Hello from Brisbane!

Hello everyone!

I hope 2015 has been going swimmingly well for you so far. My awesome foursome has been back in Brisbane for almost 2 months now. Not much has changed, in that I’m still busy tending to hearth and home while HRH goes hunting for the bacon, but we now make it a point to spend more time at home because “the boy” (that’s what we call him apart from “the baby”) will not allow us to go anywhere without chasing after him. Literally.

Amanda, who has always relished her role as “big sister”, keeps asking if she can bring him to school for “show and tell” – reasoning that if other kids can bring in their dogs to do what she calls “show off”, then she should be able to bring in her brother – except that in Year 5, they no longer have such a thing. I know! How can they NOT have show and tell??? It’s like Mcdees not selling burgers and fries!

Anyhow, I’m happy to report that Amanda is excelling at school. Her class teacher, Ms Carolyn, inspires  her to do her best and believes in her (almost) more than I do! Using various online resources, Ms C has been able to provide Amanda with the extension she needs in all areas. Looking back, I can see that her constant daydreaming in class was a symptom of boredom, which in turn led to underachievement.

That’s not to say we didn’t have great teachers at Nedlands Primary. We had Mrs Bray who advised that Amanda was off with the fairies every time she dished out work and was worried she’d get lost in a class of 35, and we had Mrs Sahai who taught Amanda to believe in herself and her abilities and kept at bay the bullies who picked on my little girl 17 times last year. Yes, 17 times! One particularly dimwitted creature who shall remain nameless, tried to drown Amanda at the end of Year 3. Bullying is rife at Rosalie Primary, number 1 primary school in Perth, too from what I hear.

Thank God for Ms Amy of the Dalkeith Kumon Centre who used to tear up Amanda’s work when it was subpar! I’m sure she hears it all the time but Kumon transformed Amanda’s life. I’ve now passed the mantle of Kumon instruction on to Ms Jasmin of the Annerley Kumon Centre, who shares Amanda’s aspiration to be a Kumon completer. What does this mean? Finishing high school maths by next year. Ms Jasmin of the Annerley Kumon Centre tells me that after completing high school maths, Amanda can even continue with University-level Maths through Kumon.

This might read like a paid advertisement for Kumon but I assure you it isn’t. Just 2 years ago you wouldn’t have picked Amanda for a top student. Last week Amanda was 1 of 200 kids from around Brisbane chosen for the Brisbane City Cluster High Achievers Program, which extends and accelerates Year 5 & 6 kids in one of the following areas: Maths, Science, English, Information Technology, Visual Art and Business. Kids are nominated by their teachers based on their results on a PAT-M test and demonstrable literary and numeracy proficiency and selected for the program of their choice based on merit. I’m pleased as punch, prancing about like a peacock out to woo peahens to announce that Amanda was given her first choice of Mathematics through which she will be building a robot, programming the “intelligence” for said robot, culminating in a test to get the robot to perform a set task.

Here’s a picture of Amanda with the offer letter from the Brisbane City Cluster Academic Alliance:

A picture of Amanda with her offer letter.

A picture of Amanda with her offer letter.

Other than that, I’ve been busy scheming, plotting and planning for what can only be likened to a brain transplant for a geriatric; saving up for a total overhaul of this 90 y.o. wooden box I call home. I hope to give the old gal a new lease on life but due to her advanced age, this transplant won’t come cheap. Hence my frequent visits to the utterly informative home owners forum that is whirlpool. A lot of the info may be years old but there’s much to learn from there. It is my fervent wish that, regardless of whether I know you in person or not, have a close relationship with you or otherwise, that you  take away something from reading my many posts. Maybe it might help you resolve to actively parent your child (as opposed to allowing the media and society to do that for you), may be it might inspire you to investigate other ways of living or simply being. Keeping this blog, apart from enabling me to engage in meaningful continuous discourse (that fits around my life), has allowed me to reflect not just on the people and events that populate my life but those that shape it. Thank you for continuing this journey into wonderment with me.


Various shades of Oz: Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.

I was at the dentist yesterday, having my twice yearly check-up and clean like a good girl, when, between being X-rayed and scaled, the dentist and I got chatting about the many capital cities of Australia. For those of you who skipped Geography in school, there are 8 capital cities, also known as metropolitan areas, to match the 6 states and 2 territories. You might think they are one and the same, given the deep anglo roots of this country, but having lived in, if not visited, all of them, plus many country towns along the way, I can safely say that each are characters in their own right.

Darwin for instance, is the Hawaiian-shirt wearing clown of the bunch. Sydney is the primped and pedicured, brand-wearing fashionista. Melbourne is the late-twenty-something-year-old connoisseur of cafes and culture in the occasional pea coat. I see them all personified and dressed differently because as a woman, clothes are what I notice. It’s been said that women dress for each other and that is generally true.

The dentist, a terrific-looking blonde from the U.K., who’s only been in Perth slightly longer than I have, was mainly interested in Melbourne and Brisbane.

“What’s there?” I asked, after she asked me to gargle with the minty-flavoured water.

