Friday, December 26, 2008

A mother's journey

Upon arrival at Changi airport, The Little One remarked, "Mummy, there are lots of people that look like Mark."

"That is true honey. Thats because we are in Singapore."

I suppose living most of her life in the middle east, she hasn't seen that many Chinese looking people in any one location. I wonder if Mark will be flattered that Amalina chose to identify him as quintessentially Singaporean.

******************

Last night when we reached home, she declared. "Mama, sometimes when someone leaves me, I'm a little bit sad."

Even though I was trying to prepare for bedtime, I had to stop and give her a moment.

"Why are you sad?"
"Because uncle Ariffin left me so I'm sad. I want to call my daddy to tell him I am sad."

Ariffin is my youngest brother who had gone to the zoo with her yesterday. I guess she must have enjoyed his company a lot.

What does a mother say about these things? There are no manuals for me to refer to.

So I offered, "Darling, its OK to be sad sometimes. The important thing is to be brave when you are sad. And tomorrow we will get to see him again."

*********

We visited a family in bereavement yesterday, and I tried to brief her on the way just to explain what she may be seeing.

"We are going to visit somebody who has just passed away," I told her.
"Did she passed away like your Mummy?" she asked.
"Yes and this lady was her friend."

How young or how old do you explain these things to a child?

It took me a long while to explain to her what passing away means.

*******

My child, I understand that you are trying to figure out the small jigsaw pieces that we call life. I am glad that you are sharing your curiosity with me. All I pray for is the strength and wisdom such that I can be a good companion on this journey with you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What my friends taught me...

That we all have our own struggles in our lives. The difference is what we make of it. Do we try to overcome it with a positive light or do we get all depressed and upset with the world? The choice is ours.

Thanks for sharing. I'll remember that as my life lesson.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My friends inspire me and have hearts of gold

They reminded me how wonderful it is again to laugh like teenagers again. Both remembering old times when we were students chatting in front of our computers or even of stories of life present. They remind me what being mature is all about yet the importance of feeling young again.

They show me what acceptance is all about in friendship. We accept each other for whom we are, try to overlook flaws and live with it.

And the generosity of their spirit humbles me.

I am lucky that they kept me around all these years.

Thanks so much you guys! I really had a wonderful time despite having a *cold*, not having a *plan*, seeing a wonderful *perform*ance. What other words did I miss out?

I also appreciate my friends who opened their doors to me, drove a long way to meet up and bringing/cooking such wonderful and delicious fare.

I just can't say more except thank you, thank you and thank you. Thank you for your generosity towards me, I really do appreciate it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'm suppose to be packing but I am procrastinating

I leave tomorrow night. I have two opened suitcases, half empty, half full. One is half empty because I haven't finished unpacking from my latest Bahrain trip. The other is half full, because I have filled them with some gifts, bric-a-bracs I have gathered as gifts to bring home.

Its so easy for me to get sidetracked somehow. While trying to pack underwear for the trip, I decided to clear out the drawer of old underwear I haven't used for a long time or those that are ready to retire. Can't explain this further except I had a great satisfaction in pulling out those old things and throwing them out. Gave me a sense of freedom. Afterall I've just been buying new ones and not throwing out the old ones making it very hard to open and close that drawer. My excuse was lack of time.

Instead of going back to packing, I inspired my DH to clear our his closet too, of clothes that no longer fit or should no longer be worn. We did quite well I have to say.

I have decided that I will throw out my old clothes that don't make me look good or don't look good on me. The past three years I didn't have time to look after myself or how I look. I wore clothes that was comfortable rather than flattering. Somedays I didn't even have time to comb my hair let alone look at myself in the mirror.

And shopping here doesn't help either. Without a changing room to try the clothes I sometimes end up keeping some clothes that fit but don't look too great on me because I couldn't be bothered to return to the Mall the nth time to change the clothes.

So my job offer came to me at the most opportune moment. Just as I decided I am ready to be a person again and not just a mother and a wife, the offer came. Work somehow gave me the a reason to revisit my old life in terms of wearing my old office clothes again. Clothes haven't been worn much since I got here. Clothes that represented my old life, life before motherhood. [And not just the clothes, I get to use my brain again, as well as my old skills, some have been rusty.]

Anyways I am digressing. I'm thinking about clothes because I am not sure what to pack. I realize that I have different clothes for different occasion and different places. Some clothes that I am most comfortable with in London would not be suitable in KL. Some clothes I wear here wouldn't do back home. Afterall I have been going to the Mall with my pajamas under my abaya! My clothes needn't be matching since no one else was going to see them right?

I found some clothes I bought on trips back home and never used it since I got back here. I think I will be packing those and if I don't wear them this trip either, perhaps its a good reason to get rid of them!

Somehow it just occur to me that perhaps I am a chameleon. I have a different clothes (appearance/roles) for different people and different location? Am I inconsistent or do I just try to fit in with the location/situation?

So much so for a short entry before packing! Thats food for thought on a different day coz I'd better go back to packing. Whatever it is I am grateful that I have the opportunity to try out different things, live and travel at different places. Thank you God, thank you for all the opportunities that you have presented me with! There should be no room in my life for complains but rather lots to be grateful about!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Joys of motherhood

Being a first time mum, away from my immediate family members and without the direction of my mum to consult, my road to motherhood has been partially trial and error and partially research from books and the Internet. I have Google to be thankful for, without it there would have been many more trips to the Doctors or the Emergency Room.

For instance the first time The Little One had nosebleed. Not knowing it was merely nosebleed, I panicked when I woke up with blood on the pillow cases and duvet cover. Woke up my DH who also panicked and agreed to drive us to the Emergency Room.

When we arrived, the male nurse asked, "Did your child fall?"
"No."
"Any fever?"
"No."
"Did she hit her head somewhere?"
"No."
"Can I see her fingers?"
"Sure." (Wandering if some diseases could be diagnosed by looking at finger.)
"Its just nosebleed as she digs her nose."
"Oh! Thank you!" we cried, so relieved that it was not some sort of terminal disease

Experience has made us wiser after that. I stocked myself up with some books that I can refer to and to educate me on what could ail my child. I also developed an interest on homeopathy which sometimes prove to be very useful.

However preschool and weaning has increased my child's susceptibility to being sick. Just about a month ago all 3 of us became sick. It started with The Little One who had a ear infection, then my DH who had cough and fever that developed into Asthma. And I developed acute bronchitis. It wasn't fun the 3 of us on the bed sick and woozy but we all got better and got on with our lives.

So I thought it is all over for this season but just 3 days ago, appropriately on the morning of Eid, The Little One has fever again. This time as high as 40.4 oC. The now somewhat experienced mom does not panic as much and decided to use the suppository, left over from the last time, to bring the fever down. But it does become worrying when the fever does not subside after 3 days. Unfortunately most of the clinics are closed due to the Eid holidays so we brought them to the Emergency Room again.

This time its tonsillitis and just like the precious time, my DH seems to be affected as well. Here I am, wife and mother having to look after my babies. Appropriately timed as well as I am unprepared for my trip home in 3 days.

If anything I like to look on the positive side of things. Perhaps them being sick will make good excuse to my friends and relatives back home whom I have not had time to shop gifts for. It also gives me some time to reflect and be grateful for little things in life such as friendship for instance.

I am grateful for the friends I who has become our family. Through them I get the friendship and support I need, who reassured me and gave me pointers and shared their experiences with me. And they continue to do so without expecting anything in return and providing me with understanding and patience. Sometimes I seemed to abandon them, as I was too busy or too absorbed in my own trials and tribulations. Life just sometimes take over and time seemed to fly by and suddenly I realized that I neglected my friends.

Instead of abandoning me, they welcome me back with welcome arms, with warmth and love, whenever I do come back to them. Making me so welcomed, telling me in all sorts of ways that my company was missed. Some even offered me all sort of tips and help when they heard about my situation. And I fell so loved and so grateful that I've been blessed with wonderful friends like these around me.

