22 February 2011

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.