Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lessons From Nanny McVi

Luna Girl (mukha lang siyang boy dito, bakit ba) and Nanny McVi

We weren’t really intending to hire a nanny… one of the reasons why we decided for me to be a stay-at-home-mom was I really couldn’t feel comfortable leaving Luna girl with a nanny for most of the day while I travel 1 hour to work one-way (which is 2 hours back and forth).  Add to the fact that we have no family around to supervise or at least call on within the city (office is 30kms away).  Instead we planned to increase the day the cleaner comes while I manage baby duties.  I mean how hard can it be right?  Baby cries, I respond, she sleeps, we play a little…  I was even afraid I’d get bored.  Bored!  Boy was I wrong!  It is true what they say, I’d have my hands full.  Let’s even just focus on one thing: diaper duties.  Hubby wanted to go with cloth diapering.  I was concerned because of the lack of help but fine it should be manageable.  It actually is when you think about the laundry part but the changing part was incredible.  For the first few weeks I felt I was “reduced” to being peed and pooed on and in a never-ending cycle of changing nappies.  This wasn’t how I imagined motherhood to be!  I was crying to my husband and dreading the day my mom goes home (she flew in for my delivery and the holiday season).  I was even pissed at him, it was his idea to go with cloth (to which he has a different memory of, who is right doesn’t matter, hehe)!  So I gave him a choice: let’s do disposables or hire a nanny.  That evening, hubby told me I have a nanny interview the next day.  That was how he felt strongly about cloth diapering.  Haha!  But seriously I think he saw how much I was struggling.  And maybe he was too.

At first I was a bit guilty.  I mean I quit work to take care of my baby but I let somebody else do it at the end of the day (she’s part-time though, 4 hours a day).  But for my sanity, I needed her.  And for work, she needed us.  We found our nanny from a referral of our officemate.  Her sister-in-law hired her own nanny from a nurse who apparently has a network of nannies. Vimala, Luna’s nanny was a professional babysitter, she had medical experience as a hospital attendant and even had international work experience working in a hospital in Dubai.  I was impressed with her qualifications.  With these qualifications, she was also very knowledgeable about health and safety. She came in with her own uniform (!) and was very well-groomed (i.e. she smelled good and would only touch Luna when she is already in her uniform vis a vis her street clothes).   

Hubby and I also consider a person’s “aura.”  We’re not aura readers or anything of that sort but we would like to have a positive energy around our household moreover our baby!  She is a lovely middle-aged woman, who talks animatedly and who is quite loud.  My kind of woman! 

The true test came when she held Luna.  Luna was comfortable with her immediately.  You could sense a feeling of peace with Luna as she was being held in capable hands.  She is also very observant about Luna, pointing out peculiar things she has observed about her (e.g. a weird birthmark-ish mark on her scalp) and reports any anomalies to me.  Moreover you could see that Vimala was passionate about babies. I know it’s mean to say but at first I felt handling babies was such a chore – goodness even my own!  I didn’t know what to do, I wasn’t effective, how could I enjoy it right?  I mean don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter with my whole heart but that is just different from being happy with how I am taking care of her.  The Tiger Mother, Amy Chua had it right, “nothing is fun until you’re good at it (Chua, 2011, p.29).”  Unfortunately when it comes to taking care of my child, I was not good at it.  NOT YET.  So I vowed to myself that I will make the most of this nanny situation.  I embraced the learning opportunity offered by our Nanny McVi!  I will not just sit back in jealousy seeing how good somebody else is with my daughter.  I will be good with my daughter as well.

In just barely two months I’ve learned so much from her about taking care of Luna.  How to hold her, soothe her, make her sleep, how to wash her bottles and heck, even how to fold her nappy.  How they fold the nappy is pretty cool I tell yah!  In as much as I learn these by observing, asking questions and asking for demonstration, I also take note when she gives me her own inputs and feedback on how things should be done.  She’s the expert and so far she makes sense!  I appreciate it too that she gave me the space to chart the course on how to take care of my daughter.  For one she is already a believer in having a schedule for baby, although I think she was a bit shocked during our sleep training on how detailed the schedule was and how anal I was in implementing it.  Don’t worry people I exercised flexibility, within limits!  And she fully supported me during our bottle re-training bootcamp. 

