14 Sep

Hazy shade of

…whatever season this is. We are currently experiencing a new to us phenomenon: Singapore haze. Haze is air pollution—we’ve all experienced it—and here it is made up of smoke particles blown in from Indonesia, where they are burning forests, presumably for fun and profit.

At first I pretty much ignored all the chatter about haze and air purifiers because it didn’t seem that different to normal. Every now and then I start feeling like I’ve got hayfever, so at first I figured there was just some new pollen floating around to annoy me. But in the past week it’s got much worse and then the school put the index information in the newsletter and I started seeing variations on this chart everywhere:

click to make bigger

click to make bigger

At our school if the index is over 150 the kids are kept indoors, and for over 300 school is closed. Someone told me 300 is the average index for Beijing; I’m not sure I believe them but if that is true, wow. It was at about 170 on the weekend, and you could see it. It is strange being able to see air. At the supermarket the shelves near the checkout have dust masks instead of magazines. David was supposed to do a cycling event in Indonesia but it was postponed, which I was thankful for. We were outside for about an hour on both Saturday and Sunday and when we came in my throat felt like it had chalk dust on it. Now I am back to coughing like crazy and staying inside sounds like a great idea.

We’re not the only ones having problems with our air, of course. There are sandstorms in Saudi Arabia and bushfires in California. And general crap in the air everywhere else.

Here is a widget which shows our current air quality. Pretty! Now it’s like you’re here with me. Pass the tissues, please.

01 Sep

Adult supervision required.

Dave came home last night after two weeks away and all is now as it should be. To celebrate his return I am spending the day in bed. Don’t get too excited; he had to head straight back out to work so I am alone.

Things fall apart when he’s not here. I do pretty well with the day to day stuff like keeping the child alive and fed, but once she’s in bed there’s no one here to regulate my behaviour. No one to tell me to go to bed or make sure I’m eating right. Consequently I drink all the wine and stay up way too late and now I am freaking exhausted.

So I gave myself a day off to sleep. No one will even notice; it’s really not like I do anything important between 8:30am and 3:30pm anyway. I told myself I deserve this, that it’s important to look after myself. Although, all morning I’ve been lying here watching TV and playing on my phone, so it’s a normal day only horizontal.

Hey! It’s a new month! The first day of spring in Australia (although here they will probably start pretending it’s “autumn” soon, as if that means anything), and my grownup is back. It’s a great time to reset.

05 Aug

I think the car is cursed

First there was the bee. It was when Dave took us to see it; Bianca was already dark about the car because (a) it is silver and she DOES NOT LIKE silver cars, (b) it wasn’t the BMW convertible she’d just spent 10 minutes putting the roof on and off, and (c) we were on our way home from a birthday party and all this car shopping was keeping her from stuffing her face with lolly bag contents. But Dave cajoled her into the back and me into the front and suddenly she started screaming THERE’S A BEE! THERE’S A BEE! and there it was on her tshirt. I tried to calm her and knock it off but she was frantic and it had already stung her. Her whole belly came up in a welt, the poor sod. Luckily she is not allergic to bees.

Last weekend we made pizzas for dinner and I drove off to forage for toppings (the biggest benefit of having a car is not having to be organized or think ahead for meals). I spent $8 apiece on jars of artichoke hearts, grilled eggplant and roasted capsicums, plus all the cheese and other fancy stuff. But as I pulled it all out of the boot one bag slipped and fell and the capsicums smashed all over the ground. I rushed home for our dustpan and brush to clean it up but even after I mopped there is still an oily smelly trail all the way from the car park to the lift and then into our apartment. And my pizza wasn’t as fancy as I wanted.

Yesterday I did groceries again, and when I opened the boot I saw a bag had fallen over and a mandarin had rolled out. Except I hadn’t bought any mandarins. Then I realized it was an egg. You guys, it was a yolkbath in there and this one had only survived by fleeing the scene. I’m telling you it is not fun trying to clean up broken eggs in the deepest part of a really freaking deep boot you have to crawl in to reach and then your arse blocks the light. So I gave it a wipe and went in for a medicinal glass of wine instead.

I have since discovered how to fold down the rear seats to clean it properly, but Bianca is home sick from school today so alas, I don’t have to can’t deal with it today. Hey, maybe they’ve cooked by now?