Dear God, I am grateful that I have been given the opportunity to be a mother and a wife. And I am even more grateful for the wonderful friends you blessed me with. They have kept me sane, gave me all sorts of invaluable advice, not just those near me, but those who are geographically far from me but near to my heart.

My friends, you know who you are and I thank you for sharing with me your wisdom, love and friendship.

For my Little One, I hope you'll get well soon and know that you will be a much stronger person, both physically and mentally after this. Just remember to wash your hands more often and stay away from people who sneeze and cough!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I'm off to sp0re and Malays/a for 2 weeks. It will be hectic, 6 days with my in laws in KL and 5 days in Sp0re. It will be my first trip, just me and The Little One and I hope God will give me strength to survive the trip.

To my friends in KL, my driver is unable to come this trip so I will be at the mercy of my in laws when it comes to transport. If you guys can come by BB Bangi, I look forward to meeting up with you. I'm in town 16 - 22 Dec, except I may be busy on the 21 due to a cousin's wedding.

To my friends in sp0re, lets try to meet up one morning/evening together with everybody? My itinerary includes trips to Nigh safari, Zoo, Orchard Road, maybe Sentosa, Gyboree and some family obligations. Please also understand that my schedule would also be determined by the health and cooperation of my 3 year old. I'm in town 23 - 27 Dec.

I look forward to meeting up you guys! Wish me luck!

Unfortunately I do not have a local number yet, I plan to buy a new sim card when I arrive. You can text me your number to +966 lima kosong 816 three four 52 by Sunday.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Glued to the news

I first heard about the Mumbai siege from friends over a casual conversation, not realizing the extent of the carnage. But the story truly unfolded when I saw the news on BBC and CNN.

Mumbai, was a city i visited 10 years ago. The city was special to me as it was a city that opened my eyes, to both how the opulent and the impoverish exist side by side. I still remember up to this day, the family that was cooking their dinner on the sidewalk as I walked to MacDonalds. (MacDonald's being the fast food restaurant for the well heeled in Mumbai at that time.) I passed the family again after finishing my dinner to find the same family sleeping right there, by the same sidewalk.

The Taj Mahal Hotel and The Oberoi Hotel both represented the nicest places to stay in the city. I did some shopping at The Oberoi and walked around the TMH.

Just as 9/11 happed at the World Trade center, the bombing in London, the latest siege in Mumbai happened at a place I once visited. And it left me with a lump in my throat. At the back of my mind I thought that I could easily have been there when the worst happened but thank god I'm not!

I guess these places that are targeted are iconic in the city they are in, which was why I visited them in the first place.

For now I look forward to some answers. Who did this and why?

In the meantime, I do worry sometimes. What if something happens and I am stuck at work and my DH is stuck in his office. Who will look after my child? Who will protect her and look out for her.

My dear child, some days I feel that the world is much too dangerous for you, and all I want to do is to keep you near and safe. At the same time I don't want to smother you and I want you to see and appreciate the world for its beauty and its wonderful differences.

Of course my answer to all this is travel. If only everyone gets the opportunity to travel with an open mind, to see that no matter how different we think we are, we have so many more similarities. Violence and hurt, even if it was inflicted on others, will not just cause harm on the intended but will harm everyone else as well in the long run.

The key is to recognize that the human spirit is resilient and we should not allow incidence like this trap us in our own little pigeon holes.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

After the rain

Another trip to the "Edge of the World

I'm sure there is a proper name for this place but the expats call it The Edge of the world.

Its a bit short notice but the men decided that it would be interesting to see the desert after the rain. The problem with making last minute plans is that some of us would be more prepared than others.

M@rk could not find a 4x4 to rent and asked if he could tag along. We knew that the trip could be done with a 2x4, so we told him why not. He'd just have to be really brave.

The weather forecast predicted rain but we thought to push ahead anyways and turn back should the weather turn.

Of course we did not realise that the sand would be soft after the rain and the terrain would be rather muddy. Literally 3 minutes off road, M@rk's car got stuck in some soft sand.

First the men tried pushing, but the rear wheel just sank in.

Then they deflated the tyres and tried to put the sand ladders under the tyres. But that didn't work either.



Then they had to shovel some of the muddy wet sand off the tires. Thank God we brought one shovel. We used to have 3 but we returned the other one to its rightful owner (well we didn't need to use them the 10 times we borrowed it!) and the other owner didn't think he needed to bring his shovel. As a result, one man shoveled while the rest watched.

Luckily he had a cute butt ;)


So they had to regroup and plan the next course of action. My DH's crash course in desert driving with R/yadh Rovers is proving to be rather useful! More still, all the desert driving equipment he purchased from the colleague who was leaving (which had been taking up a lot of space in my store room!) OK I shan't complain anymore!

So they had to use the last option (or second last if this option didn't work.) To tow the car out. They hung the carpet in the middle to weigh the tow rope down in case it snapped.


Luckily it worked and M@rk's car got unstuck!

We scout the route for a little bit more and decided to ask M@rk to ditch his car. The track was just too soft and muddy and he had little or no traction on most parts of the route. M@rk parked his car under 2 trees before the river bed (we think that that part of the desert used to be a river bed as there are more trees there and the track is extra soft.) We marked the location on the GPS to make sure that we can find it later. (I'm sure 2 trees look alike in the desert!) And off we went.

The terrain looked considerably different. There was a lot more green and it loked that new trees have sprouted just overnight after the rain. And there were some areas that looked like a stream, with water on them, a rare sight in the desert that is normally parched and all dried up.

We reached the viewpoint at about 11 am. (We started off at 6 am.) By this time both children and adults alike were hungry!



It has always been windy every time were there. I remember my first trip here and did not bring warm clothes or proper shoes. But I am more prepared for this trip.

But the weather was glorious! Despite the cold wind, the sun was shining and we had blues skies for a while.



But the view from up there was just amazing. I was a tad worried that the little one would venture too near to the edge so I kept a watchful eye on her of course. I reminded her that the wind blew her hat off her head and then off the cliff the previous time we came.


For someone who lived on the 13th floor when she was growing up, I'm one of those people who have no problems climbing to great heights but for some reason unknown to me, I have difficulty coming down! So I decided not to climb up, but to watch the other kids in wonder as they climbed up and down the cliff.



In the meantime, Little Amir took The Little One under his wing while some mum and dads had their own entertainment:



Meanwhile, some of us tried to find some privacy.



As you can see, there are no bushes to hide behind or a tree to do it under.



So when everyone has had enough of the view and knocked off enough golf balls down the cliff, we looked for a suitable spot to have our brunch. It was cold and everyone was rather hungry after the pushing, shoveling, climbing and golfing.




We enjoyed the nasi lemak, mee goreng, baked chicken, donuts, potato salad, sandwiches and all sorts of desserts we brought with us.

But the dark clouds began to roll in and we decided to call it a day. Normally we would have ventured to the other 2 viewpoints but we didn't do so this trip round in case it started to rain.

We drove back to M@rk's car to find it safe and sound. But M@rk's new challenge was to drive his car back to the tarmac.

We scouted round for some hard ground but made a judgement error. Some parts were rather soft so we told him to be brave and drive fast. We reminded him that even if he thinks he has no traction, instead of slowing down and braking, he should just continue moving.

And he managed to do so! We all cheered for him although when he rolled his windows down we could see that his face was as white as sheet.

Just as we were leaving Sadous we saw lots of cars driving into the desert as the locals were just about ready to have their picnic.

Overall it was a good day out and we all had a good time.

And it rained after we unpacked the car. I was so grateful that the weather cooperated.


PS Joy, do you guys miss R/yadh yet? ;)



Incidentally, as I was browsing through our old pictures, I discovered the one above, taken on 07 Nov 2006, almost 2 years to the date of our most recent visit.

How quickly the time flies and see how much The Little One has grown!

