Monday, December 17, 2012

A visitor we Do Not Expect

With the news of us relocating to Beijing recently, our relatives and many of our friends have made promises and plans of their imminent visit while we are here and we are glad. After all, one of the reason that we took a three room unit in Beijing was to have an extra guest room for our visiting friends and relatives. 

However, there are two things that we did not expect. Firstly, we did not expect to receive a visitor from Malaysia within the first two weeks that we are here and secondly, the visitor himself was someone that we would NEVER have imagined or expect in a million years!

Not that I am complaining. In fact, I am totally ecstatic when he informed me that he would be coming to Beijing and would keep me updated on his arrangement. I remembered clearly informing my wife about his arrival and she could not believe her ears too.

I would have expect our first visitor would be relative or a close friend of ours but never, nope, never, a classmate whom I have not sat down casually to catch up and chit chat for over 3 decades after we both left ACS Ipoh after our Upper Six.

Oh yes, we still see each other on the professional basis, although he is probably the last person I would love to see in his capacity. You see, he is our children pediatrician, Dr Liew from Subang. If we were to make a trip to see him, it would be because it has became necessity arising from some form of illness or health issues we would have with our two super charged offspring. In other words, the less we see him, the better!

But, this is one friend that I have always admire and respect from the days when we were classmates back in Ipoh. He has always came across as the determined, extremely focus, always cheerful, shy, quiet and intelligent chap in the class who goes about doing nothing else but study and make sure that he excelled in his exams. And that he did with flying colors, not that it surprises me. I, on the other hand, was pleasantly surprised that I did not fail every subject and got enough to scrap into TAR College, considering the amount of activities and fun I had!

And what impressed me the most during his visit to Beijing were three things:-
  • he made every effort to make sure that we do meet up so much so that he actually took a cab from where he was staying and made his way to our apartment.
  • he was in Beijing to fulfill one of his childhood dreams after all these years.
  • he was every bit the same old person I have grown to respect and admire with some pretty amazing transformation over the years. 
As we sat down over the two days that we have time together, we walked down our memory lane fondly together, caught up with what we were up to after we parted ways in school and how we got to where we were today. We talked of our age (oh yes, we are no longer in our youth), our changed priorities, our focus now in our lives, our aspiration and dreams yet to be fulfilled. As we exchanged our views , it has became increasing clear that we both share the view of how important to revisit and rekindle those friendships that we have built over the years.
The funny thing was that we actually shared similar nightmares albeit for different reasons. He has nightmares, even now, of going into an examination hall, not that he does not know the answers but for trivial reasons like forgetting to bring pencils or identification documents. I, on the other hand, have nightmares of sitting in the examination hall, starring blankly at the examination paper and not knowing a single thing, a true reflection of the difference between both our readiness towards examination!
The Dr Liew that I have the privilege to catch up with while in Beijing, although still very much the very likeable and cheerful person with an extremely positive outlook in life and still equally focus in his quest and dreams, however, is also an extremely open, confident and chatty chap, no longer shy nor quiet.
I am very glad that things have worked out very nicely for him and his lovely family and he is definitely a role model that my children could follow .... not only excelling in his studies but the determination, cheerfulness, positive outlook and the focus that he exhibits in pursuing his dreams. (My earlier post on Dr Liew under the post "Determination and never give in and never give up)
Oh yes, about his fulfilled childhood dream in Beijing. He is a trained wushu exponent as long as I have known him and to be trained in Beijing by the best teachers was one of his wish. I admired him for making it a point to realize that one dream (not many of us do. Many of us, even forgets what that dream was in our journey growing up) but more importantly, the same courage, determination and focus he has in being the oldest participant at 50 while the rest were in their teens and prime twenties.

He was definitely NOT the visitor we expect but the visitor that we are extremely thankful and glad to have.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A White 12 Dec 12 for us

A friend of mine wrote this on her FB "Every friggin date happens only "once in a lifetime". That is all". When you come to think of it, that is so true. So, what is so special about this particular day anyway.

Honestly, I do not know. I did not even realize it till I open my FB account while having my routine morning double espresso at Jamaica Blue, this nice, cozy cafe just outside our apartment in Beijing.

But 12.12.12 to us, will have some special albeit small meaning. It was the day when we saw the first sight of snow in Beijing, a place that we have come to call home over a month ago.

The weather has been cold since we first arrived and have dropped rather drastically over the last couple of weeks. Over the last couple of days, the day time temperature has already dropped below 0 and breaching negative 7 or 8 consistently over the last few nights. However, we were told that getting snow in Beijing is becoming rarer and rarer, compared to a decade ago. All this probably due to the over development of this huge city, messing up the eco system and the weather. Yet, we secretly harbored the wish and the hope that we could at least see some while we are here. After all, coming from a tropical county like Malaysia where the only two seasons we have is either dry or wet, seeing snow would really be an experience of a lifetime.

Wife called me on my mobile excitedly when she went out to grab her cab, " know what? I think it's snowing ...but very little lar.."

"Ok..."I replied, not sounding particularly excited. I must have imagined that she would probably be `fuming' somewhat that I do not share her level of excitement, but then again, my brain was still half asleep, having to wake up at 7:20 and going through my daily routine of frantically getting Ryan ready before the school van arrives. Getting ready now takes a good extra 25 minutes, considering the layer of clothes that he has to wear and putting on his winter glove sometimes could take 5 to 10 minutes!

