One of the scariest things you can deal with as an expat parent (or while traveling with kids) is what to do when your child becomes sick unexpectedly.
In what seems like a deeply ironic twist of fate, I had planned to write this entry yesterday. Instead, I got to live it. But more about that later.
Like many things, pediatrician offices run differently here than at home. In Boston, I wouldn’t even THINK about a pediatrician’s office that didn’t have a 24 hour nurse/on call doctor line. However, it’s just not how things run here. When the doctor’s office closes, it has closed.
So, what to do when your child gets sick on a weekend (keeping in mind most pediatricians have hours on Saturday morning at least), or after close of business? Or if they have a medical emergency at any time of day? You have two choices, depending on the severity of the situation.
Option 1-Private Hospital (Gleneagles, Mount E, etc)-use only for minor issues
I’ve chosen this route when my children have had what I consider to be minor issues like vomiting or signs of a ear/throat infection.
When you go to a private hospital, there is a GP on who is running the A&E department. S/He will triage your child, and will either call your pediatrician for their opinion over the phone or to come into the hospital to treat your child themselves. If you do not have a regular pediatrician, they will call someone affiliated with their hospital to take the case.
Keep in mind, this may involve a doctor coming in from their home. Which will take time…30 minutes to an hour, depending. But in the case of something minor, they still may be seen faster than they will at a public hospital, depending on the queue at that hospital.
If your child needs to be hospitalized for whatever reason (when Rhi had gastrointestinal flu, for example), there is NO DOCTOR on the floor. Any changes in your child’s condition will necessitate a call to the pediatrician at their home or office and for them possibly to come in. In our experience, the doctor will pop in 1-2 times per day any way, before and after office hours…but when something needs to be dealt with during office hours, there will be a delay in addressing that concern as the nurses do not have the ability to give you so much as a Tylenol (panadol) without a doctor’s okay.
If you need an ambulance, you shouldn’t be going to a private hospital. I speak from experience when I tell you that, for example, that Gleneagles and Mt E share an ambulance and it will be a long time before a private hospital’s ambulance comes. You should only be going to a private hospital if it is something where you can drive the child or get in a cab.
Option 2–Public Hospital–KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital–serious concerns/in an emergency
I should say that any public hospital will be able to address an emergency situation for your child, but serious cases will be moved to KK anyway, so if you are even remotely close to KK, just go there directly.
Let’s revisit that comment I made at the start of this entry—living out what to do in a medical emergency.
Elanor was getting into the car yesterday when she put her finger into the locking mechanism in the side of the door (the actual locking mechanism, not the door lock on the inside of the car). It sliced into her pinky finger of her left hand, and just from looking at it, I knew we were dealing with an emergency situation that was going to end in stitches.
In an emergency, if you need an ambulance, you need to call 995. Average wait time is 20 minutes, I’m told. In ours, we were at United Square, which is a less than 5 minute drive from KK, so I packed the girls into the car and drove us to KK, almost throwing my keys at the valet in my rush to get us out of the car and into the A&E.
When you enter the A&E, you’ll push a button to get a queue # to see a nurse who will triage you and decide how to prioritize your case. When we got there, there was a line of 20 people to see the triage nurse before us. In a situation like ours (child spurting blood everywhere), approach someone and you’ll get prioritized.
You’ll register (or if you’re on your own with the child, someone will come to register you at some point) and be sent to the waiting room (or in an emergency, you’ll be escorted directly to a doctor). The waiting room is sectioned off into a regular waiting area and the “fever zone” (although, in my experience, people do not heed this and fever kids can be found scattered throughout the entire waiting room). In the waiting room are large screens with the room numbers listed. Your number will appear next to the room number you should go to, in order of the triage nurse’s decision of who needs priority. If you are something like an ear ache, expect to wait a while.
Once you’re seen, the doctor will begin the correct course of action.
The major difference between a private hospital and KK is that KK can address concerns immediately. X rays can be done without someone coming in from their home. If your child is admitted, the doctor on the floor can address any changes in need immediately.
