Home… finally?

AFTER STAYING IN a serviced apartment for three months, we finally moved into a home. Our first two weeks in the house were eventful ones indeed.

Saying goodbye to our “home” for the initial three months, on Saturday, 18 July 2014.

Saying goodbye to our “home” for the initial three months, on Saturday, 18 July 2014.

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Happy to move into the home we saw way back in April, but our happiness was short-lived after moving in, when we discovered numerous defects over time. Prior to that, I had a meltdown over mattresses, something I will ponder and sleep on (pun intended) for a long time…

Putting the house in order… including washing and taking stock of the dinnerwares.

While cleaning the furniture, I uncovered “pieces of history” stuck in the drawers – a few sheets of homework dating back to 1999!

The same week, our worldly belongings arrived after 1.5 months braving the sea. (22 July 2014)

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The girls are finally re-united with their toys.

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Unpacking our “valuables”, I also discovered some broken stuff, sigh…

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On that very day, we ran out of water… water tanker to the rescue at the cost of Gh280 (22 July 2014)

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In the same week too, we discovered a leak in the air-condition piping, repairs began on 26 July, completed 12 days later and a mere three days before we had our first group of guests over for dinner. 

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On Sunday 27 July, we ran out of electricity credits! We turned to our generator but not for long… the next day, it stopped working and we ran out of water too! Monday being a public holiday for Eid Mubarak, I guess the generator and taps took a break too! Not a single drop of water to wash up, we had to cancel a lunch invitation to a colleague’s home for raya celebrations. Another water tanker was called to the rescue at Gh250 (28 July 2014).

Such blessings! Raya goodies delivered to the home. (28 June 2014)

Such blessings! Raya goodies delivered to the home. (28 July 2014)

At the end of the second week, we had our internet line fixed, only to realise later that there is no coverage upstairs beyond certain rooms! Sigh again.

So that’s the story of the first two weeks of our move into the new home. And that’s not even going into how the Ghana cedis have depreciated tremendously in the four months we had been here, and how prices of things have risen and even doubled in a matter of weeks!

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Merdeka Moments

MY MERDEKA DAYS in the past three years have been memorable ones.

On Merdeka 2013, we attended the wedding of a friend’s daughter held in UIA, Selangor. There were met up again with friends from our Moscow days. The last time we saw some of them was also during a wedding two years ago. (link)

Banquet Hall Cultural Activity Center, Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia… (Top, L-R) Aini and Nora; with Azah, Fadziana and daughter Izzah; Azman and Saim; (Bottom, L-R) Roslan, Din and Azman; M with Balqis and Nisha; the three friends in Moscow in 2007.

On Merdeka 2012, I was at a farewell lunch for a dear friend Jess in Sunway. She has since migrated with her family to Melbourne, Australia. I almost didn’t make it had it not been for WWL who took the trouble and gave me a lift. A bunch of us old schoolmates got together to catch up. When I say “old schoolmates”, I really meant OLD. Some of us have known each other for more than three decades. After the lunch, we updated other good friends abroad via emails where we wrote about “low mong” and “low far” (a private joke amongst us). And due to my “low mong-ness” I have no photos to share here. But I trust those who were there will remember this day for years to come. It was Merdeka day, after all. I did request for a group photo from LWK who took some. I haven’t seen any, perhaps she too has been inflicted with “low mong-ness” or she had trouble touching up all of us (which is another private joke)!

On Merdeka 2011, we inadvertently had a private dinner with angkasawan Datuk Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, also a friend we made during our Moscow days (link). To cut a long story short, we were invited to his raya open house; we missed it because little Em took a VERY long nap that day. We apologised to him for not being able to make it, he replied and asked us to come anyway. We turned up at his home just before 7pm and thought we got the wrong home as it was too quiet to be an “open house”. His guests had all left by then, so we ended up having some private time with him and his wife, Datin Dr. Halina Mohd Yunos and we also got to see their then-month-old daughter Bella.

M helping herself to the raya cookies while little Em got a little help from Uncle Sheikh; the girls with the lovely couple.

M helping herself to the raya cookies while little Em got a little help from Uncle Sheikh; the girls with the lovely couple.

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The girls each got an autograph with advice from Uncle Sheikh.

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Two other kids also got the angkasawan’s autograph.

First Snowfall

The park at Donskoi Posad where we spent many happy moments.

ON THIS DAY 5 years ago (14 October 2007) the first snow fell in Moscow. In the three years that I lived in the Russian capital, the first snow was always in October (and didn’t come again until late November or even December).

The Moscow Times reported the following day “… the sudden snowfall created havoc and city traffic police counted 37 major accidents and around 1,500 minor accidents.”

It didn’t bother us that Sunday as we were enjoying a feast of Malaysian food (and Kamchatka crabs too!) at the Hari Raya open house hosted by Kak Min and Pak Yusof in their warm and cosy home. We didn’t even need to travel on the road; we just took the elevator from our 17th floor to the fifth floor where they stayed.

Enjoying the warm hospitality of Kak Min and Pak Yusof, with good food and good company.

On Tuesday, it snowed again and this time, The Moscow Times (Wed,17 October 2007) reported that “Snowfall snarls city traffic, shuts off village electricity… an average of 4 cm of wet snow fell across the city Tuesday with the hardest hit area being the northern Volokolomskaya district which received 19 cm.” However, the cold snap didn’t last, nor did the snow, as the temperature reportedly rose to 6 degrees the next day and the snow eventually melted.

