Monday, 31 August 2015

He has a dream!

I have a story to tell you. A true story. I kept thinking about how I was going to tell this story, I kept thinking about it for days, weeks. I have finally decided to tell it the way I am most comfortable with... chronologically, from the beginning. Well, sort of.

It all began with this Facebook post. Hubbs shared it on his Wall.
This is Shin Ming. Like he says in his Facebook post, he is a 28 year old young man, with a condition called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. And he has a dream of wanting to meet famous F1 driver Sebastian Vettel in the flesh. Now, I know what you're thinking - you see stuff being forwarded on Facebook all the time, and most of the time you're wondering if it is even real, or if someone is trying to pull a fast one to gain some benefit. I feel the same way for most things I see - but not this one. Because hubbs and I know Shin Ming personally. In fact, we both knew him before we even got together (yes, yes, as boyfriend and girlfriend lah). The first time we met him was more than 15 years ago, when he was just a boy of 13.
Shin Ming at ages 3, 4, 6 and 7. Back then, he could walk and run. Perhaps he wasn't as coordinated as the rest of his classmates, but he could still walk and run and play as children would. He had not yet realised that he was different.
Hubbs and I got to know each other through volunteering, you see. We were both volunteering with Happy Friends Club - which was basically a group of friends and friends of friends who came together to organise outdoor camps for children with physical disabilities. Shin Ming was one of the kids at the camps we organised and volunteered at. Kids, then. Now, 15 years later, thanks to Facebook, we managed to keep in touch with many of our kids, and kids no more they are - all young adults now. "Our kids" - yes, those were our first kids. For at the camps, we were paired one volunteer to one child to take care of them for the entire weekend camp - their parents would not be there.
Shin Ming and Zaki, together with their family, at Camp Christine, 1998. At 11 years old, Shin Ming could still walk unassisted, though he started to tire more easily and wouldn't be able to stand for long periods of time. The top left hand corner shows Shin Ming getting through an obstacle course, one of the games, during camp.

These kids had a myriad of physical conditions. Most, if not all, were born with the conditions they had: cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, arthrogryposis and other conditions that I have trouble pronouncing. Yet, as most of them were just physically disabled, they could attend regular schools - provided the schools were handicap friendly, or at least willing to make special arrangements for the kids. Shin Ming was full of praise for the friends he made at school. Back then, in the early 2000s, schools and places weren't as wheelchair friendly as they are now. There were hardly any ramps, stairs everywhere, and no lifts in schools during that time. Fortunately, the schools were generally willing to make adjustments to help accommodate students with physical disabilities - like moving their classroom to the ground floor. However, despite that, some classes had to be at specific classrooms - like science labs - that were not situated on the ground floor. Shin Ming was blessed to have had friends who would help him carry him and his wheelchair up the stairs.
12 year old Shin Ming was smaller size compared to his peers. At camp, we played games, and have activities which sometimes included acting or dressing up.

I digress. The thing is, when I first saw Shin Ming's Fb post, I knew I had to help. Here's a kid of ours and he needs our help - of course we had to help! I messaged him and he agreed to be interviewed by me for a post on my blog. Hubbs and I went to meet him at his house, and we spend a couple hours chatting.

He is Lim Shin Ming, turning 28 this year. He was born with a condition known as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). What is Duchene Muscular Dystrophy? DMD is a genetic condition which affects only boys. It is a degenerative muscle disease whereby one's muscles get weaker and weaker as the he gets older. The muscle weakness is hardly noticeable at birth, but gets more and more pronounced as the years pass. Like in Shin Ming's case, he was still able to walk when he was 3 or 4. Then he needed to start using walking aids. And by age 13, his legs were too weak to walk, and he had to be wheelchair bound.
Follow this link to where it is posted on Facebook by one of the kids, a young lady now by the name of Yuan Ping :) Thanks to Facebook, quite a few of us volunteers still manage to keep in contact with quite a lot of the kids - who are young adults now! Shin Ming now sits on a wheelchair - second from the left.

Shin Ming's parents first realised that something wasn't right, when he was about 5 years old. They noticed that he was walking a bit differently from other kids his age. But at that time, Shin Ming said he wasn't really aware of it, he did not really know what was happening. This was because he didn't feel very much different from his friends, even though his parents noticed that he had an odd gait. It was only when he was about 10 years old did he start to feel more self conscious about his condition, how he couldn't take physical education (P.E.) lessons in school, how he couldn't run like the other children could.

"Why is it me?" his 10 year old self asked. At that time, he only knew that he and another boy in his school, Zaki, had this condition. But even then, he kept thinking "Why me?".  Then he joined AWWA TeachMe and Muscular Dystrophy Association of Singapore (MDAS) and got to know more people with his condition. "That was when I started to realise, that I was not alone after all." he said. Somehow it helped, knowing that there were a number of other people besides he and his friend, who had this condition too.
14 year old Shin Ming and his friends all enjoyed attending the camps very much. So much so that the volunteers get to see them every 6 to 12 months.

