Sunday, October 28, 2012

Matt, Sam and I went to Kuala Lumpur for the weekend...for the third time (Matt has been there for work many many more times). I wasn't impressed the first time. I wasn't impressed the second...and this time left me with the same impression. Eh.

It's kinda like Singapore, but not as good. The positives:

  • Chinatown is kinda fun in the evening. There were some fun stalls/shops, and we absolutely loved the food at the Old China Cafe at the end of all of the madness.
  • You can stay in a five-star hotel for nearly nothing, so the Shangri-;a was our home base this time and last, and it was great. The breakfast is an event, and when eaten outside, it can be coupled with coy-watching and Sam-chasing (which is a good thing - I hate controlling her in a restaurant. Misery).
  • The pool at the Shangri-la was a highlight. We swam three times in one weekend, and Sam was a superstar. She absolutely loved it.
  • The base of the Petronas Towers (those two iconic towers in KL) has an incredibly huge playground. That is like a dream to a two year old. Finding shady areas to play is another challenge, but all in all, that was a highlight.

Probably ten women took photos with Sam. They just bend down, some pick her up, some stand next to her, and they take photos. This is something that is normal out here, but I still don't expect it and I laugh each time. Sometimes it kinda scares Sam, and she says, "Mommy!" looking for me. Do I comfort her and say, "It's ok, Sam. They just want to take a photo with you." or do I just sweep her away? Hm. Usually I tell her it's ok and I let them continue to take photos. Perhaps I'm not the best mom.

Another thing that's funny in SE Asia, which I have gotten used to, is that people take your child away at times. The first time this happened was in Jakarta in December 2010, when Sam was about 10 weeks old. We pulled up to the hotel, and someone just took the car seat, baby and all, and walked away. That time they took her around the security area, but I had to go through, so they didn't let me go with her, and I didn't understand where I was going (security at a hotel was not something I expected). At the airport today I asked if I needed to take Sam out of the stroller and fold it up to go through the belt thing. They said, nah, and they just wheeled her away. I was still sorting out all of my other things, and she was on the other side with five new friends. I realised that I had grown used to this. Normal? Who knows.

One funny story - we were in the pool at the hotel, and another little girl came into the water with her dad. We said hi to her, asked how old she was, and she was a month older than Sam. I asked if they were on holiday in KL, and the dad said, yes, they live in Singapore and they were there just for the weekend. I said, "me too." And then he said, "didn't we meet two weekends ago at Anthony and Cynthia's?" Yup. Small SE Asian ex-pat world.

Sam at the playground at the bottom of KLCC/Petronas Towers, with Matt
(She loves her Thailand shirt with that monkey - LOVES)

Random Indonesian women who took photos with Sam. They also took some standing up with her. Hugging her, and these, standing next to her. 

This place is like heaven for a two year old. She had to give each one that she knows (Winnie the Pooh, Micky, Minny, etc.) a hug. Each one. This woman, from Burma was showing her Barney who sang a song. Each animal was like USD2.

Discrimination is totally legal. It's weird.

Yay Jetstar! Not only were our flights free (ok - they were from a voucher after our trip back from Tasmania was delayed and we spent WAY MORE than this ticket's worth just on one night's hotel...and they had promised that we would be reimbursed...but whatever...) but the pilot invited Sam in to meet him and see all of his gadgets! Cool!

Since nearly all of my good friends here are pregnant, Sam is convinced that she's pregnant too. She makes her stomach go up and down and says, "Mommy, baby moving." She needs to have a dinosaur in her shirt quite often, and if it's not her pregnant belly, then it's "Ergo." Her dinosaur in her ergo. It's pretty funny.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ben and Rong the Coffee People

I mentioned almost exactly two years ago that my mom found Ben the coffee man. Ben's shop had a drinks stall, a Thai restaurant and a Malay restaurant / food stall. Ben made my life better, every day, for nearly two years. While on maternity leave, Samara and I went to his little shop every morning to get me an iced coffee, not so sweet (kopi ping siew tai). Once I went back to work, I went everyday on my way to the bus, and I had a special thermos cup so that it could last until I got to work. When I started working two days from home, I would bring Samara on those days and Saturdays.

