Friday, December 16, 2011

Tasmania

We have spent the last 2 weeks in Australia - 2 days (+1) in Melbourne and 12 days in Tasmania.

We decided to spend a couple of days in Melbourne to break up the trip to Tassie - 8 hours plus 2 hours. We thought we would be able to put Sam to bed when we got there in the morning, and then check it out for a day and a half. We didn't get our hotel room until later in the afternoon, so we ended up checking out the market and basically walked all over town. We had great pizza and pasta and froze our asses off. The next day we went to the aquarium, which Sam and Matt LOVED (I thought it was great too, but they LOVED it!). We walked around more of the city and met our friend Maria for a tour to/of the Botanic gardens. Gorgeous.

The next day we arrived in the Hobart area of Tasmania. This island is absolutely unbelievable - the best food. Great wine. AMAZING nature and hiking. Our first four nights were in the country - 6 km from the small historic village of Richmond and about 15 minutes from Hobart. Our B&B (Cornwall Cottage - completely recommended!) has 3 horses, a whole load of sheep, about 6 hens, a rooster, endless amounts of raspberries and so many stairs for Sam to explore. She loved the animals, and she loved picking raspberries and putting them straight into my mouth, see photo (she would never try them, of course). Peta, the owner, made us three loaves of amazing bread (Sam DID eat that - she couldn't get enough) and we had her homemade jam, hen laid eggs and fresh tomatoes as well. We had two bedrooms and a living room, so we could put Sam to sleep and not have to read on the bathroom floor (as usually happens in hotels...). Our next place also had two bedrooms, and we realised this is key to a nice holiday when your child prefers long naps and going to sleep at 7pm!

While there, we spent a day hiking at Mt Field National Park, where we saw some of the most amazing waterfalls I have ever seen (see photo) along with gorgeous views of mountains, beautiful trees, and one live animal (sort of like a possum but not exactly). We also spent a day on the Tasman peninsula where we did a bunch of short hikes and drove around. One hike along the coastline was especially gorgeous - started on the beach and then went through the trees, following the water. The absolute low-light of this was on our walk back to the car, where Sam and I were running and singing along the beach, and I noticed that we were about four feet away from a HUGE DEAD SEAL on the beach. I SCREAMED and ran (with Sam in a framed pack on my back) for a long, long time. Grody. We also spent an afternoon in the historic village of Richmond, just up the street. It was built in the early 1800s, and somehow the buildings are all still around (including the creepy jail for convicts from Britain from 1825). Sam loved the ducks under the bridge at the river and the slide at the playground. Matt and I loved the architecture and the quiche. We also spent time in Hobart - first to tour all around the gorgeous town, and then to go to the market on Saturday. Lots of local foods and goods. We also saw a reserve for the local animals (see the photo of Sam hangin' with the 'roos).

We then drove up the east coast towards our next stop in Bicheno (Bicheno Ocean View Retreat - great view, lots of space, but not too much personality). While there we had FABULOUS Italian food from a place in town and great bread from the bakery. We hiked a day in Freycinet National Park - doing a walk up to an outlook of Wineglass Bay, and having a great picnic at Honeymoon Bay, which was a rocky beach, which Sam loved climbing (see photo), with gorgeous green, clear water. Okay, we were still freezing, but it looked beautiful. We had dinner at the Iron House Brewery, where we enjoyed nice beer and great burgers (Sam loved the fries). We also spent a day up on the east coast, exploring the Bay of Fires and St Helen. The Bay of Fires is basically AMAZINGLY beautiful beaches, with white sand, reddish rocks and gorgeously clear, blue water. We were still freezing, but seriously, it was gorgeous. The photo where we're all looking over our shoulders is at the Bay of Fires. The one of Sam and Matt at the sand dunes is also in that area, near St. Helens as is the one of the three of us on the red rocks.

