Thursday, January 29, 2009

What I like about Singapore, Part 4

It's been a long time since I wrote a post on this topic. It's not because there aren't things I like about Singapore, I've just been busy with other things.

If you missed parts 1-3, click on over if you like - - Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

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I'm going to have a hard time explaining "what I like about Singapore" this time. There isn't a single word that comes to mind and even the multi-word descriptions I'm thinking of don't really explain it clearly. "Innocence" isn't exactly what I mean and "childishness" isn't right either. The best I can do to explain it is just to say that it is not like Southern California's so jaded and "been-there-done-that" environment. Read this article (yes, click on "this article") on Yahoo! News and maybe you'll see what I'm trying to describe. Pay careful attention to the last line of the article, a quote from a Singaporean blogger. I don't think you'd ever hear anything like that from someone in "too-cool-for-you SoCal." [On a different note, I also think you'll find another interesting tidbit in the article about the law regarding protests in Singapore.]

I don't know how long that link to the news article will stay active but I hope it will be for a while. It should link to a story titled, "Naked couple surprises diners in Singapore stroll." The place where it happened is somewhere that we spend quite a bit of time shopping and eating, by the way.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gong Xi Fa Cai

I'm not exactly sure what "Gong Xi Fa Cai" means but I know it has something to do with the Chinese New Year. I think it roughly means "congratulations and be prosperous."

As promised, here are some photos of decorations for Chinese New Year that I took around Singapore. I am trying something new - a slideshow. You should be able to see it automatically playing below with captions. Let me know if it's not working.

Below you'll find a 2-minute video of a lion dance that was probably about 20 minutes altogether. I would have taped more (it got more interesting) but, unfortunately, my batteries died. I enjoyed watching the lion dance and am impressed with the skill of the dancers. Later on (after my batteries died) there was a second lion that joined the dance. Pretty neat how they can stay synchronized while not able to see the other dancers is impressive. And my sympathy is with those poor fellows dancing as the tails of the lions, just seeing the rear end of the guy dancing as the head. [I know my grammar's off. Sorry.]

Enjoy the video and watch for the lion blinking his eyes. For some reason I especially liked that aspect. (And, by the way, at no point in the video do you hear me talking so... that lady talking loudly is not me.) The drums are really loud so you may want to turn down your volume first. Quoting from wikipedia: "It is believed that the loud beats of the drum and the deafening sounds of the cymbals together with the face of the dragon or lion dancing aggressively can evict bad or evil spirits."

I hope you've enjoyed your "taste" of Chinese New Year!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just a quick note to say...

I'll be back later to post pictures that I took of Chinese New Year decorations and a video of the Lion Dance we watched today. With the girls on vacation from school, I'm not getting much time on the computer for myself but... I WILL prevail (eventually; at least for a little while; I think; maybe). Come back soon to check for an update. :-)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Holidays and why I think Singapore is like a pot of stew

Before I start... a little disclaimer. The following is my opinion from what I've observed. I could be wrong. I mean, really, I've only been here 5 months so I'd be awfully foolish to say that I'm an expert, by any means. In other words, don't take what I say as gospel, just my take on things at this point in time.

Singapore is a truly unique place, I feel. The U.S. is unique, as well, but in a different way. You often hear the U.S. referred to as a melting pot. I've never heard that description for Singapore. It's different -- more like a stew pot than a melting pot, if I had to call it a "pot" of any kind. Everyone, from different races, cultures, and religions come together to make a single, wonderful group (the stew) while still maintaining each of their various heritages and identities. (You know how in stew you can still see what the different ingredients are rather than all being blended together so you can no longer recognize them or pick them out.) It's really a very interesting thing to observe: Singaporeans are proud of their nationality and, no matter their heritage, view themselves as "Singaporean" but they are also, still, strongly and, usually, obviously something else, too.

