14 days of Great Adventure – it’s a Wrap!

We started our journey from the 3rd day of August. Mom and son explored Amsterdam, New York City and finally reached our ultimate destination – Bloomington, Indianapolis! We did some sightseeing and went on food tours. We had fun.

It’s exciting to see dear son got settled down in his new living environment; his dorm, getting along well with his room-mate and making new friends from other countries. I guess getting the new bicycle helped a lot. I’m glad it all turned out well for him. Bloomington is a wonderful city where everyone is equal. Much thanks to Indiana University (IU) which exposes the city with multi-cultural influence. People are friendly and most helpful. I so love Bloomington! Nothing fancy but just nice and cosy. Love the houses architecture too!

IU students can be found everywhere. Many of the domestics work part-time at retail stores and restaurants. While we were at Edinburg Premium Outlet, about an hour away from Bloomington, we came to know a senior student manning the check-out counter. Both Sonner and the kind young lady exchanged contact details so that she could connect him with the others in her students-group. I observed, the wonderful IU culture extends to students as well, not just their administrators. They readily provide support to new students without hesitation. They openly expressed excitement for getting to know new friends. Amazing, isn’t it?!

As for me, I made some new friends too, from India, Taiwan and China. We met at the parents orientation activity. This particular Taiwanese mom was so kind and brave to drive us around. As for me, despite having almost 30 years of driving experience, I wouldn’t dare to drive on the other side of the road. It scares the daylight out of me.

What I like about Bloomington road safety is that, all modes of transport, e.g. car, motorbike and bicycle, have to stop at junctions to allow pedestrian cross the street. All must stop at STOP signs and yes, including bicycles. Bicycles aren’t allowed to overtake any vehicle while on road. Meaning, the cyclist has to cycle behind the car, if there is one in front. It can only move forward to the front of the traffic at traffic lights junction where there is a spot specifically for bicycle to stop at. However, where there is a cycling lane, bicycles can cycle freely on that lane. In a traffic jam, no cars are to cut queue. It is understood that everyone stays in the line. No drivers would tolerate misbehavior on the road. They won’t hesitate to walk up to you to tell you off.

At those restaurants and bistros pouring alcoholic beverages, the floor staffs will first ask to see your ID before admitting you into the premises or taking your order (for alcoholic beverages). Under-aged patrons are not allowed to sit at the bar at all. You can expect good service from the floor staff. Of course, don’t forget your tip. A Thai restaurant I went to even printed calculated tip raging from 15% to 25% to ease the payment.

One day, I was served an overdone and dry petite steak for lunch. When I informed the waitress about it, she apologized and immediately order for a freshly cooked steak. She left my plate be so that I can eat the sides while waiting for a replacement for my petite steak.

I noticed that waiting staff at all eateries make an effort to check on us in case we need any further order and if everything is alright. I think it is their culture, not entirely driven by the hope for a larger tip. Back home, I tipped as well but the service and friendliness can’t match that in Bloomington. I could see that they take pride and pleasure in their jobs. The enthusiasm to serve well makes the difference.

At the hotel, the evening before my check-out, the front desk staff helped me booked for my shuttle bus from the hotel to the airport. She even offered to print out my boarding pass and bus ticket, to be delivered to my room! How’s that for six star service?! Thanks to Biddel Hotel. I’d like to shout out to Mark, Sonja, Jeremy (he told me to inform dear son to look for him should he need any help…WOW!) and Mary, the most cheerful cashier at the foodcourt. Mary has a collection of more than 200 hats and she wears a different hat to work everyday. She is in her 60s. These people made a huge difference to my stay in Bloomington. It feels like the whole place is like a family town! There is no total stranger there. That kinda feeling. Sweet, isn’t it?

On my last morning at IMU, we bumped into a group of Malaysian students. 6 of them, one studies in IU while the rests were studying in other unis but are taking a tour around IU. One of them, a Hoosier, exchanged cellphone numbers and promised to add dear son into the Malaysian students group. We count our blessings that dear son gets to meet so many wonderful people offering to help and ready with advice. Thank God for that.

I’m now aboard a plane to NYC, for a duration of 2 hours. 4 hours transit for onward flight to Amsterdam. This is really a marathon …in total, 22 hours on air and 13 hours of transit. I’ve never done such long haul before. The most I clocked was 13 hours flight with 7 hours transit. I’ll write as I move from one airport to another. How fun is that?