Trip to the Edge of the World

Monday, October 27, 2008

Do I sound testy?

I have been trying very hard to keep it inside, but somehow some testiness is spilling out. And I don't like it. Perhaps its my PMS or just that its all bottled in that some spilled out.

And I don't like myself when I am testy this way. But I know there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Its very hard to establish boundaries and I don't want to seem inflexible or territorial. At the same time, the undercurrent power struggles and the imaginary battles just becomes apparent to me and I am fighting very hard not to take sides. Because I don't want to take sides. Its not my problem. Its not my business. And some people are very good at spinning beautiful tales embellished with beautiful yarn. And somehow my instinct tell me that I should know better than to accept lock, stock and barrel.

At the same time, I am not a confrontational person. I don't like telling people off, nor do I want to point out reality to a delusional person. But somehow this restrain is just making me so testy!

Its just so subtle how the fangs come out, with the cutest little voice and the sweetest smile. Add in a tear drop or two at the corner of the eye. I understand she feels unappreciated and wronged. But hey, that was your battle not mine. And those were your choices and I had nothing to do with it. Thanks for the heads up but no thank you for the implied.

What just bugs me is that receiving all that saccharine venom is affecting me when I don't want to be affected. And I am afraid of passing it on. I may even have actually.

I will learn to fight the battles that I want to fight and not to take up battles that are not mine. Even if the war cry is egging me on. The truth has been seen already and I didn't even say a thing. (Thank God!)

I just want to say my peace and release it out to the Universe and not keep it inside of me.

Because I am better than that.
I am not her.
I will not be her.
And I will not repeat whatever it is she says, no matter how compelling it is for me!
Because I have learnt my lesson through what she has shared with me and will not repeat them myself.

Argghhhhhh please God give me strength! I believe in paying forward with kindness and happiness!

I don't want anger, malice and bitterness! Especially those that were given to me as unwanted presents! Begone you bottled up feelings!

*sigh* I am human after all.

She wants a birthday party

I had given her her first birthday party when she was one.

And then I decided, nope, not any more. I'm not veyr good at it.

So last year we skipped the birthday party and got her a play house instead.

But it looks like I can't avoid it this year. 3 more months to go and she is already planning her own birthday party. She decided that she will have a princess cake (where did she get that idea?), party hats and lots of balloons. She even has decided who she wants to invite to the party!

In fact she has even invited some people to the party.

She knows her birthday is in December and has asked me "How do we get to December?"

She even practiced singing happy birthday to herself and had imaginary friends come to her birthday party. Just the other day she told me, "Umi, we are having a party and we're waiting for you."

I guess I am lucky that I am invited.

So here I am trying to put a birthdya party together. Found out the date I wanted was not possible for the Kindermusik practitioner. So had to move it forward. The venue I wanted was booked already so I have to book a different venue. Got to get quotes for the food because I don't think I can do it all on my own.

I was such a novice on her 1st birthday party that I did not give out party favours, so I am making sure that I will not be making the same mistake. Of course I have to strike a balance between making things myself (cost effective) vs buying everything (easier due to time constrain).

And striking a balance between what children like (candies and sweets) and what I would prefer to serve them (fruits and healthy snacks.)

My challenge as a parent is to grant her wishes but at the same time making sure that she grows to be a sensible and happy child.

My darling Little One, I hope you'll have the birthday party that you want! May your good wishes always be granted my child.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Just because its not a designer handbag

Allright I have to confess. I love my bags and shoes. I know the discussion about carrying a designer handbag is a little cliche but I had to experience the difference myself when I went to a Carref0ur just now.

The guard approached me and asked to look inside my handbag. A first since a long time really. I was carrying my bright red canvas crumpler handbag when the security guard approached us and requested to inspect my handbag.

I normally prefer to sport a nice leather variety (reasons which came to me with this incident) but since I started work, my handbag gets a different treatment. I normally just placed it on the floor of the school bus and packed it will all sorts like lunchbox and/or library books. So I thought I would carry my sturdy headaitch crumpler instead.

After he took a peek, he told me that I must deposit my bag at the customer service counter. (Did I look like I might steal something to put in my bag!) Tsk tsk tsk!

But anyways, almost automatically I said with a loud "La! La! La! I have my wallet, mobile phone and money in my bag! Call your manager!" and using my pointer finger signing no as I would to a child.

I guess because I was so firm and so loud that he decided to let us into the hypermarket without me having to deposit my handbag at the customer service bag deposit counter.

I can tell you that I have sported bags of equivalent size to my crumpler bag before but was not stopped by the security. The difference is that my other bags are more "stylish" or perhaps they didn't imply that I may steal a box of biscuits and hide them in my bag?

At the end of the day, I guess looks still counts. People use their sight as their first line of judgment and wearing or carrying certain things seem to potray a certain image to the person looking and judging at you.

And my husband was impress how quickly the Ar@bic seemed to come out when I was protesting and I have been here too long as I don't think I would have previously spoken to another person with my pointing finger out blazing like a weapon as I would have considered it too rude to do so.

I guess I was just exasperated! The thought of digging out my wallet, mobile phone, passports and carrying them in my hand was just too much for me to bear that my fierce protestation just came out instinctively.

Ironically, I was at the same supermarket 2 hours earlier doing my grocery shopping and nobody stopped me then!

Lesson for the day, try not to carry my crumpler bag when doing my grocery shopping.

Honey, maybe I need a new designer bag so the security guard won't ask me to leave my bag at the customer service counter?

;)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Where did all the time go?

I am grateful that time passes by in a flash these days. It seems that I don't have enough hours in the day to do the things I want to do.

But it seems that I am able to achieve more than when I was staying at home. That, or as my friend KH suggested, I have adapted and managed my time better.

What bothers me a little these days is the changing weather. Woke up with heaviness in my chest this morning. So I tried to slow down so I don't get breatheless. When we stepped out of the house I saw some sort of a dusty fog, not quite a sandstorm, not quite a fog.

And I seem to start sneezing again. I thought I got rid of the cold. Now my Little One has cough and running nose too! Not something a working mummy want (or any mom for that matter.) But now that I am working, I cringe at the idea to have to call in sick and let alone to call in sick on the accord of my Little One being sick. SO I am bumping up my vitamin consumption. I know different studies have stated different things. Some even suggest that its useless to pop those pills. But I am trying my best to boost my immunity so I'll try any thing.

And I do struggle on somedays to keep myself centered. Its easy to get oneself distracted by the passing time and things that people say. But I am adamant to stay positive. Perhaps taking Phillipa's course is paying off.

I seriously believe that negative thinking does nothing but to bring a person down and attracts more negativity in one's life.

I had a conversation with someone who reminded me of the importance for me to keep my positive enthusiasm. I feel for her but at the same time I always believe that the only person we can control is ourselves and we're the only who can make things better for ourselves, no matter what the situation will be. Nothing comes out from slandering other people no matter how bitter you are. Just makes the listener uncomfortable and lose respect for you.

But anyways, that's my lesson for the weekend. I always believe that people are sent in my life for me to learn my lesson so I don't have to repeat them myself.

I know I will have a great week! For those of you waiting for a further update of my Turkey trip, I apologize for not updating, I promise to do so as soon as I have the time :)

PS Thank you Joy for the 12 rules to live by, I so agree with them!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Falling in love with Turkey: Part II

Pamucak Beach, Selchuk

Upon checking in at Rebetika Hotel we decided that since we have the car, we would head straight to the beach. The hotel was pleasant, the room acceptable and the owner, warm and friendly. The view from the roof, as you can see from their website, is spectacular.

Frankly, just between you and me, all I want to do is climb in bed and sleep. After all I have been awake since 7 am the previous day!! But it will be a waste to arrive all the way in Selcuk and immediately spend time sleeping! So I pulled myself up and prepared us for our adventure to Pamucak Beach.

Pamucak Beach which is near Ephesus is 7 km west of Selcuk.

