Monday, October 28, 2013

UN Day at GIS

Have you been to the Muppet's 4D attraction at Hollywood Studios, Disney World, FL, USA? There's this scene where Sam the Eagle organizes, "A salute to all nations (but mostly, America)!" Being in the US - from the US - we do learn about and celebrate other nations. But in the end, I feel like we tend to refocus somewhat back to the good ol' USA. As a child living outside the US, I was fortunate to attend schools in the exceptional Department of Defense School System. There, of course, most kids were American. And while we had international flair, we celebrated in a very Sam the Eagle way, saluting all nations, but mostly America. I think this is why UN Day at the children's school was so exciting for me. Because the school is not American-based, the celebration had no US filter. And while I, of course, still view it from an American vantage point, it was a thrill to watch and experience and to see my kids engaged. So far, this was my very favorite event at the Garden International School.

Yep - I do recognize that my reference here for UN Day -- Sam the Eagle -- is entirely US-based! While Disney has opened theme parks across the globe, including China, Mickey totally travels on a US passport. (For Nicole: I wonder if Mickey had trouble getting a visa for China?)

UN Day started with the kids being asked to dress up in "traditional" dress, or in the colors of their flag. Ugh. What to wear? Coyboys and Native American Indians? No. USA colors of red, white, and blue - well those are also the Malaysian flag colors, and the UK, and the French. So no. So the Pohl/Garibaldi family went with... BASEBALL! By the way, we found one other American kid in school on UN Day. I saw a Year 4 boy walking near me in a Detroit Lions uniform, and shocked the poor child when I called out that I recognized the jersey. So I guess our dress up idea is American enough, since the only other US family in the Primary school did the same thing...

Tyler's class
The girls from Japan looked amazing... did the Korean girls!
Representing the Americas.
Violet's class took pictures by country. For me, the best part was seeing the kids' flags. Since a flag has two sides, kids with two cultural identifications could put one flag on one side and one on the other. For example, one of Vi's classmates had an Indonesian/French flag. His parents are Indonesian, but he spent the last five years in France before moving to Malaysia.
Vi and Ty, decked out in USA, grouped up with their class at the start of the school day and, after picture taking, headed out to the field. The classes paraded in with an MC introducing the classes and saying things like, "Welcome Year 2, with Brazil leading the way." And "Mr. so-and-so wore his kilt. Give him a cheer!" And "There's a student from the Netherlands. Shout if you are wearing orange!" (I had to ask my Dutch friend what that meant; orange is the color of the Dutch royal family descended from the House of Oranje). This was all staged to rockin' pop music (yes, mostly American, thank you; but with some Bob Marley mixed in -- I'm sure much to the appreciation of our Jamaican friends). At the end of the celebration, the kids all sang a song together. I've tried to put the clip into the blog, but I'm not sure if it will work. At the subsequent parents' assembly and breakfast, the Head of School let us know that in prior years, the kids paraded onto the field with their countries (think Olympic opening games). But this year, the school deliberately changed the arrangement. UN Day is about togetherness and understanding - so they walked in by class, together as one school. Bravo GIS.

From the parents' breakfast: Further proof that there is at least one US family in GIS Primary. Someone made blueberry muffins.
I'm regularly asked, "Why did you send your children to Garden International School. Did you know that the American School is a few streets away?" Of course there are multiple facets to the answer, GIS was a bit less expensive and it's a 15 minute walk from our apartment to GIS, while it's a 30 minute walk to the American school. But also, spending only two years in Malaysia, there was a part of me that wanted to expose the kids to the broadest international experience possible. Why move from the US to put the kids in school with a bunch of American kids, right?

I'll admit that in making this decision, I neglected to appropriately understand the magnitude of cultural difference in this adjustment, especially for Violet. But now having been in the school for over a month, I'm very glad we selected GIS; and UN Day made me feel even better. Violet is settling in and, while she still misses Park, she's again confident in the academics and in her social life. She's made many friends in school. Tyler is excellent all around and spends every minute at school with his BFF - see the pics of them from UN Day.

On Friday, Tyler's class held a UN Day food tasting. Each child was asked to bring in a food representing his or her country. I asked Tyler what he wanted to bring. His reply: "kiwi... bananas... pineapple." Okay, he needed a bit of help. But so did I, actually. What is American food? Tyler all out vetoed Maryland crab cakes. I also thought about some of my New Orleans favorites. But Ty didn't even know what gumbo was, so how could I make it for American day? Violet was pushing hard for "hamburgers and milkshakes" but Tyler didn't want that one, and also we heard that there should be no beef or pork brought to the school. We took the conversation to FaceBook -- thank you all for the replies, including trans-fat. We ended up selecting a theme: Thanksgiving dinner. We had chicken breast to represent the turkey and Tyler and I made some delicious pumpkin. We printed out pictures and Tyler told everyone in his class the story of the first Thanksgiving. (At one point seriously confusing someone about "the Indians" -- I clarified that it was Native American Indians.) It ended up a very fun activity for the kids and parents!

Scotland's haggis balls (made with chicken). F's mum didn't get my "Harriett. Har-ri-ett. Hard-hearted harbinger of haggis" reference. Who out there does?
Singapore - the best exhibit. The video clip running on the iPad is out of the picture frame...
Malaysia - not a fancy set up, but the best food, by far, hands down!
Belgian chocolates - on the top of the box - were the kids overall #1 favorite.
But Ty's favorite were the poffertjes, Holland's tiny puffed pancakes with powered sugar.
Speaking of food and Asian cultures, I purchased a weekly delivery from an organic farm. I got the "Asian box - large". Overall, it's excellent, but there were a heck of a lot of greens and I have no idea what any of them they are! We spent the week nibbling and asking "hmm, eat this one raw or cooked, hmm..."

