“How do you and your kids enjoy life in Singapore?”

I’ve recently been emailing with a potential expat. I had a number of Singaporean expats respond to my emails, answer questions, and generally be a great resource for our move. Some of them are now irl friends (or were and have moved onto their next country). I actually love it when potential expat contact me because it gives me a chance to pay the kindness I received forward.

The reason I’m bringing this up at all is that she asked me the following question–“How do you and your kids enjoy life in Singapore?”

It’s sort of an obvious question to ask–one I’m sure I asked many people. However, as the expat living in Singapore, it’s not a questions I’ve given much thought to. I was inspired to write a blog post to answer her. Apologies if it’s a bit all over the place–I’m writing at 1am, and this is stream of consciousness. It’s also a bit long.

Delilah Night Author Photo Official-

 

Me as an expat, a history

Me in years 1-3

I had few, tenuous in real life friendships that mostly existed on Facebook, was miserable. I questioned my choices. I resented the hell out of needing a “dependent pass,” as if that somehow made me less equal in my marriage. This is a common feeling among trailing spouses.

I resented that my partner got to go to work while I had to figure out how to get a plumber or a handyman. When the power went out, it took me hours to figure out who to talk to (your building manager if your box is ok, but the power is still out–there’s a master in the hall or something that can be reset). In those early days, I didn’t understand Singlish or the Singaporean accent at all, and it took me forever to understand what most people were saying.

I was lost. (You’re lucky because Google Maps has fully mapped Singapore, including the public transit system–that had not yet happened in 2010 when I first moved here, and that was probably three-five cell phone ago, as well). I didn’t understand how anything connected to anything else.

I was reduced to feeling lonely, angry, and frustrated a lot of the time.

Me in years 3-6

I had my friends, my routine, and my kids were learning Mandarin. I liked their schools and I wanted E and R to do X and Y before we even contemplated a move. I was firmly in Singapore and I knew I definitely didn’t want to leave before a specified time.

I had friends. Some left (and their leaving was difficult on me and the kids), but for the most part I have had a stable group of friends since 2012. I knew, mostly, who to call and how to deal with the normal nonsense of life. We were settled in.

Me in year 6

I am happy/content most days.  See above–my stable friend circle is still alive, although we recently had another close friend leave. I have my routine and I’m good with it.

If in years 1-3 I wanted to leave and years 3-6 I wanted to stay, in year 6 a sort of ambivalence has set in.

I’m living my life just as I’d be living it in Boston or London or San Francisco. But if GBN were to move us to NY or London next month, I’d miss my friends terribly, but I’d be okay with leaving. I feel like I’ve had the “Singapore experience. But if we stay longer, I’m happy with that too.

I still have days and moments that make me homesick. I was lucky (?) enough to be in the States when my grandfather died, but I couldn’t afford to fly back for his funeral several months later. One of my dearest friends adopted a newborn baby who has since passed his first birthday. I’ve never held him, or interacted with him beyond skype.

When big problem occur (or ones that feel big, but aren’t) there are moments when I still want to throw in the towel and say “fuck it, I’m going home.” The lure of that can be strong. It’s easy to remember that a move will involve brand new problems. There’s no nirvana–there are always good days and bad days. It’s just that when you’re 10k miles away from home, running home and hiding involves multiple planes.

Things I still haven’t adjusted to 6 years in

  • The heat. Oh my god, the heat, where is my air-conditioning?
  • The haze, because I like breathing
  • Cannot.
  • The deep and enduring love of the people for LKY
  • The Prices (although to be honest, I just try not to look too closely at them now)
  • The super expensive sports cars everywhere (and drivers who don’t know how to drive them)
  • The sheer proliferation of malls, and how crowded they are on weekends.
  • The screeching of the birds on Orchard Road at night.
  • The negativity and 90’s style American-born-Fundamentalist-Church attacks on the LGBTQA community. That 377(a) is still on the books and that while “it’s not prosecuted” sex between two men could be.
  • The way that Singapore score quite low when it comes to freedom of the press

13417592_10153445466821946_6271748045861692695_n

How do my kids like living in Singapore?

