Saturday, September 7, 2013

6 months in Singapore!

Momo sleeping under the giant dreamcatcher I made from a hoola-hoop and plastic packaging twine.
Time flies by fast when the sun rises at 7am and the sun sets at 7pm every. single. day. I'll officially be in Singapore for 6 months next week and Andy has been here for over a year now!

Finally feeling less homesick and much more settled. I've been deliberately trying NOT to over-analyze everything; hence being the worst blogger. It sort of drove me nuts at first trying to decode and fully understand all that was new and different; finally realized to just let things happen and enjoy... probably won't ever understand this new land and culture in the way I know California/America/my little world before this move. It's nice to learn and try new things without getting so overwhelmed now. Does anyone else feel this when they're in a new culture? It's been great having a partner in all this... when I incessantly ask Andy mundane questions, he tries to answer as much as he can. It's also nice to have an "off day"once in a while where I just go and eat the closest thing to a taco and drink a $13 Pacifico.

I've got lots to share about all the new stuff I've done, seen, ate... but at another time; right now I'm going back to cuddling with Momo, Ralph and Andy.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I didn't know my lips could sweat... and other strange thoughts from my first month abroad

Looking down the Singapore River to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel
It's been a little bit over a month into my stay in Singapore; I've had a billion little new discoveries about my surroundings and about myself. I feel like my mind is always on overdrive... trying to fully understand and decode all the new experiences; think I should stop and just let things just happen. Here's a few of my random thoughts so far:

• Yeah, never knew that my upper lip had sweat glands. I mean I knew they existed but lately, I'm constantly wiping off my sweat mustache.

• Singlish is it's own language... it's nothing like I've heard before and although it's English, the slang mixed with the slightly British, slightly Chinese, slightly Indian accent creates a whole new dialect! I'm constantly asking people to repeat themselves but on the other hand, I'm rather sure that no one understands my Californian mumblings either! I've also noticed that I might just be using too many words: I preface my questions to clerks with some context but they tire of my rambling, cut me off and answer what they think I'm about to ask... they're most likely wrong though since they haven't listened to my question yet. I need to just get to the point the way Singaporeans like it (instead of "Excuse me, I'm looking for a blow dryer. Do you know where I can find one that uses ionic technology?" I should actually just say "Hair dryer. Ions. Where?")

•  Skin issues... Everyone I talked to said that the humidity would do wonders for my skin. They failed to mention that I would go through a period where the skin just freaks the hell out. My minor psoriasis on my hand got super itchy for about a week but now it's completely smooth... hooray! My face though is not transitioning as well: every day there's a new blemish that's not quite a zit, not really a bug bite, just some rando red bump that I can't cover with makeup since it'll just melt off in the humidity. Looking forward to looking dewy fresh.

• "Dry" is a relative term... nothing is ever dry here to our American standards (fluffy and zapping with static-y goodness.) To Singaporeans, dry just means it's not sopping wet and, according to locals, using a clothing dryer is idiotic when you can just line dry since the weather is so hot. I totally understand this practice but I grew up in the Californian desert, where it's too dry even for cacti to grow and where it's so hot that we could actually fry eggs on the sidewalk during summer: dry to me is BONE dry. I'm going to have to retrain my brain to accept this new definition of wet and dry.

• FOOOOOOOOD! It's truly amazing here with food. Haven't had a bad chicken rice although I prefer things de-boned. Fruit juice stands are everywhere too... my favorite is a freshly pressed sugar cane juice with star fruit or a simple green apple juice! Ethic spices and flavors abound! It's been fun trying new foods. I've noticed though that once a week, I need something that reminds me of Los Angeles: anything western (burger, pasta, etc), taco night, Korean food even... anything that isn't a food adventure so my tummy and my brain has a day to rest. Funny since Andy's rule in LA was that he needed at least one dinner each week with rice or anything Asian.
Clockwise from top-left: 1st time eating a mangosteen... (it's so cute and delicious), Indian fishhead curry from The Banana Leaf Apolo, Hainan Chicken Rice with lots of ginger and hot sauce and a fresh pressed sugar cane juice, Zion Hawker Centre

