left him at a bus station, John (not his real name) waited patiently for him to return. Five hours later, he was still waiting. Passers-by noticed him and called the police.

The 72-year-old man has dementia and was sent to hospital. Medical social workers managed to get him to recall his son’s telephone number.

When they called John’s son, he did not want to take his father home.

People like John are vulnerable to abuse and neglect, and he is not eligible for government shelter for the elderly because he still has a family.

John is among many Malaysian elderly folk who are facing abuse and neglect. According to a study, one in 10 urban elderly Malaysian is abused, with financial abuse being the most common.

The survey by a team of researchers from the Department of Social and Preventative Medicine under Universiti Malaya’s Medical Faculty said psychological abuse was the next most common followed by physical abuse.

“A pilot survey was done among the urban poor in Kuala Lumpur in 2012 involving 291 individuals above the age of 60. There were elders living in low-cost government-subsidised flats. Of the total, 9.6% said they experienced one or more forms of abuse within the last 12 months of the survey,” said Dr Noran Naqiah Hairi.

By S. Indramalar The Star/Asia News Network

Related Story:

You really should know what it feels like to grow old 

Dr Noran is leading the Prevent Elder Abuse and Neglect Initiative (Peace) with her colleague Dr Clare Choo.

The team also found that one in 20 rural elders have experienced abuse based on a survey they did among 2,000 respondents in Kuala Pilah, Negri Sembilan.

The most common abuse reported among rural elders is psychological followed by financial.

Anita (not her real name) is a subject of financial abuse. As she has arthritis, she found it difficult to go to the bank. Her son persuaded the 68-year-old retired clerk to give him the authority to handle her finances.

Soon after, he got his widowed mother to sign over her house to him.

“I didn’t want to, but I was bullied into signing my house over. He kept accusing me of not trusting him.

“At first, everything was all right. But then he began investing my money in all kinds of ventures. I have no say in what he does with my money. When I ask him, it gets unpleasant.

“But I am worried what will happen when my money runs out,” laments Anita, who lives with her son in Petaling Jaya.

Still, she would never report her son because elder abuse is not a topic Malaysians discuss openly.

Deputy Women, Family and Com­munity Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun admits that reported figures do not paint the actual picture.

“These are only the cases that come to us. There may be more that we do not know of,” she said.

Most of elder abuse cases go unreported as many see it as a “family problem” which can be dealt with behind closed doors.

Only 23 cases of elder abuse and neglect were reported in the past three years, according to statistics from the ministry.

The study, however, shows it is far more prevalent.

“The Peace study is the first of its kind in Malaysia and it corroborates prevalence rates of elder abuse and neglect in other Asian countries which range from 14% to 27.5%,” added Dr Noran.

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Urgent need to address elder abuse

Old mums face wrath of addict children

Aging in agony

Chinese New Year Reunion 2016

‘Falling’ in love: A screengrab of Mah Sing Group’s Chinese New Year video that is going viral on social media.


Another year, another reunion

The modern Malaysian Chinese family has come a long way. Many practices have been ‘adjusted’ but some things never change.

NOT many families want to talk about it openly. But the all-important Chinese New Year reunion dinners have become more complicated and in recent years, more stressful for sure.

It is almost impossible and even unfair to expect the patriarch and matriarch of the family to cook the meal, traditionally sumptuous and heavy in some cases, especially when they are getting along in years.

Mum’s cooking sounds good everywhere but in many cases, this has become a fond but distant memory. The maid has taken over this role and of course, our expectations have also become more realistic.

The world has changed. The women family members, whether daughters or daughters-in-law, are part of the work force now.

It is wrong to expect them to take over the kitchen duties. In fact, don’t even expect them to do the dishes. Don’t even think about it if you know what’s good for you especially during the festive season.

Cleaning up the house after a feast is a daunting task. All of us understand and accept the fact that we cannot overwork the maid, who are already grumbling about the weaker ringgit.

So, the modern Malaysian Chinese family settles for a compromised position – have the reunion dinner at a hotel or restaurant. Never mind if the food might be crappy.

For a Penangite like me, where Perakanan dishes are compulsory in the reunion meal, I resign to the fact that I won’t find my favourite jiu hoo char (stir-fried turnip with dried cuttlefish) and lobak (meat rolls) at any hotel banquet.

But you know that’s not all. The family member – perceived to be the most successful in life – always ends up paying the hefty bill. It’s only expected.

And we all know that hotel food, like those served on planes, is bad. But telling the person footing the bill that the meal is “lousy” right after dinner is not exactly the appropriate CNY greeting ….

