Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thaipusam

Sitting in our apartment, we keep hearing cheering and whistling. We knew that it was Thaipusam, but we hadn't seen it yet, so tonight we ventured out. Right outside of our apartment, there is a huge festival march going on. Basically loads of people walk from this one Hindu temple near Clarke Quay to this other temple in Little India. Some of the people have really big, heavy float-like things balancing on them. Others have drums. Others have vases with things inside, carried on their head. There are tons of people, and there is so much energy. The guys get these hooks stuck into their skin (which you can see in the photos), and they spin around and dance when the music plays. Thousands of people line the streets. I thought there would be more tourists (or non-Indians at least), but I only saw about ten the whole time. It seemed like a lot of drinking, and a lot of happiness. Play the videos. It's worth it. Turn up your volume also. (By the way - the swastika is still just a religious symbol, nothing related to Hitler, but it shocks me every time, so we had to take a photo!).

Also - the mullet was just the icing on the cake of a cool night.







video video


Killing Time

One thing I hate is when someone says that they're killing time. Rav Meir gave a great shiur at Pardes about spending time rather than killing time, and it really stuck with me. I don't want to waste ANY time in my life. I want to spend all of it in productive, enjoyable, or relaxing ways.

But...then I heard this story on NPR about this guy who was trapped in the rubble of his music school in Haiti. He survived for 18 hours, and he said that he kept himself entertained by going through all of these complex and long musical pieces. He said that he would schedule his whole day so that he had piece after piece to go through. He said that he was killing time. I think that he was killing time, and I think that in that case, it's okay.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yoga

I have been doing yoga everyday for about a month (except Sundays). I love it.

I go to hatha 1 - where you learn more about doing the positions better, power 1 - where you basically just hold the positions longer and push yourself more, and yoga core - where you kick your stomach, back, and thighs' asses. It's damn hard.

There are a bunch of instructors at my studio, but mostly I have had the same four or five, and they're all really different. One sings during the shivasina (sp?) at the end, one makes jokes and makes us smile while we do yoga, one flirts his way through the class and makes sure he knows everyone's name. So different.

I have to say, though, that while I'm getting stronger, and generally trying to slow down my life, I'm not sure that yoga is good for my self-esteem. This is because for one hour per day, I sit in a room with the hottest girls in this country. They're all super skinny, muscly, Asian women, dressed in just about nothing - sticking their cute little asses in the air. It's usually 90% cute Asian women, and then there's me, a couple of Chinese guys, and a couple of white guys. I'm not sure it's the best place to pick up the women, since immediately after the class people seem to rush to the shower, but it's definitely good eye candy if you like that sort of thing.

I took more than a week of trying yoga before I could commit to joining. I had to join for a year, and this was the biggest commitment that I didn't need to make - that I have ever made. An apartment - you need it. A cell phone plan - pretty important. Most of my other commitments are so short term and with so few consequences. Ok - marriage might have been a bigger one, but I'm quite happy with that commitment. No regrets (now at least...). Anyways - hopefully I will continue to go, but so far, I'm loving yoga.

In other news Amy and Brett had a baby this week. Mazal tov!

In other news, I have tried to cut down on my social life and tried to either go to yoga or do nothing in the evenings during the week, and it has changed my life so far. I'm not running around (weird, if you know me, right? Can you even imagine that I don't have something to do each night after work?). I'm going to sleep at 10:30 or 11. I'm eating home cooked (but not super sophisticated) food. I'm spending more down time with Matt. There are consequences of this lifestyle - I have not had a chance to see many of my friends, but I have to say that I think it needs to continue. The only problem is that I also want a lot of down time on the weekends, and then when do I get to be social? Working just takes too much time (though I still love my job).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fewer babies for first time in five years

Such is the headline in the newspaper today.

The total number of births dropped .43% - yes - less than 1/2 of 1 per cent. There were 172 fewer births this year - out of 39, 654 total.

Front page news? Really?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Alumna of too many things

I am an alumna of my schools (elementary, middle, and high), Camp Ramah, University of Michigan (and the School of Social Work), the Drachler program (though I'm not especially attached to that experience), Otzma, Hillel (at GW), Pardes (three times), INSEAD...the list just goes on.

I can't possibly care about all of them. I could rank them from most recent to least recent. I could rank them by influence on my life (definitely Ramah would be first...and I think U of M second, and probably INSEAD is up in the top five). I could rank them most expensive to least expensive (and I think my one year at INSEAD beats (maybe even doubles?!) four years at U of Michigan...). I could rank them by ROI (return on investment), and then I think that INSEAD would be top, and Ramah would be negative. The options are limitless.

