Monday, October 30, 2006

Halloween/Fall Festival/Tail Gater/Any Excuse for a Party Party

This time of year we're always caught in that "do we or don't we" conundrum regarding Halloween. It's the kind of thing we could completely ignore and our kids might be none the wiser, although we have seen more and more Halloween paraphenalia out and about this year. I have friends here (Americans no less) whose kids don't even know what Halloween is.

I am not against Halloween, although I'm pretty sure I should be if I'm sticking to the Christian homeschool stereotype, but I'm not all that keen on celebrating it either. My kids don't really like to dress up much, and I'm not excited about them focusing on dark images like witches, ghosts and monsters while I saturate them with candy. Still, we hate for them to miss out on good times with friends. Last year we participated in our first and last trip to the Woodlands for real trick or treating. This year we wanted to do something a little more low key. Thank God for like minded friends! Our friend Carmen and her husband Trace did a stellar job of decorating their house like a frat house in the fall - college pennants hung all around, football and fall decor on tables. The kids dressed up (I finally hit on "cowgirl" as something Megan would like to be - she's not into being the princess!) and played the whole time while the adults were able to socialize around the feeding trough. That's my kind of party! Gerard took a picture of all the women together, so I'll post that when I get it. Below are the ones I took.

Pumpkin painting

A Power Ranger and Skywalkers ready to fight

Our little cowpoke

This reminds me of a Strawberry Shortcake commercial from when I was a kid

If he'd smile with his mouth open, you could see his top tooth coming in finally!

Power Ranger and Cowgirl

Monday, October 23, 2006

Go Slingers!

The names of professional sports teams are often quite creative, however, some of them need some explanation if you aren't local. For example, the Minnesota Twins. Twin what? The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I don't know how widely known it is that they are called that. Maybe that ends some mystery for someone.

So Singapore has a new (first!) professional basketball team called the Singapore Slingers. I have to think that anyone outside Southeast Asia, or who has never visited Singapore would think, "What on earth is a Slinger?" I, on the other hand, who know what a Slinger is, am asking, "Why would you name your basketball team after an alcholic beverage?"

That's right, they named their team after a drink. The Singapore Sling is one of the few completely unique things I have found in Singapore. If made well, it's kind of like cherry pineapple juice with a kick. I've only had two because they cost about US$10. The second one was free, part of the Colonial walking tour I took with my parents, and we only got a sip. So really just one, but the second was better than the first. The first reminded of that foul Hawaiian Punch drink from when I was a kid.

So now I'm trying to imagine the all important "decide the name of the team" meeting. What else was thrown out there as a possibility? Maybe Lions, as Singapura (the Malay name for Singapore) means "Lion City." I think. Don't quote me. Probably skipped that one because what the early settlers thought were lions were actually tigers. But I digress. My husband says maybe "The Finers" due to the constant threat of fines as a punishment, but you can see why that one got cut. What about The Islanders? That doesn't sound very tough. The Reclaimers? Seeing as something like 12% of Singapore is reclaimed land. Yeah, now that I think about it, Slingers is probably their best bet.

If you came to my blog today hoping for something of depth, sorry to disappoint. Some days it's just easier to ski the surface.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


My son is a hypochondriac. If it is suggested to him that there is a remote possibility that he could contract something from someone, he will avoid them like the plague. I suffer from chronic tension headaches, which flared up again recently. I explained to him that I have something wrong with my head that gives me headaches. He was afraid to drink my water.

So today when we intended to go outside for a little batting practice, I looked out the window to check the weather (highly scientific). I noticed that it looked particularly hazy, so I checked the PSI (air quality measurement). It was 107 - just into the unhealthy range. I mentioned that maybe we should wait a little to see if it went down. We read some books, then heard friends outside playing. The kids jumped up and ran for their swimsuits, but then Ethan asked about the current PSI. I told him I thought it looked better but he wanted to check. It had risen to 113. Under no conditions was Ethan going to go outside at that point. I went to check the mail, and he asked several times if I was planning on telling our friends to go back inside. I didn't.

Later when we went out to mail a few postcards, Ethan kept discouraging his sister from running, so as to not breathe in too much air. He plugged his nose. I pointed out that he was still breathing through his mouth. Amazingly, someone was also burning something in a trash can, adding to the poor air quality. What were they thinking?

