Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Impressions from China - Wildlife No More

Well, they're gone. The ducks, I mean.

Yesterday, I saw the guards catching the two ducks with large nets & carrying them off somewhere, with a small audience of children & ayis watching & asking "Why??" I heard something about fish & assumed that the ducks had been feasting on the koi in the pond.

Poor things. Driven out of their home. I just hope that they have been "relocated" somewhere else & not end up on someone's dinner table.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Impressions from China - Wildlife

It is unusual to find wildlife in Beijing. I am surprised at the paucity of fauna here. I think most have either been eaten, or chased away by urbanization. We live in a very suburban area, but it seems like most "wildlife" we encounter here are the occasional magpies & sparrows.

This pair of mated ducks just took up residence in out compound last week. They spend their time in constant company with each other next to the koi pond, eating when the other eats, swimming when the other swims, resting when the other rests, sleeping when the other sleeps. They are more loyal to each other than many humans I know.

I hope they hang around & are able to survive the winter. Do ducks head south for the winter, anyway?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Impressions from China - Tired

We've been here four & a half years. It has gone by in a flash. My older son completed high school here, I have a good circle of friends, made a difference volunteering in my kids' school, and generally have enjoyed life NOT working as a doctor & exploring different interests & the local culture.

But I am tired. Tired of China, to be honest.

Coming back from our summer in the US this year was especially hard. I have missed the lifestyle of America: the clean air, blue skies, not having to worry about the drinking water/food, the accessibility to groceries & supplies which many living there take for granted, the unfettered access to the Internet, English movies, English bookstores, being able to converse with someone without "ums" & "ers" & sign language, the traffic (more aptly, drivers & pedestrians who actually obey the laws of the road), being able to find clothes in the stores that actually can fit me...

I do appreciate that there are advantages of living here: the cheap local foodstuff, cheap massage, cheap domestic help & drivers. There are always pros & cons for whichever country we live in.

But at the moment, I miss Home. We've lived away from the US for just over 10 years now. Although Singapore is my home town, to me, the US is Home.

I want to go Home. But I don't know when we will be able to do that.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Weather the Weather

I find myself in a perpetual sheen of sweat ever since the official end of Winter in March. We had a short Spring this year, just about 2 weeks of nice, cool weather before Someone decided to turn on the "HOT" switch & Summer descended on us in wrath.

Even in the US, whether it was in the East Coast or the Mid-West or the Deep South, the heat followed us relentlessly, leaving us with deep tans & sweaty faces, & a deep longing for the cooler weather of Fall to quickly get here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Generation Gap

W. just started 11th grade. In his junior & senior years of high school, my artistically-inclined child will have to
  1. perform instrumental solos as part of his course requirements
  2. compose music
  3. make a 7 minute long movie that makes a social statement
in addition to his core subjects.

When I was in the equivalent grade levels, I studied Biology, Chemistry, & Physics.

Where his artistic bent comes from, A & I are not sure. Perhaps we had it in us all this time; but in our day, such pursuits were only encouraged as hobbies, if at all, and not as part of one's academic curriculum.

What a difference a generation makes.

Moving on

So Z has arrived safely in University, settled into his dorm, met his room mate (whom he describes as "pretty cool"), bought his textbooks & is already in the swing of orientation activities.

When we called him yesterday to check up on him, he sounded happy, & to be honest, sounded like we were interfering with his socializing (although he did not say it outright!).

I am glad that he is transitioning well, but at the same time, am wistfully a bit disappointed that he is not missing us more. I have to say though, that I much prefer this happy-go-lucky attitude than the separation anxiety that some of his peers are experiencing; I have heard that one of his fellow graduates from high school, cried daily for the whole week before leaving for college. If my kid had done that, I would be a total wreck!

So I am happy to report that the take off stage of college life has been a great success!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

PB & J

Sometimes, it is nice to indulge in comfort food.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


It's strange how the the ebb & flow of the rhythm of a household changes with the absence of a single person.

With Z away in the US, it suddenly seems quieter. There is a deafening silence that comes from his bedroom, where he usually blasts his music or at least one can hear the sounds of the Youtube videos he so loves to watch.