They have no basis for comparison. Elanor was seventeen months when we moved here and Rhiannon was born here. Ellie has no memory whatsoever of living in Boston. This is all they know. They’re kids. They’re happy.

(run-on sentences below are intentional to replicate the way my kids talk)

They would love to live in Hawaii because then they’d live at Aulani (the Disney resort).

They’d love to live in Boston because then they’d be close to their grandparents and there would be snow and they could build snowmen and in the summer they could go to an amusement part called Canobie Lake Park and Elanor could go to public school where she wouldn’t have to wear a uniform and that would be awesome.

They would like to live in Tokyo so they could hang out with my friend Emily and her son Aiden and there are two Disney parks so they could go there all the time and there is a Universal Studios somewhere else in Japan that Elanor wants to go to so we can visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Any of the places they express a preference for has to do with a vacation they’ve been on. Boston is the only one with some sincerity as they do miss my in-laws and wish we could see them every week (or every day in their preference). But even then, their knowledge of Boston is that of a visitor, not a resident. Elanor has never stepped foot inside an American classroom, for example. They understand the US primarily through those half remembered visits and what they see on tv/in movies.

IMG_4189

Conclusions (US)

For the adults, our time in Singapore will be an experience that has left a positive mark on our lives. Singapore will always be a part of us–we will always have friends here, I will certainly keep abreast of Singapore’s news, and we will visit.

For our kids–if we left today, they would leave semi-fluent in Chinese (and I’d need to get a US tutor right away)

They will always have a taste for certain foods.

For Elanor in particularly, her “normal” will be Singapore, and it will be the US (or wherever) that will be foreign and uncomfortable, at least for a while. Thanks to the internet, she’ll maintain some of her friendships with her BFF’s. Depending on when we leave, I wouldn’t bet against “lessons I learned as a third culture kid in Singapore” being Elanor’s entrance essay to university. I wouldn’t be shocked if she chose to move back here as an adult.

For Rhi, it will depend on how old she is when we leave. If we left today, she’d probably only have dim memories, much as a friend who came here as an adult after being here as a child did.

IMG_8469

What about you? How will SG work out for you?

I’m speaking directly to the stay at home parent—If you never leave your house and you never look for or find friends, you will be miserable. You need to make the effort to have a life here. If you put in the work, Singapore can be an amazing experience. If you don’t, it can be a hot hellish hellhole you were dragged to against your will.

The move is going to be hard. It will be hardest on the primary caregiver/stay at home parent until they find community, but even after. My husband has it so good–he gets up and he does the mornings with the kids, for which I adore him, then he goes to work and comes home. I (half)joke that he visits Singapore on weekends, and we life here. I deal with any repairs that need to happen, groceries, laundry, sending out dry cleaning, the family calendar, and so forth. (Yes, I have an FDW, and that has been a positive experience this time around for tremendous support as I’m still recovering from surgery and dealing with chronic pain, but I’m also in charge of ensuring that she not be overworked and has enough support from me to do her job.)

Culture shock will hit you again and again and again. I posted last week about grading, and how six years in I still got smacked in the face with some culture shock. Starting and continuing with everything here is ridiculously expensive. Housing, food, electricity, clothes, toys, blah blah blah. Bring as much as you can, and rest easy in knowing amazon offers free global shipping over 125 sgd.

Making friends, or at least acquaintances will be easiest for the working parent. The stay at home parent will need to work to make friends. Meetup.com, starting a blog, commenting on other people’s blogs, joining the discussion on twitter, etc are how they’re going to have to find community. Chat up other people at kid events (and be frustrated when sometimes you meet only FDW’s–who are lovely to get to know and chat with, but they can’t grab a coffee with you on Thursday evening.) If your child goes to school, try to get to know the parents there. There is likely a FB group or a Whatsapp chat going that you can join.

