Anticipating in Silence

“Some Days are made of Silent Anticipation “

img_4398-1
A lighted candle always brings anticipation and I love how it creates a “Silent moment”in any child.

Waiting for Christmas has always been exciting for both young and old ones, but here in Bavaria, it’s as big as Oktoberfest I must say. Though people look forward more to a warm mug of Glühwein instead of beer and Zimtstern  (Cinnamon Star cookies) than Pretzels. I, myself is looking forward to see all these new things in my eyes.There’s something about experiencing things for the first time–everything seems special. I can still remember my daughter’s excitement when she saw her boot was filled with goodies during St. Nicholas Day ( Nikolaustag) . All around the city and on each home, everywhere is decorated and the atmosphere of Christmas is so heavy here in Bavaria. I know that in other regions, the traditions vary and things are celebrated differently, but with same looking forward for Christmas Day.

Children have this big anticipation in their eyes, a longing for something exciting! There’s the glow in their eyes when they know that they are counting the days for the big day comes starting with the Adventkalendars. It is practically a calendar with treats or chocolates in every date with small doors.On the 1st of December children get to open the first little door, behind which they find a chocolate or some other little treat. On the 2nd of December they get to open the 2nd door, and so on and so forth up to 24 December. Now, which kid will complain? Even the adults loved this one. Enjoying every piece of chocolate in silence.

Christmas in Germany is one of the happiest and most celebrated holidays of all times here,but Christmas here comes in a long, sweet, waiting game. As early as November, the city center was transformed into a winter wonderland and place for the Christkindlmarkt. Another custom that I have observed here is their Adventkranz  or the Advent wreath. This is a truly one German cozy tradition,though the concept of Advent wreath originated from German Lutherans in the 16th century, but spread out to other denominations. German families celebrates the 4-Sundays of Advent before Christmas  with an Advent wreath  shaped into a round, flat wound of fir pine It is adorned with cinnamon sticks,orange peels and with 4 red candles.

From Hamburg, the Advent wreath started its triumphal procession out to the Christian world: In 1925 an Advent wreath with four candles was set up in a catholic church in Cologne for the first time. Since 1930 as well in Munich.

img_4397
Advent, Advent, a Little Candle is burning.

On every Sunday during Advent another candle is lit until in the end all four are burning. “Advent, Advent, ein Lichtlein brennt,” goes one children’s rhyme. “Erst eins, dann zwei, dann drei, dann vier, dann steht das Christkind vor der Tür.” “Advent, Advent, a little candle’s burning. First one, then two, then three, then four. Then the Christ Child’s at the door.”

Children watching the candle in silence, but with eager anticipation. Looking admiringly on the packed gifts under the Christmas Tree and watching the lights flood the living room while listening to Christmas carols. One of the things that I love doing here nowadays is watching the locals decorate their houses in a very unique way, totally different from the culture that I grew up with.When I am out,I love watching people in silence as they all go around with their busy hustle and bustle during Christmas season. Busy shopping, gift wrapping, and some are just celebrating life everyday in the coziness of the German Christmas markets. With a warm mug of Glühwein and with tasty treats, or a bucket of roasted almonds or chestnuts. Some towns are famed for their Christmas markets, for example Dresden’s Striezelmarkt (named after a type of cake – now known as Stollen – traditionally sold there) and Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt (“Christ Child Market”).

Anticipation doesn’t need to be loud or grand, because  some days in Christmas season are made with silent anticipation.

 

In response to this week’s Photo Challenge :Anticipation

Hot Dog and Chicken Nugget Eaters in a Dumpling World | Expat-Mama in China

For our 8th series of amazing interview-stories of Expat Mamas around the World,we are featuring Suzanne Zulauf, an American Expat-Mama who lives in Shanghai with her husband Andy,  her son, Lee (9 yrs.old)  and her daughter, Mara (6 yrs.old) From their kaleidoscope  life in New York  as a Jewish family, Suzanne shares us to her new-found Expat-Mama adventures and bravely raising her 2 American kids in the Dumpling capital of the world,and probably the most populous city in the  world– Shanghai,China.

10408915_10153347842754700_2501277830213750814_n
Meet the Zulaufs : Suzanne, Andy , Lee & Mara – Hotdogs & Chicken nugget eaters in the land of Dumplings

How does an American Mama cope in the land of Dumplings when her daughter only eat chicken nuggets, mac & cheese?

file_000-5
Postcard from New York – view of Central Park, the world that the Zulaufs left behind
img_3513
A pie chart representing the percentage of the population that effing loves dumplings!

