Friday, 26 December 2014

Bjork - The anchor song

On Monday we're heading to spend our New Year in Iceland!  I'm trying to finish my social work essays before I go and getting in the mood by listening to the wonderful Bjork.

Enjoy Anchor Song, one of my all time favourites...

Happy Boxing Day!

This is what it looks like for me at the moment in a mountain of papers and essays!  xx

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Immigration worries on Christmas Eve

(My dear mother-in-law Zahra Ouargha)

Eve of Christmas

and I am reflecting on my year of immigration issues at home and Morocco. 
It's been another year of immigration strain and worry.  Omar's application for Citizenship is only now being considered after eight years of being in a relationship and living in Morocco and Scotland.  In the middle of Omar's recent citizenship application the rules changed again and we had to spend hundreds on passing another english exam to meet the revised rules.
Over the years I have learned how to lobby Scottish politicians who in turn have lobbied the Westminster government after different immigration applications have been rejected and reconsidered.  Over the years I have been summoned to court in Govan, Glasgow to represent our immigration case, I have waded through lenghty and complex immigration forms which assume a high degree of literacy and are subject to constant change even in the midst of an application; this year I have lobbied in a right-wing climate of anti-immigration policy as I have experienced the difficulties of bringing my mother-in-law and sister-in-law to Scotland.

Earlier this year Omar's mother, my mother-in-law Zahra Ouargha, was diagnosed with a very rare form of skin cancer and has struggled with poor diagnosis and treatment in Morocco.  Following unsuccessful surgery earlier in the year, she is now in the horrific situation of receiving no treatment or medication in Morocco.

I have tried to bring her here on a private medical visa but after consulting private medical doctors here, I have discovered that they can not advocate to bring her here for treatment when they haven't seen her as it is against the general medical council ethics.  

I have stayed up late writing to my local MP about this "Catch 22" situation who has written to the current foreign secretary.  We are still awaiting an outcome of this...

I travelled to Morocco three weeks ago with Malika and Ameenah to visit Zahra and as always it is those closest to the person who is ill who suffers the most; Fatima my sister-in-law is really struggling to cope with her mothers illness.  My husband is going through all the classic stages of grief outlined by the psychodynamic theorist Kubler-Ross; he's stuck in denial and anger which has been hard to deal with.

So while my pictures from Morocco may portray a happy and colourful trip, behind the trip was a sense of sadness, grief and frustration at the bloody frustrating fact that while Zahra is dying, she is receiving no medical treatment or pallitative care.

We hope for news soon that she can come and spend some time with us here in Scotland, either that or we will be Morocco bound soon.....


What stories lie behind our Instagram feeds?

Malika and Ameenah loved spending time with their Moroccan friends a few weeks ago but behind these pictures lay a different kind of narrative....

My sister-in-law Fatima xx 

We spent a lot of time by the sea wall in Essaouria playing and reflecting...x

And thinking about the interdependent lives of our Moroccan friends and neighbours.....compared to the independent lives we lead in the West x


We will treasure these photos for a long 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

A Little Mandarin: In cooperation with Multicultural Kids Blog

Nimen Hao!   你們好  Hello!

We were absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to review this CD as part of the Multicultural Kids Blog.
I started teaching my daughter (Malika) mandarin six months ago; I used the vintage style Chinese for Children textbook and while it was quite charming it was not very exciting and did not engage Malika and encourage her to learn mandarin.
Having worked as a TEFL teacher in the past I know that songs and music are one of the best ways to engage young learners, and maintain levels of interest.
A Little Mandarin is an excellent teaching tool with a wide range of 15 songs with musical styles ranging from hip-hop to lullabies.
Malika's favourite songs were Phone Call, Scale Song and Pulling the Radish.

Make a Phone Call (打电话)

Make a Phone Call is a really charming song about a conversation between two dolls and the essence of real communication.

The tune is fab and the words are really funny according to Malika!  After a few listens Malika was able to pick up some of the expressions like 小娃娃 (xiǎo wuá wuá), which means little children and
喂 喂 喂(wéi wéi wéi) which is an expression for hi when picking up the phone....

Scale Song (音阶歌)
Malika has always loved singing and performing and she loved this song because it combines the english scale (do re mi!) with chinese lyrics which are really sweet and catchy,

Little friends
 xiǎo péng yǒu,
 Come and sing
 lái chàng gē,
 do do si la so,
You sing, too
nǐ yě chàng

Pulling the Radish (拔萝卜)
This is my personal favourite because it so so catchy and frankly bizarre!  I love the fact this is a song about the difficulty of pulling out a radish and asking so many people from all walks of life for help....Old women, little dogs and yellow cats are all asked to come quickly to help with the task!  This is an old Chinese song and the contemporary horn music is fab!  We loved the song although the lyrics
Pulling the radish
bá luó bó
are really stuck in our head!

Here are some song intros which you can enjoy!!!

Just click on this image of the Little Mandarin to go to the start of the songs....

And please go to the facebook and Twitter page for regular updates...

This link will take you to the website for the little Mandarin CD where you can find supporting materials such as lyrics in english, simplified mandarin and pinyin....

The CD won all these awards last year!  Amazing....

 Dr.Toy Best Classic, 2013
 Parent’s Choice Silver Honor, 2013
 Creative Child CD of the Year, 2013


But WHY do we want to learn Chinese?  Right over to Malika....

This is me Malika!  I was eight months when this picture was taken and I was in China for my Uncle Connor and Aunty Keng-Keng's wedding.  This picture was taken in a small cafe in Dali, Yunnan province with a xiao pengyou (small friend).  That is my mum in the picture with me!

