Monday, December 03, 2007

First Snow.

The snow started last night. 

This morning, we awoke to a totally different world. One in which the trees are emptied of their leaves. And the green of grass blanketed in white. 

We went downstairs, right out into the open patch in front of the river for Dylan to experience standing on the snow. It wasn't soft and fluffy as I expected. Kinda felt like stepping on ice-kachang spilt on some foodcourt floor - sticky to my boots and crunchy. 


A scene from riverbank - just a solitary bench looking out into the Charles, which ordinarily would be teeming with scullers. Feels a little desolate, doesn't it. I guess that's the mood that winter brings.
Another scene, this time from the other side of the river.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Looking out at Lady Liberty

Originally uploaded by elroykoh.

Just got back on Monday from 4 days in New York. Wonderful short holiday with just the 3 of us. Here, Dylan and I are looking out from the free Staten Island Ferry at lady liberty herself.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Of Phlegm, Dead-ends and Wild Goose Chases

Yay, another post from the Daddy:

You know, I've always said that the beauty of travelling is that you get to appreciate the things that other countries have that Singapore doesn't (eg. beautiful fall colours, cool weather and low humidity, online shopping at your fingertips, tons of cable channels to surf, etc.), and the things that Singapore have that these other countries do not.

I was reminded of the latter just this past weekend whilst trying to find a doctor to see Dylan for his cough and runny nose.

You see, the low humidity, temperature and rainy weather we have been experiencing of late that herald the start of winter here in New England, have all conspired to make conditions ripe for the cold and flu bugs to rear their ugly head.

And poor Dylan was not spared.

With a persistent cough lasting about 4-5 days, and adding to that, the onset of phlegm in his throat that was starting to make Dylan's coughs sound more like he was gargling, we finally decided that the best way to deal with it once and for all was to bring him to see a doctor. Afterall, with a health centre just a stone's throw away from our home, how difficult could the process be?

So it was on (last) Friday morning that I brought Dylan over to the Riverside Health Centre, only to discover that the centre did not take walk-in patients and that we had to first make an appointment to see the doctor.

The earlist date available: 4 December 2007.

Almost a month away.

Goodness..... by the time Dylan gets to see the doc, he would have either coughed his lungs out or have gotten better by then.

What's the point?!!

Not to be discouraged, we then tried the Harvard Health Services Centre, where we were told that they too did not take walk-ins, and even then, they only entertained patients who were on Harvard Insurance plans.

Notwithstanding that Danielle had Harvard Insurance, Dylan too had to be similarly insured before they would attend to him.

So OK, the first two were strikes.... surely people here in the US of A self-medicate and we should be able to buy some cough mixture of the pharmacy shelves, right? Wrong!

Pharmacies in the US do not stock drugs over the counter for kids below the age of 2 years, and in order to get medicines from the pharmacist, a doctors prescription is required.

Is it just me do you also get the feeling that I've been going round in circles? Strike Three and back to Square One.

Found out after talking to people that here in the US, most people have a 'Primary Care Doctor' which means to say that he is the guy you go to for all your visits.... kinda like the family doctor at home. But unlike the family doctor at home, people here don't walk-in to the clinic whenever they have a fever or cold.... nope, what they do is to call ahead to book an appointment that could be 1-2 days later (or three if its over the weekend) to see the doctor and in the meantime, self-medicate. For urgent needs, people would then go to the hospital's A&E. Hmmmm.... A&E for a high fever, just doesn't sound right to me. In any case, that was what I was told, bring Dylan to the A&E or wait a month for the next appointment.

Most clinics (at least the ones we tried) close over the weekend, so we had to wait till Monday.

Dylan's cough seemed worse on Monday, so we decided to get him over to the hospital A&E.

Thankfully there was one about 30 mins walk away. So I walked him over.... only to be told that (surprise surprise) the A&E dept did not take infants under the age of 2 years and that I had to go to a pediatric clinic instead. WAH LIAO! Got the numbers of two other hospitals from the receptionist and fortunately, one of them did take walk-ins and even had a free slot for Tuesday morning. FINALLY!

Fast forward to Tuesday morning......Rainy weather......Not the cats and dogs type, but the type that was heavy enough to make any trip outdoors a bother..... Had to manoeuvre stroller over kerbs and sidewalks with one hand whilst holding onto umbrella with the other..... Shoes getting wet.... dreadfully wet..... thank God this doc quest will be settled once and for all.... today....

After an hour wait, finally got to see the doc, who also happened to be (I was told) the hospital's Head of Pediatrics. The check-up went pretty smoothly and I was given a prescription for some cough mixture for Dylan.

