NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge Round 1: The Towkay, The Seamstress and The Coconut Tree

Since I’ve quit my job, I’ve been focusing on my writing, something that I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little girl.  The Boobook has been really supportive of me throughout this process, so that’s always a blessing.

It has been some time since writing was my main source of income, so I’m a little rusty.  To get me back into the right mind frame for wordcrafting, DebsG encouraged me to join NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction challenge.  Each round of the challenge, I have 48 hours to craft a 1,000 word flash fiction story from the given location, item and genre.

Here’s my response to the first round of that challenge.  At 996 words, it comes in just under the word limit.  I hope you like it!


The Towkay, The Seamstress and The Coconut Tree

In which trees are climbed for profit and a seamstress comes up with a clever plan to protect her modesty.

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Location:  Tropical Island
Item: A Brick

“If you’re talking about coconuts, I like them very fresh.” Chan Benghock murmured as he leaned lazily against the tall tree, “And I’m willing to pay top dollar for the fresh fruits from this tree.”

The handsome young son of the local towkay fanned himself with an expensive sandalwood fan as he addressed the small crowd of lovely young peasant girls.  The fan’s heady, sweet perfume was like a breath of fresh air in the stale, humid afternoon heat.  Some of the girls clutched their cheap sarongs and pretended to swoon as he proffered the prize money for his coveted coconuts, a whole fifty ringgit.

“Of course, at these prices, I can only really afford for one girl to get them for me.” Benghock intoned with comically feigned sorrow, “So, who will it be today?”

There was an intense clamour as the girls bounced on their heels with hands raised, eager to please the rich young man.  Fifty ringgits was no small sum, and climbing trees was an incredibly easy feat.  Besides, there was always slim chance that one of them might be chosen for his bride.  He took his time watching the girls, enjoying the sight of ripe coconuts bouncing in the sun.

Eventually, he pointed at one of the girls and gave her an especially charming smile.  The other girls sighed as the chosen woman, a voluptuous teenager by the name of Aishah, stepped forward and gave Benghock a shy curtsey.  The young man waved his hand dismissively and the crowd dispersed in a matter of seconds, leaving the pair to their business.

In a trice, Aishah was climbing the tree with the practised ease of a farmer’s daughter, her sarong stretched taut between spread legs, slowly riding up her body as she rose up the tree.  When Aishah reached the top, she collected a coconut and was about to come down, when she noticed Benghock waving at her from below.

“Don’t carry them down!  It’s dangerous!” He shouted, “Just throw them!”

“They’ll break if they hit the ground!” Aishah retorted.

“I’ll catch them!”

Aishah took careful aim and sent the coconut tumbling down into Benghock’s waiting arms.  He did little to hide his obvious delight.

#

“He did what?!” Rosmah spluttered.

“He caught them, perfectly!” Aishah beamed as she related the events of the day, “You should try it, Rosmah!  Young Mr Chan is pretty generous.”

Rosmah sighed and shook her head, rubbing the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger.  She had known her friend to be a little ignorant, but she hadn’t expected her to be quite so stupid.  Then again, if Benghock had been able to trick the rest of the village girls, it stood to reason that he could trick young Aishah too.

“I… see.” She said slowly, “I suppose I could use the extra ringgit.  The seamstress business hasn’t been very good lately.  Not many weddings during this season.”

“You’re the prettiest and smartest girl in the village, you’re sure to catch his eye.”  Aishah beamed and gave Rosmah a conspiratorial wink, “Who knows?  Maybe we’ll be celebrating your wedding soon!”

“Oh, don’t you start, Aishah.  You know I’m already taken!”

“What, by Ahmad?” Aishah groaned, “Come on, Rosmah, a rich man’s son will make a way better match than a poor bricklayer.  I’m only looking out for you.”

“I like Ahmad.  He’s good to me.”

Aishah sighed, “I suppose he is.  I do wish you had a little more ambition, dear.”

