Monday 29 August 2011

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Jardine's Lookout Residents' Association Pool and helper musings

We had a great time yesterday afternoon at the pool. Actually there are two pools, the big one in the foreground and also a little baby pool. We were the only people's so hidden away, you would never guess it was there. The path's a bit overgrown and it's set down several staircases from the road, through a rusty old wrought iron gate. It's like something out of a story book. I took both of the boys and Vergenia, but was astounded to hear that "Auntie's* feet must not touch the water". So I had to try and manage J and F at the same time - no mean feat! there was no drowning, so it all turned out ok.

It's kind of hard to believe that such rules exist in 2011. Helpers in this city often look after kids 12+ hours a day, on their own while both parents work. One family I know went on holiday to Europe for 2 weeks, leaving their 15 month old with their helper (who they fired shortly after they got back because she was "useless") They take them to the dr, to school, to playdates, and yet they are not allowed to swim with them in many swimming pools. This seems like blatant discrimination; here's Mr Know-it-all's opinion, and there's more discussion here. This is one of those ocassions when I wonder where the truth lies. The argument is often put forward that not all of the members of these clubs / housing complexes are ok with helpers using the facilities. As a non-Chinese reader / speaker it's all too easy for me to assume that it's Chinese residents who object....but maybe they assume that it's the Westerners who object?

I didn't question the rule yesterday (since I was a guest of a member and didn't feel it was my place), I just said OK and ignored the rule. I needed Vergenia's help, and after warning us the superintendant lady went away and left us alone, so we just got on with it.

(*Auntie is one of the more popular names for helpers in HK. Chinese kids often call their helpers "zhe zhe" which means older sister. As the boys grow up, I am encouraging them to call Vergenia "ya ya" which is Tagalog; I understand that it means something between auntie and nurse, it's supposedly a very affectionate term for someone who looks after you and is very close to the family."Amah" is the Chinese term for a helper, implying someone who's both a child carer and maid - it's a respectful term.)

There's a case that's being disputed here at the moment. In its simplest terms, it's an appeal against discrimination. The law states that anyone who has lived in Hong Kong for at least 7 years and can prove their ability to support themselves financially, has the right to become a "Permanent Resident". Among other things, this means that any of your family who do not live here are entitled to move to Hong Kong. EXCEPT....if you are a domestic helper. None of this applies to domestic helpers, who have often been here many years (Vergenia's been here 10 years now). The government's main argument seems to be that changing this law to include domestic hepers would have a huge impact on society, health care, etc (no kidding, there are around 284,900 helpers in Hong Kong, half from the Phillipines and half from Indonesia).

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Felix being a TIGER

Some awesome toys that the boys are LOVING at the moment

The boys are now 15 1/2 months old, and they have spent the last decade (maybe it just feels like that, it was probably a few weeks) opening doors, trapping their fingers in doors, headbutting coffee tables and trying to pull the TV off the shelf. But FINALLY they have got very interested in a few toys - and what's more they were mostly pretty cheap, what more could you want?! I definitely didn't have enough primary coloured plastic in my life, but the boys are doing their best to remedy that.

I think they are a little bit behind some of our friends' kids, who are trying to say a few words, and following instructions quite well, but Josh and Felix are seriously fit and strong! they run around all day and love piggyback rides.

One thing I love they love is a very cute toy farm that I got from the Early Learning Centre on sale (yes!) They're really into HappyLand stuff, now they have Goosefeather Farm, the double decker bus, and a little fire station. I've also got them a few more books recently. It's funny to see which ones they like - Dear Zoo and Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see? are still faves, but the stupidly expensive Noisy Noisy Parp and the Night Garden are popular too because they make sounds. Also Josh really likes one with a whirly wheel at the end, which I thought was a bit crap. Oh well, each to their own.

We went for a little walk yesterday along the harbourfront, east from Victoria Park. There's a reason it's off the beaten tourist track! On the road opposite our house (Yun Ping Road) there's Cartier, Chanel, Tod's, Van Cleef and Arpels, Miu Miu, Gucci and all manner of other, equally useful high-end designer shops. Most of the time I am at work, at home, or at other people's houses for playdates. So walking along the harbour front was interesting (and hot - I got a bit burnt in half an hour). We saw a tiny little boat, just 5 feet long maybe, which was being propelled by an old lady standing at the back, waggling the thing that looks like a punting pole backwards and forwards, which mysteriously makes the boat move. Anyway, she was ferriyng another old lady, holding her umbrella, from one of the bigger boats in the Typhoon Shelter over to the shore. I never would have guessed that there are several sets of stone steps up from the harbour so you can climb onto the path which is next to the highway.

