Monday, October 31, 2016

big splash no more

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Really, it died a long time ago and was dreadfully and un-imaginatively re-used by a number of individual tenants which came and went. Even then, the final nail in the Big Splash coffin has just been nailed down, as all the tenants have until the end of November to move out for re-development. Sushi Tei and Starbucks being amongst the last, I believe.

The children will never know Big Splash the way we did. It was such an exciting place to go, from the terror of the salty wave pool to a young me, to the thrill of whee-ing down the slides at an older age. Till this day I remember the hard occasionally painful uneven humps on the rainbow-coloured concrete lower slide (not the thrilling slides but a shorter one for lame kids like me), the rubber tubes you could go floating round in, and scampering up the steps to the top of the grown-up slides to await my turn. And I think there were warm fishballs to be had after all the playing.

What the kids will remember is nothing special, but mostly that gym was there. It was where Jo and Day, before he quit, went for their weekly gym classes.

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* Jo on the steps leading up to the gym

It will mean more to Lu, for I usually spent two hours with her hanging around the area, and this started when she was aged five as it was when gym started.

She will either hit 7-11 and beg for some strange new combination of chemical (sweets), or we’d go to Starbucks for a slice of cake, where we’d ask for two cups of water and she’d sit down with some work she’s brought along.

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* Learning her ting xie, back in January

Then we’d go for a long walk along the beach to the jetty, either on foot or skate-scooter, where she has a good qualitative dose of nature (qualitative meaning I’m there with all the time in the world to explain to her why seeds and leaves and such look the way they do) ending up with sand-play. These pockets of time, and this area of the beach, are also where she honed her cycling.

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* What will happen to the rooster trio?

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* Lu and me at the jetty

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Then we go back to get Day and Jo, two hours later. Sometimes, we head to over-priced Crab in da Bag for dinner.

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*Crab in da Bag on the right

With the move of the gym to someplace else, we bid farewell to this very treasured bit of our mother-daughter relationship.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

perspective

A fellow school parent volunteer posts up a photo on Facebook. I seldom pay attention to these things, but this one caught my eye because she had taken a wefie with an old lady who is a familiar face in my parent’s neighbourhood.

Accompanying the photo, she wrote: A strange 81-year-old lady stopped my car while I was at the red light. I gave her a lift home and brought lunch for her. Listening to her life story makes me sad. She has lived alone for 50 years, her children are overseas and the one child here only visits her once a month. Let’s teach the kids about the value of family relationships and we have to do better in spending quality time with our parents. I will visit this old lady again.

It appears a case of a little old lady who has been abandoned by her heartless children, and a compassionate stranger coming to her rescue.

Why didn’t her neighbours do so?

We’ve known this old lady for years. Thin and nut-brown, she makes a regular appearance walking up and down the street in T-shirt, shorts and slippers, knocking on our gates to order us (or our visitors) to remove our cars if its parked alongside the kerb fronting her house. She has a radar which enables her to identify cars, their owners and which houses they are headed to. She’s left rude notes, she’s scratched stranger’s cars, she’s thrown her rubbish onto the cars.

The entire neighbourhood, despite it being a rather isolated community with minimal communication, is wise to her ways. Perhaps it’s the maid communication network. On weekends when a ton of cars are parked willy-nilly along the road (as houses seem popular gathering spots), the only unsullied two-lane strip is outside her house.

I suppose there’s nothing wrong in wanting to protect your view.

But it simply struck me that as neighbours who only know her as such, we are perhaps blind to the perspective of her being a lonely old lady in need of help.

And to my friend who comes in as a Samaritan swooping in to the rescue, clucking about unkindness in the world and puffing with righteous indignation, she may be blind to other abrasive facets of the old lady’s personality which could possibly have driven her own children away.

I always tell the kids - Always try to understand the other side before you accuse or take the high horse. And I write this here because the kids (at least two of them) seem to be learning from these posts.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

birth weight

Funny what bored post-PSLE kids get up to.

The kids have a health check in school which requires them to bring along their health booklet. In Day’s case, it’s a slightly grimy book in an indeterminate shade of green which would be familiar to every woman whose babies were born in Thomson Medical around the time.