Depending on your home climate, the heat can feel oppressive. Brave it to get to know the country. Go to the Zoo, the Night Safari, Gardens by the Bay, the water play area on the roof of Nex Mall, walk down Orchard Rd—if only to try to count how many Tiffany and LV stores there really are (a lot), go to the Mangrove Walk at Sungei Buloh Preserve, there’s amazing children’s theater here year round but keep an eye open for the kidsfest programming in January/February, the Port of Lost Wonder on Sentosa.  Stay busy.

Celebrate your new home country. Coming up I highly recommend

  • National Day–Watch the festivities on tv on Aug 9 (channel 5), but attend the weekly “practice” fireworks every Saturday starting soon through August 9th. Even the practice fireworks are spectacular. Grab a seat on the ground opposite the Marina Bay Financial Towers, or along the boardwalk at the Marina Bay Mall overlooking the water. You won’t be disappointed. (Warning for loud noises may frighten little ones)

ETA—In comments, someone said the practice fireworks are being held at the stadium. Does anyone have advice on where to view them? Can you buy seats for the practice fireworks or go into the stadium seats for free? What’s the buzz?

  • Despite the smoke, look for the signs of the hungry ghost festival (august) Go to Chinatown and see what sorts of offerings people throw.
  • The Mass Lantern Walk (early September)
  • Halloween in little America (get a cab to the Singapore American School and follow the crowd) It’s a trick or treating experience unlike any other.
  • Diwali (late october/early november) in Little India is beautiful. They have amazing lights and there are markets. Enjoy freshly made jalebi to bring in a sweet start to your new year.
  • Christmas on Orchard Rd–as early as late October you’ll start to see Christmas decorations going up along the road from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura. When lit up at night it is a spectacular sight. Each mall tries to outdo one another. At Tanglin Mall, there is a tree that shoots our soapy “snow” that the kids love (bring spare clothes and a towel)

Loneliness will come. I hope that you find your way through it, because your time here can be wonderful.

Posted in Assimilation, Attractions, Before the Move, Culture Shock, Expat to Expat Advice, Helpers, Shopping, Singapore, Theater/Shows/Events, Third Culture Kids, Uniquely Singapore, With Kids | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

US vs Singapore Public Schools—Grading

a+

One of the things I struggle with as a foreign parent is understanding the grading system in Singapore.

On one hand, I find the grading system incredibly forgiving. Everything over a 85 is an A? 70-85 is a B? 50-70 is a C? It’s only an F if it’s below a 50?

Then I remember that in the US a grade is comprised of work done over 10 weeks, and things like participation and effort can affect the grade. No single assessment controls your grade until college.

In second grade, Elanor will take an exam in October that will count for 50 points out of 100 for the year. I can’t imagine stress like that at the age of seven.

f

Elanor was participating in an after-school math activity where she was regularly coming home with low grades. Despite this, she said she was in the “high” group. Why was she still there if she was coming home with such low grades?

We pulled her from the group before vacation. Over vacation, though, she expressed to us that she really wanted to stay.

I reached out them and asked them to explain to me how they decided what group she should be in, and what the criteria was. By the time she finished explaining, I had context for what we though were bad grades.

Parenting a third culture kid isn’t easy, and neither is being the foreign parent in a strange school system. Learn from my lesson and ask for someone to explain things to you before you (0ver)react.

Posted in Assimilation, Culture Shock, Education, Expat to Expat Advice, Singapore | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Submissions Call: Coming Together: Under the Mistletoe

Continuing my theme of doing things I’ve always dreamt of, but been to frightened of, I’m going to edit an anthology of winter themed erotica. Coming Together is an organization where all proceeds will go to charity. In this case, Project Linus, which is very near and dear to my heart.

 

mistletoe-christmas1

Coming Together: Under the Mistletoe

Deadline is September 1, 2016

 

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow because we’ll be heating up this sexy December anthology.

