Wednesday, January 11, 2017

bubble

There was a whole field of bubble balls around Parkland Green the other day.

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* What the balls were supposed to be used for, this is a random photo I pulled off the Net

Remarkably, they were free for trying.

They were part of a NParks programme to get people out and about, and there was plenty happening including an origami station, boxes of chalk for people to draw on the ground, hula hoops for kids to play with and free passionfruit tea from Starbucks.

Even better, there were very few people because ever since the opening of Marine Cove, Parkland Green has been a shadow of its former self. Boy, the crowds shift fast in Singapore. I think there were more people there from NParks than members of the public. 

So there was plenty of opportunity for the girls and I – Day had gone home by himself – to give the balls a try. You’re supposed to strap in, hoist it up and run around playing bubble soccer. Fortuitously, the soccer idea fell apart (because the girls would never take part in any sort of organised game) but the balls lay fallow, ripe for the picking by any kid who came along.

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It is horribly hot and moist once you crawl in. I bounced off Jo, fell many times, and decided to crawl out after my shirt started sticking to my back and my old bones didn't feel quite right. Lu didn’t even manage to stand, I think she's a little short, and she decided she feared the seasick feeling of bouncing around once you lose your footing.

But Jo had the best time. Grass was in her hair (when she went upside down the grass stuck) and her face was red and slick with sweat, but she wanted to stay in there, turning upside down and going every way.

* Lu the ball pusher huffing and puffing her way across the field


* Jo and her front-and-back bubble somersault

She wants to go back on 11 February when the balls come out to play again.

Monday, January 09, 2017

murder

It was all my fault.

I didn’t know the oven toaster was so hot it would melt the clayey stuff which is supposed to be baked – under gentle heat - into erasers.

Day saw smoke rising from the oven toaster after 5 minutes, yelled and turned it off. “It’s not looking good, Mama,” he said.

I strode over and gingerly opened the toaster’s front flap. When the smoke which poured out cleared up and the toaster’s contents became visible, that was when Lu, next to me, screamed.

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She clapped both hands over her mouth and started wailing, tears swiftly starting to stream down her fingers, “BB! My BB!” Her heart burned for the mini-BB which she had so lovingly crafted, complete with tiny little black dot eyes and mouth and stick-up ears and paws, all melted into a pockmarked puddle, and her blue-and-white penguin with the yellow beak.

Day, behind me, started to giggle. The brown and green pile was his dog and ball-with-eyes respectively, but he chose to see the funny. He grabbed his mobile phone and snapped a shot for his Instagram account with the caption “Too hot”. Yes, he has an Instagram account.

All I could think was, oh my goodness, the smoke stinks, is it toxic? And will I still be able to use that oven toaster for my toast and chicken nuggets and whatnot?

Over the next 30 minutes, Lu couldn’t stop sobbing. She’d wander into the kitchen, look into the oven toaster, and wail and tear up all over again. The tragedy.

Once cool, she lovingly peeled BB and Penguin off the foil and reverently placed them on her desk.

“I still love them,” she said.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

day teaching lu

I decided to take a break and tossed Lu’s Chinese ting xie to Day.

I asked, “Can you help me to help her?”

He, with a renewed sense of responsibility and zest imbued through exposure to inspiring seniors at his new school, enthusiastically took up the task and actually saw it through.

For more than half an hour, he sternly taught Lu and made her write the words many, many times, in batches (because when it comes to Chinese she has the memory of a sieve with very big holes).

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Then for the testing process, he settled into the chair, crossed his legs and wielded the cane like he was an army general.

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* Flicking the cane 

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There was a lot of foot stomping, wailing and frowning from Lu, who thought she was being subject to a hellish dictator and there were plenty of arguments.

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* What she hopes will happen to her instructor

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* How she feels

There were also plenty of false starts as she failed to write the first word he uttered and he gave her chance after chance to “study” again.

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* False start. Cannot write

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* Brows furrowed anxiously

Through it all, Day stood his ground. From 5/13, he brought her up to 13/13.

In conclusion, he stated mightily: Tomorrow we must test her again before she goes for tuition. By the way, Mama, I’m never doing this again.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

new stuff

Jo starts the year with new stuff.

She was absolutely delighted when I brought her out to buy stationary, instead of making her rustle up bits and pieces from around the house.

In a way, she had earned it; part of her stash was funded using book vouchers which the school gave to her last year, and I think it’s the first time we’re making a concerted effort to buy new stuff for school since she started Primary 1.

So what does she get?

The girls drag me to a shop called Smiggle. Oh of course I’ve heard of it. But I didn’t quite know how huge and hot it was, amongst their generation, until I saw them in the shop and they started rhapsodizing, eyes gleaming, about how this friend has this pencil case, and that friend has that pen with the invisible ink etc etc.

Seems everyone, including some boys, have Smiggle stuff which is a travesty considering how expensive it all is. (now I sound like a grumpy senior citizen)

Jo goes for a gigantic pencil box, half the size of an A4 sheet, and which is about an inch thick. I wonder: Isn’t smaller better? So it doesn’t take up so much space in the bag?

