Wednesday, August 27, 2008 ;
11:12 PM
Getting used to a lot of new things/ experiences

1. smoking, drinking, entertaining..
Last night, me and kids attended a dinner, where Dh is the host. He entertained his business partners and suppliers at the Ah Yat Abalone Seafood Restaurant here in TJ. It is within a hotel quite near to our apt.

This is the first time I've gone to such a function. In the past, the dinners I attended were always staff dinners, with teachers. I always just go to have fun and catch up with colleagues. Now we seem to be entering the business arena. The atmosphere is quite different.

So before the dinner, I spent some time dressing myself up and then wearing shirts and long pants for the kids.

At the restaurant, we were ushered to a VIP room. I had already expected smoking and drinking to occur in restaurants here, judging from the Korean places we had visited. Well, at one corner of the VIP room, there was a couch, and a long coffee table. On it were placed 2 beautiful glass ash trays.

What did both boys do? We were early and were waiting for our guests, so they took their Ultramen out and placed them within the ash trays, thinking it was some kind of throne?

Argh. On the dinner table itself, with a big elegant lazy susan in the middle, were 2 ashtrays as well, different design, but also very high-class kind.

I asked Dh, probably for the umpteenth time, are they all going to smoke? The VIP room was quite big and air-conditioned, but I still didn't really want to be a passive smoker and inhale all the 2nd hand smoke for a couple of hours. He replied again, that he wouldn't know. This is his first time too.

Our guests arrived punctually and there was some small talk. I saw one of them place his unique-looking lighter and a pack of cigarettes on the coffee table. Uh-oh.

After the introductions and small talk, we decided to sit at the dining table and order food. Ok, that was another fiasco. Later Dh found that the northern chinese do not really like abalone, Buddha Jump Over the Wall and other such dishes. He did the ordering and ordered a set dinner with about 6-7 courses?

When the food came one by one, we saw our guests pick at the ingredients in the Buddha Jump over the Wall, and ask what was the humongous black slimy thing sitting on the special dish together with the duck feet and the abalone? It was a mushroom of course. They had some difficulty swallowing the large piece of premium abalone, and one of them left half on the dish to be cleared away. ha.

I can see Dh feeling uncomfortable within, and he did apologise if the dishes were not suitable for their palate. One of them mentioned they usually ate dumplings, handmade noodles, that kind of thing. Yup, Ah Yat is a Cantonese restaurant isn't it? Totally not their kind of cuisine.

The fish was almost unfinished and had to be cleared. It tasted horrible to me. One of the lady guests asked what fish it is, and Dh wasn't sure, because the waitress had recommended it and he just nodded his head but he couldn't catch what the name was.

The kids usually loved fish, but they didn't take too much of this. It had way too many bones too, so I spent most of my dinner removing bones from the fish, to feed both kids with their rice.

There were 2 veggies, one kailan stems (yes only the stems) dish and the other chinese cabbage (just the cabbage, no meat or abalone or seafood). Looked really homemade to me. I could easily cook that. I think the set meal was a rip off. Not very happy with the waitress who recommended that to Dh! The thing is, the guests and I were talking about the kids while Dh was ordering the food, so the rest of us didn't know what was being ordered too.

Both veggie dishes were cleared also almost untouched.

The Buddha Jump over the Wall was served individually. Only Dh finished everything in his exquisite-looking bowl. For me, I don't like those sea cucumber and various limpet and clam-looking things. So I only ate up the chicken, pork, sharks fin? and drank the soup. The rest of the guests didn't finish theirs too.

What did the guests eat most then? The 2nd last course, the fried rice. :-0
Even the dessert was a disappointment to me. It was a hot almond soupy thing.
And then came the fruit platter last.

Oh yes, forgot to mention that one of the guests had a whole bottle of Budweiser (correctly spelt? i don't even know how to spell it) to himself. The others didn't drink as they were driving. They said police are very strict on drink driving here.

Fortunately they didn't start smoking too early, perhaps that is my only consolation. The guy with the lighter started to light up after the fruits and said he didn't start before dinner because of the kids. Hmmm, ok, thanks a lot.

He smoked and talked. After the cigarette ended its course, I felt very happy and relieved. Because the dinner conversation looked nowhere like it was ending soon, and I was imagining my kids' lungs filling up with black tar.

But no, it was not to be. He fished for the 2nd cigarette and continued. Then the 3rd. Ok, basically he smoked till we were ready to leave.

Beforehand, I had to talk to ds1, a long talk, about not shouting or highlighting people who smoked, because H had already cautioned me that people will definitely smoke and drink here. Any occasion, any place, even the most high class and fully airconditioned place. I know ds1's character very well, he may want to tell people off.

True enough, i did have a heart stopping moment, when the first puff started, and ds1 ran from the couch to me and asked loudly, in english, "I smell smoke, mom, is someone smoking?"

Fortunately, they don't understand English so much. Written English is ok for them. Not so much the speaking and listening skills.

I reminded ds1 in a hush hush tone that he is not in the position to tell others off now. And set him back to the couch where he and ds2 were playing by themselves after the dinner.

The bill came up to more than S$350. Sigh. So not worth it.
Dh commented that the guests must be heading off for supper right after the dinner. We ourselves did not feel full, much less for them.

The guests were all really nice people. Very friendly and warm. Offering me help and inviting us to their houses whenever we are ready to visit. Asked about ds2's rashes and tried to play with them and engage them too. The lady guests even read a Chinese book to ds1. I brought the story book along to while their time away during the dinner actually. Ds1 asked me about a chinese word and I wasn't sure how to read that, so the lady tried. She was not sure too, but she proceeded to read the whole book to him and chatted with him. Her own daughter is 18 now, and going to start the last year of high school.

I really don't mind attending these functions to get to know more people and to support Dh. People always want to meet his family over here. However, I really don't know how much of the smoking I can take. After we reached home, all our clothes still stank.

H told me her hubby didn't drink or smoke before they came, but now, every dinner and function, he will be asked to drink and smoke, by clients and so on. If he doesn't, he is not "showing face" to them and they will be offended. She says he always comes home drunk.

Her hubby's colleague, a manager or something, was just posted here from Singapore. I met him the other day too, because he also lives in this apt complex. He came just a few days before us.

H said he attended his first function, and got so drunk, the next day he had to take medical leave. He had a dinner appointment with H and family the next day for dinner and told them he had such a bad hangover and his whole body felt limp. He couldn't think or focus at all. He complained that that shouldn't be the way, to drink that way. But he has no choice. He didn't use to drink back here in Spore too. His wife and 3 kids are still in Spore cos one of them has the PSLE this yr. I really sympathise with him, and his family.

H's hubby's GM is also a Singaporean, here without his family as well. Fortunately H's hubby has her here. I just think if you are dead drunk, you probably need more family support and love, especially the next morning.

Dh wasn't asked to drink or smoke during the dinner. They did ask him though, whether he drank or smoked, and he just replied no, and they left it at that.

I hope it remains that way forever. And I know Dh will not drink or smoke even if forced. It helps that his employers are Mormons. They will be the first to understand why one shouldn't drink or smoke, right? :-) Dh says they don't even drink tea or coffee, so....

2. bicycles
The next thing is: how creative and innovative the Chinese can be.

We all know the transport vehicle of choice here is the bicycle. It is also very environmentally friendly.