We then drove to a dairy to get some yummy cheese (Sam loved the vanilla ice cream - she was literally pulling my arm with the spoon to her mouth) and saw the cows getting milked. Sam learned what a cow says. We then decided to make a quick trip to these two waterfalls that looked super close on the map. One was pretty close to the dairy - the tallest waterfall in Tasmania. Beautiful. The next one, again, looked really close on the map...but it was about 17 km on some crazy steep gravely road. I was not very happy. Matt was loving it. Sam was eating her feet. We reached the top where there had been lots of logging, and there were beautiful views of the mountains and pastures around us. FINALLY we got to the next waterfall (which wasn't that cool, but Matt claimed it was. I think it was only because he wanted to not regret the drive...) (see the photo at Norm's Lookout). The 17 km back to reality was on another crazy road...so what we thought would be a quick half hour turned into about three hours. But we made it. We pushed on, through Launceston, the big city in the north, and drove up the Tamar River Valley to our B&B (Conmel Cottage - TOTALLY recommended). This place had us in a detached cottage, looking out on the garden with everything you could ever imagine growing (and eating!). They also had hens and fruit trees and lots of area for Sam to run around in. She loved touching the apples on the apple trees and the peaches on the peach trees. They also stocked us with amazing breakfast supplies (including yummy homemade cookies! and I made bacon - assuming this non-kosher thing will be coming to an end...soon...I thought I should try once! I was a Jewish natural). The place was on a huge hill with an amazing view of the wide Tamar River. Wow. The only challenge was that the sleeping area was upstairs, and stairs with a one-year old are never ideal. Also, there was no door to close at night, so we had to save lots of dirty dishes and did a lot of reading and whispering. Kinda cramped our style, but we're over it.

While up north, we spent a day in Launceston, including a great hike in the gorge - right in the middle of town! - out to the old power station. We spent a day visiting a few wineries, right near our B&B, and one of the first pubs in Tasmania. We took an evening to push Sam to stay up late - and we went to this National Park on the north coast at dusk to see wildlife. And did we see wildlife. We saw loads of wallabies, at least five wombats (they're HUGE! See photo), tonnes of pademelons (like wallabies but smaller and rounder). We didn't see Tasmanian Devils here (we saw them in a reserve down south), because 75% of those in the wild have this certain kind of cancer that scientists around the world are working to cure. They're really endangered. As per my personality, I was not too excited about keeping Sam up an extra 1.5 hours...and driving out into nowhere in Tasmania...but it was way worth it. It was SUPER cool to see all these guys hopping around. Sam loved it. She was pointing to all of them - but her screaming on the path in the forest didn't help us with our nature spotting.

We then drove down the old road from Launceston to Hobart - passing through a bunch of historical villages. We had a great lunch in a fantastic bakery in Ross, where Sam ate half of my sandwich. She didn't eat a half of it, but she ate the piece of bread that was touching the cheese on both halves. There were great old buildings - I can't believe it is all still there. Kind of creepy, but really beautiful. Matt was a super-dad with an unfortunate poo incident, and we all survived.

We made our way back to our first B&B where we arrived in time to say goodnight to the chickens, the horses, eat more raspberries, eat some pizza and go to sleep. Our entire trip until this point was perfectly smooth.

Our flight at 8:30am from Hobart to Melbourne was delayed for five hours, as one of the guys in the drivers' seats was ill. I mean, I'm all for safety, and I don't want a guy to work if he's ill, but don't we have back-up plans or something like that? We made it back to Melbourne around 3:30...but our flight to Singapore had left 3.5 hours earlier. All in all, we traveled for nine hours (including getting to and from the airports) just to get to a hotel in Melbourne, right by the airport. Sam was a total disaster. We made it onto the same flight to Singapore, the next day. That was 12 hours of travelling today. Yeah - we survived, but that part wasn't too fun.

Forgetting about the last two days - this was the best trip of our lives. Our honeymoon in South Africa was a close second, and some of our trips out in SE Asia have been cool, but really, nothing as fantastic as these two weeks in Tassie. Definitely part of it was getting away from regular life in Singapore and spending such great time as a family (only...). But add the food, drinks and unbelievable natural beauty, and it just doesn't get better.

So, since that was the best, and it was pretty challenging to travel with a one year old - I think we're done. No more travelling for us.

Just kidding. Off to Bali on Friday!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Walking - it's a different world

Sam is a totally different person now that she's walking. She took her first steps last Saturday, and within one week she's totally walking everywhere, and she does NOT want to be carried. She's been really cranky, and she is totally into different things. I think she aged a few months, or possibly years. She used to just sit by herself and read a book quietly. Not anymore. She's into anything that she shouldn't be.

Incidentally, she always has a phone (she has 2 plastic phones, 2 cordless phones that she finds sometimes plus 3 remote controls that double as phones) with her, and she usually talks (on the back of her neck) at least once every few minutes. I sure hope she's not learning this from Rose, but she is definitely not learning from me or Matt - we're almost never on the phone. I guess she's just super social with her imaginary friends.

