Saturday, December 29, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
There are certain physical charcteristics in women that Carl definitely prefers, even at his tender age. He LOVES Asian women. Every day he would shower Serin, the Singaporean woman at Jip & Janneke, with compliments. Everything from "you have beautiful hair" to "you have a beautiful dress" to "you have beautiful toes". He also appreciates a generous bust size. Whether it's because he was breast feed or just a general appreciation of the female form, since he was 2 years old Carl has told me during our cuddles "I love your boobies". For the last six months I've been trying to dissuade him from saying this and I suspect at pre-school they have been working on it too. A while ago he moderated what he said to "I love your whole body" which is I guess a bit more acceptable. However often he sneaks in a little add on at the end when I'm giving him his last cuddle in bed at night: "I love your whole body Mummy.....
....and your boobies too".
Thursday, December 20, 2007
We've been back for a few days now and are getting over our jetlag, so it was time to head to Eindhoven to visit Rocco and Ashley at their luxury Rabbit Recluse in Liesbeth's back yard. Attached are some pics of the wintery landscape, absolutley beautiful but best seen from indoors!
The rather charming ginger tom cat who appears to be standing on my head is Karel, who is overseeing proceedings and making sure we didn't forget to include him in the photos. After all, surely I didn't come all this way just to photograph some rabbit...
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Since he is obviously not suffering from a perforated bowel and is in no discomfort we're going to assume that it's safely passed out of his system. Of course, Murphy's Law would dictate that in the small hours of tomorrow morning, when we are flying at 32,000 feet on our way to the Netherlands, he will suddenly grip his stomach and start howling in pain. We prefer not to think about that option at the moment.
On the bright side the doctors said that it would take a maximum of 52 hours to go through and we are well over that by now.
My next posting will be from chilly Holland, where the kids are hoping for snow, hubby is hoping for a big plate of boerenkool with Dutch sausage, and I am hoping to give my bunnies Rocco and Ashley a big smooch. And no frost bite of course.
Will report from the flip side soon.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I took the kids to school this morning and explained discreetly to his teacher what had happened so that if he complained of pain she would contact me immediately. I didn't want to make a big deal of it in case he was embarressed. However during 'kring' (circle time) this morning as soon as class started he loudly declared: "Who can guess what's in my stomach? It's not food and it not drink!" Apparently his buddies were kept busy for ten minutes trying in vain to guess what the mystery object might be, and Niels eventually triumphantly had to put them out of their misery and tell them. One can only imagine the awe and wonder that passed through their six years old minds when they discovered that a genuine sword swallower was in their midst, cleverly disguised as an ordinary little boy.
The story soon spread and other Mum's were coming up to me and asking "did he really....??"
When I asked Niels how he even managed to swallow the thing his dead pan answer was "it just fell in my mouth". Duh.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Of the 14 countries surveyed, Singpaore, India and Russia were the three that ranked social stabilty as being more important than free press. Taking the turbulent histories of these nations into account, I don't find the result very surprising.
Interestingly, in the US and UK - the countries most often clamouring for right for freedom of the press for other nations - citizens surveyed were the most critical of the quality of their national news reporting. Personally I find this no surprise at all. During my (admittedly short) stay in the US a couple of years ago I couldn't believe how sensationalist some of the news reporting was. It was edited down into 30 second slots complete with flashy titling, loud music and special effects. In the UK, where I have lived for a while, the tabloids are not only hugely popular but people actually belive what's written in them.
However I digress. It was an interesting item and if you want to read the whole story, click on this link: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/cna/20071211/tap-316717-231650b.html
Friday, December 07, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Monday, December 03, 2007
This time I had both kids in tow and we’d taken my Mum up the Merlion on a day trip. It was of course hot sticky weather so the kids stripped off down to their undies and jumped in the water. They weren’t the only ones, as there were about a dozen kids speaking a handful of languages giggling their way up and down the waterway. A rainbow collection of children to match the fountain!
It was great fun for them exploring all the nooks and crannies and trying to catch – or avoid - the jets of water which shoot out of different places along the length of the mosaic fountain.
The entire thing is quite long – maybe 50 metres or so – and has an ocean theme. Every now and then you can spot an octopus or an anemone or sea shell built into the seemingly random forms. There are also tunnels and caves, waterfalls and sprayers.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
As promised, here are some more pictures of the ANZA Bollywood Bling night.
If we're all looking a bit red in the face it's due to the combination of tropical heat, extremely spicy Sambal Fish and Chicken Masala, and a healthy dose of alcoholic lubrication!
