January 28, 2009

Being sluggish...

It's a Wednesday. Today is supposed to be a very productive day with 8 hours to spare doing my proposal at the library. As I've mentioned in my previous post, Alden is enrolled for a full-day session on Wednesdays and today is the day where mother and son both go to school to learn new things and to get work done. An ideal plan, which is about to fail *deep sigh*. I'm here in front of the PC and trying hard to continue my proposal writing.

I've only written about 80 words today and I can't move on. The thought of writing a literature review on Second Language Writing Research is so unappealing and I've no discipline whatsoever to force myself to get some mind juices flowing. I'm having a brain freeze now and this post is a testimony of that. Look at the way I write now. It's all sulky and cluttered :-( With the mood I'm having, I don't know whether I'll survive in the Endnotes tutorial at 2pm. At least it's a tutorial, not a lecture. With only 11 participants, there's no way I can fall asleep during the 90-minute lesson.

Okay..enough is enough. I think what I need is a big bar of Sneakers which I can easily get from the vending machine at the counter. Does chocolate help pregnant ladies in generating good ideas for proposal writing? Let me try and I'll keep you posted. "The secret of getting ahead is getting started" - Sally Berger Yeah..but what about the secret of not getting stuck? She missed that one...

January 27, 2009

Post-Chinese New Year

Today is the second day of CNY and the air of the celebration has totally faded. It's not like I was super-excited on the first day anyway. Hubby and I didn't do anything special on CNY as it felt like another gloomy Monday morning.I even went to campus to attend a writing course and meet my supervisor for an hour. Boring, boring, boring. 

The only thing that cheered us was the long online-one-sided-video-conference we had with our loved ones who were back at home. It was one-sided because we couldn't see their faces but they could see ours. Sis was using Celcom broadband and the reception was really bad that day (It was driving her up the walls!)...Nevertheless, the online chat was the highlight of the day as everyone at home were crowding over my sis and her laptop just to get a glimpse of our faces. We felt like online-celebrities that day :-) Hubby's parents had a good view of our crib and were so delighted to finally see our healthy, chubby faces. One comment from my father-in-law bothered me though. He said we all looked FAT *%#@? Ouch! Well, at least I have a reason for the extra weight gain. I'm now in my 4th month (going to be 5 months in a week's time) and I have every reason to gain some extra pounds. Someone needs to tell him that.

January 23, 2009

My Alden is all grown up

Some of you may have noticed that I have been a bit limp on the blogging business lately. Since my last post, I have just had so much to do and I couldn’t find time to focus and write a decent post. Between babysitting Alden, working on my proposal, meeting my supervisor and binging on junk food in front of the TV, there hasn’t been a moment for me to think about my blog…Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. Of late, I haven’t had any mood to write anyway. I blame the weather for my lack of mood (if that’s possible) and anyone suffering the New Zealand summer heat would understand why. It has been extremely warm and dry these past few days which makes activities in the afternoon very very torturing to be executed. For e.g. hanging the clothes, gardening (not me), driving to/ from campus and taking an afternoon nap (a must for most pregnant ladies). Oh, did I mention our car’s air condition needs fixing? That’s another reason why driving is like having a sauna plus a spray tan.

Today, the crappy weather didn't bother me a bit. Today was different. I woke up earlier than usual and the first thing I did was fill out an enrolment form for UC Childcare Centre. The centre is also known as Te Ao Tamariki (in Maori) and it is based at the College of English, which is only 2 blocks away from the College of Education (where my office is). The centre has a big compound with a large outside play area as well as excellent indoors facilities. Activities include music, collage, play dough, painting, family/dramatic play, carpentry, water play, sand play, blocks, climbing equipment, balls, etc. Sounds like a lot of fun huh? Alden is enrolled for Wednesday and Friday sessions and this inevitably forces me to go to campus and do my work, no matter what. So enrolling my little Alden serves two purposes; for him to learn and socialize and for me to work my butt off in the office. Since the centre is only 5 minutes walk from my office, I could always check on him like every 5 minutes *grin grin*. A perfect arrangement.

Before I could really send Alden to the centre, he needed to go for transistion visits accompanied by mum and dad. The first visit was scheduled at 2pm today and it was meant to give Alden a sense of familiarity of his new surroundings. Since the first visit sounded so important, I took it upon myself to brief Alden on the plus points of attending Pre-school; new teachers, new friends and new toys. He nodded excitedly and said "mmm" (as if he understood what I blab about). You see, at this stage, eventhough he doesn't understand what I'm saying, with the right tone and pitch, I bound to get a positive respond from him. Satisfied that I had given Alden 'First Day of Pres-school 101' in 5 minutes, we quickly zoomed to the centre.