“Work for my partner. He’s in marketing.”

“There’s a lot of black in Melbourne, especially in the city on workdays. You’ll sometimes see shades of olive and grey, towards the end of the week. Somehow the weather makes the typical Melburnian dress more sedately than say, a Queenslander. Few wear red or other really bright colours.”

One of my Brisbane buddies went to Melbourne for a work conference and came back telling me she felt like a flamingo at the Hilton, dressed in red with slivers of pink.

“It’s like the U.K. then,” says the dentist.

“Is that what people over there dress like?”

“Either that or it is the U.K. influence in Melbourne.”

I wouldn’t call it that since many living in Melbourne have never been anywhere near Europe. It must be the grey skies then that convince people to dress in sombre colours.

Queenslanders are all about the shorts – very short shorts, board shorts, knee-length tailored shorts, short skirts and thongs. Their personalities are as loud as the colours they wear. There’s plenty of yellow, red, fuchsia and aquamarine to be seen. In my suburb, the Cultural Precinct, everyone wears semi-structured clothes in a riot of prints. Some have that boho-chic thing going on. My daughter’s best friend’s mother for instance, has a knack for working 3 seemingly clashing prints into a single outfit. I don’t know how she does it, but she does. Until 6 months ago she also used to sport a head full of red dreads. It’s amazing how creative types dress.”

Arriving in Perth, I pulled out my silver-purple, leopard print kaftan-dress with salmon ties to wear and HRH said, “Advertising for Queensland, are you?”

“Queenslanders also drive a lot faster and tend to be a lot more aggro on the road.”

“It’s funny you should say that,” said the dentist, fitting together more equipment to put in my mouth. “I’ve read that Perth drivers are some of the worst in the country.”

“No, that can’t be right,” I said. “Perth drivers are exceedingly courteous. Driving around Nedlands, I’ve found most to only drive at 40 km/ph (which explains why I’ve started driving again). Almost no one horns, and at the roundabout, cars on your right, which you’ve to give way to, seem to hesitate before entering the roundabout.”

I’ve also seen many cars go over the curb in an attempt to get into a side-parking instead of doing a proper parallel park.

“If Queensland is the teenager and Melbourne the late twenty-something, then Perth is most certainly middle-aged. Here in Perth’s Western Suburbs, people tend to be chic, if conservative, dressers. On Amanda’s first day at school I noticed many mothers wearing fitted dresses and their good pearls,” I said, after gargling with the minty water yet again. “In Queensland, I wouldn’t even wear my pearls to dinner, let alone to school.”

A jeweller in Nedlands told me that’s because like most Melbournians, I tend not wear what I own. It turns out there’s still something left of Melbourne in me after so many years of living away. But I’ve since decided to do as Romans so in Rome and give my outfits a final flourish of bling because everyone from school administrators to the lady who owns the consignment store across the road, treats you better when you wear something that temporarily blinds them.

“What about cliques?” asked the dentist while loading green goo into mouth trays. “I’ve heard that Melbournians tend to be cliquish.”

“It is true but it was never a problem for me because I have family and many friends there. You just have to find someone willing to introduce you to his or her circle of friends.”

Or if you’re the kind dentists have trouble shutting up, you just make your own like me.


Of Kimchi and other Korean freebies.

On my first trip to Brisbane some four years ago, I discovered the delight that is tucking into a piping hot smooth earthen bowl full of Kimchi stew on a cool evening. While the contents of the stew warmed my insides, the slightly cooled bowl midway through eating warmed my hands in much the same way as a mug of cocoa.

Since I am a terribly social person, I conducted a short conversation with our waitress, who also doubled up as the cashier, while dining. She had studied for a short spell in the Malaysian state of Sabah and as such, was eager to try out “Selamat Pagi” and “Terima Kasih”, Good Morning and Thank You respectively in Malay, on me. I was interested in picking up a fourth phrase since the other three I knew needed company. “What Korean do you know?” she asked when I finally asked her to teach me one more.

“An yong ha shi mi ni ka?” How are you? “Kam sa hap ni da?” Thank you. “And Kwon Sang Woo.”

She burst out laughing for the third wasn’t really a phrase at all but the name of a then-reigning thirty-something year old heartthrob in Korea.

“It seems to work better on old ladies,” I added, telling her how I had an entire conversation in a Korean grocery store with just that name. There were many “ums” and “ahs”, as though we were having a meaningfully deep conversation, and my daughter left with two free pouches of lollies. Speaking of the great generosity of Korean people, this restaurant, Madtongsan 1, located in a small arcade off Queen Street mall in the city, had already given me a complimentary mini seafood pancake and a plate of six dumplings, so the least I could do was compliment them on the food. “How do you say very tasty or excellent?”

“Chuai yah.”

I parroted her, beaming. As I paid, she gave me ten percent off and a discount card to be used towards all future visits. Who says it doesn’t pay to learn a second, third, fourth or in my case, fifth language? I’ve been back many times since, but unfortunately neither is my Korean or the discount card applicable at Madtongsan 2, their sister restaurant, located nearby.