Friday, May 29, 2009

An 87 Year Age Gap

Aaron is one lucky little boy to be able to enjoy time with his great grandparents. Here he is with his great grandfather.

There may be an 87 year age gap between them but they still manage to have evening walks together. One of them is getting hard of hearing and the other still has problems pronouncing some of his words but that doesn't stop the chats they have.

It is the hope for moments like these that I often end up extending my stay in Ipoh for.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Parking in Ipoh

In general, each time we leave Palembang, we think that we're leaving the land of messy traffic.

This proves that Ipoh is not much better. The only "official parks" are to the parallel ones to the right of the photo (like the red car). Yet, every single one of the cars in the photo are parked. They aren't double parked temporarily with a driver inside. People have just driven up, put the car in "park" and then gone about their business. The council definitely needs to plan for more official car parks here.

The above photo was obviously not a main road and taken in one of the suburbs of Ipoh. However, driving in the city area during school drop off and pick off times are no better.

One particular school is on a main road and does not provide any pick up / drop off area. So, some parents just park their cars right in the middle of the traffic lanes, get down and actually lock their cars before walking the kids in. The disruption to the traffic is unbelieavable.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Candid Conversation With Aaron

We've all heard of 'fat days'. I had one of those yesterday but instead of going to bed feeling guilty, I went to bed laughing.

As Aaron and I were getting ready for bed, I sighed and said "I'm really getting too fat". Aaron was very quick to respond with "You just need to exercise. Why don't you take me to the park tomorrow?"

I was stunned. He's not even three yet. He must have been over hearing too many of my conversations recently where I have said that I need to get an exercise routine going here in Ipoh.

I answered him with what I thought would be the last statement to the conversation:

"Yes, I'd better do something about all this fat or I won't fit into my pants anymore"

He says, "Thats ok. You can wear your dress. You're not that fat."

I think he was genuinely trying to help me find a solution to a situation he could see I wasn't happy about. And, it was cute that he was trying to re-assure me.

On the other hand, I had the fleeting thought that I might be imparting some unhealthy body image ideas to my young son. Thankfully, he's not a girl. Yet, it has made me more conscious of having conversations about healthy lifestyles and eating habits instead of just exercising to stop becoming fat.

These days, he's always trying to be part of any and every conversation that goes on around him. We don't buy into the "children should be seen but not heard" school of thought so when we remember, we do keep the conversation to topics that he can be included in. Other times, we just have to be quick to change the topic before this tape recorder records everything for playback at a later, and more embarrassing, date.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Photos From The Party

It looks like the computer has been cleaned out enough and is running a lot better now. The party is also over so I guess I can get back to my usual blogging routine.

We had a bit of a scare the night before the big party. At dinner, my grandmother went pale and started complaining of chest pains. To cut a long story short, she had decided to stop taking her blood pressure pills 3 weeks ago and for that, she was admitted to the hospital for the night. At least she got a good night's (sleeping pills induced) sleep before the big day. She rested well enough and made it to the party.

My grandfather played the gracious host through the night and really enjoyed the limelight. He has been "planning" this party for nearly two years! I think he also took it to be a bit of a fashion show as he wore three different shirts throughout the evening.

Here they are renewing their 60 year old vows. He's in his first shirt.

They had a cake and some sparkling apple juice. He's now wearing the third shirt of the night. The second one was a red "cowboy style" shirt but I don't have any good photos of it. He matched it with a cowboy hat somebody gave him and a huge belt buckle. I need to hunt down a photo from somebody else's camera.

Check out the huge lipstick mark on his cheek. It definitely didn't come from my grandmother! I think he holds the record for the most number of young girlfriends. Since he took up line dancing at the age of 80, most of his friends are female and twenty to forty years younger than him.

This is my favorite photo from the evening. I felt that throughout the evening, the guests more attention was paid to my grandfather than my grandmother but in the end it was still my grandmother that we all tried to cuddle up with.

That little "scare" we had with my grandmother has prompted me to extend my stay here in Ipoh. We didn't know it at the time but she was so grouchy and lethargic during the days leading up to the party because she wasn't taking her medication. Now that she's back to normal, I really hope to spend some quality time with her.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Time For Some Blogging!

I usually get to stick to my normal blogging routine when in Ipoh but things aren't working out so well this trip.

Firstly, my mother has been working on the music and the seating arrangements for my grandfather's party. This doesn't sound like a big deal at all except that the guests list has been changing on a daily basis. The party is in 4 days! My grandfather also has the final say and he has lots of input on who should sit with whom and which group of people should get a "better" table.

Secondly, this computer is at deaths door. I have no idea if its just age or maybe daily attacts by all sorts of viruses/worms/snakes or whatever! We have spent so much time trying to scan it, clean out unused programs, defragment it, install/uninstall virus protection and have reached the stage of dumping it. It takes so long to switch from program to program that I can go make myself a drink in between.