There were also many things I learned from Nanny McVi about taking care of baby beyond the practical stuff…

First, she always says in her broken English “baby (or baba, baby in Sinhala or babi, maybe her own other way of saying baby, haha) understands.”  True!  Baby understands if she is being held by a person s/he can trust, who knows how to take care of him/her.  Or how you are feeling while holding him/her.  Which brings me to my next point.

Chillax.  Be calm and secure.  Babies need security and with your touch, you can say, “baby, you’re safe, relax.”  How she holds Luna and how she gently sways to calm her down are all done in a very chill manner.

And related to my last point, chillax, you are not a bad mother just because you get a nanny.  It is ok to admit that you need help especially if you’re a first timer because taking care of a baby is a skill that can be learned.  It is a very specialized competency I must say as with being a mother, you can’t just be a good baby sitter just like that.  And if providing your baby the best care means getting a nanny, then so be it. 

Hiring Nanny McVi is one of the best decisions we’ve made (crossing my fingers this statement will hold true until we leave in August).  For Luna because she does have the best care – from Nanny McVi, daddy and me!  For hubby and I as we have the opportunity to learn from an “expert.”  But for me mostly, as we are together everyday, in as much as she is Luna’s nanny, she has become my childcare mentor and friend too.

If you are in Sri Lanka and looking for a Nanny, contact Sister Kern of McCarthy Hospital at 2697760.  *Sister is a title to mean a Senior Female Nurse in the British Nursing Hierarchical System

Chua, A. (2011).  Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  Bloomsbury, UK.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

The 2 O' Clock Traffic

This is how Havelock Road looks like at around 2pm from our balcony.  Compared to Manila traffic it’s nothing but this is quite busy already in Colombo.  It’s dismissal time in school and lunch time for most.  Yes you read it right, they eat lunch when we’re almost ready to take merienda.  

I can’t believe we only have 6 months to take in this view.  It makes me overly sentimental.  If you read my first few posts and my latest ones, you know I’ve come a long way through.  I am no longer that newly-wed, anxious about not having work but embracing the housewife world girl who came here in 2010.  Around this time (2pm) at the last quarter of 2010, I would probably be coming home from Sinhala class, or occasionally having lunch with Sinhala classmates or going out to buy groceries or taking a nap (back then I re-discovered the pleasures of siesta).  In 2011, I probably am one of the few who are working in the office as most of them are in the canteen having lunch or waiting for my next meeting which will be after officemates come back for lunch.  Today, I’m usually at home taking my nap as it’s Luna’s sleepytime too (needless to say, I’ve re-discovered once again the power of the afternoon nap) or blogging, or reading, or even cooking or more like prepping what hubby will cook (you gotta work with the “free” time you have, i.e. Luna’s sleepy time).  

Since moving to Sri Lanka, my 2pm have been so totally different from 2010, 2011 and 2012.  I wonder what my 2pm will be like by the last quarter of this year.  Where will we be then? 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentines La Vida Lanka

Valentines, big deal right?  But I guess somehow it is a big deal for me.  Hubby and I have a funny Valentine history.  Our very first was in 2009, it was kind of frustrating because I was planning a nice out of town trip but hubby (then BF) turned it down because he promised (and whatever he promises he keeps!) to join his Rugby team for a game (SERIOUSLY! I don’t forget!).  So ok, in as much as I’m hurt (really!) and all, this being the FIRST Valentine’s day ever for us well, I gave in to a compromise.  We had an awesome lunch in Aubergine then we went to the Rugby game.  Well at least we spent the whole day together, right?  Still to this day I couldn’t believe what the he was thinking then!  But he more than made up for it for every single occasion thereafter and even the everyday.