Most Singaporeans are Chinese (about 75%, I think). The largest groups, other than Chinese, are the Malays and Indians. Behind all of them in percentage of population would be everybody else (like me). I'm still not exactly sure what Malay means but I do understand it is necessarily a Muslim; that's part of the definition. And, for the sake of simplicity, a lot of Chinese are Buddhist and most Indians are Hindu, though there are quite a lot that are Muslim. So the largest religious groups in Singapore are Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. To be fair, there are also a large number of Christians and those who practice other various religions such as Sikhism, Taoism, etc. But all in all, Singapore has 3 "big" religious groups. What I think is interesting is how Singaporeans are so culturally and religiously sensitive to all the different groups. It's part of being a Singaporean, apparently. You have to be respectful towards everyone's beliefs and any attempts to create division or animosity can truly get you into trouble with the government. The government here is very strict about all sorts of things, this being one of them. I'm not going to say whether I think this approach is right or wrong but I will say that it makes for a very nice culture (at least as far as I can see so far) and, since people are raised with this attitude since birth, it is genuine.

It's wonderful that we're all free to worship as we believe without fear of being persecuted. The other, less noble and embarrassingly selfish, reason I enjoy this is because the government observes all of the different religious holidays (plus some non-religious, as well). So, since we've arrived in Singapore, we've had holidays for things that I'd never heard of before - Hari Raya Puasa (Muslim), Deepavali (Hindu), and Hari Raya Haji (Muslim). There was the Hungry Ghost Festival (Buddhist) (not really a holiday but it is widely celebrated here, as is that of the whole lunar month as the Ghost month). We, of course, had Christmas (Christian), New Year's Day, and will have several other holidays as this new year continues. Coming up next week is Chinese New Year (a.k.a. Lunar New Year). I wouldn't really say it's a religious holiday, though, more of a cultural one. The girls get a whole week off of school. It's a REALLY big deal here, considering what a large majority of the population is Chinese. There are decorations everywhere (very pretty). I've been meaning to take pictures of some of the decorations but keep forgetting.

I'm not saying I, personally, celebrate all of these holidays, nor would I, but it's nice to get the benefit of having a holiday for the family. It's also interesting learning about the different cultures and religions. The most unexpected, though, is an official holiday for my birthday. I've always known my birthday, May 1, was on May Day. I didn't realize that some places in the world actually still celebrate May Day (called "Labour Day" here). So this year, the whole family will have a holiday for my birthday!! What fun!! :-)

Monday, January 19, 2009

"I can't believe it's snowing in Paris!"

Adding on to what Gander already posted from our trip to Paris, here is a short video taken on our last day there. Please know that GG was being "dramatic." It was about her third time having to open the video for me because I kept goofing up with recording. The rest of it is "authentic." You'll catch glimpses of my mom trying to take pictures of the girls.

Wild Wild Wet!

We went to a birthday party for a classmate of Elly's this weekend. It was at a waterpark called Wild Wild Wet. Get it? Like wild, wild west. I wish I had taken a swimsuit to join in the fun. Lately it's been quite windy here so I thought I'd be cold but, turns out Saturday was a perfect day. Oh well. I think I'm going to buy annual passes for us because it's so cheap and it would also give us admission to a theme park with rides and bumper cars and such. Wet Wet Wild isn't as big as Raging Waters and the Escape Theme Park, I'm sure, is a far cry from what we're used to (Knott's and Disneyland) but it'd still be fun. (Oh, how I miss going to D-land any time we wanted.) Only drawback is these places are on the opposite end of Singapore so it takes over an hour to get there if we take the MRT and bus. Still worth it though, I think.

Here's some photos of the girls:
GG hamming it up

Elly being mellow

This isn't the greatest photo but I like it because it shows that sometimes GG and Elly actually get along and work together. GG (blue vest) is getting the tube for Elly and helping her get in.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

London and Paris

I have declared the following 15-20 minutes an official break time for me. I am writing this in my hotel room in Sydney, Australia and looking out the window on a beautiful Sunday afternoon without a cloud in the sky. I should be outside walking around and exploring this great city, but I'm working and have a busy week ahead. I leave on Wed eve for two days of meetings and presentations in Singapore and then fly back to Sydney on Sunday for another 4-6 weeks. Anyways, I am deliquent in posting some pics and video from our holiday vacation in London and Paris - There are a lot, so I'll post a few select that I'm sure you'll enjoy.

Have a G' day mate'....
The Singapore Gooseman
Princess Diana Park - London
U.S. Embassy - London
Me and Mrs. - London
The Louvre -Paris - The Largest museum in the world!!!