Everyone owns a bike. My ayi rides over to work at my place too. She always charges her battery at my house.

Dh has been equipping his factory right? So the other day he was waiting for the air con men to arrive. They're supposed to install and equip the factory with air conditioners. So he was expecting them to turn up in a small van or truck.

No! There were 3 of them, each on a bicycle, laden with the aircon units and tools. Dh was so surprised.

They didn't have a ladder, and so just scaled the wall using the ledges on the outer wall. It sure looked dangerous to Dh but they are so used to it.

And they fixed up the units very quickly and left.

After that incident, Dh noticed that everyone who came to install something at his factory would come on bikes. If the machinery or equipment was bigger, it would come in parts, on several bicycles. :-)

We ordered pizza twice too. Both pizza joints are not near our place at all. It probably required a cycling time of 45min at high speed to reach? But yes, both times, the pizza guy appeared on a bicycle, and one of them on a normal one, not the motorised kind! I take my hat off to them.

The delivery boys can probably join those cyclathons or triathlons and win hands down, having cycled long distances each day for so long!

Oh yes, so we normally have to order our pizzas 1hr before hand.

3. counting
Chinese people here count using their fingers differently. It's hard to describe, but after the number 5, the way they use their fingers to show the numbers are vastly different. In fact, what we show as 7 is 8 for them. The number 10 is the 2nd and 3rd finger crossed (like how we say "cross your fingers").

A little confusing at first, but now we are used to it.

Oh, and we all know how quick the Chinese are at counting, and how good they are in math. The kids here are very good at mental calc and the use of abacus.

4. Schools serving all meals
Kids here tend to spend the whole day in school. All the local kindergartens and preschools, as well as most primary schools, serve the kids breakfast, lunch and usually dinner.

I have visited a couple, and heard from friends.

I must say the menus look very appealing. They have very balanced meals, and huge portions too. The breakfast looks very good, and is like a buffet. Ds1 will surely lose out, he'll probably be happy with just a slice of bread.

H says her kids will have seaweed soup and so on too. And many other items I would not normally offer at home. Schools cater to large groups and can offer to buy a lot of food at cheaper prices, so the kids get to eat a wide variety of food too. I know that will do a lot of good for my kids! But alas, I still think they are too young to spend a whole day at school, and I do still like to spend more time with them.

Chinese parents have only 1 child and they believe that the child should spend most of the day in school, with other children. They get to learn more, and socialise too. At home, they'd be bored with just the parents and them. So most schools operate around this schedule 8am to 5pm, much like the childcare centers in Singapore.

Anyway, I have mentioned I put the kids' names down at a couple of local kindys right? They have a long waiting list and school reopens next Mon, so we've gone ahead and placed them in the international school. The one we had registered them way before, when we were still in Utah.

The local kindys will probably only reach my kids' names next year!

The intl school has half day or full day prog for preschool, so ds2 will be there till 12pm. But for ds1's age, it is from 8.15am to 3.15pm. No choice of half day, so ds1 will be there for a longer period.
They follow the US system.

Because I don't have a car, and with their staggered timings, I cannot afford to take a cab to school with them in the morning, then at 11.30am again to pick ds2 up, come home, then go again at 3pm for ds1, and possibly having to wake up a napping ds2 and drag him along to pick ds1 up as well. Hence, I have signed them up for the school bus. It works out cheaper for me too, than if I had to take all the cabs.

It is also safer because the school bus is fitted with seat belts for every kid, and there is an ayi on each us to take care of the kids.

It is definitely much cleaner than many of the cabs I have taken too.

5. Abortions
This took some getting used to.

Over here, abortions are very very common. It is such a common procedure that no one bats an eyelid. You can see commericals and adverts everywhere, from magazines to within the cabs, painted on the big hospital wall (the facade that faces heavy traffic), and online.

They advertise "painless abortions" and that you can go to work the next day. Cheap and good.

This website shows some figures. One Beijing's hospital reported doing 40 abortions everyday.

H says, her son's classmate's mom was 5 months pregnant when they found it was a girl again, so she got an abortion. To them, and their friends and relatives, it is nothing. They already have a girl, and they wanted a boy next, so they abort. 5 months... I remember feeling all the baby's movements by then. I remember seeing the baby's face, hands, fingers and toes during the ultrasound scan.

I remember seeing how ds1 did somersaults during the 5th month scan, and how ds2 was sucking his thumb and being camera-shy (the radiologist had a hard time trying to check him). We had thought this baby must be a girl this time, until she finally saw "it" and said he's a boy.

Even if I have another boy, and I wanted a girl so badly, how can I abort?

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

2:02 AM
On Aug 10, we watched the National Day Parade of Singapore over here in Tianjin. And the we also eagerly followed the National Day Rally Speech.

We also were glued to the TV when Tao Li swam, when Feng Tianwei fought so valiantly, and saw Li Jiawei's scribbled word in her palm as they played table tennis against the reigning China champs. We caught all the Olympic matches with Sporeans in them.
We shouted and cheered, even the kids.
We were so happy when they won the silver (team match), and felt the great pity when they lost (Tianwei and Jiawei's respective singles matches), because it was so so close. But we are proud of them.

The Baby Bonus, subsequently unveiled in the Rally brought cheers too. Although I do not get to benefit at all, being a SAHM and also having my kids earlier than this was announced, I have friends like Mary, who managed to get the incentives. Good for them!

What appeals to me most would be the 4 month paid maternity leave. Then comes the $6000 (correct me if i am wrong) in cash gift at the baby's birth.

Next comes the various leaves parents can take, that are all lengthened now. From the childcare leave, to paternal leave, to infantcare leave... those are very useful, since they are unrecorded and still paid, and on top of whatever leave you have.

The rest, huge tax reliefs, childcare subsidies and other helps are not so useful for me, although it'll help some others a lot.

Glad for those with bigger families, because now the baby bonus applies to the 5th child and more. Initially only up to the 4th child.

Ahh, if I had those when ds1 was born, that'd be really useful. He got nothing, being born before the campaign went into full force.

ds2 managed to qualify me for the 3 mth maternity leave and the co-savings account. Because of the govt saving dollar for dollar up to $6000, ds2, who was born at the right time, has a fat savings account. We put in $6000 at once, when he was born, so he has a cool $12k now. Some were used for ds1's preschool expenses, but there should still be lots in there to spare. IF they were studying in Spore that is. We can't use that here.

I found the posters that The Sunday Times (24 Aug) asked various advertising agencies to come up with, very interesting and witty. I like the Michael Phelps one best because it immediately attracts attention.


(i) by Ogilvy and Mather
"have more than 2 children" because "there is great potential in humans". Thomas Edison was the 7th child.

(ii) by DecisionOne

(iii) by Leo Burnett
they said they wanted a humorous take with double meaning.

(iv) The original poster in the 1970s encouraging couples to stop at 2 kids, whether girl or boy because Singapore was getting over populated then. The "not" is added in by the Sunday Times.

supposed to portray "three being a crowd" (no more space in the umbrella for another).

We were kids of the 70s.
Dh said his mom had a ligation after having him, so as to avoid paying $150 delivery fee for the 3rd child and beyond. And also to keep the priority privilege for school registration.