At 13 years old, when he was in Secondary One, Shin Ming's body was so weak, that he now could not walk at all. He had to use the wheelchair. "I felt like my world changed again. Because now my mobility is largely reduced. For at that time, accessibility is not as good as now. My parents would bring me out for dinner with extended family, and even overseas trips. But it is difficult to travel once I was wheel chair bound."

Subsequently, Shin Ming attended Nanyang Polytechnic taking a course in information technology. By this time, he was really weak and mobility highly restricted. Again, he was blessed with a group of very helpful friends, who helped him with taking notes, carrying his books, navigating the school, and even with toileting - emptying his urinal for him. His voice broke a little as he expressed his gratitude at having such friends. Without the help of his friends, he surely would not have been able to go to school, attend his classes.
2004 MDAS Camp at Changi chalets. We had BBQ that night! :) Look at all the handsome dudes!!!

Along with losing the strength and ability to walk, Shin Ming's fine motor skills were also in decline. In the past when his hands were still strong, he used to enjoy playing with his Lego building sets. Now, he can no longer hold the small pieces. Instead, he spends his free time watching TV and on the internet, using a highly sensitive mouse to type on an on-screen keyboard. He also does freelance work for a company named SEOciety (official website here) that specialises in Search Engine Optimisation. "Trying to earn my keep, help pay the bills." he says with a wry smile.

Shin Ming remembered very well, the camps that our volunteer friends had organised for him and his friends. "When I joined AWWA, the most memorable things were the holiday camps. Whereby we get to try out different things, with the help of volunteers." These brought back memories for hubbs and I as well. We remember how we set up real tents outdoors, to give the kids an experience of real outdoor camping. The times where we carried the kids to the beach to sit on the sand, because they have not done that before. How we brought them canoeing in double canoes where we willingly did the rowing for two people because some of the kids did not have the strength nor the range of movement in their arms to row.
2005 Camp Challenge! Shin Ming has a nice shot with Huey Huey - who is one of the main people brain & brawn behind all these wonderful camps for the kids!

As I was talking to Shin Ming, something struck me. He was just an ordinary boy. He goes to school - primary school, secondary school, poly... He has friends in school. He likes to go out with his family. He plays with Lego, surfs the net, watches TV...  Except that he has a physical disability - he has a body that would grow weaker by the day, by the minute. "Progressively weaker day by day" was what he said in his Fb post. What he doesn't say, is that for his condition, his life expectancy is shorter than usual. The average life expectancy for people with DMD is 27 years. And Shin Ming turns 28 years old this year.

Trying to skirt around the topic as I asked him "What do you hope to accomplish, before you go?"  He gave me a resigned look, and I imagine he would have shrugged if his shoulders were strong enough to do so. "For people like us, the best that can happen is that we go peacefully." he said calmly, as though this has been at the forefront of his mind. And it might very well be... Shin Ming's body and general constitution is very weak now. His lungs are weak and he needs help breathing by using BIPAP machine every time he sleeps, or if he feels tired in the day. He is on heart medication, medicine to help his heart continue pumping.
2005 Camp Challenge - 18 year old Shin Ming and his group.

He expresses gratitude for his parents. He tells us how supportive his parents are. How they would leave decisions to him and do their best to help him accomplish what he hopes to do. He still enjoys going for outings with his MDAS buddies. But getting around in a wheelchair isn't the easiest thing to do, so his parents often sacrifice their own time to help him get around so that he would be able to meet his friends.

But it isn't easy, I imagine, to see his friends slipping away. Zaki, his first friend that he knows has DMD, has passed on more than 5 years ago. Shin Ming's voice is calm as he tells us who has left, and who is currently in bad shape. He did not sound bitter, he didn't sound sad, even. He was just factual about it.
2005 Camp Challenge had everyone go on an Amazing Race along the North East MRT line. The teams had to complete the challenges in store for them at each checkpoint on their race. Here's the team having a pit stop at McDonald's :)
I spoke with Shin Ming's mum, went to ask if she had any baby pictures of Shin Ming.  We chatted a little, talking about volunteers that she remembers. And I updated her: who and who is married, who has how many kids now, who is now based overseas etc. She asked me if hubbs was still teaching in the previous school he was at - I was amazed that she still remembered. And she commented a little wistfully, how everyone has "grown up", gotten married, and had kids.

And then it struck me, that her son would not be able to do that. He would not get married, he won't become a father himself, he didn't have time to establish his career... he was living on borrowed time. Already, he is older than the average life expectancy age for people with DMD. Maybe it's because I am a mother of 3 kids, but right there and then, I felt a shadow of the pain she must have had in her heart. How difficult it must be for her, to see her son suffer all these years. And yet, all she can do, is to love him and help him make the most of his days. For no parent should have to bury their child.
Family graduation pix for prosterity!
I think about my own children, how they sometimes complain about little things, fighting over a particular toy or book. How Isaac curses the the day homework was invented. How they take things like walking, running, playing - for granted. I think about Shin Ming, how he tries his best in school, even though it is physically difficult for him to be there. I remember the times when I am frustrated with my kids for not carrying out my instructions to the T, the times when I tell them to keep their volume down because they were excitedly talking at the top of their voices while playing with each other. And I am ashamed. Our issues simply pale in comparison to what Shin Ming and his family have had to go through, and are going through.

