Tuesday, January 20, 2009 ;
8:59 PM
ds1 started getting some bday presents already, from those who were going to travel out of town for the CNY.

This is from his Msian classmate.

Turned out to be a gun inside. At first, I was going to tell ds1 no weapons. But then Dh saw that it is not the normal machine gun toy. It was more scientific, as he called it. Yes, Dh was as excited over it as the boys.

It had a quintain or target board. Hang it somewhere, get the gun and shoot from afar. When you hit the bullseye, there'll be flashing lights, music and the machinery on the target board will spin. The kids love that.

Apart from that, the gun had all the parts (I dunno what to call them!) to aim. You can also adjust the height of the part in front of the gun (also dunno what's the term, only saw Dh explaining to ds1 how to "zero" the gun) and make other adjustments elsewhere too.

I didn't bother with the 3 males fiddling with the gun until Dh was done with the screwdriver that came together with the toy, and asked me to try it. He said he had "zeroed" the gun such that anyone can use it and hit the bullseye with the first shot. As long as I followed his instructions.

Ok, I was game for that. So the target was hung at one end of the house. I had to stand at the kitchen, and that was really really far. I would not be able to aim a basketball at a hoop that far, much less to say the laser gun, at first try. But Dh said it is possible. So with the 2 boys egging me on as well, I followed the instructions Dh was barking out.

First, hold gun, then look through the view finder thingy. Close left eye, use right eye to stare at the white triangle right in front of the gun. Make sure the tip of the triangle is just below the bullseye in the distance. After aligning the gun to that position, pull the trigger and shoot.

Hey! I did it! One shot, and I hit the bullseye! The flashing lights and music really did wonders to boost one's ego. My impression of that toy moved up several notches. So I allowed them to play with it much longer than I would normally tolerate.

The instructions on the box are hilarious though.
Photo below shows the part which says: "Please do not to place levelly, place levelly the quintain to can suffer the outsider influence, and should hang the quintain in the wall."

There are more, about the "gun voice".


I bought the Chinese cap from Dahutong for the boys. And this present is from H, before she left.

It was a Lego set. The kids had so much fun fixing the trebuchet and then playing with it. I allowed him to open his presents first, so that the novelty will be staggered. If he had too many new toys all at once (ie on his actual day), I am afraid he will not make full use of each.

And we also spent part of the weekend making his birthday invites together. It's a Jungle Party.

The back of the leaf reads:
"Join me in an expedition through the jungle at ADDRESS, on the DATE from 10am-12noon.

Please bring along your favourite stuffed jungle animal, and wear explorer gear, if you have any. Practise your wild animal sounds and be ready for a lot of fun!

If you can't fall in, please call the King of the Jungle at XXXX."

I wrote Dh's cell phone no. for XXX. Haha. I have planned out all the games and activities for the day already, and I will make Dh be the Lion. hee hee.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


;
3:16 PM
17 Jan
Sat
2-5pm

ds1 was invited to his classmate's birthday party.

I brought him there, ds2 stayed at home with Dh. We took a cab there, and when we reached, the meter hasn't even jumped yet, it was that near. Ha.

It was too far to walk in the wintry cold, and I had no idea where it was. But the cab meters here take quite a while to jump actually. Anyway I gave him more than the amount on the meter as a tip.

It's a 3.5 storey house, or villa, as they call it here. The classmate's dad is a teacher at the school.

ds1 didn't like the music at first, and he was overwhelmed by the large crowd in the house. Furthermore the theme was Kungfu Panda, so when we arrived, a lot of the kids were wrestling each other and doing a lot of kungfu actions.

Fortunately, he warmed up to it after that, otherwise he would be asking to leave every 5min.

Here he is with Z, his chess club friend. Z is also another teacher's kid. It seemed like all the teachers of the school were there. The Head of School, the Director and their families were all there.

Plus, the mommies and the kids from his class. Wow.

I noticed the balloon colours were the school colours too. And I take my hat off to them for being able to blow up and then tie so many balloons. They were all over the house. Here's ds1 with another female classmate whom he seems to get along pretty well with. She was one of the first few he said he wanted to invite to his own party. I think they were admiring the table decor. There was this 3D model with lollies and suckers arranged over it. Very pretty and eye-catching. Wouldn't be surprised if the mom made it herself, cos she is very good at craft. No chance to ask her at all, cos she was so busy with all the guests!


Another female classmate of his came up to him and held his hand. They then talked happily. When I wanted to take a pic, she was so shy. So funny.