Ben and Rong, his star employee from China, watched Samara grow. They used to hold her when she was a baby, and then they would bring out things to entertain her, like the service bell, the cash register, stools, coins, ice, straws...whatever a coffee shop has! They stopped business and sat and watched diggers with her. They absolutely loved seeing her, and she loved going to visit them. We would usually visit with them for at least ten minutes each time we went.

Rong speaks no English at all. She taught me "swee teau" which means sleeping, "zhao ahn" good morning "lai" - coming, and other words as well. She spoke to Samara in Chinese. She brought back gifts for Sam when she went home to visit. She got her a birthday present when she turned one. She is an extremely hard and dedicated worker and made the best coffee in the area.

We would make extra dessert when we had people for shabbat dinner, and we would bring that. We brought kugel, challah, and any treats we could think of. When we went back to Michigan we brought jams, sauces and other things we thought they might like to try. They also shared their Chinese treats with us - for all holidays and occasions.

I loved to go speak with them about the challenges of getting work passes for foreigners in Singapore, about Ben's mom, his kids - I met all of his kids when they visited. I learned so much about the issues of running a coffee shop / restaurant in Singapore, and I also learned that he is a super simple, good man. It's a hard life for these people right now in Singapore - and he worked so hard to do the best that he could for his business, his employees and his family.

In June 2012 our friends Ari and Julia stayed with us on their way moving out of Singapore (boo...). They left their wonderful espresso machine in return for our love and hospitality. At the same time, I realised that sweetened condensed milk was probably not helping me fit into my clothes, which were getting a bit tighter around the waist (what took me so long? I don't know - that coffee is just SO good!!). I decided to make my own lattes every morning. While they were super delicious, hot, caffeinated and convenient, I had the Ben dilemma. Do I keep visiting, even though I don't want to drink the coffee? I had really came to love Ben and Rong...

I decided that we would go visit on Saturdays, and I would get coffee sometimes. We loved our visits. [This is where it turns into the Giving Tree...] but then we got busy. Sam slept later. We skyped with family. We had plans after my yoga class...and we stopped going so often. We would skip weeks. Ben mentioned that there were problems with his landlord, but there always seemed to be something that he was working to solve.

One week in August, we went to see Ben, and he wasn't there. The whole shop was gone. No tables. No people. No umbrellas outside. Nothing. My heart sank. I didn't have Ben's phone number, and I had no way to find him. Matt and I talked about asking the shops around him if they knew where he went, but we never did it.

Three or so weeks later, we went to Tekka Market to get fruits and veggies. "Hey!" We heard someone yelling to get our attention. It was the Malay uncle who ran the Malay stall with Ben. He knew us well, as we always said good morning and chatted with him. Matt and I were SO excited that we had found him. He gave me the new address and Ben's phone number. He let me know that the landlord had given them one week to get out.

Sam and I are hoping to go visit Ben tomorrow morning, unanounced. He will be super excited.

This is right when my mom met Ben.

Coffee with Alex in Oct or Nov 2010. Iced coffee on the left, iced tea in the middle and iced black coffee on the right, for Alex.

This is Ben and Rong with Flat Stanley, around Feb 2011.

Me, Matt, Sam and Rong

Ben playing with Samara in March 2012

Samara organising the chairs, also in March 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

Yoga in the Park

Today is my second day of part-time working. You can tell that I'm happier and that I have time, because I'm updating my blog three times in one week, after something like three months of no posting...

This morning Sam and I took her (Isaac's) car to the park for a little ride. She drove all around, and we ended up seeing a truck with a whole bunch of drums and colourful stuff - like stuff that they bring when they're doing a lion dance - like stuff that was involved in the super noisy parade outside our windows two nights ago. She hung out with all of the uncles, decorating the truck for a while. There was a little girl, Irene, who played with Sam in the sand, on the swings, and all around the park. Probably for an hour.

