This week marked our 1 year anniversary in Singapore. Many thoughts on that, but I will save that post.
Thursday morning we woke up to the news that while we slept, 10,000 miles away from our home country, the Capitol of our beloved home was breached, raided and looted not by a foreign enemy, but by our own citizens. Feelings of anger, shame and sadness have lingered with us ever since. Not just Ryan and I, but our kids too. My heart breaks, especially for Ella and Liam who are old enough to know what is happening, but too young to really fully process it. To them, living in orderly Singapore, watching this chaos is mind-blowing.
What I do want to write about is the Women’s March. 4 years ago, the day AFTER Donald Trump was inaugurated, I participated in the Women’s March in Washington, DC. I was one of 400,000+ people who peacefully marched through the streets of Washington to say that our new president does not represent my ideals or thoughts of how our American democracy works, and that I will do my best to elect leaders that do. For the past 4 years I’ve watched slowly, through the hard work of many and through the votes of citizens like myself that the pledges of that march were slowly coming true. On a local level, I’ve watched AMAZING women bravely throw themselves into the vicious political arena. On the national level, the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was like a sigh of relief from 4 years of hatred and chaos. And it felt like a promise fulfilled from that cold day in January, 4 years ago, marching with friends, promising we would not be complacent with this government, for ourselves and for our kids.
No one needed to storm the Capitol to exercise our first amendment right to protest.
I want to also comment on my thoughts on that. 4 years ago, protesters were not allowed anywhere near the Capitol. In fact, as it was still set up for the inauguration, we were not even allowed to use the port-a-potties that had been placed there for inauguration crowds. So I find it absolutely bewildering that these protestors/terrorists could not only get that close to the building, but breach it while both the house and senate were in session. When we took our children back to visit DC that spring (so they could appreciate the magnificence that is our nations Capitol) we had to have congressional approval to enter the building and take a tour. So along with many, I anxiously await an accounting on how the safeguards of our Capitol fail when a bunch of predominantly white men storm it, but are more than fully staffed when women and BLM march.
Participating in the Women’s March will always be something I am immensely proud of. That cold day 4 years ago, my friends and I mused what damage could be done in 4 years… more than we could have ever guessed…
We left Singapore proper for a few hours! As silly as this sounds, for me, this was a huge mental lift. As it is increasingly looking like there will be no change in travel restrictions in the near future, I will take any little break I can get. So to exit 2020, we hopped a bum boat to Pulau Ubin.
Pulau Ubin is a group of islands in the Johor Strait between Singapore and Malaysia. It is a part of Singapore. originally, it was a group of 5 islands that have been connected over the years by bunds used for prawn farming. Historically the island has been used for fishing, farming and granite mining which has left behind some very pretty quarry lakes. Today the island is purposefully rustic, having one of the last remaining kampong villages. It is also home to chek Jawa wetlands area which is a beautiful wetland reserve. The island is traversed predominately by bicycle and has mountain biking trails for those interested (and that bring their own bike, I can’t imagine properly mountain biking on the rental bikes). A third of the island is not accessible by the public and is used for outward bound and police training. There are also 2 camping areas on the islands. Despite our love of camping at home, we are unanimous on agreeing that camping in the tropics is a bad idea.
While the day was hot and sweaty, filled with crabby kids and humorous exchanges in singlish, the overall assessment was it was a great adventure. We may do it again and go on a kayaking tour. We’ll see if we have the motivation for that trip… Happy New Year, here’s to a 2021 full of adventure.
I took some time today to list everything I’ve read in 2020. I truly felt like I hardly read anything this year, much to much time spent on my phone… I was surprised to find it was 24 books. As I don’t normally document what I’ve read (but I think I will going forward), I would guess I normally read 40-50 per year. None the less, I’m pretty pleased with my 24.
One of the best things I did this year was to join a book club. My book club in Singapore is through the friends of the museum and focuses on Asian authors. We’ve read an eclectic collection of books in 2020 and it has opened a world of new authors and topics up to me. My book club has only been meeting virtually since I joined, and was a bright spot during the lockdown for me. The women in my group are of a diverse background and are all very intelligent. I leave our monthly meeting feeling energized to read more and that I’ve learned something. It’s been a gift to be a part of this group and I look forward to meeting in person in 2020!
I’m putting together a 2021 want to read list. Leave me a comment if you have any suggestions. I’ve got a queue of about 6 books right now (2 I’m currently working on) and I’m happy to add to it!
