Sunday, August 26, 2007

Singapore Facts

I have discovered this summer that people know as little about Singapore as I did before I moved there. When Erik said we'd been asked to go, I had to look it up on a map. I thought it was near Fiji. It's not.

So here are some fun facts about Singapore. After reading this post, you'll know so much about Singapore than "An American kid got caned there once." (From what I've heard, he had it coming).

1. Singapore is an island, a city, and a country all by itself. It is connected to Malaysia by two bridges but otherwise stands alone.

2. Singapore is located about 100 kilometers north of the equator, south of Malaysia, north of Indonesia. Despite its proximity to the tsunami, it was protected from any damage by being surrounded by those two countries.

3. They speak English in Singapore. Not like "if you go to Germany most people speak English" kind of English. This is in the "It's one of the official languages, everyone learns it in school, all the signs are in English, it's what's expected" kind of English. So no, I don't use my Mandarin in Singapore. Only on rare occasions if I feel like cracking it out for the chicken vendor.

4. Singapore is only about 15 miles by 25 miles long. That's probably why most people don't know where it is.

5. Being so close to the equator, the weather is pretty consistent all year round. The weather report on reads, "88-90 degrees, 60% chance of rain" every single day of the year. You can get more specific reports, but basically the only weather question you ask yourself is, "Will it rain today?" Chances are "yes."

6. I am not worried about being caned. Fined, yes, caned, no. Singapore is not oppressive as it might seem from reports. It actually is a highly developed, extremely efficient and smoothly running country, in large part due to high penalties for crimes and other infractions. I feel safer there than anywhere.

7. Though it is surrounded by developing countries, we lack for no western thing in Singapore. In fact, right now I miss something Minnesota doesn't have, which is the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. It has hands down the best Chai Latte in the world. So don't cry for us there - we're living well.

8. Singapore is home to a multitude of cultures and religions. The population is strongly Chinese, but also Indian, Malaysian,

Friday, August 24, 2007

Minnesota is closed

No attempts should be made to enter Minnesota these days. In addition to the 35W bridge collapse, they closed I94 last weekend, effectively cutting off both north/south and east/west traffic at the same time. If it were me, I might think to stop all construction on the other highways surrounding the Twin Cities, but I'm not in charge. So trying to use alternate routes has proven an excellent way to strengthen one's patience. On top of that, all the confusion seems to have caused people to lose control of their vehicles more than usual. So if the construction's not stopping you, a roll over is. We haven't had a normal drive through the area since June.

In the south, don't come unless by boat. We've had record rainfalls, excessive flooding, houses literally floating away. It just isn't a sensible time to get around in this state. You've been warned.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wild Places

I bought a book this summer called The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places. I thought it would be good for me, since I am not by nature an outdoor person (in the winter I've been known not to leave my house for 4-5 days at a time). Also, even though Singapore is a beautiful green city, it doesn't have the backyards readily available here. We have to seek outdoor places.

Tonight I enjoyed watching my kids explore the outdoors in Erik's parents backyard, which is a good size and lined with trees. Ethan gathered sticks for a fire, and Megan took a bucket to collect "acorns" (actually pine cones) to throw on it. She got mud stuck between her toes and dirt on her knees, and I loved it.

As a kid, we spent hours outdoors, usually in our backyard, often in the park across the street, sometimes a few blocks away at the creek. It makes me sad that I don't seem to see kids out as much as we did then. I hope to reverse that a little with my kids, and not just by spending time in the pool. I love watching their imaginations come to life.

On Driving 35W North

If you follow US news at all, you probably heard of the bridge collapse in Minnesota recently. That happened about a mile south of where Erik and I used to live off of Broadway St. when we worked at the University of Minnesota. I always hated that bridge, the ka-thunk, ka-thunk sound it made when you crossed it.

Today I had to drive north on 35W to get to Como Zoo, so it was on my mind. I passed under a bridge south of it that looked a bit worn, and for a second I had a palpable yet irrational fear that it would drop on us. This thought had never crossed my mind before the accident of course. As I got closer to the collapse I had a mixed sense of sadness and community, like I was drawn into the experience of the people around me who were just as likely to have been on that bridge as those who were. When tragedies like that happen, the media often focuses on how neighbors and strangers come to the aid of victims, in a way that shows pride and an element of surprise. Why should we be surprised? I think that the day no one responds to someone else's pain will mark the end of humanity.

So anyway, I wondered how I might feel getting closer to that, and now you know. Tomorrow we may actually get close enough to see it when we go to downtown Minneapolis.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Together again!

In the fall of 2003, a sad thing happened to our family - our closest friends left us for six months. I though Ethan might shrivel up for loss of his best friend Jackson, but God saw fit to send the Rygh family to live next door. From day one, Ethan and Ellee were together every day, sometimes in quite comfortable settings as you can see here. They loved each other, and Ethan has sworn that he will marry Ellee someday. Her mother and I are in full agreement and plan to do everything we can to ensure that it takes place.

This picture shows them literally on day 1. What bonds kids better than sharing Chinese fruit snacks?

After a three year drought, we've finally been able to catch up with Ellee and her family. It was a slow start, but once Ethan showed Ellee how to play Star Wars lego computer game, it was like no time had passed.

How cute is this crew? Isaac and Hannah round out the Rygh clan (with little Josiah hopefully coming from Guatemala soon!). We've talked about the possibility of Megan and Isaac . . .