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 Toggle.sg.

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 Toggle.sg 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 Toggle.sg

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: 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 Toggle.sg. 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! :)

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Q&A Episode 4 Throwback: Balik Kampong


Our very own Tan Family Throwback Balik Kampong poster! Courtesy of Channel 5, MediaCorp Singapore
Throwback: Balik Kampong Episode 4 - aka The One Where They Make Kueh Kueh - was aired last night at 9.45pm. If the video embedded here doesn't work, please hop on to this link to watch Throwback: Balik Kampong - Episode 4

 
Q: Why were Asher and Isaac screaming and beating their chests while bathing by the well?
A: Isaac was actually trying to control himself and not scream. He was like that, and Asher was screaming, because they were bathing with water straight from the well - which is very cold. Back in modern day Singapore, they are used to bathing with warm water. But we had no such luxury in the kampong. It was too much of a hassle to set up a fire in order to warm the water for our baths, so we decided to bathe the kids during the day when the cool water is welcome because we were all hot and sticky due to the heat and humidity. Furthermore, the kids were bathing in the open, where it can be cold if wind blows. So it helps to bathe during the day when the sun is still shining, so it's not too cold.

Q: Did you bathe with the poncho the whole time you were there?
A: No, I only bathed with the poncho twice, actually. The time they caught on camera was the second time I did it. The poncho was already a bit torn, and after that filming, someone actually accidentally tore the whole thing. So I didn't have a poncho to bathe with. After that, I bathed in a public toilet which was just a few steps behind the well. The public toilet is just a concrete structure with a jerry can in it which I still have to fill up with water from the well. But it is a concrete structure with a door that I can close - so that beats bathing by the well naked or half-naked! We sometimes also use the toilet we constructed, which is actually nicer than the public toilet. However, the thing is, we stuill have to fill up the receptacle with water from the well, and  it is about 20 metres away from the well!!! I really do not fancy making 15 trips x 20 metres to the well to get water for one shower, so public toilet's the default.

Q: What about Shawna, where does she bathe?
A: Shawna actually bathes by the well together with her brothers the same way you saw on TV.

Q: Weren't you afraid that your towel might fall?!
A: I was! That's why I held on to it all the while! :p
Azimullah Family Poster! Wooohooo! Courtesy of Channel 5, MediaCorp Singapore

Q: Is Mrs Azimullah okay after the insect sting?
A: Yes, thankfully! She says that after applying the cream, and taking the pain killer, the pain and swelling went off after about 4 hours or so. Thanks for your concern!

Q:  Did you guys really wash dishes with the well water?
A: Yes indeed, we do. So do the villagers. In fact, we sometimes borrow their modern day dish detergent which is much better than the bar of (circa 1960s) soap we were provided with.

Q: Why were the twins sleeping in some scenes, in some episodes?
A: In modern day Singapore, the twins go to full day childcare where their nap time takes place immediately after they have lunch. However, the filming schedule we were subjected to while we were in the kampong was so packed and busy that it wasn't always possible for the producers and director to allow us time to let the kids take their nap. Thus, the twins often fell asleep on the set, and when they do, either Matthew or I would have to carry them.

Q: Does Isaac really cry all the time?
A:  During the first four to five days of filming (roughly episodes 1 and 2 to you), Isaac really cried quite a lot. But after our family conference which you saw in Episode 2, he more or less stopped complaining about being in the kampong. The crying you saw in Episode 4 - well, the kids do quarrel with each other from time to time, as most siblings do. Normal sibling squabbling. But as Danish (Awad son) said on camera, Isaac is usually cranky whenever he is sleepy or tired. and I would add - hungry. And given that Isaac isn't used to the food at the kampong, he didn't eat as much as he needed to - he was often hungry. Given our accommodation, the lack of proper beds, and insufficient nap time - Isaac was often sleepy or tired. Hence, overall, it made him very touche and it was easy for something trivial to set him off. Isaac didn't cry all the time, but it was often enough for the cameras to catch him doing so.

Q: Do you have the recipes for the Asam Pedas paste and the three desserts Jemput Jemput, Belebat Pisang (Nagasari), Ketuk Ubi?

I didn't have the recipes, so I asked Mag (Mrs Awad) if she has the recipes. She replied almost immediately with the recipe for Asam Pedas. She says it is a staple food for her family, a dish which she has to cook at least once a week.

