Friday, July 20, 2012

A New Beginning

I can't believe it. My last post was more than three years ago! I have this strange sense of stepping into an old, dilapidated house filled with dust coated furniture, spider webs, dead rats and insect dropping.

Time to give my blog a total makeover. Well, not a total makeover. Perhaps a little update (before I forget what is there to update!)

Let's see. In the past three years, I've had a short stint as a section editor with a Canadian online magazine (sounded fancy but the pay was peanuts - the cleaning lady was earning much more than I did!), got paid big bucks as my best friend's cleaning lady (best job ever!) and did a course in children's services.

So here I am, a fully qualified early childhood educator (fancy title for what is commonly known as childcare worker). It's a Certificate III qualification but it is a good start for me. At least I'm more employable now. But three weeks after finishing my course and sending out a dozen of resumes, I'm still jobless. Truth told, I'm a bit disheartened that I haven't even got a single interview yet but I know I will find something eventually. Hopefully near the kids' school so that it's more convenient for all of us.

So how did I end up becoming a childhood educator? I had never been known to go crazy over babies and children. In fact, I had a tragic aversion to small human beings. I used to avoid them like the plague. I couldn't stand anything remotely related to children. If I accidentally ventured into the children's area at the departmental store, I would be instantly hit with nausea. If a small child started approaching me, my scowl would automatically appear, eliminating any potential face-to-face encounter or conversation between the wee one and me. That about sums up how much I loved children.

That was then, way before I had my own children. Well, it even took me a while to warm up to my own babies!

Things are very different now, though. I'm actually pretty good with kids. Of course, I'm great with my own kids. The real test, however, came with interacting with other people's kids. My good friend Lina's children were probably the first children outside my family that I spent a lot of time with. Her Joanne and my Joanne (yep, our daughters share the same name) are on-again-off-again besties at school. Her younger one, Arthur, and I bonded almost instantly. Don't know why. I was surprised too. Someone said maybe it was because I looked nice, friendly and approachable. Must have lost that scowl without even realising it!

Sometime late last year, I decided to really do something useful. There were several options - aged care, community care, children's service and TESOL. After some serious thought, I went ahead with children's services. After all, I was the section editor for the parenting section of the abovementioned website. I also used to write healtcare and parenting articles. I was technically already half an expert on child development and care. Why not complete the other half?

So I enrolled in a Certificate II Children's Services course at a local community college near my children's school. I loved every minute of it!

I made many new friends - I had 20 classmates and they came from 10 different countries - and found the course modules very interesting. The teachers were great and supportive. My horizon was widened considerably. For the first time in many years, I felt that I was doing something useful and productive. I had focus and finally could see what I would be doing for the next few years - a diploma in children's services is what I'm aiming for now.

When I started my workplace training one month into the course, I realised I actually had a lot of patience with little children. That was not a trait I was known for. Maybe I had it in me all this while but just never realised it.

Well, let's hope my job hunting will yield some good result soon. In the meantime, I should just enjoy my free time while it lasts.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Some New Photos

Some latest photos for your viewing pleasure.

Cyberspace Kids

It's the Easter Holidays again. And not surpringly, the kids are bored. We've gone to the movies, visited a cattle farm, played at a fun maze playhouse and saw little penguins strutting their stuff at the Penguin Parade. The kids have also spent hours in front of the idiot box and read all the books they borrowed from the library.

So, what's next?

I thought and thought - why not set email accounts and blogs for them? So I did. And now Joshua and Joanne are proud owners of their own email accounts and blogs.

While Joanne is still not all that keen about being part of the cyberspace, she does enjoy seeing her photos and her favorite Disney Princesses on her blog. Good way to upload her pinkish photos too.

Joshua, on the other hand, is very enthusiastic about having his own cyber home. He's put in a couple of posts without much help from me. Before long, he'll be a master at this and I'll be asking him for help!

