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Friday, September 22, 2017

[2044] No Childhood?

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At Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Just some thoughts.

Being the eldest child in my family, I have a more dominant character.  With regards to work, I aim for perfection most of the time, can't tolerate any laziness, would not allow myself to fail because I had to meet my parents' expectations. I had to set the example for my younger sisters and  I was the one getting most of the punishments when we were children because I was the one testing the waters and boundaries with my parents.

I read about all the people who complain how the education system in Singapore is sucking all the "life" and childhood out of the children, who will grow up to be mental. Didn't they go through the same system? Are they saying they are all mental now? I find it hard to understand why they are still in Singapore subjecting their children to this "difficult" childhood if they disagree with it. They can always move to Australia or US if they want to have a relaxed basic education. Being overseas (and with the first child personality), I actually want my child to be subjected to a rigorous education instead of growing up to be a "soft" millenial. (The haters are contradicting themselves daily.. complaining about soft and lazy millenials who cannot take hardship yet complain the system is too hard .. which do you want?!)

Here in Japan, kids have a relaxed education - eg addition of double digits are only taught at Primary 3 level, no writing/reading in kindergarten at all, not much homework but how does this improve their childhood? In waiting areas before external lessons, I hear the kids kicking up a ruckus while waiting for their lessons to begin, complaining they are bored, whining, fussing (yes throwing tantrums from boredom at primary school level...). Simple habits such as bringing a book to read never seem to occur to the parents, even the parents rarely have a book with them, all staring intently through the glass window to view their kids for the whole hour (yes, barely even touching their phones probably because they also have no habit of doing anything constructive while waiting). If we were in Singapore, I can imagine most kids doing their homework while waiting, or reading a book from the library, and most parents would chastise their kid if they complained they were bored ("go do your assessment books!").

The world is not slowing down. Do we want our kids to be at a disadvantage in the future?  The childhood is created by the parents - you can choose to be more involved in educating and spending time with your kids than outsourcing everything to the tuition and enrichment centers from a young age. (The kids' memories will have more of you in them if you are just sitting beside them trying to help them with their schoolwork and projects than you saying bye as you drop them off from venue to venue) Of course, this gets harder and harder to do as the difficulty of schoolwork increases with level, but the child won't forget the time you spent figuring out maths problems together. With the additional time saved from not travelling to lessons, your child can have a "childhood". (Just a generic personal opinion, definitely not comparing situations between different parents and how they do things.)

I admit I'm lucky to be able to be in this WAHM arrangement with bb. Part of not sending her to kindergarten is based on control issues (I don't trust the level of education here after the preschool stint - they place too much emphasis on parents providing money to the school and parental involvement to set up activities for the kids instead of kids doing most of the work with teacher guidance.) Everything is too wayang (see previous post) and bb will definitely not be ready for joining primary school in Singapore, given how advanced most of the preschool books are. Of course if I was a full time working mum outside, this wouldn't happen, I would have to send her off to childcare but I guess a lower income for more time to be part of bb's life is definitely worth it.

So many benefits - money saved from no school fees. Travelling anytime we want without caring about school schedule, although this is somewhat made troublesome by her other lessons. No worries about her social skills, she happily plays with other children, although very competitive (we have to work on this https://www.todaysparent.com/kids/school-age/6-ways-to-help-a-sore-loser/) happily plays with adults who are patient enough to entertain her, knows her manners most of the time, is kind and helpful mostly.. She does go to childcare at her dad's office once a month or more if her dad is available to bring her there and back, I guess it's good for her to get a breather away from her tiger mom as well. She does 2 subjects a day at home, any 2, and because I'm still working, she knows to just sit beside me and do her 5/10pages and then get the rest of her day to play or do other things. I would think it's a pretty relaxing childhood, all in all.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

[2043] The Wayang-ness of Being

Question mark situation 1
Bb's ballet school told us that they were moving to Amagasaki (that's near Osaka) with like a month's notice. Fees would also be raised from July onwards. I was definitely reluctant to go all the way to Amagasaki on a weekday evening for a one hour lesson so I started looking around our home area for other schools. I saw one that seemed suitable in terms of fees and lesson timing so I wrote in for a free trial lesson. When we went to the trial lesson, it turns out that bb's previous classmate from the preschool was already learning ballet there. I felt fine with the teacher (she was stricter) so we signed up from June onwards.

I thought it would be nice to have someone familiar around but I was wrong. The intricacies of these mummy relationships still baffle me:
First lesson - since the mums were from bb's school, they asked me to join them for coffee during the waiting time while the lesson was ongoing. So we had a good chat for that one hour. 
Second lesson - they wanted to shop so I said I'll join them. However, they seemed to keep hinting at the store "if you want, you can go for coffee, we'll be a while" and I was very confused if they wanted me to leave. In the end, they finished browsing, went out of the store and suddenly just said separately, "I'm going to Daimaru", " I'm going to the bank" without so much as a backward glance and I was suddenly alone. It was weird, and kinda awkward. I didn't know if I was supposed to follow either of them so I just went to 7-Eleven and got myself a drink and walked back to the school myself.
Third lesson - To avoid ambiguity, I decided to just escape the mums by saying "I have somewhere to be today, see you later!" to one of the mums and fled to a further area with benches outside starbucks to read my book. 
Perhaps it's just the introvert in me. It's extremely tiring to figure out what correct behaviour is called for especially among mummy acquaintances and to wayang through each session with the appropriate small talk. 