The point is, though, that I can't be involved in them, and with social media, I feel like I should be, and I feel a little guilty that I'm not.

I should be going for drinks with U of M alumni in Singapore this week, and on a board call for INDEVOR, the social impact club at INSEAD next week, and I got some email about something happening in NYC for Ramah...I just can't! And I don't really care to. I suppose I could get off the listservs, stop joining facebook groups, not join the calls...and just walk away. Tons of people do it. I just feel guilty for some reason.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

D Cup gets you a bottle

I am sometimes appalled by advertising in Singapore, or other parts of Asia that we have traveled to - but this one that I saw last week took the cake.

I went to nice, seemingly tasteful bar, Loof, last Friday night. While waiting for the elevator to take me up, I saw an advertisement that said on the top, "A-Cup = free drink, B-Cup = 2 free drinks, C-Cupt = 3 free drinks, D-Cup = free bottle." I was totally shocked (and offended, and disgusted, etc.), so I actually ripped down the poster so I could better look at this event. I do not steal things. I have never taken down an advertisement. I just couldn't believe this was real. Upon further investigation, I saw that it was a Belvedere Vodka promotion, and it was an event that was going on the next night at One Fullerton (another shi-shi-ish area of town).

I couldn't believe it, and I kept telling everyone I saw about it. Can you believe that they would have an event like this? That they look at your boobs and decide on what free drink situation you should have? I mean, REALLY!?

Sunday morning, our friend (who will remain nameless, though people in the Singapore Jewy community will know who this is...) came over to warm up his kugel for a UHC brunch we were having. He was a bit tired and hung over. Why? Because he was at this event at One Fullerton last night. Actually it was sort of a funny event - it was an event where you get drinks based on your boob size. WHAT!? Yes!! He went to that event. Not only that, he brought another one of our super dignified friends! (She got a bottle, just for the record). I asked them all about it, and it seemed like it was all good fun, and basically just enjoyed themselves, but...there is a Boobie Booth, and you go up there, and you just stand there, and the judges decide if you're an A-D, and then you get drinks. Apparently the rest of the event/night didn't have to do with boobs. I could take a photo of the advertisement, but I found this online, where you can see most of the ad. The only thing that's missing is the top part that says how much you get for each size, and there is a picture of each one (just the bra - no boobs), A through D.

Wow - This would NEVER fly in the US, and I do think it's quite offensive.

The woman who comments in this article is the president of the women's non-profit that I used to work for when we first moved here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Salmon

I made fish the other day for the first time. I got my recipes and headed off to the market to buy my ingredients. I was so excited to finally buy fish from these guys (from an earlier posting about the market).

I asked if they have salmon. Yes! We do. Then they pointed to a fish. Like a whole fish. Its tail was gone, but the rest of it was there. I guess that was a salmon. How much you want?

I want enough for four people.

Ok, you want me to cut here? Or here? I'm hearing - you want me to cut up this poor, innocent fish near his belly button? or closer to his upper rib cage?

You want me to take off skin? Take out bones? Hells yeah! I don't want that stuff in my house. I know that in the US (and at the normal supermarkets here) you just buy a fillet of fish, and you don't really have to think about the body that it used to be part of. Not this experience. I saw the whole guy, his face, looked into his eyes.

He was delicious. I just need more fish recipes.

And I need more local fish recipes - my four pieces of salmon were S$18 (about US$12). The lady next to me bought three entire fish for S$2.50. I need fish with smaller carbon footprint, but I need recipes. If you have any good ones, please send them to me!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Job. A Real Job.

Yesterday I got an offer to be a permanent employee of Standard Chartered Bank - where I have been working since November. I was hired on a three month contract, and assuming all worked out, I was to expect an offer for a permanent position. Even though I felt that things were working, I really like my team, my boss, and my job, you still never know, so I was so excited to get the offer yesterday.

So far my work has been about making maternity leave easier for everyone involved - the women, their managers, HR, etc.; work-life balance, and trying to figure out what we need to do as a bank to help our employees find it better; lots and lots of writing and communications...and I have really interesting things on the horizon. I'm really excited about the job.

Good - I really am excited about where this could take me professionally.
Bad - We will not move back to the States anytime soon.

In other news, we had a great week with a million things going on. Matt worked "in New York and London" from Singapore. Meaning he worked from 8 until 5 or so...8pm until 5am. He got sick, super tired, and struggled a bit - but he's a superstar, never complains and really liked the calls with the clients. I didn't like that when he came to bed around 5:30 or 6 I couldn't fall back asleep. Of course I complain about the few minutes of sleep that I miss out on, and he's super fine with missing out on complete nights of sleep. He's awesome.