So, when we're not being frustrated with the computer, I have been driving my mother around Ipoh. To the restaurant where we're having the party, to the shops to get all the bits and pieces she needs, to the markets to order flowers and to the tailors where we're getting two shirts made for my grandfather. And, there will be more driving to come this week. Thankfully, Aaron still needs a nap sometime in the middle of the day so we all get a break at that time. There aren't many things on the to-do list but they just seem to take so long to get done. Each place we go to requires multiple trips so I'm glad we're all still cheerful about doing all this. Even Aaron has been very patient with all the car trips and waiting around.

On the weekend, we managed to squeeze in some time at a secluded stream. It worked even better than the place we went to last weekend. The water was cleaner and shallower. Perfect for Aaron to setup his "construction site".

The place was actually near a real construction site. So we were going to show Aaron some bulldozers at work but forgot that it was Saturday.

Look at the hills in the background here. Ipoh is surrounded by limestone hills and unfortunately for stream lovers like us, this place is going to become some exclusive residential area for the rich with bungalows nestled amongst the hills. Its not shown in this photo but the first phase of the houses are completed and they are literally in between hills and has some of the water diverted into lakes. It is a pretty place to live. I'd take photos but we couldn't get pass security and I just peered in from the outside.

I miss my regular blogging routine but I doubt I'll get another post in for another few days. See you all when I see you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Everybody Is Your Uncle

Bilbo's recent post, "Hi Sweatie!", about waitresses in San Antonio reminded me a lot about what I have been encountering here in Ipoh.

The main language used at the coffee shops is Cantonese. Very often, if you're a youngish looking person, the waitress will ask "What would you like handsome guy/pretty girl?" It looks a little strange as I read this in English but it is so common that it sounds quite "normal" to the ears when I hear it in Cantonese. Actually, I don't think I've heard it in any of the other dialects.

In the past, I have heard customers call out to the waitresses in the same way too, either "handsome guy" or "pretty girl". But I suppose fear of sexual harassment accusations has reached even a little town like Ipoh because I haven't heard it in recent years.

Unfortunately, if you're no longer youngish looking, you get called "aunty" or "uncle". And strangely, they don't use the Cantonese words but say it in English.

And, if you're even older looking, they'll call you "grandmother" or "grandfather". They switch back to Cantonese here.

I think the use of aunty, uncle, grandmother and grandfather stems from the way children are taught to address people older than them but not related to them. Unlike in the West where children are taught to address their friend's parents or perhaps their parent's friends as Mr or Mrs So-and-so, children here are told to call them "uncle and aunty". Anybody that looks about the same age as your parents are addressed this way. And, this doesn't end when you're a 'grownup' - I'm not sure when to stop doing this but I'm still told to do this now.

Similarly, people who look like they are roughly the same age as your grandparents, are addressed as "grandfather/grandmother".

As for the real aunts and uncles, there are specific titles depending on the person being on the maternal or paternal side. And also if the person is older and younger than your parent. For example, I call my father's brother "Ah Chek" and my mother's brother "KauFu".

So far, all this business of calling people "aunty" and "uncle" hasn't been a problem for me. And, I guess I won't have a problem with it until the day that somebody comes up to me and says "What would you like, Aunty?"

Monday, May 11, 2009

No Repeats At Breakfast Yet

I think I've mentioned it before that we have the same thing for breakfast 7 days a week in Palembang - Oatmeal. We have tried adding all sorts of things to it but its still something that I have trouble swallowing. I think its to do with the type of oatmeal we get there too - extra cardboardy flavour.

Anyway, here in Ipoh, my parents usually have oatmeal 7 days a week too but for the past 7 days since we got back, we have had something different for breakfast every single day. Phew!

Coffee shops here aren't places that specialize in coffee. They have coffee there but the term usually refers to an extremely casual restaurant where you can get reasonably cheap and simple food. Of course, like all restaurants, there are some that are more famous than others. We have been hitting all the famous ones this past week. Well, even if they aren't famous, they are on my family's coffee shop list.

Here is what a typical one looks like. We met my grandparents and aunt there for breakfast this morning. They arrived first thats why they already have food on their half of the table. The black drink you see on the table is iced black coffee.

Most people here would have breakfast at a coffee shop several times a week. I know we can't keep this up but since we arrived last Tuesday, we have had:

Wednesday - Flat noodles in sort of chicken and prawn broth.

Thursday - Roti Chanai

Friday - Dim Sum (sometimes referred to in the west as Yum Cha)

Saturday - Hakka Noodles (different type of flat noodle with minced pork).

Sunday - Dim Sum again at a different place. Ok..maybe this is a sort of repeat but it was for my grandmother on Mother's Day.