Back to Ellie–she needed an x-ray (a nurse stayed with Rhi while I went into the x-ray room with Ellie) and once they confirmed that there was no break, they knew that E would just need stitches. We had to wait until it had been three hours since she’d last eaten (7:30) as they wanted to sedate her for the procedure, and given her age, I absolutely agree that it was the best way to give her stitches. If she’d been conscious she would have been flailing and screaming and much drama would have ensued, even with a local anesthetic. At some point Ravi arrived, with a game plan that he’d take Rhi if she woke up so I could concentrate on Ellie.
The sedation was given via injection, and then I was asked to leave for about 30-45 minutes. I grabbed dinner at the McDonalds at KK (they get points for most edible western food option of the various hospitals I’ve been at for this reason) while Ravi and a sleeping Rhi kept me company. We arrived back upstairs moments after Ellie had been wheeled out of the procedure room. I managed to breastfeed Rhi while Ellie was slowly working her way out of sedation.
We were at KK for about two hours post procedure waiting for the sedation to wear off and for E to stop vomiting (it’s sadly normal to vomit a few times post procedure).
We left with panadol (tylenol for my US pals) and an antibiotic.
Elanor is doing well today…she was offended that I dare even consider keeping her home from school today. She is being (mostly) good about leaving her bandages alone. We go back tomorrow to have it looked at, and the stitches are supposed to dissolve in about two weeks.
Worth noting that regardless of whether you choose private or public, both suck at dealing with insurance. Unless there’s an admission, you’re best off paying the bill and then claiming it back from your insurance. Just a heads up that at some point, someone is going to expect you to lay down cash or plastic before you leave.
Which should I pick?
In the end, although the wait is longer, I would default to KK. You’re never going to be waiting for someone to come in from their home, and if a situation turns critical, they are the ones who are equipped to deal with it. If you child needs admission and you’d prefer them to be at a private hospital (as I did when Rhi had gastroenteritis and needed fluids) you can always transfer them after they’re seen and stabilized at KK.
Please feel free to add on, share experiences, etc.
As we edge closer to our two year anniversary in Singapore, I can say that I have learned far more about making technology cross international borders than I ever expected to. While I’m hardly a clueless luddite, I generally leave “making the internets/phones/etc work” solidly in Ravi’s column of work; he’s the professional computer programmer, after all. But you can’t avoid learning things, nor should you. One of the areas I have learned a great deal about is television.
Not shown in SG
When we first moved here, my research indicated that cable would not be worth the money. Several of my favorite shows were showing here in earlier seasons. Other shows weren’t on here at all. Some shows were censored…for example, in the past two years I’ve learned that the male/male kiss on Glee was not shown, and that The Walking Dead is also edited for consumption in SG. So we wanted to find other options.
This is probably the most difficult way to get our tv from the US. Firstly, a slingbox had to be attached to our Tivos, which themselves were set up in my in-law’s home, connected to cable. We accessed them using the “slingplayer” application or the slingbox website. However, in a system with this many working parts, things often were just too much hassle to be worth the effort. Connection speeds would make the picture freeze or the playback choppy. A power outage would make the slingbox unreachable. Something would get unplugged, necessitating a phone call to the US at a mutually doable time…an email to check to see if it was working…sometimes taking 48-72 hours to fully fix an issue (and a great deal of patience/willingness to mess around with things on my in-laws side).
At this point we only really use it for things that we can’t otherwise get–the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, for example, is on very late at night…if we want to make it part of our celebration, we need to tivo it and then play it back at a more civilized hour as it is not available on the broadcasting channel’s website.
I would only advise this method if you have really great connection speeds, and a person on the other end who is also fairly technologically savvy (or willing to follow directions) to keep it going.
However, the major benefit is that you have access to the full range of your cable package from back home.
As someone who is already enslaved to the cult of Jobs, I moved here with access to iTunes.
Keeping American iTunes is simple. Keep a credit card billing to your US address or the US address of a family member (which is handy for all manner of things like booking plane tickets with American carriers, ordering off US websites, etc) and leave your default address for billing/etc purposes with iTunes as the US. This leaves you with access to US iTunes.