So drop by Joshua's Omnitrix Zone and Joanne's Pink Palace if you're keen to have a look.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Second Anniversary in Melbourne

Yep, I've been living in Melbourne for two full years. And now, I can easily apply for my Resident Return Visa (RRV) and go in and out of the country easily. Not that I couldn't before. But I would have to produce lots of certified documents and supporting letters if I were to fly out and fly back into Australia. Lots of paperwork. Troublesome.
Time really flies. It doesn't even feel like it's been two years - more life half a year. The kids and I have adjusted well. In facr, too well I don't think we can fit into our old Malaysian lifestyle anymore.

For one thing, the cool weather here is very nice. You can take long walks and not sweat at all! Of course, in summer you do sweat.

Not much problem with food here. You can get virtually all sorts of Asian food at the Asian shops. They even have petai, salted fish and belacan here, much to my delight. Unfortunately, the kids do not share my passion for them. So when I had petai and some salted fish last week (two different occasions), they just went "EEWW! What's that smell???" and pinched their nose and gagged. Wait till I present them with durian. They'll probably pass out.

To be honest, the past two years have been pretty much the same to me. But I did make some very good friends this year and that has certainly improved my social life, although I still don't get to go out much at night, thanks to a husband with a terrible phobia of taking care of kids and doing housework.

I've also started doing some freelance writing with an online magazine called The returns are really peanuts. It runs on a shared revenue basis. I only get paid if someone clicks on the links that appear on my pages. But it's for long term and if I keep writing, I'll have a body of work that will be able to generate income even after I've stopped writing. At the time of writing, I've published 73 articles. Not bad for a 3-month tenure. If I keep at this rite, I should have hundreds of articles by this time next year. Hopefully, there will be some real returns by then.
For now, I'm pretty contented. Not much money but I'm not complaining. As long as the kids are enjoying their childhood and learning things the fun way, I'll be happy to do all the other donkey work at home - as long as I don't have to work full-time outside the home. That means my significant other will have to work harder if he wants to live in a five-bedroom house and drive an Audi TT soon!
We'll see what our third year will bring us.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Banged Again!

Okay, I'll admit it. On a scale of 0 to 10, I probably score -1 when it comes to my driving skill. Yes, you've guessed it. I had a little accident with the car again recently (21 Nov 2008). It wasn't as bad as driving through the garage door last year. This time, I reversed the car into a little pillar outside the clinic. So there is big dent on the right bumper and broken real light cover.
I could blame being sick (that's why I was at the clinic!) and therefore not being able to concentrate while backing the car. I was also pretty sure the rear sensor didn't pick up any signal as the tiang was too thin (which could be it since it was at an odd angle with the rear sensors and I really didn't hear any beeping, I swear). But the fact was, I was careless. My blood pressure shot up, literally. The doctor was perplexed to find my blood pressure so much higher than usual during my visit with him. When he asked if I was under a lot of stress lately, I told him I just had a minor accident outside his clinic!
He was sympathetic. Apparently, he backed into their bloody tiang before too!
I was worried that Alex would really chew my head off for real this time. I SMSed my good friend Lina and she immediately offered to take me home, thinking I had really CRASHED the car.
Then, Lina and another friend, Sze Nam, decided to cheer me up (they know how much Alex treasures his car). They bought lunch and came over my house with their kids. They don't live next door to me but something like 10 minutes away and they would have to come out of the way to get to my house during morning school rush hours but they quickly offered to send my kids to school and fetch them home if the car needed to be fixed at the workshop. So thoughtful of them!
Yes, I was distressed but at least, this time around I had moral support from friends. They even shared with me their own spouses' weird behaviours just to make me feel better. And then, two other friends - Aunty Lilian and Aunty Stella - called and came along with more food! They too consoled me, assuring me my husband wouldn't have my head.
Time passed quicky with those four ladies in the house. I was mad with worry about Alex's reaction but for that 2 hours or so, I had friends to keep me company. Gosh, I never thought it would be so great to have such comfort. When I crashed the car the first time, I was all alone. So sad and pathetic.
And you know what? The next day, Aunty Lilian actually offered me the use of her husband's car! Uncle Alvin is another wonderful person. I was so touched I nearly cried!
I must have made Alex sound like a real monster! My friends were so concerned. Come to think of it, they probably thought Alex is an abusive spouse! Well, let's set the record straight. My husband is not a monster, just overly obsessed with his car.
Thankfully, he was calmer this time. Yes, he was upset, but only for a short while. He didn't shout and rave. He's probably resigned to the fact that his wife is a hopeless driver. Maybe he won't buy big and flasy cars for me to drive anymore. Not that I'm ungrateful for having that very nice Mazda CX-7. It's a fabulous car. It's just a tad stressful for me to drive sometimes. I'll be happy with any car, as long as it comes with automatic gears!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Trips to Sydney and Canberra