As we were walking out, I told Ryan "Mommy said got snow". "SNOW?" he asked excitedly. "Yupe. That is what mommy said. Let's see when we go out."

As we walked out of the main lobby, there they were, small tiny fluffy white snow flakes falling gently from above. As it lands on my face, you can a feel a tiny sensation of chill as they quickly melt by our body warmth.

Ryan was ecstatic. I can not blame him as I was getting equally excited too, having seen the first sight of snow in Beijing for this winter. This is part of the adventure and the experience that we were looking for as we uproot ourselves from the comfort our home in KL. 

The snow grew heavier after I got Ryan onto his school bus. As I sat at my regular cafe, by the window, looking out, I can see the snow growing thicker as heavier, and soon the pavements, the streets and the parked cars turning white, covered by a blanket of fresh snow.

When I took Zoewe out for her morning walk after my coffee, she was so baffled at the sight of these white fluffy `things' falling all around her, so much so, that she literally forgot how to shit or pee. She was just so busy sniffing around and slipping on the slippery pavement. I had to walk her two rounds instead of the normal one to make sure that she get her business done!

12.12.12 would be remembered as the day that we had fun in the snow as a family for the Very first time! When Ryan came back from school, we dressed everybody up in the thickest clothing possible and had a great time, running on the snow covered park in the cold chilling wind. 

Ryan was excited, Chenya was confused, Mommy was happy and Daddy....daddy with his uncovered hands, shivering and taking pictures, but contended that I have at my age, have finally had my experience of playing in the snow ....:)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

An Expensive Treatment for COLD!

With the temperature dropping drastically and breaching zero by day and reaching negative seven or eight by night, both Ryan and Chenya are trying hard to cope. You can not last 5 minutes outside with insufficient clothing and by insufficient, I meant, nothing less than 3 layers with thick winter jacket, socks, hats or ear muffs and gloves.

Both have been coughing quite a fair lately and when Chenya's nose started running non-stop, and Ryan's coughing at night got worse, we got worried and decided to bring both of them for some medical consultation on Saturday.

When we first came for our orientation in Beijing, we were shown two medical facilities that caters mostly for foreigners and expats, one of which was the Beijing United Family Hospital. 

So, we made a call in the morning to see if we could bring both of them in for a quick check. We were asked if we had made any prior appointments of which we did not. Who would make prior appointment for this kind of treatment anyway. It's not that they planned on getting sick or anything. Well, according to them, their appointment book was all full and we could bring the children in as `walk-in' but be prepared to wait. We also told that there would be a surcharge of `walking in' ! (First time, we heard that but what could we do? Bringing them in the following day which was Sunday also attract surcharge and we were not prepare to wait another two days watching the discomfort of our angels).

We were there by 1pm and were told to register the kids. The forms were several pages thick and after all the necessary paperwork is done, we were brought into this very equipped and nice waiting room to have their weights, heights and basic medical history taken by two nurses.

Barely 10 minutes later, the paedetrician who happened to be an American came in. He went through the records and some detail checks of both the children. The conclusion was both were viral and nothing serious, aggravated by the cold and dry weather. The cough was a direct result of their running nose. He prescribed one teaspoon of honey at night for Ryan and half a teaspoon for Chenya to ease their cough, saline solution to flush their nose regularly and some menthol rub for the chest. Although cough mixture was prescribed for Ryan, he was not too keen that we give that to him, unless, his cough got worse.

The consultation took a little over 25 minutes for both and we were told to get our medication at the pharmacy and make payment there.

The bill came to RMB1300 (RM650) for Ryan and RMB1200 (RM600) for Chenya, a total of approximately RMB2500 (RM1250) for both after discount!!!

And oh yes, the `walk in' surcharge is RMB220 (RM110) per person! (nicely put in the invoice as `disruptive of daily office routine' or something to that effect!

Now, we understand why our medical insurance coverage runs into millions when we signed up. If a simple COLD treatment and consultation ran up a bill of over RMB2500, can you imagine having a more serious ailment or having to go in for a surgery. And now, we are glad that we did sign up for that additional coverage.

So, two things to remember if you are ever thinking of relocating to Beijing.

Firstly, negotiate for a comprehensive and adequate medical insurance coverage with your employer or get one yourself to make sure that you are adequately covered .....OR.....

...simply do not do not get sick, because if the sickness does not kill you, the bill surely will ! 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Technically, he is NOT WRONG.

