Sunday, November 24, 2013

The dude just wants to be a comic artist.

My dad has been asking me when Luqman is going to start preparing for IGCSE. Because my dad still thinks his grand children will definitely take the degree route. The truth is, they might not. And I have not tell him yet :-P

It has been a year since we gave Luqman a break. When we made a deal he will have a gap year this year, the dude is just happy that he finally can draw in peace. Without being scolded by teachers. 
The deal is he's not going to do any academic work in 2013. He's free to explore his interests. He will start working on his IGCSE in 2014 and then proceed to A-level. We chose IGCSE & A-level as we feel it's one of the most recognized qualification. With IGCSE, he can apply to most universities in any part of the world except US. That's the minimum that I am most comfortable with. Whether he choose to proceed to pursue a degree, that's up to him. 

As we are coming to the end of 2013, I start having second thoughts. I am seriously thinking of extending his gap year. This year, theoretically he's free. In reality, he has been quite busy.

For a few months after his PMR exam, he was involved with Childline Child Advocacy Project. It was a great exposure for him on advocacy, children issues and media.
He started teaching art to the special teenagers in YIREH weekly since March. 
He has been travelling and learning on the road.
He has been attending courses and workshops related to art, writing, story telling, game design, animation and graphics. Introduction to sequential/visual storytelling by Sheldon Goh at KDU College.
When there's opportunity, we made him mingle with professionals. Just to expand his views. He won a scholarship to Ecoknights Camp earlier this year and he had the opportunity to listen to presentations from various professionals related to environment.
He has been volunteering with Box of Delights Family Theatre a few times to help behind the scene. He got to work with the artist and explore his strengths in creative lines.
So yeah. He has been quite busy. The good news is it's a healthy kind of busy. 

Throughout these activities, he learned more about himself. And I learn more about him too. Things I have never realized before.

I learn he's pretty good with kids.
 I learn he's a good teacher. I always thought he's more suitable to work alone. When he taught the orphans in Chiang Mai, I realized he can connect with people very well.
I learn he tends to over analyze things. 
His surfing coach told him to leave his brain at the beach and just surf.
I learn over time, he has learn to be more committed. Recently, while working with Box of Delights' crews, he was asked to create a few designs. It was a last minute thing and he's still very amateurish with Adobe. I have to admit I never thought he would pull it off. He stayed up all night and completed the design the next morning. I have to say, I was very impressed. Not with the designs. But with his commitment of getting things done. He has come a long way.
 In contrary to what he thinks, I learn he has other interests besides drawing comic. Like wood carving and building models. Which affirm my belief, he shouldn't narrow his option at 16yo. 
So yeah. Writing these down made me realize he has grown and blossom. And I think this is only possible because he has the freedom and luxury of time. Compared to his schooling days, he's not tired.

The next question is, should we stick to the plan and get him to prepare for IGCSE or should we give him a bit more time to explore himself?? 

When we went for Ubud Reader Writer Festival recently, he got the chance to meet quite a number of authors, cartoonists, illustrators and artists. Most of them say the same thing. Explore. Keep drawing, stick to your style but broaden your portfolio. If you love drawing comic, that's fine. Stick to it but learn to do other things too.
Maybe we should let him meet more people and explore more options before he decides on his path.

A friend asked me...
What's the rush? Yeah. I don't know either.
If he's doing well, why not keep it a bit longer? Errmm...yeah. Maybe.
If he's quite sure of his direction and he's leaning more and more towards art, why waste time do IGCSE? Why not explore liberal art education??

I have been scouring more information and talking to friends. We are still contemplating. Maybe we would let him have another year of gap year. Get him to do some internship or something. He told me he wants to start writing. Maybe children book or a graphic novel. I have no idea where this will lead him to. But I guess, another gap year will not do him  any harm. 

What do you think??? Do share with me your thoughts.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

10 Things to do in Bali with kids; Off the beaten path.

Here are 10 things you can do in Bali with the kids.