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* The stationery briefcase

Never mind. What do old folks know?

She is also thrilled to have caps on every one of her colour pencils. I tell her I’ve never met anyone who caps their colour pencils. And the caps are matching, mind you.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

first day of school

Just like when I set aside his purple pre-school attire, the sadness sets in when I set aside Day’s primary school uniform.

His face is still velvety-smooth like the surface of a peach, his cheeks are still somewhat childishly round and he’s still shorter than I am, but he’s moved on.

He is completely on his own and I leave him to it, as he sets his own 6am alarm, waves goodbye and walks out of the house on his own to take a public bus to school. We’ve never tried the route, but after Japan it’s clear that he’s far better at navigation – mobile phone in hand - than either of his parents will ever be (we both lose our car in the parking lot).

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At 7am, as I step out of the house to bring the girls to school, he Whatsapps: I’m there. He’s a full 40 minutes early.

His school, his first choice, is the affiliated secondary school. Well, its the pragmatic choice in that he can get in with his points. It is a co-ed school, well-resourced as it is funded by a clan association, and my one hope is that he will be surrounded with inspiring teachers and friends he can click with.

O level results notwithstanding, I pray he enjoys the next four years.

Jo starts her day with a great deal of trepidation, dismay and some tears, because the night before was imperfect. She spent far longer than she thought she would readying her school bag, slept later than she wanted to, and woke up in the middle of the night. She did not get the full night’s rest she was aiming for plus she has a little cough.

Lu coolly does what she has to and its pretty much just another day for her.

For the girls, they start the year with new friends, as classes have been moved around, and new teachers.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

bb in japan

BB needs a post on her own, and this will be the last Japan post. I think we’ve had quite enough.

She usually squeaks via Jo – apparently the only person who can translate BB squeak into English – but this time I’ll do it. Like one of those primary school compositions we used to do which go, “Imagine you are a…” (kids don’t get these sorts of compositions anymore though, I wonder why)

I think the girls will lap it up.

BB'S ADVENTURES IN JAPAN

“Lulu loves me and brings me everywhere so she had to bring me to Japan.

When we were on the plane, I hid in her bag because I don’t have a passport.

Once we were in Japan, she took me out and put me in the hood of her jacket. That’s how I got to see Japan, from behind Lulu’s head.

I wasn’t lonely. She put baby BB in together with me and Jody would be in charge of making sure that we were both perfectly straight and facing upwards so we could see everything, at least in the sky.

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Jody was also our security guard to make sure that we won’t drop out and that no one would pluck us away.

They took lots of photos of me.

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I like Japan. Its where I came from. The rest of my clan is called Sumikko Gurashi.

Lulu found and picked me up when she came to Japan a few years ago. I was in a shoebox with some rice grains and biscuits. I have a sad birth story. My mother was about to give birth to me, she was so happy, holding my father's hand, when hunters suddenly appeared. My parents tried to run, but they shot my father. My mother gave birth quickly and held me in her arms. She was Japanese and could only speak a little bit of English, but she told me: You are special, because your father and mother are special.

She threw me into some bushes before the hunters shot her. 

I was still very tiny, the size of a twenty-cent coin, but I wandered around until some people found me and took care of me; but only for a while because it was too expensive to keep a BB. They then abandoned me in the shoebox.

Now that I've returned to Japan, I was very happy to see so many of my kith and kin. Some of them came back to Singapore with me.

What happened? We were walking in Takashimaya Times Square one day, up and down, up and down, Lulu was vainly searching for my family members and everyone was getting very tired when suddenly, she saw a whole shelf of them.

“Oh! Oh! Oh!” she squealed. She ran over, reached for the biggest one and squished her face into it. “Oh Mama! It’s my dream come true!”

Lulu’s Mama is quite the stingy poke, but she decided to be kind that day because it’s nice to make dreams come true. Big BB joined baby BB and I.

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* Jody making the introductions

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Everybody loved big BB even though Lulu later found out that its bobbly tail was loose. They slept on her, hugged her and threw her around. 

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I was glad they had something else to throw around, because Lulu and her brother and sister are always doing that to me, even in Japan. It was like they had nothing else to play with. It made me nauseous sometimes and I got very dirty.

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* See me?

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* Yikes!

And then at the Narita Airport where we had to spend five hours doing nothing but window-shop because our flight had been delayed, David spotted another member of my clan at an airport shop.

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* Apologies, free drinks and food from the airline

Lulu’s Mama decided to buy it because David is always snatching and stealing me away from Lulu – I hate that - and he once said that he desperately wanted a BB too.

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His BB is a boy, and it’s not a guinea (pronounced gwee-nee) pig like me. David thought he was a duck but it turns out he’s a penguin."

