Lost in Translation

Sometimes when I’m out and about in Singapore, a sign will catch my eye that just makes me shake my head and say “Bless your heart” to myself.  If you saw a store called Goods of Desire, what would you expect to find inside?

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Unless your answer is “home decor and gifts,” you’d be wrong! Obviously.

Keepin’ It Classy

One of my favorite things to do when I’m in a new place is to take a class or two (or ten).  There is something so enriching about learning a new skill in a foreign place from a local instructor in a class mixed with other travelers, transplants, and locals.  When I started searching for adult classes in Singapore, I knew that I wanted to find something fun and different that my husband and I could do together on a weekend afternoon.  Enter The General Company, a small shop that sells experiences in addition to thoughtfully designed handmade wares.  After perusing TGC’s website, the husband and I signed up for a 2-hour Basic Leathercraft workshop.

Hidden above Chye Seng Huat Hardware, a hipster-esque coffee bar and cafe, we were intrigued from the first moment we opened the door and were greeted by this staircase leading us up to the store and workshop area:

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Upon arrival upstairs, we checked in with our other ten classmates and got to work on constructing a leather card case, led by local designer and artisan, Stone.  Stone made the process simple and at the end of the two hours we actually had a card case to take home (and they didn’t look too shabby if I do say so myself!).

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Step 1: Trace your pattern onto the leather.

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Step 2: CAREFULLY cut the leather following the pattern.

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Step 3: Punch holes.

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Step 4: Fold leather and attach your hardware.

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Step 5: Pray all your holes are aligned and close your card case.

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Step 6: Take card case selfies with your classmates’ creations.

We cannot wait to sign up for the next course in the series.  This class is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon and it is unbelievably satisfying to leave with a cool memory as well as a product that a) we made ourselves and b) we’ll actually be able to use!

Convos with Uncle

After living in our new place for a couple weeks, we’ve noticed that our security guards like to be all. up. in. the mix.  They are all super nice, but sometimes we’re a little taken aback by what feels like kind-of-invasive questions.  For anonymity purposes (I don’t know if these guys want to be known in blog land), I’ll attribute all security guard quotes to “Uncle” as this is the term used as a polite form of address for middle-aged or older males who you are not well-acquainted with in Singapore.

Convo #1

(The husband and I arriving home in a cab.)

Uncle: Hi!  How was your night?  Did you go out to dinner?

Us: Hi, fine, thanks!  We did grab some dinner.

Uncle: Oh yeah?  And were you out drinking?

 

Convo #2

(Walking Chico.)

Uncle: Good morning, Chico!  What are you doing?

Chico: (Wags his tail and pees on the grass.)

Uncle: What are you doing, Chico?  Are you watering the plants?

 

Convo #3

(Walking Chico on a different day.)

Me: Hello!

Uncle: Good morning!  Only five minutes walk this time?

Me: Yes, it’s really hot and we went for a walk earlier.

Uncle: Doggies need more than a five minute walk.

Me: Well, he is really small.  Have a good day!  Bye!

Mid-Autumn Festival

Today marks one of the most important Chinese festivals of the year, the Mid-Autumn Festival.  The festival is held each year on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, during a full moon, and within 15 days of the autumnal equinox.  In Singapore, we are celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival from August 23rd to September 28th this year.  Traditionally, the festival is a celebration of gathering family and friends, giving thanks for the harvest, and prayer.  But what does it mean for us laypeople?  Mooncakes and lanterns, of course!

The husband and I spent last Saturday morning sampling mooncakes at Takashimaya Square in Ngee Ann City.  We arrived right when it opened so that we could taste everything (really, everything)!  We found the local vendors to be so welcoming and eager to teach us all about their craft.

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The Moon[cake] Walk

We tasted everything from the traditional mooncake (with a single egg yolk in a lotus seed paste filling)

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to the more exotic flavors like durian paste, champagne chocolate, and black sesame yuzu truffle.

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While I really enjoyed the black sesame, I think my favorite was the traditional lotus paste mooncake.  The traditional version reminds me of a family friend’s peanut butter fudge we have every Christmas so maybe I was just being a little sentimental.