I currently subscribe to Glee, Ringer, Smash, Amazing Race, The Walking Dead and a few other shows. After each show has had its original airdate in the US, I get an alert to download the new episodes. For example, when Glee shows on the US East Coast at 8pm on a Tuesday it is 7am here on Wednesday morning. Between 3-6pm Wednesday, I get my alert that the new episode is available for download.
Obviously, the two major issues with relying on iTunes are #1 cost–seasons vary in price and #2–that not every show is available on iTunes. A great example of a show I want to see that is not on iTunes is the Pioneer Woman’s cooking show from the Food Network–not avail on iTunes or the channel’s website (we’ll get to websites in a minute). For that, I either have to accept that I’m not going to see it, or go back to slingplayer. Also worth noting that if you’re running linux or a non windows/apple OS, iTunes is not available to you.
However, the thing I love about tv from iTunes is that once downloaded, the shows play cleanly. No weird breaks, no buffering, etc. And of course, I have it available to playback on my laptop or any other iDevice.
Netflix/Amazon Video/ Channel Websites—via VPN
Few things are more irritating than clicking on a link to a video or trying to log into netflix and getting an alert that “this service/video is not available outside the US.” Well, there is a solution to that–tell the website that you are in the US by logging on through a VPN.
Perhaps the most life altering and awesome thing I’ve learned about is the VPN, or virtual private network. VPN is software that lets you join a private network. Companies like GNB use them for security, for example. For an expat, they are handy to trick a website into thinking you’re in a specific country. You use one thusly…you are in country A and the server providing the VPN is in country B. Once you log on, it is easy to set it up such that to a third party (hulu, amazon, netflix etc) thinks you are in country B instead of country A, giving you access to stuff you wouldn’t have otherwise.
This does also cost money, but on the scale of the most basic webhosting–50-100 USD per year. In our case, I can log onto the VPN and then go watch netflix, or video that individual tv channels have made available (like the most recent episodes of Big Bang Theory or How I Met Your Mother, for example).
I’m not comfortable linking individual companies, but if you google, you should be able to find one that works for you very easily.
If you’ve found another method that you like/want to talk up, please use the comments to do so!
I was recently scrolling through pictures on my phone and found a bunch of pictures I’d taken for the blog and then totally forgotten about.
From Christmas, the hours sign at a local grocery store. I wanted to share it because there have been so many holidays where a grocery store being open on a major holiday would have been a major deal, and they just aren’t. Even after 2 Christmases in Singapore, it still strikes me as so strange that most everything is open, and that some places are open even longer to benefit from the public holiday business.
From Valentine’s Day, a pretty decoration at a local mall, Orchard Central. I noted it because (a) it’s pretty and (b) “Seasons of Love” is one of the major songs from a favorite musical of mine; Rent. In fact, “Seasons of Love” was our recessional song at our wedding.
Finally, some cute Year of the Dragon pictures.
The front and back of a “year of the dragon” themed regular coke box (sadly, the cans were not decorated…I’d sort of hoped they would be).
A set of “Year of the Dragon” Mickey Mouse themed Kleenex…Elanor LOVES these. We generally do buy the Mickey Mouse or Winne the Pooh boxes of Kleenex, but I was amused that these appeared in the stores in time for CNY, and disappeared immediately after.
The large Year of the Dragon statue from Resorts World Sentosa (and the only picture I’ve taken recently from this set). Hard to convey exactly how large this is from the picture, but the bottom pedestal is much taller than me. It is a truly impressive large statue…and it rotates! Ellie spent a good 10 minutes running circles around it when we were there last weekend. No, I have no idea why other than she’s three and thought it would be tremendous fun.
We’ve had a lot of advice and impersonal posts lately, so I thought I’d do one final post this week that was much more personal.
Elanor has started learning violin. She first said to me that she wanted to learn to play over a year ago, when she saw Elmo playing the violin on Sesame Street. I checked with several music schools and the youngest students were accepted for suzuki violin (a style of learning that focuses more on learning by ear than reading music–a better approach at this age, given that E doesn’t read words yet, much less music) was three. Obviously, I was due around her third birthday, and classes were winding up for the year, so we delayed starting classes until February of this year.