The plane is descending approaching JFK. Then, my 4 hrs transit starts before I board the next flight to Amsterdam. I have to fiddle with the time again, to keep jet lag to the minimal.

The 4 hours passed real fast. I’m now boarding for Amsterdam, an 8-hour flight and expected to arrive on time at 11.35am local time. Gonna catch up on some movies and perhaps have a short nap too.

At Schiphol airport, after taking my lunch, i checked into the hotel for 5 hours. It’s better this way for long hours of transit as I get my privacy to freshen up, FaceTime with my kids (separately) and take a short nap. Lovely!

Finally, boarded for KL! My last leg of the journey, balance 12 hours. Can’t wait to be back! Enjoyed my champagne and spicy steak wrap. Movies and nap again. Finally I got to catch up on watching all the movies I didn’t have the chance to watch. Nice!

Touched down on Malaysian soil on 18th August afternoon. On time arrival but the baggage claim was slow. Dear hubby, ma fille chèrie and mom came to the airport to meet me. Glad to be back and that also stamps the long distance that separate us from dear son. I’m not too worried about that as I know he’ll blend in well. He is very much similar to me. We just adjust ourselves to new environment, and make the most of it. Moreover, we can always exchange WhatsApp messages and FaceTime for real time chats. Just need to watch the 12 hours difference in time.

Thankfully, I have sufficient time to freshen up and change before driving out to school for my PTA meeting. As it’s raining and the traffic was slow, I’ve advised my deputy to start the meeting on time. I know I’d be delayed.

Glad I accomplished all I set out to do. Though I was away, I keep tabs on activities in the school, especially the progress of our Rainbow Run 2.0 meetings via feeds from my wonderful fellow committee members. Thanks, guys!

As you read, you’ll realize that this post has been written in parts and along my journey home from the 14 days of my great adventure. I hope you enjoy reading it. That’s it folks! It’s a wrap!

Cheers,

Alice

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Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoosiers!



Finally! The flight from NYC to Indianapolis took 2 hours and here we were, in Indianapolis! It was 10.30 in the morning, local time. Excited but at the same time, I was concerned about how were we going to get to the Uni from the airport. Was it near or far? As we walked a few steps further, right in the middle of the spacious arrival hall, we were greeted by a gigantic IU banner! When we took the escalator down towards the exit, we spotted a help desk set up by Indiana University! As we approached, we were greeted by a student volunteer who then told us how to get to the uni campus. What a great welcome, especially for new students. Thank you, IU. Bravo, IU!!!! At the Go Express Shuttle counter, the attendant, a kind elderly lady cheerfully gave us a brief introduction to Indianapolis and Bloomington. We were the 1st Malaysian customers of hers! She kept a list of countries which people came from, with whom she had interaction with at the counter.

From Indianapolis airport to Bloomington, the journey took around 1 hour by shuttle bus. Quite a distance away with not much to see along the way except for scatter of houses and isolated small shops. The shuttle took us right up to the dorm entrance, thankfully!

Sonner got checked in. We planned for him to stay in his dorm in advance so that we have time to get supplies, for him to get adjusted to the new living environment as well as getting to know his room-mate before semester commences. Don't expect 5-star but it's a nice size for students – 2 beds, 2 study tables, 2 closets and bathroom attached. As days passed, the room became cozier (his feedback) and he got along well with his room-mate. The Korean buddy studied in Malaysia for 2 years before coming to Bloomington. He even spoke Malaysian English!

I checked into my motel. Since my booking was done late (considered very late since it was a peak season), I have limited choice of hotels to choose from. Despite the state of its exterior, the room was clean and the Queen-sized bed was comfortable. Took me a while to get to know how to operate the air-con and coffee maker though. However, had a hard time with the shower which kept giving me higher than average temperature of water. Spoken to the front desk twice about it, still not fixed. Sigh.

After experiencing 2 challenging nights, I finally got the chance to change hotel to the one on campus ground. Many parents had checked out after their children's orientation. What a great relief to be nearer to Sonner's dorm. It's a short walk to downtown too! I no longer need to call fr Uber ride just to have a meal. This hotel was so much more comfortable. I longed for a peaceful sleep and finally getting!

