The Bike Playground!

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When internal and external accusations of workaholism abound, it’s time to take a break and head for the long overdue, much delayed, long planned visit to the Bike Playground!  And it’s our family’s new happy place indeed!  Jimmy was off to a rough start being his disobedient self, not following what the coach said.  After a while, he out-biked everyone else and nobody could stop him from owning the other-worldly looking course.

The two boys and their dad were naturals but the mother was a scared chicken content to stay in the island in the middle of it all, laptop out and working away while the soothing breeze funneled into the covered court.  It was my resort for the day sans the beach and the sea.  I laid on the black floor designed with international standards to serve stunt bike enthusiasts, now serving a mom on a break.

I think I want my dream house to be in the middle of an alien terrain for bikers.  I want to have a rock- climbing practice wall on one side and giant trampolines on another.  Hanging nets, bridges and hey, while we’re daydreaming to the hilt, how about the whole new wing of the Singapore Changi airport with greenhouse and infinite options to play.  Then again, that would be too much for me.  I’d like it to be for Abot Tala instead – space surrounded by garden, forest and room for a variety of sports.

At one point, I mustered the courage to don the bike helmet and push the bike to the starting line.  One look at the height of the curves I had to plunge into, I backed out and retreated, whimpering without even trying.  I was content to admire my boys’ bravery and energy which I only had for doing something equally crazy as an alternative to traditional school.  Many moons ago, I was a mountain biker with more guts but even then, I walked the bike at some steep slopes.  Age has made me fear some things but there are also things that I face with more courage.

Jimmy fell, got up many times and stood back up without hesitation.  That’s a lesson we have been wanting him to learn – to stick to something despite the pain and difficulty.  Taekwondo didn’t do it for him but now biking (not on flat road but on curved surfaces) and potentially break dancing are giving him the platform to do so since they fit his inclinations.

We stayed in the Bike Playground from 11am to 6:30pm.  My pockmarked legs tell me I have to bring a beach towel next time I want to lie on the center island.   Towards the afternoon, expert bikers came flying and dominated the course but Jimmy still wanted to strut his stuff.  At night, we rewarded the action-packed day (for the boys) and uber-relaxed day (for me) with unlimited Korean barbecue.  Hooray for Samgyupsalamat and the Bike Playground at Circulo Verde!

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Family Outing

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The expected unexpectedly happened — years and years of photos mysteriously vanished from my external hard drive so I have to salvage the photos left in my phone and place them in my blog which I use as a sort of cloud.  This happened before — losing a huge collection of digital pictures so I have been posting on my blog as a way of back-up.  This family beach trip happened months ago and it’s only now that I’m uploading as a permanent online souvenir of one happy day for all.

A GLISful Life

The school year has come to an end, and what a year to celebrate many, many blessings to be grateful for and shout out a great big thanks to everyone who made it meaningful and memorable!  I’ve been intending and delaying to gather these photos and this blog acts like a cloud in case the drive crashes and I lose all the pictures.  It did some years ago so I vowed to keep this digital footprint as a record of these oh so fleeting moments with two growing boys.

The Chill and Not-So-Chill

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We settled on a totally chill, lazy holiday pattern of waking up late, doing a bit of writing and reading exercises for the kids to make up for the sin that is to come — binging on Netflix and games, plus drinking too much bubble milk tea simply because it was there and there were no lines unlike in Manila.  We managed the minimum of sightseeing — just enjoying what’s there in front of us although we took the effort to fly to Nha Trang from Ho Chi Minh and suffered the regular flight delays that brought us back to Saigon at 4 am instead of the expected, ticketed midnight.  In Nha Trang, we stayed in the quieter part of the long stretch of beach towards the north.  Huge tower blocks housing tourists still loomed overhead but the shoreline is not as inundated with bodies as the famous lengthy stretch of sand south of the bridge.

The food, of course, is the best thing about Vietnam as Anthony Bourdain would probably agree, salivating over the plethora of street food that celebrates the bounty of the land.  Oh those generous plates of mint and greens that come with everything!  That beautifully soft Pho that is not supposed to be pronounced with an “oh” sound but an “uh.”  And I have passed on my love for Banh Mi to Joshua and Jimmy but where will we ever get that perfect baguette when we go home.  The kids were intrigued by ice cream made on a metal table that instantly freezes fruits, oreo, chocolate powder, together with milk to make thin crepes rolled and slid into cups.  The fish with big bones cooked in foil sealing in layers and layers of flavor — the cost is unbelievably low for all these.  I wonder and lament how can we get good food so way overpriced in our own country.

What’s not so chill is being the referee between a 9-year old and a 6-year old who are at each other’s throat, ready to kill each other.  What’s not so chill is being the only parent there with no reliever.  I appreciated my husband’s role even more because it gets too tiring to keep the two apart when they fight.  What’s not so chill is losing my temper because I’m sick of the whining and ugly attitude.  What’s not so chill is resorting repeatedly to reward and punishment and wishing there was a better way based on intrinsic motivation more than anything else. What’s not so chill is the nagging complaints about flight delay that I just promise them I’ll never make such arrangements and we’ll just stick to one place next time.  I’ll probably be tempted to organize another crazy schedule in the future so then I’ll need to remind myself of the three-hour delay and the sleepy eyed, slumping lumps who almost refused to carry their own weights up and down the plane.

