Archive | January, 2012

First haircut by Beth

31 Jan

I assumed that we would give Leo a haircut when he was about 1, but then around then he developed these gorgeous curls out the back and there was no way I was going to interfere with those. At around the 20 month mark I noticed that the ladies in the local bakery, strangers on the street, were assuming he was a girl. This didn’t really bother me “stupid fools!” He could be holding a car, wearing a blue t-shirt and brown shorts, but because he had long hair they thought he was a girl. Besides, I’ve done gender studies stuff at uni – I know a thing or two about all that heteronormative bullshit was put ourselves through – having to conform to people’s ideas of who we are! Screw you guys!

Also, it was going to be emblematic of my little boy growing up. ūüė¶

But then, Leo started to say “I not a boy, I a girl”. “No, honey you’re a boy. Louis and Ben and you are little boys, and Annie’s a little girl”. “No mummy! I a girl!” For all my cultural studies high-horsing, this got to me. I pictured him being teased, and I wanted him to get that haircut. Jeff was keen too.

It wasn’t just up to us though. We went to the hairdresser several times with Jeff over the months and offered for him to sit in the chair too, but he always strung us along “another time Mummy”. Just after Christmas he had one of his friends over, and they were in the sandpit. I saw my chance and went over and casually started cutting off those loose golden curls. I didn’t tell him what I was doing, but he announced to his friend “I getting a haircut” and he really liked it, especially the fuss everyone made of how good he looked with shorter hair.

We went out that afternoon and a sweet little old lady said “what a lovely boy” or something similar and I felt relieved. Things were as they seemed. His gender intact and unthreatened. Yet another eat my hat moment in a two year eating of hats spree I’ve been going on.

Curl Man with moustache


Container – by Karen

28 Jan

If we have any readers who aren’t jointly friends with most of us, they may be wondering why production has slowed a little of late. What is happening to this awesome blog that is my favourite and the best, they will be asking themselves. I must explain to such valued readers that it is an exciting time for the Far Flung Four. Justyna has created an entirely new human. Tabitha has been married. Beth has been the world’s best bridesmaid. And I… Well, I did learn to ski.

Last night was Tabitha and Nathan’s Australian wedding, and it would be very difficult and tiresome for me to think about ANYTHING else right now. If I liked difficult and tiresome things, I would have a full-time job, that I had to reach via a series of Cityrail trains, with a personality-disordered boss, with an end-product as disappointingly meaningless as an In Da Club ringtone. Well, I did have that job once, and it was totally worth it, because I met Tabitha and a handful of other peculiarly superb people. That achieved, I will leave the world of tiresomeness behind, and just blog a little about what I want to blog about – the marriage of Tabitha and Nathan.

Do I think that Container is an apt and profound metaphor for marriage? No. But there’s some merit in it. Tabitha spoke about her former feelings on marriage prior to falling in love with Nathan, and how any objections were sublimated by the immediate desire to be as close to him as possible, for as long as possible, in any officious or non-officious way on offer. Was marriage an unnecessary bind? A foolish trap of conformity and restriction? For these two, it is as Beth might say, a container for love. Banish the prison imagery and replace it with something suitable for a couple who are dazzling and flamboyant, precious and strong. Yes, Tabitha and Nathan are now contained in a sparkly Faberg√©¬†egg of marriage. Behold, and sob with joy.

A container for joy, by Beth

24 Jan

The very first thing “container” made me think of was Kahlil Gibran’s ‘Joy and Sorrow’ from¬†The Prophet: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” I don’t care, dear reader, if you think he’s naff. I read the book just after my grandmother had died when I was 17 and that idea of not being afraid of sorrow because it carves you out so you have more room for joy has stayed with me ever since and been a great comfort.

So in the spirit of containing joy, and love, I¬†am sitting here writing my speech for Tabitha and Nathan’s wedding this weekend and having a good old trip down memory lane while I’m at it. (Don’t worry guys, the Kahlil quote won’t be in there!) Looking through old photos I discovered these. Taken on the 19th of April 2008. The first flush of love fresh on their¬†beauteous¬†faces.

If these guys aren’t joy-containers, I don’t know what is. Note, they are sniffing each other for realz – those Vietnamese wedding photographers know what time it is.

I know you’ll have one hundred years of happiness.

Baby traditions – by Justyna

21 Jan

Well it had to happen. A post all about babies. Not a huge fan of this genre in the best of times, but since I finally popped last Tuesday, I actually do have baby on the brain.