Sunday, December 25, 2016

japan 5: nuggets

GETTING AROUND

We didn’t drive. We got around using the trains. Language didn't turn out to be much of an issue, as crucial signs were also in English and, in Tokyo at least, people spoke English.

The lifesaver was a portable wifi device the size of a pager from Changi Airport, which cost all of $5 a day, which enabled all of us with mobile devices to connect to the Internet at very decent speeds.

Day, who carried the wifi device in his bag, and KK, were the navigators. We got around using pre-paid passes which acted like farecards.

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* Our trusty Suica passes

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* KK and Day reading the signs and leading us

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* Much time spent in the train stations

To our great surprise, navigation was a breeze, even in the massive Shinjuku station which we were warned about. Day’s quite the natural. We only got lost once, when we went back and forth between trains trying to find the right one back.

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* The downside of wifi on the go: Boy's on the mobile phone even when we're not travelling

And perhaps because of where we were – Tokyo – we hardly saw any kids. On the packed silent trains, surrounded by hordes of men and a few women in mostly black heading to or coming back from work, I beseeched the kids to be silent as tombs / not sneeze or cough. The commutes all seemed terribly serious and proper journeys on which they really had to behave.

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* Day thankfully stood out like a beacon in the sea of black, so we could follow even when he and KK were far ahead

FOOD

Not much to say here, most people would have been to Japan and know that every bit of food is perfect, even rice balls from the 7-11 equivalent.

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* Lulu covering her face because even though we were in a non-smoking area of the restaurant, the smoke was heavy and the girls choked on it

There were recommended places to check out, but after trying to get into one and seeing the long queue, we just popped into anywhere. Some of the food which I liked:

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We have also discovered that we are not sushi lovers. Rather, we like our sushi and sashimi well enough, but we aren’t discerning enough to drool over the offerings at the Tsukiji fish market. It’s just…. a lot of raw fish which doesn’t taste all that different from what we have in Singapore. (I know, it’s criminal! But what to do when we’re not connoisseurs)

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* Huge pieces of raw fish blanketing the rice

WINTER

We landed freezing, and by the time we left 11 days later I was left holding bunches of discarded puffy jackets as the kids had gotten used to it and felt too hot.

The coldest one, however, would have to be Lu. The poor skinny tyke’s cold tolerance is quite a bit lower than her siblings.

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* Spot Lulu

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* We ended up buying her a balaclava which is perfect

We saw the last vestiges of autumn, and the scenery was mainly that of bare branches and dry, brown grass. I think autumn would have been prettier but too bad, we needed to ski!

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* Remnants of autumn beneath our feet

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* Plains of dried grass

URBANITY

While we had the longest time to spend in Tokyo, it wasn't quite our thing. The people and bustle was draining, and we don't shop. We would infinitely have preferred to spend more time at the ski resort, or the seaside town.

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* We ventured to Shibuya, took one lackluster shot of that crossing and escaped. For us, it really was a waste of time. KK, exhausted, said, "That's it ah?"

VIEWS FROM THE TOP

For some reason we spent a lot of time in tall edifices which offer views of Tokyo. There was the Skytree, which charges for admission. Then there was also the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, which was free and which we went up several times because our hotel was next to it. After a while we went up not for the views, but to eat.

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* Tokyo Metropolitan Government building

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* View from the Skytree with what is apparently the silhouette of Mount Fuji

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* Skytree shadow

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* Skytree viewing gallery

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* Santa window cleaners

A LOSS

Day left his beanie in a convenience store and thought he lost it, but upon returning and asking if anything had been found, retrieved it.

Lu left her balaclava at the ski resort and thought she lost it, but when we asked, it turned up at lost and found.

Jo went to a very windy beach at a seaside town, Kamakura, and in the process of playing at the black sand beach with Lu lost or dropped her phone. (she claims she passed it to me) 

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* Day at the Yuigahama Beach, which is a windsurfing haven

Upon discovering the loss when we had moved on to the Great Buddha, she prayed to the Buddha for good luck and blessings before she and I rushed back to the beach to try and retrieve it. Buddha didn’t grant her wish. Despite all our best efforts are retracing our footsteps, we found nothing as we scrabbled through the sand, trying to spot the phone in the dark.

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* The Great Buddha of Kamakura, where it dawned on her that she wasn't holding her phone

The rest of the family are most surprised that amongst the trio, the one to lose something is Jo.

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* The last photo she took on her phone, similar to this one which I snapped at the same time. She was most upset over the loss of her photos

JAPANOPHILE?

Some friends go to Japan again and again after one time there, they love everything about it.

Between us, KK and Jo seemed to like it the most. 

Jo in particular, kept repeating that she loves the country. Its cleanliness, warm toilets with multiple functions (although none of us dared to try any of it apart from KK), attention to detail, how things are beautifully wrapped and packaged. When she saw a book store lady deftly wrapping a paper cover around a book I was buying, she actually turned to me to smile in delight.

“Why don't they do this in Singapore? I love Japan,” she said.

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* Me, because I took all the photos and I wanted to be in one myself