Maureen

Lifestyle and travel blogger, founder of Single Moms Indonesia on a quest of finding joy in everyday life and living life to the fullest with kindness, compassion, grace and a bit of sass.

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Sunny Day At The Park

Well, well, well, after I blogged about how cold it has been here today’s warm sunny clear sky turned out to be a very nice break. Temperature now is 24 C (around 75 F).

After I went to get some groceries at the RT. Mart (a supermarket), I thought hey why not take this little man to the park. There’s a park that I haven’t been to a few blocks down from the apartment called Ma An Shan Park.

Ma An Shan Park

So at around 2:00 PM off we went down to that park. It’s not too close but it didn’t feel that far either. I guess after awhile, walking had returned to be a daily regular thing and it didn’t bother me as much as when I first got here. (Pssst…I began to feel my jeans are a bit loose already! Hooray for walking!). The park is nice and clean with lots of trees and plants. Sure is happy to see the No Smoking sign there.

Lil’ A immediately got super excited when he spotted the big fountain inside the park. “Waterfall! Waterfall!” he screamed in excitement.

fountain

We strolled to check the fish pond. Boy, those kois are HUGE! Too bad the water was murky that I can’t take a really good picture to show them off.

View from the other side

The park’s layout made it a bit difficult to push a stroller up the stairs. It took a bit of acrobatic action from my part to hold excited Lil’ A’s hand while carrying the stroller with the other hand to go up those stairs. The park looked quite small when you first got there but once you went up the stairs you’ll realize how big that place is.

Spotted more bride & grooms-to-be having their pre-wedding pictures taken right there at the park. I think it must’ve been the ‘wedding season’ as I saw a lot of these outdoor pre-wedding photo sessions around. Those love birds looks so cute!

Bride to be

While I was trying to sneak a picture of the happy couple, a little girl about 5/6 years old came over to Lil’ A with his mother and grandmother. The mother told her to say hello and she politely say “Hello”. She hold his hand and the mother took pictures (well, she’s not the only one!), that’s just too cute. Lil’ A was a bit confused at first but participate none the less.

Boy and his new friend

After a couple of more ‘smaller’ stairs we got to what looks like a playground for both kids and adults. There’s a small slide and a bunch of weird exercise equipments that I never even seen before. Seems like the Chinese love to exercise and that’s just what some people were doing there along with some little children.

Fun at the park

 

parkJR told me that there’s a small shop there by the playground that sell fish food so after I let Lil’ A played around we went to the shop and get some. Lil’A was super happy because there were a lot of young kids there playing although I think they’re older than him. Sometimes I feel bad for him because he haven’t got much chance to really socialize with kids his own age. The kids inside our compound are either babies or way older than he is.

Let's Play!

By time I got to persuaded Lil’ A to go back to feed the fish, a women that works there were in the middle of feeding those giant koi fishes. Oh well, maybe tomorrow we’ll get lucky. My camera’s battery ran out there, bummer!

Have a great week everyone!

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Christmas Day Adventure in Guangzhou, China

View from across Pearl River

For Christmas in China, we decided to hit the town and met up with Steve, one of the FedEx rep here who worked with my ex husband, JR.

Since we lived in the suburb (well almost a suburb) we took a bus, mind you I haven’t ride a bus in such a long time it felt like a flashback, only this time I was in China instead of Jakarta. The bus was clean and cost  12 RMB (about $1.75) per person. Lil’ A was free of charge. We got off by the Metro (subway) station of Sanyuanli. JR saw something and said he’ll be right back so Lil’ A and I waited in front a bank. He came back with what he called a Chinese version of Egg McMuffin which was super delicious!

Guangzhou Metro Station

We went into the Metro station underground, it was really nice, modern and clean but I decided not to take pictures inside. Taking the Metro is surely one of the convenience way to get around town because the signs and announcements are in English. Hopped on the Metro then got off somewhere I forgot the name but it was in downtown area of Guangzhou.

We walked down to Pearl River to meet Steve who’s been wandering around with his big Nikon camera. He suggested that we headed to see the Sacred Heart Cathedral but we decided to get a new stroller for Lil’ A since we didn’t bring his stroller and that was a huge mistake! Luckily this is China, so a stroller comes super cheap. We got ours for only 200 RMB ($30).

