Tuesday, July 20, 2010


It has been quite a few weeks since our trip to Manila. Oddly enough, it was our first time there even though Mama has been based there for almost 3 years! In fact she has left the WHO office in Manila and transferred to the New Delhi office, which was the reason why we went there - for her farewell party!

Papa has been going there from time to time but otherwise she prefers to come back home and tells us there isn't much in Manila and so no need to go there! But to me, no matter how boring a place is, it is still worthy of (at least one) visit! It is true Manila is not the most enchanting city in the world with not much culture or attractions (apart from shopping malls!) but I still think the history is interesting and the good natured people pleasant.

In fact I couldn't help but to draw a lot of parallels between the Filipinas and the Malays which I found quite intriguing as history would tell us they are the same ethnic group anyway. To me, if not for the difference in religions, the characteristics between the two are amazingly similar - warm but lazy, very particular about looks and style, not very innovative but easily content.

Our visit to Intramuros which is an old walled city built by the Spaniards proved to be satisfying too. It is like being transported all of a sudden in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city to Europe in the 16th century. Doing the tour on a horse carriage intensified the experience even further and of course the kids were thrilled! The old buildings ranging from churches to schools, most are still in use but some are abandoned, told a story of how Manila once was a long time ago.

Today, Manila which up to the 1970s was the richest country in South East Asia is sadly one of the poorest, thanks to a corrupt government and lack of education among its people. And to me it was an eye opener as Malaysia too, if not careful could fall into the same trap some day.

The disparity between the poor and the rich is disturbing to say the least. Our very own experience proved this as we were exposed to both 'worlds' in one day. As Theresa (my parents' Filipino helper who has been with us for almost 15 years) came with us on this trip and has been so excited to show me their new place - we decided to give them a visit. They have moved to this 'house' from the slums about a year ago, so it was a big deal and a proud moment for her. And I am saying 'house' because in actual fact it is just a room may be 4m x 8m in size. Soon after we entered, Imran asked "but where is the bedroom Tita?" not realising not only don't they have a bedroom, they don't even have a bed or a mattress.

On the way to and from Theresa's house, we had to drive pass one of the biggest slums in the world - and as I wasn't quite prepared for such hardcore poverty to be displayed by the main road, I found myself almost not being able to even look. Unclothed children bathing by the roadside together with chicken and dogs, scrap being used to house families - it was ridiculously sad.

Then, we went back to Mama's apartment to freshen up and waited to be picked up by the chauffeur of one of Mama's colleagues. They wanted to give us lunch (as part of the trail of farewell invitations by such warm friends Mama made while working there) in one of the restaurants in Makati. Arriving in the posh area of Makati, I could not believe we were in the same country as the one we have just experienced in the morning! Lush greenery, wide clean roads, skyscrapers and huge haciendas - how is this possible?

Imran and Rania had a great time. I think the experience of living in an apartment in a shopping mall with the 7th floor being the pool and playground area complete with a mini-golf was a novelty for them. I, on the other hand realised I am not made for apartment living as I was dying to get back on the ground and feel the grass again!

But the thing that topped the list for me from this trip is how Imran till today keep saying that he wants to go to Manila again and "this time for good!" And then when I said to him, "but where will you stay as Dadi is not in Manila anymore?" He says "I will stay in Tita's house and I will sleep on the floor with Tita's mother and daughter." Aaah, the purity in children. If only they remain like this...

Monday, May 10, 2010

rania's first words

Rania's vocabulary has been increasing quite a lot lately and I thought to myself, I must sit down and write down a list of (some of the) words she is saying at 17 months. So here goes my random list:

Nyum Nyum (eat)
Mamook (nyamuk / mosquito)
Byes (bye)
Beck (bag)
Mik (milk)
Ni? (this?)
Babee (strawberry)
Oosh (juice / shoes)
Bed (bread)
Kakak (any girl / woman)
Tik (hair clip)
Bor (ball)
Tengs (thanks)
O-oh (when she drops something)
No-no (no)

Anya (Rania)
Baba (Abang)
(Uncle) BEN!
Ma mama (Tok Mama)
Aiya (Arlia, her best friend)
Mamay (Uncle Emir)

Of course she also recognizes body parts such as nose, eyes, ears, cheeks, hands, feet, shoulders, mouth, teeth - but her favourite is the belly button, although one needs to be warned not to ask her this in public as after showing hers, she would always insist on seeing yours!

