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Friday, January 24, 2014 @ 10:56 pm
City Girl In A Kampung
For the first time ever, we're going to a village homestay in Malaysia for a holiday. Me? In a village? With no wifi? The horror! I know right. I've never lived in a village. I've never seen a village. I'm a born and bred city girl. So I was curious if I'd be a fish out of water in this homestay.
Homestays in Malaysia have been gaining popularity over the years, especially to city folks like me. There are those who wanted to relive the village life, in a moment of nostalgia. We thought it would be a different holiday from the normal hotel and shopping experience. When we told the children that we were going on holiday, the first thing Sarah asked was, "Are we going to stay in a hotel with swimming pool?"
I didn't want to go to another city. I wanted to do something that Singapore doesn't have. At first, village life seemed daunting. How can I live 3 days without the internet? What am I going to do at night? Will I get a heart attack when my mind and body are forced to slow down with the slower pace of life in a village? Don't laugh. Those questions really did cross my mind.
So this homestay would be good for my children and I. After extensive search on the internet, we chose to stay at a homestay in Kampung Lonek, Negeri Sembilan. This homestay had won "most beautiful kampung" for many years. From the pictures, it looked good.
We departed at 4a.m., anticipating delays and breaks as we drove. The directions given on the internet were very vague, so we put our faith on our GPS. From the get go, it was a good drive. No hold ups at Tuas and Johor checkpoints. Light traffic conditions. Good weather. What more could you ask for?
The GPS said we should exit Tangkak from the North-South Highway. Tangkak is no where near Negeri Sembilan (it's still in Johor, 2 states away from destination). Common sense told me we should exit Seremban, which is Negeri Sembilan's capital. But we put our faith in the GPS and exited at Tangkak.
That led us to the Seremban highway, which is an old highway heavily used before the North-South Highway opened. We just followed the GPS that led us different towns along Johor, Malacca and finally Negeri Sembilan states. We passed the town of Gemas where we stopped to have breakfast, Tampin and finally we saw Bahau. That's where our homestay was.
We really did find the homestay, at about 11.30a.m. There were adequate signs that led us to it. We were greeted by a very nice lady, Mdm Badariah, who was a retired teacher. She was very accommodating to our needs and willingly shared information about her house, family, village and everything under the sun. I guess a teacher will always be a teacher. She was also committed to the homestay programme and wants to see more be done about it to ensure its longevity.
Nice house isn't it?
After washing up, lunch was prepared for us. I was looking forward to this. As part of the homestay programme, meals are provided by the host. Negeri Sembilan's specialty is "Lemak Cili Api" (bird's eye chilli cooked in coconut). I love lemak cili api. In Singapore, we usually cook it with chicken or fish. So our lunch was lemak cili api cooked with duck eggs and young mango. We had it with steamed white rice and omelette. It was DELICIOUS! The only time I've tried duck egg was when it was salted. Never freshly cooked. Eat sparingly though because it's a very rich egg. I had about three. Hey! I'm on holiday!
After lunch, everyone had a long nap. I'm not used to having long naps. So I waited eagerly for everyone to wake up so we can go somewhere. I tried reading a book while waiting but that didn't last very long. I tried to watch a movie on my iPad but only managed to watch a quarter of the movie. There was no wifi connection or even 3G, so there's that.
Everyone woke up about 5p.m., a bit late to go anywhere I think. Kampung life doesn't actually bustle with activities after sunset. We had late tea with "Pengat Sago", a sweet light dessert which went very well with tea.
After that, Mdm Badariah brought us to the river nearby. The children had never seen a river, so they had fun splashing about. We saw padi fields along the way. First time I actually saw a padi field for real. We saw more houses and fruit trees.
Dinner was served. We had a different lemak cili padi, sambal chicken and sausages. Another delicious meal. After dinner, we sat at the verandah and chit chat while the children played hide and seek all over the house. So that's what kampung people do after sunset. They just talk to one another until it's time for bed.
This shows that this house was registered with the Malaysian Tourism Board. Good to know!
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Monday, January 20, 2014 @ 10:41 pm
I have maid issues like everybody else, although most people would say my issues aren't really issues at all. Unlike most maids in Singapore, I think my maid has it pretty easy. She does the same household chores and takes care of the kids. The only thing that she has over the rest is plenty of rest time and freedom.
When I read about maid issues in the newspapers, I usually put myself in maid's situation. As an employee myself, I'd get frustrated if my employer treats me bad. So I always tell myself to treat my maid with respect, just like any employer-employee relationship should. Besides, when you treat people with respect, your children will treat people with respect.