Today she tried out this play gym thing where you pay, and she can go in for an hour and play with anything. She especially liked climbing up these soft stairs and then sliding down the slide on her belly, legs first. She still doesn't play with other kids, but she does take their balls and point to their balloons.

The video below is one of my favorites - it's from this past week. She LOVES peek-a-boo books (and peek-a-boo in general - she covers her eyes with her hands, and it's SUPER cute). Here are other recent photos.


video

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sam's walking!

video

Multi-faith Singapore

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chabad-ed

This past weekend was one of the most Jewish weekends we have had since we got here - and it was super nice and super community-y. After a super great shabbat dinner with friends, and shabbat lunch in a sukkah with other friends, we went to two sukkot parties today - at each of the two synagogues in Singapore. You may recall that we moved here from a VERY Jewish life on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, and generally we have been a little low key for the last 4.5 years.

Interesting things to note about the sukkot -

They were both totally huge. Like we're talking at least 70 people huge - possibly more.

They both had fresh fruit hanging from the ceiling. In one that seemed fine. In the other, there were casualties all over the ground - and it was bizarre. There was everything from pomello to pineapple to mangosteen to apples. Sam loved pointing to them. I just wanted to sit below the small ones.

They are both attached to the synagogues (Chesed El and Magen Avot) that were built around the same time, look very similar inside and are totally gorgeous.

Upon our arrival at the second sukkot party (the orthodox community...after we had been with the progressive community...), we saw a lulav and etrog. I said, "Sam - look - that's a lulav and an etrog. Do you want to touch them?" Chabad saw this as an opportunity, and Mendel moved in. He asked Matt if he would like to show his daughter, and then he slipped in there that he could say a bracha too. I absolutely can't believe that Matt got chabad-ed and ended up saying a blessing over a lulav and etrog! I have never seen him do anything like that - ever. There are two reasons this happened.

1) He plays basketball with some of the chabad boys here, and he genuinely likes them and probably didn't mind too much, since he had a relationship with the guy.
2) He wanted to show off for his daughter. (She was clearly impressed).

Separately - I seriously think that sukkot is the weirdest Jewish holiday. If you're not Jewish and you're reading this, I'm talking about shaking four types of branches/leaves together along with a lemony-type fruit...in a hut that we build for a week of the year. Super weird. But Sam loved colouring her decorations (it was her first time) and the food and music were awesome. The community was also pretty great.

In other news, my mom has been here for two weeks and she flew off tonight (don't worry - she'll be back soon). Sam loved playing with her in the last few weeks - they read tonnes of books, played with all of the toys and learned new puzzles. Sam definitely knows Savta now (she points), and she kept wanting to be held by her. Savta even put Samara to bed tonight (that is a rite that has been reserved for only me and Matt (and Rose once) in her whole life.

I am also posting a photo of Sydney from my ipod, from a harbour cruise.

Finally, I got Matt this t-shirt as a gift (he doesn't read my blog, so he won't find out until his parents come in a few weeks...). My brother has it, and I think it's one of the funniest, most creative pieces of clothing I have ever seen. I almost bought three, but I thought it might be weird to send it to random friends. Buy it!!! (If you haven't seen the title of it, it's even funnier).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sydney

I can't believe I'm one of those people with a blog that isn't updated regularly. I was so regular for about for years. But I went over a month with no post! Terrible! Generally when I don't post a lot it means that not too much interesting is going on, or I don't have too much positive stuff to say...hmmm...

So, this week I'm in Sydney for work. I'm here for a conference (Global Banking Alliance for Women Summit) for banks who have approaches, products, services, etc for women customers. This is part of my portfolio for my job, and it's something that I spend a lot of time thinking about, a little of time speaking about, and not enough time DOING. It's been totally inspiring to sit in a room and hear people talk about what I think about. I get to hear what banks in Australia, Uganda, Malawi, Turkey, Lebanon, etc. are doing for banking women. Super relvant to what I do. Super relevant to what I'm interested in. Quite an opportunity.

On the other side, I also get to go to Sydney for four days. I absolutely hate being away from Samara (and she's had an upset tummy and been generally unhappy since I left, which makes it even worse!), but the city is helping to make it not so bad. It's my second time in Australia (Margaret River, Dec 2010).

Granted I have VERY limited exposure to the city, I have fantasic impressions. I have been on a harbour cruise with the conference, and I have walked around the CBD, sat by the opera house at a bar, seen the city from a tall building, and walked back to my hotel, which is about 15 minutes away from the rest. Other than that, I have really only seen the inside of a room.

