Monday, December 29, 2008

Ups and Downs

So here we are, back in the Netherlands at last. My mother in law had turned up the central heating to a welcoming 20 C, bought a Xmas tree and made sure there was plenty of food in the cupboards. We stumbled off the plane at 5:30am to a night as dark as pitch which seemed to stretch on endlessly as we drove across the country towards Lochem. Would the sun ever rise again? Just as we were starting to despair of ever seeing light again the darkness lightened to a misty grey, and trees and large boerderij farm houses emerged from the still, clammy fog. Perfectly flat countryside stretched away on both sides of the highway, interrupted only by the straight silvery lines of drainage canals dug into the loamy soil. The highway, busy at any time of the day with streams of lights rushing upon us then receding into the distance, bypassed villages faintly visible in the dim light, each punctuated with a central church spire like a pastoral dart board. We were home.

Things that are great about being back in Holland:
  • Good wine for 5 euros a bottle - or less! (eat your hearts our, Singaporeans!)
  • REAL Dutch cheese which doesn't costs Sing$60/kilo (yes that's 30 euros!)
  • Ollie bollen, apple bignets, real bread (swoon!)
  • Forests - the kind you can run through with the kids without having to battle undergrowth or worry about standing on a snake
  • Other people's kids being as noisy and active as mine

Things I already miss about Singapore

  • The weather: it's -10 degrees C tonite!!!
  • Rice: instead of a choice of over 40 varieties and packet sizes at the supermarket, here you can choose from 5 varieties which have all been processed to death and are guaranteed to be totally sterile and not stick are you supposed to eat that with chopsticks???
  • Seafood so fresh it's practically flopping on your plate
  • The swimming pool - the kids are bouncing off the walls already
  • Our apartment...when did our house shrink? When did my kitchen become so small????

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Final Goodbye

The day has finally arrived: today we leave Singapore and return to the Netherlands. If I had the time I may have been able to think of something witty or reflective to amuse you, but as it is life has been so hectic these past two weeks that I just want this moment to be over. All that remains now is to try and fit our mountain of luggage into 5 suitcases - we thought we'd be done with 3! - and get through the next few hours.
The kids have had their farewell at school (see pics) and are getting their heads around the idea that they will have a new school to start in a couple of weeks.

The boys are a bit pensive about the move, and although they are keen to get back to NL to see family and friends they too are sad about leaving this amazing island which is, basically, one huge playground for adults and kids alike.

Yesterday we gatecrashed the Orchid Country Club for the final time, enjoying the hosipitality, cafes and pools that normally only members get to enjoy (it's been our little secret for the past 2.5 years!) and as it is, fittingly, raining today it's been a day indoors for the kids while I desperately try to figure out what we can leave behind and what we'll take.

I'm not sure how I feel about it; at this point I'm just tired and flustered and hoping I haven't forgotten anything really important. I hardly slept last night - I checked my clock for the last time at 4.40am so hopefully I nodded off after that. We won't have internet at home until at least Jan 2, so here's wishing you all a Merry Xmas, a happy and healthy 2009, and I'll be back again, less flustered, in a few days.

Au revoir!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Couldn't Resist...

Click on the pic to enlarge.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Raffles - Simply The Best

Ok I don't know about you but I'm sick of talking about ships and moving. So I'll tell you want I did last Sunday with the boys instead. I booked us in for high tea at Raffles Hotel, that iconic landmark that is quintesentially colonial yet at the same time so Singaporean it's at the top of almost everybodys list of things they recognise from this island nation.

Holger and I have fond memories of celebrating our wedding anniversary at Raffles Grill, the very formal strached white linen and silver service 'posh' restuarant on the ground floor. We've also had a great meal upstairs at Doc Chengs, and saw a fantastic performance of Hamlet in the Jubilee Lounge a few months ago. High tea is held either in the Tiffin Room or the Bar & Billiards Room, which is where I booked the boys and because it's more casual and the kids were less likely to upset any patrons looking for a quiet cuppa and scone there. The food was Christmas themed, and the boys made short work of tiny pandan and coconut macaroons, delicate sandwiches, home made eclairs and plates of freshly chopped tropical fruits. The bowls of marshmallows were also a favourite, while I loved their freshly baked scones, still warm from the oven, served with strawbery conserve and clotted cream. Mmmmmmmmm.

Predictably the kids were finished in half an hour, and as I'd ordered a private car to take us there and back we had some time to kill so wandered around the gorgeous shops on the ground floor. We picked up some Christmas trinkets to hand on the trees, and a stuffed toy replica of the forbidding looking Indian gentleman at the front door. The kids had instantly taken a liking to him and he kindly posed for photos, so they were very happy to have a souvenir of him to take home. The Christmas decorations at Raffles are always stunning soit was the perfect time to visit with children.

As with all little boys shopping bordeom set in fairly quickly so we settled down in the garden bar where I whipped out some paper and pens so they could do some drawing, which they happily settled down to while I enjoyed a Singpore Sling. Well, when in Rome, as they say...

I hope that in years to come they will remember some of this visit and feel the same fondness as hubby and I do for this grand old institution, and indeed for this entire country.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Just A Little Bit Frazzled...

Aaaaaaaarrrrghhhhhhhh! Moving sucks!