This year was the kids first tropical Christmas (Ryan and I have both had a fair number of Florida Christmas’ so it didn’t feel quite a strange to us). Being so far from home and family, we tried to make a point to not duplicate what we do at home, but to embrace the differences. One big difference is Christmas here is it is by and large a commercial holiday. It both looks and feels that way. Coupled with the covid restrictions, there was no option to “pop” into a church service. Not having that religious element to the holiday was a bit sad to me, but for good or bad, I don’t think our kids noticed (or minded) that missing element this year.
I had never planned to spend the holiday in Singapore when we moved here. I had thought we would either be traveling or heading home for a visit. And even with covid being so unstable globally, we still did consider going home. It’s been a long year and we really miss everyone. But when we thought through all the details, it was too complicated with too much risk, and I think we’re all glad we chose to stay.
We have a teenager in our house. Our miracle, Ella turned thirteen on Thursday. I know that she felt very reluctant and a little sad to be a teenager. Ella’s not in a hurry to grow up and we don’t want to rush her! But reflecting on this past year, she’s grown both physically (5’3” at last measure and we can literally see her growing) but more important, mentally. Asking her to move to the other side of the world last year was a big ask, especially coming off a very difficult 5th grade year and tough middle school transition. She was in a very low place. We were very scared of how this move would go for her.
She’s gone from having almost daily panic attacks, to making new friends, losing friends, re-making friends by admitting to her own short comings and has been able to communicate her feelings to us in a clear and concise manor. She is unfailingly true to herself in a world that constantly asks girls to conform. I don’t know where she gets this strength of character from, but I hope she never loses it. She is truly a magnificent girl and we could not be more proud of her.
For her 13th birthday, all she wanted was to celebrate with us. She chose to go out for dinner (Indian) and have cupcakes that reminded her of her favorite fairy cake I made her (I think for her 9th birthday). So easy and though I wished she had wanted to include some friends, I understand that sometimes that adds a pressure to her that makes it not fun.
Full disclosure, Singapore’s been in full Christmas mode since mid October. Without any Halloween or thanksgiving blocker, they start early and go hard. When we packed to move here, I never envisioned us spending the actual holiday in Singapore. I only packed stockings. This meant a full procurement of holiday gear. Luckily, we’ve lived here long enough that I understand how Singapore works. I ordered all our Christmas decorations in October (ikea for the win again!). I went back to ikea this week to try to pick up a few more odds and ends. Sold out! I was also not interested in buying a live tree since 1. They are shipped an insane distance, 2. I can’t imagine they aren’t dead on arrival, 3. It must be a gecko condo and 4. They are so much $$$$$. So here’s our rundown of holiday activities to date:
Happy Early Hanukkah to all who celebrate and our thoughts and love are with everyone during this challenging holiday season 💕💕💕
Such a rollercoaster this 2020 has been. Lately, I’ve been feeling the sting of the covid world of 2020 acutely. If I’m honest, it was difficult to muster up the mental fortitude to celebrate Thanksgiving. But the reality is, there is much to be grateful for. Sometimes making a list helps. So here is mine, in honor of “American Thanksgiving” I’m grateful for:
My 3 not so little turkeys. Their flexibility and ability to make the best of everyday make me so proud.
My hardworking husband who has stretched himself so far and so thin this year. I see you and you are my ❤️
Our friends and family near and far who are only ever a FaceTime away.
Our new friends here who provide an ear and shoulder when needed most. We are in these strange trenches together and I am grateful.
For tennis. For the outlet it’s provided me and the new friendships.
The American club. The place I thought we’d never need has become a much needed second home of sorts. Because sometimes you just need a (beef) hot dog and some BBQ.
For Singapore. This little island is perfectly imperfect and has taught us the value of community over self. We will be forever indebted to this nation for creating a functioning oasis in a sea of chaos.
For school. Full time in person providing for our children’s physical, emotional and social needs. I will be forever grateful.
New food adventures. From hawkers to Michelin starred restaurants. Singapore, your food is unmatchable and I’ve been ruined forever in the best possible way.
For the new cultures, holidays and traditions we’ve been exposed to. The more you embrace differences, the richer your life becomes. a much needed life lesson for myself and one I wish everyone could experience.
Our celebration was our family, 2 of Ryan’s coworkers (American) and one of the co-workers wife and daughter. We had a lovely meal and talk. Food traditions are so important when missing home and family. 💕
One of the best things about living is Singapore is how they embrace their ethnically diverse population. This past weekend was the public holiday for Diwali. The kids were able to celebrate at school. The elementary kids typically dress up for these holidays and while I went to Tekka Center in little India and bought (what I thought) very cute clothes, both Liam and Avery were too timid to wear them. I think they felt a bit left out when they saw how many kids did dress up, but sometimes you have to learn the hard way…
What is Diwal/Deepavali and why are there 2 different names?