I am looking for your best winter stories. Are your characters cuddled up inside while a blizzard rages, or are they snowbirds spending Christmas Day on the beach in the tropics? Who belongs on Santa’s Naughty List? Is your billionaire a Scrooge? Is this the year they come out to their family? Do they have a special someone to kiss when the ball drops?

While the theme is winter, you may also add in your favorite December holiday, but this is not mandatory. I’m looking for compelling stories with compelling characters and a rich plot as well as beautiful poetry.

Guidelines

  • Your story should be set between December 1 and December 31 whether explicitly or implicitly.
  • All orientations, ethnicities, pairings, and interpretations of “winter” are encouraged.
  • All sub-genres and time periods welcome (contemporary, historical, paranormal, sci-fi, steampunk, you name it).
  • All heat levels from sweet and romantic to down and dirty—as long as it is plot driven.
  • HEA/HFN preferred, but not required.
  • Stories up to 7,500 words
  • Poetry is welcomed and encouraged
  • No underage, no scat, no non-consent, no incest

 

Coming Together is a charity organization. You retain all rights to your stories, and previously published stories and poetry are welcomed (as long as you hold the rights).

Please use Times New Roman font, size 12, and one-inch margins. Double-space paragraphs and set indentations to .5 – do not use tabs or spaces to indent. Use .docx, .doc .rtf formats only.
Only submit your final, best version of the story; do not send multiple versions of the same story. Up to two stories/three poems will be considered from each author. Include your legal name (and pseudonym if applicable and be clear which one is which), mailing address, and up to 250 word bio. You will be notified as to the status of your story by no later than October 1, 2016.

Do not paste your story into the body of your message.

Coming Together is a non-profit organization, and all Coming Together authors and editors have generously donated their talents to various causes. Compensation for inclusion in this work is a PDF contributor copy of the finished product and your name on Santa’s Nice list (or Naughty, if that’s your preference). You retain all rights to your story. All proceeds go to Project Linus, which provides home-made blankets and hats to children in crisis.

Questions? Email me at delilahnight@gmail.com

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Disney Princess Academy (Sponsored Post)

I’m sharing this post as I’m going to write up the event for Sassy Mama Singapore. Elanor and Rhi will have a blast, and I’m sure your child would love it as well.

Disney Princess Academy

 

Brought to you by Singtel and Disney, the Dream Big, Princess Academy is where girls can get a royal experience and learn the true meaning of being a princess. They will also get to meet Rapunzel, Cinderella and Sofia the First!
Get ready for a magical experience this June holiday! The Dream Big, Princess Academy will be held at Fort Canning Hotel on 22nd and 23rd June 2016.

How do I secure my event pass?

  • Visit any Singtel Shops today to sign-up or recontract for the Singtel TV Family Starter/Trio/Variety/Value Pack and receive a redemption serial code to secure your slot at the event.
  • Share a photo of your little princess on Instagram or Facebook. In your caption, tell us why she’s an everyday princess along with the hashtags #everydayprincess and #singteltv. For more information about the contest, visit http://singteltv.com.sg/disneyprincess/inspiring/.

 

Posted in Sponsored Posts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Six Years (and a few months)

We moved to Singapore in April 2010.

Today I revamped the website in part because my long list of expat blogs is a list of dead blogs. Last month, one of my dearest friends left Singapore. I still pick up my phone to ask her if she’s around, only to remember that she’s not. I recently was talking to my girls and I was listing off the people who can always pick them up, and almost included her.

At some point while I was paying attention to other things, we transitioned from expats to those expats who have been here forever.

IMG_0049Elanor, June 2010

I missed our fifth anniversary because I was in the hospital recovering from an infection that came close to killing me. I noticed our sixth anniversary abstractly because of Facebook Memories.

