Thursday, August 30, 2007


I surprised myself by taking this fairly-decent photo while we were walking around the Lily Pond at the Singapore Botanical Gardens. Having a photograph turn out reminds me how much I wish I knew more about photography!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Grocery Shopping

Yesterday, Caleb and I ventured out in the pouring rain to meet a friend at Suntec City Mall for lunch.

*side note: Getting out and about in Singapore is a whole different ball game. Gone are the days when I could just hop in the car parked in our garage and go. Never again will I complain about all the time it takes to buckle in a carseat! Our trip included a 1/2 mile walk to the bus stop where we waited 20 minutes to catch a bus, a 10-minute bus ride, another 1/2 mile walk to the MRT station (Singapore's equivalent to an above ground Subway system), a quick trip on the North-South Line and then a transfer to the East-West Line for a 30 minute train ride. Whew!! . . . an hour and a half, and 10-miles later, we arrived!

Kazumi (my Japanese friend who was born in Japan, raised in Hawaii and married a Singaporean) and I agreed that we were in the mood for a Subway sandwich. We walked from the MRT station to Suntec and proceeded to get lost looking for Subway. We were dead-set on finding it though, so after about 40 minutes of wandering aimlessly, we finally located it nestled next to the carpark (a nod to Singapore's ties to Britain) in the basement level. Our search was well worth the effort! When we got up to order, we found out they were offering a promotion. . . buy a 6-in sub sandwich and get a med drink and two cookies for free. The offer is good until September 4th, so I plan to go back at least twice between now and then! =)

After lunch, we got down to business and headed to Carrefour (a French grocery/super store). Normally, I have to walk a mile to the grocery store, carrying the stroller (with my 20 lb son in it) down 4 flights of stairs carved into the side of a hill, and then up and down two more flights of stairs to cross the pedestrian overpass. Getting there isn't the problem . . . it is getting home with all my groceries! When I heard that Carrefour delivers (for free!) any non-perishable items purchased at the store, I was ecstatic. Kazumi and Caleb were troopers. Kazumi pushed the overloaded cart and entertained Caleb whilst I perused the aisles buying everything from laundry detergent to olive oil to root beer. All in all, I came out with a very well-stocked pantry and enough cleaning supplies to take care of this place for the next few months. I dropped my purchases off to the delivery center, scheduled a delivery for today, and headed off to the MRT happy as a lark.

Caleb and the Carrefour Loot.

I've heard of mosquito repellent. . .

I've heard of mosquito repellent, but lizard repellent is a new one!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Point Taken

Perhaps it is the $500 fine and 3-months in jail (for first time offenders!) that discourages people from jaywalking in Singapore. Or. . .

perhaps it is the signs.

Why Monkeys like the Chinese Ghost Festival

The 7th Lunar Month (in 2007, that falls during the month of August) is the Chinese Ghost Festival. There is a very good overview of the festival here, but basically, during this month, the doors of heaven and hell are opened and the spirits of the deceased are free to roam. The Chinese (mostly Buddhist) make offerings of fruit, cakes and other treats to appease the tormented. They also burn incense and hell money to pay homage to their roaming ancestors. We have seen these altars all month throughout the City.

Last night, someone must have made an offering just outside our building because as I was sitting here at the computer this morning, I saw several of the trees on the hill behind our flat shaking violently. No. . . it wasn't the ghosts shaking the trees. It was monkeys. A lot of monkeys. Though I am certain that Satan and his devilish horde have been enjoying all this ritualistic idolatry, the beneficiaries of last night's offering was none other than the mischievous little gang of miniature primates.

There were at least 10, maybe closer to 15 monkeys swinging from the trees, chasing each other with fistfuls of fruit and cake. Every now and then, when their supplies ran low (and when the coast was clear) they would scamper down to the sidewalk and snatch up a few more treasures.

The sight of these playful, mischievous monkeys made me laugh. However, despite the antics of the wild monkeys, this month is a somber month. It is a constant reminder of the spiritual slavery in which many Singaporeans live. Pray that the Chinese here in Singapore would encounter the only Ghost worthy of worship, the Holy Ghost!

Friday, August 24, 2007


I decided to make this post thematic. . . so I have listed every type of sheet I can think of. If you think of others, send me a comment and I'll see what I can scrounge up =)

Bed Sheets
In the USA, a bed is (typically) made with a fitted sheet and a flat sheet. Not so in Singapore (and many other places around the world). A flat sheet is a rarity in Singapore. Everyone here sleeps with a fitted sheet and a duvet cover. But, in my thinking, there are two reasons to use flat sheets:
  1. Have you ever wrestled with a comforter as you are trying to put on a duvet? It's a pain in the neck! The less I have to wash the duvet cover, the better.
  2. Electricity in Singapore is expensive. A flat sheet takes up less room than a duvet cover and therefore washing a flat sheet instead of a duvet cover costs less money.
We went on a search for a flat sheet only to discover that IF you can find a flat sheet, it is going to cost you an arm and a leg. Most stores do not carry them, but there are a few hi-end stores that cater to the ex patriot crowd that do. We took an average of several stores' flat sheet prices and found that you can expect to pay around US$100 (or about 150 Sing Dollars) for a queen-sized flat sheet (not a set, mind you, just the flat sheet)! We didn't buy one. . . we decided wait until Yvette can bring them with her when she comes for a visit in October.

