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Wordless Wednesday: Elanor graduates K2

IMG_0496 The K2 big group song

IMG_0521Shaking hands with the principal

IMG_0526Posing

IMG_0625Recorder performance

IMG_0765Dancing

IMG_0811Family Photo

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 12.39.09 amThe graduate

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

Halloween 2014

If you’re looking to celebrate Halloween with Trick or Treating, here is the low-down…

IMG_9121

On Halloween (Oct 31), take a CAB to the Singapore American School in Woodlands from 6-8 pm.  DO NOT drive yourself-there is no parking.

You will see giant hordes of people trick or treating on the streets adjacent to SAS.  The police block off the streets to make them a pedestrian zone.  People will be at their gates handing out candy (see above).

We’ve been going for several years now.  Americans, Singaporeans, everyone is welcome.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 8.55.57 pm

We celebrate Diwali because of Singapore

Ravi grew up with only one family tradition surrounding Diwali–eating a jalebi (to give the new year a sweet start).  If we had stayed in the US, that would likely be the only Diwali tradition that the girls grew up with.  We would have followed their lead, and as Boston doesn’t have a huge Indian community that we were part of or any sort of public acknowledgement of Diwali, the jalebi would be the extent of our traditions.

Ironically, moving to Singapore is what gave us the opportunity and motive to create family traditions for Diwali.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 9.48.29 pm

Diwali is a public holiday in Singapore

In the US, Diwali isn’t a widely acknowledged holiday.  It’s not a day that children get off from school or grown-ups from work.

Now, this Diwali, I am heartened by how my daughter embraces her Indian-American heritage and by how different my daughter’s America is from mine. Diwali is celebrated at the White House. The television show “The Office” had an entire episode dedicated to Diwali where the non-Indian characters were more knowledgeable than the clueless Indian one played by Mindy Kaling, the writer and actress. And (in true recognition) Diwali has been placed on the coveted New York City Alternate Side Parking calendar.(source)

However, despite these small advances, I think it would be hard for a family like ours–without a strong connection to India or Indian culture–to create Diwali traditions without support.

In Singapore, Diwali is a day where everyone is home.  The girls learn about the holiday in school and do Diwali crafts.  There are Diwali markets in Little India.  There is no shortage of support for the holiday and opportunity to celebrate.

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 4.43.42 pm

 

The Diwali markets are a resource for materials to celebrate

We go to the Diwali market to buy decorations, to get mendhi, and if we want to buy clothes there we can.

I go to Mustafa to pick up jalebi mix.  I realize it’s not as good as making it from scratch, but it works for us.

This year we also purchased our first rangoli kit.  If we moved back to the US, it would be great to give the kids sidewalk chalk and let them decorate the walkway or the driveway.

IMG_9169

Our traditions have grown over time

In 2010 we went home in November and Ravi’s mom made jalebi.  In 2011 I had a newborn and not much got acknowledged that holiday season.

So it was 2012 before we celebrated Diwali on our own.  That year we read a book, lit diyas and got mendhi.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 8.36.09 pm
Last year Notabilia and I took our children to the Diwali exhibit at Gardens by the Bay and the girls celebrated in school for the first time that we knew about.  We got mendhi and lit diyas once again.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 8.39.45 pm
This year, with Rhiannon getting bigger, we added a few new traditions to the ones we’ve been building.  Each year it becomes a better and better holiday with traditions that the children (Elanor, at this point) are looking forward to.

IMG_9192

Now, when/if we move home, we’ll make the effort to keep up our traditions.

Maybe we’ll take notice of Singapore’s National Day our first year back home.  I’ll keep an eye out for CNY or Mid-Autumn festival opportunities, but would probably not go out of my way to do things to celebrate them at home.  But we’ll keep Diwali.  And we have Singapore to thank for that.

IMG_9262

Diwali 2014

This year we really made an effort to celebrate Diwali.Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 9.55.34 pmWe began the day with Jalebi’s to get our year off to a sweet start.  This is a family tradition Ravi grew up with that we continue.  Don’t tell anyone that I used a box mix.  (I actually bought jalebi yesterday but woke up to find out that they don’t reheat, so I had to pull out the mix and make them properly.)

IMG_9176

We next made a rangoli.  The girls aren’t old enough, nor am I artistically talented enough, to make one freehand.  But I found a  kit at the Diwali market by Mustafa.  You peel off numbered stickers that correspond to bags of colored gravel.  You shake the gravel over the sticker and it….sticks.  This is what my floor looked like by the time we were done.  The mat caught most of it, but I swept up quite a bit as well.

IMG_9189

Here it is assembled by the front door.  Hopefully since it is off to the side, it will not get destroyed over the five days of Diwali (I say that like I didn’t learn only this week that Diwali is a five day celebration–we’re not Hindu so I’m learning on the fly for the most part).

IMG_9202

Here’s Ellie being silly by one of our Diwali decorations.  Traditionally both girls would get new Indian clothes for Diwali, but this year I gave them new t-shirts, as they’ll wear those more.  They also each had an outfit that fit already, so we elected not to buy them more clothes at this point.

IMG_9233

Here are our lit diyas.  Ellie made the one on the left at school while we bought Rhiannon’s at the Diwali market.  Rhi kept blowing hers out because her only real experience with candles at this point is from her birthday.  So she’d blow it out and say “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

IMG_9244We finished the night with sparklers.  Ellie loved it.  Rhi loved it too, but kept dropping her sparkler in the grass, giving us a heart attack each time.

You can check out the full set of Diwali pictures on my flickr account here.

We ended our day with sparklers.  Ellie loved it.  Rhi liked it, but kept dropping her sparklers in the grass, giving us a heart attack each time.

There is a great article in the New York Times about how Diwali is becoming more widely celebrated in the US.  Congratulations to Notabilia, whose wonderful book Mama’s Saris is mentioned in the article.

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