Did we have a map of the area? Nope.

So how did we get to the beach? Ibrahim, the brother of the owner Suleiman gave us the direction like this. "You see this road here? You go straight until you read the main road and you turn right, then you go straight on the highway until the end when the road finishes and you will see the beach."

I have to say that I am always impressed (even now after 10 years of being married to him) that my DH has an impeccable sense of direction and has good instincts in finding his way round places. True to Ibrahim's direction we found the Pamucak beach.

There was much not at the beach, 2 snack bars and some deck chairs for hire. We decided to drive in a little bit away from the main road. The beach was empty (it was afterall Thursday afternoon) except for 2 men and a woman fishing.


The breeze from the Aegean sea was just so refreshing after our dry sand locked, 55 oC summer in R/yadh. The Little One wasted no time, playing with the squishy sand. Admittedly, the sand is not as white or beautiful as the sand is in Trengganu but we just found our tiredness melting away as the wind blew gently at us and the waves rolling gently.



Father and daughter bonded together trying to make a sandcastle with their bare hands. I just sat there and watched them play not wanting to get my jeans wet, but enjoying every nano second of it.

We then decided to walk along the shore of the beach and passed along the people fishing. As we walked past the lady who was fishing, we took a peek at the tub of fish she caught.

"One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish..." comes to mind.

The kind indulgent lady gestured to The Little One to put her hand in the tub. I half expected The Little One to say, "No thank you." But she surprised me and went right ahead without hesitating.


SO the Little One took one wriggling fish out of the tub. She was so brave and not at all squeamish! After much persuasion we asked The Little One to put the fish back. Our lack of Turkish, and our kind lady's lack of English limited our conversation. I wanted to ask her if she would eat the fishes she caught for dinner.

She then gestured to her phone, asking for permission to take our Little One's picture using her sleek and shiny Motorola mobile phone. I smiled to show that it was OK and encouraged the Little One to smile.

Then I asked The Little One if she wanted to give the kind lady a kiss goodbye as a thank you. Instead, she went towards the lady and offered her cheek instead. And the lady gave her a huge big kiss.


If I didn't know any better that kiss was no different as the one which The Little's One grandma would give her. I was just so touched by her warmth.

We left the beach happy with warmth in our hearts.

Until we went the beach again the following day that is ....

to be continued

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Falling in love with Turkey : Part I :

From Izmir to Selcuk

Turkey was one of the locations I pulled out of random on my wish list.

We simply asked the travel agent to give us ticket availability and cost for Amman, Istanbul, Rome and Marrakesh. From the quotes and travel dates Istanbul was the most attractive. Rome was the cheapest but we both have been there already, and Istanbul was the best compromise it seems, a midpoint from the Middle East and Europe.

With my new job and the exhaustion of Ramadhan I hardly did any research for this trip. Normally I would be the designated travel planner, pinpointing the points of interests, places I would like to go, things I would have wanted to see, try or buy. So my DH took full reign this time.

Just one day before flying off, I discovered that the weather would be colder. A kind friend sent some guide books through her driver. And I frantically tried to pack 7 days worth of clothes for the 3 of us.

We were so excited we could not sleep the night before, which was a mistake really because our flight was at 2:30 am in the morning. We arrived in Istanbul at 6:30 am and had a connecting flight to Izmir at 9:00 am, arriving at 10:05 am. After clearing customs, we waited patiently for our pick up for our ride to Selcuk, an 80 km drive.

We were greeted with a warm and friendly smile by our driver Billie. He duly apologized for waiting at the domestic hall. Even though we did embark the plane at Istanbul, we did not go through customs there and had to go through customs at Izmir.


Billie was friendly and an amicable guide. He explained to us the sights as we drove past them. He even offered to rent his car to us at YTL 60 per day. I was just exhausted and clueless. Was it a good rate? What do we plan to do anyways? I know we're going to Ephesus and we thought we were just going to take day trips tours.


Trust on my decisive DH to say Hey why not. The rate is not bad and the car would be very useful has Billie pointed out. Traveling with a 2 and a half year old has its own challenges, especially one who has been driven round with in a gas guzzling SUV.


The weather that greeted us was just glorious clear blue sky and beautiful serene landscape. Even The Little one remarked, "Blue skies make me happy Umi." Yes my child, clear blue sky makes me happy too. We have just stepped foot in the country and the charm and the serenity of the countryside has made us feel most welcomed.



As we approached the Selchuk city limits, Bille began pointing out the different sights to us. First was the Ayasuluk castle fort on top of the hill. Not open to the public as it is still being used. A straddle between Selcuk past and present.

I was getting more and more curios and excited. The views were stunning and the fresh air, just amazing. The fact that Billie's car didn't have any airconditioner didn't bother me at all.

Of course, when driving is an option, the cost of petrol does become a concern. We were amazed that petrol costs YTL3.25 a litre. Thats close to 10 r/yals, a luxury indeed since we are accustomed to paying merely 60 halala.



When Bille asked us what we planned to do on this trip, we mentioned the beach, Ephesus, Mary's house. He suggested that the best way to the beach would be by use of a rented car. But he didn't pressure us or anything. He said we can discuss and think about it and he also needed to confirm with Suleiman, the owner of the Rebetika Hotel, his good friend, who had sent him to pick us up, was ok with the idea of us renting his car.



In the meantime I was enjoying the scenery as we drove by. Tractors are not only used in the olive fields of Selcuk but is also used as a mode of transportation of the local folk. I am just so amazed to see the people, mainly from the older generation, sitting by the side of the road, some in coffee shops, others under the olive tree, just watching the world past by them. This aspect of Selcuk reminded me of the kampung life in Malaysia, something I haven't seen very often lately.


to be continued ...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Cooking in Istanbul

Location: Cooking Alaturka
Akbiyik Caddesi 72a, Sultanahmet, ISTANBUL

My dear husband, who knows me all too well, signed me up to a Turkish cooking class while we were in Istanbul. I had a thoroughly good time with Eveline, Chef Feyzi, Tom, Charlotte and Linda.

The 4 course menu consist of the following:

Yayla Corbasi
"Meadow Soup" or "Hot yogurt soup with dried mint"




Sorry the soup looked so appetizing that I ate it up without taking a picture! It was absolutely a different flavour for me because I am not accustomed to having yogurt in soups, yet absolutely delicious. It does stimulate different parts of my palate.

Ingredients
1/2 cup rice
8 cups stock
1/2 cup milk
1 cup thick yogurt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 tbsp flour
2 egg yolks
1 cup water
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Wash and drain the rice, then boil until tender in the stock. Add milk.

Beat the yogurt, flour, lemon juice and egg yolks with the water in a bowl. Add salt, black pepper and cumin, mix well.

Add a little of the dried mint and red pepper flakes to the stock.

Melt the butter in a separate pot and add the rest of the dried mint and red pepper flakes. Add the butter to the stock when goldren brown coloured.

Pour a little of the hot stock into this liaison mixture and then pour back into the main pan. Stirring continuously, bring to boil over alow heat and continute cooking for another 5 minutes.


Zeytinyagli taze fasulye
Green beans in olive oil

Kabak meuveri
Zucchini patties with herbs and cheese



I am not really a beans person but the vegetables are so delicious! My daughter loves the Zucchini patties which is fairly healthy too.

Hunkar begendili kuzu
Lamb stew in tomato sauce in smoky eggplant puree



Now this is absolutely delicious! The lamb stew may look spicy but the heat does not assault you as they would in Malay cooking, but its more gentle and subtle. And I love eggplants! Just making this dish makes me appreciate the effort it takes to grills and skin the eggplants after! And I love the taste of the sweet chilli that goes with the dish.


Incir tatlisi
Walnut stuffed figs in syrup



And now I know what I can do with dried figs! Especially those which are way too dry to eat my themselves. The figs became juicy and sweet without it being too sweet.

