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Four

Four things in my house that are very American

IMG_3257American breakfast cereal

IMG_3258Giant framed poster of Boston, including Fenway Park (where the Red Sox play baseball)

IMG_3259Bureau or giant US King Bed (because our armoire is overfull)

IMG_3260My 2 year old has her own bedroom (as does the 5 year old)

Four things in my house that are very Singaporean

IMG_3268Elanor’s wall of Mandarin vocabulary cards

IMG_3269Maggi noodles

IMG_3270Dehumidifier

IMG_3280Gandalf is a Singaporean cat (they naturally have those super short tails)

4 pieces of art I had 4 years ago next to 4 new pieces of  art

IMG_3292Old–Elanor’s birth announcement (near)

New–Rhi’s birth announcement (far)

IMG_3293Old-street scene from New Orleans

New-Boomerang from Australia

IMG_3294Old-visiting the Taj Mahal

New-Rhi’s baby photo shoot and/or Ellie walking on the beach in CA

IMG_3296Old-Poster for Wicked on Broadway, autographed by original cast members

New-Ellie in the water fountain and/or Claire, myself and the girls at the Dinosaur exhibit at ArtScience, and/or Emily, myself, and kids at the zoo for CNY

Also four this past weekend?  The anniversary of our arrival in Singapore.

Wordless Wednesday:Tiong Bahru Park

I am kind of embarrassed to admit that it has taken me four years to get to Tiong Bahru Park.  It’s just up the street from my house…but in the opposite direction that we usually travel in.  But I’ll be honest–as the mom of young children, I don’t know that I feel like I was missing out on much.

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It’s a very pretty park with walking/jogging track, green space, and a playground.  There were plenty of joggers, and groups of people picnicking.

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At first glance, I couldn’t quite figure out why we hadn’t spent any real time here.  It looks impressive.  The train design on the play structure is fabulous.

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After Rhi slid down the slide, though, it became clear that even if we had visited the playground before, it isn’t somewhere we’d spend a lot of time.  By 11 am, the slides were too hot to use, as there is no shade near the playground equipment.  We’re not morning people–we prefer to be lazy and linger over breakfast if we don’t have to be somewhere.  While the train shades the walkways below it, even the tunnel slide had heated to the point where it wasn’t useable.

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Both girls did enjoy the swings, but they’re not nearly the draw a water play area would be.  It kind of baffles me that Elanor doesn’t know how to swing.  But when I was her age, I had my own swing set to practice on every day–this was only Elanor’s second time on a swing, and she lacks the typical kid ability to swing.  While this park has a swing, few others do–and it’s one of the ways you can identify it as an older playground.  But again–there is a lack of shade.

The kids ended up playing with another child in the sand in the small bit of sand that was covered by shade.  Little black insects immediately began to harass me.  In short order, I couldn’t really handle being there.

IMG_3107E likes posing, but prefers to do so in air conditioned environments.

We went for a walk in the area after that was a much better fit for everyone.  If it were “cool” (and I use that term loosely) season or if I didn’t expect to be eaten alive after dark, a park might be a better experience for us.

I do plan to go see some of the older playgrounds, but I don’t know that we’ll make a huge effort to get back to Tiong Bahru’s Park/Playground any time soon.  The truth is that I’d rather take them to Polliwogs where it’s clean, air conditioned, and–if I have only Elanor–I can get work done in the parent cafe while she plays.

Waiting for PR…

It was difficult to hear that it would take at least four months to get an answer on our PR application.  I talk a good game, but it was a rough 4 months waiting for April to finally roll around.

Since April began, though, I approach my mailbox every single day with hope rising in my chest, heart beating a bit quicker—only to have those hopes dashed by an empty mailbox, or a power bill.  Today I finally gave into temptation to call the ICA to ask about the status of our application.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 2.09.32 AMIt’s still processing.

I can sometimes have issues with anxiety, especially when I feel like there is a lot of uncertainty.  In this case, we have only one plan–all of our apples are in one basket.  I have explored private schools and they aren’t right for us.  I don’t think that homeschooling is a good fit for Elanor and I.  While there will likely be seats left in Singapore’s public schools in phase 3, I don’t know that those seats will be anywhere near our home, or that we would be happy there.

Knowing that we are in the window, I am also impatient.  Yes?  No?  Just tell me!

These are my personal issues, not Singapore’s.  But this is my blog, so you guys get to hear me whinge that we are still waiting on an answer and that I’m losing my mind.

Everyone send “PR answer” vibes…or, failing that, I’ll also take “calm the fuck down” vibes.

Planning travel to Cambodia–healthcare

For a number of years, I’ve wanted to do some solo travel in the region, but life has interfered.  This Mother’s Day, though, I’ll be on my own in Siem Reap, Cambodia happily doing hours of photography at Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples.

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 7.11.37 PMsource

Since Ravi will be solo parenting, the very first thing I had to do was ensure that he got the relevant days off from work.  I then booked my flights (although I’m still figuring out hotel).