The Awad's Asam Pedas Paste
  • 6 slices of fish 
  • 10 to 20 Dried Chillies (depending on desired spiciness) 
  • 2 onions (1 for sauté 1 for grinding) 
  • 2 Garlics 
  • 2 inch Tumeric 
  • 20 pieces of Black Pepper (depending on desired spiciness) 
  • 1 inch Belacan 
  • Asam (Tamarind) - 1 ball / extract the juice 
  • 3 to 4 sprigs of Laksa Leaves
All grind except for asam & laksa leaves. Sauté the 1 onion (sliced) once fragrant, add the grinded ingredients. Wait till fragrant. Once fragrant and dry add the asam juice and some water. Add fish slices. Add salt to taste. Bring to boil. Lastly add the laksa leaves for flavour and fragrance. The dried chillies must be soaked first before grinding.


The three desserts, unfortunately, I have no directions for. Perhaps you can Google them! 
Awad Family Poster! Yums!!! Courtesy of Channel 5, MediaCorp Singapore

Q: Wow you look really annoyed with Mrs Azimullah winning the challenge!
A: Yes, the annoyance was real - BUT it wasn't directed at Mrs Azimullah (nor Mrs Awad) at all. I am unable to reveal the circumstances of what really happened, due to confidentiality agreement we have signed, but suffice to say Farzana (Mrs Azim) knows my comments and eye-rolling was not directed at her, and we're definitely still good friends :) 

Q: So how do you really feel about the Azimullah Family winning this challenge?
A: We are very happy that they have won the challenge, since they have not won any challenges since the beginning. Winning challenges is really more for the kids. As adults, we know that this is all for TV, but the kids think it is for real and take it very seriously and personally. Especially for our Tan Family and the Azimullah Family, our children are much younger and correspondingly not as understanding about not winning challenges. And since we have already won one challenge at least, it's high time the Azimullahs get to win a challenge as well.

Q: How do you feel about Mr Azimullah joining his family for challenges now?
A: We think that's fantastic! It's really not easy for Farzana to handle the girls all by herself during the day, on top of doing challenges as well. It would also even the playing field somewhat, now that we have two adults per family for the challenges that Azim can join us in. We think it is really wonderful for Azim to be able to join us - the girls and Farzana really missed him very much! It hasn't been easy for the girls to see the other kids having their father there for the challenges, whereas they didn't. We're truly happy to welcome Azim on board - now he can suffer along with us all!!! :p


Q: We have heard so much about this Throwback: Balik Kampong series, but we haven't seen it yet. How can we see it? 
A: First link below leads to Toggle.sg 's Throwback Balik Kampong menu page where you can select the episode you wish to view. For every episode, I will attempt to write a companion blog post, addressing any frequently asked questions.

So remember to catch the remaining six episodes of Throwback: Balik Kampong on Sunday 9.30pm at Channel 5!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Q&A Episode 3 Throwback: Balik Kampong

After the first two episodes of Throwback : Balik Kampong was aired, we found that we received the most comments and questions during the show itself, and the day immediately after. But it did not stop there. Comments would continue to trickle in during the week. We realised that this is because, due to the 9.30pm Sunday timeslot allocated for the show, lots of school going kids would be in bed by then. Many of our friends would either be unable to watch, as they are putting their kids to bed, or they would be watching alone without their kids. Then during the week, they would show their children the episode over Toggle.sg, or watch the embedded vids on this blog. Some friends even told us that it has become a multi-generation affair to watch the show together, so that the older folks can reminisce and talk about their own experiences to their grandchildren.

We hardly received any comments or questions about Episode 3 of Throwback: Balik Kampong. We know why. Barely hours after the episode was aired, our first prime minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew had passed away. This post-episode blog post, which is usually written and goes on the blog on Monday, didn't even start getting written till Thursday. I did write this post in tribute to Mr Lee, though. Suddenly, I was seeing our kampong experience in a new light.
Kids, playing together, regardless of race, language or religion. The Azimullahs were terrified of the cats. The Tans were curious. And the Awads were fearless - and very helpful in gently removing the cats from the vicinity of Farzana.


What you see on tv is far removed for you. But it was something my family experienced intimately for we really lived there for weeks. It is a real kampong with real villagers there. We even know the village couple who stays in the Tan Family hut that the production house rented the hut from. The couple had to move out of the house for the few weeks when we were there for the stay and shoot. To make the kampong circa 1960s Singapore kampong style, the production crew had to remove certain conveniences that the 2015 kampong had, like halogen lamp lighting and television sets, and they blocked off the entire back part of the house where the toilets and the kitchen (and gas cookers!) were so that we had no access to those.

