Monday, November 27, 2017

sydney: leura

Stop #2 was at Leura, a small charming Blue Mountains village.

* Leura: One row of charming shops along a small road with loads of trees

We think this is where dear little Lulu was made (while we were having our Blue Mountains hurrah) so we thought we’d bring her there.

What do the kids remember most of it, though?

We never visited the Candy Store in the past. But it’s what almost every local told us we had to visit.


It’s a veritable Willy Wonka treasure trove of all manner of sweets. It’s where the kids spent the most time, just hopping in, again and again, to browse the shelves and “look-see” (because there’s a limit to how many sweets we will get them). Me, when I walked in, I felt a bit sick because of the sweet fumes.



* Day's stash, inclusive of cinnamon Mentos!

The rest of Leura, all three days and two nights of it, passed by in a bit of a blur.

We did a garden (Everglades), a scenic spot (Three Sisters lookout), the kids discovered Back to the Future on TV and watched three consecutive nights of it (Back to the Future 1, 2, 3), KK was there with us in body but not in spirit as he was beleaguered with work.

* Three Sisters, with a rare family photo

* Everglades Historic House and Gardens

* KK with spiffy new Panama hat

* Glued to the laptop

Saturday, November 25, 2017

sydney: coogee

It’s taken so long because its taking me forever to comb through the old photos and find “throwback” ones. You know, the trend of putting old and current photos together where everything’s the same except the subject. Like this:


* Jo! Eleven years on!

I give up. Way too much work! I’ve just got a few…

Coogee was where we spent six whole days. Yes, six!

The objective was to really let the kids experience the old routines, so they walk in our shoes and are a bit more familiar with our little family history, of our time in Sydney.

Like I said, they remember nothing. I’m also not sure they particularly enjoyed the walk-through because it was a time of suffering and poverty… and we walked a LOT. 


So, no car, of course. We had no wish to rent a car and battle Sydney’s mad downtown anyway. Just like in the old days, we bussed everywhere, using our Opal cards.


Bus numbers remained the same. 374, 373, 313, 314 etc. I think the buses were a tad refurbished, looking at the old and new photos.

* Then, KK carrying Jo and Day looking behind

* Now, Jo and Lu

* Then

* Now

Reliable? Very. Buses turned up whenever we needed it, for some strange reason. We never had to wait.


We walked to KK’s uni, UNSW.


This was hard and for the kids, probably the most unpleasant part of the trip. Because it’s a long walk which leads to a not-very-fun place!

During the walk, uphill all the way along Coogee Bay Road to UNSW and then downhill all the way back, I wondered: Gosh, did we ever do this with two babies? Because I felt really tired! Fitness has clearly dropped! I thought I have been keeping fit over the years but clearly I haven’t!

* Lu's face says it all. The long road behind her is an incline

The kids tired out, fast. I kept intoning: “You know ah, Papa used to walk to school EVERY DAY like this…” its like they didn’t hear as they kept plugging on, one leg after another…

* Then

* Now, with the addition of Luanne who is happily waving away in the background


And there was Bardon Park, where I used to wait with Day and Jo in tow, for KK to traipse down the hill once he finished school and when the kids would greet him with squeals and kisses.

* Then

* Now, like not so happy hor?


Apart from a coat of gray paint to cover the red, our old home never changed.


A lump rose in my throat when I saw the old washing machines and dryers which I used to use, the patch of grass where I use to hang out the clothes, and even our old room, where I saw the ghost of Day and baby Jo peering curiously out of the window as I went about my laundry chores.

* That window directly to her left (gray blinds) is where they used to gaze at me and where I made sure I could see that they were alive and well

And I brought all of them on our evening walk route, with the same charming houses.

* Jo on a swing outside someone's house. The swing is new


What can I say? The beach is as beautiful as ever, every corner means something to us, so much so that the kids didn't get to experience it all. Never mind.

Jo concerned herself with taking lots and lots of photos for her Instagram account.

* Then

* Now, Jo, taking the same view with her phone

* This one, I took of her 

For the first time, we ventured to the Baths, a place we never really went to in the past because it isn’t quite child-friendly.

* Walking to the Baths, which is a kind of swimming pool carved out of the ocean

* Interesting mini "aquarium" at the Baths

And when we re-lived our hilltop picnic, even though it was rather chilly with a stiff breeze blowing and we had no tent or blankets to keep warm, the children, especially Lu, thoroughly enjoyed it.

“Can we buy fish-and-chips and go back up to eat, please, please?” she said.

* Up on the hilltop

* Eating in the shade of our bush wind-breaker

* Fish and chips, which attracted the birds by the dozen (just like before!)

The one difference at Coogee, however, was that we splurged on nice food. KK said, “Last time we were so broke, we could only eat fast food. Now I want to eat better.”

We did have our Oportos and fish-and-chips, North Indian food, Turkish food, even Macs, which actually meant that we actually spent a lot less than we thought we would because we were eating all the cheap junk (to re-live the past mah)

But for two meals, we splashed out at Coogee Pavilion, a place which we used to pass by and stare hungrily at all the diners eating nice stuff.

