Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It's A Girl!

This weekend we welcomed the newest addition to our family…a bunny called Charlie.
Her history is a story repeated thousands of times in every country: bought from a pet shop as a treasured family pet but then dumped when the novelty wore off or the owners became sick of caring for her.
Because we will probably be leaving Singapore next year I decided to foster a bunny (or a pair) from the local chapter of the House Rabbit Society. This excellent organisation takes in and re-homes unwanted and abandoned rabbits and is in serious need of more foster homes to take care of the many animals in their care. This means that if they find a home for Charlie she will leave us, and we will take care of another one or pair.
Once she is strong and healthy again we’ll get her a mate to keep her company. In the mean time she is the star of the family and settling in well.
As she is probably half angora she is quite fluffy and will need regular grooming, something her former owner didn’t do and as a result she has dense mats of fur – practically dreadlocks – on her tummy and over her tail. There were even a couple on her head! However daily grooming will soon tidy her up and love and attention will put some weight on her skinny bones. She may look big, but under that fur you can feel almost every vertebrae in her back and her hip bones poke out painfully.
This morning I was home alone so let Charlie out for her first exploratory hop around the lounge. After ten minutes of vigorous sniffing she flopped down beside her pen with a contented look on her face, so I guess we’ve been given the official sniff of approval!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Aches and Pains

My knees ache. Why is that? Some would see it as a sign of getting old(er) but isn’t it a bit odd for that to kick in spontaneously (“here, you’re 37 years and one month old, time for your first Non Specified Ache!”). Some people claim that their joints ache when it’s going to rain, but for goodness sake, it rains a lot here. I mean full on torrential build-an-ark kind of monsoon downpours. If my knees are aching in response to impending rain then I may as well go and by my first Zimmer frame now.
No doubt my lovely doctor, the ever-cheerful Dr Tan, would have a rational explanation. One of the truly wonderful things about living in Singapore is the exceptional health service. Since I’ve moved here I’ve had my long term gastric problem resolved (with the aid of copious amounts of tests, x-rays and pills), my eyesight corrected (with the help of two types of lasers), and been brought back to health in record time from a variety of maladies (with the assistance of mountains of drugs).

No doubt there are less drug-fuelled cures available to those with the patience and mental fortitude to wait around long enough, but when it comes to illness I’ll take the drugs thanks. You may consider this shocking but you have to understand that I have lived for ten years in Holland, a country when pain relief is denied to women in child birth, it’s considered weak to go to your GP if you haven’t been sick for at least three days, and even if you do go the doctor he/she is most likely to treat almost any illness with the advice to “rest and take an Asprin”. I’m not kidding, I had zero pain relief for the births of my two boys, EVEN FOR THE STITCHES! For those men out there who may think that pain during childbirth is a natural part of the reproductive purpose, I only have this to say: try shitting out a pumpkin, being stitched up with a ten inch needle and piano wire then being offered an ice cube to sit on as your only pain relief, and you’ll have some idea of what I think of that attitude.

At one stage I did worry that I seemed to be visiting Dr Tan every week. For some reason my immune system got a bit run down after three months here and I kept picking up painful laryngitis infections. I was worried that Dr Tan might think me a bit of a hypochondriac, and had visions of him saying “To lose your voice once may be seen as unfortunate Mrs Holger, but to lose it twice is just downright careless”.
However I’m now back in the pink of health as they say, immune system fully charged, eyesight sharp and voice box well oiled. Now if only I could sort out my aching knees…

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


One of the interesting things about having a blog which is open for the world to read it that occasionally you get feedback from somebody who has read it. When I started this blog I assumed that only family and friends would occassionally dip into it for a quick spritz of Singaporean news. Kind of like Singapore Light: you can enjoy the food and culture without spending the money or imbibing the calories.

However I have been pleasantly (so far) surprised to get some feed back from the occasional reader. Anyone can leave a comment by clicking on the button below each post, and you can read comments that other people have left there as well. The comments are moderated, which means that I get to read them first before choosing whether or not to publish them, but to date I haven't rejected any. So don't be shy, if you've something to say, let m2 know! The only down side for me is that your comments arrive anonymously which means I don't get your email address so can't reply to you in person.

Last week I got a particularly interesting comment from a local Singporean. Thank you Tse Yin for your comments and also for explaining rather better than I the concept of predeterminism. I quote:

"The law of karma isn't as autocratically deterministic as the notion of fate often implies; it may be better described as a realist philosophy that all things have causes and consequences. The oft-heard attribution of an event to 'good/bad karma' is in some ways a pat statement, almost one of resignation, similar to 'what goes round comes round'. The law of karma doesn't imply that everyone's life is a tapestry already designed just spinning out over time (to allude to the Ancient Greek image of Fate), rather it is a very grounded way of thinking about life, one that encourages people to consider all their actions and be prepared to face their consequences. How these consequences play out is of course a multi-factorial open ending and may be influenced by any number of other actions, people and circumstances..."

