Friday, November 24, 2006


It has happened at last - I found something FREE in Singapore! The little boxes of funky instant coffee they insist on giving me at the convenience store across the street don't count, and not just because I don't drink coffee. No, what I found is infinitely better. In fact, it may have just made my holiday season. Erik and I stopped by the Thompson Road nurseries today in search of a Christmas wreath (knowing full well we couldn't afford the real trees). I saw a foreign woman pushing a cart full of pine branches. I stopped her and asked where she found them. She told me there was a big pile of them at the back, all for the taking.

I don't know if the Singaporeans there thought it was weird, but I piled a cart full as well and trotted off, happy to be smelling real pine for the first time in Asia. My house now has branches scattered wherever possible - I even gave half of them away to a friend because I ran out of space! I know they'll die quickly, but there's more where those came from, as long as word doesn't get out too fast. Merry Christmas to me!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My Subtle Rebellion

I believe in the States, people say "cell phone" or "mobile phone" or maybe just "cell" when they refer to their phones. Here, in general, if you use any phrase other than "hand phone" with a local, you'll get a blank stare. This is a direct translation, as far as I can tell, from the Chinese, "shou ji" which means literally, "hand machine."

I think Singaporeans are probably even more apt to carry a hand phone and use it than people in the States. In fact, many people don't have a land line. If you are giving your "particulars" (personal information) to someone, they will insist on a hand phone number. They don't even want your home number.

Now, I homeschool my kids. I'm home most of the day. And when I'm out, I do like the convenience of having my phone, but I'm not attached to it. In fact, at the moment, I am unaware of the location of my hand phone. I'm started to get mildly concerned (and yes, I have tried calling it. It's turned off). But my point is that in part, I don't want to attached at the hip, no pun intended, to my phone. To me, the need to be able to call or message someone and have them always available or respond immediately, smacks of the need for instant gratification. Have we lost all patience? Have we forgotten what life was like before hand phones and email? Before answering machines even? Remember when we were kids and we called our friends and the line was busy? We had to call back. What if they weren't even home - my word, what did we do?! Oh yeah, we waited and called again. Yeah, convenience is great, my life is blessed because of it. But I don't want to let my life be run by it.

Now I'm off to hunt for that phone. I'm sure someone's tried to call or message me and they're annoyed that I haven't responded.

Holiday traditions

Now, I'm not the kind of person who is intent on making sure that my children have an American upbringing outside of the U.S. But when it comes to holidays, there is one tradition that I have instilled in our family that I consider classic American. Right now my kids are sitting with some friends on the couch watching the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special. At Halloween they watched The Great Pumpkin, and you'd better believe they'll watch the Christmas one, most likely more than once. Some things you just can't let go.

The Singaporean Squirrel

It didn't occur to me until yesterday that I have never seen a squirrel here in Singapore. Geckos aplenty, but no squirrels. Instead, we have a replacement - the monkey. Now, I'm not saying that monkeys are as numerous here as they are in the States. But they aren't unusual, and they give you that same creepy feeling of, "I know this animal is smaller than me, but it could inflict damage if provoked." We saw some at the park - four of them on what seemed to be a family outing away from Upper Pierce Reservoir across the road. Since there were a number of us there with snacks and water bottles, they hovered with menacing looks, and were even cheeky enough to attack unwatched items. Someone tried to shoo them away and was hissed at. Yikes. I miss the squirrels.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pearl of the Andaman

Phuket Island is nicknamed "The Pearl of the Andaman." Let me first of all clarify that Phuket is pronounced Poo-ket. And Andaman refers to the Andaman Sea, off the west coast of Thailand. This area was hit hard by the Tsunami but has recovered well. It was our vacation spot for three days with my parents.

We arrived Wednesday morning. By the afternoon we'd mustered up enough energy to go to the beach, then to the Dino Park Mini-golf which was probably the coolest mini-golf place I've ever been. Thursday morning we hopped on some elephants for a quick ride, attempted some market shopping in the afternoon (markets and kids don't mix), and finished our evening at The Green Man. This is a great English style restaurant and pub owned by a British expat and his Thai wife. It was fantastic, and he told us some fascinating stories about what it was like to be on Phuket when the tsunami hit.

Friday morning we intended to go to a waterfall, but we were informed that they were low on water. Instead, we hired a long boat to take us to Freedom Beach, just north of where we were staying (Katon Beach). We spent a beautiful two hours there exploring and looking for crabs. Megan, as you can see, had a great time being carried around by the waves. I'm always amazed at how clear the water can be in the tropics.

Erik and I made another quick run to the market in the afternoon, and then we watched our children grow wild with pent up energy through the rest of the afternoon as we just hung around our hotel until it was time to leave. The Andaman sunset was a perfect way to end our short stay.

A rare shot of Ethan and me

How fast can you run?

Dino park mini golf

Butterflies at the elephant park

Dinner at The Green Man

You know you're not in Kansas anymore when . . .

We take to the open sea

Freedom beach

long boat

enjoying the ocean

blue eyed and sun kissed

Don't stare too hard kids!

Our last night in Phuket

Andaman sunset

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Necessary Skills

My dad told me that Lexus just came out with a car that parks itself. To me, this is the adult equivalent of velcro. There is a whole generation of children who do not need to know how to tie their shoes because they have velcro. Do we want to not know how to park our own cars anymore? This is frightening to me because both shoe tying and car parking are skills that you may be called upon to use, and do you want to have to admit that you can't do them?

This brings me to a running list in my head of "Skills Every Adult Should Have." Here they are, subject to change:
1. Change a diaper
2. Jump start a car
3. Drive a stick shift car
4. Swim
5. Operate a computer, including email and internet
6. Pump gas (most Singaporeans I'm guessing can't do this - it's all full serve)
7. Ride a bike
8. Do CPR

This is not an exhaustive list, but it's what I can remember off the top of my head. Feel free to add to it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Out with the old, In with the new

Coming up on two years since Ethan lost his first tooth, the replacement is just now coming in. That's what happens when you knock them out - they don't come in until they would have naturally. I was looking forward to my son having a full mouth of teeth again (although the other top one is still missing, has been for 18 months) but last night at dinner he held out his hand with a tooth in it and grinned a bloody grin. Now it will be a contest to see if that top tooth can get all the way in before this new bottom one does.