23 February 2011

Nannies - a fascinating observation

Yesterday, I watched as a mum finishes her gym workout whilst her son is outside being surpervised by the nanny. As mum exits the gym she proceeds to walk ahead of her son completely oblivious to the fact that the nanny is struggling to manage the boy. The mum leaves complete responsibility to the nanny even in her presence.

My first thought in seeing this is how de-sensitized the mum has become in relation to the care and discipline of her own child. The nanny is doing the rearing and caring.

To be fair, the nannies are a great source of help for dual income families where both parents work long hours. The children are safely cared for by someone they trust. The nanny is in charge of the cooking, cleaning, school pick up/drop off, food shopping, playground/pool time and any other supervision required.

However, in the 3 weeks I have been here, from 5pm onwards the playgrounds are full of kids playing with all the nannies in tow every single day. Of the quantity of people in the play area 85% are the nannies.

Where are the parents? Do they play with the kids when they leave the playground for dinner time? Interesting questions, which I'm sure I'll learn about over time.

It has also not taken long to be able to tell the nannies from the parents. They are all the same height, give or take 5cm. They all wear knee-length shorts with fitted T-shirts. They all have long hair hanging just past their bra line. (How do they even wear their hair down here. I haven't seen my hair down since I arrived. It's like a woolen scarf on my back.)

Nannies will typically be from the Philippines, Indonesia or Sri Lanka. The Philippino earn about AUD$300 per month whilst the others about $200 per month. Those paid less is because they usually don't speak any English at all. They will be lucky to get a day off per week. Usually they get 1-2 days off per month. They will usually get transport and mobile phone allowance and be flown home to visit family either yearly or bi-yearly. All in all they are cheaper than having a car here. It is not surprising why so many expats flock to the idea of having a nanny who can manage the household and the children.

One of John's colleagues told him that a nanny is entitled to 8 hours off a day and that's to basically sleep. She cannot share a room with a male but can share with another female or with children. It is common practice for nannies to have a nanny mattress (basically a piece of foam maybe 1.5m long) on the floor beside the kids' beds. She gets the extra bonus of caring for the child if he/she wakes up in the middle of the night. Some nannies have the misfortune of sleeping on a mattress by the front door or a hallway. It depends who hires them. It is widely known that expats take better care of them than some locals and nannies usually prefer to work for expats as a result of it. This is largely because expats are not accustomed to this kind of help/service whereas for the locals it is just a way of life. In our apartment the store room which measures a measly 2m x 1m would be the nanny's room if we had one.

But here's the counter to all this doom and gloom. For most nannies who have limited education and come from poor backgrounds, these opportunities are a luxury. They get to live in a room all their own, rather than on a dirt floor with family members as those back home. They get to earn a better income than they would back home. If they have good employers, they would be able to learn some English which is highly sought after here given the expats population.

So it is certainly convenient if you need one, don't mind your privacy being invaded and is obviously very affordable.


22 February 2011

Legal Alien in Singapore + more about food....

We have now collected our ID passes which allows us to do all sorts of things in Singapore, ie establish banking facilities, creche application for TJ, hire/lease a car. Our ID cards look very similar to the Victorian Driver's Licences. Green card with a B&W photo, name and date of birth. Only unique differentation is my fingerprint mark on the rear of the card. I believe that we have to renew our cards every 2 years to continue remaining legally here.

The visit to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) was followed by a return visit to the organic restaurant I described in the Gastronomy blog, called Real Food. We indulged yet again in good food and gave our bodies another injection of vegies and fruit. Here's what we had:

- Broccoli apple juice (very weird flavour. not sure we'd go back for that again)
- Celery apple pineapple (delish)
- Fresh & Grilled Vege Salad with herb greens and avocado, topped with roasted nuts and dressed in balsamic vinegar and oil
- Orange Vinaigrette Salad: potatoes, eggs and roasted pumpkin, with cherry tomatoes, olives, orange slices (TJ ate them all), baby radishes and herb greens. Tossed in fresh OJ, mint, herb vinegar and olive oil.

Very cleansing and filling.

Yesterday, I was finally able to make the first dish at home. With some basic utensils and ingredients, I made a cous cous salad with raw vegies, olives and dressed in a mix of oil, lemon, parsley, ground cumin and ground coriander.