I'll report again soon. We have another big week coming up: Halloween, Deepavali celebration at school (with rangoli making), and a trip to Malaysia's Legoland.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Climbing the Walls

Following up from my last blog (as I know you all are in suspense awaiting a popcorn-finding mission update): Yes! I found yummie, delightful popcorn. I educated myself before ordering. "Popcorn" on the menu is actually caramel corn. Good stuff with a crunchy delight of salt and sweet (Brian ordered it), but not what I wanted. The second popcorn on the menu was "Popcorn Lite" - it's caramel corn with some nasty artificial sweetener in the caramel. Then there is "Popcorn Salt"... AHHH! Looks like... smells like... Yes! Popcorn. Of course being scooped out of a bin next to the caramel corn, every few bites I found a stray piece of caramel corn that had made its way into my Popcorn Salt. A bit odd when first eating it, but I'll take it. Best part of the movies, a large popcorn is RM7 ($2.30). Although the large is the size of a US small, so I bought two. And matinee tickets were RM10 ($3.30) each. So all and all, not a bad little Saturday. By the way, Brian ate the entire caramel corn and had his first migraine in 4 years later that night...connected?

While this was our first trip to the movies in Malaysia, we're excited to check out Malaysia's movies theaters "classes." For Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, we went standard class. "Gold class" screenings provide lazy boy type recliners, blankets, and beer service. Gold class tickets are pricey so Brian and I are saving that as a special treat. Maybe for Thor later this month and definitely for the Hobbit 2 in December.

On Sunday, Toby, Ying Wei, and I spent a few hours at a local climbing gym (in a mall). It's a really nice gym and I had a blast. I really haven't climbed since before I had kids. It's amazing how fast it comes back - knots, belaying, climbing form. 15 pounds heavier, I could still get up the wall. I'm looking forward to going back with Toby and Ying Wei and maybe Brian, too. I also wanted to try the kids out climbing, so I signed them up for a kids climbing session on Tuesday. As there was a public holiday and school was out, I was looking for something to occupy them and get out some energy. Violet loved climbing, but Tyler not so much. He was nervous about the height and, while he kept trying, he couldn't get up over about 15 feet or so. I think we'll go back again as a family and climb.

Violet and Ty on the wall...
By the way, remember last post when I provided the three words in English every American should know before arriving in KL? And I mentioned that here people say "toilet" meaning the whole bathroom area, right? So while climbing I had a really funny encounter. I was looking for a place to refill my water bottle and I asked one of the climbers. He said, "Go ahead and fill it from the toilet." I must have had an odd look, because he continued, "Don't worry. The toilet water is totally fine. It's filtered." I will never, ever say that I'm drinking toilet water and it's totally fine.

The kids officially signed up for capoeria this week. They both LOVE the class. To initiate them into the capoeria club, they placed their hand prints on the wall of the studio. How sweet!

It's been a good week for food. On Sunday, Nicole invited us over for dinner on her patio. Her apartment has a wonderful private outdoor space with a small pool and grill. This is the first time we've grilled since our arrival in KL. Our building does have shared grilling space, but it seems a lot of work to buy coals, go down to the pool, etc. So grilling at Nicole's was a treat! Yesterday, our long-term visiting faculty known affectionately as "the Mary's" (that's Mary and Mary Ann) returned to Baltimore. They wanted one last meal on Jalan Alor, so of course, we agreed. And I'm not ashamed -- I ate nearly the entire plate of Lillian's salt and pepper squid myself. So yum. We also had our first real dinner party at our place. Nicole and Modupe came over for Lucky Meat steaks and Nico and Isabel, who live a few floors up in our building, popped down, too. So great to spend time with friends! Oh, the kids also wanted me to share this picture of them making lemon aide.

Mary and Mary Ann's final dinner out at The Fatty Crab.

Fresh and tasty coconuts on Jalan Alor
Yesterday, we got together with a family from Violet and Tyler's school. They are also new to Malaysia, having arrived just before the start of the school year from Paris and before that from their home in Amsterdam. After letting the kids play in the apartment, we went out for dinner. As my mom and dad have booked their plane tickets to KL for August and have had their first round of vaccinations, I wanted to try out a place known for its yakisoba, my dad's favorite Japanese dish. Unfortunately, we arrived at the restaurant to find that it had moved. The Korean pole dancing place next door did not know the restaurant's new location and Monique and I vetoed this establishment as a place to eat our dinner. However, around the corner we found a super wonderful Korean BBQ complete with tables on the floor and amazing little dishes. The serving staff were great with the kids - bringing out non-spicy soup and fried eggs, and magic tricks - as we adults chowed on the kimchi and spicy bibimbop.

(We let the kids take the dinner photos! Not too many were in focus/or did not cut out Monique.)
Our Christmas vacation plans are nearly in place. Yay! Only one leg of seven still left to book. After I get all the bookings complete, I'll update you on all on the exciting plans.

Seen this weekend at the mall... The place was packed with shoppers. Why?  We hear it might drop down to 75 degrees tonight if there's a storm!