In addition, our Kitty finally started using the scratching post I got for her...over a month ago. She uses it for scratching and stretching...and storing her toys on top of it. (Ok, we store her toys up there, but she plays with them).

I have been doing yoga everyday for the last few weeks, and I love it. I will write more about yoga in a more boring week when I have nothing else to write about.

I had a very funny book club experience - we read a (really quite horrible) murder mystery in Malaysia. The author is a friend of one of the book club members. The book was really simple writing...anway, it was fun to read, but...So the author came to our book club meeting, which I was initially skeptical about, but it turned out that she was hilarious, smart, entertaining, and I loved it. It's not everyday that you get to talk to an author of a book you read...even if you didn't really like the book.

Sarah and Ben finished their trip in Thailand and made it back to Singapore. We went out for a funny Japanese food experience and an Asian mall experience. They were totally into the stuff at the mall. They got out of here alright and made it home. It was really fun to have them in Asia for a few weeks.

I met up with Rusty's (see earlier posting) wife, and she was super cool. I really liked her a lot. I can't wait for Rusty to get back to Singapore so I can see him. I don't think I have seen him since 1996. That's a long time.

My team from work went mini-golfing yesterday for a team bonding activity. It was ridiculous. First of all I sucked, and no one likes to do things that they are bad at, so that's just being honest. The course was in one big room, 18 holes, smashed into a room that's probably about 5,000 square feet. All of the holes were spots in Singapore with super silly obstacles. I had no interest. I didn't even think it was funny/dumb. Though, I will admit that mini-golfing really isn't fun when you're sucking, because when you stop caring it just makes it worse, because then you REALLY don't get the ball in the hole and it just keeps on going....luckily we skipped about 6 or 7 holes. Phew.

I wish I was at Limmud NY right now. My mom is there, and I'm sure I have a million friends there...hope it goes well!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Quick Weekend in Bangkok

While Matt was in Jakarta visiting Vinny and Dan, I went over to Bangkok for a quick weekend with Sarah and Ben. They had a great week in Chiang Mai, and they ran all over Bangkok on Friday before I met them late Friday night.

We went to the weekend market (one of my favorite activities in life, and I even hate shopping!) for multiple hours on Saturday. Highlights included a woman trying to sell Ben a poster - "I'm Chinese, so I give a cheaper price." I thought I must have heard her wrong. I asked her to repeat a few times, but nope - that's what she said. and huge yummy refreshing drinks. We bought a bunch of fun stuff including ceramics, aprons, t-shirts, lots of fun stuff. Lowlights included little bunny rabbits in small cages...in dresses.

We then went to a swanky bar on a rooftop of a hotel and had a drink while the skyline turned dark. Then we hopped on the skytrain (everyone needs a local transportation experience) and made our way up to some good food, good music, and good bananagrams in the bar. It was damn fun. Today, Sunday, we walked up to the wat on the mountain and made our way through some Chinese areas before heading to the airport.

I still love Bangkok, and I sort of want to live there. We'll work on that one.

In the meantime, I'm happy to be reunited with my Kitty and my husband (who had great weekends sleeping and in Jakarta, respectively).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rusty? Rusty!

This morning I went to yoga, and after making a fool of myself in more ways than one, a nice woman asked if I went to Michigan. I had Michigan shorts on. I said "yes." She told me that her husband is from there, and his family lives there. They live in Birmingham. "Well," I told her, "that's basically where I grew up." He went to Lahser. Really!? Me TOO!!! What's his name? RUSTY S!!! I seriously couldn't believe it. It was the best start to a great birthday!

Rusty and I have been in the same classes since elementary school...all the way through high school...including transferring to Lahser and carpooling together for at least the first two years of school. I haven't been in touch with him since high school, I believe, but now he lives in Singapore! He and his wife moved here six months ago when her job transferred her out here. I will meet her next week and learn more, and I hope to see him when he's back in a few weeks. I seriously can't believe it. It's not just someone I know of, or someone I had classes with - this is a guy that was super close to my heart for many many years! Wow.

In other happy birthday news, my friend Susie wrote on my wall that I should ask around for birthday treats in Singapore. I tried that. I went to Starbucks for a bagel, and I thought I would treat myself to a drink as well. When I was paying, I asked (with a lot of chutzpa) if they give birthday discounts. Sure! I'll give you your drink for free! Rockin! Plus, the Dead's Scarlet Begonias was playing, so that was another great start to the day. Then, my boss took my group and me out for lunch at this super fancy hotel next door - the Fullerton, and I had a great sushi lunch. I loved it. THEN, I went with a husband and six other friends to see the Singapore Slingers beat the Philippine Patriots. The game was close - Singapore was behind until the very end, but then they pulled ahead, and they won. I will post photos soon. I even got a picture with the merlion - the mascot. He covered my face in the photo, though. Boo.