I made another batch today, as John is on a 5 hours teleconference until 9.45pm. I am happy to report that he has had the first half of the cous cous salad and has very much enjoyed it. Expects to finish it off during his dinner break.

Next challenge is to find some new recipes that I can use in a wok with yet again limited ingredients. With no car readily available to do a big supermarket trip, ingredients for the pantry are acquired a little bit at a time. I can just about pull off a stir-fried chinese broccoli in garlic, soy sauce and oyster sauce, just need to add something a little more substantial to that. Meat is quite expensive, so I need to be selective and clever.

Okay, so we seem to be eating all the time. I promise though it's only the standard 3 meals a day. We are just out so often as we wait for our boxes to arrive and our pantry is decently furnished a respectable selection of ingredients. However, then you may be bombarded with my own Asian culinary experiences. Either way we are eating very well, very healthy, getting huge doses of Omega 3 and whilst not bad on the waistline, it's not reducing it either.



PS: We are still having deserts though. Usually a scoop of ice cream. Except for the caramelized almond semifreddo we had at Tavolo Italian Restaurant. We moaned through every bite. Annie, I am taking you there just for the desert. You can have food if you want but desert, I am ordering it.

Life in Singapore ....(PS. You need a coffee it is very long)

We are settling in slowly. Our lounge and dining room furniture has arrived, been assembled and currently being enjoyed. It's nice to no longer be using a mattress as a bed, lounge suite and dining table. It's also nice to tuck away all the technology gadgets and respective wiring. Our beds are arriving on Wednesday and TJ's bed on Friday.

We took a couple of trips out to the local Toys R' Us to buy Trini some toys to play with whilst we still wait for our boxes to arrive. She is a proud owner of a pink scooter with flashing lights that she is currently using by sitting on it and pushing along instead of standing and pushing with one leg. She's also enjoying her 150 pieces of wooden blocks. John and I build and she crashes the pieces. She's also the proud owner of two Thomas wooden trains with their tenders. She also haa a toy ATM Savings Bank which is a great toy but still had some realistic features to it. She can put coins in it that the toy registers and automatically adds. It has a built in calculator and can deposit/withdrawal features with a faux credit card. She also needs a pin code to be able to withdraw otherwise the drawer doesn't open. Is it too early to teach her about the stockmarket?

We picked up some gorgeous giant jigsaw puzzles of really good quality and educational value. Each box consists of 2 floor puzzles measuring 1.5m each when complete. The first set is a Giant ABC & 123 Trains and the second set is Giant Animals on Parade. I was so curious about the designers and manufacturers that I looked them up. I was pleasantly surprised that the company has won numerous awards year on year for their educational toys which maintain a fun factor. They are also 3rd party tested for safety in the US and Europe.

Routine has been difficult to establish as we are still very much in setup mode. Can't open joint bank accounts, until I have the MOM issued ID card which I collect tomorrow. Once I have the cards I can also put in an application for Trini to attend creche. So many things hinge on something else that needs to be done beforehand. Everything we do has to be systematic, which all does eventually come together but it is not a quick process.

I feel as if I am just leaving home for the first time. Applying for the first credit card/bank accounts, applying for ID card, working out the school system (very different here), how does the public transport system work, when is it feasible to catch a taxi over public transport (cause at times it is more efficient and only slightly more expensive but can shave 45min travel time), work out what we are responsible for as tenants vs the landlord, where do I dispose of large cardboard boxes (don't fit down the rubbish chute), organise a login ID for the condominium in order to be able to book the tennis courts or BBQ facilities, can't get the login until I provide my Tenancy Agreement to the management office so we can be registered as new tenants. Do you get the picture?

And all this with a 2 yo in tow, who has a mind of her own, is highly opiniated and extremely stubborn. Gets bored easily and always chooses to take the route that is absolutely the opposite to where we need to go. And then the negotiations begin, or threats or just plain picked up and taken away whilst she arches herself backwards and whines. At times she does our head in. Actually, it's often and she definitely needs to go to creche to hang out with other kids, have daily playground play and all the other developmental programs creches have. The education system here is very interesting and it warrants its own blog (as does the transport system). Will do that another time.

