Local tourists

We continued being tourists in our own city this weekend. Friday was a holiday here (Hari Raya Haji). While Ryan still worked in the morning, we managed to escape in the afternoon. What a better way to pretend you’re traveling than heading to the airport? In all seriousness, Singapore has the number 1 rated airport in the world. This is mostly thanks to the amazing experience known as Jewel. Since it’s not always easy to take the time to experience jewel when trying to catch a flight, now seemed like a perfect time. It was also lovely to feel cool for a few hours inside the dome. Sadly, I didn’t prebook the bouncing net experience and it was full. I guess we will have to go back….

It’s actually remarkably peaceful to watch.

Next up was our normal sports Saturday.

Saturday night we headed back to the zoo (enough with the zoo already, right?!?) to the last of the 4 parks. The night safari. It was great! Hard to get pictures of the animals, but they were super active. We walked through an enclosure with bats (pretty much like a horror film), saw a real life pangolin (it was huge and moved like a raccoon!) and saw a keeper call a sloth bear like a dog (the bear was named was Krish, and he really came). We also got a Mercedes excursion van for our car in the way up. Nice! We didn’t get to see the zoo keeper show as it was always full! Next time.

Finally Sunday! The girls got their back to school haircuts in the morning, then we all had brunch at the American club. A little back to school shopping for Liam and I, then Sunday night we headed out for a ride on the Singapore flyer! This has been a bucket list attraction for Avery. When we first moved here, it was closed because it was broken. Then the circuit breaker. Finally it reopened this weekend! Such an awesome experience to have a car designed for 28 people for just the 5 of us! we enjoyed the view and the experience! It was a bit hazy, but with our unpredictable weather, I’ll take it!

When you have the car to yourself….

Finished up with some Senor taco at CHIJMES.

A fun weekend which actually looks tiring but wasn’t. Now to figure out next weekend, National Day weekend!

A little over 6 months…

We are more than 6 months into our expat journey in Singapore. It has definitely not been what we signed up for. That said, we are happy and still happy we moved here. We are sad that there is a huge world of travel at our doorstep that we are unable to access. We are also very sad that family and friends are not able to visit. We would love nothing more than to share a small piece of this experience with them. But like Sheryl Sandburg said after the death of her husband, we are making the best of our plan B. In some ways, it’s easier for us than for people who have lived here for awhile. Singapore is really very small. Most westerners who travel to Asia don’t have Singapore as their only destination. Let’s be truthful, for most people it’s a stopover. But it’s also rich in culture, food and history. I am grateful for the opportunity to slow down and really get to know this adopted nation of ours. Singapore is turning 55 in a few weeks and they have much to be proud of. I am proud to call it my home for this period of my life.

Let me try to answer a few questions about life here now that we are 6 months in.

What’s the best part of living in Singapore? This is really a tough one. Without Covid, the answer would have been travel. Easy. In Covid world… I think I would say it’s the opportunity to live in a big city again and have that city be safe enough that my children can travel in it independently. Both Ella and Liam are able to have a level of independence here that is unthinkable in the US. They can take Grabs (our Uber) and ride the MRT alone. Even having been locked down for 8 weeks, they still emerged more confident and independent. That alone is worth it. In second place would be the food here. It’s truly amazing and we have access to anything. Everyday there’s a new franchise I want to bring home to the US.

What’s the worst? The heat/humidity… This is also a tough one and also changed by covid. Being so far from home is very hard. When we moved here, the world felt small and easy to travel. All that has changed and it weighs heavily. The rest are generally little things. Like things here are both more and less efficient than in the US. It’s like living through the looking glass here. Things run by the government tend to be very efficient and organized while private things seem less so (let that one settle for a moment). Service here is not tip based so there’s no incentive for service people to go above and beyond. At a restaurant, it’s common for your food to come out at totally different times and trying to get your bill can be a time consuming affair. They also pay for things via bank transfer much more frequently than Americans do. Not every place accepts credit cards. Since our Singapore bank account is only in Ryan’s name, this is sometimes frustrating for me. I’ve just learned to always carry cash…

What do you miss from home? Easy one. Family, friends and Tia. That’s really it. During lockdown I missed having a yard and a car, but now that’s over, that feeling has dissipated. Our life here is simple. Our condo is new and uncluttered. Public transit and grab takes us everywhere we need to go. There really isn’t any food we can’t get here. We don’t use a VPN, so having Disney plus again when they roll out here will be nice…

What’s most surprising? That’s also an easy one. Asia is most surprising. In general, in the US we don’t really learn very much about Asia at all. I’ve been really enjoying learning everything I can while I’m over here. I’ve joined an Asian studies book club and can’t get enough of the museums and all the history. I hope we get to travel in person to all the places I’ve been learning about. History here is so long and complex. In Singapore, the “birthing process” of becoming an independent nation really impacted them deeply and formulated many of the beliefs they hold deeply and are reflected in the way they run the country. Colonization, Japanese occupation, religious clashes, poverty, drugs and pollution have all been deeply impactful in how Singapore created their institutions. They are a pragmatic people that because of their nations youth still realize the value in flexibility. This has all been of great benefit during covid.

