Friday, January 27, 2012

Creative Transportation

Here you go!  Pictures of our creative transportation.  I finally talked Martin into getting up early to document our morning bike ride to school.....

 Greta says, "if we only had a radio it would be just like our minivan".  Alice says, "I LOVE it when you pick me up on the bike." 

I didn't tell Greta that I saw a woman with a radio on her bike today.... I think there are some lines that must be drawn......

Coming out of the car park... Yes... it is still dark when we leave for school.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Local School: Second Week Shockers

So we are into our third week of school.... I have learned a few things and had a few shockers:

Things Learned:

-My kids will know Majulah Singapura  better than our national anthem because they are required to sing it every day at 7:25am before school starts.   To counter this (much to my children's embarrassment) I sing our national anthem every day while riding home on the bike.  Never knew I was such a patriot..... I love the American national anthem.
-If I question a teacher it will never be taken in a positive way.  Instead I must "inquire" regarding a policy and carefully make sure to not "question" their authority or be confrontational.... Not that I have been confrontational but apparently parents don't really advocate for their kids here.  Basic questions like, "Greta is having problems with her desk partner.... could you move her?" and "why would you keep my child after school when she was not the problem?" have been met with flustered responses and it was clear to me that it was unusual for a parent to ask such questions.  I am not sure how to communicate with them but I am know it will not be to confront them about things I find preposterous.
- Most of my lessons learned have been surrounding my chosen mode of transportation:

 1.  The best way to stay upright on the bike is by putting the bulk of the load backpacks) in the center.  I put one on my back and one on my chest......
 2.  You must leave before 7:10 or you will get run over by the cars who have no regard for
 3.  If the school security guard tells you to get lights you should listen because if you don't  he will tell you all of the awful tragedies on bikes that he can remember....  
 4.  Once you do fully light yourself up and put on your helmets you will become a
      spectacle that will in fact cause car accidents because people are staring at the three flashing lights, the helmets, and the white girls precariously balancing on a single bike....


- The most shocking cultural run in has come in the form of the Monday morning "assembly".  When we were walking home from school Monday afternoon the girls were waving their hands wildly while they were crossing the street.  When I questioned them about the practice they said they were told to do it at school.  Upon further questioning, Alice mentioned that actually something really horrible had happened.  They had had a school assembly to tell the children that a P2 student had been killed by a car while crossing the road on Friday after school.  I held my breath... "what else did they say?"  She said, "that we need to learn from his mistake and always make sure we pay attention while crossing the street and wave our hands so cars can see us."  ARGH!   I am still processing their total lack of regard of human life here.  I want to believe that it isn't better just different.... They just don't feel the same way regarding death that we do in America.  They seem to be closer to it and not so protected.  If someone dies doing something careless (the boy was playing a game on the DS) then they are held up as examples of what you should not do.  So, I will help the kids process at home and hopefully help them understand how sad the parents and friends must feel.
-The school assembly giving all of the children rules for their behavior over Chinese New Year break was a favorite shocker for me.... the best two rules being: 1.  Don't eat too much & 2. Only take one serving of everything.  Alice said there were something like 20 things they told them not to do over their break.

Over all the school experience has been wonderful.  I feel like the girls are getting what I had hoped: a better sense of a completely different culture, Chinese language exposure, and figuring out how to make friends when no one is "like" them.  We will just have to deal with the copious amounts of rote memorization, homework, funny rules, strict teachers, extreme nationalism, and language/communication barriers.  Sigh.  Good thing the day only lasts 6 hrs.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Local School: First Week!

So our homeschooling adventure came to an end this week.  Last week we received word that they had let A in as well.  She sat for exams last Friday and we waited for results the whole week!  G was able to start Tuesday (first day of school) and A had to wait until Friday.  I really regret that I haven't been writing about this whole experience (decision to put in local school) all along.  It has been a very long emotional road for me to come to peace with sending them to school. 

I had really sold myself on homeschooling... It was bitter/sweet for me.  The bitter and sweet being the same.... I loved spending so much time with my kids.  I loved being in charge of their learning.  I loved watching them grow and develop because of my hard efforts.  I loved eating and breathing them.  I loved how close we were to one another.  I loved the relationships that the girls formed because of all the togetherness time.  I LOVED that they had no outside forces in their lives..... I was filling their minds, answering their questions.   All of those loves had their opposition....