Suzanne’s Background 

2016-08-24_063931466_7c025_iosSuzanne is literary coach and a middle school Language Arts teacher by profession. A super-mom of 2 kids, and adores Broadway from the moment she moved to New York. A true American by heart, she admits she can’t live without the real gooey McDonald’s sundae,peanut butter & Cheerios! Having lived in one of the most fast-paced city-Manhattan in New York, she’s hooked into running the west side of the Central Park and her passion for fitness got her into doing a half marathon and a ten-mile run.

As a huge introvert,she loves to read and find comfort in writing.  For someone who is passionate about food and a good old margarita, she enjoys simple pleasures in life,like having a drink in her porch with a neighbor.

 

Suzanne is the Blogger behind the Blog Zulaufjourney which is a personal lifestyle Blog.  A firm advocate of “Remember your roots and Trust your Wings” as randomly  incorporated in her parenting style and outlook in life.

Expat Mama in Shanghai : Hotdog & Chicken Nugget eaters in a Dumpling World

pudongskyline-pjt
Pudong Skyline
img_3516
Shanghai’s local sightings

On first impressions of Shanghai 

Shanghai is gigantic; much larger in space than New York City, and for a foreigner feels widely inaccessible.Shanghai is basically divided into two sections, East and West of the river. West of the river is called Puxi (poo-shee)  and East of the river is Pudong. The financial district and Andy’s office are in Puxi, but we will live in Pudong. The airport is on the East coast of Pudong (and all of China) so it makes sense for us to live in Pudong since Andy will be traveling so much (both internationally and within China).Cars do not stop turning, even when walkers have the light.Within Pudong, we found that a huge number of expats live in Jinqiao (gin-chow), which is also called Green City. It felt the most like a suburb, with shopping centers and restaurants. Several of the other areas we looked at felt secluded and were often a 15-20 minute drive to groceries or other stores.

img_0274
Shanghai’s skyline at night

Shanghai’s skyline is beautiful and also in a constant state of change.  If you look at photographs of the last several years, several buildings have been added to the skyline.  Most famous is the Oriental Pearl Tower, which gleams purple during the day, yet is the star of the nightly light show between 6-11pm.

On  the undeniable air pollution & Hygiene

Bad air quality – This is a real thing. When there is a blue sky, its like a miracle.  When the rating goes above 150, I feel real physical symptoms (scratchy throat, stuffy nose, fatigue). My kids can’t go out for recess, and I worry about the long-term effects for them.People spit everywhere all the time. More Expats say that Spitting here is not a bad habit, it’s brilliant.

file_000-2-1
Lee & Mara’s drawing of China

On living in a “Bubble”

The language barrier is by far going to be the most difficult challenge.We live in Jinqiao , literally means “the golden bridge” but locally  often referred to as “the bubble”. It seems that most people native to Shanghai do not speak English. This will be a challenge.Hearing a foreign language all the time, everywhere you go is mentally exhausting. We’re all taking Chinese lessons, but it is difficult to learn and harder even when local Chinese can’t understand us when we do try to speak!

Internet is blocked by the government, so we have to use a VPN, which causes all sorts of issues with our banking and other accounts we need to access. Also with children, it is nice to have the creature comforts of favorite television shows, etc, and the shaky internet perpetually threatens our access to those comforts.

On Split pants culture for babies & Squatty potties

In China, babies wear the “Split pants”and potty training comes early. The call of nature comes by command from parents either through swift whistle and children poop or pee.This might come as a shock from a country whose definition of potty training includes hours & tedious discipline for training your child to seat on a potty  decently.Chinese children (and sometimes grown men) urinate on the street or really anywhere they want to.

img_0339
To Squat or not to squat : Source

Often, public toilets will be “squatty potties” (or, a hole in the ground) without toilet paper readily available, so be prepared.

On having  a hired  help 

It is normal for expat families to have an Ayi  and driver, so raising unspoiled children is tricky.Living as an expat, we will be very fortunate to employ a driver to help the accessibility issue.The expat community is a “helper” culture, as is much of Asia, so we will also most likely have an “ayee,”  ( same as Nanny ) who will help with grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the kids. This is a luxury that will take getting used to, and I hope that I can navigate this set-up in such a way that my children do not become spoiled rotten, entitled, or without  a sense of personal responsibility.