Will you come home early? Ryan’s work assignment here has always been flexible. It could have been 12 months or as long as we want it to be. Covid has changed everything, but nothing really about his job. Right now we are leaning toward staying longer. The kids will be going to school full time and life here is pretty stable. We are hopeful that we will be able to travel again on the back half of our assignment. The kids all really like their school and despite everything are doing really well. Ella going to high school will still be a natural breaking point for us, but we’ll see where this new world takes us.

I’ll end with a few pics, because I know that’s really the best part of any entry 💕

Beloved pool…
Merlion
The Alkaff or art bridge. My favorite.
Real life
Family selfie pre covid.
First day in Singapore…

A whole zoo for birds?!?

Only Singapore would have a whole zoo just for birds. Last weekend we ventured to the Jurong bird park. It was pretty impressive and we only managed to make it through about half of it (all 5 of us over-heated in the aviary, next time we will go to the bird park at 9am and visit the aviary first). We finished the day up with some din tai fung for lunch then took the MRT home (Erin the crazy public transit girl strikes again) which took about an hour. That’s about the longest any travel takes in Singapore. Avery was happy as the MRT was above ground which is fun for her…

Another amazing enclosure. Singapore really does zoos well.
There was a whole building full of hatchlings. From eggs to 1 year olds. This woman was so patiently feeding brand new babies. This was the baby owl born 5 days before.
So many parrots…

Good food and more zoo time!

Singapore is something of a foodie paradise. We are trying to make up for lost time now that we have some freedom and childcare! We have officially become “expatted” in that we are no longer shocked when we pay S$30 for a cocktail. That’s the price of access for food and drink options from around the globe! The other thing is, it’s actually hard to get a reservation. With the safe distancing measures and eating out being a national pastime, you have to book early! Not good for people with indecision like us… there’s always dumplings and chicken rice at the hawker.

Our outing on Sunday (that’s dubbed family outing day) was again to the zoo. Not quite as crazy as it sounds. The Singapore zoo is actually made up of 4 different parks. We’ve only been to the actual zoo. Sunday, we headed to the river safari park.

I loved the premise of the river safari. It features major river systems from around the globe and highlights animals that live in these rivers. The Mississippi, the Mary River, the Mekong, the Ganges, the Yangtze and half of the park is the amazon. Very cool and we will go back again (and tour it the correct way, we somehow ended up going through it in reverse order 🤦🏼‍♀️. We also had some small annoyances actually getting to the zoo. Ryan and the kids tried to take a grab like normal. Because we are a “large” family we have to take a grab 6. He tried for 45 minutes and no luck. So they took the MRT and then a taxi. I had the brilliant plan to bike there. What was supposed to be a 12 mile ride ended up being about double as I kept ending up on unfinished bike routes and mountain biking trails (no good on my folding bike). I will have to be more careful in my route planning next time. So all that meant we missed our time slot at the regular zoo but luckily made it (2 hours later) for the river safari. I think we had our first glimmer why people give in and get a super expensive car.

Mom Camp

We are getting into a groove with “mom camp” over here. Are they on tech way to much? Yep… but we are getting out and about and seeing and learning more about Singapore. That combined with sports, music lessons and the dreaded “workbooks” and we have a cobbler together summer without travel. Play dates are also a joy to have again. Luckily Liam has made friends with little sisters. Ready made play mates for Avery! Here are a few pics from our adventures.

Elephant feeding time. Our zoo has Sumatran and Sri Lankan elephants (Asian elephants)
Goofy orangutans are always having fun
The big cats were all pacing. Poor things…

Happy 4th from the SG!

We survived our first 4th of July as an expat. While I’m sure this is a surreal experience under normal circumstances, in the covid world, it’s even stranger… But I think we made the best of our weekend. We are getting to be a pretty great little tribe of 5!

Since socially distanced sports are allowed again, we’ve embraced them wholeheartedly. We’ve also been very grateful for our American Club membership! All 5 of us are playing tennis and Liam and Avery are swimming at TAC. We can walk there from our home and it was wonderful this weekend to see the American flag and be wished “happy 4th of July!” While normally they would have held big celebrations, this year, these small things made all the difference!

