Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Mexican Wave

Did you know that the wave is called the Mexican Wave? You know, at Michigan stadium when everyone stands up and raises their arms and then they sit down again, and it goes in a circle around the stadium? I swore it was just called "the wave."

I heard that it was called the Mexican wave here, so I looked it up, and apparently it's a Britishism. This horrible description almost claims that it was created in 1986, and then it actually blames the phenomenon on colleges in the US! We NEVER called it the MEXICAN wave...just the WAVE, sillies! I don't have time to do proper web research now, but I'm sure the origin is offensive in some way. It just has to be.

In other news, we have had a very busy week including a visit from Flory and Becky from DC. Flory has mentioned three times to me that he didn't make it into my blog the last time he came through Singapore, so I will make a whole post dedicated to him, later. There, Flory - you happy?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wife Cakes

Office treats are fun in Singapore. I don't remember what it was like in the US/NYC, and I can't imagine what people brought to the office when they traveled to...Chicago? Boston? San Fran? I mean, I'm sure there are fun things, it's just that they're also probably available in NYC. In Singapore, if you go on a business trip, it is, by definition, international. If you take a flight, you must leave Singapore. This means that office treats are usually quite fun. Right now we have Turkish tea, Licorice (I brought that from America - it's a slow take-up here...), pineapple cakes from Hong Kong, amazing tea from Mauritius, and wife cakes from Taiwan.

Being the Diversity and Inclusion team of our bank, our team raised a red flag at "wife cakes." Sounded sexist. So we first asked the Chinese on our floor. The best they could do is give me the Cantonese translation. They didn't know where the name came from, but they said that in Cantonese it is indeed also "wife cakes." We turned to google, which directed us to wikipedia, and we learned that there's sort of a nice story (but a bit bizarre) behind these wife cakes.

Apparently, a long time ago in China, a guy's dad got sick. He and his wife got rid of everything they had to try to get enough money to save the dad. They ran out of things to sell, and he was still sick, so the wife sold herself. The guy apparently really liked that, so he named a pastry after her. Interesting.

In other news, Matt is diving, and I'm having the most relaxing weekend so far. Hung out with friends last night, finished my book this morning. Recommended, but buy it full price, not second hand, because the proceeds go to her and her education. I cleaned, I did research for an upcoming trip, I talked to Shana, laundry, swam and relaxed. I also went to the mall and got three dresses and three tops. I was going to get a foot massage, but because I bought so much stuff, I decided to forgo the massage. (It's the mental accounting thing, and clothes and massage are both in the same mental category = luxury good that I don't REALLY need).

Every single time I go to a mall I have the same thoughts - isn't anyone EVER in a hurry in Singapore? Even if they're not in a hurry, don't people just want to GET wherever they're going, rather than walk really slowly, four abreast, and zigzagging from side to side?

Today, though, I was noticing how damn loud the mall was. It was so so loud - I didn't think I would be able to make a phone call. Then a marching band came through. Literally. Up and down the escalators. Because it wasn't loud enough.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Awkward Mornings

I am not a very high maintenance person (at least in terms of clothes, shoes, hair, make-up - the usual). I like all of the clothes I have, so usually I just have to pick something in the morning, put it on, and leave. No second look in the mirror. No second thoughts - I just don't care, and I figure I look fine enough.

These days, however, it's a horribly un-fun different story. I am finding that the first three ideas I have of what to wear don't work. It goes like this - I pick out something I think will fit me. I put it on and one of the pieces (shirt? pants?) doesn't fit. Shirt is too short, or pants don't even zip (which you can't remedy with the belly band). Whatever doesn't fit gets folded nicely and put in the "for November pile" which gets put into a suitcase on the weekend so as not to tempt me and even remind me about all of the nice clothes that I have that I can't wear. Pants get thrown into my work bag for the one-last-drycleaning before they're sent to the "for November pile." (I'm due at the end of Sept/beginning of October, so I figure that November might be ambitious but we'll see...Everyone hopes to be that woman who goes back to her normal shape right after birth, right?). I usually go through three options before I get frustrated and realise that I just need to wear something, even if it doesn't look good. I feel like I have a "pass" at work - and this pass allows me to just not look as nice as the rest of my office for a few months. Hopefully everyone at my office agrees.

I am not ready to move into maternity clothes yet, since I know I will get super sick of them, as I still have five more months being pregnant, but today is my first day in maternity pants. Not looking good, but options are slimming down (as I am not...).