Then I began my healthcare preparations.  I knew from my trip to India in 2006 that there were injections I never finished getting and that I should probably look into stuff like Malaria pills.  I scheduled a travel consultation with my doctor’s office.

In terms of vaccinations, needed the following

  • Polio (adults get a single booster and it’s good for life)
  • Typhoid (good for 3 years)
  • Hepatitis A & B–combined shot (3 shot series, good for life)
  • I already had a tetanus booster, but if you haven’t had one in years, you may want to get a booster

Because I’ll be in the Angkor Wat area, I didn’t need any anti-malarials or a vaccination for Japanese Encephalitis.  However mosquitoes are an issue, so the first thing they sold me was…

20140411_183857Insect repellant with DEET.  If there’s no DEET, you’re just effectively covering yourself in frosting.

The other thing that my clinic sold me was a packet of travel medication.  This isn’t meant for a single trip, but it’s a full service packet of things I *might* need while traveling.  I’ve had issues with travel in the past, so I figured it was best to buy it.

20140411_183911Packed in a convenient pouch

20140411_184010It includes your basics like band-aids and condoms

20140411_184016Antibiotic cream, ointment, eye drops

20140411_184007A huge wad of medication

20140411_184119The diarrhea flow chart.  When to take and what.

20140411_184142When to take other antibiotics–this was in the booklet in the front pocket of the package

We reviewed the usual food precautions, which I knew already, but in case you don’t–if you can’t peel it or cook it, don’t eat it.  Get all beverages sealed, and don’t use ice.

Up until this point, the appointment was more about figuring out which mental travel precaution boxes I needed to check off.

“Any last words of advice?” I ask.

“If you get bit by a monkey, get triaged by the local hospital and then get back to Singapore as fast as possible to start the rabies injections.”

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 7.36.27 PMsource

 

Okay, then.  That’s a cheery note to leave on.

Wordless Wednesday–Kampong Glam

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Exploring Singapore-Malay Heritage Centre

Last week Claire and I visited the Malay Heritage Centre.  We checked in right as a guided tour was starting, and joined the tour in time to learn that the Kampong Glam area gets the name from the Gelim tree.  This answered a question flashed across my mind every time I hear the term.  I’d been wondering if it was called that because it’s a trendy area.  Which shows what I know….

IMG_3054Gelim Tree

 

However, this would prove to be one of the last comfortable moments on the tour.  Our guide was an older white woman who has been in Singapore for as long as I have been.  She clearly has studied her material–her knowledge of how Malaysia and Singapore’s history divert, rejoin, and divert again was enviable.

 

IMG_3057Photo, Malay Heritage Centre

The docent shared a story about the origins of Singapore that I have since learned was (unsurprisingly not the full story).  She noted that the Shah of Johor died, leaving two sons–the elder was away, so the youngest was installed as Shah and stole the throne from beneath him.  Raffles arrived on the scene and offered a solution–that he would make the older son the Shah of Singapore.  Missing from the narrative was that the Patriarchal Shah was already a British Puppet, or that the British actually declared the elder son the Shah of Singapore and Johor, rather than dividing the kingdom.  The Dutch then declared the younger brother Shah of Riau in retaliation, as until the British had gotten involved with the Sultanate of Johor, they’d been the dominant European power.

This is not only an interesting story, but relevant to why Claire and I eventually drifted away from the tour.  Firstly, our guide was knowledgeable, but not a particularly compelling presenter.  Secondly, and far more awkwardly, was the way white privilege kept showing up in her narrative–that no one was here before the British, which she then backtracked to clarify that she meant no other European colonial power had claimed Singapore, but those sorts of slips kept happening.  Unintentional minimization of local culture, uplifting of European power/culture.  That, more than the lack of stage presence had us exchanging looks and drifting away from the group, eventually breaking with it altogether to explore on our own.

I wish our tour guide had been a local.  There’s something awkward about a white person trying to explain to a bunch of white people about a tertiary culture.  I think everyone there had good intentions—but that doesn’t lessen the awkwardness.  There is an audio tour, which I would recommend trying over the guided tour (unless led by a local) if you prefer a structured tour.

IMG_3060Batik Stamps

Once we began to explore on our own, we really enjoyed taking our time to explore the various rooms on the second floor.  In one there is a wall full of gorgeous period photography (the photo above is one–but as a photo of a photo, the quality is poor).  We found these batik stamps in a display case with traditional men and women’s outfits, and next to a display case with jewelry.

IMG_3061Close up of a gold necklace

The room where we found the pictures, the stamps and the jewelry also included a reproduction of the treating that established the Sultanate of Singapore, traditional hats, and a period gun.  The jewelry display and wall of photos are worth the 4SGD admission alone.

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The museum has space devoted to the history of Malay music in Singapore, including headphones where you can listen to musical recording artists who became big in the 60′s and 70′s.

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Koran

There’s also a manuscript room with this gorgeous Koran, along with a French-Malay dictionary and other texts.  This is another great room for lingering.