Sigh, notice that all his classmates are taller than him?

There were no planned activities at this party. We just hung around while the kids played. The moms gathered together and talked. We ate some finger food. The kids are here eating some tortilla chips. These are his classmates too, the girl also one of the kids of a teacher in the school.

Lots of families of teachers in the school here. Inevitable here I guess, since this school is one of the few English schools around.

Then came cake cutting. What a beautiful family. The cake was good. We sang the Eng bday songs first, then the bday boy's dad asked for the Chinese version. And then they sang the spanish one.


After we enjoyed the cake, the kids were all gathered together for the pinata striking time.

Each kid had one strike. This is ds1 during his turn. He caused a split in the pinata, earning praise from his teacher (who is also the bday boy's dad). He was so pleased with himself.

The pinata is so lovely right? The mom made it herself.

When everyone had a turn, the pinata was pretty mutilated already. So the bday boy had the last few hits and when the loot came pouring across the floor, it was such a hilarious sight. The kids went mad and wild. There were so many spontaneous shrieks and everyone at once pounced onto the ground.

ds1 always seemed pretty slow during these moments. See, he's one of the few still standing around, wondering what he should do. At every bday party so far, he seems to always have very little bounty to bring home. Almost always one of the least. But he is always very happy cos he seldom get to have so much candy in a day.

There were rulers, erasers and such too, since I saw a lot of the other kids finding those, and they even required 2 bags to hold everything they found. Ds1 had a couple of candy and a spinning top. When he reached home, he voluntarily shared them with ds2. Very glad to see that, cos it's still pretty rare to see him so generous.


His Malaysian classmate followed us home for a short while as his mom would be late in picking him up so she called to ask me to bring him to my place first. I was prepared to take another cab but a German family gave us a ride home. They spoke English, Mandarin and German. So many families here are trilingual!

They are German so their mother tongue is German. They learnt Eng as a 2nd lang. Then they came to China for work, and they picked up Mandarin.

Better make sure my family is effectively bilingual, cos all these families put me to shame. My 3rd lang is languishing and I can't even speak it properly now.

Side note:
In the morning (same day, Sat), we went to Home World (to buy groceries at Vanguard, a supermarket) and saw a stall selling firecrackers, fireworks etc. Many such stalls are having brisk business now.

This pic doesn't show it clearly, but it is under all the red lanterns. I only remembered to take a pic when we were already in a cab on the way home.



According to my ayi, the Han Chinese see the week before the Lunar New Year as 过小年, and it is like the New Year is already here. That explains why the firecrackers went off non-stop since Sun.

Every night, the popping and booming can last till midnight, and in the day, it will continue to go off once in a while too. Every where, from residents in our estate, to other places we go to, everyone seems to be lighting these up. It is getting really festive.

I am tempted to go out and get more varieties, cos we only have the traditional kind, strung in pairs. Let's see if I get the chance.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


Sunday, January 18, 2009 ;
8:55 PM
16 Jan
Fri

On the way to 大胡同 (dahutong)。Another form of taxicabs or for ferrying goods.

Tianjin Dahutong. A street with tons and tons of stalls in buildings or along the roadside, flanking both sides of the street.


Don't be fooled by the modern facade of the buildings. Within them, the stalls are mostly the pasar malam (flea market) type. Very crowded narrow alleys, poor ventilation, haphazard orientation and organisation of stalls and goods, and very noisy. You get the idea. Yet, everyone is very happy, from shopper to stall holder.


I've gone there twice. Once with H and her son. This time with Dh and the boys. Mainly to get some supplies cheaply and in bulk.

It is an experience to shop there. If you're lucky, you can get your stuff very cheaply and it could work well for you. Have to be careful not to end up with very cheap but use-once-have-to-throw stuff.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


;
8:04 PM
16 Jan
Fri

The kids were already dressed, having breakfast and ready to go to the bus stop when a phone call came in. It was 7.20am. The bus comes at 7.35am.

I thought the school wanted to ask me to subteach, as they had called in the mornings before.

No, it was the parent in front of me on the school's emergency phone tree!

She said school is cancelled today cos the school's heating system had some technical fault and could not work.

Surprised and still in a daze, I called the next parent and relayed the message. Then I broke the news to Dh and kids.

The kids did not react with joy or whatever, maybe they were still half asleep?

After that I got 2 more calls, from other moms who just wanted to double check and to confirm the message cos all of us did not expect it. One mom told me her sons had left for school already cos they lived further away from school.

