Friday, November 30, 2007

Enjoy the Freedom of Babyhood

Last Monday, I watched the National Geographic documentary, My Brilliant Brain. The main point that I took away from that hour was that while there are gifted children out there who are born with the propensity to excel in certain areas, ALL children can be nurtured to have the same hunger for learning that gifted children do. That was supposedly one of the characteristics of a gifted child/person - they love to learn.

All of us are born with that spongy brain that absorbs everything but many children lose that inherent thirst for knowledge. I noticed this with some children I taught from the time they were 5 till 7. Prior to going to school, they wanted to learn everything. However, after half a year in the first grade, I started hearing things like "I'm too lazy", "I can't", "I don't want to" etc.

So what have I been doing this week? Going overboard with trying to find 'educational' games I can play with Aaron. Incorporating, colors, shapes, names, numbers, alphabets, music, into everything. Don't get me wrong, all that is good. I need the over enthusiasm so that when it dies down, I'll still have a lot of it.

But as it is Friday, and I think about how quickly the time has slipped away, I can't help feeling that I just want to enjoy Aaron being a baby. I noticed today that he doesn't suck his fingers or gnaw on everything he can get his hands on anymore. I did nothing to stop those habits yet they disappeared. He's also able to drink from a normal cup, with supervision of course. He tells me that he wants his bath. He's growing up!

I really need to remember to enjoy each day with him even while I try to prepare him for the future. Doesn't it sound silly to 'prepare' a baby for the future? As if it were an examination. Its a competitive world these days and he'll be in it soon enough. Now is the time for the both of us to just enjoy the complete freedom of babyhood at home.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Who is Amanda?

My parents may have named me Amanda but they either call me Manda or girl. Richard also calls me Manda. My brother calls me Che (Cantonese for elder sister) or hey! Most of my friends also call me Manda but some do pronounce the 'A' at the beginning. Many people in Malaysia call me Armarndar (and sometimes even ARMADA) because the 'A' sounds there are 'Ar'. Then over here in Indonesia, most people call me 'Ibu'. The literal translation is 'Mother' but it is also a respectful term that you use for married women. If they think I'm younger and unmarried, they call me something that sounds like 'Bark'. Haven't figured that one out yet.

So, when we asked Aaron 'Who is Amanda?', he was rightfully puzzled. After all, he has never heard that word before. We just laughed at him and left it. This was on Sunday.

Yesterday, while we were in the car, Aaron said something like 'Namnanda'. I looked at him and he said it again. I laughed and he laughed and he said it some more. At that time, I wasn't sure if he was testing the name on me or just testing out some new sounds he heard.

Today, he looked straight at me and said it again. Namnanda. I think he knows its my name. But how did he figure it out?

These babies, they're sneaky. They KNOW things. Don't underestimate them and don't say things you don't want them to hear in front of them.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Voluntarily Ripped Off

Its well known in Asia that if you're not shopping in a mall, you have to bargain for everything you buy. Having grown up with mostly mall type shopping, I'm hopeless at it. Occasionally, I'll make an attempt but most of the time, I just pay the price or get somebody else to do the bargaining.

Today, I've been thinking about the shopping that I do here in Indonesia. I'm automatically charged a higher price because people immediately know that I'm not local. I did start out with several attempts at bargaining but then I realized that the difference was a meaningless amount to me (especially after conversion) but may have meant a meal for the vendor. Yes, I do hate the feeling of being ripped off but if you think of it from the vendors point of view, it is an appropriate pricing decision. All businesses have different pricing models for different markets.

I don't mean this to sound condescending or patronizing but is it still considered charity if I allow myself to be ripped off? I had a post about a week ago on helping out at an orphanage but really, all I need to do is look at the people I'm surrounded by everyday and I could 'help'.

This is straying from today's subject of charity rip off but we decided to donate rice to the orphanage for now. And, I'm going to kill two birds with one stone by paying Yudi (my driver) the price that I would have been charged, and then asking him to go get the best price he can for himself and he keeps the difference. The problem now is convincing him to do it because he insists that if its for charity, the rice has to be the same price as the rice I eat. I keep telling him that it is seeing that I paid him that amount but.......we'll see.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Palembang's Tourist Attraction

Many cities in the world have a bridge as a tourist attraction. There is the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Sydney, Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Tower Bridge in London just to name three of the many we all know. Today, let me introduce you to one more: Jambatan Ampera or Ampera Bridge if you want it translated.

I agree that it really isn't in the same category as the other bridges we know but it seems to be REALLY FAMOUS in these parts. Whenever I meet somebody new and they find out that we're expats here, one of their first questions is going to be "Have you been to Jambatan Ampera?" If I meet Indonesians while outside of Indonesia and they find out I live in Palembang, "Oh wow! Have you been to Jambatan Ampera?" Local tourists from Sumatra and other islands in Indonesia actually, come to Palembang to go take a look at this bridge and enjoy some 'fresh' air at the park next to it.

I've been here for close to 10 months now and only just decided that I should go to Jambatan Ampera. My driver was very proud to drive me there and show me around. He did make a wrong turn and we didn't end up at that park so things were much more interesting.

Under the bridge is a wholesale market. In the past, Chinese were not allowed to own any land so they built their houses over the Musi River and then traded on the banks. This has now become a major wholesale market.

And here's an idea of what the 'fresh' river breezes would have smelt like:

These children are playing right next to the scene from the photo above.