My parents were not affected. It was a coincidence that they had only me and my sis.
They did think of having more but didn't due to other personal reasons. In fact, by the 80s, Singapore realised the "Stop at 2" campaign was over-successful, so the campaign changed to "have 3, if you can afford it". And me and my sis were born in the late 70s to 1980.

(v) by Sunday Times' team

play on the words "bear it". the baby's smile is so adorable.

What do all these mean to us, personally?
Not much...

We didn't have kids because of the incentives. But it was good to have. I guess we should just be thankful we are having kids now when the govt really needs them, so we get rewarded.

Imagine, my mil tells me about the time when she gave birth to dh's brother and sister. She had to take pills to stop breastmilk production just so she can quickly go back to work. She told me she felt they could have messed up her hormonal system and that was why she had breast cancer some years back. It is in remission now. She talked about the awful engorgement and the pain, but there was no choice. They only had 4 weeks maternity leave then. And she even went back to work earlier than that because they urgently needed her back. She worked in a hotel then.

Dh was much more fortunate. He was born when my mil had finally quit her job because it was just too difficult to raise the kids and work. Her job was very demanding then.

My mom had always been a SAHM, so she wasn't affected by the govt policies then.

For us, we wanted to have 4 kids before we had any. After having ds1, it was still agreed, 4 is good. After we had ds2 and then began this moving around... we are thinking 4 is too many. And as we are moving around, we are getting older. Kids require a lot of energy. I am tempted to try again.. I know children are God's blessing and I would still love the child if it were a boy again but I am just afraid I cannot cope if it is yet again a boy!

So, until I can get over the exhaustion of running, jumping and caring for these 2 boys, we'll not be taking further steps yet. Furthermore, we are in an unfamiliar land yet again and I do not know where and how I should deliver another baby here. Not having family here for additional support is also a disadvantage.

We'll see. If there are news, I will definitely post about it. :-)

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

12:34 AM
Someone sent me a link to a youtube video of Hwa Chong.

After viewing that video clip on how the Hwa Chong school song came about, I was drawn to all the other links, and found myself reviewing all the orientations, and activities I went through, myself as a student 14 yrs ago and then from 2001-2006 as a teacher. Many memories starting flooding through me, and I began to miss hc so much.

Will post some links here for all my ex-classmates, ex-students and colleagues who similarly miss those days in the past.

1. The School's official video (in english), shot in 2005 i think? Correct me if I am wrong, Danielle.

Nice seeing former students Xiz, Stef etc in the video, and Danielle as well. :-)

The Chinese video's URL:
Chinese video is actually longer, cos there are longer student testimonials at the 7min mark? Any other differences?

Ignore the many immature comments on Youtube though. Even kids' clips have vulgarities at the comments area. That's the ugly side.

2. How the Hwa Chong school song came about.
It's actually a very popular school/ college song throughout USA (eg Cornell), China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and featured in a movie as well.

Dh said he did tell his students the tune was from American origin when he taught the school song to them in Sec 1. I always thought it was chinese in origin because it just sounded so chinese-y. haha. It was even used for an impt historic event in USA.

1857, written by Boston songwriter Henry Thompson. Original song entitled Annie Lisle, a ballad.

3. Couldn't find orientation of my 1st batch, 2001's students. This is the 2003 batch's orientation video, and interestingly, it featured a lot of my class' students. Ds1 could point out "kor kor Benedict"! Because at the Plaza Sing gathering of my ex-students and my kids and I, Ben was the one who did silly crazy things with him and played Ultraman with him throughout the dinner at Manhattan Fish Market. haha.


4. Many other videos will pop out as related videos when you view the above clips.

5. This is a really FUNNY one. Dh laughed loudly when I asked him to come view it.
For those not in the know, the male teacher is a well-known figure- the head of discipline in HC. ie, the "fiercest" of all the discipline teachers.

Is that guy student Wee ming? He looks very much like the 03S79 student I taught, but I am not sure because the video looks much more recent.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 ;
1:22 AM
Hmm, I have a question.

Just what language do Singaporeans speak?

When we moved to Utah, people were surprised that we could speak English, and even complimented us that our English standard is very high. They thought we spoke Mandarin or some Chinese dialect.

Now, in Tianjin, we have met several people who are surprised we can speak Mandarin.

My ayi is one example. She said the housing agent asked if she can work for us, and upon hearing we are Singaporeans, she said she can't work for us because if there is a language barrier then it would be really tough to understand what her job scope is. When the housing agent informed her that I could speak Mandarin, she was still doubtful and came for a scouting visit. It was only after we communicated that Sat morn that she decided to take up the job.

She already expressed surprise in me being able to speak in Mandarin, and then when ds1 appeared and greeted her "Ayi, ni hao" (how do you do), she exclaimed: "啊, 你的孩子也会说国语 吗?
(What? Your son can also speak Mandarin?)
She said she thought Singaporeans don't speak Mandarin.

Hmmm, ok, so now I am very confused. What language does the world think we speak?

Fortunately when I go to Malaysia and speak in my hesitant Bahasa Melayu, they don't question me and ask why I should know Malay. :-) That's cos a lot of Malaysian Chinese speak that.

And yes, everyday, we really really get asked about our kids being twins. On Sat when we took a cab out to Carrefour, the driver asked us "他们 是一对 儿的 吗?
("are they a pair?")

On Sun when we took a cab to Little Korea to try another Korean restaurant, the cab driver asked us, "他们是双生 吗?
("are they twins?")

After Dh answered no, he proceeded to tell us that only Chinese in the rural areas can have 2 kids, if the elder one happen to be a girl. That's cos they need manpower in the farms and couples will then be allowed to try again for a boy, but only when the elder one is 12 years old. Not sure if that is really true, because each cab driver has his own stories to tell. But he said the rationale was to make sure the parents won't have too many fertile years to keep trying. He also said couples are encouraged not to marry too young, so that they'll naturally only want 1 child, since most would already be in their 30s.

Thus, he said he was surprised that our kids didn't look like they're 12 years apart, and yet are not twins. We've always have to explain we're not locals. We don't like doing that so often, because we don't want to be treated as tourists and be overcharged. Like one cab driver who took us from Carrefour back home did not turn on his meter and we didn't notice because so far all drivers did. (had been warned before to make sure drivers turn meters on)

So when we reached home and he said 40rmb (S$8) for the ride, we were very shocked. We took a cab out, same distance, and it cost only 26rmb. That was when we noticed there was no meter reading. No choice, can't dispute, and Dh doesn't like to quarrel with strangers so we paid. But now we'll be very careful.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Saturday, August 23, 2008 ;
1:59 AM
1. Taken on Monday, after visiting the doc regarding ds2's rash.
That's the TJ TV tower, supposedly 6th tallest TV tower in the world?
That's dh pushing ds2 in the stroller in the foreground. Since the pavements are not stroller-friendly, Dh took to pushing the stroller on the road, beside all the cyclists.

Quite dangerous. But no choice. Looks like the stroller is useful for me only for walks around our apt complex, and within the airport. It is always super useful for me in airports because no trolleys are allowed within the security area, and we always have so many heavy carry-on bags, instruments and jackets.

Most malls here are super crowded too. In Spore, malls are crowded but at least there are lifts to get to different levels. I haven't found any at RT-mart and other malls yet.