* Coogee Pavilion, awash with light in the background. Apparently it was recently taken over by a hot-shot entrepreneur who revived the aging edifice and its now damn hip

* The stand-out dish: Grilled hangar steak with roasted bone marrow, KK couldn't get enough of it

* Something new too: This ladder bench


Despite fatigue – after several days of hard walking – the kids were entranced by the Bondi-Coogee coastal walk. (we did it this way so they’d feel like they were walking “home” and be more motivated, rather than walking to Bondi and then having to figure out a way back)

Photos tell the story!




* Near Gordon's Bay, in a place which Jody said felt like the moon

* Approaching Coogee


We didn’t quite do exactly the same as KK and Day followed GPS this time around, and we alighted at another bus stop. 

But the garden was just the same, along with the fabulous views, and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair where we didn’t picnic this time around but instead the kids jumped all over the rocks. Because now, they can!

* Somewhere around Mrs Macquarie's Chair


So many birds and flowers. The girls couldn't believe their eyes. Lu grabbed my camera half the time. This is a roadside parrot on a roadside bush, which she snapped.


* The dandelions Day so loved, now in the hands of the Lu

Thursday, November 23, 2017

coogee throwback

In the aftermath of our trip the girls (Day is not interested) have been looking at the old videos we took while we lived there.

This was one of them, one which current Jo loves watching. She sees her chubby dimpled knee-high year-old self being fussy about music and exclaims, “Oh so cute!” I miss tiny Jo.

I tell the kids, every time you guys change and develop and grow, its like someone died. Because the bub / toddler will never return.

* We were already getting ready to leave, hence the DHL box

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

sydney surprise

We’re back and I’m taking my own sweet time to catch up.

This is by far the most memorable holiday I’ve ever had - and which I think I’ll ever have - in my entire life.

Why? It was a time of deep, emotional reflection. That while Coogee and many of the places we re-visited were the same, so many other things had changed. The hopes, the joy, the happiness I felt as a 31-year-old on a year-long sojourn in Sydney, echoed in my bones as I walked the same paths as a 42-year-old, but reality has truly bitten and the echoes are hollow. So little has changed, yet so much changed.

On an upbeat note, one of the biggest surprises came our way as we were walking at Coogee Beach, past the Oporto chicken outlet we used to patronize (and which looks exactly the same as it did in 2006, even the chairs)

A lady who was eating there with her two sons did a double-take when she spied KK and the girls, who were walking in front of me.

She came up to him. “Would you happen to be married to a lady called Sher?"

She’s a blog reader! We got recognized in Sydney! I mean, what are the chances?

I talked to Adnil a bit. She’s American, came across our online lives years ago when she was searching for playgroups in the Coogee area for her boys, and she’s been with us ever since, enjoying little slices of Singapore life.

The kids, especially the girls, came away a little pale-faced. They can’t believe I have readers who recognize them. In another country.

* Adnil and I outside Oporto

Sunday, November 19, 2017

going home


Today we fly back to the place we called Home for a year from July 2006, for a ten-day holiday.

To see if Day remembers anything, to show the girls what they missed (Jo won’t remember and Lu didn't exist), to see if anything’s changed.

Why the Homecoming?

Frankly, I wanted to do a Campervan drive and KK refused. So… Homecoming!

I look through the old photos and videos and I feel a rush of warmth.

Here’s one I never posted, of the girl I just brought for Open House, as a lovely eight-month-old in her prettiest pink dress tottering on the green of Coogee Beach as KK keeps her upright.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


With Day there wasn’t much choice.

There wasn’t any talent he could use to shove his foot in to a good secondary school via DSA or direct school admission (in which case the PSLE result would not even really matter), and his results were not quite good enough for him to consider anything other than the O level stream.

With Jo there is more choice.

Which means we (or rather, I) have to be a little more sensitive to what would suit her best, and be more diligent in finding out exactly what the options are. KK’s opinion is, “I think she’ll be fine wherever she goes.” Righto.

DSA? Yes, I believe she could use the erhu to get into a good school. Only she doesn’t want to. “I don’t want to have to join the Chinese Orchestra in secondary school," she says.

What I see is that she doesn’t yet have a demonstrably strong interest in any one area. She’s never had a go at sport, not a team sport anyway, perhaps secondary school would be a good place for her to try.

Then what course? O level? IP? IB? She could possibly qualify. What, then?

If grades permit, we are leaning towards an IP programme in an all-girl’s school, where she wouldn’t be distracted by boys. (She has said, “But I like having boys in my class because they make so much noise the teachers don’t pay so much attention to me.”)

Why IP? I think she, er, likes project work? (She said, “But I like structure, Mama. I like the teacher writing everything on the board, and I copy everything and take the exam, I don’t have to speak in class.”)

Whatever it is, I hope she knows what she wants by then. I think she will. Unlike Day who didn't mind anything, I think she's more picky.

I bring her for two Open House events today. Day’s school, and another all girl’s school which is nearby. I just wanted her to get a sense.

* Jo, who meets up with best friend Emilyn to check out the Open Houses together

* Checking out the room for the Enhanced Art Programme, which I pay attention to not for Jo, but for Lu, who is wavering from her SOTA dream because she says she doesn't want to be competing amongst the best

* My highlight of Open House? Seeing Day on stage!