Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Nathan: Then and Now

I stumbled across this old snapshot of Nathan at one-and-a-half years old….


Compare that with this snapshot of him at four-and-a-half years old…


I spent one lazy Sunday afternoon just hanging out with Nathan, watching him play and listening to his numerous made up stories about his Lego characters and action figure toys.


He doesn’t have many action figures, but the ones he has, he treasures them immensely. The Spiderman and Soundwave Transformer are hand-me-down toys from hubby’s childhood days. The small Bumblebee Transformer is a souvenir given by his grandpa from Universal Studios Singapore. And the grey robot is a McDonalds Happy Meal toy which he named ‘Kudor’.


It was great fun getting acquainted with a few of the many characters in Nathan’s imaginary world and getting caught up in the suspense and action as I listened to story after story unfold in his own words.


“Don’t ask him to live in your world…
Visit his world instead”

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Aki Nabalu and Her Unsung Heroes

{A special post in support of the heroic mountain guides who lost their lives in the recent Sabah earthquake tragedy}


It was nearly fifteen years ago.

My first and only climb up the iconic Mount Kinabalu of my homeland, Sabah.

Climbing up an endless stairway upwards. Step, after step, after step…

“How much longer?” we ask our guide.

“Not long, just a little more”. The same patient answer every time.

The question was a pointless one I suppose.

It didn’t matter how much longer it was.

I still had to keep walking.


The next morning at we were roused before dawn to continue the final painful ascent up the mountain.

It was dark and cold and damp as we trekked up the rocky incline.

Why did I ever decide to do this?

My muscles were burning.

My lungs were on fire.

I couldn’t think of anything else except…

“I can’t do this any more”.

The distance to the peak was just about 50 metres away.

But I simply sank down on the ground and refused to move.

If I took one more step, I felt like I would die.

“Come on, just a little bit more!”
“You didn’t come all the way up here just to give up!”
“Here have my energy bar!”

Voices around me urged on.

One step. One more step. And another. Don’t stop. Don’t think. Another step. And one more.

I looked up. There were no more steps.

I did it. It’s over. I conquered the mountain. Or did I?

Where was the exhilaration. The elation. The rush. The feeling of triumph.

I felt none of that. Only a deep sense of relief.

It was the mountain that conquered me. That humbled me.


There is only one other time in my life I experienced a similar journey of having to use up every last inch of myself to reach the end. The birth of my baby girl. One minute at a time. One breath at a time. One contraction at a time. One push at a time.

Mount Kinabalu or Aki Nabalu holds a special significance for me at many levels. Because of the many childhood memories surrounding it. Because my physical strength was humbled by it when I sought to conquer it. Because I am Sabahan.

Aki Nabalu has a deep spiritual significance for the Kadazan Dusun people in Sabah. It is an ancient and revered place from the time of their ancestors. Nevertheless they welcome visitors to this sacred site and even make regular sacrifices and prayers for safety of visitors climbing the mountain.

On the 5th of June 2015. The wrath of Aki Nabalu shook the earth. The earthquake measured at a magnitude of 6.0 killing 18 people and leaving more than a hundred other people stranded on the mountain. The survivors clung on to hope of being rescued. But as the hours dragged on they realised that they were on their own.

The unsung heroes that day were the local mountain guides. Risking their own lives to help the climbers down to safety. Four guides lost their lives while protecting the climbers and their colleagues.

I was recently contacted by Kelly, a fellow Sabahan who is passionate about promoting Sabah tourism. She asked me if would put in a few words to share the fund raising project organised by Amazing Borneo and Mountain Torq on behalf of the families of the brave mountain guides who perished in the recent earthquake tragedy.

Robbi Sappingi died while saving a tourist climber from falling rocks. He is survived by his six-month old baby boy and his wife whom he married in September 2014.

Joseph Selungin died while using his body to shield two climbers from falling rocks. He is survived by his wife and two children aged two and four.

Valerian Jones and Ricky Masirin died while guiding a group of students and teachers from Tanjong Katong Primary School Singapore on the Via Ferrata trail. Valerian Jones was engaged to be married to his fiancée at the end of the year.