I can't help but think how dirty, stinky and probably diseased this area must be and then impose my set of standards on these happy kids (they were squealing with delight with each dive into that water). More often, I don't know what to think. Yes, they should know better and not pollute the water that their kids play in. C'mon, their outhouse is RIGHT THERE.

Finally, here is a photo of the houses along the banks and the pollution in the background.

I enjoyed my trip to Jambatan Ampera even though my driver was apologetic that I didn't get to the park. I'm not here to see a park. Its the local lifestyle and day to day goings on that I'm interested in.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fun Monday - Projects

This week's Fun Monday is hosted by Blue Momma. The assignment is to share any unfinished projects that may be lying around the house. I only have one around the house and thats because I started it yesterday. Usually, if I start something, I can't wait to see the end result, even if it means cutting down on sleep time.

The project I started yesterday is a Shopping Cart Cover for Aaron. Can you imagine how many hands, that also handle money, touch a shopping cart? So, I'm going to make a simple cover that I can throw over the front part where Aaron sits in. There are fancier covers in the market with padding and leg holes but I'm just going to make mine a single layer with a leg flap. This is going to be hand sewn so I'm not going to be too ambitious.

A single meter of this cute print cost me USD 2.50 and its nearly two meters wide. I'll have plenty left over for something else. Yesterday, I got as far as getting my measurements, marking them, cutting the material and hemming one side.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Orange top, Dark Green shorts, Blue and Yellow shoes

Unfortunately, I have no photo of this because we arrived home late and Aaron was too tired for anything but a bath and sleep.

But can you imagine those colours together? Orange, Dark Green, Blue and Yellow. Thats what his father dressed him in.

Yes, he's only 15 months and I'm definitely not a fashionista but his clothes still need to match. Right?

As it is, the baby shops stock inventory as if there were only baby girls born everyday. Cute fairy outfits, purple mary jane shoes, tiny denim skirts. You name it, they've got it for the girls.

I was a just telling a friend just last week, little boys have to rely on their faces and personalities to be cute because the shops definitely aren't helping in terms of outfits. So, Aaron may have the face and the act together but I still don't want him to go around looking as if we didn't put any thought into dressing him. Its not that I'm one to follow the latest trends and I definitely don't fall into any fashionable category myself but I want Aaron to grow up knowing how to match. This seems to be a skill that all the men in my family lack.

Side note: I was just thinking to myself that blogging is so much fun because it is such a convenient medium for putting whatever thoughts you have out there. Like today, when my brain is a little tired from thinking about Captain Picard's Christmas Party, but I would still like to have my daily post up, I can do one on an everyday thing like matching a baby's clothes.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Palembang Zoo

We took Aaron to the Palembang Zoo this afternoon. It was part of an area they called a forest reserve. There were plenty of shady trees around and I could see that this was a nice picnic area when it was new. It had a small rides area for kids, a pond and several open spaces with individual huts for picnics. Unfortunately, lack of maintenance, perhaps through lack of funds, have left this place a complete mess.

The entrance fee to the reserve was about USD 0.20 and to the zoo, USD 0.30. I wasn't expecting much of the zoo but this was much much sadder than I thought it would be. There weren't a lot of animals there: 3 gibbons, 1 orang utan, 2 sun bears, 1 crocodile, 1 panther, 1 cassowary and quite a few cages of chickens/birds. All the animals were lethargic. There were plastic bags in all the cages. I can't even call it enclosures because they were just cages.

The good part about this lack of planning and care was that we could get up close and personal with the animals. The cages didn't have any additional barriers to prevent visitors from putting their noses right against the cage. However, all I saw at such close range were the sad eyes of the sun bear.

On the one hand, I'd like to say that if you don't have the stamina and the funds to maintain such a place, then don't have a zoo in the first place. But on the other hand, a bus load of children arrived while we were there and I think plenty of schools have excursions there. These children will have nowhere else to see these animals if the zoo was closed.

The children are in the orange and brown uniforms.

One sad sun bear.

One orang utan begging.

One baby gibbon sucking his toe.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Sleep Training - Who needs it?!

Aaron fell into the habit of feeding to sleep when he was around 6 months old. At that time, it really felt like a gift because prior to that, we'd be rocking and walking him for anywhere up to 3 hrs before he fell asleep. The feeding to sleep gave us all some much needed rest.

He still feeds to sleep now. I don't have a problem with it because I need to give him a feed before bed anyway. He just calmly falls asleep after he's had enough. No fuss. Just peaceful slumber in the arms of his Mama.

So why would I even want to try to get him to sleep on his own? I don't know. Because its the thing to do? Because people keep telling me that its time? I basically have no reasons of my own.

Yet, I've tried it for two days now. Yesterday was encouraging because after 30 seconds of protest, Aaron was happy to play around the bed and then 30 mins later, fell asleep without much fuss. Today, I had 30 mins of screaming, kicking, tears, begging, rolling and having to look at his extremely hurt and rejected face. In the end, I caved and fed him. He was so distraught he sobbed for some time before drifting of to sleep.

I don't think I can continue to do this. Its too heartbreaking. Many people don't realize just how secure and comforting breastfeeding is from a baby's perspective. Yes, they do get the pacifying effect from it but they also feel rejected and confused if they are suddenly refused a feed. I'll have to try some other way. Go back to the Pantley pull off perhaps. There is no short cut to this. I'm not going to have him go sleep so miserably every night when he's such a perfectly happy child.

How often do you wash under the car?

When we moved here, part of the package was that we would be provided with a car and driver. This is Yudi, our driver. He's with us every day and has shared with me so much about life here. I thought it would be interesting to share a little about him here.

