Monday, April 23, 2007

The Parade Continues...

Since we moved to Singapore back in August (is it really eight months already?) we’ve had a fairly steady stream of family and friends come to visit us. This month is the turn of Derek and Jeanette, great friends who live near us in Lochem. They’ve missed the boys just as much as they have been missed by them, so there was tremendous excitement when they turned up. Hence my blog entries have more or less dried up since they arrived.
However don't think we haven't been usualy the days aren't long enough to fill in all the things we want to do.

Apart from all of the usual things we're also sqeezed in some stuff we’ve been waiting to share with them like a trip to the Air Force Museum (see top photo). Any keen airplane buffs who are planning on coming to see us will have to check this place out. It’s typically Singaporean – fabulously well funded and neat, with oodles of high tech touch screen displays, politically correct hype and freezing cold air conditioning. It also has a nice collection of planes and helicopters which the boys (by which I mean Derek, Hogler, Niels, and Carl) loved crawling over/under/around. There are plane stools you can climb into and simulators you can play with, as well as interactive displays outlining Singapore's airforce history dating back to its inception in about 1968 when the British finally pulled their airfore out of here.

Of course the swimming pool has been getting a good work out - those who have been here can rest assured that yes, we are still more or less the only ones to use it! A couple of days ago Carl indignantly announced that someone was sunbathing beside "our pool", but he was relieved to see they didn't even dip a toe in! A neighbour we rarely see was topping up her tan downstiars.

On Saturday we took Derek and Jeanette to one of our recent favourite discoveries reserved for very special occasions – dinner at Equinox, a fabulous Asian fusion restaurant on the 70th floor – yes I said 70th – of the Swiss Hotel down town. This place has the most stunning views you can imagine, sweeping out over the Singapore River far below to the container port, Merlion, and way out over the Malacca Straits. Simply superb, with great food to match. I startd with Maine Lobster, followed by Australian Tenderloin, Derek tried the Seared Japanese Scallops followed by Japanese Wagyu Beef Cheeks, Jeanette tried the Lemongrass and Saffron Soup followed by Grilled Black Cod, while Holger had the Japanese Scallops and Australian Tenderloin. Absolute bliss.
The Equinox has the only elevator I’ve ever been in which makes your ears pop three times on the way up and down! We topped the evening off with a couple of rounds of – what else – Singapore Slings at Raffles Hotel which is very conveniently located directly across the street. Life doesn’t get much better than this, but then again that’s a phrase we utter a lot lately.
So enjoy the latest pics, we’ll think of you all while we’re downing our next Sling…

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Big Cahoonas

OK I know we’ve been back from Bintan for a week already, but it’s SCHOOL HOLIDAYS over here. Anyone who knows me at all knows that these can be difficult times to cope with. Thank God school starts back on Monday, because I need a break!
Before that though I want to tell you about one of the highlights of our stay in Bintan, Indonesia. All my life I have wanted to ride on an elephant and I finally got my chance at Bintan Elephant Park, just a hair-raising bone jolting stomach churning half hour trip over bumpy dirt roads in a speeding minivan that felt about as safe as a rocket propelled beer can. For the return trip we were in a full-sized bus which was a great relief until we started moving and realised that the same driver was in charge, only he now had a bigger engine, could only find two crunching gears and apparently felt that survival of the fittest was the only road code required. As we were grimly holding on in the back seat we really worked up some g-forces and given the huge swing we made around the final bend, we arrived at our destination sometime after the rest of the passengers.
I digress. The elephants were marvellous. Now I know that there are debates about these types of places. Are the animals being exploited? Is it demeaning for an animal which is probably more intelligent that some people I’ve met to be coerced into doing tricks, giving tourists rides, and posing for photos? I can’t answer that question but I can say that in exchange for a gentle one-hour show each day these seven elephants (4 females, 3 males) were well fed, seemed happy, and got to live in a social unit with a good level of care. I was so excited, and I was really hoping that the kids would get the same thrill of being up close to such large, majestic, gentle creatures, whose wrinkled faces seem timeless and wise and who, although they could crush us in a second, instead are friendly and seem to respond to our voices.
And indeed, the elephants did make an impression on the kids. As the boys were sitting on the leg of one posing for the first photo it broke wind, loudly. Peals of laughter, pointing fingers and: “The elephant farted! Really LOUD, did you hear that it FARTED!” was screamed at the top of their little lungs. OK, not quite the awesome first impression I’d hoped for, but we persevered. We had ample opportunity before the show to walk amongst the elephants and pat them and one of the large males was very relaxed, as it demonstrated by um…..letting it all hang out. Literally.
Carl put his hands on his hips, bent over almost double for a better look then pointed and yelled to anybody who would listen “what a big PENIS!”
By now the other visitors were starting to chuckle a bit as well. Probably they were all thinking the same thing but only a three year old had the cahoonas to say it. With a fixed smile and me still muttering about magnificent beasts, highly intelligent, feelings of awe etc etc we took our places. The elephants walked in single file, their handlers standing on the backs. And of course, one had a dump just as it entered. A staff member hurried out with a bucket and spade. Niels took one look and yelled “Oooooooh he’s picking up POO!” More giggles and sniggers and all attempts at instilling a sense of awe in my children was abandoned. For the rest of the show Holger did his World’s Best Daddy impression by volunteering to be walked over by an elephant (see left), helping both boys to play football with one (above left), even disco dancing with the boys amongst the elephants, and we all had a ride. But at the end of the day, when Carl was snuggled up in bed with his arm around my neck in a headlock having a last cuddle, what was his final comment about the magnificent beasts at the elephant park?
“He had a really big penis, didn’t he Mummy!”

Saturday, April 07, 2007

So Where Have We Been?

Hi again everyone, it's been a while since my last posting but we have been away on holiday. Can you guess where?
It's somewhere close by, it's even hotter than here, and it's an island...
If you live in Singapore you wouldn't be surprised to hear that we've been to Bintan Island, a nearby part of Indonesia, for a week staying at the Nirwana Gardens resort. It's almost an enclave of Singapore really, just 1 hour by catamaran away. Here are a few photos to whet your appetite until I can get organised enough to write some proper postings.
We only returned home this evening so it's a quick one tonight.
My apologies to those who I neglected to tell we were going away, I will be less negligent in future!
Will post again soon to tell you about our holiday.