Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Quotable Ethan

Here's a sentiment from Ethan with which I wholeheartedly agree.
"If chocolate was good for you and didn't have any sugar in it, then I would eat chocolate every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner and for a snack. And I would drink chocolate milk for a drink."

Amen to that my son. So much for having children who grow up not really desiring sugar. I swear I don't let them each that much, but they've inherited their mother's cravings. At least he's aware that it's not that good for him.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Easing me back into the culture

I had to pull my Chinese out prematurely this morning. I went to the Chinese embassy to get my rush visas done. I was already running a little later than I hoped, so when the guard met me and informed me that I couldn't go in, I was a bit perturbed. I asked him where I could park, but he just gave me a blank stare.
"Fujin you mei you car park?" Is there a carpark nearby?
"Mei you. Ni yingai qu 70 meters nei bian." There isn't one. You need to go 70 meters that way.
"Wo yinggai zai nar park?" Where can I park?
"Wo bu zhi dao." I don't know.
Wow. That was incredibly helpful. I drove in to turn around and was told by an official looking embassy person that I could park up there. I parked, got out, realized I had amazingly and beyond all conceiveable stupidity forgot our passports, and then saw the same guard coming up to tell me that no in fact I could not park there.

Ok, I have to insert a little PR hint for the Chinese embassy: If you want people to come, you might want to provide a place to park. Either that or inform them of the need to taxi.

We rushed home and hopped in a taxi on the way back. I decided that since the driver was listening to a Chinese radio station, I should try out my hua yu, as Mandarin is called here. We had a nice conversation - one of the first where a taxi driver here actually compliments my speaking rather than criticizing me for not being fluent.

Back at the embassy, I tried to go to the same place, but my guard nemesis redirected me again "70 meters" away. Sure enough, he knew what he was talking about. We got the number 390. Not good when they're on 355 and there's only one window. I quickly realized though that old habits of the mainland die hard because many people either hadn't taken a number or just weren't bothering to follow them. Neither was the woman behind the counter at all phased that when she rang for 358 four separate groups of people showed up at her counter. Finally, I decided to stop being the obedient queuer and went up between numbers.

All this is preparing me for our trip tomorrow. I hope I'll have more of the pleasant hua yu conversations and less of the frustrating stuff.

The Price of Stupidity

Few feelings are as uncomfortable as the one I had when, last Friday, I casually asked my husband, "Hey, did you ever get our visas to go to China?" The look on his face made it apparent that the answer was no.

Never fear - one day turn around to the rescue. This does create some inconvenience for me today, as I have to go to the embassy between 9-12 to drop off our passports, and pick them up between 3-4. The more frustrating thing is the amount of money we will have to shell out to get them this fast. That, my friends, is called the price of stupidity. Call it the price of carelessness if you want to be more gracious, but we might as well have just flushed that money down the toilet.

But all that to say we're very excited to go to China! I looked at the weather today and I'm thrilled to see that it will only be dipping down into the mid-40's there this week. I was imagining something more like the 20's. So we won't freeze, but I fear it won't snow. I was really hoping it would snow for my kids' sake. We even bought some rain boots at Mustafa on the off chance it might. It rarely snows in this part of China so the chances were never really that good.

And finally, I'll close with a Megan quote from yesterday. We were driving to Picket and Rail, the infamous store where we got our wrong color bed, to exchange our mirror. Once we mounted it we realized that it has a fun house quality to it. Turns out all the mirrors there possess that quality so we got one that does it a little less. But the point of my story: driving there, Megan was chewing gum. Suddenly she cried and said, "My gum fell out of my mouth and it went . . . . somewhere." She was really distraught so we had a hard time holding back the chuckles. Maybe you had to be there.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Speaking the language

Last week at the doctor's office, I was proud of my ability to speak in a way that would be understood by the women behind the counter. What I said was, "Can I top up my cash card in the car park?" For you non-Singlish speakers, that translates to "Can I put more money on that little card that sticks in the doo-hickey on my dashboard and allows me to pay for parking automatically down in the parking lot?"

I've said it before - just because someone speaks English doesn't mean they speak your English. This morning in the furniture store I caught myself adopting a slight Singaporean accent so that I could be understood by the sales man (imagine combining a Chinese accent with an Indian one and you're about right). But I draw the line at this: In Coffee Bean this morning, Erik went to the counter and said, "Could I have a serviette?" (a napkin). I said, "I can't believe you said serviette." His response, "Hey, you gotta be understood." I know, but that word gives me the creeps.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Hair woes

I don't know any man who has ever cried over a haircut. Maybe I just don't know the right men, but I do know women who have cried over a haircut, including myself. And now, my daughter.

