Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Has my Dad gone back to work"?

He finally understood that Dad is working far away for quite a long time. Upon coming home from school yesterday my little boy asked my brother, "has my Dad gone back to work?", and nodded his acknowledgement when he heard the answer "yes".

In the bedroom at night he said to me again that somebody's Dad in his class is also working in KL. So "it's ok that my Dad is also working there", he stoically said. But he's going to pray that Dad will get a transfer to KK soon. I smiled. Just a few weeks ago, he stubbornly refused to pray for his Dad's transfer. He cheekily thought that no Dad at home means freedom. No one will be strict to him (well, Mom yells sometimes but Mom is soooo not scary). But a full month without Dad must have made him change his mind. It turned out to be not so fun after all...especially because when Dad is around the family gets to do more fun stuffs, like stay in a hotel. And he doesn't have an ally when the girls do girly things with Mom.

My little boy decides that he'll pray for Dad's speedy return. After all, God listens to little kids' prayers, doesn't He? :-)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Another Earth Hour, another birthday...

My eldest daughter turns 12 today. (How time really flies. It seems only a short time ago that we celebrated her 11th birthday with friends in Perth.) We had a family celebration at Nexus Karambunai Hotel on Friday. A night stay, and a full day of relaxation, that's the birthday theme. She was a bit grumpy in the beginning. Her plan was to invite her newfound school friends, old family friends and all the cousins (and my, my, that would be about 50 people) for a merry celebration at home, but Mom and Dad were not into the idea. With the prolonged hot weather in KK, and the house still very much looking like a shipwreck, that was just impossible.

So Dad came home from KL on Thursday, just for his special little girl who's now not so little anymore. And off we went to Nexus. Having been treated to a special room shared with her sister, eldest daughter finally relented and enjoyed herself. A special surprise during dinner lifted her mood. Three singers appeared with their string instruments (and Mom doesn't even know what those instruments are called), to sing her the birthday song when the cake was brought to our table. That simple thing made her smile and forgot all about the unfulfilled wish of having a merry party at home :)

We went back home later yesterday, with the kids all ready for Earth Hour. It was wonderful to see three young ones all excited to give due respect to Mother Earth. We prepared our special candles, and went hapily into the darkness for an hour.

Today is her real birthday but the fun has been for the whole weekend. Many happy returns, Reiko (her Japanese name that she likes so much).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Treasure from yesteryears

Been decluttering and unpacking the whole day today and yesterday, and only halfway done. After that episode of missing stuffs from the shipment, I was a bit disheartened and put off unpacking, but I finally decided that I couldn't put it off forever. Besides, I really have to get rid of the junks all over the house or I'd go crazy...

I started with the book section, the one that never fails to uplift my spirit. I emptied the book cabinets, and lovingly cleaned them off dust. Next, I looked through hubby's old briefcases at the file storage. What I found made me smile. I found his old newspaper cuttings, those little inspiring quotes a few years before the internet made its way to this part of the world. I remember at times I'd sit by his side when he cut them out and be the one charmed by those words. I bet he has forgotten all about these cuttings, but here's one, just to make him nostalgic:

Make the moments count

Make the moments count

You've only one life to live!

Our days and years so swiftly mount-

Today's the day to give!

Why waste precious time
on empty foolish things?

For there are heights sublime to climb-
Attainment sweet vict'ry brings

(by Kathryn Thorne Bowsher)

Ah, wonderful little things. Now guess who's feeling nostalgic...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Love without regrets

In the beginning it was love...It was love that brought a man and a woman together in a marriage. It will be love that ensures that the marriage withstands all hails, storms or tsunamis. Uncle Lee says "love without regrets"...I value his words greatly. (one can always learn a great deal from those who are wiser :-))

I've learnt from my 13 years of marriage that highs and lows are part and parcel of love. That sometimes when your expectations of your loved one are not met, you can become really hurt and dissapointed. That after some years of being together you tend to take each other for granted and forget the little things that spice up the marriage. Like saying "I love you" or buying presents just because you want to. I'm glad I realized that because I'm going to try my best to not take him for granted.

I've also learnt that when you learn to communicate better with the other half, all problems have their solutions. And that if you have an ego the size of an elephant, the ego tends to be a blockage to effective communication. Most importantly, I've learnt that you need to forgive over and over again because love makes you vulnerable and you feel hurt easily. It is forgiveness that restores the sweetness of your marriage.

Reading this entry of uncle Lee's blog makes me smile. A wise man indeed. I'm glad I have realized that I love without regrets too. Life is too short to be wasted...and I'd like to live it with love.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The heart is constant

At 17, I never imagined being 36. But at 36, I get to see whether people remain who they were at 17.