Sydney at first felt like New York - since it had vibe, people walking all over, old buildings, diversity, energy, etc. Then I realised that wasn't New York, it was more like Toronto or Philly (which are also great cities...). It has a totally chill feel, people seem interesting and healthy (mostly good looking too). There are some vast differences to Singapore - there seems to be a limited amount of shopping (which I really appreciate - it grosses me out in Singapore). It is COLD!! It's spring here, so it's in the 50s and 60s F. For someone who has spent almost every day of the last 4.5 years in 80s and 90s...it's FREEZING! But, on the other hand, I am not sweating my way through life, and I really love it. It feels so much more human and less frustrating on many levels. I still really hate the heat of Singapore - I don't think I will ever get over or used to it. Sydney has also been a pleasure to walk in. I have blogged frequently about how much I hate walking around in Singapore - as it makes my blood pressure rise and turns me into a grump. I literally want to step on people sometimes. Here it all seems quite organised, and you can always pass people on the street. I can't put my finger on what's different, but it's just as crowded, yet I don't get angry walking around!

Overall, I am going to try to convince Matt that we should come back here for our next holiday. I absolutely love it. Maybe we'll even move here...if only it weren't THAT far away...though I do think it's closer to the US than Singapore...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sam's One!

Sam's one! She's had a wonderful year:

She made it through all 12 months with only a few minor bumps and bruises. Unfortunately she hasn't gotten sick yet (I think that just means it will be really bad when it happens...actually I wrote this ten days ago and forgot to publish...since then she's been sick...twice!).

She finally learned to eat food (sometimes), after six months of trying everyday. She now loves yogurt, challah, custardy stuff, watermelon, cheerio things and spitting water all over herself.

She has read approximately 79 books. She particularly loves "Caps for Sale," "From Head to Toe," and "Doggies."

She has developed an attachment to a doggy and a froggy. She sleeps with them.

She has traveled to six countries: Singapore, Australia, Indonesia (twice), Thailand, Vietnam and the US.

Her grandparents have visited approximately ten times (all together).

Her strong skills include: "doing" touchdown, downward dog, blowing kisses, reading books, finding belly buttons (on strangers in public...sometimes quite embarrassing...) and generally being sweet. She now hugs and kisses me, and it may very well be the highlight of my life.

It's been a pretty awesome year for all of us. We have loved watching her grow and develop into who she is today, and we can't wait to see who she will become. We are totally in love with our child in a way we never could have imagined a year ago (or even 11 months ago...). Happy Birthday Sammers!!

I made a video - but it won't load...I'll try to post it somewhere for general consumption.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Jews in Singapore

I just heard the wife of David Marshall speak about the Jewish community in Singapore, and it was fantasticly interesting. There have been a couple of books written on the topic, so I'm sure those would be a more reliable source than my blog, but for the super abridged version...

Jews came as traders from Baghdad in the 1800s. There's record of some Jews asking for land for a cemetery in the mid-1800s (I believe that was the time - I should have taken notes!!). They built a cemetery at the end of Orchard Rd, near the area opposite Istana (!!!). That cemetery was moved, and it was then on Thomson Rd near Novena MRT. Now it's moved to somewhere else (can't remember), and I haven't been yet. I will add it to the list. Apparently the government flew in people from Israel to move the graves in the most Jewishly legal way possible. That's pretty awesome.

The first synagogue was downtown, on Synagogue Street. Now there are two (I have yet to go to the one that isn't used as much, but it looks beautiful, and I hope to go these High Holidays - at least once). That one on Synagogue Street has been gone for a really long time.

When Singapore became independent apparently many of the Jews left (California and Australia were the destinations of choice), because they thought that Singapore might become communist, since it would be Chinese majority, and that wouldn't be good for the Jews. Most of the families that stayed actually did really really well (and continue to do really really well).

David Marshall was the first Chief Minister of Singapore (for 15 months). He was also the first Singapore Ambassador to France (for 15 years). She said that his leadership as the Chief Minister was interesting, because he wasn't British, and he also wasn't quite local, so he was sort of in between.

The whole life of the British and other expatriates who helped build up Singapore is totally interesting to me, since life in Singapore was SO different than it is now, and it wasn't actually that long ago.

I will be reading the book that came out for the 100th anniversary of his birth, Marshall in Singapore. I also hope to go on a Jewish tour of Singapore when some set of parents comes. It was all totally intriguing.