My maid has been with us for more than three years. This is her fourth year, and I believe her last. She wants to go home and get married. That's fine. For the first two years, she was learning the ways of a Singaporean family and also understanding my needs and expectations of maintaining the general order of the house.
As you all know, I am a neat freak. I like things organised and clean. She's ok with general cleaning but if I were to grade her, it's just average. She's not organised with storing things and that bugs me. I've showed her many times how and where to keep things, but after awhile, it becomes a mess. What's worse is that when I ask her about a certain object, she'd say she forgot where it was kept. You know how much I hate that.
In her second term, she's already familiar with Singapore living. She's become too comfortable with the way of life here. She's become complacent. Cleaning was done on the surface only. There'd be dust on the picture frames but she'd just ignore it because it wasn't in her task schedule. I had to tell her to dust it off and then she'd do it. I mean, after two years, does she still need me to tell her to wipe dust off when she knows perfectly well that cleanliness is high is my priority list?
She has another bad habit of not telling me when things go wrong. Like when the spinning mop bucket broke or when certain clothing got colour stained or when she broke some glassware. I had to find out myself and ask her about it! She'd just say she forgot to tell me. I'd remind her but she'd just forget my reminders.
Sometimes when we go out, she'd have this sulky face which annoyed the hell out of me. I hate it when people sulk and expect me to read his/her mind. Tell me what's the problem and the issue won't go out of hand!
This is not to say she's a bad employee. She does her work, generally. She's great with the children although sometimes, I question her actions. I think overall, the problem is that she has communication issues. Yes, I'm fierce but if you don't talk to me, it'll get worse. People get frustrated due to lack of information. Just tell me and we'll work it out. Simple right?
Maybe that's why companies request for new tenders every few years. I think in business, long-term relationship is too tricky and challenging to be practical. As long as every party knows it's just business, then there won't be any hard feelings. I'm ready to release her when her contract is up. I think our relationship has run its due course. I just hope the change won't affect the children too much.
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Sunday, January 19, 2014 @ 10:32 pm
After having four children, I am still pretty pissed off (I've been feeling quite pissed off often haven't I?) about the lack of information or support online about women who could only do partial breastfeeding. Yes, yes, yes exclusive breastfeeding is good and heavily promoted but just like body sizes, not all breasts are created alike.
There are women out there, like me, who have difficulty breastfeeding exclusively no matter how hard we tried. For baby's safety and/or personal sanity, we have to resort to formula milk, even after a few days old. It's not that we couldn't breastfeed. We could. It's just that we couldn't breastfeed EXCLUSIVELY.
I used to be envious of women who managed total breastfeeding, but now I'm just annoyed. Cut women like me some slack will ya! They have no idea the stress we were facing and the lack of support was not helping at all.
When Sarah was born, it took about a week for the first few drops of milk to be available. Of course, Sarah couldn't wait for a week to have her first feed. So I allowed the nurse to feed her formula. When the milk finally came, it was so little that I had no choice but to supplement with formula. Sarah was crying of hunger and all that crying can drive anybody crazy.
I tried all sorts of tips and advice I could get my hands on. I swallowed capsules and capsules of fenugreek. I expressed every hour to "empty" my breasts so more milk could be produced. I drank bottles of water. You name it. I've done all that I could. But still the milk would not satiate Sarah. I was stressed and I had negative thoughts about being inadequate and a bad mom. Breastfeeding lasted about four months.
When Iman was born, the milk came 48 hours earlier than Sarah's. I started early on the fenugreek. I expressed even before milk came. I was determined to try exclusive breastfeeding again. Iman did receive more breast milk than Sarah but it still wasn't enough. Iman was even hungrier and fussier than Sarah. He would bite if he didn't get milk fast enough. So, it was formula milk after breastfeeding again. I was stressed too and again that thought about being a bad mom lingered. This time, it lasted about six months.
Then came Mairah. Milk came three days after delivery. I didn't give up on breastfeeding. But this time, I wasn't too hung up on exclusive breastfeeding. I invested on a really good double breast pump. I took the fenugreek capsules as usual. I breastfed as much as I could and supplement with formula if needed. I didn't look up websites on breastfeeding like I used to. That eliminated the stress and I learned to enjoy the breastfeeding moments. I didn't think I was a bad mom because looking at my eldest two, they grew up smart and healthy without exclusive breastfeeding.