I really thought that she shouldn't have to cry over a haircut until she's at least a teenager, but our little girl does have quite a sensitive heart. Couple that with a strong desire to be exactly like her friend Faith, and you get a child who was not happy with the haircut mommy gave her.

In all fairness, it's not a bad haircut. I'll admit it's shorter than I had planned, but it doesn't look bad. Just short. Partly that's because it curls when it's dry, and partly because I'm not a professional hairdresser (leaning more heavily toward the latter). But she took one look at it in the mirror and burst into tears, insisting that she didn't want it that way, like somehow I could change it.

I gave her all the reasons for it, which to me are quite valid. For one thing, brushing her long hair every day was torture for both of us, especially since you can't find spray in conditioner here (or at least I can't - if someone has a tip on that I'd appreciate it). And because she won't let me put it up in pony tails or anything, she has heat rash on her neck all the time from that thick hair laying on it. That's what finally made me decide that shorter would be better.

But none of these pragmatic reasons mattered to Megan. All she could see was that she was no longer like Faith. After a short time though, she decided that she likes it, and it looks cute. I think she'd look cute if we shaved her, but you won't see any posts about me doing that.

Pictures and more pictures

I just posted pictures of our trip to Bintan, as well as the Deeparaya celebration, on our website. I don't like to take up space with so many pictures here.

Island hopping

Within a quick plane or ferry ride in any direction of Singapore there are a thousand islands available for vacation. We finally took the opportunity to visit one of them from Friday to Saturday with some friends of ours.

Our island of choice was Bintan, Indonesia. Even though it was less than an hour by ferry, and we were there for less than 48 hours, we had to bring along passports and visas. The trouble is well worth it though for the fun that you can have.

We stayed at the Bintan Lagoon Resort. I don't know how it ranks compared to other places on the island (which is quite a large island, at least compared to Singapore) but we thought it was beautiful! We had first floor ocean view rooms. We realized we don't often stay in hotels with our kids because Ethan kept wondering where the kitchen, washing machine, and other ammenities were. On Saturday when we looked at villas you can rent, he was all ready to move in to our "new home." We've got to get out more.

Friday morning we pulled in around 9 a.m. The guys took the kids swimming (they have three boys who are 7, 5, and 3) while Wendy and I rested. After lunch Wendy and I got reflexology massages while the guys read and the kids watched a movie. Later that afternoon we girls took the kids to the other pool and the guys - well, I don't know what they did actually.

Saturday morning Erik and Steve went golfing (getting on the ferry there were baggage carts full of just golf clubs) and we took the kids to the beach, and then swimming. Since we are in the tropical rainforest climate we did have to endure a torrential rainstorm, but that was mercifully during lunch and video arcade time. We had to check out of our rooms a little early so we wandered around on the beach during low tide. The kids were wiped by the time we got back on the ferry.

A good time was had by all. The kids want to know when we get to go back! Pictures to come.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


I realized yesterday while watching The Incredibles (or in our case, "Los Increibles" as it says on the disk) that I have Elastigirl's haircut. Sort of. I have the potential to look like Elastigirl because my hair is cut the same way. I'm just not a cartoon character so it doesn't poof up as much as hers.

So now you can have a little mental picture of what I look like these days.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Happy Deeparaya

Even though Deepavali is an Indian holiday and Hari Raya is the end of Ramadan for the Muslims, last Saturday night our nearby community center hosted a Deeparaya celebration for both holidays. Our neighbors (also Americans) invited us to join them.

Upon entering, it was clear that we were the only white faces present and that this fact was of great interest to others. We were led to the second row of seats marked "reserved." My friend Karen and I discovered then, much to our dismay, that the advertised "buffet" was going to happen after the celebration, which began at 8 p.m. I'm at "eat around 6" kind of girl, so I wasn't thrilled by the thought of eating at 10 p.m. Her husband ran out and nabbed some peanuts for us.

The evening was quite entertaining. It had the community center feeling, where it seemed like the event planners were making some of it up as they went along, and the range of quality of the performers was pretty big. One girl sang twice in the traditional Indian voice, with her typed out lyrics held a few inches from her face. Another guy sang a few songs in Malay. He had a great, soothing voice - almost lounge singer like but not in a bad way. I told Erik the first song sounded like how I imagine a James Bond theme song would be in Malay. You could tell he was loving being on stage.

They had a few dances - some traditional Malay, some Indian. The Indian dances were performed by a girl who looks to be only about 10 but has been professionally dancing this traditional kind of dance since she was 7 (started learning at 4). It was fascinating to watch, especially because she had amazing facial expressions and the largest eyes I have ever seen outside of a cartoon character.

One of the most entertaining parts though was the parade of children age 4-9 competing in a costume contest. So beautiful! Pictures and hopefully video of the Indian dancer soon to come.