Sorry, had to get that out of my system. Now that hubby has sailed for Egypt via the charmingly nick-named Gulf of Pirates, I'm here holding the fort as it were as we enter our last week of living in Singapore. Our belongings have been shipped and are also on their way to Europe, due to arrive a week after we do. Our 'camping' location here at the Wilby has started to look suspiciously permanent as the kids seem to acquire new toys by the day and I'm not absolutely certain that our remaining stuff will fit into our suitcases.

Today I have to give back our lease car (nooooooooooooo!), I've handed over all our passports and residency permits to be cancelled (sniffle) and picked up the paper work to close our bank accounts. It's all looking so final.

The kids however are fully immersed in the last week of school, and having narrowly survived the feverish sugar-fuelled adrenaline crazed sleepless week that was Sinterklas, we now get to do that all over again for Christmas. Plus farewell parties again for both at school on Friday. Oh, and did I mention I'm cooking pancakes for Carl's class Christmas party lunch, and stabbing cocktail sausages onto sticks for Niels Christmas dinner on Thursday night?

In between trying to get telephone and cable organised for Holland - don't even ask me what I think about a system that takes A MONTH to hook up a phone line - we also will have to go grovelling back to our former cable tv supplier whom we told to shove their cable up their asses when we left because they were such bastards - because apparently we live in no mans land and digital tv doesn't broadcast to the twilight zone. Strange when you think that the Netherlands is a VERY SMALL COMPLETELY FLAT COUNTRY and yet digital signals magically stop once you get beyond the 50 km zone of the nearest city.

Am I sounding stressed? Surely not, why would I be??

Here's a nice calming picture for you instead, of the Aoka Mizu underway. It was taken during the sea trials last week. Can you see Holger waving cheerily from the bridge? I'm not saying his job is easy but just think: your own cabin where no one comes in to demand you pull silly putty out of your toy monkeys' tail or wipe strings of snot off their chin when you are sitting on the toilet. No one bursting into your bedroom at some godforsaken hour of the night to ask if Sinterklas will come back tomorrow? The day after? What about the one after that? How about the one after that? No turning around when you're shampooing you hair under the shower to see two forlorn little eyes watching you and a trail of pee on the floor indicating they didn't quite make it to the loo on time. No one shouting "You're so mean, you're the worst mother in the world!!" because we've run out of peanut butter.

I know, I know, I should be looking on the bright side. After all, next Monday I get to sit on a crowded plane for 12 hours with my two little kids! What could be more fun! If only we get our passports back before then...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

All Hands To The Bridge

Hubby is away on board the Aoka Mizu at the moment while they carry out sea trials. The kids are starting to miss him, and unfortunatley he wasn't hear to join in Sinterklas, so it was just the 3 of us.
These are two pics taken a couple of months ago when hubby showed the kids are the ship, including the bridge and his office.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Lightening strike at Wilby

For a while I've been trying to make a short video of the amazing electrical storms we get in Singapore. Today I almost got more than I bargained for. I was just a bit too close to the action! Watch this video I shot from our balcony - then watch it again, and take note of exactly where the lighting is going in the first couple of seconds.

Now that was close!

Monday, December 01, 2008

We Are Sailing...

Yesterday the Aoka Mizu finally set sail, heading out to sea on the high tide to undergo sea trials offshore. We stood on the jetty by Bottle Tree Village and waved as she went past, dwarfing the two tugs who pushed up against her hull to keep her on course.

Hubby was at the wheel on the bridge as he went past and was able to see us through his binoculars. He talked to the boys as they waved frantically from the beach. Niels thought it was really exciting. Carl however couldn't believe Daddy was drivng the big boat, but entered into the festive spirit of the occasion by making animal noises down the telephone at him.

'Twas The Month Before Christmas...

...and already the carol singing is driving me NUTS! I mean they started at the end of October, for gods sake, how long are we really expected to suffer through songs about 'jingling through the snow' and having a white Christmas when it's 32 degrees outside and 95% humidity?? At the risk of sounding all bah-humbug-ish, I'm really, really not a fan of Christmas carols. To be fair I have an excellent excuse. So before you start yelling "Scrooge!" at me, let me explain.

Way back when I was 15 years old my first job ever was stacking shelves at the local New World supermarket in Matamata, New Zealand (also known as Hobbiton now that part of Lord Of The Rings was filmed there - The Shire to be precise). Back to the supermarket; it was during the summer holidays that I decided to take on the hither-to unexplored realm of seeking paid employment, a fatal mistake which I've never been able to rectify. The school summer holiday in New Zealand, of course, fall over the Xmas break. So there I was, in my bight blue polyester smock and feet aching from standing on concrete floors for 8 hours a day, unloading cans of spaghetti and fruit and having to listen to the same 60 minute tape of Christmas carols over, and over, and over. Yes I admit I'm old enough to have lived through tape decks, for all you teenagers out there, they probably would seem about one step up from a hand-wound gramophone. The trouble was the supermarket only owned one tape, and they played that damn thing right though December and half of January,by which time it was so stretched that it was playing the songs with a long, drawn out intonation about as jolly as having nails driven into your spine. This experience permanently imprinted a loathing of carols into my brain that even that ravages of time and a lifetime of gin and tonic abuse hasn't managed to erase.

I do however love Christmas lights, and nowhere does it better than Singapore. At least they don't go in for pouring fake snow on top of everything.