There's a confetti of "Poisonous rodent bait has been laid in this area" notices along the path and fence, but I figured that such bright sunlight would probably drive the rats away. The path is weird, it's like a parallel universe to the bright lights of Hysan Avenue, just a couple of blocks away. I would say it's run down, but there's not much there to run down. There are strange little shacks, which seem to be suspended out over the water, miraculously hanging there. There are all sorts of discarded bits and pieces in the water, mostly old tyres and ropes. And a little way along towards Tai Hang there's a little kiosk-y thing that is the only structure that looks inhabited, called something like "Causeway Bay Water Selling Hut". Bizarre. A little further along, in the shade of a bridge, several groups of old men were playing cards. I think our unexpected appearance made their day - silence fell as the gweipo, the Filippina and two blond babies approached. Towards the end of the path, before it turned into a pavement leading into Tin Hau, was a large fenced off area, marked as Government property. On the sprawling tree just inside the fence sat about a hundred fat grey pigeons, all sunning themselves before the warmth faded.

Anyway, on the way home through Tin Hau we passed lots of those little everything shops, which often have a few toys. I spent about HK$100 buying the boys some little ink stamps, some Thomas the Tank Engine stickers, a TtTE jigsaw puzzle, and a bouncy ball which lights up and flashes. I don't think I need to tell you which was the favourite! Also we went to Wellcome, the skankiest supermarket in the world which is always inexplicably filled with Western models - seems an unlikely place to buy toys, but Annie told me she got some plastic fruit and veg there that sticks together with velcro, and you can "cut" it open with the knife provided. I also got an equally cheapo thing that is a set of stacking cups that make a kind of tower which you then throw plastic rings over, a la Westwell Village Fete circa 1985. Both of those have proved pretty popular.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Monday 8 August 2011

Sunday 7 August 2011

Thursday 4 August 2011

Meanwhile, in other news....

This morning the boys came to say goodbye to me before going to bed for their nap. They have both recently learned to kiss on demand (although their performance is rather erratic) and they both went to kiss me at the same time and accidentally headbutted each other! Whoops. Too cute.

They've started doing puzzles. Felix is relatively patient and can just about finish the Nurse out of the Early Learning Centre set. They are also into drawing and painting - it looked like a very bloody murder had taken place in the flat last week! Red footprints everywhere. I have come to the conclusion that chalks are best, although they break they are easy to make marks with. Crayons are ok too, but they have to be a bit more precise which is a challenge.

We're now going to the next class up at My Kiddy Gym, which is for 18-24 months. I took Josh to the Tuesday class, where there were 3 kids. Then I took Felix to the Wednesday class where there were about 20 kids! it was a little bit chaotic....actually it's usually the parents who are out of control, not the kids.

We've also signed up for ArtPlay at Kids' Gallery in the Coda Plaza. It doesn't start for a while, but should be good fun. The boys enjoy making a mess, so it'd be nice to do it somewhere without sofas!

Off to the viewing floor at ICC with Cath and HP today. From here it looks like a lovely day, so I hope we get good views.

Lifestyle, darling!!

I've started seeing a new doctor because the old one in Central was very lovely, but extortionately expensive. You can tell we've been here a few years, because I can't be bothered to schlep all the way into Central any more (it's about 4km away). So I now go to Dr Lisa Cham in The World Trade Centre (naturally), who seems very good so far. I had a blood test there last week - I took Joshemy and he was way braver than me. Which is not saying much.

I spoke to the Dr about the thyroxine that I'm taking, and also Prozac. I asked if there's any benefit to stopping the Prozac, and she didn't really come up with any, other than "you're still young". Her suggestion is that at some point in the near future, we try to decrease my dose, while making lifestyle changes to make me happier without relying on chemicals. But I'm not sure that I can make many improvements. Anti-depressants aside, things are great. I have wonderful friends, a supportive husband, and an amazing helper. I get plenty of exercise, eat well, and get lots of time outside.  I have a job that's interesting and stimulating but not too stressful, I have a 10 minute commute, and a boss I really like and respect. 

And yet....I still need anti-depressants. I won't go into the details, but I have been a bit unwell (so's Ross actually) for a few days, and as a result it seems like the Prozac is having little effect. Which, I hope is why I had a complete meltdown last night. I could hear myself saying things that made no sense, and I got so short-tempered and impatient with the boys. But everything's better today, now that my body is finally retaining some nutrients, and I had 9 hours of sleep last night!

Tuesday 2 August 2011