Saturday, 25 April 2009

Visit to Victoria Part 1

I can write about this now because it is over a week since we left. And I needed a week to get some distance and perspective.

Photos will follow when I learn how to download my waterproof camera (yes - I used to know how, now I can't find the connection thingy).

We flew during the day to Aus - that is a first and absolutely not the last. It felt very short and the kids were great (couldn't eat the rubbish kids meals, but we were prepared this time with sandwiches and snacks).

Got into Melbourne to the hotel without complaint (Brighton Savoy). Chose that because near the in laws - although never been to Brighton before. My trustee navigator (C girl) was excellent and we got a quiet room.

On Thursday morning we had breakfast by the bay (at 10am (7am Jakarta time)). Then went to the "big" shopping centre of Chadstone (not very big in comparison to Jakarta shopping centres - but things we were interested in - ie. home /craft stores, not versace, chanel etc).

At 3 we had finished our list and headed to the kids Grandfathers house. He is married to J's stepmum and the whole dynamics is a bit arkward. We have set names for them, but the kids don't see them often and they forget regularly. He has serious alzeimers, so he didn't have a clue who we were or what the connection was. I showed him photos of our holiday and he was kind and friendly towards the kids and I. He even told us some stories about his travel (20 years ago) through Canada - all of which were correct.

J's two half sisters were there, one with her brand new 3 week old baby Matilda. Beautiful little baby. She is 24 and has landed on her feet beautifully (it may not sound it being 24 with a baby, but trust me - she is doing fantastically). Our nephew was there also - hadn't seen him for 1 1/2 years - so he is 2 1/2 now. Bubbly little kid. Very happy and inquisitive (the kids liked him big time). We went out to dinner in the famous Lygon street with their partners. It was great - first to think my kids are old enough to go to a nice resturant and behave - second to company that was related (I've known them since they were 5 and 9) and third, to be in Aus at a resturant - J was very jealous when I told him where we were.

We got home at 10, a man walking down the hall HAD to comment that it was very late for kids - I HAD to comment that it was only 7pm where they had been yesterday. When we got to our quiet room - guess what - there was a wedding directly below - and I could hear every word of the music and speeches.

The kids went to sleep. I lay there listening to iconic Australian songs. Typical wedding speeches and more great Australian songs. I couldn't decide whether to ring and find out what time it was all going to end, or to get changed and go join them. I did neither - it finished at 11:30 and I think I heard every Aussie song that has ever been written.

At 6, I awoke to VOMITING. Poor C girl was having a shocking time. We moved to Imi's house (J's step sister (NOTE - he has 3 sisters - all are awesome, strong, smart, hardworking, caring mum's who it is a pleasure to be related to). C girl went to bed for most of the day and vomited EVERYTHING she was in contact with. The other two went to the park, went fishing and generally had a fantastic day with their two closest cousins (age wise they aren't exactly close, but they just all get along brilliantly and can't get enough of each other -it's been that way for the last 4 years)

The next day C girl woke up as good a new. Easter Saturday. We went to Flynn's house - their 2 1/2 year old cousin, where they played and ran around outside with him. We went for lunch to a playground pub, where the kids grandparents and J's other sister and family came as well. The kids had a great time. I got my roast lamb I had been wanting for the last 6 months.

At about 3 we went to an inner city playground with Imi and her kids (Chelsea hadn't seen anyone the day before and Flynn needed to have his afternoon nap) - St Kilda Adventure Playground. It was excellent. We had fish and chips for dinner (with a fried dim sim and a potato cake) - it was one of those dinners that I had dreamed of (sad isn't it when you miss certain foods - but in this case - glad I don't get it often).

Easter Sunday started fantastic. Easter Bunny had been busy and there was a major easter egg hunt throughout the house and backyard. My kids taught their cousins how to play on the trampoline - Jakarta style. So at 8am on a frosty Melbourne morning - 5 kids were bouncing on a wet trampoline with the hose going - in their undies (jocks for bear okay J?). It was freezing. But they didn't care - they stayed that way for 1 1/2 hours - until I had packed the car. A warm bath later and we were on our way to Ballarat.

I had misunderstood the invitation to J's Aunt and Uncles in Ballarat. I didn't realise it was for lunch - and I didn't want to turn up at lunchtime hungry. So I spent an hour trying to find food on Easter Sunday that fitted Fusspot C girl (grilled chicken was the order of the day). Thankfully, after buying some buns from Bakers Delight, Lynn rang to say they were just about to have lunch - where were we????? Being 5 minutes away we got there in time to devour yum steak and sausages, and of course - salad. It was delish - C girl had four helpings.

We got to catch up with our flower girl from our wedding (she grew a foot in the year from being selected to when we got married - she was at least 5 foot tall when we got married) - but she was someone we saw every week (we were very close to J's aunt/uncle/grandparents when we were at Uni - we visited them weekly (if you met them you would know why - they are awesome). She had been to London to live since we had seen her last (almost 7 years ago). She now had 2 children (2 and 6 months). Still incredibly close to her parents and the whole place is just one full of love and appreciation. Uncle Malc had an electric train system that took up half the garage. It was fantastic (and exactly what J is hoping to achieve one day).

