• Never miss a new entry on Expat Bostonians!

    Join 580 other followers

  • What I’m tweeting

  • Flickr Photos

    Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 10.10.14 pm

    Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 10.10.03 pm

    More Photos
  • Categories

  • Archives

Theater Review: Treasure Island (SRT The Little Company)

If you enjoyed the behind the scenes sneak peek of Treasure Island in my last post, you might be wondering what we thought of the actual production.

treasureisland_A2 FA

Treasure Island is not an easy work to adapt for the children’s stage, but Singapore Repertory Theatre’s The Little Company has done just that. The choice to cast Jim Hawkins as a girl’s role was an inspired one, making what could have been seen as a “boys” show accessible to all.

Kimberly Chan opens the musical in the character of Ben Gunn, whom we later learn was left on Treasure Island alone with only coconuts for friends. She recounts the story of greedy Captain Flint, who killed his crewmates and buried a treasure, only to die at sea. Don’t worry, mamas, the book’s violence has been toned way down and she only uses puppets and a somewhat random Jamaican accent.

We then see Jim Hawkins (Ann Lek) come into possession of a map to Captain Flint’s gold. She convinces the dignified Captain Smollett (Erwin Shah Ismail) and foppish Squire Trelawney (Tan Shou Chen) to pull together a crew so they can go and retrieve it. While Jim never trusts the sailors hired for the voyage—the sketchy Hands (Chan) and dim-witted O’Brien (Mitchell Lagos)—she becomes close friends with the new cook, Long John Silver (Dwayne Lau). She is shocked when, one night on deck, she hears Long John Silver, Hands, and O’Brien plotting to take the map and steal the treasure for themselves! The rest of the show is a race to see who will get to the treasure first, and at what cost. Was Silver’s friendship all a lie, or is there a bit of goodness left in him? You’ll have to the see the show to find out.

Read the rest of my review over at Sassy Mama Singapore


**I received complimentary tickets and was part of a behind the scenes sneak peek of this show. My review, however, reflects my honest feelings about the show.

Halloween 2015

Halloween is my favorite holiday, and always has been. So I was thrilled to learn that there is trick or treating in Singapore. While there are some condos and neighborhoods that do trick or treating, the motherlode is in Woodlands.




October 31, 2015

(rain, shine, haze, whatever)


Take a TAXI to Singapore American School and follow the crowds

(Do not attempt to drive. The residents close off most of the roads and the hdb parking isn’t adequate to the crowds)


However, it bears saying that these crowds are NOT for the faint of heart (the typical number I’ve heard is in excess of 2,000 people crammed into a small number of blocks).  They are massive on any day of the week–given that Halloween is on a Saturday, I would expect it to be twice as insane as always.

If you need them–here are some last minute costume ideas

Sneak Peek–SRT The Little Company presents Treasure Island!

Last week Elanor, Rhiannon and I (along with some other lovely parent bloggers) were fortunate enough to be invited to a behind the scenes sneak peek at the upcoming production of SRT The Little Company’s production of Treasure Island.

treasureisland_A2 FA

We had the opportunity to watch a rehearsal.  Ellie and Rhi were fascinated to see how, during rehearsal, a folded up piece of cardboard could represent a mask, and cardboard attached to a frame stood in for a tree.



Ellie and Rhi were also interested to learn that when actors rehearse a play, they skip around a lot, rather than practicing the full show in order each time.



I’m so excited to see the role of Jim being played by a girl! Treasure Island is too often portrayed as a “boy’s story,” and in recasting the role as a girl, it will make a wonderful story more accessible to girls.


The actors were very sweet to the kids, answering their questions and giving them high fives during the breaks.


After the rehearsal, it was time to see the dressing room and some of the costumes. Below are some of the original designs. I love how the designers came up with a Steampunk aesthetic.


Here is a finished costume


 And another (I think this one is Long John Silver’s costume!)





Finally, after a snack, we saw tech crew members hanging lights.



Elanor, Rhiannon and I would like to extend a huge thank you for the opportunity to see what kind of hard work goes into staging a show to SRT The Little Company and the cast of Treasure Island!

Shiver me timbers, ahoy there matey!

This year-end, Singapore Repertory Theatre’s (SRT) The Little Company (TLC) is set to stage Treasure Island, a hilarious and exhilarating musical production suitable for the entire family.

