Friday, August 31, 2012

Mah Jong Mondays

It always seemed a given that I would play Mah Jong went I moved to Singapore, so I started on Monday:

I'm totally hooked. 

My running group was supposed to start on Tuesday but the torrential rain kept us out of the Reservoir park, so I had to do the treadmill...

Wednesday brought an event by a designer on how to decorate with antiques...unfortunately I didn't take any pictures...and that night had Girls Night Out with new/old friends from the UK:
Mexican food and  free margaritas set us on a track to do it regularly.

Friday's specialty was tea with my friend Gayle's Singapore family - a delightful afternoon in a family home with good food and catching up.  I found out her sister-in-law is a wonderful artist; she had an exhibition opening that night so John and I went to the gallery for the festivities:

The event "Our Watercolour Journey" featured 24 art students (looked very professional to me!) of a wonderful teacher.  It was held in the atrium of the Ministry of Communication and Arts building, which is now restored to colorful glory.  I remember it has the place that censored all of our videos when we were here before...(we had to pay for them to watch Sister Act and cut out anything offensive)... I think things have changed a bit but more about that later...

Here is Nina and her entries:

I am sorry my photos don't do them justice!

And one of her colleagues:

Yes, all watercolor!

Bye for now!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Modern Art

This Sunday we found a parish that seems more to our liking...perhaps because it is air conditioned.  :) This was the day they received 40 RCIA candidates - 40 (!!) people who are becoming members of the Church. So of course the service lasted an hour and a half, but it didn't seem that long...probably because we had a pew this time and it was cool!!  Near the end of Mass we heard a few claps of thunder, and then the  skies opened up.  I had forgotten that when it rains here, it pours!

We went to lunch at a nearby mall; on the way we noticed a CD shop.  There were lots of CDs, but the most prominent product on display was cupcakes:

After lunch we visited the Singapore Art Museum, which is housed in the historic St. Joseph's School.  The St Joseph’s Institution building began with Father Jean-Marie Beurel, who was instrumental in raising funds not only for this boys’ school but also for the Church of the Good Shepherd (now known as the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd) and the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (now known as CHIJMES). After establishing the church in 1847, he raised monies for its adornment as well as for the boys’ school. He felt strongly that “a church without a school is like a King without progeny".  
Unfortunately for us who love art museums, this one was filled with strange contemporary works; some were thought-provoking, but a lot of it seemed like wasted space to us. But the antique mosaic floors and the architecture made it all worthwhile, and there are lots of other museums to visit during our stay!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Shopping for Tech Gear

John needed some computer stuff, so we headed out on the MRT to a computer mall.  I first have to comment on the wonderful rapid transit system here.  I have been doing several trips a day for 2 weeks on the subway and still haven't used even $15 on my card.  Most trips are about 30 cents, and a train arrives every 4-5 minutes.  (Take that DC Metro...)  Here is what a station looks like:

So nice, so clean.  And then outside, here is the sidewalk...can you tell what's missing?
I hope you disgusting black spots from discarded gum.  And this is an old sidewalk! (Contrary to rumor, it is not illegal to chew gum here, just to sell it and to litter the ground with it.  So nice and civilized)

We found one of the malls that specialize in everything computer, camera, phone, gaming,copying, everything.  5 floors of hundreds of little shops, all with the same kind of stuff and somehow making a living.

We finished our shopping and headed back to the station, of course going through a street market on the way. A little toy stall:
It seems a new business opened, so all the congratulatory flower arrangements decorated the walkway:

We needed a little snack and decided to go to the food market and find a juice stall.  I had my favorite -fresh carrot and pineapple -( no sugar, corn syrup or water added) - and John enjoyed a glass of watermelon juice.  All for $3.50.  But as we waited for the man to blend our drinks, this was what we saw next door.  I think they are cuttlefish, which are monster squid.  Quite delicious, really...