Rosmah rolled her eyes, “Don’t call me ‘dear’, you’re three years younger than me.  Should I start calling you ‘Auntie Aishah’?”

“No way!  I’m not that old!” Aishah protested.

The rest of the conversation dissolved into teasing and laughter.  While she prattled away, Rosmah began to scheme.  It was time to put a stop to Benghock’s nonsense.

#

The next day, Rosmah was among the girls vying for Benghock’s attention as, once again, the little pervert was picking yet another patsy for his coconut scam.  She far outshone the other contenders in the beautiful batik sarong she’d made especially for the occasion, her cheeks pinked with safflower powder and eyes lined with charcoal to match.  There was no contest.  Benghock’s finger picked her from the crowd as soon as she appeared.

Rosmah produced a thick piece of cloth, looping it around the tree and tying it to her wrists.  Using the rope as an anchor, she began walking up the tree, keeping her knees together.  She almost laughed when she noticed Benghock squinting and moving his head from side to side.  He wouldn’t see a thing.  She’d spent an evening sewing shorts to the inside of her sarong.

When she reached the top, Rosmah plucked an object from her pocket and called out, “I’m dropping it now!”

Benghock hollered as the heavy red brick smashed into his hands.  Rosmah started lobbing coconuts at the ground around him.  The fresh fruits burst open upon impact, covering the young man’s fine clothes in sticky juice.

When she had exhausted her arsenal of coconuts, Rosmah shimmied down the tree.  She dabbed the perspiration off her brow with her climbing cloth, then turned to face the towkay’s son.

“I hope you have a hundred ringgit for all the coconuts I brought down.” She said cheerfully.

“You ruined my clothes!  I’m giving you nothing!”

Benghock turned to run, but collided into Ahmad’s solid chest.  He fell backwards into the mud.

Rosmah moved to stand over him, “The next time you decide to peek up girl’s skirts, coconuts or no, I’ll have Ahmad here tell the Imam what you’ve been up to and you’ll be catching more than just one brick.  Bagus?”

“…bagus.” Benghock squeaked.

He threw the money down at Ahmad’s feet and scampered away.  Rosmah and Ahmad caught each other’s eyes and started laughing.

“Remind me never to cross you, my love.” Ahmad guffawed.

“I’m sure you never will.” Rosmah chuckled.

“You are the best woman in this village.”

“I know.”

~FIN~

Owls Well presents: Living Clay/Studio Asobi

So, during the June school holidays this year, I wrote about our experience at a pottery workshop with Studio Asobi. Well, our pieces have been glazed and fired by Huiwen from Studio Asobi, and they are so much prettier than we ever expected!

Here’s a little video I made of our time at the pottery wheel – and the results of our labour!

Here are some thing I learned about the glazing and firing process:

  1. Applying the glaze will add layers to your final piece, so the walls of your clay piece will appear much thicker than your original creation, and any scratches and marks made on the surface will be more shallow.
  2. The firing process dries the clay out as it hardens, and the final product will be at least one-third smaller in size. So if you want to make a dainty teacup, your original creation may have to be as big as a mug!
  3. Be brave about experimenting with glazes! As you can see from the video, different glaze combinations can have startlingly different results. I regret not taking a bigger risk with my glaze selections…but now I know that I can be braver next time around!

Studio Asobi welcomes back participants of previous workshops with a markedly reduced fee and as always, 20% of their profits are donated to The Mercy Centre’s Trolley Ministry for Singapore’s homeless population. I would love to work with them again!

 

Peaceful Port Macquarie: Tacking Point and Lighthouse Beach

We’re posting over at our travel blog, Owl Fly Away today, heading somewhere over the rainbow!

