4th of July, Singaporean Style (PLUS A CONTEST)

Click on a picture to see it larger!

The American Association of Singapore hosted (along with a slew of corporate sponsors) the Fourth of July celebration here in Singapore.  It was held at the beyond inexplicably named “Terror Club” (neither Google nor Wikipedia seems to have an answer as to the name).  The Terror Club is run by the US Navy as a place of recreation for US Naval personnel and their families (although according to Wikimapia, other Naval personnel and their families are also welcome).  I believe there is a Navy Base somewhere nearby.

Embiggen me to see the corporate sponsorship

It was a family themed event from 4pm until 10pm with fireworks at 8pm (remember, we’re on the equator, so we literally have 12 hours of daylight and 12 of darkness every day). Elanor woke up at 4ish, so we didn’t get there until 5ish.  Which was fine because it was raining lightly and everyone was hiding in the various tents anyways.  There were lots of kids activities like games, bouncy houses, and a coloring contest but she was a little young for them.  We found a way to keep her happy in the stroller, though….she got her first cone of cotton candy.

Don’t bother me, I’m eating…

We explored the food tent (because it was bit and covered and then enjoyed pushing the stroller through the mud that was forming between one side and the other of the field.  We saw a photo booth with cut-outs of political and famous figures (Obama and Robert Pattinson from Twilight were among them), a dunk tank (which seemed rendundant, given the rain) a fortune telling booth where we had Elanor’s fortune picked by a parrot.

The parrot moved so fast Im lucky I got any picture at all, much less this slightly blurry one.

Apparently she is like a tree without food or sunshine right now but will flower later.  And her patron goddess is Durga (who redeems situations that have been FUBAR’d–I hope that’s not a commentary on my parenting skills…or apparently lack thereof!)

Next we went to the political tents, where we talked to some nice folks from the American Embassy about confirming that we were correctly registered to vote back home.  They had us fill out a new form just to be sure.  We learned that there’s new legislation that means we’ll need to register every year that we’re abroad.  We also hooked up with Democrats abroad and studiously ignored the Republicans Abroad as best we could.  The Navy was selling glow sticks so we bought a few (although later, a naval guy decided E was a cutie and just gave us two more).

There was a moving company there, and they gave E a balloon and us a giant piece of cardboard to sit on.  We carried it around, waiting until the last second to put it down that it would keep us dry and not turn into a giant piece of mushy paper like some of the cardboard we saw.

There was live music played on the main stage.

The rain kind of deterred a lot of people from the field until the fireworks.  The stage is in the back.

We headed back to take refuge in the food tent once it became clear that there were no seats to be found in the eating tent connected to it.  We found an area with a bunch of other strollers and just camped out.

A small part of the end of the tent, near where we were camped out.

Ravi and Ella ham it up

While we were camped out, I kept glancing over at the eating tent, keeping an eye out for seats.  I saw someone that I thought I might know, but didn’t want to be a dumbass if it wasn’t.  Finally I caught her trying to get MY attention, so I dashed over.  It was K, a lovely mom I’d met, and who recommended both our realtor and the maid service we’d ended up using!  Some seats opened up at her table, so Ravi (and E & B once they were done eating) came over.  Ravi and I got to meet K’s husband, who is also in the Finance world, so that gave the guys something to talk about.  I was really glad as R doesn’t get the chance to socialize much over here, much less with Americans.  There was another couple at our table, and the mom had gone to Berklee School of Music in Boston, so we tried to chat as best we could over the buzz in the tent and the music from the stage.  We exchanged numbers so hopefully we’ll get together soon…and her son isn’t much older than E (most of the moms I know have kids about 6 months older than E…which is good so that she has to work to keep up with them, and she can learn from them…and they can work to keep up with Miss Running&Jumping).

Unless you’ve lived abroad, it’s difficult to understand how excited you become at the chance to hang out with other (fill in your nationality here)…in our case, obviously, Americans.  While American tv is exported as is music, it still doesn’t create a shared cultural language the way growing up in the US does.  For example, with B, my helper, I have to explain the school system, about snow, what my life was like back in the US (which has a lot to do with the economic realities of growing up in the US vs the Phillippinnes).  It’s nice to hang out with people who give their kids cheetos and mac n cheese.  Who are excited it’s the 4th (3rd, really) of July instead of just another day.  Who call it soccer, not football.  Who know who the Red Sox are.  To some extent it’s just easier to hang out with Americans because it’s not a constant struggle to understand/educate.  (This is not to say we don’t want friends who aren’t American–we do!  It’s just that it’s really nice to stop being a cultural ambassador and just hang out for a little while).

Around 7:30, we stepped out onto the field and chose our viewing spot.  We put down the cardboard and our blanket over it.  We kept E in the stroller as we didn’t want her running around just yet.  And soon after the drizzley rain stopped or stopped enough that we didn’t pay attention anymore.