We finally made our way to two other cities in Australia - Sydney and Canberra - over the Melbourne Cup weekend. The trip to Canberra was a necessity. Both Alex and Joanne had to renew their Malaysian passports and this can only be done in person at the Malaysian High Commission in Canberra. Quite troublesome if you live outside Canberra!

And since we were headed for Canberra, we thought we should include Sydney on our traveling itinerary as well. After all, it's only about 2 and a half hours drive from Canberra to Sydney (or so we were told).

So Alex booked the return flight to Canberra - which was generously paid for by his boss Colin (great Aussie bloke) - for the whole family. Once we reached Canberra, we rented a car and drove straight to Sydney. It was a short flight from Melbourne to Canberra, taking only about 50 minutes, kind of like KL-Penang flight time. But driving from Canberra to Sydney was another thing.

But I was rather excited since this was my first long drive from one city to another. The kids, of course, kept asking "are we there yet?" Thankfully one of them slept for a while. But I enjoyed the drive. The scenery was a little different. There were lots of ranches and farms so you could see horses, cattle and sheep. And guess what? There were people selling mangoes by the roadside too! And you thought you only see that on the highways in Malaysia.

Alex was tempted to speed as the car we rented was a Holden Commodore, a powerful car. But everyone stuck to the speed limit on the road. So he had little choice but to be a bit more obedient behind the wheels.

The journey took longer than 3 hours. It was nearly 6pm when we reached our hotel in Sydney. The Four Point Sheraton is just a short walk from Darling Harbor and after checking in and putting our stuff in the room, we went for a walk. There was an open concert at the harbour so it was packed with people. The kids found a nice playground nearby and we spent some time there.
As we were walking back the hotel, the sky suddenly lit up. We looked up and lo and behold! There was a nice firework display and we were about 100m from where the fireworks were launched! Awesome. The sky just went wild with an array of colours and patterns. And it was deafening too. It lasted a good ten minutes! We called it a night after having our dinner and all squeezed into the king size bed.
The next day we did the what all tourists did. We went to Chinatown and had breakfast there and wander around the harbour. Then we checked out and went to see the Sydney Opera House and view the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We took a few shots as proof we'd been there and then went to Bondi Beach. Highly overrated. That's all I can say about the beach. But the kids had fun in the sun and sand. Joanne got her shoes wet and had to be barefoot from then till we reached Canberra later that evening.
After Bondi Beach, we set out for the long journey back to Canberra. We made a wrong turn along the way and wasted half an hour before getting back onto the high way. We reached the capital city at almost 7pm.
It is such a stark contrast from Sydney. Syndey is crowded with bending and narrow roads while Canberra is quiet with very wide roads. I doubt there is much excitement in Canberra. But we were not on a real holiday. We were there because we needed to. So no complaints there.
The next morning, we headed for the Malaysian High Commission early. We were No 5 but it took a while to get things done. If you were hungry, you could buy nasi lemak sold at the counter inside the office! So weird. Once we got the passports, we started doing the tourist thing again. Our first stop was the War Memorial Museum. Interesting if you love history but a complete bore and waste of time if you don't even know what World War 1 and World War 2 were. I enjoyed the field trip.
We also went to the Telstra Tower where you could view the whole city 360 degress and the Botanical Garden. The towere was okay but the botanical garden was boring. No bright beautiful flowers to look at. Just lots of boring looking plants! We went to the city after that but all the shops were closed by then. So we let the kids play in a playground for a while before driving back to the airport to board our flight back to Melbourne.
Nothing interesting happened from then on. We reached Melbourne around 9pm and got home around 11pm. The kids both fell asleep in the car. And I had piles of dirty laundry to do the next day.
That was our latest holiday update. Not too exciting but better than nothing.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Spring Beach Holiday

