Thursday, November 30, 2006 ;
12:37 AM
Celebrated dh's father's (my fil) birthday at bil's place on Sunday. We're missing YX and YL here (who just emigrated)! Really miss their spontaneity and laughter. Suddenly so few grandkids left.

Went United Square on Tuesday to see Barney, BJ and Baby Bops Live Show. Lots of parents, maids and kids there, even though we went for the 4pm show, on a weekday. Did all those parents take leave for their kids? Amazing... Or maybe they all happen to be teachers on holidays. Seriously, if I weren't free, I don't think I will take leave for Barney show. But then again, it always depends on how crazy the kids are about something. If they were crazy about Barney, maybe I would. Cos if it were a drumming act by a famous percussionist, I would take leave to bring the kids, and buy the most expensive tickets too, haha.

Shortly awhile ago, we caught Happy Feet, about this penguin who was a 'misfit' but found use for his unique talent later on. Sis, me and kids. Not exactly exciting for an adult, but it transmits good values, and is not violent or vulgar, so perfect for the kids. It contains a lot of dancing and singing too, which managed to capture both ds attention almost throughout. Ds2 became somewhat restless ltr on and climbed the steps beside us. Good thing I chose last row seats beside the aisle. Experience taught me that. So they didn't disturb any other movie-goer. Ds1 was very good throughout, first time he behaved like that, wonderful improvement, haha. This is the photo taken at the arcade before the movie.

After that, we saw these blank white tees at Bossini where the kids can use fabric markers to colour the tees themselves. Ds1 was very keen and excited so I bought it. Shows the process of how it got done here.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Sunday, November 26, 2006 ;
3:41 PM
Phew, last Bio paper and also last paper for many students was on 23 Nov. Also a very happy day for me. No more worrying, no more consultations/ remedials/ emails or smses regarding Bio questions. Now my final responsibility at work would be references and then I can pack up and clear my desk already.
I'd be happy to do that cos it'll mean I am neat and organised for once.

Yesterday kids and I joined their Gan-die (haha, spelt like that?) and Gan-ma at Swensen's for breakfast. Gan-die was treating us, yay! It was our first time, and we enjoyed it thoroughly. The breakfast was not bad - waffles, pancakes, bacon, ham, eggs (scrambled and sunny-side-up), hash brown, drinks etc and a gorgeous sundae. Best of all the service was good, and there was a lot of space for the kids to play and run around.

They were making faces (Ch), doing Ultraman actions (T) and stoning (J).

Then T had a further treat cos ZY and Mary brought him to Toys R Us while I brought J back to snooze. Actually it was cos J poured apple juice and water all over himself. When ZY escorted T back, he had several presents, one of it was bubbles. He was so excited he started on it in the corridor and continued even while he was bathing. And can you believe it? He finished the whole bottle that day... many lungfuls of breaths and hours of play...

The kids will miss their friends here a lot too... Though we will make new friends for sure, nothing will replace the old friend kind of relationship, because it goes far far back and there is so much that can be left unsaid. We all understand each other so well. We can be ourselves and it will take a lot to offend each other too, so it is a really comfortable feeling. I'm glad we did this!

Last Thursday (after last Bio paper), I brought sis and kids to Vivo. The view is tranquil and serene in the evening. We enjoyed it from Earle Swensen's where we had dinner and later from the public gallery.

Last Wednesday T and J enjoyed themselves in the JBC Chinese Bible class too. They're singing "Walking with Jesus" together. :-)

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Wednesday, November 22, 2006 ;
12:50 AM
Not very sure why these photos couldn't show up on the prev post, but yup, here are the 3 for the subsequent lunches.

I will miss you all!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 ;
11:58 PM
Kids were sick recently then myself. Mom was also sick, dad had his old ailment (leg pain and was bound to bed) back again, and then sis had her miscarriage. This has been really a week of affliction. Thank God everything is over and all of us are fine now.

Several last(s) for me, I realised, for a long time to come:
1. 7 Oct MAF 2006 - Brought both kids for the festive celebrations
13 Oct HC Open House - Brought Titus to school for all the performances
12 Oct: Lunch at Coro Prince with Teck, WK, Mag, KL, Shay
2. 26 Oct: Science Dept Potluck - a tradition we enjoyed annually
26 Oct: HC Staff Dinner at Swissotel Merchant Court Hotel "Cowboys and Indians"
3. 30 Oct: Bio Unit Lunch at Sakura (Orchard) - Buffet treat from Mag and WK
4. 1 Nov: Lunch at Hoohas with Judith and Law
5. 7 Nov: Lunch with kids, Grace and Mary at Vivo Thai Express
6. 13 Nov: My treat :-) Lunch with Dad, Mom and kids at IMM Coffee Club
7. 15 Nov: Lunch at Simply Bread with Ai Hua
8. 16 Nov: Lunch at Crystal Jade LMXLB with Yew Tin and Lay Hua
9. 17 Nov: Farewell dinner to sis-in-law and niece/ nephew emigrating to Perth

Decided to document these with photos, and other preparations up to my departure.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Tuesday, November 14, 2006 ;
4:55 PM
It was a humbling experience.