I think back to my question to Shin Ming, of what he intends to accomplish before he goes. Well, I certainly know what I wish to accomplish, before he goes. I would like to do my best, to help fulfill his dream of meeting Sebastian Vettel in the flesh this coming September F1 season. And I pray for help, for the right people to see this post, so that we can fulfill Shin Ming's dream. Do your part and we can make this happen! Forward this post to those you think can help us in this quest. Contact me at emailpamela(a) 

Shin Ming & Zaki :)

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Boardgames with Twins @ 20 months!

One of the apps that I like on Facebook, is the one which shows you photos that you posted on the same day, a year (or more) back. So, today in history, I posted these four pictures in my album Grow a Gamer with Games Bond Family, four years back. That makes the twins in these pix 20 months old. I'm a firm believer in using board games to teach, and more importantly to have fun, and bond over. Hence, we started playing board games with our kids way before they even turn 2 years old. It was a friend, Sarah of The Playful Parents, who coined the moniker of The Games Bond Family for our family! I love it! :)
Asher & Shawna playing Orchard by HABA.
Orchard is a classic German kids game. A co-operative game, all players are working together to harvest the fruits in all four trees on the board before the jigsaw puzzle of the crow is fully formed - thereby signifying that the crow is there to eat the fruits up. If all players managed to harvest all the fruits before the crow arrives (puzzle is complete), then the players win! If the crow puzzle is completed before all the fruits are harvested, then all the players lose the game. Great for simple counting. Slight strategy for the kids in learning to think for themselves which tree they should harvest from on their turn, should they have a choice. 

We haven't played this in awhile. Think we shall do so tonight! :) This game is also affectionately known as "The Crow is Coming! Game" because every time the dice rolls a crow - everyone shouts "The Crow is Coming!!!" :)
Asher & Shawna guloing away in Gulo Gulo
Gulo Gulo is another classic gamer kid's game. Long out of print, only the boardgame-crazy parents like me would have this game. A dexterity game where a player needs to extract the corresponding colour of egg from the Gulo's egg nest according to what colour tile you have flipped, this game is still being pulled out pretty often. Shawna and Asher can now set it up themselves and have a go at it as and when they feel like it. Definitely a keeper, grab it if you see it at thrift stores!
20 month old Shawna
Zimbbos is a simple game of stacking and number recognition. Roll a dot, stack an elephant next in line from numbers 1 to 10. Player who stacks elephant number 10 wins the game. Great for turn taking and execution of simple instructions, Zimbbos has been a great first game with Isaac and the twins. A quick, 5 to 10 minute game, it's a great insertion for our bedtime ritual as well. Play game, read books, brush teeth, sleep! 
Shawna Zimbbosing away while her brothers nap!

Monday, 10 August 2015

To the Mayflower Market @ AMK Ave 4

To Market, To Market... to the Mayflower Market at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4

Now, I confess that this is not a market that I visit very often. However, this market, this hawker centre and buildings in this particular cul de sac here at Ang Mo Kio Ave 4 holds a special place in my heart. It is where I spent most of the first 5 years of my life. It is where my maternal grandparents used to live, from way before I was even born, to when they both passed away more than a decade ago.  

Thus this is a place that brings back many memories. Now that I stay in the West part of Singapore, this market is not one which I can easily pop by for breakfast. Hence, whenever I am in Ang Mo Kio and have a bit of time, I try to come by for a snack, walk around, or at least drive by this estate. Yes, that's me, the sentimental one!
Mayflower Market @ Ang Mo Kio Ave 4
Walking through the hawker centre and the market, I am aware of how new everything looks. Our Town Council, Housing Development Board and National Environment Agency and other agencies have clearly been doing their job here, repainting, upgrading, remodeling, renovating the buildings and facilities in the past 20 years since I last frequented here in the early 1980s.  I walk around trying to remember where and how the old market looks like. 

I came by on a weekday morning, at about 9.30am. The hawker centre was bustling crowded with the seats mostly filled. The market stalls were almost half closed though - busy period must have been much earlier in the day, or then again, could be because I was there on a Monday morning, where the pork stalls would be closed. Other stalls may happen to have Monday as a rest day too.
On of the many beautiful murals at the Mayflower Market & Food Centre
Another day, we were in the area and we made a trip back here as I wanted to take more pictures for this post. We were there at about 5.30pm, and found that almost all the stores were closed, save for perhaps 5 stalls? There wasn't even a drink stall in full operation that day. There was one cleaning up, and the lady could only sell us the canned drinks; no hot drinks at all. From her, we found out that this hawker centre mainly serves breakfast and lunch, with most of the stalls closing at about 3pm. 