However, Ellie had her first up close and personal experience with a violin at Dawn’s home when we were back in Boston this past January. Dawn has been playing almost her whole life and is an amazing violinist.
Dawn also had a child-sized violin, which she took out and showed E and F before letting them try it out.
Elanor was thrilled when Dawn let her try the violin out. I didn’t catch her smile on camera, but she gave Ravi and I this huge enthusiastic smile that showed how excited she was more than any description I could give you. Since then, she talked non-stop about learning violin and how she was going to get a violin, and how Miss Dawn could teach her everything about violin.
Elanor was thrilled when last week we FINALLY (in her eyes) got to get her violin and go to class together. Yes, together. In the Suzuki method, the parent learns along with the child and practices along with the child. I figured it probably doesn’t hurt that violin gives Ellie and I something special together that she doesn’t have to share with her sister. It also gives Ravi and Rhiannon some time every week to chill out and bond without Ellie and I there to distract.
Getting a violin that’s Ellie sized required us to get the smallest one…a 1/32nd violin. For comparison, these are our violins, side by side.
Right now, violin practice means standing in rest position and play position, and holding the violin at our sides correctly. We also listen to our Suzuki cd in the car, which Ellie calls her “special violin cd.” She’s eager to get the bow and get moving.
Her class is 5 students and a parent with each student (4 moms and a dad in our case). Right now her attention begins to waver mid-class because it’s a lot of listening and sitting still–things Ellie needs to work on (yet another reason we’re pro violin lessons–learning discipline), and no actual playing yet. But as I have told her, we need to learn each step, and then we’ll be able to play as well as Miss Dawn if we practice every day for a long time.
Ellie wants to know that if she learns to play as well as Miss Dawn if she can have a pink violin. My response is that I would hope that by the point where we’d consider buying E anything but a student violin, she’d be over wanting a pink one. Sigh.
Ellie takes lessons at Mandeville Music. So far, I’m very happy with the teacher we have and her patience for the little ones.
*If you are here in response to the TWC2 article or my rebuttal, please read the entire post before you comment*
It has been almost two months since we fired B. I have wanted to discuss my feelings on maids and how they’re changed since everything happened, but I also wanted to allow enough time to pass that my response was measured and not just a gut-reaction.
While we have decided that a live-in helper is not right for our family, I still think that they can be an invaluable resource for a family. I think that we had a “bad apple” as the saying goes, and that my experiences in no way should put you off the idea of hiring a maid. However, that is not to say that I did not learn some life lessons, and were we to hire another maid, those lessons would not affect my relationship with her.
Some of these are probably just common sense, but I think they bear saying.
Lessons I’ve learned from my negative experience
1-Don’t leave your purse/wallet out. Be aware of your cash.
Of everything that happened with B, the most understandable in retrospect was the theft of money. Ravi and I were careless with our wallets, we didn’t monitor how much cash we had in our wallets, and in many ways, we created a situation where it was pathetically easy for B to supplement her income, regardless of how generous it might have been by Singaporean standards. When you compare the peso or the ringgit to the SGD or the USD, the income differential is staggering. Most people are honest, but most people will also give into temptation when it is presented on a platter. I can’t say I’ve never cheated on a test when a teacher made it easy to do so and I didn’t study enough. The theft of money wasn’t right, but it is understandable. Were we to hire a new helper, I’d bring my purse into my bedroom at night, and I’d be more aware of my cash, removing temptation.
2-You are the employer, not their friend.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be friendly with your helper, or that a friendship can’t develop. I am saying that you can’t let “friendship” get in the way of an honest evaluation of work. If I’m truly honest with myself, there were lots of “little” issues that had been ongoing for a while–little things like the cat box wasn’t being cleaned daily as I’d requested (and could not do while pregnant)–that I didn’t bring up because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by critiquing her performance.
Her standards slipped, and I allowed them to slip by not providing appropriate feedback…because I felt uncomfortable saying “you’re not meeting my expectations” to a friend. A friend does you a favor–but a helper isn’t doing you a favor, they’re doing work for pay, and when you put “friendship” before employer/employee, you do both of you a disservice. I also let “friendship” blind me to the cash theft, and it was the reason I wanted to believe her instead of Elanor when E told me that B had slapped her–I didn’t WANT to believe that a “friend” would steal from me/hurt my child.