So routine may not really exist but a typical day will go something like this:

7.30am "Mummmmmy, I awake. MILK!!!" pause no response because mummy is still dead to the world. "MUMMMMY I WANT MILK!!!" "Yeah, yeah Trini. Give me a minute" trying to get my senses together. "MIIIIIIIIIIILLLK!!!" okay now I getup get the milk and put the kettle on and then kick John out of bed as he is in charge of the coffee making. We sit like 2 stunned mullets on the couch, coffee in hand, laptop on one side, iPhone on the other, occasionally admiring the view. Yep the ocean is still full of vessels. Check who is swimming downstairs, kids playing in the playgrounds. Cereal comes out for breakfast. Now get some of these prices: small box of Nutrigrain $7.50, Yoplait yoghurt $7.50, 2L full cream milk $5.80 and my daughter continues to guzzle the milk, the cereal and the yoghurt. From here it depends: we may go for a swim in the pool, a walk on the pier or just plain vege in the apartment. John will typically take off for work around 11am as most of his work takes place late afternoon and doesn't get home till about 7.30pm. Most suitable for our lifestyle. John reminded me, how for years we thought how great it would be to start work later and finish later since neither one of us are particularly functional in the morning. We talked about it so often that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Once John is gone, Trini and I will hang inside as it is too hot outside at this point until she goes for a nap. After her nap we usually either go for a swim or play in the playground till daddy gets home for dinner. Dinner is usually near the hawkers market so we get in an evening walk down the beach which is really nice and relaxing, particularly since you see so many other people do the same thing.

Now, you all know I am a big lover of coffee but honestly, I have not ventured out to coffee shops yet. I just have my instant Nescafe in the morning and perhaps one at night. But I do get into the fresh juices and ice cream.

John is enjoying his job. He has a great boss who is adamant about work/life balance, finds it unacceptable to work long hours unless absolutely vital and expects his staff to use up their leave every year. He accepts minimal leave days to be carried into the new year. All we have to figure out is what to do with 5 weeks leave and it is completely acceptable that any unused sick leave, is taken as leave over the Xmas period (it's a Singaporean thing). We may be under pressure to work out how to use that much leave. At the very least we both know that at Xmas time we will be home. The job whilst not easy, it's also not difficult yet. John's boss has indicated that for the first 3 months he wants John to get to know the African way of doing business because each African country is unique in its business approach. The objective is to ensure that when John engages with them he can speak with authority and cultural knowledge.

As for me. I am enjoying the view, the walks, the apartment and the food. I am still wrapping up final bills in Australia and currently keeping busy finding specialist stores for certain things that we require, researching international schools (the Canadian one is coming highly recommended) and generally just trying to get my bearings. Doing lots of internet research. Once Trini is in creche, I will start venturing out to get to know my local shopping, get to know the shopping centres as they all seem to be very different from each other and explore Singapore. I look forward to establishing an exercise routine given that I have a 50m lap pool and a gym on the premises. We are also keen on buying some new roller blades and perhaps even bikes to use on the dedicated paths across the highway. There's about 15kms of bike riding path on the coastline so it should be a very nice way to explore. A BTW note: all new swimming pools in Singapore cannot be any deeper than 1.25m (except diving pools). This law was passed so that any person can jump into a pool to save a child regardless of whether they can swim or not. Not such a silly idea given the quantity of condominiums with pool facilities.

Do I suffer from culture shock? Who the heck knows. I mean there are so many new things going on that perhaps I am and I just can't recognise it. I find my stomach in knots sometimes because I want my boxes and I gotta wait, I don't have a car and with it goes the convenience of coming and going, I need to buy all sorts of things to clean the apartments, be able to cook and just can't carry it all on a bus or train and then, well then, I stop.... and I remember... this is meant to be a whole new experience. To do something so different to what I have done for the last 20 years. To experience a new culture and a different way of living and then everything becomes okay and just get on with it like I usually do.

In the meantime Trini's language is developing exponentially. Daily she surprises us with new words and expressions. Yesterday, we heard her pronounce her name as Trini instead of TinTin. Today we asked if she knew our names (mind you we never really told her) and she articulated John easily whereas I turned out to be more like Siva but I got it that she knew my name as well. It is a pleasant surprise. She no longer talks in basic sentences. She now does paragraphs and articulates herself well enough for us to fully comprehend what she is saying. It doesn't mean that there aren't times when I really just don't get it either. There are but we usually manage to decipher it.