Question mark situation 2
Also - the ballet mums started discussing that the teacher told them that the class would not be doing any performances as the class were still full of beginner kids (their daughters have just started lessons in April 2017 - definitely  not performance ready). I was relieved, because in JP, recitals = spending a lot of money, it could go up to USD1000 per performance, from experience with the previous ballet school. I always timed travel with the performance dates to avoid having to join. Do I want to see what my daughter can do stage? Yes, I am a little curious. Do I want pay more than USD100 to see what my daughter can do on stage? NOOOOOOOOO!!! From watching her lessons, her skills are barely there; if the recital was in class and do not cost any money, fine. Why would I want to spend a crazy sum of money watching her do minimal movements on stage just for the sake of photos and videos? (JP schools like to make parents buy DVDs of their kid's performances - another usd100) Do we look like carrot heads? The USD1000 would be much more valuable as bb's air ticket. 

As I was saying, I was relieved. The other mums, on the other hand, were a little disappointed. I don't understand this obsession with recitals and ceremonies in Japan. Eg. Sports Day seems to be such a big deal, that the PIL brought it up as a reason bb should go to kindy. huh??? Is that even a reason? Not the socialising and all? The Kindy entrance ceremony 入園式 is another question mark.  Why the big fuss about entering kindergarten? Did they get in based on their own merit? Is it something to be proud of? If they had taken some difficult exam and got into high school at 4 years old, I would think a entrance ceremony is a must, but not when it was all based on the parent's interview. Even bb's music lessons had a recital last year (I escaped by going to SG because they needed us to prepare certain formal attire) when most of the kids in class could barely sit still. The mum was supposed to go on stage with them. (who will take photos? and videos?) 

All these wayang ceremonies. It's really reflective of the society and how everything is handled I suppose. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

[2042] What We Did Since March

I have not been posting anything for the past 2 months because I was in Singapore. Sorry!

I was back since April week 2 but I was busy adjusting back to the life of loneliness in Japan again so there was no time (or mood) to write.

Finally it's golden week. FINALLY.

I am just glad for a breather from the maps job.

Singapore was as usual, too short a trip (even after 5 weeks). Took a trip to Penang, thanks to the village for watching the bear, and managed to get a few days to enjoy myself with friends and remember what it feels like to travel without a child again - very wonderful - (Walk alot, eat alot without caring if it's a child friendly place, got toilet or not, be able to stop anywhere I want, walk at my own pace, take photos, anyhow cross the road, just care about myself basically). Bb got her time with my family as well, sort of a chinese immersion program where her chinese/mandarin skills in conversation and writing/reading improved by leaps and bounds. She wants to communicate and argue with my mum (it's in her blood) so she would learn actively the words to use to speak to my mum. She misses them more as she grows older, and she was looking forward to visiting SG this time, and was counting down to the trip day by day and mentioning everyone's names daily. After coming back, she kept saying "I miss Ahma, gong gong, ah yi(s), uncle J etc" Sigh.. I also miss everyone.. and I would stay longer in sg if I could..
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Penang = Lok Lok!
We made a trip down to Gunma (群馬) to visit the hb's relative about 2 weeks ago. He was an old uncle, and might not make it past the next month due to illness so it was quite a last minute decision to visit that couldn't be postponed further on even though we just got back from Singapore. Gunma is super far. I realise I am not able to stay in any city that is more than 2 hours away from any airport. (There would be no escape back to Singapore in case of any emergency situation.) The town we visited was about 2.5 hours away from Tokyo by an express train which ran once every 3 hours. We left home from Kobe at about 6am to catch a flight to Tokyo and we only reached Gunma at 12 noon. We had lunch and then visited Ryo's uncle for about 30 minutes and missed the train back so we had to wait until 4.30pm for the next train back to Tokyo. The town was not near any famous landmark or attraction so we sat at Ryo's cousin's place for about 3 hours. I snoozed my time away on the sofa while the men entertained bb with toys and tv. When we were leaving, I wanted to get some snacks from the convenience store at the station but there was barely anything there! It was such a good feeling to get back to Tokyo and be able to access restaurants, shops and other conveniences within a short walk. The rural area is a relaxing place if you are well stocked with your drinks and food but totally not for a city person like me. Give me noise and lights and transport and people anytime (not too many people though..). In Tokyo, we managed to catch Ms PS for lunch and also the Marvel exhibition which was quite interesting, because it covers some of the cinematics as well as the history in comics.
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Picture taken by Bb!
During Golden Week, we went to the Capcom villa for a 2 night stay. Just the 3 of us. It was quite relaxing. We went to stroll around the Ise yokocho (usually we couldn't browse in any of the stores as we were with the big group) and finally I got to see most of the stores properly. We didn't really do much sightseeing, just the Ise Shrine, and bought some fresh and very cheap seafood back. I accidentally bought a pack of abalones in their shells for about $30. Very good buy! The chef in the villa was a new chef, and it was interesting to see some of the changes that I've thought of previously - like a communal rice cooker so that people just take what they need (a separate pot of rice for each table is just wasteful), more juices for breakfast, quantity of food has been largely reduced to satisfying after finishing everything, instead of so much good food that usually some has to be thrown away because we are already too full by the 3rd course.. etc. The game room has also gone through a game revamp! There were several new machines there now! Mostly good changes! I'm looking forward to the next trip because we can actually eat proper lunches again and not skip a meal in anticipation of the heavy dinner!
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Bb outside the Snoopy Cafe
Akane visited from Canada for a 1.5 month long tour of Japan using the JR pass so she stopped by during Golden week for a short stay as well and we went to Naoshima! Finally I get to see the spotted pumpkin! However, her schedule was quite packed so we made do with a generic tour of the island and the sculptures and skipped all the museums which all had long lines. It was good to catch up, and the first time I met her after she moved to Canada.
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With the famous Yayoi pumpkin
That pretty much sums up a very activity filled 2 months - looking forward to a quieter time ahead!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

[2041] Not All Women Speak 20,000 Words a Day

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I think I'm becoming more and more grumpy with age. No wonder old folks are generally grumpy.