I need to say that I’m still uncomfortable talking about “my driver,”  “our ayi”  and “Andy’s assistant” to people living outside China because I’m still uncomfortable with what feels like unnecessary privilege, even though it is a way of life here.  We have always been self-sufficient and never had family employees.  (Andy’s assistant is a KPMG employee and while he has always depended on support staff for work, his assistant here is literally getting us through life!) In these past few days I’ve realized just how grateful I am to have our driver, Yu Jian, our Ayi,Lauren, and Andy’s assistant, Terry, because I would otherwise be paralyzed with the overwhelming differences of daily life. That being said, here is how these few days have gone-with enormous help from Yu Jian, Lauren, and Terry.

Share something about the current country you are living in and notable aspects .

Shanghai is supposedly that “least Chinese” city in China, but I feel very much the impact of living in this corner on the world.  None of the ‘rules’ of life seem to be the same:

enhanced-buzz-11115-1386769313-4
Surviving traffic in Shanghai

On Shanghai’s crazy traffic

You can ride your moped on either side of the road in the scooter lanes, but cars won’t stop for you to cross an intersection even if you have the green light. Drivers in general don’t follow lane lines, yet will slow down at every government camera along the highway.Road signs just don’t make sense.Families of four or more while ride on one moped as their main form of transportation. No seat belts. No car seats (in cars, either).

file_005-2
Integrating as much as possible

Zebra crossings do exist in China, but don’t serve much purpose, as drivers will rarely stop when you are near one or indeed inside one, so never take this for granted.Many car drivers in China are quite inexperienced, as Chinese tend to buy their first car and get a driver’s license much later in life than Westerners.

On the unexplainable typical  Shanghai  culture 

Since there is 0 unemployment in China, there will be 6 workers in an empty store all playing on their cell phones, but not one will help  you when you come in the store.Chinese love to take photos of Western children (especially blonde ones).There is no concept of lining up for things, even at a cash register at a store.You have to have your produce weighed and get a price sticker BEFORE you go to the cash register at grocery stores or you cannot purchase your produce.At restaurants, food comes out at different times for each person at a table, so don’t expect to eat with your family members or your food will be cold

The greatest shock for me–The vanilla ice cream at McDonald’s tastes different. That is all.

 

On  importance of education and access to International schools

Dulwich’s Early Childhood curriculum moves quite quickly and there is but there is a surprising huge difference between USA/ NYC Kindergarten and Dulwich Year 1.  Those students (who would be considered Kinders here) are NOW in January writing complete sentences, sometimes paragraphs. Their penmanship is spectacular! I’m not sure what their secret is to such great academic success because we know that young students need a print-rich environment and that they thrive on having choice in their book selections.

Our tour guide from the admissions office told us that the early years students are more advanced than at other schools, but that they all level out in the upper years. I’m not quite sure what to make of this.  I actually worry that students who have been with  Dulwich since age 2 might totally overshadow my girl.

On Bridging the gap from families abroad

Talking about time difference, we have a 12 hour (13 with daylight savings) difference from one side of the family and a 15 hour (16 at daylight savings) difference from the other side of the family. So having quality calls or FaceTimes are hard.

file_001-2
Grocery shopping in Shanghai

On Food 

We can’t drink our tap water, so adjusting to bottled water is just one more thing to get used to. My son has been very open to the food our Ayi cooks, but my daughter really only will eat chicken nuggets, mac & cheese, cereal, and yogurt. Luckily there are several groceries that carry Western items, but you pay the premium to have those things because every food item has to go through China customs.

On beating the Shang-lows & re potting the Uprooted child

file_000-19As a first time Expat,the best way to pull out of those low days and to move into a more accepting mindset is to stay busy. We ventured into our new Shanghai routines from  weekend soccer games, play dates, and birthday parties and exploring the city.I would say there is plenty to make us feel happy in Shanghai, especially for Lee, who has earned a spot on the Dulwich Earthquakes, a team housed at the British school, but associated with the MLS San Jose Earthquakes. With soccer, the SAS swim team, and the freedom of riding his scooter around the neighborhood to his new friends’ homes, he’s feeling mostly settled. Mara also has plenty of activities: gymnastics, Wednesday swim club at school, and will soon start some fun after school activities (Junior Olympics and recycle art).One other China bonus: our backyard! The kids, especially Lee, love that we have a space
where they can run around and Lee can now play soccer. In our yard!