Monday - Rice vermicelli in a clear broth with fishballs.

Tuesday (today) - Wonton Noodles

I should have taken photos of all these! I think its all coming to an end soon as I feel too unhealthy indulging like this every day.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ipoh Is Still The Best Place In The World

"Ipoh is the best place in the world." To me anyway...

This is something that I often say, especially to other friends who have left the city and perhaps don't remember it the same way I do. I know that I am blind to all its faults and perhaps I am able to enjoy this "ignorance" because I don't actually live here. And more importantly, I have the choice not to live here or even in Malaysia. I'll have to dedicate a whole post on that topic another day.

I am grateful that my parents spent the money to send us back to Ipoh for 3 months each year as we were growing up. We moved to Brisbane, Australia when I was eleven but all my summer holidays (November-January) were spent at our house right here in Ipoh. So to me, Ipoh will always be a fun place where all I did was hang out with friends. And, those holidays weren't just about friends. We stayed with my grandparents for a lot of the time too.

Aaron is getting the chance now to enjoy Ipoh too. My father has been taking him to many of the places that we went to as children. And, to be honest, I don't remember it being as peaceful and idyllic as it seemed today. It was just pure fun back then, as it is for Aaron now.

This weekend, we went to some of the streams. The farthest was no more than 30 mins away.

This place was perfect for little bulldozers and dump trucks to do their work.

And so was this place. The area looks small but he doesn't need much room and we had a fantastic time under the cool bamboo shade.

Aaron is always a little cautious with water but the cool stream was just too irrisitible. Each time, he started off only interested in the sand but always ended up in the water. Here is a photo of Aaron and the master of games this weekend, my father.

I wonder what will happen when my grandparents are no longer around and my parents decide to move permanently to Australia. Right now, they're literally fence sitters with a leg on either side. How will Aaron grow to love Ipoh the same way I do? Its easy to think that I don't need to have parents or grandparents here to visit the place but its not going to be the same as spending three months a year here and having the place becoming ingrained in you.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lazy Days In Ipoh

Finally, I get some time at the computer. Its not that we have been extremely busy. Instead, this computer seems to be busy doing things that it shouldn't be doing and slowing everything else down. We've tried scanning if of viruses, defragmenting it, getting rid of those *.tmp files and lots of other things but I think we need to call in the professionals here. Its tolerable now but by tomorrow morning, I think it will be back to changing screens at the speed of snails again.

We haven't done all that much since arriving late Tuesday night. We've spent quite a bit of time at my maternal grandmother's house. She's got a swing in her garden and also a cute dog so there is a lot of attraction there for Aaron.

Aaron really loves animals at the moment. At least, he thinks he loves them but it has always been from a distance. So far, he has been watching the cats outside our Palembang gate, or the birds playing in the puddles, or more frequently, the animals from Disney's animation, The Jungle Book. He tries to get close to any stray dogs or cats we see in Palembang but we always stop him.

The dog in my grandmother's house, Sue, is nearly a year old and extremely playful. Aaron was shocked at first and still spends a lot of the time just watching from the safety of a chair with his legs tucked in but little by little, the two of them have been making friends. Sue seems very patient with him too.

This afternoon, I drove my mother to an old part of Ipoh. We were double parked outside so I waited in the car. Here is a photo of the shop she went in. Regular readers, doesn't it look very similar to some of the scenes from Palembang?

One of the first things my mother said on her first trip to Palembang was that it looked like Ipoh 50 years ago. Yet, I'm sure that a person from Palembang might feel that there are plenty of similarities right now.

I like that Ipoh still has many old areas and have always hoped that the city would refurbish the old buildings but it doesn't look like thats a priority at the moment.

Alright, I'm off to take a look at what all of you have been up to.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Heading to Ipoh, Malaysia

Today is one of those days that just drag on and on. Aaron and I are going back to Malaysia this afternoon but the flight isn't until 4.30pm. It used to be at 1pm, which was good - wake up, breakfast, play awhile, nap and then we're off. Today, he knows that we're going sometime in the afternoon but what exactly is the "afternoon" to a nearly three year old excited about getting on a plane?? Anyway, its 1.30pm now so we'll leave in an hour or so. Nearly there.

We're going back to celebrate my grandfather's 90th birthday. It is also going to be a celebration of my grandparent's 60th wedding anniversary. Can you imagine 60 years?? I'd like to say that they still walk hand in hand and whisper sweet nothings to each other but the truth is my grandmother is usually hanging on to her walking stick and my grandfather is quite deaf. They still make a very good looking couple though.

In a way, I'm glad the news articles on the swine flu have dropped significantly from a week ago. I know its still out there but I don't need to be reminded of it by five new articles each time I go to read the news.