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The boys cluster around each other’s health booklets and compare: Birth weights.

“Everyone was amazed at how fat and big I was. I don’t think anyone else was heavier,” Day said.

He was born 3.7kg. His class boys, who are almost all visibly bigger and taller and fleshier, were all smaller at birth. But over the years, he progressively fell below the bar.

Well, to discover that you're the top scorer in birth weight 12 years on, why not? 

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* My big little bub

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* KK learning how to clean his nice big head a day or two after he was born

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

enrichment changes

The flux and flow of enrichment classes which drain our monthly resources continue.

In a nutshell, enrichment changes for the kids this year:

DAY

He’s finally done with tuition – for the year at least – as his Chinese tuition stops after the PSLE. He’s very happy now. But I’ve already been warned – Chinese in Secondary school is HARD.

He recently stops gymnastics, after three whole years. His gymnastics career fizzles out with a whine when he stops classes and the teachers don’t even ask why. That’s the thing about enrichment. Sometimes it takes several years for them to realize they’re not very good in it and that they don’t like it very much, but too bad you would have spent the money already.

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* Miserable gym-ming

But in place of that, he takes up taekwondo.

He also re-started piano, at the start of the year, after stopping for a year plus. That’s the other thing about enrichment. Sometimes they stop, but they don’t really mean it and the parent is left guessing – Is this renewed interest for real?

JO

Jo stopped Chinese tuition at the end of last year, meaning she’s been tuition-free the entire year. The Chinese tutor, who also taught Day, said Jo could do without it and waved her off with smile. But I’ve been warned – Chinese in Primary 5 is HARD. Jo herself is most concerned.

She is still fully invested in her gymnastics and piano classes. The thing about Jo is she keeps going without ever losing steam, which is good, but which also means you think twice before letting her start anything because everything piles up.

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* Jo and Lu at a recent student's piano concert

So why did I let her start private erhu classes? I don’t know. Except that teacher called me up twice to say Jo should do private classes and I thought it’d be nice if she gets good enough to get into a proper orchestra and enjoy making music with other kids who practice at home and not once or twice a week. She’s also taken an erhu exam.

Jo, even without tuition, is the busiest "enrichment" kid by far.

LU

Lu is still banging away on the piano, resentful one minute and happily plonking out her tunes the next. She wants to stop, I know, but she’s malleable and having learnt from Day (don’t always listen too closely to what the child wants) I choose to believe that she does like music and that she’ll enjoy playing for herself next time and that a music education is enriching in many other ways.

On everyone’s advice, she also starts Chinese tuition in the middle of the year, which has pushed up her Fail to a miraculous 80 percent. It's probably a fluke but ah. She is undeniably passing, thanks to the undeniable power of a good tuition teacher. Lu outwardly hates going for tuition class and flounces about yelling “I HATE tuition” just before I fetch her there, but I notice a tiny, blooming interest in Chinese. She makes me read Chinese books to her. What does that say?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

bootcamp

Sunday, most people go to church, chill out, send their kids for enrichment classes. The kids go to Bootcamp.

Visiting the paternal grandparents is a routine that has stayed consistent for 12 years now, except now they go every other Sunday. The flat itself hasn’t changed much in two decades. Things have gotten dusty, creaky, faded, mouldy.

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What’s changed is that everyone is older. The old folks have gotten slightly more eccentric in their ways, while the kids are fussier.

They really hate going up North on Sundays.

They have to wake up at ungodly hours, even earlier than school days, between 6 and 7am thereabouts so that KK can make it to the Kranji golf course at first light of day.

Before he hits the course, he first deposits them at the foot of the block of flats and they groggily make their way up with their individual bags of packed activities (work and books and phones and games and whatnot). Their noses wrinkle when they step into the flat because of the slightly musty, sour smell.

Jo sits very straight on the edge of the sofa because she says she doesn’t know any clean surface on which she can rest her skin.

The rooms which they used to play and sleep in as babies, they no longer dare to venture into.

