A visit to the heartlands…

The more “local” areas in Singapore are referred to as the heartlands. This is where typical Singaporeans live. Not expats, not crazy rich Asians. They are culturally rich areas full of HDB blocks (these are government built housing which 80% of the population lives) local hawkers, wet markets and religious centers. They have a vibrant feel to them that makes them fun to go to.

We’re trying to have a fun (ie not sitting at home on tech) last week before school starts. Today we visited Bishan-Ang Mo Kio park (when I say Ang Mo Kio I realize that I haven’t quite lost that hard Buffalo A yet…) the park was only a short MRT ride away and was a beautiful reminder of how thoughtful Singapore was in designing its urban spaces. Instead of fighting or eradicating it’s natural spaces, it embraces them and makes them part of the community. Bishan-Ang Mo Kio park is really a flood plain for the kallang River. Such a smart use of a necessary space and an acknowledgement in the era of global warming, we need to be prepared. It also creates a peaceful space in the midst of the city. Singapore is full of these regional parks and I hope to visit as many as possible in my time here.

Finished the day with a treat before hopping on the MRT for home. I had ah egg custard tart. Sooo good….

Hopefully we’ll have more fun posts from this week. Seeing the summer out with a bang!!!

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…
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.

Phase 2!

The government here surprised everyone and started our phase 2 early, last Friday! And they opened up A LOT. Even strict Singapore is not immune to the financial implications of long term lockdowns. Restaurants, shops, beaches, POOLS, TENNIS, parks, FRIENDS. Life is GOOD. The kids have all had play dates, Ryan and I have played tennis and we ate ice cream… outside! Sitting down! The little things have been made all the more sweet. Next week museums open and we’re really hoping the zoo. Social distancing is still very strict and 💯 mask usage. But it’s all good.

This past week we had “mom camp” which meant a lot of bike rides and walks. I have a few fun pictures from our adventures. Hopefully we will continue to have more Singapore adventures, we are getting to know this city by 💜

2 weeks ago we rode our bikes in a new neighborhood following a trail a friend mapped out called “the temple tour”. This first building is called the David Elias building. This building was build in 1928 by it’s namesake as his trading company. The building is famous for its architectural style, but since the Jewish community is very small here, it’s nice to see some landmarks represented.
Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple (Chinese temple for the goddess of mercy, believed to bring good luck. All religious institutions have been closed for the circuit breaker (see the gates and fences). People were praying outside which was both happy and sad to see. As of the 26th they will reopen to only 50 people max at a time.
Sri Krishnan temple next door. The entrance is decorated with 10 incarnations of the Hindu deity Vishnu. We were all partial to the green dog man to the right..
More bike riding sightings (different ride than the pics above) I kinda love this one, I feel like this a lot.
Shipping is still going strong!
Marina Bay from the other side!
On this ride we rode home through Kampong Glam. Deserted Sultan mosque.

Both of the bike rides above were before phase 2 started, so much less crowded. Hopefully more adventures to come as the city reopens.

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. 💕🎂🎉💕