Strangers in a familiar land

It’s been 18 months living in Sydney. And we’ve been back in Singapore for the last 2 months (with just under a month to go, before making our way back) – and somehow, it seems to be familiar and yet unfamiliar all at the same time.

Maybe it’s the Aussie (slow) pace of life that I’ve grown accustomed to. I get a tad irritated when drivers start rolling forward, as I’m crossing the road with my kids, or drivers who think it is okay to cross the zebra crossing when I’ve already started walking down. I find Singaporeans walk SO fast now. I miss the oh-so-fresh produce I can get from Coles back in Sydney. I am craving for my regular Chai Latte at the Muffin Break at Westfield Eastgardens.

Just last weekend, during church, there was a “2014 in review” video, and as footage after footage of the events and happenings in church, I had the “emo” moment of feeling like I missed out on so, so much that has gone on. Not just the big stuff. Not just the work stuff. Not just the church stuff. But the little things. Department lunches I’ve missed. Long chats with colleagues. Family birthday celebrations. Cell group meetings. Zone meetings. Prayer meetings. Things that used to be so central to our lives and schedules.

So yeah, I miss those things.

Life in Singapore isn’t as idyllic as I naively thought it would be. Haha! As we no longer have a house of our own, and also because it has been some time since the grandparents on both sides have seen the kids, we’ve taken to have a pretty nomadic lifestyle, shuttling between the East of the island to the West every single weekend. Quite literally, we’re living out of the suitcases we brought over. I managed to squeeze in coffee chats and the sporadic lunch dates, but it hasn’t been easy arranging time, and I reckon I will hear a lot of “What? You’re leaving already?” remarks. So yup. We’re leaving in less than a month. Haha! And yeah, let’s meet.

But the challenges aside – and the huge one was on my finances, this trip back coupled with a suspension of the hubby’s stipend has pretty much bottomed out whatever savings we have – I am thankful for the opportunity to be back.

Thankful for the chance to order my favourite cup of kopi every morning, after I send Jayvon to school, and hearing the coffee uncle call out to me, “Xiao Mei, yi yang ah?” (Girl, the same order for you?)

Thankful for all the yummilicious food. I’ve missed Singapore food SO SO SO much in Sydney, and really, while there may be restaurants that tout to be Singaporean, their dishes taste anything but. So we get good Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Lebanese, etc cuisine, but true Singapore fare is pretty lacking, which is sad – cos sometimes all I want to eat (in Sydney) is a bowl of bak chor mee! Haha!

Thankful to be back in church. Oh, how I have missed church so. The vibrancy. The life. The Presence of God. The fellowship.

Thankful for good friends. I know I haven’t had the chance to catch up with all of you. (Just come down to Sydney for your next holiday laaaaa… Haha!) and it’s amazing how many of our friends have gotten married, given birth all in the last few months while we are away. We missed out on so much of their lives, yet when we are back, they’ve welcomed us with open arms, and helped our kids feel right at home.

Thankful for the chance for Zoie to interact and have fun with her grandparents and aunties and cousins. “Grandpa” and “Grandma” hardly rang any bell for her before this, but now she happily screams out “MAMA!” or “GONG GONG!” much to the elders’ delight. She is generous with her hugs and kisses (mostly).

Thankful for family. For the kids to also know there is a large network of said grandparents, aunties, cousins who adore them to bits. Oh, the toys and presents… the treats and snacks.

So where is home?

Singapore or Sydney?

Honestly, I have no idea now. Singapore is home – because this is where my family is. And yet there is a sense that we are strnagers. Sydney is home – because that is where our literal house is (or at least a space we dont need to share with other people), and where our normal routine (school, childcare, work) lies. And yet, we are also strangers there.

So I guess for now, we will just make do. The five of us – we make up our family, our home, and where we stay, THAT place, I guess, is home.

SANses.com's Talkative Thursdays



Learning Chinese – From Scratch (Almost!)

So I was blogging a month back about Jayvon’s heavily Aussie-accented Chinese, and even recorded an amusing video of him using English phonics to pronounce Chinese hanyu pinyin words.

Barely a week into Primary One, he came back with two sheets of paper. English Spelling (5 words a week). And THIS.

Chinese diction (or fondly known as 听写).

