The problem with blogging once a month is that life doesn’t slow down for you to blog it later. So now I’ve got loads of pictures from Malaysia and Sri Lanka…and little desire to write about them. I guess I’d rather not be a travel blogger?
Although, on second thoughts, we loved the short time we spent in Malacca. It was a beautiful city and probably one of the nicest things we saw in Malaysia. So maybe I’ll write about that one of these days. No promises, though!
Anyways, this set of pictures from the butterfly garden in Kuala Lumpur was too cute not to share. JQ loved feeding the fish and had the best time watching them bubble to the surface when he threw the fish food in. Plus, what’s cuter than hearing a baby say “Fizzshie!”?
Has it ever been busy around here lately! One brother decided to come surprise the other brother, so we had some fun times with brothers (still trying to convince them to write a blog post). Then once all the company left, we took a trip to Malacca and Kuala Lumpur, and as soon as we got back from that I started a training for 1v4 online classes that had a ridiculous amount of homework. So I’ve only been trying to write this post for about a month and a half. So on top of things over here!
For spring break, we decided to go to Batam, a small island in Indonesia that’s about an hour ferry ride away from Singapore. Apparently Singaporeans like to visit Batam for seafood, shopping, and a special kind of cake called Kueh Lapis that’s a lot cheaper in Batam.
However, we are not Singaporean, so we didn’t eat any seafood and we didn’t do any shopping, although we did go to a giant shopping mall because Jared and Abel wanted to see a movie (Q is pretty averse to being quiet and still so he went to the kid’s playplace instead). We DID try the special cake and it was actually quite good. Abel thought it was almost one of the best things he’d eaten in Singapore, the best, of course, being a chocolate peanut butter sandwich (for some reason fish balls just didn’t do it for him).
Our apartment building, which was close to the middle of the city but also kind of in the middle of nowhere and next to a slum, had a great view from the top–at least from the one window we could see out of.
I think it was part of a development that ran out of money: big fancy buildings that were now weatherstained and nearly empty except for a few token businesses, and, as I mentioned, sitting right next to a large slum. Call me a privileged American, but it was kind of shocking to see an actual slum and realise that yes, people do live in buildings made out of rusty corrugated iron and leave trash sitting around everywhere (trash not depicted as I wasn’t able to get a good picture of the entire slum).
And that slum was sitting right next to buildings that looked like this:
They’re a little waterstained and what not, but still. Only a few stores inhabited them, one of which was this cute coffee shop (I think it was owned by the same people who owned our hotel). It was stuffed with all kinds of toys and memorabilia and JQ took great delight in attempting to play with everything.
The highlight of the trip, by far, was the day we hired a car (and a driver) and traveled over the whole chain of islands around Batam.
We saw some more slums,
little shops by the roadside selling fruit or snacks and drinks,
more sad-looking dwellings,
some abandoned houses that a reservoir had been built over (we surmised)
and the bridge that all the tourist websites said was a must-see: Barelang Bridge.
We stopped here and stretched our legs and drank some coconut juice, which JQ “very liked.”
Then we admired the bridge some more
and Abel tried to learn some Indonesian from our driver, whose English was pretty poor.
Then we kept driving on to Vietnam village, an old refugee camp for those displaced by the Vietnam war (empty now). We all agreed that if we were refugees a camp in the middle of the jungle would not be the nicest place to be (can you say mosquitoes!).
The main attraction of the camp now seems to be the monkeys.
So many monkeys, and they looked like they were used to handouts.
Also, Abel endured his five minutes of fame for being one of the only white people around when he sped ahead of Jared and me on one of the walking trails and a nun and her friends pressed him into taking a picture with them. Jared and I laid low and took pictures from a distance while sniggering silently.
Of course, on the very next bend of the trail (which, by the way, was full of scenes from the crucifixion–so this was taken in front of the empty tomb), we were all accosted by an even larger group of people–I assume they were Indonesian–and pressed into taking a picture with them.
Much picture-taking and rearrangement of people ensued: they practically wanted a picture of everyone individually!
Once all our celebrity photos were taken (and now we have about a million photos of us on some random strangers’ phones!), we headed back to the car before I could get eaten alive by the mosquitoes.
Then we headed back home. It gets tiring to get your picture taken all day! I’m sure these deer had the same feeling.
Before we left Indonesia, we had to try some of the food (even though it’s really pretty similar to Singaporean food). I don’t remember what this was called, but it was some kind of curry and was actually much more delicious than it looks.
And we came back to Singapore feeling grateful not to live in Indonesia!