The mornings when I head to yoga are the worst, because I have to do this whole process the night before, put something in my bag, and pray that it still fits the next day. What an awkward stage.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Transport Mental Accounting

Buying a car never makes sense in Singapore (at least almost never). Cars are expensive, there is high tax, and then there's some COE that you have to pay. It just is expensive. If you take taxis to and from work and everything else, it usually comes out to cheaper than buying a car. We try to walk and take the MRT/bus as much as we can, but we definitely take a lot of taxis as well (though fewer now that we live downtownish).

How does transport fit its way into my mental accounting, though? I suppose this is where a sunk cost comes in. If you own a car, and you have to go to, book club, say, as I do tonight, you wouldn't think twice about driving there. You might think about ERP (where they charge you for going on certain roads at certain times) or parking, but other than that, you think it's a free ride. The car is a sunk cost. Paid for. Done.

I, on the other hand, think that book club costs me about $8 there and about $6 back (peak hour on the way there) = $14. That doesn't make sense, though, right? We don't own a car, because it's cheaper not to...so I need to lump my transport into another mental category for "not-car" or "transport total" or something, not the category for that day's activities. I'm working on it, and having MUCH shorter taxi rides by living where we live now, as opposed to on the east coast where we lived for the first two years, has definitely made my decision-making based on the cost of the night much more in favor of going out. That was a long sentence.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Baking on Sunday Morning

When we went to the baseball game a few weeks ago, our friend, Aliza won a baking class. You might remember the quote about how she's never won anything other than a frozen chicken at a Purim carnival? Anyways, she was generous enough to invite me and Matt along for the class, which was this morning at 9am. I must say that a cooking class is definitely one of the most random things I have done on a Sunday morning. Brunch, yes. Market, sure. Exercise, no problem. Cooking class? Okay...

It was great fun - as usual it was Aliza's friends from all over the place, and we sort of made 1/20th of apricot cashew bread, and we made an osmanthus flower cake. Osmanthus is a local flower. I say 1/20th of the bread, because basically we saw one step of the process (mixing it all together), and then we used another dough from an earlier mixing to actually shape the breads that we put in the oven. Overall, I can't wait to try it for dinner with soup, but I could NEVER replicate this at home. There are two different kinds of sponge (I don't know sponge other than what I use to clean and what I see in the ocean), and there are verbs in the recipe that I have never heard of. Many.

The cake was an interesting experience, since we made a mousse, which I have never done before. We had our yolks whipping (thank goodness it was by a machine) for about 15 minutes. I didn't know that yolks could turn to look like softened butter. Interesting. We also layered sponge with the mousse, and the most exciting part for a Jew who used to care about kashrut, is that we used gelatin. Gelatin was something that I learned to stay away from. Granted I love gummies, so I didn't REALLY stay away from it, but I was very aware that it was just not something I should eat. This time, we put sheets of gelatin into water (apparently they absorb water up to five times their original weight), and then we mixed it into the mousse as well as the liquidy/geletany thing with flowers that we poured on top, like the clearish stuff on top of a fruit tart. It was all very sophisticated, and I felt like a novice, but it was great fun. We tasted a pre-made cake, and it was quite good. I don't know if Aliza tasted it, because she dropped her piece on the floor. Sorry, Aliza, had to mention it. It was really funny.

In other news, we went looking for apartments to purchase yesterday. We looked at a few in our area as well as in the Novena area. There were two that were semi-okay, but they're just so damn expensive. I just can't stomach paying that much for an apartment, in a city that I don't even feel that connected to, and we have no idea how long we'll be here. We say 3-4 more years, but we really have no idea. For this kind of money, we could get a pretty nice place in Manhattan or a whole neighborhood in Detroit. Painful. Seriously. We're looking at another today, and then I will continue working on pressuring Matt to rent.

If we buy, we have to basically have a deal in the next two or three weeks, because we have to be out of our apartment at the end of August, and the whole process takes 3-4 months. If we rent, we can probably look at the end of July or beginning of August. We're just a bit spoiled now, since we live in an absolutely superb location in a condo with incredible facilities (particularly the pool...). To get a three bedroom in this complex will cost us about $4,000 USD per month. That makes me want to puke. We may have to move farther away from the city, but then our commute will be longer. My priorities for this new apartment in order are:
1) proximity to work, or at least short commute. I would like to maximise time for both of us with our child. When we lived in Bedok, it took Matt an hour to get to and from work, and that's precious time when we have a little one waiting for us.
2) space. If we will be having a stranger living with us (or a helper, as some call them), which I believe we have to if we are going to keep our jobs, which we intend to do, then we need space. Also, if I'm home for four months on maternity leave, I will probably go crazy no matter what, but if the apartment is a bit bigger, it might slow down the process.
3) facilities. We just love having a pool and a gym. So convenient and nice, and I also want a way to be able to meet other mothers and most importantly, for our kid to be able to hang with other kids (or babies...). In apartments with no facilities, it's definitely hard if not impossible to meet other people.
4) quality. I would like something that's not falling apart. If we're buying it, it better be in a bit better condition. Otherwise, as long as it works.

