Monday, August 27, 2012

讲华语**

One of the things we worry about with Sophie being in daycare in Singapore is the whole speaking Chinese situation. Until we moved back, Sophie almost never heard any Chinese spoken around her. We taught her the Chinese words for "soy milk", "grape", and "apple", and that was about it.

But now that we're home, she hears it everywhere-- when we're at the store, at a restaurant, on TV at the grandparents' (we don't have TV signal in our apartment yet), and most importantly, at school.

But thankfully, she's actually been keenly enthusiastic about the language. She constantly asks what the name of things are in Chinese and she's been surprisingly receptive to us reading her Chinese books at bedtime (with us translating the story line by line in English, of course). In fact, right now, she's particularly enamored with the Tao Shu books that we borrowed from the cousins. We only have two from the series and we've read them almost every other day :) Honestly, it's actually been interesting for me to rediscover my mother tongue as well- I think the last time I was asked to read anything in Chinese was when I was 17!

It helps too that Sophie's favorite teacher at school is also her Chinese teacher. It's fascinating how children form attachments and particularly so in this case when Sophie barely understands what her Chinese teacher says to her. Her teacher will sometimes speak to Sophie in English if it's an important instruction, but for the most part, she only speaks Chinese. We suspect part of it is precisely because she speaks primarily Chinese. We think that for Sophie, Chinese is like a new puzzle- her curiosity and interest are being piqued and it's something to be explored and discovered. And her Chinese teacher represents all of that in one adoring, affectionate package.

Watch as Sophie sings her first Chinese song :) She has no idea what the words mean individually but she's actually got the intonations down quite accurately.




**speak Chinese

Friday, August 24, 2012

Settling in

My sister reminded me recently that it's only been four weeks since we've arrived in Singapore. And yet it feels like so much has happened in this short span of time. In fact, so much has happened just in the last 10 days alone.

1) Jude officially started at his new job. Although it's been hard work and he's been really busy, I think it's also something he's feeling good about.

2) We finally moved into our new apartment after living out of our suitcases for close to 4 weeks. We're still in a mild state of disbelief that we get to call this home for at least the next year and are counting our blessings that we get to enjoy it for even that long.

Our new place

In the little time since we've moved in, I think we've gotten it pretty much as livable as it can be right now. Many thanks go to our parents for bringing us essentials like kitchenware and pantry items- this move would not have been possible without them. Ikea has also been a great friend (I've been there three times in the past week alone) and so have several different DIY stores around the island. We are a little nervous about the 36 boxes of our stuff that is presumably in the middle of some ocean right now- I'm already mentally picturing where we're going to put certain things and it's making my head hurt...

3) We bought a car. We still miss our VW (shout out to the Cooneys- We're so happy that Tempest has found such a loving family!!) but this Honda has been a really zippy ride.

4) We found a daycare for Sophie that we all love. It's a lab school, which makes the educator geek in me so happy :) I'm particularly excited that we'll get to support the research and professional development that goes on in the center. And best of all, Sophie has been having a whale of a time since she started last week.

5) I submitted an article-- my first in Singapore-- to IPSCommons, an online platform for our local policy think-tank. It was published yesterday. I'm quite happy with the piece and excited to have it up somewhere for public consumption.

So there- not too shabby for 10 days, I think. There are still odds and ends that need to be tied up but for the most part-- until the rest of our stuff arrives in two weeks-- we're pretty much settled in. And with that is a profound sense of gratitude and we feel really blessed to have family close by to make this all relatively painless.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sophie at the Elizabeth

It's not quite The Plaza, I'm no Nanny, and we don't have a pug or a turtle. But for the past three weeks, it's almost like Sophie's been living the life of Eloise (at the Plaza).

Since we arrived in Singapore, we've been staying at The Elizabeth Hotel in the heart of Orchard Road. Even though it's meant cramming all that we've brought along with us and the energies of a now 3-year-old into one room, it's actually been quite a nice stay. For one, it's literally a 2-minute walk away from the hospital my grandfather was at when he was ill, which made visiting him so easy. It's also right in the middle of the shopping district so Sophie got an immediate introduction to big city living right from Day One. Let's hope she doesn't think walking through fancy shiny malls is going to be part of her daily routine once we've moved into our new apartment...

