A day in the life of ….

It is 10.43pm. And I have time for only a short one…
7am today. Woke up and dragged myself out of bed to go and do some cardio at the gym. I haven’t been at the gym for the last 5 days. I thought it was time to break the terrible pattern. Brought my iPad and watched the first episode of ‘How to Get Away with Murder’. I’ve promised myself I only get to watch my shows when I’m on the treadmill or elliptical (thanks Alyssa for the idea, it’s a real horrible idea you know, such torture)
Came home. Showered and had breakfast.
9am. The day was so gloomy but we had already planned to head to the Shedd aquarium today. Ihsan had been repeating on loop how he missed the aquarium. He also said he wants to live right next to it (sighs). So we went. But, I spent most of my time at a cafe, going over readings for a class I had tonight (I was feeling guilty for the half-assed blogpost I put up last night, 1 day late mind you. And nothing in comparison to the quality of writing of some of my classmates). I did take the boys to the aquatic show, letting hubs sit at the cafe with a cup of hot chocolate to be away from the boys for a little (Nothing to feel guilty about, very important for parental sanity).
The view from the cafe. Dark dark skies terribly chilly winds. Welcome to the Windy City, huh?
I napped in the car on the way home. We had lunch and then we went for the boys first swimming lessons at a nearby swimming school. You guessed it, I had my readings along with me.
Will blog more about this experience another time!
We headed home. I had an early dinner (4.30pm). Had a hot shower. Popped some pills and lay down for a rest. I’ve been having tension headaches almost every day. 
I then walked over to school for a 6pm team meeting. We’re working on a problem-based assignment for a class I’m taking. 
Before the meeting, I spent about 15 minutes complaining about how the readings are so dense. How all the activity on our hive (our online learning platform) is making me feel very unintelligent compared to my colleagues.
Virtual meetings are huge in this prog!
At 7pm, we log onto our virtual class. I’m blown away by the technology and how I’m in a small actual classroom on campus with my team-mates, but also online with 44 other students, some as far away as Australia! It’s my first ever online virtual class. 
It’s daunting, at the same time hilarious! The comments on the chat bar blow me away1
At one point, there was a poll and I was in the minority that answered positively to the question. My team, the one I was with non-virtually in the classroom, urged me to ‘raise my hand’ in the class and share my views. I felt a little pressured, even though one of my classmates, sensing my discomfort assured me that I didn’t have to. But I did. I spoke up and I don’t know whether what I said was even logical, but I was glad I had team mates willing to put me out of my comfort zone.
Our virtual class ended at 8.30pm. Our team stuck around to finish up our meeting, picking up on juicy bits our professors had doled out during the class. We worked out what needed to be done before our next meeting.
I walk home. It’s 9.15pm. The boys are fast asleep. I let out a grunt of acknowledgement to my hubs, changed into jammies, opened up my laptop and tackled my blog reflection post for Thursday’s class. Tomorrow, I have to read the 4 chapters plus 1 compulsory reading for that same class (never mind the 3 other optional readings assigned) and complete 1 assignment that we’re discussing in THAT SAME CLASS. 
I also have to find time to do some interviews for a discovery assignment for another class (why aren’t the contacts replying me?) and then start tackling assignments for next week.
It’s 11.07pm now. I’m feeling good that I’m spending this little time blogging. I do want to share my academic experience (with those who are keen to learn about it). Also, it would really help address any concerns that my colleagues or former/current/potential bosses may have about how I spend my time here. It’s not all about fishing, sunny days with the kids touring around. It’s pure hard work la!!! *cries*
I find it even more difficult to balance between my priorities now. Especially since I’ve stated how time with my kids is important and a priority over these 2 years. It would be easier to just chuck them in school all day, the way I do in Singapore. Sighs……(yes, still carrying around years of mommy guilt).
I’m going to have some left over tiramisu now and watch a little bit of tv. Brainless stuff like fixing homes. And then tomorrow wake up to go to the gym so I can finish that episode of ‘How to get away with murder’ and maybe start on the new episode of Jane the Virgin. Sigh, who am I kidding? I should dump all this entertainment and just watch Ted Talks and podcasts like all my other brilliant classmates!

Fishing!

