Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I Speak Good English

Today at Mustafa (yes, I go there alot) I saw a book called "1,000 Commonly Mispronounced English Words" and my first thought was, "according to whom?" It seemed like it was written for people learning English with an Indian language being their first - I was disappointed that it was shrink wrapped so I couldn't look in it.

I've mentioned before that often I can't understand the Singaporean accent. Once in MacDonald's the server had to ask me three times if I wanted "oats" on my yogurt. How differently can you say the word "oats"? In addition to the accent, there are words they say differently, like "metabolism" which is pronounced, "met-a-BOL- ism." Or aluminum which is "AL-u-MIN-ium." Ethan's name is pronounced "Ee-tahn" and Megan is "Mee-gahn." I've noticed they usually place emphasis on different syllables than American English.

Not only do they pronounce things differently, they have different words for many things, mostly British. Like shopping cart is trolley, parking lot is car park, elevator is lift. They don't "turn on the light", they just "on the light" or "off the light." And when the Indians speak English it can sometimes take me a full minute to realize that I should be able to understand them.

I say this not to knock Singaporeans or Indians, but rather, to point out that there isn't one correct way to speak English. As English becomes more and more global, can we ever really define what "real" English is?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Bow to the gods of bureaucracy!

For the first year that you live in Singapore, you don't need to get a driver's license. This seems counter intuitive, since I know far more about Singapore street laws now than I did a year ago. But who am I to question this small glimmer of freedom?

After a year, you need to change your driver's license to a Singapore one. Erik and I are in the process of doing this. Today we drove (oh the irony) to the License Bureau. We had to take numbers and wait for about two hours before we could sit down with a clerk. We were required to bring our passports, work permits, and of course money. We had a bit of a hiccup when we didn't produce our actual work permits but merely photocopies of them. The clerk had to check with a few people to make sure that was ok. We took brief eye tests, and then were able to schedule a time to take our tests. Yep. All that work just to schedule the test.

So a month from now (because it's always at least a month later) we get to go back to the same place, making sure that we bring our real work permits, and spend an hour answering questions like "When should you use the hand brake? a) whenever you stop, b) only when stopping on slopes, or c) whenever the foot brake is faulty. The correct answer is a, fyi, according to Singapore standards. I think we're going to have to study.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Driving defensively

I've been easing back into driving here in Singapore. Aside from driving on the left side (which isn't that hard really) I have the added anxiety of driving in high traffic. I've been driving for two months in rural Minnesota. There are places where you could lay on the highway for hours without getting hit. People on every side make me edgy.

I've had a few, well, let's call them "mishaps" rather than "things that could have warranted a fine" since I got back. First of all, I'm a pretty nervous driver. My friends and family, if pressed, would probably say that they don't enjoy driving with me cause I act like everyone out there is going to pull an idiot move and hit me. It's called being defensive. One step short of totally paranoid. In contrast, my husband Erik makes me nervous with his overconfident driving. We've developed a signal - if he's ever driving too close to someone or something else that makes me feel an accident is imminent, I go limp. You know, because if you're relaxed in an accident you're less likely to get hurt.

Anyway, earlier in the week I was so concerned about making sure I was going to be in the correct lane at the next stoplight that I blew through the crosswalk stoplight right in front of me. Fortunately, the woman had only started to cross and was nowhere near my car yet. Immediately after that I was almost sideswiped by a taxi and then a truck who both thought it necessary to enter my lane with great haste. So all that really upped my white knuckled grip on the steering wheel.

Today I drove to the grocery store and noticed that the car park there doesn't bother me nearly as much as it used to. Then I found a rare parking spot near the market and I started thinking, "See, this driving thing isn't so bad. I'm getting the hang of it again!" And as I left the market, I turned the wrong way down a one way street.

I noticed my mistake right away and thought, "Maybe I can just back up onto the street again." Sure enough, someone had pulled up but in the right lane instead of the left so I could correct my mistake. But wait, were those lights on that car? Brilliant! I had managed to pull my idiotic move right in front of a police officer. I started praying, "Please don't pull me over. Please just . . . wait. Are they laughing? They are kind of laughing. Not outright laughing, but definitely smiling. I think they're going to ignore me!" It felt like I'd done some kind of Jedi mind trick, "Drive away. Forget about the stupid foreign woman who turned the wrong way." So much for my driving finesse.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

My life in a commercial

This afternoon I had the sadistic impulse to push 100 pounds of kids and double stroller to Mustafa for groceries. Mustafa after 2 p.m. is like Target the day after Christmas. But what can I say? We needed food. And hand soap. But it turned out to be an amusing outing.

I passed two women, one who appeared to be the mom of the other, both pushing single strollers. The younger one commented in Chinese that my stroller seemed quite useful (she actually called it a "train"). I thought, "This would make a perfect commercial: "Sick and tired of making your mom push one of your kids every time you go somewhere? Get the Graco Duo Glider!"

Then, two women passed us on bikes. They were squinting into the sun and one said to the other that I had the good idea to wear sunglasses (this was also in Chinese). Cut to commercial, "You don't want to get early wrinkles from squinting do you? Then buy these fabulous sunglasses right now at Walmart for only $5!" I was still chuckling about that when I walked in the door of Mustafa and the guard exclaimed, "Ehhhh, double double!" which you have to read with a strong Indian accent to understand why it amused me.

After 15 minutes of crazed grabbing to get out as soon as possible, I noticed a huge display of Corn Flakes, "imported from England" for the bargain price of S$7.80 a box. I was contemplating what a boring box it is - white, with that red and green chicken that looks freaky without an actual eye - when two women walked over, picked up a box and literally oohed and ahhed. One said, "oooooh" and the other said, "Ahhhh" and then talked about the cereal. I thought at that point, "Ok, is there a camera following me?"