We have TWO super hyper active offspring at home. While Ryan is ever jumping and fighting with his imaginary monsters, Chenya is ever inquisitive, curious of almost everything and is constantly on a look out for new nooks and corners in the house to explore and new things to play with. Having both of them in the apartment at the same time, awake and playing together, will guarantee you endless screaming and shouting, and inevitably, a never ending streams of 'No', 'Be careful', 'Don't do that!' or 'STOP!' from either me or their mom.
Last night, while Chenya was standing by the balcony window looking out for smoke that has been billowing from a very tall chimney some distance away (she seemed to enjoy watching and we have that almost the entire day now as we are entering into a very cold winter in Beijing), Ryan (being Ryan as usual, innovative in finding new ways to have fun, often getting into our nerves) was playing behind the curtain.
Chenya, not to be outdone, immediately imitate and followed and almost pull down the entire curtain. This girl is kinda of a 'destroyer' of sorts. Within a day of shifting in, she has already managed to spoilt a light switch and I just discovered the 'Panasonic' logo on our LCD tv, halfway being peeled off!
Not only are we worried that she would pull the curtain down but more importantly how she would hurt herself.
His mommy immediately went into a strings of 'Ryan, no!', 'Ryan, stop that!', 'Chenya, don't play with the curtain!'. Ryan as usual would pay no attention once he is in his 'Play 'Mode' until someone has to raise his or her voice and that his mommy finally did, running out of patience.
'How many times have I asked you not to play with the curtain?' she went on, not exactly expecting an answer but merely voicing her frustration.
"Say 'I will not play with curtains!' she continued. "Say 10 times!"
"10 times." Ryan obediently followed!
I burst into laughter almost spilling my coffee all over the dining table.
Technically speaking, he was Not wrong!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

He speaks like an AMERICAN!

So, how is everyone adapting to life in Beijing after one month?
I must said that the children are adapting to the changes faster than anyone else. Chenya is enjoying herself running up and down the apartment which has a much bigger living hall as compared to the one back home.
The weather is getting extremely cold by the day. Day time high is now around 2 to 3 degrees and forecasted to be 0 tomorrow. Night temperature is dropping below 0 and expected to be negative 8 tomorrow night.
Imagine having to walk Zoewe twice daily for her morning and night `business' in such chilly weather. It is definitely quite an experience. Despite wearing my winter jacket, I can still feel the chilly air cutting right into my body. My fingers and face grows numb within minutes. My ears are stiff and pulling the hood over my head helps but not much.
Going out for a walk takes a good 15 minutes to prepare both Chenya and Ryan considering the layers of clothes they have to put on.
And the biggest change we noticed is the way Ryan talks.
He has been attending Ivy International Academy which is an International School where his class teacher is an American Phd holder, while his assistant, a charming Japanese expat with a very sweet young local Chinese assistant. After just attending school for merely 2 weeks or so, he is now speaking with an American accent. .... slap head....
Looks like he is feeling right at home here far....

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When MamyPoko is not the SAME in China!

We were excited when we saw it...we have found Mamy Poko in Carrefour in Beijing and for 100 pieces (M size), the price is only RMB129 or RM64.50. That is RM0.645 per piece, almost the price of which we will hunt for during bargains back in Malaysia!
And we were afraid that either we could not find any in Beijing or the price would be exorbitant. We actually shipped 5 packets via air which arrived yesterday with another 10 packets on the way via ship shipment, just to make sure that we have enough for Chenya.
So, we bought a packet home to try (which was rather smart of us I think) and fortunately we did. Not only are the diapers thinner but they actually do not absord as well as the one we used to use back home in Malaysia. We changed to Mamy Poko after trying out Pampers and Huggies because Mamy Poko has provened that leakages are far and few in between, even after long hours of use.
The same however, could NOT be said about the Mamy Poko here in China.
The first day we put them on Chenya, she sprang a leak only after 4 hours or so. Either she wee wee more here or than Ryan or the quality is simply not there, and we would like to think it is the latter.
We used to be rather confident when we bring Ryan or Chenya out with their Mamy Poko on, but with those made in China, we simply do not know when it will leak!
We are glad that we did ship those five packets and the other 10 which are on their way to our home in Beijing. It looks like, Mamy Poko will be another item for us to bring over each time we go back to Malaysia for a visit (until Chenya outgrows them).
The other item incidentally, that we shipped in volume (with restriction) over to Beijing are Pedisure, milk powder for Ryan currently and probably soon for Chenya too. The price for Pedisure here in Beijing is truly exhorbitant. We could get a can of 1.8kg for about RM138 back home but it cost RM128 for a smaller can here! The price is almost DOUBLED!
With the restriction that we could only ship a max of 10kg with our sea shipment, we max it out besides carrying two can each in our luggage. With Ryan's consumption of one 1.8kg can every two weeks, it also seemed like this would be another item that we would have to buy and carry over for every trip we made back to Malaysia ....or...... any visitors who would love to visit us in Beijing.....
.....we promised to provide lodging (HAHAHAHA)....and Pauliner (if you drink) .....

Friday, November 16, 2012

His teacher has been `Unclefied!'

Ryan's new class teacher in Beijing, Jeff walked in, greeting us with a smile.
It was an impromptu arrangement and we were glad that Ryan (yes, he shared the same name as our cheeky Ryan), the Campus Director made that last minute meeting so that we could hear what his class teacher has to say about Ryan after a few days at his new school.
After all, we were a little worried as to how he has been adapting to his new environment, friends, routine and teachers.
For a start, he has started to take the school bus to and from school everyday instead of being fetched by me. To an extend, I think he likes it because there are other friends on board as well.
"Hello. I'm Jeff" Jeff extended his hand for a handshake...."and I am the UNCLE" with a smile.
For a moment, I could not comprehend what he meant.
"I am the UNCLE!" Jeff repeated.
And then, it dawned upon me that that was what Ryan has been calling him, his very own teacher "Uncle!"
He has managed to bring something very Malaysian over to Beijing China and introduced that to his school because it is customary for us back in Malaysia to teach our children to politely address an older gentlemen as `Uncle' and a lady 'Auntie', although not every lady would take to being called an `Auntie' happily as it suggest that they are no longer qualified to be categorised as sweet and young.
Well, at least, he was smart enough to only address his male teacher as Uncle and has not called his sweet looking assistant teacher as "Auntie".
We are glad that we have been told that he has been adapting well in school and getting along with his friends and teachers. With that anxiety finally put to rest, we know that our settling down process is taking shape quite nicely and soon, we could start exploring this new land and adventure.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ryan's Farewell Speech