We did see a few stalls open though, with people buying food from them for takeaways mainly, obviously residents in the area. I spotted a stall named Yuan Fa Shou Shi selling rojak and satay, and ordered a plate of rojak (one of my mum's favourite dishes!). Deceived by the lack of a physical queue, I only realised I was fifth in line to being served when the lone people seated near the stall were handed packs of rojak and satay freshly prepared. By then I had already placed my order, and so I decided to just wait for it to come. It was very very good! So good that hubbs took a picture of the stall and shared it in the Facebook Group Singapore Foodies, to recommend the rojak! 

Well, it seems that this hawker centre is where you come for breakfast and lunch, but not one you would come to for dinner. However, if you are in the area in the late afternoon/evening time, we highly recommend the rojak at Yuan Fa Shou Shi! Lots of parking, no crowds, my kinda place to be!

Kebun Baru Birdsinging Club near Ang Mo Kio Blk 159
If you walk towards the back of the market, you would see the town council building, which now also houses a supermarket. How convenient it is for the residents here now, to have both the wet market and a super market at their doorstep. Though it also crossed my mind how, perhaps, having a supermarket here might have adversely affected the business of the wet market stalls. 

The top pic in the collage above also shows you the home of the Kebun Baru Birdsinging Club. This facility has the capacity to hold more than 1,000 bird cages! I was there on a cold, rainy morning, hence the birds have not been hung up yet. However, this birdsinging club has been around since I was a kid, and is still well used and going on strong. I fondly remember many a sunny day where there would be hundreds of birdcages raised to the top of the poles. The wonderful sounds of the birds singing is truly something to behold. If you hop on to the Kebun Baru Birdsinging Club's Facebook Page, you'd see that they've been visited by overseas bird lovers, Japanese broadcasting tv crew, and even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong himself, just to name some.

Songbirds Singing Competition - just over! Stay tuned to their Fb page for future competitions!
I believe there was a time, in the 1980s, when bird rearing was very popular. There were many places which had such bird training/admiring/competition facilities but they are almost all gone now. However, this is one place where bird enthusiasts still gather to share their common love.

In nearby Blk 159, placed in between a shop which sells joss paper, incense and paper houses/clothes/everything, and another storefront which a funeral services operates out of, are shops which cater to the bird rearing community. Shops where you can buy birds, order a custom made bird cage, have your cage repaired, and buy some snacks for your beloved songbird. Seems like the doorway to a whole new world of bird lovin' right here. 
Bird shops at Ang Mo Kio Blk 159
Further down the block, at the corner, lies Gim Tim Restaurant. Have never tried it, but it seems like a pretty decent place to have a meal. Especially since it has been there for as long as I can remember. And in Singapore, if your food ain't good, you ain't gonna last very long. Classic old style restaurant, it's apparently been around since 1975. Wow. That's GT40 for you guys, Gim Tim! :) Shall go try it some day!
Gim Tim Restaurant @ Ang Mo Kio Blk 159
Around the corner, at Blk 157, nearer to the carpark at the Food Centre, is a large fish emporium. Another popular hobby in the 1980s was rearing fishes. Everyone we knew had fish. Even if it were just a few guppies in a small little plastic fish tank. And such fish emporiums were very common in those days. Now, they are pretty rare in that we don't see them every where as well. I remember how I would enjoy following my Gong Gong (maternal grandpa) to the fish store to go see the tray of worms they sell, and just shake the tray to see all the worms tense up. To my disappointment, there were no worms there that day, though the centipedes and crickets available for sale did make up for it somewhat.
Fish Emporium at Ang Mo Kio Blk 157
Walking through the estate, it really struck us how new the infrastructure is - the fantastically kept HDB flats with lifts installed for every block, the remodeled Market and Food Centre, the major construction going on along Ang Mo Kio Ave 4 for the new MRT line... but yet, this is evidently an old estate. The bird shops, the fish aquarium emporium, the funeral services and incense shop... is about as old school as you can get. Stop by for breakfast or lunch one day at the Mayflower Food Centre, and take a walk in the blocks around it for a quick jaunt into the past. I plan to bring my kids one of these days.
Next up: Andy is a Dad of four and he blogs at Seng Kang Babies. His blog tries to share the kids-friendly stuffs in Singapore and blog motto is "We bring you fun!". Andy will be sharing the colourful wet market from Cheng San. 

So do remember to hop on to Seng Kang Babies to read about it. This blog post is part of the To Market To Market blog train hosted by Life's Tiny Miracles.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Virtual Real Friends

Virtual Real Friends may sound grammatically incorrect - as opposed to Virtually Real Friends. But factually, it is more correct than Virtually Real Friends - which sounds as though it is "almost-but-not real friends" - and that is certainly not the case.

Apologies if I have thoroughly confused you - I am talking about a wonderful bunch of friends that I have the pleasure of knowing - through blogging. We're all bloggers, and mostly mummies, and hence we have lots in common. 