1. Taman Nusa, Gianyar
The centre is not just about Bali. It's a cultural centre about Indonesia. It's a great place to do a crash course on Indonesian culture and architecture. There are also dances and performances. The entrance fees include a guided tour. Please allocate at least half a day to tour this place. When we went, some museums are not ready yet. Nevertheless, it took us almost 3 hours to tour the whole place.

2. Stay in Bambu Indah

Bambu Indah is in Desa Sayan, which is about 15 minutes drive to Ubud. They provide free shuttle to Ubud in the morning and evening. There are many activities you can do here. We took the tour and visited the bamboo factory, Green School and Green Village. It's really inspiring to learn about John Hardy's work in Green School and learn about bamboo architecture and great designs in Green Village. We also visited John Hardy's jewellery factory and learn how they made jewellery from recycled silver. Kids were briefed on the process from the design to the finished item. It's really interesting to see how detail each piece of jewellery is and how much work was put on each piece. The tour is free. But you need to pay for the transportation to the factory.

If you don't feel like doing any tour, you can just chill and enjoy the surroundings. There's plenty of things to do in Bambu Indah to occupy kids and adult. Kids' favourite was climbing the coconut tree and swinging into the pool. I highly recommend the nature walk. The trail was quite easy. Bambu Indah is a perfect place to reconnect with nature. To get a peek of a day in Bambu Indah, watch the video here

3. Architecture course, PT Bambu.
It's a 2 hours course. Even if you are not staying in Bambu Indah, you can still sign up for this course. My kids love it. Moko, the instructor was really patient and good with the kids. In fact, my eldest who was very reluctant in the beginning, told me he wanted to learn more about architecture after the course. So that was good news to me :-) Get more information here.

This is one of our favorite hang out places. It is in front of a football field, along Monkey Forest Road. Apart from great books, there are many courses offered here. The cost is much cheaper than in other place. 

5. Learn Surfing
Legian beach is a great place to learn surfing. The beach is clean and not so crowded. I asked for a few quotations before we went to Bali but I was a bit hesitant to sign up and pay upfront as I wasn't sure whether the kids would like surfing. And I wasn't sure about the logistics too. Thankfully we found UP2U surfing school which is within walking distance from our hotel. The great thing about UP2U is the surfing classes are held on Legian beach itself. That saves the trouble of commuting from one place to another. Their rate is very reasonable. In fact, it was the cheapest in comparison to all the prices I have been quoted earlier. 
And they are very good with kids. That's a huge bonus. My kids were standing on the board within the 1st hour. Kids were really thrilled. Once they are standing, they will be asking for more. Paul, the owner of UP2U did warn us and apologized in the beginning for creating a monster out of the kids. A surfing monster. So be prepared :-)

6. Cultural immersion. Get to know the locals. 
Ibu Lemong teaching the girls how to make Sampiang Kemang. I think this is harder than origami. She patiently taught the girls the different type of patterns. There's so much work put into preparing the daily offerings. You will see them everywhere. I asked her, where exactly should you put these offerings. She told me, anywhere. Because God is everywhere :-)

7. Volunteer
I am a strong believer of giving back to the society. We try to volunteer every time we travel. The experience and the knowledge gained from volunteering is more than what we gave. 

Kids doing composting as part of their volunteering in Friends of National Park, Nusa Penida.

8.Reconnect with nature
Nothing beats the adrenalin rush of reconnecting with nature. The untouched beauty of Tembeling Forest, Nusa Penida.

9. Visit an agriculture park.
We went to Manik Abian but I think there are many more agriculture parks you can go. Kids learn about different plants and how they make coffee. We also learned that unlike other parts of Indonesia where the animal is abused for the production of luwak coffee, the civet cat is a protected animal in Bali. I love the free samples of coffee and tea :-)

10. Visit the temples.
There are so many temples in Bali. I am not a fan of temples but I do feel it's a nice thing to visit a few and understand the integral role of temples in the daily life of Balinese people. While we were there, they were celebrating Galungan. It's a huge celebration. 
A temple in a cave in Nusa Penida. 