When I send bb to her swimming lesson, I am prepared with my noise cancelling earphones, because I want to enjoy my alone time with music in my ears, I have no intention to chat/make friends, I just want some quiet time to read/play gamess and not having to talk to another human being.

From experience, there are some parents who have younger children waiting with them for their older children to finish lessons. That's totally normal. However, their children decide to fight because they are too young to want to share toys. Also, there are not that many toys in the waiting area so the toddlers are bored. Lastly, the parents are having a nice chit chat and just ignoring their fighting, screaming, crying kids who are bothering the rest of the parents who just want to enjoy some alone time in a peaceful environment. We are wired to only accept the crying noise of our own kids, because even though I am sympathetic to parents having to cope with their kids' tantrums, I can't stand the noise. I'm barely accepting of my own kid's whining in truth. When I see parents ignoring their tantrum-ing kids, I'm more annoyed at the parents who pretend nothing is happening than the noisy kids. Do they think we are enjoying their kids' behaviour and volume? If the parents are actually doing something to try to quiet their children, at least I feel slightly pacified and resigned to escape the scene with my earphones and loud music.

Every third week, the swimming school allows parents to go into the poolside to watch. I chose to go in to avoid the noise. After a while, a group of mums came in with their younger kids. (Can you hear the panic alarm going off in my head? Young Kids - Group of mums) And guess what. The group of mums start chattering really loudly. Their children gets bored because there are no toys for them at the poolside. They try to edge towards the poolside. The mums continue chatting very loudly and ignore them. The children keep bumping into me or splash me while they run around. Can you sense my annoyance? The point of the poolside watching is more of observing their children at class. Obviously the chatting mums are just chatting - can't they just do it outside? I got seriously annoyed at them for spoiling the peaceful observation space.

When Ryo and I went for our anniversary meal, we were early so we had the whole place to ourselves. It was so quiet and frankly, bliss. I didn't have to fight to speak over the voice of a child determined to continuously interrupt my conversation with Ryo, I could actually finish my sentences, I didn't have to be selective to pick the most important thing to say to Ryo in the short few seconds of quiet that I could speak when she was chewing her food and I actually had time to slowly think of what I wanted to talk about - random conversations included. I had taken to just keeping very quiet during meal times because the child refused to let me talk to her dad. (which made me feel very angry with her in general for being such a brat). There we were enjoying our quiet lunch, and 2 ladies came in and sat next to us. Immediately, the whole elegant restaurant atmosphere transformed into a noisy cafe. Every single phrase the women spoke had to be in exclamation marks and surprised, excited tones and 2 levels louder than the other tables. (Maybe it was an internal competition to see who could act more excited) I could feel my tension returning, because I couldn't hear the conversation at my own table and the other party and I would have to resort to speaking as loudly as the noisy culprits. Another table of 2 ladies arrived later on, acting the same way. "Oh, you look great!""You too!" "No, this old thing??!" OMG......................

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

[2040] Happy New Year!

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門松 at our door to welcome 2017 

Flash forward - 2017 is suddenly here. 

2016 was a flurry of activities, and even the New Year holidays is at an end. (T.T) It's been a while since I totally didn't have to do any work, and for the past 8 days, we slept at past 3am every night watching tv, reading books, playing games on the phone, but tomorrow will be back to normal life, and dreading the LB project daily quota and rushing to finish the transcription work at the end of every week. (I'm not just doing nothing at home ok!) 

Maybe it's that jadedness of being in this country for too long, I didn't feel any excitement for the new year celebrations, instead, dreading the cold weather, the required gathering, the cold new year food (this Japanese in Singapore explains it well why the cold food thing irks me - http://www.sinlog.asia/entry/2016/01/01/163246), the crowds, etc. I came home and ate some instant noodles just to get some satisfaction for my tummy. I also was reminded of how much fun it was when my sis was actually here last new year when we would excitedly look at all the 福袋 together, so maybe it was just the lack of amiable companionship from family that made the festival alot more fun. (All I can look "forward" to at the gathering is the constant dishwashing I'm supposed to do after the meals, because I'm the most junior female in the family) I am tired of coming up with the annual new year cards plus they are a must, they are not fun to make, and I don't have any creative say over them as the cards go to the hb's bosses and colleagues mainly) The only good thing is the full time holiday of the hb and I could sleep late, wake late and not have to care about work for a while (ok.. already said that so it's clear how much I don't really like what I'm doing..) But overall, I'm just not a festival sort of person, the less trouble the better, so that's probably why I don't care much about Christmas, New Year, or any other festival. Everything is too overwhelmed by consumerism nowadays, so is there really any point to all the decorations and presents? As long as we spend the days with loved ones, every day is an important day and that's enough for me. 

 New Year resolutions - I realised I didn't set anything in 2015! The last post with any resolution was from 2014
And it's so weird to see stuff that actually managed to get fulfilled! (see pt 3 - I actually went to France because XQ invited me to her wedding!! how strange..) The rest of it, I don't think I did much.. but at least it wasn't a 100% miss. This year... hmmm 
1. Finish my crochet blanket. FINISH! (it's been in progress for 2 winters) 
2. Read more to bb, make sure she learns to read as well. 
3. Finish up K1 books in the house. FINISH!! (she has to be on par with her age group from Singapore)
4. Spend less - 2015 has been alot of shopping (in France especially) even though employment was unstable - I am now feeling very guilty. Made a last big purchase on 31-December of the new camera, so I cannot anyhow buy anything this year anymore unless absolutely necessary. 
5. No travel goals - because of pt 4 (see above) so I guess the SG trip will be the only trip planned for now. 
6. French - at least keep on using Duolingo to not forget words... Maybe I will be able to study for the tests if the LB job ends.. 

