Ale Leon

Joined June 2016
  • Day2

    A week with family and friends

    July 8, 2017 in the United Arab Emirates

    After leaving Singapore we arrived in Dubai where we were greeted by Sammy's uncle Ziad and met his uncle Issam from Italy who also arrived that day for a visit.. We drove to Al Ain to meet the rest of the family and stayed at Uncle Ziad and tante Hadia's home in the for above Sammy's grandma's apartment. It was the end of Ramadan: Eid al fatr and just like Christmas, it is a time of great celebration with family and wonderful food. Almost all of Sammy's cousins were there and e had a great time. Everyone was obsessed with Alex and because we were with family we almost didn't mind that it was 50 deg C° outside (literally a dry heat sauna).
    We also got to spend some time with some of Sammy's high school friends which are great: Shadi, Ahmad and Tarek. Over all it was a great trip and we enjoyed every minute of our 8 days there.
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  • Day1

    After a pretty smooth flight, we arrived in Paris from Abu Dhabi. It had been a long night/morning as we left Sammy's grandma's house at 3:30 am and arrived in Paris 11 hours later. We managed to get to where we were staying: a simple, inexpensive but quite spacious and clean apartment in the 13th district. So we wouldn't miss what had been our home too much, it was surrounded by Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai restIaurants (ahh the nostalgia... Sniff sniff). After resting for a bit, we went to an amazing French steakhouse and met two of my old college friends from my time in Canada: Camille and Julie. It's funny, the last time I stayed in Paris almost 12 years ago I had come to visit them both and now I got to see them both again! (Again with the nostalgia... LOL)
    It was wonderful catching up and enjoying amazing wine, food and company.
    The next day we set off to enjoy the streets of Paris. Walking really is the best way to get to know the city, and walking we did.
    After an hour's worth of walking we had lunch at a very nice crepe place and then got to Luxembourg gardens. The place is beautiful and it is a great place for kids. Alex had a blast running around and trying the different rides in the massive playground. Afterwards we had fun just vegging out on the lawn and enjoying the beautiful summer day. We then walked to the Eiffel tower where we stopped again on the surrounding grounds to take in the view and then stopped at a Lebanese restaurant on Champes Elisee where Alex had a bite and we charged our phones, (food wasn't too bad either). Finally we walked to the Tulleries Gardens and the Louvre before ending up in a quaint restaurant close to Notre Dame.
    It was a jam packed day that we thoroughly enjoyed although our feet were dying by the end of it.

    The next day we met Cris, my sister, at the gare de Lyon train station and then head out to Note Dame. We had a lovely light supper at a cafe across from the cathedral where we strolled around and then headed back to the hotel to pickup our bags and take the train to Fontainebleau. The train took a lot longer than expected and we arrived quite late.
    We had a lot of luggage with us and there wasn't a taxi in sight at the station. Of course the elevators to use the underpass to get to the other side of the station weren't working. Fortunately, we got some help from a weird looking guy (kind of scary) and then walked for 4 min to the hotel.
    In the morning, it was time to get ready for the big day ahead; the reason we had come to France in the first place, the INSEAD graduation!
    The ceremony took place at the majestic Fontainebleau castle (or chateau) and it was a beautiful (but very long) event.
    It was wonderful to meet our friends one last time, but heart-wrenching having to say good bye yet again. Tears of joy and nostalgia couldn't be stopped as we said or final goodbyes that same night and the following day.
    The day after graduation, my sister flew off to London and Sammy, Alex and I headed to the INSEAD campus to see what our lives could have looked like, had we decided to not stay in Singapore for the entire 10 month program. The campus is very big and very beautiful! It has a collegial charm that makes you feel like you are in a university, unlike the campus at Singapore (still no regrets, singy forever!)
    The town itself wasn't at all what I'd expected; it was very charming, not as small as I'd thought, and you could walk everywhere. (I was expecting a repeat of Coopersburg as it had been described to me as a tiny town in the middle of the forest).
    In the evening of our last day in Fonty we had a wonderful picnic with our friends who were still in town. We sat on the chateau's garden grounds by the pond. Not only was it breathtaking and peaceful but also extremely yummy! Too our flight we didn't even need music add there was a jazz festival taking place right next to us. We couldn't have planned it better if we tried! We got our supplies from a local grocery store where I went a little crazy with the options of cold cuts, pathes, wine and amazing bread and veery decent prices.
    It was the perfect close to a perfect year. Now or INSEAD adventure was truly over. Sniff sniff, thanks for the memories INSEAD!