A new adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s popular novel of the same name, Treasure Island follows the adventure of Jim Hawkins, a lion-hearted 13-year-old girl who receives a treasure map from a kooky old seaman. Jim is tasked to help find the hidden treasure, but the road to riches is never smooth sailing.

A swashbuckling, action-packed musical about friendship and trust. This exhilarating show for the entire family will keep you on the edge of your seat!

Tickets are on sale now for Treasure Island, playing Oct 30-Dec 13

There will also be Treasure Island themed Drama Camps during December Holidays.  Go here for more info


In my last post from about two months ago, I was pretty depressed. Understandably so, given the crappy year I’ve had, health-wise.

Things are better.  It’s been a slow process, but they’re improving.


Losing a lot of hair was traumatizing.  Hair is a very gendered body part, and losing hair was a very disempowering moment.  It was not just losing hair (and my hair was not thick and lustrous in the first place), but feeling less feminine. It impacted my confidence every time I looked in a mirror to the point where it was all I saw.  I didn’t feel like I could leave the house without a hat on because I was so self-conscious and upset.

Even in the depths of depression, I can only handle that sort of gnawing emotional pain for so long. One Saturday afternoon I came to the less than obvious conclusion that if I hated what I saw, hair-wise, in the mirror I should change it. Drastically.

I have always wanted to do crazy things with my hair, color-wise. In college I worked in the hospitality industry, and then I was a public school teacher.  I had to maintain a certain image, so while I did dye my hair and play around with colors, I was constrained to a very small palette of “realistic” hair tones. However, I’ve been out of the classroom for seven years, and being a stay-at-home-mom/writer doesn’t come with a dress code.

Armed with pictures, I went across the street and talked to the colorist.  He warned me that bleaching my hair might make it fragile and break.  Given that I’d lost at least a quarter of my hair, I was completely blasé about this possibility. If coloring didn’t work, my next plan was to shave my head, so whatevs.

hair 1

I first went with a mix of blue, pink and purple, which looked cool for about a week and then as it faded, didn’t look cute at all. With those colors, I couldn’t touch up on my own. The second color was a purple, but so dark that it didn’t look purple unless it was in the right light. About a month ago, I went turquoise and have loved it. Bright purple is up next in a few weeks.

The hair that fell out is slowly starting to grow back–but of course it’s barely an inch long, if that, at the moment–but it still looks quite thin. Seeing a color that makes me happy instead of focusing on the thinness of my hair when I look in the mirror made a big mental difference for me.

Delilah Night author photo


The recovery from being critically ill is a long one of about six to twelve months.  I’m days away from the six month mark and it does seem to be a milestone. I recently got back blood work that showed that the massive vitamin deficiencies are resolving. I’m not up to full strength, but I don’t feel as exhausted as I used to. It’s a start.

Being ill and out of the gym for seven months has had other consequences. Long time readers know I had back surgery in ’06 on a herniated disc and then tore the one above that in ’13. Going to the gym allowed me to keep my back in good condition, and naturally a long absence has weakened my back and the core muscles that help compensate for the two damaged discs. I am effectively back at square one with my back–the gentlest physical therapy exercises, regular heat and electro-stim therapy, twice weekly physio sessions. I know from experience (at this point LOTS of experience) that it will take several months to bounce back to a place where I have good core stability and can handle a normal fitness routine.  Zumba and its ilk will probably need to wait until January.

Mentally, I do still struggle with depression and anxiety regularly. I skype with a therapist in the US (with the cultural differences, I feel more comfortable with a fellow American) regularly. I find certain types of storylines in various forms of media more distressing than I used to. It’s a process.

I feel like I’m finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The idea that I may be as close to my old normal as I’ll ever be by April doesn’t seem as impossible as it used to be. But the last time I thought this, I had a ton of hair fall out. So there’s some amount of feeling like I’m tempting fate by saying so.


I mentioned that I’d hired a helper in my last post.  This was not a decision I made easily, but it is one I am very glad I’ve made.  When Rhiannon is being three and refusing to do something or go somewhere by sitting on the floor and refusing to budge, I’m not capable of picking her up. Bending down to take laundry out of the washing machine would be extremely painful for me, right now. Having the extra support means that I can skip doing risky things (like picking up a 30 lb child) that could otherwise impede my recovery.

Elanor is finishing out her P1 year. It’s been a long, sometimes rocky, year. The adjustment to her primary school after being at GUG for roughly four years was a big one. Navigating a new school system has been bumpy for everyone involved–the differences between the US and SG school systems are legion. So you’ll have to excuse me for having a countdown clock until the end of the year.

