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P1 Culture Shock

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Elanor began Primary 1 on Friday.

I would love to talk about the experience thus far, but I don’t think that I should just yet because I’m suffering from serious Culture Shock.  This has been a thoroughly unpleasant dive back into my early expat days where I was just clueless about everything all the time.  I assigned incorrect motives and explanations as I tried to make sense of things.  My understanding of what’s going on and how I feel about it is cycling rapidly, and it would be unhelpful at best and misleading at worst for me to opine about anything at length.

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I’m experiencing “cultural confrontation” at the moment.  Between my own experiences as a student and five years as a teacher, my expectations regarding what school is “supposed” to be like run far deeper than I realized.  I feel anxious, sometimes even angry about things that are different–sometimes because I don’t understand why they are the way they are, and other times for no rational reason other than “this is different and I am uncomfortable with it.”

So I’m going to give it time, and will hopefully be able to give you a more nuanced explanation of what it’s been like to be the white expat parent at the school thus far once I have begun to move back into the adjustment phase.

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So what will I tell you?

I sent E to school with her blouse buttoned all the way to the neck  and she came home annoyed that I didn’t know she could leave the top button open.

She seems pretty happy, although she’s missing her friends from GUG and has gotten a bit weepy about that more than once.

The second spelling test of the year has the word “cannot” on it, which is so Singaporean I burst out laughing when I saw it.

Elanor is over this whole wearing shoes all day thing.  Her Kindy had kids take off their shoes and wear socks indoors–wearing your shoes all day is an uncomfortable and unwelcome change.

I have joined a whatsapp group of other P1 parents from my primary school, and it’s a relief to see that I’m not the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on with regards to many things.

Wordless Wednesday End of Year Gymnastics Shows

Elanor’s Show

 

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Rhiannon’s Show

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Club Med, Bali (review)

We spent a week at the end of November/start of December at Club Med, Bali.

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I’ve already talked about our vacation in terms of the all-inclusive resort experience here.  I’m going to try to avoid doing a retread of those topics.

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There were many things I enjoyed about Club Med Bali.  There was only one I really hated, and I want to get that out of the way first.  The rooms are not what I expect for this level of property.  They are showing their age–the mattresses and furniture are worn, the handles on many cabinets were loose, the in room safe used an actual key instead of electronic coding, the rooms use physical keys that say the resort name and room number on them, the windows don’t stay closed very well, the air con is weak, and there were issues with ants.

That said, while we were there, I could see that they have begun fairly thorough renovations.  In the rooms I could see, they had stripped it down to the cement and were completely redoing the rooms floor to ceiling.

I have no idea how long these will take or what complaints the renovation will fix.  They had begun the first of the 5 hotel buildings, and one would assume they’ll work down the line.  Work seemed to go on at all hours, although I couldn’t hear it from the building we were in.  I just noticed that when we walked by at night, they had lights on and were continuing to work.

You may want to check on the status of the renovations before making reservations.

Something I doubt the renovation will fix is that there are 3 steps to get into each room, and there are no elevators except to reach the dining room by the family pool.  If you have a family member with mobility issues, this may be something to explore more in depth.
30 nov 723 no=05Of all of the things I enjoyed, the Kids Club got top marks from me and the girls.  Although they only went two (three?) times over the course of the week, all the kids club staff knew their names (and so did much of the wider staff).  The girls played games in the pool/on land, were fed, and did age appropriate activities.  Elanor did archery and the trapeze among others.  Both girls were fed (and from what I heard, were allowed to eat together and play together whenever the 2-4 and 4-6 age groups were combined).

I felt comfortable dropping them off and picking them up without any concerns.

The only complaint was that they never seemed to have schedules in English for Elanor’s age group, which seemed odd, as all it required to fix that problem was a photocopier and five minutes.  Luckily I speak French, so I was able to take the French schedule and translate it for Ravi.

Kids club for those 4+ is free.   Under 4 is an additional surcharge.

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Through the kids club, the girls were also in a show one night.  We had the option of letting them do another show on one of the other nights and elected not to.  The girls had a great time doing the circus show (Wednesday night, if I recall).  They still like to play “Lions and Tigers” (the emcee played a lion tamer and told the kids to do things like “Lions and Tigers watch tv” and they would all pose).

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Ellie also got to perform in a special daughters and dads (in that 4-6 age range) acrobat show.  After coming back from the rehearsal, I asked Ravi how it went.