Like having last minute plans sprrrrinnng into action, for example :) Here's us! It took us less than half a day to throw this impromptu gathering together. Someone suggested something on a whim, and the rest took it and flew with it. Within a few hours, we were gathered on this patch of grass at The Botanic Gardens of Singapore (that's probably the official name now - must have The at the beginning, and Singapore at the end ;p). Note: I've just been told the official name is likely to be Singapore Botanic Gardens - but my version makes it sound so much more dignified!!! :p
Scoot here now, quick!
We just wanted to be outdoors, to breathe some fresh air, get some sun, and let the kids move about. And the kids did! Run, scoot, cycle, chase and scare geese...

Actually, what I wanted to say in this post, is that my virtual real friends, know me pretty well. They've read me on my blog, heard and seen me talk - they know "my pattern". They know how I'm like. How I have been complaining to them that I want to blog more, but I have so much to say, that I tend not to be able to find time to write the crazy pam-like long blog posts that I usually do. 

So my dear friends say - just do short posts!!! :) And I will. And this is the first short post!!! In honour of good advice and all that, ya know ;)  It's not going to be easy for me to be short and concise and not turn everything into a 3 page article. But I shall certainly try!
Keeping a safe distance - cautious kids, good!
So if you think the kids in these pix look familiar, that's probably coz you may have already read about some or all of them in these blogs!
We wanted to get the kids all in one picture. But to get them all together, and looking at the camera - that was tough!!! Until someone had a great idea! She told the kids to line up by height as we wanted to see who was the tallest child! And they did! :)
Who's the tallest of them all? The eldest one, naturally! (Though not necessarily!)
And then, being a little ambitious now. I said:"Do you kids want to look like you're all the same height?" "YES!!!" they chorused! And gamely stood still while I adjusted myself trying to take a picture where they all look equally tall. Well almost. Now, the youngest one of all looks huge! :) 

Love these pictures, a shame not to blog it. So there! :)
Don't we all look like we're all almost of the same height?!
Missing our Virtual Real Friends from Little Blue Bottle, A Dollop of Me, A Juggling Mom, Scissors Paper Stone, Missus Tay, and many more!

Friday, 10 July 2015

Q&A Throwback: Balik Kampong - The Finale!

My sincere apologies! I took so long to write this post, that MediaCorp has taken the Throwback: Balik Kampong episodes off! No, it's not because of me! *indignant* I am neither contracted by anyone, nor paid to blog about our experience at Throwback: Balik Kampong. Wrote it all out of free will, and all opinions are mine, unless stated.

It is quite upsetting to realise that they took the videos offline - when we were told they'd probably be on there for years afterward. Ah well... In any case, I manage to find this clip on youtube - a little behind the scenes walk with Rozz & Fuzz at the kampong.

Now, even though the episodes are no longer available online for you to watch, I shall still complete this post. People who watched it would appreciate it more, and probably know what I am talking about more than those who did not manage to watch the final episode of Throwback: Balik Kampong.
The Tan Family emerged Ultimate Kampong Champions of Throwback: Balik Kampong
Q: So who was the Ultimate Kampong Champion?
A: We are! The Tan Family won! Thank you so much for all your support! Without the support of you, our fans, and family and friends of friends - we couldn't have won. Big thanks to all of you, from the bottom of all five of our hearts! *muakz*

Q: How are the winners determined?
A: We are told that the votes that audience have voted after each of the first 7 episodes of the series were collated for a final figure. The family with the largest number of total votes is the winner.

Q: Did you know the results right from the start?
A:  No, we did not know the winner until the studio portion of the final episode (Episode 10) was filmed. Episode 10's studio segment - where they announced the results - was filmed only after Episode 7 was screened. This way, they had all the votes collated, final vote count tallied, in order to know who the winner is.

Q: Was it the prize money that made you join in this show?
A: No it wasn't. In fact, we did not even know there was going to be a prize - much less what prize was going to be.

Q: Then why did you want to join in this competition in the first place?
A: We did not even know it was going to be a competition. We were told it was going to be an SG50 show, to commemorate how our forefathers lived back in the 1960s, in kampongs. We knew there were going to be two other families - a Malay family and an Indian family there with us. But we thought this was more for racial diversity - since it is an SG50 show, right? We didn't know there was going to be any competition during filming. And neither did we know that audience would be asked to vote, after the episodes were screened.

Q: Wait, so exactly WHAT did you win, again?
A: The prizes for the Ultimate Kampong Champion was S$10,000 in cash, a stay at The Fullerton Hotel, Singapore, and a Bosch appliance. However, as mentioned on the show, we are going to share S$2,000 each with The Awads and The Azimullahs. So, we will have a balance of S$6,000 for ourselves.
Card and foam art photo frame for our friends, The Azimullahs! :)
Q: Whose idea was it to share the prize money?
A: It's quite a coincidence. Matthew and I spoke about this after filming for the final episode ended, and we confessed to each other that the thought of sharing did cross our minds (individually) - but we didn't even discuss it with each other because we never thought we would actually win. We thought The Awads would win - so it was a moot point that didn't need to be discussed. However, what actually happened on the actual day was: Matthew and I were stunned that we won and it was in fact Isaac who suggested sharing the winnings with the other two families. Rozz was quite funny, she said "Woah woah woah! Isaac, you can't decide such things on your own. You better check with your parents first." This is where I said "Yes, we'd share S$2k each with the other two families." - and this is what they showed in the final cut. We suspect they cut out what Isaac said because they couldn't get a clear shot/recording of him saying that.

