Marina Bay Sands Staycation

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!

We arrived and this was the first experience 😳. This was the checkin line. Upon reflection, we should have been prepared for it as everyone’s trying to check in early to a hotel the size of a small city. But it was a Monday! It took about 30 minutes to get checked in. Full disclosure, both Ryan and I were on the fence about the “value” of this staycation. A lot of money for 3 hours of pool time… this line wasn’t helping….

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.

If you’re a geek like me and are interested in the project, here’s a good article on the marina barrage which holds the whole thing together: https://www.govtech.com/em/disaster/Singapore-Marina-Barrage-Model-Resilience.html?AMP

Back to the pictures…

Celebrating the Mid-Autumn festival at Gardens by the Bay

We’re still celebrating the Mid-Autumn festival here in Singapore (remember the mooncakes?!?). While some celebrations continue until the end of October, this past weekend was the last weekend for the light displays at Gardens by the Bay. So we headed there on Friday night to check it out. I also made a reservation to go on the skywalk of the super trees, which was something we haven’t done yet. It was a beautiful, full moon night, so despite grumbling children (“why do you always MAKE us go places?!?” Evil, I tell you, I am evil) everyone seemed to enjoy the experience.

After then we grabbed dinner at the food court there. Nothing fancy but easy with hungry kids.

Not much else in other news. All kids were back in school all week last week. Ryan made a new friend who lives across the street from us. They played a round of golf together last week. I can’t believe it, but I was happy he was able to get out to golf again. Golfing has been a bit challenging here. I played a lot of tennis (my match was rained out halfway through, but hoping to close it out with a win tomorrow…) and have gone to a few more “teas” over the past few weeks. I love the teas for a few reasons. One, it’s a nice way to meet new people (they are organized through the AWA), two they are super yummy and three, it’s nice to checkout new restaurants. One was at SKAI which is on the 70th floor of the swissotel. The view was stunning and the food yummy. The second tea was an Indian tea at a restaurant near our condo called yantra. The food was SO GOOD.

While I sometimes struggle here with feelings of uselessness, it is so nice to have all of these experiences. Pretty lucky at the end of the day.

Sick days

We now know what happens when your kid gets sick in the new covid world…

Last Saturday we had invited 2 of Ryan’s co-workers and their wives over for dinner (we had originally thought to go out, but being 6, we couldn’t). This necessitated a little scrambling for me. I’m not sure what I was thinking when we moved here, but I didn’t bring ANYTHING for entertaining. No platters, no place mats, nothing. I think that I envisioned a world where we would eat out or be traveling. Sigh. So I had shopped a little last week and made our home look presentable.

Everyone was here and we were having apps on the balcony when Avery came over to me. I could tell something was wrong immediately. Before she could answer, she vomited all over me. Awesome. Luckily everyone there was a parent and was very cool about it. I cleaned up Avery and myself and we moved indoors. All good.

Well, it ended up being a solid stomach flu. Ella also came down with a fever the following morning. Luckily, as far as I know, everyone that came over on Saturday was fine and Avery’s friend she had played with on Saturday was also fine.

I knew they both needed to go to the doctor ASAP in case we received a 5 day SHN to get the clock ticking on that. Monday at 9am we were in her office that is a convenient 5 minute walk away. Luckily, as they had no respiratory symptoms, we were not under the 5 day SHN and did not have to have a covid swab. I was actually more concerned about dengue, but the doctor seemed to not be worried about this either. Luckily she was correct in that it was just a run of the mill stomach virus (I’m happy to report all those years of medical school are indeed better than google 😉) Those pesky GI bugs are stubborn, surviving all the masking and hand washing!

Bad news is the school said all 3 kids had to stay home until the girls were fever free for 24 hours. So Liam was stuck home too. Good news is their school here is great. Ella’s work is always posted online and I went on Monday and picked up Liam and Avery’s school iPads. Their teachers gave them enough work to keep them busy. A silver lining is I discovered Ella’s math teacher posts all of his lecture slides that are very in-depth. She’s been struggling a little in math this year, so we had time to slowly review each slide together. Going forward, I know to go through these with her are review anything she didn’t understand or they didn’t get to in class. The girls kicked the fever by Tuesday, but were VERY rundown. We ended up keeping them home all week anyway. Liam happily went back on Friday, ironically for “Global Be Well Day”.

In a way I’m happy this happened so early in the year. We know exactly what to expect now and what to do. Honestly, it’s how we should have been functioning all along.

Monday, I will be cheering as the school bus pulls away with all 3 kids again.