“My goals are not to drop her and not to embarrass her, in that order.”

Don’t let him fool you, it went well!

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While the beachfront is “public,” it’s only shared with other resorts.  There were a few touts, but nothing on the scale of what we experienced at Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand.  As you can see in the back, there’s a breakfront set up so that the waves don’t hit the beach with much force.

IMG_2455We spent most of our time at the resort by the family pool.  There is a shallow side of roughly .5 meters and a deeper side of around a meter, separated by a gate.  The kids never wanted to leave the pool.  Luckily, if you’re lucky, you can grab some poolside drink service.  (If not, the bar is nearby).

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The activities were well organized.  Things were kept as simple as possible so that beginners could feel success at archery, safe while snorkeling, and so forth.  The tennis courts looked well maintained.  My mother in law reported that the spa was nice.  I was able to take Ellie kayaking for the first time, which was a great bonding exercise.

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Throughout your stay, there are staff photographers on hand, snapping away.  There is a photo centre by the gift shop where you can go through their daily photos, create a folder, and burn a cd of images you want to take home.  (The picture of E as a “tiger” in leopard print is the resort photographer’s.  All others are mine).  This does mean you can leave the camera in the room if you like, and if like me you’re the family photographer, you’ll actually show up in some pictures.

I liked Club Med Bali (as much as I’m going to like an inclusive resort).  I think I’d like it much better after the renovation.

In the end, though, I would be happier just going back to Bali and staying at a regular hotel, though.

Wordless Wednesday: Elanor graduates K2

IMG_0496 The K2 big group song

IMG_0521Shaking hands with the principal

IMG_0526Posing

IMG_0625Recorder performance

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The inclusive resort experience

We just got back from a week in Bali at Club Med.  This was my first time staying at an inclusive resort, and I had no idea what to expect.  I’d heard good things about the resort from friends in SG, and it seemed like the best chance of making all three generations happy.

IMG_1565Family Pool, Club Med Bali (all photos are mine)

I walked away feeling mostly positive about the experience, but I don’t know that I’m likely to do it again.  Let me unpack why both of those things are true.

I spent a lot of time looking for hotel/resorts with kids clubs.  Due to Rhiannon’s age (and the fact that she is not yet potty trained) our choices were limited.  We thought that the girls would have more fun in a kids club environment and would want to spend all their time there.  In the end they only spent two days out of seven at the kids club.

It’s pretty obvious in retrospect, but they just wanted to hang out with us.  I was so focused on giving them “opportunities” that I didn’t stop to think if they’d actually want them.

IMG_1544That said, here’s Elanor on the trapeze.

Generally speaking, I prefer vacations where there’s a lot of exploring.  I like to wander cities.  I want to see the “real” place that I’m visiting.  However, after the November we had just (barely) survived, the idea of going somewhere and doing nothing felt like bliss.  In theory.  It was good for about three or four days.  Then I got antsy.  But I also didn’t really have the energy to sit down with a guidebook and come up with my own agenda.

Unlike my trip to Cambodia, I also had to take into account that my kids really don’t have the patience for temples, and my in-laws would not necessarily enjoy what I like either.  We did a one day excursion where we visited Ubud’s Monkey Forest and saw batik and silver shops in the morning and did an elephant trek in the afternoon, organized through the resort.  Another day Ravi and I took Elanor (who we’ve called Turtle since her birth) to the Turtle Conservation and Education Centre.  Apart from that, we stayed on property.

I’m pretty conflicted about that.  Yes, I needed a downtime vacation, but I also feel like I haven’t really visited Bali.  Effectively I have a visa in my passport that I don’t feel like I earned (unlike my Cambodia trip where I spent all but one afternoon exploring).

I think going forward, while I liked some amenities of Club Med (more in a minute) I don’t want to stay somewhere that makes it too easy to be so isolated again.

IMG_2060Rhi, on the other hand has seen enough of the “real” Bali

None of this means that the experience was bad or that Club Med is bad.  Once I was able to summon the energy to try some organized fun, I spent a morning doing archery with my father-in-law while Ravi cheered us on.  I tried snorkeling for the first time.  I took Elanor kayaking, and Ravi and my father in law kayaked nearby.  I was also going to pick up a tennis racket for the first time in 19 years, but Elanor got sick.

I’ve always wanted to try snorkeling, but it’s never been so easily accessible as it was at Club Med.  As I’m the only person in the family with an interest, I’ve not looked for the opportunity before, assuming I’d try it on a trip to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef at some point in the future, or in the Bahamas on a cruise or some other opportunity down the line.  It was probably my favorite part of the trip, even if the only means I have of identifying fish are their animated counterparts in Finding Nemo.