However, my joy was short-lived when I found out that the hospital did not stock drugs and that I had to bring the prescription to a pharmacy instead, the closest of which was 20 min walk away (in the rain) as the hospital did not have a pharmacy within its premises.

Got to the pharmacy only to be told that the drug prescribed by the pediatrician had since been taken off the shelves.

Somehow the drug companies, pharmacies and hospitals are not talking to one another.

When asked, the pharmacist was not willing to recommend a substitute drug, and advised that with Dylan being an infant and all (below 2 years..... what is it with this magic number??!!!), the best was for me to go back to get another prescription from the doctor. DOUBLE WAH LIAO!

Rather than walk back, I called the pediatric clinic and was told that the next earliest slot to see the doctor was a week away, and in the meantime (and this is where I really think that this is all a joke), the nurse advised that I take the following steps:
a) humidify the room,
b) give him lots of fluids and
c) keep him in the bath a little longer so that the steam would soothe his nasal passages.

And so with that all-to-valuable piece of advice, this experience for me had truly returned to Square One.

After walking back and forth across Cambridge between health centres, calling up clinics trying to make appointments, and trodding between the hospital and pharmacy in the rain, this rather ridiculous attempt to treat Dylan's cough ended with a simple advice over the phone of a home remedy that we knew of in the first place!!!

And so, the thing I appreciate Singapore has that other countries (read: USA) does not have: A user-friendly, efficient and relatively responsive health care system. No bullshit like what they have here in the US.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Apple-Picking and Expensive Bubble-Tea

Yippee! Daddy's first-ever contribution to this blog, reproduced here with permission, of course:

"I guess I will take it upon myself to do a kinda email-blog of our latest outing."

So here goes:

Question: What do picking apples at an orchard and drinking a cup of bubble milk tea at the asian food court have in common?

Answer: They are both unbelieveably EXPENSIVE!

Just thought I'd send over some pictures that we took last Sunday when the whole family took a drive out of Cambridge to a fruit orchard about an hour's drive west of Boston. Yes, that's right, this is the fall fruit picking seasons and from September to end-Oct every year, apples, peaches, pears, pumpkins and strawberries are ripe for the picking. And a popular family day-out that urbanites do around this parts is to pack the entire family into a car and drive out to the country for a morning of fruit picking. Fortunately, whilst strawberry and peach were picked out, apples were still in season.


So it was that we drove out of Cambridge last Sunday, and thank God that we had beautiful clear blue skies to boot. The orchard was called the 'Belkin Family Lookout Farm' and in many ways was more of a family theme park than it was a pure fruit orchard.

If one were to look past the rather exhorbitant entrance fee of USD12 per adult (kids below 2 years are free), the place was actually quite a kiddy wonderland. 180 acres of fruit orchards - which according to the guide was equal to 180 (American) football fields - yielded row upon row of fruit shrubs.

I say shrubs because I'd always thought that apples grew on trees but as you will see in some of the photos, they are more like shrubs. And I didn't realise that there were so many varieties of apples too... just to name a few: JonaGold, Golden Delicious, Asian Pear (a variety of apple) and MacIntosh (That's right, the popular brand of computer was named after an actual variety of apple).


There was a little train (kinda like the one they have at the night safari) where you can hop on and off anytime you like at any of the five stops along the orchard.... each stop was at a different part of the orchard that grew different varieties of fruit. I must admit too that the experience brought out the child in me.... I mean, honestly, this was the first time in all my 32 years that I have ever eaten an apple directly off the tree/shrub. Literally, pluck, wipe and bite!

And they were delicious and oh so juicy!!! Each of us were given a bag that we could fill with apples and at the end of the picking, this bag would be weighed and we would have to pay accordingly for what we picked.

Apart from fruit picking, the farm had a sizeable kids play area that also come with a petting zoo. I think that was Dylan's first time up close and personal with a goat and he looked like he was both intrigued and enjoying himself.

In all, our fruit foray yielded a rich picking (80% of which could be credited to MIL), and at USD2 per pound, the apples we not cheap at all! Apples in the supermarket cost a whole lot less, but I console myself with the fact that the apples in the orchard were huge and the experience of picking one's own apples was something that was difficult to put a monetary value to.

Needless to say that I have been having apples everyday so far, and I swear that at end of the week, I will be sweating apple juice out of my pores. If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, I think we will not be visiting the doc for the next year or so!!!

OK, will sign off here, till the next time that we have things to update. Halloween is coming in a couple of weeks soon and though it does not seem to be a huge thing here in Cambridge, we were thinking of taking a train to Salem over the weekend. Salem was the location of the witch trials in the 1600s and I guess is the Halloween central of New England.