Covid Art

Singapore is already exhibiting art inspired by the Covid experience. Amazing. I went to the National Gallery today with a friend and we walked through their new multi-media collaborative exhibit, “Proposals for Novel Ways of Being”. These exhibits will be continuously rolled out between now and February. Some will be physical exhibitions and some will be online. They pull from the art schools, galleries and museums. So creative and interesting. I’m always looking for “covid silver linings” and maybe the art world will provide us with one.

https://www.novelwaysofbeing.sg/#exhibition

https://www.timeout.com/singapore/news/national-gallery-singapore-and-singapore-art-museum-come-together-for-two-new-shows-082920

This was the first exhibit. I adore the title of this. Is this a “glitch season” or are we stuck in the glitch? The art in the exhibit was super thought provoking. My favorite piece was one that had a scan code that took you to another work of art in a video. The docent at the museum said the artist changed the art in the scan periodically. Super creative and meaningful as our entire life here in Singapore is now controlled by scan codes (to enter any space, to look at a menu..). I also enjoyed the “archeological dig” items from now that would be found in the future. It really made you think about how much of our lives is full of trash….
The “Time Passes” exhibit was interesting in its juxtaposition with the chapter in Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse”. Many of the pieces of art work explored how our lives went from a million miles an hour to just stopped. What will our “holiday house” look like after covid? One art piece was a reiki studio that had a light installation that reacted to you making sounds. Kinda fun and interesting. Another were photographs of “hostile architecture” in Singapore. I’ll need to consider that concept for a while…

Bottom line… so lucky to have both the time and opportunity to visit these exhibits. I look forward to future additions to this concept. I’m also excited to see what other art (music, books, movies) comes from this time. Covid silver linings….

The view from the top floor of the museum isn’t too bad either….

General updates.

I haven’t written a post in a while… we’re still doing fun and interesting things, but mostly we’re living a pretty normal life. I guess I’m also feeling a little guilty writing that. The kids school is going well, there is no indication we will shut down again any time soon. In fact, I read a newspaper article that said another lockdown would be seen as a major public health failure on the part of the government. I’m holding them to that. We eat dinner out, play sports, stay in hotels. Our covid case numbers are very small. What’s keeping us safe and functioning? Lots of testing, quarantining and having the country still be closed. As much as I hate to write that, the 2 week quarantine for entry is really what’s keeping this little island going. I know the government is exploring ways to reduce it to allow more travelers to enter the country, but as of now, I don’t know how they will achieve that without squandering all the success we’ve achieved. But even wealthy little Singapore is not immune to the siren call of business. So we’ll see. we have so few Covid cases, maybe we can be a little risky?!?

I’ll work backward on updates… today I went to an adorable little shop in Chinatown for a tea ceremony with a few friends. I learned about “tea pets”, aging tea and how to properly hold a Chinese tea cup. All in all, an enjoyable afternoon.

Enjoying our tea my favorite was the “empress tea”

It’s been raining and raining here. Frustrating, but part of life in this part of the world. I find it hilarious when the weather report says it’s going to be a “chilly” 23 degrees Celsius. Sweater weather.

A rainbow after the storm

Last week I had my first tennis match. I joined the “soaring Swedes” in WITS (women in tennis Singapore). We are the lowest level for competition (D) so everyone is learning and pretty good natured. It is amazing how nervous I got for my first match! I was lucky to be paired up with my teammate Maria, who is a very calming and steady influence. Ironically, our first match was against the “Slice girls” of the American club. I play clinics with a few of their players at the American club, so that was fun for me. We made a few mistakes in our first set and lost in a tie breaker. Then we got rained out. A week later we resumed the match. Maria and I came back strong, won the second set and then beat them 10-5 in a super tie break. Happy to bring 2 points to our team bank! I play again this week with another partner, so hopefully we are equally successful!

I posted a bunch of pics on Instagram/Facebook, but Ryan and I had a great anniversary “vacation” at the Capella in Sentosa. It was a very luxurious and restful 3 nights in a stunningly beautiful resort. Silver linings from covid, we never would have stayed at that hotel if we were traveling. But it was amazing and I am forever ruined by a 5 star experience.

What did we do with the kids you are probably thinking? they stayed home with Janeth, our foreign domestic worker, or “helper”. Janeth has been a part of our family since April. She deserves her own post. Hopefully I’ll get on that soon… she and the kids were all fine. Maybe someday the Maldives will be possible…

Lastly, a few weeks ago, we packed our bikes up into a car and rode the punggol loop. It was an amazing bike trail. We made it all 26k with a little side trip to Coney Island for a swim. So lucky to live in a country that’s set aside so much space for outdoor adventure.

