Goodbye Perth!

Dear gentle people of the world,

We’ve been privileged to call Perth home for the past 2 years. However the time has come for HRH, Amanda, Ethan and I to return to Brisbane. It is with a somewhat heavy heart that we bid this place farewell for it is here in Perth that my family of 3 became an awesome foursome, here in Perth that HRH found his (further) calling in breast cancer surgery (more on that in a bit) and here in Perth that Amanda realised all of my dreams (and some of hers) by transforming from a middling student of no-particular-note (she will agree) to a “maths whiz” (the words of her class teacher, supported by her classmates), a real achievement since even her father had written her off as “not a genius” – even if he does adore her to excess. Like most mothers who sang, patted and sent ABCs via mental visualisation (Shichida method) to their offspring in the womb, of course I was mortified by the repeat suggestion from teachers (prep to Year 3) that Amanda was “more creative than academic.”

Helloooo! I’m a Tiger Mama. For me that is like saying, “Er well, here’s your 4th place ribbon” which I can totally accept for things like Sport and Art. It’d be different if they said, “She’s creative AND academic.” Ha. That I can accept.

When we first moved to Perth, I was especially worried about Amanda’s academic performance because we had chosen to put her in Nedlands Primary, reputed to be Western Australia’s number 2 Primary School. We came from a good public school whose ranking I’m not completely certain of except I know is not in the top 20. This, going by a ranking I saw when searching for a new home in the 4101 this year. Once in Perth, we tried to enrol Amanda in school number 1, Rosalie Primary but were unsuccessful in securing a shoebox townhouse in the area. Quickly Amanda realised that she would have to work at a much higher level than what she was used to.

I won’t lie – she was very unhappy for the first 6 months here. Every day she used to ask to go back to Brisbane where she and I both had friends, play dates and birthday parties. This transition was hard on the both of us: Amanda who hitherto had been wildly popular among her peers, found kids at school nice but not especially welcoming. People wanted to know how long we were going to stay before they were prepared to “invest” in friendship with us. I decided early on that I wasn’t going to hide the fact that we were only in Perth for a while.

I didn’t expect to make any friends or the sort of friendships one would be sad to leave behind but I have: I have friends whose company I will miss, who I am sure will miss my company. For me, this has to be the toughest aspect of relocating constantly – people accept you into their hearts and lives only to have to let you go.

When reports cite surgeons as being top earners, none factor in the physical, social and mental cost of training for surgeons and their immediate family members. People compare it to undertaking professional exams like CA or CPA or CFA or even 2 year long postgraduate studies like MBA, but this is a way longer (try a DECADE) and much tougher on everyone concerned – the many moves, the long hours, the weeks that morph into months of neglect… For the record, we haven’t celebrated Chinese New Year in Malaysia with our kith and kin for the last 12 years because Chinese New Years typically coincides with the start of the new medical working year. It also coincides with the start of the new school year and being a parent, the last thing you want is for your child to miss out on that first week of fitting into a new grade. On top of which, we are usually moving from one place to another (like in the coming year) or have just moved (meaning: I have to unpack and sort a whole range of stuff relating to the move) during that time. Yes, you read it right: 12 years without celebrating Chinese New Year. For those of you who don’t celebrate the Chinese New Year, that’s like going without Christmas for 12 years.

Which is why I am looking forward to moving back to Brisbane. I regret having to leave my friends in Perth behind but I am pleased that this “surgical training journey” is at an end. I don’t want to jinx myself by saying it out loud but we’ve bought an old Queenslander to give our children an authentic “hippie upbringing” (in the words of HRH), the address numerically translating to “completion.” The end. No more moves, thank you very much.

Thanks to excellent mentors at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, HRH is now a qualified breast oncoplastic surgeon. In simple English, it means he removes diseased breasts and rebuilds them. He also removes breasts for women with the breast cancer gene and rebuilds them. It’s a procedure that’s since been associated with Angelina Jolie, who bravely spoke about her medical decision to have her breasts removed. Apart from enlarging, reducing, removing and rebuilding breasts, HRH can also remove appendixes, resection bowels, remove gall bladders, remove skin cancers… I’m the only one who wields a knife at home, in case you’re wondering.

Ethan has by far been our best souvenir of our stay in Perth. He is probably too young to remember his time here so we hope to bring him back to show him where he took his first steps when he’s older. I’ve invited many of my Perth mates over to Brisvegas to check out my hippie commune and promised them I will come back for a visit.

Here are some pics from our 2 years in Perth. Be sure to check out my posts from my visit to Margaret River and Yanchep National Park. When I have time I will blog about our trip to Albany, where we walked amongst the treetops, and Rottnest Island.

A picture of Amanda's first concert at Nedlands Primary.

A picture of Amanda’s first concert at Nedlands Primary.

A picture of Amanda with her teacher's bear.

A picture of Amanda with her teacher’s bear.

A picture of Amanda checking out a racing car at UWA's open day.

A picture of Amanda checking out a racing car at UWA’s open day.

A picture of Amanda at school assembly.

A picture of Amanda at school assembly.

Until we meet again in 2015, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! God bless!






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.