03 Aug

car talk

So, remember how I was complaining that it thundered every time I had to walk up to get Bianca after her after-school activities, and how that was what convinced me we needed a car? Well this term’s activities (pottery and drama) started on Tuesday, which was the same day the hire car we’d had for the past two months went back, and guess what it started doing thirty minutes before I had to leave?

Wait, did someone say thundering? Ladies and gentlemen, give that person a coconut. Fucking weather.

So we did decide to buy a car. My goal was something cheap and basic like a VW Golf but as usual Mr Scope Creep took my budget and doubled it, and then he dazzled me with a spreadsheet explaining why that was okay. Then he convinced me to just go look at something that I said was ridiculous and I would never have, and then the salesguy said, “why don’t you take it for a spin?” and it seemed rude to say no, and it was so pretty and lovely to drive and I do like shiny things and it was easier to say “oh okay then,” and that is how we ended up buying a Jaguar. An OLD Jaguar, mind you, it’s only got three years left on its certificate of entitlement, but a fucking Jag nonetheless.

(Incidentally this strategy worked very well in my Uni days to get me to sleep with you. I wish I’d never told Dave that. I thought it would mean he’d use that information for sex, but I didn’t really know him yet.)

“But cars are expensive in Singapore!” you’re probably saying right now. Yes they are. They are insanely expensive. But before you get all excited thinking we’re rich (which is definitely not the case now), let’s take a step back and look at how cars work in Singapore.

How cars work in Singapore

It’s true, cars are expensive here. The government wants to limit both the number and quality of the cars on the roads, and so every new car has to be purchased with a Certificate of Entitlement (COE). {Side note: Entitled is a good description of the people with cars.} The price varies according to demand – somewhere between $55,000 and $80,000, and it gets added to the cost of the vehicle.

So here, to put a new base-level VW Golf on the road will cost SGD$125,300, which today is equivalent to about $125,000 Aussie dollars, $91,000 US, £58,000 pounds, and 318 Bitcoins (?!) I was going to do a comparison shop in other countries but got quite confused so I leave that as an exercise for you if you’re interested (they seem to be around $25,000 in Melbourne).

Also, you can only borrow a maximum of 60% of the cost, and the loans go for a maximum of five years. So you have to be able to hand over 40-50% of the price in cash. The whole point of this is to make buying a car hard enough that you really need to think about it first.

So the COE lasts for ten years and after that, the car is deregistered. You can extend it, but you would only do that for your really fancy cars like Ferraris and Lamborghinis (and you see a surprising number of those around). The government takes the car (and sells it on to Malaysia or China or the like), and gives you half the original market value (OMV) of the car – that is, the original import price not including the COE. So for that Golf, it’s about $30k, meaning you get about $15k back when it’s deregistered.

The beauty of this system is that depreciation of cars is basically linear. You don’t have a massive drop as soon as you drive it off the lot. Everyone is in the same boat, the cars are limited, they have a known value at the end of ten years, and if you are good with spreadsheets (coughDavecough) you can make this work for you.

In summary:

  • Cars cost a lot to buy
  • You can only borrow up to 60% of the price
  • They are handed back at 10 years
  • The government gives you a predetermined amount for the car.
  • Depreciation is linear.

So this is the trick

Most expats plan to stay in Singapore for two years. Condo leases and utilities contracts are 2 years long, so even if you end up staying for 4 or 6 or 10 (surprisingly common), you have an end point in view. So what you do is, you look for a car with two years left to go before it is deregistered. See why? Because when you’re ready to go you can hand the car in, for an amount you already know, with no hassle about having to sell it. And at that end of the depreciation graph the cost is not so bad, and remember you can get that 60% loan for it.

So for our Golf example, a 2008 Golf is around $60,000, but its residual payout is $16,426, so over the course of 3 years your outlay is only $43,574. Kind of make sense?

Dave’s justification

(Note, this justification only works if you’ve already accepted we’re buying a car. For normal use, it is still WAY cheaper to use public transport and cabs to get around. Hell, I could use a cab every day and it wouldn’t cost as much as owning a car. This is not wholly a financial decision.)