But, being there and mingling with the real villagers, our neighbours... we realised that the "piped water" to their kitchen and toilet and shower was piped in by generator, from the well! Suddenly we understood why many of the villagers still bathed by the well despite having a shower stall in their home - there wasn't much difference! It was the same well water, and they probably saved electricity for not having to pump the water in. Halogen bulbs hung naked from the ceiling, without even a simple light fitting covering it. A few of them had standing fans, ceiling fans didn't exist, much less air-conditioner units. The walls of the huts were usually bare cement, the zinc plate roof, the floor bare cement. Admittedly, it is better than the "dumbed down" house we stayed in that you see on TV - that was meant to be circa 1965. But what we saw there, was a real 2015 kampong! With the level of technology and know-how available in 2015, there were still many people in that country living in a kampong like that! It just really drove home how far Singapore has come since 1965 in raising the standard of living across the board for all Singaporeans. How sobering.

For many people, Episode 2 was the emo-episode. Yet, this blog post for Episode 3 is even more emo!  Anyway, here's Episode 3 Throwback: Balik Kampong - it's a light-hearted episode, have fun watching! Watch at Toggle.sg if the video below does not play.


Now, since we did not receive many questions about this episode, I'd just talk about each segment of the show in the order that it was shown on the episode...

Rose Syrup - yes, we really drank the rose syrup that was made, as seen on the show. Of course, we made sure to drain out the solution to take away the rose petals. The solution was really fragrant and furthermore, it was the first sweet drink we have had in a few days now, at the kampong, so the kids really relished it. It was really such a treat, a luxury! I never knew rose syrup was literally made from roses, so that was an eye-opener for me. It's also good to know that you can control the sweetness of your drink by simply changing the amount of sugar you put in to boil, or by adding more water to dilute it.
Isaac's drawing of his kampong experience catching a rooster.
Chicken Chase - This was the one activity we, the Tan Family, went into feeling a bit apprehensive, but ended up enjoying it tremendously. All of us were a bit nervous about it, as we have not done it before. We were also afraid that the chickens would peck us when we tried to catch them. The kampong men told us that the part of the chicken to catch hold of, was their legs. Any one leg will do. We watched attentively as Mr Yeo the kampong expert showed us how to set the chicken trap with the basket propped up. But when we were all ushered into the huge coop with the many chickens, three broken baskets and given only 10 minutes to catch them all - we knew we couldn't go with Mr Yeo's method of setting a trap. One had to be patient with traps, for you are trying to catch the chicken unawares as they wonder toward the basket looking to eat the corn you scattered within. But the chickens we were trying to catch is certainly not going to be in the mood to eat corn, what with 8 children and 5 adults running around, chasing them?! 

So initially, we three mums were trying to fix the baskets. But there wasn't a lot of material we could work with. Also, I was itching to join in the action to start chasing and try my hand at catching chickens. When Hannah (Awad family daughter) came running with her first chicken caught, we gave up mending the baskets. We had a sudden brainwave and put one basket on top of another, and asked Hannah to throw the chicken in through the hole - the part we couldn't mend. Farzana (Azimullah family mum) then stepped forth to hold the baskets together so that the chickens wouldn't fly out. Mag (Awad family mum) and I quickly ran off to help the rest catch chickens. 

The three families initially discussed and decided that we would get the kids to chase the chickens into a corner of the coop, then the adults catch them. But once we went into the coop, it was mayhem! Everyone just ran everywhere, chasing the chickens. Hannah was excellent at catching the chickens gently, she would hold their bodies with her hands instead of just grabbing the legs like the kampong men taught us. Awad put his goal-keeping skills to good use lunging for the chickens like a pro. Matthew caught some and passed the chickens to the kids so that they can have the experience of holding the chicken by their legs. Isaac managed to catch a couple of chickens on his own. Even Farzana managed to catch a chicken - by throwing a basket on top of one! 