So we brought the kids out. Dh took a morning off from work.

It was nice. We took a cab to Dahutong. Before going to Dahutong, we saw lots of people ice fishing in the river 海河 (Haihe).

We decided to have a walk on the river. This is the first fun thing I did here, I think, haha.

The kids were absolutely thrilled once they learnt that they're walking on the river and that if the ice melted or cracked, they might fall into the icy cold water. Our boys are not those to be scared off by such words. All the more they kept jumping and stomping on the ice. Dh, who is usually very cool in most situations, was shouting to them "enough! enough! Daddy is scared! Daddy doesn't want to fall into icy water!" haha. I wisely stayed far away them, enjoying the walk alone, with no fear of them endangering me.


Then Dh had enough and told me it's my turn to hold their hands. They seemed to think I am the softer one. Cos you can obviously see from the photos that with me, they are hopping and stamping even harder!

Scenery there. Bleak grey winterscape.


People fishing, sitting and waiting on the ice. A lot more watching from the river banks. Trying to catch some action, I guess.



rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


;
4:11 PM
15 Jan
Thur

I took the subway by myself! First time!
I needed to go to Isetan because I had ran out of udon noodles, seaweed and some other Japanese cooking ingredients. The kids love udon noodles and only Isetan carried the nice springy ones. We tried some others that were so disappointing.

In fact, at Sakura restaurant in Spore, the kids happily tucked into the udon they had and didn't want to eat anymore cos the udon they used were mushy and did not have the bite and oomph of the ones they are used to having here.

I buy the udon noodles and mainly make soup noodle dishes with it. I tried fried udon twice but find it quite messy to fry. Sometimes I use it as pasta, pour milk and cheese in it and make something like Mac n Cheese but it's udon noodles instead.

I also had to buy a birthday present for ds1's friend whose birthday was on Sat and he invited ds1 to his party. In Tianjin, it is the accepted norm or maybe unspoken rule that you must get good quality gifts from Isetan.

When H needed to help her hubby buy a lucky draw prize for the company, she headed to Isetan. At previous birthday parties of ds1's classmates, everyone brought gifts in Isetan bags and Isetan gift wrap. I learnt that if you bought gifts anywhere else, they tended to be damaged at first use, and people will think you are not sincere enough or not thoughtful enough. Also, Isetan had a comprehensive kids' dept with a wide variety of high quality toys, mostly imported. Of course, the prices are more expensive than anywhere else in Tianjin, but that is why the Isetan gift wrap and bag means so much.

Unlike in Spore, where there are so many major dept stores, it seems Isetan is the only place to go. And it is so far away from my apt.

If I take cab, it will be expensive (not by Spore stds but still...) and will take a long time since the route snakes through the central district and the jams are notorious. So I took a cab to a subway station and then took the subway to the station where Isetan is.

I was pleasantly surprised. It could be that I took the train at 10am, when it's not so crowded, but even though I had to stand throughout, it was not packed like sardines. Because the trains here are much shorter and smaller than Spore's, and the population numbers much higher, I had expected a worse crowd than in Spore.

The train station was clean, the train was clean, and using the token machine was a breeze. I had to buy a token at the machine. The words are in Chinese, but I think there are English options. It is just that I often cannot understand English instructions here at all, so I rather read the Chinese one slowly. It cost me 2 yuan (S$0.40) for the trip!

The token fell out of the machine after I inserted the cash, and I used the coin-like plastic token to tap the gates. The gates opened and I could enter and access the train platform.

The wait was short and the train arrived shortly.

This is where the joke on me arose. You know in Spore, how the first cabin or last cabin had more space cos most people don't walk all the way to the ends to board the train right?

I did the same thing as I do in Spore all my life, walk from the stairs all the way to the end of the platform to wait there.

Guess what???!!!???
The train arrived and sped past me, stopping way ahead, and the length of the train is much shorter than the length of the tracks exposed to us. Maybe some other stations are shorter, I don't know, or they have long and short trains at different intervals?

But yes, you can visualise me running from the end to where the last cabin was. Fortunately it wasn't too long a distance, but I know I just looked stupid.

This pic shows the subway station and the short train. Their gates are not full length (ceiling to ground) for the underground trains, unlike Spore's.


On the train, it was uneventful and it was easy to alight too. At the gates of my destination, I just slotted the token into the machine and it wasn't returned to me. I think, in this case, for such single trips, this concept is better than Spore's? Cos if I am not wrong, if you wanted a refund for the deposit in your single trip card in Spore after using it, you had to queue to get it? Sounds troublesome to me. I just bought an EZ link card but I know some tourists might not want to pay for that if they are in Spore for a short visit?