Owl Fly Away

We’d spent a lazy morning recuperating from our flight to Sydney and the two hour drive into Port Macquarie the previous evening. We’d managed to stop off at the supermarket on the way, and so we had farm fresh fruits with yoghurt and muesli for breakfast!

kids-australia-breakfast-holiday-macquarie-port-sydney Lazy morning with the kids

The kids were energised and ready to head outdoors, so we took a short drive from our holiday cottage in Port Macquarie to Tacking Point Lighthouse, one of the oldest lighthouses in Australia.

tacking-point-lighthouse-macquarie-rainbow-grandparent Thumper and the Aged P walking to Tacking Point Lighthouse

When we got to the tall rocky headland of Tacking Point, we were greeted by a lovely rainbow arching over the sea. The children delighted in running over the grassy knolls just next to the roadside parking area.

The tiny blue and white lighthouse is easily assessable from the carpark, and there’s also a viewing platform…

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Easy Listening (Part 2): Debs G’s Podcast Favourites

ABC, I hear you about listening to podcasts during recuperation from the dreaded lergy.

I often suffer from migraines which means that I need sit in a completely dark room, and podcasts are extremely comforting to me. I also enjoy listening to them when I’m doing housework – they just make time fly!

Here are four podcasts that help me to relax:
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1. A Prairie Home Companion by American Public Media

I have talked about this radio show in passing before, and it is one of the favourites in the Owls Well household. The Prairie Home Companion is a radio variety show featuring American folk music alongside comedy sketches (complete with sound effects) and musical interludes from fictional sponsors. This show never fails to put a smile on my face and I often find myself tuning into it when I need a pick-me-up.

Producer and show runner Garrison Keillor, he of the golden radio voice, has now retired and his mantle has fallen upon musician and songwriter, Chris Thile. Chris Thile may not have the same deep and smooth timbre as his predecessor, but the man does sing like a nightingale and he’s also very, very funny, so he is forgiven.

(For those of you who, like myself, miss Garrison Keillor, he is to be found and heard on The Writer’s Almanac where he reads a poem every day and tells stories about significant events in literary history.)

2. Welcome to Night Vale by Night Vale Presents 1424727845212

Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, this podcast features the mellifluous bass tones of Cecil Baldwin. The fictional desert town of Night Vale is a strange place where all the conspiracy theories are real and the Night Vale radio show host, Cecil, reports on the local weather including the large cloud that glows in many colours (ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY GLOW CLOUD), various cultural events, and announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police.

On evenings when The Barn Owl is on call, I often play an episode from Welcome to Night Vale and fall asleep. I find that afterwards I get the most interesting and psychedelic dreams.

11312636_10101329805815525_5002516714209367793_o.jpg3. Astronomy Cast by Fraser Cain and Pamela Gay

This is an educational podcast that discusses various topics in the field of astronomy through the form of a light-hearted conversation between co-hosts Frasier Cain (editor of the space and astronomy news site Universe Today) and Dr Pamela Gay (Professor of Astronomy at the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville).

I love listening and learning, and letting Dr Pamela Gay’s soothing warm alto tones wash over my ears as I’m pottering about the house.

17971953_448676435476708_6086957621977028490_o4. Story Not Story by Chyna & Craig

This is a super cute podcast that is great for unwinding at the end of the day! Story Not Story features a married couple, Chyna and Craig, relaxing together and telling each other bedtime stories. I enjoy hearing Craig and Chyna banter with each other – they are sweet and funny and just adorable.

The fun part for me is trying to guess where each story is going to go and I am usually very pleasantly surprised. You’ll definitely be a butter person for hearing them!

(And you can also see more of Craig and Chyna over at the Youtube channel, Wheezy Waiter.)

Easy Listening (Part 1): Short and Sweet

I’ve been pretty much bedridden with different varieties of the hideous flergy for the last month, coughing up nasty goo and generally being icky.  I couldn’t even watch TV or play video games because the fevers made it a little difficult for me to pay attention to what was going on onscreen.

Thankfully, I managed to avoid a case of yellow wallpaper madness by entertaining myself with podcasts!

