Archive for the ‘school holidays’ Category

I’m not feeling too well; can you come home quickly and take me to the doctor’s?” Dad asked me on the phone, sounding quite sick.

I can even hear him coughing and whooping away at the other end. My heart missed a beat.

I am scared of a call like this, especially when it came very early in the morning or very late at night. It made me worried for him.

You see, my Dad lived in Ipoh while I stayed some two hundred kilometers away in Kuala Lumpur. It will take a while for me to reach him even if I were to get on the road at once. I can’t travel as freely as I would like to. I have two school going children to tie me down.

But he was my dad and I can’t say no. I have never said ‘no’ to him before. In the end I have to say, “Yes, I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

There is another week to go before a school holiday is due to start. I wanted my children to complete their school term before I take them back to Ipoh to visit their grandfather but when a call like this came, I’ll have to change my plan.

“Grandfather is not feeling well. He wanted me to take him see the doctor.  Let’s go back to Mommy’s hometown tomorrow morning,” I declared, much to their delight.

I immediately packed our things, and there were many things to pack when you travel with young children; their clothes, their toiletries, their toys and their books. It was like we are moving to another country to stay- we have something like four baggages!

We usually travel by Sri Maju express bus from Puduraya Bus Station to Ipoh, taking the earliest bus at 8 a.m. so that we could reach Ipoh in the afternoon. I tried to reach home before sunset as Dad was no longer staying in town but far away from it.

After exchanging lots of kisses and hugs with their daddy, the children quickly climbed into the bus with me following from behind. We got into our seats and put the baggages in the proper compartments.

As the bus pulled out from the station, both Nicholas and Alexandra waved to their daddy who was smiling and waving back. He lip read to us, ” Have a safe and smooth journey!”

The journey home to visit Dad was a challenge. My children were talkative and boisterous, they refused to keep quiet or sit still even though they are going on a long distance trip. While everyone in the bus goes to sleep once the bus entered the North South highway at the Damansara exit, they were wide awake, eating potato chips or chewing gums, chatting and playing with each other. When they won’t sleep, I can’t either. Just to prevent them from running up and down the bus aisle really tired me out.

“Mommy, I wanted to urinate now or Mommy, I ‘m feeling nauseating,” are moments I dreaded most when we are somewhere between some unknown towns like Sungkai or Trolak. The bus won’t stop for us. As time went by, I trained myself to handle such emergencies with calmness.

After a brief stop at Tapah to relieve ourselves and to top up on their snacks, the most beautiful scenery unfolds before our eyes. Breathtaking blue hills and unspoilt green virgin forests run parallel on both sides. My eyes could not have enough of them. After about three hours and passing many small towns like Bidor, Kampar and Gopeng, we were almost home.

Nearing Ipoh, my children could recognize the beautiful blue limestone hills dotting the Gua Tempurung and Simpang Pulai stretch of the highway. Jumping excitedly from their seats near the window, they would shout in unison and on top of their voices, “Mommy, we are finally in Grandfather’s Ipoh! Look at those little hills; they’re like turtle’s shells!” they pointed with their little fingers towards the hills.

I laughed with relief. Yes, we had finally reached home.

When the bus past by Jalan Kampar, I will never fail to point out my former school, the Methodist Girls’ School or MGS, to my children.

“That was Mommy’s school!” and before long, they could recognize that as well.

“Mommy, we’re hungry, where are we going to have lunch?” the boisterous pair asked.

“At one of my favorite place and Mommy will take you there now!”


After getting down at that you-know-who’s old mansion opposite Shen Jai High School on Jalan Bendahara, we walked along Jalan Chamberlain, passing landmarks such as the former Majestic Cinema and the Post Office. Further up was the former Rex Cinema. On we walked towards Jalan Anderson where we had lunch at one of my favorite eating place, Restaurant Lok Wee Koi, opposite the present day Kamdar Store.

With some luck, we managed to secure a table for three and sat down to order some of Ipoh’s famous hawker’s foods for lunch. We had fried kuay teow with eggs and cockles, chee cheong fun in mushroom sauce, hor yee, which is flat rice noodle with fish cakes and fish balls and kai see hor fun or flat rice noodle with chicken shreds and prawns. We also had the caramel eggs custard and soda with ice-cream.

With still some space in our stomachs, we gulped down a bowl of tau foo fah and a drink called ‘Michael Jackson’ which is actually soya milk and glass jelly at the corner stall along Theater Street. Oh wait, I remember that stall was called “Funny Mountain Tau Foo Fah!” What a name! And can you believe it that people actually queued up; and the line spilled into the road, waiting to have a taste of these desserts? Some ate from their parked cars along the side of the street.