Then we saw a man doing yoga on the cement. Sam and I watched him for a while. He put his hands together and said, Namaste. She put her hands together, gave a little bow and said, sawadee-ka. He continued to do his sun salutations. She started to do hers. She reached her arms up, she touched her toes. She did downward dog. She did cobra. Here is a photo of her touching her toes while the uncle is in the background doing upward facing dog (that's dirt from sitting on the ground, not poo). At the end, she put her hands together, gave a little bow and said, namaste.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Samara's Second Birthday

Today is Samara's second birthday. Pretty crazy that we have been parents for two years, though in other ways it's hard to remember life before we met her! Today was my first day of part time working (technically Monday was, but today was my first day actually not working!), and it was so awesome to spend it with Sam. We slept in until 7:45 (heavenly!), then we skyped with Bubbie and Zaydie and made cupcakes. We went for a walk with the scooter (until they started spraying for mosquitoes and we had to come back inside). We read books. We build with blocks. We coloured. We even went mountain climbing on our bed. When Sam slept I went to two doctor appointments that I never had time to go to, and then ran other errands. I spoke with people I always want to call but never get a chance to. I got to play with Samara outside in the middle of the day...AND go to her music class. She has been going for over a year, and I have NEVER been (I wasn't so impressed, but that's another story). We then played on the playground, had dinner, sang happy birthday on skype with Savta and Papa (with Tita too), ate the cupcakes (Sam just liked the frosting, really), read books, opened presents from Tita and a new toothbrush from Mommy and Daddy (hey - if you wrap it and make it special, what do they know!?) and went to bed. What a great great day.

I want to try to capture what Samara is like right now.

  • She says sentences like, "I have boo boo," or "I want milk." Or "mommy drink water too.
  • She likes to orchestrate. She tells me where to sit and what to do. (I recently read that no one calls little boys "bossy", so I'm reluctant to use that word). She's usually pretty flexible, but she will sit on say, the red square, and she wants me to sit on yellow.
  • She knows her colours. She sometimes confuses green and blue, but overall she knows red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, black, brown and white.
  • She is extremely excited by diggers and cranes.
  • When I'm not listening to her but she wants me to, she will physically move my head to look at her.
  • She likes to lick ice. She loves ice cream, yogurt, raisins and cereal bars. She hates trying new foods, but she'll still eat purees if we make her.
  • She can recognise books in her bookshelf (like if I'm talking about them, she will go get them), like one fist two fish, caps for sale, goodnight moon, goodnight gorilla, michigan book, pajama time and ALL of the Jewish books.
  • She actually loves everything Jewish. She knows the bracha for the candles. She wants to practice shabbat everyday. She talks about the shofar non-stop, and sometimes she says, "I scared shofar," and kind of hugs herself while she says it. I'm not sure why she's scared of the shofar. She also loves to wear kippot.
  • She has a running commentary through life. Singing. Dancing. Eating. All done. Start singing. Talking. Ringing. Anytime she hears a ring, she goes, "ding."
  • She knows nearly all animals that I know. She's good with animal sounds too. It's pretty impressive, really. She does call the hyena in Goodnight Gorilla a rhino, but mostly she's got it.
  • She remembers the weirdest things - like for example she remembered what cup someone used in our house more than a week after they had left.
  • She is extremely good with names. She knows all of the names of the kids in our condo - and some of their moms' too! She's super social - loves to say hi, NAME and bye bye.
  • She does not like sharing. She knows what it means to share, she knows the word share, and she uses it, but always at the last minute, she pulls it in (whatever "it" is) and says, "mine."
  • She loves to clean. She hates dirt.
I could actually probably go on and on, but I won't.

In other news, there is some sort of parade in my neighborhood tonight - I think it's Chinese, since I saw a lion-dance character. It had LOADS of symbols, drums and people chanting. It had two cars with neon lights. There were probably 200 people trailing it (and the people didn't look Chinese - at least from the 7th floor). This was at 8:30 and again at 10pm. Don't other people's kids sleep? I mean really, SYMBOLS!?