The variety of things to do made most of us happy over the course of the week.  There was the family pool, but there was also the adult pool, which was blissfully quiet.  There was a spa that my mother in law enjoyed, and a beach that the girls enjoyed excavating.

There is absolutely something to be said for the organized activities.  The flip side is that they’re organized, so you have to be at a place at a certain time to do them.  Your mileage may vary on whether this works for you or not.

30 nov 715 no=41Organized fun

I didn’t, but should have given real forethought to how limited my food choices would be at an inclusive resort.  The food is not spectacular–they’re making it for massive crowds and the flavors can’t be too intense because of the variety of palates.  So I found myself at dinner one night describing a curry as bland.  Which are not typically words I would use in the same sentence.  When we finally left the resort to eat out, it was like nirvana.

So yes, plenty of food–the kids certainly enjoyed the all access pass to ice cream–but not necessarily tasty food.  I’ve asked around and this is absolutely not a specific to the property thing–this is part and parcel of the inclusive experience.  That said, apart from breakfast and the occasional room service order, part of staying at a regular property means that you’re out and about to try a different restaurant every day (and another reason I prefer them).

DSC_0838This was the most impressive thing I saw food-wise. Watermelons, carrots, coconut, and I think beets.

I think that whether you like the inclusive resort experience is very personal.  I know people who LOVE this sort of vacation and do so regularly.  I know people who have never and would never do it.  Then there are people like me for whom it’s not a first choice, but I’d never say never.  In many ways it was absolutely the right fit for our family.  But I also don’t particularly want to have a similar vacation any time soon.

If I were to do an inclusive resort again in the future I think I’d probably go for a shorter duration than a week; three or four days.  A week felt like it was just too long for that sort of sheltered environment.  I think that a cruise might fit my personality better when it comes to the inclusive experience–the on board scheduled fun mixed in with travel and seeing different cities/ports over the course of a vacation.  One of my dearest friends regularly does Disney cruises with her family, and another friend did one this past year–both rave about it.  So that’s a possibility.

In my next post I’ll review Club Med Bali

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My head is spinning

I don’t think I ever imagined a month like the one we just had.  Over the course of November we had

  • Elanor’s Birthday party at home
  • Elanor celebrated her birthday at school with cupcakes
  • We had a parent/teacher conference about Elanor
  • My in-laws arrived from the US
  • Elanor had her end of year gymnastics show
  • Elanor graduated K2/end of year school concert
  • Rhiannon had her end of year school concert
  • Elanor had P1 Orientation
  • Rhiannon had her end of year gymnastics show
  • Elanor had her ballet recital
  • We had a parent/teacher conference about Rhiannon
  • All six of us went to Bali for a week
  • My bedroom aircon broke and it took a terrifying number of people to get it working again
  • Then my living room aircon broke (different compressor)
  • My macbook’s motherboard died, leaving me unable to do any photo or video uploading

I’m exhausted just typing that, so it’s really no shock that Ellie and I both got sick in the week between her P1 orientation and her ballet recital, or that I’ve come down with another cold now.  (Also Elanor and I both got ear infections in Bali, but I’m not blaming that on stress–that’s bad luck).

However, I have functioning aircon throughout my house (for the moment). My macbook is up and running again. We are done with extracurriculars until Dec 29th.  Elanor finishes K2 next Friday (Rhi’s school is also a daycare, so they’re open throughout December–which will be handy at times).  My in-laws are on their way to a wedding in Mumbai before coming back for Christmas. And I have unpacked the suitcases from the trip.

So now I get to go collapse, right?

I’ll try to catch you guys up on what’s happening with us over the next bit of time, probably starting with Bali and working backwards.  In the meantime, today was Elanor’s last day in uniform at GUG, and I have two pictures to show you.

20120116_132824Although Elanor began at GUG in April of 2011 when she was 2 years and 5 months old, the classes prior to Nursery 2 do not wear uniforms.  This picture is from January 2012, when Elanor was 3 years and 2 months old on her first day of Nursery 2.  This was her first day in a uniform at GUG.

2014-12-03This picture is from today.  Elanor is 6 years and 1 month old.  Today was her last day in uniform as a Kindergarten 2 student.  The last week of class is “holiday program,” which means that they can wear whatever they want.

