26 Jan

Lamingtons and parental disappointments

Happy Australia Day! Dave has taken the day off because he says it’s unAustralian to work today. He only became Australian two years ago but I guess this, like the second verse of Advance Australia Fair, is something he learned for the exam.

I am making lamingtons! It is my first time. I’m following this recipe and so far I’ve made the sponge. It seems a little bit thinner than I expected (my pan was a teensy bit too big both ways), but maybe this is so we can use jam to stick two pieces together. The recipe doesn’t call for jam, which seems strange. Also apparently I should have started yesterday, which explains all the baking on my Facebook then. (Jamie Oliver says I can put it in the fridge to dry it out, so I’ll try that.) Later when B gets home we’ll do the bit with the chocolate and coconut, which reminds me I’d better go buy chocolate and coconut this afternoon.

Also jam.

This morning B got to dress in green and gold (“ugh, that’s green and YELLOW, mum.”) for school, and I attempted to teach her the official prayer for today:

This here’s the wattle, the emblem of our land.
You can stick it in a bottle, you can hold it in your hand.
Amen.

But she refused. Honestly, I don’t know what to do with her. This is typical. We did a little cruise a few weeks ago, just 5 days up to Thailand and back, and she was loving the kids’ club and their activities until one night they were having a pirate party. She was worried and said, “what if they want us to do swordfighting and I don’t want to?”

I said, “so just say, ‘I don’t want to do that.'”

“But what if they make me?”

“Well then you say: HELLO! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father. Prepare to die!”

“I’m not going to say that.”

“Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father. Prepare to die!”

“No!”

“How about, ‘never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line’?”

“Stop it.”

“To the pain!”

“MUM.”

Sometimes it is inconcievable that she is my child.

17 Jan

The state of things

On the 2nd of January 2015, we arrived in Singapore. At the time we said we’d be here for two years, because it seemed as good a guess as any. We had no idea if we would like it here, or if Dave would like his job. Two years is the standard commitment for an expat role (leases and utilities all have two-year contracts) so that’s what we said. Long enough to decide if we like living here, but short enough that it’s not a life sentence if we don’t.

Okay, it’s been two years, so what’s happening?

Well, we’re still here. Singapore is a brilliant place to live, it’s clean and safe and everything just works. Dave is enjoying work (though enjoying is not quite the right word), his career is going well and he wants to keep pursuing it; Bianca is thriving at school and me…well, I like it, I’m happy, although the full answer feels more complicated than that.

We’re not committing to any particular chunk of time. Maybe one year, maybe two, perhaps even longer (though I doubt we’ll make it permanent). I have no idea what will happen in the future, where jobs will take us. All I can say is we’re not ready to leave yet.

I’m trying to sort out work. I took a leave of absence from work and that is nearly up. We’ve been talking about me working from the Singapore office but I’m really not sure how that will go so I need to think about what’s next. I’m nervous about being unemployed for the first time in… well, ever really, I’ve worked for the same place almost my entire adult life. Strictly speaking I don’t need to work here but it’s an insurance policy and takes some of the pressure off Dave. And to be honest it would be very good for my sanity to have more adult contact that doesn’t revolve around schoolyard gossip!

I am looking forward to going back but at the same time there’s a part of me bleating, “but… but… I have so much I want to DO!” Yet for the past however long I haven’t been doing any of it! It’s fair clear now that I cannot make good use of my time on my own! You can probably tell I’ve been in a slump for much of the past year, which I can really only put down to feeling a bit aimless. I need external help to find some direction. It remains to be seen whether just the threat of going back to work is enough to kickstart me again.

So that’s where we are right now: still in Singapore, looking to go back to work, making other changes too. Happy 2017 everyone, I hope it is better for you than 2016 in every possible way.

29 Jul

Nicolamas Eve

It is the evening before my birthday and I have been banished to the bedroom while Dave and B do…something… downstairs. It is very cute; B is terrible at secrets and has been bursting to tell me stuff for the past month, but I don’t really want to know. All this whispering and Daddy/Bianca outings make me feel very cherished and loved. It’s almost worth turning thirty-fifteen for.

A while ago my wonderful babysitter asked me what I did all day and I couldn’t answer her. I’m having the same problem now explaining my recent absence. I mean, I’m busy (sort of). I’m quite involved with the school and this week have been doing things there and trying to socialise and put myself out there. This is the key to getting myself out of the slump I am in, I have decided, and it has worked. So much for being an introvert, it turns out I am a people who needs people after all.

Oh! We had school holidays! Just four weeks but that was long enough. I remember last year starting them off with grand plans for daily outings and Enriching Activities, and by the last week I was putting the TV on in the morning and we watched Nickelodeon all day. I reiterate my amazement for North Americans who need to get through ten weeks in a row.