We finished our Mid-Autumn Festival celebration with a night out in Chinatown to see the neighborhood decked out with lanterns.

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Photo Credit: The Husband

We had such a fun night!  You could feel the energy in the air and we immediately knew something special was going on when we turned the corner into Chinatown (besides the 50% off steaks and craft beers that we stumbled upon).  🙂

Bus Bus Baby

“Alright stop.”  All jokes aside, that’s what I had to tell myself every time I thought about taking the bus in Singapore, but panicked and grabbed a taxi instead.  I don’t know why, but I’ve never been a bus girl.  Give me a metro/subway/tube/MRT any day of the week, but the thought of taking the bus to navigate a new city has always seemed a little too overwhelming to me.  I think it’s because I find the bus maps and routes located at stops to be completely indecipherable.  Also, what do you do when you get on the bus?  How do you pay?  And I’m scared I’ll get on the wrong bus or get on the right bus and miss my stop, ending up who knows where lost and alone with no…  You get the picture.

Anyway, I finally gathered up my courage and did it!  I was going somewhere that was nowhere near an MRT and I quite frankly just didn’t want to spend another penny on a taxi so I hopped on a bus armed with an EZ Link card (that’s how you pay for public transpo here) and MADE IT to my destination.  It doesn’t look so scary, right?

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Yes, I even rode a double-decker!

Since that first trip yesterday, I’ve gone all over town using Singapore’s bus system.  I’m proud of myself for overcoming a really silly fear.  Expat life is awesome, but sometimes the tiniest things can derail you and I’ve found that you just have to rip that bandaid off and go for it in order to get back on track.

Final Verdict:  It’s cheap, easy, and accessible all over the island. Riding the bus is definitely a “do”!

(Non-Royal) Airmail

Hooray!  Our air shipment has arrived (one week late, but who’s counting?) so we are one step closer to being settled in Singapore.  We received a total of nine boxes full of our “essentials” that we need to survive until our sea shipment decides to grace us with its presence.  Here’s a look at the mess we have so far and a sneak peek at the new place!

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So…  What did we consider “essential”?  Our air shipment consisted of Chico’s belongings (car seat, toys and blankets), clothes that wouldn’t fit in our suitcases, hangers, yoga mats, handbags/briefcases and other small leather goods, kitchen supplies (place settings for two including plates, forks, knives and spoons, 1 pot, 1 pan, 1 spatula, a few large spoons for stirring/serving and a manual can opener), two beach towels, our Vonage box and phone, and last but certainly not least, our TEMPURPEDIC PILLOWS.  We totally should have figured out a way to get those pillows in our suitcases!  I wish we had also included some bath towels (helloooo priorities!) and a small tool kit, but c’est la vie…

We’ll be moving from the serviced apartment we’ve been staying in to the new place as soon as our guest bed mattress is delivered as we’ve already procured a bed with linens as well as a TV.

Chi was definitely pleased (and maybe a little overwhelmed?) to finally be reunited with his toys from home.

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“I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I’m so… Scared!”

I would love to know what others consider essential and what you wish you would have or would not have included in your shipment!

Take it Away!

If you’re going to move from a western country to a country in Southeast Asia, Singapore is where you’ll find the easiest transition.  That being said, even “normal” things from home are done just a little bit (or a lot bit, depending!) differently here.  At home, when you order a drink with your carryout or to-go meal, the drink is always given to you separately from your food.  Here, you order something for “take away” and it ALL goes in the bag.  Surprisingly, it works!  I walked all the way home from the mall with not one drip.  🙂

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P.S.  Popeyes is alive and well in Singapore…  #itsthelittlethings

P.S.S.  Do you think the walk to and from the mall to pick it up negates at least a few of the calories???  #worthit

The Longest 10 Days of Our Lives! – Moving a Dog to Singapore Part IV

HE’S HOME!!!!!!! (Can you tell I’m excited?!)

Our pet agent delivered Chi to our temporary accommodations around noon on his last day of quarantine.  The first day he was a little stand-offish, the second day he was super needy and snuggly, and by the third day he seemed to be back to normal.  His appetite has returned and he is loving his new (self-appointed) Neighborhood Watch job.