In all the excitement, I forgot to buy bread.

It's downright balmy!

Since we've been back, we have been blessed in the weather department. I think God knows we need to ease back into things. It's been cloudy most days, which makes it relatively cool, albeit still quite humid. It's usually somewhat breezy though so you don't notice the humidity so much until, say, you realize that you forgot to put parking coupons on your car and have to run across a huge park before the parking nazi discovers you. Then you sweat.

Strangely, weather.com says that it is currently 84 degrees with 84% humidity making it feel like 95. I have to disagree. Must be that 7 mile an hour wind. Please don't let this scare anyone off from visiting. You get used to it, really.

Ok, still off to swim before the sun comes out and drives that UV index up to 11.

Up at the crack of dawn

Getting up at the crack of dawn in Singapore is actually a good thing for our family, because it happens at about 7 a.m. every day. It seems this morning we finally got over the hump of jet lag. When our kids ventured out at 7 and 7:15 respectively, they were not only awake but cheerful.

I myself slept from 9:30 to 6:15, sleeping through my alarm which means I was really tired. I'm the kind of light sleeper who wakes up when people in the next apartment roll over. Suddenly, we all have a new lease on life and I have the energy to move out of our complex. We hopped in the car this morning and went to a park. Driving again in Singapore is fodder for another post later. Right now, we're off to the pool!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

His view of me

I didn't start my blog with the purpose of sharing anything other than our adventures, so it's a bit unusual that I feel compelled tonight to share something more personal. It's not that I don't like sharing personal thoughts - actually I have to keep myself from blurting out a lot of them most of the time (I'm not much for small talk). I just prefer not to pour my heart out into the great electronic abyss.

But lately I've been mulling something over in my mind that God is teaching me through a variety of ways and it is this: I think that most of the issues we have with self-esteem and insecurity and all that are a result of not seeing ourselves the way God sees us. If we really believe that we are Beloved, that the God of the universe is in love with us and is constantly working for our good, if we make that our central thought and core identity, the opinions of the world have to dissolve. It seems so elemental, but it takes a discipline of the mind to keep this perspective when everything around us tells us otherwise. My desire in life right now is to pursue this, to let how God sees me be the way I see myself.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

So Ethan starts kindergarten this fall and I'm going to homeschool him, for reasons of which I'm sure on most days. :) We haven't officially started since we're still reeling a bit from jet lag, but this morning we were doing a craft with glue and sheets of foam and other things, but the important thing for you to know is the glue part. Anyway, in a moment of nostalgia, I covered the back of my hand with glue and let it dry so I could peel it off like skin. Ethan thought that was pretty cool and did it on both his hands. He wanted to leave it on one hand until Erik came home but soon discovered the impracticality of it.

Did anyone else do the glue thing when they were kids? Maybe it was just me at my progressive elementary school.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Back in the tropics

It's 7:30 p.m. here and I am trying my best to stay awake. We lost the kids to sleep at 7:10 tonight, which is about 10 minutes later than last night. We're thankful though that they've managed to sleep through both nights after coming back, albeit waking up quite early (about 5 yesterday and 6 today).

So the reason I left everyone wondering if we'd actually made it back to Singapore is that we haven't had internet access. It's the only explanation. Because as my brother in law Andrew seems to think, I normally have absolutely nothing better to do than update my blog. So I deeply apologize to all of you whose lives were hanging in the balance there waiting to hear from me. Someday Andrew will be married and have small children, and then I will be able to laugh at him and ask him why on earth it took him 4 days to finish a 600 page book (as was recently the case with my reading of the 6th Harry Potter). I can poke fun at Andrew like this because he's such a good sport and more importantly, he's thousands of miles away now that we're back Singapore. :)

Monday, August 08, 2005

double rainbow at Glacier

Erik's incredibly proud of this picture

overdue pictures from Glacier

Ethan's new passion

Megan and Emma back together and naked in the pool

Beating the heat



Megan and Ethan

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Look Ma, no hands!

I always knew I would hear the above phrase from one of my kids. I was a little surprised to hear it first from my daughter today. Fortunately, she was in a swing - the kind that is really a chair with safety straps.

I was surprised because she's the more cautious one of the two. But caution in relation to Ethan is like saying that a rock climber is cautious compared to a base jumper.

And on that note, Ethan decided this week that it was time for him to ride without training wheels. So he hunted through my dad's tools, found a wrench, took off the training wheels and rode away. Just like that. The next day he decided a 12" was too tame so he took the training wheels off the bigger bike and rode that down the street. Then around the block. Then to the park a mile away (with Erik) like he'd been doing it for years.

So I guess that whole thing about waiting until your kids are ready to do something has some merit.

Somewhere out there, Martha Stewart is laughing

I am not the world's best cook. I hate cooking. I love baking. But I am also not the world's best baker. You may remember the infamous brownie broiling incident. Tonight I topped that, I think.

So I volunteered to bake 4 dozen bars for a funeral this Friday, because there's nothing better than baking and giving it away. That way you can taste a lot of while you're baking but not actually eat it afterwards, thus relieving yourself of many potential added pounds.

My mom and I made an old standby, Oatmeal Carmelites. When we made the oatmeal part both of us thought, "boy, that looks funny" but proceeded to cook it anyway. That was a mistake. When something looks funny, you should really go back to the recipe and re-read the part where you were supposed to add two cups of flour. That way, it doesn't come out as simply the same stuff only warmer.

Nevertheless, it tastes good. Not good enough to send it to the funeral because I can't think of many things ruder than giving someone bad baked goods during a sad time. But good enough to nibble and laugh about for awhile!