When we moved to Singapore and I decided to home school it was a very thoughtful choice.  I really wanted to freeze my kids in time... eat them up.  I knew that A is almost to the age where her play would change.... she would transition into a pre teen.  I knew that G was almost to the point where she wouldn't want me to snuggle her all the time and her need for me would decrease.  I knew that ME was growing out of toddler hood into big girl.  All of these pending changes created panic in me.  I was able to really love on them for the past 9 months.  It really did create a sense of closeness in us. 

But.... It really did undo me in a lot of ways.  It was really hard to have their educational progress solely dependent on me and my self discipline.  I am much better at following a formal school schedule.  It puts me in the fetal position from time to time to wake up every day and face a mound of things that will take so much motivation and self discipline.  There were some really sweet moments but I am really happy to have that burden no longer placed upon me totally.  What I have learned is that I will be MUCH more engaged in their learning and that kids are adaptable and you can't really mess them up as much as we think... I hope (still have the therapy fund just in case).

The morning G started I was feeling pretty anxious.  When A started, I couldn't breathe.  When I rode away from the school I felt the burning of my tears, the car exhaust, and curry from the school canteen.  I couldn't see to ride.  I had to get off my bike and walk the rest of the way home as I sobbed.  I was scared the kids wouldn't accept them.  I was worried that it would be way too hard.  I was worried that they would hate it.  I was worried they would get lost.  I was worried that they wouldn't be able to understand their teachers.  The list could go on and on. 

What we found was a very loving, kind, and thoughtful place for the kids.  They do things MUCH differently than the states.  But with most things in Singapore... I just needed to figure out how they do it and realize America doesn't do it better...... just different.  

G seemed to really like school.  Had no major complaints other than she couldn't understand her Chinese teacher and that problem was solved by Friday when they transferred her to a class for children with no exposure to Chinese.  She spends an hour and half every day studying "mother tongue".  We will get her a tutor to supplement her studies.  She has 26 kids in her class!!  She seemed pretty laid back and indifferent to the whole experience.

A has only gone one day but she seems to really like it.  She has 42 (big big gulp)  kids in her class.  The school ranks the kids into classes depending on their grades and test scores. This frightens me but A was put in the second best level....... Her teacher is a lovely young guy.  He seems enthusiastic and able to manage the kids.  They split up several times a day for different subjects like science, math, art, PE, music, social studies, mother tongue etc.  Alice will not be required to take a mother tongue because they don't have support for P3 students that have not had exposure.  She will sit in the Chinese class every day but will not be required to test.  We will also have her in with a tutor as well.  She was really happy when I picked her up and declared that she wanted to join the schools Robotics Club.... whose kid is this?(I thought)...... WONDERFUL (I said)!  She also declared , "this best day of my life".   Hopefully it lasts!

It wasn't even light yet when we set out for school!  Their school hours are perfect: 7:30 - 1:30!

It is such a BIG school!

G was all smiles!!

I was the only person with a big "expat" camera as M likes to call it.  It was kind of embarrassing... They don't seem to get as excited about the first day of school here!  They are on a year round schedule with breaks in June and Dec.  Maybe that's why?  G wanted me to stop taking pictures... but I couldn't help myself!  Her teacher, Madame Pek, is standing at then end of the table with her class room helper to her right.

A sea of black hair to my right.....

And to my left.......

M towering over everyone else!

There goes my baby.....

School "canteen"  They let the parents come in for break for the first three days... G hardly spoke to me but I told myself she was happy I was there :)

The school counselor came up to me very excited that they found a "Caucasian" to be her 5th grade buddy.  When they came down I had to laugh... Sweet Maya helped G the whole week figure out the school canteen and break time.

G has really embraced the school canteen.  Her first meal was these Malaysian noodles.... she has since tried almost everything and loves it! 

The school is just far enough away that it is a pain to walk both ways.... I decided to challenge my my bike man to put a third seat on my bike!  He succeeded... Pictures to come of the three of us on the bike! 

A's first day!  She couldn't even really smile she was so nervous!