This year we paced it nicely with lots of play dates in the first week and then two weeks in Australia . The first week we were in Melbourne and my old home town visiting family and boy howdy was it cold! Then a few days in Sydney — slightly warmer, lots of mummy/daughter time while Dave worked — and finished it off at the Gold Coast where it was 24 degrees celsius and sunshine spilling everywhere. It was so beautiful, now I need to go back in the summer because right now I cannot work out why anyone would NOT want to live there?

Hmm, my glass of wine is empty. I wonder if I’m allowed to go refill it?

So — the holiday was good but busy and by the end of it I was ready for it to be over, and I found myself SO HAPPY to be back in Singapore. You know I’ve been in a slump and trying to work out why when I’m in such a beautiful place? Well I am not in a slump anymore. It seems to be well and truly gone and I feel great. I am loving Singapore and life and generally feeling happy and optimistic. I’m not quite sure what worked though. Maybe it is all the socialising, maybe I just needed a(nother) break to reset. Or maybe, it froze off in the cold like a wart.

03 Jun

blowing away the cobwebs

I did indeed open all the windows and doors in my house after the last entry. I very rarely do that because it’s so damn hot here. We’re on the fourth and fifth floors, not high enough to get cooling breezes all the time, so mostly opening the windows just makes it hot and sticky. (I have a friend who lives just down the road on the 29th floor and she has her windows open all the time. Her monthly electricity bill is only about $30 because she doesn’t need to run her air conditioners. I am quite envious of that.)

So I went round and opened all the doors and windows and the air blew in all fresh, and all the mirrors and glass upstairs fogged up, because I’d previously had the airconditioning on so they were cold, and the air was so humid. It was pretty funny actually. And it was lovely, and I really did feel like all the stale energy had blown out, but after a while I had a shower and couldn’t dry myself because of the humidity, so I closed them again. But it was lovely for a while and I’ve done it a couple more times since then.

Nice.

I did something else to clear my head; I went for a session of Pranic Healing. One of the mums at school volunteers as a healer and invited me along for a session on the weekend. Prana is the indian word for energy and life force. In Chinese it’s qi or chi and it’s the stuff feng shui works on. If you’ve ever had a session of acupuncture and felt better afterwards, you’ve experienced energy healing. This seems easier to accept and understand than say, talking about auras.

In Pranic Healing the focus is on the 7 chakras, points in the body where energy is said to flow through (which is a bit different from acupuncture which says there are hundreds of such points in your body). Anyway, the theory is that blockages in energy flow effect the physical body, so healers undertake to clear them, without physically touching. This is the bit which is a little hard to accept, but I wanted to try it anyway.

The session was a demonstration of healing on a volunteer, then a group guided meditation for stress reduction. Everyone had their own volunteer performing an individual healing. My lady was lovely and we talked my health issues and how healling had helped her. I’ve got to be honest here, she was so enthusiastic about the lifechanging benefits that I got a bit uncomfortable, that maybe this was some sort of a cult! But, I did feel better after the session. My sinus blah that was still hanging around didn’t feel as bad and I felt calmer and lighter. I believe in the benefits of meditation and this was a really good deep guided one, so it could have been just from that. Whatever it was, it was definitely beneficial.

(They tried to get us to sign up for a bunch of courses on Pranic Healing, but I am not ready to commit to that. I would rather have a few more sessions first. After all, I didn’t leap into learning acupuncture after my first experience with that.)

I was feeling very clear and calm afterwards, and I realised that a large part of my current malaise is rooted in boredom. I am bored! Of course I am bored, my days have no real purpose. It’s a little confronting to realise that I’ve taken my wonderful opportunity to do whatever I want with my days, and essentially have frittered it away on nothing much. But if I’m honest, that does sound like something I’d do… There’s no point beating myself up about it, I just have to shake myself out of it and make some of the moments count. I can do that, and I’m already feeling more optimistic. Yay for getting rid of the cobwebs! Now I’d better go open the windows up again!

27 May

notes from the sickbed

Oh god. Since I last wrote, I have been sick. Like, really sick, fever and awfulness and no energy at all and then on Sunday night B caught it too. She spent 3 days at home with a really high fever of 39.6*C (103.28F according to Dr Google) and even though Dr Google said that it was OK as long as the fever was under 40*C and lasted less than 5 days I got worried. My poor baby. The only problem was we haven’t got a proper doctor here yet. One time when B was complaining of stomach pains we went to the Camden medical centre near Tanglin Mall and it cost us over $400 for the consultation and tests, and they didn’t even find anything!