He's 28 years old and is married with a 6 yr old son. The car belongs to his brother-in-law (who has the contract with Richard's company) and Yudi's responsibility is to drive us anywhere and also to take care of the car.
Yudi started working full time when he was a teenager. He's been a newspaper boy, full time busker, cook, gangster (yes, gangster with tattoos), mechanic (cars and bikes are his passion), labourer and now a driver. I'm sure there were lots of other odd jobs in between but you get the picture. He is desperately poor and always has been. His brother-in-law is considered rich and by selecting Yudi to drive his car, has given him an opportunity at an easier life with reasonable pay. More than this, the responsibility makes Yudi feel trusted and respected. He takes his job incredibly seriously and really takes pride in it.

I chose this photo of him because it shows him washing the tyres and underneath of the car. He does this practically everyday! At the beginning, he washed the car twice a day until I convinced him that I didn't need it so clean. On rainy days, he wipes the car dry every time the rain stops. Unfortunately, the rain over here has a habit of stopping and starting the whole day long. The mats inside the car are also washed regularly and the seats wiped and polished. I think the paint on the outside is starting to fade from all his washing and polishing!

His philosophy is that it is much more comfortable to sit and drive in a spotless car. Its his job to keep us comfortable and the car well kept. Its as simple as that. My point is that while this job may seem a simple and mindless one, it is a rare person who values it so much and takes as much pride in a job as Yudi does. The world is full of 'educated' people who can't be bothered with what they do and just hope to get buy doing as little as possible. I often think of Yudi as the personification of the idiom "Whats worth doing, is worth doing well"

Keeping Cool in Palembang

While the thoughts and facts below genuinely reflect my life here in Palembang, this post is brought to you by your friends at

I've complained about the Palembang heat numerous times on my blog. It would be great if we could have the air conditioning on all day long but due to the power constraints, we seem to only be able to run one at a time during the day. So, of course, Aaron gets priority for his naps.

Instead, I have the standing fans on all day long to try to keep the house cool. I don't particularly like them and they aren't very effective but thats what they seem to use here in Palembang. The ceilings in this house are too high for any ceiling fans to be effective but I find that in general, they work better than the standing variety.

During the nights, I have the A/C on because its too hot and humid to fall asleep. However, I often wake up, take a walk out to the garden to check on the temperature and then decide if I can continue sleeping if I turned the A/C off. I just prefer sleeping without the hum of the A/C if the temperature permits. The ceilings in the room are lower than the other areas in the house so I have the option of looking into ceiling fans if we can get approval from Richard's boss to pay for it! Some of these craftmade ceiling fans may fit in nicely.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A future elf to clean, cook and fetch?

Its not just Santa who has elves helping him out at this time of the year. It looks like I have a little elf developing very quickly in my own home too.

Monkey see, monkey do ALL the time now. Here he is doing some cleaning. He'll also ask for the ladle so he can 'cook' and when we say its time to go out, he'll go fetch my shoes for me. I know, I'm a proud Mama. But I can't help it. He even tries to arrange his own little shoes in pairs, side by side!

Online help for....Blackjack?

I was first introduced to blackjack when I went to an international school in Ipoh, Malaysia. There were only 4 in our class and things were sometimes ... dull. Poker was too complicated for 10 yr olds so blackjack it was. It was good for our math skills and the teacher didn't seem to mind! Till this day, its the only card game I know.

Of course, the online gaming (casino style) industry is huge now. And I'm sure there are plenty of people getting addicted online. The internet makes doing anything so easy. Just like with all other internet related services, there is even online support. The Backgammon Masters company launched a Live Customer Support feature that will eventually be available in 12 languages. You just log in to play and you immediately have access to instant help. Just like calling the bank or PC support online, the operator will ask you a few questions and then direct you to suitable support. It does make me wonder what help would be needed for blackjack though.

I'm definitely not one to gamble (although I like playing without the money) but I can't help thinking how effective it is to not only setup a gambling facility online but provide it in 12 languages. The support now is only in English but their software package already supports the other languages. I'd say that would just about cover the whole connected world. And the world is full of gamblers. Plenty who can't make it to real casinos! Not sure if its a good thing because gambling has ruined so many families.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Aaron's Christmas Story

Aaron's grandmother bought him a book from the Little Golden Book series before we left Brisbane. It was 'The Christmas Story' and for the past two weeks, its his favorite book. He pours over this book cover to cover. We go through it 3298 times a day from front to back and back to front again. And, don't forget looking at every detail on the front and back covers. Like I said, COVER TO COVER.

I usually point to the pictures and tell him who they are and then its his turn to point at things. Yesterday, something funny started happening. He would point at the baby in the manger and then point to himself and say 'Aaron'. After pointing at the baby, he will point to Mary and then point to me and say 'Mama'. I can't figure out if he's identifying with the baby or he really wants to be part of the story! Maybe he recognized the mother-baby relationship. Who knows? I just found it so cute that he's conveniently found himself such a choice part in book.

The identification doesn't end there. He found the parish newspaper lying around and it had some different images of Mary and Jesus. Once again, he called them Mama and Aaron. Funny little guy!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fun Monday

I've been reading Fun Mondays on other people's blogs for sometime and they have been fun. So, today I'll give it a go to.

The host is Karisma and she has asked for a story:

"I want you to take a trip down memory lane, and keep right on going, right back to your childhood. And I want to hear "THAT STORY". You remember the one? Yes, you do! The one your parents, siblings, extended family or friends, would never let you forget, live down or get over!"