All in all, I sat through 4 days of Parents Orientation, missed the first 2 days as we were still in NYC. The email from uni reached us late, after we had done our flights bookings. Nonetheless, not all were lost. They were accommodative and offered me a private campus tour. Bloomington is a small town but people are friendly and most helpful. Spoken to an Uber driver who had just transferred to Bloomington from another state in March. He loves this place. The locals have been exposed to the presence of many foreign students that they got to learn and understand different cultures other than their own. This is indeed a beautiful town with beautiful people!

We shopped at Target, Best Buy and College Mall to get his supplies. He quickly got a road bike on the 2nd day of arrival when we saw he size of the campus. Walking is possible but if one is rushing for classes, it'll be crazy to walk from the dorm to another building. It stretches to quite a distance in between. Staying here, if you move around on foot, you can easily reach your 10,000 steps a day, no sweat! Very good exercise with fresh air.

Every Saturday morning till 1.00pm, there is the Farmer's Market located in front of the City Hall, where residents can get fresh produces like vegetables, fruits, plants and herbs. Additionally, there are some local handicrafts for sale too.

The Indiana Memorial Union (IMU) building houses the Biddel hotel and convention centre, has in-house foodcourt, bookshop, IU shop, Starbucks, Burger King, cafes, bowling alley, and several halls for students to study and do some works. A short walk to the Sample Gate (main entrance of the Uni – pictures below) and downtown.

No worries about food here. Besides McDonald's, Taco Bell, Bloomington Bagels, KFC, Pizza Hut, Chilis, etc, there are Thai, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Burmese, Indian restaurants! Seafood restaurants like Red Lobster and The Running Crab are a few minutes drive away. There's Barnes & Noble bookshop to get the latest publications, books and mags alike. I can't stop telling you guys how much I like this place.

As for IU, it has the Asian Culture Centre (ACC), not specifically for Asians only; others who are interested in Asian culture are always welcome. The seniors immediately got Sonner to sign up as a volunteer photographer for ACC when they learned that he has his own equipment. I'm glad he'll have some other activities to keep him occupied besides attending classes.

The uni provides an academic and a career adviser to each student to guide and support them throughout their studies. There is also counseling for students who might have personal issues like depression, time management, sleeping problem, getting settled down, etc. Here, IU Family is not restricted to merely students and alumni but includes staffs, parents, benefactors, and anyone who is linked to IU. It is one big happy family.

I would highly recommend this uni to anyone, anytime. The environment is most suitable for studying – fresh air, trees everywhere. This small town provides sufficient shops to serve the community. Not much of distractions, unlike in the big cities. When one has too many choices, they can pose as problems than blessings, sometimes.

I'm left with a few more days, 2.5 days to be exact, before I fly home. I can safely say that I'm glad Sonner settles in well and faster than expected. He'll survive here well. I pray that he'll carry himself well and have a wonderful campus experience these 2 years here at IU. And of course, graduate in Y2019.

Yup, I'm a proud Hoosier mom! Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoosiers!

Cheers,
Alice

Exploring Big Apple

Our next destination after Orange country was the Big Apple. Yeah, from Orange to Apple! Took an evening flight for 8 hours to reach New York. Time difference between New York and Amsterdam is -6 hours. Between New York and Malaysia is -12 hours. Sharing the beautiful image that greeted us the minute we exited from the JFK arrival hall.

Again, to avoid being jet lagged, we timed our bedtime. We were awake at 6am in Amsterdam which was 12am in NYC. After checking into the hotel, we got ourselves city tour and boat cruise tix from the concierge, for the next day. My son couldn't wait to taste the food of The Halal Guys. Off we walked from the UN Plaza to Fifth Avenue. The evening was moderately cool, good temperature and comfortable for long walks.

Finally, The Halal Guys! We had the combo meal. Not bad. They were in many places, always with a long queue. Once the stomach was filled, we walked back to the hotel. FaceTime session with family back home and finally slept at 1am! That was 25 hours since we woke up in Amsterdam! That's a record.

The next morning, we decided to try out hotdogs by the roadside stall as we saw on TV shows. Then, we hop onto the Big Bus. It's drizzling and looks like going to pour heavier soon. Oh no……

From the bus ride, we got off for our cruise along the Hudson River. Remember how Sully did an emergency landing on the Hudson river? According to the movie (based on true story), it made a record when all passengers on board survived the dangerous yet unusual landing. Following picture shows the landing path along Hudson River.

Though it's raining, we are kept dry on the boat. We had some snacks – nachos and pretzel with hot choc.