Interesting pieces:
  • There was a synagogue in Penang, and it's now a stationery shop (but they know it was a synagogue, and apparently they welcome visitors). There's a cemetery in Penang also.
  • Many Jews were allowed to go to India during the Japanese occupation. (Others were taken as POWs, like David Marshall).
  • Most of the Jewish kids went to school at St. Andrews.
  • There was a lot of Jewish poverty in Singapore before independence.
  • The Jacob Ballas Children's Gardens was built from money that he donated upon his death, but he actually had donated it to a Chinese colleague who said that he didn't want it and suggested it be used in this way instead.
  • There are loads of street signs for Jewish families - I can't remember the names, but one was for a Jew who came from the UK in 1809 or so to help build the first botanic gardens in Singapore (near Fort Canning).
  • Jean Marshall came to SE Asia in 1953, to Malaya. After doing Social Work for four years in rural Malaya, she came to Singapore for one year. Don't we all... (She hasn't left)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hanoi

I wrote this when we first got back and forgot to publish...We just got back from a five day trip to Hanoi. Matt has been there several times for work, but Sam and I went for our first time. We all absolutely loved it. We spent the first day and a half in Hanoi, then we drove to Halong Bay, spent a day there, back to Hanoi, and another day there before we came back.

Hotels are key to a SE Asian vacation. We have changed our style a bit since we moved here. When we first arrived we backpacker-styled it and weren't too upset when we got bedbugs (multiple times...) and bragged about the value we got for $10-$20 per night. Then we realised that if you just spend a wee bit more (like $30-$50) you get a LOT more. Then we had a baby who crawls around on the floor and puts everything in her mouth and we realised that you can get fabulous five star hotels in SE Asia for a steal, so we went a bit fancier. Okay - we don't usually do five star, but at least four (and they're cheap). So our first two nights we stayed in this totally random hotel - the Elegance Hotel group has about six in Hanoi, and they are basically the top 10 on Trip Advisor (the best site out here for hotel recs). It was $100/night for a suite (though the balcony was nothing to write home about - see photos). Totally clean. Totally did the job, and had the best breakfast we have had in months. They had a menu with scrambled eggs, omelet, pancake, french toast and a sandwich, and Matt ordered them all, other than the , The night in Halong Bay, most people stay on boats, but I get sea sick and was terrified of my baby floating away, so we stayed in a hotel. Back in Hanoi, we decided to splurge and stay in the Sofitel Metropole which is a super old French Colonial hotel. It was way fancy, but it also helped us recognise the Haimish Line (okay - it didn't - the service at both places was really good - but when I read that article today I thought about how going fancy isn't really that worth it, as long as the other options are clean). Going back, we would definitely stay in the Elegance Hotels (we were in the Saphire) the whole time. And we are - going back.

The food we had was yummilicious. Our favourite meal was with Hang, my friend from INSEAD. She ordered everything delicious, and we loved it. Sam was an adventurous eater with yogurt and some other random veggies. We were a bit nervous about giving her too many new things for her super raw tummy (that just started eating food about two weeks ago...). The best part of Vietnamese cuisine, if you ask me, is the coffee (iced Vietnamese coffee with milk) and the pan chocolate. Holy yummy. My stomach is growling at 11:04 pm just thinking about it.

This city has so much energy. The shopping is great. The people are so nice (and they LOVE babies! More on that later). Walking around is much easier than in Ho Chi Minh City. The architecture is absolutely gorgeous. The vibe is just great - and to be honest - though we love living in Singapore (mostly) it has exactly what Singapore lacks.

We spent our first couple of days in Hanoi exploring different neighborhoods and generally just looking around. We saw the beautiful cathedral, the big, central lake, the downtowny area (and even Matt's office in Hanoi), and we got to see Hang and her beautiful belly.

Though most people go to Halong Bay on a tour, we weren't sure how we would be able to go according to someone else's schedule - i.e. if Samara needs to sleep and she doesn't, I don't really want to be around her, and I'm guessing other strangers may agree. So, we hired a car to take us out there. We had organised through our hotel there to take us out on a boat, again, on our own time. So we had assumed it was a small boat, to explore Halong Bay. There must have been some sort of mis-communication, because we got on a boat for about 40. Two decks. At least eight tables that seat at least 6 people. It was nuts and a huge waste of resources, but we enjoyed it. We sailed all around Halong Bay for four hours. Truth is that we have been to Krabi/Ko Phi Phi area in Thailand and Palawan in the Philippines. While this looked similar to both, we kind of thought that it might have been a little too similar to impress us too much. That's not to say that it's not one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen. It is. But we're super jaded.