My story is from way back when my brother was 3 or 5, I'm not really sure because we weren't so aware of ages back then. Anyway, he always brings this incident up and each time, its as if he's re-living it.

It happened when our parents left us at home with the babysitter. We must have gotten tired of playing with the large boxes that my dad had brought home for us to tumble around in. Somehow, we worked our way to the bathroom and started using the bath as a slide. Anybody who knew my brother back then would know that he was a daredevil. So, I guess it must have been too boring for him to slide down on his bum because he tried to do it on his tummy. Here comes the part that he never lets me forget.

He must have knocked his chin upon landing on the base of the bath because the next thing I know, he's standing there with blood trickling down his chest. It seems my memory is video only, no audio. I don't remember hearing him crying or saying anything.

Now his version of the tale would be "My chin was hanging wide open down to my neck and blood was gushing everywhere! And what does my sister do? She gets me a band-aid and tries to stick the gaping hole up" I don't know what he expected me to do. I was either 5 or 7!!

Its true, I did stick a band-aid on him. And, he did get 3 stitches (without anesthetic!!) so it must have been pretty bad. But at the time, I didn't see all that much blood and I thought he would have liked the band aid. And I did make the call to our parents.

I think it was the horrible ordeal of having 3 stitches without anesthetic that sticks in his mind. But why stick my face to that evil, why not the doctor's??? I wasn't even in the clinic at the time.

What a day!

Today, I had two lovely surprises from the blogosphere.

First, Kellan from "On the Upside" gave me this award. I only stumbled upon her blog a few weeks ago but its a daily read now because she really has and "upside" do everything.

I'd like to pass this award on to:
Bilbo - Every post on his blog has a message, opinion and a punch. It gets me thinking every day.
Serina Hope - This lady knows how to write! The emotions are always so apparent in her posts. And, her Haiku Friday's are amazing every week!
The Idea Dude - I always wait eagerly for new posts here. It truly is full of ideas. My favourite is the idea that each blog post is a gift.

So the second surprise of the day was this award from Bilbo. (Bilbo, I already had you in mind for the above award before I read your post)

I'm passing it on to Captain Picard's Journal. I love ST:TNG and was devastated when the series ended. Now, I get my daily fix just by visiting the Captain's Journals. Always entertaining.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pictures from my Sunday

My Sundays are predictable but always enjoyable. We go for Mass at 6.30am and after that, we'll be at home for Aaron's nap and some play time. Lunch is our weekly eat-out meal and we've been trying to have something different every week. After lunch, we usually just head home again. The afternoon is then spent playing with Aaron at home or somewhere around the neighborhood. Here are some scenes from my day:

I've noticed these boys almost every week when we return from Mass. I think they're going fishing.

This lady is a door-to-door chungkol (translation: hoe - as in the gardening tool) saleswoman. We bought one for IDR15,000 (USD1.66) then paid her IDR5000 (USD0.55) for the photo.

A common snack cart selling fried tempeh, fried battered bananas and sweet potato, fried fish cakes. Yep, ALL fried. They LOVE fried stuff here.

Roadside barber.

These kids were trying to catch some little fish out of the drains.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Finally, I've put action to words....almost.

Today, Richard and I visited an orphanage about 15 mins drive from our house. We went there hoping to volunteer our time. Unfortunately, I got the impression that they would prefer it if we donated money instead.

The place is run by one lady (with a couple of helpers) and there are 60 children there ranging from 3-17 yrs. It was basically a very big house with 4 medium sized rooms, large hall and kitchen. There were only around 10 children there when we visited as the rest were in school. It seems to be more of a shelter instead of an orphanage because none of the kids are ever adopted. Even if people wanted to adopt them, this lady doesn't allow it. I don't have any photos to share because it felt too awkward to take any.

My impression of the place: neat, clean, bare, too small for 60 children, devoid of furniture. Supposedly, the place survives on the lady's daily business of selling garlic in the markets, hiring out some donated wedding furniture and whatever donations they receive. They intentionally don't do any fund raising but hope instead that word will spread of their existence. There must be more to it but we couldn't find out anything else and didn't want to be too nosey.

I have to say that I'm disappointed because I really really wanted to give my time. Yes, money does help them get from day to day and is their top priority. I can understand that but I'm uncomfortable with just giving money because I can't see where it goes. I'll probably end up sending them some rice but what I would really like to do is help them find a way to generate another source of income. Y'know, the whole "Give them a fish and they eat for a day. Teach them to fish and they eat everyday" kind of thing.

Anyway, I'll keep thinking. And looking out for other places that need volunteers.

Friday, November 16, 2007

My Question for God

Two days ago, my Happy Post was triggered by a newborn baby and his mother. I'm still happy and I'm sure the new mother is also happy but I heard from her sister today that she had to go through 20hrs of labor and is now dealing with all the pain of recovery and breastfeeding. Not unusual I suppose. I went through 18hrs with Aaron and I can recall that pain in an instant. Anyway, her sister is not a mother (yet) and asked the question "Why would ANY woman want to go through childbirth?" There are as many answers to that as there are women. And thats not the question of the day anyway.

Before I had Aaron, before I THOUGHT of having him and probably around the time that I told myself that I will never want to experience childbirth, I had this question for God. This will be the first thing I ask him if I ever meet him. Its not that I'm questioning him, I just want to know.

Why do women bear the bulk of the procreating responsibility?
PMS. Pregnancy (together with morning sickness, constant bathroom breaks, insomnia, stretch marks, plus 1000 other things). CHILDBIRTH. Breastfeeding. Menopause. Notice how there is physical pain involved with ALL of these? Maybe my question is actually more like "Why is there so much pain involved for women?"