Its not that W. is a quiet presence...he's not.

But still, there is something missing.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Bad service

So we just returned from the US to Beijing, and it was probably one of the worst flight experiences I've ever had in my life (and I've had pretty vast travelling experiences on various airlines).

We traveled on Continental Airlines, our first experience with this airline. The trip there was pretty uneventful. The plane itself was new with a good entertainment system that is up to par with what SIA has to offer. The service was OK during our onward trip. However, it was a totally different story coming back.

The flight started off OK; we boarded the plane in Newark, after a transit of about an hour & a half. We got to our seats, strapped our seat belts on & waited. And waited. And waited. After over an hour, the pilot finally informed us that due to a technical problem, we would have to deplane & they would try to arrange for a different plane to take us on our journey.

And so we did. And they manage to arrange for an incoming plane from Europe to replace the original one, taking off after a delay of about 4 hours. Not too bad, I thought.

So the time comes for us to board, and we are boarded according to our seats. When it is our turn, we find out as we go through the gate that our seat assignment has been changed, from 2 aisle seats in the front cabin, to 2 middle seats in the back cabin, separate from each other. "What the h***???!!!" I think.

When we get on board, I ask the flight attendant for the reason, & she said that the plane has a different configuration. To us, the explanation of the change being a result of the plane having a different configuration did not make sense at all as the plane seating arrangement looked the same as the previous one. When W. tries to explain that we had done the internet check-in so as to ensure that we each get aisle seats as we were both mildly claustrophobic, & could possibly get motion sickness, her response was extremely discourteous, & accusatory (that he "had an attitude"). This left a bad taste in my mouth, but not wanting to delay things any further, we went to the assigned seats. She grudgingly said that she would try to help us.

To make matters worse, the flight was a full one, & because our seating arrangement had been changed, all the overhead compartments in the already-boarded back cabin were already full by the time we got there, hence, we both end up having to place our carry-on bags under the seats in an already-cramped space.

That flight attendant? Well, she never returned to us to let us know if she was able to help us or not. To me, good customer service means following up on requests by your customer, whether the problem has been resolved or not. This person did not even have the courtesy to return to us to let us know that she had been unable to help us. Whether or not she even tried, I will never know.

To add salt to the wound, my attempts at calling a flight attendant using the call button were ignored.

I will certainly think twice about taking this airline again.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Woes of long distance traveling

Every time I take a long haul flight, I
  • dread it
  • wish that I could afford to travel business class all the time
  • wish that the transporter in the Star Trek universe actually existed in real life which would make traveling SOOO much easier
  • wish that all airlines could have the same level of service as SIA
  • need a body massage to iron out all the stiffness & soreness resulting from being cramped in a cattle class seat
  • wish that someone could give me IV sedation for the entire journey & wake me up when we arrive

Transitions - Finale

Saying farewell, & coming back to China without Z was probably one of the most emotionally difficult things I have had to do in my life so far.

No tearful histrionics (although I will admit to tearful private moments in the last few months), but still, a wrenching tug felt in my heart.

I cannot imagine what it will be like when 2 years from now, I will have to do the same with my "baby" W.

The last time I felt something like that was in the last trimester of my pregnancy with Z when I had a minor panic attack thinking about his impending arrival - doubts & insecurities about being able to be a good parent surfaced for that short moment in time, & made me wish that he could remain protected within my womb for just a while longer.

I suppose this is what parenting is all about - the anticipation, excitement, nervousness, anxiety & exhilaration that come with loving & nurturing a child & the eventual, inevitable letting go.

However, what I know in my head, does not make it easier for my heart.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Transitions VI

  • registered for classes
  • set up a bank account
  • set up a mobile phone line
  • set up a meal plan
  • bought health insurance
  • temporary storage for belongings
  • air/land transportation to college dorm
  • bought textbooks
Well, it looks like the most important tasks in preparation for Z to start college in a few weeks have been completed.

When I leave the US in a couple of days with W to go back to China, I will be leaving behind a small piece of my heart. But I am confident he is well prepared, physically, mentally & emotionally to start off his new adventure.

Z & I enjoying a Texas sunset