To read all of Tse Yins' comment see the post titled "A Message For The Masses" dated October 2006, or click on this link http://thesingaporesling.blogspot.com/2006/10/message-for-masses.html then read the comment below the blog entry.

Some come on, let's hear from you!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ten Years On...

This year is a special one for hubby and I as it’s out tenth wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe that a decade has passed since we rode with hearts pounding in a carriage pulled by two jet black Friesian horses to Vorden Castle and exchanged vows on an unusually warm spring morning. The wild fennel was in abundant bloom along the country roads and the oak and beech woods all around us were an explosion of fresh green leaves and birdsong. Anything seemed possible on a day filled with such promise and ten years on, we certainly haven’t been disappointed.
Like any married couple this first decade will probably prove to be the busiest, or at least the one filled with the most ‘firsts’. We bought our first house, had our first (and second!) child, got our first house rabbit, moved abroad to live…the list goes on.
Marrying someone from a different culture and in another country is always a challenge, even if you do speak a common language. Holger and I met at a particularly difficult time for his family: his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer just after our first date in November 1995 and passed away within two months. I spent New Years Eve 1996 in the local hospital with appendicitis; not exactly the quiet night in we had planned! The weather was atrocious and I vividly remember gazing out the window as snow ploughs, two abreast, slowly lumbered past followed by trucks spreading salt to try and melt the black ice which had formed on the roads. People were warned to stay indoors and not drive due to the treacherous slippery conditions but Holger braved the snow storm and icy roads to be at my bedside, bringing ‘oiliebollen’ and orange juice to toast the New Year together. We had only been going out for about a month but as I saw him walking up the corridor (he had lied to the nursing staff and told them he was my fiancĂ© in order to come outside normal visiting hours) I knew that this was Something Big.
Seven months later we were engaged and on May 30 1997 we were married on that perfect spring day.
So how to celebrate ten years together? Our plans have shifted constantly as our living situation has changed, and so far we are more or less having a whole year of celebration! In May a mystery package arrived for me; a beautiful silver plate commissioned by Holger from our friend Ton Postma in Holland, silver and goldsmith extraordinaire (see top photo). For Holger I hunted down a gorgeous length of hand woven Cambodian silk suspended on a long, ornately carved wooden hanger crafted in Malaysia (behind Carl in the photo left).

This weekend we decided to continue the celebrations by having dinner at Raffles Hotel, something we have both wistfully considered for years! I have to say that we were not disappointed. If I were to write my own book of 1000 things to do before you die, this restaurant would be near the top. Oozing with opulence and steeped in history, it’s not just a meal but an event. Consistently voted one of the best hotels in the world, the food at the Raffles Grill is sublime, the service superb, and the surroundings stunning. I chose lobster followed by venison while Holger had tuna followed by cod. We indulged in gorgeous desserts, pistachio soufflĂ© and rum parfait respectively. Each course was punctuated by an ‘amuse’ from the chef, delicious bite sized morsels to clear the palate and lead to even greater temptation! The wine list was impressive if a bit overwhelming; an 80 page book resembling a family bible more than a list of drinks!
To top off our anniversary celebrations we are also planning to do something together with the kids to but more about that later when the plans are finalised.
Celebrating this anniversary is proving to be so much fun that I’m already looking forward to our 20th!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Happy Birthday Singapore

Last week Singapore celebrated its 42nd year of Independence with the usual displays of military power, social consciousness and mass heart-grabbing. National Day is a Big Thing here; it’s seized upon by the government as an occasion to raise the sense of national identity and gel together the many different races and cultures that call this island home. To the outsider it can seem a bit bewildering, and if you’re a Kiwi like me the displays of military might are a bit startling and more that a little unsettling, to say the least. I know that this is a very small country squeezed between the less stable nations of Indonesia and Malaysia, but to see the sheer scale of the defence force here is quite unnerving. Included are some photos which I’ve shamelessly lifted from the website of The Straits Times.
This year the motto was “Singapore, a city of possibilities” and flags proclaiming this have adorned the entire island. The locals see National Day as a chance to demonstrate that they are “many cultures but one nation” and over a million National Day meals were served up at special get-togethers around the country. Countless local community events were organised too. However the culmination is the huge National Day Parade and show held on August 9.
This was the first year that the National Day celebrations were held in a new location, namely Marina Bay which is the piece of water near the entrance of the Singapore River, in the heart of downtown. (The former venue, the National Stadium, is being pulled down, a fate which befalls almost any construction over 20 years old here). A massive floating stage was constructed in the Bay and the organisers cleverly used the water, the stage and a nearby bridge to put on what was by all accounts a pretty breath-taking show. The first half is always taken up with the various branches of the military demonstrating their skills and equipment, while the rest is rather like the opening ceremony at the Olympics: lots of people doing coordinated dances, spectacular costumes, hundreds of school children singing, etc etc.