Diwali (English: /dɪˈwɑːliː/; Deepavali (IAST: dīpāvali) or Divali) is a festival of lights and one of the major festival celebrated mainly by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. The festival usually lasts five days and celebrated during the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika(between mid-October and mid-November).One of the most popular festivals of Hinduism, Diwali symbolizes the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance”. The festival is widely associated with Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity, with many other regional traditions connecting the holiday to Sita and Rama, Vishnu, Krishna, Yama, Yami, Durga, Kali, Hanuman, Ganesha, Kubera, Dhanvantari, or Vishvakarman. Furthermore, it is, in some regions, a celebration of the day Lord Ramareturned to his kingdom Ayodhya with his wife Sitaand his brother Lakshmana after defeating Ravana in Lanka and serving 14 years of exile. (From Wikipedia). Diwali is the term used in northern India and Deepavali is used in southern India/Sri Lanka.
We were very lucky (especially this year with our strict 5 person limit) to be invited over to our upstairs neighbors home to celebrate with them. Nupur made us an amazing meal. Nupur’s been a wonderful friend to me here and it was so generous of her to share their culture with us.
Above is the Australian Prime ministers Diwali greeting. I hope you will watch it. I found it very moving right now. I believe we all need a little Diwali in our lives right now!
In other news, this past week I finished up my first season with my WITS tennis team. Our team overall did pretty well especially considering how new to team tennis most of us are. I’m proud of my record (4 wins 2 losses) and was super proud of my finally win. Playing line 1 against the #1 team in our league, we defeated their top 2 players.
Thursday night, our team went out to celebrate our season at a craft gin distillery (Brass Lion Gin) Such a cool place. Not only is it the first distillery in Singapore, it’s also the brain child and run by a woman (Jamie Koh, who is a friend of one of my teammates). It gave me a while new appreciation for the distilling process and I was so impressed by Jamie’s level of detail. Such a wonderful experience with my wonderful tennis team.
Earlier on Thursday I had also gone up high tea at the Shangri La again. This time it was an Indian theme for Diwali. Tasty food and lovely company
Needless to say, on Thursday I was exhausted and very full. While all this has been fun, it’s also helped to take the edge off the constant feeling of the unknown. We have a few friends being repatriated soon and as it’s been very difficult under the covid restrictions to make friends, I’ve been very sad about this. But such is life as an expat…. it’s also been increasingly difficult to watch the US spiraling down the covid hole. We feel guilty as we continue to reap the rewards of a successful government response to this crisis and continue to have more freedoms and opportunities. At the end of this week, our first leisure travel bubble opens with Hong Kong. While I’m still dreaming of a Hong Kong Christmas, we are watching to see how it goes for a few weeks before investing what is a considerable amount of $$$ into a trip. But it gives me hope that our Asian bubble will be successful sooner rather than later. Perhaps we will still get to see a little more of Asia before our expat time is up…
In this swirling world of unknowns, I needed to focus my mind on something else, so today, you’re getting a book review. I promise to shortly return to food porn and Singapore sights updates….
Since moving to Singapore, I’ve discovered there is a whole world of literature by Asian authors that somehow don’t really make it to the US, or do make it, but receive little promotion. I feel like I fell down the rabbit hole with Alice. My new happy place is Kinokuniya, the enormous Japanese book store here. It’s like a Barnes and noble, a Japanese and a French bookstore rolled into one. Between that store and my Asian book club, my book selecting game has evolved in a wonderful way. Plus, in the same mall is a kiosk that that sells these delicious itty bitty donuts, so really that outing is a win-win.
My best discovery has been a science fiction trilogy by the author Liu Cixin. The series is titled “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” and the three books are; “The Three Body Problem” “The Dark Forest” and “Death’s End”. While the books were written over a decade ago, they were only recently translated into English and somehow reading it in the context of 2020 made the books feel prescient. They were also one of the rare experiences where the 3rd book was the best of the series (in my opinion). The series is Hugo award winning and currently being made into a tv series by the creators of Game of thrones (I feel cool in that I read it before this announcement). It is interestingly highly critical of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, but was never banned in China. It’s pretty technical sci-fi, but as with all great science fiction, it’s really about human behavior. Each of the 3 books feature different main characters, which I found interesting. While the Chinese names are a bit difficult for a western reader and the science is heavy, it’s worth the effort for the story.
For me, I know a book is good when I read it and it stays with me and I begin to see echos of the book in everyday life. Between covid and the election, of course I am seeing echos of a science fiction trilogy about the end of humanity everywhere.