13332817_10153431913751946_5795725487567727860_nRhiannon’s first and new passport photos (2011, 2016)

Right around the time I was seeing those Facebook memories of our move to Singapore, I realized that Rhiannon had been four and a half for a while. Which meant that she had less than six months left on her passport and that we needed to renew it. The child who was nothing more than a vague plan when we moved here is now on her second passport.

13417592_10153445466821946_6271748045861692695_n

Both girls, taken June 2016

When we agreed to move to Singapore, Ravi and I assumed that we’d be here for a few years at most. We never expected to be here six years later. We certainly never expected to take Permanent Residency.

In June 2010 I would swear that we would not be here in 2016.

Do I think we’ll still be here in June 2022? No way.

But then I’ve been wrong before, obviously.

****I refuse to make another post about my health, but I just got out of the hospital following another series of surgeries on my back. Yay, degenerative disc disease and chronic pain. There, you’re up to date*****

Posted in Before the Move, Identity | Tagged | 4 Comments

I wrote a book

Despite my best intentions, I haven’t been spending much time at Expat Bostonians. While a lot of my energy over the past eighteen months or so has been devoted to healing my body, the rest of it has been devoted to writing a book. I sold it last fall, and on April 26, 2016 it went on sale.

I’ve gone back and forth over whether I wanted to cross-promote myself here as it removes a layer of privacy between what I write in the non-fictional world (EB, articles on parenting) and my fiction. But my life-long dream has been to write a book. Now that I’ve done so, I want to share it with you.
Capturing the Moment Cover

You never forget your first love…

Meg and RJ were passionately in love. But that was six years and a broken engagement ago.

Meg has only one day in Siem Reap, Cambodia, before she must leave for her sister’s wedding in Bali. She fulfills her dream of taking a photograph of the sun rising behind Angkor Wat, one of the oldest temples in the world. But her joy is short-lived when she turns around to see RJ standing behind her.

RJ threw himself into work after Meg ended their relationship. He’s built a successful business, but it’s a hollow victory. He’s come to Siem Reap to win back the woman he’s never stopped loving. But first he has to convince her to spend the day with him.

Meg is as physically attracted to RJ as she ever was. Maybe the secret to finally getting over him is a one day only, no strings attached fling.

Can RJ win Meg back, or will she love him and leave him?

 

Capturing the Moment is on sale everywhere!

Currently it is only available as an e-book, although my publisher has said they are in the process of uploading books to a print-on-demand service.

Capturing the Moment also has a page on Goodreads

Reviews!

“The heat and chemistry between Meg and RJ sizzles.”–Devi Ansevi of Crush Blush. (full review here)

“This was a great story.”–Amy from Archeolibrarian (full review here)

“Delilah hit the perfect balance between sex and romance”–Malin James
Disclaimer–I write erotic romance. Which is a close cousin to your standard romance novel–there are well developed characters and plot, and a relationship based on more than sex, etc. The difference is that I don’t use cutesy euphemisms or fade to black when things get physical. Because of that, if you are under 18, I am legally obligated to tell you to click the back button, although there is no sexual content in the excerpt below.

Extended Sneak Peek 

Chapter 1

Angkor Wat, silhouetted against a pre-dawn sky, was the photograph Megan had waited over a decade to take. She stood at the edge of the pond, in front of the twelfth-century Cambodian temple, making minute adjustments to her tripod. The night sky, once inky black, transformed into a riot of pink and purple. The sky and Angkor Wat were perfectly reflected in the water. The moment Meg had dreamed of had arrived. She stepped up to the tripod and looked through the viewfinder. Her finger tapped the shutter button repeatedly.

 

To: Meg

From: Mother

 

I don’t see why you insist on complicating everything. If you’d just come directly to Bali like you should have, you wouldn’t be stuck in the Beijing airport. Two canceled flights are a sign, Megan. Why are you still bothering with Cambodia? You’ll only have one day there. Between Rachel and her destination wedding, and you with your Cambodia caper, the two of you are driving me crazy!