Next, the giving of ang pow for the kids. While no one wants to admit that the amount in these red packets matter, it does!

It’s not going to look too good on you if the ang pow is small – and I mean the money inside, not the size of the packet – and especially if you are perceived to be better off.

Then, the conversation after the reunion dinner. And that is the most sensitive which can cause friction and great unhappiness.

I am not talking about the 1MDB and the RM2.6bil donation issue but explosive questions to family members, who are past 30 and still unmarried.

Yes, these purportedly choosy types, who think their partner, especially if you are a woman, should have better degrees, bigger car, a house, a club membership, a steady job with hopes of further promotions and of course, good looks, a great sense of humour as well as soft skills. By this, I mean having the ability to appreciate fine food and wine.

For the guys, they expect their partners to be able to cook like their mothers, be as good looking and curvy as the celebrities they see in heavily photoshopped pictures in magazines and of course, have a good career to help pay for the household bills.

But that’s not the end of it. If you are married and have not started a family, you would be offered many unsolicited solutions from busybody aunties – from artificial insemination to eating bull’s penises. Of course, there are subtle accusations of dangerous liaisons in China, what with the frequent business trips there.

No wonder the Chinese population in Malaysia is shrinking fast. But of course, like many Chinese voters, the blame has to fall on the Government. Their failure, or inability or refusal, to start a family, is the fault of the government entirely.

And if you happen to work in the media, all eyes will be on you. In this case, it’s me. With Google and news portals with anti-government slants easily available these days, everyone is now an expert on every issue. We have all become instant analysts and opinion shapers.

Yes, yes, of course, Malaysia’s temperature during the CNY will drop to as low as 16°C and will be the coldest CNY ever.

“That’s what the social media said what, so must be true mah!”

But it’s a reunion dinner. After the interrogation of the poor singles, it undoubtedly has to come to politics. I am not sure if this is a Malaysian thing, like the open house, but do people in other countries whine too?

Probably they do, and by now politicians in modern democracies would have realised that they have to earn their respect.

Don’t expect the people to pay homage to you because no one told you to stand for election and for sure, don’t expect us to be eternally grateful to you because you came begging for our votes with plenty of promises.

They have to learn that they will be belittled, ridiculed and criticised. So don’t run to the powers that be to shut anyone up with sedition charges. Get used to it.

I expect the grumbling and cynical remarks to be louder this year at gatherings with family and friends. There are a lot of unhappy people around.

But politicians do not have to worry too much as the louder yam seng will drown the complaints. To all Malaysians celebrating Chinese New Year, I wish you all Gong Xi Fa Cai!

By Wong Chun Wai on the beat The Star

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

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Malaysian home prices may go up 5~8%; heart-warming CNY family ties with EcoWorld 全家福

From Left :- Director of Valuation Services Chee Kok Thim , Rahim & Co Executive Chairman Senator Tan Sri Dato’ Abdul Rahim Abdul Rahman, DIrector Real Estate Agency Robert Ang and Director of Research & Strategic Planning Sulaiman Saheh after Press conference and Q&A session – Review on Malaysian Property Market and the prospects of 2016 – on Thursday Feb 4 2016.

KUALA LUMPUR: The property market is expected to remain challenging, with the hike in house prices slowing to between 5% and 8% this year, compared with 7% to 10% last year.

Rahim & Co Chartered Surveyors Sdn Bhd director Sulaiman Akhmady Mohd Saheh expects prices to rise but sees only marginal price gains for the residential sector.

“Depending on location and type of property, some may see price consolidation as the gap between sellers’ asking prices is closing towards the buyers’ expected prices,” he said during the firm’s property market review.

He said that there were concerns that the number of transactions may drop this year, as new property launches could face more challenges and slower take-up.

He said that based on average annual household incomes to the price of average terraced homes, housing affordability could have slightly improved last year compared with 2014 although house prices in general continued to increase.

“Nevertheless, housing affordability is still a big concern especially in urban centres and major towns throughout the country.

“The ratio improved from 3.6 in 2014 to 3.4 last year, which indicates that an average terraced house would cost an average household or family in Malaysia 3.4 times its annual gross income,” said executive chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Abdul Rahman.

Note that the least affordable terraced house in Malaysia last year was in Sabah, with a 5.7 times ratio, Penang, 5.3 times, Kuala Lumpur, 5.2 times and Sarawak, at 4.5 times.

He said that home ownership continued to be beyond the reach of many Malaysians, especially the younger generation.

