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....
More Pictures on Jeju Island Coming up NEXT!