Speaking of which, I think it was great that the Azimullah gals, despite their fear of the chickens, were game enough to go into the coop with us and helped chase the chickens into a corner so that someone could catch them. Farzana especially, was so terrified, but yet she held on to the baskets firmly, and did her part to make sure that the chickens we caught did not escape. I think it is truly a milestone for her to even be in the kampong despite her phobia of cats, and moving, live chickens! I guess she explained it best when she said "We are not really animal lovers."
Isaac's illustration of the tiny chicken coop where the kids went to feed corn to the chickens.
Communal Dinner - It was really wonderful of Mag to volunteer to host dinner and be the main cook for our dinner that night. I have hardly any cooking experience, so I was very relieved to know that Mag and Farzana had more cooking experience - this made our communal dinners a lot more delicious that the ones Matthew and I had to cook on our own. I was very happy to just take instructions from both Mag and Farzana as they guided me with chopping ingredients and preparation of the meat etc. It was a very satisfying experience to cook alongside the both of them, with the men helping out too!

We have all come to love hanging out at the Awad's house as it is more airy and bright and had more open space for the kids to play. The Azimullah's house, and our house both had internal kitchens, and our front yards were along main thoroughfares of the village, and so was not as spacious a place for the kids to run around and play in. But still, it was very generous of Mag to invite us to their place for the communal dinner since she would need to clean up after we leave. We made sure to have the kids all chip in to wash the dishes and pots before we left, of course. Just that, it was bound to get sandy and all, when you have so many people there.

Coconut tree climbing - Matthew actually relished the opportunity to climb the coconut tree! After filming ended, he even had a go at it. The coconut trees in the kampong were much taller than the ones we have in Singapore, I didn't even realise coconut trees could grow that tall!? 20 metres, Fuzz said! Off camera, Matthew had fun climbing the tree, but even for an experience rock-climber like him, he stopped a third of the way up. Why? Not because he couldn't go any higher, but because he was very aware of the risk of him falling on his way down. And like what he told Isaac "It would be disastrous" if he did fall, so there was no sense in risking that. We did come away with something though, we realised that the canvas shoes I was wearing made great, cheap climbing shoes for him! hehehe...

Farzana was obviously relieved she didn't have to climb the tree too. It wasn't easy for her to be the only adult in her family - everything fell to her to do if the task needed an adult. Awad was so quick up the tree though! He is very sporting and seems game for any task they gave us. 

Shawna's illustration of herself climbing the coconut tree! The hanging circles are coconuts. She has grooves in the tree for climbing, and you can only see the back of her head because she is facing the tree! A chair on the side with a cup full of coconut juice and meat. See the real picture of this below!
Cutting open the coconut - Here's another prime example of something Farzana just had to take upon herself to do as she is the only adult. Even while she was at it, she was telling her girls to stand further as she was afraid the parang would fly off and hit them. But still, she gritted her teeth and got on with it. I was keen to chop the coconut as it seemed like a fun thing to do. But I was also terrified of accidentally chopping my fingers or hand off! Matthew was supportive and let me try, even though my first attempt at it was a horrendous one! By the time Matthew tried to chop the coconut, it was too late and we ran out of time. To make things worse, I had apparently chosen a leaking coconut - so most of the juice had leaked out onto the sand while I was hacking away at it. Sigh, what luck!

After the challenge was filmed, they did allow me to try my hand at chopping more coconuts. There were so many lying around anyway, and everyone was enjoying the fresh coconut drink - mainly from the Awads' bucket  - so I was allowed to chop away! Wow, what an experience that was. Someone handed me a different parang saying "Mrs Tan, try this parang, sharper." And boy what a difference that made! I cut opened no less than three more coconuts, getting faster and more proficient as I went - once I made sure I could chop the coconut and not my own fingers. I got the camera crew to time me for the last coconut, and it appears that I cut it open in less than 2 minutes! Woohoo personal best! hahaha...

Oh! Managed to find the ad below, that actually had some footage of me successfully cutting open some coconuts such that I could actually (finally!) pour the coconut water out!
Asher's drawing of his favourite activity so far - playing with the slingshot!
Isaac starting to like the kampong - As you can see, Isaac is starting to come around. Maybe he got used to it. Or perhaps it was because he had a good day. Chasing chickens was fun, coconut challenge was exciting and playing the kampong games was a novelty that has yet to wear off. In any case, we were really glad he was finally adjusting to life in the kampong.