    The next morning we flew to London to start our final trip in Europe: our 2 week cruise in the Mediterranean.
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  • Day268

    Farewell southeast Asia!

    June 4, 2017 in Vietnam

    After an intense P4, Sammy and I have decided to move to Boston so that he can take a job opportunity at wayfair.com. With our future a little bit more defined, our last month in Singapore went by in a blink of an eye with final brunches and goodbye dinners filling up the calendar.
    Before we knew it, it was time to do our final tourist trip in southeast Asia: a 10 day trip to Vietnam!

    We arrived in Hanoi on the 15th of June and after a decent dinner, we explored the old part of downtown. We ran into some interesting college students who asked if they could interview us for an English class. They were extremely friendly and it was very nice to meet some of the locals.
    After a few hours of walking around town, taking in as much of Hanoi as we could, we went to bed and rest it up for the next part of or adventure.
    The next morning our driver picked us up to start our 3 hour long journey to Halong Bay.
    We boarded our 3 day "Signature Cruise" which is a traditional Vietnamese boat or "junk", as they call it, and set sail through the beautiful stone islets. The views were amazing and the service and food was really great. We got to see a floating fisherman village and a fascinating pearl farm where Sammy got me some lovely earrings.
    On our second day on board, we went on a slightly smaller boat for a day trip to kayak at a different area of the bay. We were lucky that it was raining as the
    heat the day before, had been unbearable. Even though he is only two, Alex went kayaking with us and had a great time!
    Overall the cruise was a lot of fun however it was very sad to see how dirty the bay was as you always could see garbage floating along. On the third day it was time to leave the boat and head back to Hanoi airport to fly to Da Nang so we could start the final part of our journey in Hoi An.
    We stayed at a quaint, nice and extremely affordable place called the Green Apple hotel.

    Hoi An is one of those little towns that could have been take it of a story book. The ancient town full of old wooden shops adorned with colorful silk lanterns is simply gorgeous; add to that a charming riverfront with beautiful bridges and traditional row boats and you are in an Asian fairytale.
    It was the perfect scenery to celebrate Sammy's birthday a few days after we arrived.

    I had very high expectations of the food and was a bit disappointed with a few exceptions. I thoroughly enjoyed the local crispy pancakes and the banana flower salad (sounds wierd, I know but it actually is similar in texture to cabbage and doesn't taste at all like banana) but more than anything, my favorite thing was the Bahn my (ban mi) sandwiches.

    In addition to being a picturesque town, Hoi an has amazing beaches. We took advantage of the crystal clear, warm waters and soft sand to relax during the hot days. Alex had a blast jumping waves and playing with the sand.
    It was the perfect mix: beach during the day, walking in the ancient town during the evenings (not an exaggeration, that's what it's called).

    The town is also known for its top notch taylors that can make any garment you want at an affordable price in just a day or two!
    I had to take advantage of this and get a nice dress made for Sammy's graduation.

    Overall, I couldn't have asked for a better way to bring our Southeast Asia adventure to a close. Vietnam is truly amazing and I would love to go back someday.

    Now it's back to Singapore for a day of packing before heading to Dubai to visit the family.
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  • Day169

    First months of 2017 (P3 and P4)

    February 25, 2017 in Singapore

    It's been too long since I've written an update so here's a bit of a summary of what's been going on since we finished P2...
    We had a wonderful Christmas on the cruise ship in the Caribbean with my family and a fun new years in Miami where we got to spend some time with Sammy's dad as well. After we came back to Singapore it was time for Sammy to start P3. Again he was working very hard and his and his classmates' focus began to shift from full time study to work-search mode. Everyone started getting nervous about recruitment and you could begin to feel the tension in the air.

    I started teaching spinning on a regular basis once a week, continuing my social media work and exercising at the gym. At the end of P3, Sammy went to Dubai for a class and Alex and I went on a weekend trip with 4 good friends from India and Iran. We went to Jogyakarta on the island of Java and had a wonderful time visiting amazing Buddhist and Hindu temples.

    When we came back, many of our friends left Singapore to continue the program in France. In a way it was a reminder that time was running out; Our Singapore adventure was almost over and after P3, time only sped up.

    Alex has been growing so much! During P4 we got to celebrate his second birthday on multiple occasions: at his school, at the playroom in INSEAD and finally on a barbeque we organized together with some Dutch friends. As you can imagine, one of Alex's new favorite song (even after more than a month) continues to be "Happy birthday".