Happy 2017 everyone, have a great year ahead! 

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

(2039) Another Year Ends

Can't believe it's a month already since the previous post.
(I think time really passes faster as we get older)

Somehow I have so many things I want to do daily - knit/crochet, read, games and there is never enough time.

Not much has happened since the last post (maybe that's why I procrastinate in between posts and suddenly half a year has passed), we went to Ise for the annual Capcom villa trip with the hb's colleagues again. There was some drama at the end, when the driver put in diesel into our rental car instead of petrol and we were stuck at the petrol station and had to find our way home somehow. But good learning experience - on what not to do - https://www.quora.com/What-happens-when-you-fill-a-petrol-car-with-diesel-What-is-the-solution-if-such-an-incident-happened You will have to drain the whole fuel tank if you haven't started the engine and if you have, you have will to take out the whole engine to clean it. so.. just don't do it.

Homeschool - somehow we manage to try to at least do 2 subjects a day, I do my work and the bb does her books. Or if I'm too busy, she'll just take a book and flip through it herself. Reading is something we should do more of, but for now, she is being read to by the Dr Seuss treasury on the ipad and I hear her reading after the words on it so it's better than nothing. Chinese we do some writing, and she speaks to my parents on facetime in mandarin so it's still good, some daily practice. I've also started giving her instructions in Chinese - Eat Faster! Go brush your teeth! etc. Hopefully it's enough for this year at least. Employment situation is unclear for next year yet, so I guess we'll just carry on homeschool because it's really quite relaxing for both of us then forcing me and her to wake up early and to communicate with other mums in school. (ultra introvert behaviour)

I don't know if I want this year to end so quickly. It's been a good year, with lots of travelling.


Friday, November 11, 2016

(2038) After 5 months..

I figured I was taking so long to update the last segment of the previous post I might as well write a new post almost 6 months after the event. (increasingly procrastinating on blogging)

Let me quickly get the updates down from the last few months after coming back from Paris. Blog post about the wedding still in draft mode and pending...
P5210931 1. Missed life in Paris terribly after we were back. Highly motivated to learn French again and I'm proud to say I've completed the Duolingo French lessons! (48% fluency according to them heehee) I'm trying to aim to pass the APEF test level 3 by end of the year. - plans to do this have been postponed due to the extremely time-consuming nature of point 3 below.

2. Job ended (again) because the overall contract between the companies were not extended again. With the previous experience, this time I noted down all necessary set up userID and passwords and backed up all my stuff so that I could still use the laptop before the MS alias was removed again. Of course, all files saved to OneDrive so nothing was lost.

3. Spent some time enjoying all the free time again thinking if I should find a real job in Japan and while I was wondering, 2 projects dropped on me. Since they were stuff I could do anywhere, and on my own time, and an acceptable level of pay, I was more than willing to do these. However, the deliverable for both projects are quite time-consuming actually, and I realised I don't have that much time to do the work even though I'm supposedly a housewife. After pottering about the house, the day just doesn't have many hours left. - After 3 months of doing this, realised this is crazily time-consuming. The weekly quota of work takes 4-5 hours a day to complete and that's if I am in full concentration mode. ARGH!!!

4. We just went to Hokkaido, Asahikawa/Biel/Furano Area for a short weekend trip (sort of a bucket list thing) and the place was beautiful. I had been feeling slightly down (for no reason, maybe just the general aimless feeling of life and the weather being so hot lately) and the trip being super free and easy cheered me up quite a bit. Of course the beginning of the trip was ruined by bb tantrums (because her dad was around) but they got better towards the end with all the beautiful flowers.
P8061531 5. We deposited the bb at her Grandparents' in Singapore and went to Koh Samui for a much awaited  couple trip. Even though it's Koh Samui, we spent about 10 days doing absolutely nothing (I read finished maybe 5-6 books there by the poolside and our days were just swimming, eating and reading.) Good weather most of the days, it was a much-needed trip to just get some R&R away from bb and recharge alot. Only grouse was that the hotel had really bad wifi - which does not help me relax but causes me more irritation instead.

6. From Koh Samui, we headed back to SG for a day or so before heading to Busan for Mr Chan's wedding (without the bb) ! So happy for him! (Finally I'm not the only one who's married a foreigner!) We headed in one day early thinking we could sightsee a little but it turns out that day there were major storms and we were just rained out. The taxi system was horrible (similar to the uncivilised way in China of just trying to snatch as fast as you can w/o a queue..) and in the rains, it was 10x worse. In the end we just became drenched ducks and headed back to the hotel after dinner w/o much hope for the next day.  The wedding day turned out to be bright and sunny, which was great! The wedding was in the hotel though, so not much difference even if it rains but at least the atmosphere was cheery. The whole event was quite interesting, somewhat similar to the Japanese way, alot of crying by the mums but less emphasis on special effects and more heartwarming performances by family members. Food was pretty good, we were so full we could barely eat at the dinner which was a buffet.

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7. After that, Ryo went back to JP from Korea, I went back SG for the whole of September and with the DTL up and running, it was so convenient to go anywhere and very hard for me to come back to JP. Pokemon were alot more available, Pokemon-playing friends were more readily available too, and even though I was mostly doing work at home during the weekdays, it was just different being in a country where I can readily ask friends out for meals or just wander around in slippers and shorts all the time without feeling concerned if I was doing anything that was being inconsiderate. The library was fantastic, I had help from the village with bb, and I had a social life again! Sighz... I am finding it more and more difficult to come back to JP as the years go by..