Just another sign I saw. Just wondered what people burn in the building that warranted this sign?

By the way, as I am typing now, firecrackers and fireworks had been going on for a few hours already. They start so early??!?

Again, learning the customs here. In winter, a lot of Chinese and Koreans boil a lot of soup from bones, and then freeze them in portions. Koreans especially, have huge freezers for freezing their kimchi, soups and stocks.

My ayi told me to boil more oxtail soup and 牛膀骨汤 (no idea how to translate). She said the other Chinese and Koreans have boiled a lot already and I should boil some too, otherwise I might not have anything to eat during CNY.

Ok, I certainly don't want to starve during the 15 days, so I agreed and asked her to buy the bones for me.

She said the korean butcher ran out of oxtail cos all the koreans bought tons and tons of it. So she ordered Ox knees, Ox joints and Ox leg bones (in Chinese, the 牛膀 thing, I think) from the Korean specialty store for me.

When the delivery guy came, he was obviously Korean, so we didn't talk, just gestured. He pointed to the sum on the invoice, I paid, we bowed to each other and he left. Actually he bowed first, so I thought I should bow in return too.

I looked at the receipt/ invoice. Every word was in Korean except for the price of the bones. Nevermind, my ayi will interpret for me when she comes in the afternoon.

They looked very strange to me. Usually when I do chicken, pork rib or beef soup, there is always meat on the bones. These are basically all bones. Bones alone, with the cartilege here and there. At least, not very fatty. (Saw the huge knee of the Ox for the first time. So solid, hard and heavy!)

Anyway, she taught me how to prepare them. Boy, is it tedious!

here goes:
1. wash the bones. soak in tap water for 1 hour.
2. drain the blood, floating oils and fats.
3. fill the pot of bones with filtered water now. boil vigorously.
4. pour all the "dirty water" away. it has cooked blood clumps and fats and so on in it.
5. use chopsticks to pick out all the bones, place in huge bowl or stainless steel basin to cool.
6. wash the pot thoroughly cos it is coated with a layer of fats and foam. fill with more filtered water. place on stove to boil the water.
7. pick up cooled bones, wash each bone with hand under running water from the filter tap.
8. placed cleaned bones into pot of boiling water.
9. after vigorously boiling, bring it down to a simmer.
10. thereafter begins abt 4hrs of skimming oils and fats off the top layer, all the while still simmering. (ayi had left by then, she had given me instructions to switch off fire only when water level reaches the top of the bones)
11. next day, when the soup cooled completely, there was this layer of solid fat. seriously, it was about 5-6cm thick (or 2 inches). I was totally amazed cos we had removed tons of fat and oils already! I had already been told to remove it by ayi, so I did.
12. Then add more filtered water to the soup, start to boil again. After it is boiling, simmer. Again for 3hrs.
13. Ayi arrived, took a look and said, "hmm, finally the soup has some milky colour, good". we skimmed the top layer again.
14. Next pour out the soup. Leave to cool and refrigerate.
15. Pour filtered water into soup pot still with bones. Now repeat steps 9-12.
16. Combine the soup from 2nd boiling with the first that was refrigerated.
17. Now fill pot of bones with water and repeat steps 9-12 again. Basically it is to obtain 3 batches of soup from the bones.
18. Combine all the cooled and refrigerated soup.
19. Throw all the bones away. Wash the pot. Pour all 3 batches of soup into clean pot. Now boil all 3 batches together and reduce volume of soup to about half to 2/3. It will be a nice thick milky soup base now.
20. Note, nothing else is added. No salt, no other condiments.

According to ayi, that's what the Koreans use for their noodle soup base, rice soups etc.

I was lazy and didn't do 3 batches. But after 2 times, I saw that the bones had hollowed out a lot! Ayi says the bones should be totally clean (all marrow and cartilege dissolved) when they are ready to be thrown. Wow.

This pic shows the bones after 1st batch of soup has been collected. Note the cartilege is still present and there are still quite a lot of fats.

This shows the bones after 2nd batch is collected. The marrow has been pretty much cleaned out huh! Dh devoured the cartilege after "marinating" it with sesame oil, soy sauce (they call it 生抽 here) and dark soy sauce (老抽). He said it was delicious. I don't like cartilege, so I was happy to let him have it all.