Pictures on 16 October 2007 taken from my apartment showed a mere dust of snow on the ground (left), but over a few hours, it accumulated on my balcony ledge (right).

I will definitely remember the first time in snowed in Moscow in our first year there – 26 October 2005.

Pictures of the park taken from my apartment on 26 October 2005 (left) and just six days earlier on 20 October 2005 (right).

As soon as daughter returned from school that afternoon, I took her down to the park where she built a little snowman and tried to make a snow angel on the ground. However, it rained that evening and washed away the snow.

Daughter tried to create “friends” to play with – a snowman and a snow angel.

It didn’t snow again till the early morning of 8 December 2005. Once again, I vividly recall that day as we had just moved the last items from our temporary apartment back to our own place that went through renovation works for more than four months (we were promised two months, and that’s another story!). It was well past midnight when I looked out of the window and saw the flaky white stuff fall. You can’t imagine my relief…

Since the first snowfall, I was desperate for snow again. SERIOUSLY desperate. I had convinced my sister to pick Moscow over Tokyo for the snow experience (they had only experienced artificial snow in Korea before this). If it can snow as early as October, I guaranteed my sister there would be abundance by December when they visit. Snow, after all, is the staple of Russian winters.

Imagine my horror when there was not a slightest sign of flurries after it first snowed on 26 October. It FINALLY came on 8 December, the very day my mom, sister and her family arrived! During their 10-day visit, ample snow fell to give them a real snowy winter experience. (In fact during that winter, the date 19 January 2006 was reportedly the coldest day in 2006 with the Artic temperature of -30 degrees Celsius.)

By 30 October 2006, we had our first snowfall again. There were flurries since the night before and by morning, snow had blanketed the ground. I went down to the park to take some photos with friends and later was invited to neighbour Kathrin’s home for some hot soup.

From the cold into Kathrin’s warm kitchen. Here her daughter Carolin tried on the dresses I sewed for her birthday.

However, by December of 2006, once again Moscow threatened to be snowless. I recorded flurries on 6 December and 18 December, and the fact that “7 December was the warmest recorded in history at 7.5 degrees Celsius beating the previous record of 6.6 degrees Celsius set in 1898”. The lack of snow was a nightmare for ski resorts that relied on the white stuff for their business! It finally came on 23 December, much to everyone’s relief; ours as well, as the snowmobile and snow sled were idle far too long.

Such are the warm memories of my cold winters in Moscow (though my earliest fond memories of snow, was staying on a farm in Scotland in the winter of 1995).

Angkasawan Day!

AngkasawanFIVE YEARS AGO on this day (10 October 2007), Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor became the first Malaysian to go to space. He travelled in the Russian Soyuz-FG rocket (with crewmates American astronaut Peggy Whitson and Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko) that blasted off from the launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan at 5:22pm Moscow time (9:22pm Malaysian time) heading to the International Space Station.

That Wednesday afternoon, I was in our Moscow home with my daughter and our German neighbour Kathrin and her 3-year old daughter Carolin; all eyes on the TV, watching the launch and praying that all went well.

I continued watching all night long, with various news channels repeating the news throughout the hours. After all, this was not a daily occurrence!

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The Soyuz launch received wide coverage from numerous television channels.

It was indeed a proud day for all Malaysians. Perhaps this date will be officially called Angkasawan Day, just as Russia has Cosmonautics Day on 12 April to commemorate Yuri Gagarin’s first ever manned flight to space in 1961.

Some memorable moments with Angkasawan Dr. Sheikh and Dr. Faiz Khaleed…

Our first meeting with the duo at the Hari Raya do at the Malaysian Embassy in Moscow      on 23 October 2006.

Our first meeting with the duo at the Hari Raya do at the Malaysian Embassy in Moscow on 23 October 2006.

They were both guests at our Chinese New Year open house on 18 Feb 2007.

We met them again on several other occasions after that (27 Oct 2007; 11 Nov 2007).

We met them again on several other occasions after that (27 Oct 2007; 11 Nov 2007).

Dr Sheikh was in space for 10 days and returned to Earth on 21 October 2007, and home a hero.  He returned to Moscow in November to attend the Inauguration Ceremony of the Cosmonauts at  Star City on 8 Nov 2007.

Dr Sheikh was in space for 10 days and returned to Earth on 21 October 2007, and home a hero. He returned to Moscow in November to attend the Inauguration Ceremony of the Cosmonauts at Star City on 8 Nov 2007.

The following night, Dr. Sheikh turned up at our home for a chat. The very down-to-earth angkasawan autographed some photos for us.

The following night, Dr. Sheikh turned up at our home for a chat. The very down-to-earth angkasawan autographed some photos for us.

A real life historic figure right in our living room, signing a copy of The Moscow Times newspaper dated 22 October 2007 that front-paged his successful return from the ISS.

A real life historic figure right in our living room, signing a copy of The Moscow Times newspaper dated 22 October 2007 that front-paged his successful return from the ISS.

Meeting Dr Sheikh again at his home during Raya on 31 Aug 2011. Also met his lovely wife Datin Dr Halina Mohd Yunos and their newborn baby Sophea Isabella who shares the same birth date as our older daughter.

Meeting Dr Sheikh again at his home during Raya on 31 Aug 2011. Also met his lovely wife Datin Dr Halina Mohd Yunos and their newborn baby Sophea Isabella who shares the same birth date as our older daughter.

Happy Angkasawan Day!

My previous encounters with astronauts:

1. Meeting the First Muslim Astronaut (1993)

2. 30th Anniversary of Moon Landing, 1999