As part of Dave’s package we got these membership cards for Shenton Medical Group, which I hadn’t used because to be honest I hadn’t worked out what they were. Was it health insurance? Just particular clinics? We got no documentation with them and to be honest I’d completely forgotten all about them in about week two of being here, until last week when I got a new wallet and switched everything over. So I phoned them for an appointment. It turns out they are walk-in clinics, but we got seen fairly quickly and the doctor was thorough and kind and very nice to B. She said everything checked out fine and it didn’t look like Dengue fever (which is a big problem this time of year) and gave us some medication for her queasiness and also to keep the fever down (two different ones, depending on whether the fever was above 39.5*C or below). And you know, even with the medicine, there was no charge.

It might be nice to have a regular doctor we see regularly, someone who will do regular health checks etc, but not $400 a pop nicer! The moral of the story is: always check out the stuff you’re given, and USE it!

So. B is not quite 100% but by Wednesday afternoon she was climbing over me like a monkey so she’s back at school. And I’m getting sick of lying around which is hopefully a good sign. It has been so frustrating to lose this whole week, especially when I was feeling so positive and energised from our holiday, although it does explain why the energy faded so quickly last week! Right now I am itching to fling open all the windows and doors and purge the sickness from our house.

(David, of course, has not got sick, because he is a well-hard superhuman, at least according to him.)

20 May

It’s hot again

I’m back from Sweden! It was a wonderful holiday, Stockholm is beautiful, and Eurovision was awesome fun (even if I don’t think the best song won). I have more entries planned, they are half scribbled in notebooks but I was too busy and/or relaxed to finish them at the time. They will be coming soon, promise.

As usual by the end of it I was feeling energised and happy. You need a week or so away every now and then to shake you out of bad habits and let you start afresh. I was in a slump before, and a rut, and a slumpy rut, so it’s nice to be feeling all renewed and determined not to let that happen again. Unfortunately, I am also feeling blatted by jet lag — why is it always so much harder going east than west? — and I think I’m getting a cold so it’s hard to remain optimistic.

But, I shall!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between Sweden, and Europe in general, and Singapore. I have a friend who moved to Singapore from Sweden about 8 months ago and she’s not adjusted to it at all, so they’re going home to Australia at the end of the month. Why was Sweden easier than Singapore? I can see some reasons, and it’s not just the heat, although, that does play a massive part. Trying to work that out can only help me and other new expats too.

So, thinking. And snuffling, And flopping around. Back to normal then. In the meantime, check out this song from the Eurovision final: it’s the hosts explaining what makes a winning Eurovision song.

12 May

Hej!

Hej from Sweden! We are in Stockholm and it is beautiful. I am having the time of my life. The day before we came I had this conversation with Bianca:

Bianca: I am sad I won’t be at school next week because I’ll miss science and we’re doing experiments.

Me: But we’ll be in Sweden! We can have Ikea meatballs!

Bianca: Ugh, MUM, they probably don’t even have Ikea there.

Me: Are you kidding me? That’s where Ikea is from? Ikea meatballs are Swedish meatballs! There are meatballs everywhere!

Bianca: Then I want to go right now!

We have been here four days and she has eaten meatballs four times. That’s my girl.

Stockholm is a beautiful city. It’s clean and not too busy and the buildings are old and lovely. As are the people (lovely, not old). The first morning at breakfast I accidentally let out a little sigh of pleasure when the waiter was showing us to our table. I also happened to sit facing  him and kept drifting off over my muesli… sorry, where was I? Oh yes. It helps that it is brilliantly sunny and about 24*C every day. Stockholm is built on an archipelago of islands and the sunlight glistens off the water like diamonds.

A few observations:

  • Swedish people do not sound like the Swedish chef. They sound lovely and are pretty to look at too.
  • It is nice to go outside and not melt. Really, even when you’re hot you’re not sweaty, whereas in Singapore you go slimy from the moment you step outside.
  • The basics of Swedish are simple. Hello is hej (hey). Turns out I say hello in Swedish all the time. Goodbye is hej da, which I knew from exiting Ikea. Thank you is tack. For everything else they speak English beautifully. I was nervous beforehand because the alphabet is not quite the same so you can’t fudge your way through on signs as easily as you can in German or French, but they accommodate our language ignorance very graciously.
  • Speaking of Ikea, there is a shuttlebus which leaves from around the corner from my hotel. It may be fate.

Now, I know trip report blogs are meant to be full of photos but they’re all on the good camera and let’s be honest, if you have to wait for me to download them and choose them and set them up you will never read anything. So let’s paint pictures with our words and maybe you’ll get something once I’m back home.

hotelview

the view from our hotel at 9pm

22 Apr

mortality sucks

I never got to see Prince live. I wish I had.

I had the opportunity. I was in London when he played the O2 arena, which was a really big deal, but I didn’t go. Next time, I thought. Maybe. And then he toured Melbourne and I thought about it, but again I didn’t even try for tickets. I had friends who went though, and I was jealous. I wished I had gone. Next time, I decided again, and now I can’t.