I love podcasts.  I learn primarily by hearing stuff and I like having a bit of chatter going on in the background.  That being said, I’m very picky about what I listen to and even though my subscribe list is about a mile long, I’ve only stocked it with stuff that I feel is engaging and fun.

I’ve thought long and hard about how to divide my listening list for sharing as some of the shows I listen to cover a plethora of different topics, sometimes even in a single episode!  I’ve settled on splitting them by average length per episode.  So, without further ado, here’s a list of everything I listen to that’s short and sweet – 15 minutes and under.

HAalbumart.jpgThe Hidden Almanac with Reverend Mord by Dark Canvas Media

Written by acclaimed children’s book author, Ursula Vernon and brilliantly acted by her husband, Kevin Sonny, The Hidden Almanac is a witty and brilliantly surreal adventure comedy.

Each episode, Reverend Mord shares useful gardening tips, historical events of the day and various advertisements for an alternate universe in which miracles, magic and librarian conspiracies are a daily occurrence.  While the good reverend would like nothing more than to devote himself quietly to managing the Hidden Almanac test garden and his thrice weekly radio broadcasts; he is often reluctantly sucked into adventures with his “friend” and colleague, Pastor Drom the Miracle Worker.

At under 5 minutes per episode, The Hidden Almanac is easily the shortest podcast in my list as well as the most frequently updated.  It’s pretty much child and AgedP friendly, containing no cursing and very few sexual references, particularly since both Reverend Mord and Pastor Drom have taken vows of abstinence.

This is a series that needs to be listened to from the very beginning.  While the earlier episodes suffer from a little bit of early installment weirdness, they’re still worth listening to just for the world building alone.  The characters are lovable and become more so the more you get to know them.

That’s the Hidden Almanac.  Be safe and stay out of trouble.

Det_Pod_MF_1400x1400-2.jpgDetective by Panoply

At roughly 15 minutes per episode, Detective is a quick and interesting true crime series.

Each season of Detective covers the experiences of homocide detectives from various backgrounds and walks of life, with each episode discussing a different aspect of their career.  Unlike most true crime series, Detective steers away from the gruesome and grizzly murder details and instead focuses on the human interest part of how the detectives go about their work.

The series covers a range of topics from motives for murder to the social work that the detectives do in their spare time.  I highly recommend the first season, which follows retired Detective Joe Kenda of the Colorado Springs police force.  He’s an engaging speaker and has a wonderful matter-of-fact manner that makes me imagine him as the crusty old sheriff in a cowboy film.

Detective is AgedP friendly, but may not necessarily be child friendly.  Despite the slightly gruesome topic (murder is never pretty) and the occasional curse word, the series never strays towards being overly foul or gratituous.  It’s definitely worth listening to.

downloadEOS 10 by Justin McLachlan

A science fiction dramady podcast, EOS 10’s episodes run anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes each and follows the adventures of a Dr Dalias and Dr Urvidian, a pair of misfit doctors aboard the space station EOS 10.  Joining them on their adventures are Jane Johns, their slightly unhinged charge nurse; Levi, the hypochondriac foodcourt dishwasher who claims to be the deposed prince of an entire planet; and Akmazian, Destroyer of Stars.

EOS 10 balances issues like addiction and death with hilarious comedy without cheapening the seriousness of said issues.  It’s a fine line to walk, and EOS 10 does it very well.  The dialogue is always engaging and the characters are well-rounded, quirky and fascinating.  Even though I’ve listened to this series several times over, I’m still discovering new things about the characters and haven’t gotten sick of it yet!

EOS 10 is possibly AgedP friendly, but definitely not child friendly.  While the show doesn’t contain any cursing, it does contain a lot of sex, though it is never handled in a puerile manner.  That being said, the fourth episode of the series (Up, Up, Up) is primarily comprised of penis jokes and doesn’t ever stop being funny.

If you’re looking for a clever, lighthearted and cheerful podcast, I cannot recommend EOS 10 highly enough.

So, there you have it.  These are the three shortest podcasts on my listening list right now.  I hope they entertain you as much as they do me!