Looking at the two pictures side by side makes me feel very sentimental.

Theater Review: Junior Claus (Sponsored Post)

***I received complimentary tickets to see Junior Claus.  However, all views expressed within are my opinion***

On Saturday Nov 8 we went to see Junior Claus, a Little Company production, at DBS Arts Centre.

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 1.13.34 pmElevator ad in United Square

“I’m Santa’s only son. I’m supposed to take over and I don’t even understand how Christmas magic works!”

Junior Claus is the rebellious heir to an immense empire in the North Pole, where elves busily prepare for the biggest day of the year – Christmas. When Santa falls into a deep sleep because the Belief-o-Meter falls to a dangerously low level, Grumpo the greedy elf assumes power as Chief Inventor in Santa’s workshop. After Junior runs away from home, Grumpo attempts to achieve his sinister goal: ruin the Yuletide season forever.

Will Junior return home to save Santa? Can he rekindle the Christmas spirit? Join Junior and his friends, Chipper the elf and Pengy the penguin, as they race against time to bring Christmas back. With upbeat tunes and engaging dialogue, Junior Claus encapsulates the best of the Christmas spirit, making it a festive year-end treat for audiences of all ages! (source, Sistic page)

As with many movies and shows at Christmas time, the central theme of the show is belief.  Belief in Santa/Christmas, and belief in one’s self.  Elanor received and bought into that whole heartedly.  Ellie told me (with a very serious tone in her voice) that Junior needed to learn how to believe like she believes.

There are several moments of audience participation, and they’re handled well.  The audience that viewed the show with us seemed to be around Ellie’s age (six) or a bit only (maybe to nine or so) and they seemed engaged (minus the typical kid restlessness here and there).  There are a number of puns and the parental extortion Grumpo has planned that flew over the kid’s heads, but that myself and the adults around me seemed to snicker at.

The manner in which Singapore was included (they need a human child to help the belief-o-meter) was mostly well done. There was an awkward dig at Malaysia and in the stream of questions to Santa, the child asks “and why are you sometimes African?” which felt off.  There’s an excellent section in Nurture Shock‘s chapter 3 on race/racism where they pose the idea that Santa might not be white to kindergarten children that exposes how solidly the idea of Santa as white is entrenched.  But obviously the Santa Claus that children encounter in Singapore isn’t white–the people hired to play Santa are Singaporean, so the whole race thing felt weird in the context of Singapore–I’m curious what the original line was.

That said, we had a wonderful time.

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 1.13.50 pmEllie as Junior Claus

The show is performed by a six person cast.

Seong Hui Xuan‘s Chipper the Elf was exceptional.  Whether singing, dancing or acting, her enthusiasm and stage presence is formidable–she absolutely has the “it” factor. Chipper was Elanor’s favorite character and ties for my favorite character with Tan’s Pengy.

Timothy Wan’s Grumpo is a delightful villian.  He’s deliciously bad as he practically chews the scenery in his commitment to destroying Christmas.

Cheryl Tan’s Pengy is hilarious comic relief–I could watch an entire show around that character as acted by Tan.   Any time she was on stage, she stole the show.  Her secondary role as Tara (the girl who believes) is enjoyable for the few moments Tara is on stage.

Candice De Rozario’s role as Brunhilde the henchman was enjoyable.  It actually took me several minutes to realize it was the same actor as the one who played Mrs. Claus.  Performing such radically different characters in the same show, and switching between them effortlessly deserves notice.

Benjamin Chow’s Santa is everything you want in a Santa–he’s warm and jolly with a booming voice.  His secondary role as Dasher is enjoyable, although quite minor.  But again, he switches between the roles easily.

Dwayne Tan as Junior Claus was…okay.  His voice was much weaker than the rest of the cast.  In several songs he was drowned out by the music, and on stage he was often softer than the other characters.  He’s not a bad performer, but he’s not as strong as the other mains, and the show suffers a bit because of that.

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 1.14.06 pmEllie as Chipper the Elf

Junior Claus was the kick off to our holiday season–I left thinking of the new Idina Menzel Christmas album that I’ve purchased but not yet listened to, and Ellie was ready to come home and set up the Christmas tree.  So the overall mission of the show was accomplished–we left in a happy holiday mood.  I’d recommend the show to anyone with kids in the 5-10 range who include Santa in their holiday traditions.

Junior Claus is playing at DBS Arts Centre through December 14

Tickets are available via Sistic or at the box office

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