I also would like an oven. That has made my life so much better over the past 9 months, compared with our apartment in Bedok.

Such challenges. Quite stressful.

One funny note - I went back and forth about whether I should blog about being pregnant. I finally decided to come out of the closet, and for some reason, that particular blog posting did not get imported into facebook, where most people read my blog, so here it goes again...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

MRT Dilemmas

I have a new dilemma on the MRT. I take one train one stop and one train two stops. That's it. It's about 2 minutes on the first one and 4 minutes on the second one. It is not a rocky ride. It is extremely short. It is not exhausting. I feel great - not nauseous, tired, sick, weak. Nothing. I feel super healthy. But...apparently now I look pregnant...and that makes people stand up for me on the train (which is SUPER surprising, since I don't think I ever saw that in NYC!), and I really don't want to sit down. This has happened four times this week, and each time I have said, "no thank you. I am just riding the train one (two?) stop. Please sit." They won't sit, and then it's awkward that we're both standing, and the seat is open. But, if I sat I would have to get up right away. Sometimes you should just do something to make someone feel good - like they're doing a good deed, right? But sitting on the MRT...it's sort of against what I stand for (ha - stand).

I have indeed come out of the closet about being pregnant in this blog posting. As you might notice, my postings have become sparse. When you have something that you think about all the time, but you don't really want to write about it publicly, so then you have to think about other things to blog about, it's difficult. So I have been silent. But I have decided that everything seems to be going really well and healthy, and I might as well, since I have lots of super interesting thoughts about being pregnant (in Singapore, working, for the first time, etc.) that might be interesting to share.

This blog started as my ex-pat experience in Asia. It moved to my MBA experience in INSEAD, then back to ex-pat in Asia. Now it will be pregnant working ex-pat in Singapore, and then finally it will be (hopefully) working ex-pat mother, which I have lots of thoughts about, since I don't really know many (at least who are parents of young kids/babies - actually I know none who are ex-pats). Should be an interesting ride...I'm excited about it (most of it, at least).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cold

Why must Singapore be so cold? Clearly I'm not talking about the weather. For some reason, rooms/offices are kept so fricken cold in Singapore that it's literally uncomfortable in the bones. Last week I was at a conference for a day, and each time we walked into the room of the conference, it felt like walking into a winter's day. I was uncomfortable the entire day and could barely focus on the topic at hand. And I was wearing a suit. Jacket and all. Today, same thing. The conference was so cold that I drank five cups of tea and had blue lips and was uncomfortable in my bones the whole day. Each time we walked out of the specific room, it felt normal, but then as we entered lunch, dinner, or back into the room, it was miserable again. Is ANYONE comfortable in such coldness? Why would anyone think to do this? At my old office it was kept at 19 degrees (66 degrees F). I kept a sweater with a hood there. I had blue lips everyday and kept warm water just to cuddle with every few minutes. I hope tomorrow is warmer. And I will bring a sweater. A sweater in a country with 100 degree heat daily (or at least it feels like it!).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Return to Normalcy

Matt and I were not excited to come back to Singapore. We had such a nice, relaxing time in the states. We have never been in Michigan for so long, since we moved from there, and (not that we're itching to move there, ever...) it was just really nice to be around friends and family so much. I have written about this before, but there are only two people in this entire country who have known me before we moved here (Christian and Rusty), and that's just hard sometimes. Luckily we have been here for so long at this point (three years! Can you believe it!?) that it's getting less relevant, but still...

Luckily, we both had good weeks. Matt's work is a lot slower than it has been in the past, which is nice for him to catch his breath, and I just love my job. I was not excited to come back to work on Monday, but once I remembered what I was working on (bank-wide paternity policy, work-life balance, focusing our banking products and services on women, etc.), I got really excited and was so happy to get going. That's good news.

I was also really excited to get back to yoga. I only did it twice while we were in the states, and that really just felt weird on my body. When you're used to stretching and moving for an hour each day (or at least five days a week), it really feels bizarre to stop for even a few days.