As I said, I wanted something like a VW Golf. I am still not that confident driving here or reversing into tiny parking spots, so I wanted something small and very cheap to run. Utilitarian. But when Dave began researching he found that a Golf costs $60,000, but an Audi A6 is $65,800, a BMW 5-series is $72,000 and a Mercedes is $79,500. Plus, because their OMV is much bigger, your outlay actually ends up being less. In fact, the BMW’s net price (purchase price minus residual value) is lower than the Golf!


click to enlarge

This is a portion of Dave’s spreadsheet (I will shield you from the true magnificence of the original; it will blind you.). It shows the net purchase price for each of his options (in yellow) and also a calculation of the monthly loan outlay (in blue). You can see it’s only a couple of hundred dollars difference from Utilitarian to Really Nice. And yes, a couple of hundred dollars isn’t to be sneezed at but when you’re in a place like Singapore where you get paid in play money, and you REALLY LIKE CARS… you can justify it.

(Dave really likes cars.)

The last line of the spreadsheet shows the net initial minus residual payment. Remember you get a loan for 60% of the purchase price (which is the monthly cost shown in blue), so you have to pay 40% yourself, which is the initial outlay. Then when you hand back the car, you get the residual payout from the government (the half of the OMV). This net initial takes into account the amount you’ll get back and shows how much you’ll be out of pocket for the deposit.

You do have other options to buying a car outright, of course. There is leasing, or having one as part of your employment package (if possible). Or, you can do a longterm rental, through companies like the one we rented month by month. We could have rented an older Toyota Corolla or VW Polo for around $1900 a month (Golfs were much more), and that includes all costs except petrol.

So this is Dave’s justification. The 40% cash deposit is a one-off cost which is greatly lessened by the handback at the end. The true cost of the car is the monthly loan amount, and is only a few hundred more than a Toyota, which he HATED, he is happy to pay the difference.

Am I happy to pay the difference? Hmm, well I would prefer not to have to, but I understand his logic and also his preferences, so I can accept that it’s his call to spend the money rather than save it. Also I have managed to reverse park the behemoth several times now without denting it, but I HAVE warned him he cannot get mad if I do run it into a wall or something by accident. After all, it’s not like we have to preserve resale value is it? And that at least is a good thing.

I’m never getting my Golf, am I?

it has a bloody start button.

it has a bloody start button, ffs.


27 Jul

now my holidays start

Ah blessed relief, Bianca went back to school last week. On Monday morning I said to her, “I’m so excited about you going back to school!” and Dave snorted into his coffee. “I DON’T MEAN LIKE THAT!” I said indignantly, except actually, I kind of did. The holidays were great fun but a month of all day every day is a lot of togetherness.

I actually had a pretty busy week. On Monday there was a coffee morning to welcome the new parents to the school (as an expat school there are people coming and going all the time) and somehow I got roped in to being secretary of the Parents’ Association so I went along as part of that. I met lots of nice people, most of whose names I forgot immediately. On Tuesday we had a workshop to introduce the Bounce Back program, which was devised by some educational psychologists to teach kids resilience and wellbeing, amongst other things. I would love to give you a spiel on it because I was so excited and emotional about it (I need this program for me!) but I suck at that so do have a look at their website. Then I had a lunch with one friend, a coffee/skype date with another… it’s not looking like much when I write it down but there wasn’t much time left over to lounge on the couch and watch TV, is what I’m saying…


I also went back to the Kenko Fish Spa for a reflexology treatment. My entire body is hurting at the moment and I’m keen to explore more traditional and alternative therapies to sort out my balance and wellbeing. And, well, treat myself! Reflexology is a massage of the pressure points of the feet and it sounds like it would be absolute agony of tickling but it’s actually divine. You do have to sort of not focus on it to avoid kicking the therapist in the face, but once you’ve mastered that you turn into a puddle of relaxation. She starts with tiny pinching massages of the joints in each toe then onto the base of the toot and heel, then calves and shins.

The theory behind it is that every part of the body has a corresponding pressure point on the foot and can be stimulated–the science is unproven but like acupuncture it does seem to work. Also, if you have tenderness or pain in any area it could indicate a problem with that body part. I had tenderness in my arches and also my right little toe, which could indicate problems with my sinuses or headaches (true) but also could just mean I’ve cracked it on furniture a few too many times and that going barefoot on marble tiles is not a good idea.

reflexology map



Then after the massage it was time for the fish spa! This uses little fish from Turkey called Doctor Fish to nibble dead skin off your feet. Honest. You wash your feet first then pop them in the tank and the little fish glom and and start to chew. It feels a bit like pins and needles but in a good way. You sit there on your bench watching them scurrying around and, if you’re me, talking to them… it’s very relaxing.