The one after that, well (insert call a friend i.e. hubby) we went to Clark, Pampanga for the Hot Air Balloon Festival.  And of course we just had to have lunch at C! super yummy Italian restaurant.  Can’t believe how that escaped my memory!

Our very first Valentines as husband and wife, well I was away on business.  I made up for it by arranging lunch and a relaxing massage later at Casa Colombo and Spa Ceylon Ayurveda (also in Casa Colombo).

This year was special because it was the first time since the time my mom came to Colombo for my delivery that we would have a “just us” date.  We celebrated it with a simple dinner and coffee and dessert after at The Old Dutch Hospital (will do a post on this later, the place reminded me, though not exactly, of Chijmes in Singapore).  We had dinner at Brewery by O! and coffee and dessert at Heladiv Tea Club, the only 2 food places we haven’t tried there. 

The dinner was nice, nothing gastronomical and it even reminded me of “pulutan” food (food you munch on when you’re drinking) but it was good nonetheless. 

Hubby's Fish and Chips



What’s interesting about it is they serve imported beers!  These are what Hubby and I tried…

And I totally enjoyed Hoegaarden!  It was light and smooth.  As always, I already have a buzz with the first (and only) bottle.  That’s what happens when you don’t drink for 9 months and you are not really a “drinker” anyways plus you breastfeed.

There was also a “band” playing that night.  “Band” because it was more like karaoke music – yes the actual SOUND of the karaoke!  With the “pulutan” food and the sounds, it made me feel like I’m in a beer garden instead of a pub.  So totally against its “equity.”  Plus they should have ditched the free rose and heart-shaped balloon decor!  Cheesy for a pub!  Haha! 

In as much as the elements of the place did not jive, we still enjoyed it because well I had a buzz (and I’m funny that way) and we usually enjoy just being with each other (cheesy!) – duh. 

We capped off the night with Death by Chocolate and Lattes! 

I totally enjoyed just being with hubby – you know just us.  It’s been a while!  We usually take Luna Lakwatsera around and don’t get me wrong she is a joy to be with but before our party of three it was just hubby and I. I believe in a marriage “us” time is sacred – even with kids and all.  But I also found myself having a heavy heart "prepping" her (or me) about what's to happen that night (lessons learned from the first night hubby and I were both out albeit separately) and eventually saying goodbye to my little rosebud (and her “don’t leave me” eyes).  We also found ourselves watching a video I took of her early that day during our date.  When we got home, she was not fussy, a bit antsy though and still awake.  She was waiting for our return.  Shortly thereafter, she knew her nanay and daddy are home, she then went to sleep.  I joined her soon while hubby worked until 2:30am (back to normal!). 

And that’s how we spent Valentines La Vida Lanka.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Luna Lakwatsera at Gangaramaya Temple

This month is quite busy for my little girl as we have been entertaining quite a number of Filipino visitors.  It’s actually a cool thing – I wouldn’t have expected to have quite a number of friends visiting Sri Lanka.  It’s not really on the average Pinoy’s list of must-go places… at least not yet and I do hope Pinoys will realize what a beautiful place Sri Lanka is, how very different (which makes it interesting!) and very similar it is to the Philippines.  But I digress.

T, A friend from University came this week to join C for a quick trip to Maldives over the weekend.  He had a night and whole day in Colombo to spare and I pulled out my “no fail” Colombo itinerary:

Day 1
Dinner at Gallery Café
Window Shopping (actual shopping for C) at Paradise Road Shop at Gallery Cafe

Day 2
Gangaramaya Temple
Lunch and (Window) Shopping at Barefoot
Hangout At The Apartment
(Window) Shopping at Odel (Colombo’s biggest mall chain)
(Heavy) Merienda at Gallery Café and Shopping at Paradise Road (shop at Gallery Café)

Gangaramaya Temple and Odel Shopping were the two things our officemates took us to during my first trip here in 2009 (for a conference) and I kind of got the idea there. 