No wonder a lot of people will stop to stare at our stroller. We've become a rarity.
You can still take the MRT or bus in spore with a stroller, but definitely not here. So basically most people with babies either don't travel much or walk long distances with babies, or they'll sling them. I saw Baby Bjorn carriers a few times already.

2. The kids and their S$3 haircuts. Cheap, fast and convenient. Wow, looks like I need not cut Dh's and their hair ever again!

Used to spend a lot of time cutting their hair, then later showering for them, and then sweeping up all the hair on the ground. Also had to brush and clean the Phillips hair shaver later too.

They even washed both kids' hair first as well! see pic below with their wet spiky hair.

Had let them watch H's sons in the morning already. Then I let ds1 go first, because ds1 was not likely to cry, while ds2 might, so it would be good to let ds2 see it was a good experience.
Then when ds1 was done and he was still getting off his chair, being brushed down by the nice and friendly hairstylist, ds2 sensed it was his doomstime. He kept pulling my hand and saying "Let's go to the playground now" and "I want to go home".

Fortunately the nice hairstylist carried him, and talked to him. Although it was all in Chinese, and ds2 probably didn't understand the rapid-fire Chinese, he still felt this guy is probably someone nice. He allowed himself to be placed on the chair, had the plastic draped around him and had his hair cut.

Phew! Big relief. He did use a small squeaky voice to plead saying "mummy i want to go home fast", and whined about the playground for a while. Because I did promise to bring them to the playground once their hair was cut. But he didn't bawl or wail or struggle, so that was a great relief for me.

When it was time to use the electric razor on the side burns, he kept cringing away, so the guy seeked my help in holding his head still. That was about all. He did not protest or struggle, so the haircut was over in a few minutes. Ahhh, I was so happy.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Friday, August 22, 2008 ;
10:39 PM
Some pics of daily life around here:

1. The effect of having the spouse at home for most of the day.

Currently, Dh still has unfixed work hours, because he is busy stocking and refurbishing the factory. They're renting a factory space and it has some basic equipment already but Dh has to buy a lot of stuff to make it function-able. So most days, he goes out to meet suppliers, work partners, and to wholesale places to get lighting, furniture, electricals and tools.

Most times, he goes out in the morning then comes back for lunch, and goes out again till dinner time. At night, he'll be on the phone or computer, linking up with the bosses in USA, updating them and getting further instructions.

Once his bosses arrive in China in a week or two, he'll be really busy. So I shall treasure this time.

Pluses: He helps out a lot with the housework. He has been in charge of mopping the whole apartment so far, and I decided I should take a pic of that. In case, in future, I get disgruntled about his long working hours again, and complain about him not helping out at home, I should look at this pic. haha.

And I think that happens to be the 1st pic of the apt's interior? So yes, that's the dining area, and where we placed the piano.

This area is continuous with the living room. Will post pics when I have decent ones taken.

The other plus point is: I get to go out with H to buy groceries and other essentials without the kids. Since setting up the home requires bulky purchases, it's been most useful NOT to have the kids around.

And, hehe, when I had a headache yesterday, Dh went to the wet market with H instead, and when he got home, he cooked. :-)

Having Dh around for all meal times means that I have to prepare all meals with a lot more effort. With only the kids and me, we tend to eat simply for lunches. I only prepare proper dishes for dinner in the past.

Dh tends to be a little more intolerant of noise and nonsense from the kids, so the kids get scolded a lot more now. Besides their rough-housing, they also like to play with tools and knick knacks around the house. Since I am very busy with cleaning the whole area, and setting up some kind of organisation, I just leave them to their own devices. So they may be cutting up their play dough into a million pieces at their play area, or playing with the flashlight, or the battery-operated hand-held fan that Charlene gave them.

Dh does not like the playdough pieces, the shining of the flashlight everywhere, incl into their eyes, and the usage of things that are not for the correct purpose. Eg, using the fan's whirring plastic blades to "cut" and entangle things. I mean, I also think there is a time for every activity and a purpose for everything.... but I do close my eye to some mess sometimes and just make sure they clear it up later. As a result, they get scolded a lot more with dh at home, haha.

When ds2 comes running to me to complain or whine after being scolded, I'll stand on Dh's side of course. Ds1 will usually just sulk, he's past the stage of running to me crying.

Ahh, I'm just waiting for a normal routine to kick in. Too chaotic a life is not good too.

2. Our kids have been playing a lot with H's kids, since it is the summer hols for H's kids too. Either ds1 will pop over their house (ds2 is still sticky and usually will stay home with me), or H's boys will come over to mine (more frequently that way). Being boys, and similar in age and interests, they really hit of very well. Often, the longer they play together, the more rowdy and boisterious they'll be.

We've invited the whole family over 2x so far. Once for the Olympics opening ceremony, and the other time for Spore's women's table tennis team finals, cum Malaysia's Men's badminton singles finals, both on the same night, one after the other. The adults will watch the match, and munch on goodies, while the kids play together.

The 4 of them can really create a ruckus. They were climbing all over the bunk bed in our study room, and pretending to be pirates for a while, with the bed as the ship, and then later as train engineers (Thomas the tank engine?) with the bed as the train.

I noticed, both dads have lower tolerance for noise. It'd be Dh and H's hubby who will get very irritated and scold the kids. Perhaps the mom's threshold has been shifted higher due to being with the kids 24/7.

Last Saturday evening, we also went out to Nankai district (university district here) to eat at a Hong Kong restaurant. H's hubby Lui drove, Dh and ds2 sat in front, H, me, and 3 boys sat behind. I guess, it's only possible here. In Spore, the traffic police will say hi to me once I get out on the road. (Oh, and the taxis have no rear seat belts at all, so far. and that's another long story).

So far, for us Sporeans and them Malaysians, we still prefer the southern chinese cuisine to the northern one (Tianjin falls under northern china). So H's recommendations have so far been very suitable to our palate. This place serves very nice Japanese curry, and beef and we drank Yuanyang milk tea too. Very nice.

Below is the group pic. ds1 enjoyed having the curry (not very spicy) all over his rice, while ds2 didn't want any curry on his rice at all. But both still ate quite a fair amount. So we will definitely become regular customers! Prices are very reasonable too.

Dh managed to give them a treat, almost was paid by H again! They have helped us so much! We should thank them properly.

After the dinner, we proceeded for a city tour, thanks to tour guide Lui. Wow, having this tour made it more positive for me to be here on a long term basis.

Suddenly my horizons were broadened, and I realised I probably can slowly explore more of this very big city. The city center is just like Spore or SLC, with all the big names and big signs. LV, Zara, Armani etc American, European brands... all there. Carrefour, Walmart, Isetan, Parkson, Tesco... Starbucks, KFC, Mac. Our place is a little far off, but just seeing familiar things made me feel better.

Passed by a number of parks and big wide TV screens where many people were gathered to watch the Olympic events together.

Then Lui brought us to the 古文化街 (Old Culture Street) area. Beautiful buildings. There were a couple of bridges and a musical fountain performance was underway. We strolled across the bridge together, and watched the musical fountain, then walked along the river for some distance. There were people playing badminton along the riverside, rollerblading, rollerskating, and even ballroom dancing! Seems like a nice community congregation area.

3. On Sunday, after our own family worship in the morning, we went to the nearby Korea Town for lunch. H recommended this place that sells very cheap but authentic Korean food. Her Korean friends said it tasted good too.