Labrador Nature Reserve

One of the rules during the circuit breaker (lockdown) and phase 1 was that you were only supposed to exercise within your neighborhood. Some of our long walks and bike rides definitely stretched the definition of this, but all in all, we were pretty good at following the rules. Now in phase 2 we can spread our wings a little bit. While it rains quite frequently in Singapore, the past week has been VERY rainy. When it rains here, it dumps. Literally monsoons. So Thursday was our first day with a long enough break to venture out. I’ve wanted to head to labrador nature reserve for quite some time. We talked about riding our bikes there, parking, walking around then riding home, but it always seemed like too much. So yesterday we hopped a grab and went for an adventure.

Part of the nature reserve is an old fort from the British colonial days. There is so much fascinating world war 2 history here. When the British set up their defense of Singapore, they always assumed any invasion would come from the sea (which from their mindset of seeing Singapore as a integral port city, made sense). Then came the Japanese. They invaded from the north through Malaysia. The above cannon is facing the sea. While they could re-orient the cannons to aim inland (they could shoot up to 10 miles!) the ammunition they had was to shoot at ships, not to explode on land. The British lasted 7 days before they surrendered Singapore to the Japanese. The Japanese brutally occupied Singapore for a little over 3 years.

The cannon was interesting to see, but while the people were away in lockdown, the bugs came out to play! There were giant swarms of mosquitos and a bee nest in the cannon. Considering there were more cases of dengue fever diagnosed yesterday that covid, we hustled away from the swarm.
The fort at Labrador is built up on a hill, underground were a series of tunnels and store rooms. Apparently one tunnel went under the water to fort siloso in Sentosa! These sealed off entries are all that are left and they are so overgrown by jungle it’s hard to imagine it as a fort…
The entire time we were at the park, the Air Force jets were flying over in formation. It was so cool! We read later in the day that they were practicing for the national day celebration in August (which I wasn’t sure was happening as normal, but apparently no one told the Air Force that yet…).

Playgrounds are open again! Limit to 5 kids at a time. Again, major bugs.

My sweet, little 7 year old…

Our beautiful, spunky, stubborn and sweet Avery is 7 today. We’ve asked so much from our little muffin this year. We moved her away from her family, her very bestest friend, her cat. She’s has to adapt to being in a condo ALL THE TIME. To wear a mask and be sweaty everyday. And still, she’s the happiest, most wonderful little nugget any parent could ever ask for. Happy birthday my sweet Avery, I hope 7 really is magical. 💕🎂🎉💕

Schools out….

… for the summer. Hopefully not forever! all 3 kids have gone back to school over the past 2 weeks and it was a success for all 3.

Did they love wearing masks all day? Nope. Did they feel it was worth it to be able to see their teachers and friends? Absolutely. And while I’m not sure they social distanced properly 💯 the mental lift it provided our whole family was well worth it. I’m again so grateful to their amazing teachers who not only went above and beyond for distance learning, but who also were so incredibly enthusiastic about returning to school. To have that closure on the year was amazing, especially for our kids who have had so many changes… I’m terrified of having 2 months of summer. No BRYC, no visitors from home, no traveling. Right now, no friends and no where to go! Gulp. One day at a time.

Riding home from school on the MRT masks are mandatory and there’s also a no talking rule on public transit.
Avery and myself on the MRT. Most days we took a grab, but a few times we couldn’t get one. I took the MRT alone each day after dropping them off and to go pick them up. Wasn’t too crowded and didn’t feel too scary. Felt normal which felt good.

This week while the girls were in school, Liam was supposed to be doing work in packets from school. Which was a fail. But he and I did have some adventures. We took a big bike ride one day, we rode past each of his 2 best friends’s condos (they don’t live near each other) in a big loop. We also took a walk in the botanic gardens one day. Nice to spend some alone time with him.

Here chicky, chicky…
Catching some rays.

Last weekend we rode out bikes down to the formula 1 track. We watched “formula 1, drive to survive” on Netflix so I actually knew who the drivers were. I hope Singapore can figure out how to have the race in September…

I am partial to Daniel Riccardo…
Pit stop
Ryan and I ventured to the wet market in Tiong Bahru on Saturday to get our fruits and veggies. First time there since March. Nice to be back, not too crowded. flower stalls weren’t open yet which was sad…
Eggs galore! I can’t get on board with unpasteurized eggs yet. Next level…

All this is happening against the backdrop of the pandemic and the protests in the US. Many days it feels surreal to us. Ryan and I have been talking about how our experience of this pandemic is now so radically different than that of our family and friends in the US that it really isn’t comparable. While there are many things here that I HATE about our lockdown and the painfully slow reopening. What I do appreciate is the level of communication the government provides and the feeling of “we are all in this together and if we each do our part, we will succeed” (though I do hate when they “threaten” to relockdown if cases go up. It feels like, “if you’re bad, we will send you back to your room”. See, my Americanness just keeps bubbling up).