Going into Gangaramaya Temple is free and you can basically take pictures everywhere.  If you wish, you may also make a donation for its various causes.  
Inside the temple
It has a “museum” and a collection of gifts from other Buddhist countries.  Museum in quotation because things are kind of just strewn all over with reason but without rhyme… it’s grouped together into similar items but a bit too disorganized for my taste.  In short it was not “manicured” but I guess that is its own appeal.

There was a huge elephant when I first came in 2009 however our driver told me the poor elephant died last year.  There is another elephant but it’s smaller.  I just got a little scared because it kind of “chased” us and I was wearing Luna.  It’s not the old big one but an elephant nonetheless!  Freak out moment!

Going around just be prepared to go barefoot as you have to leave behind your footwear to go into the temple and other areas.

Barefoot T
To cap it all off, I wanted my friend T to get the full “Temple Experience” and looked for someone who could give us the pirith noola, a thread tied around one’s right hand as a protection from bad luck.  Luckily we were able to get one and of course Luna girl too!

Luna and her pirith noola
And how did Luna girl like it?  Well she screamed her head off when we arrived (she was disturbed from her sleep) but quickly fell back asleep and kind of slept most of the way through.  I guess the temple gives some kind of relaxing vibes even for babies!  T observed that it is a place that is conducive for prayer and meditation.

the sleeping traveler

After the temple, we went to Barefoot for some window shopping (T didn’t like anything there) and lunch at Barefoot Café.  T liked the chill vibe which is elusive in Singapore (where T is based).  For some practical reasons, we hung out first in our apartment where we changed Luna’s nappy, had her afternoon feed and I had to give nanny/cleaner’s weekly pay.  After resting, we headed to Odel where you can find more souvenir treats.  Because T liked what he ordered when we went to dinner at Gallery Café, we headed back there for some merienda.  T also bought some pasalubong at the shop.

photo grabbed from T
That was the short itinerary we had for T which he said he enjoyed!  Yipee!  One satisfied guest!  Luna and nanay are happy hostesses with the mostess!

Gangaramaya Temple is at Sri Jinaratana Road, Colombo 2
Odel, 5 Alexandria Place, Colombo 7

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Service Surprise La Vida Lanka

During my first few months here I was quite disappointed with the level of service that is present here in Sri Lanka.  They are nice people, very kind and even-tempered but their customer service sucked.  The state of customer service remained the same or maybe reached an “acceptable” level as we lived here longer and experienced more moments needing some help whether it be while shopping, dining or getting things fixed.   

So imagine my surprise when we got an amazing service by Abans (one of the biggest appliance supplier in Sri Lanka).  Our experience of their service in the past was very frustrating.  One major repair we had was the refrigerator that took a good month and a half to get it to its full working condition – not to mention the numerous follow-ups and the broken promises (they said they will pick up the unit at a particular day and time but did not).  But just last weekend we were in for a treat.  Our washing machine broke down Friday evening.  It is a horrible thought not having a working washing machine especially if you’re cloth diapering and your baby is a nappy killer (haha!).  I was bracing myself for another frustrating debacle with the whole repair process.  The next day I searched for the number of Abans Customer Service and was quite surprised to see that they have a 24-hour customer service hotline.  Wow.  Unheard of!  Anyway I was still a bit weary because it was national day and even Odel, the biggest shopping mall was closed but I tried it anyway.  There was no answer.  Typical.  Then I got a phone call from the hotline.  They said they will send a technician within an hour.  Really?  I’m already impressed.  The technician came truly within an hour!  Now I’m really, really impressed!  He fixed the unit right there and then.  He couldn’t quite explain what was the issue with his limited English but told us it is working now and if it breaks down again they will have it picked up and repaired in their warehouse.  Fair enough.  Now, almost a week later it is still working crossing my fingers it will not break down anymore!  Plus we didn’t even get ripped off as they have a constant fee of Rs. 1,500 (around Php600) for the home visit in our area. 

I’m surprisingly happily serviced la vida Lanka!

If you are in Colombo and your appliance is need of repair, here are Abans’ 24-hour Customer Service Hotlines:

Refrigerator and A/C: 0712514514
Other Appliances: 0714557557

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Luna La Vida Galle!