I had a wonderful morning cooking with Eveline, Feyzi, Tom, Charlotte and Linda. As usual the conversation gets pretty interesting. Charlotte is a dancer who decided to travel while she is in between jobs. Through her I then realize that the Hamam was co-ed, not just for men.

Tom is a Doctor from Australia on holiday. We met him in the tram at a later time and he told us about his wonderful trip to the Asian side, (something we didn't plan on doing) and we went with his recommendation and had a good time.

Linda, told us a trip she took with Dr Spencer Wells on The Genographic project. That got us really interested to know about our genetic journey.

Eveline, a Dutch, who has been in Turkey for 11 years used to run a hotel until the landlord decided to sell the building off. She decided to run the restaurant and cooking class full time until she decides what else to do next. She came in the country and fell in love with the place and the culture and decided to find a way to stay, which she did.

For me, it was just amazing how in one morning, I not only learned more about Turkish cooking and cuisine but also met 5 more people who taught me about new things which I would have not known before.

Friday, October 03, 2008

I am back and down with flu

I have to say that Turkey has surpassed any sort of ideas I have about the country. I am still reeling from the experience and it seems 7 days is way too short for a country full of history, life and art.

In the meantime, I have laundry to do and pictures to sift through and hopefully some time to put my thoughts into coherent sentences to become entries.

I am tired and overjoyed and I'd have to report back to work in a day's time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

She's a preschooler


Perhaps the people around me are just being kind to me. But I believe that if people say it often enough, it will be a prayer and it will come true anyways, so I don't mind.

I have been told by quite a few people that my Little One is the smartest two and half year old they have come across with. She is articulate, she knows exactly what she likes and what she wants and is very observant. She has very good memory and I have learnt my lesson never to tell lies to her and not make any promises unless I fully intent to deliver them.

Of course being her mother, I am naturally biased. I have seen how quickly she takes on to things, how much she loves to be read to and how quickly she learns (especially the stuff I don't want her to pick up. ;))

My challenge as a mother (and I'm sure for other parents too) is to channel her enthusiasm in the direction that could develop her further to maximize her full potential.

And its not even necessarily in term of academic achievement, but rather through socialization and providing her with enriching life experiences that would further widen her mind and her horizon.



Hence I am overjoyed that she is enjoying her new school very much. Just after a mere 2 weeks I see a new sense of independence in her. She declares that "I am a big girl," and does insist on doing a lot of things herself.

Just this morning I had the opportunity to send her to school. We woke her up and asked her if she would like to go to school today and she answered "Yes" with a smile. We asked her if she wanted to use a pull up diaper or just panties and she chose panties, a major step up considering she was still wearing diapers when she started school!

She loves to choose so DH asked her if she wanted a white top or a red top, and if she wants to pair them with trousers or skirt. She quickly made her decision with a smile.

Very reassuring for mum who hasn't been able to send The Little One to school herself.

We got in the van that ferries the children to school and she was happy to sit beside her friend. She started telling me about the basketball hoop that is broken. Smiles all round.

Upon arrival she showed me the way to the front door and promptly reached for the door handle to her clssroom and proceeded to open it herself. Her teacher greeted her with a smile, The Little One hung her hat at the rack, put her water bottle in the designated box and proceeded directly to the table where some colouring sheets have been laid out ready for the children to attempt should that be what they want to do.

I only had time to tell her "Enjoy yourself," and she didn't even look back at me.

I must say that this is an amazing transformation for her. From a child who hung on to me, my jeans and my top refusing to let go, who cried asking for mummy, she has demonstrated to me that she wants to be in the environment, she likes being in the school and looks forward to being there everyday.

And I don't blame her. She is surrounded with a plethora of materials that would interest a child. Just yesterday, she showed me how adept her fingers are at treading some wooden beads through a shoe lace, a new development in her fine motor skills.

And outside there are many different things for a child to further develop their gross motor skills, some tricycles, sand, playhouses, slide, the list seems endless.

All in all, mummy is happy when Little One is happy and Little One is enjoying herself very much so by the looks of things. She even came home with a new song she learned from school and I'm impressed because I thought I knew them all ;)

My dear daughter, I really do hope you enjoy yourself whatever it is in life that you are doing. There is nothing more that I want than for you to be happy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

May Allah always grant your wishes my child!

"Abah, when will you give me a car present?" said The Little One, sounding hopeful.

"Well it may be a bit expensive to buy you a car," replied DH.

Half an hour later, we went off to our favorite stationary shop. I needed to pick up a few things and wanted to hurry home before the crowd come in.

The Little One wanted to have a long good look at the stickers and I tried to tell her that I bought some already.

The owner of the shop saw her, grunted and gestured for her to follow him and then presented her with a box of 5 matchbox size cars and a couple of cute items.

Little One said "Syukran" and smiled all the way to the car.

Did she know that she was about to get the "car present"? Or did Allah grant my Little One's wishes?

She slept clasping one of the cars last night.

My darling daughter, may Allah always grant you your wishes! Always remember to ask for good things and be grateful for what He bestows us.

Murah betul rezeki mu anakku. Semoga rezekimu sentiasa melimpah ruah sepanjang hayat mu hingga ke anak cucu.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Piecing the picture

The day that we mothers have been waiting for finally arrived! The opening of the Montessori preschool which 11 of our children are going to!

Perhaps, I've been too tired myself with work and Ramadhan that I seemed to have taken the laid back attitude of "Lets wait and see." My only fear was that they may not have The Little One's name on the list despite the deposit we paid way back before the summer. Originally there were only 8 children from our compound signed up for the school but 3 more wanted to sign up, so places are really sought after.

In preparation for the school, the mothers had 2 meetings discussing about transportation, cost timings and responsibilities.

I was a little bit sad that I won't be there to send her to school on her first day. I have to confess that I carried a little lump in my heart as I go about with my work that day. But on the other hand I know she will be in good hands. My Dh will send her off in the morning. My good friend Ev@ is working in the school so she could keep half an eye. My neighbors would ensure that she comes home safely.

One mom told me that she could not sleep the night before because she was so excited that her child was going to that school the following day!

Me? I am just thrilled that she will be in a place where she can be socialized, nurtured and stimulated in an enriching environment.

I had a conversation with a colleague, R, about the subject just yesterday. Her son has just been moved up into grade one as he was far too advanced for KG2. She credits their investment, paying a bomb for their son's kindergarten in the States, paying off. R pointed out that technically, the money not spent on kindergarten could be saved for her son's college fund. But at the same time, children, like houses, need good foundation.

Of course they can grow despite not going to school in the early years but good Early Years experience would ease their transition into school later. Especially the socialization part. Even in the States she said, some mothers feel that if a good portion of their salary goes towards daycare, then perhaps it may be better for the mother to stay at home and look after the child.

I have since concluded, no matter where we live, good things (including education) are always rather dear. Should or not a child go to school at that age would be up to her/his parents' choice and discretion.

In my case, I feel that there are benefits to my child learning some independence. She is very attached to me (thanks to Attachment parenting), but at the same time I want her to know that she can function well and enjoy herself without Mummy by her side 24 hours a day. I want her to be able to make good choices and good decisions when she is by herself and I am confident that she is well loved by everyone around her. And I don't want her to live in my shadow all the time. Its healthy to see some sun!

I am very pleased to report that just merely after 3 days she is very happy at the school. She tells me that she likes her teacher and had lots of fun. My DH was pleased with the way her teacher has handled her. She seems to know how to distract her and attract her and looks generally happy and motivated to be with the children.

Next step, toilet training.

Friday, September 05, 2008

First weekend in Ramadhan

The evening was filled with relaxed conversation. The men obviously having a good time themselves because their laughter filled the room, so loud that we ladies could hardly hear ourselves speak. The Little One was out with our hosts' teenager daughter. Its lovely that she offered to babysit.

At that point I could not help but be so grateful. Grateful that I have friends who enjoy my company and whose company I enjoy. Who are willing to share the snippets of their lives with me. Who accept me for who I am and I in turn accept them for who they are.