Eventually everyone collapses on a slightly grubby mattress which Tata places on the floor because they’re sleep deprived.

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* Lu with the loves of her life. BB and, er, Jo?

Once they wake up, without going into too much detail, they are afraid to eat and afraid to use the toilet.

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* Lu's up. It's 1015am

They’ve outgrown the playground and mostly stick around in the flat getting bored and somewhat hungry until KK finishes his game and comes around to collect them six or seven hours later. There isn’t much communication as much as the kids going 不要, 不要, 不要 (don’t want) the entire time, with varying degrees of intensity. (in descending order, Jo, Lu, Day who finds it very hard to say no to an elderly person)

Lu comes back scratching away at her rashes, Jo always comes away with renewed determination never to go again while Day is flush with food nightmares. Some of the most intense, enduring memories of their childhood will stem from these Sundays.

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* The kitchen they hardly venture into

But like it or not, they need to go.  As impassioned as their arguments are as to how traumatizing it is, they really mean the world to their Tata and Nene, and it is at times like these that I realize just important the word (filial) is in KK and my worldview. 

(of course it helps that KK golfs around the area on Sundays and when they're gone I have the day free)

Friday, October 21, 2016

bb

Lu has become the first kid in this family to get attached to a non-living thing. I didn't think it was likely, but its happened.

We sometimes hang around Kinokuniya at Liang Court and every time we go, Lu comes away determined to buy something from the soft toy section. There’s something about the soft round Japanese toys with the tiny eyes and noses and mouths which melts her heart.

A few months ago, she got really fed up with our consistent rejections to buy her a toy. She grabbed her wallet, still stuffed with the angbao proceeds from Chinese New Year, and ordered us to bring her to Kino. There, she – and Jo too, who must do what Lu does – picked up matching plushies.

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* Lu's left, Jo's right

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* Jo's with the patches and longer tail

The big difference is, while Jo places her plushie on her bed and strives not to touch it (because she doesn’t want grubby hands and dirt sullying the toy), Lu has adopted BB like a child.

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* Jo's plushie, top right hand corner, with the rest of Jo's brood

Full name, Marshmallow. Pet name BB. Chinese name 花糖 (because Marshmallow in Chinese is 棉花糖

She cradles BB (cute way of saying Baby) in her arms as she coos, "I love BB so much". She brings BB everywhere with her, tucked into her haversack with its head pointing up, because she wants BB to be able to see the world. 

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She routinely strokes BB, loves throwing BB up into the air and catching her. BB appears in almost all of her posed photos, like here and here and here, as Lu makes sure to take BB out and hold her up. BB is a member of her family, and a very attractive one too because every time she takes it out in public, kids (and some adults) stare.

One time she thought she left BB in the library, she completely freaked out, bursting into tears and railing about possibly dishonest people who would steal BB and bring her home. Now the one thing I cannot say no to is a genuine bout of tears (which is why, as Jo would accuse me, Lu always gets her way).

I mentally re-traced where we went the entire day, and after a call to Gong Gong and Por Por’s home ascertained that BB wasn’t in the library but safely at their home. Telling Lu that BB was found was singularly satisfying, as sunshine lit up her face, cleared up the tears and she happily went to sleep in peace, secure in the knowledge that she could claim BB the next day.

Another time we brought BB to Auntie Xueying’s for a wash (because they have a good washing machine and dryer which is soft toy-friendly), Lu sat in front of the machine for a good long time to watch BB being tossed about, as she lamented, "BB is going to be so nauseous, oh no, BB is going at 1,200 rounds per minute!" while Jo intoned in accompanying harmony, "BB is being murdered. You are so cruel." We the adults kept responding, "No no BB is having fun in a roller coaster! She's having the time of her life!"

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* Watching BB tumble

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* BB out of the washing machine, before it goes in the dryer

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

pop up pics

The only photos I appear in these days are those taken in pop-up photo booths, the sort which are set up at weddings and events with a backdrop and a table-full of props (wigs and sunglasses and weapons and such) for people to ham it up with.

When I started this blog I don’t think these photo booths existed. Now they’re everywhere. But I suppose it’s good for people like me, the people in the families taking all the photos who are nearly invisible when they’re dead.