Gracie - Top or Eiffel Tower - Paris

Mirror Photo; having dinner - Paris

Seinfeld shirt in London - Lauren was a good sport thinking it was a gift - in actuality it was a gag gift from my Sister in Texas :) Starlene is in the background laughing so hard, she's crying.... :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Unexpected...

When we first moved to Singapore, I didn't expect to find a lot of American chains here besides Starbucks and McDonalds. Since then, I've been surprised by some of the things that I've found here. I thought some of you might find the observations interesting.

*KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken)- It's huge here. There are lots of billboards and tv commercials. You can get free delivery -- just call 6222-6111. There's a jingle for it: "6, triple 2, 6, triple 1." (I know you can't here the tune but I am humming it in my head as I type it.) There menu's not exactly the same (they don't have biscuits, for instance) but, for the most part, it's the same. Gander insists the chicken tastes better here but, to me, it tastes the same.

*McDelivery- I expected McDonalds but, this? Free delivery! Sure helps this worn out mom on busy nights when I just don't have any energy left. Thankfully, Gander has been very gracious about understanding when I take this route and, though he won't eat McD's, he is willing to eat some simple leftovers in the fridge for his dinner.

*Pizza Hut- It's pretty big here. The free delivery doesn't surprise me since that's normal in U.S. What surprises me is that they have actual Pizza Hut "restaurants" with a full menu - pizza, pasta, salad, etc.

*Coffee chains other than Starbucks- Gloria Jean's, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Spinelli- I'd never heard of Spinelli before coming here but it is a San Francisco based company. Unfortunately, I have become (nearly) addicted to their Mexican Wedding Cake cookies. While there is an abundance of US based coffee specialty shops, I've found the flip-side of that is... coffee from anywhere else (unless they use a cappuccino machine) is almost always instant coffee or this other different kind of coffee that I haven't figured out yet (made with powder different from instant granules, poured back and forth through a nylon-looking cloth). The other unfortunate part is, a regular cup of black coffee from any of these specialty shops costs roughly S$4, at least.

*Swensen's- I remember this from my childhood as an ice-cream parlor. At some point, they all disappeared... or so I thought. Apparently, they just moved out of the country. Here, Swensen's serves ice cream but also has a full menu. We ate there once but were very unimpressed so we haven't been back.

That's all I can think of for now but if I remember anything else, I'll be sure to write a Part 2 to this post.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My new way to waste time

Now that the girls are back in school, what will I do with my free time?

Hmmm.... I could list a bunch of things that I *should* do (like unpack our boxes from the move over 5 months ago) but instead I opted for something else, more fun, you know?

I joined Facebook this morning. I got an invite from Monica so, being unable to turn down an invitation to anything that sounds like it might be fun, I joined. I have no idea WHAT to do at Facebook but I imagine, before long, I'll get the hang of it.

It's just what I need, don't you agree? More ways to spend time on the computer. Actually, I don't think I spend all that much time on the computer these days. I'm not home a whole lot and when I am home, I usually only get on the computer if no one else is home and that is only if I don't have to cook or clean or any of that *boring* stuff. When the girls are here, they are begging to either play on the computer or watch something on youtube. (I'm going to have to start using a timer for how much playtime they get because they are taking over the computer.) If they aren't on the computer, then I'm probably busy helping them with something, cleaning up a mess, or refereeing a disagreement of some sort. OK... I'm probably exaggerating (a little). It's not quite that bad but I will admit - - I didn't realize being a mother would be so much work. It doesn't look like this on tv, you know? I guess that's because if they showed the real life of a mother, no one would want to watch. It would be too agonizing.

What's going on here

I said I'd blog more but it's been almost a week already. Where does the time go? Thanks to Jenny for reminding me to get blogging. I really didn't realize it'd been so long. I don't know how time moves so quickly these days.

I'm not promising any *interesting* blog posts. But I hope I don't bore you to tears, either. Here is an update on what's been going on with us.

Those last 3 posts I wrote while sitting beside the pool, watching the girls swim. (I LOVE the weather here!! Not many places where you can hang out next to the pool all year round.) Here is the sum of activities we have done since then --
*went to Elly's friend's condo for lunch and playtime
*went out to eat too many times (I'd be embarrassed if I said)
*hung out at home - almost unfinished packing from trip to London, did laundry, cleaned (ugh!), let girls play on, etc.
*sent Gander off to Sydney, Australia with hugs and kisses
*spent almost all of Sunday at church - service (1 1/2 hrs.), girls joined Awana (2 hrs.) and choir (1+ hours)

Exciting. I know.