I was fascinated by the Sacred Heart Cathedral, it is not only beautiful but it’s also looks so majestic especially with its history. We went inside, well actually Steve and I did to take pictures while JR kept Lil’ A outside since he started to get tired and about ready to take his nap.

Sacred Heart Cathedral

Sacred Heart Cathedral

Sacred Heart Cathedral

When we were done at the Cathedral, Steve suggested we stroll down to Shamian Island then have lunch there. Well, it’s not really an island as the location is divided by a canal where the British used to settle a long time ago.

We walked through markets, different sections of the markets are very interesting. From the toys area to the packing sellers who sells plastics for packaging down to stationery. We even passed a part of the market that was super crowded, almost as crowded as the famous Beijing Lu but this street is a lot smaller. One can really feel claustrophobic in there.

Traditional Market

We then got to Shanmulan Lu, Steve who has been living on and off in China for 9 years have wide extensive knowledge of the histories here besides being super fluent in Chinese, told me that the famous SARS break out was started in that very street.

Shanmulan Lu used to be the street where people sell wild, exotic even extinct animals. Not only that these people live there in the houses surrounding the street but they also kept their wild stocks alongside their own pets thus the virus transferred from wild animals (supposedly a bat) into a pet then into human.

The street now only have a few animals sellers but they mostly sell turtles, scorpions and traditional Chinese medicine (herbs). They even had a traditional Chinese medicine school built in the area. Seeing those scorpions crawling in bowls and buckets after buckets made my skin crawl. But hey, this is China and it is considered normal to eat them although I’m not very interested in trying.

Scorpion for snack?

Turtle for sale

Shanmulan Lu

Steve said by the time we get to Shamian island the atmosphere will be different. More tranquil, and he was right. There wasn’t as many people there and you can really see the influence of British architectures there. The lushes green parks provides shades and fresh feelings from the hustling and bustling of downtown Guangzhou.

Green Park

We had lunch at an outdoor restaurant that serves Christmas feasts but we were more interested in trying their Asian meals. It was a nice place. That area is very close to the American Consulate and we saw some parents out and about with their newly adopted children.

After a late lunch, we went down to Pearl River again and just stroll around taking pictures. Steve suggested that we take a ride in one of the cruise boats that goes along the Pearl River but we passed that idea because somebody or I should say some boy was getting bored and it wouldn’t be a very nice experience to ride that boat with a screaming toddler.

Along the Pearl River

Steve invited us to his apartment across the Pearl River. We took a crossing boat to get there then walk some more. I told Mr. X that I never walked that much in my whole life before. I should’ve lost about 2-3 pounds at the end of the day with the walking that we were doing.

At his apartment,  showed us the view from his 29th floor’s balcony. It was kinda scary to be standing up that high and looking down but since it was getting dark I didn’t feel too scared. We talked a lot about photography and he gave me pointers, even let me used his tripod to take a better picture from his balcony.

View From 29th Floor

From there Mr. X wanted us to go have dinner at Pandan (Indonesian Restaurant). Too bad we got lost because that place isn’t very well known or easy to spot so we called it a night and headed home instead. My feet were throbbing and poor Lil’ A threw up in the cab, probably from a bottle of orange juice we gave him without diluting it first. He’s fine now so nothing to worry about.

So, that’s the long story of our first Christmas in China. I sure do miss the familiar feelings of Christmas with our families in both corners of the world but I am thankful for this opportunity to experience living here.

Hope you had a blessed Christmas!

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Guangzhou China The First 48 Hours

China 003

We arrived in Guangzhou, China on Thursday afternoon after 2 hours delayed in Jakarta. The views from above were amazing with rows after rows of apartments buildings and more high rises buildings.

I was pretty tired after we got back to the apartment not merely from the flight but from all the running around and lack of sleep since a few days before our trip here. JR asked us to go to a mall nearby where there’s also a supermarket to get some stuff early in the evening.

Don’t worry the mall close late here,” he assured me.