We wanted to start toilet training but after a meeting with the local creche it was recommended that we hold off until she starts creche and gets to know her teachers. She said too many changes taking place for her. They will develop the toilet training over time as they see her being ready and able to articulate her needs. I was relieved since I was not sure how to manage the toilet training given that we have to step out as often as we do whilst still in setup mode.

I hope this was entertaining and long enough.


18 February 2011

Groundhog Day

Some of you may wonder what the wheather is like here. Think the hot version of Groundhog Day.

Average 30 degrees during the day (give or take 2 degrees) and 24 degress overnight. Half the year we get the breeze from the northern hemisphere and the other half from the southern hemisphere. So it's hot all year round, with a breeze all year round.

I wake up in the morning and say "Oh look, it's another sunny day, just like yesterday and the day before and the last 2 weeks. Exactly the same, no deviation."

Humidity levels are very high and in a less ventilated place, mould on clothes is a common factor. I was reading on an expat forum about a girl's experience with humidity. After 2 weeks on holiday she returned to her apartment to find a fine film of mould growing on her clothes along with her leather shoes. I would not have wanted to be in her shoes.

When monsoon season kicks in humidity levels are at 90%. We don't particularly have mould issues but we are proactive about it by using our air conditioners to dry up the air for a couple of hours each night. We have 6 aircons in place, being 2 in lounge/dining, 1 per bedroom & 1 family room. During the day we just open the windows and back door and we get a natural breeze running through the place. Since we are facing south-east, we don't have problems with the western sun and associated heat, and only briefly have the eastern sun shine through our window because the building next to us takes the brunt of the morning sun.


Gastronomy - Eating experiences

I may not be a gastronome but I know good food when I eat it. With no cooking tools and limited food in the cupboards, by default we are forced to dine out at least twice a day (lunch and dinner). So we experiment with different foods, particularly since the names give us no indication as to what me might end up getting.

We have been reasonably lucky to have very nice food 95% of the time. The other 5% just means that we didn't like the flavour or texture, not because there was anything wrong with the food.

For instance, I have been a devout eater of Ikea's meatballs and schnitzels in Richmond. Here the meatballs are very different. I dodn't like the flavour even though Trini did. She can have them. Schnitzels they don't have but they do some exceptionally yummy fried chicken wings. So whenever we visit Ikea that's just what we eat and we don't bother with anything else.

The next place we frequent is the downstairs open air cafe. It faces the pools and everything is cooked fresh. It's a bit of hit and miss, again not because there's anything wrong with the food, it's just that all the names are not descriptive of what we are about to get and we just may not necessarily like it. We are winging it a bit with the ordering but if we didn't we'd just stick to the safe ones that we know and end up eating very boring.

But let me tell you about some of our very yummy experiences. The local hawkers market consists of around 100 stalls of freshly made anything Asian along with a few stalls that squeeze some darn yummy juices for $2 which are not watered down or sugared. Our real estate agent took us out to dinner and across 4-5 stalls he ordered enough food to feed an army. Here is what our dinner consisted of:

- oyster omelette (sounds weird tastes divine)
- chilli stingray
- sambal kang kong (spicy wilted spinach)
- baby bok-choy in oyster sauce
- 40 skewers of chicken, pork, beef
- chilli calamari
- and fried rice of course (no Asian meal is complete without one)
- mango juices all around

Now can you imagine this feast. There was only 4 of us but we steadily went through the food and managed to demolish at least 80% of it. Pretty good effort I'd say.

We have also devoured garlic swordfish, fried chicken wings, more skewers (incl duck) and BBQ sotong (squid) on various other visits.

On someone's recommendation we visited the Mana Mana Beach Club outdoor cafe/restaurant which happens to be only a couple of minutes past the hawkers market. Tonight we feasted on dory fish fillet with ratatouille & passion fruit sauce, linguini aglio oglio with seafood & chilli flakes, margherita pizza for Trini for only $5 and shared a pineapple juice, green apple juice & ginger beer. We then went home to our downstairs cafe for a cone of ice cream which we ate sitting poolside.

