Monday, November 28, 2016

Labour and birthdays- a thought

In the week before I had Joshua, Mum and I had this conversation. We were driving in the car, coming back from dinner somewhere. We were talking about birthdays and for some reason, I was reminded of this culture somewhere in the world where people didn't have cake or presents for themselves on their birthday. Instead, they would celebrate their Mums. The day would be spent with them being grateful for and showing appreciation to the woman who bought them into the world and cared for them. I thought that that seemed like well, a nice idea but I didn't give it anymore thought. 

A week later after spending 8 hours in intense labour (after being induced), breathing through each torturous contraction, 1.5 hours of excruciating pushing and a whole lot of blood sweat and tears, I had a new resolve that we were going to adopt this culture in our family. It makes complete sense and I now appoint myself president of the 'Celebrate your Mum on your Birthday' (aka CYMOYB) movement. Today, I'd like to respectfully invite you to join me in furthering this cause. You can make a difference. Change the world, one birthday at a time. 




A little song for Joshua

I wrote this little tune for him when he was still wriggling about in my belly

I love you high
I love you low
I love you fast and
I love you slow

I loved you yesterday
I'll love you tomorrow
I love you babe
From head to toe.

I sing it to him from time to time. I'm not sure if it's his jam just yet.


I'm a Mum

After a long, and I mean long time, of not blogging, I have decided it's time to get back to it. I'm definitely rusty but I think this will be a good way of recording snippets from this season of life. What season? Well, I'm glad you asked. This completely new and crazy season of motherhood that I've suddenly found myself in.

About 2 months ago, I walked into the classroom, had my last end of term class party and erased the dates from the whiteboard when the final bell rang. Now, here I am, slumped in one end of a couch with a 5 week old baby sleeping in the infant carrier nearby. I pray he doesn't wake up, it's a common prayer these days.

What a difference 5 weeks can make. To my life and to my identity. At the moment, I don't really know what to expect but I can say that it has been pretty scary. I think I prepared more for the birth than I did for what it would be like to survive a newborn. After all it's easier to do your pelvic floor exercises than it is to prepare for sleep deprivation and sore nipples. I didn't realise how much work it was, how little sleep I would get (if any), and how emotionally invested I would be (it's like I'm vulnerable now). Thankfully I do have my Mum and Sam and a pui yit (confinement nanny) with me. I still have moments where I don't know what I'm doing at all (like the time Joshua wouldn't stop crying and I couldn't soothe him so I started crying too, or the time I almost put his diaper on backwards, or the time I thought he would sleep through the night-what was I thinking!) but I realise that slowly, I will learn. I will make mistakes and I will struggle but eventually he will grow and I will too. I will get to know him better, as he will me. And one day, hopefully sooner rather than later, I'll be able to say that I really do believe and feel and know with every inch of my being that he is my son and I am his Mum.

Till then I'll keep doing what I'm doing. I'll keep changing every diaper and rocking and soothing and feeding, I'll keep hoping he will sleep longer so I get to sleep longer,  I'll have a little cry once in a while when things seem overwhelming, but I'll get through every day constantly reminding myself that mothers have been doing this from the beginning of time and as far as I know, not one of them has died from mothering a newborn...yet.


Monday, January 19, 2015

While on the plane, I started writing this in my head.

The Hostel

Drop into a hostel and you will find
People, travellers of all kinds
The seasoned backpacker
 the roller bag newbie
The teenager on spring break
Hungover and sleepy
Hola! we say with all sorts of accents,
Till over time the awkwardness lessens
And then over brekkie 
Of white bread and eggs way too salty
We begin to talk
pass the butter, drink some coffee
Of the places we're from and places we've been
Food we have eaten, sights we have seen
The good, the bad, yes even the ugly
We smile and nod even if we don't understand fully
For the languages vary and hand signals are limited
But we get the gist and that's all that's needed
Like friends, dare I say family for a brief moment of time
Till the cups are empty and we stand in line
To put our dishes to wash before we head out
Into markets or museums, or just the sunshine
We remain nameless as we say our goodbyes
You will go your way and I will go mine.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Valparaiso


I have finally had time to sit down and sift through most of the pics taken on Sam's iphone 5. I know, not the best quality but it's the best we can do seeing that neither of us have ever taken a huge interest in photography enough to learn how to use anything more complicated than a point and shoot sort of device. Hopefully my carefully crafted sentences make up for it. Then again, probably not. Don't say you haven't been warned.

