Sunday, March 28, 2010


As per somewhat unusual, I am backblogged. Haven't written a word since we left Singapore. A few thoughts:

Wedding in the woods
Our first stop in the US was our friends, Jerry and Jen's wedding in the woods of Maryland, near Camp David. It was in the state park, and we all stayed in cabins. It smelled like Michigania. We got to spend the whole weekend with wonderful people - many that we knew and loved before and many that we just met. The weekend included potato sac races, three legged races, pinatas, s'mores, hiking and more. It was really really nice and had such a great Jerry-Jen feeling. Highly recommended if you're getting married, you want something low-key, and you have awesome (and somewhat flexible) friends and family.

After the wedding in the woods, we headed to DC for 2.5 days. We mostly just visited friends, and we decided that we could live there. When (yes when, not if) we move back to the US it's between DC and NY, but DC pulled ahead for me on this trip. Awesome people and really nice life. We'll see...

I know this is totally cliche, and I probably blog about this every time I come, but portions in this country are shockingly and disgustingly big. You feel like you have to waste food if you don't want to become obese. Even frozen yogurt - In Singapore when you get a little cup, you get a little cup. It doesn't fill you for the day. It's just a snack, as (I believe) it should be. In the US, it makes me feel ill for the rest of the day, and it's probably more calories than you need for the whole day. I think if you live in the US you just have to eat at home almost all the time. It really grosses me out.

Morning Symphonies
On Friday morning, Matt's parents gave us their symphony tickets. My initial thoughts surrounded who the hell goes to the symphony at 10:45 on a Friday morning. Once we got there, though, I understood. The average age was probably between 75 and 80, and I did not see ANYONE around our age. Matt said that getting out of there was like frogger - trying to get around the walkers and canes (in a nice, slow way, obviously...). I have to say, though, that I didn't like going in the morning. I like looking forward to it all day, and I like that I have nowhere to be, so it can take as long as they want - encore and all. This time we woke up and almost immediately went to the symphony. That left me about 2 hours to be excited. Not enough. In addition, I knew that Jo and Mike were coming to visit in just a few hours, and I couldn't wait. I didn't want an encore. I had places to be! I would definitely go back to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, but not for a morning show.

Jo and Mike
Jo and Mike came to visit from Columbus (ew) on Friday. This was a highlight of our trip so far. They brought their one-year old (on Wednesday!), Charlie. I have a huge huge place in my heart for Jo and Mike. I met Mike at college orientation, and we have been super good friends ever since. I met Jo on my one-year volunteer programme in Israel, and we have been super good friends ever since. I didn't set them up (I didn't have marriage intentions, I admit), but I did introduce them. Meeting their child was so so exciting for me. I love seeing people that I have known and loved for...16 years! parents with their beautiful and special children. Charlie was so much fun. I'm so thankful for their visit.

Though there is a lot more to write about (including the squirrel that is sitting on my parents' deck right now waiting to be fed), I will save it. This is too long.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Packing in a Small Apartment

In Bedok, where we lived for the first two years we were here, we had a big apartment. When we wanted to pack for holiday, we had to think about what we wanted to bring. Then we went from room to room and gathered it together.

In our small current apartment, it's quite the opposite. I can basically sit on the couch, look around the room, and decide what I don't want to bring. Everything else comes.

This means two things - we don't have that much stuff right now, and we don't have that much relevant stuff (to traveling to cold climates). For example, I have one sweater, one sweatshirt, two pairs of jeans, and no full shoes that are not sneakers. Yes - sorry Jerry - I will be wearing sneakers to your wedding. All that stuff came. Nearly everything else in our apartment is irrelevant.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fantasy Baseball Wife

Most of the time, I mind being a fantasy baseball wife.

The draft is coming up, so there have been HOURS of preparation put into which players Matt should choose. "Honey, you have to see my spreadsheet!" I don't care about your spreadsheet. "Just look - you won't believe how I put this together with their stats from last year plus their...blah blah blah." I really don't care.

It takes up an insane amount of Matt's time during baseball season. I come home and he's figuring out who should sit for the next day and why he's not doing as well as he should be doing. "Matt, want to talk about our days?" "Mel - I have to figure out my fantasy stuff. Want to see? You can see where I stand in terms of RBIs, pitching...Just look for a second." Nope. Still don't care.

