Saturday, September 23, 2006

Busy As A Bee

It's been more than 3 weeks since we arrived in Surabaya and we have been so busy that it was a surprise to realize that we have been in Surabaya that long.

I already describe the story about my son first day in his school on previous entry. Since that first few days, every night we were busy helping him with his homeworks. This is new to us because when we sent him to his kindergarden in Canada, he never had a homework. The only homework he got was from his Chinese class and I am glad that he had homework before, now it's easier to make him sit down and do his homeworks.

Everyday he came home with several books from the library for him to read. On top of that he also brought home few easy read books from his classroom's library. Then on top of that he also has math homeworks.

So we spent around 1 hr to help him read the books and do the math homework with him.

Later on our first conference with his teacher, miss Lisa, we found out that the books that he borrowed from the library was for 5th grade reading level and he wasn't expected to be able to read them, it was suppose to be our job to read them to him for his enjoyment. Amazingly, before we knew this, Kai Kai already able to read all of them on his own although he read them slowly off course. So now, before we start, I like to ask him if he wants to read the library books on his own or he rather have me read them to him. Fortunately, he still choose to read most of them on his own!

Those books that comes from his classroom's library are the one that he has to read them himself because they are for first grade reading level. Kai Kai found them too easy and not chalenging enough. He likes to just read them fast and go straight to his library books that usually always has more exciting stories to tell. Good for him !!!

For his math homeworks, Miss Lisa likes to give them in a game form so they are quite enjoyable to do. Like playing cards when in fact you are learning to count who has the highest card number, or the lowest one.

I like his school more and more now. The more I understand their system the more I am glad that I sent him to this school.

For example: to make children enjoy their school and to made them to have more balance lifestyle. These children are force or encourage to have as much physical activities as their academic activities.

Kai Kai's daily schedule usually always consist of PE classes or after school PE activities.

Again, for example, from 8 to 10, he always has to learn to read and write because for the first grader their goal is "Learn to Read" so that when they go to second grade, their goal will be change to " Read to Learn ". After that, they have their morning snacks with their teacher on the garden of the school.

Then either they are sent to learn computer skill, music, arts, science, library class, or Bahasa Indonesia, or they have PE classes like gym and swimming. The school always ends at 2:50 PM, but on 3 days in a week, they have after school activities such as gym, swimming, and French. So everyday, we have to dress him in his gym uniform or prepare his swimming pants and towel in his school bag. So when he finished his after school activities, he always so tired and just fell asleep in the car all the way home. That's good because when he reach home, we let him blow some steam by riding his bike all over the house ( more exercise! ), then by 6 he has to eat his dinner, took a bath and by 7 or 8 he has to do his homeworks. By 9, he has to go to bed. So that's is his life now and our life too ...

Beside school activities, to compensate his lacking in learning Chinese language, we enroll him with a native Taiwanese teacher for 1.5 hrs 2 times a week. Richard told the teacher that he doesn't want Kai Kai to sit and write too much at this age especially after such a long day at school. So his Chinese teacher's job is just to play and teach him daily vocabulary. So Kai Kai felt happy to learn his Chinese words by playing with the teacher. I think his teacher is excellent, she has many years of experience in teaching. When we wait outside the teacher's home, we heard Kai Kai's happy laughter nonstop.

Beside busy with my son learning schedule, these past 3 days we were busy with our stuff that has arrived from Canada. Boy am I glad that I live in my parents' home that happen to be in the same land with our company. Since we have workers and off course maids, the job of unpacking, carrying the boxes into their designated areas such as "big storage room", "small storage room", "my bedroom", "children bedroom", etc became an easy tasks. While some workers carried the boxes upstair, some other setting up my bed and one guy's job is assembling the crib and Kai Kai's bed, while the maids' job is unpacking our clothes, fold them and arrange them in the closet. The other maids stay with me to unpack, and stack my kitchen stuff into my new kitchen. To my father's amazement, all the kitchen cabinets that he prepare for me can only keep half of my kitchen stuff! So the next day we talk to the interior designer again to built more cabinets for my kitchen. When the interior designer saw all my kitchen tools that laying around outside the already full cabinets, he just sit down and take a deep breath, hahaha....

We also talk about making big book shelves for my bedroom for my recipe books and for children library in their own room.

While my father suffered through the confusion of finding space for our stuff, my mom kept hiding in her room, she couldn't stand the stress she said, poor her...