After a visit to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for fingerprinting (which means John and I can now be found anywhere in the world, except for TJ as they don't fingerprint under 6 yo. The only thing she'd be guilty of is hijacking ice cream) and application for an ID card we went to Circular Quay and lunched at Real Food. All their food is organic and they serve no meat. The lunch was spectacular. A culinary delight with my taste buds partying for some time thereafter. We got a good dose of vegetable intake via a spinach/carrot/apple juice and also a carrot/ginger/pineapple juice. Trini had organic yoghurt mixed with fresh strawberries, blueberries and banana and topped with crushed peanuts and almonds. We shared a french toast with blueberry and banana topped with honey and an egg & potato with vinagairette salad topped with fetta cheese and cherry tomatoes.

The next target is the East Coast Seafood Centre which is described as a tri-block food centre, located on the beach, all open air restaurant, consisting of 7 major seafood restaurants. Chilli crab and black pepper crab are a specialty. Given that these restaurants are a bit heavier on the pocket, we decided to tackle all of them over a period of time. Perhaps once a month. It is also conveniently located about 10 minutes walk further away from the hawkers market.

Finally, I have mentioned Swensens in previous blogs but it is worth noting again under this blog as it is a truly delightful restaurant. Usually found in shopping centres, it is historically renown as an ice creamery which has diversified into meals as well. You should see some of the ice cream desserts. They are so mouthwatering that they are impossible to choose from. We shared a Firehouse Happy Birthday sundae consisting of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate flavours smothered with strawberry, pineapple and chocolate fudge toppings, cream and maraschino cherries. Meal wise we had salmon 'n mushroom pasta and spaghetti aglio oglio with chilli. We returned for a second visit and both had the spaghetti because it was so lovely and topped it off with a traditional banana split with choc, strawberry and vanilla scoops topped with fudge sauce and almonds. There are so many other meals on this menu, we look forward to returning. Here's the challenge. Find a big enough group of people to go for their Giant Earthquake dessert which consists of 8 different flavours of ice cream and each one with their own flavoured topping. Now all we have to do is choose from 20 different flavours. Piece of cake !!!!!!

I'm sure it is very quickly becoming evident that food places abound, the quality is exceptional and it is just a matter of trial and error and an adventurous spirit.

There is only one thing we were warned against by our real estate agent. Never buy the specials, because it usually means that the special is leftover food they were not able to sell and are now wanting to offload. A very interesting concept and not particularly inspiring. Warning well heeded.

Stay tuned for future additions of gastronimical experiences.


09 February 2011

Technology immersion

And we have now joined the 21st century by finally purchasing a 42" HD LED TV. So it may not be the biggest but it is a huge step from the 68cm CRT TV we had back home right until we left the country (and someone bought it on ebay for $20).

Now check this out for service by a telco company. Try getting this at home. John rings StarHub (like Telstra) on Monday to organise the telco services and the sales rep takes him through all the various deals and books John in for Wednesday. Tuesday, John gets an SMS reminding him that he's got a booking with StarHub for Wednesday b/w 11am and 1pm. Wednesday the service technician calls him half hour before he's due to arrive as confirmation. Right on 11am he's here and in half an hour he's got cable wired and internet programmed on both laptops. The cable is costing us $17 a month for 146 channels and the internet is $65 a month for wireless unlimited download (Alex you should appreciate this).

Our iPhones 4 are also now fully charged and ready to be programmed. Now here's an oddity for mobile deal in Singapore. I am paying $30 a month for 100mins for outgoing calls, 500 free SMS locally and 12GB download capability. But get this I have to pay $5 a month for Caller ID. So in order to see if John is calling me and he is programmed into my phone, I have to pay for Caller ID. Weird yeah? But it's the Singaporean way and I will pay it for the sake of convenience.

Now, I've figured out the camera on the iPhone and bombarded Annie with photos and how to email and how to even make a call. John's drowning in Apple Apps and playing Games (especially since his work is proudly sponsoring an iPhone game).

So I am sitting on my mattress in front of cable TV, on my laptop, with the iPhone on one side (along with my sexy Stilleto cover and 26 crystals) and the Blackberry on the other (with my Aussie sim card). Whilst John is beside me on the mattress, playing iPhone games, his laptop in front of him and his work Blackberry nearby. Do you think we have integrated into the technology mad world of Singapore? I won't tell you about the digital camera in my handbag, the video camera waiting to be charged and the media player and external hard drive patiently waiting to be used when the cable TV isn't.

What's more scary is Trinity's affinity for all technology gadgets. If she's not quietly trying to sneak up onto the laptop, she will be looking for her digital camera or trying to decide if she should play with my old Samsung mobile or try and hijack the Blackberry and ho and behold if she could just get her hands on the iPhones she would be in absolute heaven.