It rained the whole day in NYC. It's a pity that we couldn't cover as many places as I planned for originally. Couldn't make it to downtown and uptown sides. Save it for next visit. We only managed to move around the midtown. We walked to Madison Square Park, armed with NYC gift shop umbrellas, for the famous Shake Shack burgers. No shades whatsoever, the place only had garden tables and chairs but it was raining. We ate by the Shake Shack unused mobile stall which provided us with a makeshift table and a bit of cover from the rain. What an adventure it was….

On the way back, we managed to grab some Yankees caps and NMDs from FootLocker. There wasn't any sale going on at FootLocker NYC, unlike in Amsterdam (didn't have our sizes anyway). Oh well….we are happy campers just the same.


Finally, we were back to the cosy hotel. Exhausted, we agreed to order in-room dining. A great plan as we had to wake up very early in the morning for our flight to THE destination.

The following morning, the bell captain convinced us to hail the Yellow instead of calling for an Uber ride. Cab rate to the airport was on fixed rate, plus highway (toll) charges, which added up to less than $60. A very friendly and helpful bell captain. He even spent 10 minutes advising my son about life. George, who's now in his 60s, came to US from Ghana. A proud dad with 3 adult professional children working in the big cities in America. Thank you, George for the advice!

At the airport, again we fill up our stomachs with Shake Shack burgers. The ones at Madison Sq Park were better and not that oily.

For our health conscious friends, these are a nightmare, right? No worries….we walked a lot and able to burn all those fats (excuse…hahaha). Moreover, it is okay to live a little. We hardly do fast food back home. Au revoir, NYC!

That's it folks. This wrapped up our Big Apple (lack of) experience.

Cheers,
Alice

My Orange Experience

A day after my birthday, my son and I flew to Amsterdam. Our flight plan en route to Indianapolis is with 2 stopovers, Amsterdam and New York. Since we are flying so far away from home, we might as well stop at these two cities to rest, relax and sightseeing. Also, to allow son and I to spend a little bit more holiday time together. Let him relax before the next semester commences. I know he is anxious, new environment and all, yet excited about what lies ahead. He also misses his sister and girlfriend terribly, being separated from them. It is the first time in 15.5 years being separated from the sister cum bestie for the first time. Fortunately, with FaceTime, they can video chat anytime.

Our KLM experience for this long-haul night flight was wonderful. We were served with snacks, dinner and breakfast. Had our sleep then watch 2 movies till we touched down at almost 6.00am local time. As usual, when there's a train service to my destination, I'd rather use the train than a cab. The train station was just a few steps away from arrival hall. Bought our tix and off we went searching for the right platform. Boarded the train but it was not as convenient as the one we took in Osaka, Japan which has a special compartment to stow your luggage securely before proceeding to your seats. On board the Amsterdam train, space along the aisle was narrow. If you are traveling with more than 1 luggage, you wouldn't find it easy to move them around. Despite all that limitations, taking the train was easy and straight forward. We reached central station within 30 minutes.

From the train terminal, we took a 10-15 mins walk to our hotel. Weather was clear, quite cold and very windy, just the way I like it. Though it was very early, before 7.00am, the hotel allowed us to check into our room immediately! Excellent front desk service; the lady showed us around the lobby – tea making area, the same place where they hosted wine drinking session every evening from 5pm to 6pm. Off we went to our room. Neat and cosy. Love the cup and saucer and the familiar Nespresso machine.


Off we went to hunt for a cafe for our 2nd breakfast. I've always liked to sit at the sidewalk cafe, sipping my hot cup of coffee while watching activities around me. We can't do that back home on a sunny day. Armed with the city map, we walked wherever the legs took us. We were fortunate to arrive early that we got the chance to enjoy 2 full days in the city before departing for our next destination the following day. Son and I felt that having 3D 2N in AMS is just nice.

We took our time to visit some museums and had a cruise tour along the canal. We returned to the hotel in time for the wine drinking session. Dry white, red wine and rosé were served with some finger food. The staffs were friendly and chatted with every guest. Dear son looked younger than his age that he was politely asked for identification before being poured a glass of wine. The legal age for consuming beer and wine in Netherlands is 16! Well, he can still drink here but not anymore when we reach the States.

We walked to a nearby restaurant for an early dinner. After the long flight, we'd better take it easy on Day 1 but sleep at proper bedtime so that to avoid having jet lag. The sun set around 9.30pm. It's nice to see the sky so clear and still bright at dinnertime.

