Home sweet home

Siena and mom safely returned last week. Sadly, mom’s aunt passed away the day after we got back. We therefore went to Montreal for a few days to be with family, and attend the funeral and burial – we are now en route back home via a leisurely train ride.

We haven’t had much time to settle in. Tax returns are in progress (thank goodness for the extension this year!) and health cards have been renewed, though there is lots more unpacking to be done. On a brighter note, Siena’s recovery from jet lag was relatively painless, though mom continues to struggle a bit.

Fortunately, we made it back in time to celebrate the birthday of Charlotte, one of Siena’s China sisters. The girls enjoyed reconnecting at the party and had a grand time, decked out in their princess and fairy outfits!

20140430-142256.jpg

20140430-142313.jpg

20140430-142328.jpg

20140430-142344.jpg

Siena, like most girls her age, is obsessed with the movie Frozen, and insists she wants a Frozen-themed party for her birthday, which is not until November – mom keeps reminding her that she may change her mind before then, but our little girl won’t hear of it, belting out the theme song as “Medigo” instead of “Let it go”!

While the return home was met with some sad news, it is nonetheless nice to be back, as we slowly ease back into our community of family and friends.

The long journey home

We knew it wouldn’t be easy. Our flight left Bali at 2 am, not an ideal departure time when traveling with a young child. Siena certainly started out in good spirits.

20140421-165649.jpg

The good news is that two flights are now done, though the remaining one, which happens to be the longest, is unfortunately delayed by an hour and 45 minutes. We are hanging out at the lounge in Beijing, with another 3 hours to go.

20140421-165957.jpg

20140421-170008.jpg

As it stands, the total trip will now be close to 31 hours – fingers crossed there are no further delays!

The last hurrah!

We are in Nusa Dua, Bali, where we have just spent five relaxing days at a beach resort.  What the property lacked in local flavor, it made up for in fantastic programming for kids.

It all started with a nice welcome, as we were greeted by beautiful dancers at reception.

IMG_3187 IMG_3190

The hotel grounds were immaculate and gorgeously maintained.

IMG_3191 IMG_3196

The highlight though was the kids club.  Siena got to experience a little bit of Balinese culture through dance, and a visit to the on-site temple where the children made an offering.  She also indulged in some beach side yoga.

IMG_3198 IMG_3199

Her favorite part, however, was the Easter programming, which started with a special chocolate bunny delivery to the room.  Siena then met the Easter bunny, had her face painted, and participated in an egg hunt in the beautiful gardens by the beach.  There was also an egg painting contest, where Siena won the top prize (mom confesses offering a little bit of assistance!).  Last but not least was the pinata, which Siena hit with all her might!

IMG_3202 IMG_3216 IMG_3217 IMG_3219 IMG_3224 IMG_3226 IMG_3233 IMG_3235 IMG_3238 IMG_3241

Sunday is now winding down, and we are getting ready to embark on the next leg.  For Siena and mom, it is a 29-hour journey on the way home – Siena has become quite the little jet setter, so mom is hoping for the best on this long trip!  Meanwhile, dad is embarking on an intense three week business trip across Asia.

It is hard to believe that our nearly nine months of travel have come to an end.  It seems like just yesterday that we were leaving Canada to live in China for six months, followed by three months of travel through Southeast Asia.  We have seen and experienced so much – deepening our knowledge of Chinese language and culture, giving Siena a good sense of where she came from, and touching on other cultures from Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and, finally, Indonesia.

We are grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity, which we will forever cherish as a family.  At the same time, we look forward to reuniting with family and friends back home soon!

Bali Bliss

Mom and dad last visited Bali in 2003, with very fond memories of the trip.  It therefore seems fitting to wrap up our family adventure here, and introduce Siena to the magic of Bali.

Alas, the journey here was far from smooth, as we were scheduled to arrive on April 9, but did not make it until the following day given a 12-hour connecting flight delay.  We arrived a little worn, but quickly settled into the beautiful Alaya Resort and Spa in the heart of Ubud, the arts and culture centre of the island.

IMG_3070

While the town is hardly undiscovered, there is nonetheless something very special about it – surrounded by rice paddies, it exudes beauty, while the Hindu population is very welcoming, especially towards children.  It has been a perfect place to explore the town’s nooks and crannies,  and take in the artistic vibe.

IMG_3074 IMG_3076 IMG_3078 IMG_3080

Meanwhile, mom has been able to practice yoga again at the beautiful Yoga Barn, in a picture-perfect setting (though I do not have any pictures!).

The food has been delicious.  We have sampled several local specialties, including nasi goreng (fried rice) and bebek bengil (crispy duck).  In all cases, the presentation has been noteworthy in its creativity and beauty.

IMG_3087 IMG_3151 IMG_3152 IMG_3153

A trip to Ubud wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Monkey Forest.  It is particularly appropriate in this case, as mom and dad’s pet name for Siena is “monkey” (though she has recently been advocating for a change to “panda”!).  The monkeys at the sanctuary are cheeky, borderline aggressive, particularly when they sense food is present – we therefore kept our distance for the most part, though mom was surrounded when these clever creatures figured out she held the bananas in her purse!

IMG_3092 IMG_3093 IMG_3098 IMG_3100 IMG_3113 IMG_3121 IMG_3124 IMG_3132 IMG_3136 IMG_3137

Naturally, Siena has also been enjoying lots of pool time, and made an Aussie friend along the way.

IMG_3155 IMG_3159 IMG_3163 IMG_3166 IMG_3179

Tomorrow, we move on to Nusa Dua, in the southern part of the island.  This will be the last stop before beginning the long journey home!