Leon, the guy with the turban, won the prize (a bottle of wine, appropriately enough) for the Best Dressed Man. A woman whose husband had hand-painted her arms won Best Dressed Woman - the rest of us just bought the $3 stick on decorations found in Little India.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
It was a great night, with a yummy Indian buffet, a demonstration of Bollywood dancing by a professional dancer who was in stitches at our attempts to copy him and good company with the Aussies and Kiwis present, each with their obligatory chilly bin (or eski if your from Oz) by their feet to keep the drinks cool. There were a lot more photos taken so when I get some I'll post them - the girls looked great in their outfits and some of the men were pretty spectacular too. Can’t wait until the next FAB night!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
I defy any of you to look at these pictures and not say “aaaaaahhhhhh”. Here you can see my bunnies, Rocco and Ashley (the blue/grey female in the background), who are currently living it up large with their professional bunny-sitter Liesbeth in Eindhoven, Holland. They are in the pen on the right – on the left is one of Liesbeth’s own bunny kids saying hi. Or more likely: “I’d bite your face off and take your woman if this stupid fence wasn’t in the way”.
All bunnies tend to think they have the build of a rottweiller, the speed of a cheetah, and the jaws of a lion when it comes to defending their territory. In reality, when challenged by another bunny they stomp around uttering piggish grunts, flicking their big floppy ears and generally looking like a very angry piece of shagpile carpet.
As you can see these are outdoor bunnies. I know there is some debate about whether rabbits should be kept outdoors but it comes down to common sense. If you are going to leave your rabbit locked up in a hutch in the back garden to swelter in the sun and freeze in the cold and lead an isolated life, that’s a cruel and stupid thing to do. Bring it inside and enjoy a fascinating friendship with these active and highly sociable little guys. However if you’re going to construct a large, safe enclosure with shelter and room to run and leap and dig and socialise with their mate, let your bunnies live outside! (Obviously this is climate dependent: here in Singapore the heat and humidity make it unsuitable to keep rabbits outside. There are no naturally wild rabbits here, only dumped ex-pets who soon die from dehydration, starvation, or being eaten by snakes if they aren’t rescued in time. Again, common sense should prevail.)
Rocco and Ashley love to get their paws dirty by digging holes, moving them around the pen day by day just for the fun of it. They jump on haybales, leap in and out of their sleeping quarters, or just lounge in the sun or shade as the mood takes them. What a life. Just when you think it can’t get any better… Liesbeth comes along and gives them a piece of toast for breakfast. Bunny bliss.
If you live in Holland or Belgium and would like to consider adopting one or a pair of rabbits who need a good home, check out the website for Liesbeths rabbit rescue centre at this link: http://www.opvangfranky.nl/, or just check it out for lots of really useful bunny info.
Monday, November 12, 2007
One thing that can be said about living in Singapore: your social calendar quickly fills up! We’ve been lucky enough to have a few great outings with hubby’s work in recent weeks, including a very memorable Beer Fest night complete with oom-pah-pah band and Bavarian white beer (Erdinger for you aficionados out there).
We also got together with the team from the Kuala Lumpar office for a company dinner at the lovely Mandai Orchid Gardens, situated next to the Singapore Zoo (http://www.mandai.com.sg/).
Attracting some 200,000 visitors per year, the ten hectare garden was started in 1951 by the late John Laycock for his ever-expanding orchid collection. A few years ago the place was further developed with the addition of the Vanilla Pod restaurant, featuring “orchid cuisine” which includes the use of orchids in many of the signature dishes. How many of you knew that the vanilla plant is in fact an orchid?
We were a very large group and so enjoyed a buffet style dinner which was tasty but sadly didn’t feature any of the signature orchid-based dishes. However it was a great night, not least when live entertainment in the form of the ‘Good Old Boys’, featuring the company’s very own Barry, kicked off with their own brand of rock ‘n roll. A great night and another lovely venue to visit if you are looking for something original in Singapore.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Upon returning home I presented it to Carl and with a slightly doubtful look on his face he lowered his butt into it. It rocked backwards and he jumped in fright, thinking he was going to tip out. However within half a day he was hooked, and now he won’t sit anywhere else. When visitors arrive he even lifts it up, drags it to his favourite spot and announces “this is MY chair!” to make sure no grown up tries to pinch his throne. As if we could fit even half a bum into it!
So this is a typical picture of Carl these days. As he munches away on an ice cream, doesn’t he just seem to be saying “life's not to bad here in the tropics”
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
It was a great night for all the families who attended and we were grateful for the opportunity to share the occasion.
The pictures show us arriving...
and Niels showing the project manager exactly how he thinks the ship should be completed...on time and on budget!
Monday, November 05, 2007
This part of the city is busy on any Saturday night, but during Deepavali it is absolutely packed. The atmosphere is great – everybody is cheerful and excited, and as we arrived just before 7pm crowds were lining the streets to watch the annual parade go past.