Thinking that my kids have been uprooted from our old  New York lifestyle , its great that they are slowly being repotted, the Shanghai way.

What is your opinion about raising your kid as a third culture kid?  Are you happy that you are raising an Expat Kid?

I LOVE that my kids are learning a new language and that they are learning to accept a new normal. They are making friends with kids from all over the world. I know that raising my kids as expats in going to give them invaluable skills later in life. They are resilient and adaptable, and while they have their struggles missing family, friends, food, and their “old normal,” they are for the most part learning to appreciate a whole new part of the world. I couldn’t be happier we made the decision to come here.

How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?

I would love to find a way to continue coaching teachers and helping to bring top-rate instruction to our expat kids. I would also love to work with Chinese schools who want to improve their English instruction.  I think the best thing I can do, though, is to continue and study my Chinese so that I can show each Chinese person with whom I interact that I appreciate their culture, that the ways of life here are rich with custom and history and deserve a chance to be experienced in native tongue.  I think I can make an impact on other Expat Mamas as I continue to branch out and try to speak Chinese in public. I can be an example of trying embrace this life, even if I do live in ‘the bubble.’

Thank you so much Suzanne for sharing your story with us! If you want to follow the Expat adventures of Suzanne, make sure to follow her blog- Zulaufjourney !

Have you enjoyed this post?  Make sure to check out our other Expat Mamas & Papa stories in The Netherlands, Kuwait, Philippines, Thailand, Berlin , Saudi Arabia and of course, how an Expat Papa take on how to Raise a Kung Fu Baby in Germany .

 

 

Follow Justbluedutch & Pinays in Germany  for more of my  Expat stories  and Hey, if you are an Expat Mama, you might want to be featured in this Blog for our series on Expat Mamas around the World! Drop me an email at justbluedutch@gmail.com.

Are you on Twitter?  follow me on my  Twitter  and my Instagram  for more updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.Thanks!

 

Parks & Playgrounds in Ingolstadt

To tell you frankly, I didn’t appreciate parks & playgrounds until I had a child of my own!

If you have an active toddler like mine, I am so sure that playgrounds have become your best friends. Either indoor play yard or an outdoor sandpit, it always saves your day. It’s one happy place where your kids just let go of their  steam and for a moment, you’ve got the chance to inhale and breathe. I know I’m not alone in this,but when your child is happy, you are happy too!

img_1656
Sandpit, play area & wasserspielplatz in Baggersee

There are play areas for Kids..Everywhere!

As a new Expat, you search for grocery shops or bakeries, but for me, one of my early priorities is to look for playgrounds for my daughter to play. Well, Germany is famous for its abundance of outdoor activities and play areas for kids & toddlers. I must say that being a kid here is awesome and has a lot to offer. I was really surprised to find that in almost every neighborhood, there are Spielplatz or play areas for kids. Isn’t that amazing? In the Bike shop, supermarkets and groceries, in Biergartens and restaurants, they always have a  play area where kids can play. There are trampolines & rockers along the busiest shopping streets . Some even have a changing area where you can breastfeed, feed or change the diapers for free!

The one in dm-drogerie is our favorite because you can shop while your kids play. Great thing about dm is it’s absolutely free and very convenient. Did I mention that even in the Rathaus ( or the Town Hall) they have kid toys placed in the walls along the corridor. Very kid-friendly especially during waiting time.

It’s beautiful, natural, safe ,full of creative spaces, and best of all, it’s all FREE!

 

Life being an Expat is challenging. You’ve got no friends yet,you barely speak the language, you don’t even know your neighbors, but your child is screaming out for tiny humans company. A bored child is a whining child so the best thing to do is take her out! Searching for parks & playground is also a perfect chance to get acquainted with the new neighborhood and making new friends.It is actually easy to make friends when you have a kid,it’s less intimidating. The moment kids starting to play with each other, it’s easy to start a conversation. This works well for me so I’m sure it can work with you too.