The food on the counter was just overflowing. Laksa lemak (which I love), bubur lumbuk (which I craved), telur ikan goreng (which I havent had for a while), kolak (which i miss), kuih kosue (which i adore and cannot make myself); just to name a few. Alhamdullilah. ALhamdullilah. Alhamdullilah. How blessed can I be?

I had endevoured to make some of MIL's kuih bakar. But my first batch turn out to be pandan chiffon my mistake. So it turns out 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup eggs + pandan flavouring yields pandan chiffon cake. In my dehydrated stupor I had decided to make the kuih without peeking at the recipe first, only to my dismay found the texture very different until the help pointed out that I had forgotten the coconut milk.

My DH started laughing really loudly and immediately declared that he will call his mum to tell her of my misadventure.

My daughter however was teased by the smell of fresh cake out of the oven requested for a slice. She took two bites and said, "Umi, the cake is very delicious! Thank you for making it for me."

Awww, this one really can really say things to make my heart melt.

So I had to make another batch, almost wiping out the whole tray of eggs I bought. This time I left the help run the show.

In the meantime I decided to make fried popiah from scratch, kari daging and roti jala. Not a good idea when I brought my DD for a nap at 3 pm and I woke up at 4 pm, realizing I lost an hour napping with her when all the other stuff was not done! Thank god for hired helps! So we had a devision of labour. I did the mixing and she did the jala-ing of the roti jala. In the meantime I started with the curry and started rolling the spring rolls and immediately try to fry them.

Of course as we got in the car to leave, I heard the azan call and I rushed back inside again to pick up some cake and dates so we could break our fast and push on.

And we were welcomed with friendly smiles and delicious food.

Conversation after dinner focused on what our holiday plans were. Some will go back to Singapore. Others will stay in Riyadh in anticipation of their ski trip to Chamonix.

I know that I will miss my friends and my friendships most when the time comes for me to leave this city. But that day will be inevitable. In the meantime I am truly grateful for Allah's and their generosity.

So how has your Ramadhan been? I hope your Ramadhan will be as fruitful and joyous as you want it to be.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Chip on shoulder

Swahili forwarded an interesting article by NurDiana Suhaimi about "feeling like the least favourite child." ( see below)

Perhaps her sentiment is echoed by quite a few in Singapore. Throughout my life I have met many such Malay Singaporeans who, in my opinion, have a chip on their shoulder.

It would be quite easy to spot them from afar, because they are very often defensive people. They often feel a need to tell others that " I am the first Malay country manager..." or "I am one of the few Malays in the office..." within the first 15 minutes of you meeting them.

At the back of my mind I always ask myself, "Is that how he sees himself? First as part of the collective Malay race before he/she is an individual?"

They often carry such anger inside them. Perhaps stemming from growing up thinking that the whole world is against them because of their race and/or religion. And again this sentiment would appear quite early in conversation and they are often tense and very serious.

Some feel that the whole world is against them and that the world owe them something else in return.

Perhaps I am one of the lucky few who managed to escape from the bug. I can't really say if I never had the chip or that I had lost it as soon as I left the country at age 21.

My mum never told me that I have to work harder because I am Malay. She merely told me that I just have to be the best no matter what. But she is genetically Chinese of course. (Although it does say that I am a Malay on my Identity card as is my cultural practice.) Perhaps that made the difference?

I suppose, if as a child, you are told that you will be discriminated against, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and you will feel that you are discriminated.

When I left Singapore to hangout with the other fellow Malaysians/Singaporeans there was never a sense of separation between the races. We all hung out because we had something in common, we were from the Malay Peninsula. They enjoyed similar food. Our memories of home were very similar too. (Especially in the -15oC Calgary winter.)

We were all united of course, all with the same goal, to finish our studies, whatever it may be, the best we can and move on and up in life.

Thing is prejudice exist everywhere. And it is inevitable, at any given place on earth, a minority group would feel itself shortchanged and prejudiced against by the majority.

For me, the truth is the feeling of being prejudiced against is a state of mind. You can and will only feel that way if you give away your sense of worth by what you think others judge of you. If anything, it shows the ignorance of the prejudiced, of how little they know of you, as a person, and chooses to judge you on the basis of race/color/origin etc.

And to that, I'd say "The loss is yours, not mine."

I see no point in carrying this chip on the shoulder; the anger, the feeling of helplessness, injustice and unhappiness. The fault lies on the person who undertakes to shoulder all those emotions when in fact they have the power in their hands to shake themselves off and seize the world.

We cannot change who we are. Our race, our gender, our color is something we are born with and have to live with. But we can change how we think of ourselves. Where do we put ourselves in the big picture? We should not be defined by what other people think of us, but rather what we think of ourselves.

So my daughter, to you, I say this. Be the best person you can be. Be happy with who you are and the wonderful opportunities given to you. Dream big! Everything and anything is possible for you, as long as you work hard and set your mind on what it is that you want.

Here are your wings. Fly my beautiful child!

***************************************************************************

I now realize that to view the article you'd have to be a subscriber and so here is the article:
he Straits Times, Aug 10, 2008

Feeling like the least favourite child

By Nur Dianah Suhaimi

When I was younger, I always thought of myself as the quintessential Singaporean.

Of my four late grandparents, two were Malay, one was Chinese and one was Indian. This, I concluded, makes me a mix of all the main races in the country. But I later realised that it was not what goes into my blood that matters, but what my identity card says under 'Race'.

Because my paternal grandfather was of Bugis origin, my IC says I'm Malay. I speak the language at home, learnt it in school, eat the food and practise the culture. And because of my being Malay, I've always felt like a lesser Singaporean than those from other racial groups.

I grew up clueless about the concept of national service because my father was never enlisted.

He is Singaporean all right, born and bred here like the rest of the boys born in 1955. He is not handicapped in any way. He did well in school and participated in sports.

Unlike the rest, however, he entered university immediately after his A levels. He often told me that his schoolmates said he was 'lucky' because he was not called up for national service.

'What lucky?' he would tell them. 'Would you feel lucky if your country doesn't trust you?'

So I learnt about the rigours of national service from my male cousins. They would describe in vivid detail their training regimes, the terrible food they were served and the torture inflicted upon them - most of which, I would later realise, were exaggerations.

But one thing these stories had in common was that they all revolved around the Police Academy in Thomson. As I got older, it puzzled me why my Chinese friends constantly referred to NS as 'army'. In my family and among my Malay friends, being enlisted in the army was like hitting the jackpot. The majority served in the police force because, as is known, the Government was not comfortable with Malay Muslims serving in the army. But there are more of them now.

Throughout my life, my father has always told me that as a Malay, I need to work twice as hard to prove my worth. He said people have the misconception that all Malays are inherently lazy.

I was later to get the exact same advice from a Malay minister in office who is a family friend.

When I started work, I realised that the advice rang true, especially because I wear my religion on my head. My professionalism suddenly became an issue. One question I was asked at a job interview was whether I would be willing to enter a nightclub to chase a story. I answered: 'If it's part of the job, why not? And you can rest assured I won't be tempted to have fun.'

When I attend media events, before I can introduce myself, people assume I write for the Malay daily Berita Harian. A male Malay colleague in The Straits Times has the same problem, too.

This makes me wonder if people also assume that all Chinese reporters are from Lianhe Zaobao and Indian reporters from Tamil Murasu.

People also question if I can do stories which require stake-outs in the sleazy lanes of Geylang. They say because of my tudung I will stick out like a sore thumb. So I changed into a baseball cap and a men's sports jacket - all borrowed from my husband - when I covered Geylang.

I do not want to be seen as different from the rest just because I dress differently. I want the same opportunities and the same job challenges.

Beneath the tudung, I, too, have hair and a functioning brain. And if anything, I feel that my tudung has actually helped me secure some difficult interviews.

