Saturday, March 29, 2008

Spring Break.

After what seemed to be an interminably long 8 weeks, spring break finally came.

Like sweet reprieve to the soul in purgatory - a Catholic reference, I know, but you get the idea! Nothing soothes the agony of a separation quite like the much longed for reunion.

Braving 30 hours of traveling, I arrive back at home at 4 in the morning. Dylan had just woken up for a pre-dawn feed, and the grandparents were eager to see how he'd react to seeing his parents again.

His smile at seeing us was just precious. Instant recognition and surprise mixed into one sweet expression. How our 15 month old has grown!

I remarked to E. how even our li'l one's voice seemed different from just 2 months ago. He giggled and went straight for daddy, at first a little shy to be embraced by the mommy.

Before long, him and I quickly caught on, though, and we're inseparable.

As it should be.

E., Dylan and I spent a good part of the week just spending time together as a family. Eating our favorite foods - bak chor mee, kway chap, ondeh ondeh. You name it.

And a good part of it we spent in complete wonderment and amusement at the little things the tyke has learnt to do. At 15 months, he's:
- pointing at every single thing on 4 wheels and exclaiming "CAR!"
- learning that some "cars" are actually trucks and buses. So his best attempts are "twa" and "ba" respectively.
- recognizing a butterfly when he sees one, pointing at it, and saying "bah!"
- forever trying to get one foot into grandpa's slipper, and walking in it.
- rasping to mimic the rumble of a motorcycle engine whenever one passes, especially the spluttering motor of the postman's bike every afternoon round about 4pm
- climbing the bed frame to peek out of the window in the mornings, and saying "bur-" (he means "bird").

The list goes on.

I am so, so very grateful.

Surely the Lord is holding us tightly in His grace. And little Dylan too, who thrives under the care of the gramps.

Sadly, sadly though.

I find myself having to brave another separation, and yet another 30 hours of flying back over the Pacific.

This time, it will be for the final leg of the program, just another 8 more weeks till the end of term, with 4 group projects and 4 final papers to go.

The prospect of coming home soon, and spending time as a family once again is what will keep me going. Along with much hope, faith, and the prayers of so many so many friends who are keeping this family in their thoughts.

Thanks to all our dear friends!

Some photos of our time together this week:

mornings at the window

"let loose on the grass"
east coast park

"and on the sand"
at the beach with daddy

"on the path"
stick to the path!

Evidence that our son's getting ahead of himself way too early!

our underaged driverin daddy's shoes... literally that is!

"check out my cool blue bike - vroom vroom!"
my new bike!

finally - our verdict on little guy.
mommy's good little boy... most of the time.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Spare Change for Heineken and Herb?

S. and B. gave me a ride home on Friday night, and they asked - "So would you ever consider staying on in the U.S.?"

This is probably the fourth time this month somebody has asked me this question. And although my reply is always straightforwardly, no, not in my circumstances (with the bond, the family yadayada...), the question intrigues me.

The truth is - I am fascinated with the American life.

People here, as much as they can be politically skeptical and jaded, give every and any ideal a chance. There is an optimism in the basic goodness of human nature and fellow man that I yearn to be present in Singaporeans.

To put it simply, they give people chance.

In Singapore, we can be sitting next to any old auntie on the MRT and if you are like me, chances are you wouldn't give the auntie the time of your day, or consider if she could be educated and have opinions that matter. The only time we pay more attention is if the person is well-dressed, speaks poshly and carries a branded handbag, looking like she works in the finance sector. Or if it is a student donning a well-known school's uniform. Then, we scrutinize the behavior, and search for any character flaws.

Here, you can be a homeless bum boarding the bus but the bus driver will say "Mornin'" to ya anyway. Why not? A bum is still human after all, and deserves a greeting just like any of us, no?

At Harvard Square, I walked past one sitting on a milk crate and holding up a cardboard placard. On it, simple and neat handwriting (better than mine!), candidly expressing-


Only in America.

Of course this isn't home to me. It never will be, not without my family with me.

But I do admire the simplicity that lies just below the surface of this very affluent, somewhat morally liberal-minded, but highly complex and savvy group of people I interact with on a daily basis.

I am also struck by the sheer patriotism they share. In one episode of EXTREME MAKEOVER: HOME EDITION, the team tore down and rebuilt the single-storey home of a US marine returning from Iraq from 2 tours who has 4 kids and had lost his leg in the war. People on the show just kept singing praises about the soldier's courage, his giving so much for the country, and now in fighting on to keep his family together even though the wife left him. I had never cried so much watching a home get redone!

We need more TV shows like this in Singapore, IMHO.


On February 29, that special leap year day, I witnessed my first ever charity fund-raising auction.

The event? The Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center Chinese New Year Banquet.

On the plate for live auction included: a World Series 2007 signed baseball, a basketball signed by the whole Celtic team, and a power lunch with Sam Yoon, the first Asian American to be elected into the city council of the City of Boston. Sold! for a cool $1200 to $3000 each.

Uncle G and Auntie E have been long-time patrons and contributors, as well as members of the center, and they booked two tables so that friends and family can join in the dinner and the festivity.

Here, with Uncle G and family, including S's boyfriend (whom everybody thought looked like B.Obama!):
Family Portrait - The Hengs
S,B & I

The venue was at Empire Garden Restaurant, just across the street from Penang restaurant in Boston Chinatown.

My first glimpse into the Asian American community made me realize that so many of the members of this community are not just Chinese, but have truly assimilated into the fabric of American life, and count among them caucasian Americans as family.
I spoke to at least two families whose children are a result of mixed marriages, and the kids are quite good-looking!

Speaking with people, and immersing in that vibrant slice of life one might call the immigrant experience made me realize that one is able to find belonging and family anywhere. And in trying to make a foreign land feel like home, nothing is more precious that retaining one's own corner of culture.

As you might see in these little imps putting their best foot forward in the traditional Chinese lion dance:

lion dance scenes 2 P3010035.JPG
P3010041.JPGlion dance scenes