So here in Ingolstadt, we have discovered quite a number of  parks and playgrounds which has helped us a lot in trying to integrate in this new culture. Here’s our list for our favourites ;

Klenze Park

Klenzepark is a huge oasis for kids (and for adults too). This place has a large field and beautiful park I must say, with trees surrounding it and has luscious  rose gardens with fountains. It is the site for the 1992 Bavarian Garden Festival and has a unique open air museum of German fortification architecture. It will host the 2020  State Flower Show so that’s something to look forward if you love nature & flowers.  Ideally located along the  Donau river, it’s a scenic place where you can take your kids for a lazy stroll, cycling or play in the playground.With the view of the historical Neues Schloss and with the love-lock bridge, this is our favorite spot so far.There is a fountain  (Wasserspieltplatz) with huge rocks where children can enjoy playing in the water especially in Summer.The whole field is also surrounded with small water canals where children (and adults!) splash their feet in Summer.

IMG_9672
Wood basics playground – Eliminating all plastics .

Just beside the Wasserspieltplatz is the Natural Playground. It has  wooden slides, climbing areas, rockers, swings and fun activities for kids. In the center is a sand pit where toddlers & kids  playing in the sand. .It’s very accessible by bike,by walking or by bus. There is an ample underground parking and comfort rooms.Inside the park are Biergartens, cafes, and museums.

IMG_1113
Wasserspieltplatz & Fountain in Klenze park

Luitpoldpark

Luitpoldpark is ideal for all ages and the entire family as  well. There is a forest where you can take your kids to have a short trek, stroll and have quiet walks with all the towering trees above you. This is a secluded place to jog, run and or just taking your dog for a walk. In the center was a playground with slide, rockers, and sand pit where your child can play while parents can have a picnic. I have seen many families having their birthday parties here and meet-ups.Adjacent was a football field where bigger kids can enjoy a football game as well. There is a small hill that is great for toddlers to climb up and run.

IMG_1183
Sun rays peeking in the trees

 

Further down Luitpoldpark is the Biotoperlebnisfad and the Nazi victims memorial park. The paths are ideal for skate boarding, cycling plus  exploring through the woods can let you learn more about the trees and its history &  age. If you like Forestry & Foliage, then this is a great place for you.

img_1267
Learning about the Trees in Luitpoldpark

 

img_2599
Playtime in a windy day!

Fort Haslang Parks and Playground

We discovered this playground by chance. While we are looking for a Pediatrician for my daughter, we decided to let her play a bit and we found this play ground nearby. It has a scenic field full of short shrubs and flowers, a cycling path with apple trees and forest flowers and in its center is a play ground with sand pit, slides, rockers & plenty of space for children to run around. A bit further is a place for bigger kids where they have ramps for bicycles, ziplines, and table tennis areas. This playground has benches for parents too. Surprisingly, almost all parks & playground in Germany always have an area for parents to sit, drink their coffee and a trash bin. You won’t even need to worry about where to throw the soiled diapers.

img_1196
Picking summer flowers in the field of Fort Haslang Parks & playground
img_0916-1
Fort Haslang playground

Wildpark am BaggerseeOberschüttweg

This beautiful wildlife escape is just 15 minutes away from our home. Ideally situated near the Dam and you will have  scenic views of the River Danube and lush forest, a lake, and a Lakehouse with lots of Biergarten & cafes. Discovering the beauty of Baggersee last Summer was one of the highlights of our first Summer here. This place is best for campers during summer, and ideal for cycling. It has 54km stretch for you to cycle til you drop. If you have a kid’s seat attached to your bike like most Germans does or an Anhänger ( Child chariot), then you can easily explore this place thru cycling while having panoramic views of the Auswaldsee.  The Wildpark & Baggersee play area are absolutely free. The wasserspielplatz for kids is one of my daughter’s favorite and I like that it has an active water pumps where parents can do some activity and exercise.

IMG_1643
Wildpark 
img_1662
Building sandcastles and playing with sand 

Biergarten Künettegrabenalong Jahnstraße

This Playground is adjacent to a Biergarten. Yes, in Germany, there are Biergartens which has a playground beside it. It has lovely views of the winding bridges, old fortifications, and the ponds filled with ducks.  Go here early in the morning and you can enjoy the peace & quiet. Perfect for nap times too.The playground itself is frequented by pre- schoolers  on their outdoor walks & play times because it is surrounded with trees, and has lots of creative games areas. There is a sand pit, water pipes, slides, swings, turntables, see-saws and table tennis & basket ball courts. They have swings made of old tires.While your kids play, parents can have a happy hour in the Biergarten as well or just feed the ducks!

fullsizerender-81
Up close with the wild deers in Wildpark

Zoo WassersternGerolfinger Str. / Aloisiweg 19

This small Zoo is a one of a kind attraction for kids. It is a non-profit zoo which houses different animals which look more like a private collection. The place is a combination of a Botanical Garden and a zoo. There are reptiles and birds on the ground floor, an Aquarium and sea animals in the basement and wild birds, monkeys, and birds like parrots, owl and other birds located in the garden. It is frequently visited by Kindergarten students, visitors, and people with disabilities. Ideal for a family getaway on weekends. There are tables & chairs for parents to rest and a changing room for babies.