So that's it for this episode. Remember to cast your votes through the ToggleNow (not Toggle) app, within 48 hours after the episode airs on Channel 5 - Sundays, 9.30pm :) Throwback: Balik Kampong!
Shawna attempts to climb the coconut tree! Photos courtesy of Rozz! Thanks Rozz!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

We will remember you, Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Recent Mondays for our family has been filled with glee and excitement over just having seen ourselves on TV the night before, since the reality TV show Throwback:Balik Kampong started airing a few weeks ago. Hubbs and I would be inundated with messages from friends and family commenting on the latest episode just aired. And I would be busy writing my post-show blog post, trying to remind people to cast their votes before Tuesday night... But not yesterday. Monday the 23rd of March 2015 started with gloom and heavy hearts. The inevitable had happened, Mr Lee Kuan Yew had passed on. 
Isaac, watching Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announce the passing of his father.
Isaac was home and not in school as he was feverish and not feeling well. 
"Somebody important has passed away, Isaac."
"Is it Lee Kuan Yew?"
"Yes! How did you know?"
He shrugged. But I think I knew how. We have been well prepared to receive this news, after all. Every time the Prime Minister's Office issues a statement to say that Mr Lee's condition has worsened, hubbs or I would go "Oh no." and the kids would ask "Why did you say "Oh no."?" And we would say "Lee Kuan Yew is very sick, he may pass away any time now." But no matter how prepared one is, the finality of it all when it happens, is deafening. 

Together, we watched Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announce the passing of his father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, in Malay, Chinese and English. Next, we watched the following two videos which I thought was a nice concise summary of Mr Lee Kuan Yew - for Isaac to learn about him. Who he was, what he has accomplished, and why he was considered an important man. 



Following these videos, we scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed together, reading the comments people have written. It was a sombre morning. A quiet one, but one in which I would not forget in a long time. It is one of those days which you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing, when you receive the news of something momentous.

When I sent the twins off to childcare, they asked me what I was reading on my phone. 
"I'm reading the news. Someone important has passed away."
"Who is it, Mummy?"
"It's the first Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew."
"Why is he important?"
Now, how does one explain that to a couple of 5 year olds? And then it struck me
"He's someone who was very hardworking and a very good leader. He did what he thought was correct and not just what was easy. He had very good plans, and he managed to find good people to help him with these plans. Together, they built up Singapore. In fact, do you know what Singapore would be if it were not for Lee Kuan Yew and his friends?"
"What, Mummy?"
"Singapore would be a kampong. Most of us would probably still be staying in a kampong!"
Asher snorted out in laughter over this. Shawna just gave me an incredulous look. No, they weren't being rude. They just felt that it was ludicrous to even think that Singapore could be a kampong. For unlike most kids in Singapore, our kids really knew what it was like to stay in a kampong as compared to living in modern day Singapore. Despite the fun we sometimes had while living in the kampong filming Throwback:Balik Kampong - the Tan Family children (and adults!) definitely did not want to live in a kampong for good. 
"Hahaha don't be silly, Mummy. How can Singapore be a kampong?!"

And that's when it occurred to me that this generation of children would never truly be able to appreciate what Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the rest of the forefathers of this nation have done for us. Perhaps, I exaggerated a little in order to illustrate this to the kids. Singapore was certainly not simply a fishing village in the 1960s, but it is true, that if not for the housing policies put in place - most of us would all still be living in kampongs now.
"Shawna, do you remember that Singapore song that you like? The one that goes "There was a time, when people said that Singapore WON'T make it, but we did... ?"
"Yes Mummy, I like that song!"
"It was Lee Kuan Yew who kept telling Singapore:"You can! You can! You CAN make it!" He had a great plan for Singapore, and he got everyone to work hard together. He didn't give up! He did not whine and say we're too small, too tiny! To make more space, he got us to build upwards, to build high-rised flats. When Singapore didn't have enough water to drink, he didn't moan and groan that we didn't have enough wells or that the sky didn't rain. Instead, he told the teachers to teach children like you and also your parents, to save water, to not waste water. He made plans for large reservoirs to collect rain water for Singapore. He and his friends also had a great idea! They learnt how to clean sea water, to make it clean and safe for drinking!"
"That's why we're not a kampong now, Mummy?"
"Hahaha yes, that and many other things, of course. But it was a lot of hard work, by lots of people, and over many many years doing many many things. That's why Singapore is what it is today. So you must learn to work hard and persevere, like Mr Lee Kuan Yew. ok?"
"Yes, Mummy!!!"