8. Ryo joined the Osaka marathon this year! I felt quite lazy to support him after the hiatus of being a supporter for the past few years, but as the dutiful wife, I went with him to the expo and of course brought bb around the routes at about 5 stops to cheer him on. It was surprisingly easy somehow this time, maybe because I wasn't rushing, and I didn't have to carry bb. She just followed me around happily, and I prepared paper for her to sit on the ground when waiting (great idea by moi..) The only worry I had were toilets but luckily I thought ahead of time where we needed toilets at less crowded spots and there were no accidents.

9. Went to Tokyo in Nov for a few days to meet with friends there, because the hb had the weeklong trip which coincided with his birthday. It was good to just have a change of environment and enjoy different air in a different city for a while. If only there was a bit more time, but was good to catch up with the folks there.

Plans for the last 2 months of the year.. Just hoping for a quiet and not too cold winter, perhaps, even though I haven't seen any autumn leaves yet! More time to be a better teacher to bb in her homeschooling, I am always surprised to get any progress from her when I haven't been teaching her anything. With all my time now trying to finish work, she is mainly just doing Kumon/Gakken books and I have been lazy in reading to her plus I'm a very impatient teacher. But she can read a little (which surprises me.. maybe by osmosis somehow haha) and even remembers some Chinese poems my mum thought her, so maybe I just need to put in more effort to teach her.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

(2036) Paris 2016

Day 0: flight kix-inc
Short 2 hr flight, movie only watched halfway fathers and daughters. Bb slept most of it. 
2 hrs at inc airport. Lots of shops but nothing seems cheap. Note to self- Gate 48 has no wifi
Inc-cdg 
We got like a lousy old plane with videos set to repeat in 17 channels. B-777!!? 12 hours, I watched Brooklyn/我的少女时代 on continuous repeat and read 3 books. 
Zzz I hope this is not the case for the return flight. Even the short 2 hour kix-inc flight had better equipment. Asiana's food was almost 5stars until we got dinner. Unappetizing and tasted like airplane food. Happy to get the last rows but the korean obachan kept using my seat to stretch. (-.-!) CAs were very polite and helpful. 
Reached cdg at last at about 6.40pm got out of airport at 7.30? Cab ride to city took about an hour due to jams, cost €55 fixed rate. Driver was polite and helpful. 
Apartment was tinier than expected but at least all 3 of us fit on the bed.
 We unpacked whatever we could to maximise the space and finally showered and went to bed at about 11pm. Sun only set at 9.30pm! 

Day 1: We woke up at 5am, had cup noodles for breakfast, checked mails, got changed and finally left the house at 8.30am. Was supposed to collect the pocket wifi at the post office but it was closed! A lady saw us pacing the entrance of the post office and stopped to help us. She told us it was a holiday that day .. (Whit monday) argh! So we had to make do with no wifi and a map that was still open in my google maps to make our way towards Jardin du luxembourg. On our way, we saw a eric kayser and bought some bread in our terrible french and big smiles. Most pple were friendly to us. (Perhaps bb being there helped). Sat in a small garden of Musee Cluny to eat and watch a cat. 

Jardin du luxembourg - The gardens were huge. Lots of joggers and police. random chasing bb ard and then we headed towards the children's area. Playground was expensive so we gave it a miss. €1,90/ child and €2.50 /adult! We gave bb a ride on the pony instead (€3,50) . 
After that we headed out of the park for lunch. There was supposed to be a
Cafe in bonpoint but it's closed. ended up browsing and overspending a crazy amount of money on the softest and lightest piece of leather jacket EVER! I can only think luckily there was some tax refund... Found a good place for lunch, where the waiters were friendly to bb. (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187147-d2215946-Reviews-Au_Chai_de_l_Abbaye-Paris_Ile_de_France.html) Trudged up and down Saint Germaine and we found ippudo! I guess we have to fulfil our one ippudo per country mission, now that we've found it. We'll head back on our last few days. We had the best crepes at La creperie des canettes. After traipsing up and down Saint Germaine, we finally found Monoprix on our way back, and did some grocery shopping. Took a train back, (4stops) and a scary looking man helped me opened the train door (the switch was manual) to exit. But he smiled at me when I thanked him (merci!) and hedidn't look so scary anymore :) 
We reached back at our apartment at abt 6+pm, I dropped for a nap and finally woke up at about 1am.. I think i'll go to bed now..

Day 2: This is what happens when you don't record the days as it happens. I don't remember the order of our events anymore. But I'll try to piece the days together from our photos.

We woke up at 6am again. Ate homecooked noodles and finally got our pocket wifi after some conf calls. The day was sunny and warm. We headed to Marcel (http://www.restaurantmarcel.fr/) at Montmartre for brunch and it was a great place! Friendly to bb and the food was good. Incidentally, it was near sacre ceour and I've never been there so we slowly made our way there after lunch. We could see Eiffel tower from the Sacre Ceour viewpoint, and the church was very majestic. Found a free (?) carousel and playground when we walked down from Sacre Ceour so we let bb chase the birds and play for a while. After that, we all urgently needed the loo so we had to buy some food in Pret A manger to get the toilet code to enter. After that, we walked from MontMartre area to Opera area to find the apple store because my cable was spoilt. The store was amazing! except no loos... Luckily, there was Galeries Lafayette, loos were clean and spacious and free! We walked around the shops slowly until they closed and made quite a few purchases. No one was really hungry so we just headed home for some light dinner and then bed.

Day 3: Found a market near our apartment from the Markets in Paris book, so we headed there (Moffartard Market). It was a row of shops, from fresh food to rotisseries to cafes and bookstores. We bought some books for bb, and some poulet and porc for dinner and ate lunch at a place called La Verre A Pied. It was very homecooked food, and not too expensive and again - friendly to bb. Went home to put down our shopping and headed back out to the Notre Dame area to find the bookstore Shakespeare and Co. (https://shakespeareandcompany.com/) It's a super old bookstore, but they've put up a cafe beside it, so it's very crowded and touristy now.