 

img_1713
Climb steps in St.Anton Spielplatz

St. Anton play ground & Park-Münchnerstr.

This playground is very close to the Haupbanhof and just across the St.Anton Church . It is in front of a Pet Zoo shop and has a shady park & play area for the little ones. We love to walk going here. It has a huge field where people do yoga, train their dogs, or just have a lazy weekend picnic. It has a pebble & sand pit, rockers, slides, and a wooden climb & maze paths. It is one of our favorite playground because it is shady and quiet. It is surrounded with ample trees as well.

img_2653
Close to nature

I am so thankful that we live in a place where these playgrounds and parks are accessible. As a parent,there’s a lot more to write about playgrounds here in Bavaria, they are really something to be proud of. We keep on discovering new ones each day. Play areas doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. In Germany, the approach for more green, natural, simple & safe play outweighs farther the confines of an indoor play areas.

How ‘s it been Expat Mamas? How was your move so far?

 

If you enjoyed this post,  Make sure to hit the Follow button for more Expat stories on this Blog, and Hey, if you are an Expat Mama, you might want to be featured in this Blog for our series on Expat Mamas around the World! Drop me an email at justbluedutch@gmail.com.

Are you on Twitter?  follow me on my  Twitter  and my Instagram  for more updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.Thanks!

 

 

Raising my blonde kids in the Philippines | Expat-Mama in PH

Is it just a cliché  talking about Bringing Up Bébé in the Philippines?  or is it a renowned global myth that French kids eat everything? I really wonder about this.How about trading hiking the Swiss Alps for the beaches in Bantayan Island in Cebu?

Well,I am going to tell you that one French Expat- Mama juggles on pursuit of zen, balance & rumbling through the whole foods section in the supermarket and at same  time raising her Blonde  Third Culture Kids in  South east Asian culture. How on earth she’s doing  it?

tck
Estelea’s Blog post :  Where is Home for my Multicultural Kids?

On our next feature for Expat Mama around the World series, we go to far away South Pacific where  Estelea,an ex-Red Cross workaholic femme, enjoys the tropical sun and hopping the tricycle mania in their island life. She and her Swiss husband, Marcel, are currently based  and living the not-so-ordinary Expat life in Bantayan island in Cebu, Philippines. Together they trot this place upside down with their 2 adorable  kids, the Attilas;  (aka Maëlle 5 y.o and Léandre 4 y.o.).

enjoytheride
Enjoying the exotic Jeepney Ride in the Philippines

With a bubbly spirit, a pocket full of wisdom, she shares her big heart to her host country, the Philippines through her meaningful writing such as “All we need for Christmas is a roof over our heads” . Aside from her Blog, she tell us how to handle the fanatic Filipino craze on Karaoke, the not-so friendly-typhoons and the hustle of being tagged as Parisian-stage-mama to her kids at school . Here’s her very own Expat -Mama Story: Raising my Blonde Kids in the Philippines

11230964_10153621824376138_4463760912846446666_n
Stephanie on Raising Blonde kids ( The Attilas )  in the Philippines

Estelea’s background

Estelea is the woman behind Estelea’s Blog, a French Mama of 2, A yoga enthusiast and a budding teacher,a dreamer, a beach lover and a humble humanitarian rolled into one. Stephanie is  a minimalist by nature ,Vegetarian by choice, and makes it a point to have & enjoy a good kind of laugh.Everyday. Living almost 3 years in the Philippines, she still can’t believe that it’s for real that she’s living a life in the shores of the pristine beaches.

mm
It is more fun in the Philippines – Towering coconut trees! The backdrop of everyday Expat Life in Bantayan. Not as grand as the Eiffel tower, but actually more rejuvenating. In dire need of fresh air?, inhale, because it’s always Free.

Estelea is a  good friend of mine..from a far. Thanks to technology that we became modern-Penpals. When the Attilas gives her a break-time from being their super-mama, she wrote a whole lot of inspiring, funny, and down-to-earth posts about motherhood,Expat Life, and family oriented adventures.