I'm not here to say that women are superior, deserve more from men or anything like that so guys, don't leave me any nasty comments. This is purely a question about our physiological differences. Plenty of men, including my own MAN, make up for the lack of physical pain they had to go through by enduring the verbal assaults from the women going through the pain. I know they also do their best to carry out all the slave duties around the house once the baby is out. Plenty of dads out there are amazingly hands on.

Let me know what you think. Maybe God surfs the internet too and will send me an answer.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Drain Woman in me

I'm loud and I know it. Not over the top loud but just not 'girly'. I talk loudly, laugh loudly and hardly whisper. This is what my mother tells me. She also has this theory that its because there was a group of "Hung Koi Por" outside our house everyday when I was learning to speak.

"Hung Koi Por" is Cantonese for "Drain Woman". In the late seventies, we lived in Ipoh, Malaysia and all the houses there had an open drain (not the gross kind) running along the front. They were clean enough for my brother and I to play in when I was about five. They were this clean because the "Drain Women" worked on them everyday. Keeping the grass out of it, stopping any weeds from growing and clearing out any rubbish that might have fallen in. They always worked in groups and of course would chat. LOUDLY.

So now, my mother keeps telling me to keep it down or I'll pass on my Drain Woman ways to Aaron. I can't control it though, its just my natural voice volume. And if I'm excited....I get really loud. At least I don't go high pitched. When I laugh, I prefer the open-mouthed, full forced, laugh with all my strength type. There's no fun in a muffled chuckle.

It might be too late for Aaron anyway. He has started to throw his head back and lets out really loud laughs. I wonder where he picked THAT up from?! And for a few days now, he sometimes carries on his babbling with the volume turned WAY UP. Its so funny to watch and listen to. I guess I encourage it too but I really don't want to button up that enthusiasm.

Here he is making some sort of basketball grunt! He must have seen that in the park...I don't do that!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I'm feeling extremely happy and contented this evening. There was nothing special about today but I somehow have this feeling of being blessed. Its strange to feel thankful and grateful without anything specific triggering the feeling.

Now that I've started blogging about it, there is a thought forming in my head that perhaps it is due to a photo of a newborn. Earlier today, I was looking at some photos of an old friend and her new baby. Actually, she's the sister of one of my best friends and I haven't been in touch with her (the mother) for years. Therefore, I know nothing of what she's like now, how her pregnancy was or how she was feeling about the upcoming birth. Nothing that would influence my thoughts as I looked at her photos.

However, there was this one photo of her looking at the baby where I could see how thrilled she was to be holding such a precious gift. I think I recognized in her face, the same awe and amazement that I felt when Aaron was a day old. That flashback must have released a batch of happy hormones in me. I never imagined that such a cheeky little 24hr responsibility would be able to have such a positive impact on me.

The happy feelings don't end with Aaron either. I just have this general thankful feeling for:
1) The family I have
2) The few good friends who have stuck around over the years
3) The peace that I have enjoyed my whole life
4) The privileges I had growing up
5) The comfortable life I lead
6) The little luxuries I can afford

Have a Happy Day!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Violence does breed violence (except in my brother and me)

My mother used to buy these rattan canes that were hung threateningly around the house. I remember standing next to my brother with our mother sitting in front of us. She'd have the cane in hand and go through the list of all our evils. At the same time, she'd have us pulling on our earlobes and we'd be there with both hands pulling down hard. After all the crimes were recited, she'd ask for one hand. And we would, dutifully, stick an upturned palm out and she would flick the cane down (I'd like to say 'with all her might' but she didn't). Sometimes, it would be a flick for each misdemeanor. At the very very end, she'd say that we were banned from the Idiot Box for 1 week. That was the WORST part of the punishment.

Thinking back on this, I can't figure out why were were SO STUPID to stand there, pull our ears and then stick our hands out. It would happen every so often and each time, we'd do it even though we knew what was coming.

Anyway, I did try smacking Aaron some time ago when nappy changes were a nightmare but that didn't go so well. It didn't help me get the nappies on any more easily and instead, he started slapping me whenever he didn't get things his way. (Now how come we didn't do that to my mother?) Thankfully, he's forgotten all about that.

These days I just use my voice and then tap Aaron on his hand or leg or whichever body part is the offender. He gets the idea. For now.

So, today, when Aaron was pulling down the photos that I had stuck up in his room, I said 'Don't do that'. He just turned around, pulled another one off and tapped his own hand! I know I'm not supposed to but how could I keep a straight face? He had such a cheeky grin on his face while doing it too.

Business Ideas, Business Loans

Lately, I've been trying to 'broaden my horizons' by not only browsing all the interesting, funny and relaxing blogs out there. So my time now is shared between the fun stuff (blogs), money matters (trading) and future opportunities. I worry about being complacent in life and getting stuck in a routine. I don't want any future potential opportunities to escape me because I didn't pay attention or have become too 'blunt' to grab it. I'm talking about the opportunities to do my own thing. Start a little business. Provide something for a niche market. Provide something for the mass market. I don't know....but I keep looking. Of course, I use the internet to get my brain ticking on this. You'd be amazed at some of the crazy ideas people have out there. The one stuck in my mind is the person who got himself a postal address in the North Pole so that he could sell Santa letters to parents for $10 each.