Schindler’s List (1993): Thoughts from the Couch (Potato)

Schindler's_List_movieRight, so I have been wanting to watch this movie for literally years.

I mean, I was thirteen when the movie first came out in theatres and all the grups were talking about this forever and EVER and there were even a couple of teens who even snuck into the film by putting on salaryman uniforms and carrying briefcases whilst slouching and looking troubled, you know, basically trying to look old and responsible and many years older than 21 years of age.

But when I turned 21 and wanted to watch this film, NOBODY wanted to see it with me. It was all ‘Yes yes yes you should totally watch Schindler’s List it’s a very good film’ but also ‘No no no I can’t watch with you I just can’t watch again it’s too horrible’.

Finally, The Barn Owl decides that he will watch the movie with me so it was quick get hold of a copy of the movie from anywhere before he changes his mind!

As far as holocaust films go, this one is particularly interesting, especially since the main characters, Oskar Schindler and Amon Goeth, are both members of the Nazi party – and you see the similarities and differences between them. The horrors of the the holocaust are plainly depicted – elderly men and women made to run naked in the mud so that the sick and ill can be weeded out, the randomness of executions, SS soldiers going insane from the atrocities they are committing…and there’s also the little girl in the red coat, whose brief and tragic story is only hinted at. Ralph Fiennes is chilling as Amon Goeth. He’s always good at playing bad guys. He makes you actually feel a little bit sorry for the demonic Amon Goeth because that guy is just so unhinged and he just loathes himself for his attraction to his Jewish maidservant.

And for course, there’s Liam Neeson.

Debs G Recommends: Watch this film together with “Life Is Beautiful” for a full evening’s emotional holocaust.

P.S. Get Schindler’s List here

P.P.S. Check out the rest of the Couch Potato series here.

Mothers Make It Work: Leaving On A Jet Plane

(Editor’s Note: Owls Well is proud to welcome Cat K as a guest contributor on the Mothers Make It Work blog train! Cat K and I went to school together, and I have always admired her grit and determination, as well as her selflessness towards the people she loves. Cat K is a happy-go-lucky pharmacist who currently lives in Melbourne with her family. Apart from raising her two tween-aged kids and managing territorial disputes between her pet rabbits and cats, she also finds the time for baking delicious cakes. In her post she’ll be talking about the dhifficulties that she faced as a young mum in relocating to another country with young children and in-laws in tow. We are so happy that she agreed to share her story with us! – Debs G)

Hello Owls Well Readers,

Everyone has their own reasons for emigrating. There are many reasons why people choose to leave the safe and efficient country of Singapore.

As young mother with a young family, it seemed ludicrous to others that I would leave the comfort of the “village” (i.e. adoring family members who help to look after the little ones), as well as a successful career as a senior clinical pharmacist in one of Singapore’s largest hospitals. My reason was simple – to ensure that my family stayed together. My husband was already living in Melbourne studying to become an academic and I was determined that the family should be there with him.

Melbourne boasted wide open spaces, a tolerant society, a bustling cultural scene and a wonderful temperate climate but Singapore was where my family and friends were and where my career was. I was torn between the two and it was with much trepidation that I left for Australia.

The questions of whether I could find work, whether the children could fit in and whether they could enter good schools were high on my worry list. More pressing was the fact that children had not seen their father for months. They were disinterested in the daily Skype sessions and the time difference between Singapore and Melbourne did not help matters at all.

Bringing the family back together was my top priority and I knew that as long as we were together, everything would work out.

I often thought of my own paternal grandmother who left Hainan Island and her family behind to follow her heart and be with her love, my grandfather, in Singapore. I liked to think that I was following in her footsteps.

The time that it took to prepare for our move measured a full year and we all had to work together to make it happen.

My husband had to travel around Melbourne to look for a place to settle the family. We had numerous Skype sessions and emails to finalise the location of our new family home. In the meantime, I had to study and pass a qualification exam by the Australian Pharmacy Council in order to apply for permanent residency.