A couple weekends ago we took a day off to visit Malaysia. It would have been a quick trip, but it felt like most of our time getting there and back was spent in passport control since we had a baby and couldn’t go through the automated lines. Thankfully, after spending about half an hour in one line that moved maybe two feet, an officer took pity on us (and our screaming baby who definitely feels he has better things to do in life than stand in queue for hours at passport control leaving Singapore) and shunted us through a more quickly moving line. Oddly enough, for being so much more developed than its neighboring countries, Singapore has the slowest moving immigration lines ever. Malaysia got us through much more quickly.
Once we finally got through immigration and got on the bus again and got off the bus in the city, we got some sketchy Malaysian food that surprisingly didn’t make us sick but was extremely spicy, and then got a taxi to go to a palace that had been turned into a museum. Jared had checked it all out beforehand, and on the internet it said that it had been closed for renovation in 2013 but was open to the public in 2016. Well, as soon as we got there we saw a giant sign in front: “Close to Public.” Apparently, Malaysians are quite bad at updating their websites, as the guard told us it wouldn’t be open until late 2017.
That plan put on hold, our taxi driver suggested another museum that he knew of. So off we toddled, and found that this one was actually open.
Their main activity was playing some traditional Malaysian game whereby you move marbles around a tray. Whoever still has marbles left at the end wins–although they didn’t mention that fact until Jared had moved all his marbles into the main area. JQ didn’t care about winning–but he loved moving all the marbles around.
They also had a really cool skylight shaped like the Malaysian flag.
The rest of the museum was full of random trinkets and posters about the sultans of Johor Bahru back when it was its own Sultanate. Fascinating stuff if you happen to be a student of Malaysian history and speak the Malay language. Unfortunately, neither of those is on my CV.
JQ, of course, had his fair share of admirers among the guards at the museum. He wasn’t quite sure what to think, though.
So after that, we took some pictures outside the museum.
And some more pictures.
And Abel goofed around a little.
And looked handsome.
Then we walked to the bus station and marveled at the lack of sidewalks and the masses of unfinished buildings, stood in line for another two hours at immigration, and made it home happy to be living in a city with sidewalks and crosswalks and all the other amenities of civilization.
So this little man is already 17 months old, and I can’t believe how fast the time is going.
I’ve been kind of hesitant to write a post about him, since I can’t imagine that very many people (with the exception of his relatives, who do probably make up a good 50% of my readership) are that interested in knowing that yet another baby is doing cute things with the portion of his time that isn’t spent doing annoying things.
Now forgive me, since I might be biased, but a lot of the things he does are awfully cute. He definitely doesn’t suffer from a lack of self-esteem either–anytime he does anything “remarkable,” like pushing a button and turning something on, he claps for himself with a self-satisfied smile.
He loves figuring out how things work, and especially loves taking things apart. One of his favorite pastimes is taking eggshells out of the trashcan and crumbling them up on the floor. I figure if we just call it a Montessori activity, we can ignore the fact that the eggshells were in the trashcan and assume that he’s wiring some good things into his brain. Besides, when he’s done crushing them up, he goes and gets the broom and dustpan and sweeps them up again (which is also so cute that you can pardon the fact that when he tries to empty it out the contents go all over the floor again). Yeah, he didn’t get that clean streak from me. Must be some long-dormant gene coming out or something.
Our daily walk outside to the playgrounds in our complex pretty much makes his day, as he can chase birds and watch them flutter away, find the random cats that haunt the place and are taken care of by the old ladies, and climb all over and hang from the playground equipment. So far the swings are his favorite.
Unfortunately, he’s turning into a bit of a daredevil. Tap-dancing on the table is almost a daily occurrence, as is climbing onto things and then hanging dangerously over the edge or riding the back of the couch. I think he just likes hearing me gasp when he’s put himself in a particularly dangerous situation because that always evokes lots of giggles.
And oh yes, did I mention he’s a tease? If anything is kept from him for any reason, like phones or the remotes for the AC, he plots ways to get his hands on them and then giggle madly when we realize what he has. He usually even waves it around in the air to make sure we notice.
One his most maddening tendencies is sitting down on the sidewalk whenever you try to get him to go somewhere he doesn’t want to go. There are few things more annoying than walking along when suddenly your companion decides he has to nearly pull his arm out of his socket and sit down RIGHT THERE because you didn’t let him push the elevator button and he really really WANTS to push the elevator button. These standoffs usually culminate with me asserting my dominance and carrying him the rest of the way kicking and screaming. I’ll leave it up to your imagination who’s doing (most) of the screaming.
In spite of his more annoying traits, he’s also beginning to show a more affectionate side and loves giving kisses and hugs, usually followed by a headbut or three that nearly break your nose. Then he’ll hand you his favorite blanket and make sure it’s bunched up just right before settling down to sleep.