The following day, we bought ourselves the City Sightseeing (hop on and hop off) bus and boat tour. It is the best way and shortest time to cover the entire city. Made easier when I downloaded the app into my phone. That Sunday was also the Gay Pride Day. The whole city came alive with so many people, music and colours. They party all day long. What a lovely and exciting experience from merely watching the crowd!

Finally, upon checking out, we took the train to Schipol International Airport. The train arrived and left on time, not a minute more or less. So, remember to check for the time and the right platform. Our flight to New York was in the evening and touched down the same evening, local time. Couldn't wait for another new experience. Big Apple here we come!

To sum it all up, AMS was a wonderful experience, an eye opener, with beautiful weather. People were friendly, the place was rather clean (except for the morning after, after the party). The cleaning vehicle didn't stop sweeping the roads. However, I'm not used to the smell of weeds in the air. It's being sold in every corner. I was told that it's prescribed as medicine to treat some medical condition to help patients be more focused or something. Anyway, then most memorable food experience was the freshly made stroofwafel and the no1. Both son and I enjoyed our stay in AMS, discovering places and food.

Cheers,
Alice N.

Final Year of My 40s

Today marked the balance of 12 months of my life in the forties. Frankly, age has always been just a number and I really mean it and live it as it is. I accept that life has its ups and downs. Nonetheless, I look forward to experimenting more new things in life, facing new challenges and of course, watching my children grow and transform. Exciting, isn't it?

That's what life means to me. To my body, however, as years advancing, I can feel that it isn't as flexible as it was some 20 years back. I'm sure you guys know that too. This doesn't apply to the younger ones, well, not yet. I have to remind myself not to spring out of bed (an old habit), not to run or turn too fast, or I'll pull a muscle or tendon or whatever. That is why I am back to the gym, combined with Pilate sessions which help a lot to keep myself fitter. I love food, therefore I exercise to eat (not a good example, so don't be like me). On a more serious note, I realize that I can't just sit and eat while idling away. People like me who enjoy good food must take great care of ourselves so that the body can serve us well…and to eat some more (hahaha)

To my mind, it seems to get stuck in the time machine where the clock stops some 30 years back…hahaha…I'm always up to monkey mischief and never fail to have fun with my teenagers. I see myself as their mother as well as a loyal and honest friend. I love and cherish the time spent with the children, mine as well as students at the school. The students are like children to me, whilst teachers are friends. I find that I learn a lot about life through their eyes and life experiences, young and the elders alike. They are amazing!

So, what makes this person (me, of course!) tick? Year after year, I learn to know myself deeper and get in touch with my inner self. I learn what I can, can't and won't do. I know what I actually like and dislike. I'm more brave and confident at speaking my mind. I understand that I can't and won't please everyone. I learn to choose who to care deeply for and who to keep at arms length. I know I can make some difference when I put my heart and soul into it. Most importantly is, whatever comes out of a sincere and caring heart, nothing could go very wrong. Decisions I made and actions taken may not please everyone but it usually serves the right recipients and purpose.

Yup, the 24 hours that you have is the same 24 hours I get. I learn to prioritize and be more selective on how I spend my time. You can call me a juggler alright. Not all are perfect. There were times when I ran around like headless chicken (yeah, happened quite a lot). I can't give much to the community that I serve, but time, brain cells and leg works! I find great pleasure in sprinkling some encouraging words when needed, splashing a friendly smile, sharing a simple meal, lending a hand here and there, exchanging ideas, imparting some knowledge…having in mind, everyone has his/her own battle to fight. Everything may look all rosy outside but sometimes it was a just brave front being worn to show the world that despite the gloomy steps ahead, there is still hope. Having said that, it would be wonderful if each of us could be kinder to the next person. We have the ability to choose to be pleasant with people around us despite having a lousy day. Who knows, that simple act may actually lift your spirit!

As much as I wish to, this year I won't be able to spend a quiet day alone doing what I enjoy doing at each Birthday, which happens to be…hanging around a mall, eat and enjoy my food in my own company then spend some time at the bookstore, reading a book while sipping a cup of Long Black then move on to having a bowl of ice-cream before heading home. That is a typical birthday for me. I enjoy the silence and not having any conversation with anyone. I enjoy reading a book, at the cafe, while sipping coffee and eating a slice of cake. I only have myself to please for that few hours. I treasure the calmness and quiet time alone.