Still the best part of the trip for me is spending time with James and bonding with the kids.  James solved the problem of Joshua’s PUB-G not being able to update.  We were able to listen to James’ reading of the Lorax in celebration of Earth Day at the school where he works.   The night time breeze, swinging in the park, flowers that smell divine, enjoying an extra hour with Amani at Jump Arena, riding two grab motorcycles, watching footballers on the sand, creating a temporary masterpiece that can’t be captured by my camera, finding the perfect luggage and Pikachu in the airport — like layers of flavor build up a dish, layers of moments build up our lives.  The chill parts still override those that are not so chill.

 

For Filipiniana Fanatics

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For Filipiniana fanatics, researchers, history buffs, Mario Feir’s library is a godsend.  And I have Tinky to thank for taking me there, which is how most people find their way to this secret trove — by word of mouth.  People invite friends to meet a one-of-a-kind guy in a metropolis sorely, painfully lacking in libraries.  Mario started collecting Filipiniana tomes when he was living in the States.  For 45 years, he amassed an enviable collection  — thousands of books, stamps, postcards and when he came back to the Philippines, he decided to open his accumulated treasures to anyone who wanted to study and pore over the stacks.  His calling card says it all:

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很丰富的假期

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They use a totally different calendar and for them, December 31 is not the last day of the year.  It’s an ordinary day that doesn’t end in a colorful bang, at least not in majority of towns that are not major cities chock-full of foreigners.  Christmas decoration is even more sparse and non-existent than before (new rules, I was told), so for traditional celebration-averse people, going to China during the holiday may be the perfect cure for the uber-consumerist tone of the season.  No matter the rituals observed, it’s still the time for reuniting with family and friends.

We started with the usual welcome by my sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s families, spoiled by the excellent cooking of Xiao Dan’s mom.

Manila or Tianjin, Joshua must get his football fix.  The football club in Dagang welcomed him plus dates with favorite playmates arranged.

We had one ski destination each week sandwiched in between the requisite visa-run to the Philippine embassy in Beijing for the kiddos.  Nanshan near Beijing was easy enough for Jimmy and I to enjoy but we left the more professional, technically difficult trails of Wanlong to the true champions of snowboarding — Joshua and Jason.

Four of our previous Hero’s Journey campers were part of a theater group whose performance we were lucky enough to catch and see how much they’ve grown.

The Hero’s Journey is on from January 24 to February 1, 2019 and we had a quickie meeting of partners to discuss the camp.  The more important purpose of the visit was seeing Xavier and for Jimmy, it was Evan’s generosity with his Pokemon cards and beyblades that made his day.  Samantha knew we were bibliophiles like her so she showed us her stash of beautiful new children’s books from Taiwan.

Mike and Joshua missed each other.  Joshua had been wanting to visit Mike in his home and finally it transpired.  We discovered it IS possible to have an X-box like experience with a projector but you need a PS4 instead.  If you don’t have the video camera, you can use the cellphone but it’s limited to dance.  Dance we did with joy and abandon.

Remember the library in Dagang Youtian that we started with a group of moms who love books and wanted to pass on that passion to their children?  That group has always been part of an active organization of Youtian moms who planned an amazingly full repertoire to greet the winter solstice (dong zhi).   Kids sold and traded products, food and drinks followed by tug-of-war.  The Mom who is into Waldorf education told dong zhi stories.   Then the community made jiaozi (dumplings). We’ve been having Chinese dumplings for two straight days and this was the most delicious, freshly made with lots of love.

Joshua and Yinpu were kindergarten classmates.  It’s hard to believe that they had more years apart than together but they still play so well together.  Yinpu’s Mom, Susan showed me Yinpu’s amazing artworks.

It was a blessing in disguise that Jimmy got a fever when we got to the Wanlong ski resort.  The temperature outdoors reached minus 23 degrees.  Jimmy and I wouldn’t have stood that long skiing or snowboarding but the other pair had two full days in the blue and black-grade slopes.  When Jimmy was well enough, we sled down two times a tiny, tiny hill and cowardly rushed back into the warm indoors.

December 29 was Jason’s dad’s birthday and how happy he was to be with his grandchildren.  He gave a touching speech before dinner started.   It was as good as Christmas for the kids with all the toys we managed to get for the cousins.

Vacation is a series of playdates, but then again so is non-holiday time.

Jason’s sister, Jiang Ping is probably the best teacher for Joshua and Jimmy.  They listen to her and follow while I can only learn from the expert.

And the food!!!   We had hot pot, barbecue, our favorite street food breakfasts, our favorite rib place, unbeatable noodles and this newly opened restaurant stoked our taste buds for extreme spiciness.  This table had a thin layer that looks like wafer solar panels but is used to warm the food.  A big piece of waxed paper is placed over the whole table and they pour a mix of seafood and veggies braised in Szechuan pepper and chili.  The best way to eat is with your hands so they provide you with thin plastic gloves, one of which was humorously packaged like condom side by side other designs featuring Chairman Mao and Hello Kitty.   I really miss China but I’m also ready to go home.

Online photos make it appear our vacations and lives are perfect.  The drama is not seen between the photos. A friend of mine occasionally posts pictures of her children crying just to remind everyone, not all is rosy.  In this case, what I was taking a break from Manila is what makes me want to go back.  I miss having problems to solve, tons of work to do.  A part of my mind is with the things I left unfinished back in my country.

But I am truly grateful for the quiet, no-fuss simplicity of this Christmas and New year in northern China.  I get to hug and snuggle more with these two in the freezing cold of winter.