Tell us About your Background

I am French, originally from Fontainebleau, a beautiful historical town by the forest, about 60km from Paris. My job from the years BC (Before Children) definitely took me to places, from Eastern and Western Africa to South East Asia, when I was working for the International Red Cross. We are now based in the Philippines and for the first time in decades, I am not working. I mean, technically…I mean, for a paycheck.

attilasmlr
Raising the Attilas and wearing flip-flops ( Tsinelas) all year around !

On Life as a Full time & Stay-at-Home Expat Mom 

I am actually working full-time every single day of the week, no day off, as a Stay at Home Mum. My very very significant other got a job on the little island of Bantayan and the kids and I are living some 6h away, on Cebu island.

For visa reasons, I can not work in the Philippines, and it has been pretty challenging to adjust to this new kind of lifestyle. A door closed but another open as I had no excuse to finally dwell into more significant yoga practice. And here I am, just completed a 200hours yoga teacher training, and I gave my first class just 2 days ago . My kids’s teachers are very interested in teaching yoga to their little students too, so aside from my adult classes, I am so excited to work on classes for children.

fam
It’s more Fun in the Philippines: Expat Life in the Beach

How  Yoga changed your life

Yoga is about exploring and discovering who you are (peeling the layers of the onions, as our teacher would say). Being kind to yourself so you can be kind to others too. Be sincere, be healthy without pushing you to your limits.Yoga to me is such a powerful vehicle of change. Through the toning of my body and my mind, I build strength and I start to believe in my own potential. My whole experience of change through Yoga is written Here.

img_0082
Journey with Yoga

Share something about the current country you are living in and notable aspects of life.

On Philippines as a Child-Friendly  country

If you were to choose the most child friendly country in the world, Philippines would definitely be in the top 5. I never ever heard anyone complaining because my kids are loud or “slightly” active. And it is not because my little Attilas are incredibly behaving, the real reason is that people love children. Kids are everywhere, there are playgrounds in each and every mall, and they are genuinely welcome by all the staff of the resto and hotels. It’s pretty unique I must say!

img_8615
Meet the Blondie in Bantayan Island – Future Miss Cebu?

On emphasis on Family and splurging on Kid’s birthday parties

Filipinos are very family oriented, they go out on weekends all together, and I can’t recall the numbers of times we have been invited to share food just because we happened to be around. One has to attend a kids’ Birthday  party to get my point loud and clear. Their Birthday parties look like our kind of engagement or even wedding party back home. It’s grand compared to the way Europeans do. They take it incredibly seriously, there are so many clowns, presents,  games and they invite the whole neighborhood along with the whole clan. There is no way you would leave the party without a big bag of food and give away presents. It is very heartwarming for expats like us, so far from home.

On Motherhood starts at a young age

Philippines has a a very high (TFR)  Fertility rate, ( as per 2016 World Factbook CIA report) ranking at # 53 ( 3.09)  compared to France # 110 (2.08)  or Switzerland, # 188 (1.55). Of course there are lots of differences, most of the women have their kids in their 20s and many young couples drag their progeniture everywhere, day and night. My kids’ friends have watched so many scary movies my children won’t watch before they turn teenagers!

On overwhelming  Exposure of Filipino kids to all kinds of media

The media exposure is so overwhelming here. They are exposed at a very young age to me, and they learn to perform on stage from 4 years old and the beauty pageants start very early. This is maybe because Filipino kids are exposed to realities of life at a young age. Little children are up-to-date watching all the tele-novelas and primetime shows in TV where they see all the hard realities of life,including the funny side.Ask any young children in the street about the current dance craze or the reigning Miss Universe and they will answer to you blatantly!

 

 

On borderline of personal privacy

Filipinos adore “Blonde”babies and kids they treat them like dolls!  It could come as a compliment but also could come across as crossing the borderline of privacy. Don’t be surprised if people take pics of your children without asking, it is just because they find them “gwapo” (cute). Nobody is shocked but the expats actually,we in France are very veery yy protective of our privacy and that is quite a cultural shock. We don’t want foreigners to take pictures of our children, let alone selfies! But you can always get your point with a nice smile.

ego
Celebrity baby!

On the debilitating Karaoke culture of the Philippines

Nobody, nobody, sleeps when the karaoke is on!

