Wednesday, December 26, 2018

NZ Itinerary 2018

From Gold Coast, we went to New Zealand. Here's how we spent our time, without driving. (If you're reading this on handphone, click on the pix for clearer view.) What I enjoyed most was the cycling. It was not easy because of the slopes and the long distance (30km). In several spots, the bicycle would tumble down the hill if cyclist loses focus and strays off the narrow track. And so I was very proud of Calder to have made it without mishap. A few times, he turned back to find me (I didn't see any need for haste and so was rather far behind). I had thought maybe the dad asked him to wait for Mommy. But found out later that no such instruction was issued. So he looked out for me on his own initiative. My sweet boy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Gold Coast Days 2 & 3

27-28 Nov 2018

The last time we were in Gold Coast (4 years ago), we visited Dreamworld and White Waterworld. This time, we were headed for Movie World, Sea World and Wet N Wild. Unfortunately there were only a few rides at Movie World that we could take. Most were max-thrill which we avoid (we were not inclined to scare ourselves silly). The mild-thrill ones were mostly for small kids. There were only two rides under the moderate-thrill category, one of which (Scooby-Doo) was under maintenance and the other (Wild West Falls) Ethel rejected - boat rushing down to the waters would give her stomachache, she said. She looked worried while queuing for the small roller coaster too. My girl who used to squeal over theme parks had become wary of thrill rides - looks like she had outgrown theme parks. In this trip, she was more interested in finishing the Hunger Games (e-book) on her mobile and shopping (we were looking for cheap and nice 2-piece swimwear - alas the selection was very limited at K-Mart) and feeding ducks. As for Calder, he was as usual most interested in food - I made and brought along ham-and-cheese sandwiches. We also enjoyed cinammon-walnut-apple rolls (from supermarket). He followed us compliantly (more accurately - he walked fast but obediently returned when we called out to him) for the rides and shows and was rather engrossed watching the big roller coaster in action. When we arrived at the bumper cars, I was wondering if I should let him ride alone - he is after all so big in a small car. But decided to join him and good thing I did. I left him to do the steering and he went opposite direction from the other cars! And when our car bumped onto the side, he got really annoyed and started making loud angry Tarzan sounds. Intuitively I warned the Dad and sister not to bump us.

Since there were so few suitable rides, we proceeded to Wet N Wild early and enjoyed the wave pool as well as the lazy river. Tried the tunnel slide (Black Hole) which Ethel really liked. But carrying that two-person float up the long flight of stairs was too much for me so I left her to go the second round with her Dad.

We went to Sea World the next day. It had no chance because our shopping was scheduled right after and Ethel kept asking if we could proceed to K-Mart already. We went to the food court for dinner and Ethel chose to eat Subway which she shared with her Dad. I would have ordered something else (since Subway is ubiquitous in Singapore) but I figured I better order the same, in case Calder pines after what she's eating. That, was another wise choice. Subway tastes so good in Gold Coast (in New Zealand too, as we would later discover)! The teriyaki chicken was a large portion and the vegetables tasted so fresh. And how could tomatoes be so umami? I decided to buy some at the supermarket to eat like fruits. You can tell freshness from the very green stalk.

On our last night in Gold Coast, we stayed at YHA Coolangatta so we could walk to the airport in the wee hours of the morning. Got a family suite. I like it that it uses fan instead of air con. Unfortunately we didn't realise its speed could be increased so it was quite stuffy at night. What's really good at this hostel was the laundry facilities. The washing machines operated by coin ($4 per wash, $1 for powder) and they had many pegs and lines and a good windy space for hanging the laundry.

At the Coolangatta supermarket, we found nice yogurt popsicles that we ate at the beach (Ethel wanted another round of sand and waves). Also bought orange juice that I like. Had ramen craving (after all the bread) so we ate Japanese for dinner.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Gold Coast Day 1

26 Nov 2018

We stayed at Novetel for 2 nights. Arrived early (around 11am) and were very glad to hear that our room was ready (usual check-in: 2pm). We were assigned the 26th level and ooh and aah over the lovely view. First thing on our mind was to stock the fridge with edibles from the adjacent supermarket (Woolworths). Chocolate milk! Yogurt! Peaches! We also bought a roast chicken to eat with bread for an easy (and cheap) lunch.

After a nap (the kids stayed awake), we sauntered over to the beach. The sand was so fine. Ethel took off her slippers immediately. Calder, however, was afraid to walk barefooted and kept pointing to black stuff on the beach, asking "what is this?" and pronouncing them to be "sai sai (shit)!" (they were washed up black twigs and branches). But once he stepped into the waters, he was fearless approaching the waves. We had to constantly call him back because we were afraid we would lose him to the strong ocean.

Since we had bread for lunch, I decided to look for rice for dinner. The concierge recommended a Thai eatery nearby which led us to the most expensive fried rice we had ever bought - $15.50 for a small box of seafood fried rice. The box of beef Phad Thai cost $15.50 too. The kids also enjoyed an apple and a blueberry danish bought from a bakery (I love to check out bakeries when overseas).