I’ve actually written a few unpublished blog posts about George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent protests. Nothing I write seems to be enough. Which is also why I didn’t ever post anything on social media. It just feels hollow. Again, we can only experience this from a distance. I’m just so incredibly sad that in the US our African American community is treated so badly. And we all knew and chose to look the other way. But now we can’t and shouldn’t look away. Our Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. We need to make sure that this is true for ALL American. Not just white Americans. And if a few institutions need to be remade to achieve this, maybe it’s time..

I have one other observation about the protests. It is a magnificent thing to have the right to freely protest. It might look a little “messy” to outsiders, but it is a clear way for the people’s voices to be heard. This is not a right in all countries (in Singapore, you need government approval to protest so really, what’s the point?!?). So hold your signs proudly. I’m holding my “Black Lives Matter” sign in my heart from 9,500 miles away.

Selamat Hari Raya!

Monday is another holiday in Singapore. Nope, it’s not the US’s Memorial Day (though that will apply to us). It’s Hari Raya Adilfitri which marks the end of The month of Ramadan. In other parts of the world, it’s called Eid al-Fitri. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast everyday from sunrise to sunset. On Hari Raya they usually eat a big celebratory meal with family and friends. The Malay area in Singapore is usually decked out in lights (I just read they did put up the lights and turned them on. They will leave them up until after the lockdown) But, not this year. Still in lockdown. Another celebration via zoom. No one can say this pandemic is targeting one religious group more than the others. Everyone here in Singapore’s taken a hit. Next year I hope we can head down to Kampong Glam, see the lights and grab some beef rendang. Dare to dream.

Funny anecdote. The other day Liam said, “mom, why is Faisal writing ‘happy Hari Raya?’” To which I replied, well Liam, Faisal is Muslim, so he celebrates. I know Liam knew in theory that Faisal was Muslim (they are from Saudi Arabia) but I don’t think he connected it to them celebrating ‘other’ holidays. It’s the best when you can connect another culture or religion with a friend. I’m so happy Liam has Faisal for this.

In other updates, there really are none. We are still locked down (stupid “circuit breaker”). This week we were excited as they announced what phase 1 would look like (it will begin on June 2nd). Our outdoor dining, playing tennis, seeing (a) friend, swimming, going anywhere hopes were dashed. Basically, in phase 1, we can get our Air Con serviced. The other interesting, though not super exciting news for us is, kids are going back to school. Local kids will alternate 1 week in school, 1 week at home beginning on June 2nd. Since they don’t follow the northern hemisphere schedule (as we do) that’s great for them. We have not received official word from our school, other than seniors will go back this Tuesday. They are indicating our kids will also go back to school in some capacity on June 2nd. We will hear next week. While I would normally jump for joy at this news, it’s kinda a “meh” moment as their last day of school is June 11th. They didn’t modify our calendar in hopes expats could go home this summer. Since that’s not happening it’s going to be a long summer in the condo. The theory here is to enable people to go back to work, they have to safely be able to have kids in school. Makes sense, right? Hopefully it works.

Our phase 2 is scheduled to start at LEAST 4 weeks after the beginning of phase 1. So that’s July 1st at the earliest. Phase 2 will gradually add back outdoor recreation, restaurants and retail over multiple months. If our cases spike during that period, back to the beginning. Finally we will reach phase 3, which is “our new normal” how we live until a vaccine or effective therapeutic is discovered. No news on travel. They will open the airport on June 2nd for transits only. No one can enter still and if we leave, we cannot come back until the restriction is lifted. Many expat families are separated with no end in site. It’s so sad.

I’ve been struggling a lot emotionally this week with our continued lockdown news. I really worry that there will be long term damage to the kids with the lack of activity and all the tech. They seem pretty good mentally, but I can’t see how this constant inactivity and staring at screens can be good for them.

Some ASEAN nations are working toward creating “travel bubbles” to try to reopen tourism. This would be great, but we worry that our American passports might exclude us. It’s sadly a difficult time to be an American right now.

I’ll include a few pics from our lockdown life. Again, nothing too exciting here. Stay well my family and friends.

Mask life.
To enter anywhere, you have to scan in and out. The government probably says, Starbucks, again?!?
We explored Emerald Hill on one of our walks. Shop houses right off of Orchard Rd.
The hornbills came to visit!
Liam’s taken to baking. This week it was croissants. Slightly more like pilsbury crescent rolls, but delicious none the less.
Dear pool, we miss you. Please don’t break while no one uses you. We hope to visit you soon.
Movement break
Some STEM
School lessons are better with a friend
We’re buying bikes. We bought this one as a tester. All of us except Avery (she’s too small for them) are getting folding bikes. We can’t wait to get out there!
This is really what our life looks like. The rest of the pics are highlights. She’s at least dressed and we brushed hair. winning
Our sad phase 1…
And what really keeps the adults going…