Newsmakers - of all races - tend to trust me more because I look guai (Hokkien for well-behaved) and thus, they feel, less likely to write critical stuff about them.

Recently, I had a conversation with several colleagues about this essay. I told them I never thought of myself as being particularly patriotic. One Chinese colleague thought this was unfair. 'But you got to enjoy free education,' she said.

Sure, for the entire 365 days I spent in Primary 1 in 1989. But my parents paid for my school and university fees for the next 15 years I was studying.

It seems that many Singaporeans do not know that Malays have stopped getting free education since 1990. If I remember clearly, the news made front-page news at that time.

We went on to talk about the Singapore Government's belief that Malays here would never point a missile at their fellow Muslim neighbours in a war.

I said if not for family ties, I would have no qualms about leaving the country. Someone then remarked that this is why Malays like myself are not trusted. But I answered that this lack of patriotism on my part comes from not being trusted, and for being treated like a potential traitor.

It is not just the NS issue. It is the frustration of explaining to non-Malays that I don't get special privileges from the Government. It is having to deal with those who question my professionalism because of my religion. It is having people assume, day after day, that you are lowly educated, lazy and poor. It is like being the least favourite child in a family. This child will try to win his parents' love only for so long. After a while, he will just be engulfed by disappointment and bitterness.

I also believe that it is this 'least favourite child' mentality which makes most Malays defensive and protective of their own kind.

Why do you think Malay families spent hundreds of dollars voting for two Malay boys in the Singapore Idol singing contest? And do you know that Malays who voted for other competitors were frowned upon by the community?

The same happens to me at work. When I write stories which put Malays in a bad light, I am labelled a traitor. A Malay reader once wrote to me to say: 'I thought a Malay journalist would have more empathy for these unfortunate people than a non-Malay journalist.'

But such is the case when you are a Malay Singaporean. Your life is not just about you, as much as you want it to be. You are made to feel responsible for the rest of the pack and your actions affect them as well. If you trip, the entire community falls with you. But if you triumph, it is considered everyone's success.

When 12-year-old Natasha Nabila hit the headlines last year for her record PSLE aggregate of 294, I was among the thousands of Malays here who celebrated the news. I sent instant messages to my friends on Gmail and chatted excitedly with my Malay colleagues at work.

Suddenly a 12-year-old has become the symbol of hope for the community and a message to the rest that Malays can do it too - and not just in singing competitions.

And just like that, the 'least favourite child' in me feels a lot happier.

Each year, come Aug 9, my father, who never had the opportunity to do national service, dutifully hangs two flags at home - one on the front gate and the other by the side gate.

I wonder if putting up two flags is his way of making himself feel like a better-loved child of Singapore.



Sunday, August 24, 2008

Deja vu

I sat in the staff meeting just now and suddenly what was discussed became very familiar. Just hearing the Speaker talk, reminded me that I've heard all this before. Suddenly I had a strong sense of deja vu, that I've been here before.

Then it all came flooding back to me. The memory came from a dream. A dream not too long ago. If anyone had told me then that I will be working today, attending a staff meeting where I was, I would have said, "You got to be kidding me."

On the other hand I believe in Fate and Predestination. It was predestined that the job was for me but in my free will I had turned in down many times with many different excuses, even if many were kind enough to show and point me the way. It took two wonderful friends to put fairy lights on for me, to see the beauty and the opportunity.

How I got hired itself was short of a miracle. Many had come by looking for a job but not getting one. But me, the uncertain old me, now renewed and refreshed from my Power of Positive thinking workshop
went to help a friend and to submit my application form thinking "Surely its safe now to apply because they are no longer hiring." And Lo and behold, I was offered a job the same afternoon.

Even then I was hesitant, thinking that my child may be neglected. But every single step, Allah made it easy for me to accept this opportunity. A friend agrees to babysit. And the Boss agreed to allow my sweet child sit in the toddler's class.

I am truly grateful. Alhamdullilah. Alhamdullilah. Alhamdullilah. I am so grateful for this opportunity, for the support of my wonderful Dh and my wonderful, wonderful friends.

My next challenge is truly excel in what I do and let my light shine through.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Enthralled

Filled with a strange determination to seize each day with renewed enthusiasm.
Recharged with the power of positive thinking
And surrounded by supportive friends
Spring in each step moving with enthusiasm

The present straddles between the past and the future
Doing the familiar, yet with new twists
A little rusty but improving
I will do it, I can.

I am capable of achieving everything and anything that I want
As long as I yet my mind on it and work really hard
I can only do it through example
As those eyes are constantly watching, taking notes.

My life is full of pleasant surprises.
I did ask for beautiful journeys of abundance
And the present is as bountiful as any
And I am truly grateful. Alhamdullilah

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I am at quandry

The Universe heard the message I sent out and has shifted things around such that some paths are in place for me. Alhamdullilah.

My challenge is to accept or not accept the opportunity that has been given to me.

Part of me feel that this will be good for my present and future plans.

The other part of me feels guilty that I am not giving my daughter the full attention she deserves.

Lets see how things transpire.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Disposable income vs quality of life

It comes to THAT time again when our feet get itchy and restless. Perhaps its because we could not find a way to escape the heat except at the malls that we aspire to be some place else, much greener and cooler.

We have been here four years now after all. Many asked us how we managed to survive here this long. Truth is that I have learned to love my life here. I shall not lie and lament about how it irks me that women cannot drive or that mutt@was could be a nuisance. I am lucky that the means of transportation is available to me. Granted that its not cheap but I really don't see why other people are complaining when the cost of taxis everywhere else in the world has sky rocketed. I remembered stepping in a taxi in Singapore and before I could even tell the taxi driver where we wanted to go, the fare was already close to $10. And that was after waiting 25 minutes in line!

And I've learned to avoid the mutt@wa lairs. I cover up when I am outside and go to areas where I know I will not be harassed. I've had an encounter or two but it has been fairly decent because I've learned how not to attract attention to myself.

I no longer find it strange that we eat in isolation and even draw the curtains at our "booth" at the restaurant and embrace the privacy of eating sans prying eyes.

Perhaps the fact that the above doesn't bother me means that I am accustomed to life here.

AT the same time, I am also accustomed to our purchasing power here. Enjoying 3 teapots of Galler hot chocolate counts as a pleasant treat. (Of course I didn't drink all 3 teapots alone!) My DH now has a bad habit of choosing items of clothing for the Little One without checking out the price tag first. Tsk tsk! A huge no no in our life past!

I remember the looks my in laws gave us when we only drank at Starbucks in KL. I mean buying drinks for 4 adults at Starbucks could be equivalent for a week groceries for some. I still get that bit! I am not out of touch that way. But the way we see it, we live far away from our families and civilization as we know it, so that we can enjoy the little luxuries in life.

I am grateful to Allah that we have it good here. Our accommodation is catered for. With no worry about water or electricity bills. Petrol costs almost next to nothing, (Less than 10 p), much cheaper than bottled water. The pool is just steps away from my back door, the playground 3 minutes away and I can have domestic help to help me with the household chores and babysit if the need arise. I know we have it good.

And not paying taxes is a big plus. I still remember how painful it feels to see half of our hard earned salary siphoned off to subsidize the single mothers and pay off other people's medical bills.

Then again, there is another part of me that wants more. More to life than that of shopping malls and coffee mornings. The ability to upgrade myself, my mind, my horizon.

I want a better education for my child. Where she is taught by trained and passionate people who truly care and inspire. Not just by some people who see the nursery as a money making opportunity. An acquaintance was truly surprised how much the Little One's fees would be for Montessori school next year. Are you ready for the number? Sr15,900 plus SR1,500 non refundable registration fee. Thats USD4,639 or MYR15,132 or SGD6,370. Surely a handsome sum indeed elsewhere too!

I know I have taken as many opportunities possible to better myself. But there are still some areas I would like to pursue to expand my horizon. Early childhood education for a start. Alternative medicine is another.

