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Welcome to this week's issue of The Birthday Workbook!
This week, we read 16-year-old Yu Xiao Qian's reflections from following her mother, who works as a housekeeper, to work, during the December holidays.

Before you read the article watch the following video and answer these questions:
  • What changed when the TV host puts on the cleaning company's uniform? How do people react when she interviews them?
  • Why do some jobs seem 'harder' than others?
I Try Being a Hawker Centre Cleaner
Look around you and observe your surroundings. Are there books to be put away? Clothes to be washed or folded? Dusty corners to be swept?
Now, read the following essay:
Read on Mothership
Consider the following questions:
  1. Xiao Qian addresses the audience directly: "None of this is as easy as you think." What might this statement tell us about Xiao Qian’s intended audience?
  2. Make a list of the adjectives Xiao Qian used to describe her mother's job. How did they evolve over time, and what strengths might Xiao Qian have developed from her experiences?
  3. In what ways did Xiao Qian’s favourite auntie demonstrate generosity? What are the benefits and potential pitfalls of such generosity?
  4. Xiao Qian started her essay stating that her life is "full of hardships, as I am a foreigner, my school fees are very high which means my mom has to work harder in order for me to live a better life." How does Xiao Qian's identity as foreigner, student and daughter shape her experience of the December school holidays? In what ways was your experience of the holidays similar to hers?
  5. She ends the essay by stating her mother's strategy for overcoming hardships. Why do you think her mother tells her to "change her mindset and be positive"? 
  6. What did you think about housekeeping before reading this article? How might your attitude towards such kinds of work have changed?
Further Resources:
Have a bit more time? Check out Lucia Berlin's A Manual for Cleaning Women, a selection of 43 short stories chronicling, with sensitive and poetic observations, the lives of low-wage working class women. Berlin writes from her experiences having lived 'many lives': the daughter of a mining engineer, she spent her childhood moving about mining landscapes in Alaska and the mid-west; then mixing with high-society in Santiago, Chile. As an adult, she worked odd jobs in NYC and Oakland, California including being an ER nurse in the 70s. This collection of stories were published after her death in 2004, to critical acclaim.
That's all for this week! Stay safe, take care, clear your trays and feel free to write to us with your thoughts or feedback! 
Copyright © 2021 The Birthday Collective, All rights reserved.

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