And finally, a beautiful little bit of architecture to cheer up an alleyway:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Looking for Hungry Ghosts

Some Chinese in Singapore believe that during the months of August and September, the "Gates of Hell" are opened and the souls of the dead are freed to roam the earth. These Taoists believe the ghosts of their ancestors return to their houses, hungry and ready to eat.The Hungry Ghost Festival is held to honor the hungry ancestor ghosts, and food and drink is put out to satisfy their needs. (Is it that far removed from Halloween?  :} )
Tonight we traveled down to Chinatown to look for some Hungry Ghosts - or at least some evidence that their descendants were looking after them. We found a few altars waiting for the ghosts to devour the food; the other tradition of burning paper effigies of the old folks' favorite things (BMWs, i-Pads, shirts, money, for example) wasn't happening tonight, but I know we will see some in the coming days.  Watch out!!  
 An altar with lucky numbers on display.

We found a shop specializing in paper "products" for the ancestors.  You buy them and then burn them for the old guys to enjoy in the afterlife...

 Shirts, lingerie, dresses, and money to burn!  Yes, they are made of paper...

And of course, grumpy old dead uncle needs an i-Pad to entertain him...

This is an altar at a popular restaurant area - the food is real - hot-off-the-grill fish, veggies, noodles, coffee, tea, and oranges, pineapples, cakes for dessert.  All surrounded by incense to entice the spirits.  Bon appetit!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

To market, to market

Today I had my first real experience of urban living with no car.  It is time to stock up on groceries, so I headed out by foot and subway to a downtown grocery store. (I will go to the wet market on some days for fresh fruit and veggies, but we need some staples.)  I found the recommended store and put my coin in the slot to use a shopping cart and took off down the narrow aisles.   I am pleasantly surprised at the variety of foods we can get, this being full of European expats as well as those from the West.  Of course, the prices are crazy, but even said about that. At checkout the girl asked me, "Wine club?"  I couldn't understand what she meant, so she asked me the same question about 3 times...finally a blond woman in the next aisle translated for me.  "She wants to know if you belong to the Wind Club, which costs $20 a year but it is worth it because you get 8 % off the wine prices."  (Does that sound like a good deal?  I decided to trust the blond lady and sprung for the club.)  I filled out the delivery form, took a bag with the very-perishable items, got my coin back for the cart, and headed for a bakery for a baguette and Marks & Spencers for my favorite tea biscuits.  After another subway trip home, I just had to wait until 9 PM for the delivery.  All is well and the cupboards are stocked!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fun Food

Another installment in the Fun Food department!  The most famous Singaporean food (and our daughter's favorite) is Chicken is just what it sounds like, with chicken on top of a mound of rice, but whatever they do to it makes it extra special.  (I think they pour a ladle of chicken fat over the top...)

On Saturday, we spent a long time opening our bank account - the bank was located in a mall with lots of other banks and shopping venues where the locals live and shop.  And, of course, it had a  food court.  This one was especially nice and new, but I had to get a photo of one of the local specialties...there is always a line at this kind of food stall...go figure!
We actually stopped in at a McDonald's for coffee, milk shake and french fries.  Sometimes you just have to go with the old standby.

On Sunday we were in a high end shopping area on Orchard Road and saw this delectable sign...unfortunately we were in a hurry and they were just opening, so we didn't get to sample the cuisine, but you can bet I will be back soon to try it out:
And the reality of a country that doesn't like its citizens drinking too much, so they tax the heck out of time you buy a bottle of Barefoot wine for $4, think of me!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Water Features

Our home-away-from-home hosts want to help us relax.  Here are some of the water views we enjoy in our apartment:
The Drive-way Entry

The drive-way:

First view of the pool:

The banana-leaf lounge chairs:

And all the fun!

Wish you were here!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August 15

I thought today would be an easy one; all I had to do was a couple loads of laundry.  I took a run and had breakfast, then started my battle with the European is NOT user-friendly.  All my instincts about which buttons to push were wrong.  Those 3 tiny loads took me 7 hours to do...