And all the other unsung heroes: The mountain guides and porters who have lost their livelihoods in the aftermath of this tragedy.

To support these heroes with your donations, please visit the fundraising campaign sites on Indiegogo.com organised by Amazing Borneo and Mountain Torque to make your contribution. Every cent of the funds received will go directly to the family members of the guides affected by this tragedy.

{All the contents of this post have been written personally by me. All opinion and thoughts in this post are my own. No monetary compensation or payment was received for this post. This is simply a genuine personal advocacy on an issue close to my heart}

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Fanciful imaginings of a four year old


On the other end of the spectrum (next to his little sister’s fixation on all things practical and tangible) is my imaginative four year old with his whimsical and sometimes offbeat ideas…

“Mummy, when I grow up, I want to be a knight. I will ride on a horse and have a sword.
I will wear a black helmet with a red feather. I will fight dragons and bad people.
Grace can be the princess. And I can also be the prince so we can get married.”


“Mummy, you know what? I wish our blue car can drive by itself. So daddy will sit in front,
but the wheels will turn by itself and the car will go on its own. And our grey car too!
And I can sit in front and the car will drive by itself. That will be nice.”


“Mummy, I was thinking about something… that our family can all be like superheroes.
Daddy can be Batman. I will be Superman with a blue cape. You can be Batgirl. Grace can be a Superman but a girl Superman… Oh I know! A Supergirl. Daddy and you will drive a Batmobile. I will drive a Batmobile too, but mine is a purple one. Your one is pink. Gracie’s one is purple. And daddy’s one will be… ermmm… Green! When we see a cat, we can climb up to rescue it. Also if we see a car break down, we can use a rope to tie it with a red hook and pull it. And then we will take the car to the mechanic to get it fixed. We can do so many things.”





(Bottom three photos taken at the Trick Eye Museum in Sentosa, Singapore)

My crazy delightful (almost) two


Our dearest little Gracie turns two in just a over a month.

I’d forgotten how delightful two can be.

Her hilarious and quirky antics. Her funny toddler speak. Her round squishy belly and wiggly tushie. And her innate curiosity about all things practical and tangible around her.

Food is still very much an important part in her life.

“Mummy!!! I hungee!!! I hungee!!!” (spoken literally ten minutes after breakfast)

“Errrmmm… I want chips… and errrmmmm… cracker…. and errrrmmmm… cake… and errrrmmm… that one… and errrrmmm… that one!” (making some important decisions at the refreshments table)

“I want eat….. that one!”
[This is chilli, Grace. It’s very spicy]
“I want eat chilli.”
Daddy insists on giving Grace a taste anyway despite mummy’s protests.
[So do you like chilli, Grace?]
Grace makes a grimace but nods her head anyway. She didn’t ask for it again, though.

She is decidedly vocal on what she wants and doesn’t want.

“Where my lion shoes??? I want wear lion shoes!!! I like lion shoes.”

“I want watch Fozen!!! I like Fozen”

“My turn! My turn! MY turn!”

“No, is mine!!! Is MIIIIIIINE!!!”

She exerts the classic toddler’s strife for independence.

“Nooooo, mummy!!! I do it!!! I do it!!!”

(Five minutes later…)

“Can’t do it!!! Kor-kor help!!!”

She asks a multitude of questions, which often do not necessarily make sense.

“What you doing, mummy?”
[I am writing some notes]
“Whyyyyy, mummy? Why nooots?”

“What’s that mummy? Is that yellow?”
[Yes, Grace. It’s a yellow nappy]
“Whyyyyy, mummy? Why yellow?”

“Is that apple, mummy?”
[No, this is a potato]
“Whyyyyy, mummy?”

She enjoys talking to her daddy and insists on her share of talk time at the dinner table (even though she currently lacks the vocabulary to support her content).

[So what did you do today, Grace?]
“Daddy, today I……. errrrrrrr………”
[Did you go to the library?]
“I go libree….… and today I errrrrrr……..”
[And you borrowed some books?]
“Burrow book! And errrrrrrr………”
[What did you play today?]
“Today I play…….. errrrrr…….”
Nathan interjects at this point to try and explain what they played
“Ai! Ai! Aaaaaiii!!!!!” (Grace shrieking and waving her hands to reclaim the spotlight)
[I think Grace hasn’t finished talking about her day yet.]
[But Grace don’t know how to explain  properly --Nathan]
[I know. But let’s let her finish anyway.]