• Sticker shock! Everything is expensive here. There's no getting around it. I'm learning slowly how to shop here so I'm not getting price reamed. I've been grocery shopping at the Wholefoods equivalent here and that makes me angry. As everyone in the US knows, Wholefoods is where you go for certain luxury organic items that you can't find anywhere else... aka "Whole Paycheck" since you'll always pay a premium on normal goods. Also, as suspected, alcohol in Singapore is ridiculously priced. I really need to learn how to live like a baller on a dime the way we did in Los Angeles.
You're not seeing things... yup that's Wild Turkey being sold for $80USD (for the non-alcoholics, Wild Turkey is about $20USD or less for a 750ml bottle and commonly sported in brown paper bags by gentlemen hanging out by trashcan bonfires.)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra at the Esplanade Concert Hall

Super cool perk of Andrew's job at the gallery is that he sometimes gets invited to see some amazing cultural events. Earlier this week, we went to the Esplanade Concert Hall to see the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra. I had no idea what we were going to see... Andy had just emailed me earlier that day and told me to meet him at the gallery at 6pm. I knew it was an orchestra but didn't know the background at all. Turned out to be an outstanding night listening to a world renowned orchestra playing Tchaikovsky, modern Chinese composed violin concerto and literally a "Symphonic Epic" about the Hakka folk people who live in western Fujian province of China.

It was fun to hear Tchaikovsky played well (it also reminded me of the movie Three Amigos! with its uptempo beat and staccato tambourines that sounded like galloping horses.) The second violin concerto "Butterfly Lovers" by He Zhanhao & Chen Gang was as moving as a grand Chinese dramatic movie (those historic ones that the protagonist heroically dies at the end.) The most interesting part was seeing how these classically train musicians incorporated traditional Hakka folk music. The second half of the performance was an epic symphony written to show the proud culture of the Hakka: "The Echoes of Hakka's Earth Buildings" by Liu Yuan. There was a traditional Hakka folk singer that used these cool stick percussion instruments. There was also a really neat folk musician who used a leaf as an instrument! It sounded like a high pitched kazoo! I was so excited seeing this and nudged Andy because he knows of my love of kazoos!
Hakka folk musician aka The Leaf Blower! (image from PianoMania)

To cap off the night, we went to the Makansutra aka Gluttons' Bay hawker centre that's located right outside of the Esplanade. Tons of delish food but what caught my eye was this huge slab of deep fried pork belly Filipino style! mmmmm... bacon.
Roasted Lechon Kawali or in my eyes "OH YEEAH. IT'S A DEEP FRIED SLAB O' BACON!" (image from googled from another blog)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Round and round, round we go... I get around.

Well Tupac got the round and round part right but I'm not getting around well... just getting lost. I'm from LA, never taken public transit unless I was on vacation in another country. I've always just jumped into my car or bicycle and went to wherever I needed to go... my car and bike became an extension of me. On vacation, I had all transit preplanned out so we don't get lost; I also always had someone with me to help figure things out. Although the MRT (what the Metro trains are called here) and buses in Singapore are great and very efficient, it's definitely a change in my mindset to have to rely on public transit to get from one place to another. Throw in language, weather (80-100% humidity & daily thunderstorms), my own personal space issues and my bad sense of direction into the mix too and it all becomes this kooky fun adventure whenever I need to run an errand.

The Pet Safari at Vivo City Mall where you can find specialty brands of pet food! (image from pet safari site)
Yesterday, I got majorly lost trying to buy kitty food and litter. I was trying to get to Vivo City, the largest mall in Singapore (which is a city with hundreds of malls) and also home to a large pet store for Momo and Ralph's specific brand of food. Not only did I take the wrong bus, I also went the exact opposite direction for half an hour before I realized it. My phone was out of credits so I couldn't google map the correct way. It took me about an hour and a half to reroute my way old school style by using the maps on the bus stops and asking complete strangers for directions. The conversations mostly went like this:
Me: Hello. Excuse me but do you know which bus I should take to get to Vivo City?

Helpful stranger: Veevo Cit.Teee lah?!! No bus take you here.

Me: Is there a bus that will take me to another bus or MRT station for Vivo City?