After that first time I went I did some research and found there were concerns about cleanliness and passing on foot infections, and also about cruelty to the fish — how hungry do they need to be to do this? Not going to lie, it put me off it a bit. But, the place I go to does a lot of cleaning of the water with UV light, plus the therapists check your feet thoroughly before you go in. As for the fish, I watched them and they typically hung around for a couple of minutes before swimming off again. Two other people came in just in the 30 minutes I was there, so I think they get enough business. Finally the fish are very expensive; I don’t think it’s in the company’s best interests to harm them. I feel okay about it.

When it was over I walked out like I was floating on clouds. My feet and legs worked again! And they looked pretty good too. I’m definitely going to have reflexology again. As for the pedicure, I think I want to try a regular person-with-nail-file-and-polish one. I have noticed that here everyone has very well groomed feet; you are in sandals most of the time and displaying gnarly toenails is not okay. Even no-makeup, ponytailed and tshirted people like me have pretty toes. It is The Rule.

Have you had reflexology or tried a fish spa? What therapy should I try next? I’m open to most things, so any suggestions are welcome.

14 Jul

today is a non-day

Oh boy howdy am I tired. Bianca crawled into our bed again last night, and while it is lovely to have her snuggled so close, head on my pillow, one arm thrown over me, she also insists on BREATHING into MY FACE or, if I turn the other way, clamping onto my back like a limpet. So between waking up every time she moved and trying to balance on the six inches of mattress I am allowed… not much rest. Consequently today will be mostly spent flopped on the couch.

We are currently in week three of Bianca’s school holidays. We get four weeks at this time of year, as opposed to the two that schools in Aus get. It’s partly to accommodate northern hemisphere summer hols – our school has an Australian curriuculum but people from all over the world – and partly also because studies have apparently shown that six weeks in summer is too long, kids forget too much. Dave’s boss even said that, and she is quite the Chinese/American Tiger Mom so she would know. Actually I found out from her that the American school her kids go to has TEN WEEKS of hols!?! No wonder so many of my blogs have had their kids out so long already. No wonder they make such a big deal about it. No wonder camps are so popular! I had no idea. I would seriously go nuts. Bianca would go nuts, she is definitely getting sick of me already, and I am already running out of ideas of what to do.

Dave’s parents went home at the start of the month. It was (mostly) lovely having them here but also nice to finally have our home back to ourselves. I’m looking forward to B going back to school so I can have a massive cleaning session. Clutter built up because I wasn’t able to put stuff away where it was supposed to go, and the kitchen cupboards are a complete fail. Seriously, nothing is where it’s supposed to be! It annoyed me at first (how can you put a mixing bowl THERE when you can clearly see that cupboard has drinking glasses in it?) but now I just find it funny.


We did a lot of activities with them, you’ll be amazed! I think I really needed some guests here to shake me out of my shell and start exploring. Having someone along with me made me brave enough to try things that seemed a bit scary – like going into a salon for a fish pedicure and reflexology treatment. What’s a fish pedicure you ask? It’s where you put your feet into a tank of water and all these tiny little fish eat the dead skin off your feet.

not piranhas

not piranhas

It’s the strangest feeling ever, but also kind of nice and the reflexology afterwards was amazing. And now I’ve been once I can actually see myself making another appointment.

For the first couple of weeks of their visit Bianca was still in school so we did grown up fun stuff during the day (like shopping), then once holidays started things both Grandma and Bianca would enjoy, like visiting the botanical gardens and eating ice cream. Lots of ice cream. And there may have been dolphins. I officially have no more excuses for not having things to write about anymore.

Okay, now I need another coffee before I try to convince Bianca that outside is somewhere we should go.

09 Jun

The oldies have landed! (and a May update)

We have our first visitors! Dave’s parents are here for the whole month of June. They love Singapore and so far seem to be having a ball. I get on well with them–easier than my own mother–so it is okay, although, I don’t think I thought through having someone hanging round my house for a whole month quite enough. No matter how well you get on with someone that is a lot of togetherness! Still, it’s okay. They go off and do their own thing sometimes and of course are having a great time with Bianca. Dave and I are even sneaking off for a few days this weekend, exciting!