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The Longest 10 Days of Our Lives! – Moving a Dog to Singapore Part III

Chi was fortunate to only have a required 10-day stay at Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station (we met other pups there who had to stay 30 and 60 days!).  While there, we were allowed to visit him everyday during visiting hours (M-F: 4PM-6PM and Sat: 2PM-6PM) except Sundays and public holidays.  Although I was planning on being there everyday regardless, I was so pleased to find that visitation was actually encouraged and welcomed.

Chi’s first day in quarantine was a Sunday so I wasn’t able to see him until Monday.  It was about a 25-minute taxi ride to the facility from Orchard Road.  I didn’t know what to expect when I got there, but the staff quickly put me at ease and was both friendly and informative.  I signed an inventory of the items Chi had with him and provided my passport info before signing in for visitation.  I asked right away about reserving outdoor space for the visit and was told I would be called when it was our turn.  A lovely staff member took me to the room Chi was staying in.

As I walked down a long hall, I saw that each dog had his/her own small room (about 6’x12′) and air conditioning unit.  When I got to Chi’s room, I saw that it was clean, his food and water bowls were full (the food I sent with him was being used), and all of his belongings were in good condition.  Each room also had a back door that opened onto a small “patio” area.

Other than not having much of an appetite, Chi did great while in quarantine!  We played, snuggled, and went outside to a small private yard each visit.

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Hangin’ out in his room

 

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Hangin’ out in the exercise field

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Hangin’ out on his patio with Dad

I was so worried about how Chi would react to time in quarantine because he HATES being boarded at home.  Each time I visited though, he seemed happy and well-adjusted, and he never once showed signs of fear.  My husband and I are so thankful to the truly wonderful staff who cared for our baby during his stay.  I’m happy to report that all my initial fears were completely unfounded!

The Longest 10 Days of Our Lives! – Moving a Dog to Singapore Part II

To get to Singapore, Chi was flying from the U.S. to Singapore with a long layover in Frankfurt.  We decided to have him fly that route because Frankfurt Airport is home to the world-renowned Animal Lounge where he was able to stretch his legs, get cleaned up, and be checked out by a veterinarian before continuing on his journey.

Chi arrived at the airport in Houston about 4 hours before his plane was due to leave for Frankfurt.  Our pet relocation company sent us updates to let us know when he was all checked in for his flight and again when he was safely boarded onto the plane.  While he was on his was to Germany, my husband and I started our trip to Singapore with a flight to Beijing.  We were more than a little anxious to land and get an update on Chi.

Unfortunately, while Chi made it safely to Frankfurt, his paper work did not.  Our pet relocation agent informed us that a) the airline lost Chi’s paper work, b) she informed the airline that she could immediately send them copies of the lost paper work, and c) that the airline would not fly Chi to Singapore without original documents unless they received express permission from the AVA.  The problem with that was that the AVA was closed as it was nighttime in Singapore so Chi was definitely going to miss his flight to Singapore that day.  We were panicked about our baby boy being stranded in Germany while we were powerless to help him from China, but our agent assured us that if a problem was to arise anywhere, Chi was in the best possible place for it to happen.  We kept reminding ourselves that the Animal Lounge houses and transports every animal you can imagine, from fish to elephants, surely they can care for one chihuahua!

When the AVA opened, our pet relocation agent was able to get them in contact with the airline and give permission for Chi to enter Singapore with copies of paper work rather than the originals.  He was put on the next flight out, one day later than originally planned, and arrived safely in Singapore.

Our pet agent was able to go see him at Singapore Changi Airport, where he had to spend the night, and even sent us pictures so that we could see for ourselves that he was okay (relief!).

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He’s letting a stranger pet him?! And no tail between his legs?! Success!

We were really amazed at how great he looked as we totally expected to see a completely stressed out, hairless pup with his tail tucked between his legs in fear and defeat.  He is so much more resilient than we ever imagined and he’s going to have a hard time convincing us otherwise from now on!

The next day he was transferred to Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station where he would complete the remainder of his 10-day stay… (Hint: It wasn’t that bad!)