Satisfied with the contents in our stomachs, we walked back to the former Rex Cinema where I called up Mr. Cheng, our regular taxi driver whom my children nicknamed Uncle 4019 (the number plate of his taxi).

“Hey, Uncle 4019, this is the scissors sharpener’s daughter back from Kuala Lumpur. Can you take us to my dad’s house in Bercham?”

“Sure, I’ll be there in minutes!” he laughed back.

True to his reputation as Ipoh’s most punctual taxi’s driver, Mr. Cheng appeared in front of us almost immediately. Passengers and baggage all got in and when the taxi got past Hume Street, we never fail to catch a glimpse of the infamous funeral parlors and caskets shops along the street, also known as “Coffin Street.”

For my children who are from a metropolitan city called Kuala Lumpur, this is a rare sight for them to marvel at and to form some curious questions in their little heads.

“Wow, there are many funeral parlors in the same row. Do many people die on the same day in Ipoh?” my son asked and I was short of an answer.

Uncle 4019 just laughed and drove on, stopping by the traffic light opposite 188 Hugh Low Street.

“That’s your childhood’s home, Mommy!” Alexandra pointed to me. I smiled and nodded.

“Yes dear, it’s the home I once knew,” and I turned to have a look at the building where I grew up in. It looked old and abandoned but still as dignified as ever.

Then the traffic lights turned green…..

Now we’re on the way to Dad’s house in the suburb where a simple and rustic life awaits us…..

To be continued…….

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Open Sesame! Open Sesame!” Uncle Li called out loudly at the doorstep last Sunday morning.

He had in his hands, two bags of books.

My children were aroused from their sleep; they quickly jumped up from their beds and rushed out to see what the hullabaloo was all about.

“Uncle Li?”

Of course they were taken aback with what they saw.

“Your mommy always complained that both of you are playing too much online games; so here are some books to help keep you fellows away from the screen!” he was grinning wickedly at them, with some mischief in his eyes.

Among the books in the bags are “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens and “The Adventures of The Secret Seven” by Enid Blyton. There are also several other books to improve their general knowledge. Altogether there were about sixteen of them.

“These books are from my own collection, so you better take good care of them!” he told Nicholas and Alexandra, who were delighted with their sudden good fortune.

The year-end seven weeks school holidays are here again. Just as I was figuring out how my children are going to spend their holidays in a meaningful way, here come my savior.

Uncle was god-send. Now I don’t have to worry of going to the public library anymore. I couldn’t thank him enough. At least my children have something else to occupy them other than “War-craft”, “Angry Birds” and Facebook.

I was very delighted. This is awesome! Very cool indeed!

Gone are the days when children loved to play outdoor games or enjoy the simple pleasure of reading an interesting storybook in a little quiet corner during school holidays.

Schooling, tuition and homework took up most of their time.

Their only past time is to play computer. Most of them are computer geeks. Yes, computers are their lives. Online games and Facebook are their daily diet.

Personally, I have nothing against computers. I needed them too, to do my writing, to network with friends and to catch up with the current news.

But the problem with modern technologies is that they robbed our children of their innocence and childhood.

Everywhere I went to, I saw children, some as young as five or six, busy sending sms on their ipads or playing games on them.

Can you see children today talk less, write less and read less? I have encountered some who are very remote from the adults, their parents included.

I certainly would not allow this to happen to my children. I wanted them to be able to communicate with us effectively and coherently.

Call me an old-fashioned mom if you like. Or say that I am not trendy enough, I don’t care. I think there is a limit to what my children can have.

Although many of their classmates already have their mobiles or ipads, I have yet to get these for them. I don’t intend to at all. I only got them an iphone to share. Maybe I will get them a camera someday soon. They loved photography too.

Like many parents, I have a hard time with my children whenever they planted themselves in front of the computer. Once they are there, you can’t tear them away.

In the end, I have to put a password into the computer. They needed my permission to get start on a game. I also put an alarm clock next to it so that when their playing time is up, it will ring like mad and made them jump up from their seats.

Extreme measures, yes, for geeks like them. But it works well for me.

Although some of you might think it was a bit late for teenagers like Nicholas and Alexandra to read Charles Dickens or Enid Blyton (I read them in primary schools), but you can be a grown up and still enjoy such books. Good books are timeless.

So, for this long holiday, my children and I will spend our time reading story books together, looking up new words and brushing up on spelling. Good bonding time for the children and I.

I really have Uncle  Li to thank for this treat.

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