Ethan decided we need to pray for rain, and proceeded to pray the sweetest, and quite well thought out prayer. I'm praying too - we haven't had rain for weeks. Enough already.

Another first

Just got an email from our Cub Scout Den leader regarding an all pack camp out coming up. We were informed that moms can't sleep in the same tents as boys due to a "Muslim camp policy." We also cannot consume pork or beef at the camp out, which may make the BBQ difficult.

This is odd. I have never had to do or not do something before because of someone else's religion. Granted, Mustafa's lack of pork and beef means it's not one stop shopping for me, but I've never had anything pointed at me being a woman.

I don't actually care about this rule because I wasn't planning on going to the camp out. Just another friendly reminder that this isn't where I grew up. My parents will be visiting us at the time (Shh! Don't tell the kids - it's a surprise!) so we'll have a girl's night at our house. That is, assuming my dad wants to go to the camp out. Dad, how about it?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cancelled due to haze

As one who grew up in Minnesota hoping for school cancellations due to snow and ice, I never dreamed of a day when some activity I'm involved in would be cancelled due to haze. Yet here I am on such a day. We usually trek up to BiShan park once a week when the homeschool soccer pratice is held. Although Ethan has stopped playing, they still enjoy playing with the younger siblings of the kids who do play, and I get some good time with my friend Krisi. Today, we had planned to go a little early for batting practice.

But I just got a call from a friend who said soccer is cancelled today due to the haze. I have to go back to my five years of life in China to protest. If that didn't kill me, this certainly won't! The PSI today in Singapore hasn't even hit 90. Over 100 is considered unacceptable. So now I debate - should we go out anyway? We did the Cub Scout wheel day when the PSI was something like 130 and we haven't come down with any respiratory problems. What to do . . .

I find it humorous that aside from heavy rains, this is the only weather related event that might keep me from enjoying every minute of every day outside in Singapore. That is, if you don't mind sweating profusely. I guess I can't complain too much!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The normal view off the Bedok Jetty, East Coast Park

The same view yesterday

A Strange Phenomenon

As fires rage across Indonesia's Sumatra island, just to our west, the excessive amounts of smoke have billowed their way over Singapore and Malaysia, causing the worse air quality Singapore has ever had. The air quality index hit 130 yesterday - 100 is a healthy limit. Singapore's government has offered its military to fly over the burning areas, seeding the clouds for rain, but it is too dry to produce enough clouds. I'm wondering why they aren't trying that here in Singapore though. It is supposed to rain tonight. If it does, we will have temporary relief. They expect the fires to continue to burn until the monsoon season begins next month, despite all their efforts to control the blaze.

I've never seen anything like it in Singapore. It's like being in any major city in China in terms of visibility. Our friends are complaining that they can't breathe, and they won't let their children go outside. For us, this just feels like living back in China. But I do hope it ends soon.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Going off script

I was confronted, upon exiting the elevator yesterday, by one of my retired female floormates. (there are four units on our floor - two retired couples and another couple with a young girl). She seems excited to see me, and began speaking and gesturing toward the plant outside the door of one of our neighbors. The plant was a mostly leafless, prickly thing. She was saying something about how gusts of wind could blow this over the ledge and hurt people below. I then realized she wasn't talking about the plant but a shallow glass bowl sitting on the ledge itself. That made a little more sense, but not much more.

Since people on our floor have been known to complain about actions of ours, I informed her that I did not live there, hoping it would end the tirade. She said, "No, I know you don't live there. But this is very dangerous! This can blow over, can hurt someone!" She was really getting agitated by that point.
"Did you tell the people who live there?" I asked.
"No," she replied and tried to continue her rant.
"Well, you shouldn't talk to me about it, talk to them," I insisted and walked away.

It was then that I realized I was completely off script with this woman culturally. It is quite common here for this to happen - complain about something that bothers you, but not to the person who could do something about it. That person will commiserate with you and justify your frustration. For me to not respond this way probably confused her. I imagine she walked away wondering what was wrong with me, why I wouldn't say my lines.

This is a struggle I find in living in another culture. As a foreigner, I want to be respectful, and even participate in, local customs and values. But there are times when, either by reason of my faith or other personal convictions, I won't follow the script that this culture gives me. It feels awkward, and gives me an acute reminder that I don't fit in here.