When we arrived, one of the preschool teachers warmly ushered us into the playroom. Alden took small baby steps and slowly walked into the big room and when he saw the colourful crowd of tots playing and talking, I could sense his anxiety. I knew he wanted to join in but was too insecure to do so. Seeing his reactions, one of the preschool teachers, Joanne, tried to coax him into joining the crowd and tempted him with a Thomas and Friends train set. Upon seeing that, his eyes sparkled! (Thomas and Friends is his favourite cartoon and idol). He couldn't resist the tempatation and finally sat down on the floor. After 5 minutes, he was already showing his antics to the teachers; taking out toy cars from the toy box and arranging them in perfect line (as if they were stuck in traffic). You see, it is Alden's trademark to arrange cars in perfect line and he does this everyday. (see the picture here?). He also marked his territory by grabbing toys that he liked and placing them close to himself. When his new friends asked for the train and fire engine, Alden had no inhibitions saying ‘NO’ to them. Not wanting Alden to be labeled as rude, I started to warn him and was about to take away some of the toys when Joanne stopped me. She assured me that it was a positive behaviour indicating confidence and security. "Good boy Alden", she said. Hearing that, I beamed proudly and just kept my mouth shut.

It is important for me that Alden feels secured and happy in the centre and from what I saw this afternoon, he was all that. Seeing how much he enjoyed the short visit, my initial worries have subsided. My Alden is finally going to preschool with his little lunch box and Bob the Builder backpack. He's all grown up :-)

January 15, 2009

The answer to my cravings

I am now 16 weeks pregnant and this particular week, my appetite has grown tremendously. I think about food more often than usual and when I’m starving, I'm like a woman possessed. I've been craving for Nasi Lemak and goreng pisang, food whioch aren't healthy or nutritious. Nonetheless, I can’t help myself and this has driven me to dine at this small food outlet almost everyday.

The place is called Malaysian Flavours and it is situated at 110, Riccarton Road. Since it is only 5 minutes drive from campus, I go there very very often. There was one time, I had such an enormous appetite that I ordered one meal after another and even tapau some for dinner.

On that historical day, I had a large plate of Nasi Lemak (they have small and large meals), roti pisang with chicken curry, teh tarik, bubur pulut hitam and some of hubby’s Nasi Briyani. All that for lunch.

Feeling a tad embarrassed for eating so much, I proudly declared my pregnancy to the owner, Sheila. Maybe I should start wearing a shirt like the lady in the cartoon so I don't have to explain myself every time. 

Anyway, I felt so much better after the declaration that I ordered a plate of banana fritters a.k.a. goreng pisang panas- panas. To my dismay, Sheila told me those are ‘special’ and only cooked during weekends. Hmm...confusion, confusion. What makes goreng pisang so special? Beats me.

Not satisfied, I decided to make my own goreng pisang when I got home. And so the experiment began…  

1st Attempt
Went grocery shopping and bought a bunch of bananas, flour and...oh!that’s it.

Combine flour, sugar and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl.
Pour in water and combine into a batter. Just stir the batter until it looks ‘okay’.
Coat banana halves in the ‘okay’ batter and deep-fry until golden brown. Serve on a beautiful serving plate and pray that someone will eat it.  
*Do not try this unless you like limp and squishy banana fritters  

2nd Attempt
Surfed the net and found a decent recipe for goreng pisang. Printed the recipe and went grocery shopping.  

Combine various types of flour, salt and baking powder in a mixing bowl.
Pour in water and combine into a batter.
Add in some oil to mix.
Coat banana halves in the beautiful batter and deep-fry in super hot cooking oil until crispy and golden brown. Remove and drain on crumbled kitchen paper.  

Result: Really yummy and authentic-like goreng pisang. A success!

I guess being pregnant is not so bad after all. Despite having morning sickness, developing annoying rashes and losing my waistline, I have learnt how to prepare my very own banana fritters!! You never know, I might even bake a yummy lemon cheesecake (CL's recipe) for my next experiment.

January 13, 2009

No such thing as luck

When I was 19, a friend of mine who studied the art of palmistry read my palm and told me that I was very lucky. She said I always had luck by my side and that whenever I’m in a dire situation, there would always be someone to ‘save’ me. This ‘saviour’ of mine, she said, could be anyone; a friend, a relative or even a stranger.

At that time, it gave me such delight to suddenly discover that I was lucky. She also prophesied my future, saying that I would have a change of career path in my early twenties and I’d get married at the age of 26 and have four kids! The latter prediction gave me the creeps coz I sure didn’t want four kids at that time! So anyway, years gone by and somehow what my friend predicted came true. Sure indeed, after two years of teaching in a suburban high school, I resigned and joined University X.

A few years later, I got engaged and finally got married at the age of 26. Coincidence? Perhaps. Well, coincidence or not, I had become a true believer of luck. I foolishly and wholeheartedly believed that the many blessings that came my way were due to my own good luck.