I also came across this website that helps people submit applications for business loans. Even THAT is a clever business idea. To provide other businesses an easy process and fast funding. Their website looks pretty user friendly and inviting too.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Idiot Box is my friend

I love that term "Idiot Box". I've recently become a recovering TV addict but even during the days when my addiction was at its peak, I've always known that its stupid to spend so much time in front of a box. Well, these days, they aren't boxes anymore but sleek, flat screened entertainment panels!

Its going to be an uphill battle but I'll be trying my best to limit Aaron's exposure to the TV. Of course I don't cut it out entirely (I need sit-down time!). He has 30 mins on most days and I rotate between some 'educational' DVDs and some fun music ones like "The Wiggles".

I feel that since I am a stay-at-home mom, I don't want to get caught in a vicious cycle of having the TV babysit. HOWEVER, today, at 5.30pm, I really felt a bond with my Idiot Box.

Aaron's molars are about to cut through (read: irritable, whiny baby) and I've been woken up every hour all night long for the past few nights. Then today, we had a power outage from 9.30am to 4.30pm. Its HOT here! And after a short time at the mall to cool off, Aaron became too crabby and we HAD to come back to this heat so he could try to nap. Luckily he managed an hours rest but after that, we were back to entertaining a crabby toddler in an oven.

Anyway, by the time the power came back, I really needed a rest. What did I do? I turned to my friend, the Idiot Box. You can't imagine how good the Wiggles are at transforming Aaron into a super happy toddler that can't stop dancing and clapping his hands. Its crazy! It made me happy just watching him and we ended up having so much fun dancing around.

I can see how easy it could be to rely on the TV as a child grows older but its probably just as easy to have some interactive fun. Of course, it certainly would be tempting to sneak 30mins for myself as soon as Aaron is willing to spend time alone with my friend, The Idiot Box........but I'd better not go there.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Where are all the parks?

Last month, I thought it would be a great idea to make a list of the Top 10 Parks in Palembang. I have been looking around but after 16 days, I've only managed to find one other. And, its in the same neighborhood as the previous one.

At least this time there were some swings that could still be used and Aaron enjoyed that they were HUGE.

This park, just like the last, is in the Pusri compound. Pusri is a fertilizer manufacturer and is one of the largest employers around. EVERYBODY wants to work for Pusri. This compound is where they provide subsidized housing for all their management staff. Some of its other employees also stay there but they have to make applications. Its like striking the jackpot if they qualify. There is a marked difference to the environment upon entering the Pusri gates. Tarred roads, lots of shady trees, football fields, monuments, its own Hospital, Library, Community hall, PARKS. Houses are more modern, although I don't know what their sewer system is like.

So why aren't we living there? Because it stinks of ammonia! Not all day long but still, its a daily event.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Les Miserables in Palembang

No, no, they're not bringing the musical here. I've just been reminded of it because of a new discovery I made today. I've been back and forth on whether or not I should blog about this but in the end, I've come to the conclusion that its part of life here in Palembang and thats what my blog is about. Its a bit gross to think about so, don't read if you don't like gross.

Back in March, I had a post about our 2200W limitation at home. Then in July, there was our water crisis. Today's bit of news is the ultimate, mind boggling, thought provoking and unsettling discovery.

I found out that this entire neighborhood does not have a sewer system. Yes. No network of pipes to get rid of waste. I've been here nine months. Why didn't somebody tell me?? The toilets here all look normal. You go, you flush and thats it. No second thoughts about anything.

Its all an illusion. All three toilets in the house are basically composting toilets, except that they don't have individual composting units. There is just one giant one under the house. I didn't even know there was such a thing until I went googling today to find out why we don't smell anything and are all still healthy.

Composting toilets are actually used quite often these days and has become one of those environmentally friendly things to do. Apart from that aspect, they are used in drought stricken areas, in the outback, in RVs, cabins etc. They are basically modern outhouses. Dunnies!

I'm side tracking for a bit but its interesting trivia: Brisbane was supposedly largely un-sewered up until the early 1970s. I must ask my mother if this is true. I know Malaysia was un-sewered but I had always assumed that Brisbane was by then. Here is a photo of an outer Brisbane suburb from the 1950s. See the white row of dunnies behind the houses?

Anyway, I'm pretty sure that Palembang doesn't use the composting toilet for environmental reasons. They probably used the old fashioned outhouse until recently. The poorer areas probably STILL use them. I'm guessing that when housing developments for the rich were built, the city did not have any infrastructure for sewer systems but needed something better than the outhouse.

OK. So I know their system works. There are no epidemics and the neighborhood is not riddled with disease. There is no foul smelling odor. BUT, I'm still worried. According to what I read on the Wikipedia page, "when done right, the health and hygiene risk is no more significant than any other situation where there may be some level of fecal contamination (such as using a water-based toilet, changing baby diapers, taking a bath)". The keywords being "WHEN DONE RIGHT".

Every few years, the composting unit needs to be emptied. It seems that the time has come. How will I know that they will DO IT RIGHT?

I can't stop thinking about it...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Aaron's Pentagon

My latest achievement:

None of the photos I took clearly showed it but his 'house' is actually a pentagon. I needed to make that box big enough to fit both him and me in it. It also has good height allowing Aaron to stand and me to sit up straight.

Check out some of the the interior decoration:

Now how did I ever get that 'C' in Art? Aaron has given me an 'A'. He loves it in there and actually closes the 'door' when he's inside.

What were they thinking?!

Earlier this week I had a post about language. Today, I would like to share this photo of a road sign in Brunei. A friend of mine is working over there at the moment and sent it over.