So off we walked down to the mall and although it is not too far its also not that close either. He then explained to me that he had learn to walk slow here. Walk slow? Yeah,  one could literately sweat so much with a paced walk from the high humidity. He also pointed out to the others who really does walks a bit slower and looks as if they’re just strolling for some fresh air.

At the supermarket, I was surprised to see how we must hand our purse (even diaper bag!) to this lady at a small counter before you enter the place. The girl will put your purse inside what looks like a large red shopping bag which they will be sealed by the zipper. It looks like those security tags you see hanging from clothes on a large department store that will buzz an alarm if you try to take it out of the store.

To prevent thieves” JR explained. So I just took one sippy cup out and had the lady bagged my bag.

The supermarket is crowded and big, similar to ones in Jakarta. But, with my dark skin, a white husband, and a toddler, we really do stand out like a sore thumb.

People stare at us. It is nothing new for me because people in Indonesia does this too, the only difference here is people obviously will stare at you. At least Indonesians will ‘pretend’ that they’re not staring. These people will drive by and still stare at you (well, on this case pushing their shopping carts) and stare at you until they’re too far to look.

One thing that I learn from the supermarket expedition is the Chinese people will bumped you or even hit you with their carts without a care, just like one lady did to me while I was walking while carrying Lil’ A. Her shopping cart successfully hit the back of my feet pretty hard and as I turned around to see her, she acts as if nothing’s wrong without one trace of ‘I’m sorry’ on her face.

It took JR to explain to his one pissed off ex-wife that the Chinese don’t flag out their apology like the western does because they are afraid to ‘lose face’.  Another shocker was people will obviously stare and scan the contents of your shopping cart. I personally think that is kinda rude but then again, this is China!

Another TCM (This is China Moment) happened when I keep spotting guys (both young and elderly Chinese) walking around inside the mall and supermarket with their bellies hanging – shirts up high to their chest. I know it was really hot (plus the aircon inside the mall is not very accommodating). Let’s just say that I need to get used to this un-pretty sights from now on.

Haven’t seen anyone spitting like I’ve been ‘warned’.

In general, the people are so friendly and smile at you a lot. Although, I feel like a total alien here only equipped with two Chinese words of “Ni hao” and “Xie xie” while the people down to the security guards at our apartments seems to love to chat and will chatter in Cantonese (that’s the language most people in Guangzhou mostly uses) in a lightning speed. I had tried to find a Cantonese dictionary in Jakarta to no avail and only got a picture dictionary of Mandarin. Luckily, JR already picked a few words after being here for two months now.

The apartment complex is actually a nice one. Plenty of trees, nice landscapes, clean, equipped with lots of security guards and it’s a gated community. But there’s just one thing that I have to get used to…seeing my neighbors’ laundry hanging at their balconies. A dryer is often times beyond reach to these people who are like Indonesians are more accustomed to sun dry their laundry. Thanks God, I had successfully persuaded JR to get us a dryer.

China Apartment

Its been a rainy season here and one cannot predict the weather as it might rain suddenly, thus the high humidity level. After a brief worrisome period about pollution in Guangzhou, I’m relieved to know that we’re not living in the downtown area where pollution is at its highest. We live in Huadu district, approximately 20-30 minutes away from the city. Here, although still very hot, I can still see some blue skies especially after it rains. Maybe the rain does well by clearing up the air from any unseen existing pollution.

The food here is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!

On my first night here after a trip to the supermarket, JR offered to buy dinner while I rest. An offer I’d be glad to take since I was too tired to even think of fixin’ dinner. He then came back with this yummylicious noodles (forgot what they’re called in Chinese but Indonesians will spot them as ‘kwetiaw‘ and some dumplings. That was the best ‘kwetiaw’ I ever had (and I normally doesn’t really like them) and the dumplings were so out of this world!

For our second night here JR took us to a restaurant across the street.

The place looks nice and clean with pictures on their menu with some English translations. Didn’t know what to order, I let JR picked one for me as he’s been there quite regularly. He ordered fried rice for himself and some chicken for me also fried noodles for Lil’ A.

The portions of meals served here are HUGE!

My meal came and it looks delicious and my stomach roar from the mere smell of it. It was rice with chicken on a hot ceramic bowl served a sunny side up egg on top, stir-fried baby bok choy on the side and another veggy I’m not familiar with. It was really good!