Before they came, I spent a lot of time getting our house in order. It was very necessary! Also, since my last moany entry I have done a lot of thinking about goals and what I want to achieve. I have a lovely friend who is a life coach and she is supposed to be mentoring me, but I have been procrastinating on working out my goals. It is my habit to coast along, to live an unexamined life. Do you know I have been off work for six months already? Have I met any of my goals? No. Well, okay, we are in Singapore but that had to happen. It was an external deadline, it didn’t depend on me.

There are so many areas I wanted to work on. Health, mental and physical, creative, organising, paperwork, being more self-aware. Learning new things: coding CSS, visual basic, feng shui, aromatherapy, yoga, language, cooking classes. Making the most of being in Singapore, of being off work. Getting money under control, increasing my financial savvy, investing. Organising and decluttering my house so I can put all my stuff away easily and that it is easier to keep clean. Domestic – getting domestic chores done eaily so I don’t take all day and the house isn’t a pigsty.

I want to do it all but something has to come first, so I have some sense of focus. I decided I want to start with my house. Was it just an excuse to not go outside? Mmm, maybe. But also, I seem to spend most of my time doing housework, it’s neverending, and yet my house is always a mess. We were still disorganised from the move; if things don’t have a home it’s hard to put them away. So if I could sort it all out and get some simple routines going it would free up a lot of time and I wouldn’t need to feel guilty about it all the time. Plus with Dave’s parents coming I had to get everything out of the junk/guest room. Another external deadline to help me focus.

So, for the last few weeks of May I worked at finding homes for things in the spare room, which led to sorting our front closet (which was stuffed full of I don’t know what, but when I took it all out and put most of it back in again there was MASSES of room) and THEN, I tackled Bianca’s room which was basically a heap of toys with a small pathway through it. Again, I pulled it all out (into the spare room, which made Dave very confused; hadn’t I just cleared that?) sorted into categories and found a home for everything. It was beautiful. Her room has so much space! I was so proud and kept wandering in to exclaim at it. And it is actually easy to put away.

Now I just have to remember to put things away.

So that was May; lots of industry but nothing of interest to write about. For June I want to not go nuts while I have guests. Just kidding! (Well, just a bit.)

08 May

Warning: contains whingeing.

I have my cranky pants on today. Next door are doing renovations, and it sounds like they’re using a jackhammer to pull the tiles off the walls in the bathroom, directly on the other side of my wall. This is day two. Yesterday it went on for nearly four hours—maybe longer, I was out in the morning–and it is driving me nuts. I cannot think straight, I’m getting a migraine from the noise. Yesterday I asked one of the workers how long they’d be doing that and he said, “it’s stopped.” Since I could barely hear him over the sound of the jackhammering at that particular moment, that was either a misunderstanding on someone’s part or a clever attempt to confuse me. And they promised that today would be quieter, and it’s not, and that is why I’m sitting in a coffee shop muttering into my latte.

I am very tired. Bianca came into our bed in the night, which always means I sleep very badly on the 4 inches of mattress I’m allowed. Then at five AM she did the old dreaming you’re on the toilet trick and wet our bed. I got her up, cleaned her up and put a towel on our bed, then she climbed back into her own and fell straight back to sleep, the little sod. I lay on my damp towel for a bit before I gave up and went downstairs to do the ironing. I could really do with a nap now but see above re: deafening noise, and also re: in public whereupon it is frowned. Grrr.

I am also cranky about myself, about the way I am failing to get out and appreciate being here. The way I live, I could be anywhere.  This week I have actually achieved stuff, I have scrubbed the kitchen and lounge and given them a good declutter but big deal! We have been here four months already. We are one sixth of the way through and I couldn’t even tell you the best bits about Singapore because I haven’t gone to look.

I’m angry and disappointed. Do you ever play that game with yourself, if I didn’t have to work, I’d do…X? Well I do, and I’m actually living that now. I am so lucky, but I feel like I’m blowing it. Instead of doing all my X’s I’m doing housework (badly), grocery shopping, and lying on the couch sweating from exhaustion after a short outing. And then the tv goes on or the mobile phone games start and it’s shit. It’s really shit. I’m really shit. So what if I’ve finally seen all the old episodes of The Mentalist? That’s NOT what this trip was about!