When I saw that there was fishing for lil kiddos, I knew i had to sign us up. It was one activity that I knew hubs would jump at and get all excited about. The boys were excited too of course, although lil Irfan does actually prefer to sit with me with his book. Me with my homework to read and Irfan with his Pete the cat book.
What an awesome program, right by a lake a short drive from our place! It’s just an experience of fishing. You just come between 10-1pm, pick up a rod and some worms, that are provided free and just fish. There are some experts around to help guide you if you don’t know what to do, but we have hubs who loves nothing more than fishing- okay maybe fishing ranks as high as Man United and maybe MMA.

It was crazy weather that day. It would be nice warm and sunny for like 15 minutes before the clouds rolled by and it was freezing cold for another 15 minutes before the clouds rolled away. It was like that all day! I just watched the clouds hoping for them to roll away faster, while the boys fished!
I made the mistake of taking a picture of the first fish they caught, for purpose of this blog. And then Ihsan insisted that I take a picture of every little fish they caught. It was very disruptive. Between cloud watching and taking pics of the fish, I got very little reading done. =(

Ihsan trying to kiss the fish! sighs…

But they had a fab time, which is what matters most! I’m thinking as I’m loading this pics- that I’m going to miss the warm toasty sun…I’d better enjoy the weather while it lasts!

Tiny Trekkers…

It’s not been an easy last few weeks. Although we are quite settled and happy in our new home, I am still transitioning into my new role now as a student, a mother in-school and a home-schooling parent. And for some reason, I can’t stop cooking- so that, especially hunting down Asian ingredients, takes a lot of time too!
    
The beautiful building where the class is held.

Look, life at work in Singapore was definitely more stressful and more challenging. But it was familiar. I think what I’m struggling with now, is the ‘newness’ of being back in school, dense readings, concepts and having people grade my work. 

I also think that our decision to home-school the boys adds a different dimension of stress that I had not experienced before. I think i may have spent more time with my boys over the last few weeks we’ve been here than in the last 6 months we were in Singapore. I was always sneaking out before they woke up, that I spent very few hours of the day with them.

Ihsan was stoked that the
 first class was about fish!
Here, i take Mondays and Wed mornings when    we do Malay or Arabic (ngaji or quranic recitation). Iman takes Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings when they do English or Math (How we are progressing on this front, deserves it’s own blog post. Watch out for it!).

We spend Thursday mornings at Tiny Trekkers (but not before a round of spelling =P), a program run by the Evanston Ecology Centre
Since we’re home-schooling them, we looked for opportunities for the boys to interact with other children and we are very very lucky that there are so many educational activities, most at very reasonable prices, for our boys.

My kids loved the fishing activity!
Tiny Trekkers focuses on what we can learn about wild-life. It was very interesting that during the last class we learnt about the raccoon- it’s an animal that the boys are not at all familiar with.
The class is designed the usual way these classes are- some intro activity indoors, outdoor activity, snack time, craft, story time and songs. It’s like sending my kids to Julia Gabriel’s but at a fraction of the cost!
I’m loving this experience because I have never seen my kids in a classroom environment before. I usually sneak out of the house before they wake up in Singapore so I never really drop them off at school. Plus we never did sign them up for enrichment classes- we were too stingy to part with our money- so I’m fascinated to see how they interact with others, listen to the teacher, get excited over the activities, etc.

When I used to work as a teaching assistant at JGC, i did remember observing how excited and fascinated parents look about what their kid says and does. Now I know what it feels like to be on the other side. 
Taking the time to attend these activities with my kids, instead of heading to the library to read or tackle assignments, is really important, especially if I’m to meet my goal of nurturing the relationship between my children and I
Hidden forest animals, waiting for the children to discover then!

We’ve signed up for more one-off events with the centre, like a campfire experience. It is wonderful that we have this opportunity to experience a whole different part of the world, its beautiful flora and fauna! I’ll definitely keep you updated.

Irfan and his list, which included raccoons and beavers, animals we aren’t familiar with.

The boys spot a hawk in the tree (it is not real, this picture isn’t very clear)!

My two lil raccoons!

Change is Good!

Oh dear…i’m so behind on my posts it is not funny. It is even less funny that I am behind on my readings and assignments for next week. This program is so seriously packed with work that I am in all kinds of stress!