We thought it was a pity they did not ask us to re-enact that to show Isaac making that suggestion - since that was what really happened. After all, this was THE BOY who has been CRYING and CRYING through the entire series - oh alright, at least the first half of the series! But yet, he is the one who suggested sharing his family's winnings. Matthew and I are very proud of him for being so generous and for making it through the entire kampong experience intact!

Q: Why did you agree to share the prize money?
A: It wasn't easy on all of us three families out there in the kampong. It would have been great if all three families had won some prize money - but I guess that wasn't in the plan. So since we won, we have the power to decide to share, and so we did! :)

Q: Weren't there prizes for the other two families?
A: Yes, thankfully, there was! They both won a one night's stay at Turi Beach Hotel on Batam Island, Indonesia. They also won a Bosch appliance, each.

Q: Have you given the other two families the money?
A: Yes we have. We mailed them a cheque each. Isaac drew a card each for the families, and the twins made a foam art for them too. Look at the collage above and below! :)
Card for The Awads, illustrated and designed by Isaac Tan! :)
Thus this post completes the Throwback: Balik Kampong post-per-episode series of blog posts brought to you by Mrs Tan of The Tan Family, Throwback Balik Kampong. Feel free to state your questions in the comments, if you have more questions. Also, I do intend to blog more about our experience at the kampong, so stay tuned! :) Thank you, once again, for making us the Ultimate Kampong Champions!
Kids with the foam art and card for The Awads :)

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Q&A Episodes 8 & 9 Throwback Balik Kampong

We're the Tan Family of Throwback: Balik Kampong!
Hey all! Apologies for being so late with this post. There weren't many questions really, so I have decided to combine the posts for the episodes...

Throwback: Balik Kampong Episode 8 - Old Trades aka The One with the Haircuts or The One where Shawna kicked Asher's kooke
Click here to watch, if the above video doesn't load.

Q: Did you all really cut those men hair?
A: Yes we did! Think we all had fun cutting the men's hair. Though I can't say the same for the men who got their hair cut by us!

Q: Do the kids remember how to speak Malay?
A: Yes, they do remember bits of what they have learnt in the Rozz & Fuzz Kampong School - they simply loved going to "kampong school" there as Rozz & Fuzz were such fun teachers to have!

Q: How come all the families did not seem to know how to make starch?
A: This must have been a sort of test for all three families, because they did not give us instructions on how much starch or water to add, or how long or when to cook the solution, etc. All they gave us was the flour, and told us to make some starch, with no other instructions at all.

Q: Did your children quarrel more at the kampong than they do at home?
A: Actually, no. It's quite common for the kids to quarrel and fight. We make sure we resolve the situation so that all parties learn from it. They they have to make up and hug each other, and know that despite the fighting and the quarreling, they still love one another and should treasure one another.
Throwback:Balik Kampong - the bridal dias the Tan Family worked on!
Throwback: Balik Kampong Episode 9 - Kampong Celebration aka The One with the Wedding
Click here to watch, if the above video doesn't load.

The wedding preparations was very interesting for us, in the sense that we learnt a lot about the cultural customs of a Malay wedding. The Awads and Farzana were naturally more knowledgeable on this topic, so they provided us with interesting stories of their own experiences of Malay weddings in modern day Singapore too.

It was quite an experience for me to have that make-up and hair makeover. I've not had make-up and hair done since my own wedding a decade ago, as I usually do not put on any cosmetics at all. In fact, when the kids saw me with cosmetics on, Shawna burst out crying! Isaac stared at me in horror. While Asher assured me "It's okay Mummy, I still love you even though you look like that."

Silat practice was definitely one of the highlights of the entire kampong stay for the children. They really really enjoyed that. Tremendously. When the kids came back from silat practice, they couldn't stop talking about it and couldn't stop practicing what they had learnt. Even now, if you ask them about silat - they get all excited.
Pictures taken by the beautiful Rozz! Thanks very much for the lovely pix!
The question we still get very often is "Where can we watch Throwback Balik Kampong?" The series has finished airing on local TV, but you can still watch it online at any time! Either watch them on the embedded videos I have here on the blog, or you can watch all episodes of Throwback Balik Kampong - Singapore's first family reality tv series at Hope you have as much fun as we do watching the series!