Forgive me if I’ve already talked about this, but I’m too tired to check. And forgive me for having a rant about the same old same old, woe is me, everything sucks and I can’t change it crap. I am tired, and I am cranky, and I am not nice to myself when that happens.

I’m reading a book at the moment, The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton, which is essays on the theme of travel, interspersed with discussions of travels of historical explorers and poets etc. It’s interesting, but kind of a hard slog at times and I wouldn’t have chosen it myself (it’s a book club book). ANYWAY,  in the first essay he talks about how the idea of travel, and the picture we draw in our minds of our destination  is always much more idealised than reality, and that reality always disappoints, because it contains all the mundane bits our mind has ignored. So we see a photograph of a hotel on a beach and imagine a perfect idyll, but when we actually get there it smells and there’s a freeway just behind the hotel and of course all the other people getting in your way. I think maybe this trip is like that; I had a vision of me having all the time in the world to take cooking classes and do yoga and meditate and ignored the reality that Bianca’s home from school at three thirty and someone has to wash the clothes and get the food in. But at the same time, I am wasting a lot of time. I was doing better when we were at the serviced apartment, I think when we shipped all our stuff over, my old habits came too.

Oy. I think I need to have an early night, and then to delete all the games on my phone and get on with it. What about you? Have you ever taken an extended leave from your job, or real life, with the idea of fulfilling some dream, and did it work out the way you wanted it to? How did you manage it? Please, tell me I’m not the only one who struggles with this?

30 Apr

days of thunder

We have just had nine days straight of thunderstorms. Nine! Every day around mid-afternoon the clouds roll in, the thunder rumbles and then the deluge starts. One day there were  just distant grumbles and a few spots of rain, and Tuesday’s started late and went extra hard, but generally every day around mid afternoon, it is on.

We were at a birthday party Saturday afternoon when the sky suddenly got dark and everyone picked something up like ants with their eggs and fled indoors. I asked some parents if this was normal for the time of year, because I thought we were clear of the wet season. “I’ve given up trying to work out what’s normal weather here,” a dad said. “Pretty much every day you can say it’s going to be 32 degrees, high humidity and 80% chance of rain, but other than that, you’re screwed.”

These storms make me nervous. I am not afraid of them; what I am is afraid of being caught out in them, because we don’t have a car. See, Singapore is a lovely place. Public transport is everwhere and cheap, and if that isn’t totally convenient taxis are cheap too. I love taxis. I have apps on my phone that can summon one and usually within five minutes I’m on my way… but if it rains, when it rains, you cannot find one. They don’t want to drive in the rain and risk accidents, which have a high penalty fine, so they literally hide. So you have to wait it out, and you can’t always do that.


Bianca is doing two after-school activities this term, karate and craft night on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Normally she takes the school bus every day but there was an extra charge of $120 to use the special later one so I thought I’d skip it. B often says she wants to walk and we’re only a kilometre away so I thought, why not?

Well, now I know why not.

Last Wednesday was the first karate class and the first storm. I was getting organised to wander up when it got dark and the rumbling started. Bugger, I thought. What to do? See, even I know it’s a bad idea to walk outside in a thunderstorm, but the chances of getting a cab there and another back were slim to none. So I decided to hold the storm by sheer force of will; being caught outside in the middle of lightning strikes couldn’t happen to me so it wouldn’t, and I went. Maybe there wouldn’t even be a storm. I was conscious of looking like the mad expat to any cars driving past but I consoled myself that the thunder was many mississippis away and it wasn’t even raining. And right then the sky opened and it absolutely PISSED down! I didn’t think I should use my umbrella—nothing like waving a metal stick in the air to anger Thor–so I held Bianca’s little raincoat over my head, and the rain ran down my arms and inside my shirt.

I tried and failed to get a taxi, because I didn’t think it was good mothering to make a child walk home amongst lightning, until I was just about the only parent left, and then one last guy showed up and offered to drop us on his way. Lightning strikes are scarier than strange men with their daughters in the car, especially strange men who are seen by the receptionist to offer us a lift, so we accepted with many grateful thanks.