We were treated almost like honored guests after the celebration. They led us to the front of the buffet line (which mercifully started at 9:20) and several people came over and asked how we liked it. I'm glad we went - it gave me a glimpse into the Indian and Malay cultures that I would probably never just run into on the street.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

In case you're wondering where Santa Claus is during the year - apparently not always at the North Pole.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Goggles . . .

Because you never know when bath time is going to get a little crazy

New local pictures

Today we took a quick trip to the bookstore. On the way I snapped some pictures of some of the temples and buildings that are near our house. I didn't want to take up space here with all of them, so take a gander at our website.


Yesterday a man was about to get in the pool when we went out to swim. He was wearing a nice, normal red and blue swimsuit. Once he got in though, I saw that he'd left his suit behind. Underneath he was wearing a white string bikini. This was disturbing to me. A Speedo is one thing, but this was too much. Ew.

When he was done swimming, he seemed like he was lingering in the pool. My friend and I moved over to the kiddie pool and turned our backs to him so he could get out in privacy, though I don't know why he thought that was important. It's not like we couldn't see what he was wearing when he was in the pool.

Proving my point

This life as a musical thing has escalated to the point of being almost ridiculous. Megan is at this moment singing an apology to Ethan for accidently doing something to him, to the tune of the alphabet song. Imagine this, "I'm sorry, you're ok, I'm sorry, you're ok." Can you hear it? I hope to catch a video clip to put on here soon.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Heavenly Man

Last night I started reading a book called The Heavenly Man, the story of Brother Yun, an incredible Christian brother in China. Within the first 20 pages I think I'd said, "Wow" or gotten chills all over my body more than a dozen times. The miracles which have marked his life, the total faith he has in God, the ways he hears from Him, are beyond imagination. I was humbled and awe-struck. When I stopped reading after about an hour and a half, my only response was to get on my knees before God in praise and confession. Oh to be used like this man! I know it cannot happen unless I surrender myself as he has.

If you haven't read this book (I imagine many have never heard of it) you should hunt it down. I guarantee it'll put some things in perspective.

Monday, November 07, 2005

My Life as a Musical

The Happy Hour is in full gear here tonight as Megan is singing herself to sleep. She does that if she's had a nap in the afternoon, because then she isn't tired. The tune of choice is "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea."

This is not limited to bedtime. Megan sings her way through life, like she's in a musical and everything must be sung, instead of said. Even mundane things like, "It's time to eat our toast." She puts it all to the tune of Jesus Loves Me or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or some variation thereof. I like it. It adds a little fun to life.

My bed arrived today. We've worked out a solution for the old bed, but the new bed has a slight problem in that it's not really the right color. It's walnut, but we had asked for a lighter shade that shows the grain of the wood and isn't as red. We didn't get that. I went back to the store and begged the man for the display model which was exactly what I wanted. He wouldn't give, but he did order up another bed specifying my desires this time. With any luck in about three days time I'll have the right color.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Mystery solved

What leads a three year old to sing herself to sleep by the Hokey Pokey? I'm told by my friend Liz that it's because that afternoon when she watched them, she sang it for them. I confirmed this with the kids. It seems that Liz did all the singing though and my kids just watched, which I think was quite brave of her. Doing the hokey pokey feels a little goofy in groups but by yourself can feel downright awkward.

So, mystery solved. In other news, our new bed arrives tomorrow and we're having a bit of a time trying to get our landlady to take her old one back. We're told she had no storage space for it. Our response is, "Neither do we!" So we're hoping our real estate woman can work some magic for us.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Blast from the Past

You may remember the elevator dressing incident of November 18, 2004. If not, please read it in the November archives. It's got to be the funniest thing that's happened to me here.

Well, yesterday in the elevator I ran into the perpetrator. I think he recognized me by the embarassed look on his face. Interestingly, it seems he is either a Christian or just happened to be wearing a shirt with a blatant Christian message (I think it had John 14:6 on it). That's the first time I've seen him in nearly a year, which seems odd. Maybe he's been hiding from me.

Last night, in an unrelated event, I heard Megan singing herself to sleep with the Hokey Pokey. This is a bit of a blast from the past because I don't remember the last time we sang that song together. I think it might have been last fall some time when my friend Karen was teaching them music for homeschool. I have no idea what triggered that, but it sure cracked me up.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Another link

For awhile, our settings were such that pictures we posted went onto our website instead of our blog. Erik switched it this morning, but for a few pictures of our neighborhood, hit this link.

Checking out Ethan's stash

It was like being the states, with the loads of decorations everywhere! It looked like it was a requirement or something.


Mrs. Incredible

Ethan got the hang of it quickly

Some people had their maids give out the candy

Trick or treating with friends

from left: Ryan, Kirsten, Ethan, Avery and Megan