"Good morning children" Ms Mary greeted the children in Ryan's class.
"This morning we are here because Ryan Looi leaving you and will be going to China already. And he wants to say Good bye to all of you.." she continued.
We were having a small farewell gathering for Ryan Looi at his school before he flies off to Beijing to start his new adventure. Over the last two years, he has made quite a number of friends and he has several favourite teachers who in turn adores him.
As the day to leave drew near, we were told by the teachers that he has been going around telling his friends and teachers that he will be leaving soon and that he loves them. They were obviously very touched.
"Let's get Ryan Looi up here to say to few words, ok." Ms Mary, his class teacher went on.
"Come Ryan Looi..." she gestured Ryan to come forward.
In my heart, I was apprehensive as to what this hyper active and talkative son of mine would say. After all, this is going to be his first farewell speech in front of his class of about 20 other children.
"Now..what is he going to say?" I thought to myself.
"Is he going to say something totally stupid and make a fool of himself?"
As parents, we always wanted them to make us proud and I was just hoping that he would not go on rambling something about dinosaurs and Ultraman saving the world.
He got up the front of the class, stood there, looking very serious and composed. There was not a single iota of the ever playful and unfocused Ryan that he is.
He looked at his class for a second and two and said the most appropriate, beautiful and meaningful words that could come out from a 4 year old boy, saying farewell for the very first time to his classmates, words that totally knocked me off my senses and for one moment, he is a very mature, grown up boy.
"I LOVE YOU ALL VERY MUCH!" he said and bowed.
With these words, he left behind his pre-school days chapter in Malaysia and embarks on a new chapter, new adventures, new friends, teachers, culture and environment in Beijing China.
We are so proud of him.

Monday, November 12, 2012

First day to school in Beijing

The weather is 3 degrees outside but the sun is shining brightly and the skies blue and clear.

This is the day. This is the day that Ryan starts his first day at Ivy Academy at Beijing China. This is also his big adventure. This is also his next milestone, just like us, who are starting our life from scratch in this new land, new culture, new faces and un-chartered with unexplored territories.

Honestly, we were rather fearful that Ryan would not want to go to his new school as he was very very comfortable with his school back home in Malaysia. He said that he only want to go the school for only ONE day and he would want to return to his school back home in Malaysia.

But he got up without a fuss. We changed him and got him to wear so many clothes that he has never worn before. He was excited.

We were not quite sure what to pack for him today. We just packed what we thought was necessary. He looked dashing in his blue winter jacket.

While waiting for our rented apartment to be ready, we are currently staying at a service apartment which is just 10 minutes walk away from the school. Since, we have not arranged for the school bus to pick him up for this first day, we have to walk him to school and the experience was nothing short of memorable ….walking in freezing temperature in a country we hardly know, in winter clothing so thick that we all looked bloated up but surprising, pleasing to the eyes.
We were glad that he took to his new teachers rather well and was soon off to his class on his own while we wait at the administration office to settle all the necessary documentations and payments.

We are slowly settling down with our life in Beijing and getting Ryan to his school is just another step forward.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

This is How Much She STOLE!

We finally got our stolen stuff back from the maid agency a couple of days before we left for Beijing. They were keeping it for a while to painstakingly take pictures of every piece as evidence.
Since we have no pictures of the stolen item as well, I laid them out one piece at a time and grab a picture. Believe me or not, I took my wife and I a full one hour to unwrap and photograph them.
And once I was done, this is how much she has stolen (or attempted to steal from us since she was caught) ....
Yupe. We were careless and we were too trusting and we were also too busy in the last couple of months leading to our decision to relocate the family to Beijing.
But it has never occur in our wildest imagination that we could have employed such a dastardly character to stay with us in our home for the last five months. Does she not feel guilt when she give those clothes that she has so conveniently stolen from us, to her youngest son named `King'. How can she look her son in the eyes and gave him the very shirt that we have bought for Ryan, knowing fully well, that that shirt was NOT meant for his son. How can she honestly gave out those stolen items as Christmas presents?
How can she began to tell her children to live a good and honest life and that stealing or taking things from others without permission is VERY wrong, a crime and could lead them being branded as a criminal.
We could not comprehend what she was thinking of when she wrapped and labelled those items so meticulously and honestly, we are right now, too angry and disappointed to really care.
And to rub salt to the wound, the agency actually told us that we still have to pay to her, her balance salary and to get her an air ticket to send her home. We practically told the agency off and reiterated that she could get her salary and her air ticket from us at the police station, if she so wishes.
Needless to say,the agency left the issue as it is and dare not pursue any further.
Well, after having lived with the help of a maid over the last 4 years, it can be difficult adapting. It is in time like this, we are thankful that we have our moms and in our case, my dear mother in law who not only helped us out when we were busy packing and shifting but also followed us to Beijing.
I am still coping and my daily routine has been drastically changed to accommodate the additional chores without the maid. In a way, as we slowly settled down into our life without a helper, we sort of enjoy the extra privacy of not having a stranger in our home.
Well, enough said about this maid. It's good riddance to bad rubbish.
For now, several baby bottles awaits me in the basin to be washed before I proceed to put our clothes in the washing machine to be washed. Life is SO MUCH FUN!

