Wednesday, March 30, 2005

ez-link wonder

Someone out there is a genius, and it isn't me. Someone, I'm guessing a Singaporean since they strike me as intelligent and creative as a whole, created this nifty little card called the ez-link card. I've written about it before - it's the card that you can use in buses and the MRT to pay your fare. What amazes me about it is that the scanners can read it through almost anything. I hold my wallet up to the scanner and it reads it. I've held my entire gigantic Kate Spade bag, in which my wallet is swallowed, and it reads it. How does it do that without, say, charging my credit card at the same time? Or erasing my library card? I don't know. Probably some of you who know basic laws of digital cards could tell me, but don't. I like the mystery.

Watch for closed doors

When I went to the office today, I was surprised to find one of the glass doors propped open. I was glad, because I don't know the code to get in. I left a bit later to use the bathroom which is in the lift lobby, and came back in without incident.

Later still, I had to use the bathroom again (curse that Diet Coke - I might as well pour it straight in the toilet!). As I was walking toward the door, I was distracted by some workers in the meeting room and proceeded to walk with full force into the glass door that someone had closed. I'm talking about a full commitment, no hesitation walk. Slightly stunned and entirely embarassed, I realized that not only had I just done what only birds do, but I didn't know how to get out the locked door.

So to add insult to literal injury, I found the nearest office worker, admitted my accident (which he had heard) and asked for his help. He graciously showed me how to get out and back in again, but not without both of us having a good laugh.

An afternoon in a Minnesota winter

By my title, you may think I am nostalgic for a bit of northern weather. Actually, I am here to tell you that I just experienced it.

Those of you from the frozen tundra can picture this: you're sitting in a room (usually your basement) where your heat just isn't cutting it. Despite being fully clothed, a chill hovers around you. The wind whistles outside and shakes the windows, reminding you that you are only a few inches away from bitter cold.

That's what it felt like this afternoon during my three hours in Erik's office, I kid you not. I had to keep reminding myself that I really do live on a tropical island. When I left, it took 15 minutes before I felt warm enough to take off my jean jacket. I plan to take up the cause of People Against the Excessive Usage of Air Conditioning in Tropical Climates (PAEUACTC). I'm off to picket.

Wo bu ming bai!

That's "I don't understand!" for you non-Mandarin speakers (listen to me - as if I'm really one of them!). I have mentioned in the past that there are obvious direct translations in Singaporean English from Chinese such as "no have" (mei you) or "can" (keyi). That's why I'm a little baffled by something I've noticed recently.

In Chinese, they don't pluralize anything. The number of anything is indicated simply through context. Why is it then that in Singaporean English, they pluralize things that we don't? For example, instead of math they say, "maths." Instead of staff they say, "staffs." I have no explanation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Finally got new batteries for the camera! Here's a not so focused shot of the kids in a box

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Reptile Paradise

There were places we probably went as kids that to our parents were seen for what they were - run down and under-budgeted - but to us were pure fun. I suspect Circus World may fit into that category for us. I remember it with joy but I think it has since closed down.

Today, we found such a place in Singapore. It's called the Jurong Reptile Park. We knew we were headed for something less than brilliant when the bus dropped us off between the Reptile Park and the Bird Park, and everyone else went to the birds. The parking lot was deserted, but the door was open so we braved it.

The Reptile Park has the feeling of a Chinese zoo - poor construction, shoddy materials, tiny exhibits. But inside all of that they have a great collection of giant crocodiles and alligators, igunas, giant turtles, hissing snakes, and some large fish (which now makes me wonder why they were in the reptile park). We followed a man through the park as he hand fed all the animals. Ethan enjoyed feeding the iguanas and petting them. Megan even got her hands in there (our former "I'm afraid of all large animals, real or fake" girl).

In the end, they pulled out a small green snake, a young iguana, and a baby crocodile (with its mouth taped shut) and it was picture time. Thanks to the person who invented digital cameras, even though our batteries were dead, we used our card in a German man's camera to take a picture of Erik holding all three animals.

Although the kids were anxious to get the Science Center (also in the Jurong area) they had a blast at the park and touched enough reptiles to make me want to give them full baths afterwards. I'm sure they'll remember it only for the fun it was.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

I've lost all track of time

When we first moved to Singapore, I felt stuck in eternal summer. It was like Groundhog Day, where we lived the same day over and over again. 85 degrees on Halloween? And again on Christmas?

I'm used to weather that can change 30 degrees in a matter of a week, even a day (honestly - April 1996 I believe it was 70 degrees one day and 40 the next, or the other way around). I marked my life before by how the wind smelled and the ground felt, what the trees looked like and what flowers bloomed. Last week I imagined that my hometown would probably now have that damp brown look, with a slight warmth in the breeze. Instead I heard they had 20 inches of snow. You can always count on the unpredictability of Minnesota weather.