A series from a recent dinner. It was fun.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

floppy ice-cream

The kids are in love with an ice-cream which makes me giggle.

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I wouldn’t put it in my mouth. The lime-y concoction with what I think is a jelly sheath looks horrendous to taste. But the sheath makes it flop and that makes me laugh. Anyway, they fight to have a bite. It costs a dollar from the mama shop.

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* Day savouring every bit of it

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

best teacher

Now, I tell Day, is the time to thank all the teachers who have helped him. He didn’t prepare anything during Teacher’s Day, as he was in the thick of exam prep, but now he has lots of time and it will probably be nicer for the teachers to get something nice during the off-season.

I ask him: Who do you think is the best teacher you ever had in your six years in school?

Day: Mr XX.

Why?

He taught us PE and Maths, and he really knew what he was doing. He got me to understand the Maths questions that were given to me, and gave me a lot of homework which helped me. He also promised us that we could have PE every day after our second semester exams, which we did.

(Seems that what Day treasures most is not the nicey-nicey teachers, but a teacher who keeps his promises, is firm, and a slave-driver. Who drives him with a clear goal in mind, of course.)

I say to Jo, well then I hope you get Mr XX too.

Jo snaps straightaway: So you want me to have so much Maths homework I’ll sleep late every night then I’ll get cancer from stress and die is it? Is that what you want?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

rise and rise of trampolines

Was it only three years ago that the kids could jump at the sole trampoline park in Singapore for $9 an hour (plus free bottle of water) on weekdays?

I just brought Day and his friends to what is purportedly the latest coolest trampoline park in town, Bounce. He went on a weekend so it was $24 per hour. No water. On a weekday, it would have cost $19 if he showed his student pass.

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Its massive inflation.

What’s happened in just three short years is that one trampoline park has ballooned to at least six. People here absolutely love jumping.

Prices have gone up across the board, probably due to demand. There is no way anyone can jump for less than $10 now. I think the cheapest are Amped and Sky High where you can still do $12 an hour, on weekdays.

Features are all souped up. It’s no longer just plain trampoline jumping - which I enjoyed plenty – but there are obstacles so kids can parkour their way around, American Ninja-like obstacle courses, trampoline basketball, trampoline dodgeball.

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And it seems highly competitive. We brought our black Amped grip socks (they have small rubber polka dots on the soles so you don’t slip on the trampolines) expecting to be able to use them at Bounce, but these weren’t allowed. We had to trade them in, and pay an extra dollar, for Bounce socks which look exactly the same except with different colours. So can I use Bounce socks at Amped?

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Anyway the boys loved it. Of course.

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* Junheng, Evan, Weiteng, Day, Saad, Russell, Ferhan, Xavier, Jordan

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* Four lined up waiting for the five who are mired in a Clash Royale game

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* The rather large eye of Day's best friend

The girls, who tag along, have plenty of fun too. I wouldn't have posted it on my own, but upon request from Jo I'm putting in all four of her videos. She really enjoys the blog. I told her, a little miffed, "I feel like you're my client now".


* Lu jumping into the Big Black Pillow

* Jo jumping into the Big Black Pillow



Tuesday, October 11, 2016

an unexpected find

Most things I do is last-minute, and the staycation was also a last-minute decision.

But I didn’t want to stay in the same hotels we had stayed in, namely the Beaufort and the Rasa Sentosa, as both were pricey.

I googled something or other – hotels in Sentosa? - and randomly decided to go with one of them. It looked like the Lost World, lost in the jungle, and appeared terribly exotic.

I called up to book on a Thursday night, the day before our supposed staycation, and the receptionist on the other end told me – Ah, I think you go online better. You go booking.com or expedia, got better deals there.

I asked, so you want me to book from there? He replied, ya ya.

The telephone manner did not inspire confidence but that has never stopped me. Neither has online reviews, most of which were scathing about room quality and dirtiness and bad breakfast buffets. I find that sometimes, when you look past what most people think, it pays off. But only on occasion.

I booked.