A Chinese Meal

But you have to be careful with the chicken bones! What I thought to be boneless chicken turned out still have bones and marrows on them. Ouchy! You suppose to nibble them in your mouth then spit the bones or any leftover marrows back to the bowl but it’s not an easy practice, I should say. I do know how to use chopsticks before but my skills need to be improved.

Ok, that’s my long story of our first 48 hours in China.

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Not-So-Asian Figure

I am not your typical Asian…

My first ‘homecoming’ was in October 2007 after living in America for over 2 years. It was a really wonderful trip as I got to introduce our baby Lil’ A to my whole family.

But it’s not all fun and here’s why…

Stupidly I followed one of my friend’s advice to pack light as in pack little clothes for me since I was flying alone with a baby. Her idea is actually brilliant but it just didn’t work me. Why? Easy, because of my size!

If you only knew how giddy I was when Mr. X and I first went shopping after I got there – you would think I’m nuts but in reality, fitting into something with size “S” on it felt like a victory.

Pregnancy made my size went up and after Lil’ A was born my weight lingered between Medium (8-10).

Since I didn’t pack enough clothes for me, I dragged my mother to go shopping with me. That one shopping trip turned to be a nightmare all over again.

Why?

Because it brought back those unpleasant memories when I was still living there. How I either had to shell out more money to buy something with numerical sizes instead of the typical Indonesian S, M, L or I had to settle for an XL which was hanging on me in a weird way.

You see, I inherited this not-typical-Asian-size body parts from my mother’s side of the family. They are real!

While my arms have never been huge, with a wide shoulder and big bust, it’s always a pain in you know where to find the right fit for me. When I was still working, I usually bought the large size button up shirts and secured the areas between the buttons with lots of safety pins because XL fit on the chest but too big on other parts.

Okay, back to shopping with my mother, I winced when the “L” size doesn’t even fit me, I ballooned up to an “extra-large” and it makes me feels less beautiful and less Indonesian and even humiliated as the shop attendant said in her overly cheery voice that they have XXL size if the XL doesn’t fit me. Good gracious! I just wanted to storm out of that store…

I know I still have some post-baby weight to shed (probably 10-20 more pounds!) and I did gain weight too before I got pregnant but standing there weighing 150 lbs and 5’5” I felt like a giant.

This proportions may be considered average for American women. But by Indonesian fashion standards, I’m definitely not a “medium.”

At first, I don’t really understand why the whole thing bothered me so much. Besides, I don’t live in Indonesia anymore and I could always find something that fit me perfectly back in the States, where there is always room for a plus-sized woman in American fashion no matter what size you are.

Mr. X showed me an article after I ‘complaint’ about what happened.

This Asian-American girl wrote a similar situation and she wrote: “Then it strikes me… “Small” means you are cute and adorable. Small means you are beautiful. Small means you are Asian.

Her words resonated so deeply, I was trying to squeeze my self into that ‘Asian standard’ figure, I was blind!

My own body image had been somewhat distorted especially growing up in Indonesia. Hanging around my friends with their model-like proportions where everyone is so thin and small…it’s easy to feel like a giant.

I’m not one who fit into the stereotype of ‘slim and slender Asians’, I’ve never been small, although now looking back at those old pictures I realized I’m not as big as my mind told me.

I was once fat – I have to admit that –  in High School, I weigh close to a whopping 200 pounds. No, I’m not going to post pictures from high school and scared the hell out of you!

After High School, crash diets and all crazy stuff I slimmed down to 110 pounds but in my head, I’m still huge. Well, perhaps when you live amongst your slim, slender and mostly tiny Asian fellows, you’d feel like I did…a giant in the land of the small. Who knows the psychology behind it!

Here’s what I looked like last month:

Now that I realized I may never be as thin as they are, and seeing the obesity rates in this town where I live, I can say that I will never let those size tags dictate how am I suppose to feel any more or define who I am. So, I’ll try to look at my self and be proud of what I have instead of counting every single curve and flab that I wanted to change…besides like one of my friends said; “Most Asian women want to have those rack of yours!

Does your body image change after having a child?

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