Night comes suddenly in the topics: by 7.30 it’s completely dark, and the brief dusk brings little relief from the heat. Standing four or five deep along the street the crowd was a hot, noisy, constantly moving mass and we struggled to keep the kids high enough to watch what was happening. The banging of drums and gongs signalled the start of the brightly lit parade as musicians and performers slowly moved along the street beneath the brightly coloured lighting displays hung overhead.
After a short while we gave up and joined our friends in the restaurant, although I did get a few photos. Singapore is a safe place but the fear of losing one of the kids in the crowd always niggles in the back of our minds as they would be quickly lost amidst the forest of legs, and even Carl’s blond hair soon disappears in the dark.
Dinner was a tasty buffet of Indian food. I wish I could describe what we ate with any detail or give you the names of the dishes but unfortunately my knowledge of this type of food is very limited. There was a heavenly dish of creamed spinach with cubes of a type of curd, tandoori chicken, chilli-spiked fried cabbage, seared fish and plump prawns coated with a spicy red paste. All was washed down with large cups of fresh chilled lime juice, and topped of with platters of fresh tropical fruits.
Afterwards we walked slowly through the crowds enjoying the lights until we managed to flag down a taxi and headed home, with the boys exhausted, heads hanging, yet too wound up to fall straight asleep when they finally got to bed.
Friday, November 02, 2007
For hubby and me it’s also been a glimpse into our own future. Who knew that teenage boys could eat so much? Read non-stop for hours on end or indeed sleep in a virtual state of hibernation for more than 14 hours at a stretch? Growing up in a house full of girls I have no experience of boys apart from the crash course I’m currently enduring, but I can see that males are a very, very different species. At least they don’t giggle I won’t have to learn to braid anyone’s hair.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Wiping his hand across his eyes he looked at me with an exaggerated look of tiredness and said in a hushed voice: "Wow, I'm tired. What a busy day".
If only I'd had his social life at his age.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
“The ancient sacred ritual of the sema performance of the Mevlevi order of Sufism is regarded as one of the most beautiful and mesmerising expressions of spirituality and art. With origins in Turkey and inspired by the great 13th century mystic, poet and philosopher, Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi, the ritual seeks divinity and maturity, carrying his message of love, brotherhood and tolerance…[Performed] by the Istanbul Historical Turkish Music Ensemble as part of the world’s celebration of the 800th anniversary of Rumi’s birth, an event recognised by UNESCO.”
In silence a group of 20 men slowly stepped in single file onto the stage, each pausing to bow to a red sheepskin which was placed on the opposite side of the stage. The men – singers and musicians – each slowly made their way to a slightly raised podium at the rear of the stage where they sat and picked up their various Turkish instruments, most of which were unfamiliar to us. The singers stood like statues at the back. When all was still again, the process was repeated by the 8 dancers and their two ‘leaders’, who very slowly and rhythmically moved into the places on the stage and began a slow pacing, in step, in a circle around the stage, accompanied by the haunting unaccompanied voice of a lone singer.
“…the sema is a ritual conceived…as a form of prayerful meditation. Mevlana’s followers, the Mevleviye, adopted this ritual and are today commonly known to the English-speaking world as the Whirling Dervishes (semazens) for their practice of whirling as they meditate. Indeed, the whirling rituals of the Mevleviye have endured through time, and have become deeply entrenched in Turkish culture and heritage.
"Similar to the established order in nature, from the atoms in materials, cells in living bodies, our life cycles to the planetary systems, sema engages the semazens in a shared experience of revolving motion.
“The sema ceremony represents a spiritual journey that unifies the human mind, emotion, body and spirit…With feet firmly on the ground, left hand turned towards the earth and right hand outstretched to God in prayer, the semazen is the point of contact between God and the earth, the channel through which divine blessings flow. Revolving from right to left as he silently prays, the semazen embraces all creation.”
With the musicians and singers performing the dancers began their graceful whirling, turning on the spot with the right foot spinning their bodies as the left remained firmly in place. With heads leaning to one side the dancers remained perfectly poised and balanced despite having their eyes shut the entire time. Their hands rose slowly along their torsos until reaching above their heads, they slowly lowered the arms again to achieve a horizontal position, one hand cupped upwards, the other down.
“Come, come again, whoever you are, come!
Heathen, fire worshipper, or the idolatrous, come!
Come even if you have broken your penitence a hundred times,
Ours is the portal of hope, come as you are”
"These worlds by Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi, maybe said to encapsulate his original Sufi doctrine of unlimited tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness, charity and awareness through love.”
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The first event we attended was ‘Stars of Russian Ballet’, a ballet gala with Prima Ballerina of the Marinsky (Kirov) Ballet, Ulyana Lopatkina. Reviews of Ulyana have praised her “diamante brilliance” and “divine” portrayals. She is said to possess a “perfect ethereal figure” and has won many international awards. This gala was an interesting event, a mixture of classical and contemporary dance. In all eleven pieces were presented by Ulyana and her fellow dancers Anastasia Lomatchenkova, Evguenia Obraztsova and Yekaterina Osmolkina, plus the male lead dancers Ivan Kozlov, Anton Ploom, Vladimir Shkliarov and Alexandre Klimov.