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Performer in our Home ....

“It’s 7:30am already! Ryan…wake up! Wake up! Or you will be LATE!” I repeated over and over again like a broken down recorder.

I sounded more excited than he was and so was mommy who purposely flew back from Beijing the night before.

Yes. It’s that time of the year again. It’s time for his year end concert and this year it was held on the 20th October.

Being parent, I must admit that we get all excited to see our little ones dressed up in some funny costume, with make up that transform them into little super stars and getting all ready to go up the stage to do what they have been secretly practising for weeks at the school or day care.

I can still remember Ryan’s very first concert when we could not believe our eyes when he went up the stage, all dressed up as little Simba, the Lion King! When he made those moves, GOD, we went ballistic, especially mommy who just could not believe her eyes, seeing her little one swinging and twisting to the tune of “The Lion sleeps tonight”

Two concerts later, we were still equally excited to see what he was going to do or perform for this year although his teacher has assured us that he has absolutely no trouble following and remembering all the moves, especially since he has been absent from school with all his recent travelling to Beijing and Disneyland.

We knew that he would be doing two numbers. One from his class and the other from his Day Care After School Program (ASP) class. When the first show was announced and that it will be from the ASP children, I strained my neck to try to catch a glimpse of him, not knowing what exactly to expect. Pushing and struggling (sorry to the other parents), I positioned myself right in front just below the stage to get the best angle I could to grab some pictures. I will be dead meat if I reached home without any good pictures and would probably get an earful from his mommy. Times like this, I really wish that I have the super 70-300mm f2.8 lens but to be realistic, why would I want to spent over RM7000 for this lens just for a concert. So, my simple reliable Nikkor 18-105mm kit lens would have to do.
And suddenly, I spotted him, in his orange costume dancing and jiggling to the lively tune of “Let’s Get Loud” by Jennifer Lopez. With his hair gelled, I must said that he looked dashing to say the least (something that he must have picked up from my genes…HAHAHAHA)

He was going through his silky smooth moves with ease and for that moment, there was a deep sense of pride and a compelling urge to shout “Hey..that is MY SON!"

But then, I guessed every parent there was feeling the same pride and the same urge as me. Which parent would not?
For his second number representing his class, he came out dressed as a Life Guard, dancing to the tune of “Under the Sea” and God, was he agile or what. He was simply awesome, going through the moves with such flexibility. No wonder, the teacher kept on assuring us that we have nothing to worry about.
He nearly did not make it for this year concert since our original move to Beijing was supposed to be early October. However, the complications with visa and the securing the right apartment in Beijing pushed the date back a month, which then allow Ryan to take part in his school’s concert for one last time, and we are definitely glad that he did.
The next concert post will be from Beijing!

Club Med Kani Maldives - Paradise on Earth

A school of five silver color fish slowly makes their way to where I was sitting, a small little wooden platform at our lagoon suite villa, my legs dipped in the icy cold water, inches away from the green, oh so green seaweed on fine white sand, waving gently under the magical spell of the sea current.

Meters away, a lone black tip baby shark of a meter long, cruises by oblivious to my presence. A sudden disturbance in the seabed caught my attention. A grey mantra ray of almost three feet in diameter glides by.

The sound of waves beating against the concrete pillars of the villa coupled with the gentle sea breeze blowing onto my face and the dancing sunlight reflected on the clear blue seabed has almost an hypnotizing effect. For a moment, you are in complete total peace with yourself, with mother nature, with God. For that one moment, the world you know and left behind does not seemed to exist or matter.

There is only you, the sea, the blue skies with fluffy white clouds drifting by and the wind, blowing and singing her gentle soothing melody.

This is Maldives.

Read the full story and more pictures at Clud Med Kani Maldives - Paradise on Earth (myNikon&I)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A New Chapter Begins in Beijing

The phone finally rang at approximately 9pm.
“Hello. I am your pet relocation agent. Your Zoewe has arrived. We are now downstairs at your service apartment.” the voice on the other side of the line said.
“OK OK.” We jumped to change and put on some thick clothing and rushed down to the lobby.

After all, we have been worried sick since she was taken from us 2 days ago by the agent in Malaysia to prepare her for her flight to Hong Kong, then to Shenzhen and from there, ultimately to Beijing, her new home for the next two years.

After all the formalities, there she was, finally with us in the living room, clinging on to us. I guessed she was fearful that she could be taken away again.
With her joining us, our family is now complete in Beijing, our new home for the next two years. The thought is only slowly sinking in that we have left Malaysia for our two years adventure in this land of the Dragon.
Events leading up to this week has been rather dramatic and stressful to say the least. With so much to pack  and not knowing what to pack, the discovery of our maid stealing from us and her sacking at the last hour, just before we proceed to process her visa to China, and arranging for my mother in law to step in for the next three months at least to help out in our new home, have certainly been a contributing factor to the additional few strands of white hair.
We thought that we would have little to pack. After all, we are only shifting our master bedroom king size mattress, a sofa bed and a single bed over. How much could that be? Right? WRONG!