Dryer Sheets
First of all, most Singaporeans don't use dryers. They clamp their laundry to bamboo poles which they then stick out their windows (imagine walking on the sidewalk below a 30-story housing unit and getting hit with a wet sock that fell 300 feet!). That method works well except for one thing. . . see "Sheets of Rain" below.

Due to the location of our building and the fact that our unit is on the fourth floor (which is considered a low floor. The lower the floor, the less the breeze.), we purchased a small dryer. I tried hanging our clothes the first week, but it took 3 days to get them dry and they smelled sour by then.

Anyway, back to dryer sheets. They are few and far between. The local stores (meaning the stores the locals shop at) don't carry them. There is a grocery chain that stocks a lot of American/British items, dryer sheets being one of those items. However, they are pricey. So, Yvette now has two things to pack in her suitcase for her visit in October. . . flat sheets and dryer sheets!

Cookie Sheets
I am pleased to announce that they sell cookie sheets here and that they are affordable! They are smaller than typical cookie sheets in the US, but that's okay. Ovens here are smaller (actually, most flats don't have ovens built in) so the sheets are smaller. The sheet I bought fits 9 cookies instead of 12. So, I guess that just means that I'll have to start eating more of the cookie dough! =)

Sheets of Rain
Singapore gets an average of over 90 inches of rainfall each year. Compare that to the 9 inches (on a good year) that we were used to in California. When it rains here, it really rains. I took a video of a recent downpour, but don't have the capability of uploading it to YouTube yet (the file is too large so I need Josh to help me convert it). I will post it soon. In the meantime, imagine the loudest, longest thunder you've ever heard (Josh grew up in Ohio and he said the thunder in the Mid-West doesn't even compare to the thunder here!), flashes of lightening so bright that you wonder someone just flashed a camera in your eye, and sheets of rain so thick that you can't see through them. Now, imagine that happening at least once or twice a day! I've heard that this is the "dry" season . . . I am really starting to wonder what the rainy season will be like!

Sheets of Paper
Paper here is a different shape. Instead of 8 1/2 x 11 letter-sized paper, the standard here is A4 paper, which is about 8.3 x 11.7. Longer and narrower. For some reason, it makes me feel smarter to use A4 paper. It's kind of the same idea as speaking with a British accent. =)

Thursday, August 16, 2007


One of the first things I had to adjust to regarding Singapore living was the placement of the bathroom light switches. For whatever reason, bathroom light switches are placed OUTSIDE the bathroom door. For those of you with prankster-ish tendencies, I don't think I need to explain why this creates a Prankster's Paradise.

And, while I'm on the topic of switches, I may as well bring up a few other points of interest. If you look closely at the above picture, you'll notice there are three switches, one of which is glowing red. That's the water-heater switch. There is one outside of each bathroom and one in the kitchen. I haven't figured out yet if there are three individual heaters or one main heater. I've tried to experiment by turning on the one in the kitchen and then trying to get hot water in the back bathroom, and vice versa. So far my "scientific method" approach isn't working. . . every time I try my experiment, the results come out differently! Sometimes I get hot water and sometimes I don't. But, I always get hot water (eventually) if I turn on the switch corresponding to the faucet I am going to use, so at least that much is reliable. But, I am having to learn to think ahead. In the States, if you want scalding hot water, you don't have to think. . . you just turn on the faucet and, VOILA!, instant hot water. Aside from the planning ahead part, I think the idea is a good one since it means we only heat the water we are actually going to use.

One confusing thing about electrical switches here is the fact that up is "off" and down is "on." It's very contra-intuitive to this American mind. I am constantly turning off things I mean to leave on, and turning on things that I want off. Someday I'll adjust.

Last but not least, are the switches that are on every electrical outlet. In my mind, this is a wonderful feature, especially with a curious baby who is still learning not to touch electrical outlets. It saves me from having to buy those annoying plastic outlet covers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

El Patio: Best Mexican Food in Singapore

Being from Central California, the Mexican Food Lover's Paradise, one of the first things Josh and I did was stake out potential replacements for our favorite Mexican Restaurants. The choices were slim! As far as we can tell, there are only THREE Mexican Restaurants in this bustling city-state of over 2.5 million people. So far, I have tried two of the three. Our search for great, familiar-tasting food may be able to stop there because the second restaurant we tried, El Patio, was everything we like in a Mexican Restaurant: good service, an outdoor patio, decent prices, free chips and salsa, and delicious food. So, if you're ever in Singapore and in need of a Mexican food fix, give us a ring and we will gladly let you treat us to a chimichanga and a burrito supreme!

*update: we found out that there are actually a few more than three. Not many more, but a few. We have tried two of those and still agree that El Patio is the best.