Last weekend, mi Familia La Vida Lanka together with C a friend from Uni (who is here for work) went down South to the historical Galle.  Pronounced as Gawl not Ga-Le as in Robinson’s Galleria.  Hahaha!  I’ve always wanted to go there after reading about it in Gourmet Chick.  Since C have been to Colombo before, I decided a day trip out of town would be best.  Since Galle is only a couple of hour’s drive through the new SCTEX-ish highway, it was the perfect choice!  At least Luna girl will be comfy with the trip as opposed to taking a longer drive.

First up, lunch at Amangalla!  I’ve always wanted to visit the historical hotel of the luxurious Aman group.  Since I don’t have USD550++ to spare for the cheapest overnight accommodation, lunch it is!  And as you can see from the menu, the prices are not at all bad – not bad for hotel food moreover not bad for a luxe hotel!  Take note that 1 Philippine Peso is around 2.5 Sri Lankan Rupees.

The starters are yummy…

The mains are huge for Hubby and C.

Fish and Chips for hubby

Amangalla Burger for C!

Mine (and Luna’s after 7 hours) is just the right size – I love the olive-y flavors!  Since the dish didn’t come with rice, I just ordered extra!

Extra Rice Not In Picture

Hubby took charge of the nappy change in the hotel.  Take note that the toilets did not have any changing table so hubby just used a flat surface near the window sill. 

Hubby and Luna girl by the lighthouse
After lunch we went to see the lighthouse and took pictures by the sea.  Luna was game!  Check out her pose! 

Amangalla and the lighthouse are situated inside Galle Fort (a UNESCO world heritage site).  It is reminiscent of Manila’s Intramuros as Sri Lanka was colonized by the Portuguese, Dutch and Brits.  If we were to go back to Galle (which I hope we could do overnight), I would like to further explore the Fort and its history.    

Since we only had a few hours, the concierge at Amangalla suggested we go to Unawatuna beach.  It’s a 15-minute drive out of the Fort.  The streets reminded me of Boracay and a little bit of Siam Reap – where the hotels and restaurants are.  The beach is ok, but the establishments are too close to the water which makes it look a bit crowded.  Luna and hubby just lounged at the restaurant where we had a few drinks (Coke anyone?) and C and I took pictures by the beach. 

As you can see, Luna has had so much stimulation she couldn’t sleep when it’s time to nap (at that time, we were on Day 3 of Sleep Training).  Poor child. 

After swinging by Unawatuna beach, we took up another suggestion of the Amangalla concierge and check out the Rhummasala.  It was actually a trek but he didn’t know we have a baby in tow.  Instead the waiter (who was quite impressive with his knowledge and suggestions) recommended for us to just take the car up the hill that is the spot of the Peace Pagoda. 

The Peace Pagoda is situated in a hill overlooking the sea and Galle Fort in the distance.  It was a gift from Japan to Sri Lanka “to provide a focus for people of all races and creeds, and to help unite them peacefully” as it is written in the Amangalla info on Rhummasala.

the view of the fort from peace pagoda
The view from above was a good way to cap off our trip to Galle and gave Luna a few minutes’ sleep. 

So how did Luna like it?  For a baby on sleep training, I think she LOVED it!  She slept well on the way there, within her sleep time.  She woke up within her eating time and took in all the view within her activity time.  However, in the afternoon since it was packed with sightseeing, she fought off sleep (until she couldn’t which by the time she had a few minutes it was close to eating time)…  Stimulation galore – sights, sounds and Tita C!  Activity time stretched to the max.  Oh well, I have to give it up for my little girl who is game enough to enjoy the day with us.  I'm sure for her age and size it was pretty tiring.  She didn’t give any trouble at all – except the no sleeping when it’s sleep time but the training is flexible and nanay was not THAT strict (strict pa rin pero konti lang – strict but just a little bit!) and this is not a precedent!  Hahaha! 

That’s the latest adventure of Luna La Vida Lanka!
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