Finally, Imran was born. I was so busy with work and studies, I didn't really prepare for his birth. Bought another double breast pump because the previous one was spoilt. Milk came a day after Imran was born. I thought, hey! Finally I could breastfeed exclusively. So for three days, I total breastfeed him. After three days, hubby noticed that Imran was getting a little yellow on the skin. Also, he cried often which I thought was normal for breastfeeding babies. Breast milk isn't very filling you know.
When we went for his newborn checkup, Imran's jaundice level was high and he lost a lot of weight. Too much weight even for exclusive breastfeeding. I was advised to feed him formula milk after breastfeeding just to bring his weight up and hopefully, his jaundice level would go down.
After a week, his weight went up and his jaundice gone. Another exclusive breastfeeding failure. But you know what? My baby's health is more important than my pride. As long as I breastfeed as much as I can, I shouldn't be made to feel guilty about supplementing with formula. Besides, people cannot emotionally blackmail you unless you allow them too.
To women like me, I understand what you're going through. That's why I'm writing this post. It's OK if you can't do it. Some breast milk is better than no breast milk. You know in your heart that you've tried your best and that's OK. Your baby will still love you no matter what. To those exclusive breastfeeding activists, LAY OFF! We don't need the added stress. We just need your support.
Some tips to increase breast milk flow:
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Friday, January 17, 2014 @ 9:51 pm
Marriage and Fairness
I am awfully pissed with my husband for renegading on our agreement. The agreement was that when it's his off-month, then he'll have to do his part at home. That's why I allowed him to go back offshore on a fixed rotation.
This month is his off-month. He was supposed to sending and fetching the kids from school, fixed whatever that needs fixing at home and take care of the kids. But he went off on "training" in Vietnam for over a week. I can't help but feel cheated.
He could have opted to go for this "training" on his working month, but he said he needed the extra cash. Personally, I don't care what the reason is, but if he's supposed to be here at home, then he better be here at home.
It's just not fair to dump four kids on me and not lose my sanity along the way. Sure, he gives me plenty of allowances but it's not about the money. I am never about the money. It's about me getting the short end of the stick.
It just doesn't seem fair that I have to manage the kids and house and expect to have a job. I do have a job! One that I'm committed to! So much so that I was willing to take on extra load on my already full plate when I signed up for the degree programme at UniSIM!
He can whine and complain all he wants about how tough his job is; travelling, lugging tools etc etc etc but he's not with the kids half of the year! Whereas I have a job, a demanding job, AND I am a mother of four children! He has the nerve to say he misses the kids when he's offshore. If he miss the kids that much, then why the hell did he go offshore???
I don't even have time to do the things that I like. I have to get pregnant and rush doing those things that I've been meaning to do during my maternity leave, which coincidentally is getting shorter and shorter. That's not fair and I've been given shit.
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Saturday, January 11, 2014 @ 12:29 am
Mad About MAAD
A few hours ago, I attended my first MAAD flea market at Red Dot Design Museum. I've heard of MAAD which stands for Market of Artists and Designers, for a couple of years already but I've never made my way down to town till now.
It's a monthly event at the creative Red Dot Museum, which is the hard-to-miss red building formerly Traffic Police HQ at Maxwell Road. Maxwell Road is at the Tanjong Pagar which coincidentally happens to be the creative hub of artists and designers in Singapore.
Just like any other flea market, the stalls mostly if not all, only accept cash. So my purse was somewhat prepared with possible purchases, and purchased I did! What makes a flea market, a flea market is the quirky products one can find there. One person eyes may see garbage, while the next person may see treasure. I saw treasure must-haves mostly. My husband had to literally dragged me away from anymore buying.
The in thing these days seems to be owls. I saw owls in plushies, t-shirts, purses etc. I bought an owl wrist-rest which I doubt I needed but was something I must own. Only God can understand the logic.
The other in thing was self-bound notebooks. Ever since Palm pilot made its way into my life, I hardly write. My penmanship has suffered a bit and that made me stay away from writing even more. I've always looked in romantic adoration at people who write about anything in their notebooks. More so when they draw sketches.
Looking at the one-of-a-kind notebooks, I couldn't help but buy two. While doing so, I reminded myself to start writing again, on paper that is. Then, a flash bulb appeared above my head. I could use these notebooks to paste Polaroids! My husband bought me a a vintage Polaroid camera which I've yet to open from it wrapping paper. Because sshhh... It's a birthday present. I will only open it on the 28th.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience at MAAD flea market. Not to mention the damage I've made to my purse. Will I go monthly? Don't think so. Will I go again? Most definitely! Maybe once every quarter.