Thank goodness we also have a trip to look forward to. Matt's friend Ryan and his girlfriend are coming out to SE Asia at the end of this month, and we're going with them to Bali. I need things like that to keep me going.

I did learn something interesting this week. I learned that there are seven or so anonymous HIV/AIDS testing clinics in Singapore. Thank goodness for them. If you DON'T go to them, apparently if you test positive, then the clinic automatically sends all of your details to the government (and to lots of other interested/uninterested parties). Because I'm on an employment pass, I actually am not allowed to be HIV positive, so if I did test positive for it, essentially the government would find out immediately and would immediately kick me out of the country. Also, while lots of other medical care services and products are subsidised by the government, HIV/AIDS is not, so drugs can run you about $1,000 per month. It's amazing to me how stigmatised this disease is, and all of those are left over from stereotypes and lack of information in the 80s. It blows my mind, and I think it all is from homophobia, which is just totally crazy in 2010 (or anytime...but still).

Here are some photos from our trip. More photos are here. Pictures include a visit from Jo, Mike and Charlie from Columbus, Aunt Phyllis and her grandson, Jackson, a visit from Shana, a Birnholtz seder, a religious squirrel, some Hildebrandt boys, and a surprise dad.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Advertising

I have commented a few times on the advertising I see here. Sometimes it just doesn't make sense to me. One example I can remember is this ad with a whole dead chicken (head and all) on a plate as an advertisement for chicken rice. Just wouldn't fly (ha) in America. Well, I saw another that caught my attention.

It was an ad on the MRT for the HBO series "The Pacific." It specifically advertised that it was the most expensive HBO series after "Band of Brothers." This was meant to drive people to watch it? That it was expensive to make? I suppose that fact was all over the place with Avatar, and people generally had good things to say about that movie, but still. Maybe it's the cheap-o (I won't say what I want to say here, which is offensive to other Jews) in me, or the non-profit professional, but if something is expensive to make, that actually turns me off. If they made a totally awesome series on a tight budget, that would make me interested. Bizarre advertising tactic. I don't think I could do advertising in Asia for a job.

In other (bad) news, we got back from our super long trip. It was 31 hours in total. That stank. It's over. In addition, there is something else that stinks. For some reason I have the smell of garbage stuck in my nose. Our building was compressing or something our garbage, and when I walked up the stairs in the park, next to our complex, I got a LONG LONG whiff of garbage. That was at 6:45 pm, and now it's 10 pm. It should be gone by now. Hmmmm...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Guy Behind Us

It's pure luck who sits near you on the plane. You could get stuck next to that crying baby. The snorer could be snoring in your left ear. Someone with a bladder disorder could be sitting in the window seat to your aisle. You just never know.

For a 15 hour flight, it's really important whom you get stuck next to and near. Luckily on this flight that we just took from Chicago to Hong Kong, there were 169 seats available (I didn't count - I saw it on the monitor before we left), so Matt and I got our own three-seat-row, and so did the guy behind us. We had no crying baby. We had a snorer, but with headphones, it wasn't too disturbing. We had nothing else, other than this really annoying guy behind us. He drummed on the windows. While the whole plane slept in darkness, he opened the window shade into bright, white tundra about twice an hour. When he stood up, he used the backs of our chairs for support, including grabbing my hair while grabbing my chair. He drummed on the tray table with his glass. He talked really loudly to his friends in other rows, and I think he did not sleep a minute. Sucks for him. Sucked for us also. We did ask him not to use our seats for support to stand up, but the rest sort of just comes with the plane ride. Could have been worse...

Other than our pretty uneventful plane ride, all has been well in the last week (another delayed post...). We have basically just been hanging with family and friends. We had two wonderful seders, one with the Birnholtz clan and one with the Hildebrandt clan. We had our annual visits with relatives and friends, running from one to the next, but enjoying each one. We had special visits with Jill, Josh, Harry, Shana, a few other friends and so many cousins and grandparents.

The tough part of this trip is that we don't know when the next time will be that we're in the states. We're pretty confident that it will not be next Passover (and this will be my first Passover not with my family - and second not at home!), and it might not be until July 2011. Hopefully that will not be the case, but we just don't know yet. Gorgeous 70 degree and sunny weather did not help our motivation to get on a plane and head back to HOT HOT HOT Singapore. But, we did it, and now we're only 5.5 hours away from being home, and only 14 hours away from returning to work.