Our time there was too short. We headed for the deep south - 3 hours - to my hometown..........

Friday, 24 April 2009

Home Sweet Home

By popular demand - I present - Our HOME (see Imi, I did listen between G&T's and wine).

Our grass hut in the slum world of Jakarta - well - something like that anyway.
There are three houses in the complex. We love living there, not just for the house itself but because we have neighbours where the adults and kids get along great. We have events like Chinese new year, halloween and even the odd play. But we also live very seperately (no needy spouses around this complex).

Yes - there is a vomit of colour on our walls. Especially blue - which happens to be my favorite colour. There are a total of 12 colours on the walls in our house - we had it painted before we moved in (I cannot stomach white or cream walls). And before you ask - yes - the kids all sleep in the same room (their choice). The lego room was supposed to be bears room - but he didn't want to miss the party.

As you can see - there is plenty of room for visitors (hint hint all relatives and friends (don't make me name names)).

Oh - and if I haven't mentioned it before - we love living here. Next to school, the house would be the second thing I would miss most about Jakarta.

Can you blame me?

Singapore Airlines

As you know, I've just been to Aus. More on that later. This is a blog I need to write to get it out there - my anger that is.

In this part of the woods, Singapore Airlines has been the Queen airlines as far as our family is concerned. If travelling by economy, we will chose it over any other airlines - having travelled with them to Vancouver and back over christmas and every other time we have had the option.

When travelling back from Aus, we got to the airport counter just over 2 hours before the flight was set to leave. Oh my goodness. The line almost went out the door.

I was travelling alone with 3 kids and was in the Melbourne International Airport - one I have never been in before (besides arriving there 10 days earlier). We dutifully lined up, being told by the nice man in front of us that they had only just opened the counters to "save money".

5 counters for normal check in, 3 counters for internet check in - then on the other side of the line, all alone, was 1 first class check in and 2 business class check ins. Don't get me started on the ratio of check in counters to passengers - we don't really need to go there do we? Having just spent a week in hicksville, the internet checkin had not been an option (and this line was obscene also at the time). We waited.

I sent the two girls over to the business class counter when it was free of a line, to ask if we could check in there - no they were told, gold card only. I turned to face the business class counters. For over half of the time one or both of the counters was empty - vacant, the ladies twidling their thumbs. They didn't take a single passenger out of the line.

What happened next disgusts me the most. I let my children go to the toilet alone in an airport in Australia. Not only am I already totally ashamed of myself (very bad things have occured in toilets in Australia) but disgusted as well - was catching that plane really worth their safety? I should have gone with them and then come back to the end of the line (don't worry about the logistics of getting two trolleys with 4 suitcases out of that line).

When the fine man in front of me got to the front of the cue, the lady from business class came over and took him to her counter. That was 60 minutes after we had asked and 75 minutes after we lined up. He was the first one she had done this to. The actual check in time wasn't too long. I had an odd box that needed to go into a cage. I waited at the service counter for another 5 minutes. One person was "busy" on her computer and wouldn't make eye contact. When the other person finished their customer and I said - just need a key for this - she said - oh, I'll open it for you (I just needed the key passed over) - she shot the other person a deadly look for me.

With three children we ran through customs (not a pleasant experience) and made the plane as one of the last people on the plane. The 20 or so people behind us in the cue were the last ones on - obviously.

My question: Why hasn't singapore airlines in Australia heard of Computers at the airport that you check in with and print the tickets out, then drop off your luggage at a counter. I don't know - how about like the ones Singapore Airlines use in Canada? Or the ones the airlines use in London (for at least the last 2 years)???? If you are saving costs - why not try some technology.

The fact that the business class check ins only started to take people over to check in when it was obvious the plane was going to be held up is DISGUSTING. And the fact that they didn't take the families first is ABSOLUTELY SHAMEFUL.

Do I want special consideration because I've got kids - let's put it this way. On the 7 1/2 hour flight, who is responsible for making sure the kids are quiet, behaved and fed. Does anyone other than the child's parents take that responsibility? There's no village up there on that plane. Is the experience not traumatic enough (the poor people in front of us had a 6 mth - 1 year old that screamed the entire flight - they were exhausted by the end).

So yes - families should take preference for things like a quicker check in (NZ understand this with customs). As if an international flight isn't something that is already traumatic.

If they are saving money - maybe they need to rethink their strategy - I don't know - like when there are no business class passengers checking in, one of the two check in's could be used for families? Not rocket science I would have thought.

So - sorry Singapore Airlines - not going to travel with you again. Especially not when with the kids by myself. And I will warn everyone I know that they are taking cost cutting to a new level. A very pathetic, annoying, leaves a bad taste in my mouth level.