The baby shower, as far as traditions go, does not really exist in Poland. I lie, it is making a debut in the more ‘let’s be more West’ mother circles, but generally it’s a non-event. I, for one, have not attended nor have I hosted a baby shower whilst living in Krakow. Instead the tradition is that your friends and family visit you after the baby is born, coming to your home for coffee and cake, bearing gifts for the newborn and sometimes token gifts for the mother (after all, she’s just been through a major slog). There’s a tradition from Michal’s region that if the newborn is a boy, then the paternal grandparents buy the pram, if a girl then the maternal grandparents are stuck with the bill. Also, if you want to be mega orthodox, you do not prepare the nursery in advance. It’s considered bad luck. Of course for logistical purposes this is no longer followed much, but some parents do adhere to it. We did. Mainly because we’re very unorganised and do things at the last minute. I popped on Tuesday. Michal was putting the last coat of white paint on Kazek’s old crib on Monday. The girl I was sharing the hospital room with hadn’t even purchased the crib yet. Her husband was sent on an errand for the baby bed to be ready by the time she left hospital.

My favourite baby-related custom/tradition is associated with what guests bring to hospital. And it is not flowers (in fact flowers are not allowed at the hospital I was giving birth at ‚Äď deemed as ‘bacteria spreading’. Well the water they sit in anyway. I think it’s because the nurses can’t be bothered with cleaning up the flowers afterwards or having to change their water upon the patient’s request. Or there are just not enough vases in the Polish health care sector). Nor is it pink or blue helium balloons. Or teddy bears. It’s food! Families come with huge bags filled with food parcels from home, with food assisting in lactation, with food assisting in general rejuvenation and with food that is generally considered ‘better than this hospital rubbish’. My young mum neighbour had the complete works. Her family brought her Polish doughnuts (helps sweeten the milk), ham and other cold-cut meats (strength), home-made stewed apple kompot (digestion), various yoghurts and dairy products (lactation) and beetroot soup (lactation). Our room smelt like a deli. It was awesome. Pity the hospital did not provide mini fridges in every room. Every day she was there her mother or her in-laws would arrive bearing more food parcels. And she would make herself gourmet sandwiches at two in the morning in between breast feeding sessions. Pretty damn excellent, I say! I too had my share of goodies brought to me by Michal. Fresh bread rolls (cause I like them), Greek yoghurt (as before), kabanosy (really dried out, extremely tasty smoked sausage), plenty of water, a thermos with good coffee he brewed at home, and various pastries. There were also apples and mandarins (probably for lactation purposes) as well as chocolate wafers. I really wanted beer, but he drew the line.

When we arrived home with Julian, my mum was already here, and in true house-keeping Polish tradition, she had cleaned our flat spotless, ironed my linen (!!!) and probably cleaned the windows. Hang on, she already did that before Christmas.

Tradition – by Karen’s friends

18 Jan

I am making a bit of a tradition of outsourcing my posts. On the cusp of Chinese New Year here in Singapore, I thought it would be meet to draw on the Chinese heritage of some of my friends, asking them the questions, “What CNY tradition do you enjoy, and why?”¬†Most of them skipped the “why” bit, but some things go without saying.

“When I was a child, my parents told me and my brothers not to quarrel during Chinese New Year… for a good start to the year ahead!” – Mei Sheong Wong

“My favourite CNY festivity, is not being around for the fuss of it. Hahaha… sigh… best times are when I’m out of country.” –¬†Yanyun Chen

“Love shopping for cny clothes, love doing visitings at my relatives’ and catching up with my cousins!

And not to mention munching on all the cny goodies…to me, cny is to bid goodbye to the previous year n welcoming a whole new year.” – Goh Sing Yee

“Reunion dinner. Meeting the rest of the clan, good times over good food.” – Yvonne Koh

“Food of course–we have steamboat and popiah several times a year, but yu sheng is purely a CNY thing. Also, when we pray to the big guy in the sky (Tua Pek Kong) it amuses me that different families have different stories–did he save our menfolk from the Manchus or the Japanese? Did our menfolk hide in the sugarcane or pineapple fields? And a tradition that I haven’t heard of outside our family–new pyjamas, with pockets, that we fill with angpao before bedtime.¬†We also wear a bit of jewellery to bed, and sometimes also stuff ang pao into the pillowcase – like attracting like and all that!” – Chew Lin Kay

“meeting my paternal relations for a proper homecooked Teochew lunch, and marveling at how quickly baby cousins grow up.” – Huifen Zheng





Thanks guys, you are awesome and I feel rather festive just formatting all of that. I have been in Hong Kong and Singapore for over six years now, so lunar new year has become a part of the ebb and flow of life for me too. I don’t really have a tradition as such, but I must admit, I actually enjoy hearing the classic tone of CNY music played over a supermarket speaker. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Tradition – by Tabitha

18 Jan

Nathan and I have many habits and routines, but I think we only have one real tradition, and it is this.

Every time we pass through the Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Carrier Terminal, which is often, we have kaya toast at the Old Town White Coffee near the arrivals gate. Every time, no matter what.

If we’ve just arrived on an eight-hour flight and kind of want to get out of the airport as quickly as possible, we still pause at Old Town White Coffee. If we’re actually spending the night at the airport’s salubrious Tune Hotel, we will go to Old Town White Coffee twice: last thing at night and first thing in the morning.

