Changing your address in Singapore

One of the first things I did when we lined up our move was to change our address with Singpost.

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I’ve had to go down and follow up with Singpost twice.  The mail isn’t getting forwarded. Which sucks on its own,  but especially so because you have to pay for changing your address.

So, if you can,  ensure that everyone has your new address, and maybe don’t bother paying Singpost.

I don’t know about other countries,  but in the US your mail is forwarded automatically once you fill out a form, it’s free, and it works .

Posted in Culture Shock, Housing, Singapore | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Superstitions–the number 13

Something struck me when I was riding the elevator in my new building—there is a 13th floor.

unlucky 13

In the US, there is a superstition about the number 13. I actually had to google “why,” as I just knew it as fact.

According to Wikipedia

The number 13 is considered an unlucky number in some countries.[10] The end of the Mayan calendar’s 13th Baktun was superstitiously feared as a harbinger of the apocalyptic 2012 phenomenon.[11] Fear of the number 13 has a specifically recognized phobia, Triskaidekaphobia, a word coined in 1911. The superstitious sufferers of triskaidekaphobia try to avoid bad luck by keeping away from anything numbered or labelled thirteen. As a result, companies and manufacturers use another way of numbering or labelling to avoid the number, with hotels and tall buildings being conspicuous examples (thirteenth floor).[12] It’s also considered unlucky to have thirteen guests at a table. Friday the 13th has been considered an unlucky day. [10]

There are a number of theories as to why the number thirteen became associated with bad luck, but none of them have been accepted as likely.[10]

  • The Last Supper: At Jesus Christ’s last supper, there were thirteen people around the table, counting Christ and the twelve apostles. Some believe this is unlucky because one of those thirteen, Judas Iscariot, was the betrayer of Jesus Christ.

  • Knights Templar: On Friday 13 October 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of the Knights Templar,[10] and most of the knights were tortured and killed.

  • Full moons: A year with 13 full moons instead of 12 posed problems for the monks in charge of the calendars. “This was considered a very unfortunate circumstance, especially by the monks who had charge of the calendar of thirteen months for that year, and it upset the regular arrangement of church festivals. For this reason thirteen came to be considered an unlucky number.”[13] However, a typical century has about 37 years that have 13 full moons, compared to 63 years with 12 full moons, and typically every third or fourth year has 13 full moons.[14]

  • A repressed lunar cult: In ancient cultures, the number 13 represented femininity, because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days). The theory is that, as the solar calendar triumphed over the lunar, the number thirteen became anathema.[10][15]

There’s also a whole thing around Friday the 13th, which includes the whole horror movie franchise.

So what’s my point?

Most buildings in the US don’t have a 13th floor. This includes most hotels I’ve worked at in departments such as Front Office, Reservations, and the Night Audit.

Less than 10 percent of Manhattan condominiums with 13 or more stories actually label a floor with the dreaded number, said Gabby Warshawer, director of research at data and listings company CityRealty. That’s an estimate based on 650 mid- and high-rise buildings that have filed condo declarations with New York City since 2003, including luxury towers going up right now, such as 53W53 and 225 W. 57th Street. source

So there you go, the reason for my surprise that my building has a thirteenth floor.

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Moving (within Singapore)

We just moved from our apartment of six years, a small single story condo of 80 units, to a whole new world. Our current condo has over 1,000 units, multiple pools, playgrounds, gardens and more. I genuinely feel as though I’ve stepped through the walking glass. I’ll do pictures another day–the limited mobility has meant that my camera hasn’t seen much action, and my camera’s phone is broken and in need of a trip to the Sony repair store.

To be fair, I’m still in a wheelchair outside the house the majority of the time. I can walk a small distance, but even our apartment to the complex’s mini-mart is too far for me today. TLDR–recovery sucks, there’s some amount of permanent damage, limited mobility/chronic issues and physical therapy regularly for a long time. I’m going to talk about how “accessible” I’ve found Singapore as a person in a wheelchair, but that’s a different post.

We’re a little further from the CBD, but still close enough for Elanor to stay at her primary school. When you move, you need to notify the MOE. If your child’s school has a waiting list (like Nanyang or River Valley Primary), I am told your child will move. However, if your school isn’t full (ours isn’t) and doesn’t have a waiting list (no), your child can stay put.

My favorite thing about our new apartment, though, is the yard. We’re on the 13th story, but still have a reasonably large space for the girls to ride their scooters, draw hopscotch patterns and other things with chalk, etc. It’s so valuable when I want them to just go outside and burn off some steam. Was it expensive–honestly, only a small increase from our former apartment.

Which leads me to some advice, if you’re apartment hunting.

1–Don’t trust the Propertyguru definition of 1km or 2km if you’re trying to stay near a certain MRT. It’s as the crow flies, not as the person travels. This is especially true with stations like Esplanade.

2–The Singapore real estate market now is heavily favoring renters. There has been an ongoing slump for several years. Our new agent (Shawn from SE Realty) has said he doesn’t think it’s hit bottom yet. So hold out for a bargain. Our current apartment is renting for 2k less than it did several years ago. If you’re renewing, get a read of the market–the last time I negotiated rent at our last apartment, I was able to get a decrease in rent because the market is soft.

3–I highly recommend Oranje Movers. They were recommended to me by Notabilia. Their quote was significantly cheaper than the two competitors I spoke with, and everyone from Alvin in the office to the movers themselves have been phenomenal to work with. We’re actually expecting them back some time this week to take away the moving boxes as I think we’ve finally gotten all of them emptied, even though the contents aren’t yet put away.

4–Moving with kids is a nightmare. We literally ended up sending them to school from one apartment and bringing them home to the new one. They freaked out over stuffed animals and toys being packed and all sorts of nonsense that I didn’t need to deal with the last time I moved. Elanor was seventeen months. She had less than ten words if I recall correctly, and was not able to compose twenty minute rants about this bear or that outfit.

5–Moving with cats? We boarded ours at Kittycare Haven, who deserve their own post, for several days to avoid the moving and unpacking hassle. We’ve been boarding Gandalf and Kerowyn there for five years when we travel (or my in-laws visit). They are kind, and loving. They have sent me whatsapp pictures to show me how our cats are doing when we’re away. I recommend them very highly.

Based on this experience, though, I have to say that when it comes time to eventually move back to the US, I’m in favor of lighting everything on fire and starting fresh. It was a headache to move within a few miles of our old apartment. Moving across the world? I am dreading the very idea.

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“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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

 

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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

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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/.

 

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