    Another important thing that happened during P4 was Sammy's knee surgery. During the first week of P1, Sammy had a bad fall playing soccer and tore his ACL so hadn't been able to really exercise since. we decided to get the surgery out of the way as soon as possible so his knee wouldn't get in the way of recruiting.

    So many things happened in P4, it was a blur really. Some of our Mexican friends (Ale, Joe and Eric) from our time at Lutron came to visit us for a few days from Taiwan. We also had my friends Michelle and René from Panama visit for a week.
    Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and before we knew it we were at the end of P4. We celebrated by going on a short trip with some friends from Germany to Phuket in Thailand. Our friends have a daughter that is Alex's age and we all had a great time together.

    Now we are starting the final period in the program and in a little over a month we will be leaving Singapore. We will go to Dubai to visit Sammy's family and then off to France for Graduation. It has truly been a wonderful adventure and it's true what they say, time does fly when you are having fun. Thank you Singapore!!
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  • Day98

    P2

    December 16, 2016 in the United States

    After an intense P1 in which Sammy spent countless hours studying at school, the pressure got to him and made him sick. He got a virus that gave him terrible headaches that made him miss his last exam and take a trip to the ER. Fortunately a few days later he began to feel better. We were also lucky that we didn't have plans to travel in the few days we had between P1 and P2 as we would have had to cancel the trip.

    The second period began in a more relaxed tone after Sammy's health scare.
    This second period was a lot shorter than the first.
    I took these 6 weeks to focus on exercising and socializing with the other partners. I started teaching spinning at the school gym and eventually even took the spinning certification course and exam. I am now certified to officially teach Spinning for the next 2 years. I'd always wanted to do this and now I have. Time really flew by.

    During P2 we had really great holiday parties and celebrations. It all started with our first celebration of Diwali with some of our Indian friends followed shortly after by a great Halloween party, our first real dance party since before Alex was born! A few weeks later we hosted more than 25 of our new friends from school for a thanksgiving dinner that I cooked including a turkey, stuffing and sweet potato praline casserole among others. A week after we got to celebrate Christmas with some of our friends with kids. You can definitely day it's been a busy period.

    The second week of December was our last week in Singapore in 2016. Alex and I set off on our longest journey ever, taking a 14 hour flight to London, having a 6 hour layover and then taking a 10 hour flight to Austin.
    My dad picked us up from the airport and together we drove to San Antonio where we had dinner at my favorite burger place, Chester's hamburgers before being dropped off at my aunt Silvia's house.
    Right now it's a little after 1 and even though we've been here now for 2 days, we are still struggling with the jetlag.

    I can't wait to see my hubby again on the 23rd when we all fly out to Miami for for a week long cruise with all the family from my mom's side in the Caribbean.

    Overall it's been a few months of holiday fun. Now It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and I can't wait!
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  • Day36

    last stretch of P1

    October 15, 2016 in Singapore

    After our adventures in KL, we've decided to hold off on travelling for the time being so that Sammy can focus on finishing the period with good marks. Alex has adjusted to school and that had given me more time for myself. I've been exercising and getting more work done working on some social media projects and translations. I'm trying to finalize the arrangements for an arabic class as well. Things are finally starting to mesh and get into a rhythm, and it feels amazing!!
    Our latest adventures have not been nearly as exciting as the last one. Alex and I got a cold and mine got a bit complicated as it knocked me out for a couple of days but later got better and Alex and I went to the Chinese garden. It was really beautiful and saw cool structures including a statue of Mulan that I was please to find out, was actually a real person. Sammy didn't join us as he is at school shuffling between tutorials and stuffing. I was starting to get worried he is overdoing it.
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  • Day19

    Trip to KL, The Vacation That Wasn't

    September 28, 2016 in Malaysia

    The month of September started with great promise, in fact half way through the month everything had be going fine and dandy. On my birthday, Sammy got a babysitter for Alex while we went out to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants: Lawry's Prime Rib. I couldn't believe this restaurant is in Singapore. We had a great time and Alex seems to have had fun with his sitter. When we returned, some of our new friends came to have some cake. My new friends Indra from Germany made the most delicious churros and my friends Rashmi and Amu got me wonderful chocolate and wine. It was a great birthday and I couldn't wait to head out to visit my friends Grace and Merlyna (Lyna) in Kuala Lumpur (KL).

    Alex and I set off on our first trip by ourselves taking a short flight and were picked up by Lyna and her boyfriend Faz. Our first night was great, we had a lovely dinner, talked a lot and had a good night's sleep. On our first full day in Malaysia we headed to the city center and visited the famous Petronas Twin Towers but not before having lunch at a place called Little Penang Kafe, a place I will never forget, and not for good reasons.