Last June, I felt even luckier when I got an offer to study in Christchurch. I knew my good friend’s sister is residing in the very same city and it meant that I had someone to rely on. She somehow got the news that I was coming and welcomed me to stay at her place until I get myself settled. This reinforced my belief that I was indeed lucky and she was the ‘saviour’ my friend was talking about. I was always thinking that since luck was always on my side, nothing could go wrong.

As fate would have it, something did go wrong on 1st November 2008, my first day in New Zealand. On that earth-shattering day, I lost one luggage which contained my study materials, important documents from my sponsors, my husband’s academic certs (original copies including his degree certificate), my camera, sunglasses, brand new watch, sport shoes, mp3 player (which was my birthday present), my diary and my son’s clothes. The lost tore me apart knowing that all our important documents could never be retrieved.

Until today, Air New Zealand a.k.a. "the lousiest airline company in NZ" has not been able to locate the missing luggage and I've stopped hoping. Luck ran out on me I guess.

Today, I no longer believe in luck. I’m relying on someone who has never let me down. Someone who has been protecting me all this while and guiding me to the right path, answering my prayers and giving me hope when everything else seems hopeless.

I guess, the luggage incident happened for a reason; to put some sense into my foolish mind and to tell me that you can't count on luck. It opened my eyes so I could see the ‘real’ Saviour who has been carrying me.

“The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my Saviour;thou savest me from violence" (2 Samuel 22:3)

January 10, 2009

New Home

Having just moved to Christchurch, New Zealand, I have many things to adapt to. The weather, the people, the road rules, the bland food (which is really not to my liking!) and a whole lot of other stuff I won’t bother to mention. Before I go any further, let me just say that this post will focus on the good and not so good things I’ve discovered about my new home. So please bear with me because this can be messy and disorganized. That’s how I’m feeling right now. Let’s focus on the positive first, shall we? What I like....
  • The council in each district practices a very good recycling programme which involves all citizens. Rubbish is collected based on a schedule which varies from one district to another. The first dump truck collects your regular rubbish and that goes to the landfill. The second and following dump trucks collect recyclable stuff like papers, aluminum cans, glasses and plastics. Because of the recycling programme and massive campaign on keeping NZ clean, the city and towns are naturally, very clean. People have the consciousness not to litter and they clean up after eating at fast food outlets. The toilets are sparkling, the parks are clean and restaurants are spotless. Need I say more? It’s a very clean country.

  • People are very friendly and courteous. Salesperson will smile and ask you “How was your day” etc (but they don’t expect an elaborate answer). I also notice that they don’t hound you like a watch dog when you shop. Not like those salespersons back at home. Here, they give you the privacy to shop at your own time and pace. So you get a very relaxed and pressure-free shopping experience.

  • Cars here are really cheap. The latest BMW, Toyota, VW, Honda, you name it. Used cars here are even cheaper. Price starts from NZ$1000.00 and I’m not talking about those gone down cars that need a lot of fixing. If you don’t believe me, check out this website www.autotrader.co.nz. You’ll be amazed.

  • You can get really cheap stuff at garage sales. Garage sales are held during weekends and the stuff sold range from household items, clothes, camping gear, toys, beddings etc. Most of my household items were bought at a garage sale. I managed to get a microwave, a fridge, a dining table set, a TV cabinet, 4-tier drawers and a rattan-laundry basket for only NZ$250.00! Is that a good bargain or what?

Moving on to the negative....

What I don't like.....

  • I still don’t understand why they don’t have a fish market here. I’ve asked my neighbour who’s been in this country for more than 30 years and she told me that most of the fishes here are exported and we are left with second grade fish. So, getting wet fish is not easy. There are only two places (to my knowledge, that is) that sell wet fish; a little shop in China Town, Riccarton and another one along Riccarton Road called Fresh Fish. At supermarkets, all you can get is fish fillet. It sucks.

  • Most shops and shopping malls close early. Some as early as 6 pm. After 6, only bars and restaurants are open, and most of these are in the Christchurch city. In Kaiapoi, where I live, it gets so quiet after hours and by 8 pm the town is deserted. Restaurants here have really weird business hours. They open from 10am to 2pm then they close for a few hours. They will reopen at 5.00 pm. for 'dinner' and close at 10.00 pm. This means, you can't go and have a late lunch say around 3 or 4 because most of the food eateries are closed. Fast food outlets like McDonalds and KFC open 24 hours though.

  • Since it's summer now, it doesn't get dark till' 10 pm. 10 pm feels like 6pm (Malaysian time) and 11 pm feels like 8pm..something like that. This messes up our sleeping pattern coz we end up sleeping around 12 to 2am. You just don’t feel like sleeping coz you can still see the sun light at 9.00pm. So there you have it…the good and the bad…It’s quite a refreshing experience to live here and surprisingly I’ve come to enjoy and embrace the mundane life in Kaiapoi Town. Will write more in my next post. Cheers!