During this one year, I learnt to sleep early when the children went to bed at 9pm and wake up at 3 am to study for the exam. I quickly realised that it was so much easier to complete tasks – study, housework and exercise – in the morning when the children were asleep. I was fortunate to be living with my in-laws, as they helped with cooking and looked after my children during the day while I was at work.

CatK1

I still get stuff done early in the morning now…but not all at once anymore

As I had to work on Sundays at the pharmacy once or twice a month, my mother-in-law advised me to stay with my parents on Saturday nights, and take a taxi home on Sundays. This would give my children precious time to bond with my parents and provide some respite for my in-laws. I also worked a half-day on Saturdays, so after the end of my shift, I would run home from work, pack the overnight bag for the children and then get a lift from my father-in-law to my parents’ place.

Life was a blur. I was working full-time, studying for the Australian Pharmacy Council exam, raising two toddlers and keeping house for my family. I managed to squeeze in time to shower my children twice daily and spend time reading with my son. When I took on the responsibility of supervising an intern pharmacist, I had to make time to vet her presentations and project work as well.

At my worst point, I was sleeping only three hours daily for two months in order to juggle work, study, and family. I had lost a great deal of weight as I was just too stressed and busy to eat. When I had to take leave from work to bring my infant daughter for her vaccinations, or attend my son’s parent-teacher meetings at his childcare centre, I often told my colleagues at work that I was living like a single parent.

It was a logistical nightmare trying to plan and pack for everyone according to the baggage restrictions. I had to ensure that my 18-month old daughter had adequate supplies of milk powder and diapers to give me time to find the Australian equivalent of Similac and Mamy Poko. I remember squeezing three body pillows with our clothes into one suitcase! The last step was to arrange for a moving company to ship all our precious books over.

Finally, we left Singapore.

When the plane landed in Melbourne after a 7-hour flight, a wave of relief washed over me. I had been up and about for most of the flight walking my fussy toddler to sleep and was completely exhausted, but I was looking forward to finally getting to see my husband. It was great having the family together again.

Although my in-laws were glad to see my husband again, they were shocked and upset when they saw our new home. Their old apartment was situated across the road from a large shopping mall with all its conveniences, and this new suburban place seemed too quiet and remote in comparison. My husband and I had been so focused on making sure that the transition for our children was as smooth as possible, that we had overlooked how his aged parents would manage. I realised that adjusting to this new environment was going to take a lot of time for everyone.

I planned to take two weeks to look around where we were and figure out how things worked in Melbourne, but I completely underestimated how long it would take for everyone to settle in. There were a lot of new things to get used to!

Going from a tropical climate to a temperate climate took some adjustment. Bath time routines were initially incredibly stressful for me, as I worried about finding the same skincare products as we had in Singapore and whether children would fall ill from the cold autumn air. Fortunately for me, their skin loved the dry climate and improved with each passing day. In the end, my children adapted well to the cold weather – they just loved it.

Living in a wooden frame bungalow made of plasterboards was a new experience too. Like most Singaporeans, I had lived all my life in a high-rise apartment and was used to hearing noises from our neighbours, but now, I had to make myself investigate every single sound. Every creak and scratch could be a burglar making rounds, or a mouse – or worse – creeping around the house. Even cleaning the house presented a challenge. The bathroom floor did not have a drain hole so I could not wash the bathroom floor in the way I was used to. The bedroom floors in the rental house were carpeted -something I really hated – and made cleaning horrible, especially with toilet-training children.

After being trained as a clinical pharmacist in major hospitals in Singapore for 7 years, I was not going to let my pharmacy training go to waste. After I passed my Australian Pharmacy Council exam – I got the results the day after we landed in Melbourne – I immediately started to look for an internship position. My lucky stars must have been shining on me as a close friend introduced her preceptor to me and I got the internship spot! It was a good start on my way to obtaining an Australian Pharmacist license.