This year is different as the first born will be leaving the comfortable and familiar nest to further his studies. We'll be flying in the next 24 hours or so but I have yet to pack or make any preparation for the long journey (except flights and hotels secured). It is my first trip to the States and I pray that it will be a pleasant one for us. Excited and anxious at the same time but I so looking forward to the journey. So, that shall be treated as my birthday celebration.

To all my lovely family and friends, thank you for your wonderful wishes. Your presence and friendship mean a lot to me. Love you all always.

Cheers,
Alice

28th Month into Glivec

In November 2016, dad went for his CT Scan. He had been going through scans for monitoring the tumour on 8 to 9-month intervals. Same procedure that he has now accustomed to. His oncologist was satisfied with the results.

The tumour size remains unchanged. Tiny lesions in a few places remain stable, are probably benign. Dad will continue to consume Glivec as it is working for him. He has lost a bit of weight as compared to 3 months ago. His Dr isn’t concerned about it. His blood sugar is good, well under control. He is encouraged to eat more. I’m relieved that all’s good.

Dad continues with his morning walks around the lake garden on clear mornings. If it rains, he’ll stay home. Life goes on as usual. Watching over grandchildren at home, having breakfast and tea with friends and catching up on soap operas on TV. During weekends, get will go shopping or eating out with my brothers. I’m pleased that my second elder brother is back and staying nearby. Sundays are family gathering day for my two brothers with my parents.

The next routine meeting with dad’s doctors will be early March 2017. I hope by then, he’ll put on some pounds. We shall continue to pray for my parents’ good health and living a happier and fulfilling life. I am sure this new year is going to be a wonderful year for them. Now, planning for their next holiday destination. It is good for them to relax and be in new environment once in a while. Feeling happy is a great medicine to better health, besides exercising.

Our program with Max Foundation is still active and we are grateful for the continuous support from them. Thank you, Max Foundation.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy and Fulfilling New Year in 2017!

Cheers,

Alice N.

Seoul-ful Adventure


After so many years of watching K-dramas and dreaming of going to Korea, we finally got the chance to fly in for a 4-day weekend getaway. The AirAsia Premium Flatbed was a comfort for an almost 7-hour flight. Finally, arrived @ Incheon International Airport. Well decorated, systematic and you’d be pleasantly surprised to listen to recorded home-language greeting when you presented your passport at the immigration. 


I was delighted to discover that we could choose to take a limousine bus to our hotel. I’ve always preferred moving around with public transport like the train, bus or simply walking if the distance isn’t too far. Walking around the city is the best! We’ll get to see more by walking and exploring the streets. 


The public limo bus was rather spacious and clean inside. A 50-minute ride from airport to the hotel, and they offered mags to read too! Relieved to see that there was always someone standing by to help load the bags and unload them upon arrival. It stopped right at the hotel. How convenient! 

Checking in was smooth. We were shown to a waiting lounge while waiting for our turn to check-in.

The room at the new wing was spacious. Just nice and cosy for the 3 of us. Simply lovely! The children, as always, would enjoy the bubble bath. Off to Lush for supplies!


Mainly, we explored the streets in Myeongdong, Namdaemun market and Namsan N Tower. All within walking distance. Boy, did we go crazy over the cosmetics shops! Another place to grab for foodstuffs would be the Lotte mart. Lots of snacks and everything was delicious!


The weather was so lovely. Sunny, windy and cold. Temperature was around 15degC to below 10 at night. Windy throughout the day and night. Our noses, ears and hands were freezing. Eyes and lips drying. However on the day of our departure, it showered in the early morning and then cloudy with temperature at 8degC in the afternoon.

I liked the foodcourts here. The whole exercise was : Select your food and pay at the cashier. We’re given the buzzer. Collect the food at the stall and after eating, return the food tray to the respective stall. There’s a drinking water station with sterilized cups and it’s complimentary. The floor attendants would wipe the tables ensuring everyone returned their trays and throw rubbish into the bins provided for. That’s great isn’t it? Wish it’s done the same way in my home country. 

If you can’t speak Korean, there is still chance of “survivorship” here. Mandarin is widely spoken in retail shops, restaurants and by stall operators. If you speak neither languages, like me, then there’s going to be an issue. Fortunately, I had my children with me. They became my translators (Mandarin – English) and in exchange I was their banker (LOL!). 