Wrong for the two reasons. Firstly, we are shifting with two toddlers. Their clothes, winter clothing, toys, milk powder and diapers have already taken up several boxes.

Secondly, we might be shifting for good. Although we are expected to be here for the next two years, there is every possibility that we might either stay longer or move on to our next destination. Hence, if we do not pack those stuff now, what if we do not come back after two years. And we still have to pack the pots, pans, cutlery, pillows etc over, right? I am not going to spent money buying all these and leave them behind when we leave Beijing.

In the end, the final count was a STAGGERING 113 BOXES! But, we were glad that we got that done. The professional movers were a great motivating factor. They were literally behind our back, pushing us almost every minute to decide what to take and what to leave behind.
We were still packing our luggage just 3 hours before we left for the airport and my wife was so stressed out! Being a meticulous lady and a self claimed perfectionist, this move was ANYTHING but perfect and meticulous so to speak. I thought that at one point in time, she almost burst out in tears and that was when a totally random, careless and last minute guy, yours truly, stood in and took charge. I just told her to pack what she can remember, take it as a adventure, part and parcel of an experience and anything that we have forgotten to pack, we would just either have to make do in Beijing or buy them. After all, we are not moving to the Sahara desert or the interior jungles of the Amazon. We did just that!

We were glad that our flight into Beijing was only half full, and hence, we could have the entire row of seats to ourselves. Ryan was his usual irritating self, switching from games to movies to TV shows on board and wanting attention. Chenya, being her first flight was just as curious and refused to sit still for a good 2 hours!

They finally settled in half way through the flight and slept which gave us all, a time to rest and me, to enjoy my beers and wine.

We are fortunate that we still have the service apartment provided by the company till the 24th Nov and hence, we do not have to worry about going straight into our rented apartment (although fully furnished) with no pillows and no cutlery. We still have the next 2 weeks to wait for our air shipment to arrive and prepare ourselves to shift into our new apartment.
Ryan will be going to his new school on the 12th Nov which is next week and I will have to work out my new daily routine, but I am excited of the new uncharted path ahead. It’s not going to be rather that easy for a 50 years old man like me, but nothing is impossible and insurmountable. I am not a perfectionist and neither am I meticulous but I guess that those traits are playing to my advantage now.
To get myself right at home and to help everyone settling in into this new chapter of our lives, I do what I do best….I cooked our very first home cooked meal for dinner. A simple meal of Chicken Drumstick marinated with soy sauce and black pepper, fried with shallots, garlic, ginger slices and broccoli....that is the least I could do at this moment in time....

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Temptations @ Ara Cooked her last meal

It all started with just this two books .....
I bought these two confinement recipe books way back in 2008 after my wife gave birth to Ryan. The original idea was to get the confinement lady to cook some of the dishes listed in these cook books instead of the one or two standard dishes that she would cook everyday. She was accommodating enough to try some of the dishes we asked her.

After the month was over, I took over the cooking, trying out some of the recipes listed in these two cook books. Now, I have never really cook before and the best I could do before this were probably frying eggs and rice. So, it was quite a challenge to me then but I was determined to try and learn. I would faithfully follow the book to the letter and whipped out dishes after dishes, and my wife was gracious enough to be my guinea pig to try them out. (Anyway, she does not have much of choice does she). I remembered one of our good friend (Winnie) commented that I looked funny running in and out of the kitchen with the recipe book in hand while cooking.

Over time, I began to get comfortable cooking and does not find the task daunting. In fact, I find it rather interesting and began to experiment with different ingredients. My passion for photography fueled my interest in cooking further because I delight to making sure that my dishes are `visually delicious and inviting'. Hence, my cooking adventure takes shape .....

In the last four years, some of our close friends and my sister have been kind enough to partake in most of my `food experiment' and Temptations @ Ara takes form, only opened to serve my lovely wife, my sister, family members and friends, sharing food, wine, beer, laughter and a good time.

Well, Temptations @ Ara served her last meal on 30th and 31st October 2012 with our shifting to Beijing in next several days. And who better should her last guest be if not, the very same person that prompted her very wife....

With the ingredients left in our fridge, Temptations @ Ara served the following:-
I missed my kitchen here but our life and adventure beckons us else where.

With these four dishes, all the pots and pans have been packed to be shipped to Beijing, and hopefully Temptations @ Beijing will open soon to cook for her number one wife....and whoever, who happen to drop by for a visit in the future and daring enough to try ....Till then, Tempations @ Ara signing off.....:)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Even the Ultraman was not spared ....What the hell was she thinking of?

My mouth gasped in disbelief. 

My mind was spinning and trying to comprehend what the hell was she thinking of when she packed the items laid on the floor in front of me.

On the floor, were packets after packets of neatly rolled up clothes, packed in small transparent plastic bags that I bought for her to pack our food, each packet meticulously labelled not only with the name of the recipient but also a brief description of the content.
"6 piece toys. Ultraman" reads one label and inside this neatly wrapped plastic bag was six of Ryan's favourite Ultraman figurines.