But before I end off, one quick comment about the bubble tea here in Cambridge -

We were delighted to find us a stall at the asian food court that sold bubble milk tea.... I mean, c'mon, bubble tea here in New England leh!! But we were quickly reminded how fortunate we are to have things so cheap in Singapore. Two cups of bubble milk tea with pearl cost us USD8!!! That's like S$6 per cup!! I made sure that I ate every single pearl.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Watching leaves turn color, I mean colour

Almost one month since hubby and dad came up to join us trio.

It's also almost a month worth of academic work that has been intensifying to a degree that is bordering on intellectual meltdown - at 4 written assignments a week, field experience at a local middle school, and designing research proposals.
My poor brain! It's not worked this hard in such a long, long time.

The first weekend E. and Dad were up, we took a drive up to the White Mountain region in New Hampshire, a part of New England famed for its beautiful fall colors, I mean colours (you can tell my spelling's going American too). This region, in the thick of winter, is also pretty popular with skiers.

Here are some pretty colours:

We stayed at a quaint B&B called Whitney's Inn, and that's where Dylan (and me too!) saw horses racing down a still-green ski slope for the first time in our lives. Here's Dylan marvelling at pumpkins twice his size

Wonderful time with gong gong, ah-ma, mummy and daddy -

Winding our way up Flume's Gorge's narrow pathways - PA060118PA060104aPA070136PA070139

The drive up to the Kamcamagus highway and to the region took us 4 hours, but boy when we took in the sights was it worth it! Tonight, I'm reminded of how it felt - in Hitch, Will Smith tells a client that "It's not the number of breaths that make up our moments in life, but the number of moments that take our breath away".

That's a close approximation of how it was like to be so close to nature, and to God's awesome creation.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

My new Macbook

Ok so I've gone over to the dark side.

My fingers are still getting used to the placement of the keys on this new 13" macbook, but it's a little tougher to get rid of the right clicking. Thank God I still can use the right-click mouse on this!

What I loved was the packaging, the thought put even into the design of the styrofoam and box the macbook is sold in.

My new macbook

And here's Dylan asleep two days ago. Another one of those random mommy-moments when I just had to take a pic of him. Sorry. He had just turned a whole 9 months old!


Ushering in Fall

It's been an incredibly warm first week of the New England autumn.

Temperature soared to close to 30 degrees midday, so much so I welcomed the cool of the air-conditioned library and classroom. Just like I would back home.

On Sunday evening, near dusk, people gathered at the foot of Week's Bridge along Charles' River. And ushered in Autumn with song and dance, complete with huge green waving giant puppets (named Oshun and Popeidon) and a New Orleans-style brass band. The event was called RiverSing.

Pretty festive.

Here's ah-ma wheeling baby along the river. IMG_1861.JPG

Smile for the camera!IMG_1863.JPG

Amid festivity

Scary big green waving giant from the top of the bridge (bad pic, so kept it small)

Dylan taking it all in (including a bite of the brochure!)


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Settling In

School started this week and I already need to turn in 2 assignments. Yikes.

For mom and Dylan, it means more and longer hours of mommy being away, and ah-ma having to look for all kinds of ways to distract the little one for hours on end. He's getting better with her though. Although he still pines for me, he's got a great playground to go to, and here at the complex they've got great infant playing areas that are both indoors and outdoors.

Here, you see Dylan on one of his first forays into the magical experience of being on a swing. One hardly finds playgrounds like these in Singapore any more.

Some pictures -

In front of our apartment block 28 (the little bubba's wondering what he has on his head)

"Get this walker (which mommy got off craigslist for $25!) away from me!"

"The tomatoes here are huge - just look at the one I'm holding! Totally organic."

"I like it here. Oh yeah."

"Check out my new friend from the joint."


Wednesday, September 12, 2007


KP and JH popped over today - the childcare facility they were looking at happened to be nearby.

So little Dylan found a playmate in 6-month-old Ryan, albeit a little reluctantly in the beginning. But the look on their faces as they interacted is simply precious. Wonderful.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Now we're in business!

Okay, so we were off to a rough start.

Some of you think that I still got the shorter end of the stick with the "remorseful" reply from Global Travels, and I should be demanding compensation of some kind. In ordinary circumstances, I might have, but right now I guess there are just too many things I need to prioritize...

Anyway, to continue the story.

On Day 2, totally jet lagged, we persevered on and Uncle Gerry took us around the huge malls in Framingham to start shopping for the home. I bought a futon sofa from Target for $150, and a car-seat that we'll use as Dylan's high chair for about $40. Not bad, so far.