Now that Gander is away, I was able to enjoy sleeping with the entire bed to myself and with the air conditioner turned OFF!! He always has to have the air conditioner on the whole night so I normally sleep with the covers pulled up to my chin. I am now able to sprawl out and sweat as much as I please. So... I'm not saying I like having Gander gone but it does have some positives (or at least 1).

The girls had their first day back at school today. I'm enjoying the quiet and peace!!!!

"What's going on here" To Be Continued in the next post

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Why blog more?

My resolution to blog more has a simple explanation - I missed being in touch with my friends and family over this last month that I stopped. Plus, blogging is fun. I know having a blog isn't a "complete package" with regard to staying in touch with friends, but it helps.

So that's it. If I fall of the blogging bandwagon again, please feel free to pester me in an e-mail. Just don't make me feel like I "HAVE to" do it, or I just might quit blogging altogether. (See my original post telling my resolutions to understand what that means if you don't.)

Why smile more? (and another glimpse into my crazy mind)

Why make a resolution to smile more, you might ask?

As I explained, I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. I generally have a bad attitude about them so I just avoid them altogether. This year, though, I thought "why not give it a shot?" Of course, being the perfectionist that I am, I know that if I made a grand goal with any level of planning/thinking whatsoever, I would be doomed to get lost in the research and planning phase of it. If I made a resolution with any type of quantifiable results (e.g. do this _ times per week), I'd be discouraged with my inevitable failure and give up entirely. So, knowing myself well enough, I realized that I'd have to stick to something that is simple to execute and that I'd be likely to accomplish. Don't you agree that "smile more" hits the mark?

The other reasons I picked this resolution:
*Smiling is good for me - the more I smile, the more I'll feel like smiling. (At least that's what I've heard.)
*I've become like most Singaporeans (that I see on the bus, train, streets, stores, etc.) by not smiling at strangers and keeping to myself. I figure I'll still keep to myself but that doesn't mean I can't smile. I don't really think that people are trying to be unfriendly. I think it's just the way things are here. But I don't think by walking around with a smile on my face, people will suspect any more or less that I'm not a native Singaporean. It's pretty obvious by my non-Asian physical features.
*I like to smile.

Good 'nough?

New Year's Resolutions and a glimpse into my crazy mind

It's been many years since I've made New Year's resolutions. Actually, I can't even remember the last time I made resolutions. All I can remember is thinking: "Why bother? It's not like I'll actually keep them. If I really had the will-power to make a self-improvement, then I wouldn't wait for the start of a new year to do it." My other problem with resolutions is something I consider a personality defect - - if I feel like I HAVE to do something, then I'll fight against it even if I logically recognize the benefit(s). I really, really hate being forced to do things or even feeling like I'm trapped into doing something. (Then again, maybe that's NOT a personality defect; maybe that's just part of being human.)

This year though, I decided to make two resolutions. They are pretty simple and I am going to be relaxed about them. I reserve the right to break them (because if I don't, then I'll feel the need to break them just so I don't feel like I have to keep them). [See the mind games I play with myself?]

Without further ado, here are my resolutions for the year of 2009 (btw, how can it possibly be 2009?) ----
1. Smile more
2. Blog more

I'll explain "why?" in upcoming posts.

Have you missed me?

It's been over a month since I have posted. I guess I needed a break. I pretty much took a break from the computer almost completely. The only exceptions were letting the girls watch Barbie movies on youtube or play games on, occasionally checking/reading e-mail (but not writing a whole lot), and sometimes looking for a recipe. I didn't really mean to runaway from my online life. It just happened.

But now I'm back. I've missed reading my friends' blogs and staying in touch with people through e-mail. I don't know that you've really missed out on hearing about what's going on here - which is not much (other than our wonderful holiday trip). Gander has done a great job uploading videos and photos so we didn't entirely fall of the face off the web-earth. (I think there are more photos and videos to come but jetlag and being back to work have slowed down his progress in getting things posted.)

I hope you haven't missed me too much. I'll try to get back in the swing of things.