Then there are the phone calls. In the middle of the day. At work. "Honey, I have bad news." What? Someone died? You got fired? WHAT?! "My star pitcher is injured!" I just so don't care.

There are also the positive calls like, "Guess what!?" What? "This one guy on my team hit a grand slam!! Can you believe it!?"

There are also the endless phone conversations between Matt and his grad school buddies who are in the fantasy league. "I'll trade you Joe Schmoe for Joe Blow." "No way, dude. That's a horrible trade. If you want, though, for the 2011 season you can have one of my draft picks, and in 2013 I will trade you Joe No, and then you can keep him for the start of the 2014 season."

The draft for this season is coming up. Let the fun begin!

Dude - it's FANTASY! It's not real!

In other news, our Kitty had a false alarm of an eye infection. She didn't open her eye for a day (or we were really hot so she couldn't stop winking at us), but she seems to be fine now. Phew.

Life has been really boring, which is why it has taken me more than a week to update my blog. The only exciting news is that at the end of last week I finished Andre Agassi's autobiography which was one of my favorite books I have ever read. Read it and talk to me about it.

Even though we still have 36 more hours before our trip, we are totally already on vacation. So hard to work those last few days...One more work day to go!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Colonial Strategy

You might be thinking that I'm talking about colonialism - but that's super passe.

I'm talking about this bar by our house. This blog that I found has more history and pictures of it (I can't really find much online). This picture from an old blog posting of mine also has the bar in it.

I'm talking about strategy of this bar...which seems to be changing as the weeks go on. The Colonial bar has been here since 1924 (says its awning). The waiter told us that it was occupied by the Japanese (1942-1945) and that murders took place there. I have heard that story about just about every colonial building in this country, but that's not to say it's not true.

Anyways - when we went there, it was a Friday night (sorry, God), and it was pretty empty. The decor was super bizarre, and I believe that the entire reason it was so bad is because it had fluorescent lighting. That's just a bad idea in a bar. At night. The decor was a mix between old school (which matches the idea of the bar) and some modern twists (which just throw you off and don't look nice). Anyway, the only thing that was redeeming about the bar was the the cheap price of beer (and the two minute walk from our apartment).

Well, we haven't been back since we went, back in December or January, but today I walked by, and I saw that the bar has diversified its strategy. Usually it looks empty. Today it looked empty, but there were new (unprofessional) signs hanging in the windows offering coffee and cake. I suppose they're expanding horizontally into a coffee shop/pub. I also noted that they had "Free wifi!" posted all over their windows and even painted onto a support column in front of the bar. I suppose this is also an attempt to be more than a bar, since most people don't bring their laptops to the bar.

It's not that I know best, but this is sort of going against what I learned in business school. I mean, stick with it and GO people. You can't be all things to all people (unless you're Google, or maybe GE). I wonder what they'll be tomorrow? Pizza?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Baseball in Singapore

Last night we went to a baseball Singapore. If you have never left the United States, you might not understand that the rest of the world simply does not care about baseball. At all. Other than the Dominican Republic and Japan, maybe. No one talks about it, no one knows the rules. No one cares.

Luckily in Singapore, there is a whole American world. Matt and I met up with Dheeraj and went to meet Aliza, Linton and their son Zack at the American School. The entire experience was so so weird, but we had a great night.

First, we drove for what seemed like 35 minutes (and may have been) on highway. Singapore is small. You don't usually think that you can drive for that long before you hit Malaysia. Dheeraj wondered if he needed a visa. We arrived in the area, drove through what seemed like a normal Singapore neighborhood, and then all of the sudden there is an American looking school. It's huge, really nice, and it feels like America. The weird thing for me was that it really seemed like something I was familiar with, but definitely not in Michigan (smelled too tropical, and just way too warm), so I supposed it was like a school in Florida, though I have never been to a high school in Florida. After we walked by a whole bunch of soccer fields, we reached the baseball field, under the lights.

We watched the varsity baseball team kick the crap out of the adults men team. The first three innings were scoreless (or maybe 1 run?), and then the little guys started running ahead with a super exciting grand slam. I think the final score was something like 13 to 0.

The game was more like an event. They had things going on all over the place. The kids Zack's age (on his team) were getting their heads shaved. One little nine year old girl sang a song (I can't remember which), and it was unbelievable. They had a lottery drawings between every inning. They had dance performers. They had one was bored. I even at Cracker Jacks (Dheeraj ate peanuts, so we could officially sing "take me out to the ballgame...").