The staff at the hotel has been nothing but kind- three weeks is a long time to be staying at a hotel and because the hotel isn't a huge one, we've become familiar with the people who work here. The lady who cleans the elevator is always careful to tell Sophie not to run after she's just mopped the floors; Suresh, the waiter in the hotel cafe knows Sophie by name and always says 'hi' and 'good morning' when we go down for breakfast and always has Sophie's highchair ready for her; and the porters out front never fail to ask to help with our bags even when it's obvious we only have the diaper bag with us. Sophie of course knowns everyone- waves to everyone, says 'hi' and introduces herself to everyone-- staff or guest--, and has on more than one occasion, invited various members of the housekeeping crew to her birthday party :) They adore her, I think, which is why we come back every evening to a room well made and Sophie's toys all meticulously laid out the extra bed she sleeps on, no matter the toys were were when we left the room.

We check out tomorrow morning and while it'll be a relief to have more space again, a small piece of me will miss The Elizabeth a little. It's been our haven from the whirlwind that's been the past three weeks and for that, we'll always be grateful.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunshine after the rain

Sophie asked for three things for her birthday: balloons, dinosaurs, and a chocolate cake with purple stars. And we made sure she got them all :)

Balloons!!
Balloons!

Making a wish
Note the T-Rex piñata in the background 
and the dinosaur themed cutlery

Sophie's request- chocolate cakes with purple stars
As requested

Almost all the credit has to go to my sisters who made sure that Sophie got everything she wanted- Sam painstakingly handmade the purple stars that adorned Sophie's vegan chocolate cake (thanks, Delcie's Cakes!) and her giant present (more on that in another post) and Sherri picked out all the dinosaur decorations, the piñata, and the balloons.

It was a small family affair since we are technically still in mourning; in fact, we celebrated Sophie's birthday a day late since it was my grandfather's funeral on her actual birthday. But Sophie was none the wiser of course- all that mattered was that she got everything she asked for and was just happy relishing the family love (her first birthday with the grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousin!).

After a really sad week for the family, it was nice to bask in some happy vibes again... Happy birthday again, our sweet sweet Sophie. And thank you for cheering us all up with your boundless birthday joy!

More photos here.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Do not stand at my grave and weep

Writing a eulogy is hard; writing a eulogy for a grandfather is even harder...
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
- Mary Elizabeth Frye

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Up and down bus

You would have thought I had brought her on the most amazing carnival ride ever, or that we were sitting in a fancy space shuttle ready to take off on some fantastic journey. And to a three year old who until a week ago, had never seen a double-decker bus, sitting right in front on the upper deck probably elicits the same level of thrill and excitement :)

On the front row of the upper deck of the a double-decker bus
Sitting  right up front on the upper deck

Sophie calls it the "up and down bus" and we rode on it yesterday, fully intending to visit the library to get her a library card. But no, Sophie had such a wonderful time sitting where she was and seeing what she was seeing from the vantage point that there was no way she was getting off before she was ready. And so we ended up bypassing the library and taking the bus all the way to my parents' instead, 45 minutes away from our hotel. Thankfully it was all on the same bus line.

You should have seen and heard Sophie-

"We get to sit on a double-decker bus- that makes me smile!"

"You can call me Bus-driver Sophie! Hi! Nice to meet you!"

"Ok everybody, no squirming on the bus! Put your bottoms on the seat, please!"

"Oh look, Mama- the cars look like toys. And I'm on a giant bus!"

"Oh hi, Mr Bus-driver- thank you for taking me to my Por Por's house."


Throughout the ride, she alternated between pretending to drive the "upstairs bus" and hanging on to the edge of the window because something new caught her attention outside-- some billboard of some sort, an interesting looking building, the MRT train zooming close-by, etc. It was probably 45 of the most exciting minutes she's had in Singapore; and that made me smile. I'm glad Sophie is so curious about her new home and how open she is to all the new experiences and sensations. One day, she'll eventually take riding on a double-decker bus for granted-- just as many of us do-- but until then, I'm happy to just sit back, watch her revel in her newfound love for public transportation, and pray that it lasts for a long, long time :)