We could see the matrix of the bone fragments too. Interesting. That means the soup was made milky by the dissolved bone bits??

After tasting the soup, I realised it tasted a lot like what the instant noodles here taste like. All those with 浓汤 flavour had soup base that looked and tasted a lot like this.

This soup is supposedly very good for keeping you healthy and warm through winter. I think the fats and oils certainly would.

Ayi says most Chinese just put chopped 葱头 (spring onion leaves?) in a bowl, some salt, and pour piping hot soup into the bowl. Then drink it all up at once.

I stir fried some zucchini and carrot with miso paste for dinner that day, together with the soup.



rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


Friday, January 16, 2009 ;
6:48 PM
How do grandmothers feel when a grandson/ daughter arrives?

I just had a similar experience, I think. haha.

My ex-student's wife recently gave birth, in Nov, I think. He is still studying medicine, but had his last paper a few days ago and is now taking care of the baby full time during his hols.

I just saw the baby over skype, initially sleeping very peacefully. The boy still had those suckling lip motions, just like both my boys when they were babies. And then one hand will be resting on the head, just like them too. So funny.

Then he stirred and woke up, and all the while, my student and I were chatting over skype. Then, as I watched him pick the baby up when he woke and cried softly, I suddenly had a lot of emotions rise up in me.

First, the normal mother instinct to want to carry the baby too.
Second, a deep sense of pride in my ex-student, that he had grown up and has been promoted to be a father.
Third, a very weird feeling of being grandmotherly, since that daddy there cradling his son was my student, and I had watched him "grow" and suddenly he is all grown now, a daddy himself. Very hard to describe.
Fourth, a little sadness, because realisation dawned upon me, that if I felt grandmotherly, it meant, I was advancing in years.... hmmm
Finally, happiness and joy, to see my student so proud and happy himself, showing off the adorable baby to me.

(p/s I encouraged him to specialise in paediatrics, since now he can have practicals on his son, he might have an edge over the rest of his classmates. My secret motive is to have more people to approach for free consultations should I need them in future.)

Ok, back to my sons.

Recent months had a big change in ds2. When he turned 3, he was still reluctant to speak much. Rarely in sentences, and mostly unintelligible. He was with me 24/7 and perhaps I understood him too well and very often pre-empt all his needs. So he didn't have much need to talk a lot to convey his wants?

We were already thinking if he had hearing problems, since all the Bible songs, nursery rhymes and stories I sang and read to him seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

Now, suddenly, it's all coming out. He's had a sudden vocabulary explosion, and a sudden willingness to speak. From unclear single words, he is now talking in sentences.

Sometimes, he surprises us when he suddenly sings a song or recites a rhyme that I have not been singing recently. For eg the "Row Row Row Your Boat" song. I used to sing that whenever I changed his diaper when he was a baby, because to get him to lie still, I'd use one hand to row his legs, and pretend he was rowing a boat while singing the song.

After he turned 1, I hardly sang that song anymore. But the other day, he was on the bed getting ready to sleep when he suddenly sang the whole song. I asked him if he learnt or heard it in school and he said no. I wonder if he had retained that memory of the song and it is just only coming out now.

Although when he gets excited, it still comes out in a jumble, but it has been a marked improvement, and we are very glad and relieved for that.

I am not sure if it is hereditary... (Dh said that, because his mom told us that he used to just cry and cry only, as a baby, then suddenly spoke in sentences at 4yrs old. Before that, he didn't talk much.) Or is it because he started attending nursery school and there were teachers, TAs, friends there who didn't understand what he was saying, and to make his needs and wants known, he just had to communicate properly.

Right now, he still has to work on the "l" pronunciation, cos it sounds more like "w". E.g. "Love", "really".

Apart from that, his reading is also improving at a good pace. Every new day, it seems he learns to read many more words and has surprised me in reading the Kindy readers that ds1 brings home. He also likes to read signs he sees on the roads.

ds1 is totally different from him. ds1 spoke very soon, very clearly and could sing back the songs I sang to him very early on too. But he was never so interested in reading all the print around him like his brother. Although I don't make specific records of what he can read at what age, I think ds1 started to read simple books only at 4+ while ds2 started much earlier.

It's nice to have the boys be strong in different areas, I think. Maybe the competition between them won't be so intense.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


Wednesday, January 14, 2009 ;
8:54 AM
The Bible is the best book and reference. I get a lot of answers, guidance and encouragement from it. Especially when I am unsure about the way to bring up the children.