You also can’t let concern over what would happen if you fire them blind you into giving too many “extra chances.” I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I worried about how her daughter’s school would get paid for if I ever let B go. That I let things slide because I didn’t want to be responsible for repatriating her, or making her go to an employer she might be less happy with.
I don’t know that I have great advice as to how to achieve this goal, other than to advise you to remind yourself of the relationship, and perhaps to build regular job performance reviews (monthly? quarterly? I’m not sure) into the routine. My discomfort with this sort of relationship and the fact that I’m just not good at this sort of balancing act are why I probably shouldn’t be an employer.
3-Unless you actually do share a culture, don’t project your cultural values onto them
This is another delicate balancing act.
Part of the reason she’d been able to take things of mine over a long period of time was that I had never so much as poked my head in the door of B’s room. I have a strict fairly American notion of “privacy” and because of that, I not only treated B like a friend, but I treated her like a roommate–and I would never go into a roommate’s room without her permission or invitation. However, if we hired another maid, I might stick my head in every so often and just glance around, or ask for things like performance reviews to happen in her space. Part of the reason I have decided against hiring a new maid is that I’m not sure I actually could do that.
Further, when B asked to go out at night, I shrugged and said sure. I had no problem with her going out dancing. What I figured out afterward is that she was likely moonlighting at Orchard Towers as a prostitute (I found a LOT of hotel room keys–rooms that would cost a significant portion of her monthly salary, and a lot of clothes that lent themselves to that profession, rather than the one I was paying her for). Now, on one hand, I have no issue with prostitution. I do, however, have an issue with the fact that as time passed, she was staying out later and later…which affected her job performance for us. There is also the secondary issue that we could be held legally responsible were she ever arrested in a raid.
Again, I chose not to address the staying out late with her as things were mostly getting done, and I wrote it off as the kind of antics I pulled when I was 21 and went out to a club the night before a mid-term was due. The difference, of course, was that I made those bad choices in college…she made them before she was taking care of my child.
Does that mean the slap from September happened? I know E can push my buttons a hell of a lot easier when I’m sleep deprived. As much as my American cultural values go counter to this, were we to hire another maid, I would think very hard about a curfew on working nights…not because of the prostitution (although, again, had she been moonlighting and gotten arrested WE would have gotten in trouble–so we have my values versus actual consequences there) but because it affected her job performance, and she was not mature enough to realize that she needed to party less during the week.
We gave her far more freedom than she’d experienced at any previous job…and I think she lost sight of her priorities. Which doesn’t make it our fault…but I think if we were to hire a maid, I’d remember the cardinal rule of classroom mangement from my teacher days–you can ALWAYS lighten up, but it’s almost impossible to become strict after giving students too much freedom/responsibility too fast.
4-Think long and hard about leaving your maid alone in your home for weeks at a time.
We found photos of a mostly naked man in our home on her phone. There were, apparently, according to other helpers (NOW they tell me) wild parties in our home while we were out of country.
In the future, I would hesitate to leave a helper alone in my home for weeks on end (we are often gone for 2-3 weeks at a time). Most agencies will let your helper stay with them when you are out of country. I scoffed at that as disrespectful. Now I might.
I’m not saying don’t do it…I’m saying think long and hard first.
In the end, all my advice boils down to one thing–don’t be so blindly trusting. Let trust be earned, not just given blindly. Stop and re-examine if your helpers are still worthy of your trust from time to time, and don’t let yourself be blind to things you just don’t want to see.
Looking back, I can see that I deserve some share of blame.
Helpers do become part of your family. But I think it’s important to remember that it’s a process, and that it doesn’t happen overnight. Trusting too fast too much, and letting the friendship that you develop with them get in the way of honest job assessment is a mistake.
In the end, I have to admit that I am probably not a great manager. It’s certainly a reason to not get another helper that lives with us. I felt too invested in and too responsible for B–I’m much happier with the type of relationships we’re building now with the people we’re working with. A live out cleaner feels much more low stakes (and I don’t feel guilty over putting my jewelry box and our important papers in the office, locking the door and taking the key with me), as does a live-out baby sitter (whom I felt no guilt over being picky about her qualifications). That is what is right for us.