---

Valparaiso.

First impressions
After a two hour bus ride from Santiago, we found ourselves on a busy street trying to hail a taxi (hopefully an honest one because you never know) to take us to the hotel. On the way there we noticed the hills, the colourful laneways and the quaint houses. We knew it was going to be fun wandering through this eclectic town. We arrived at our hotel- Ecomusic hotel and were met by a friendly Chilean local named Miguel. He was the receptionist but I feel like he did so much more to make us feel at home during our time there. Check out his picture below!

Like the town, the hotel was quirky and full of character.  It was an establishment that honoured various artistes by having one featured in each room. For example, there was a Beatles room, and an Amy Winehouse room and a Michael Jackson room. We scored the Victor Jara room (he was a famous Chielan poet and singer) and we were very lucky because we had the best view of the Valparaiso from our window.
Day view from our window. 

The lounge area in the hotel equipped with colourful toys for kids.

The bed. There were posters of Victor and lyrics from his songs on the walls. Too bad we didn't know Spanish. 


3 Highlights

Tours for tips
We heard about a walking tour called tours for tips where a local takes you around the city for three hours and at the end of it, people give them what they feel they deserve. I have always liked this concept because the exchange feels so much more sincere. We found our guide or Wally as they call themselves (because they dress up in red and white stripes like the character from Where's Wally?) and started our tour. Her name was Andrea and she was a local uni student who did this to earn some extra cash. She showed us important sites, explained the stories behind different buildings and highlighted the more prominent street art from the area. It was informative, engaging and I believe the best way to learn about the place.
This is Andrea in her Wally top. She was a great guide!

Street art was everywhere. 

They loved painting their steps. My logic was that it made walking up and down less boring. 


Love this mural of sea creatures. 

Street art fact: Graffiti is actually illegal in Chile. However, to get around it, you simply have to get the permission of the owner of the building/house. So, to avoid tagging (which is the graffiti where spray their names ie. Kristy was here), people would happily agree to a street artist painting on their walls. 

Food! 
After having some hits and misses with food, we didn't know what to expect in Valparaiso. Having said that, making friends and using tripadvisor made all the difference. Miguel, our new friend, who reminds us of Gru from Despicable me recommended El Domino for a typical Chilean dinner. This was a local restaurant with reasonable prices. We had the Chorrillana which was stewed beef with fried eggs, fried onions over a large serving of chips. We also met two locals eating their lunch there. One spoke very little English and the other none at yet. Yet we managed some conversation about the food, popular beers and of course, the universal game of football.

Here they are having their afternoon cervezas (beers) after their lunches. 

We also had some fancy food at  Espiritu Santo. Any guesses what this translates to? I'll give you a clue, it was situated next to an old church. For those of you who got it, yes, it does mean Holy Spirit. And rightly so, the food there, is divine! Sam had the grilled rock fish and I had this confit of duck and while we said grace before we ate, we could not stop the exclamations of thanks to God and omgs that escaped throughout the course of the meal. It was delicious.
 Grilled rock fish with pea mash. 

Duck confit with spicy pumpkin puree. Loved the combination of flavours in that salad. 

Doors to a divine dinner.


NYE with new friends

One of the best things about staying in hostels or smaller hotels is that there's more opportunity to meet fellow travelers and get to know them better. During our time at Ecomusic we met this really cool couple from Chicago- Sarah and Allison. For some reason we started talking in the lounge and found ourselves having conversations about all sorts of things- from their trip to Patagonia, to how we have survived with so little Spanish, to MH370, to how Miguel reminds us so much of Gru. I think it was that last one that made us bond the most.