Sometimes I will come across some articles or poems or books that I will find so true also. That I can identify with or relate to very well indeed.

This below, is something I really hope to say to my sons. It is something I have been trying hard to inculcate in them. "If" by Rudyard Kipling.

http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/kipling_ind.html

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!






rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


Sunday, January 11, 2009 ;
9:29 PM
10th Jan
Sat

We finally visited Dh's factory.
It's rather far from our apt, so we have never ventured there before. Also, he had been setting in up in the past few months and it's very dirty and dusty with renovation going on. It had not been fit for visiting earlier, he said.

This Sat morn, he had to retrieve an urgent fax from the office when we were just about to go out for lunch. He received a call from US from his bosses so we had no choice but to detour to his factory office first.

A turn off the main road led to some twists and turns on dirt roads. Most of the buildings there were run down, dingy and some looked so dilapidated they might have been unoccupied for years. No wonder Dh said there was no need for the boys to visit him at work. (In the past in SLC, I used to bring the boys to his work place once in a while cos they love to see him work on the wood.)

In the building itself, it was not too bad. Although dark and musty, it was still clean. There were such signs and posters though, which is common in a lot of public areas.

For non-Chinese readers, it is roughly translated as "united we progress", "creative and sincere/honest"?

The 3-4 storey building is owned by a businessman who deals in music instruments too. So he rents out each level to other businesses. So far, all the tenants, including Dh, all deal with music instruments in one way or another, so it is very convenient for all of them. Dh often have lunches with the bosses and workers of the other companies. He says, "make more contacts".

His level consists of a toilet and several other rooms. This room is his spartan office. So poor thing. He really works with the sole basics. One laptop, one printer cum fax. Bare walls, bare floor (just cement) and that desk is the only piece of furniture in the room.

He is seen here talking to his boss while checking the fax. The kids are looking on in curiosity. They think it is a field trip. haha.


This work station was found in another room. Both boys and I went to open the doors to all the other rooms to take a look while Dh was still on the phone. Both boys at once wanted to use the power drill.

In Utah, Dh used to let the kids handle the power drill to help with setting up furniture and such. They loved it. Today, he was not free at all. So I told the kids, "see no touch".

Another room seems to be the store room. All the huge boxes of bows. Another room had some cellos and violins.


Forgot to take a pic of the many violin cases being sunned on the ground floor of the factory. We saw them as we were entering the building. No one was watching the cases, but no one will attempt to filch some too, I think. People are still rather honest as a whole, in Tianjin.

(Only at busy crowded places like Home Depot where Dh got his motorised tricycle stolen were where exceptions abound?)

The case-maker company was on the top or ground floor, I think.

This is the bicycle (not motorised) that Dh uses around the factory area.
Really very dusty indeed.

Initially, it was worse when Dh was the only employee. He had to work alone on everything. Then he hired one skilled worker, and trained him. Now, he is hiring another worker, this time a lady, and she'll work under that trained guy.

Times are not so good now, globally. Let's hope his hard work setting this up will not be in vain.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


;
4:21 PM
Ayi taught me how to cook the Korean pancake for this week.

The batter was flour mixed with water and egg (somewhat like normal pancakes). The stuff we added in were jiu cai (what's that is English?), carrot, onions and cuttlefish. All cut into strips.

Dh loved it, cos he loves cuttlefish. I like it as a whole cos I like how the onions make it sweet, the jiucai fragrant and the cuttlefish lent texture. The edges were crispy. The kids? They ate off the edges of the pancake, and wherever there wasn't any jiucai or cuttlefish. Wasted on them.

Ayi left the rest of the batter for me to make on my own for dinner. There was so much, so I gave some to my neighbor. She said her younger son loved it. At least her kids appreciated food more than mine! Sigh.

Went to 大胡同 with H and her elder son on Wed (7th) to buy some creepy crawlies in bulk for ds1's jungle party, and some green pails as the kids' goody holder (since they are jungle explorers). Found lots of stuff you could buy in bulk, and therefore very cheap. Think the former Concourse or the current Middle Road shops, but mutiplied by 100. There were at least 100 stalls there. We'd never be able to finish exploring Dahutong in my stay here, even if we are here for 2 yrs.

Lots of stalls were selling CNY decorations already.

Went to Carrefour yesterday (10th) and saw this stall selling paper cutouts. So beautiful. We bought one. They are so skilful, being able to cut out any pattern you want, and with all those intricate details. Now I am afraid that while putting it up on my wall, I may tear it, cos the paper pattern is linked by such narrow and tiny strips of paper.. The design is so delicate...