I’m sure there’s a lot more cute things he does like babbling nonsense “sentences,” bleating “Maamaa?” every time he wants anything I want to get anything done, and getting upset when we don’t stick to his routine, but I’ll spare you so you don’t think he’s Wonderbaby. For that, you can wait for the Christmas letter in three years when I’m sure he’ll have won a prize in an essay competition, created his own line of specialty toys, and developed a new way to rip books apart without his daddy getting mad at him. And of course he’ll have already read Thucydides and the complete works of Charles Dickens. Who do you think we’re raising anyway?
Of all the places we visited, Cumbrae Island was definitely one of our favorites. We stayed at an adorable little village in Scotland called West Kilbride, and our hostess recommended we see Cumbrae island.
So we headed off early in the morning on the ferry and hoped it wouldn’t be too chilly since I’d gotten rid of all my jackets. That’s what happens when you put all your stuff in one carry-on sized suitcase.
But even though it started off cold and gray, it became beautifully sunny when we got there. And I have a ton of pictures to prove it.
When we got there, we thought about being cheapskates and just walking all the way around the island (about 10 miles), but decided to take a bus into the town of Millport and rent bicycles.
It was an adorable little town (and super cheap housing prices!) and we were almost convinced to buy a beach house there for summer vacations.
It was so much fun to cycle around the island on the most beautiful day ever and feel the fresh air and see the gorgeous scenery. I might have enjoyed it a little.
We stopped and ate lunch overlooking this view.
JQ sat on a rock and supervised.
Then it was off for more cycling and enjoying the view.
What can I say, except that it was gorgeous and you should go there if you ever get the chance?
This small flat where we eagerly expected the birth of our first child, the place he came home to from the hospital. Family and friends have visited. Life has happened. We’ve filled it with memories in less than a year.
But now our flat is looking bare and new again, minus all the stuff that’s sitting around everywhere. Let’s say it looks as bare and new as a place that looks like a tornado recently went through it can look.
We’ve started getting rid of everything, moving on, letting go. Those tiny baby clothes we brought expectantly, our furniture, the evidence that we were here.
I don’t want to move on. I want to freeze this moment in time: this still-small baby (who is sometimes a bear), this messy apartment, these sunsets over the river. I want to hold them in the palm of my hand and never let go.
I don’t want to surrender a known present to an unknown future. If it were up to me, I’d give up unknown joys and sorrows in exchange for these familiar ones. I’d freeze time, holding onto to what I know.
But it’s not up to me. I don’t have a choice. Life must be lived even if it’s uncertain, even if it means giving up the familiar for the unfamiliar, the known for the unknown. Unknown goods are no less good because they are unknown. Or that’s what I tell myself, anyways.
Otherwise, I’d be like my still-learning baby: endlessly grasping for something I cannot reach but not wise enough to give up and move forward to the things within my grasp.
I decided it was time for an update on what’s been going on over here while I’ve been doing everything but blogging. So here are the things that have been keeping me busy recently.
The first one, of course, is JQ monstering.
Don’t be fooled by that cute little face and angelic mop of blonde hair. This little man, who is currently eight-and-a-half months old, rarely sits still and always wants to be getting into something. Vying for the spots of top most fascinating things are computer cords, computers, cellphones, and drawers. So far he’s completely destroyed one drawer in the house and taken the contents out of many more. His motto seems to be, “What can I get into next?”
2. In June, we celebrated our third anniversary. Of course, like the bad blogger that I am, I’ve been trying to write a post about it for a month. This is me giving up and saying no post shall be written. But at least we got (a very bad) picture of us wandering around London on our anniversary.
It’s been a great three years in three countries, Jared. I’m looking forward to the next year (and the next country!).
3. The third thing that’s been keeping me busy is. . .I got a job! It’s teaching English online to Chinese people, mostly kids. The transition was a little rough on JQ (since he obviously can’t “help” me and has to go in the other room), but I’ve taught a lot of fun students. And I’ll be able to take it with me when we move. . . which is a plus.
4. Which brings me to: we’re moving, again! We leave our current house on July 25 (sniff, sniff), and are going to travel around for a bit before heading off to Singapore in January. Not looking forward to Singapore’s weather, but kind of excited to know where we’re going next and maybe having a bigger flat there too. What I’m not excited about, though, is packing, a.k.a. getting rid of everything we own (again). I always feel like we’ve done a great job of not accumulating stuff until it’s time to pack it all up–and then it takes five times longer than it should to go through everything. But at least we won’t have much to carry when traveling!
5. But before we leave here for good, we’re doing a bit more traveling around the country. We have Scotland and Ireland booked for the end of the month, but for now, we’ve just made a last-minute trip to Gloucester and a day trip to Cardiff from there. Lots more beautiful scenery (and cute baby pictures, of course).
We’ve been loving the gorgeous English gardens and all the greenery everywhere.
We had a great time walking around Cardiff as well and seeing the castle and the bay. It was perfect weather too!