I’ll leave it to you to read the books (or wait for the show, which I’m positive western creators will botch entirely), but 3 parts of the trilogy (one from each book) that I will describe as they are feeling very pertinent to the election season we are seemingly perpetually living in now. Don’t read on if you are taking my book recommendation and plan on reading, as some of these may be spoilers…
In the first book, one of the main characters, Ye Wenjie, an astrophysicist, who has been persecuted and jailed by the CCP during the revolution, has discovered there is a way to communicate with the universe by amplifying a radio signal using the sun. She subsequently receives a communication from an alien race. In the communication is a warning from an alien pacifist to not respond to the message as her response will allow them to locate earth and invade it. Their home planet has become inhospitable and they are actively seeking a new home. The communication is clear, They will annihilated the human race if she responds. Wenjie alone has the choice to protect humanity or open it up to potential annihilation. She chooses to respond to the message and roll the dice with the alien race as her faith in humanity has crumbled. Wenjie, I feel you….
In the second book, humanity grapples with the knowledge of potential annihilation approximately 400 years in the future. The alien race has also dispatched a spying system (sophons) on the world that allow them to monitor activities on the earth, but not individual thoughts (CCP reference?). In this context, a world wide governing body (like the UN) tasks 4 individuals with figuring out how to defeat the aliens. They are called wallfacers. They can ask for unlimited resources from the UN. The only catch is, they can never reveal what they are doing to anyone. While 3 of them are expected selections (scientists, politicians…) the 4th is an unknown Chinese sociology professor (Luo Ji) whose selection baffles the world and Luo Ji himself. While the UN knows Luo Ji is important to the aliens, they don’t know why. While the other 3 wallfacers race around earth and space spending trillions of dollars and creating societal havoc, Luo Ji uses his wallfacer status to live in peace in an ideal location with his ideal wife and child. But a conversation he had long ago with Ye Wenji about cosmic sociology tugs at his mind. Eventually Luo Ji discovers the “dark forest” theory which in a nutshell is; in a universe with finite resources and ever expanding life, when a civilization discovers another civilization, their only recourse is to exterminate that civilization in order to attain their resources and continue expansion. In this view of the universe, if you are not the hunter, you will be hunted. A seriously dark theory that is a head scratcher for sure. Right now, it feels a little like we are living in a dark forest here on earth. Are Democrats and Republicans hunting each other? Are the US and Chinese superpowers? Has everyone in power read this book and taken in to heart? Maybe Ye Wenji was right, humanity isn’t worth saving after all…
Finally, in the action packed 3rd book (again, best of the awesome bunch) humanity is seemingly faced with divergent choices when starring down the barrel of their imminent destruction. Do they try to hide in the solar system from the sun’s destruction? Do they try to achieve light speed technology and escape the solar system? Or do they try to “hide” the solar system and essentially wave a white flag saying we are harmless and we promise to never try to leave? Each choice has societal and moral implications. Who gets to decide which is right? Can you be scientifically correct but morally wrong? Should those with wealth and power get to be the survivors? Does it matter? This is a super simplistic boiling down of a complex book, but in the end, it turns out it was never really a choice, and humanity should have been trying to do all three and why would humanity have the hubris to assume they know how a more advanced society would ultimately destroy a solar system anyway?
In the end, I’m really not smart enough to begin to understand all the complexities of these books. But I’m excited to have read them and to have them niggling on my mind. Ultimately, my take away from the three books is that in a universe filled with the limitless potential for death and destruction, there is at a fundamental level the basic building blocks of life that are constantly renewing, changing and expanding and that is something that even in our darkest days, should give us hope. That may not have been at all what the author was going for, but today, feeling down about covid life and the endless election, that is going to be mine. So thank you, Liu Cixin for that….
In Singapore, the staycation has been thoroughly embraced. It’s seen as your “economic duty” if you can afford it. While Ryan and I took a staycation 6 weeks ago to the Capella, the kids had yet to go anywhere. For them, the holy grail of hotels in Singapore is Marina Bay Sands and the infinity pool on the 57th floor. Since we moved here last January, Avery’s been asking to go. It doesn’t help that we stare at MBS out our condo windows.
This week was October break for our school, so it looked like a great time to go. For us with a “large” family, MBS gives us the best bang for our buck. So off we went on the 2 mile journey to MBS for our 2 night family staycation!
So what is Marina Bay Sands? It’s a hotel, casino and LUXURY Mall. The house of Sands always wins at MBS. MBS is the largest hotel in Singapore. it cost an estimated S$8billion ($5.5B USD) to build (including the land reclamation). It was built in conjunction with a larger plan to protect Singapore from flooding and to add additional reservoir capacity to the growing city. The project was started 20 years ago. MBS opened 10 years ago. There’s a ton of additional land that’s yet to be developed. I can’t wait to see what Singapore’s skyline looks like in 10-20 years.