It was really much cheaper than Spore's Korean places. We were stuffed to our brim with the free-flow and really free appetizers (seen in photo below). We liked the tofu, fermented soy bean strips, and pickled beef best. Ds1 loved the pumpkin porridge with tangyuan/ muah chee kind of glutinous rice bits in it. He loved it so much, he ate up ds2's share too.

ds2 was too busy playing with his cute little chair on the floor (Korean style). He has never sat like that on the floor to eat before, so he was very engrossed with the mini-chairs and tables.

We didn't know there'd be so many appetizers, so we were already quite full before the main course arrived. That was the only thing we ordered. But it is sooo huge!

Look at the beef noodle steamboat set. There were so many ingredients and so much noodles! There were a lot of veggies and beef in the steamboat already, but we had another plate of tempura veggies too. So in the end, they packed up the tempura for us "to-go".

The total cost was less than S$18 for our family of four. To think, it would've cost even less, because we had too much food already.

H says, it's no wonder a lot of Koreans come here and settle here for good. They've got a big community here, lots of their own cuisine, and movies and their own supermarkets (e-mart is Korean-owned). The Korean food is authentic, and much cheaper than back in their own country. They can afford full-time ayis here (back home it is very costly for them), send kids to international schools, have chauffeurs... Back home, the women have to work, here, they are tai-tais.

For us, we still miss home too much. We can only hope the Eco-city that Spore is building with Tianjin quickly progresses and bring many more Sporeans here, so that the restaurants, food, daily stuff will all follow. That'll make more things we love readily available and drive prices down. We also wish for a direct SQ flight from TJ to Spore.

4. Our daily meals. Same old stuff over and over again, especially since I have to cook a lot for both lunch and dinner, I tend to split the same kind of veggies up, and cook one batch for lunch in a certain way, then modify a little and cook the same veggie in another way for dinner.

A lot of veggie soup during the days ds2 had the bad rash. He likes it all over his rice, and it is supposed to help clear his skin?

I haven't been buying a lot of meat too, cos I don't dare to. I see the meat slabs lying all over the wet market, and am afraid we are not used to the hygiene level, so I'm trying to gradually increase intake. So for some meals, we really go vegetarian. No meat at all. Sometimes I just stir fry some tofu.

5. Ds1 cried when we went to KFC and didn't get to eat his favorite of all time- mashed potato. The 1st 2 times we went, Dh ordered food and he said there wasn't any on the menu.

The 3rd time I brought kids alone with H and her kids. She pointed out to the 鸡汁土豆泥 and said that's mashed potato! No wonder Dh thought there wasn't any here. There were no pictures of mash potato, and their meal bundles had no mash potato, unlike in Utah or Spore. Probably not popular here.

Dh would be thinking of potato as 马铃薯 instead. That's what most Sporeans call the potato in chinese.

Ahh, all chinese, but so much difference too.
We've a lot to learn!

Ds1 was ecstatic, but that probably led to a bigger fall in his emotions. To yearn for something so much, and not get it, later to find you can get it, and then you got it, only to realise it is not what you want... that was too much for him to take. His tears started rolling down his cheeks. He didn't cry loudly, it was the painful sadness kind of tears.

I was quite irritated and unsympathetic then, actually, because we were in public and for him to cry over a trivial mash potato seemed childish.

He claimed it tasted totally different. I tried it. Hmm, indeed, they used different spices. The gravy tasted different, and the potatoes they use must be a different kind too. It was fluffy and creamy but lumpy.

Ds1 didn't want anymore, so I packed it home for Dh to try later that evening. Dh even spat out what he put in the mouth. Sigh.

So the next day, I made mash potato for him.
(pic below).

He was so touched, because he saw me mashing it manually with a fork. It took very long to get a creamy consistency. I didn't have my blender or mincer with me. It's still in the boxes from Utah.

He helped some too, which made him realise it was hard work. Haha.

The look of respect, admiration, love and gratitude he had in his eyes, as he tasted it and told me "mom, you're the best in the world! and this mash potato is the best in the whole world, better than KFC's. and i love you the best in the world!"

Guess what? I made it again the next day and the next. Haha, just to hear those words a few more times. :-)

6. Remember how I said I am the family's rubbish bin? Cos I have to finish up any leftovers?

Well, now I have some help with the rice. I used to lick up every grain from the rice cooker in Utah, because rice is expensive there. Here, there is a wide range of prices. If I insisted on buying Thai white jasmine rice (the long grains) then it is very expensive. So we've been eating medium grains, local-grown rice.

I still have the habit of licking up remaining rice, and the kids have often seen me eating off the rice scoop. Now they fight over this job of finishing up the last grains. Totally fine with me!

It was very funny, and I stood one side laughing. People will think they are starving kids. The way they fight over a few grains. Ds2 will be shouting "my turn, my turn!" impatiently when ds1 is eating his mouthful.

So now, I've left more rice in the pot on purpose to let them have more to chew on.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Thursday, August 21, 2008 ;
10:18 PM
1. Something new we learnt today.

We have to "just do it".

Case example:
We took a cab to Home Depot/ Home World nearby this afternoon, to get ourselves an ironing board, some shelving units, kitchen cleaning aids and other smaller misc items.

We brought ds2 out in the stroller cos it was around his naptime.

After paying for the items, we rolled out shopping trolley out to the taxi queue where there was a line of taxis waiting for us. The 1st driver took a look at our ironing board (longest item, albeit flat one), 2 shorter boxes of shelves, a mop, the stroller with a sleeping ds2 and our "large-sized" family, and told us flatly that his cab won't be able to take us.

We told him that the ironing board can go into the back seat with us, the rest of the items can fit comfortably in his boot. (Come on, we'd done such packing of items countless times in Spore and USA, at Home Depot or at Ikea).

He still refused, and was pretty rude. We turned to the next driver in line, who also agreed with the 1st one and said, no way. We won't have any space to sit if we put the ironing board in the back seat. The thing is, why?? Me, ds1 and ds2 in back seat, dh in front seat. Ironing board is so flat, it'll rest comfortably at our feet.

Dh said in Chinese, "Shi shi kan ba" (let's try it).

The 1st one rudely and flatly refused, asking us to try anyone else, they'd all agree with him.

What choice do we have? We know they want us to split cabs, so both can earn more. But Dh is willing to pay more if they really think they are so inconvenienced.

We just decided, don't care, just do it.

So Dh carried ds2 up from the stroller. He was still asleep. I folded up the stroller and indicated to the 2nd driver to open up the boot. He did. He's probably more of a puppet than the 1st one, so he was willing to let us try? The first driver was obviously the instigator.

Then me and kids went into the cab's rear seats. Dh tried to fit ironing board into boot, cannot, so he slotted it easily into the back seat with us. It had sooooo much space left! We bought the cheapest ironing board in Home Depot lor, of course it is not the big bulky type. There was still so much room for our legs!

The rest of the smaller boxes and items fit easily into the boot.

We got back home safely, comfortably and easily.

Fortunately we didn't give in and take 2 cabs. Dh said, in China, the person who speaks the loudest will get his way. Meaning, sometimes you just have to bulldoze your way through, if you feel you are right?

Throughout the ride (only 10min), the driver was civil (probably apologetic), and when we reached, he did come out to help with the stuff.