Monday, 20 April 2015

Q&A Episode 6 & 7 Throwback: Balik Kampong

Episode 6 Throwback: Balik Kampong aka The One with the Peanut Farming - if the above embedded video doesn't load, go view the episode at this link on

So, I asked for some audience participation again, seeing if the loyal viewers of ours (mostly our dear friends and relatives - THANKS GUYS!!!) if they had any questions I could help answer. They posed some tough questions which I am going to do my best to answer, without contravening any confidentiality obligations that we have. So please forgive me if I conveniently forgot to answer your question, I know you wouldn't want to see me in trouble right? :p

Q:Why is this family friendly show telecast at 930pm to 1030pm - when it is a school day the next day. Why can't they show at an earlier time slot (not sure if you are in the position to answer this though)?
A:  You're right! I can't answer that at all. You'd have to ask MediaCorp Channel 5 about that. All I can say is - thank goodness for then! You can now watch it here, or on Toggle. A far cry from the days in which we had to use the VCR to record a show!

Q: Did the producers purposely give the Awad Family 3 papayas so they can share with each family?
A: Nope, as far as I know, the producers wouldn't have known what Mrs Azimullah would choose for the Awad Family as a prize. The fruits have been sitting on the stall shelves since we came to the kampong. It was just very kind of the Awad Family to share the papayas with us all. But I suppose that's what we have all been doing from Day One. We shared our biscuits with the rest. Awads shared their Milo with us by making Milo for us to drink when we go to their house. Azimullahs shared their fish burgers with us. It's a culture of sharing! :)
The Tan Family kampong boys - Asher & Isaac!

Q: Did you really still have to build fire from scratch? Are you at least provided with match sticks? 
A: Yes, we did have matches provided. But we also had to go around gathering our own fire wood, and setting up the fire from scratch each time we needed the fire.

Q: Do you know the activities for each day in advance? 
A:  No, there is no schedule provided, and we are not told of the day's activities in advance. We were told this is because it is a reality TV show - so they wish to capture our reactions on screen each time we are given information.

Q: What do you all do when not filming?
A: The filming schedule is usually quite tight and we are often shuffled from place to place to film different segments. We start filming as early as 9am (and even earlier on special days), and usually end at 9 plus at night (and occasionally 11 plus). Before filming starts for the day, we have to wake up, brush teeth, clean up, bathe, eat breakfast. After filming ends, we need to clean up to get ready for bed again. Matthew and I usually bathe again at night as it is really hot and humid. We are afraid the kids will catch a cold bathing in cold well water at night, so we usually just wet towel them before they go to bed. Due to the grueling film schedule, the Director/Producers are sometimes unable to provide us with a longer lunch time so that the children can take their afternoon nap. This explains why you see Asher & Shawna sleeping, some times. 

Episode 7 Throwback: Balik Kampong aka The One with the Kite Flying & Quiz Show - if the above embedded video doesn't load, go view the episode at this link on

Q:Why did you help Mrs Awad? You guys might have won, if you didn't help her.
A: Hannah is one slim girl, but she is tall, and so quite heavy for her mum to pull her all by herself. I saw that Mag needed help, so I went to help her out. We always tell our kids that we need to help people out when we see that help is needed. So when I saw that help was needed, I helped! To Matthew and I, winning is not as important as our relationships with people. To us, friends are more important than contests.

Q: Where can we get those cool rubber band guns?!
A: You can get them on - Mr Patrick Tan sells kites too, go check them out! We are also ordering a batch of the guns to sell on my own shop at My First Games - shall create a Kampong Games category! :)   

Q: What were you thinking?! How could you check the book for answer during the quiz show?!
A: We certainly had no intention to "cheat" at all. For as Rozz pointed out, we took out the book in full view of everyone and proceeded to check out notes, as though it was alright to do so. This was  because before the quiz started, we asked the director if there were any rules and we were told "No rules, just get the answer right." However, now, looking back, we can definitely see why the Awads and the Azimullahs would be upset - we would be upset too, should the situation be reversed. 

Q: You guys said "We are hardworking!" - are you implying that the other two families are not?!
A: Oh, no, of course not! Anyone who watches Throwback: Balik Kampong can see that the Awads are extremely hardworking at whatever they do, be it keeping their house in order, cooking, or the challenges. Mrs Azimullah is also very hardworking at keeping the girls clean, neat, tidy and well behaved. Everyone is very hardworking in the kampong, how else would we survive?

Q: How many more episodes will there be?
A: There are a total of 10 episodes. 7 have been aired. So there are 3 more episodes to go. Voting for the families through the ToggleNow app ends tomorrow, Tuesday 21st April 2015, at 10.30pm, though. This is your last chance to show your support for the family of your choice, and register for the lucky draw to win S$200!

Q: How do we cast votes for the family whom we think should be crowned Ultimate Kampong Champion?
A: Here are the steps to voting, which will end on Tuesday, 21st April 2015, at 10pm.
  1. Download "ToggleNow" App (NOT the Toggle App) to your smartphones/tablets/devices
  2. Choose Throwback Balik Kampong
  3. Choose Throwback Voting Episode 7
  4. Choose the Family you wish to vote for
  5. (Optional) Register your Name, Contact & Email
The Tan Family of Throwback: Balik Kampong!
 Stay tuned to Channel 5, this Sunday at 9.30pm for the next episode of Throwback: Balik Kampong!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Q&A Episode 5 Throwback:Balik Kampong

Episode 5 of Throwback: Balik Kampong aka The One Where They Go Fishing. If the embedded video below doesn't work - try this link at To read all blog posts on Throwback: Balik Kampong, click here.  