Rhiannon has had the more difficult year. My being sick was hard on her. It was a year of loss–my in-laws had visited for Christmas last year and she grew extremely close to my mother-in-law. They left and she was getting back to normal when I got sick, which threw her world into chaos. My in-laws returned and then left again, and she misses my mother-in-law deeply. When we hired our helper, the baby sitter who has taken care of her since she was around one transitioned to being just a family friend whom she sees occasionally instead of every other week. She’s grown close to our helper, which is wonderful, but she talks about her Dadi (my MIL) and Miss R (our former sitter) often.

Rhi had some behavioral issues that are still ongoing. I spoke to my therapist at length about them, and will be talking to our pediatrician as well. My therapist suggested that it’s a reaction to having a really traumatic year. Which I get.  Unlike Elanor, she doesn’t quite grasp what happened or why. She’s young enough that she doesn’t have the perspective on her grandparents that Elanor does (which is that we see them, but not often apart from regular skype calls). She often struggles to verbalize her feelings or gets overwhelmed by them. I’m confident that these are things that will (and already are) slowly resolving.  Just as I need time to cope with everything that happened, so does she.


We went to Tokyo between terms 3 and 4 in September. Seeing our old friends from Singapore, E and A, was a wonderful treat. We also hit Disneyland and DisneySea.

Like most Singaporean, the current haze situation has us a bit on edge.  Last week school was canceled because the air was so unhealthy.

Ravi had pneumonia and had to be hospitalized for about a week, followed by a week of at-home recovery.  This completes the metaphorical BINGO card–all four of us were hospitalized in 2015.  This is not a milestone I’m happy about.

I’m sure I’ll get into it in December, but 2015 can’t really end soon enough.  It’s been a really awful year, and I’m craving the mental clean slate that comes with January 2016.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Sepsis is dramatic, and septic shock even moreso as the latter carries a very real chance of dying. Once you survive, the doctors talk about recovery being a matter of time. Time to regain your strength and stamina. Time to rebuild your muscles. Time for your immune system to strengthen. Time to make psychological peace with your brush up against your own mortality.

It’s not that simple.

I’d liken it more to swimming at a beach, being grabbed by the undertow, and dragged out to sea. Once you resurface, you’re grateful to not have drowned. You can even see the beach in the distance. So you begin to swim. Along the way you are forcibly reminded that the ocean is not the same as a pool and you find yourself at the whimsy of currents, waves, and a growing fear of what might be lurking beneath the water.

You may think my analogy melodramatic. I might have thought so, too, before the events of the past two to three weeks. After all, the infected kidney that nearly killed me healed completely. I have normal kidney function. I can finally keep food down again, and I’ve recovered from a dangerous brush with disordered eating. I’m in therapy. I’m going to physical therapy. My immune system sucks, but it’s improving. Granted, I’m summarizing and minimizing almost three months (April, May, June) of heartache and anxiety, but at the start of July I had genuinely felt that the worst was behind me.

Then my hair started falling out.

One day I ran my hand through my hair and found my fingers coated with hairs. I did it again. It happened again. Over a few days I shed and I shed and I shed. I wrapped myself in denial until I stood in front of a mirror, horrified by the sight of my scalp shining through the sparse hairs.

I emailed my endocrinologist, praying he could give me an answer. His reply came back that I should come in for an exhaustive amount of blood work, but that it was probably just telogen effluvium (TE).

In a normal healthy person’s scalp about 85% of the hair follicles are actively growing hair (anagen hair) and 15% are resting hair (telogen hair). A hair follicle usually grows anagen hair for 4 years or so, then rests for about 4 months. The resting or telogen hair has a club or bulb at the tip. A new anagen hair begins to grow under the resting telogen hair and pushes it out.

Thus, it is normal to lose up to about 100 hairs a day on one’s comb, brush, in the basin or on the pillow, as a result of the normal scalp hair cycle.

If there is some shock to the system, as many as 70% of the anagen hairs can be precipitated into telogen, thus reversing the usual ratio.

The resting scalp hairs, now in the form of club hairs, remain firmly attached to the hair follicles at first. It is only about 2 months after the shock that the new hairs coming up through the scalp push out the “dead” club hairs and increased hair fall is noticed.

