A tribute to a great man

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I was born into a Singapore where Mr. Lee Kuan Yew was a man to be reckoned with. His wit, his strength of will, his brilliance – all came together in a man, who is credited to transform Singapore from a small, forgotten, city-state, young and new and abandoned by Malaysia… to the Singapore I have grown to love. Living in Sydney for the past two years has given me fresh perspective on my homeland. There is much to dislike about living in a urban city-state that is packed to its brim with people everywhere, and yet there is also much to love.

The almost magical way things work in Singapore is something I miss dearly. I use the word “magically” loosely – but I’ve had my patience stretched by the endless streams of waiting, waiting, waiting here in Australia, that when I was back in Singapore, I was a bit taken aback by how FAST everyone ELSE walked. Laidback fishing village no more. Just on our last trip, we could see new buildings being constructed, new malls, new extensions to existing malls, new condominiums, fresh coats of paint, smoothly paved roads, well-lit stretches of road even at night, work done on the existing public transport networks… I mean, everything just sparkled brand new and working well. (Okay, so there were more than a few hitches to the MRT and all) but by and large, Singapore works like a well-oiled machine. There are the occasional breakdowns, but maybe it is also because we are so used to things working SO well that we take offense when things don’t.

But no matter, my heart is heavy and with all my fellow Singaporeans, I mourn the passing of a great man. Thank you, Mr. Lee, for pouring your heart, your soul and your life into this tiny little Red Dot. Thank you for giving up and sacrificing so much, to bring us where we are now.  You are truly the Father of our nation, and you will be dearly missed and loved and respected.

Back… to reality

After a three-month stint back in Singapore, which comprised a LOT of eating and meeting friends, and eating, and going to church, and eating some more, it was high time for us to come back to reality. Yes. Back in Sydney. In our 2-bedroom rented apartment, having no one else to turn to for household chores, luggages half-unpacked, dinners to cook…

The kids have adjusted pretty okay – they are loving the SPACE they have, the frequent trips to our nearest Westfields shopping centre (read: TARGET toys)… and gosh, they are eating us poor by loving the fresh and crisp and yummy produce here. I have a weakness for the occasional Pringle chip – and I really hated the ones back in Singapore. But they taste SO DARN good here! And chocolates? Out of the world kind of creamy goodness.

Ahem. Okay, before I feel to urge the raid the nearby Coles to satisfy my sweet tooth, let’s move on. Haha!

The moving back has taken its toil on us – but in a sense, I am also happy to finally begin (once again) our great Aussie adventure. :) And yes – I will try to blog more and have more photos the next time!

Saying Goodbye Is The Hardest Thing‏

In a flash, our three month stay back in Singapore has come to an inevitable end. It was tiring. It was fun. It was fulfilling. And it has come to an end.

Maybe because unlike our previous 2-weeks trip back, this longer stay also meant saying goodbyes made it a little harder.

Not so much for me or Nic. Sure I will miss my friends, my family.

But my heart is breaking at how my little man is handling it. Sure, he puts on that brave face. Over-compensates by sometimes acting up and making the silliest of demands. Playing the fool. Making loud noises. Poking fun at his younger siblings. Well, nothing really out of the ordinary (if you know my boy), but just more exaggerated and over the top. But I have also seen his sad expression. How his face scrunches up with tears just before bedtime the last week as he asks me not to go back to Sydney. And how he would miss his grandmother.

“Do you want to stay behind? We can arrange something.”

“But no! I will miss Daddy and u and Xavier and Zoie too!” Comes the anguished reply.

Sigh.

I know. The hubby knows. We need to get our routines back to normal in Sydney and he will adjust quickly back. Let him have a time at his favourite Target store, munch on churros and his fave ice-cream, go to the beach for some fun. And his love for Sydney would be revived.

But for now, it is tough. Having to make the decision for the family and seeing how it pains him so.

So teary farewells have gone, and we find ourselves back in familiar territory. And our very first stop … was Target, to get the kids a small toy each, to help salve the pain of leaving family and friends behind. :)

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