My Chinese is *cough cough cough* pass-able at best. I had the advantage of being REALLY good at my hanyu pinyin and that probably saved me (cos I could at least use the Chinese dictionary well!) on many occasions in school. But I remember having to first learn the Chinese strokes / words before we went on to hanyu pinyin in probably Primary 3 or 4.

Well, the entire Chinese syllabus has been overhauled. Made easier, they say. To help the kids, they say. Well, maybe not in as many words, but the Ministry does recognise that most kids today struggle with Chinese.

Let me just state then. This is just based on my two weeks experience in the Singapore school system, how are our kids supposed to cope? What SHOULD the kindergartens be teaching the kids? Is Chinese extra lessons the only way to go?

We are talking about three different styles of Chinese being tested in a single week. In the third week of school, I might add. The strokes, hanyu pinyin, and that singular Chinese character thrown in for good measure.

Needless to say, I had A LOT of work to do with my poor unChinese boy.

Strokes was fine. He couldn’t really remember what they were called, but it was different from the rest. But the rest. EGAD. “wū” and 五 are the same word in Chinese, but just a different tone. Coupled with “wū” and “ü” – it was enough to kill both Jay and me as he struggled to get the pronunciation down pat. It all basically melded into a “ooouuuoooii” sound hahaha! Which I would be rolling on the floor laughing… if it weren’t for the fact it was so frustrating (for us both)!

Bring back the proper Chinese words.

Or at least don’t give the kids such a hard time, and such a hard first taste at Chinese Diction.

tingxie
And next week’s words? Well, there’s now BOTH hanyu pinyin and the Chinese word itself.

*shudder*

It’s been some time since my last Talkative Thursday link-up (ooops!) but hey, I’m back and let’s do this! :)

SANses.com's Talkative Thursdays



New Year, New School

It’s a brand new year, and we have landed back in Singapore. After 18 months living in Sydney, we are thrust back to the hustle and bustle of Singapore once again.

It’s been a hectic month – we’ve had to move from my in-laws’ place (in the West of the island) to my parents’ place (in the East of the island). We’ve had friends to meet, food to eat, family to catch up with. We’ve had chilli crabs and kaya toast, we’ve had kopi-c and teh tariks, we’ve had bak chor mee and Hokkien mee.

All in all, a very fulfilling (and FULL) month of December.

And now, it’s January. And time for a very sobering truth. SCHOOL.

Oh, I miss Australia especially in this respect – there, school only resumes mid-January, so Christmas and the New Year can be spent leisurely and enjoyed thoroughly. With the first day of school being 2 January here, it’s a flurry of activity to get the school bag packed and the uniforms ironed and the books bought and sorted out!

first day in p1

So proud of my little man – he breezed through Day 1, and even managed to get to know the canteen stalls well enough to enjoy a pack of keropok (crackers) for lunch!

It was a bit of a nonevent. I had friends up all night fretting, I had friends awake bright and early packing lunches,  I had friends who took leave on that Friday, and hovered around their kids at recess time.

Me? I stayed up the night before trying to pack everything – then decided it was too much and only gave him the bare minimum. Oops – someone forgot to give me the memo that Primary One kids were SUPPOSED to cart ALL the books (and the kitchen sink) and the teachers would take them and store them in the lockers in the classroom. Oh really? Yup – I missed the Orientation Day briefing and no one told me anything. Nor did I bother to ask (but that’s beside the point). The morning itself, my boy was up bright and early, all excited to get to school. This excitement died off in the week after – where I had to LITERALLY drag him out of bed. And he would wriggle back into position, mumbling “I don’t want to go school.” And then I had to drag him again… and again. Oh, and the first recess? Well, I knew it was okay for parents to visit, but I decided it was too tiring, and besides, the early start to the day meant that there were two very tired parents and two sleepy siblings. And while his classmates’ parents helicopter-hovered over them at recess, Jayvon had the pleasure of knowing his family was busy… having a nap back home.

It’s been a busy busy busy time.

And I’ve had many people asking, “Are you guys back for good?” “Why is Jayvon in P1?” “What happens when you go back?”  “MOE allow, meh?”

To which, let me answer – No; Because I chose to; And of course he will go back to Sydney with us; I think the choice is mine to make.