Techno geeks signing off. Good night.

I am now online and bringing you up-to-date

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Ok, so yesterday we travelled Ikea for hours. It is amazing how easily hours slip by. These stores are ginormous. Before we make any decisions on Trini’s bed and the lounge suite, we decide to check out Courts Megastore (a version of Harvey Norman). John has also made up his mind on the bed he wants for us so I am pretty easy going.

We ask the shop assistant about quality of mattresses and I get to test one which was quite nice. Then she offers to show me another one for comparison which was also nice but I couldn’t tell the difference. I said how much? She said $3000 just for the mattress. I said, no thanks, too much, I’ll take the first one. We then ask her about the bed we are interested in with a thin leather bedhead. Here’s the beauty. The base is a storage unit with hydraulics. You lift the lid with the mattress on it and let the hydraulics do the rest. Store anything you want in it and then close the lid. Now any clever storage designed furniture is a definite thumbs up, especially when it looks good too. Colour is settled on black.

I hadn’t realised how quickly we shop. I knew we never fussed about looking for comparable products once we found something we liked but 10 minutes to choose a bed, mattress, size and colour is ridiculous. Whilst John is sorting out the bill, I find a six seater dining table. Black leather chairs with stainless steel legs, stainless steel base in the centre and marble top. It just looks very classy. So we add it to the bill and voila. In half an hour we spent, should I even tell you this, okay here goes, $5800. Without even negotiating they offer to give us the delivery of $30 for free, a discount of $190 on the dining suite, a free mattress protector and 2 pillows. How’s that for service. The table is coming on Friday and the beds in 2 weeks.

Let me tell you about payment though. See John has a new credit card with an initial limit of $7500. He has already bought a queen size mattress for $1200 and TV for $1200 which he charges. Do you think we can charge our bed and table expenses to it? Do the maths. A big resounding no. So then I said well eftpos it but of course it exceeds his daily limit, which neither one of us knows what that is. So we then charge $3000 to the credit card and the balance to our Aussie visa. Well I may need to pay a foreign transaction fee of 1% but I can live with it if it means I can finish the shopping.

Before we depart we check out their linen department and all I can compare the quality and design to is Dimmey’s. You know the $20 sheets that after a few washes just beg to be tossed out. And I won’t even tell you about the patterns, 1980’s here we come and the washed out colour. At this point John informs me that linen just isn’t a Singaporean specialty. Some expat bloke he spoke to told him Australia linen awesome, Singaporean linen not. I mean I never bought expensive linen anyway but the selection here makes even my purchases exclusive. It looks like one of my trips back to Australia requires some purchases of linen. I’m okay with Queen size cause I shipped some of the linen with me but the King size will be a little tricky. I may need to do some web surfing to see what’s out there.

However, still satisfied with this trip we go next door to Ikea to get the Kivik couch, Besta storage cabinets and bed for Trini. First though, we need lunch. Now, I tried the meatballs yesterday at Ikea but nah, don’t know how it’s made cause it ain’t Ikea Richmond. And there is no schnitzel but there is the fried chicken wings which they do very well and is divine. Trini is living on air cause she’s not interested in too much food just milk, cereal, toast, juice and let’s not forget ice cream. I tried their iced tea and holy molly it was loaded with sugar, so I won’t be having that either. I could feel my teeth dissolving.

Whilst having lunch, I notice that we whities really stand out but nothing like Trini being the only blonde in a cafeteria that seats about 400 people. I’m just guessing. If Richmond seats 200 then definitely double it, that’s how huge Ikea is here. Is Trini being stared at and goo goo ga gad at. Most definitely.
Thankfully she’s quite oblivious unless directly gooed at. The fact that they keep slipping sweets into her hand when we are not watching is a new experience. Then it goes into my bag and then the rubbish. I know we have dental as part of our health insurance through work but not really interested in messing up her white pearlers quite this early yet.

Now, we were going to be daring and not so conservative and go for a red couch but in the end we settled on black again. Why? It just doesn’t go with the dining table. Needed a classier look. This particular red was just too vibrant and we needed something a little more subdued.