I had been a senior position in Singapore for five years before going to Australia, and had been in charge of not only the wards and services, but was also responsible for training pharmacy students. Now, I had to start from scratch as a retail pharmacist, which required a change of mindset. Retail pharmacy was so different, and I had never had to work a cash register before! It was a humbling experience, but seeing my husband and my children playing together in the living room made it all worthwhile.

One of the joys of living in Australia was finally having my own oven. Having an oven is so expensive in Singapore especially with the high electricity tariffs. I was so happy to make my son’s birthday cake a few days after we arrived in Melbourne. Finally, we were able to celebrate his birthday together as a complete family.

Going to the shops, I was aghast at how expensive things were in Australia. A box of Kleenex 100’s was AUD$3! Gosh, that was daylight robbery! (Fortunately, the price of tissues has dropped since then.) At the checkout, customers were the ones who handled the EFTPOS or NETS machines and bagged groceries. Self-service, indeed. We could not flag down taxis in the suburbs, we had to book them in advance. The level of convenience of public transport was not the same; buses and trains followed a strict and infrequent timetable.

Thankfully, cars were five times cheaper than in Singapore and parking was free in the suburbs, if you parked for the allotted number of hours. I had a driver’s licence but had not driven much in Singapore but I had to learn to drive a large MPV around on unfamiliar Australian roads. It was nerve-wrecking trying to park the car! I soon found that driving in Melbourne was easy with its wide roads and friendly driving culture, although the traffic in the city centre can be as bad as traffic in Singapore.

Within a month of arriving, we had to settle the children’s childcare arrangements, and enrol my son into school. It was another stressful period looking for a suitable school. Fortunately, he got into the school of our choice or we might have had to move house again.

Putting the children in childcare was an opportunity for us to make friends. This was where I found another Singaporean mother whose child was good friends with my son. It was comforting to find someone who could teach me tips on living in Australia. We would arrange playdates and the children would play together. We soon became close family friends.

It has been eight long years since I moved to Australia with my little pigeon pair (that is a boy and a girl in Aussie speak!) and we are all very well-settled in our new home!

So, Owls Well Readers, here are my:

Top 10 tips for a smooth transition to a new country

  1. Own your home

It would be hard to purchase or build a home the moment you move over, unless you have family living in that region who can help inspect properties for you. The logical way is to rent for short term whilst looking for a good home, a nice neighbourhood, and a good school for your children.

Having a safe and secure home is really important whilst having a young family. Renting may work for some but having the Sword of Eviction constantly hanging over one’s head can be stressful for the long term. Children need a nice environment to live in, and living out of boxes can take a psychological toll on them.

The best part of having one’s own home is pet ownership. Many rental properties do not allow pets. I have found that children grow up well with pets as it helps teach them responsibility and empathy. We started out by keeping fish, then rabbits, and now we also have cats.

  1. Asian grocery shops are the BEST

I am lucky to have a husband who is an excellent cook, but he would be nothing without the local Asian grocery shop! This treasure trove will provide you with everything – for a price – that will ease the homesickness.

The suburb that we live in has numerous Asian groceries, and using good recipes from the internet always helped to satisfy our cravings for a taste of Singapore. Of course, there are some things that will never be the same (I’m looking at you, frozen durian).

  1. Keep an open mind, and always make friends with your neighbours

It took us some time, but we have gotten to know our neighbours and are now close friends. Keeping good relations with the next door neighbour is absolutely important. If something happens at home, your neighbour would be the best person to help you.

  1. Integrate yourself into the new community

Isolation is a poison that eats you up from the inside. You are already in a new environment, why not go out and learn about where you live? When I first got to Melbourne, I would strike up conversations with other passengers around me when I was on the train. It is a good way of making friends.

Working helps you to interact with the community and enhances your understanding of the country that you live in. Even if you cannot find a job, volunteering within the community would also let you find your new role and purpose.