To enjoy travelling with kids, you have to refrain from trying to do too much. I have never liked organized tour as it lacks flexibility. Customizing your tour allows you to go with the flow. There's no point continuing for the whole day if kids are cranky and tired.

Traffic in Bali can be horrible. Spending time on the road is not fun. Long road trips are not fun. Kids will start getting restless. I try my best to do activities which are around the place we were staying. Things that doesn't require too much travelling.

Variety of activities is great for the kids. For example, there's only so much of temples a kid can take. Try to do different things. Sometimes, it can be a simple thing like getting to know the locals and immersing in their culture.

Planning the trip & unschooling in Bali.

A lot of  have people have been asking me to share details on how I plan my trip and how I found out the information to all the places that we went. So here it goes. A lot of googling!!! Seriously :-D

Usually, by googling some keywords like off the beaten path, off the beaten track, off the tourist path, volunteering, home schooling, road schooling, travelling like the locals, cultural immersion, study tour.....it will lead me to some blogs and some great links. And I rely heavily on Trip Advisor and travelling blogs for reviews and recommendations.

I strongly believe travelling is a personal thing. Things that may be awesome to me and my family might not be awesome to yours. It really depends on your family's interest. For us, every trip is a cultural immersion and learning trip for the kids. So there will always be some days allocated for them to learn new skills, explore their interests, volunteer and mix with the locals. I prefer to stay off the tourist path. Travelling off the beaten path has led us to very interesting discoveries. It exposes us to the local culture better. So we stick to it.

We also prefer to travel a bit longer as we try to immerse the kids in the local culture. Well, at least as long as we can afford. Travelling longer also allow us to space out the activities. Even if you cannot afford long trip, try not to fall into the trap of trying to do too much to make it worth the money and worth the trip. The worst thing to do on a holiday is cramming up the itineraries for the sake of "been there done that" and end up with cranky parents and crankier kids. As much as I can, I avoid wasting time on the road. I usually plan the activities around the place we stay. I found that works best with kids. There are days where we just chill and do nothing.

I usually divided the trip into parts. Here is an example of our itineraries from our recent trip to Bali.

Part 1; Bambu Indah
Although I am a cheap skate, and I need to stay within budget to ensure my dearest husband approve my proposal, I do splurge a bit during holiday. It's a holiday after all, right??? So Bambu Indah was our splurge during the Bali trip.

Part 2: Ubud Reader Writer Festival
Ubud Reader Writer Festival is an annual event. This is the main reason we were in Bali. Luqman is exploring writing, illustration, cartooning etc etc. So I thought the festival would be a good exposure for him. And it was indeed. There were lots of workshops for children and youth during the festival. Some were free. Some had fees. We only joined the free workshops. If you are interested and planning to go, do look out for their announcement and register for the workshops early as they usually have limited spaces.

Part 3: Volunteering in Nusa Penida
Friends of National Park Foundation (FNPF) is a not-for-profit organization whose work include saving one of the world’s rarest birds and Bali’s emblem bird, the Bali Starling. You can read more about FNPF's work here and here.
Apart from the volunteering, Nusa Penida is really a gem. There're not many tourist here and there's no 5 star hotel. But there's decent motel, beautiful beach and untouched nature. Which makes it so worth it to explore this island.

Part 4: Road trip.
We spent 2 days touring with Kadek. I found out about him through Trip Advisor. True, you probably can find cheaper drivers. But I wanted somebody who don't just drive us from place to place. I wanted somebody who can bring us to interesting "off the tourist path" places and tell us the story behind all those places. Kadek is very knowledgeable and I was very satisfied with his service.

