Sunday, March 22, 2015

fish don’t sleep

The stupidest thing the girls and I tried to do during our Aquarium Sleepover (Day didn’t go because he was over-aged and KK wasn’t interested) was to bath.

Honestly. If I had even stopped to think, it would be obvious that an aquarium, even if it is a swanky one like the S.E.A. Aquarium (one of the world’s largest aquariums), is not going to have sufficient or comfortable shower facilities, like a hotel.

But bath, we did, because Jo insisted on being clean before she bedded down for the night in her sleeping bag, even if we had been in air-condition the entire day and nobody was really grimy.

There was a queue – between 20-30 women and children vying for three shower stalls (the army-trained dads were smarter and not many showered) – and when we got in, the water pouring down was ice cold. Without a hair dryer, we slept with wet hair in the cold. And I sneezed a lot because I had been chilled.

That, was the worst part of our Aquarium Sleepover.

The best part was everything else.

For one, it was free. What would have cost over $400 (for me, Jo and Lu) was part of a package put together by one of the community development councils, to involve parents and children in family-bonding activities via an overnight camp. We had to work, too.

The work part was mostly on Saturday where the girls and I holed up at Changkat Changi Primary School with all the other families from other schools, listened to talks on family values, and come up with a family values book. 

* Changkat Primary School

The part where I had to work, was when we had to work out an idea for a community project.

* Our project idea!

* Lulu's classmates, Nicole and Amanda, were there too

The fun was when we were bussed at 4pm to the aquarium, for their Ocean Dreams programme (it’s on their website, $138 per child and $158 per adult, only in our case the council paid).

Honestly, this is the ONLY way to see the aquarium. Not when it’s like a fish market but when the doors have closed, the hordes have left, the camera flashes have ceased, and you are left on your own with a handful of others to quietly and serenely put your face right up to the glass and marvel at the sea creatures in silence. It's expensive if you have to pay. But I think its worth it.

* The girls actually get a chance to TOUCH a creature!

* There are NO crowds at the jellyfish!

* There are NO crowds, full stop!

There was the tour of the maritime gallery, of course, and the obligatory jaunt through the 4D typhoon theatre (lots of ‘lightning’ strobe lights and ‘thunderstorm’ mist sprays) but the after-hours aquarium tour was tops.

Even better, the entire group was broken up into small groups of less than 10 which were guided by enthusiastic young things (they come off like Club Med GOs) who are astoundingly knowledgeable about the sea life. Ask any question and they answer. Every tank was a personalized Discovery Channel as the kids (except my two quiet ones) had an endless list of questions.

* Our Manta Ray group guide, Jun Hao, a 19-year-old army-going tourism polytechnic grad

11pm, post (horrible) bath, we wrapped ourselves in blankets and snuggled into our sleeping bags – all dry-cleaned, courtesy of the aquarium – and drifted off to sleep admiring the flight of the three manta rays (M1, M2 and M3), groupers, sharks and schools of fish.

* Bathing towels, sleeping bags and blankets provided. Bring Your Own Pillow

Yes, thereabouts 11pm, they do switch off the music ('Aquarium' from Saint Saen’s Carnival of the Animals played on an endless loop) and the lights excepting one dim spotlight, for us to sleep.

* Bags and bodies scattered on the floor, Jo holding onto her supper snack of giant chocolate chip cookie

The fish do not sleep.

Freed from work and housework, I savour one of my best going-to-sleep experiences as I languidly watch the graceful sea creatures swimming through the night (I’ve always liked sleeping in sleeping bags, too)

* The girls writing in their diaries by the stairway lights

Most of the other parents tell me they had a horrible night: Floor too hard, not comfortable, not used to the environment etc etc.

Lulu, too, had a fearsome night. My little worrier was very concerned about what would happen if the glass broke and the water bore down on her in a crushing torrent - But I can’t swim, mama.

The all-important food's fine too.

* Saturday night dinner

* Sunday morning breakfast

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