    After visiting the 84th floor and seeing the views from there and from the crosswalk from the famous movie "Entrapment", we headed back down and, as we were leaving the lobby, Alex threw up.

    Thinking it was probably because of the fast ride down on the elevator, I changed his clothes and put him in the stroller. Unfortunately he puked again and a few minutes later, yet again.
    After 4 episodes I knew we needed to see a doctor but after the fifth time, it was time to go to the hospital as I got very worried that Alex was getting dehydrated.

    I called my friend Grace who lives in downtown KL who offered to drive us.
    Alex was put on an IV on his leg. That night was one of the longest night's of my life. I was so worried about my little one and only managed to relax when he was sleeping peacefully a few hours after being admitted.
    As I started relaxing, I started paying attention to a slight pain in my stomach and although I tried sleeping it off on the hospital reposette, I soon had to get up and puke myself. I was pretty sick as well. Fortunately, the bug only lasted a day in my system. As for Alex, he was doing much better after the first day but the doctor wanted him to stay an extra night.
    The good thing was that he was feeling better, the bad thing was that he was very restless and we were both itching to get out. I was exhausted and fed up.

    We were supposed to go visit Malaca with Lyna and Faz but because of the incident, we didn't go. Lyna and Faz went with Lyna's family and later called saying they were both feeling sick as well. It was so bad for them they ended up going to the clinic. Whatever bug we got was pretty bad and we think it was from something we had at the little Pending Kafe.

    After Malaca, Alex and I were supposed to visit Penang with Grace. This town is about 5 hour drive from KL, however, after the hospital I didn't think it prudent to put Alex through such a long drive and decided to cut our trip short.

    Thank God we came home safely and in good health. I guess I'll get to see more of Malaysia some other time, it was still nice to see Grace and Lyna and I was so grateful they were there for me through everything at the hospital. I'm thankful that even after so many years I have great sister friends.

    October is less than week away, I'm sure it will only bring good things. I'll let you know how it goes.
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  • Day1

    And so the MBA adventure begins

    September 10, 2016 in Singapore

    After returning from a wonderful trip in south east Asia, it was time for Sammy to start school. After a hectic orientation week, we soon realized that I was probably going to be seeing very little of my hubby and this of course made me quite sad.
    Oh well, it is only 10 months for a reason and I'm sure it will bring good things. I've met a few other ladies who have kids the same age as Alex and hanging out with people who know what your going through has helped make it easier. Everyone is really nice.
    After a lot of thinking, I've decided to put Alex in school. I think he'd get more out of our time here learning from teachers and playing around with kids his age than being constantly dragged around by me in the stroller in the humid heat of Singapore. I've been evaluating options, and it's been a bit daunting. It's never an easy decision to whom you are going to entrust your child.
    Hopefully by this time next month he'll be in school. Something that is quite interesting here concerning child care, is the fact that the centers watch children from 7 am to 7 pm (12 hours, yikes!), they all wear uniforms (even at 1.5 years of age)and they are all bilingual (Chinese and English). We'll see how it goes... Poor Alex, he's already confused hearing the languages all the time, but who knows, maybe it will make it easier for him to learn Mandarin if he decides to learn it later on.
    As for me, I've been keeping myself busy taking care of stuff that is missing from the apartment and planning a trip to visit my dear friends Grace and Merlyn in Malaysia with Alex later this month. It will be a nice test run before our trip to Texas in December.
    Finally, my birthday is coming up next week, don't know what Sammy has planned, but I'll be happy just spending a whole afternoon with him. Whatever it is, I'm sure it'll be great.
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  • Day22

    Billy bolly BALI

    August 20, 2016 in Indonesia

    This post is a few weeks overdue and originally I wanted to split it up into 2, however, Sammy has started school and I've been really busy getting the house in order and scavenging for paperwork for our visas. Anyway, enough with excuses...

    The final leg of our Asia adventure took us to the famous island of Bali. As with everything, expectations are key, and I'm afraid "eat pray love" set the bar too high in my head. For those who haven't been there, Bali is similar to Cancun. It has beautiful beaches but is extremely commercialized in some areas, not really the local paradise I was expecting. To be fair, I must say Balinese people are super friendly and nice, the beaches were beautiful and it is in general a great place.
    But again, I digress...
    We stayed at a really sweet bad and breakfast place with cute Balinese villas surrounding a beautiful swimming pool in the south of Bali at a place called nusa dua. We could definitely come back to the place as it is a very nice, chill location across from a beautiful beach. The place is called Rumah Bali and it's owned by the same people who own a really great restaurant called Bumbu Bali.