I want to be able to bring her to wonderful museums with beautiful paintings and/or artifacts that may interest her. To give her a wide range of life experiences, to see all sorts of different things in her own eyes.

I do miss the ability to walk down to the cinema and watch a movie. Or be entertained by a good musical or show. Or simple things like trying the clothes I want to buy before buying them and have the luxury of interacting with a sales woman who may even recommend me some other clothes that may suit me, rather than be served by bored men.

I want to be able to do more things as a family together. Simple things like going to the zoo and amusement parks for instance. I still don't appreciate the value of men or women only days at the zoo. Which is why we don't go unless its a school trip of some sort.

Then again, I suppose, having a bigger disposable income means that we could afford a few foreign holidays in a year.

Perhaps the answer to my own quandary is that its all about compromise. Life is about making compromises. What would I consider as the important aspects in my life that I am willing to forgo other bits of it?

What is my compromise for living here and what else would I have to compromise for us to move and live somewhere I want to live?

Despite my quandary, I am very grateful to Allah for giving us the myriad of experiences he has given us. And yes we are lucky in the sense that we are in a position to choose where we would like to be and where we would like to go. Alhamdullilah.

I am also very grateful that DH is as willing to travel the world and always found the ways and means of doing it.

In that sense Kakteh, I guess I feel that my glass is half full. I always do wish that it's full to the brim that its overflowing but I must always remind myself how lucky I am that it is half full.

And Ghazali, apparently sometimes the decision is made for us by our Almighty ;) Good luck to you, may your family learn to love life here as I do.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dida did it!

I walked into the bedroom with dried cranberries strewn all over the floor.

"Who did this?" I asked. Somewhat perplexed to see the dried fruits on the floor.

"Dida did it Umi!" she declared with such conviction.

"Dida? Why did Dida do it?" I had to ask.

"Don't know."

"Can you please tell Dida not to do it again? This makes Umi very upset you know," I told her trying hard not to laugh.

"Ok."

At 2 years and 7 months she does know whats right and wrong and tries to shift the blame on Dida.

Dida her imaginary friend has been with us for 2/3 months now. I don't know if Dida is the same person as Mongku.

She has shown her imaginary play quite a bit these days. She likes to arrange pillows and imagine it as a car so that she can drive to the strawberry farm to pick strawberries. And she likes to pretend to pick the green strawberries in her imaginative play.

To be a child again.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Whipsnade Wild animal park


Location: Whipsnade Zoo
Dunstable
Bedfordshire LU6 2LF
Tel: 01582 872171
Fax: 01582 872649


When we found out by chance that Whipsnade will have a special night opening we decided to make that special trip to Dunstable and stay at the weekend there.

We found Whipsnade 1 and half years ago after visiting the London Zoo. At that time The Little One was 1 year old and we wanted to expose her to other living creatures big and small. Her then favourite book was Eric Carle's "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?" so we thought it would be apt for her to see a brown bear in person.

We had a wonderful day out that winter day and when I found out about their special "once a year" night opening in the summer, we decided that the opportunity was too good to be missed. Afterall, surely it was a stroke of good luck that they had the night opening when we were in town!

We rented a car and drove over 2.5 hours to Dunstable and checked in at the Travellodge Dunstable Hockliffe at GBP53.50 a night. Hockliffe is somewhat between Whipsnade and Woburn, and we were going to Woburn the following day.

We arrived at Whipsnade early and was really excited to get in. The Kiasu and Kanciong part of me was afraid that they may have limited tickets for the night and wanted to be in the front of the queue to make sure that we could get in.

I had tried to buy the tickets online in advance but was not able to do so. We called the zoo about the ticket sales and they assured us that we could buy them when we get there. But hey! We've come a long long way to turn back and miss this opportunity.

Of course the minute we got in, I had to head off to the toilets first! The weather was slightly chilly and I was so glad we didn't forget our jumpers!

First we saw the Lemurs. I must say that the whole night opening was very well organized. There were many zookeepers and volunteers, all friendly and smiling. Willing to tell us about the animal friends.



They were feeding the Lemur raisins as we were at their enclosure and one even came up close and almost personal to The Little One. But of course we didn't have the camera ready for the Kodak moment. And these Little creatures are so nimble and so quick indeed!


We then decided to walk over to the Elephant enclosure for the Elephant show. Elephants, being the Little One's current favorite animal is a must see animal for the evening.


The Little One's last trip here was when she was 12 months old, and there she was in my Ergo carrier. Carrying her high up with us was part of our attachment parenting style. So that she is more aware of what does on at our level.






And here she is now at 30 months old! Talkative, inquisitive, curious, full of questions and imaginative play. I think the attachment parenting bit paid off. She shows attentiveness and at her age she does speak quite well and is able to express herself clearly. She can tell us when she is happy, sad, scared and what it is exactly that she wants. (Normally its ice-cream.)




And then that customary ride on the steam engine train. She has been watching Thomas the Tank engine and is very curious about trains. Afterall she doesn't get to sit in one very often here.

I could not resist the smell of fish and chips nearby and got some for our dinner. I forgot how quickly food gets cold over there but it was really nice to have a good fish and chips!

The Little One insisted on playing at the play area for while. She just loves running and going down the slide. We didn't object as it would allow her to release some steam and burn off excess energy.

Time just seemed to fly by when you're having fun and before we know it, the sun was setting and the closing time was not too far off.

We caught the fire show by "Flame Oz" and I must say that I found them thoroughly mesmerizing and enjoyable.

But alas the beautiful evening had to come to an end and we were excited to rest for the night as next on our agenda was another animal park which we have never been to before.

Friday, July 18, 2008

PYO Strawberries




Location: Hewitt's Farm, Hewitts Road, Orpington BR6 7QR Kent
Tel: 01959 532003

We first discovered Hewitts farm about 8 years ago on our way to M25. I had often noticed the PYO sign but never knew exactly what they meant. Until I noticed a huge strawberry sign with pick your own on it.

And we've been in love with that place since. We missed it terribly the past 4 years. I will always remember and appreciate the smell and taste of fresh fruit, those just plucked from its tree. The juiciness, sweetness is just amazing. Nothing like the fruits sold in the supermarkets. I never did like peas nor was I too crazy about corn. Before Hewitts I would never have thought of eating them raw. But peas and corn are so sweet when you just pluck them off the trees. I totally support the movement of eating local!



We were lucky to get some sunshine for us to go to Hewitts 2 days in a row! Checkout how red and juicy the strawberries looked! That way we know that the strawberries we picked are exactly ready to be eaten, instead of being plucked just before it ripens only to be sorted out in conveyor belts and transported to supermarkets.

The Little One saw an episode on Tweenies how they went to a farm to pick their own strawberries and she got that idea stuck in her head that she wants to go to a strawberry farm to pick her own strawberries!

One morning we woke her up for a drive to Bahrain and she sleepily asked us, "Mummy are we going to the strawberry farm?"

I was really flabbergasted. The only answer I could muster just not to disappoint her was, "If we saw any strawberry farms along the way, we will stop and you'll get to pick them."

Sorry darling Mummy knew all too well that strawberries didn't grow in the desert.

So my DH decided that the first week of July would be ideal for a trip to Hewitts when they'd have strawberries for picking! And here she is!




The beauty of PYO is that tasting is free, otherwise strawberries cost GBP1.50 a pound.



Check out the Little One tasting the strawberries! Never mind about washing them! They had 2 patches of strawberries, one variety was bigger, juicier and slightly sharp, the other smaller and much sweeter.

To be little again and allowed to taste as many strawberries as one likes!



I think she was in strawberry heaven!

We managed to go to Hewitts 3 days in a row before the weather started to turn wet all week. The farm is very easy to find and does have a big carpark. They even allocate an area for picnic/bbq which you could use for a fee and does get somewhat busier at weekends during the fruit picking season. Not busy at all on the week days.

She opens 930 am to 5:30 pm in the summer.