She also LOVES animals and being quizzed about the noise they make. So dog, cat, cow, horse, snake, duck, sheep, tiger, lion, bird, mouse and monkey are part of her vocabulary too. Oh, and the minute she hears the word Tarzan, she would automatically make the sound "oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh" with a cheeky smile. And that is thanks to the Abang who is constantly shouting it while jumping from couch to couch almost every afternoon!

She loves music and dances to the rhythm of either slow (swinging slowly from side to side) or fast (tip-toeing and bouncing her body up and down). She sings and hums in her sweet (but sometimes rather deep and firm) voice when she is in the car, while on the swing at the patio and when putting herself to sleep.

This age is just precious and I guess since there is no way that I can freeze her now, this is my attempt at freezing this moment in words just so that I can read it back again in years to come. Mama loves you Anya !!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

work and kids

My plan for 2010 was to slowly start getting back to work, i.e getting involved in some kind of architecture project. Now that Rania is 15 months old, it seems like quite a good time to do so. Strangely enough though, both my father and my in-laws have now decided to renovate their homes too (my dad's project is their village home in India so my involvement is not full swing). Still, I seem to be busier than expected nowadays having three projects running at the same time on the drawing board! I just hope I'll be able to manage it without sacrificing too much time with the kids - as that clearly is still my priority.

Especially when seeing how fast they're growing, it really makes me realise how much I want to embrace this precious time as it will be gone so quickly. Rania has grown so much into her own personality and is really quite independant now. And so although I look forward to have more time to myself as this happens, I know I will miss this stage of her so very much - just the thought of it is unbearable. Even Imran's growth scares me sometimes. He now goes to the toilet on his own - he is able to take off his pants and can climb on the toilet without any help!

They both get along a lot more these days as they can relate to one another better now that Rania is older. The dynamics of their relationship has also changed a lot since Rania turned one. As she became sturdier physically and stopped breastfeeding, they started to bathe, play in the bath and get ready for bed together, and also eat the same food. I think that helped a lot in bringing them closer together.

However, Imran still thinks his sister is a bit boring because she can't exactly talk! And of course he's a talker - so for now he's quite happy with the company of his imaginary big sisters (3 of them to be exact) and a big brother! I encourage him with his wild imagination as I believe it's healthy but sometimes it can be quite confusing when one of his grandmother comes home and he says "Oh ya, do you know that my sisters are also coming later?" or "We better rush home Dadi because I need to catch a flight to Perth this evening!" He is certainly very engrossed in his imaginary world. Apparently his Papa is a farmer, but oh well, whatever that keeps him entertained!

Rania thinks whatever her brother does is cool and would want to do exactly what he does. I now understand why some parents buy everything in two(s) or more as the fighting for that one thing can be so severe!! Rania even wants to wear Imran's shoes! She keeps taking all her brother's different shoes from the shoe cabinet, give them to me and say "shoes!" while showing to her feet! She is communicating a lot these days and loves making sounds of all the different animals - her favourite being the "moooo" and the "miaw" in an unexpectedly sweet voice. She is also very generous with her "Hi!" and "Bye" and can say all of our names, the latest being herself which sounds more like "Anya"!

She can be a sweetie pie, but most of the time she is the gangster in this house, screaming at the top of her lungs if she doesn't get what she wants and looking at me straight in the eye when I attempt to feed her (most of the time she only wants to feed herself) while saying "No-No" complete with her index finger moving to the sides in all firmness. What can I say, I knew it from the start - this one is going to be a tough cookie!

But they are born with certain personalities and we must embrace them no matter how different they may be to you and with their glaring contrasts, I adore them both with all my heart! Although it's starting to be quite obvious that Imran is a Mummy's boy and Rania definitely the Daddy's girl!

Saturday, January 09, 2010


Many people find it hard to believe that I have never been to Bali. But I have not been very attracted to the place as I always had an image of it just full of Australian truckers and pushy bracelet sellers on the road side! Only recently have I realised that perhaps there is a reason why a lot of people love and keep going back there. And true enough, I wasn't at all disappointed.

First and fore most, contrary to what I thought before, there is so much more to the popular tourist destination than its beaches. Bali's rich culture mainly stems from their practice of the oldest form of the Hindu religion. And this is seen not only through the many puras (temples) there but in their everyday life. Every shop we went to no matter how modern and 'westernised' would have a little place of worship with offerings.