I had everything prepared, all the things they required (eg online forms with barcodes printed)
, plus they wanted supplemental evidence that we will not stay on and be immigrants so I had an employer's letter, bank statements (what the website suggested) and so on, all organised neatly in clear holders in a ring binder.

We arrived in good time after dropping the kids off at mom-in-law's. I let my mom alight first and parked at the Botanic Gardens since we couldn't park there. When I walked back to the embassy, my mom was in the queue already, there were many people and we stood in line in a tent in the open. The tent provided shade from the scorching sun but all of us were still sweating profusely in the humid heat. I was already prepared for this though, because Mrs Ang, dh, and others (like students and friends) who applied for visas recently had told me about it. That was why I did not bring my kids.

After a wait, it was our turn to go through the security checks at the guard house, where our bags were scanned. Handphones, cameras and other stuff must be kept at the guardhouse too. Then we were allowed in the main building.

The air con was so welcome. Took a seat and waited for my number. It came pretty quickly. Someone in front of me did not have the cashier's order from a local bank and was asked to leave. My forms were checked at one counter first, then we waited for our interview at another counter.

Dh had received his approval very easily after the interview. His interviewer was friendly and interested in his bow-making course. So I thought it would be smooth sailing, after all my forms and stuff were found to be sufficient and in good order.

During our wait, we could hear all the Qs posed by the interviewer as the mic projected their voices into the waiting room loud and clear. It actually made me more tense as I heard several applications being rejected. Most applicants had their salaries announced, one guy's was too low, and his application was rejected. Another's salary was pronounced as ok. So I was thinking, mine fell between that range, it got me a little worried. Another had his job scope queried and doubted, so I felt even worse, although I had a perfectly respectable profession, I can't help being just that bit more nervous. The way we were being grilled and interrogated seemed like we were suspected criminals? After a few more got rejected, I was already thinking seriously about the $8000 I spent on the air tickets from Zuji that did not allow date changes or refunds.

Then it was our turn. I was hoping to get another counter, whose success rate seemed higher and whose grilling seemed less intense. But we got the one I was feeling more worried about. Anyway I went forward, she wanted to interview me alone so my mom remained seated. My fingerprints were taken, and then she asked for my birthdate and profession. That was ok. Then she asked about dh. She asked where he had his visa approved first. She felt it was too easily approved?

Then she casted her suspicions on his course of study. She asked me about bow-making, why he wanted to study there (SLC). Then she said it looks to her we will stay on in USA and not return. She told me my application was only so-so. It doesn't make a strong case about us returning. I said I had my employer's letter stating I took no pay leave and will return, but she said she didn't care. My mom had a shocked look. I wanted to fly the Singapore flag then, to show her I was definitely fiercely loyal and proud of Singapore, that I love Singapore and will surely return, but how to prove this kind of love??

She then said it was very odd for dh to go pursue a high school kind of diploma, what good would it do him? She said there were so many superior European bows and violins on sale here, what will he be able to do with this? I explained that it will be a niche market and he intended to set up a music school or business dealing with music instruments, but she didn't buy it. She then said she can't even be sure he is actually studying at the school now. I was stunned because he is, and how to make her believe me? She was convinced we would go on to do other stuff in USA, especially since I was bringing my kids and all.

I think it must be the first time in my life I found someone who really didn't believe me and I couldn't make him/ her do so. The feeling is indescribable. Maybe cos I have a serious/ innocent/ honest look or face, haha, so I'd never really been doubted much before.

Also I wanted to tell her I'd definitely return to Singapore cos my family and friends are here! These relationships built up for so many years are surely the most important factor pulling me back, but how do I show her these intangible links and bonds? Haha, maybe next time I must bring all my photos, my blog excerpts, my diaries, cards my students wrote me etc to show how much I love the people here and how I actually do not want to be away from them for long!

On hindsight I can understand why they give us a hard time and disbelieve us. I think there are just so many people who overstay and who end up being immigrants even though they convincingly said they wouldn't at the consular interview... Sigh.

She then waved me aside and interviewed my mom. She told my mom frankly that her visa had slim chance of being approved. Then asked her about my dad's job. When told he taught in a Bible college, she asked how many students are enrolled. When my mom said 8 this year, she exclaimed, "8??!?", then how does my dad get paid and how does the organisation make a profit? My mom explained it is a non-profit organisation and funded by the church. At this point, she took off her headset and mic and turned to her colleagues, (but still loud enough for us to hear) saying, "What an INTERESTING family!!!" She carried on talking to them, so I quickly handed my mom the itinerary printed by Zuji which stated her return tickets were bought, proving she'd definitely return home?

When the lady came back to her seat, my mom told her I suffer from air sickness and she only wanted to accomnpany me on the flight there so that she can take care of the 2 young grandchildren during the 28h journey. Somehow, she seemed to relent after this. She took a look and said, "So you only plan to be there for 3 weeks?" Then she told my mom, "This time I will only grant you a short-term visa. If you indeed do return to Singapore after this, I will issue you a longer one next time."