"3 piece girl baby clothes. 1 pink, 1 white and 1 stripe" reads another with three of Chenya's new branded clothes that we have just bought from US, neatly rolled up, taped, wrapped and labelled.'

But nothing tops these two ....

"This is for outdoor activities only" reads one plastic bag with one of Ryan's outdoor shorts, meant to be given to her son.

"For `so and so' birthday. Happy Birthday. From {Maid's name}" was written on one of the label where another Chenya's cute dress was neatly packed.

Not only were my wife and I stunned and shocked. The magnitude of the volume of such packets found in three huge bags and the manner of which they have been packed and labelled sent ripples literally throughout the maid's agency. In all the years that they have been there, they claimed that they have not seen something akin to what was slowly unfolding before their very eyes.
It took 4 staff to slowly laid all the loot over the floor, carefully photographing them, unwrapping them and documenting them. The last count was 250 pieces, discounting those that came in pairs! 250 fucking pieces of clothes, taken right under our nose!
And just the day before, we were just about to process her visa and bring her along with us to Beijing, China to take care of both Chenya and Ryan for the next 2 years.

However, we are thankful and grateful because the heavens are definitely looking out for us. The timing could not have been more timely and how the entire conspiracy and scheme unraveled was rather unexpected to say the least, and it's nothing short of a meticulous and calculated conspiracy between my Pinay maid and the one behind our house.

Being with us for the last 5 months, we have learnt to trust her with our children and house chores. She has started off well, although lately she has somewhat slacked and was caught on various occasions by my mother and mother in law staying at our house, in our absence while travelling, chatting and having a good time with the maid behind our house and another from the corner unit. I have verbally told her off and that she is not to waste her time chatting away when there are loads to do.

So, how was she caught?

On Sunday evening, when we got back with her to have her picture taken for her visa application, we found our neighbor's car parked in front of our house. When my wife got down, our neighbor showed her two bags and asked her if they were ours. The bags were clearly ours and on opening those bags, we were shocked to see neatly rolled up, wrapped baby clothes with name of various people written on them.

We were then told that these bags were recovered from the maid behind our house, when she was fired and were asked to leave. When our neighbor checked her belonging before letting her go, these bags were apparently found and upon questioning, were told that they belong to our maid who gave these items to her to be sent back to Philippines.

My wife was fuming and I can not blame her because we both felt betrayed! We were hurt because we have attempted in the last five months to be as positive and caring as we can (as an employer) to her. We have even bought her clothes from US during our last visit as souvenirs and here she was, stealing from us, right under our nose! We wanted to confront her there and then, but realising that we have no place to sent her to in the night, we refrained ourselves waiting to get that done in the morning.

I was certain that she has suspected her deed uncovered when the neighbor brought down the two bags. Although she has said nothing, she was not her normal self, looked somewhat disturbed and worried. I was fearful that she would just run away that very same night and to ensure that does not happen, I have resorted to keeping every key to the house in my pocket and slept on the couch downstairs to make sure that no one leaves the house without my knowledge.

We called the maid agency the following morning and was advised to bring her in. We told her to get ready because we have to bring her to the embassy to get her visa done (which we planned to do originally anyway) and would drop by the agency to get her documents certified. I could see that she was worried but having little choice but to follow.

Upon reaching the agency, she was brought into a room and was then immediately questioned by the person in charge as to whether she realized why she was brought back to the agency. At that point, she admitted that she did something wrong and that she `took' some T-shirts and baby clothes. She was then asked to list down everything that she `took'. She was reluctant at first and listed down only 3 to 4 items. Upon being threatened that we have already had the loot, she began to fill up a piece of A4 paper!

When the two bags that was returned by my neighbor was brought in and the loot laid on the table, we found that many listed on the paper were actually not there. Upon being pressured, she admitted that there is another bag..."half more she said".....given to the maid from the house behind.

GOD! We just could not believe our ears. What we have seen in the two bags were bad enough and here she was, telling us that there is another bag!

We made a quick call to our neighbor to check and 5 minutes later, she called back and said that she found another 3 bags hidden under the maid's bed and one bag was so heavy that she could hardly pull it out.

With a staff from the agency, we made our way to our neighbor's house to recover this one bag. We were shocked! The third bag is even BIGGER than the first two and stuffed to the brim with items from our house!

We were told that she has been silently packing whatever she fancied and passed them over from our wet kitchen window to the maid behind who would then kept it for her over a period of two months.

250 pieces of my branded shirts and shorts, wife's T-shirts, Ryan's clothes and Chenya's clothes (both hardly used or brand new, still with price labels that we bought recently from US), besides Ultraman, hotwheels, USB thumb drives and Angry Bird keychains!

So, what was she thinking of? What was her or rather their strategy? Don't they know that she would have to follow us to Beijing as agreed? Do she know that when they leave for home, all their bags would be checked? How on earth are they going to move three such heavy bags beside their own bags?