Part 5: Surfing in Legian.
Legian beach is a great place to learn surfing. The beach is clean and not so crowded. I asked for a few quotations before we went to Bali but I was a bit hesitant to sign up and pay upfront as I wasn't sure whether the kids would like surfing. And I wasn't sure about the logistics too. Thankfully we found UP2U surfing school which is within walking distance from our hotel. The great thing about UP2U is the surfing classes are held on Legian beach itself. That saves the trouble of commuting from one place to another. Their rate is very reasonable. In fact, it was the cheapest in comparison to all the prices I have been quoted earlier.
And they are very good with kids. That's a huge bonus. My kids were standing on the board within the 1st hour. Kids were really thrilled. Once they are standing, they will be asking for more. Paul, the owner of UP2U did warn us and apologized in the beginning for creating a monster out of the kids. A surfing monster. So be prepared :-)
So there you go. We love travelling. My kids learned heaps during travelling. I don't think it really matters where you go. But it really depends on how you travel. It's the mindset that makes a difference.

In her book, Barefoot in the City  (page 184), Jacqueline Koay wrote;

"So, I come to a conclusion that it is environment rather than exposure that makes a long lasting impact on a child's life. I think children do not benefit that much (other than being featured in lovely photographs) from a whirlwind tour of Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Geneva. They need to stay in one place, meet its people, try to speak its language, eat its food, understand its natural rhythm, get bored in that place, explore, for the experience to become a meaningful part of their lives. Exposure is passing through on a tourist bus, looking out of the window at the highlights but missing out on the life that pulses beneath; immersion is the time that it takes for an experience to take hold in our psyche."

I couldn't agree more. This has been my travelling philosophy for a while. Until today, kids tell me they really missed Maejantai Village and the Children Shelter's Foundation in ChiangMai. And of course, they are missing Bali like crazy. I don't get this reaction from our past trips to theme park or popular tourist spots or fancy hotels. Immersion does leave a permanent mark in their memory. Any trip can be a magical trip if you do it right. I hope this helps you in planning your next family holiday. Bon Voyage!!!!


Saturday, October 5, 2013

What does travelling mean to me

When it comes to travel, I stay away from the tourist path. Mainly because I hate over commercialization and crowds.

Along the way, I discovered travelling off the beaten path usually leads us to nice little surprises. Recently, we found a peaceful retreat, Bamboo Village in Hulu Langat and it was such a gem.

Few weeks ago, I was searching high and low for information on bamboo architecture. And I thought the closest I can find them is in Indonesia. The Green Village in Bali is awesome but it ain't cheap. We found this bamboo workshop in the Bamboo Village. My husband and me were so smitten listening to the guy talking about their work with bamboo. My country has so much treasures. Look, and you will find. There are so many opportunities at a fraction of the price somewhere else. 
I also also learned that travelling is a great way for my kids to learn.
Learning about the dying legacy of shadow puppet in Kg Morak, Kota Bharu.
The traditional way of making soya sauce at Hup Teck soya sauce factory in Gopeng, Perak.
Learning history in context. Duyong Old Fort, Terengganu.
Dr Sun Yat Sen's house in Taiping.
Learning about the environment and appreciating nature.
Crown of shyness in FRIM.

Travelling also means giving back to Mother Earth in whatever ways we can.
Beach clean up and turtle conservation in Bubbles Dive Resort, Perhentian Island.

Releasing the baby turtles in Cherating.

Travelling means having fun and enjoying life's small pleasures.
Kids catching cat fish in the mud at Homestay Air Manis, Sungai Besar, Selangor.
Letting go of the lantern with the orphans in Chiang Mai.
Travelling means getting inspired.
And crossing path with inspiring people. Lee, the founder of Akha Ama Coffee.
Travelling means learning about different faith and culture. 
Travelling means immersing ourselves in the local culture. 
It means getting to know the people. It means living like the locals. 
 Travelling means new experience.
Camping in Singapore Zoo.

 Travelling means conquering your fear and having the adrenalin rush.
Travelling means working with the community and giving back to society.
Luqman teaching the orphans English at the Children Shelter Foundation in Chiang Mai.
Travelling means spending time with the loved ones.
Travelling means having fun and sheer bliss.
Travelling is personal.
It's refreshing. It's something I love doing. And I wish I can continue doing.