It was an amazing sight to see a mountain of our boxes stacked up in our backyard! Lucky now is still dry season, it would be fun to see what happen if now is already rainy season ... I can just imagine everybody running around carrying boxes under the tropical rain! We will look like those little ants running around with the food on their mouth when you spray them with water from your garden's hose.

My mom ordered our employee to built a new temporary storage room ( from playwoods! ) with locks in the employee's dormitory. For now, we have to stop unpacking our stuff because all of a sudden, lead by Richard first, my father next, and me, we all suffer ed from a bout of dysentery! Again while in the States and Canada, if we are sick, and we need to see doctors, we first have to call our family doctor first, usually when we need his help is always around the time when his office is closed so we always ended up talking to other doctor that is on duty that night and they never gave good answers for simple thing because they don't want to come to your home, instead they always told us to just go to the emergency room. Then when we arrived in the emergency room, we always have to wait forever just for them to see us. Here, my mom just pick up the phone and voila! The doctor showed up on our front door within 15 minutes! Even faster than me who at that time talking to my aunt who is also a family practitioner asking her on what medicine should I buy for Richard. Richard with his sensitive stomach is the one that suffered the most, while my father and me only suffer mild symptoms of this disease.
I thank God that none of our children are sick.

For La La, today is her 8 month birthday and boy that girl is just getting cuter and cuter everyday! She has an amazing way of showing people what she wants. She create several body languages to show us what she wants or need. For example, when she wants milk, she will pucker up he lips and start making sucking motion! Yes, I am not kidding! Then when she is hungry, she flatten her lips and make smacking sounds while looking at us! She will keep smacking her lips until she is full. Then when she is sleepy, she will pucker he lips and lower her eyelids until her eyes becomes very small then she bats he eyelashes to us! When she pooped and she wants us to change her diaper, then she won't sit still or lay quitely, she kept moving up her bottoms like if her bottom is on fire! Then to ge my full attention, she will cares my face to face her !

Yesterday La La was playing with her aunt Lucy, and Lucy was amaze at how clear La La's instructions are. La La will pat Lucy's arm or thigh to get her attention first, then she touch the toys that she wants Lucy to play with her. So first, she pat Lucy's arm, then she pat the doll. Is that clear enough or not?

When I read La La a story , usually I like to sit on the floor and I let her sit on my lap while I hold the book in front of her. Once in a while, she likes to turn around and look up to my face, then she cares my chin. Isn't she so sweet???

For her meals, I cook everything myself. Her favorite meal so far is pumpkin cook together with chicken wings or thigh for an hour so they will be very flavourful. Then I de-boned the chicken, put everything in a blender, blend it with a tbs of butter and just a pinch of salt. She loves this pumpkin puree very very much! She kept making that smacking sounds with her lips until the last spoonful of pumpkin puree. Now she has 5 teeth in her mouth too. 3 at the upper gum and 2 at the lower gum.

She ate 3 meals a day and 4 bottles of milk. Her body is so solid without being too fat.

On different section about my life. One time I read an article at a gardening magazine about natural way of getting rid mosquitoes from your patio is by planting citronella plants all around your patio. I don't remember the exact magazine where I get this information but this article that I found on internet pretty much say the same thing that the magazine's article is saying. Since dengue fever is quite rampant in Surabaya, I told my mom about the article. then she ordered our employee to buy all of lemongrass plants that he could find in the garden stores both in Surabaya or from outside Surabaya. At first I thought that citronella is the same plant with sereh, because they smell almost the same and plus, in Surabaya, they sell a lot of sereh oil ( minyak sereh ) that you can apply to your skin or your children skin so that you won't get bitten by mosquitoes. Sereh is the Indonesian words for Lemongrass.
So now, all around our garden, we planted over a hundreds plants of Lemongrass or Sereh. Let's see if in a couple of months from now we will have less mosquitoes in our house ...

There is also an interesting article that I took from Public Works Department of Annapolis, Maryland ( government official site ) that I like to share in here:

Try Growing Mosquito Repellents
A number of natural essences are found in the garden and are as attractive to humans as they are repugnant to insects. Herbs, flowers and grasses contain oils that can be used as your yard's natural line of defense.

* Catnip contains an essential oil, Nepetalactone, which has been found to be effective at repelling mosquitoes. You can also brew catnip tea to apply as a spray for outdoor areas, patios and decks.
* Other herbs with oils that repel mosquitos and insects are rosemary and pennyroyal (disliked by fleas and ticks).
* Some flowers and ornamental grasses also work. Planting marigolds around your yard works as a natural bug repellent; the flowers give off a fragrance bugs and flying insects find offensive.
* Thai lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a natural, and very effective mosquito repellent. It contains the natural oil, citronella, which is safe and effective; in fact, lemon grass citronella is considered more effective than true citronella as an insect repellent. Thai lemon grass is usually available at garden centers. It grows readily into a decorative clump about 15" across and about two feet tall.