It does not matter to me that Mr Lee Kuan Yew did not live to see the fireworks on 9th August 2015. To me, he did live to see Singapore the way it is today. SG50 is not simply a celebration of Singapore's 50 years of independence. It is a celebration of the legacy of Lee Kuan Yew. With the myriad of activities, tv programmes and events showcasing the past 50 years of Singapore celebrating how far we have come - these provide the perfect resources to educate our young on who Lee Kuan Yew was, and what he stood for. To recognise and remember that Singapore's success was one that did not come easy and not without suffering and sacrifice. And that if we wish to continue to be successful, we need to work together, and work hard for a better future. 

We will remember you, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Thank you, Sir.

Read more tributes to Mr Lee Kuan Yew in the links found here

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Q&A Episode 2 Throwback: Balik Kampong

Throwback: Balik Kampong - Three modern families in 1960s Singapore style kampong!

We didn't have that many questions from friends and families this time round - unless you count those who did not watch the first episode and so had the kind of questions that people would have if they were watching for the first time. For those people, please read the post Q&A Episode 1

After the Q&A Episode 1 came out, some viewers had the following questions:
Q1. Did you get to keep the clothes as a souvenir from Mediacorp ?
A1a.  No, we did not get to keep the clothes as souvenirs.
A1b. Throwback: Balik Kampong was produced by The Moving Visuals Co. for Mediacorp.

Q2. What did your children like and not like about the kampong trip?
A2.  They loved participating in the challenges and playing with the children from the other two families. They didn't like the accommodation, that's for sure!

Q3. Where is this kampong? Is it a fake kampong?
A3. The kampong is a real living kampong with locals staying there and living there. It is not in Singapore and is situated in one of our neighbouring countries. The houses we three families stayed in were rented from the real villagers staying there. So the real families staying there had to move out for the period of time we were there.

Q4. Did you have medication for your throat? What if the kids fall sick?
A4. We were allowed to have with us from our luggage all the medicines we brought from home. So we had medicine for the kids if they fell sick - which they thankfully didn't! The production firm also had a medic on standby the whole time we were in the kampong.

Guess what?! I found out how to embed the video! Here is Episode 2 of Throwback: Balik Kampong - and if the video below doesn't play, then watch it on Toggle.sg
 
Q1. Did you guys really eat the clams for dinner?
A1. We, the Tan Family certainly didn't - because we didn't find anything edible. Anything life that we caught, were much too tiny to be eaten. It was the same for the Azimullahs. 

As for the Awads, I wasn't sure if they ate the clams or not, since Awad did say on camera that they were going to cook the clams for dinner. Hence I texted Mag to ask and this is what she said"Hey Pam, after Awad did the first cleaning of the clams & shells, I took the liberty to clean them again 4 to 5 times to get rid of the mud. After which we cooked clam shell soup which we didn't manage to share with you guys cause the crew and the kampong boys finished them. They were all hovering our porch when I was preparing the soup and devoured them as soon as I finished cooking. Gavin (the Director) was one of them! Haha.. Actually our family got to taste only a teeny weeny bit cause the clams & shells aren't many and we shared to most of the crew & kampong boys who were there. We had to cut the flesh to considerable pieces to give them with the soup. Little meat but more soup. The broth was really sweet from the clams & shells. By the time we finished  cooking it was about 9pm!"

Q2. The Awads' toilet was so beautifully decorated, how come Tan Family won instead?
A2. Fuzz actually explained this on the show:"The Awads toilet might have been more visually impressive, but the Tans deserve victory as the entire family chipped in whilst only Mr Awad did the hard work."

Q3. The Awads seemed very unhappy about you guys winning the toilet challenge.
A3. Are you serious?! Maybe you don't know the Awads like we do, but we could see Mag and Awad laughing amidst their complaints that we won instead of them. Now, if the judging criteria of the jamban challenge was one of beautifying the toilets, the Awads would definitely win us all hands down! Their toilets were so beautiful that Isaac and Asher insisted on using them when we were at the Awads house. 

Q4. You guys really used those toilets and shower cubicles?!
A4. Yes we did. In fact, compared to the public toilets at the kampong that we have a choice of using - the ones we built were not only much more beautiful, but also a lot cleaner and less smelly - since we haven't filled the pit with our waste YET.

Q5. So the production crew put in the shower head for you?
A5. No, no, there is no shower head, no piped in water. All we had in the shower cubicle is the waterproofed box with a scooper. Thus, in order to use it, we would have to get water from the well, and fill up the box in the shower cubicle. Then, we close the door, take off clothes, and bathe with the water we have fetched from the well.