Singapore requires that you take a test my three year old could pass to be an employer. They even bring up some of this in their videos that you watch before taking the test. However, the videos are so over dramatic (the maid who falls out of a window and dies because she didn’t listen to her ma’am, for one) that they’re hard to take seriously.
There is a LOT of peer pressure to hire a live in maid. Other expats will say “I don’t know how you do it!” or “I’d be so lost without my helper;” hell, I’ve said those things. People assume that you can be available at any time, and that you have support people to deal with the kids or to be at home for the installation/delivery/pickup of whatever. It can be exceedingly frustrating to have to explain time and time again that you don’t have that support. Don’t hire a maid just because it’s the cultural norm for expats…REALLY think about whether you can be a good employer/manager.
There are plenty of people for whom is absolutely the right choice. Were I to get pregnant again (not going to happen, but just to say “what if”) I would absolutely need far more support, and a live in helper would be the right choice. If Ravi traveled all the time, like some of my friends husbands do… If I worked full time… If I were a better manager… Any of those might make a live in maid the right choice for our family again.
Your family is your decision, and never feel like you should have to justify your choice to have or not have a maid to me or to anyone.
I own that I made mistakes as an employer. I hope that in owning those mistakes in a public manner like this that others can gain a more balanced perspective of the negatives without the sort of xenophobic bullshit that usually gets slung around, or without trying to paint the employer as a beleaguered saint. I would never paint all helpers with B’s brush, nor would I ever argue that I’m an innocent with no culpability.
Edited to add–This is, by far, the most popular post of the last year on my blog. If you want to know how things are going one year after firing B, you can read this post: “Reflections on 2012-The Year without a Maid“
Allow me to open with—I don’t do a ton of food reviews because (A) I am super picky and don’t eat a wide variety of food and (B) there are people who review food far better than I do. However, every so often I run across something or somewhere that I just have to review here. This is one of those places.
In my opinion, Singapore suffers from a lack of good Mexican food. Burritos leave me cold. I wanted a good chicken with mole sauce….and there is finally a restaurant where I can get just that. Casa Latina is a newly opened Mexican restaurant on Waterloo Street, and it is awesome.
Chef Mario Galan, a Mexican, native of Cancun City, has over 20 years of experience in operating 5-star restaurants across Latin America. He represented Mexico in Canada and South America and across European countries such as Italy, Germany and France, and Singapore for the Mexican Fiesta Festival where he was in charge of creating the banquet for the festival.
“To create the authenticity of the cuisine, we import most of our spices, sauces, herbs, mole and even chocolate directly from Mexico”, remarked Mario Galan. “Mexican food is all about getting the taste right. Without the right soices from Mexico, you cannot duplicate the taste of authentic Mexican dishes”.
Portions are generous and the food is delicious.
My chicken with mole sauce was fabulous. (Pollo Divorciado (Divorced Chicken) Chicken thigh is cooked in two types of Mole – Pipian Verde and Poblano and served with Mexican rice, beans and corn tortillas). I liked the poblano mole sauce better and next time I would ask if I could have just that sauce, as the verde sauce was okay, but not my preferred flavors.
Our friends also liked their appetizers. We had tamales (they gave us 3 or 4 for the table) and the pot of melted cheese (which I’m not sure if it’s Latin food, but it was proclaimed as yummy). The only real disappointment were the chips and salsa–the chips were pretty clearly just from a bag of Tostitos instead of being corn tortilla chips fried on premises and served hot.
At dessert time, Ravi and I both ordered the tres leches cake…but had we known how large the portion size was going to be, we would’ve shared. It was delicious, but neither of us were able to finish it!
There is both outside patio seating and indoor (air conditioned) seating. I’m not sure if people haven’t discovered Casa Latina yet, or what, because we were there at 7-9pm and were the only people inside. The patio was busier, but it was fairly quiet overall.
I hope more people go experience the delicious Mexican food that awaits them at Casa Latina. I think you’ll find it a far step above Cafe Iguana and Senor Taco.