The next day we met another couple from Germany whose names escape me now. We exchanged stories, and they told us about Germany, their trip so far and unfortunately how they got mugged. As you might guess, while Chile is relatively safe, Valparaiso is notorious for muggings and there is always a risk. Anyway, it was NYE and because we had such an amazing view from our hotel, we all went up to the cafeteria to watch the fireworks where the staff (and their families) had prepared an amazing spread of empanadas, chicken skewers, desserts of all kinds and of course champagne. They also gave us all funny hats to wear.

We counted down together and watched in awe as the fireworks filled the night sky. It was amazing and I understand why it is one of the top 5 in the world. At the end of it, hugs went around and we spent more time just hanging out, sipping on our free champagne and chatting. More stories were exchanged and for a brief moment it felt like home.
This old couple danced to Chilean music after the fireworks.

We struggled to get a good pic with the fireworks. Perhaps it's our big heads. 

Gru! He was the sweetest Chilean man. 

A group picture of a few of us who celebrated NYE together. Allison and Sarah on the left. Happy Chilean man in the middle who insisted on giving Sam a badge of the Chilean flag. So cute. 

Initially I thought that I would miss home and family with it being NYE and everything. But I guess when you are daring and vulnerable something happens and before you know it, people who were once strangers suddenly become friends. All because you remember that we are all human, and while we might have our differences, we share so much more in common. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Siesta

It's still hard to believe that I am in Santiago, Chile right now. Never in my twenty six years did I think I would come here let alone stay for a month. But here I am. On this king-sized bed in a hotel room in the business district of Cuidad Empressarial taking it all in. The past two weeks have been nothing short of amazing and I will continue to write about them later, but for now, I am just thankful that I have nowhere to go and nothing to do. It's a good feeling, one that every proper break should have.

Siesta. I have noticed that Chileans here love to siesta. This is probably influenced by their Spanish roots. For those who don't know what siesta is, it is when people have a little nap in the afternoon usually after a full lunch. Yes, lunch is their main meal here usually served as a three-course meal- entrée, main, dessert. So it's very common for Chileans to have a break in the afternoon. I noticed that some shops even close in the afternoons and reopen again from seven-ish till late at night. Sam and I were rather shocked when we went looking for dinner at six and found the streets quite dead. We came out again at nine and that was when things were grooving.

Despite the super late dinners, I quite like the idea of siesta. For the first few days when we were still heavily jet-lagged we siesta-ed like nobody's business. We're not talking thirty minute nanna naps but full on mouth wide open, drool into a pool on the pillow kind of deep sleep. When we woke up, we had no idea what had happened. It was good.

Yet, I couldn't help but feel a little bit guilty about it. It felt like I had been unproductive in those hours and that they were wasted. Gone forever. But then I wondered why I had felt that way. After all, this was a totally acceptable routine in many parts of the world and we did need the rest didn't we? Then I realised that it was probably because, truth be told, in my world (which probably includes most of our world), it's always been go, go, go. You hardly stop. Throughout the year we work (career, home, personal lives) ourselves like rats in a race, like dogs in a fight, machines in a factory. We work till we fall sick and we try not to take a day off because we feel horrible for it. Seriously.

This year in particular felt super fast for me. It was a year filled with some big milestones and many transitions. As you would imagine, there was lots to do and much to change or adapt and heaps to grow. To be honest, there were times I did wonder if I have both the time and the energy to do what needed to be done. Amidst all of that I forgot how to rest. Can you believe that as I filled out a reflection questionnaire on my year 2014, I blanked at "What was the top 3 books you read this year?" I cannot remember the last book I have read other than for my teaching. How horrible!