Dh said if he had not been in cahoots with the 1st driver initially, he was prepared to tip him even more. The final trip fare was 13 rmb (S$2.15?) and Dh would've given him 20 rmb. But he gave 15 rmb instead.

Still, the guy was extremely grateful. He said thank you about 5 times, profusely.

2. Difference from USA: there is no tipping culture here. They will even refuse tips. In USA or Mexico, it is expected. If you don't or forget to tip, they will ask you for it.
In Spore, tipping is not expected, but if you tip, they'll still accept it.

The guy who delivered gallons of water to us the other day refused a tip. The people at the airport too. The guy who opened our doors and carried our stroller out for us at the Sheraton Hotel and then gave us directions to the International Clinic also refused his tip.

3. Tianjin is very good in conservation where plastic is involved. In Singapore, plastic bags have just recently been given out more conservatively. But in Tianjin, there is a total ban.

So at all supermarkets and shopping places, we bring our own reuseable bags and put our purchases within. If you forget, you pay a price for each bag. Not just on Wednesdays like in Singapore but everyday.

In Utah, as far as I know, most places will still give out plastic bags freely.

Europe and Australia is more into conservation, I think, from our last visits many years ago. Sales people were already asking us if we can do without plastic bags. Or they'll use paper bags.

4. Toilets are still not that great. I heard there has been great improvement since preparation for the Olympics began in 2000? But I have used public toilets twice, at big hypermarts and at Home World.

Both times, the stench was overwhelming, the cubicles were very wet, there was no toilet paper in sight, and there would be litter around.

No wonder Dh keeps his pee in his bladder the whole day. I was so shocked the first day he went out for work the whole day last week, came home, rushed to the toilet and peed for a really long time. He said it's his first pee in the whole day. That is very bad. We need a solution.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 ;
4:42 PM
Misc post-

1. Reply to Phebe:

Sea salt vs refined table salt:

Sea salt is obtained from the evaporation of sea water, while refined table salt is normally kiln-dried salt with anti-caking agents added to it. Trace minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium are removed in the processing.

These minerals are useful in keeping the body's electrolytes in balance, in addition to other nutritional benefits.

Ok this other part I am not that sure, because some sea salts have been blamed for not being true sea salts too. But kiln-drying supposedly involves scorching salt at high heat to remove moisture, but ends up with an unnatural product that is harsh to the body, being the main culprit of hypertension, kidney disease, heart problems and eczema.

Apparently, salt in the sea water forms as a complex and is absorbed in a beneficial way by the body. Just like how breast milk is better absorbed by babies than formula, and how vitamin C in citrus fruits are better absorbed than the supplement pills you find in the pharmacy.

Other than that, a lot of refined table salt here, I noticed, are iodized. I don't like more iodine in my diet because I feel, our normal diet contains a lot of iodine already. Besides, my kids are both very thin, and somehow I think, the more iodine we consume, the higher their metabolic rate, which I don't need.

finally, the taste is better, and this is the subjective part. So I just like it. :-) Like how I prefer coke to pepsi.

2. Reply to Jess and all those who asked about ds2.

Thankfully, he has recovered. The past few days were terrible for him and us. He'd be having fitful sleep and waking many times in the night, scratching and crying.

It actually spread from arms and legs to torso, bum, scalp, face, everywhere, even earlobes and the folds of the butt!

The rashes also varied greatly from little red bumps, flat big red patches, raised big patches (like insect bites) and those bulls-eye kind (raised red border on the outside, central white clearing, and punctum in the middle). The raised ones gave him most grief. They itched like mad and we couldn't find calamine lotion at all the pharmacies we went to.

On Sat, he had many worm-like and squiggly kind of raised rashes too. And on Sun, his tongue and roof of mouth had those bulls-eye kind of rash! it looked so scary, so we brought him to see doc on Mon.

We were advised not to bring him to the local hospitals (they don't have clinics here, only hospitals) because of the long wait, and language barrier. It would be hard for us to explain to them the symptoms, to ask Qs and to understand the diagnosis or prescriptions. Also, they might not be familiar with kids being unused to their environment.

So we went to the International SOS clinic. They hire expat docs, english-speaking pharmacist and nurses. But they charge US$200 consultation fees. No choice, we just need to know if ds2 was just allergic or having something more serious.

It was worth it. Service was good, there was no wait, and Dh managed to get a free coffee from the complimentary beverage machine there. And we got a 30min consultation, the doc's email address and phone number.

To cut long story short, ds2 was diagnosed with allergic dermatitis, and some kind of glandular fever possibly caused by a virus, cos his lymph nodes and tonsils were also swollen.

We were given oral anti-histamines and a cryptoheptidine cream for allergic and contact dermatitis.

Monday night, I applied the cream for him as he itched badly, and that night he slept so soundly! The next morning, his rashes had subsided greatly. His tongue was the latest area to be affected so those on the tongue were still present. By today (Wed) most were gone.

So thankful for that. The doc just called to ask us about his condition.

3. Other updates

Dh's salary got in already, so we are going to get kids' schooling registered, pay up school fees (over here, both local and international schools collect fees by the year, or at most, half-yearly); get more essential household stuff, and I've hired an ayi!

Domestic helpers are called ayis here, as in a-yi (chinese for auntie). Their fees are very very reasonable and since I do need the extra help, we decided to go for it. The amount of help you get from them can vary a lot, from having them come early in the morning till night, every day of the week, to just a couple of hours a week.

We decided that we needed help with the things I either like to put off, or are too time-consuming. So some of those chores include ironing, cleaning toilets, scrubbing stove etc.
I thought once a week would be sufficient, but our housing agent said that'd be tough to find, so I agreed to 2 afternoons a week. She said it'd be around 400 rmb (S$80) a month.

After sourcing for more than a week, she called back to say most people found our place too far off from the city center (most of them cycle) and she could only find one lady in her 40s who is 朝鲜族 (north korean). She asked if it was ok with me. I thought, that doesn't sound negative at all, why the hesitancy in her tone of voice. I said fine.

On Sat, the ayi came over to meet me. She took a look at the whole house and wanted to see my whole family. When she saw ds2, and then ds1, she remarked, wow, 2 kids, hmm. Then we discussed her fees. She said my family size is large (compared to those in spore, no way! or those in Utah!) and my house is too big. Furthermore, her schedule now has 3 afternoons empty (mon wed fri) and if I engage her for only 2 afternoons, it is very difficult for her to fill up the last afternoon. She asked if she can come 3x a week instead.

The soft-hearted me agreed. Then she said she has to charge 800 rmb in this case. I expressed surprise but she said the rate is like that. Later, H told me her Korean friend engaged an ayi to come all full 5 days of the week, and she charged her 1100 rmb 2 years ago. Every year, they are supposed to get a raise too.

I also found out later still, that the more experienced (those in 40s), and the 朝鲜族 command higher pay. Ahh, no wonder.

So now I got a top-notch ayi huh!

She's very nice though, today's her first day here. Will update more.

Now going to bring kids out with Dh to get their haircut. This will be ds1's 1st paid haircut in 3+ years, and only his 2nd in his whole life. And this will be ds2's very 1st haircut at the barber's.

The silver lining about living here? Probably the price of haircuts. haha. Each of them will pay only 15 rmb (S$3) for their haircuts. So why should I need to trouble myself to cut their hair ever again? haha.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 ;
8:27 PM
Promised some pics of the apt and surroundings.