Back in Hanoi, we walked around more, ate more yummy food and generally explored.

Highlights:
  • Literally anyone who helped us get into a car put our carseat in the trunk.
  • I tried hard to order the yummiest ice coffee with milk at a local place. I ended up with iced tea and hot coffee with milk. I didn't want to waste my caffeine intake for the day, and I knew I couldn't explain how to add ice (really - very limited English/Vietnamese interchange), so we paid and left. We felt rude, but she probably thought we were just crazy.
  • I have commented on this multiple times, but walking around with a baby in SE Asia is hilarious. People literally can't help themselves. Some stop walking, turn around, grab Samara's hands, dance with her, give her a kiss and then walk away. There's no way to fight it. You have to just embrace it - and we did. She caused at least a few hundred smiles each day, and she is super flirty, so she engaged. At dinner, the waitresses (or waiters) would come up, hold their arms out, and if Samara leaned towards them (which she inevitably did, they took her away. Often, they took her out of sight. She loved it!
  • We don't have a car here in Singapore, and our longest drive here is usually about 20 minutes (tops). We took a road trip when we were back in Michigan, but we're not too familiar with babies in cars. They're magical. Sam went to sleep automatically almost every time we got in the car. The thumb went in the mouth. Her eyes started to glaze, and within a few minutes she was gone. It was awesome.
  • We went to see a water puppets show. It was 50 minutes, and it was a proper show in a proper theater. I did not know what Sam would do and what people around us might think. The people at the hotel didn't seem to think it was a problem that we had a baby...Samara LOVED it. She cheered. She pointed. She danced. She sang. She watched the entire thing, either standing or sitting on my lap. She absolutely loved it.
  • The handiwork - like the quiltwork and embroidery was literally breathtaking. The quality and beauty was beyond anything I have seen before. I wanted to buy a whole new house - pillows for the couch, bedspread, wall hangings, even embroidered flowers. I don't get impressed by stuff, usually, and I do NOT like shopping, but I want to go back to Hanoi just to shop. BEAUTIFUL!
Overall, we had a great time, and we only fought crossing the street about four times (if you have been to Vietnam - and crossed the street, you probably did the same with your spouse).

Here's a link to photos and a few videos.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Culture of the Working Mom

I grew up in a house where my mom didn't work when I was younger, and even when she went back to work, she was really around. While I think most of my friends' moms either didn't work or were teachers, so they were around after school, I was SURE that I would be a working mom. It didn't really seem like an option. We (girls) all went to school and believed that we could do anything, so how could we stop whatever it was that we accomplished at work to raise kids? I can only think of one friend of mine in the States that doesn't work (though I have to admit that I have lost touch with a whole lot of people...).

It's also so clear to me that your 30s really matter in your career. I see that the women at my office who have really moved up ALL kept working, and kept working hard (like most evenings and many weekends as well). Granted I work in the most aggressive field - finance, but still. I very firmly believe that if I get out of the workforce I will pretty much lose any career momentum that I have gathered (even with a top MBA degree and a good public university degree or two). Yes, I can probably get a job again, but I will have already shown that my first priority is not my work. While you can SAY whatever you want about your priorities, when you leave your job to raise your kid/s, you have spoken very loudly. This is something you will have to bring up in an interview, whereas if you keep working, you can choose to bring up the fact that you have a child or not. This is a message that I may be comfortably sending at some point, but it's a really hard decision.

Yet - I really don't get how we can be moving forward in traditional careers (both Matt and I work in banks) raising good children who are good and respectful communicators who listen, have opinions, feel confident and proud of who they are, and who do things that challenge their development (my baby sits at home - or in the playground or mall - all day with Rose, and while Rose is FANTASTIC, it's just not the same as fun classes, mommy-baby groups, etc.). That's not to say that it can't be done - I just don't get how it will work. Will anyone else teach my kids manners? Will they discipline them? Teach them not to whine? Interesting also is that the person who is taking care of my baby is from a very different culture. Trying to teach her not to go to Sam when she cried (when we were sleep training) was painful. I make sure she leaves Sam alone with a few toys and books so she can play by herself at least a few times a day. This would never happen in the Philippines (or at least not in her village). I don't even know about other differences that I may not be aware of.

While that culture of MUST WORK was what I think was imprinted in my brain, I now live in a place where I have nearly no friends who have young children and work, so this makes me challenge my assumptions on a daily basis. Literally.