It was a wonderful weekend well-spent. Not long enough to explore more places in Seoul, but just nice to satisfy my curiosity. I had a fabulous experience, especially the food! Now, back home. Rain greeted us when we landed. Temperature at 20degC. Nice! Next, need to exercise to burn the excess weight….oh noooo! 

Back to work and school/classes for children. Gonna be busier than usual as I’m left with just this month to complete my cases or handover those W.I.P. ones before I leave the firm for good. 

Just before we flew back home, the children said to me, “Mom, no more weekend getaway or flying for a while, ok?”….but my traveling engine has just warmed up! Oh boy!
Cheers,

AliceN.

Retirement?


After working for 28 years, and the last 17 years growing in the financial industry, I’ve finally decided to retire from it. Those who heard about it couldn’t believe that I’m “retiring” from the works…which I’m so passionate about. My chidren till today still continue to ask if I’m really, really, really retiring (LOL!). I guess they are concerned about what I’d do with my time and myself. Never in their growing years have I stopped working. Not even during my confinement – when I worked from home/bed. 

Some colleagues who knew about my past attempts to quit from the firm thought I’d stay again when the shareholders chat with me. I was offered to freelance at the firm on specific (to my expertise) cases too. Nope, not this time. The 4th time is for good. And yes, I do agree that it is such a waste now that my knowledge and skill will not be put to good use to help clients plan for their generational wealth preservation strategies. It’ll be the consultation, advice, mediation and interaction with clients which I’m going to miss the most. 

What’s next? 

1. To complete my long outstanding thesis so that I can finally graduate with my MSc (Finance);

2. Spend more time with my family. Right, time to be more motherly and homely. Learn new recipes, learn to bake, etc;

3. Perhaps, try my hands on some e-biz or something;

4. Actively blogging;

5. PhD in Psychology? I’ve always have interest in social psychology, not the clinical kind;

6. Let Go and Let God. Can’t really plan for everything. 

No worries, guys. I won’t end up being a couch potato nor an ahjummah chasing after the next episode of Korean dramas. My back can’t take sitting on the couch for so long. More time to meet up with friends and have a cuppa or two. 

Focusing more on health too, keeping stress to the minimal. Scheduling a minor surgery for beginning of the year. Having more quality and relaxing lifestyle. I should be cutting down on a lot of “works” and just be as laid back as possible for 2017. Traveling will still remain on my list. 

So, what is retirement to you? Mine is to complete what I can’t when I’m running from one place to another when working….from gainfully employed full-time for the first 11 years of my career to working on contract for the next 17 years. Once those are completed, I’m sure I can find something, which I enjoy doing. Lecturing? Training? We’ll see how it turns out next year. 

Retirement to me doesn’t mean stop everything and sitting in front of the TV or going to spa treatment whole day long or shopping with friends. There’s more to life than just that, I’m sure. I’m still young therefore I shall make full use of my youth and time to do what I’ve always wanted to achieve, for my family and I. I used to answer people that there is no such thing as retirement because life has got so much to offer. Why must we stop moving and growing? Instead, we can choose to move and grow at our own pace and that is retirement. The brain is still active. The body is still young. The mind is matured, experienced and knowledgeable. 

So, with effect from December 2016, I’m unemployed and a “young” retiree (wink). Let’s see how I survive it (LOL!)
Cheers,

Alice N.

Say what?


Communicating clearly is important to ensure smooth delivery of your message across to the other party. For the listener/message recipient, do listen attentively or read the message carefully so that no part of it is misunderstood. If unclear, it is always wise to ask for further clarification or verification. 

I’ve personally misunderstood statements and messages sometimes. It happened when I misread them or having the wrong perception or being a tad too quick to jumping to conclusions. I’m sure, I’m not alone in this.  We are either busy, on the move, or multi-tasking that we can’t focus on the matter in hand. We put ourselves through some embarrassing moments before we learn to be more careful. 

That is the reason why I often remind my children, to ask the right question to the right person so that they will get closer to the right answer. When unclear, please ask for an explanation. This simple act makes a lot of difference especially in avoiding unnecessary misunderstandings. Besides, by asking questions, we get to slow down to think before we react. 

I observed that most conflicts started from mere words? Tone of voice used actually plays a part in it, especially when people are sensitive towards one another. Some words were spoken carelessly, some were misunderstood due to language barrier or mental block. Firstly, we must understand that no two persons can perceive one message exactly the same way, not even a set of twins. People see things from the way they feel at that particular state of mind. Feelings affect the way we process information received. For example, we are more forgiving and optimistic in a happy mood.