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Overnight Flight

25 Nov
10.20pm overnight flight to Gold Coast on Scoot

Plane was serving supper (to customers who ordered ahead) at midnight, and only turned off the lights at 1.30am. Babies cried and there was a mother who walked up and down the aisle to rock her boy to sleep. Meanwhile, every time plane experienced turbulence, the seatbelt signs would turn on followed by pilot announcement. And then the air stewardesses would walk down the aisle repeating "please put on your seatbelt" to no one in particular. Ethel put on her eye shield and travel pillow and fell asleep almost immediately around 11pm. Calder fell asleep only at 3.30am. Guess what? At 4am, the lights turned on again and the plane started serving breakfast and inviting purchase of merchandise! Which woke Calder up. Morale of the story: never take overnight flights. Not only do they interrupt sleep, the travel pillows take up space in the luggage when not in use.

Other observations:
Being long-legged, Calder had to be constantly reminded to sit straight so that he wouldn't knock his knees against the seat in front.

I gave the children almond Hershey's to chew to ease any discomfort with ear pressure during takeoff. Later I noticed that Calder was pursing his lips in a peculiar manner. Was he holding his breath? So I instructed, "Open your mouth." That was a mistake. He obeyed and out spilled a whole stream of chocolate saliva - for some reason, he was afraid to swallow during the takeoff.

After this, our worst fear came true - Calder started laughing and we had to keep him from waking the sleepers around. Fortunately the episode was short.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Take over

When Calder was laughing out loud again and wouldn't/couldn't stop.

Nephew: He's too noisy!
Ethel: Mommy, can you get him to stop?
Me: Can I just eat my dinner and not have to deal with it? I've had him for the whole day. Can someone, like, take over?

(And I realised I'd uttered the cry of many parents in the special needs community.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Our Common Earth

Name: Ethel Kam 
Age: 11
School: St Nicholas Girls’ School (Primary)
Class: P5 Justice

A light shone in the darkness.

The light grew brighter and brighter, filling my vision with the span of its wonder. Then, I heard a soft, fleeting sound - laughter. The light became a blur and the blur became figures, which were people. The people, I took to be a big family. Feasting. The people in the family were different. There were the intellectually disabled, the physically handicapped; the aged and the young. But they all shared one thing:


Happiness radiated from them. The smiles on their faces were sincere and their laughter were not dry ones. The purity of their love and togetherness drew me in and I curiously observed them until they had finished their meal. Some members of the big family bid the rest farewell and exited the house in cheery spirits. I followed one of the family members out into the open.

The usual apathetic crowd was not to be seen here. Instead, joy and kindness were displayed on the people around us. There were people who looked a bit tired, but they had a look of satisfaction from fulfilment.

I saw someone who stuck out like a sore thumb. He had the ragged look of a criminal, and my suspicions were confirmed when I heard murmurings of the people around me: “Isn’t he that notorious thief?” He seemed to sense the unsettled state of the people around him, and his head drooped, probably in embarrassment. A friend of his, or maybe a kind stranger, went up to him and comforted him until his face showed hints of a smile which reached to his eyes. When I saw him, I was also compelled to smile. How great the effects of kindness!

Shortly after, I turned my attention back to the person I was following. I realised that he was intellectually disabled; I identified him as autistic. My thoughts drifted to my brother, who similarly had autism. Sometimes, people would stare or look annoyed by his unique behaviour. However, here, the people around the autistic person I was following smiled at him, and the ones who were more familiar with him tried to interact or be friendly with him. The fact that community accepted him instead of labelling him as ‘weird’ touched me. As I looked at all these examples of love displayed in various forms throughout the community, I felt a warmth spread in me, and the only word that came to my mind to describe this truly wonderful world was:


At this point, a hint of darkness hindered my sight and the feeling of being pulled away from the present scene rushed through my body. The feeling grew stronger, and my body screamed out, trying to hold out. My vision blurred once again, and the people turned into shadows which turned into what we can safely say - nothing at all. My mind sank back into reality, and I lay on my bed, feeling utterly defeated. My mind was still contemplating the fact that the perfect world I had been in merely seconds ago was a dream, and that I will never see that world again. The feeling gradually overwhelmed me, taking its form in a sort of melancholy: I felt defeated, sad and, maybe a little angry at how that world had just slipped through my fingers, allowing me only a taste of it before disappearing into thin air. 

A spark ignited in me; it was called Hope.

That world could exist. That world could become reality. Suddenly, I understood what that world was. That world was -

Our future.

(598 words)

Monday, October 29, 2018


I'd never seen him dry himself so thoroughly before. For the longest time, he had been merely going through the motions, needing constant promptings not to miss out this and that area. He didn't seem to realise that parts of his body remained wet. In fact, he didn't seem to understand the purpose of drying after shower. Then yesterday, the miracle happened - I saw him consciously rubbing himself dry. He even bent over to wipe his feet (not part of routine) with the bath towel.

- 28 Oct 2018
Breakthrough at 13