But anyhow… Change is good! I read this line in one of my assigned readings and had to stop and reflect about it.

This entire move to the US to pursue my postgrad is an entire learning and change experience in itself. And it’s given me so much food for thought. Given the I am in a Learning and Organizational Change program, i’m constantly stopping at concepts and relating it to my experience moving to Evanston.

One of the first books we are reading for my Foundations course is William Bridges’s Managing Transitions.

I’ve only read 2 chapters (cos I have like a ton of other readings to do, not because it’s not a good book) and find so much that echoes my own experiences.

He writes about the importance of managing transitions in the change process. These transition phase can begin long before the actual change and end long after the change takes place. Managing transitions is about helping people through 3 phases:

1. Letting go of the old ways and the old identity people had. This first phase of transition is an ending, and the time you need to help people to deal with their losses.

2. Going through an in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational. We call this time the ‘neutral zone’: its when the critical psychological realignments and re-patterning takes place.

3. Coming out of the transition and making a new beginning. This is when people develop a new identity, experience the new energy, and discovery the new sense of purpose that make the change begin to work



(Bridges, 2009)

It’s quite amazing, reflecting back on my own change journey, how I had also gone through these phases.

The Letting Go phase for me started long before all the plans for the move were even confirmed. Conversations with my bosses and my colleagues about my plans to move here, questions on how they would find a replacement, how we could keep the team stable started me on my transition of letting go.

The people who worked with me would tell you that letting go was not easy for me. I wanted to cling on for dear life. Partly because I love the work, but also because I was afraid of who I was or would be without the work. Work has defined my identity and existence for so long, it’s who I am. So much so that letting go of the work, was downright frightening for me! It wasn’t relief I felt the last day of work. It was anguish, even with all the support and help I had received during that phase.

Saying goodbye to work was one phase of letting go, another phase of letting go was then the saying goodbye to my home and my family. That was a phase in the transition that I had not thought much about. I definitely felt the emotional impact of that even more, tearing and crying while I packed up my house. That’s why my packing took so long. My emotions would bubble up and get in the way of me doing anything. Support from friends, always a watsapp message away, helped me, heaps!

The Neutral Phase was this crazy jet-lagged phase which I had only survived because of 2 fellow Singaporean friends, who basically held our hands through this phase. It was literally the “psychological no man’s land between the old-reality and the new one. It is the limbo between the old sense of identity and the new.”

Hubs and I spent one or two nights, during this phase, just talking about how difficult the experience was. I even wondered whether I had made the right decision by moving out here, and feeling so far removed from anything I was familiar with (aside from Fern and Stanley). It was always being in a limbo between being so excited about being here and at the same time wishing we were home.

We are definitely at the The New Beginning Phase now. But only just, maybe in the last few days or so. We’ve settled down, feeling more comfortable now that we are mobile, know where we can get things we need and comfortably assuming our new identities now. Me as a Northwestern grad student and my family as F2 visa holders in a foreign land. =)

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about myself over this period is that I am not as confident, independent and fearless as I thought I was. The only reason anyone might think those things about me is because I have this amazing network of support, that is working 24/7, 7 days a week to help me, in ways that were truly invisible to me until recently, so that I can do what I do on a daily basis.

On a personal level, moving to Chicago was worth it. Because just the process of moving here, helped me realize all the things I need, and am truly grateful for:

1. The family back home who support, love and care for my family and I.

2. The wonderful people I work with, and work for, who make everyday meaningful. Who challenge me, provide me the space to learn and grow, and forgive me for being less than perfect, in every sense of the world.

3. For being able to do meaningful and purposeful work.

4. The friends and family who encourage and support me, and remind me to keep my eyes on the ball. Who repeat again and again how confident they are in me, that they may be the only reasons why I believe in myself.

5. The friends who hold my hands, watch our boys and feed us, so that we don’t lose our way in our transition (you know who you are!)

So if nothing else, this experience would have helped me realize how much love, care and support I have around me, which I have definitely taken for granted! And I think, that’s already a big win for me.

So change is good, at least in my case! Keep your mind and heart open to the possibilities of learning and discovery!