It was a great night out, although as before the contemporary pieces left me cold. Although I like watching dance (having absolutely no natural talent in this area myself watching is as adventurous as I will get) I never buy tickets to modern dance performances, and the pieces showcased in the ballet gala reminded me why. The first modern piece was quite interesting, even sometimes a little humorous. However the final piece was sheer torture! Discordant violins which made it feel like your ears were bleeding screeched while on a blackened stage, two dancers dressed also head to toe in black danced in and out of pools of light with tortured moves and grim faces.
I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that it required an enormous degree of technical skill and months of practice to perfect but frankly, it’s just not me. In contrast the Pas de Deux from Romeo and Juliet was fabulous, and ‘The Dying Swan’ performed by Ulyana literally brought tears to your eyes, it was so beautifully and emotionally rendered.
Next on the agenda was the Whirling Dervishes from Istanbul – an entirely different experience! More on that later.
By the way, for this performance we were seated right at the top of the theatre hall in the Circle, at the very back row hard up against the back wall. As we walked to our seats I thought “oh no!” but actually the acoustics were fine and the view was uninterrupted. The Esplanade venue is not so large that you are too far away from the stage, even right at the back. I would not hesitate to sit there again so if you’re trying to get tickets to a show and these are the only seats available, don’t worry, you’ll still have an excellent view and enjoy the show.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Before moving to Singapore I had never really thought about conscription much apart from it being something that used to happen decades ago. In New Zealand conscription was in place until about the 1950s I think: my Dad’s brother was conscripted although Dad wasn’t. Now that we’ve been here a while and seen the sheer numbers involved, it has been quite thought provoking. On the one hand some argue that removing these young men from the workforce at a time with very low unemployment when they could be making significantly more money in the commercial sector has a stifling effect on the economy. The governments view is somewhat more pragmatic: if you don’t understand the risks that Singapore faces from its very close and sometimes hostile neighbours, take a look at a map. This country is literally squeezed between Malaysia and Singapore, both hugely populous nations where unrest and strife frequently flairs up and terrorism is a real threat. There is no denying the inherent risks which Singapore faces simply by fact of its location.
Another very important reason that the authorities stick with conscription is that it promotes, in a degree that no other activity could, a sense of national unity. This is a very multi-cultural country made up largely of Chinese, Malay and Indian people. There are four national languages (English, Mandarin, Tamil, Bahasa Malay) and each culture has its own language and traditions. The idea is that these differences are broken down amid the camaraderie of serving together in an NS unit and learning to fight for and defend a common nation. As they say here, ‘Many Cultures: One Nation’. Indeed having spoken to a few locals about their NS experience their responses were very positive and they are proud of what they have achieved. At a time in their lives when New Zealand males would be out drinking too much beer, driving fast cars and generally helping to keep the road toll high, these guys are learning how to handle heavy arms and the intricacies of tactical warfare.
With two young boys ourselves we’ve visited many of the National Service and Armed Forces museums and events that have taken place over the last year or so, and believe me, there are a lot. Our kids just LOVE anything to do with soldiers, running around ‘bang banging’ anything that moves and gazing in wide eyed wonder at the tanks, jet fighters and personnel carriers on display a the recently opened National Army Museum. We can’t help but speculate what it must be like to wave your 18 year old son goodbye when he is conscripted, and know that for the next twenty years, he will be in the firing line if his country needs him.
There is a silver lining to the whole conscription issue here. The other day I was reading the Straits Times and came upon a story about a man who suffered a massive heart attack in his car while waiting at the traffic lights. He crashed without doing any damage but his heart had stopped and he wasn’t breathing when three passer-bys pulled him out from behind the wheel. His rescuers were all strangers to each other but, being men, each had done National Service and having been re-trained every year, each knew the latest CPR and resuscitation techniques. They were able to get his heart started and get him breathing again, working like a team until the ambulance personnel arrived to take over. The patient made a full recovery and was pictured shaking the hands of the strangers who had very literally dragged him back from death on the side of the road.
It’s very reassuring to know that every man above 20 here can do that and is able to help out his fellow citizens in a time of need.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Last year we hadn’t been here very long and didn’t realise that taking part in the Chinese Moon Festival could mean more than just stuffing down delicious moon cakes filled with lotus seeds and red bean paste. The celebration always falls on the 15th day of the eights lunar month when the moon is believed to be at its fullest. Chinatown is lit up at night and there are large open air markets selling mooncakes, pomelos, tea and festive treats. To enjoy the fun we all headed down to the Chinese gardens to enjoy the huge lantern display in the evening.
Following are a few pics to give you a taste of what happened.