Remember the bricks I bought at a Korean fair? We (me, ds1, ds2) built the castle halfway, realised we forgot to leave gaps for windows and a gate, then we started to just anyhow build our own buildings after that, without following the instructions.

The boys build rockets, and cannons from the bricks. Took this pic cos I am going to dismantle the whole thing soon (in preparation for CNY and ds1's party).

Must declutter and clear up space for the jungle I plan to recreate in the house for the party!


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


;
3:24 PM
5th Jan
Mon

We had someone from afar come to visit.

Xizzy was an ex-student. I didn't teach her class, but gave lectures and S paper and Olympiad trainings to them as a cohort. She was from the 03 batch. An excellent Bio student and Vice-President of the Students Council for the college.

However, she became my ex-colleague when she was waiting for her A level results.
She taught Bio as a relief tr. She also taught Physics and Chem at different times too, cos she was an all-rounder.

She got a scholarship and is in Germany now for her studies. She travelled all over Europe and the area during her vacations and this time she said she was coming over to China. Turns out her good Uni mate in Germany has relatives in China and invited her to visit China and stay with her. She was in Beijing for a few days and took the high speed train to Tianjin to visit me on the 5th.

I was buying groceries at e-mart when she arrived in Tianjin and called me, so she took the cab to e-mart to meet me and H, then we proceeded to the wet market.

After that we were at my humble abode the whole day. We cooked lunch together, walked out to pick ds2 up from the bus stop, she played with the kids... She brought a chocolate Santa, and 2 pkts of Haribo gummies for the kids. They loved all of it. They would've finished up the gummies at one sitting if they could!

She also sang the Haribo song in German for ds2, quite cute. And read Chinese stories to him. Then when ds2 was napping, she babysat him while I went out to pick ds1 up.

When ds1 got back, she played Battleship on paper with him. They had a lot of fun.

I kept asking her, you sure you don't want to do the touristy thing? She said she just wanted to visit me and play with the kids. I think that's really sweet. That seriously doesn't sound fun to me, but she was content to remain in my apt and just catch up.

The next day, my ayi even asked me, "你那位朋友这么年轻啊!我看你们这么多话说,想必是老朋友,但她又这么年轻啊!” (You and your friend sure have lots to catch up on, like you haven't seen each other for ages! But, erm, your friend looks really young eh?)

I had to explain, yes, xiz was my student, and yes, huh, the age difference shows right? Good for xiz and not so good for me.

We were having too much fun, I forgot to take pics totally.

Here's a pic of the lunch we had, only taken after she left, cos the left overs were for my neighbor H (curry chicken), and for Dh's dinner. Xiz paid for the fruits at the wet market. We tried out the small mandarin oranges and cherries. The kids loved the small mandies so much, I'll buy more this week.


Xizzy can eat a lot. Very healthy appetite. It's nice when you cook a meal and have the guest eat sooo much and go back to get a second helping of rice and tuck in some more.

Finally, she had to leave at 5+pm cos it was getting darker by the min and she needed abt 1.5hrs at least to get home to her friend in Beijing.


This was taken on her cam as I walked her out. She emailed it to me upon reaching Germany. It's nice to have friends visit us from overseas. What a wonderful day.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


Saturday, January 10, 2009 ;
2:36 PM
2nd Jan
5am

Woke up and got ready, even though I slept at 2+am, packing and trying to make sure our luggage didn't exceed the limit.

5.45am, we were in the cab, on the way to Changi Airport. The kids dozed off again in the cab.

We checked in and headed for the family lounge. Along the way, there was this stage and a pirate Mickey. The boys played there for a while.

And they continued playing at the Family Area, while Dh and me sat at Burger King and rested.

After about 8hrs, we arrived in Tianjin. When we reached home, there was a colony of ants in the bedroom. Weird right? It's winter. And we saw bugs and centipedes again.

We hunted for the source and examined the trail of ants. They seem to come from the cracks and holes in the walls.


And we found a new crack in the floor!

Need to call the landlady soon.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


;
12:15 PM
31 Dec
Wed evening

Taman Jurong Food Center.
Dishes sampled (this list not exhaustive, can't remember all the food): fish head curry, nonya prawns, claypot tofu and mixed vegs, fried eggplant, claypot sea cucumber and seafood, oyster omelette...

You know how quickly the kids finish eating, yet the adults are still chatting and eating? Beside our tables was this coin-slot kiddy ride. Should be a familiar to all of you right? Always placed somewhere in food centers or along the neighborhood shops.