The people are very nice, warm and genuine. No doubt some can be a little pushy like these girls selling knick-knacks at the paddy terrace in Ubud, but I guess that is to be expected in a place that is full of tourists! Plus they are so sweet as they are and just so pleasant, it is almost impossible to get angry at them.

Although the beach (at least the one that we went to) is not as nice as some of the beaches we have here, I do understand why surfers flock there all the time! The waves are pretty amazing and in fact can be dangerously choppy. Both Imran and Rania enjoyed having a play in the sea when Imran especially usually prefers to stay near the sand building castles and what not.

On top of all that Bali has to offer, I have to admit that I find the mix of old and new and of east and west particularly fascinating. The many Europeans, Australians and Japanese who fell in love with the place and decided to live there by virtue of opening villas, shops, restaurants and bars not only create a vibrant international community there but also inject a very unique flavour to the place. And the fact that most of these people have a pretty much similar outlook towards life, i.e relaxed lifestyle and appreciation for culture of others - I certainly think I wouldn't mind staying here for a few months just to pause from our hectic schedule and simply enjoy life for a while!

Lastly, the villas which is dotted everywhere in Bali are indeed very special. Where else can you be pampered with such spectacular architecture thanks to the many foreign architects and designers who live there and superb workmanship thanks to the highly artistic Balinese cratftsmanship - combined with such affordable services. I felt almost too spoilt having staff attending to our back and call, and having spa sessions in the villa itself whenever we felt like it. I was in fact worried that I would get used to it all and was quite glad to leave and be back to reality on our last day there!

But one thing is for sure - we will certainly be back to Bali especially when it's just a few hours away as it's hard to beat the place with all its attractions.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

rania's birthday in perth

We just came back from a 10 days break in Perth. The trip co-incided with Rania's birthday and so we decided to take the family out for lunch at one of our favourite haunt 'Secret Garden' especially when the weather was so beautiful.

We had Rania's birthday party at the foreshore in South Perth the next day and although I planned it from Malaysia a few weeks prior to the day, I really had to thank my mother-in-law for organising all the food! We used one of the BBQ pits to cook up some steak, chicken wings and sausages, and served them with some fried rice cooked by Tok Mama and fried Mihun by Tok Wan themselves. Her delicious birthday cupcakes were made especially by the meticulous hands of Angela and the birthday girl had her very first own cupcake all to herself!

It was really meaningful for us to be able to share this special milestone with close family and friends which we have spent some of our significant years before in Perth, although I really wished my parents would have just jumped on the plane to join us even if for a few days! As they had scheduled work and travel commitments, they had to turn down our 'invitation'.

Still we had a great time and certainly a lovely holiday. Imran really loves it there at this age being able to play at the playgrounds which is covered by sand (his obsession!), feed the ducks and birds at the park just in front of the house and of course the farm. After reading lots of books about farm animals and tractors, it was like a dream for him to actually 'work' at one - well in his imagination anyway! Eventhough he has been there twice before, I don't think he quiet enjoyed it as much as he did this time around. In fact he didn't want to leave and was breaking into tears while suggesting that he could stay there all by himself!

Rania developed a lot during the trip too. Thanks to plenty of practice of walking on the sand at the beach and playgrounds, she walks really well now and in fact seems to be running sometimes! I am so proud of my girl the good eater - she was so easy with food that we didn't have to cook any special food for her. She ate whatever we ate - nasi biryani, oxtail soup, nasi tomato, seafood chowder - she was even crazy about the capers we had in the pasta at one of the restaurants!!

The cute thing was she knew excatly where her Tok Mama's cookie jar was located at the kitchen table top and would always stop right there and point upwards while saying "this" or "nak!". The girl is certainly vocalising these days and also knows how to say "no", which is probably not a very good thing! Her understanding has developed so much too with her being really upset if she gets a scolding. Her ability to interact is becoming more and more apparent like when she wants to have her nap. She would touch her hair and rub her eyes while waving and saying the sweetest "bye" to announce that she is quite ready to have a nap!