  1. Internet and social media are essential

When one is living overseas, homesickness is always there. Needless to say, getting a good data plan is essential. Unlike Singapore, most other countries will have numerous internet providers, and you can explore local forums to find out more about the companies and which one offers the best deals.

Social media allow you to keep in contact with family and friends, and the amazing world of the internet will provide you with good recipes to recreate the food from back home. Even now, I call my family almost daily, and it’s good hearing their voices and knowing how they were doing.

  1. Always check the weather

In Singapore, the weather patterns are predictable all year round, but living in a lovely temperate climate (like Melbourne) generally means that the weather can be temperamental.

Always check the weather before you go out because it can be cold one day and hot the other. You certainly don’t want to be shivering in a short-sleeved top when the temperature drops to the top of 160C, when it was the top of 250C the day before.

  1. Always seek help – you are never alone

Australia, just like many other countries, is all about helping people in need. Even if you do not use the internet, there are people at community centres, city councils, and migration hubs that can provide you with in-depth knowledge of the suburb that you are living in. They can even provide you with reviews of the various childcares in the local area.

  1. Look for schools early – and adjust your expectations accordingly

If you thought Singaporeans were “kiasu” about schooling, the people in Melbourne are worse – and you’ll find the same attitude in most countries outside Singapore. Everyone wants the best for their children. Due to the great teacher to student ratios in Australia (20 to 26 students to one teacher and a helper), the student populations in Australian schools are low, with each level only holding up to 200 students. Hence competition for schools can be fierce. In Melbourne, it would be wise to register for private school as soon as your child turns two.

In suburbs with popular private schools, the waiting list can be miles long and enrolment into any school is based on the time the child is registered. Otherwise, if you want your child to go to a good public school, then remember that home location is key and you will have to be prepared to pay top dollar for a small unit.

  1. Find a good GP (or pharmacist!) and ask them for advice

Common health ailments and medical care differs from country to country. Even the trade names of over-the-counter medications are different. Your local primary healthcare providers are a great resource and would have good local knowledge as well. If you have any issues with a strange new rash, or if you are worried (like we are in Australia) about a spider bite, ask a trusted healthcare professional – don’t try and treat it on your own.

Oh, and don’t forget to get to know your local pharmacist who can give you advice on over-the-counter treatments or help you with your prescriptions!

  1. Get your driver’s licence

The Singaporean driving licence is very well recognised by many international boards, and can be converted directly to a local licence without a need to take additional tests. In many large countries, driving is the way of life – and it certainly is in Australia. Road trips are essential to getting to know the land that you are in.

Catk2

Exploring the countryside with my hubby and kids

Every weekend since we arrived in Australia, we have taken the opportunity to travel and explore this big country. It has been great visiting all the famous landmarks in Melbourne. Travelling has helped us to broaden our horizons and increased our love for Australia.

***

Moving to a different country made me realise the essentials of living: Having a roof over our heads, clean clothes on our backs, food in our bellies, school, employment, and friends.

If you have all of this, you can survive anywhere.

by Cat K

This post is part of the “Mothers Make it Work!” Blog Train hosted by Owls Well. To read other inspiring stories, please click on the picture below.Mothers Make It Work ButtonIf you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting stories, you can check out Dorothea’s amazing Work-At-Home-Mum journey over at A Pancake Princess.

19179345_10158786845860585_1318408897_oDorothea is mum to two feisty and exuberant boys and spends most days playing in their pretend dinosaur world, dabbling in paints and bringing them on adventures. Of course, there’s also the never-ending breaking up of fights, meal time wars and messy rooms to deal with every day. She shares her parenting journey and faith lessons at A Pancake Princess.

IMG_20170629_143144Next week on the “Mothers Make It Work!” blog train, we’ll be heading over to visit Lyn Lee at Lil Blue Bottle. Lyn is a mother of two girls who has a full-time office job, and a lot of support from her village. She is one of the most thoughtful and generous people you could ever hope to meet, and I am privileged to call her a friend.