Q6. Good job, about the win! Did you guys share the biscuits with the rest?
A6. Yes we did. We opened the tin immediately and shared the biscuits with the rest. The Awads too, shared their Milo. They didn't just pass us some Milo powder - they made Milo drinks for us whenever we went by the Awads house. Remember, they had to set up the fire to boil the water, before they could make hot Milo for us. What a treat it was for us! These were the small luxuries we were allowed when we were in the kampong. Milo and Khong Guan biscuits have never tasted so good before!

Q7. What happened? Why did Mrs Awad cry?
A7. Oh you didn't get that? Mag was so touched by how sweet Awad was when he commended her for being so supportive and pro-active despite being very particular about cleanliness and being a "neat freak". In my umpteenth interactions with Mag, she was definitely not an over-the-top OCD neat and cleanliness freak that Awad made her out to be. But yes, I could tell that she was certainly one that took pride in keeping the house clean and neat. 

And seriously, Awad was right - if you were one who was extremely particular about cleanliness and neatness, you would be expected go crazy in the kampong.  You don't see it nor experience it on tv, but the dirt is EVERYWHERE. There is sand everywhere, mud elsewhere, and dust in the air, all the time. No matter the number of times you washed your hands and feet, there was constantly dirt beneath the fingernails, and the toenails were black beyond hope. Even for someone like me who is not overly particular about being absolutely clean, I was bothered by the continual existence of dirt everywhere.

Q8. Mrs Azimullah doesn't like cats?
A8. Yes, Farzana is terrified of cats. Like she mentioned, she had a phobia of cats since young when a cat jumped on her. And that's why it's so brave of Farzana to take on this whole Balik Kampong experience. First, her husband couldn't come with the family as he couldn't take leave from work. So she had to handle the girls all on her own. Then, there were all these cats in the kampong! She was truly afraid of them. When we all realised that she didn't like cats, we all became her cat alarm, especially the kids. They would go "Auntie Farzana - CAT!!!" and Farzana would quickly scamper! Brings a smile to my face just remembering this.
Throwback Balik Kampong - Mrs Tan:"Let's be happy together."
Q9. Wah, you so drama, cry some more. You really can act!
A9. Hey, it wasn't an act! This is a reality tv show, none of the families have scripts. We are told of the challenges to do, but our responses are our own. We decide what we want to say or do. And frankly, beyond the first day, we don't think too much about it. We just behave as we normally do, and the cameras capture it.

Isaac's attitude about the kampong was a real challenge for us. What you viewers see on tv as two episodes was actually filmed over 4 to 5 days in the kampong. Thus, in real life, Isaac was crying and complaining about being in the kampong for 4 to 5 days already. We had tried almost everything we could think of. We spoke to him nicely. We scolded him harshly - because he started to go around scolding the camera crew. As a kid, he doesn't understand that the camera crew is just doing their job. So he blamed them for keeping him in the kampong, and started to scold them. This was what I meant when I said he shouldn't go overboard. We told him to focus on the positive and purposely pointed out the times when he was happily playing with the other kids, or participating in the challenges. But he was still grouchy and surly when he remembered where he was. In the end, it seemed that the family conference broke his dam. He was more positive then on.

Q10. You Tan Family really can cry!?
A10. Hahaha to be fair, it's only Isaac who's been crying a lot. It was the twins first time crying that night saying that they miss home and want to go home. If you watch carefully, Asher first cried because he saw Isaac crying. Asher is sensitive that way, to his siblings emotions. Then the kids all cried because I cried. For we're very close to the kids, so when the kids see that I am upset, it makes them upset too. I didn't plan on crying on national tv! It just happened!!!

If you have any other questions that were not answer in this post, do post them in the comments below in this blog and we can possibly answer them in our next post on Throwback Balik Kampong! Now, go get your voting done, and set an alarm in your phone for 9.30pm on Sunday nights to stay tuned to Channel 5 for Throwback: Balik Kampong! 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Friends reactions to Ep 1 of Throwback Balik Kampong

Our friends and family loved watching the first episode of Throwback: Balik Kampong last Sunday night. We had immediate feedback via instant messages and such.
"My kids hearts melt..."
"He wants to accompany and stay with Isaac"
 Now for a commercial break! This is the ad for tonight's Episode 2 of Throwback Balik Kampong!



"Alamak! Isaac!!! I want to go home!!"