Helpful stranger: Why Veevo Cit.Tee lah?!! Mall there (points in a general direction but I don't see a mall in sight.)

Me: I'm trying to buy some cat food and there's a large pet store at Vivo City. Do you know a way that I can get there from here?

Helpful stranger: Cah fooo? Too expensei at mall lah. Get cah foo at stoor. Cheapa lah. (Points away to another general direction and I don't see a obvious store in sight either. Helpful stranger sees that I'm now super confused and continues to answer my question.) No bus here lah. Take MRT lah. MRT fah aweh.

Me: How far away is the nearest MRT? Is there a bus that will take me there?

Helpful stranger: You know. Bus ### take you. Then get off MRT. You know.

Me: Thank you so much! (Although I'm still confused because I don't really know yet. I get on designated bus. Asks bus driver about the nearest MRT station. Bus driver tells me "MRT fah aweh lah"... sigh.)
After switching buses a few times and talking to a few more good strangers, I eventually got to Vivo City and got Momo & Ralph's food & litter. Then I proceeded to get lost within the giant mall looking for a 7Eleven store to buy a phone card. Eventually gave up on the phone card and took a cab straight back to the apartment. Total time: 5 hours. Yay for adventure!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Journey of Momo & Ralph Waldo

Cat Tracker... From LAX to Amsterdam and finally Singapore!
Singapore is an rabies free island so getting Momo and Ralph prepped for their life abroad took much more work than getting the human members of our family over to Asia. Although the Singapore agriculture website offered a ton of information and guidelines for pet import, the information was often confusing; we decided to enlist the help of a professional pet transport company to ensure the best care for our sweet kitties and to reduce the quarantine time that they'd have to endure.

So after about hauling both cats to the vet 7 times (not an easy task when Momo weighs 14lbs, 6.5kg and Ralph is a hefty 18lbs, 8.2kg), 4 rabies vaccinations, 2 FVRCP vaccinations, 2 additional feline chlamydia vaccinations... ew, 2 rabies titer blood tests, 2 months of crate training, 1 case of feline urinary tract infection for Momo, 1 additional blood test to see if Momo's UTI was something worse, 1 more urine test for Momo to see if she actually had a bacterial infection and 2 cases of feline acne (Ralph's acne was much worse than Momo's and poor thing would have a bloody & scabby chin), Momo and Ralph were deemed healthy enough for international travel. They flew before I did on KLM as special pet cargo. KLM has a pet cargo area is is exclusively for pets; instead of flying in the pitch dark and cold with luggage, Momo and Ralph's area pressure and temperature were just the same as the main cabin. KLM leaves the a dim light on so the cats can sleep but can see around their surroundings if they choose. Other airlines load pets first in their cargo pits then load the luggage... so the poor pets are in the cargo deep pit then luggage comes rushing in at their crates... then it gets pitch dark for the duration of the flight. Momo and Ralph also went the opposite way through Amsterdam rather than through Japan: that's because KLM has a pet facility at the Amsterdam airport where they will take your pets out of their crates, make sure they potty (place cats in clean litter & walk dogs), they also place fresh bedding for the remaining leg of the flight. There's certified vets at the facility so all the pets get inspected to see if they're holding up well. Momo and Ralph's layover in Amsterdam was about a day then they were approved for their remaining flight to Singapore.

During their entire journey, I constantly refreshed the google flight tracker. I know it was silly of me to be so worried about them since we've already made all the precautions to make sure they're in the best care... but like a crazy cat lady, I couldn't sleep well until they had landed in Singapore and Andy finally FaceTimed me to show me that our furry kids made it across the planet okay.

Then Momo and Ralph went through their mandatory Singapore 10 day quarantine period. They had a lovely little air-conditioned room with a huge window that Momo would watch birds all day long. Poor Ralphie would only venture out of his crate when Andy visited. After quarantine, they were delivered to our friend's apartment where Andy was staying at... Momo was excited to be with Andy and instantly started cuddling. I'm sure Ralph was happy too but he just hid under the blankets.