The whole night was surreal and a bit out of body - since it was all Americans, it was baseball, there were hot dogs and other American things, but we were in Singapore.

Best line from the night: "I've never won anything other than a frozen chicken at a Purim carnival! And it wasn't even a whole chicken. Just the breasts." This was after Aliza won a cooking class for 30 apparently worth S$1,800.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Last Minute Dinner Preparation

I'm a total planner. I know what I'm doing in two weekends. If I'm making Shabbat dinner, I have the menu by Tuesday, and I know exactly where and when I'm going to get all of the ingredients. I make timelines for myself at work (and I follow them). Some may call this anal. I will call it organised.

We were all focused on the fact that we were playing Settlers on Friday night (which we indeed had planned weeks and weeks ago), and we forgot about the small detail of food. Usually if you hang on a Friday night, dinner is included somewhere.

Today I offered to host...but I was already at work (no access to my recipes), and since I work until 6, I had go for sure be able to find the ingredients tonight (after yoga) and for sure be able to make it in about 1.5 hours tomorrow after work.

Step 1 - email Jer and mom and ask for quick recipes.
Step 2 - negotiation with Jer for the perfect fit for my circumstances (Asian over Western, fish over meat). Thai is a good bet.
Step 3 - list all recipes and ingredients
Step 4 - create shopping list
Step 5 - Tekka market immediately after yoga. Arrival at 7:45 pm...three vegetable stalls open, three fish stalls open. All veggies and fish - check. Missing - fresh rice noodles, tofu, sprouts.
Step 6 - Sheng Siong supermarket across the street. Noodles, tofu, sprouts - check.
8:15 walked in the door. Got a solid 10 minutes with Matt before he went on calls for the rest of the night.
Total = $6.10 for veggies, $18 for fish (snapper - story below), $2.25 for noodles, tofu, sprouts. Total, about US$19 for fish with garlic, ginger and onion, pad thai, and thai papaya salad. Not bad for four people.

Fish Story:
I went to the fish place I went to last time. I had gotten a fish recipe from Jer, but we didn't know what kind of fish I need. Remember, I have only made fish once. I went to the Fish Uncle (next to this place), and I told him what I was putting in my recipe, and that I wanted fillet for frying. He told me to ask the Fish Aunty. She recommended snapper. She told me exactly how much I needed and threw some fish tushies on a scale. Then they got passed to the scaling/cutting dudes. They stand up on platforms and scale, cut and torture these dead fish. He turned these fish ends (tails and all) into nice little fillets. He asked if I wanted the tail/bones that he had cut off. Then he saw that I was white. Nope.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lion Dancing: the Profession

You might remember that the Chinese do lion dances for the Chinese New Year (I recommend that last link, but only after the 5th minute). Saturday ended the two week celebration of CNY. For those two weeks, there were lion dances everywhere. There was one in my building at work...three times...there was one in the middle of Raffles least twice...they were near our house, they were in shops, they were EVERYWHERE. Twice. They are supposed to bring a good year, prosperity, and all of that other good, Chinese New Year stuff.

Lion dances take a lot of people - they have drummers, two people for the actual animal, the people who set up and probably more. They usually all ride around in the back of a truck. It looks really colourful and really quite fun.

Let's say there are 50 lion dance companies (assuming there are multiple performances by one troop per day), and let's say that it takes 20 people per lion dance. That's 1000 people employed by lion dancing.

Since there are so many lion dances performed, and it takes so many people to make a lion dance, it made me think...what do all of those people DO during the off season? This is considering the off season is 50 of the 52 weeks of the year.

Their skills include dexterity and dancing for the lion people (which is probably a gross minority of the people, since it only takes 2-4 people per dance), drumming for the drummers, set up, tear down, and logistics. I know that there is a lot of drumming for Chinese funerals/wakes, so I was wondering if the same drummers can also drum at funerals. What if a lot of people die during Chinese New Year, though, and all of the drummers are off lion dancing? How can the demand be supplied? Logistics, set up, tear down could probably all work on road shows, expo centre activities and things like that. I suppose that just leaves the lion dancers themselves. What could they possibly do? I hope they have other skills.