FISH, FISH and MORE FISH!

If you know my family well, you know that we get very excited about fish! To be honest, I never ever was excited about fish, but my hubby had a keen interest that infected my children. Especially Ihsan, who spends most of his time pouring over books about sea creatures. We’ve spent so many nights reading sea creature related books that I, myself, have learnt quite a fair bit about different types of fish, etc.

If you look very very closely, you can see a tiny lil Iran near Ihsan’s head.  Dunno what he was doing way back there!

So, obviously our first stop in Chicago, after Ikea, Target and Walmart (to set up home) was the Shedd Aquarium.

Ehsan’s ocean creatures book proved to be quite useful in the amazon section of the aquarium.

Ihsan was obviously very excited and even brought one of his books along. He was extremely excited to see the beluga whales that live at the Shedd. While I think our SEA aquarium at Sentosa is much grander, the Shedd has a great collection of aquatic life that you can’t find at the SEA Aquarium- there were several fish species from the Amazon that we had never seen.

We were very excited about the wolf fish and the spider-crabs there that we had never seen before. But the Belugas definitely stole the show!

They are much bigger than I thought they’d be!

The boys also enjoyed the kids play area. The submarine was definitely a hit. Ihsan already has plans to visit the submarine again, when we next visit.

Now, i just have to figure out when we can travel to Georgia, Atlanta to see the whale-shark. It’s an 11 hour drive from Evanston. I still haven’t decided whether we should fly or drive down to see the aquarium. Tough choices before us! =)

Us excited about the skyline. It was a gorgeous and sunny day!

In love with our apartment

It’s been about 2 weeks and a bit since we arrived here. I’m pleased to inform you that we’re settling in very well.

We’ve moved into our apartment and all the little hiccups we encountered have pretty much been resolved and we’re getting quite comfortable here. I must say that I am very much enjoying our new place and to be honest like it a fair bit more than our home back in Singapore. It’s definitely because we don’t face another flat and it’s really so much quieter here.

Although, it’s sad that as we were furnishing the place, I was always reminded that we would only be here temporarily. Our decisions were always to go cheaper, to question whether we really needed this or that, and whether it would be something we would be willing to ship back to Singapore? It’s almost as if, the journey had ended even before it had begun.

But such is the life of a practical person, i guess. One who does not have infinite resources.

Here’s a peek into our apartment, it’s quite spacious and we get lots of light and a wonderful view of the neighborhood. I expect it to get pretty cold too, as our windows face the direction of Lake Michigan and we are already experiencing some cool winds.

But today, it is warm and sunny. A day to be enjoyed. =)

The kitchen is much bigger than our AMK home one (i love that my sentences are very singlish one!).
 Very luxurious with marble top counters!

The living and dining. Pretty spacious and everything furnished by IKEA (of course, cheap mah?)

The boys bedroom. This is like double the space they used to enjoy.

Pretty prints gifted to us before we left Singapore. Lovely versus from the quran!

We also brought along the lil art-piece- Sayang (love), that i painted at one of my farewells. It reminds me of the gals i love back home and also whom I miss very much. The cushion travelled from Singapore too. It was also a farewell gift from a treasured colleague. 

A view of our dining area.

A piece of artwork that Iman’s friend drew up for us. Reminds us of home!

Our sunny bedroom.

The view from our bedroom balcony. I don’t think I’m going out here much!

Another view from our balcony.

Iman trying to teach Ihsan how to fold his blanket. Epic Fail i think! lol.

What I hope to achieve over the next 2 years…

I’ve been thinking long and hard about whether I want to share what I hope to achieve over this next two years with you. While I’m excited to share them, so that you can help me be accountable to the goals I’ve set, I’m also afraid of raising your expectations of me. I’m afraid I will disappoint you, my family and most of all, I’m afraid of letting myself down.

But I figure, starting off this journey fearing that I will not achieve all that i hope to, isn’t quite ideal. This is the beginning of a journey of possibilities for me and therefore I should be dreaming big, hoping for the best. Most of all, I intend to work towards achieving all my goals.

And I think you, and just this simple process of journaling, will help keep me on track. Hold me accountable to these, will you?

So, here goes.