Thus, paradoxically, with this type of hair loss, hair fall is a sign of hair regrowth. As the new hair first comes up through the scalp and pushes out the dead hair a fine fringe of new hair is often evident along the forehead hairline. At first the fall of club hairs is profuse and a general thinning of the scalp hair may become evident but after several months a peak is reached and hair fall begins to lessen, gradually tapering back to normal over 6-9 months. As the hair fall tapers off the scalp thickens back up to normal, but recovery may be incomplete in some cases.


Sexist of me, perhaps, but I wonder if my doctors were women someone might have warned me of this in advance. No, there’s nothing I can do to rush the growth. Wigs are impractical in Singapore’s heat. Yes, it grows back, but I direct your attention to the fact that I am looking at months of super thin hair. Hair so thin that someone thought I’d shaved the sides of my head. Hair so thin I don’t want to leave the house without a baseball cap.

And if I read one my site advising me that it’s just hair and I should be happy to be alive I’m going to completely lose it. Yes. Yes I’m happy to be alive. But because I am alive I get to be goddamn shallow about my goddamn hair.

I got the blood work and found out that I have a host of other issues. None of which caused the loss, but none of which is helping it grow back, either. A low reading of a hormone paired with a low cortisol number may indicate that my adrenal gland isn’t working properly anymore. All of which provides an explanation for why I’ve been an exhausted, irritable crybaby with no sex drive.

Months of vitamin and hormonal therapy, all of which are making the symptoms worse in the short run, followed by more blood work before we can get more answers.       I’m still losing hair. Not as fast as I was a few weeks ago, but “clumps” is still an accurate term. I’m clogging the shower drain. I’ve thought about shaving what’s left of my hair off, and Ravi offered to shave his head in solidarity if I wanted him to. I told him I’d divorce him if he shaved his hair off. I thought about dyeing it a host of bright colors because if it has to look weird, then I might as well up the weird factor, but it turns out that it will make it even more fragile and likely to fall out. It’s too fragile to have hair extensions put it. And wigs are just impractical in this heat. So I’m going to cling to what thin, fragile hair I’ve got left, and wear baseball caps in public.

Blame it on the hormones. Blame it on my PTSD getting triggered again. But I could easily fill the ocean from my analogy earlier in this essay with all the tears I’ve shed at this point. I am so tired of being brave, of being strong. I am exhausted physically and emotionally. And as an atheist I don’t throw around terms like this lightly, but I am exhausted to the very depths of my soul.

There are sepsis survivor communities online. I’ve looked at them, but I just don’t identify. Sepsis may be defining part of what I’m going through each day, but it’s not defining me. I refuse to let it define me or redefine me. Yes, I know they exist, but no, they aren’t a place where I would find comfort. It would feel like ceding that last bit of ground I have left to the disease.

I’m sharing this publicly because I don’t want to keep having the same conversations. Because I don’t want to go anywhere I can’t wear my baseball hat. Because if I take the hat off in front of you, I don’t want to shock you.

I know people mean well, but I’m tired of being asked the question “So, are you all better now?”

The only answer I have for you right now is to break down crying. No. No, I’m not okay. I don’t know when I will be. I don’t know how my body is going to betray me next. I don’t remember what normal feels like. Please stop asking me that.


I’m closing comments because this is all too raw and painful.


I feel it necessary to put a warning here to avoid this post if medical/psychological matters are triggering for you.

I’m alive.

In the past I’ve used that kind of greeting to start a blog post after a long hiatus as a joke. Today I mean it in earnest. My last post was on March 2nd of this year. A week after that I had to be hospitalized for my ongoing back and piriformis issues as we try to avoid a very serious surgical solution. I was in and out of the hospital for two weeks. During the next two, both Elanor and Rhi had surgery to remove adenoids. There were a lot of jokes about how medical March was. Then, in the first week of April I got an infection that spread from my kidneys to my blood, putting me into the intensive care unit in septic shock. I was in critical condition for a few days, before the antibiotics were able to fight back against the illness and I stabilized. I spent two weeks in the hospital, getting antibiotics via iv. When I got home, I was so weak that walking for 5-10 minutes meant laying on my back for several hours. I had trouble keeping food down for a variety of reasons.

The physical side of my recovery has demanded more from me than any other medical issue I’ve faced in my life.

The mental recovery has been worse.