Great birthday. 32. Wow - that kind of seems old. Mid 30s. I will have to let this one sit. For about a year.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Banagrams

We love games. Sarah and Ben know that we love games, and they brought us Bananagrams and the Settlers of Catan Card Game. I have mentioned this fact before in this blog.

I mention it again, because there was a realisation (I'm practicing using my British spelling, since I have to for work) today at lunch. I have been really confused because the Bananagrams game has nothing to do with bananas. I thought that people just flipped over their Scrabble tiles and made up this game, and they thought it was too lame to just sell Scrabble tiles...so they put them in a banana. That was lame, but it was an acceptable answer.

Today, which lunching with my friend Susie and her friend Ilana, I explained how I love this new game, and she said, "oh, you make anagrams?" I didn't really know the word anagrams, but I looked it up, and yes - we do make anagrams in bananagrams. Thanks Susie! So I now think that the game makers said, "hm. It's kind of lame to call a game anagrams. Way too obvious. Anagrams sounds like Banana(grams)! Let's call it Bananagrams!"

Monday, January 4, 2010

Mac

I got a macbook right before we moved to Singapore. I loved my mac. I really loved it. It was the easiest thing to use, and I really became quite attached.

Unfortunately, while working at the WTO (when I needed to bring my own computer to work...), someone called, and I moved my things around to find the phone, and I spilled water along the side of my computer. It has had a slow decline since then. It was totally my fault, and it would have lasted much longer. I just know it. Slowly, the computer only worked if it was plugged in, or it would only do certain things. It got bitchy a little bit.

Two weeks ago, the computer stopped turning on. It was a sad day for me.

After a week of total frustration on Matt's PC (our PC?), I decided that I needed to get a new mac. It arrived today (titchadshi to me!). Macs are just amazing. I turned on the computer, and it asked if I wanted to copy files from another mac computer. Well, yes! Yes I did. I realized that my old computer would have to turn on in order for me to do that, but I prayed real hard, and it worked! It turned on, and I attached the two computers, and I transferred my preferences, applications, photos...I didn't need to buy Microsoft Office, I didn't need my dad to send the backup of all of my photos from Michigan...nothing! When my new computer finally turned on, Kitty was even on the desktop already!

I'm in love already!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sarah and Ben's Visit

After a New Year's celebration at Holly and Jeff's with a few other couples, Sarah and Ben arrived in Singapore on Friday morning, at 5:45 am. Via Amsterdam. Via Frankfurt. Via Boston.

They have been super sports - jet lag, heat, and usual vegetarianism being challenges. We have run around Singapore eating and seeing as much as we possibly could in the last three days. We hit Little India, Chinatown, temples, Matt's building and the CBD, East Coast Park, market, Clarke Quay, Merlion, Asian Civilisations Museum, Raffles Hotel, mall, National Library (with a cool map exhibit), the Night Safari (!), Orchard Rd, Sim Lim (6 floors of technology), more temples, Bugis, Arab St, dry market, flea market, and Little India again. We're tired.

We ate leftover Thai food, South Indian thali lunch, laksa, fishball noodles, popiah, carrot cake, Tiger, chicken rice, ice and mango, ice and sourop, chee cheong fun, roti prata, coffees, dim sum, malay food, bagels, fruit, mee goreng, grass jelly, soya dessert, lots of Indian food.

It's been a busy and super fun three days.

Highlights include when Ben ordered a sweet iced coffee. Then he got three hot not-so-sweet coffees. Oops.

Night safari was interesting. I don't need to go back, but it was interesting to go. It's expensive, though. We did see cool animals, and somehow, the way that it's set up, it feels like the animals aren't in such closed quarters as a zoo. I know they ARE, but it doesn't feel like that for some reason. We liked the flying squirrel - it just flew over our heads - and the bats. Particularly one that was...well...that's private.

They're off to Thailand, and we're off to work and recover from being tourists in our city.

Another important piece - they brought us a Settlers card game (which makes Matt in trouble, since you can play with TWO people!! YES!), and Bananagrams - which I knew because Jeremy and Terese play it, and I am slightly obsessed. I might have to play this one on my own. Super super fun. Yay for games! Yay for friends visiting!!