So even though at first I thought I planted the wrong plant ( lemongrass instead of Citronella ), it turn out that I am not that wrong after all. Lemongrass is better than Citronella plants! And lemongrass is everywhere in Indonesia and they are cheap, a kilogram of the plants is only cost Rp.6000 or about less than a US dollar.

So that's all folks...until next time ...

Friday, September 08, 2006

First Week Home In Surabaya

On August 29th, we finally arrived at our final destination in Surabaya. The flight from Taipei to Surabaya was uneventful. Kai Kai slept since beginning till the end. La La slept at least half the trip.

We had no problem with the custom even though we carried 7 huge and full suitcases. My parents and their bestfriends plus a couple of our employees already waiting to take care of us, so all we have to do just climb up to the car and go home.

When we reached our home, pretty much our suitcases already delivered to the right room. My suitcases in my room, and the children suitcases are in their room too.

Food is still warm and plentiful even though now is already 11 o'clock at night. Our room has cups and thermos with cold and hot drink in case climbing down the stair at night is too tiring...

New sets of toothbrush, shampoo, soap, towels, night gown, pajamas, tooth pastes ( 2 for sensitive teeth for me, children toothpaste for my son, and normal one for Richard ), and even 2 different taste of Listerine for us. Even the baby shampoo, liquid soap, baby oil, baby talk are all ready in a newly renovate bathroom upstair.

My father proudly took us for a tour around the house to show what kind of home improvement he did on the house to made it ready for our home-coming. He bought me 2 stoves with ovens to play with. One made in Italy and the other made in Germany. One set of good laundry machine with the dryer for us even though obviously I would never have to spent time doing my own laundry ever again ... hallelujah!!!

New wallpapers for our room too, even new AC for both room. Kai Kai wallpaper has hundreds and hundreds of glow in the dark stars. Even though we have other room for the baby, but I insist on putting both kids in the same room next to my room upstair.

My father also built one new kitchen for me separate from my mom's kitchen that she never use. He also made me wrote on a long piece of paper with my own handwriting " Yohana's Kitchen" then he asked someone to carve it on a piece of wood so he can nail it on the entrance of my kitchen. That is my father, always doing nice little details like that for me.

So yeah.... Welcome to Indonesian's Life Style ...

Oh yeah my mom is the one in charge of the bathroom stuff that I just mention above, clothings, formula, diapers etc.

By all means my home is not a mansion. I am sorry if I made you think that way. But those little touches made by my parents really made my going home experience special.

So what have we done so far?

Well, the first week was really a crazy week. The whole week I was concentrating on finding the right school for Kai Kai. We drove from East, West, South, North of Surabaya in the quest of finding the right school. I went to inspect many many schools. We interviewed the teachers, the students, even the principals!

We agonized for a week on deciding Kai Kai's school. Our priority in choosing school is to find a school that has the highest level of moral, manner, and off course education. My mom at first suggest us to send my son to a Christian school so he can be raised as a Christian. But after a while I decide that is not always true.

From kindergarten till high school, I went to a Christian school. That didn't make me a religious person. I went to Sunday school since I was small and yet, that also didn't make me a religious person. Who made me who I am right now is my mom who tirelessly pushing me to be closer to God. So the responsibility to teach my children all about God lay on my shoulder and Richard.

I went to see a great school that offer their students Singaporean Curriculum with both English and Chinese. Sure that school is not only sounds perfect it even has all the bells and whistle like tennis courts, basketball, soccer field and swimming pool too. But when I was there, I was taken back by how the children behave when they saw my son. They jeered at him for no reason at all! At first, I was worried that if I send Kai Kai there, he won't be able to catch up with the Mandarin class lesson , so I just grab one of the student's Chinese book and gave it to Richard to see. It turn out that even though Kai Kai only went to his Chinese class once a week for 2 hours and for 2 semesters only in Richmond, he can easily catch up with these kids, which means the progress here is too slow!

When I express my concerned that my son will be left behind since he will enter the school exactly in the middle of the semester ( way too late ), the school representative told me that Kai Kai will definitely pass and I don't have to worry about his grade. Which means.... I don't think this school has high enough standard right? I never plan to send Kai Kai to an easy school to begin with.