    After the day's of hanging out at the beach and pool, we were picked up by a van to take us to our final stop, a resort in west Bali where we would meet up with the INSEAD group.
    We ventured off into what we thought would be a 3-hour journey that turned into an almost 6 hour adventure. We ran into heavy traffic and then went up and down mountains on one lane small roads.On the way we got to see some beautiful rice paddies and gorgeous lakes up in the mountains including a beautiful temple where we stopped to stretch are legs and explore a bit. The last hour of our voyage was quite messy as Alex got car sick with the bumpy road, so we were more than delighted to reach the hotel.

    The place was beautiful! Smack in the middle of no where, there wasn't even a real road to get to it.
    After freshening up we got on another bus to take us to the INSEAD dinner. The group was so big, they had to split us up into 3 groups staying at different hotel's in the area.
    Dinner was nice, we met many of Sammy's classmates and had a lovely barbeque dinner.
    The following day, Sammy went mountain biking while Alex and I took a stroll with some of the class who had also stayed behind. When everyone got back, we all hung out at the pool and had a very tasty Balinese lunch.
    After hanging out for a while, tasting the famous kopi luac (watch the movie "the bucket list" for more info) which was quite good, learning how to weave bags out of recycled material and learning to make Balinese crepes, we went back to our hotel to get ready for dinner.
    Food was great and afterwards Sammy and I got to enjoy the party and dance while Alex slept peacefully in his stroller. First time partying since I got pregnant!

    On our last full day, we all took a speed boat and went snorkeling at this beautiful paradise beach half hr away from the hotel. It was great, we even got to see some exotic blue starfish.
    After lunch we headed back and enjoyed the pool and natural hot tub before going to the farewell dinner.
    Another couple, Alex, Sammy and I, took a little detour after dinner and went to see the milky way from a look out point taking advantage of the low light pollution. It was really great!

    After 3 weeks our adventure was finally over. We left the hotel at 2 am to make our 9 am flight back to Singapore.

    Many people told us we were very brave traveling with our little one. In a way I guess we were but it was an amazing experience and we enjoyed every minute of it. Hopefully we will be able to travel together again soon.
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  • Day15

    Amazing Siem Reap

    August 13, 2016 in Cambodia

    We spent 5 amazing days in the beautiful town of Siem Reap in Cambodia. What was supposed to be a purely archeological visit turned into a relaxing getaway with great food, entertainment and culture.
    We stayed at a really nice boutique hotel called Sarai with an amazing swimming pool which we used extensively.
    Besides chilling by the pool, we got to experience a wide variety of cuisines from around the world. Siem Reap may be a small town but the number and variety of restaurants you can find rivals those of many cities in the US and Europe.

    During our stay we had great swiss, Italian, khemer (Cambodian), and one of the best burgers I've ever had at a cute pub from New Zealand.

    Besides the diverse cuisines, Siem Reap has a great downtown area with a night market with nice paintings and trinkets and a "pub street" packed with modern clubs and all sorts of drink and food stalls including some that sell fried spiders, snakes and scorpions on a stick as a traditional snack. We weren't that adventurous to try them but opted instead for a peculiar soft serve ice cream served in a J shaped come made of puffed rice. Delicious!!

    The town's main attraction is the world renown Angkor wat. On the first day of site seeing, we visited Ta Prohm, AKA the tomb raider temple featured in the movie with impressive giant trees growing in and around the temple stones. Even though our tour guide was terrible, we had fun walking around the ruins of Ta Prohm and climbing to the top of some small temples that surround Angkor Wat.

    After a day of relaxing by the pool and getting some traditional Khemer massages (complimentary from the hotel as we complained about how terrible the tour guide had been), we set out bright and early (or should I say dark and early as we were picked up at 4:30 am) to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

    This time our guide was amazing. He not only gave un interesting history on the site, but also showed us the best spots to take pictures. Angkor Wat is really amazing and it's size and detail are very impressive but to be honest, my favorite temple was one we visited in the afternoon called Bayon, the main temple I the city of Angkor Thom built by the great king Chez... VII which was a place of worship for both Buddhists and Hindus. The temple's top is covered with Buddha faces that are absolutely beautiful.

    Overall we all loved Siem Reap and would go back in a heartbeat to visit more of the 200+ temples in the area and enjoy the good food.
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