My high school celebrated its silver jubilee on 13.03.10. Driven by curiousity I decided to attend. I didn't know what to expect, but I was looking forward to see my old friends whom I haven't seen in years, some as long as 20 years. When I was there 20 years ago, the school was only 5 years old with all the typical teething problems. It wasn't an easy life for a teenager to be in a boarding school, isolated in an island, almost in the middle of nowhere, with neverending problems like water shortage, occasional thieving, and fatique due to the stringent daily routine. Yet, everyone survived. In a community of as small as 600 people, one learnt to be a family. Everyone knew everyone else. It's a wonder how one could remember so many faces and names.
Being in the school again brought back nostalgic memories. I saw the young me lying on the bed in my old dorm, queuing up for meals at the school dining hall, sitting in the classroom waiting impatiently for the bell to ring, running on the field on hot afternoons, and walking hand in hand with friends on the beach just across the school. (One of my best friends lost her life to nose cancer two years ago, and she was the one that I could visualise most when I was in the school for the celebration. It's a sad thing that I never got to see her at my age; she, one of the most cheerful people I've ever known.)
The teachers who came might have aged a little bit, but the presence they have is still very much the same. These teachers became our parents then, punishing you when you do something wrong, praising you for your excellent achievements, and comforting you when you were feeling down. I am still very much in awe of them.
Of my old classmates, three 'boys' (somehow, it feels weird to think of them as 'men') were the only ones who came. They might be older and wiser. They might now talk about kids and work and the myriad life problems. But they are still 17 at heart. I guess myself included. The heart remains constantly 17 when you meet people you were with at 17.
Seeing them again, getting to know the persons that they are now have been refreshing. Still respectful of others, still accepting our differences, and still appreciating our experiences. The years at the boarding school were not wasted at all. There, one learnt that everyone is different, yet no one is to be discriminated. One got toughen up by the hardships, and humbled by the experience. One was educated to respect one's elders and friends. Most of all, one remembers one's root. It's all in the heart and the heart is constant.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Shipment Story

Perth, Dec 2009- we boxed our personal things, ready to be shipped back to Kota Kinabalu. I remember those few days of packing very well. I remember how difficult it was to choose what to bring and what to give away. I remember the kids tearful arguments on things they think important that we had to leave behind. Most of all I remember worrying whether the things would arrive safely or not.

After surveying a few moving companies, we decided on Inter Trans Holding (ITH) mainly because they offer the so called "cheapest rate". We paid AUD$5000.00 for 20 ft of container. Besides, since they are our fellow countrymen, we thought, why not help their business grow.

I now realized that those are really bad reasons to choose a shipping company. We should have looked at their reputation most of all, which unfortunately we didn't think of doing. The day they came to pick up our things, they were one hour later than they promised. I rushed back from the children's assembly at school, didn't even get to finish watching my children's show, because somebody had to be at home and hubby had to go to the university. Empty promises- hubby came back home earlier than they came to pick up the things.

We helped load our things into the moving truck (I'd say other companies wouldn't expect their clients to do that). And I said good bye to all the things I love, praying that they would arrive safely in 2 to 3 weeks, as promised. They said the ship was leaving the port on 17th Dec, so 3 weeks would have to be some time in the middle of January. Trusting their words, I waited for the most important things to arrive on time- my references and data for my thesis. Not having them on time means a major delay in the submission of my writings.

Alas, alas. Empty promises indeed. 2-3 weeks turned to a month. Still they didn't arrive. I was getting quite stressed for not having my most needed thesis materials. My children were unhappy waiting for their toys and clothes, for most of the clothes were sent in the shipment. When January ended and still no shipment arrived, I was getting really upset. But I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubts. Yes, my thesis writeup was affected. My children's moods were affected. But we still waited patiently, trusting their explanation that the shipment was delayed because of the many holidays at the end of 2009 to the beginning of 2010.

At long last, the shipment arrived. Exactly 2 months and 10 days after they were shipped. And the boxes arrived in a sorry state. All of them dusty, some torns, and what puzzled me the most was the large numbers on them. I wondered why they had to have different numberings than our labels? Could it be that contrary to the promise of ITH to ship them in a container, they had been shipped loosely in batches so that ITH didn't have to pay the actual price?

The first thing I checked was of course my thesis materials. Thank God, they are safe. The first thing the children excitedly checked were their roller blades. Two pairs of brand new roller blades as their Christmas presents. And they were missing! A bike wheel was also missing. Then I realized that my knife set, BBQ brush and scrapper sets, Christmas decos and some little household things were also missing! Two boxes went missing. How could it be when the company promised that they shipped in a container? What possible explanations do they have?

When hubby told them, they promised to find those boxes or compensate us for the loss. But when hubby itemized the things and told them the costs, they asked for receipts of those things, as if we are trying to falsify the loss so that we can make money. I feel so humiliated. Of course roller blades are not cheap. And it is very sad that the children hadn't even used them, thinking that they could play with them once they are in KK. One Malay word came to mind- kempunan-. The children never got to use them at all. But now that ITH is treating us as if we are liars, I refuse to have anything to do with the company at all. Following my culture, I can only say I consider all those missing things as 'buang sial' (to get rid of bad luck) and let the people who are responsible get the bad luck. It is especially because those loss had caused great sadness to little children.