When I told her that Kai Kai is good at geography ( he can use his teeth to shape a bread into continents and countries!Really!!! ), she misunderstood me again by telling me that they have not start to teach the children geography while Kai Kai has learned about geography since he was only 3 in Montessori!

I don't want to trash those school here, so please don't use my standard for choosing your children's school. Every person is different I think.

So at last, we made a decision to send Kai Kai to this great school. The only school that using American standard and most of the teachers are from there if not from Canada like his French's teacher who is from Ontario.

There are several points on why I choose this school. To me, books is knowledge and to my surprise, 20% of the school's area is dedicated for it's library. Out of 55,000 m2, 11,000 m2 is for the library.

Pic: Richard and Kai Kai at the school's lobby. The second floor is where the library is.

Another thing that special about this school is when I asked who is the owner of this school, is it US government? They said the owner of this school is parents like me. As soon as I registered I join the parents school board we are the one who decide to hire or fire the principal and the teachers. I will soon join the canteen committee so that I can help with planning the student's menu. I thought that I might as well use my recipe book collection to help others too. Not just for my personal use. I am quite impress with their menu so far, they are healthy and always different. Pricewise, they are okay. They also banished any unhealthy food from the school canteen such as soda. To buy food from the canteen, my son just need to bring his canteen card and I guess there is a machine that can read the barcode or something then the money that I put into his card will be deducted for every purchase that my son made.

I am also impressed that every single person who works there knows how to speak English, even the gardeners and the janitors! When I asked the PTA leader if I need to translate my recipe into Indonesian language for the chefs, she said I don't have to.

For PE ( physical education ), my son can use the gym, the basketball court indoor or outdoor, indoor volleyball courts, indoor tennis courts, soccer field/ olympic size running track (?), olympic size swimming pool with roof, and kiddie pool. On his first time to use the kiddie pool, KK refused to get out from the pool when it's time to go home ....

They have a screening room, 2 music rooms, school store, hospital, etc.

Even the playground is completely built with US made materials, all imported from the States. They have 2 playgrounds with tent on top to protect those children from the sun.

My son classroom is also nice. Basically it is a big room, then this big room is divided into 3. The 2 rooms are identical in size but the third room is very small and it is located exactly in the middle of those 2 bigger room, it connect the 2 rooms with open doors so you can pass through from one big room to another.

The first big room is for learning how to read and write. It also has it's own library corner complete with carpet and pillows for the children to sit. It has computers as well. Each kid has his or her own desk here. The wall is full with many toys that can help them to learn better. Kind of like in Montesorri before.

The small room in between the 2 big rooms are for teacher's office where she kept all of the children's record.

The other big room has several big desk for the children to use. This room also has carpet with pillows for the children to sit. The different I guess between the first room that I describe with this one, this one is more for arts and crafts, or for science projects.

Pic: walking outside his classroom on his PE uniform.

Now every night, I have to help Kai Kai do his homework. For now it takes about half an hour to an hour to finish but I hope it will get better. My son is encourage to borrow as many books from the library, so as a result, I have a stack of book that he has to read on his own!!! It takes a long time to finish one book!

Every morning, he has a morning snack together with his friends and teacher outdoor. They have several picnic tables with rooftop. So beside helping him with his homeworks, I also has to prepare his morning snack. I let him eat in the canteen for his lunch because I know their high quality fit my standard.

Pic: My son with his spiky hair style just finished with his breakfast at home. Today his school has a "crazy hair day" event.

Next, I am going to send him to Taipei International School to learn proper Chinese. I have interviewed too many schools and I decide this school is the best.

Aside from school news, I have met my bestfriend "W", we have been bestfriend since kindergarden till now! We even graduate from the University on the same day! We both have 2 kids, she has 2 little girls while I have one boy and one girl. It's so good to see her again. We kept talking over the phone even over the chat room now. We met 2 times already and she never stop sending me food and gifts for my children. Even gold jewelry set for my daughter. Even her mom send my daugther gold bracellet too.

When I still live in Canada, if I want to eat, then I better go buy it or I have to make it myself. But here, every day, I mean every single day, people always send my parents food gifts. On average 2 food shipments a day. I don't think we need to cook at all! But since we have many employees, we can always send the over supply of food to the office. Maybe I am going to documented all those food gifts someday ...hmmm...
This food gifts sure make my job easier for me when I need to prepare for my son morning snack.

Okay, so as you can see, I will keep on updating my diary blog and my food blog as often as I can off course.