I am here in Evanston, Illinois attending a 2 year Masters in Learning and Organizational Change at Northwestern University. I have 3 main goals I hope to achieve:

First, I intend to deepen my knowledge and practice of Organization Development (OD) in service of….

  • Myself… I wish to learn more about myself, to clarify my own philosophy and style of leadership. To learn how to work more effectively in teams. To be clear about what gifts I bring to a team and how I can contribute to the effectiveness of the team.
  • CSC and the public service… I want to equip myself with the knowledge and skills that will help me support the Civil Service College (CSC) and our mission and vision. As a (pretty) long-time member of the public service (a total of 12 years this October! Woot!), I also want to return to Singapore better able to support the public service in our organizational efforts to deliver good policies and services to citizens.
  • The community…I want to be able to help non-profit organizations, specifically Muslim organizations in Singapore that need OD support and interventions. Why? I think that the safety and security of my children’s future lies in the ability for Singapore to maintain, or even improve, the quality of racial and religious tolerance and understanding that currently exists. Given the way our social- programs are structured, Malay Muslim organizations, including the mosques, play a critical role in engaging Muslim youth, providing social, education and financial assistance. I would like to be able to support these organizations, so that they can be effective in what they do and hopefully reduce the likelihood of disenfranchised Muslim youths Singaporean.

Second, I hope to spend quality time with my husband and children in a way that will…

  • Strengthen our marital bonds. To discover how we can better support and love each other as we face new challenges. To renew our trust in each other, and to re-discover the comforts of companionship that led us towards each other in the very beginning.
  • Nurture the relationship between my children and I, in way that helps us better communicate,  share our experiences and seek comfort, support and help from each other.
  • Nurture my children’s independence, sense of adventure and curiosity for cultures, different from our own.

Finally, to seek and nurture friendships and community.

I’d like to make friends, not just from the US, but from around the world. I would also like to nurture
the friendships and kinship ties that we have in Singapore. I want my children to learn that family and friendship is a connection that transcends physical distance, that our family and friendship ties can be just as strong even though we are on the other side of the world. All it takes is an effort to stay connected.

There.

I know I can do it, I just have to return to this list to remind myself of what I have set out to do during my time here. Check in and recalibrate to ensure I’m on track. It’s important that I focus, because these 2 years will fly by. And if I’m not careful, the 2 years will end, I have a degree scroll in hand, but have I really made the most of the time and opportunity that has been gifted me here? I am not going to regret that I didn’t make the most of this privilege and opportunity I have been accorded.

Wish me luck, better yet- help me out and check in on me once in a while, will you?

Election fever in Evanston, Illinois.

This 2015 election was an extremely unique experience for me. It was the first time I have ever been overseas during an election period. I love election season and would have been very excited to attend rallies this year, if we were back home. Election season 2011 happened when I had 2 newborns in the home and found it difficult to venture out to partake in the rally festivities 
But alas, I was to miss them again…
Fortunately, there was a good level of interest in the event here. Singaporean friends here in Evanston have been talking a lot about the elections, everyone following the rally speeches online and keeping up with the news. In fact, this morning, I spent my entire time on the treadmill discussing the elections with a fellow Singaporean friend who lives in the building.
Woke up this morning, went to the gym, headed home, had breakfast, tuned in to CNA live and watched the entire election coverage, up till the announcement of the Aljunied GRC results, which came on about 2pm or so here. My wattsapp was abuzz with commentary from back home, slowing down as the night, in Singapore, wore on.
I was as surprised as anyone to see the swing towards the PAP island wide. It was quite surreal watching it unfold here, in the US, because everything I had been reading, watching and sensing was telling me that PAP was in for an equally challenging time as in 2011. I felt I was really missing nothing from not being ‘on the ground’. I guess I was wrong. 

I am a pretty superstitious person. During one the last rugby world cups, I was showing off push-ups to my brother when my team (the Wallabies) scored a try. From then on during the tournament, i would do push ups every time the team was on the attack. Yeah…so my lil superstitious mind, wondered…”Hey, perhaps PAP’s great performance has something to do with the fact that this is the first election ever that i’m not in Singapore and not voting?” Maybe, I can get the party to sponsor an overseas trip for my family and I every election season? lol…that’ll also mean I get to skip election duty, which I’ve been lucky to have been able to avoid over the years. Ha ha!