I’ve discussed in the past that we almost lost Elanor at a week of age to septic shock. This trauma was something I have moved past as my sick baby has grown into a normal six year old. But facing the illness myself meant that I already knew too much. In my (few) lucid moments in the ICU, I understood exactly what my odds were. When my veins collapsed from the demands of long term IV’s, they placed a PICC line into an artery (a long term catheter that goes from your arm down an artery to your heart). Elanor had a PICC line, and the idea of getting one myself was so triggering that I begged to be sedated during the procedure (it doesn’t typically require full sedation). I left the hospital coping with having been slapped in the face by my own mortality.

I found a therapist. I thought I was beginning to cope with things. Then I realized that I had started starving myself on purpose. During my time post hospital release, my weight had gone into free-fall because my muscles were wasting away and I couldn’t keep food down. Unconsciously I began to see the number on the scale as the only thing that I could control. The only “good” thing about having just almost died because of a kidney infection. But once I *could* eat, I didn’t want to. The universe owed me–if I had to go through this, at least I should get some serious weight loss in return, right? When overweight people are taught to diet, we’re also handed the tools to have an even more dysfunctional relationship with food. At a glance, I can give a pretty good estimate of how many calories are on a plate, and I began eating as little as I could. If the number on the scale kept going down then at least I was getting something out of this whole pointless mess, right?

I knew what I was doing was unhealthy, even dangerous. The rational side of me was screaming that as loud at it could. It drove me to tell people I trusted–Ravi and a few close friends. The irrational side of me understood my choices were risking what little improvement I’d made and didn’t give a damn. Until the night I fainted. I felt a roaring in my ears and like the world had gone fuzzy. I knew that I needed to get from my chair at the table to the couch to lie down.  But I didn’t make it, and I fainted onto the hard marble of my living room floor. Ravi told me it looked like one second I was walking, then I tried to grab a bookcase, and then I was on the floor, although I didn’t remember the bookcase. That I fell to a seated position before landing face down probably saved me a trip back to the hospital. After that I confessed everything to my therapist, and I’ve tried to stay away from the scale, knowing no good can come from looking at it every day.

I’ve been home for two months now. I can drive. I can swim. I can cook dinner. But my physical and emotional recovery are going to be measured in months. Everyone asks me “all better?” but the only answer I can give is that “things are getting there.” I’ve had several set backs–a small infection put me on my back for a week, and I’ve caught every cold the kids have had–because my immune system is crap. I am constantly feeling the pressure of one step forward, two steps back.  Naturally this has impacted my back and piriformis as well, making the pre-existing issues that much bigger. Emotionally I’m still exhausted, and the process is one of hills and valleys. There are good days and there are bad days.

Before my in-laws left, they sat Ravi and I down and told us that we needed to hire a maid again. We–mostly I–argued that we didn’t. I could make do as I had been for the past three-and-a-half years if I could just get a tiny bit better. Eventually, though, we realized that they were right. My physical recovery is a six-to-twelve month one if I do everything right. Doing everything right means not pushing too hard (like picking up Rhiannon, who is triple my current weight lift limit). Screwing up my recovery means further damage and likely worse consequences (like spinal fusion surgery) and an even more complicated recovery. My new 100% may not be my old 100%. No one knows.

So we made the hard decision to hire a new helper.

I’ve always maintained that families should do what is right for them. Since firing B in December 2011 not having a maid was right for us (we had a part time cleaner and a sitter a few times a month). The decision to hire someone new was not made lightly, but it is necessary at this time. I owe myself and my family as full a recovery as I can manage, and in order to do that I need more help than I could otherwise get. This is what’s right for us now.

Change is not always welcome, but it is inevitable.

Please bear with me as I begin to write again.


Why I Chose Singapore’s Public Schools–Sassy Mama Singapore

I’m featured on Sassy Mama Singapore today, discussing why I chose Singapore’s Public Schools


My journey into Singaporean education began, as so many wonderful things do, with vicious morning sickness. Pregnant with my second daughter, I was spending most of each day prone on my bathroom floor waiting to/having just revisited everything I’d ingested for the last six months. The idea of sending Elanor to school – any school – became irresistible.

When I was a teacher in Boston (USA), Singapore was constantly held up as the pinnacle of academic excellence. It was also portrayed as a soulless factory of identical children in a large classroom with seats in rows. It was a country where children were not allowed to be children because after school they went to tuition. But they achieved, and we should strive to follow. We teachers left every one of these “motivational” speeches feeling sorry for those poor Singaporean children.

go here to finish reading the article


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 580 other followers