We’re still missing everyone at home and sad to not know when or if we can get home for a visit. But living a good life! 💕💕💕

Mooncakes

Today we were gifted mooncakes. Mooncakes are eaten in Asia to celebrate the Mid-autumn festival which celebrates gathering (of people and crops), thanksgiving (for crops and harmonious unions and praying (for good fortune, babies, fertility, beauty, fortune). People gift each other mooncakes to wish them well. Today one of Ryan’s co-workers gave us our first batch. They were beautifully wrapped in a fancy box and gift bag. They are typically made of lotus paste and red bean paste. The mid-autumn festival this year will officially be celebrated on October 1st (full moon) and there are usually celebrations with the lighting of lanterns, burning of incense and parties. Not sure how this will be done this year but I look forward to it anyway!

Liam and Avery have done a tasting for you. I will caveat the video by saying I ate them as well and thought they tasted fine. Not as sweet as a western dessert, but not objectionable. Ella tried them off camera and did not like them. Red bean is a very common flavor here. It’s sweet, not like red beans in chili. enjoy the video (and sorry I spoke so much!).

The lotus mooncake
The red bean mooncake

Daycationers

What in the world is a daycation, you are probably thinking? Since Singapore is an island that was once so dependent on international travelers, they are trying their hardest to entice all residents to “rediscover Singapore”. For us, as relative newbies who have not had the chance to travel the area 😢 this is fun. For most, it’s a sad reminder of just how close so many wonderful places we are…

The other conundrum is, Singapore has very strict entry guidelines right now. You have to apply to enter Singapore. If you are a citizen or permanent resident, you are automatically allowed entry. If you are a work pass holder (like us) you are allowed entry “if” there is space. What does “space” mean? Depending on what country you are traveling from, will dictate how you must quarantine (all entries must quarantine). Right now (this has just changed slightly this weekend), if you are from a “safe” country, you can quarantine at home (in a room separate from the rest of your family if they have not traveled with you) and the government checks, both in person and virtually. If your country of origin is “unsafe” you have to serve your 14 days in a hotel not if your choosing (you are put on a bus at the airport and taken to where there is space). To accommodate this, the Singapore government is renting out entire hotels (they charge each non Singaporean person entering $2000 for their quarantine, so they’re not footing the whole bill). This brings me back to our daycation. The Shangri-la rasa sentosa is a 14 day traveler quarantine hotel. The government rents out all 450 rooms every night. But they also have beautiful grounds, pools and beach with waterfront “toys”. Quarantiners, not being allowed to leave their rooms, clearly aren’t using these facilities. So the shangri-la was smart, and had the government approve them to use these facilities for day use. I felt a little guilty as the quarantiners watched us from their balconies, but not too guilty as this is a pretty great hotel to get for a quarantine…

As you can imagine, this idea is very popular. I booked our day about a month ago, shortly after it was publicized. All weekend are sold out. We paid about $275 for the 5 of us for 10am-8pm. Included in the fee was about $170 in coupons to use for food/drinks. So it was a bargain! We could use all 3 pools (including water slides), beach activities including kayaks and paddle boards and order food and drinks to our pool loungers all day. Normally when I travel, much to my families annoyance, I am consumed by the need to SEE AND DO ALL THE THINGS!!! Since there is nothing to see or do, this was amazing for all of us as I could relax and consequently, so could the rest of the family. Luckily they love me….

Welcome to the Shangri-la Sentosa. I took this pic from my poolside lounger. Because I’m crazy, we were there at 10am on the button and got first dibs on the best chairs. Early bird gets the worm! The other best part of the day… no masks for 10 hours! This is unheard of in Singapore. The staff were all properly masked all day, but while on the grounds, we were free. Worth the price of admission alone.

Tea, tennis, crocodiles and dragon kilns….

We are settling into our school schedule here. Sports, music lessons, playing with friends and a little homework. It’s feeling normal again which feels good. The kids all seem happy with their teachers and are settling in nicely for the year. Next week we have their virtual open houses. Sad to not be able to meet their teachers in person, but this will do for now.

Last Thursday I had a super busy afternoon/evening. First I went to high tea at the Raffles hotel. It was so fancy, fun and delicious. When you arrive out front, they open your door for you. The tea room is in a beautiful space just off the main lobby. The hotel was recently restored and is so lovely. I signed up for the tea through the AWA. I knew one of the women before I went, but it was so lovely to meet the other 3. Also so amazing that they take the time to schedule reservations in our groups of 5 (max people allowed together in public in SG).

Next stop was the kickoff for my tennis team season. I am determined to improve my doubles match play so I tried out for WITS (women in tennis Singapore). I ended up matched with a lovely team that is mostly Swedish women. I am a soaring Swede! Our sister team is the smashing Swedes. Right after my tea, the team had organized to meet up in groups of 5 at one restaurant for drinks and another for dinner. It was great spending time off the court getting to know my teammates and getting to meet some of the members of our sister team. I have to believe our team has the most fun in all of WITS!