We were supposed to head to the LV store at St Germain des Pres to get my back but it turns out that the bag was only available at Champs Elysee and it was raining heavily suddenly so quite a drag to be walking around. With only 1 piece available in Paris, I decided it was too much of a risk to wait so we went down by metro and the store was saying they couldn't find that bag even though their inventory system said it was there. No loo to be used there as well and the sales assistant said she would try to find the item again and after much waiting, she found it!! YAY! she checked the label and said it was only in that morning which was why there was much confusion of where it was. PHEW... the rain was still very heavy when we left so we sat at Mcdonalds for a while (to use the loo as well) and let bb get a bite. In the end, we decided to just wait out the Uber surge pricing as well since we didn't want to lug the big box from LV around on the subway as well.

Day 4: Mission to get Antik Batik stuff for A. Again.. rainy day after we were out. We went into a michelin guide restaurant Le Ferrandaise (because we walked past it before) and took their 3-course set and a mini lunch set for bb (came up to 37+37+16euros) . (http://www.laferrandaise.com/) The food was so-so but service good.

It was still raining so we headed to Le Bon Marche. I thought I had maxed out my shopping so we basically went to find the elusive loo (3rd floor near tax free counter) and walked around. The Repetto store had a limited edition shoe (Darn it!!) and kept me thinking about it over the weekend. We spent most of the rest of the afternoon in the Epicerie to get souvenirs and food. Then we trekked about 4km back to our apartment from Le Bon Marche. Super sore legs and tired bb after that.

Day 5: My sis went to do the laundry early in the morning (because bb had run out of warm clothes - the weather was turning out colder than expected.) Just search for Laverie or laundry service in Google Maps. It was 4euros for 6kg and 1euro for 9 minutes of drying. This site pretty much sums it up : http://www.eurocheapo.com/blog/paris-tips-for-doing-laundry-in-paris.html
There's a list of laundromats: http://www.francetravelplanner.com/go/paris/shop/laundry.html

In the meantime, we waited for the plumber at home. The shower water was not flowing down the drain properly and we were tired of standing ankle deep in the dirty water every shower and worried about flooding the shower room. So I had informed the landlord and she asked the plumber to fix it. It took all of 10 minutes, for him to clean the drain hole of all the gross stuff. Bb tried to give the plumber a haribo for his work and he laughed and said "c'est gentil". Very funny haha.

After that, we headed to HolyBelly - near Gare d'L'est. There was a short queue, but luckily we were there early because after we went in the queue became very long. The food was asian/western fusion (http://holybel.ly/) and pretty refreshing, besides bb finishing up whatever I shared with her. After that we slowly walked to Place de la Republique, and bb spent some time feeding and chasing pigeons. We wandered down some jewellery wholesale street and also a street full of pastries, so we sat down and tried some cupcakes. Walked towards the Pompidou, saw Fontaine Stravinsky, and it was time to find a loo. Had no choice but to use the public loo. (It was erhhh..) Walked to Forum Des Halles, checked the Nike store but everything was more expensive than Japan. In the end we sat at Jardin du Forum Des Halles while bb climbed a giant sculpture called Ecoute. Found a kitchenware store so we went in to explore.

Somehow, we managed to walk to the Lourve at about 5pm so we let bb feed the pigeons and ducks and took pictures. Again - we would have loved to sit there for a longer time but there were no loos and we headed to a nearby Mcdonalds for the free loo. LONG QUEUE! But I guess bb was hungry so we bought some fries and rested there abit, while waiting for the Udon place Kunitoraya to open. (http://www.kunitoraya.com/) 17Euros per bowl of udon! My sister's noodles had good soup, but curry udon was abit weak. Apparently the street was all Asian food, there were some other udon/ramen shops there as well as korean food. We headed back by metro, because it was almost 9pm. (Despite the sun not set yet..)

Day 6: Woke up early again and we headed to Cafe Pouchkine at St Germain des Pres (from the Japanese guidebook)  (http://cafe-pouchkine.fr/). It turned out to be a Russian cafe, and we had brunch (quite expensive..) The food was pretty good though. We sat there for about 2 hours, then started heading to the museum areas.

Headed to the Lourve again (it was the night of free museum visits) but because we wanted to buy the souvenir mug (requested by hb). This time we went by the tulleries way, and spent some time in the carrousel shops and museum shop. We wanted to get some food at Mcdonalds but turns out it was pretty expensive compared to Mcdonald's outside the Lourve. So bb fell asleep at the table, my sis got hungry after a while and we decided to get afternoon tea at Mariage Freres.  (http://www.mariagefreres.com/FR/adresses.html) It was expensive but very yummy. The pot of tea we ordered kept us there for 2-3 hours. (bb did her writing since she said she didn't want to eat) And they provided free coupons to use the Lourve loo (it costs 1.50euros otherwise) so ask the staff before heading to the loo.

After that we fed pigeons at Jardin des Tulleries until it was time to head to Musee d'Orsay for the free entry. There was such a long queue! but mainly due to the bag checks. Otherwise it was quite smooth and we had a chance to finally visit this wonderful museum for free. There was a live orchestra performance as well. We finally ended our museum visit at 9pm and took the metro home. Bb fell asleep halfway through her udon. It's been a long day for her :)

Day 7: Sunday - Bastille market day. It was a super rainy day. Bb insisted on using my umbrella so I had to depend on my hood of the leather jacket. Now I know why everyone wears leather in Paris. For the unpredictable showers ... There were some amazing oysters, had some mussels and crepes. bb didn't have much breakfast so we got her an orange juice and Pain au chocolat. We wanted to go to the park but the rain got so heavy we had to head home (me sans umbrella). It was quite miserable.