The festivities kicked off with the Singing of the Singapore and American National Anthems (the SG national anthem is in Malay so I linked to a video with lyrics in English…and then for my non-American friends, I did the same for the US anthem).  The local girl scout troop was on stage doing their best to sing along to both.  The crowd, for the record hummed or mumbled to the SG anthem.  They started out strong with the American anthem, got a little fuzzy around the middle and then ended strong.

If I had to sing “Majulah Singapura” on stage I’d want a lyrics sheet, too

They introduced the members of the military holding the various branches flags.  Finally they introduced the new American Ambassador to Singapore, David Adelman,  who apparently arrived right around when we did.  Then we got down to business…Fireworks!

I wasn’t sure how the fireworks would go over with Ella.  I wasn’t concerned she’d be scared, more what her level of interest would be.  Last year, we were on the National Mall in Washington, DC.  E had gotten a light up ball from the Smithsonian and spent the entire fireworks FAR more interested in that then the giant explosions of light in the sky.

Mount Daddy, July 4, 2009

Who cares about your stupid fireworks…MY BALL GLOWS!!! July 4, 2009

This year, Elanor was TRANSFIXED.  I looked over and she was staring, open mouthed at the fireworks.  She clapped for them when other people clapped but mostly she just stared in amazement.  I have rarely seen her so still.

When I stop reading, you KNOW it’s interesting

While they weren’t the most impressive fireworks either Ravi or I had ever seen, they certainly were the closest.  We were warned about keeping an eye out for ash because it could burn.  They were set off from the hill across the street and went off RIGHT overhead.  It was impressive.

When the fireworks ended a naval band based out of Hawaii came onstage and said they’d be performing until 10 (it was like 8:30 at that point).  There was a huge crush of people leaving and we realized the futility of trying to get a cab in that crush.  So we decided to let Ella run free.  She immediately picked up on the band and began dancing.

She didn’t stop for almost an hour.  We finally called an end to it when she began yawning.  Which didn’t go over well with the toddler, for the record.  Of course that she was fighting sleep in the cab proved our point…

I’m not tired…just give me a minute and I’ll dance you all into the ground….yaaaaawwwwwn

We got home around 10, and put her straight to bed with next to no protestation.



Up for grabs…this lovely tote bag purchased from the American Embassy Booth.

To enter…just comment!  Elanor will pick a comment number out of a hat next weekend and I’ll mail it off to the winner.  (if you’re not interested, please still comment but let me know).  If I need your address, I’ll email you for it.

This entry was posted in Holidays (Not Singaporean), Pictures, Video. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to 4th of July, Singaporean Style (PLUS A CONTEST)

  1. Pingback: Then and now « Taking a chance on baby…

  2. Zach Woods says:

    Did you experience, in others or yourself, an increased American Patriotic Fervor, given that you celebrated the 4th overseas? I once spent Thanksgiving with a group of relative strangers in Kathmandu, eating strangely overlapping thanksgiving not very related foods, and explaining Thanksgiving to the non-U.S. folks at our large table. It was fun!

    • Crystal says:

      That’s a great question…

      I think it was more important to me that we actually make an effort to celebrate the 4th this year than it has been in the past instead of just winging it and assuming we’d figure something out. I’ve always been a sucker for fireworks, so it’s generally been an enjoyable holiday for me, but I’m not overly into the whole “rah rah America” thing so it’s a holiday I enjoy…while rolling my eyes at the overly enthusiastic among us.

      I think this year I kind of felt a fondness for the way that red, white and blue threw up all over everything at the fair because everywhere else, it was just Saturday. On the flip side I rolled my eyes at the Naval Band’s decision to do “I’m Proud to be an American” followed by “Sweet Home Alabama”…while restraining myself from humming along (especially to the latter, which is a guilty pleasure of mine).

      I’m pretty liberal (which anyone who knows me in person knows all too well) and I’m usually happy to mix it up over politics. But yesterday I just wanted enjoy hanging out with Americans so I sort of studiously tried to ignore the Overseas Republicans and the dude I saw wearing a “Proud Conservative” t-shirt because I didn’t want to think about the things that might divide me from the others there. That was definitely different for me.

      Thanksgiving in Kathmandu sounds really interesting! I’d love to hear a longer version! Why where you there, and how did you go about explaining Thanksgiving. The 4th is pretty straightforward in terms of explaining, but Thanksgiving is a bit murky…the whole Pilgrims/Natives/Feast mythos doesn’t have much connection to reality. There’s the Lincoln connection, but it was FDR who signed it into law…and that was 69 years ago.

      • Zach Woods says:

        Hi Crystal –

        Short version:

        Nearly 15 years ago I spent a month in Kathmandu. Did a trek of the Annapurna region – fantastic, and celebrated my birthday (thanks to the friend I was traveling with) in a tea house in the middle of nowhere!

        There was a mix of folks for Thanksgiving – 3 or 4 US citizens, a Brit or two, an Australian or two, a couple from South America, and a South African. No Canadians to confuse things with Canadian Thanksgiving, thankfully. I think everyone understood both the party line version and the snarky “now here’s what’s really going on” version. They didn’t quite understand the importance of specific dishes as part of the meal, though, and that was the thing that we found lacking. If I remember correctly I had a Pumpkin Kibby like main course because that was the closest I could get to a “Thanksgiving” like dish!