Translation : King Silly Road

They also speak Malay in Brunei so the name of this road had me laughing immediately. Dungu is actually quite a common word. I say it all the time (even though it didn't make my top eight list). The effect is probably lost on most of my blog's readers but I wanted to share it anyway. Perhaps some of my family and friends will find it amusing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Crazy Eights

I was just thinking over the weekend that there seems to be a meme dry spell after meme fever a few weeks ago. Sometimes, memes are not only good for readers to find out more about the blogger, but also gets the blogger thinking about herself in ways she might not have. I'm glad Serina Hope has tagged me for this meme.

8 things I'm passionate about:

1. My little family (Richard & Aaron)
2. My big family (My parents, Brother and SIL)
3. Water
4. The Internet
5. Being punctual, honest and compassionate
6. Sausage rolls
7. Stocks and Options
8. Having fun!

8 Things I want to do before I die:

1. Spend a week diving in Sipadan.
2. Experience a white Christmas
3. Learn the Cello
4. Live by the beach
5. Live in a few more countries.
6. Attend the Monaco Grand Prix
7. Become a proficient stock trader
8. Become a breastfeeding counselor

8 things I say often:

1. Aaron
2. Stop!
3. Sekali Lagi ("Once again" in Indonesian)
4. Lets change your nappy
5. Its so hot!
6. YAY!
7. Are we there yet?
8. Thats too expensive

8 Books I’ve read recently

1. The Fussy Baby Book
2. The Science of Parenting
3. The Memory Keeper's Daughter
4. The Discipline Book
5. The No Cry Sleep Solution
6. The No Cry Discipline Solution
7. Money Secrets of the Rich
8. Angels and Demons

8 Songs I Could Listen to Over and Over

1. Home - Michael Buble
2. Passera - Il Divo
3. Love Me Tender - Elvis
4. The Moon is my Heart - Teresa Tang (This is a Chinese Song)
5. The Pink Panther Theme - Henry Mancini
6. Crying - Roy Orbison & KD Lang
7. You don't know me - Michael Buble
8. Rondo a capriccio in G major, Op. 129 (Rage over the lost penny) - Beethovan

8 Things that Attract Me to My Best Friends:

1. They still love me no matter how infrequently I stay in touch.
2. They don't judge me.
3. Nothing is too gross for me to say to them.
4. We share such wonderful childhood memories.
5. They do get annoyed with me, show it, and then get over it.
6. They genuinely care about me (as I do them).
7. We share the same sense of humor and outlook on life.
8. They are genuine, straight forward and simple (well, most of them)

As usual, I won't be tagging anybody specifically but please let me know if you do pick up this meme. I always enjoy reading what other people's answers are.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How to achieve instant ugliness

Gyms are great places to people watch. Unfortunately, there are only very few people (and mostly men) frequenting the Novotel gym here in Palembang and I don't want to be caught watching them. They obviously keep to themselves.

The few women that I have met have been friendly but they are not regulars. Today, a new woman walked into the gym. Middle age, big hair (not done up), full face of make-up including black eyeliner, tight three quarter pants and a fitting gym top. She walked in full of confidence and obviously felt attractive. She was attractive, even though she didn't look ready to sweat it out. I'm always on the lookout for people that I could potentially make friends with so I beamed a smile over. What did I get?

A look up and down. From my shoes to my falling out ponytail, and then back to my shoes again. She did meet my eye and the corners of her mouth tilted upwards slightly. Then she just looked away. Did she look....unimpressed? I don't know. It wasn't a friendly look. Is it just me over reacting? I would have given her a second chance but then I saw this...

She ordered the trainer on duty to wipe down the bench she wanted to do sit ups on. There was no real request. Just a point of one manicured finger and 'Please wipe'. After that, towels had to be laid out all over the bench and the leg curling area. Something like 5 towels?!?! After that, no thank you or look of appreciation. Just more of that unimpressed look.

Why go through all the effort of making yourself look good when you make yourself instantly ugly with an attitude like that? I can never understand why some people feel that they need to act above everybody else. Plenty of people at the gym are rich (not me) but most don't do that.

Now, the worst part of the whole experience came when I walked past this snob in the lobby on my way out. She was ordering somebody to do something. And then I realized that she was Malaysian. I'm not saying that it would have been justified if she was Indonesian but I felt a certain embarrassment on her behalf because they all know I'm Malaysian too.

Monday, November 5, 2007

English words in Indonesian

My Indonesian has been getting better each day and I can now have a decent conversation if the other party speaks slowly. Amongst all the Indonesian words that I've been learning, I've also had to pick up some Indonesian versions of English words. Here are just a few of them. If you can control your eyes, try to guess what they mean before reading my explanation.

1) Oli - Somehow, they have re-arranged the letters for 'Oil' and now call 'Oil', 'Oli'. There are signs everywhere for Ganti Oli (Oil Change).

2) Helm - Pronounced 'Helem'. I guess there is some resemblance to 'Helmet'. Here's a common scene of parents with their helms and the kid (no helm) sandwiched in the middle.

3) Shock - Pronounced and spelled the same as English. It is what they call the shock absorbers of a car.

4) Reflexi - This word is probably derived from reflexology but is used for any sort of massage.

5) Batteri - Pronounced 'Bartree' with a blunt 'T' if you know what I mean. This one is easy - battery.

6) Parkir - Meaning 'Car Park'.

There are many more English words in use even though hardly anybody speaks English. Another interesting thing is that the headlines on magazine covers are often in English even though the contents are entirely in Indonesian.