Rested a while in room until dinner time and we headed down to Rue Moffatard for dinner. Chez Ann (https://www.facebook.com/Chez-ann-sisters-325481027498407/) It was a Chinese hand pulled noodle shop, and only 10euros for their set meals. Very good find on a rainy and wet day. Their guo tie was great! Bb insisted to take the umbrella when it started raining again and I got so fedup.

Day 8: Woke up feeling feverish .. (think it was the rain :(.. ) but we were supposed to get to Le Bon Marche for my blue green repettos! (http://www.lebonmarche.com/produit/190131_ballerines-a-rayures-cendrillon.html) We took the train there (seeing that it was a horribly wet day again) and ended up buying not just 1 pair. At about noon, we went to the Rose Bakery next to the shoes section and got the last 3 seats, and suddenly the queue built up. (https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g187147-d189255-r156655769-Le_Bon_Marche_Rive_Gauche-Paris_Ile_de_France.html) The lunch was quite organic and brown.. not great for me, but bb seemed to have enjoyed it, albeit in a slow slow way. The peanut butter chocolate cake was good! but my sore throat feverish feeling didn't add to the enjoyment i guess. After lunch, we continued shopping, bought some stuff here and there in the dept store before heading to the tax free area.

We headed for home at around 4pm, by train, then later on to see the Phildar shop (turns out to be a clothes/yarn shop instead of yarn) near our place. Also, we discovered a pharmacy, which was great and got some cough drops plus we discovered throngs of Koreans crazily buying cough syrup and other products off the shelves (like avent, avene etc) Bb went to feed pigeons at Place Monge and we took turns to go into the store.

Day 9: Had medicine the night before so was feeling half ok. We slept in cos I'm sick. Finally we woke up and headed to Ippudo Paris for lunch. http://www.ippudo.fr/ It was good, tasted like the real thing, but no sides like the spicy beansprouts and tea. Basic ramen was 13 Euros. There's a Japanese staff, and some french staff who could speak Japanese. Service was good, think they are still in their training phase. We went at 12noon, opening time, so we headed in without a queue but the place filled up very quickly. After that, we headed out and wandered around that area, (Mont St Michel?) and headed home for my sis to pack. I napped for a bit after medication and the whole day was quite wasted. My sister left in a uberx cab to Gare du Nord and we were left to fend for ourselves for dinner. I went to the supermarket, found some coconut water to reduce the heatiness and also a slab of fish to make into some sort of stew to eat with our rice. Maybe bb was hungry as well, she asked for more rice and ate 2 dishes of it. (I think she thought it was curry)

Day 10: We went down to La Creperie Josselin at last. It was abit of a longish train ride, and bb started wailing when she didn't get to open the train door via the manual handle. So whiny... and overdramatic. http://www.fodors.com/world/europe/france/paris/restaurants/reviews/la-creperie-josselin-483740 The service was good, and it was actually very empty, maybe because it was a weekday afternoon, about 2pm? It was so empty we were the only customers left inside at a point, and we sat there slowly eating the lunch set and then drinking tea after. Since daylight was until 9pm, there was no rush, we slowly made our way to the Eiffel Tower at about 4+pm. It was a 40minutes walk with abit of a rest in between when bb saw a park and wanted to run in it. We had no intention of climbing the tower so we basically headed for the loo queue the moment we reached there. Think we waited about 30 minutes or more. I blame the tea. After that we sat on the grass in front of the tower for 40 minutes or so, and just did nothing for a while. At about 7pm, we finally decided to leave, and luckily, there was a direct train to our apartment.

Day 11: We woke up 8++, I had work calls, then we had pasta with sausages for breakfast to try to use up all the fresh food in the fridge. Bb asked for pasta surprisingly, so we had a filling meal before we headed out. I didn't have any plans on where to go at first, until I remembered we haven't gone to the cemetery. Pere Lachaise cemetery was on my list of places to go but it was all rainy and quite far so we didn't have the chance to go until today which surprisingly turned out to be very sunny.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C3%A8re_Lachaise_Cemetery) We alighted at Gambetta station via advice from wiki, which was really a good move as we were moving downhill most of the way and bb didn't complain too much. But, because it wasn't the main gate, there was no map, I couldn't look at the signboard because another woman was hogging it, so we were really just strolling through the cemetery. We finally managed to chance upon Jim Morrison's tombstone, by following a group of students, and accidentally upon the grave of one of the victims from the terror attacks at Bataclan last November. Most people who happened upon the grave paused for a few seconds, perhaps with thoughts of RIP and OMG.. and with renewed vigour to live life to the fullest. We strolled around the cemetery until bb happened to chance upon the loo at the right moment. Beyond that it was actually near the entrance already. It was about 3+pm, semi peckish, but I wasn't sure what there was to see nearby. In the end, we slowly walked toward a bus stop, to take our first ever bus trip in Paris, to head back towards our side of the river.

We took bus 69, and it was quite interesting. The ride cost the same as a metro ride, except you could look at the scenery. I originally wanted to stop near the Musee d'Orsay, but the bus stopped at somewhere near to Pont Neuf which we haven't been yet so we hopped off, and strolled towards the Seine where there were the secondhand book sellers along the left/right bank. There were alot of children's books! and the old books were in great condition. I really regret not having the luggage space to bring them home... but what would I do with all the French books? We strolled past a Thai food place, a cute dog with it's cute owners, the Palais de Justice, until we reached Shakespeare & Co, and we sat at the cafe next to it to have crepe/profiteroles because bb said she was hungry. It was only about 4pm and too far from dinner. The only problem with only the 2 of us around is that we can't leave our stuff at the table when bb said she needed the loo. We strolled to the Notre Dame cathedral after we finished our food and sat around for a while watching roller bladers and people queuing to enter, and listening to the church bells chime at 5.30pm. Craving for some thai food, but the restaurant only was opening at 7pm, it was still 6pm, so we decided to head back and cook up the rest of our food in the fridge instead. Also, to pack, because we will head for Dijon tomorrow!