This year I decided to get into the spirit of things – kids love this sort of stuff – and try to get a look at what was going on. The tickets to the show are sold months in advance by ballot and squeezing in amongst the hundreds of thousands of people who crowd around the venue just didn’t appeal to us. However I was able to score tickets to a dinner cruise organised by ANZA (Australian and New Zealand Association) on a fantastic ornate Chinese junk. We cruised around the southern tip of Singapore and arrived just outside Marina Bay with plenty of time to watch the spectacular fireworks which were detonated both from the stage and from the roofs of the three tallest buildings in the city. It was a great night, and the kids were so excited that it made me feel a bit better about the rather ridiculous price.
We couldn’t hear the music or sing along with the local favourite songs, but after an evening spent focused on a little corner of this tiny South Asian paradise, we feel a bit more like Singaporeans too.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mothers Day

Yes my friends, school has finally started again. I really feel that this is the true Mothers Day – forget the breakfast in bed and promises to be good some time in May, the first day back after the long, long school holidays is when Mummy wants to crack open the champagne and truly celebrate. Yes kids Mummy loves you now get out the door and don't come back for hours!

Fortunately both the kids were happy to be gong back as well, Carl to the Jip & Janneke pre-school and Niels to Group 3. This year there are 16 kids in his class although more may arrive throughout the year.
There are now 260 kids at the Hollandse School, and the pre-school has an additional 60 enrolled with a significant waiting list as well. The economy is booming here and ex-pats are pouring in. Long may the boom – and Holgers project – last!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

New Zealand Update 1

After five fun, busy sometimes chilly weeks, we are all back in Singapore. Our holiday in New Zealand went really well, with us lots of time spent with the family. Most of my family has ended up living within a 90 minute drive of each other in the North Island which makes it easy to get to everybody. Our first port of call was Mum’s place in Hamilton as she had arranged the shuttle to pick us up from the airport. Then in the weekend we shot off to New Plymouth, the town where I was born and where we still have family.

Many of you will have seen quite a lot of the surrounding Taranaki area, including its beautiful mountain Mt Egmont, without even realising it. Remember that movie Tom Cruise made called The Last Samurai? Well the whole thing was filmed here, with Mt Egmont standing in for Mt Fuji. Almost perfectly conical, it’s a beautiful mountain which stands sentinel over the flat and fertile Taranaki plains which extend out like a patchwork until they tumble into the sea. My uncle is the Harbour Master which is one of the reasons we grew up spending lots of time here. I have many fond memories of fishing for sprats off the wharves, walking along the breakwater dodging the spray from the big rollers which come crashing in after their journey across the Pacific Ocean, and watching little blue Fairy penguins waddle across the stones under the wharf to their nests.

Our next port of call was Tauranga, on the East coast in the region known as the Bay of Plenty. Tauranga and its neighbouring town of Mt Maunganui are coastal towns with great beaches. Despite the winter weather we made the most of it by heading off to the beach with my sister Karen and her kids Aimee and Tazmin. As you can see in the photos it was an incredibly windy day, with waves crashing onto the beach and sand being whipped up and skimmed along the beach by strong gusts. Just a few days previously the country had been hit by its worst storm in 150 years, although this area was not hit too badly so no damage was done. The kids loved racing around in the wind – there is something about windy days that hypes kids up – and almost being blown over.
Tazmin, who must be one of the most photogenic kids I’ve ever seen, had a great time pretending to be a kite with her arms stretched out into the wind and while taking the photo I kept an eye on the soles of her shoes to make sure she didn’t actually lift off!
After that it was back to their house for hot Watties tomato soup and cheese toasties – surely the staple diet of any true Kiwi!

Another day during our stay in Tauranga they had a snow dump. Sixty tonnes of chipped ice from a local fish processing factory – thankfully sans fish – was dumped in the centre of town for people to romp and frolic in. Now I realise that this may seem a little pathetic to all you Cloggies our there who can usually count on at least one snowfall per year, but in Tauranga they don’t even get so much as a frost. My Dad’s house doesn’t even have heating, for goodness sake! So this is as close to the real thing as they get. As you can see it was a lot of fun, and after getting thoroughly chilled and having my boots filled with ice chips we headed off again.

More updates will follow, for now it’s time to hit the pool again as we acclimatise back to life in the tropics. Suddenly ice dumps and windswept beaches seem a long way away.