  3. Ange says:

    Love the comparison of E as a baby and toddler – what a difference!!!

    Random question – what was the food like at an American-in-Singapore event? More American, more Singaporean, something else?

    Really glad you got to celebrate over there. 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      Food–Hot Dogs, Burgers, Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Senor Taco was doing burritos and nachos (although my friend K said they weren’t doing it well). Ben and Jerry’s had a booth, there was cotton candy. Beer, margaritas, soda (including the vile 100 plus I’ll have to blog about some time–local soda), and water. There were definitely some other options, but it was all American variations, or so I recall.

  4. Tina C. says:

    That’s awesome that you still get to celebrate the 4th in another country.

  5. Pingback: Wordless Wednesday…I wouldn’t even know where to begin with words… « Expat Bostonians

  6. Gosh, E is SO CUTE! Watching her dance, I’m reminded of my own girls shaking it as toddlers, they loved to dance in a circle to Kiss music (don’t ask!). Sadly, my oldest now firmly states that she can’t dance, and refuses to do it. She’s 19 and has a great sense of rhythm (marching band), so I don’t get it.

    The celebration you attended also sounds familiar. I lived in Europe and Japan for many years, and the fervency of ex-pats and military folks can be a little wearing, I admit.

    It sounds like y’all had a blast, which is really all that matters. 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      I think that might be the mark of growing up…when one day you’re suddenly self conscious about dancing. I don’t look forward to the day when E doesn’t get up and joyfully leap around.

  7. cubicalgirl says:

    I love the video of E dancing! I have an American friend who has lived in Australia for a million years. He loves to wear his American flag tie to work on the 4th. His company cafeteria serves hamburgers and hot dogs in honor of the holiday. Funnily enough though, he’s forgotten a lot of American words for things. For instance, he once had to ask me what Americans call those little Igloo coolers.

    • Crystal says:

      that’s awesome! Because Singapore is a former British colony, it’s all “lifts” and apologise and colour…there are days when I wonder how to spell something and am just….lost. I can relate.

      At the American Embassy booth, I picked up a little lapel flag that’s the Sing flag on one side and the American on the other (very small) I plan to wear it on National Day here. 🙂

      • Zach Woods says:

        I always find traveling in British English locations more difficult than traveling in areas where the language is definitely not English (of any sort). For example, in Germany, I know that they have a different word for everything while in England, I am lulled into expecting more commonality. I remember well trying to visit a company that had offices on the first floor of their building. I wandered around the first floor (by U.S. standards) for a while until I got the bright idea to try the second floor (or at least not the British “ground floor”) – there they were!

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  9. bookjunkie says:

    Hey you actually got a photo of the famous fortune telling parakeet…that might be the famous Mani…the Singapore parrot owned by the elderly Hindu fortune teller.

    Mani gained world fame and was pitted against Paul the Octopus when she made 4 correct prediction for the World Cup 2010 till her wrong prediction at the Finals. Now I think she has gone back into obscurity.

    I recently went to Little India (Serangoon Road) and saw her chirping pitifully…it was sad.

    • Crystal says:

      He might well be…I have no idea. There was an identical parrot in the cage next to the one who did E’s reading.

      The cages are quite small…I hope they have bigger ones at home.

  10. Pingback: Celebrate American 4th of July in Singapore tomorrow! « Expat Bostonians

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  12. brendan says:

    According to investigation, the cell had conducted survey for other targets as early as 1997, when the cell was planning to target the Yishun MRT Station, where American troops and their families used to take shuttle rides to a U.S. Navy site at Sembawang for recreation activities at a sports complex coincidentally known as “Terror Club”, named after the last Royal Navy’s shore accommodation establishment around the same area, HMS Terror. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore_embassies_attack_plot

    • Crystal says:


      Does seem like an odd choice when we’re currently engaged in the “War on Terror” and the Terror Club is supposed to be a warm and welcoming place. But maybe that’s just me 🙂

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  16. jetsetpet says:

    Stumbled across your blog today while googling 4th of July Singapore and lo and behold that’s my daughter in the Girl Scout picture on the far right in the brownie vest with the glasses! How random is that? We are heading out to SAS today and like you am very curious as to how different it will be from the Terror Club. Am enjoying reading your blog 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      How was it? We missed out on everything this weekend due to illness.

      • jetsetpet says:

        oh no! Hope all is well now. It was pretty good actually – the area seemed way bigger so everything was less cramped and crowded feeling. Ample tables & seating so no fighting over tables to eat which was always a problem before. My only gripe would be that they’ve started selling tickets for the games, bouncers etc and it was $2 for 10 mins on the bouncer so I thought that was a bit much considering it’s been free previously. Also no face painting, tattoos etc….
        Great fireworks, food, lovely cool evening. Sorry you missed out.

      • Crystal says:

        Glad to hear it was still fun. Hopefully next year everyone will be healthy and it won’t be counter programmed against pink dot!

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