Archive | December, 2013

The baby snatcher

12 Dec

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There are many reasons to love Malaysia and to love the people of Malaysia. There’s really only one reason to dislike them. They touch my baby. All the time.

The cleaner at the supermarket puts down her dirty rag to poke his cheek. The man who smells like cigarette smoke opens my car door to rub his face. The toothless woman coughs into her hands at the hospital and then tugs on his foot. The shop assistant stops packing away the dusty  milk cartons to kiss his hands which he’ll put into his mouth at any moment. The girl at church strokes his head while he’s sleeping and proceeds to wake him – even though it took 20minutes to get him to sleep.

At least these people stop at touching though. Because then there’s the more difficult issue of strangers asking if they can hold him. The strange woman who comes up to us at the town’s sports field. The shop assistant who can see that he’s only 7days old and can barely open his eyes. The teller who beckons me to pass him over across the counter. The school girls who approach us at a local sports days. This seems very strange to me. Why would I possibly give you my tiny baby when I’ve never met you? He’s not a toy to be passed around.

But my heart is softer to these people who actually ask. Because I really can’t stand the baby-snatchers. These are people who simply come up and attempt to take him. The restaurant owner who watches as I lift my dozzy baby out the pram after a nap, simply reaches into my arms to take him. The woman who says “Ok, I must hold him now” and without asking comes over to take. To these women, I unashamedly deny.

Although I say ‘unashamedly’, it’s not true. I always leave these situations with a sense of guilt. Am I a terrible person to find offense in this? Perhaps I’m over-protective and irrational when I make my husband change direction in the shopping centre because I see someone heading our way with that determined “I love your baby” look all over their face.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that Jack is loved by people. I love that work colleagues take delight in him and hold him and make him smile. I’m happy to give him over to the pastor’s wife at church because she’s invested time in us, visited us and prayed for us. I even enjoyed handing him over to the neighbour while I was trying to hang up laundry (this involved a rather risky choice of handing him over the fence.) But the amount of love from strangers is somewhat frightening. Is this normal, I ask? (Other parents who stumble across this blog, please feel free to comment.)

What seems even more strange to me is that when I tell other Malaysian parents about this, they seem horrified and say, “definitely don’t let a stranger hold your baby.” This makes me think that Jack is just a tourist hot spot. His strange thin blonde hair and big blue eyes are a novelty, a story to add alongside the visit to the zoo.

And while I blame the people, I blame Jack too. He smiles so much and so often that you can’t help but fall in love with him. I’m learning a valuable lesson here: that sometimes as parents we have to make unpopular decisions, even though we don’t know if it’s the best decision –  simply because we believe it’s the best for our child. And we don’t need to explain more. please_dont_touch_my_hands_i_put_them_in_my_mo_tshirt-p235864244795677530zv2q3_400

After writing this post, I did a quick google search on “Don’t touch my baby” and 100s of blogs, write ups and articles came up about the very same thing – people from all the around the world feeling the need to protect their baby. It seems as though it is not a cultural thing – but a human thing. Perhaps children attract attention in every culture and we just forget how we felt when they were our own. I hope that in years to come when my children are grown, I will remember how I felt once.

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Penang, 2 travellers and a baby

12 Dec

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Anyone who’s been bitten by the travel bug, should visit Malaysia: Not just for the beautiful beaches and cultural cities but for Air Asia and their amazing specials.

We booked a trip for the beginning of November from KL to Penang island: 2 adults return, 3 nights accommodation with breakfast for only RM300 total! That’s less than R1000 for everything! Jack’s infant plane ticket cost more than our flights.

We left Springhill early on Saturday morning with the school van. I was a little nervous at check in because Jack doesn’t have a passport yet but I’d been told that he would be allowed to fly on his Malaysian birth certificate. During the flight, I tucked Jack into the sling, gave him the dummy and left him to sleep. He fell asleep before take off and didn’t wake until we landed. We arrived at Penang early and took a local bus to Komtar station for only RM5 instead of the RM88 for a taxi. Luckily the bus was quiet and there was space to store the pram. There were a few hairy moments when the bus suddenly stopped and Jack and his pram rolled towards the door. From Komtar station, we didn’t know exactly how to get to our hotel so we took a taxi for RM10.