6. Besides going places ourselves, we’ve also had other people visit us. After my friend left, my sister came two weeks later. I haven’t persuaded either of them to write a blog post yet, but perhaps I might still. It’s amazing how much more popular living in London has made us!
7. Other than all the busyness described above, we’re just enjoying what has probably been the coolest summer I’ve ever spent. I don’t think it’s ever gotten past 80 degrees (yes, that is Fahrenheit) yet and it’s July. Feel free to be envious, those of you roasting in America. Have I mentioned we’re going to miss England?!
Well, I think that about covers our summer so far. What have you all been up to?
Today’s post is brought to you by my sister-in-law Mara, who visited us in London for a few months. I’m making it a tradition that if you visit, you have to write up a blog post about your time here. Sadly, she just left us for the greener pastures of Oregon. . . where things are a lot less hectic.
Looming skyscrapers, double-decker buses roaring down the wrong side of the road, seas of rushing people, zooming trains—it’s all a bit much for Alaska-born, small-town-raised, me. Well, it was at first. Now, I am as much a Londoner as anyone from here, or at least I like to pretend I am. I’ve figured out the meanings of knackered (think exhausted), squiggle (“squiggle up the queue”), squidge (squishy!), and dodgy (Brits’ favorite word meaning sketchy) and I know what bin lorries are (just plain old garbage trucks). I know how to get anywhere, and often find myself giving lost people directions.
. . .like how to get to Sherlock’s house!
The trick to getting anywhere, even if you can’t pronounce where you are going and you aren’t sure where you came from, is to look confident. If the signal on your phone fails, or your trusty Piccadilly train line workers go on strike for the third time this month, just flash a British guy a smile and ask how you get to x (I don’t recommend this advice for guys). “Sure love, you just . . . ” is the usual response. These British men know how to be gentlemen (not referring here to the ones that say f*** every other word).
Speaking of striking, it’s a favorite pastime for train workers and everyone else. Six months paid leave for having a baby (which you just had at the hospital for no cost to you), paternity and adoption leave, paid public holidays, plus six weeks paid vacation for everyone, workable healthcare that doesn’t cost so much that you have to live in your car. . . the conditions are so abominable that if I lived here I’d be striking every other week too.
Apparently, some places in the world still celebrate Good Friday–it’s a national holiday here, which means trains and buses have different schedules, or sometimes don’t even run. I found this out the hard way when I was left waiting an hour for a bus at the train station 4.5 miles from my appointment and a taxi driver was kind enough to tell me that the buses were not running that day. Unfortunately, he just wanted to drain my bank account. I walked. I did contemplate hitchhiking, but I didn’t want my mother getting wind of it and having a heart attack.
Or you can just climb a twisty old oak.
If you really want to give your mum a heart attack, just take a trip to Rome. End up dreadfully sick, realize you better go to the hospital (before the housekeeper discovers you dead on the bed), find the hospital where no one speaks English, nearly stop breathing, get pumped full of oxygen and meds and spend the next week barely able to get out of bed with bronchitis, coughing, throwing up, and cooking with a fever. [Ed.: it takes a real fever to be able to cook with it!] If that doesn’t scare your mummy, I don’t know what will.
If you prefer to not have such enervating adventures, I found the circus back in London was a much more relaxing option. The lion tamer, I mean house cat tamer, and his ferocious beast put on quite a show. Never mind that the lion’s roar sounded more like “meow.” I considered getting my Exceptional Talent visa to be the circus unicyclist as they didn’t have one. But after watching the knife thrower tie up the poor circus girl and nearly take off her head, I decided I didn’t want to get roped into any such ridiculousness. I’m kind of attached to my head too.
Museums are also a great way to spend your free time. If you really want to become one of those obnoxious museum snobs, just spend the day looking at all the dinosaur bones in the Natural History Museum. After making great friends with the T-Rex, go over to the British Museum where you can chill out with the freakishly real-looking wood/wax Huns, then nip over to the Victoria and Albert to examine all the fine dishes, dresses, and couches while getting overwhelmed with gold things. Still want more? That’s okay, there are about a billion museums left to see.
My Hun friend at the British Museum
And if you get tired of dusty museum history, you can always go over to Hyde Park or Greenwich Park, where you might still find history but in a more natural setting. But be careful–if you’re bad, you might get tied up to Queen Elizabeth’s Oak overnight as a punishment.
Now that my senior thesis on the History of British War and Police Dogs is finally all researched and written, it’s time for me to attend graduation, get a job, pay off loans, and do all the general responsible adult-ish things. So now, I’m headed back to the skyscraper-less grass fields of home, where a traffic jam means six cars behind a tractor. But a piece of my heart will be left behind in beautiful, diverse, adventure-filled London, in the church-turned-flat, with Brother and Annikins and Baby Bear.