This piece in the New York times has brought up the issues that I have been thinking about and struggling with for months (probably like every working mom!).

As we think about moving back to the US (at some point...? it's been FOUR YEARS, and we came for ONE!!), and I try to imagine what our life would be like there, I really can't. I can't, because I have never really seen it. I don't know what a kid's life is like when his parents are not available from 7:30 until 6:45, as is our situation now. What do you do for the summer? Are there camps for the entire day? I don't know how the kid copes (especially when they're a crazy sleeper, like my kid), and I don't know how the mom/parents get everything done. When do we make the food? For us? For the kids? Do the laundry? Clean the house? Shop? Will I ever go to my kids' sports events? Will we have healthy dinners? I just totally don't get how it all gets done. It sounds totally impossible, and even if it's possible, it sounds like no fun at all. Yet everyone does it.

Whatever I/we decide, I will regret in some way. Whatever I/we decide I will have to justify to someone (and myself) for years to come.

The clear answer seems to be to either have a job that requires fewer hours or have a job that is more flexible and on your own time. Who knows - lots of stuff to think about - what I want personally, what's best for our family (as a whole and each of us individually), what's culturally acceptable (ex-pat Singapore culture? American culture?), what will make me happiest, what we can afford or choose to afford. Not easy stuff.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Indian Feast

I was moved to cook a small Indian feast today. Mostly I cooked because I never cook anymore (thanks to the awesomeness of Rose), I took an Indian cooking class, and I LOVE Indian food! After I had already made my decision to try out some new recipes I realised that it's also a day designated for cooking curry.

Apparently a family from China asked a Singaporean family to stop cooking their smelly curry. This started an online movement to cook curry today - Hey! We're Singaporean, and we live here, and we cook curry, and you are guests!! (That was the Singaporeans speaking, not me). So, I cooked Indian food that smelled really good - but I didn't use any curry leaves. I was halfway there.

I took an Indian cooking class with my team at work, from this woman. We learned to make two chutneys, daahl, potato filling and dosas. I warned my team that dosas were not a good thing for cooking classes, since we will never make them at home, but they wanted it. We did enjoy eating them, and we did make them, so that was pretty cool, but I will never make them at home. Since that class, approximately ten days ago, I have been dreaming about this green chutney. So, today I made the green coconut chutney (which is South Indian), and I made a chickpea dish and potato and pea dish - both North Indian. I stopped at the chappati guy on the way home from tekka market and got fresh chappatis to eat with it all. This means that I made Indian fusion - all North Indian plus that southern chutney. Holy yum.

I documented my cooking with some not so beautiful photos. But it can show how actually accessible Indian cooking is.

The first photo is the chutney - grinding lemon, chillies, spring onion (green onion), coriander (cilantro), mint, and coconut. First I ground it a while (though my mortar and pestle are a wee bit small for this chutney), and then I put it in the blender. After I tempered, adding some oil, mustard seeds and cumin seeds (cooked). Poof! Done and AMAZING!!

The second photo shows some preparation for my potatoes/peas and chickpeas (separately). You can see the end product of the chutney in the grey poupon jar in front of the toaster (did I mention yum?). Then there's my masala set in front, plus some prepped spices in the front right, and my fresh mint and coriander (cilantro) in the front left. Don't forget the baby formula in the back right.

The last photo was when I put mustard seeds in a dry pan, to make them pop and then add the oil, garlic (front row, left), onions (back row, left), ginger (front row, middle)...some spices and the potatoes (back row, right). After this, I added the peas, a bit of water, cooked, fresh mint, and DONE. YUM (after a bit of salt...).

If anyone wants recipes, email me, and I'll send them to you!

Lost in Malaysia

Ruthie sent me a note on facebook yesterday, that the brother of someone she knows is lost in Malaysia. Then I started to see this all over facebook - everyone was looking for this guy. Apparently his parents had been in daily touch with him since a trip to Asia started in June. After six days of not hearing anything, they contacted some of his friends and asked if they could mobilise facebook. Turns out he was in Taman Negara in Malaysia.

I have been slightly obsessed with this story for a few reasons. One, I just became a parent, so now I relate to different parenting behaviour - like freaking out if you don't know that your child is totally fine. Also, I think that the parents of everyone who travels through Asia, or anywhere really, are sort of waiting for something like this to happen. It's clearly everyone's worst nightmare.

The second reason is because I have traveled all over Malaysia and lots of South East Asia, and I can totally see how this guy hasn't been on the internet. In Taman Negara (the BIG national park in Malaysia, where apparently the guy is hiking until Tuesday), there is no mobile signal. And, you kind of get caught up in traveling or doing whatever you're doing and you just don't really think about it.