Even without any coins in it, the kids could play with it for a long long time. I lost track of time, but we were definitely there for more than 1 hour. They also displayed the very inherent Sporean trait of queueing. Always orderly, even from young. :-)


1st Jan
New Year's Day
Science Center

We were all supposed to explore the Science Center together, all the 8 cousins. But we all arrived at different times and from different parts of Spore. The center is so big, and we didn't bump into each other in the end.

Dh joined the Amazing (g)Race organised by the church youth at Sentosa on whole of Wed until he joined the family clan at dinner and photo-taking in the evening. Then after Bible class on Wed, he joined the church in counting down to the New Year. They played Risk (the new version), and games like "Don't Forget The Lyrics" and so on (very fun), until the wee hours of the morning.

I brought kids home at about 10.15pm to sleep. ds1 did sleep promptly but ds2, who had napped, managed to stay up till people all around the Jurong neighborhood were screaming and shouting and cheering at 12.00mn, so I rushed to the window of the flat and started cheering too. ds2 followed suit, and was screaming at the top of his lungs, "Happy New Year! WOO-HOO! Hurray!".

How can we not scream, since this is the only time (ok maybe CNY eve also) in the year when you can scream and scream at the top of your voice from your flat, and not get caught by the police for disrupting the peace in the neighborhood?

Anyway, Dh returned only at 6+am on New Year's Day (thanks Zhiyang, for sending him home), so by the time he slept, it was 7am. When I got kids ready to go to the science center at 9.30am, he mumbled in his sleep "You all go first."

So that's how we toured the science ctr alone, and that's why he came to Sakura late, at around 1pm.

At the Discovery section of the Science Ctr: ds1 and the funny mirrors.

ds2 and the 4 seasons images. And this very helpful staff member who followed us around and introduced a lot of the exhibits to both ds. She was so friendly! She also asked them many Qs and got them to think about the different exhibits.

ds1 playing with the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. A guy staff member was cleaning out and putting in more feed into all the animal exhibits, so he allowed both ds to hold and feel all the animals. That guy "helpfully" suggested to ds1 to "let your mommy try holding the cockroach. I am sure she would love to have a turn!"

I was like, "Oh, thank you, dear, but you can have a longer turn. Mommy's fine." While shooting a really meaningful glare at the guy (who was laughing). The cockroach didn't look really clean actually, since his arena was being cleaned out, and he hasn't yet been cleaned himself.

The chicks were fun. So fluffy and adorable.

They spent a lot of time at this exhibit too, taking the many marbles and rolling them down the straight and curved paths, trying to find out which would reach the end line faster. (Ans: the curved path, and no, I won't explain it). I told ds1 to read the explanation by himself. Truth is, I read it but can't understand what it meant. It's just the Science center sign that is not clear, ya? Not my brains.

ok, kidding, i think it's about gaining more momentum initially.



rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


;
11:42 AM
1st Jan 2009
Happy New Year!

Sakura at Science Center
Playtime!

The adults were still happily eating at the Japanese buffet restaurant. The kids had their fill already and were outside the restaurant, playing happily too. This green space was terrific. It was just outside the restaurant, accessible by a glass door and from our table, we could supervise the kids as the walls were all transparent glass.

They ran up and down the slope, played piggyback and a host of other games. YL carrying ds2 below. In fact, all the older cousins took turns carrying him. Was it some kind of relay race? Not sure, cos I was tucking into my chicken soup, fried fish, teppanyaki beef and grilled veggies.

Dh had arrived late (see another post for the reason) so he was still eating, but fil was full already and went out to organise this game. He'll point to a landmark (in this case a lamppost), cover the child's eyes and turn him/her around and around in different directions, then while still blindfolded, get them to point at where they think the landmark should be. Sometimes, the results are very funny for the onlookers. They all had fun.

ds1 went first.


Then the rest did. This one is YX. By this time, bil had emerged from the restaurant too.

He, however, was busy giving the kids free helicopter swing rides. Or, free fun fair/ pasar malam kiddy rides. ds1 is the one being swung around here. Bil never fails to get the kids squealing in delight. He can swing real fast. I don't have that kind of strength.

Then 2 kids simultaneously. Even more fun! ds2 and his cousin.


What a lovely gathering on New Year's Day.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


about us ;
-{dear-hubby}- dh
-{dear-son}-ds1 T
-{dear-son}-ds2 J
-{dear-daughter}-dd E
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