We put up at Uncle Gerald's the first night, but moved into a totally spartan apartment and spent the second night there.

Me, my mom and dylan squeezing into a queen-sized mattress plonked in the middle of the living room, amid our barang. It felt like it was just a super single.

I dreamt we were refugees, cast-aways making do and surviving.

It's now almost exactly one week since we've arrived. Looking back on just the past few days, I'm just completely amazed, relieved, and grateful at just how far we've come!

Here's a look at just the living room and the open concept kitchen. It's a small cosy 2-bedder here, round about 600 sq ft.

The real steal by far is $15 rug you see. I got it at the Harvard Habitat for Humanity yard sale. So it's used, but it's still very new compared to the other rugs I saw, no hairs entangled in the rug fibres, very little dust.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

In Cambridge, MA 02138

Dear friends who've been praying for me and baby,

Here's an update of how we've been. The travel on QF/BA was a nightmare because my travel agent did not arrange for the infant bassinet. For the full story, you can read my email complaint and their reply below. To protect the innocent, I've blanked out the names:

Dear Ms Chen

I am truly sorry for the inconvenience that we have caused you and your family due to our mistake. It was a human error on our part and we offer no excuses for it. XX is full of remorse and hope you will give us a chance to atone for the mistake.

We are currently talking to the airline to ensure that the bassinet for the return trip is arranged. We will write to you again when we have the bassinet confirmed in writing.

I will be travelling from 8 to 16 September and will not have access to email. If you need further assistance, please contact either XX or XXX during my absence.

I hope you will not think less of us when you plan your next trip.

Thank you
General Manager, Operations
Global Travel Pte Ltd

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Yours truly
Date: Sep 6, 2007 11:45 AM

Dear XXX,

Imagine my HORROR, when we arrived at Terminal 1 on Tuesday night to find that my travel agent had NOT arranged the airline to provide infant travel facilities. The flight was overbooked, and the counter said that they could not give me a baby bassinet, and I could not even sit with my mother because the travel agent had given no instructions.

Why did this happen? XXX, I thought I specifically said to please ensure that I'm travelling with baby bassinet and baby food, and that my mother gets to sit with me. On both legs of the flight, from Sing-London and then London-Boston, we had to plead for the airline to change their passenger seating to accommodate my baby and mother, when all this should have been done by you.

It was gruelling enough to travel for more than 24 hours with a baby, I REALLY DID NOT NEED the additional stress caused by this very unpleasant experience.

I'm not at all confident now that in my return flight, the same would be arranged. It seems I can't take for granted a BASIC service that I should be able to trust my travel agent with.

I am copying XXXY on this email because with the string of mistakes throughout the entire ticket-booking experience has really made a very BAD impression, and I've lost faith in using Global Travels now, even though I have to still contact you for the return legs of the tickets for me, my mom, husband and father.

Although I know Global Travels is a big player in the field, and has to handle the government account which is HUGE, it is NO EXCUSE to be so NEGLIGENT in ensuring basic travel facilities are provided.

Please provide an explanation of why the QF/BA flights did not accommodate my requests. Please also tell me whether or not I have to personally make this request on my return leg to Singapore, or can I count on you to do it for me.





It's been a tough few days. Dylan was especially cranky the last 2 hours and making scene in the aircraft. I had to sit next to a Swiss-American called Jonah, who was very gracious about it all, thank God.

It's been very tiring for mom and me so far, brining in furniture and setting up the apartment, all the time while looking after Dylan. The baby is also not very used to Mom, and would cry quite badly when I'm gone from the apartment for too long. Poor mom has to cook and clean, and make sure baby is comfortable, so please pray for her.

I'm also coming down with a scratchy throat from the dry air, although the weather has been hot the past two days, so actually quite pleasant.

Thankfully, Uncle Gerry (a friend and contemporary's of my dad's) has been a great help, he even went to buy some pillows, bathroom and kitchen mats, and shower curtains for us last night! We're more or less settled in, and should be feeling more comfortable by the end of the week.

I just need to learn to let go and trust and God will take care of Mom and baby, because come Monday I'll be away from the apartment for longer stretches of time. Please pray for us.

Meantime, some photos of us on Day 2:

Me, Jet Lagged? No way!

Look at the camera!

At TJ Max

Getting a little chilly

Monday, September 03, 2007

Final Day, or before Day One

So this is my final morning in Singapore, before the big fly-over.

We went to the frankel corner coffeeshop for breakfast, and got the auntie there to give us her mailing address again cos E. lost it when she gave it to us on Sunday.