I don't really want to think about the 1hr 30 mins I will be in an enclosed area with recycled air. I have two masks with me but can't decide if we will use it. I'm sure it will just make Aaron fiddle with his face more. Still thinking. Do I need to wipe down the trolley with my alcohol wipes? If I do that, I might as well do it for the seat, the windows, the tray table etc. And when we get to Kuala Lumpur, the Low Cost Carrier Terminal is so incredibly crowded. They have very few chairs so people are just standing, walking, sneezing and coughing around everywhere. Its like a crowded market. Alright then, I'm not going to get carried away....

So, I'm off now. Look out for posts from Ipoh, Malaysia over the next few days.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Reminders Of The Early Days

I saw a one month old baby yesterday. He was still tiny, pinkish and pretty much helpless. As I looked at him, I couldn't help realizing that I don't have any real memories of Aaron from that age. All I have is a general hazy idea of that period but no solid images of any particular moments in my mind. I felt a little sad for not burning things into my brain at the time. Instead, what I recall is nursing him about 20 times a day and then spending the remainder of that time trying to put him to sleep. Thank goodness I have hundreds of photos of those early, sleep deprived days.

The long ago time when he didn't move much.

We also met up with some friends who had a 13 month old. He's on the verge of taking those first few steps. I was carrying him for a little while and he pretty much leaned his body in every direction to get me to go wherever his little legs weren't taking him yet. I remember that age well and have many more vivid memories of Aaron. Thank goodness we were getting more sleep by then even though lots more hard work was around the corner.

First contact with grass.

And when I went to bed last night, I saw my own 32 month old who is no longer a baby. We are so far from that 1 month and even the 13 month old stage. Just like every other night, I like to go snuggle with Aaron for awhile. After all the early months, struggling to make him sleep (and keep him sleeping), I often find myself hoping that he will wake up. Some times I feel as if I wouldn't mind at all if he woke up at 11pm and wanted to go make a bridge with his legos. (Moms of those littler ones must think I'm crazy.) On nights that he does wake up, I'm happy to cuddle him to sleep again. During the day, I do look forward to his nap time but once I've had a bit of a break, I want him to be busy around the house again. By 11pm, we've usually been clear of him for about 4 hours and I guess I start to miss that noisy little boy.

I was chatting with John on Facebook a couple of days ago and he mentioned that going to the Prom (or its future equivalent for Aaron) will happen sooner than I think. I've got about 13 years left before that happens but I am sure he is right. He also has a very apt post today on the simple pleasures in life. I don't know why but recently, I keep wanting to have simple days with Aaron.

He can now help me weed.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Too Much Of A Good Thing

I've had an incredibly laid back Sunday. Including an early Mother's Day present - an afternoon off to pamper myself. Richard and another dad teamed up to look after the two little boys so that the other mom and I could spend 90 mins relaxing. We got head, shoulders, feet and hand massages (skipped the whole middle part of our bodies). I not only enjoyed the massage but the company. Another reminder of how lucky I feel to finally have found some friends here.

Anyway, after all that relaxing, I'm in a completely lazy mood now and taking a night off blogging.

See you all tomorrow.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Is It Ever Ok To Be Rude?

I try to be a polite person and I get extremely annoyed if I hear Richard being rude to anyone. He's actually extremely polite person but there is something about speaking in Indonesian that makes him come across as condescending and rude. I'm pretty sure he doesn't mean it. Anyway, it was only this morning that I was telling him about this. Then, it was my turn.

I think this post is before any of my regular readers started reading. Its all about our electricity woes here in this house. Recently, things have been getting worse and we often have 4 or 5 power trips each night. It seems to happen more at night than in the day time.

We finally called Palembang's power office and they sent somebody over to check things. The guy checked things out and tried to tell me we had too many appliances on and that we don't really get to use the full 2200W because some is lost on the way. He said some other stuff as well and started to pack up. He was going to leave!

In my limited Indonesian, I kept trying to ask him why things have been different recently with the 4 or 5 trips each night even though we have no new appliances and have even reduced the number of lights we turn on in the hope of stopping them.

This was when I think I might have offended him. I think I said something about paying free money because all the trips mean that I don't actually end up using any of the electricity. After that, he seemed to just ignore me.

The good thing is that he agreed to check outside as well. Maybe he was too lazy to do this in the first place:

With the aid of a rope, he scampered up and down there without his shirt or pants touching the rusty pole!

After he fiddled around, he announced that we now have additional voltage coming in. A whole 10 volts extra I think. Not the full amount to power 2200W worth of appliances but a little bit more.

I felt bad when the guy started ignoring me. I think he was offended. And I felt bad that I offended him because he's really just the technician working for the power company. I was irritated with trying to explain things to him but I think I could have been nicer. I still think he was trying to get out of doing some work but that was no reason for me to be rude.

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