"I feel for Isaac... I feel like crying too..."
It IS a REAL kampong!!!
Nightmare! Scarred for life!
The last one from Corsage's 3 year old is my favourite! Haha! What were your kids' reactions when they saw the show? Share with us in the comments below! And don't forget to watch tonight at 9.30pm on Channel 5! But if you can't, no worries! Stay tuned to this blog, we'd put the link for you to watch the show online when Episode 2 goes on. Can't wait for tonight!

Friday, 13 March 2015

Day 12: Prayers for Those with Depression

It's been a long time since I posted a Pray With Us post. This is our series of posts where we pray for people around us. No matter what your religion is, or even if you don't have one, you are welcomed to pray with us.          

Tan Family Chronicles' Pray With Us series
Day 1: Prayers for the Dearly Departed
Day 2: Prayers for the Littlest Ones We Never Got to Know
Day 3: Prayers for Those Here, But Not Present
Day 4: Prayers for Children to Be Well
Day 5: Prayers for Those with Cancer
Day 6: Prayers for Those Who Want Kids But Can't
Day 7: Prayers for Those with Down Syndrome
Day 8: Prayers for all Marriages
Day 9: Prayers for the Safety of our Children
Day 10: Prayers for Those Who Look a Little Different
Day 11: Prayers for Those Who Need a Little More Courage in Life

Day12: Prayers for Those with Depression

2014 was not a very good year for us, the world lost Robin Williams and we personally lost a number of friends to depression. People who succumbed to depression... and did the unthinkable. Unthinkable by people who don't have depression. But for people with depression, the unthinkable may be constantly on their minds, all the time, lingering... The friend of mine that passed on, is a good friend of mine. It is painful to think, talk or write about it, even now. However, I found this series of comic drawings online which I think is very well done. I think this will serve nicely for us to join in the prayers for those with depression, and those around them. Thank you Colleen for allowing me to repost this. 
Depression is Quiet by Colleen Butters
http://solar-citrus.tumblr.com/










We pray for those suffering from depression. We pray that you will cease to suffer from it. We pray that the condition will go away completely, immediately. We pray that any circumstances which led to you developing the condition, will be resolved satisfactorily, and remain resolved. We pray for you to have peace of mind. We pray that you have the support of your family and friends. Please let people help you. Perhaps not everyone would, but someone will! Please open your heart and mind to allowing people to help you. Please be positive. Please reach out, and call for help. It is okay to need help. And people will help. We pray that you will feel our love for you, amidst the darkness you dwell in.

We pray for the family and friends of those who suffer from depression. We pray that you can see the signs, and reach out and help, before it is too late. We pray that you have the strength and patience to help. We pray that you remember the love you have for each other, especially when the going gets tough. We pray that you will always have the heart and the ability to do what is right, and what needs to be done. Reach out for help too. There is strength in numbers, so please do not hesistate to reach out to others for help, so that you can rest too. There is no shame. There will be compassion. There will be people who will help. 

We pray for people to help when they see a need for help. We pray that people answer the call, when help is requested. We pray that more people in this world are willing to extend whatever aid they can render. Do not be afraid to help. The best form of giving is to give without expecting anything in return. We pray that we can all do what we know is the right thing to do.

We pray for those who had depression, and have already departed. We pray that you will not be judged. We pray that, no matter what your religion was, that you would be accepted into heaven. We pray that you are at ease, at peace, and finally free from all kinds of pain, physical, mental, emotional. Know that you still have people who love you and miss you.

We pray for the family and friends of the departed. Please do not succumb to depression as well. We pray that you have the support of the family and friends around you. 

Let us pray.
Here are some helplines you can call/contact for aid:

Samaritans of Singapore
The Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) provides confidential 24-hour emotional support by trained volunteers to people in crisis, thinking of suicide or affected by suicide. SOS also runs the 'Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors' programme, which is an outreach programme to provide emotional support to survivors bereaved by the suicide death of a loved one.

Singapore's National Council of Social Service (NCSS) has compiled an excellent list of resources for mental health related services. Also, the NCSS List of General Helplines (pdf file)

Here is more information on depression:
Health Promotion Board - Understanding Depression

Other bloggers' posts on the topic of depression
Owls Well - Dying of Depression by Becky Lee
PrayerFull Mum - {Thankful Tuesdays} Happy Family

If you have any other links which is useful, please drop me a comment or an email at tanfamilychronicles(a)yahoo.com to inform me, so that I can add it in this post. 

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