We’d booked into Paramount hotel which was old and gorgeous. It had high ceilings, wooden staircases, old-window bars and we had a view of the sea! Similar to Port Dickson, the sea is pretty dirty because it forms part of the Meleka strait which is the most ship-travelled ocean in the world. But the view looking over the fishing village was pretty. The wooden staircase made me feel like Mary from Downtown Abbey (a TV series Baden and I just love) and we spent half the weekend speaking in posh English accents. Unfortunately with the ‘old’ also came a few cracks. One night there was a terrible storm and the ceiling started to fall on us. Literally, little specks of paint fell onto the floor and bed. The toilet also needed ‘pumping’ before it flushed and there was a crack in the window which meant wet floors after the storm. However, considering it was close to free and it was deliciously full of character, we didn’t complain.

We took the weekend slowly, giving us all lots of time to rest. The first night we walked to Gurney drive. Baden had to put the pram into 4×4 gear as we navigated the tiny pedestrian path alongside a very very busy street. He literally rammed over broken tree branches, tiny bridges over the gutters and pavement steps. It was much nicer when we actually reached Gurney drive because of the pretty promenade which looked over the pretty ocean. Gurney drive is a shopping district with street side vendors, selling some of the best food in Malaysia. We joined the food market where hundreds of locals had set up food stalls and it was so busy that we struggled to find a free table. Baden went in search of food while I guarded our plastic chairs. He returned with a spicy seafood dish (which had pig’s blood in it apparently) and Chinese vegetable noodles for me, which I ate with my chopsticks (my Korean skill). We really enjoyed the busy atmosphere and left with stomachs full of banana pancakes.

On the way home we stopped for a cup of coffee. Baden spilt his all over the table by accident while instructing the waiter how to take a picture of us – and he lost his ice cream. Sadly, Mr Pot didn’t offer him a refill.

The following day, we ventured into Georgetown, the main reason for our visit to Penang. We were in search of the artist. Penang is particularly well-known for its street art. Most notably, the work of Ernest Zacharevic who creates works with paint and real-life objects to depict scenes of Malaysian life. We managed to find a few of them. We had a nice lunch before returning to the hotel for a quiet afternoon. Sleep and hydration are the most important aspects of travelling with a baby, in my opinion.

Our second evening was spent at Burma square, an upmarket district where people have built restaurants in old homes. (Including a KFC which operates out of a huge colonial house). We found a local eatery. Baden’s food looked great but mine was a disappointing slosh of greasy noodles which tasted exactly the same bite after bite. I didn’t finish it and we ended up buying nuts and dried fruit at the 7-eleven before home. The next day we returned to Burma square and sat for 3 hours at “The Little Wine Bar”, eating and drinking and playing scrabble. Before Jack fell asleep on the chair, I attempted to feed him quietly in the corner. The problem is he’s such a noisy eater. He gulps at milk like we gulp down a Coke on a hot day. It’s almost impossible to be discreet about it.

A few days previously I’d spotted TGIFridays which is the closest we have to Spur here. So we went back to Gurney drive for a nice dinner out. Instead we found Nandos – what a treat to have a taste from home! We thought it was a little strange that we felt so at home eating Portuguese food at a South African restaurant in Malaysia.

When we returned to Springhill the following day, I felt quite low. We’d had such an adventure as a family that it was difficult to settle back into the normal routine of washing dishes and killing spiders.

Gurney drive food vendors

Gurney drive food vendors

 

The place where Baden lost his icecream

The place where Baden lost his icecream

Street art by Ernest Zacherevic.

Street art by Ernest Zacherevic.

Street art by Ernest Zacharevic

Street art by Ernest Zacharevic

Fishing village outside our hotel

Fishing village outside our hotel

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The Dowies in Asia

2 travellers and a baby