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We have been in Malaysia for 3 weeks now and although we still call Canada “home” we are feeling quite settled here.
Ella Starts School
Ella started preschool last week at the International School in Ipoh and that has brought lots of challenges and tears. Although the school is an International school in name, most of the students are Chinese – Malaysian (90-95%) and the rest are expat children. They are based on the British system here, which uses August as their cutoff for school, instead of December, which we use in Canada. With Ella’s birthday being in October, they told us she would be in the toddler classroom and would move to preschool in September. If we were in Canada, Ella would have started junior kindergarten this September and we really didn’t want her to be behind when we went home. We also really wanted her to be in the same class with her friend from down the street, Tasha, who is born earlier in the year. After much discussions, the school agreed to let Ella be in the older classroom.
After her first day, the teachers were concerned that both girls had trouble sitting still and following instructions all morning. In Canada, early childhood education is play-based and child-centered and here the 3 year olds are expected to sit at desks for most of the morning and follow detailed instructions. They even have books, which we had to purchase for language, numbers, and Chinese (yes, somehow she is supposed to learn how to speak and write Mandarin and Bahasa, the local language). The school day is from 8:30-12:30 and by the time we get home it is 1 and Ella hasn’t even had lunch – makes for one grumpy 3 year old. In the morning you queue in your vehicle to drop your child off at the front entrance (you don’t even get out of your car) and your child is whisked into the school by the teachers. At 12:30, again you queue in your vehicle. The students assemble in the main hallway with one of the teachers using a megaphone to call the students name when their parents vehicle is out front – hilarious!
School is much more regimented and structured than we are used to (and we would prefer). I looked into other schools including a Montessori school and the women there said it is difficult here because the parents don’t want their children playing at school and they want their children to have homework. I find it interesting that in education circles at home, we agonize about how our system stifles creativity and yet this system makes our system look extremely progressive. Ella has two uniforms for school (a red plaid smock and her PE (Phys Ed) outfit of shorts and a t-shirt) – see cute photos. She has had a tough transition and has spent a lot of time in the evenings crying hysterically about not wanting to go to school and wanting to go back to Canada – breaks our hearts. I think her tears are compounded by her dropping her afternoon nap and being overtired. She seems to be following directions more at school now, although we still have teary drop offs.
My day consists of a lot of driving around – dropping and picking up Ella from school and getting groceries and supplies. I get very excited to find something like salsa or Heinz ketchup in the grocery stores. I got the kids set up with a pediatrician here, and Gavin got caught up on his immunizations. I also got setup with an obstetrician here (yes, baby #3 will be coming in July) and I really liked the doctor. They do ultrasounds here every appointment…seems unnecessary, but very fun to see baby. After each appointment you take your invoice to a cashier’s desk (kind of feels like a casino!) where you pay your bill. Each appointment seems to be 150R (50 CDN), and we have insurance coverage through Paul’s work. We are using the “Specialist Hospital”, which is the premier hospital in Ipoh. Most of the doctors are trained overseas and we have been impressed with the standard of care.
I have up and down days as I get used to this completely new pace of life. I find my days busy with prepping meals for the kids, constantly cleaning up after the kids and trying to think of fun things to do with them. It is a big change from the days when I was working full time, just a few weeks ago. I will admit to some days feeling incredibly bored and wanting a break from the kids. But I am appreciating all the quality time I have with the kids and the fairly relaxing pace of life.
- they want your passport here for everything – to get a cell phone, to apply for a Tesco (grocery store) card, to do anything at the bank
- when you are using your visa, they will ask for your PIN number (they expect you to tell it to them so they can punch it in). We of course
- always ask to do it ourselves.
- they love plastic bags here. Paul got KFC the other day and got three separate bags – his drink went in one, fries in another and chicken in a third. Certainly no 5cents a bag charge!
- Gavin gets ridiculous amounts of attention from all the old Chinese ladies wherever we go who love to pinch his cheeks and rub his head. He is really hamming it up for them and giggles and waves.
- Love the cheap gas prices (65 cents CDN/litre)
- you have to fill in your occupation on every form you fill in here. At first I left it blank, but then they would always ask, “you housewife?”