These are Aunty KengKeng's grandmothers.  They are so adorable and I would love to speak more Chinese so I can talk to them.  They came to stay with me in Scotland a few years ago.

This is Aunty Keng-Keng.  She is a fashion designer and milliner and lives in London.  Milliner means hat designer!  She also makes delicious food (hen hao chi!).  This is a traditional Yunnan Pineapple rice dish in the picture....soooooo tasty.

And this is Keng-Keng in North Yunnan last year....

Another one of my mum and I in a little restaurant in Zhongdian, North Yunnan.

And this is me now I am five!  This was taken in Tallin, Estonia, this summer when Aunty Keng-Keng and Uncle Connor came to visit....

So thank you so much for Toni for making this wonderful CD!   I can learn more chinese and practice with my aunty and Chinese family.  谢谢 - Thank you!  

Multicultural Kid Blogs

Friday, 5 December 2014

Dances of India - Book Review

Malika's Book Review

"I loved this book and learning about Indian dances; I read it and then listened and danced to  Indian music with my mum and sister Ameenah - I really wanted to dance like Maya and Leela.  I hope everyone can come to my house in Scotland and share the music and stories with me.
Maya and Leela were really nice people - I am like Maya and my sister is like Leela.  I would love to go to India so I will go and pack my bag now.
I have loved reading this book and learning to dance, dance, dance - I should practice more at home.
Also I loved the rhymes.

"All across the land, music fills the air - That's because in India, dance is EVERYWHERE!"

After listening to to the rhymes in the story I made up my own!

"The rhymes are good
I really want to have a look
Everyone should go to India and see
Or come to Scotland and
explore Maya and Leela with me!"

Thank you for reading my book review - Malika Afif-Watt x

Here is the Amazon Book Review:

And here is a link to all the wonderful Indian music that Maya and Leela love to dance to!

And a link to the authors website!

Thank you for reading my book review - Malika Afif-Watt x (This is me and my sister Ameenah in Morocco, two weeks ago - we went to visit my grandmother) xx

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Belgium: Tattie holidays holiday x

Thankfully we no longer have to pick tatties during our Tattie holiday time in Scotland, a two week holiday in October which historically served to ensure a labour force for picking potatoes....

Instead we went on holiday to Belgium to visit Malika's godparents, Pammy and Rob.  They recently moved to the city of Gent to head up a brilliant new wood-fired bakery and restaurant called De Suprette. 

This was our first time to Belgium so we decided to spend a night in Brussels and for old-times sake we stayed at the Scandic Hotel, Brussels, the Scandinavian chain which we often stayed during our time in Finland.

The location was fantastic - just a few minutes walk from the Grand Place and the Central Station but more importantly only a five minute walk from the Belgium Comic Strip Centre which was absolutely awesome!

Belgium of course is the land of Smurfs and Tintin, and the comic centre has a range of permanent exhibitions, illustrated with original artwork and unique objects. Simultaneously, there are also several temporary exhibitions. 
Located in the heart of Brussels, in a majestic Art Nouveau building, created by Victor Horta in 1906, the Belgian Comic Strip Center opened its doors to the public on October 6th 1989. In no time this impressive museum became one of the main attractions of Brussels. Every year more than 200.000 visitors come here to explore  4.200 m² of permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Malika and Ameenah LOVED this place and we could have spent the whole day there drawing, hanging out in the brilliant reading room, playing in the Smurf replica house....and much more
I would come back to Belgium just to visit this comic centre and I can not recommend it highly enough! xx
Portrait of the artist....

And the adjoining restaurant was great...
So much inspiration in the wonderful Art-Deco building x
Simply have to draw...
Would love to have seen more of the 100 years in the Balkans exhibition but the Smurfs won out!
And wow what a drawing of Brussels in the snow...
Smurf Kingdom
 The reading room containing a selection of over 3,000 comics is open to the general public during all opening hours. Here you will also find comics translated into over 36 languages
And then we headed to Gent to see Pammy and Rob...we took the train which was a nightmare....lots of steps to navigate with a buggy is challenging!
And here is Pammy in the kitchen where she spends a LOT of time serving amazing food....Belgium of course is famed for frites and mayonnaise and chocolate but here we ate a lot of incredible sourdough pizza and hazelnut croissants - YUM!

Ultimate Godmother - Pammy!
 I always like to sit outside with the girls.....and I always bring blank drawing pads and pens to keep them entertained x
We loved this mural outside the restaurant!
We spent a morning in the rather odd but quite charming De Site community allotments ...
De Site, Community Allotments, Gent

But my favourite place was the Museum Dr. Guislain, which is a  History of Psychiatry and outsider art museum.
A fascinating museum about the history of psychiatry and mental healthcare. It's an oasis north of the historical center in Belgium's oldest psychiatric hospital (1857). The collections of outsider art or art brut are famous and their temporary exhibitions are intruiging. Easy accessible by tram no four to Rabot.
Wow - this place was great.  Although we didn't actually see the history of psychiatry section as the lady behind the desk told me her children were frightened (and they were older than my girls), there are plenty of other things to see....The grounds alone are fabulous and well worth a visit as is the café with its giant, obscure statues.....and the outsider art section is amazing. 
 I cannot recommend this highly enough.

Drawing, running, chaos
Beautiful building and Belgium's oldest psychiatric clinic

The café is so charming and odd!

And finally.....the streets near Pammy and Rob's apartment and restaurant....I loved the old tiled so beautiful

The Godmother at work....

And Ameenah enjoying a juice break on a brilliant Tattie week trip to Belgium....I would recommend this country to everyone ...charming, odd and full of quirky places to visit off the tourist trail.....hopefully Pammy and Rob will stay a while longer so we can visit again soon! xx