This is why you’ve got to seize the day, people. Take the chances as they come. Make your dreams happen. Yes, your dreams, you still have them, they’re floating around in your head. The things that you fleetingly think, “oh that would be so cool” but in the next breath think, that’s not possible? Those things. Don’t think in terms of “what will I regret on my deathbed”?  because that list will be filled with spending time with your kids and not working so much, blah blah blah. You want to think of the fun stuff that your subconscious is wishing for. No one is lying on their deathbed regretting missing a Prince concert or not seeing the Northern lights, but that’s the stuff that makes life wonderful.

An example: years ago, we went to The Fat Duck restaurant. It was in 2006 or 2007, before Heston became this huge TV personality, when the restaurant was first or second best in the world and he was making headlines because of snail porridge and Sounds of the Sea. It was kind of mythical, a tiny place spoken of with reverence in newspaper articles, hard to get into (and expensive), but one day I realised it was possible for normal people to go, and I mentioned to Dave that of everything in the world dining at The Fat Duck was my dream to do Someday. And he organised it for my birthday and became an absolute hero in my eyes, and it was everything I hoped it would be and more.

So what is yours? Do you want to spend a year in France living only on cheese? See the Aurora Borealis? Write a novel? (Yes, yes and yes.) So do it! There is nowhere on this earth that you can’t go if you want to. Some places, I’ll think you’re nuts if you do want to go there. But that’s okay! Think about these things and make them happen. Don’t dismiss them with Someday. Someday is like the horizon, you’ll never reach it. There’s all these places that get on standard bucket lists like the Grand Canyon, Hawaii, Egypt. Work out which one you really truly actually want to make an effort to see, and do that.

Example two: Eurovision is coming up. This year it’s in Sweden. Do you like watching Eurovision? Lots of people do. We love it. We’ve watched every one together since we’ve been a couple. I buy the album every year. We have parties with friends where we dress up and we have fake voting and have a wonderful time. Last year it was hard because it’s not televised in Singapore so we had to watch it on YouTube on our own. But this year, we’re going, because why the hell not? We have eight days in Stockholm and tickets to both semi finals, and it will be the ultimate awesomeness.

(It’s funny the reactions we get when we tell people, from a nose-wrinkling “oh my god you’re doing what?” to outright laughter. One of Dave’s workmates, a German guy who is now my favourite ever, got so excited. He loves it too, has parties too, but it hadn’t occurred to him to actually go along, even when he lived in Europe! I like to think next year, he’ll be getting tickets.)

This is the stuff I’m talking about. This is what we need to do more of. And yes, I am aware of the irony of me plugging seizing every opportunity and yet spending most days lolling on the couch. I’d better read this entry too.

What things do you dream of doing? Give me some ideas.

11 Apr

because she said so

A friend told me I should write again and lo it is so. Don’t you wish you had this sort of power over me?
I don’t have a good reason for the silence. I’ve been in a funk for the past few months, probably since the start of the year. Again, no real reason. You know Sadness in Inside Out? Dragging herself around, everything too much effort. That was me, only I wasn’t really sad. Just blah.
But! Finally! I feel like I’m finally shaking it off. Like I can actually stand upright. And do things! I’ve been trying some things, and they seem to be helping me feel like myself again.
So anyway. I’m still alive, we’re still in Singapore. It’s still good. I’m okay, better than I have been. I would explain, but there is too much even to sum up today, so bear with me. And I’m glad I got a kick up the butt to write again.
24 Nov

Tortoise Girl and the lost weeks

I was moving very slowly last week. I had a cold and I don’t know if it’s worse to have a cold when it’s hot or that the medicine wasn’t working but it wiped me out. I spent several days flopped on the couch too weak to do anything. I was recovering by the weekend and now I’m full of my normal vim and vigour and back to flopping on the couch too lazy to do anything else.

Before that, on the Sunday, I was moving very slowly, because on the Saturday night I caught a hangover. We went out! With friends! And no kids! It was a friend’s birthday and we went for tapas and wine, and then sangria, and the sangria tasted like fruit punch and I’m not sure how much of it we had actually. B was at a friend’s house for a sleepover which was good because we didn’t get home until after 1am. I felt very seedy on Sunday and basically crawled around the whole day. But oh, how much fun it was to go out! When we were moving here I said the first thing I’d do was set up a regular babysitter, and I haven’t. I have to fix that.

I haven’t made a lot of friends here yet, which is fine because I go for quality over quantity, but there are a couple of people I really really like and this lady is one of them. We had so much fun.

And the week before that–are you following me? We are talking two weeks ago, now–we had a public holiday on the Tuesday for Deepavali (aka Diwali), which is not really a lost day, and I also spent two full days out of the house attempting to sort out our Singapore drivers licences. We have to switch over once we’ve been here a year, and the process is confusing and beaurocratic. Actually, once you know what’s going on it makes sense, but it is still a drawn out process and deserves a post of its own.

What have you been up to?