“The ratio indicate that generally our houses are still moderately unaffordable. For Sabah, Penang and Kuala Lumpur, average prices of terraced houses are even categorised as severely unaffordable,” he said.

He added that the pace of construction and completion for affordable housing needed to be improved in order to address the issue of affordability.

“It is progressing but there should be more effort, for example in PR1MA. Among these, PR1MA is to provide 175,000 units where 74,399 units are currently in various stages of construction. “At present, only 10,000 units is due to be completed by the end of the year.

“That 74,399 units under construction should be intensified instead of completing 10,000 units by the end of the year,” he noted.

For the commercial sector, particularly the office sector, it will still remain challenging as absorption of new supply coming into the market is expected to slow down.

More office buildings are expected to undergo refurbishment to prevent tenants from relocating to newer office buildings.

However, there are concerns on whether the retail property sector might be heading into a glut in supply as a number of malls are being launched within Klang Valley.

Last year, retail sales were affected by the goods and services tax, which was implemented from April as well as a weakening ringgit, driving up costs and lowering consumer spending.

By Nadya Ngui The Star/Asia News Network


Despite gloomy property sector share price of some property companies could rise

Heartwarning CNY video on family ties goes viral


Building strong ties: A video grab from EcoWorld’s ‘Family Portraits’ on its official YouTube page captures the essence of maintaining family values.

PETALING JAYA: A heart-warming Chinese New Year video showing a man’s life as seen through his family photographs has been released by EcoWorld Development Group Bhd.

The three-minute video titled Family Portraits, which can be seen on YouTube, has been viewed more than 78,000 times so far yesterday. It is meant to educate the viewer on maintaining strong family values. The video shows glimpses of the man’s life-long journey from early childhood until adulthood.

All throughout, viewers will notice that family plays a huge role in the main character’s life as he encounters the pivotal moments in life that are familiar to many of us. The loving embrace of his family is never too far away even as he grows up and leaves his parents to pursue a career and start a family of his own.

Family Portraits successfully conveys its message through very little dialogue, relying mostly on visual images that reflect the mood and spirit of the central theme of the video.

The touching video, while light hearted and filled with funny moments, sends a strong message that clearly emphasises the importance of family ties and the togetherness that is an integral part of the Chinese New Year festival.

“The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing. This Chinese New Year, capture the warmth and happiness with a family portrait and start a collection of beautiful memories to look back on for generations to come,” posted the company on its YouTube page.

Those who wish to view the video may do so at EcoWorld’s official YouTube page.

Earlier this week, the company announced that it was offering a special Chinese New Year treat for buyers of the few remaining units of EcoWorld’s Eco Meadow Phase 1 homes by giving rebates of RM22,888 on top of an additional 5% early bird rebate from now until Feb 22.


EcoWorld – Creating Tomorrow & Beyond

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Healing through hiking mountains

The arduous Pacific Crest Trails offered the author of The Girl In The Woods the chance to take back control of her life after being raped.

The first time I heard of the Pacific Crest Trail was at the recent George Town Literary Festival, when a friend expressed interest in hiking it. Stretching across mountains running along the western coast of the United States, it is a challenging trail that should be attempted by only the hardiest of hikers.

My own experience with hiking is limited to beginner trails in national parks and forest reserves. Hiking is fun, but I know well enough of its dangers – years ago, another friend of mine had gone hiking and disappeared. The friend at the festival who wanted to hike the Pacific Crest is a man in his 30s. In Girl In The Woods, the hiker, who goes by the name “Wild Child”, is a young woman of 19 and a survivor of rape.

Wild Child grew up as Deborah “Debby” Parker, a sheltered child who lived under the wing of her protective mother and influential, high-achieving brother. On the second night of her stay at college, she was raped.

The emotional and psychological effects of the rape, compounded with the lack of empathy from her college and her family, became the catalyst for her decision to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail.

For Wild Child, the hike was both a method of escaping a society that made her feel vulnerable and of confronting danger and, through that, regaining her sense of control and trust.

Author: Aspen Matis
Publisher :
 William Morrow/HarperCollins, non-fictionNature and the wilderness is often portrayed as a place of peace and isolation, but any illusion that the wilderness of the Pacific Crest Trail is isolated and peaceful is proven false in Wild Child’s experiences along the trail. The Pacific Crest Trail hiking line is a male-dominated environment, peopled with strange men and women, and offers very little protection from physical or verbal violence stemming from racism, misogyny, or sheer sadism.