Now, I notice smaller increments of temperature and humidity, and can predict how it will feel outside based on recent rainfall. I don't measure time by the weather anymore but rely on my watch to tell me the day. It doesn't feel strange, which in itself is strange because I couldn't imagine growing accustomed to this.

Land without pennies

A long time ago I started a list of the things I love about Singapore. Then, I don't know, I got busy or something and forgot that I had a blog.

So I'm picking up pen (or perhaps I should say keyboard) to comment on a few more things I enjoy about Singapore. I noticed one of them again today at Mustafa (ah, Mustafa!). They don't use pennies here. They exist, but are never used. For the mathematically challenged like me, this is a Godsend. I can add so much more easily this way! America, take note.

And another thing I wish they had in the states - the big yellow X. There's probably a technical term for this, but for lack of it, I'll describe - wherever there's a need for traffic to enter where there's no intersection or stoplight (say, coming out of a mall) there's a big yellow X painted on the ground. If you're stopped on the road, you can't stop on the X, so people are always able to pull onto the road. I love this X! It's amazing what putting some paint on the ground will do. It's like how ants won't cross chalk lines. (that really works - we tried it with the ants who has formed an assembly line from Ethan's room to the kitchen). Sometimes high control can be a good thing.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The World According to Ethan

A conversation from the taxi today:
"Mommy, I didn't make Faith and Naomi silly."

"You didn't? Well, then, who did?"

"Their daddy did. And I didn't make Bayley and Bella silly either."

"Who did?"

"Their daddy."

"Oh. So who made you silly?"


"And who made Jackson silly?"

"His daddy."

"So didn't your daddy make you silly?"

"No, Dan (Jackson's dad) made my daddy silly."

So there you have it.
On a different note, in the interest of maintaining humility, I would like to announce that yesterday, I broiled some brownies. "How?" you might ask. Well, not just anyone can broil brownies. On Sunday I made some smart little pizzas with bread, spaghetti sauce, and cheese. I forgot to switch my toaster oven back to the oven setting so voila! I had brownies that were black on top but that perfect "not quite done" consistency on the bottom. I salvaged what I could. I mean, come on, they're brownies!

Sentosa again

One of the glories of Singapore is a little place I've mentioned before called Sentosa. It's an island off the cost of Singapore, accessible by bus, cable car, or boat. We've done the first two routes now. Yesterday we traveled by bus again across the bridge to island paradise.

We met some friends there to play volleyball, along with the most perfect bodied people in all of Singapore. Our group of normal sized, fully clothed people stood out a little. When Mr. foreign underwear clad man wanted to round out one team, we all felt the awkwardness.

Our kids were content to watch for awhile. I was content to watch forever. I have never been good at volleyball, and my short stint as a soccer player has left me with a strong reflex to kick any ball that comes into my periphery. Once the interest wore off, I suited up the kids for some ocean time.

Ethan tried to convince Megan that following him off the drop off would be a fun and "not scary" time but she was wise to not participate. The kids were able to drag Erik in after a few games of ball, and he delighted in taking them out where there was no hope of them touching bottom. Ethan was brave enough to swim back on his own though! In the process, however, some unidentified sea object left a nasty, painful streak all the way down his leg. He came out screaming. All I could think was, "On a episode of Friends, Monica got stung by a jellyfish and the guys peed on her leg."
"Erik, you need to pee on him!" I cried.
"I can't. I just peed in the ocean," he replied (he's going to kill me for writing that, but there it is).

In hindsight, I don't think it was a jellyfish. I base this on my extensive jellyfish sting knowledge, which includes that one Friends episode, and the 10 minutes I spent on the internet looking at jellyfish sting pictures. Today the sting is gone and so is the memory, because Ethan whispered in my ear this morning, "Mommy, when we're done with breakfast, can we go out to Sentosa?"


Computers, like animals, can sense fear. They know when the person befor them is unsure, and therefore, control is easy to wrest away.

I am a fearful person when it comes to computers. When I sit at the controls, the inner workings of the computer buck and jerk away from me so that I am left riding without reins. What seemed simple in my husband's instructions become an insurmoutable problem because I have lost control. I can almost hear the computer snickering.

Take now, for example. I am writing this post in notebook form because I cannot get the internet to connect. It says there is a good connection, but nothing will load. This happened because the one person in the house who is not afraid of the computer - my husband - left this morning. The computer is taking advantage of this fact and I doubt I will do anything internet related until he returns on Thursday. But when he does return, you can be sure that everything will be in working order again. It's like, "Ah, the master is gone. I will now work my mischief!"

You see, my husband is like the computer whisperer. The moment I call him in, the computer perks up. sensing the presence of power, it will crawl and bow in front of him and do his bidding with a humble whine. What was insurmountable disappears with a few clicks - often the same thing I was just doing will now work like magic.

Until then, I am blocked from cyberspace, at the mercy of my runaway computer.