On a side note, even though it was the Dutch who colonized Indonesia, the only word I've come across so far is 'Tante', meaning Aunt. The word 'Gratis' is also used a lot but I think the origin there is Latin. I'll keep listening out for interesting words to share. So far, my favorite is HELM.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

9 Months in Palembang

We arrived in Palembang on 3 February 2007. This means that this weekend is our 9 month 'anniversary' of living here. Even though the days here are 'longer' than any day I spend anywhere else, the 9 months have brought so many changes and seems to have been over so quickly on hindsight. When we came, Aaron was 5 months and he was balding. This photo was taken the night before we left Ipoh, Malaysia.

Look at him today:

Maybe its a good thing that our days are long. Seeing these contrasting photos remind me that Aaron will only be a baby for a short while longer.

If you're wondering about that big white slipper, he likes to hand me my shoes whenever we're getting ready to go out. He usually brings ALL the shoes he can.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Nurture the nurturer

In Brisbane, I heard the phrase 'Nurture the nurturer'. Meaning, if the mother is not nurtured/pampered/taken care of/given time to herself, she WILL NOT be able to do her mothering job.

It is so true. I think my mother would have benefited from hearing this phrase back when we were kids. Somehow, I get the impression that many mothers from her time operated in the giving mode all the time without taking any time for themselves.....and then later on, lament the fact. Or perhaps the lamenting would manifest itself in periodic blowouts.

It happens with today's mothers too but I believe that many more women are taking countermeasures. A day at the spa, lunch with friends, online businesses, blogging (ha! ha!). Basically having non-baby related activities. I'm not saying that this solves all household problems but it does help to unwind a person and so keep things balanced.

Anyway, that whole lead up was to tell you all that I had a wonderful time getting foot reflexology and a manicure AT THE SAME TIME. One person at my feet and one person at my hands. I have been nurtured and now I'm happy to be back at work.

p/s The good thing about living in Palembang is that this sort of nurturing only cost me USD6.64.

Friday, November 2, 2007


All the Indonesians I have met so far love children. Men and women, old or young, even other children like children younger then them. Policemen, fish monger, bell boy. They all seem to find children, especially babies, irresistible.

So here comes the problem. What do they do when they meet these adorable little ones? Well, they come almost eyeball to eyeball with the baby and suddenly say "B'ah!", sometimes exhaling all the air from their lungs as they do it. Think of it as the Indonesian version of peek-a-boo except there is no peeking or hiding and instead of boo its B'ah. Its just IN YOUR FACE exhalation. They all do it. Its like a 100% fool proof way to get a squeal of delight out of the child. OK, it seems to work 99% of the time so I guess that why they do it but it has the opposite effect on me.

I keep thinking of all the germs they're blowing into Aaron's face. Airborne germs. Saliva particles. Bad breath. Cigarette breath (every male you meet here smokes). Tooth decay breath. Eew!

There's nothing much I can do about it except hope that the vitamins I'm now feeding him daily and the immunities he's supposedly getting from breast milk protect him. I don't avoid anybody because they are all so friendly and 'real'. Just have to get over the initial greeting. B'ah! B'ah! B'ah!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Liar Liar

My baby lied to me. He cried wolf. One year, two months and twenty four days old! I can't believe it. I'm trying not to believe it. But I think he did lie.....obviously a white lie but still, a lie.

Aaron had a particularly hard time falling asleep at naptime and eventually gave up and walked around the room instead. I pretended to be sleeping already but he came around to pry my eyelids open. He started asking to me to open the door. I just ignored him. He tried clawing at it. Then it escalated to him wailing and banging his head against it. Meanwhile, I'm still 'asleep'.

He then comes up to me, presses on my face to wake me and then bangs his two fists together. Thats the sign I taught him to let me know if he's done something in his nappy and needs a wash. I'm always excited when he uses his signs and rushed him off to the bathroom. Nothing there. Could it be that he wants me to put him on the toilet? I tried and he sat for awhile. Nothing.

So we go back to the room, get the nappy back on and I went back to 'sleep'. He then went through the same routine again. Asking to open the door, clawing, wailing, head banging. AND....banging his fists. So I thought "Maybe he wasn't ready just now. We'll try again". Still nothing. And the time on the toilet? Filled with him singing and looking around everywhere!

Back in the room, its the same routine AGAIN. I ignored it this time. Pretended to sleep while thinking the whole time "He cried wolf. He made a conscious decision to communicate that he needed to go to the bathroom. He lied to me".

He didn't 'GO' the rest of the afternoon. Is it a lie? Or is it just him being creative in finding ways out of the room? Isn't that still a lie?

Christmas in 55 days

Its November 1st and I'm officially in Christmas mode now. Carols are some of my favorite songs to listen to and I always feel that I never get enough of it if I only hear them the week or two before Christmas itself. So, I've already got 'Silent Night' playing in the background as I blog now. That and all the other carols will probably stick around till end January.

After I left high school, I haven't been big on sending out Christmas cards. I only send out two each year. The first to a religious brother in Switzerland and the second to my old music teacher who has now joined a Carmelite monastery. Hmmm....I just noticed that they're both religious people. No, I'm not doing it for extra prayers, it just happened to be this way.

I am making more of an effort this year and hopefully, I'll be able to get some Christmas Cards out with prints of our new family on it. There are lots of options to choose from on the internet, like these from vistaprint. Too bad I didn't start my investigation while still in Brisbane. Anyhow, I don't have a printer here in Palembang so I'll have to look for a place that will print these cards for me without ripping me off.