Thursday we were lucky, the thunder rumbled in the distance but held off until we got home. Friday more than made up for it; it rained for hours and I was so glad to only have to walk to the front of the condo to meet the bus. Ah, school bus, I love you almost as much as I love google. Then Saturday was the birthday party. B wanted to go home early but of course, no cabs. I tried for 45 minutes until the party ended and again everyone else left, including the ones who needed taxis. The host and hostess sympathised, they’d been in the same situation many times, but I felt embarrassed and useless. Why could everyone else get a cab and not me? Again? Finally a latecomer offered to drop us home even though it was out of our way, and the taxi apps took my gratitude as a signal to finally let me have a cab. (And then I found the rest of the taxi hostages downstairs waiting in the foyer, where they’d also not had any luck.)


It seems silly right now, as I sit inside where it is cool and dry and no bolts of death are shooting at my head, but right then at that party I decided we need a car. We’ve mostly been doing fine: as I said, public transport absolutely rocks. I have come to terms with being sweaty after walking places, and I have found a supermarket nearby that will deliver my shopping for free if I spend more than $150 (which is NOT difficult), thereby solving the puzzle of how to get it all home. The supermarket is a bit pricy, but the markup is still well under having a car.

At the start we said, if our transport costs come to $1000 a month it is worth getting a car. It still isn’t there, not by a long short, even with the taxis and the extra grocery costs and yes, even the $120 after-school bus, we are well under. But, a car is convenience. I was happy not to have the convenience most of the time, I was happy to make do – we should be able to make do, but this, this is a problem. Sometimes convenience is worth paying for.

So there we stand for now. Right now, it is Thursday evening, craft club day. A kind friend who lives in the same condo has offered to collect Bianca as well as her two boys on Wednesdays, so they will all fit into a taxi together (which they needed yesterday, for verily it did piss down again, and even with her greater taxi-mojo they were trapped for 15 minutes). Today we were lucky: thunder before pickup, rain when we were almost home. Who knows, maybe the streak will be done soon. Or maybe my willpower does actually work?

23 Apr

this blog would not receive the purple ribbon for participating

I am at my first school sports day. Right now I am scribbling this with a sweaty hand in an exercise book. Let’s see if I actually transcribe this one, or if it languishes forever in here with all the other half-scribbled notes.

It is SO HOT! Thank goodness it’s only a half day, and the seats where we’re sitting are in the shade with electric fans. Earlier the grade twos did a 400m race… I do not know how they are still standing. I am sweaty just watching. B’s foundation class (= Prep, the one before grade one) only had to do a 60m race, along with a short sack race, a relay and a beanbag “shotput” toss. Bianca has done her best in each, with fairly limited success, but she is flushed and happy, and proud of her purple “competitor” ribbons.

(Which, by the way, I was always on the side of thinking giving everyone a prize at these things was silly, but when you’re dealing with five year olds who can’t cope when the snakes and ladders dice goes against them I think it is fine and wise to temper the disappointment. It’s not like they’re all getting a trophy, and everyone knows purple’s better than “yellow, white or brown” anyway.)

Oh hell no, they’ve just announced a parents’ relay race, do NOT look at me and WHY did I think wearing my bright pink runners to this was a good idea? Next time heeled flip flops all the way.

For all the sweat and the stickiness I feel blessed to be here, watching B run and join in. This is my job while we’re here, to be there supporting, to make her and even Dave feel like they can do the best they can. It’s important, and I like it, most of the time.


Now I am at Great World City, having a Mummy and Daughter afternoon. We had McDonalds for lunch, then a wander round the shops, and now we’re camping out in Starbucks to kill time before we go to see Home. It is cool and airconditioned and apart from a residual stickiness the discomfort of this morning is forgotten. Bianca is playing with a set of stickers I got her. “Close your eyes, Mummy! Now tell me what’s different about my picture now!” My coffee is average, but we are both having fun.

I’m sorry I’ve been silent. I went through a bit of a rough adjustment phase for a week or so, then got really busy with a project, and then we were back in Australia for the school holidays. You didn’t miss much, I wasn’t doing anything particularly interesting in that time. Which is half the problem, I think. Must change that; I’m in a new country, for chrissakes.

When we were at McDonalds I saw these ride-on thingies. The Crocodile Hunter? Um, what? How is this a thing? For what it’s worth in the time we were sitting there not one kid wanted to get in it, and I am not at all surprised.