Following Wild Child’s journey along the trail brings us to very close intimacy with her personality, her decisions, and her pain. Although survivor accounts and articles on the way rape affects psychology exist in abundance, Girl In The Woods vividly shows how rape shatters one’s sense of safety, trust, and control over one’s body and environment; more importantly, the book allows readers to witness the challenges of regaining that lost sense of security and control.

As we follow her journey, we are also made to confront rape culture – both when it is perpetrated by the people around Wild Child and when we are tempted to criticise her lack of self-preservation. Wild Child exposes herself (at times literally) to strangers and dangers, and readers may find themselves finding fault and blaming her for “tempting rape”. We are made to confront and encouraged to unshackle from our own preconceived, perhaps subconscious, perpetuation of victim blaming and rape culture.

The topic of rape may frighten some readers away from the book, but the harsh desert beauty of the Pacific Crest Trail and Wild Child’s own personal resilience tames its violence, so the experience of reading the book is not unpleasant.

Girl In The Woods is a powerful testament of nature’s healing qualities and an intimate examination of surviving rape.

It is an elegant narrative of loss of innocence, regaining of strength, and finding love and self-acceptance.

It is not merely an account of a survivor but an adventure book, a record of a coming-of-age, and a story of personal growth as the protagonist transforms from the insecure Debby Parker to Wild Child the hiker, before finally emerging as Aspen Matis (the name that she answers to now, and the pseudonym used to pen the book), a fully fledged survivor.

The only arguable weakness of Girl In The Woods is that the description of the landscape along the Pacific Crest Trail is rather sparse.

Perhaps this was omitted because it was unnecessary to the narrative, but I would have appreciated more details on the desert, mountains and forests that were traversed.

I tend to notice the beauty of natural landscapes when I travel, and keenly felt the omission of detailed descriptions on the beautiful American rural landscape.

But this is a minor complaint in an otherwise outstanding memoir.

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China ends one-child policy, are you ready for another child?

China to allow two children for all couples 

Dialogue 10/30/2015 One-child policy ends

Are you ready for another child?

Most young couples can provide the best learning and growth environment for only one child. When you decide to have another child, you should plan your budget in advance. If you or your parents can’t take care of your baby, you have to at least spend an extra 5000 yuan per month to hire a nanny. If the gender of your new baby is different from your first one, you have to prepare another bedroom. If you want to send your kids to study abroad, you have to save another 1 million yuan. I think most young Chinese couples cannot afford the expense.
Are you ready for another child?
A girl with her younger brother. [Photo by Wang Nina/Provided to]
Bcnu (US)
If you aren’t terribly happy parenting one child –don’t have the second. Two is more than twice the work, there’s no guaranteeing they’ll share interests; they could very well fight or want to head off in completely different directions. If you find you love the second one more than the first, I don’t see how that could possibly make life simple, as children are very sensitive to that sort of thing. Having a second child will also extend the number of years until your nest will be empty again.
It’s very unrealistic to expect that you will love your second child if you’re having trouble loving the first. My advice is to take care of yourself and take time for your love for the first child to relax and grow before even thinking about having a second child.
Are you ready for another child?
A couple with their two children in this file photo. [Photo by Li Chuanping/Asianewsphoto]
Luciana (UK)
Being a one-child family allows me to keep a good balance between my family life and my job. It gives me the joy of being a mother, but it’s not too overwhelming to the point where I don’t have any time for myself or my husband. Financial barriers were also a factor in my decision. With a mortgage, and two cars, we have to be a two-income family. Having another child is financially just not an option for us.
Are you ready for another child?
The two-child policy was put into practice in early 2014 and did not lead to a baby boom in many provinces in China. [Photo by Zou Zhongpin/for China Daily]
Steven (US)
Sometimes we make some choices not because we prefer them but because we have no other choices to make. The twists and turns of life always narrow your choices or eliminate them completely. I always thought having two kids sounded perfect. But when my daughter was born with life-threatening health problems I know she would be my only kid. Raising our daughter was going to take a lot of emotional, physical, and financial resources. If I had any more children, I didn’t think I could handle it.
Are you ready for another child?
He Shaodong (L) and his wife Zhou Jun show their birth certificate for a second child in Hefei, capital of east China’s Anhui province, Feb. 14, 2014. [Photo/Xinhua]
William (China)
Under the one-child policy carried out in China for three decades, many kids are spoilt by their parents. The “litter emperors” have no idea of sharing and giving and many of them even become self-centered. If we have another child, the first one will learn something about responsibility, sharing and caring for others.
Are you ready for another child?

A girl poses for a photograph at a commercial area of downtown Shanghai, in this November 28, 2012. [Photo/Agencies

– China Daily

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