It is very easy to live in the Philippines as a family. The only minus being the karaoke that is so loud, night and day. But tell you what, after a couple of years here, where singing is like breathing, the kids and I are very competing with taxi drivers when the radio plays a song we know. That’s another great thing with living in the Philippines, how easy it is to laugh for anything and everything. Very very different from Europe!

On food diversity

Foodwise …Philippines is very diversed and Filipinos are definitely meat eaters. And I am vegetarian. Voila! People really used to look at me as if I had just fell from the moon when I refused the legendary “lechon” (pork) or “lechon manok” (grilled chicken). They gave me the same look when I said my kids can’t eat pastas with condensed milk and sugar or sausages with marshmallows. When it comes to junk and sweet, you can tell that the American did not leave the best behind when the Philippines became independent . But things are – slowly changing, and there are now many vegan options that are very good! And thanks Pinterest for teaching us to make the best out of the vegetables and the fruits we can find on the market (try me on eggplants and bananas 😉 )

How is it being pregnant, giving birth and raising your child away from your home country? Or relocating with your kids to another country? What are the adjustments, struggles you’ve overcome?

2014-12-30-16-51-02
It’s more fun in the Philippines : French touch in Cebu directed by Bright Expats and Action!

 My kids are 4 and 5 and it is super easy. They are little sponges, absorbing the cultures, the languages, and they don’t feel foreigners in spite of their blonde hair and their long eyelashes – that always impress Korean women!

Especially now that they can speak some of the local language. You should see them in the jeepney (local bus) talking with the driver in his language, they make every one laugh so hard!

leandre
Bilingual kids

My daughter was born in France so when I was expecting her brother we wondered for a little while if we should get back to Europe. But I am so glad we did not. All the beautiful prenatal yoga classes, the perfect attention of the medical staff of the Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok were beyond all my expectations. Plus Thai people really care for pregnant women, I felt like a super VIP all the time! Everything was cheaper and far better quality than back home.

lifeguard
Raising a  Blonde Third Culture Kid in the Philippines : So far, so good.

It is been really easy and fun, I feel it would be much more challenging if we had to relocate to Europe – France or Switzerland. We have lost our mute button a long time ago, and the kids hate wearing socks ..

 What is your opinion about raising your kid as a third culture kid? ( TCK means a third culture that your child is growing up with compared to the culture of your husband/spouse )

 Are you happy that you are raising an Expat Kid?

monperejenfaiscjv
Core values starts at home.

I wrote on this topic https://frenchtouchincebu.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/what-does-home-means-for-multicultural-kids/ and to me, it is “so far so good”. There are endless benefits of raising children abroad, they become fast learners, they adapt very fast and don’t know the meaning of racism.

bmfurnitdaguerre
Leading by Example : This is how a lady should be treated, as shown by her Father.

So far so good because I am not sure of the benefits of this lifestyle in the long run. We are going back to France and Switzerland once a year, and it is not enough to build the kind of memories I have built with my cousins and grand parents for instance. Bless Skype, Whatassap and Viber, for sure! But nothing can replace a real big hug. That’s the reason we are planning to relocate in a country closer to home, at least a few hours by plane (direct flight!). Cebu- Paris takes us about 20h, it is definitely too far. Can’t have it all !

How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?

We are legends! People think we have countless helpers, a driver available 24/7 and we spend our days in SPA… And most of them have no idea of where the Philippines are!

I don’t think I am making any impact actually. Some of my friends would definitely think I am living the easy life, simply because I don’t work. They google “Cebu” and see pristine beaches. I’d rather leave them with the illusions, not mentioning the rainy season, the insane Manila  traffic, how small the expat circle is here. And that the nearer beach is some 5 hours away ..

Interestingly enough, the expat life made us reinforce our links with our family much more than with our friends – unless expats themselves.

Disclaimer : All photos are owned & of personal property of Estelea, special credit to her FB page and should you wish to use it, please mention the owner.Thanks!

Inspired by this post?

Have you ever wonder how an Expat-Mama is raising her Kids in the Netherlands? Or what about a Muslim mother raising her child in the oil-rich desert country like Kuwait?

If you want to get to know more about Estelea and like follow her Expat Life, you can add her in her Facebook page Here and follow her Expat adventures in her Instagram Here.

Are you an Expat Mama and have a unique story to share, feel free to email me at justbluedutch@gmail.com and don’t forget to follow my Expat Life in my Twitter for more stories of Expat Life like this.

 

 

 

 

ExpatsBlog.com - Where Expats Blog