The storage units were easy but we found we got stuck with Trini’s bed. Whilst I was convinced for ages I wanted this particular bed cause it had so many functionalities; you could use it as a single, turn it into a double, use it as a daybed and consisted of large underbed storage but somehow I struggled with the idea of putting Trini on a foam mattress which is what they have. As you may know, usually Ikea mattresses aren’t exactly the same measurements as our standard ones. So didn’t want to take the chance that a normal mattress may not fit on the bed frame. For now the jury is out on what we will do for a bed for Trini. Not that it matters, there’s always in the middle of mum and dad on a king or the queen.

With our purchases in tow we check out with the Aussie Visa and organise delivery for next Sunday. We again experience efficiency and courtesy and parted with another $2400.

From here we crossed the road and walked into Giant Supermarket. Good LORDY it’s the size of Bunnings. It’s a combination of Coles and Kmart. One stop shop for absolutely everything except furniture. Think bikes, rollerblades, fishing, kitchen, laundry, clothes, toys, food, electronics, gadgets, you get the picture yeah? So we thought we’ll pick up a couple of things but somehow lost another hour and a half and had more stuff with us than anticipated.

This amazingly successful shopping trip started at 11am and finished at 10.30pm. Not sure how Trini managed to survive it all without a nap and we didn’t plan to be out so long but one thing led to another and the hours just melted away. Needless to say we all crashed and were out like a flash.

Monday, 7 February 2011

It’s 8am and we started the morning, post the must-have coffee for adults and milk for child, with a walk on the beach and the nearby pier. From the condo it is accessed via an underpass, through a small jungle park, across a dedicated bike/rollerblade path, followed by a dedicated footpath. Five minutes and we are standing on the beach.

Is it swimmable you might ask? Well, you could if you wanted to but with 100’s of shipping freighters dumping their waste and oil not so far away, you may reconsider. I guess a bit like Port Melbourne. Would you swim there with all the boats in sight? Given that both John and I are pool people, we are happy to just walk the beach, enjoy the views and traipse up and down the pier.

Once John went off to work at 11am, it was up to Trini and I to figure out the rest of the day. We started at playground 1, followed by playground 2, then onto lunch in the open air cafe poolside, more playground, followed by a 4 hour afternoon nap for the both of us, back downstairs for a swim, back upstairs for a shower and ready just in time for John to come home at 7pm and off to dinner we go back downstairs in poolside cafe. A spicy mee goreng, lime juice and ice cream later, we meet up with our real estate agent (Mervin) because I can’t figure out the front loader washing machine.

I am sure it is not rocket science, but after following all the instructions, the machine refuses to budge. In comes Mervin, follows all the instructions himself. The machine spins but no water, no washing. Can’t see the back of the machine cause the dryer is sitting right on top and both are pushed into a nook. Once the boys got serious and pulled the dryer oFf the washer, we discover that the water tap is turned off. So cool, we got that one solved. Now, I just have to figure out why the dryer is in the off position but everyone now and then has the desire to spin and dry. Not that it dries really. With this humidity, I am going to develop a whole new set of washing and drying skills.

Following a bit of chic chat with Mervin, I am informed that the cleaner will be commencing with us in a couple of weeks when all the furniture has been delivered and setup. Now that is a piece of frivolousness I am most definitely looking forward to, given my abhorrence of cleaning. I have no idea how I will pass my time here but cleaning isn’t one of them. I don’t mind tidying and I am very particular with washing and ironing clothes but don’t ask me to sweep, mop, dust or do bathrooms.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

So today we had our first train ride and Trini’s very first ride ever. We took the shuttle bus to Bedok train station (MRT). Three stations later we “alight” (Singaporean way of saying disembark) at Tampines MRT. Across the street is a 4 storey shopping centre with the entrance right past McDonalds. Our first pitstop is StarHub where we organise our new iPhone 4 to be connected. After an hour of organising, our next stop is a small stall which sells mobile covers. So I am being frivolous by ordering the Stilletos image with 26 crystals. Going for the whole girlie thing and $70 later. John goes for some techno, red image that ends up looking pretty awesome at half the price.

Lunch at Swensens where we both crave a bit of carbs and settle on spaghetti. One with salmon & cream, the other garlic, mushroom & chilli. The bonus is a free selection of sides or dessert. So we select fried chicken sticks & ice cream sundae. Now this sundae is no ordinary sundae. The strawberry flavour has real strawberry chunks and the chocolate flavour has delicious chocolate bits in it. A bit of cream, some glazed cherries, banana in the middle and some other flavouring, makes this a most yummy dessert.