Merry Melbourne

We spent five wonderful days in Melbourne visiting mom’s childhood friend and her family, including two young children.  For Siena, it was nice to be around kids her own age again, as she has not been in school since we left China in late January.  All of a sudden, arriving in a house equipped with playmates, toys and arts and craft stations was almost too much excitement for her to bare!

We started our day on Saturday at the South Melbourne Market, taking in the lovely fall produce and meeting preferred vendors.

IMG_3011 IMG_3016 IMG_3018 IMG_3022

Sunday was a fun-filled day for everyone.  The grownups enjoyed a visit to Yering Station, the oldest winery in the state, located in the beautiful Yarra Valley.  We did a tasting of the various wines available, then enjoyed drinks and appetizers at the scenic bar upstairs.

IMG_1427 IMG_1440 IMG_1447 IMG_1448

Then, it was over to the Healesville Sanctuary to observe some Australian wildlife, including the kangaroo and koala stars.

IMG_1456 IMG_1459 IMG_1462 IMG_1468 IMG_1478 IMG_1482 IMG_3035

Siena also met the extinction fighters, Zooperman and Zoopergirl.

IMG_1451 IMG_1485

And there was no shortage of play, for the kids and adults alike.

IMG_1452 IMG_1483 IMG_1484 IMG_1499 IMG_1505

It was a full day, and Siena predictably crashed on the way home.

The next day, we made our way to downtown Melbourne for a visit to the National Gallery of Victoria,which features lots of space for kids to experience art, and the local cafe culture, in their own special way.

IMG_1514 IMG_1517 IMG_1519 IMG_1523 IMG_3053

A stroll through Melbourne’s famous lane ways and their charming shops followed.

IMG_3057

That evening, we were able to connect with dad’s childhood friend over a delicious Italian dinner.

IMG_3061

Our last night was spent at home, as we were introduced to other friends and shared a lovely meal.

IMG_4549 IMG_4517

Our time down under, while short, was well spent.  It was a rewarding visit, as mom got to reconnect with an old friend, while Siena made new ones.  Fortunately, we will see our friends again soon as they are scheduled to visit Canada this summer!

 

Memories

Our time in Singapore was enlightening, because dad was able to gather additional information about his parents, who he lost over 25 years ago.

With the help of family and friends, we also discovered some old photographs, which were too precious not to share.

IMG_2848 IMG_2979

It seems dad’s musical talent was honed a long time ago, when his hair was longer and spectacles larger!

Singapore sights and family farewells

The last two weeks were a blur. We returned from Malaysia with a busy schedule of sightseeing and farewell gatherings, before moving on to Australia.

Universal Studios was high on our list, so we started there – in true Singapore fashion, the journey was extremely efficient, as we took the MRT to Harbourfront station, with a fast link to the Sentosa monorail.

IMG_2852

While many rides had a minimum height requirement, Siena was able to get on most with mom and dad, despite her modest height (she has not yet reached the 1 metre mark). Madagascar, Shrek, Jurassic Park and Sesame Street were some of the highlights, as we made our way through the park.

IMG_2864 IMG_2865 IMG_2882 IMG_2891 IMG_2897 IMG_2906 IMG_2911

Of course, there was no shortage of other fun characters around, including the chocolate figures which appealed to Siena’s sweet tooth – this is an area where we tread lightly, given that she has already had two cavities, one of which was filled on this Singapore trip.

IMG_2854 IMG_2856 IMG_2858

The Singapore Zoo was also lively, as we observed giraffes, zebras, chimps, big-nosed monkeys, orangutans and many other interesting animals.

IMG_1272 IMG_1274 IMG_1276 IMG_1282 IMG_1291 IMG_1300 IMG_1302 IMG_1309 IMG_1310 IMG_1316 IMG_1321 IMG_1322 IMG_1336

The orangutans were everywhere, which we found amusing since we had traveled all the way to Kota Kinabalu to see only three of them at Rasa Ria Nature Reserve!

IMG_1332

To round out our sightseeing, we checked out the S.E.A. Aquarium, the world’s largest. It was indeed impressive!

IMG_2928 IMG_2931 IMG_2939 IMG_2942 IMG_2946 IMG_2962

Naturally, there were many family gatherings, as we bid farewell to the uncles, aunts and cousins who so graciously welcomed us – in true Singapore style, shared meals were the preferred way to meet!

IMG_2841 IMG_2918 IMG_1268 IMG_1377 IMG_1384 IMG_1393 IMG_1398

Finally, we are pleased to report that after staying with dad’s childhood friend for several weeks, our families are not only still friends, but have actually grown closer.  The visit came at a good time, as Siena has recently been asking about siblings.  We remind her about her China sisters, but she is quick to point out that while she misses her sisters, she wants siblings of the variety who live in the same house.  The presence of a jie jie (older sister) and ge ge (older brother) in the same household was therefore very timely!

We joined in school concerts, family dinners and family chats – a wonderful opportunity to deepen our friendship.

IMG_2783 IMG_2820 IMG_2822 IMG_2988 IMG_2993 IMG_2996 IMG_2998 IMG_3004 IMG_3005 IMG_1353

The kids would often retreat into one of their rooms, and subsequently emerge with various entertaining selfies.

IMG_2493 IMG_2497 IMG_2498 IMG_2502 IMG_2565

It was not easy to say goodbye, and Siena already misses her Singapore older sister and brother.  We arrived in Singapore in mid-February, and while these past few weeks have just flown by, we are grateful for the time to reconnect with family and friends.

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.