They're both now settling into Singapore life quite well. Now Andy and I are going through the process of acquiring the proper kitty supplies. We had shipped over a ton of their food but thought that we could find kitty litter rather easily. Not true, there's only about 4 litters that exist here: silicon crystals (which are bad for cats respiratory systems), saw dust pellets, cruddy cheap clay sand litter or paper based pellets.  In the 3 weeks the kitties have been here, they've went through 3 types of litter already! The saw dust pellets and clay sand were annoying and tracked everywhere; I was constantly stepping on kitty litter and found a ton of it in our bed. We've finally found a litter made from recycled paper with a charcoal center. It's working out ok but I have to scoop it at least twice a day or else it'll just smell like awful. I find it really interesting that kitty litter technology is so ancient in Singapore considering we have an app that helps us hail cabs. Meanwhile, Momo and Ralph don't mind the litter changes much; they seem to actually like it and play around in all the different litters... fun for them, annoying for us.

Although these little mundane details will probably continue to plague us, Andy and I are extremely happy to be reunited with our furry loved ones. It brings me a sense of peace to cuddle into bed and have our ridiculous half cat half, human family together again.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Neverending Farewell Party

It took Andy and I almost a year to properly plan out our move to Singapore. Well, not actually a whole year since most of it we were just manically checking off things we wanted to do & eat in LA. Honestly though, I was also dragging my feet since I'm such a homebody and really couldn't see myself in Asia. I, not so secretly, was hoping that he would get fired and come back to me in our lovely home in California.

The past year seemed like an endless parade of going-away parties, help-move-our-stuff shindigs and drink-all-our-liquor parties (thank you to our friends who drank it all then replenished our bar and then continued to finish it all again)... only interrupted by binge watching netflix and a ton of detailed logistics that I really didn't understand until the last month before my flight. It was so much fun to constantly enjoy everything and everyone... knowing that we were leaving helped us enjoy each moment much more but the constant feeling of limbo started wearing me down.

The kitties and I have finally reunited with Andy in Singapore! Such a relief to be getting settled once again.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Holiday Hungover

We've already sent our holiday decorations to Singapore so this year I had to improvise with some DIY action.

Andy has been back in LA for the last couple weeks and it's been a flurry of family and friends holiday madness & fun. Hope everyone had a festive holiday season too and rang in 2013 with a bang just like us!

*I know it's a bit late to be sharing holiday crafts but I'll show details and how-to's in a future post... all this stuff would be great for any party just switch out the glittery xmas garlands. Much more soon but in the meantime, I'm hanging out with my man!

**Update: I stink and never got around to properly post on my crafty xmas but here are some of the links that gave me inspiration or I just plain copied. Most of the supplies I had already had or got from the 99¢ Store.

Paper Bows... I loved these so much that I've printed a whole ton to use for every single holiday. All you need is any ol' printer and plain paper (although better printing & paper would probably make them sturdier); you don't even need to cut them out exactly... they always come out looking so perfect!

Folded Magazine Trees... Made a ton of these while I was on hold with insurance companies trying to straighten out the flooding situation. I had a stack of old magazines that I as about to recycle. btw, I LOVE Martha. I used to be slightly embarrassed that I tivo'd her show but now I'm unapologetic. That lady is simply amazing and reportedly only sleeps 3 hours every night... I guess you can't sleep much when you're trying to take over the world. Here's Martha's tutorial on the awesome magazine trees that were scattered around my house during Xmas. I think they would lend well to a camping themed party if you spray paint them hunter green and earth tones?

Paper Honeycomb Balls... Here's the one craft that I only took inspiration from the internet and really made my own version. I used free LA Express newsprint (for those who don't know, LA Express is basically a classified for tranny call girls and other kinky things.) I thought it would be hilarious to have lil bits of the semi-nudity and classified ads peering out of the very classic ball accordion shape. Wish I had a close up... ugh. But you can use any ol paper to create this balls... the secret is sticky dots that I picked up a crud load at the 99¢ store but you can get at Target or office supply store. Here's the link that inspired me; their shape was much more elaborate but you'll get the point... fold paper in half and then alternately place the sticky dots! Oh and I made them more modern by using neon construction string 

I also made garlands from Trader Joe's shopping bags... no tutorials or links needed; they're just strips of paper taped or stapled together like you did when we were in elementary school.