We order our kaya toast using the little pencils and paper they give you, and the soft-boiled eggs, and a coffee, and we feel extremely happy.

This is no small feat, because the Low Cost Carrier Terminal is a really, really awful place to be. It’s one of those budget, shed-like terminals, and it’s always crowded with too many passengers with too many bags. Poor people always have so much luggage.

But for us, it’s a place where we reflect on holidays about to start or that have just passed, and on all the other times we’ve sat in the exact same spot. And it’s exciting to have a “regular” place in a country where you don’t live. Maybe some people say “Whenever I’m in Paris, I always go to Le Cafe Rond Point”, but we say “Whenever we’re in the KL LCCT, we always go to Old Town White Coffee”.

And every time we’re there, we have the same little disagreement, where I claim that Nathan’s propensity to dip his sweet kaya toast in his savoury soft boiled eggs is just plain wrong. I always point out that no-one else is dipping, but just eating them separately, like me. But Nathan always says it’s how it’s done, even claiming we were instructed to do just that the first time we had kaya toast, which was with the Goulds in Singapore in 2009.

Recently I met some Malaysians in Hanoi and I asked them straight out about dipping the kaya toast in the egg. They shook their heads furiously. They’d never heard of such a thing. Why would you put something sweet in something savoury?! Nathan still claims it’s how it’s done in Singapore, even if not in Malaysia.

While I very much enjoy being right, I actually felt bad for asking those Malaysians, because it will change our tradition. Nathan will still do it, but it won’t be the same.

Tradition by Beth

17 Jan

I internally cringe when people ask Leo if he got presents from Santa. It’s a complex cringe – with a pinch of guilt that we haven’t imparted much at all about all that Christmas stuff people go on about to Leo, and a dash of my own feelings about Santa which amounts to thinking he’s a big money-making load of bollocks. We won’t take Leo to have a photo with Santa unless he asks when he’s older (which seems to be seen as depriving him of his rights as a child in some people’s eyes), but I’ve seen so many kids screaming with fear at being put in the lap of a stranger in a ridiculously big fake beard. It also wasn’t something I ever did as a kid so I kind of don’t get it.

I have a German friend who lives in Canada, and still follows all of the gorgeous German seasonal traditions with her kids and that doesn’t make me cringe in the slightest. In fact I wish I could have grown up with those traditions. They seem to mostly involve getting little chocolates in your shoes and then getting to eat chocolate for breakfast, making things together and marking the passing of the seasons. There’s definitely also some cultural cringe and grass being greener going on for me against what I grew up surrounded by.

When we lived in the Northern Hemisphere for one year and it all the traditions of that part of the world that we follow made sense in a way it never had before. Easter is the coming of spring, Halloween is the coming of winter and it does feel appropriate to be dressing up and going out in the dark night to celebrate the coming of the spirits of winter (rather than Aussie kids coming over for sweets when it’s still light outside at 8pm at night!). Christmas made sense – all that baking and dried fruit, all the Christmas cards with snow on them, and robin red breasts and mistletoe and holly. I was like “ohhhh, it all makes sense now”. Christmas with my family has always been a really low key affair. Salads, way too much dessert, and when I was a meat eater the¬†obligatory¬†leg of lamb as a nod to the mother country. I can’t remember ever believing in Santa but I must have because I remember when I found out he wasn’t real and I didn’t tell any of my friends because I didn’t want to burst their bubble, but I felt very superior knowing.

I love traditions which I consider to be¬†meaningful and my family had some I remember lovingly, such as Thursday “egg night” – adding all manner of crazy leftovers to an¬†omelette-like concoction. My Dad wrote in his diary EVERY night and Mum kept one too. He has a whole bookshelf of his diaries at home because he’s kept one since he was 14.

The traditions that have meaning for me are the ones that connect you with others, or acknowledge your connection with the Earth and its the seasons. So, I wanted to take this chance to think of some of the traditions we are forming as a family.

We take a photo of ourselves with something that shows the age we’re turning every year. Jeff and I started this when we first got together. Leo has had three so far.

We each keep a life diary with a couple of lines per month for every year of your life. Significant stuff is recorded here. Jeff and I actually started this one separately which is pretty cool and for the moment we’re writing in Leo’s book until he’s ready to take over (or chuck it in the bin). I’ve used old diaries to fill in years before I started the diary.

Every year until Leo tells me to stop I will print out photos of whatever his favourite things are at the time of his birthday and stick them on his bunting.

We started a tradition of hosting a street Easter Egg hunt in our backyard this year and we also had a street Christmas party with two paddling pools out the front of the houses for the kids. I hope those two continue.

Then there are the smaller traditions which will come and go – getting burritos in Newtown and then sharing a gelato, Leo having a swing after his nap, Leo birthing baby tigers from his tummy and sharing them with us, walking each other to the station when one of us goes to work… Having a small child part of the fun is forming these new traditions and letting them grow and change as your child does.