Did we see any more of the centre? No!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We are very quickly learning that to experience Singapore we have to do it with Trini in crèche. She is at a stage where listening is a selected skill, stubbornness and cheekiness a primary attitude. She’s not interested and we are spending more time dragging her around. Not fun for anyone. She most definitely needs developmental programs, playgrounds to run in and organised chaos like in crèches which are designed for her interests. We have a crèche 5 minutes walk that comes highly recommended with an imported English teacher from the UK. So what did I ask John as we depart for home? Please organise an appointment with the crèche. I have to admit, to finding it hard to entertain her 14 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Finally tackling the washing. What can I say this front loader is so slow, I would have been on my 2nd load with my top loader, whilst I am only half way with this one. I believe it is meant to be a 5kg machine, whatever that means because all I know is that the contraption is large but the washing tub is tiny. It may be more water efficient, apparently, but I don’t think so if I have to do more loads because I can’t fit it in. Go figure. Bring me the top loader thank you very much.

Second tackling project is putting my clothes away which would be a no brainer in a standard size wardrobe but this ain’t standard. Have no idea how I will fit both John’s and my clothes in a wardrobe that measures 1.8m wide. That’s half the size of what I had at home (and there I used a second wardrobe too). Ladies, think of it this way: take your clothes for four seasons and quarter them. Stick your summer quarter into your cupboard and that’s it. If you have a husband/partner he can stick his stuff in the suitcase, cause there’s no room. As for shoes, one pair of thongs at the front door and your done cause remember, you filled up the wardrobe with the clothes. As for jewellery, watches, belts, make up ---- lots and lots and lots of pretty boxes labelled so you can find your stuff. I have one less box, cause make up and me are not friends.

06 February 2011

Day 2 in Singapore

So we have slept loads, had a terrific flight into Singapore and already been shopping.

The apartment is awesome and the view is wow, mind blowing. Given that the furniture in the apartment consists of a mattress in the living room which doubles over as dining table and sofa and a lovely new LED TV, the view that we wake up to leaves you speechless. It's not just a plain ocean view, it is littered with ship freighters of all sizes and the sky has the constant flow of international flights that we see on average every 5 minutes.

Breakfast, coffee, lunch and talks all take place in front of the wall-to-wall floor to ceiling window. It is very difficult to be wound up in this environment. It is no wonder that when I saw John at the airport he looked more like a man on extended holidays, than a man who's been working.

Much as I would love to share more, I am on borrowed wireless from the downstairs cafe until we are hooked up. So stay tuned, I'll be back in a day or two to regale you with our Ikea, Courts and Giant Supermarket experience. Holy molly the size of these superstores, I am still recovering.

Until then take care.


04 February 2011

D-Day has arrived

And so the long awaited day has arrived.

The bags are packed, the electronics safely stowed in the overhead luggage.  Toys squeezed into TJ's bag.  The house is sold, settled and gone.  55 boxes filled with stuff, and no can't even remember what's in them, has been collected for shipping. 

Now, we are just waiting.  Waiting for the hours to pass before we go to the airport.  Waiting to board the plane.  Waiting to take off and land.  Waiting to get through customs.  When the waiting is over and we have arrived, a wonderful man is waiting for us down the other end.  Hugs and kisses ready and waiting.

With time on my hands (way too efficient with the packing to have time!!!), I now reflect on the wonderful people I leave behind.  My sister with the endless coffees and cakes at Laurent and amazing conversations, my brother's wicked sense of humour, my best friend of more than 20 years, my girlfriend with her new son and gorgeous life in the country, the mums and bubs I have cherished spending time with since the birth of my daughter, friends I have not seen for years but have had the pleasure of catching up with in recent times reminds me how much I have always enjoyed their company.

I will miss my trips to Shoppingtown and the usual haunts and my lunches/dinners at Ikea with my sister followed by the zig-zag walk through the store.

As this chapter in  my life comes to an end, a grand adventure is commencing.  New culture, new way of living, new friendships, and very likely loads and loads and loads of travelling raking up the frequent flyer points along with all the photos capturing the wonderful moments.

So for now I say farewell and I look forward to you visiting me in Singapore.

Stay tuned for blogs on life in Singapore.