Friday I was exhausted and actually a little hung over from socializing more in one day than in the past 8 months. In the morning my friend Angie and I went for a walk around the botanical garden. She also introduced me to a lovely baker that makes amazing sourdough, then we got caught in a monsoon level rainstorm walking home. A landscaper in the park took pity on us and picked us up in his golf cart (even though he’s not supposed to, I hope he didn’t get in trouble!). Angie and I were so wet, we were wringing out our shirts and masks. We made a puddle in the bus on the way home. We just laughed the whole time. That night, Ryan, the kids and I went back to plank pizza in Dempsey for dinner. Definitely a favorite!

Saturday was filled with sports and then Ryan and I escaped for our weekly date night. This weekend we checked out Heart of Darkness which is a brewery out of HCM in Vietnam. The beer and atmosphere was excellent. The food was average, but we are picky after so much delicious food here…

Sunday we tried to motivate to go to Sungei Buloh wetland reserve. After much grumbling, we finally got there around 10am. Sungei Buloh is one of the last remaining mangrove marshlands in Singapore. It’s also the last place to see the saltwater crocodiles that used to be everywhere here. There are 2 sides to the reserve. The more Instagram worthy side was super crowded. But, the side with all the wildlife was fine. We saw 2 crocodiles and a bunch of HUGE monitor lizards (one eating a fish, yuck). The reserve is just about as far north as you can get in Singapore. Malaysia was so close….

For your monitor lizard watching pleasure

Finally, on Monday, 2 friends and I trekked back up north to visit the last remaining “dragon kiln” pottery center in Singapore. The kiln is called a dragon kiln because of its shape and how the smoke comes out of it. It was huge! It ran all the way up a hill. They only fire it 2-3 times a year, so we will have to come back to see that. While they only make some of their products in the kiln, they had a huge variety of pottery that was hand printed. After wandering around, getting lost and enjoying all the beautiful pottery, I came home with a small bowl made in the dragon kiln and a HUGE umbrella holder painted in perenakan style. I love my umbrella holder so much. I will definitely trek back up there for more purchases and to see the kiln in action!

Phew, I’m tired just writing about it! Next weekend we’re trying out a “daycation” so we’ll see how that goes…

Back to School!

Today was a happy day in the Morris household. Today was the first day of school. Full time, in person school. It was great for all of us! The kids were excited to go back and seemed to love their teachers!

Ella: her advisory teacher is Mr Jung. He’s Hungarian by birth, but grew up in South Africa. Besides advisory, he teaches Spanish. Ella really liked him. Advisory is awesome. It’s like homeroom but way better. They are very concerned about making sure middle and high school students are ok, not just academically but socially and emotionally. They call it “pastoral care”. The advisory teacher really gets to know each kid. For the first 2 days of school they are spending half of it in advisory getting to know each other. They will also eat their lunch in advisory while under covid restrictions. Other good news is Ella’s best friend from last year is in advisory with her. That makes all the difference!

Liam: his teacher is Mrs Roth. She’s Canadien, but grew up in Singapore herself. She’s been a teacher for 23 years and looks perfect for Liam. Her husband is a 4th grade teacher at Stamford and they have 3 kids that also attend the school. Liam was happy to be back in the class He is with one of his best friends again. He was funny tonight. He said, you know mom, I’m not the new kid anymore. There’s a whole new crop. It feels good to not be a new kid anymore.

Avery’s teacher is Ms. Murphy and she’s Irish. Avery said she’s super nice and very funny. She has 4 girls from her class last year in this years class. Ms Murphy said if they keep up the good work at social distancing, they can hopefully go outside for recess next week. Fingers crossed!

My fingers are also crossed for our family and friends at home. I’m sad you will not be going back to full time school next month. I hope that you get to move back to that as soon as possible. You are all in my thoughts….

Ready to go. Thankfully the uniforms still fit!
Off to the bus!
Back to the bus auntie and uncle! I might have let out a large woop as the bus pulled away….

Majulah Singapura!

This weekend was National Day here. Singapore is 55 years young! Majulah Singapura means “onward Singapore” in Malay which is also the name of the national anthem. Even with the covid restrictions, they celebrated well here and we enjoyed participating. The theme to this years celebration was “Singapore together” and they honored all the frontline workers in the ongoing battle with covid. There were military fly overs, a giant flag flown by helicopters, military parades, parachutes, a new yearly song (since there are 55 songs, we now notice we hear them all the time on the radio around town) and fireworks at 10 different locations. To try to prevent too much congregating, the events were spread out all over Singapore and televised. They have come an amazingly long way in 55 years. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this small but mighty nation.

Nothing to report on from Saturday. Soccer, swimming and a fun grown up night out for dinner in Dempsey hill with friends.

We get very excited…