One of the 7 Habits written by Stephen Covey is “Seek to understand then be understood” is the best way to communicate with one another. I liken it to “taking one step back, to gaining two steps forward”, especially during confrontation, conflict resolution, negotiation, mediation, or during an argument. It is more manageable when we put our ego aside. Ego can block the right message from reaching us just because we don’t like the way it was delivered. Ego also puts us in a state of denial because we always think that we can do or say no wrongs.

Being trapped in a rat race, people are multi-tasking more now than ever or seemed preoccupied. Most of us here belong to the sandwich generation, whereby we tirelessly  strive to make our lives better by providing for ourselves, the growing children and ageing parents.

Juggling with work and family matters round the clock can make us physically and emotionally drained resulting in roller coaster mood swings. Could it be due to the stress that we are being more impatient and short tempered? I noticed tempers flare like firecrackers these days. It is as if everyone is a walking time bomb. What an emotional mess we are in!

Anyway, regardless how easy or tough your life or day is, remember to filter the words before they are spoken. Sift through the words and thoughts. Do they make sense? If you need to re-read the sentences or re-run the train of thought, do so. All it takes is mere seconds, but it saves one from making a fool out of oneself. 

Remember to be more careful when sending words out of our mouths and fingers. Let us not hurt others with them. Let our words be encouraging, motivating and inspiring. 

Cheers,

Alice N.

Growing Up Children 

The most important responsibility of parents is parenting. Bringing a new life, pure and innocent, into this world is not as challenging as the journey of parenting. Carrying the life for the whole pregnancy and giving birth is just for a fixed period of time. The parenting part is lifelong.

How time flies…as if it was only yesterday I’ve been awarded the status as a parent, a mom at that, for the first time. This December shall be my 19th year. In a job, I would have been a senior and well-experienced employee at least, if not a master of it. However, in parenting, why does it feel as if I’m still a newbie? 

At each year of growth, I continuously experiencing differences and changes in parenting style. My summary on this is, what used to work for a certain stage does not apply anymore for the next. What worked for the boy doesn’t necessary work for the girl! 

When a lovely young lady enters my son’s life, I guess it is normal to feel a little apprehensive. Will he be a better person, will he respect her and be kind to her, will he take care of her heart and well-being and will she be and do the same to him?

I can only pray and hope that my dear son will remember the family values that’s been instilled in him thus far. Respecting other ladies as he would his mom and sister. Oh well…I just have to let go and let them be. I’m sure they are in good hands. Of course, studies come first (*hint*). 

I wonder how other parents deal with it and still stay cool about it. I heard that some freaked out, some tried to act cool but feeling otherwise, some resorted to stalking the children. I am fine as long as I can see some positive change in him. And no, I didn’t freak out..hahaha.

As for my teenage daughter, she’ll come to have deeper understanding of friendship year after year. People grow up and change along the way. Feeling is ever changing so does the environment. The only thing constant is change. Embrace change for the better. My gentle advice to you, dear daughter, is do not hold on too tightly to things or people. Let it go if you have to, let it pass. New things will come along. Receive it while you learn to adapt and accept. The choice is yours. Therefore, choose your thought and action wisely.

My dearest children, no one has the power to determine your happiness except yourself. No one has the power to make you angry or sad. It only applies when you permit it. You are your own master. If you feel down or angry, validate the feelings. Allow the feelings to flow in you (don’t try to stop it) then wipe the tears,  get up and move on. Always remember if you don’t have the energy to get up, reach out for help. I promise you that I’ll always be there for you no matter what or when. 

Life is neither easy nor difficult. Just a bit complicated. No ones knows the answer to everything. Not even I. We learn from our mistakes and become wiser. Just ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes. If I may add, don’t even try the “bad stuffs” in order to learn from the mistake. Some mistakes can’t be turned around so easily, for example drugs. Some grave mistakes don’t come with second chance, for instance, road racing, drink and drive and anything that is against the law.

Children, when faced with uncertainty, always think things through. Do not let others force you into making rash decisions. You’ll be able to make sound decisions when the mind is more calm and steady. 

I enjoy watching the children grow and grow up well, not perfect…I’m proud of them as they are. Walk tall but be kind and humble. Carry yourselves well, speak well and always be mindful of your action. I’m so blessed having you by my side. You are my pride and joy, then, now and forever. 

A contented parent,

Alice N.