This post was a difficult post to write in the sense that I didn't have much questions to answer. Got some friends who kindly obliged me when I asked them to pose me any questions that they had about Episode 5 and these are the questions that they asked... 
Love this shot of Asher & Shawna looking out to sea. Photo by me, Pamela Tan! #nofilter !
Q: Who looked after the kids when the adults went to sea?
A: Both times, when we were fishing out at sea, there would be at least one or two adults from the production crew who would help us watch over the kids. This is usually the case when we have to do a challenge where only adults are needed. The boat fishing trip, Mrs Awad was on shore as well, so she was there to watch over the kids too. 

Q: Are you worried about the kids when you head out to fish? 
A: No, I'm not actually. I trust the adults who are on shore will take care of them. Besides, for both fishing trips, it would have been even more dangerous for the kids to be with us. For the first fishing trip, I would have been worried that the kids stand up on the boat and fall out of it while we're in deep waters. For the second fishing expedition, the water came up to my chest for me! If the kids were there, they would have to thread water to survive - and they don't know how to thread water yet. So, no no no, I rather they were safe on shore. It was much more dangerous for them to be with us on those two occasions, than they would be on shore with adults watching over them. 

Q: Were there leeches?
A: No, we didn't see any leeches, nor get bitten by any. Thank goodness!!!
Lovely shot of Matthew and Asher at the shore during low tide, taken by Rozz :)
Q: So Rozz says you get seasick but the Chinese subtitles had Matthew saying that he is the one who would vomit when seasick? So who gets seasick - you or Matthew?
A: Actually it's Matthew who would get seasick. Before we had kids, there was a trip where we went to Australia with another couple, good friends of ours. We took a boat out to sea to see the Great Barrier Reef - but Matthew and our friends got so seasick due to the choppy seas that the three of them were puking non-stop. I was actually alright the whole time and enjoyed snorkeling out there in the open waters. Matthew came into the water, determined to make the best of the trip. Instead, he puked into the sea. We then witnessed fish coming to eat his vomit! :p Hence that comment of his on the episode where he said he'd vomit in the sea, while I catch the fish that come to eat his vomit.

Q: What prompted you to be so poetic while fishing? It's almost as though you went crazy and started singing?!
A: We had a huge net which was all tangled up when we got it, and was impossible to untangle even after some kampong men tried to help us. So it seemed to me that our fishing trip was doomed from the start. But instead of being stressed out by things not within our control, we decided to just try our best to untangle it, while having fun! Okay so Matthew tried harder at untangling it. I was just having a good time wading in the water, not having the kids around to worry about. I did have to swim after my slippers when they got away from me though - thank goodness they float. Other than that, we were quite idle out there, because there wasn't very much we could do about the tangled, gigantic net. So I was trying to think out of the box you know, inspired by my escaping slippers - we could slap the fish underwater! Hahaha... Now, that obviously didn't work. So I decided to just enjoy the water (like swimming, you know), enjoy the scenery (the sun, the sand, and the sea coconut trees), enjoy the company (my darling Matthew!) - I was just having fun in the sun! Hmmm... maybe Fuzz is right, heat stroke made the nonsense seep out of me!!! :p
Asher & Shawna jumpshot pix taken by Rozz (instagram @heyrozz) - who's fantastic with all the kids!
Q: Did your singing frighten all the fish?
A: Alamak. On hindsight... maybe huh. I must have scared all the fish away! Urrghh! All MY fault!!! hahahahahahahaa... Actually huh, I wasn't singing at all?! Why does everyone say I was singing? More like a poem recitation perhaps. Singing? Maybe I am more melodic than I know... hmmm...  :p

Q: How's Mr Awad, is he okay?
A: Yes, Mr Awad is a strong man, he recovered fine and was his lively self by dinner time. Hannah and Danish also recovered well and were actively playing with the younger kids too. The younger kids love playing with the Awad twins, and they were excellent with the kids too.

Q: How did you feel about having Mr Azimullah join in with his family?
A: We thought it was great! It just made it seem all complete now, you know. Before, when he was unable to help his family with the challenges, it always seemed a little unfair to the Azimullahs because they were at an obvious disadvantage. And he's such a funny guy with his hilarious quips delivered with a straight face. You can also see how he centres Farzana and makes her more calm. Definitely very good! :)

Q: Did you guys only have BBQ fish for dinner?
A: We had our dinner before we filmed the BBQ scene. We really did eat the BBQ fish though - jiak tek tor as my mum would say in Teochew - 'eat for fun'!

That's all we have for now. Feel free to ask more questions and I will add them on in here. Stay tuned to Channel 5, this Sunday at 9.30pm for the next episode of Throwback: Balik Kampong! :)


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