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.


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
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.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Facing my cobwebs

The last two days was a bit of a struggle. The weather didn't help either. It was freezing cold, grey and wet. All the same reasons why I loved the city. With so little time and so much to do, we had to have lists written down, people to call, cheques to write out, appointments to arrange, keys to be handed over.

Making decisions was sometimes hard. Should we let go? With whom?

Meanwhile Danny the Decorator was making good progress with the painting of the apartment. Another decision we had to make but didn't anticipate. He didn't come cheap. Nothing did. But what do you do?

At first we were really depressed. The place we so loved was such in a dissaray. Unloved and not taken care of. It was a place built with love, hope and sweat.

Perhaps we loved the apartment so much precisely because we had to work extra hard to earn it. To save up for the deposit we had to put ourselves on a strict budget. Every penny had to be accounted for. I'm sure we still have the spreadsheet on a memory disk somewhere. How every penny spent is noted down and the budget adjusted accordingly.

On the days I bought the travel card which then cost GBP4.50, I would have to make sure that I will utilize it as much as I could. It could be the day I go to the market in Croydon, or my bus ride to buy meat, then for Italian class and even a trip to Tesco before heading home. We would both bring large rucksacks so we could stuff all the groceries and necessities in them. We could only buy what we could carry and each purchase would have to be considered seriously, is this a need or want? Its quite hard to struggle with groceries on the bus, you see.

I would normally buy whatever was reduced or on offer. Thats the only way to make the money go further. He would bring a packed lunch. And if we ate out, we would choose things that would last the longest, make us most full for the minimal spend.

Those days I often asked myself, what did I get myself into. We moved to the UK, into a life of penny pinching and public transport from a life of being chauffeured driven and eating out at top eateries in Jakarta. As I struggled with the weight on my back, I would remember the days when groceries were sent to the car and from the car to the apartment by the doorman. But it was a life we chose to leave behind. All for a greener dream.

As uncle Dean pointed out when we told him the story, sometimes its good to struggle a little in life. Makes you appreciate what you have better.

And he is right of course.

Which was why it was so hard to move out of the house. We moved out of the country 4 years ago but just could not move out of that flat.

I still remember how 6 years ago, we slept on the floor on a comforter on the first night we moved in with the patio door open. We had no furniture. But we were incredibly happy. We spent hours trawling about furniture stores, DIY shops, looking at what we want and deciding what we could afford. Once again, the trusted Excel spreadsheet was drawn up, how much we would spend on what and how we would get it home and how else we could get it cheaper.

We painted each walls ourselves. Still have the rollers and the paint tray in the store room. Each of that we did with joy and anticipation. Each choice we did together after hours or research and contemplation.

Which explained why we began to feel a bit different as Danny painted each room. He first started in the kitchen. The room that broke my heart when I got home. It just looked so tired and uncared for. I had spent many hours in that space, cleaning, cooking, thinking. The fresh coat of paint just lifted the spirits of that room. A new lease of life. A breathe of fresh air.

Danny also repaired the hole in the ceiling. Another item that we just kept at the back of our minds for a long time. Why we didn't get it repaired right away I don't know. Perhaps I was afraid of the damage it would cost.

And it was amazing how much stuff we still had there. The skip we hired got quite full. The old TVs got in there first. The TV was purchased within the first 2 months on our arrival. Luckily Curry's delivers.

Clothes, books, shoes were either sent to the charity shop or clothes bank. I still could not throw out or give away the Ecco shoes I backpacked in Europe with. My first Coach bag that was bought in Hong Kong was still in that cupboard. Good thing I checked the pockets before sending it off because it still had some money in it. For the longest time, I could not part with the bag because it was the first good bag I owned that DH got me when we were living in Hong Kong. But it was not something I would use anymore. SO I had to set it free to someone who could use it and give it a good home.

I had to smile when I saw that black rug sack sitting pretty in the window of Oxfam charity shop. Goodbye my dear. May someone else find you a great joy.

Lesson No 362, my memories stay with me, not with worldly personal possessions. If anything, the world is open for me to make even more beautiful memories.

Towards the end, I had to enlist the help of uncle Dean to get rid of the rest of our stuff. And boy we had so much stuff! Luckily he is a very keen gardener and was very keen indeed in inheriting all of our garden tools. We had everything, the hedge trimmer, the landmower, the compost, miracle grow, the nice hose, the extension cord. Everything he took.

He helped me emptied out the cupboard. Oh boy I bought a lot of candles. I don't know why I bought them when I hardly used them. Perhaps I thought I'd use them for a romantic dinner and/or cuddle or something.

Lesson no 363, no more buying candles! Unless I could use them to see my auras or something useful to that effect.

With Danny's progress each room was painted with magnolia walls and brilliant white ceilings. He did a good job and the apartment got a new suit, a new skin, a new feel. Each room became depersonalized, they were no longer the walls we painted with love and became a sign of old baggage being getting rid off.