Here is what we think ....
  • She has gotten braver and greedier as the days went by, starting with used items to brand new items that we have just bought because she was not questioned about these missing items. (We have been noticing that our children are wearing almost the same clothes everyday and she has been questioned. She acted dumb and we thought that she was too lazy to take out other clothes and kept on using the same ones to her convenience) With our relocation pending in weeks, we were also very busy to really check on the items we have bought home.
  • She has been instigated and she was tempted thinking that she could get away with the crime.
  • She has no intention whatsoever to follow us to Beijing in the first place, because has been constantly asking my mother in law, the exact date of which we will shift. We have been keeping this date from her for security reasons.
  • She has planned to run away just before we fly to Beijing, very likely with the maid from the house behind and if that is so, they would have very likely made arrangements with another party at large with transportation to help them to cart away the loot.
The entire conspiracy would NOT have been uncovered if the maid behind was NOT terminated and asked to leave unexpectedly. Our believe is that both maids have planned to run away with the items stolen from both our house and our neighbor's house when the timing was right. However, the unexpected termination forced the maid to leave early and hence, the stolen items discovered and the plot unraveled.

So, God has been very kind to us. We could not have imagine our loss (not only the items stolen, visa application and air ticket) but also our predicament at the very last minute when we do not have a maid to bring over to Beijing to take care of both Chenya and Ryan. At least now, we can still proceed with our back up plans for our relocation to Beijing.

And if you think that all the above are bad enough, wait till you read this....

My maid was given a stolen handphone by the maid behind to keep their communication line opened. (Our agreement with our maid when we employed her was that she will not have a handphone, hence we paid her a premium on top of her monthly salary with a promise that we will allow her to call home twice every month using our phone card)

When we went through her items to be packed and given back to her at the agency, my mother in law pass a black bra to my wife and asked if that was the maid's. My wife's eyes nearly fell off her sockets. She was holding her black Victoria Secret bra, bought back from the US sometime back but have not wore it since. The maid has conveniently took it and wear it as her own, and so brave and arrogant that she has became, that she actually washed and hung it out to dry (at the back) right under our nose!

We were very hurt because we have always attempt to make our maid's stay with us as pleasant as we could. We even have her birthday coming up in November updated in our calendar so that we do not forget to celebrate it with her, just like we did with the maids before her.....


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Are we the WORST? Really?

At the time when I read that Malaysian taxi drivers were rated one of the worst in the world, I have just came back from taking an approximately 30 minutes taxi ride from Bellevue in Seattle to downtown Pikes Market which cost me USD39 besides the USD5 tips that I have to pay, which means that my 30 minutes ride cost me a cool RM136.50 at today's exchange rate of 3.104. I barely spent 2 hours at the Pikes Fish Market before I had to go back to the hotel with Ryan whining about being tired and sleepy. Hence, my 2 hours escapade cost me a whopping RM273!

So, before we start to jump blaming our Malaysian taxi drivers and pointing fingers that the report is true and they deserve what they deserves, I believe that we should look at the `so called' poll and report and the results objectively before we judged.
I have the privilege to travel quite a fair bit recently, and taking taxis in some of this countries that I have visited and the experience related to this group of people and their occupation.

I must said that I do agreed that we simply do not have the best taxi drivers in the world but I am not quite sure if they deserved being called the WORST!

Read more about my experience with taxis from other parts of the world and see for yourself if we deserved to be called the worst taxi drivers in the WORLD at MyNikon & I : Worst Taxi Drivers.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

You are giving me a HEADACHE!

As I was browsing through the Tomy Roma's menu at Anaheim, Los Angeles after a two hours drive back from San Diego where we have spent a day earlier at the Sea World, carefully selecting a hearty meal that would hopefully gives me enough energy to last me till midnight later at Disneyland, Ryan, as usual wanting attention, asked me which ultraman figurine that he has brought along for this holiday would I want?
"Daddy, you want Dyna or Ultraman Gaia?" he asked, shoving the two figurines into my face.

Irritated, tired and just wanting to get him off my back, I said "Tiga". For the uninitiated, Tiga is yet another Ultraman in the huge ultraman family.

"Huh? Tiga? No! I don't have Tiga!" he screamed.
"I asked you which one you want? Dyna or Gaia?" he continued.
"But I want Tiga" I repeated, wanting to agitate him and give me a piece of his own medicine when he agitates me non stop.
"I told YOUuuuuu. I don't have Tiga!" he repeated.
"Why not?" I asked, sensing blood, knowing that he was getting impatient.
"I didn't bringggggg!" he explained.
"Why not?" I persisted.
"I told youuuuu, I didn't bring!" he said
"Why? I wanted Tiga because he is so strong!" I insisted.
"But I didn't bringggggg!" his eyes rolling with frustration and agitation.
"But I want!" I pressed on, a line that he uses so often on us that will never fail to drive us up the wall.
"I told you alreadyyyyyy, I didn't bring!" you can have either Dyna or Gaia Onlyyyy!" trying to stress his point.
"But I only want Tiga." I insisted.

At this point, he was already irritated with me to the max, a moment of which I enjoyed tremendously. What a evil daddy I am, but hell, I am having fun for once and having him at the receiving end.

He rolled his eyes and one hand on his head and exclaimed, "Daddy! You are giving me a Headache!"

Both my wife and I burst into laughter and we were laughing so hard till we cried and I am pretty sure that the patrons next to us must have thought the Chinese next to them have absolutely gone mad and were too loud, like all other Chinese they must have came across.

It's pay back time ! Hehehehehe
More Pictures on Jeju Island Coming up NEXT!