This one below was taken on the evening we arrived. Reached the apt from airport in 2 cabs. Landlady and housing agent met us there. Landlady bought this huge bouquet of lilies to welcome us. The fragrance lasted at least 5 days. :-)

This was taken on Sat, the first time we brought both of them out together. The first couple of days after we arrived happened to be very hazy and warm summer days. So the air quality was very poor.

The kids enjoyed running outside though, and ran and skipped all the way from our apt block to the main entrance where we were going to take a cab.

The trees that line the small streets have noisy residents. Thousands of cicadas inhabit those trees. The first morning, I was wondering why I kept hearing the sounds of water falling from somewhere. After we opened the windows, we realised they were sounds of the cicadas. They can be really really loud, and Dh even caught one for the kids to observe and then let it go again.

There were also hundreds of cicada moults on the tree trunk, so we can see the different stages of the cicada life cycle. What pattern of growth is this, my bio students? Allometric or isometric growth? :-)

Our first meal at home: after I finally bought plates, bowls, cutlery, a knife, a chopping board, one pot, one pan, 2 spoons, 2 forks.

We even had to take turns eating cos we had only 2 spoons. Reason being: we only exchanged this fixed sum of money into renminbi, and dh has not received his first paycheck over here yet. So our funds had to be spread out over all the essentials, and there was not a single thing in the apt, besides the bigger furniture.

So this meal was really hard to come by. Had never worked with so few things before. Like, I fried an egg for the kids in the frying pan, then I had to wash the pan, wash the bowl used to beat the eggs, then use bowl to collect chopped garlic and another plate for the washed and cut veggies. Then use same pan to fry xiaobaicai. Wash plate up to put cooked xiaobaicai. Man, we did so much washing cos we only had those few plates/ bowls.

Used to have 4 frying pans, 2 woks. haha, all diff sized. And many different knives for different purposes too. But now, after chopping garlic, even though I washed the knife clean, and after dinner cut the pear and peach (courtesy of H) up for dessert, Dh complained that the pear slices tasted of garlic. No choice lor. Still have to swallow the weird-tasting garlic-pear.

Oh yes, our dear friend H supplied us with the chilli padi too. We chopped a little up for the soy sauce, so nice.

Soy sauce also. I didn't have too much money for condiments and sauces. So I thought hard, what are the most essential. Got normal cooking oil, salt, light soy sauce, sesame oil only. Later on, for the rest of the week, I so missed my black pepper, mushroom oyster sauce, olive oil, cooking wine... And when I cooked soy sauce chicken, I realised I am missing dark soy sauce! Argh!

So I bought those items (minus the wine) this week. Hehe. Happier now. The kids too, cried for their Cheerios and got it. Those were our rare splurges -- to reduce homesickness and misery. Cheerios cost S$16 per normal box, can faint. My normal sized bottle of Olive oil cost S$20. Can't find my usual sea salt, so no choice, bought normal salt.

Dh asked his bosses if they can bring some Cheerios and Goldfish (baked cheese snacks the kids love, cost S$12 a packet here) over when they come for business trip. They said no problem, so we'll wait eagerly. If any of you are visiting us, I'll pass you a list to bring too! I also know better what to stuff my luggage with, when I return to Spore for a visit.

Of course, we are also trying to shift away from cereal/ milk and bread/ jam breakfasts. Cos it will be too hard to continue that lifestyle. A decent loaf of bread costs a lot here, and it is so difficult to find bread that feels and tastes like Gardenia. Jam is terribly expensive, so we didn't buy any. Fortunately I brought some Ya Kun Kaya over, so we're good for now. Cereal is what I didn't expect to be so rare over here, so I didn't pack any.

Dh and I decided, more la mian and mantou for breakfast from now on. Those are everywhere.

Pics below: the backyard of our block. Kids playing badminton with Dh. We brought our own rackets. Shuttlecock borrowed from H. H is not our direct neighbor, but close enough. In this complex, there are different clusters called XX Yuan (Garden). So we are in YY Yuan while H is in ZZ Yuan. Within each cluster or Yuan, there are various blocks, and the blocks are numbered. So our address is pretty long.

It goes TJ city, Hexi district, XYZ Road, Condo name, YY Yuan, Block X, Unit XXX. Republic of China.

In Utah, it was just the coordinates 123 W, 456N, City name, Utah, USA.

In Spore, it was 1, Jln XYZ, Singapore.

A church friend in TJ said there are only some occurences of blue skies during spring. Can you see the grey skies in the pics above? A little depressing in the morning sometimes. But as usual, after the teething problems, we'll find out more and more good things about the place. And I am confident that we will like it and treat TJ as our home soon.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

6:12 PM
Adjustment and settling down in a new country is never easy. It took us sometime to figure out how the various systems worked in Utah and then now in Tianjin, it is the same.

Dh says it is even tougher to adjust here, and I guess it is so.

After arriving for one week, we have a home set up by now. We only have the bare minimum to get things running but it is sufficient till our boxes from Utah arrive.

However, the kids are getting the worse end of the transition. We went out as a family finally on Saturday 10th Aug. Before that, the kids will play in the apt or just outside. When we go out to buy groceries or DIY stuff for furnishing the place, we'll go out separately so we can find the stuff quickly and carry lots of things without needing hands to carry or hold the kids' hands.

After returning home on Sat, ds2 had fever and started having sore throat then cough. The fever of about 38.4deg subsided on Sunday morning but he has had a lot of phlegm and coughing from then till now. I keep thinking it is the smoke and the pollution.

After that, we went out alone again, till this morning, when we brought them out to check out 2 potential schools. We wanted to see if ds1 had any preference himself.

Now that we are back, it is ds1's turn to run a fever. Argh.... I think it may really be that both of them, having weaker immune systems than us adults, are very susceptible. It could be the water, or the air or the food.

Even though for the first few days, we dutifully bought bottled mineral water for the kids to drink, in the long run, we would still need to use a lot of water for brushing teeth and gargling, for cooking, etc. So I started off letting the kids gargle with tap water after brushing teeth about 3 days after arriving. Then we started boiling tap water to drink instead of buying so much bottled water. I do mix boiled water with bottled for them but Dh and I have been drinking normal water since.

Initially, I cooked noodles and rice using bottled water, but now I just use tap water. When I need to dissolve corn starch with some water to put in my stir-fries, I switched to tap water now.

However, after what happened to ds2, we are thinking maybe to go slow and use purely bottled water first.

His legs and arms broke out in all these spots from tips to ends.

At first, we thought it was more "deadly" kind of mozzies. Even with windows and doors closed, sometimes the insects still fly into the apt, and at night when we sleep, they attack the most. Myself, dh and ds1 had many mozzie bites too, but not so serious.

This is a bug bite that just swelled bigger and bigger until it spanned the whole width of ds2's arm.
These are all the mysterious red spots that filled his fingers right up to the shoulders and armpits. Yes, even in the armpits!

These are those that ranged from the bum right down to his toes.

Basically, the spots were all over his legs.
Some of them were raised quite high.

We ruled out mozzies bites then, after it was so widespread and even in the armpits. Cos mozzies couldn't have gotten into closed armpits to bite, right?