Friday, April 15, 2016

(2035) The grass always seems greener on the other side

Here I am, watching my child through a glass panel while waiting for her to finish her swimming lessons in the middle of a Thursday. I am surrounded by mostly mothers, two grandmothers, a father. I have always wondered, how do women working full-time in Japan handle parenting responsibilities, such as after school activities, if they are not lucky enough to have a grandparent live near them?

The past two years at my child's preschool required so much weekday parental involvement (which is usually fulfilled by mothers) in their school activities such as Sports Day, Halloween party, Christmas party, etc. where parents are expected to help the school put up decorations, plan decorations and costumes and so on, that I'm amazed the working mums of my child's classmates still kept their jobs.  True enough, at the end of the first year, 2-3 mums in the class had thrown in the towel and resigned to be full time stay-at-home mothers. I was so fed-up with all the volunteering expected of parents that I decided not to register for kindergarten. I would rather piece together some form of education with classes like dance/swim + some home schooling than feeling the pressure that I'm not contributing enough to the school. 

I am lucky (and of course very thankful) to have established a work-from-home full time arrangement with my previous/current employer, and I have been able to do this for the past 7 years, including the past 3 years after my child was born. It was a struggle juggling both motherhood and work at first, but it was partly my own hardheadedness that forced me to carry on - I wanted the best of both worlds and did not want to miss out on any part of my child's first few years and I did not feel that paying for childcare was justifiable with me working from home full time. Also, horror stories about the waiting list to get into childcare in Japan (see
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/03/07/national/angry-blog-post-sparks-movement-for-improved-day-care/#.Vw-iHKSLTiA) was enough to deter me from even trying to apply for a vacancy in childcare.

I have always received either disbelieving looks or amazed reactions from people who hear I'm a work from home full time mother but having been in this situation for the past 3+ years, I can only say, I did what I had to. (Our mothers ran full households with more children without help in the past.)  Perhaps the motivation to look strong overcame whatever hurdles I actually encountered. However, I was getting burnt out, with both work and being a mum, and this style of work meant that I was forever a contract worker, doomed to a life with no career progression. There were too many late night calls, and too much OT when we had to meet project deadlines and work life balance was at an all-time low. I was dreading to wake up in the morning and when I got the news that our team was not getting a contract extension from our client, it was almost a relief, because it meant that I did not have to resign, but to just wait for the end to come.

Finally, I felt that my guilt about not paying full attention to my child was somewhat alleviated, I could let her run in the park without looking at my watch the whole time thinking "let's go, I have a call in an hour!" I had time to recharge, and enjoy my hobbies but of course, without a salary, my spending power was much reduced. I now have all the time in the world to worry about the lack of money to spend. I used to envy full time mothers for their 100% time availability, but now I can’t help but wonder how they coped on single incomes with their daily strolls which almost always inevitably ended up at cafes. Perhaps they had always been envious of me having work and income while seemingly enjoying full-time motherhood. I missed interaction with my ex-colleagues, and although there’s no missing the late night calls, I had become a habitual late sleeper and it was very difficult to wake up on school days.

All the online fights about who has it harder – stay at home mums or working mums – seems irrelevant after having tried being both. The working mums have lots of time to themselves, but they miss most of their children’s antics being at work, while at night they are too tired to enjoy time with their kids. The stay at home mums get to witness their children’s growth but have a ton of other household worries and are always wishing to have more time to themselves. No one has it better, every mother has it as hard; and the grass will always look greener on the other side as we struggle to get to the next day in one piece and alive.

I am glad that Im back in the workforce, and my worries are back in the realm of “will the weekend please come soon!” I am trying harder to worry less about time, even with work, because I am the adult, and I should be the one who makes my schedule work and not be rushing the child through every activity. The new job has given me most evenings free, no more late-night calls, and I get some quality time both to myself and with my child who has learnt to be largely independent in entertaining herself. With some planning, I squeeze most of the calls in the same days so that I can have at least one call-free day each week to focus on the homeschool or have an outing together. The grass might still look greener on the other side on some days, but for now, our own grass is green enough for me. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

二千三十一: Tiny Books for Tiny Folks

I've been working hard to launch this idea I had, and it's finally up!

Tiny Books for Tiny Folks

I was looking for English books for bb in the public library and the library had only 1 miserable shelf of books so I was forced to buy books for bb instead. and I thought - other mums who are looking for english picture books must be having the same problem - books are expensive, we are running out space to put them, and once they grow up the books have to be disposed of, why don't I be the library since I bought so many books already anyway?

so here we are, the library. The price is super reasonable, can you sacrifice a 1000yen lunch a month to just pay for borrowing 5 books to read to your child? (including postage back and forth) really, it's barely covering postage, and a little bit of funding for books, I'm not even earning anything out of it after all expenses. We have currently more than 270 books - take a look at the catalog here:
https://tinybooks.libib.com/i/tiny-books-for-tiny-folks

The Facebook page is here:
https://www.facebook.com/tinybookstinyfolks/

The basic service is up and running, registration -> reservations -> loans & returns, monthly newsletters, and I'm trying to have more members before we do more ($$$ is not unlimited). So.. If you live in Japan and are looking for a cheaper alternative to read lots of English books to your child without buying lots and lots of books, do check my site out!

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