Found out her name is Koh Kim Wah, and stays in Circuit Road. She leaves home at 5.30am every morning to catch the bus to the coffeeshop, and opens the stall by 6.15am.

It's amazing how much you can get to know someone you see every Sunday morning, and order "2 teh-pengs, 2 soft buns" from but know so little about. Just because she takes an interest in your little bubba.


Dreamt last night that the plane we were on was hijacked, and the terrorists were going to slit my throat in front of my horrified mom and baby.

I know, I know! Vivid imagination, especially when it comes to dreaming up worst case scenarios.


I suppose a lot of this springs from a general sense of unease that I've been harbouring over this journey we're about to embark on - literally and figuratively.

Even though friends and colleagues are excited, and are keeping us in prayer, I've been having trouble shaking off the anxiety and fears. E. says what's making it worse is the fact that I don't sit down and write down exactly what are the things I need to get done when I'm over in Boston.

He's probably right.

Ok so here's the deal:

1) We fly tonight. Reach Heathrow in 13 hours and rest for 5 hours. Hopefully, Dylan will be sleeping through most of this. Another 7 hours to fly into Logan Airport.

2) We reach Boston past noon East Coast time, 5 Sep. Catch a ride from Uncle Gerry to the apartment. Collect keys and settle in. Try to contact Esther, at whose apartment some of the furniture is now at. Set up internet connection at the apartment.

3) Day 2: Get a bank account and a pre-paid phone. Not sure how to shop around for the best deal on short notice. Hopefully can get some good advice on this from Uncle Gerry. Find the nearest and cheapest groceries store and shop shop shop!

4) Day 3&4: Find out how to get a zipcar, and how to drive to the Science Centre lawn, where the Harvard Habitat for Humanity is putting up a "Stuff Sale" - hopefully we can get some good pieces of furniture there - am looking at sofa set/bed, dining table set, maybe a TV console.

5) Day 5 onwards - Orientation starts. Will think about that more when that comes.


Meantime, covet your prayers for a safe, hassle-free flight.

Please also keep Dylan's grandpa (E's dad)in your prayers. He went in for a check-up yesterday. Doctor said they "found something" on his x-ray, somewhere near the top of his right lung.

He took another x-ray.

The good news is that it's not TB.

The possible bad news, which he of course didn't say at all when he came back home yesterday - is that it might be a relapse of his cancer 15 years ago.

We pray that that's not the case, of course.

I guess we both know that both grandpa and grandma will miss Dylan terribly, so I'm consciously letting them spend more time with the little one. He's getting cuter and cuter by the day - more expressive, and more receptive now that he is starting to understand our language.

Here are the more recent photos of our 8-month old:

"Let me help pack your DHL box mommy!"
Helping to pack the DHL box

"My first merry-go-round - Woohoo, giddy-up, horsie!"
First Merry-go-round

At Lawry's with cousin Sara
With baby Sara

Me in my hoodie at Rice Table
At Rice Table

Me in Grandpa's Laundry Basket
In the Laundry Basket 2

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Maternal Feelings

I find myself gazing endlessly at Dylan as he sleeps, completely oblivious to the emotions he's causing in me to emerge.

I watch him... and my heart floods with love.

Never felt this way about anything, or anyone before.

I suppose I can put it down to the fact that at 6 months plus, his personality is now more formed, and his individual uniqueness as a little person dawns on me more now, than ever before.

The fact that at six months, he demonstrates an awesome receptive vocab - when grandma asks "Dylan, where's the butterfly?", and he turns to look at the two fake butterflies clipped to the bamboo blinds in our porch.

And when I ask him "Dylan, where's the banana?" in the kitchen, his eyes turn to the bunch of yellow fruit hanging by the side of the kitchen.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Different Faces of a Visa Mug Shot

Quick one - two wednesdays ago, we went down to the embassy to be interviewed for our J-class visa application.

Before you can make an appointment electronically via the US Embassy website, you first need to fill in a thousand and one forms. And no, they don't accept just any passport photos. The ones you submit must be 5cm by 5cm, so that you can be seen from chest up.

Try taking a visa photo of a frisky 6-month old, and you'll be rewarded with his many facial expressions -

"Watcha lookin' at?"
Different Faces (US visa) 1
"How long is this going to take again?"
Different Faces (US visa) 2
"I can look cheerful... if I want"
Different Faces (US visa) 3
"My impression of Grandpa without his teeth"
Different Faces (US visa) 4
"Haha.. stop that! You're making me laugh!"
Different Faces (US visa) 5