So why oh why did I choose to put him through Primary One? And by extension, me? Dragging myself out of bed at 6.30 a.m. is a surefire way of making me moody, grumpy and did I mention moody? Well, we were back in town for three months. He was enrolled in the primary school (as all to-be-7-year-olds must), and when I explained to the Ministry of Education our special circumstance of being overseas Singaporeans and yet back for the first two months of school, I asked if it was a requirement for Jayvon to be attending Primary School. To which, the reply was it was up to the school policy. Which I thought didn’t make sense. Could the school INSIST? I don’t think so – he was officially going to be on a Leave of Absense anyhow. Could the school REJECT if I wanted to? I don’t think so – how could they since he is officially an enrolled student? So I reckon… the choice lay with US. And so I decided, rather than have Jayvon laze around and play Minecraft all day long, that an experience (albeit short one) in the Singapore school system might do him some good. So has it? In many ways yes. So different from his past 18 months in a Sydney public school. A world of difference (that is a blog post in itself), but altogether a rewarding experience.

Oh, and he found a good friend in school.

Another Minecraft-loving classmate.

Boys! Haha!

The unChinese Boy

Warning: This may give some of you uncontrollable giggles or endless finger-wagging. Consider this an inside joke, and really REALLY funny if you speak Chinese!

These English/Chinese animal flash cards were found in my in-laws house, and is a few years old. Jay used to love animals, and those pictures used to entertain him for a while.

Two years in Australia with zero training in hanyu pinyin has made him quite the unChinese.

The hubby and I were tickled – so much so I videotaped this down, and Jay was also very amused! We also sent this to some close friends and family, and got two separate reactions:

The “WAHAHAHA SO FUNNY!!!” group.

And the “Oh my God, here’s some instructions/apps/books/blah blah blah you should teach him from!” group.

It might be the Aussie laidback-ness in me, but I don’t really see the fuss. Yeah, he can’t pronounce properly to save his life, but well, he HAS been away for 2 years. And he is a smart boy, and I am sure he will pick it up. In due time. Eventually.

dish’d – A Review & Giveaway

This is a product talk brought to you by Nuffnang and dish’d

As a blogger, I get approached a lot by various companies, to review products, attend launches (though as a mom of three, product launches are hardly on the top of my oooh-got-to-do list), write advertorials and more.

This review was one which got me excited.

Have you heard of dish’d?

Well, in a short sentence, they sell yummy, delicious frozen meals. So that is yummy, delicious, frozen meals that I can whip together in minutes? I was cynical – but hey, it would at least mean I could have a lot more time outside the kitchen.

Coming into this, I had a few reservations about using frozen meals. Would it taste all weird and “plasticky”? (Eww! I hate the fake plastic taste that microwaving sometimes causes) Would it be healthy? And most importantly, is it delicious and palatable enough for the three picky eaters in the family?

The dish’d website was simple enough to navigate.

dishd dishd1

It was simple, user-friendly – and I loved the way they have a “Chef’s Special”, so if you need some ideas, that is a good place to start to check out the offers and bundles. Use the “Inspiration” tab to get ideas on how to whip up a complete meal with dish’d, and you can even see the best sellers (under “Menu”).

The servings and the method of preparation are all pretty easy and well written out. I had a blast and ordered TOO much stuff – but the great thing is, I can keep and there isn’t any wastage!

dishd2

Here’s a sneak peek at my (very messy) freezer, packed to the brim with the items I bought – and more out of shot! The packaging stated clearly how many servings each item had, the cooking times (which is anything from 4 minutes in the microwave to 40 minutes to pan fry), and various methods available (microwave, pan fry or oven bake). I ordered a variety of dishes, to be able to do a proper review. (Plus I get to get away with not making dinner for the week!)

One of the very first things I cooked was the Five Cheese Pizza. Jayvon LOVES pizza and is always begging/bugging us to bring him to a nice pizzeria, but Xavier dislikes the taste of dough, so we aren’t able to eat that as often as Jayvon would love.

dishd4 pizza

Yum! My almost 7-year-old finished up ¾ of the pizza all by himself!

And the rest of the frozen dishes didn’t disappoint – though of all the meals, my personal favourite were the marinated scallops.

dishd5

Fresh, yummy marinated scallops – from the freezer to your mouth in just 4 minutes!

GIVEAWAY I have a $50 dish’d voucher to giveaway to one of you. To enter, answer the following question by leaving a comment below:

“What about the dish’d service appeals to you?”

Terms and Conditions apply. Giveaway ends Tuesday 16 December, open to NSW and VIC Metro residents only.

Update: The winner’s been picked! Congrats to Michelle! <3 An email has been sent to you.

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