I just had to close my eyes. What could fit in our bags could come with us, the rest well either went to Danny, uncle Dean, Kak Nor, the charity shop, the rubbish bin and/or the skip. Its almost like having my own Life Laundry episode.

Lesson no 364, need to trim down my clutter. I tend to accumulate too much. What is no longer used need to be recycled or gotten rid of.

If anything our struggle is nothing different that what most people have to go through each day. It is no way extraordinary. If anything it made us stronger and more aware of what we are capable of achieving as long as we set our minds to it and work hard at it.

So everyone kept asking me how my trip to London was. To that my answer is, I had to face my past and our future at the same time. Of course we had some sunny days and went to a few interesting places that perhaps I will blog about. But at this time, I am facing my demons. I have come to face the fact that I am a hoarder and I must stop hoarding.

And I will set the flat free, so that my tenant will live there and get the joy and happiness that we enjoyed, helping us save for The Little One's future. There are no more cobwebs of my inability to let go. I have moved on. And I will continue to move on.

From now on, I will make better choices. I will shift my life from shades of gray to beautiful living colors.

My beautiful child, I hope you will understand that good things in life don't just come in a platter to you. May you learn from our life lessons, not repeat them and achieve better than what we can. May you lead a life more extraordinary than ours, with each day bringing wondrous joy.

My darling dearest, we did this together before and will go through it together again if we need to. Thank you for traveling round the world with me. I love you and want you to always be happy.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I want to go hhhoooommmmeee

The little one seemed to be missing home. Don't blame her, its been topsy curvy here. At first we just thought she was tired of being out in the rain.

"Don't worry we'll be home in 20 mins," we assured here.

"Which House?" she would ask us.

"In Br0mley of course," we told her.

"No! I want the other home," was her reply.

Other home?

"In Riiyaad," she said.

She's been missing her friends so badly apparently. Two weeks without regular contacts with other children. I ried to bring her to Gymboree whenever we stayed home to do stuff. But I guess its different than being with other kids who were her friends.

It was also funny how she told the decorator, "This is my house."

It is definitely yours my child. Your future. Your college fund. And may both the house and you prosper together.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Lesson no 351 - Learning to let go of the past

Coming back was a bit of a shock to me. Especially the state of the flat. The house sitter had left in a hurry and his hurry was all too present. An unwashed mug with some coffee still in the mug. Crumbs everywhere. Even food in the fridge, now rotten. The kitchen was in an absolute mess.

Our bedroom was familiar but a bit dusty and musty. Its been awhile since any fresh air has come in.

The front door is flooded with mail. Thank God for double doors. Last thing I need are obvious signs that the flat was unoccupied.

A huge box stood in the living room. Packed but nowhere to go. No sign of the owner. No way of contacting him. Never got his contact details in Malaysia. Perhaps never will.

It was somehow depressing but we were determined to make things work.

Sadder still was going through past belongings. I decided that I was going to throw out everything. (Except my purse with 190 quid in it. That was a nice surprise.) But I've decided that I will not look anymore and just stuffed all my old clothes and things into garbage bags. the clothes can go to the charity shops and the other stuff just into the skip.

Not knowing how to contact the house sitter, we opened that box that stood in the living room. Sad actually. Things that could mean something to him but yet he could not throw away. Cards, old statements letters. Why does he keep them? I'll never know.

And he seems to love keeping old bottles. I understand the importance of recycling but he seemed to have 2 cupboardful of them. I mean if he had threw them out one by one, it wouldn't be a mountain of bottles he left behind. Perhaps he meant well wanting to recycle. Or perhaps he just got stuck on an idea but failed to work on it.

And the same for old amazon boxes. Had he thrown them out one by one as they came it, it wouldn't be collecting the way it has. Perhaps he has karang guni tendencies?

For me, he just could not let go. He could not move on. He never recovered since he got heart broken.

I was quite angry for awhile. Because a lot of the skip seemed to be filled with the stuff he left behind. I came back to deal with my stuff and instead have to deal with the stuff he left behind too.

I must have been so blind. He can't seem to be able to handle his stuff and why would I think he would be able to handle mine. Perhaps by allowing him under our roof, we did him a disservice. Allowed him to wallow even longer. But surely that wasn't my call.

It was a hard lesson for me to learn but I will take a leaf out of his book. I must determine how my past can help my future and not collect too much baggage with me. It is very important to move on. Learn my lesson and quickly move on. Not to dwell on past anger, helplessness and unhappiness.

How I deal with tomorrow is related to how I deal with today. I will deal with whatever comes today, today and not let them pile up into the mountain of bottles as aftermath.


If this seems familiar to you, you know how to contact me. Its not that I'm looking for money but perhaps it would be common courtesy for you to keep in touch.