For some reason, that scared me. I have spent so much of my life so fixed on growth- becoming better, becoming stronger, becoming kinder, becoming smarter, becoming more rational less emotional, becoming a better wife, a better teacher, a better person that I have forgotten an extremely important ingredient for growth. Rest. And not just in the physical sense because I am pretty sure I get my eight hours most days but more importantly mentally, emotionally, socially. To read and be inspired, to write as a means of expression, to be alone and hear my own thoughts, to sleep without the hovering thoughts of what still needs to be done. To step out of the rush of the what I'm doing and reflect again on why I'm doing it.

Thankfully, I have just the opportunity to do just that. While Sam's at classes for these two weeks, I thought about taking a course in Spanish, or attending cooking classes, or going on excursions to various places, I even thought of volunteering at an organization to be productive. But, you know what, I have decided to take this opportunity to take all the pressure off and not worry about doing what seems more productive. Instead, I'm going to read Austen, take time to pray and journal, face mask myself while I reflect on my year, write on this blog, learn to be alone and enjoy it, fill the tub and have long baths, walk around in my pajamas and of course, do like the locals do and siesta!




Saturday, October 11, 2014

The dork that I am

Friday afternoon and I'm discussing a youth project I'm co-ordinating at school with my boss. Somewhere in the middle of the conversations he asks me what I'm doing this week. Nothing much I say. Just attending a lecture. A lecture? Mhmm. Wow you really are a nerd. I take it as a compliment.

Today, with pre-purchased tickets, Sam and I stepped into Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash Uni Clayton. I waited with an excitement that surprised me. It felt like ages since I had been back at uni and to listen to a lecture that  knew was going to be good. Sure enough, it was. As soon as Prof Mohammad Yunus stepped on to the stage, cheers went up and so did the phone cameras. Guilty. I was one of them. My reason was that I really wanted to get a picture before he started speaking because when he did, I wanted to be really listening. 

Listen I did. He delivered an insightful, engaging and empowering talk not just about the structure of his social business, but the philosophies behind it. That really got me. Yes, he talked about the banking system and how the Grameen Bank was the total opposite to conventional ones in how it operates yet is successful. He spoke about the poor and their initiatives to abolish poverty through creative but simple means. But what I loved most was when he touched on the essence of humanity and what it meant to be human. How we are creative and have amazing capacity to solve world problems if we take the time to think, and imagine. How we shouldn't be victims of the systems around us that teach us to be selfish and profit driven, instead remember that the greater happiness lies in making someone else happy. 'Superhappiness' was what he called it. 

Idealistic some people might say. But I've always believed that you have to be an idealist to make any significant good change in the world. You have to believe and try. Learn. Grow.



While this may not be the clearest pictures of the lot, I chose this because I wanted a picture with the Monash crest with their motto in the background.

It reads, Ancora Imparo which is latin for 'I'm still learning'. I first learnt about it from Jean who was then my roomie and student at the Uni. We were dorks together. Talking about theories, science, movies, sociology, real-life. Fast forward 6 years. While we may not have the time we had as roomies, we still have some pretty good enlightening conversations (among others) thanks to gmail and whatsapp and my occasional trips back. It's good to know that we're still learning. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Back to school

It's my first week back at school and I can't believe how quickly time flies. It was three years ago that I applied for this job yet I remember it like it was yesterday. And here I find myself, term four of my third year teaching, older and wiser in some ways, yet still having so much to learn.

First week back is always one of the hardest. Well, the weekend before is undoubtedly a weird one because it's a mixture of dread  (I'm not ready to start waking up early again), and pressure to enjoy it  (it's the last two days of the holidays). Let's just say they aren't the best of combinations.

Anyway, this week was better than I expected. It always is. Somehow being in the classroom, getting to know my students, connecting with them, listening to them makes me 'fall in love' with them again. They really are the reason I teach. They continually inspire me with their creativity and make me laugh and remember what being human is about. They make me grateful and they keep me hungry with their questions, comments, jokes and stories.

Before I know it, it's Friday. The end of week one. Ten more weeks to go but I thought I'd start with reminding myself why I do what I do. Hopefully that'll fuel me till Christmas. Oh, Christmas! What a lovely thought! :)