 

The bright colors gave way to pale dawn light. Although the number of tourists clicking away on their iPads was still growing rapidly, Meg and her fellow early birds were ready to move on. They knew the magic hour—and the best shots—were done. Meg slipped the camera from the platform before folding up her tripod.

“Get any good shots, Meg?”

Meg spun around and nearly dropped her equipment. If life were fair, exes would become repulsive to you the moment you broke up. But no, she itched to run her hands through his black hair. She remembered licking and sucking her way across every inch of his brown skin. Her eyes flicked to his full lips and she almost whimpered as her panties grew damp at the memory of his eager tongue. Nope, life was decidedly not fair.

“Arjun? What are you doing here?”

“I was looking for a date to a wedding.” He grinned. “Want to be my plus one?”

“Bite me.” Suppressing the urge to slap him, she turned to thread her way out of the crowd as fast as she could.

Stop picturing him naked. Stop it!

A line of stalls selling goods ranging from postcards to T-shirts to food was slowly coming to life.

“Can I have a Coke, Uncle?” she asked the owner of a stall. The guidebook had told her to address everyone older than her as Auntie or Uncle. Whether due to the rapid increase in heat since the sun had crept over the horizon, or the shock of seeing RJ, she was dying of thirst.

I can’t believe he’s here. This is almost as bad as if he were at the wedding.

“Oh. My. God. Wedding.” The bottle froze halfway to her lips. “A date to a wedding.”

Maybe it’s some other college friend’s wedding that just happens to be on the other side of the planet the exact same weekend as Rachel and Paige’s, and oh my fucking God he’s going to be at their wedding. Oh God, oh God, oh God—

Wishing it was a beer, Meg took a swig of the soda.

“Want to share that?”

Meg choked on the liquid. RJ’s hand pounded rhythmically on her back.

“Stop that! I’m—” She flapped an ineffective hand at him as she fought her way through another coughing fit. “Fine!” Panting, she took a cautious sip. What was supposed to have been blissfully cool relief was now cloying sweetness.

She glared at RJ. “Why are you here? Don’t feed me any of your charming bullshit.”

“Rachel told me you’d be here.”

Traitor! Exasperated, she threw the soda into the trash and turned to face him. “If you wanted to warn me you’d be at the wedding, you could’ve used email like a normal person. Or my sister could’ve told me you would be there. What made you think crashing my dream vacation would be fun?”

“This wasn’t just your dream vacation, remember?” His tone was mild, but she caught the flash of anger in his eyes. “This was our dream vacation.”

“So you decided to invite yourself along? Clearly, your ego is as massive as ever.” Meg shook her head in disbelief. She picked up her camera bag and tripod.

He stepped in front of her. “Megan, spend the day with me.”

“Why should I?”

“If you don’t, you’ll always wonder what it would have been like. C’mon, Meg, it’ll be fun.” He offered her a winning smile.

You were trying not to think about him even before you knew he was here. Have you ever had much willpower when it came to those dimples? It’s been six years since the break-up and they’re lethal as ever.

“If I agree to hang out with you today, you’ll try to sweet talk your way into my bed. Don’t think you’re going to succeed, RJ.”

“I didn’t say anything about rolling around naked on your bed. You’re the one who brought it up.”

 

**If you’d like a free reviewer copy, please touch base with me at delilahnight@gmail.com***

If you’d like to read more sneak peeks, check out the dedicated Capturing the Moment page on my author blog for links to my virtual book tour! The most recent stops have open contests for you to win a free copy!

Posted in Published!, Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Balloon Festival at Marina Square

It was only by virtue of the girls having gymnastics camp today that we were at Marina Square to see the balloon festival. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, this is ongoing through Sunday, March 20, 2016.

DSC_1464 DSC_1465

 

DSC_1420

 

DSC_1422

 

DSC_1423

 

DSC_1425

 

DSC_1428

 

DSC_1433

 

DSC_1440

 

DSC_1441

 

DSC_1446

Posted in Attractions, Singapore, With Kids