Two is just lovable and huggable and squishable and altogether crazy delightful.


Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Memorable holiday highlights in Bali

After our action-packed week in Singapore, we eagerly packed our bags again and headed to the airport for a relaxing getaway in Bali.


{ Daily swims @ our private pool }
We stayed at Villa Kayu Raja in Seminyak. I booked a one-bedroom villa which was decked out with the standard luxuries in Bali, including our own private pool. This was the absolutely number one perk for the kids. Every single morning right after breakfast on the dot without fail, they would pop the same question “Please can we go swimming?”. And because we were on holiday and there was no particular agenda, the answer would usually be “Yes, of course!”.

I snapped this picture looking down at our pool from the balcony of our bedroom upstairs. My hands were almost shaking as I held the camera the balcony. What if the camera just happened to slip out of my hands at the moment? I was gripping the camera as tight as I possibly could as I snapped this picture.


{ Afternoon tea @ Biku }
The first day after our arrival, we explored the narrow, winding streets of Seminyak around our villa. Our main intent was to track down a hidden gem called Biku for afternoon tea. It was not easy navigating the almost non-existent sidewalks along the roads, and avoiding the cars and motorbikes zooming by just inches away from our toes. But as you can see, it was definitely worth it!

The menu was a fusion of English afternoon tea and local flavours. My favourites were the date scones with mango chutney, and the pineapple and mint agar-agar. While the curried egg finger sandwiches, samoosas and spring rolls were satisfying tummy fillers.


The kids were well looked after. Upon seating, they were immediately presented with colouring pages and markers. And there was a special kids afternoon tea set which looked absolutely delightful. I was tempted to order a set for myself too.

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{ Hindu temple @ Ubud }
We hired a driver to check out some of the touristy highlights in Ubud. Most of the places were nothing remarkably new for me. Batik painting. Wood carving. Paddy fields. But the highlight for me was seeing this centuries old Hindu temple. It was mind blowing to learn that are over 3,000 gods and deities worshipped in Bali. I found it incredibly fascinating to watch worshippers wearing batik sarongs and kebaya tops, as opposed to saris and dotis. It’s interesting to observe Hinduism so permeated in a traditionally Malay/Indo-type culture and see how it has endured through the centuries amidst the newer religions now dominate the Malay archipelago.


Nathan and Grace were captivated by something more ‘hands on’ at the temple. I think I was trying to tell Nathan to play the instruments more quietly. If that were even possible. The instruments were so loud, each banging and gonging sound resonated and carried through into every corner across the entire temple. And as you might guess, kids are usually not very good at curbing their enthusiasm.


{ Canang sari offerings }
These are one of the everyday sights that show the unique Balinese Hindu culture. Placed in front of every home, shop, restaurant and even in taxis, were one of these beautiful little daily thank offerings to their deity. Each element, colour and positioning of the items in the offering have a specific purpose and significance.

I always pause to look at these offerings whenever I see one of these canang sari offerings, simply because they are so beautiful and such a pleasure to look at.


{ Sunset dinner @ Jimbaran }
One lazy late afternoon, we hopped into a taxi and headed to Jimbaran to check out the beach there and have dinner. The beach itself was just alright. What really caught our interest were the numerous beachside restaurants stretched across the whole beach, with tables and colourful umbrellas and parasols looking out to the sea.


We took a leisurely walk along the beach and checked out the menu offerings of the various restaurants there. Eventually we settled on a spot and sat down for a seafood dinner with a sunset view. It was just lovely sitting back, enjoying the sea breeze, savouring the grilled fish, clams, prawns, and sipping on our coconuts as we watched the sun sink lower and lower until it dipped right into the ocean. It was the typical perfect romantic evening… even if we were flanked with two children at each at of the table.



And finally, here is my favourite snapshot of this entire holiday. Just  the four of us, happy, together.