Upon arrival, I saw a tiny glass-walled reception hidden in a mass of creepers and whatnot. No carpets, just one lady who was brusque and efficient behind a table. When we entered our room, Jo complained incessantly. KK found a hair on the towel, the towels were threadbare, the room felt sandy, there were stains on the mirror and quilt, the shower looked like our home shower (ie mouldy), and the very slow Internet could only be accessed from two floors, out of eight. KK had to bring his laptop down to the first floor café to clear his e-mails. “Why did you choose this hotel, Mama, why?” Jo wailed.

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* Mirror

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* Pool towels had lots of odd stains

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* Room bath towel

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* An aged room

But by the time we checked out, everyone changed their tune.

Different strokes for different folks, those who can’t abide sloppy housekeeping, blase customer service and average (some say bad) food will hate this one. I think Jo would still think twice.

The entire place - outside of the room - was just so naturally captivating. The hotel is amok with vines and creepers and plants which grow to incredible proportions, dripping with bright flowers growing in the wild, trees poking willy nilly out of the buildings and villas (because effort was made to build around the trees instead of razing them down).

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* Nature's art. The colours! The climbing plants, or whatever they are, started out in those teeny little pots on the bottom left but have since grown way beyond those confines. Apparently all they need is a spraying once or twice a week.

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* The buildings are mostly hidden by the foliage

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* Hanging things

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* A green dustbin

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* Not your usual pretty pond with clear water and koi

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* Loads of wild life, including this one, sun birds, monitor lizards

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* A tree in the villa (we didnt' stay in it because it costs $1000 a night) in a glass case. The soil and leaves and creatures which drop in are left there. The guide says creatures like frogs and snails can usually climb their way out

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* A tree poking out of the ground at the reception

It’s an eco-resort which was built as a paen to sustainable living but unlike high-end super-expensive resorts which PR the word “eco” and “sustainable” to death, this felt like the real thing. It’s a little bit unkempt and wild but so real, and they labour at it so quietly with little fanfare. Seven gardeners - four landscapers and three who specialise in growing things - keep the plants healthy and dream up new ways of how to recycle.

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* A floating raft and pots made of recycled plastic bottles

It runs a wormery, where thousands of earthworms packed in trays (a few thousand PER tray, not in total) feed on shredded vegetable and fruit remains from the kitchen to excrete earthworm castings - which look like rich dark soil - which are then used for the hotel's vegetable and herb gardens.

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* Trays of earthworms

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* Things I learnt: earthworms have no teeth that's why the stuff has to be shredded, and they only feed on healthy stuff like veg and fruits. Certainly no oil. When the cardboard was lifted off, the earthworms squirmed wildly in dismay before burrowing down deep into the soil. They don't like light. But the guide fished them out with a pair of chopsticks.

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* The earthworm shit goes to these vegetables, which supply 10 percent of the resort's needs

I was fascinated and went on a tour of the resort’s “green” aspects, guided by an American who was once a guest but is now an employee. KK and the kids weren’t interested, because they were more interested in going swimming.

Ah. This, then, is the crown jewel of the resort. That pool has to be the best pool we have ever swum in, anywhere.

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* Trees all around

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* By day

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* By night, where it continues to attract swimmers. That's my shadow in the water.

Nearly 100m in length and built over an existing road which used to run into the jungle, the water is chlorine-free. The spring water is purified through a process of filtration and with ionized salt, which makes it a little salty. It isn’t very clear or blue, but slightly cloudy green. We all felt the difference, especially Lu and I. Our rashes did not prickle or itch. After swimming, no one felt dried out, the skin and hair did not have the “siap-siap” chlorine feeling. Jo noted, “the water feels so soft”. Everyone comfortably opened their eyes underwater.

Combine that with a therapeutic waterfall (for KK), a hot jacuzzi, loads of rubber tubes for floating “down the river” and two slidey slides of sufficient length to create a big splash, the kids couldn’t get enough of it.

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* The jacuzzi, which is heated up using excess energy generated from chilling water for the air-conditioning system. It is really hot and so shiok

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* The waterfall

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* Dry steps and recliners right next to the water slides

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