My poor baby was so brave... but her nervousness only made my apprehension worse!!

SOOO different than last years photo of the girls on their first day.... what have we done?!

A with her teacher Mr. Vincent Low!! 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Field Trip to Kid's Kampong in Pasir Ris

ME decided that she did not want to go to school anymore..... I decided that at three you get to "choose" school.  So she is a preschool drop out.  We were paying a very pretty penny for her to attend and after 3 months of fighting every day I decided that it wasn't worth it.

  I wish that she didn't hate it.... She had just started enjoying singing in Mandarin and seemed to be picking up phonics pretty quick.  Sigh... Maybe I will look for a different school.

One funny/horrifying side note.... They had a "Christmas" party at school despite that over half of the children are not Christian... which I found funny but appreciated.  At the Christmas party the parents voted on "Smartest Boy" and "Prettiest Girl".... Sigh.  Asia is VERY sexist in MANY ways.  Martin says that it is that the women are very feminine and don't have the same "concerns" about gender that western women do.... bleh.  Well imagine my horror when they announced the winner to be ME.  She screamed with joy and ran up to get her VERY large present.  When she got back from standing in front of the room bowing (sigh) she asked me what she had won.  I told her she won "funniest girl".  She said, "oh good... It's because my jokes are really funny."  One particular little girl was crying because she didn't win and I made ME (with the bribe of going out and getting a replacement) give her part of the prize she won.  Everyone was happy....

For now, she is just over the moon to be alone with mommy.  From my past experience, this time goes by like lighting so I am going to just enjoy her as much as possible!

Before she dropped out we went on a field trip to the Kid's Kampong with her class....

A & G on the bus!

"Hell no I don't want to touch that!"

Come here fishy fishy..... We came home with 20 fish!  We bought a fish tank and all the accouterments... we have two left :)

These nasty fish would eat out of your hand!  Yuck....

This is the only picture I could get w/o being totally obvious but it is of a VERY strange Asian custom:  THEY FEED THEIR KIDS!!!  Even very old children.... All of the children at this field trip were being fed by a parent except for ME!  One of the first questions our maid asked us is if she needed to feed the children when they ate!!  On Greta's first day of P1 they reminded the parents NOT to feed their kids (themselves) during break.  Very Very strange.... Haven't figured out what it is all about.

These friends are the same age!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas in The Tropics: Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve at our house:  20 Dinner guests and as part of our new righteous life (Martin has been asked to serve as part of the bishopric (lay clergy) ).... Dessert at the church with sixty plus people who wanted to get together for a sing - a - long and the nativity!

One of the "adult" tables

"Kid" tables... it started pouring right after this picture :(  We had to drop all of the shades

Our ever reverent "Mary" with "Jesus"


"Mary" on the "Donkey"

And "Mary" nursing baby Jesus......

Church nativity.... The late hour created a much different experience than at home... and that wasn't that great either :)

The "Angel Gabriel"???

Matching PJ's!  Good night!
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Christmas In the Tropics: Orchard via Hippo!

One way in which I totally lucked out when moving to Singapore was my dear friends the Hemmings had a dear friend who had a son/daughter-in-law (did you follow that??) who were already living in Singapore.  When Alice gave me her name I thought ya ya.... Little did I know this was the most valuable social contact I have ever made!  Sweet Sarah is the hostest with the mostest, party planner extraordinaire, all things Singapore, friend connector,  and I bet you can even play five or even three degrees of separation from Sarah!

She planned one of the funnest things we did this holiday season.  She rented out an entire Hippo Double Decker bus for a bunch of our favorite people from Singapore!!  All 50 of us!

Here are some pictures.... I have to say my camera is lacking with night pictures but you will get the idea.  Orchard Road is the main shopping road in Singapore.  It has anything and everything you can think of.... and more.  At Christmas they deck it out.... dare I say almost more than 5th Ave?!

Sarah... head of the party on the Hippo!

Sweet Jessie and Dave!

Tanglin Mall!  Home of the bubble snow!

This was my absolute favorite display.....

Tiffany crystal trees... my camera doesn't do them justice!

Marina Bay Sands, Merlion, and thousands of well wishes written on little white (blue in the light) balls for the New Year!