Although it’s a small museum, it packs a lot of artifacts and a variety of topics into that small space.  I definitely encourage you to go spend some time there (30-60 minutes depending on how long you want to linger at various displays), and then to walk in the Kampong Glam area, including the fabric stores on Arab street.

Universal Studios Singapore with two 5 year olds

Some advice for those of you with small children at the end of the post.

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This past Wednesday, I took Elanor and one of her friends to Universal Studios Singapore.  This was Elanor’s third visit to Singapore.  Her first visit was a few weeks after we moved to Singapore in early May 2010.  She once visited when her grandparents were here but she was too small to do most rides.  I held off on bringing her back until now–at 95ish cm, she is big enough for all but a few rides.

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We arrived just in time for the Sesame Street show in New York.  You can find Elmo, Grover, Bert and Ernie dancing on the sidewalk by the “New York Stock Exchange.”

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After the show, we continued our Sesame Street theme and took the first of three rides on Elmo’s Spaghetti Space Adventure.  Minimum height for the ride is 92 cm.  Rhi isn’t yet–we won’t take her to USS until she is.  Rhi missing out on an Elmo ride would cause drama.  The ride is well organized with a news report by “Anderson Cucumber” giving backstory.  I will say that the ride was a bit disorienting the first time–there was so much going on that it was far more enjoyable the second time.  I could’ve lived without the third time, but the kids asked nicely.

 

Opposite the Elmo ride is an attraction called lights camera action.  It’s a really cool idea–they recreate a class 5 hurricane on a soundstage.  I thought it was amazing, but the two kids were in tears by the end of it.  When the kids asked to see it, I had reservations, but they both begged.  Those of you with young kids should learn from my mistakes and pass it up.

 

The park is laid out in a circle.  After New York is the Sci-Fi area.  There are no rides that young children can ride on in this section.  Roller coaster fans will be sad to know that it has been announced that the Battlestar Galactica coaster has been closed permanently.

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There is a ride in Egypt that young children can ride, but it was closed.  The Mummy Returns coaster is operational, but has a higher minimum height.

IMG_3005The stilt walkers and characters are quite a bit of fun, though.

uss dino ellie

Jurassic Park was next.  Both kids enjoyed Dino-Saurin, where the kids got to pilot a pteranadon (a huge thrill for Ellie, who is a giant fan of the Pteranadon family on Dinosaur Train).  Both were tall enough for the Canopy Flyer, but neither was comfortable with the height of the ride.

far far away

Shrek’s 4D adventure was a hit with both kids, although E was confused at times as she hasn’t seen the Shrek movies.  The 4D story is so complete a story, though, that she’s now a huge Princess Fiona fan (and even requested a Fiona doll for her souvenir).

IMG_3009We broke for lunch at Goldilocks in Far Far Away.  One of the kid meal options is dinosaur chicken nuggets.  The kids got the nuggets, fries, and a beverage along with a souvenir lunchbox with Woody Woodpecker on it.  Neither kid knew who he was, but they were both very enthusiastic about the lunchboxes.

After lunch they took a ride on Fairy Godmother’s ferris wheel (inside the souvenir shop), which was also the only ride they were big enough to ride on alone.

Donkey’s Interactive show was reasonably good fun, although I don’t know that I’d say it was worth a long wait.  (The 4-D adventure, however, remains a favorite and well worth almost any wait).

Ellie had no desire to go on the dragon coaster.  Her friend did want to ride it, so we left our bags and my phone with her (so she could watch every frozen related video on my youtube app).

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Madagascar is the other kid-themed land at USS.  It is worth noting, however, that if you can’t stand the “King Julien” version of “Move it” you will want to rush through this part of USS as fast as humanly possible.  It figures heavily on both rides and in the penguin street show.  The kids enjoyed King Julien’s carousel enough that they rode it twice.  Madagascar’s Crate Adventure was also a multi-ride adventure (also twice).

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After almost five hours, our last project was to pick up a few souvenirs and to wave goodbye to the Minions.  There is a great deal of minion merchandising, although there is no ride.  (perhaps that can be the replacement for the BSG coasters?)

Advice for visiting with young children

Know the height of your littles to avoid disappointment.  Most rides have a minimum height, with many requiring an adult between the minimum height to ride and the minimum height to ride solo.  Check here to get a sense of how many rides your child is ready for.

The rides that require an adult to ride with a child will require one adult per child.  The Elmo ride had a spare staff member that could ride with a second child (it’s a 4 person car, so they take the other row of 2 in the space ship).  The Crate ride has a seat wide enough for four across, so one adult can ride with both.  I was able to ride on the carousel between the two kids as well.  For the other rides, I had to ride once with Ellie and then once with her friend.

There aren’t a lot of healthy snacks for the kids in the park–they don’t check bags on the way in, so if you want to bring fruit slices or veggie slices, do so in your bag.  In park snacks are all cotton candy/cookies/ice cream–which are fun, but sugar highs are rough, and the crashes worse.

While there are princess souvenirs in Far Far Away, none of them feature the ogress Fiona, only the human.  I find this disappointing, to say the least (especially given that her ogress form is the one taken most).

 

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