Oh well, I guess I have to accept reality that my girl is one now and is no longer a baby. And what better way than to turn this chapter during such a wonderful holiday in Perth. I can't help but to feel extraordinarily lucky to have such an ideal holiday spot and home there, and these kids sure are very lucky too!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

the halloween birthday party

We decided to do a Halloween birthday party for Imran this year as I thought it would be fun to get the kids to dress-up. Sure enough the birthday boy - Superman Imran was in his element in that suit and truly believed he was a super-hero for a day! Baby elephant Rania however wasn't very keen on her head-piece and really, who can blame her for that? It's not really fun having a trunk coming in between your eyes!

Imran and some of his classmates have been discussing about what they were wearing for the party too as he would come home from school to report to me - and I think the build up of all that excitement resulted in him being super excited and one happy birthday boy and the end of it!

We had 28 kids on that day dressing up as batman, bat-woman, Bumble-Bee, pirate, baby monkey, ballerina, angel, bunny rabbit and of course some 'princesses' also made it to the party! It was great fun to see the kids in their outfits and I wished I had taken more photos of them, but handling that many children and making sure their parents relaxed and had something to eat kept most of us occupied especially when I was ambitious enough to get the (mostly) three year olds to play 'pass the parcel'!

It was nice that all the family members contributed in making it a special day for Imran. Aunty Nelly made mini cottage pies and sandwiches which was sponsored by Dada. Dadi made the most popular item cucur udang. Tok Jenny made her famous risoles but specially mini ones only for the party. And Tok Mama organised some of the other foods and the lovely fruit 'cocktail'. It was a good thing that I delegated all the food items and ordered the birthday cake and cupcakes, so I could concentrate in getting the house and kids ready in their costumes!

There was slight drizzle that appeared from time to time which didn't allow us to play the games in the garden, but considering that it has been raining heavily pretty much everyday nowadays in the afternoons, I would be very greedy to have asked for better weather that day!

Imran received many nice presents too including a bicycle from Uncle Ben and Aunty Nelly, a tractor that he can ride on from Uncle Niki and Aunty Elma, a police station tent from Aunty Nor, Aunty Raz and Aunty Ainnal and some are still being hid in the cupboard to be opened only when he has settled down a bit more! I am worried now that he thinks he can get this all the time and have told him that he has to wait for one whole year now for a new set of toys.

I hope we didn't spoil him too much but I think the boy deserves it as his party was canceled at the very last minute last year when I had early contractions from Rania! So for the last three nights now, he has been telling me before going to bed "I had a great party!" And that makes me so happy beyond words - as long as he doesn't expect it all the time!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

imran is three

Imran turned 3 today and I can't help but be proud of what my boy has grown into. Although he can do better at sharing his toys with his little sister and be more friendly to people he meets, he is such a sweet little thing at heart.

He says things like "I love your SO much Mama" and my favourite one is "You're MY best Mummy!", which is a little strange but melts my heart regardless. Then there are all these conversations with him which I keep meaning to write down, but never got around doing. But I will document this particular one which we had a few days ago on a typical afternoon while playing at the patio.

He was climbing all the way up the ladder to 'fix' an artificial cobweb stuck on the grill which was meant to be part of the decoration for his party on the weekend. The thing is flimsy and fragile, and we have just put it there to test and see how the thing works.

So I said, "Imran, you're not touching the cobweb!"

Somehow looking a little surprised he said, "But why Mama?"

To which I answered "Because that is supposed to be for your party and we don't want to spoil it before your party, do we?"

His face turned sour with dissapoinment and he slowly came down the ladder before crying some real tears which was rather unexpected. Didn't think he was so set on the idea! But anyway he settled quite quickly after a cuddle and an explanation.

However about an hour later, he came up to me to receive yet another cuddle before saying, "Mama, I really feel sad when you get SO upset with me. That's why LAH I cried just now."

So I said, "Oh, don't worry Imran. I'm not upset anymore now"

And then he said something which I thought was so out of line!

He said, "But I really feel like making you a card, put it in an ENVE-LOPE, and give it to you"

I was slightly confused about such a random idea, and asked him,

"And the card will say I'm sorry?"

He then answered, "No, the card will say - I LOVE you, will you come for my party?"

At that point I just smiled at such strange but cute randomness and tried very hard not to laugh, and said "Sure I'll come to your party!"

Happy 3rd birthday little muchkin!! XOXO

*The photo is of him 'helping' uncle potong rumput - his all-time favourite besides the chinese speaking contractor!