Okay, this is a way overdue piece. I should've posted this like 2 months ago, shortly after our fantastic one week holiday in Blairegowrie, a nice little beach town in the Mornington Peninsular and just minutes away from Sorrento, a bigger town with better amenities.
My cousin Pin Pin and her husband invited us along for the holiday. The bank they work for, ANZ Bank, has a stuff club that runs several holiday houses around Australia and this nice, charming house in Blairegowrie is one of them. Very cheap - only AUD600 for one whole week!
Our holidays started on 20 September to 27 September - what bliss. Everyday we went to a different beach, except one day when it rained all day. But six out of seven was pretty awesome. Of course, the kids had more fun. They built sand castles and collected seashells on all the beaches they went to. Each beach has its own personality - different types sand, landscape and seashells. One day, we even found a beach all to ourselves, sort of like our own private beach. Splendid!
We had lots of barbecue fun too. Instead of cooking, we just bought some some sausages, chicken wings and meat and took them to the park with BBQ pits to grill them. Easy, no need to clean up plates and cutlery after each meal. We just had to throw all those soiled paper plates and napkins in the bins provided.
It was a shame Alex couldn't be with us the entire week. He only drove us there and then came back to Melbourne to work for the next few days before driving to Blairgowrie the following weekend to pick us up again. But we may go there on our own one of these days. After all, the drive to the Mornington Peninsular is only about one and a half hours. Too bad we wouldn't have the luxury of staying an entire week the next time, unless of course we got invited by Cousin Pin and family again to another place.
Photos will be uploaded later.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Friends Of My Own

I never realised how much I missed the company of friends until I made some of my own friends earlier this year. The first year we were here, I hardly ventured out of the home, safe the few trips to buy groceries and the weekend outings with the whole family.

The thing is, I didn't feel anything lacking. Perhaps I was too busy getting the kids (including the XL size one) and household organised. After I dropped Joshua off at school, I often went home with Joanne in tow. We didn't send her to kindergarten so I had to take care of at all times. Which meant no free time for myself.

Then Joanne started school earlier this year. I suddenly found myself with a lot of free time. Hooray! Freedom at last. But that doesn't mean I get to lepak all day long. There is still a lot of housework to attend to - it's never-ending but at least I didn't have to tag along a small kid wherever I go anymore. And that makes things a much, much easier.

At school, I got to know a few more mums. I got particularly close to two of them - fellow Malaysians. Sze Nam and her family moved here almost a year after mine. So she was even newer to the environment than I was. The strange thing is that she lived in a neighbourhood not far from mine back in Cheras. And we had to travel all the way to Melbourne to meet each other. I might have seen her in Malaysia before. She worked as a pharmacist at Guardian and I used to haunt Guardian a lot! I thought she looked really familiar when we first met.

Lina, on the other hand, has lived in Melbourne for nearly 20 years, since her university days. So she knows a fair bit about a lot of things here. Plus, she is a certified accountant - really useful to have her as a friend! Lina and I also share another special bond. Both our daughters are named Joanane. More we both seem to have the same taste in clothers, having several identical outfit!

So these days, after I drop the kids at school, I would hang around at either Lina or Sze Nam's house. They both have a 2-year-old son each, so I help them a bit whenever I can. Lina's son, Arthur, for some inexplicable reasons, adores me. So I could watch him while Lina tries to organise her household. Sze Nam's son, Ken Zet, however, doesn't share that affinity. So the only way I can help is to go food shopping with her from time to time.

Well, it's so good to have my own friends - not that my cousin and Alex's friend's wife Anla had not been helpful. They have, especially when I first got here. But it sure is nice to have a few more good pals.