We paid AUD$5000.00 (about RM15k) CASH to ensure safety and smooth delivery and efficient service. We were promised 2-3 weeks, which was what we expected. Other service providers used by friends before do it exactly in 2-3 weeks (Grace Removals - 2 weeks, Peter Poon-15 days), with everything delivered safely. I am getting sick of ITH putting the blame on custom procedures. My husband has worked in the government sector for years. He has experience in dealing with moving and he knows for sure what happened to our shipment was due to INEFFICIENCY.

(an email I sent in reply to ITH Perth rep. who sent an email to everyone in the mailing list that my husband shared this story earlier. They deleted my husband from the list but forgot to delete me, so I accidently got to know that they call his 'sharing' tohmahan 'slander')
Dear ITH,
I am surprised that you didn't send the email to Josh, my husband. He wouldn't have known that now he is grandly labelled the 'pentohmah' if I hadn't received this message.
I am dissapointed at you. In the first place you didn't show us any documentation. Now you do, after you feel threatened by my blog, which was just an expression of dissapointment. Well if you read through my blog, you'd know that I blog about my experience, not because I want to SLANDER anyone as you alleged. And it is me that blog, not my husband, so it is wrong of you to accuse my husband of slandering in MY BLOG. Come on guys, MY BLOG, MY RIGHTS! I don't lie...I write from the heart. I think my husband linked my blog to his messages because he feels what I feel, or maybe because he WANTS TO SHOW OFF HOW GOOD HIS WIFE IS????
But I do have problems with the way you guys work. Take this as a constructive critiscsm if you want to improve:
1. You are not transparent. You are reluctant to show the documents from the beginning.
2. You give too many excuses. E.g- when asked about the delay, you said 'due to the holidays lah', 'custom procedures lah'...
3. You try to shirk responsibility- when we complained about the missing boxes, and itemised the missing items, instead of feeling sorry for us, you ask for receipts. Have you no common sense at all? Who on earth would keep receipts for things we intend to keep for ourselves? If you say for guarantee purposes, you know we are moving back to Malaysia. You do not respect the customers' trust and rights.
4. I also wonder why there are 3 different pallet numbers written on some boxes. Even if you show those documentations in the attachment, I can actually easily imagine that you belatedly MADE THEM UP = FAKE. Well that's my imagination, incited by your horrible work procedures.
Finally, I do not expect any compensation for the loss anymore. It is the sentimental values of the things that saddened me, not the monetary values. Whatever it is your sub-standard service had made my children cry (they lost their Christmas presents, darlings) and I am very very dissapointed.
I sincerely hope that you will improve in the future. Remember, you are operating internationally now. Why not do your little part to make Malaysia proud of you?
Veronica Atin, wife of Josh, mom of Sandra, Arielle and Isaac, friend of many and writer of the blog that scared you witless.

Related Article....
Packing and Moving on

Friday, March 5, 2010

My life is not THAT difficult

Difficulties come in many forms. One of them is being a 'single-parent' struggling to raise three children under 12 years old, like yours truly. Waking up at 5am (5.10, counting snooze time) to prepare breakfast for them, making sure everyone is ready to leave for school by 6.20, going to work, rushing off at lunch-time to pick the children up from school, back to work for 2 hours, going back home to send one of them to tuition, then back to the office for another 2 hours before calling it a day is certainly no fun. By the time everyone is in bed at 9.30pm, I feel so drained of energy that I hardly have any left to do the housework. But my life is not that difficult; I have help from my extended family, I can afford to pamper myself on a regular basis, and I have my children with me.

If anything, it makes me appreciate my family more. I do wonder why is it that hubby has to be posted some 1,624km away, which is 2.5 hr flight from home. I do wonder why it takes such a long time for the powers that be to find him a post here, despite our appeals. Being a believer that everything happens for a reason though, I keep reminding myself to have faith. My life is not that difficult, except for the times when loneliness hits hard and I miss him so much. At least, I keep reminding myself, I am blessed with a generous and caring extended family. Never once did anyone of them let me down. My call for help is always immediately answered. One of them, brother, mom or dad is always around to help me cook for the children every day.

I make sure that I pamper myself on a regular basis, at least a massage once every forthnight. It is quite costly but I have to do something to make myself feel good, as only when I feel good about myself will I be able to carry out all my duties with love.

My life is not that difficult. I have healthy children, despite their hyper-activeness. It's true that their constant demands leave me worn out most of the time, but at the end of the day, I always end up feeling grateful. I have them around me still. They haven't left the nest, thank god they are too young for that. When I look at their faces sleeping peacefully at night, I thank God, for I am blessed.

Well, at times when I feel so tired I wish hubby is the one having to go through all these. I even wonder if he does appreciate me more for doing this (which I think he does). I know it is tougher on him, as he doesn't have his loved ones with him. My life is not THAT difficult after all...

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