Also, although ds2 has been diaper-free at night since a month ago in Spore, after we got here, he suffered from regression and has started wetting the bed at night, and forgetting to say when he needs to poo during the day. Peeing during the day is still not affected, fortunately. So I have started wearing diapers for him at night. Since the spots reached the back of the bum, it cannot be mozzies.

We ruled out rashes too, cos they're usually smaller and not raised so high? And why not his face, back or stomach? The last time he has rashes from heat, it mostly affected the sweat areas like the neck and back.

I'd never had chicken pox and so we had H, our neighbor here, check the spots out for us, to see if it is chicken pox or measles. She said it was neither.

So, our conclusion is that, must be due to 水土不服 (not used to the environment here). Or sensitivity to some irritant in the bedding or the air? It's very scary to look at though, so we'll still observe for a couple more days and see if we need to bring him to the doc.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Thursday, August 7, 2008 ;
4:51 PM
Must blog about this.

The sink repairman just came. The sink had a hole in it. It wasn't leaking but it was big, unsightly and had rough edges that are sharp. So we requested to install a new one. Landlady agreed and she bought a new one. Looks very good. Installation is included, so the shop sent a guy to install it.

Problem is: the old sink was larger and so when the new sink is installed, there was a gap between the new sink and the wooden cabinet below the sink. It was a curved gap. The pipes were joined ok, and water flowed ok, only it was so weird with the gap and the sink tended to slant downwards as there wasn't any support at the far end where the cabinet top should be.

The guy told us to hang on. Then he went out of our apartment and I saw him searching amongst the bushes and trees outside. He came back after a while, with some wood/ branches. He said he got some "natural materials". He sawed the wood into square pieces, then slot them under the sink to wedge the gap.

Voila, his work is done.

Hmmm.. This is new to me. How very creative.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

2:47 PM
Tianjin, here we come!

The short form for Tianjin is "tj", like for their websites and companies. So for me, it sounds like my blog was created for a mom in tj. haha. And my kids are tj coming to tj.

We just got here, and am busy settling down now. Again it is a totally new experience, with some culture shock, and a steep learning curve. Why so, I will slowly elaborate.

Anyway, we will need to buy a lot of things, even simple ones like spoons, toilet paper, trash bin...
We also need to settle banking, schooling, apartment tenancy and other official matters.

The flight here was alright, despite trying out a new airline to us. The service at the Xiamen and Tianjin airport was extremely pleasant. There were people who offered to carry our luggage, who watched our kids, and ushered us to the front of the queue because we had young kids, and who pushed our luggage trolley from inside the airport right out to the taxi queue. When Dh and I tried to tip them, they refused and said it is part of their job.

Tianjin is an industrial and commercial city, so it is modern and yet very polluted. The air quality is poor and there seems to be a perpetual haze. However, the people are very friendly, and so far, I have had good experiences dealing with them.

The apartment we rented has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. At about 150m2, it is bigger than our flat in Jurong but smaller than the little house in Utah. However, because it is still quite empty now as we haven't bought much, it looks really big and spacious. The kids have been playing badminton in the house, and running up and down the living room like nobody's business.
Because we also do not have a coffee table between the TV and the couch, there is also a big space there for them to wrestle and piggyback each other. They've been rolling around on the floor too.

Only thing is, many of the stuff in the apt are not working well. The landlady hasn't been renting it out for awhile, and the previous occupants did not inform her, it seems. So the washing machine, gas stove, master bedroom toilet sink, common toilet drainage etc all have to be replaced or repaired. Yesterday and today, there are a whole stream of workers and repairmen coming in and out of the apt.

Poor us. We have been eating take-aways or Macs. Our kind friend H (Malaysian who came here because of her hubby's work) has been making us mantou and dinner too. And then, I couldn't wash any dirty laundry, so we've been piling it up indeed.

I've also had brand new experience shopping at the local wet market. A big eye-opener. I have never bought eggs by choosing them from a whole stack singly. The eggs look fresh out of the hen, full of dung and drippy yolk. Some eggs are broken or cracked, so the gooey albumen and all flowed onto other eggs. So we just pick any number we want (freedom of choice- cos i can just buy one if i want), place in a paper bag, then he'll tell me how much.

I bought some xiaobaicai, carrots, potatoes, garlic, onions, ginger etc. Total bill came up to 20RMB (S$4). Wow, not bad!

H has a car and she brought me to 2 supermarkets over the 2 days too, to buy basic stuff. I realised that other stuff are expensive. Boon Lay market for example, would have cheaper stuff of the same quality. I used to think all the kids toys and even those China-made bicycles would be really cheap here, but no, they are not. So it doesn't mean that if it is made-in-China, you get it really cheap here. Sigh, so with the limited amount of money we brought over, we had to prioritise and buy only the very urgent stuff and choose the cheapest of everything.

So I bought only 2 spoons, 2 forks, (no knife, because I had a plastic disposable one from the Xiamen airlines we took)... Bought 2 very cheap pillows, so now the kids share one, me and Dh share one. We also decided we'll eat our meals at separate times, because we have so few spoons. haha.

Waiting now, for Dh's pay to start coming in, and for savings to build up, then we can slowly get more things to make life more normal. H also lent us pillows and cutlery, thanks so much to her. Her transport to and fro places and her advice on what to do in many situations here were also invaluable.

This Friday evening, at 8pm, we have made an appointment already. They'll come over to watch the Olympics opening ceremony with us. H will bake her own pizza and make chicken wings. The kids can play together. Her 2 ds are 5 and 7 yrs old. It'll be so fun, our first "party-like gathering" here.

Ooh, by the way, our landlady is really nice. She agreed to change all the stuff we found faulty. Not only that, she is moving to Chengdu, so she is giving us some of her stuff too. I am looking forward to that, hopefully I don't have to buy much.

She also bought a huge bouquet of lilies to welcome us and stocked our fridge with water and coke. haha.

The TV is huge too. I have never owned such a huge TV set. haha. the kids are spoilt. they are the ones who watch the most TV these 2 days because Dh and I have been running around buying things, unpacking and so on.

Will take some pics to post once we get settled!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Monday, August 4, 2008 ;
1:44 AM

I know I have lots of gaps in my blog now. Need to fill them in once I get settled in China.

My dear friend ZY just passed me the pics for Dh's and my vow renewal ceremony at Downtown East on 21 July 2008 5pm. So here are some pics.

Initially, it was planned as a beach ceremony, and I had already packed all the flower petals, leaves and all in ziploc bags for all the guests to throw and to design their own patterns in the sand. However, we had blessings of showers instead, and so shifted to our wet weather back-up plan.

Dh and ZY found this pavillion. The beautiful bamboo and frangipani trees were a saving grace. Mozzies were abundant though, and they enjoyed a feeding frenzy with all of us in the pavillion.

The same officiating minister (our church minister) as our wedding 7 years ago helped us again. Just our families and 2 more close families from church were invited. We didn't have the time or resources to organise a huge affair this time.

We included our own written vows and then a unity sand ritual. The heart-shaped glass bottle had our names and date hand-engraved on it.

Just between Dh and I, we also set out all the things we want for this family, the marriage and discussed ways to improve and keep it alive and happy.

After the ceremony, we adjourned to the Japanese/ International cuisine buffet restaurant to have dinnner.

Will update more on why we held this reaffirmation of our vows and how it went later!

Flying off in just one day, with a lot more packing to be done.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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