I miss you Singapore and I am going to miss the chatter about what transpired last night!!! To my friends who ran and won- congratulations?

To friends who ran in the opposition camp, or volunteers and worked hard in support of them- Thank you so much for giving us Singaporeans a chance to vote.

Till the next one folks!

With love from Evanston,
Eveeleva

The many things that didn’t go the way we had hoped…

#1- We took so long to get off the aircraft at Hong Kong that the ground-crew thought we forgot our twin-stroller and checked it into the cargo hold for our connecting flight. By the time the staff figured out what happened, it was too late. We were carrying sleeping 4-year olds out of the air-craft. Of course we’d take our time- Heavy mind you! And juggling hand-luggage too. Sighs…

#2- Secondary border control clearance when we arrived in O’hare. Need i say more?

#3- We left one of our luggage at the airport. We checked in 5 suitcases and 1 bag. We forgot the bag. The best part was that we only noticed it was missing several hours later. No worries, we emailed Cathay Pacific and they put aside the bag for us to pick up. We had to go back a few days later to pick it up.

#4- The night before we moved into our apartment. I ask my husband, “Have you set up the wireless router?” He goes… “Alamak!” He didn’t order one. He swore he thought he did. Wireless internet connection is like oxygen- we cannot live without it. He immediately left to go and find one.

#5- Hubs excitedly opened up his delivery of a Samsung 40-inch Smart TV. He fixes it up, switches it on and finds cracks running all across the LCD screen. *SCREEEAAAMMMM* Thank goodness we had our iPads to keep the boys entertained during tv time. We are returning it of-course, but the pick-up hasn’t been arranged, so this huge box is still sitting in the living room. I, of course, seized the opportunity to talk hubs into buying a smaller tv. “Do we really need a 40-inch tv?”

#6- We used Ikea’s pick and deliver service. We tell them what we want and they pick it up and deliver. And assemble, if you’d like. We bought a sofa- the sofa and the sofa cover. Got an email from ikea a day later to say, “Hey, your sofa cover is out of stock. We will send it directly to you in about a week and a half”. Okay, we thought. Then when the delivery of the sofa (not sofa cover) came, the guys said, “If we assemble your sofa without the cover, you’d have to disassemble it to fix the sofa cover.” Ohhhhkaaayyyy…… Clincher- “You have to go back down to Schaumburg (40 min drive away) to tell them this and fix a new appointment”.  Ohhhhhkkkaaayyyy….

#7- Related to the above. The delivery/assembly guys said ,” You’re missing a piece of metal for the bed. You need it or the bed will sag in the middle. The folks at ikea that put in the order for you should have told you to get it. As it’s sold separately.” Ohhhhhkkkaaayyy…..

So we’re sleeping in the living room, right next to our yet-to-be-assembled sofa and the yet to be returned 40″ tv, while our bed-room looks like this.

While there were these things that kinda let us down or didn’t happen the way we had hoped, there are also many things to be grateful for. Most of all…kind, generous, giving friends who have gone out of the way to help us feel comfortable and to assist us in setting up home. They’ve fed us, drove us around, guided me through the process of getting ready for school, given us things and even watched over our children.

And hey, the kids travelled well and we got here in one piece. Also, the boy’s room has turned out quite nicely. =)

For all this and many more, I will be eternally grateful. 

Chronocling Our Adventures in Evanston.

This blog has been quiet for far too long. I’m reviving it, in an effort to stay connected with loved ones back home, but also to chronicle our adventures in Evanston. We are only going to be here for about 2 years ( a little less) and I want to be able to make the memories live on for as long as I can.

I also hope to blog about what i’m learning in my program here with the hopes that, well, it may help others learn more about the Learning and Organizational Change program i’m taking here and, i think it may help me in my own learning.

It’s been a little slow taking off simply because we’ve taken some time to settle down. I have one word- Jetlag. Actually no, one word doesn’t accurately capture it, it’s more like- A debilitating condition brought about by jetlag combined with 2 little humans who are also jet-lagged.

We’re settled into our new apartment now, not with some major misadventures. But generally we are getting into our groove. So look out for some upcoming posts!