For a break I took a short walk over to join the American Women's Association of Singapore. They have lots of activites to fill my time and 1100 members!  Take a look:   As I was walking out I glanced over and saw a familiar face - Tawnya, a friend from all those years ago.  Wow.

Since today is the Feast of the Assumption, I looked up the nearest church and found I could go at 7 PM.  John was at a work function, so I found my way to St. Alphonsus, via a food court for some fish ball noodle soup. (It is SO good!)  The church is open air, and when I arrived at 6:50, it was completely filled.  By 7:05, the congregation was about double the capacity, overflowing the sides and the steps.  Wow.  Just like Christmas! There were TV screens with all the songs and prayers so everyone could see and participate.  I was feeling very uplifted by the faithful, but then the homily went on for 30 minutes...and they sing every verse of every song...and slo-ow-ly.  My faithful & sweaty patience was tested - and at least I had a seat!!  Humbly yours...K

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Some random views

We've been apartment hunting and are getting close to choosing.  Here are some of our views:

We saw a beautiful apartment on Nassim Road, which is known for its mansions...this would be the view out our front window if we lived there...I figure I could be friends with these residents' maids... :)  Talk about house envy!  So we moved on...
This is the US Embassy...just thought you should see it.  It is directly across the street from the Botanic Gardens, so it has a nice view, too.  But it really looks like a fortress among the palm trees.

And here is a realistic idea of what our apartment view will be:

More later, lah!

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Day Out...and In

Every ex-pat here must be sponsored by someone...John gets his employment pass from work and I get a dependent's pass.  You can't just come to live in Singapore because you want to.  :)  The company sent a driver to walk me through the process at the Ministry of Manpower, Work Pass Division.  After I got my photo done (like a driver's license), I took a photo of my guide:
His picture turned out a lot better that mine!                           The process was quick and efficient, as it always is in Singapore.  But then the driver said Good-bye and I was left to find my way home.

I stopped for coffee and enjoyed a bit of home with a twist:

Singapore has the best public transportation so I easily found the MRT station and enjoyed this scene in the Dhouby Ghout station:

My fingers are itching to start breaking china....

Got to the apartment by noon with plans to go food shopping, but  the computer connection wasn't working... I called to get it fixed and spent the whole afternoon sitting with IT guys trying to get things fixed in the apartment and on my computer...and I mean all afternoon....and much of the evening.  Went to dinner at a Thai-German Micrbrewery.  How is that for ethnic?  It was good but crazy expensive, but on Monday nights the live band offers a deal:  come up and sing just one song with the band and you get 30% discount. And when did I ever pass up a discount?  So I sang Desperado with the quite-good local band and got $30 off the bill.  Am I a professional singer now?? :}

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mini-Move Day

Sunday - I had planned to get some photos of the Cathedral when we went to Mass this morning, but forgot the camera... next week!   So instead I'll share the mini-move from the Marriott 5-star to the serviced apartment...we will live here for many weeks while we wait for our sea shipment of furniture.  From
They like to take the photos at night  :}
The apartment is really nice, with 3 bedrooms.  I miss having the kids here with us to fill all the spaces!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Food Court Experience

Of course there are many regular restaurants here - take for example this sidewalk McDonalds that is so busy they must tell you where to stand:
But the most fun is going to a food court and eating at "Hawker Stalls."  It is street food, but each stall is rated by the health department and most here get a "B" rating, so it is safe. The scariest thing is wondering what the dishes actually are...the people next to us were eating, I think, snails.  But you would recognize the lobster, shrimp, chili crab and all kinds of noodle dishes.  I have been dreaming about Char Kway Theow for 13 years, and finally got some last night.  John got some hot-hot-hot Lamb Vindaloo with Naan.  Enjoy the sites and sounds of the Newton Circus Food Court, Friday night at 7 PM:

Here are a few fun faces of the food court:

and a Friday night family dinner...look at all that food!!