Ahhh, anyway, in the end we got it. Hooray!! Yippee!! Both mine and kids (dependent's visa), and my mom's tourist visa.

I collected the passports today. In the end, my mom got a long tourist visa (valid for 1 year!), so she could actually make more than one trip based on that. Maybe she'll go with daddy later next year! :-)

The collection was a breeze compared to last week. I was just required to show my card at the guardhouse and the passports were given to me. One person could collect for everyone else too. I am just so happy and delighted to have it issued, it is a load off my mind now, can concentrate on other matters now.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Thursday, November 9, 2006 ;
4:36 PM
Updates on what I am feverishly working on during this supposed "holiday":

1. Remedials and consultations with students (cos their A levels end only on 23 Nov)

2. Haven't started packing but I am supposed to clear my old house and my own place of stuff and pack them nicely in boxes, sorted into stuff that I am bringing and stuff that I am leaving behind. But those left behind need to be neatly packed in boxes too, cos of the people staying in these places, namely my in laws and my own folks. They should not be left with a trail of mess to dust and look after for 2 years.

3. Clearing up my desk at work. This will be quite difficult too, as I have amassed an amazing load of files, stationery and resources. However, I do not need to cart everything home cos I got willing takers for most of the stuff. Judith wants my notes and such, Mag wants my document trays, pull out box, coloured boxes, bar magnets etc and I am sure Lawrence will take the rest of my rubbish. Since his table is already full of it, a little more wouldn't make a difference. :-)
I'd be sad to return my laptop though, it is such a nice new one. A good widescreen Acer. I will miss that.

4. Settling plane tickets, applying for US visas. This is what I am doing now and it really takes a lot of effort. Mrs Ang has been telling me it is not an easy process and I must be sure to do it early. I have been trying to search for a relatively free "window" period to do it since October. But it is only now that I didn't get inundated with requests from students for consultations. Reason being, their 1st Bio paper just ended on Tuesday (3 Nov) and the next Bio paper is on Monday (20 Nov) so these few days they will be busy with Maths, Chem and Physics papers. Phew. I have Wed to Fri this week to do the visa application. So whole of yesterday I pored over the US embassy website and tried to prepare the stuff they required - went to the bank and had to spend $680 getting cashiers' order (really feel the pinch!), fill in online forms and so on. And early this morning I dropped my kids off at my mom-in-law's and went with my mom to the embassy. Will blog next on the experience after I have obtained the visa. The plane tickets for all of us cost $8000 (not incl dh's). So I am really pouring all of my savings into this US stint. Must pray that it is worth it, that we will be safe, that we will find it a good learning experience.

5. Taking care of my kids (this is really time consuming!) It leaves me with very little free time each day to do the above things.

Ok, so now I have just returned from the US embassy, kids are napping, and I hope to check some emails. Haven't done so for a few days, no time!

Dh's update (via 3 SMSes) - he managed to check into a motel but found that the price really matched the conditions. Also the surroundings did not seem very safe and he later learnt that it is not on the safe side of the city. So the next night he stayed in the same hotel as where the conference was held, and got a free stay cos he helped out with gathering contacts and tallying of results, it seems (admin work). Well, that's good, although he had to work till late at night but at least he is safe and getting a free stay as a bonus. Today would be his 3rd night now.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Wednesday, November 8, 2006 ;
3:55 PM
Dh is now in Baltimore, Maryland. An update for those looking for him. He will/ may not have internet access for this week, so may not be able to reply to emails, skype or MSN. He'll be back in UT by 12 Nov.

He is there for a conference on violin and bow-making. When my sis heard there, she asked me in disbelief, "You mean there are conferences for such topics??" with an incredulous look on her face.

So I replied,"Yep, there are even conferences on the art of blowing your nose, so why not?"


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Thursday, November 2, 2006 ;
10:33 AM
I've got a new look now, thanks to Huiming! I really love this photo of the huge tree with the treehouse and swing.. It brings back many happy memories of my childhood spent in the kampung-like Punggol (village by the sea).

I played on the exact kind of swing too, shall dig up photos of it to post here when I find them. And though I did not have a similar treehouse, my dad's students did construct a huge wooden hutch for me, sis and rabbits and dogs to play in. And the setting was like that, big space with lots of trees, although our trees were mango, durian, mangosteen, rambutan and so on (very tropical trees). I remember (not so fondly) the amount of dried and dead leaves we had to help sweep and rake up though. And when daddy tried to burn them when the pile of leaves got too huge, neighbours complained and we got a warning for polluting the environment. So all we did was to clear,bag and throw leaves after that if the leaf litter got too huge. Composting didn't work, somehow... And there were lots of mosquitoes!

Can't thank Huiming enough for this and the organisation of the various parts of the blog too. It saved me many hours, :-) Since I will be leaving Singapore for a while, this mirrors my feelings now --- nostalgic, a little sad/ reluctant --- and I will definitely miss countless things about Singapore, school, home, church... I will return, so wait for me! Hope everything and everyone will not change much and be the same as when I left, so I can remember and recognise everything and everyone and comfortably fit in again!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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-{dear-hubby}- dh
-{dear-son}-ds1 T
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