Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Visiting Melbourne: Through JED's eyes

As promised, this post is Melbourne through the eyes of JED. Or it could be titled "What to do with Melbourne with children" because this post is about what JED loved about Melbourne.

I shall state from the outset that the twins are very infatuated with Melbourne. Jordan is ready to move there. Forever. She wants to go to school there and go like now, now now.

To JED, Melbourne was about 7 things.

1. The cold weather

This was the most important. That is, once they got used to it. Muffin was the one that took the longest to relish it. It went in order of the amount of insulation they had in their bodies. And Muffin doesn't have any, at all.

But once they climatised, they ran around with jackets and even ventured as far as going to the beach twice. Something I wouldn't have even considered no matter how mild the winter was.

2. The animals. 

JED love animals. But as with most urban kids, they are scared of them. So it was funny when Evan wanted to feed ducks (his favourite animal in the world) and run away when the ducks approached him for more. It was similar with the guinea pigs that they could play with at the petting zoo. Evan wanted to have the guinea pig but was squealing about it being ticklish because of its claws. I liked the Open Range safari type animals more than the local Aussie ones and while I understood that it made sense for the joey to be head in in the pouch, I was grossed out by the fact that there were a pair of legs sticking out of Mama-Kanga's belly. No one got why I was grossed out so I was left alone to make faces.

3. The playgrounds
With the benefit of space, the playgrounds around Melbourne were awesome. And I don't mean it in the tween way, I mean it in the "jaw dropping, covet and want to steal it back to Singapore, talk about it all the time" way. 

Every day, we explored a new playground and every evening, there would be the request of going back to the same playground the next day. Because it was just that much fun. It didn't matter that they spent good long stretches of time at the playground, it was never enough. 

Even the adults were hard-pressed to  vote on which was the best playground. 

a. Parkville

Packrat and I loved Parkville because it was behind our old uni and where he lived. We also loved it because it showed great sensitivity to the landscape. It was just a playground plonked into a field. The architectures built the playground into the natural landscape with slopes and trails integrated. Then there was a large hill that we could scale and the Grey's Anatomy fan in me loved the fact that from the playground or the top of the hill, you could see medical helicopters landing on the hospital rooftop across the road. 

JED loved it because it was challenging, sprawling and so open to the imagination. They played hide and seek but gradually settled to play at the dam structure, which in itself was a stroke of genius. The kids could build a network of waterways in the sand and there was an irrigation system that they could work, pump water and dam before releasing it into their waterways. Over and over again, in different permutations. 

My only concern about the playground was that it was so sprawling that you couldn't quite keep an eye on the kids all the time from one spot. But other than that, we spent 2 days and had lunch there. Even then, it was really with a heavy heart to leave. And also to know that should we ever come back, the twins would be too old to enjoy it as much. 

b. St Kilda
St Kilda's a pretty bohemian part of Melbourne and it follows that the playground there is similarly so. It looked like a junkyard with odd pieces of wood structures painted in a cacophony of colours. There was a haphazard feel to it, it was challenging in places for the kids with an adrenaline junkie's dream of a flying fox that whizzed at top speed and only stopped with a mighty clang when it hit the end and caused the kid to rebound or get thrown off into wood chips (though we didn't see any kid get thrown off!)

Similar to the Parkville playground, even though we spent 3 hours there, JED didn't cover every inch of it. They climbed a tree, discovered secret tunnels built under the playground structures and tried to run up a skateboard run which was close to impossible. The playground was run by the city council and there were crates of free fruit for the kids. With places like these where you can see so much love and care has gone into creating it, I was happy that I could put in a donation to keep the place going or to help buy the next crate of fruit.

4. Fake snow
I badly wanted to drive up to Mt Buller for some snow even if we didn't ski. But the men, who were the designated drivers refused to budge. It was too long a drive to see mounds of ice and they couldn't imagine tetchy kids all the way there and disappointed kids back. The next alternative was an ice rink near the hotel that had a fake snow slope.

The cold, together with the speed thrilled JED to bits especially because the only way to stop was to crash headlong into a thick padded wall. Muffin and Jordan were the most adept. I came down screaming while Evan internalised all his fear with a constipated look on his face. It wasn't enough to totally get the snow jollies out of the way but it did go some way into assuaging it.

5. Rowing a boat
If at any time, a child suggests that rowing a boat would be fun, heavily indoctrinated by years of singing that insipid kid song, please say no. Against our better judgement, we agreed to row a boat down the duck pond. With 5 in the boat, the weight wasn't evenly spread out and that meant I spent half the time worried we might truly capsize. And never believe the children when they promise to help row because all they do is splatter water and complain their arms hurt. So rather than rowing, we spun in circles in the general direction of the current, bouncing off both banks and miraculously spun back to where we started. By then, there was water in the boat and JED had all been splashed by algey mucky water that was filled with duck pee.

6. Autumn leaves

There is a Chinese saying about fishing that goes along the lines of "even if can't catch fish, settle for the shrimp". It sounds better in Chinese. That was the philosophy that JED approached Melbourne winter. To them, winter meant snow. We spent the better part of the year dispelling that notion so they settled for the next best thing. Leaves.

Piles of leaves, leaf tracks, just shuffling and rustling in leaves, picking at them, comparing the different shades of yellow, orange and green was interesting enough that they left the adults alone.

7. Friends 
There was always fun to be had where ever they were because they were 5 of them, 4 of them of similar age. There were squabbles and differences but they tried hard to work it out for themselves and figured out the best dynamics amongst them. They didn't sleep together but played together, ate together and even celebrated their birthdays together.

The adults vowed that for as far as possible, we will try to bring them away together because these are what make for good memories for them. 

My takeaway from the entire trip was that fun didn't need to be expensive at all. So, no we didn't go and see the penguins. Nor did we take the windy Great Ocean Road or the coal spitting- tear inducing choo choo train round the Dandenongs. And it really didn't matter to JED nor their friends.

Every one needs more of these sorts of holidays. It does wonders for the soul.


Post a Comment