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Saturday, January 04, 2014 @ 10:58 pm
Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder
The old saying, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" resonates with me more and more these days, ever since my husband went back on the field job. He has this new job at a new job which gets him to do his old job. This job is on a fixed rotation basis, that means, he goes to the field for a month and he's off-work for a month. In summary, he gets paid a full-year salary for working 6 months!
This kind of work isn't for every girlfriend or wife. It takes a lot of courage, patience and resourcefulness for a woman to live without her partner every other month. More so if she's a mother, and I am a mother for four!
I'm alright without him around. In fact, it's actually nice without him in the house every now and them. I do miss him more when he's offshore. I would have nice and naughty thoughts about it sometimes, especially at night.
However, when he's home. Reality just hits me and it's not a good feeling. Often times, I find myself getting frustrated with the things he does or not do at home. Most times, he just sleeps or watches TV or makes a mess. When we are together, it's usually WITH the children. Even on our date nights, 90% of our conversation is about the children.
When he's home for a month, I would like, just for a few hours a week, to be a woman. Not a mother. Not a wife. Just a woman. When we go on dates, I would like to be treated like a woman who has been asked out on a romantic date. Isn't that the whole point of date nights? To be made to feel special?
I know I can't escape being a mother but I'm still a woman too. I really missed those times when our conversation was mostly about getting to know each other. I missed those times when he instinctively took my hand at every moment. I missed those times when he put his hand on my back when we went down the escalator or escort me out of the elevator. We don't do these things anymore. Not subconsciously anyway.
An hour ago, I told him he's boring now. I know it's harsh but I've kept that in for much too long. Am I trying to relive times past and gone? Why can't I just accept the fact that a mother of four young children don't go out and do things that woman with no children do? Because I am more than that.
In an article in USA Today on 8 August 2013, a study has shown that absence DOES make the heart grow fonder. The study suggested that individuals in long-distance relationships experience more intimacy with their partners than those who are together everyday.
Why? Because the time they are together, whether physically or virtually, are so precious that the quality of communication they produced are more meaningful. It's true you know. All the FaceTime we've been in are more memorable than the communication we've had when he's home.
This finding gives home to those couples who are facing the challenges of long-distance relationships. As for me, it seems kind of sad when I'm typing this out. Does it mean that we're better off not living together? Or more precisely, will I be happier when he's not here?
Let's reflect on the beautiful words of Kalil Gilbran in "The Prophet":
"But let there be space in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love.
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from the same cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be Joyous, but let each one of you be alone.
Even as the strings of the lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow."
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Friday, January 03, 2014 @ 10:48 pm
2014 is here. Some people are still adjusting to the new year. I have to consciously remind myself to write the year as 2014, not 2013. But if the change in year number doesn't affect you, then it'd be just like any other day.
The national New Year's Eve (NYE) countdown show was supposed to be a celebration of television here for the past 50 years. You wouldn't have know it was the national broadcast for NYE when you watched it. In fact, it looked like a Chinese New Year variety show.
It's no secret that China-lisation has been creeping into the country's consciousness for several years already. We've had criticisms, discussions and protests over the preferential treatment of Chinese people and the Chinese language. But coming from a public broadcaster, who's supposed to represent Singapore as a nation, that's really too much.
I attended a graduation last year in a locally respectable institution. The hosts and the speakers spoke in English and repeated what they said in Mandarin. After a very long speech in English, the speaker blew her top when audible boos and sighs were heard when she was about to repeat her speech in Mandarin. She said to show "respect" because there were "Chinese-speaking audiences".
I thought that wasn't respectful at all. If it was just about respect, shouldn't the organisers be respectful of Malay- and Tamil-speaking audiences too? The National Day rally was a prime example of a national televised event that was broadcasted in the four main languages of Singapore. So why limit to just English and Mandarin? I don't think the excuse that Chinese race make up the majority in Singapore is valid anymore.
If Singapore isn't careful, we'd see ourselves repeating the same mistake America made a few centuries ago. We shouldn't segregate ourselves so much that we allowed race to become the blade that kills our hard-earned peace and tolerance. The racial riots in the 50s should stay in our history books and never see the light of day again.
I was sorely disappointed with MediaCorp for that intentional or unintentional oversight. The national broadcaster had lost my respect a long time ago and now, it's not even worthy of being called the national broadcaster. I think ever since it privatised, the needs of the public has taken a very back backseat to profit-making.
I won't miss the shows in MediaCorp anyway. I have cable channels. My absence will probably not make much of a dent in its popularity ratings, but I'd feel better than wasting my time watching lame shows from a racist TV station.
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