Well, I am the first to admit that I know almost nothing about this situation, this guy or his parents or anything else, but I definitely think he will regret that he didn't tell anyone where he is (assuming he is fine and he just wasn't in contact...). It is kind of crazy that he will come back to loads of people who thought terrible things could have happened. I bet his voicemail is full (and maybe even hacked by those British journalists) and his facebook wall is overwhelmed with love. Just an interesting situation.

Clearly, the bottom line is that it's great that he's fine, whoever he is, but it just made me think about a whole lot of things.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Don't you...

I have blogged before about signs in Singapore. I find many of them to be hilarious. I have also talked about fear campaigns. We have all learned that Low Crime is not No Crime.

I had seen an ad in the newspaper a few years ago where there was this nice family, and the mother was watermarked out. Basically, the FULL PAGE ad was saying that "this could happen to your family" if you don't take precautions against dengue. On the way to the MRT now, there are these two ads, one in English and one in Chinese, both with super cute kids playing with toys. I thought they were cute, but I was always in a hurry, and I didn't stop to read the super small print (showing that the message of these posters probably isn't communicated to 97% of their intended audience...).

Yesterday, after a great Melanie-morning, including yoga, going to get my mac fixed (apparently bottoms come off MacBooks, and they fix them for free!), running a few other errands, and generally just doing what I want for a few hours, I walked by this poster. I had the time, so I stopped to check it out. Just in case you can't read the text, this is what it says:

"There will be no comfort. i am here to disrupt. if there is a way into your home i will take it. Your precious child her nightmare is about to begin and for the family too. Protect your loved ones from the pain and suffering of dengue. All it takes is just a small portion of stagnant water for the Dengue carrying Aedes mosquito to breed..."

Oy.

My second funny/horrible sign of the day is slightly more on the funny side. In our condo, there are lots of people (something like 950 apartments - LOADS OF PEOPLE ALL THE TIME). Lots of people create lots of trash. Many people don't seem to know where the trash chutes are, so as a result, there are often bags of trash next to the chutes (that's a confusing one for me) and next to the small bins on the first floor, by the elevators. The management has recently put up signs with photos of bags of trash next to the bins, and the photos have lines through them. Clear message - do not put your trash bags NEXT to the trash bin. This morning, on my way back from getting coffee with Sam, we saw bags of trash next to the bins. Next to the photos that say not to do that. It was just funny. Maybe you had to be there? Maybe it transfers through photos?

In other news, Sam is doing better with eating. She's still not really getting calories from food, but she's trying lots of things. She tried challah yesterday morning, and this morning she went to town on a raisin bagel with lots of cream cheese. She has dived into watermelon and tried applesauce a few times. She didn't like lentil soup (probably too salty). But overall, she's gagging way less and even enjoying eating. She also enjoys feeding her mommy and daddy. It's so nice that she shares her soggy, nasty mush with us.

Sam's other new talents include dancing with her arms up every time she hears music (even in a store - it's quite hilarious) and tapping her finger on pages of books. I think that she is "counting" things, but she keep tapping. She also finds her belly button (but sometimes confuses belly buttons with feet and also noses). It is requiring a lot more energy to hang out with her these days - she's all over the place, and she doesn't just roll on her back with a toy for ten minutes - she needs more entertainment. Swings, playgrounds, walking around outside and sitting on the grass are great alternatives (though SOOO hot, so we can only do those things after 5 or so).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Eating

I haven't blogged in a while - mostly because we had a fantastic trip to the US, and it's been a bit hard to get adjusted to life back here. I haven't been too inspired, unfortunately.

Today, it's Sunday in the middle of the week (Tuesday - it's National Day, so we have the day off work), so I'm a bit lifted. Overall, since we got back we have been busy. We had visits from Erin and Joe, and Talia and Andrew, and they were all great. We got to do fun tourist things, and Sam loved the extra attention (as if three adults and one cat isn't enough...). We haven't had too many visitors, so it was really nice to share our life here with friends. Talia's coming back tomorrow for another day or so, and then I don't believe we have another visitor until October or November.

Once our visitors left (for Thailand and Bali - poor them...), we have tried to get back into life. I've been going to yoga, after a really long break since I was in Bangladesh, India and the US for six weekends in a row! We have relaxed a lot, and we have finally started to see some Singapore friends again.

Today we did our favourite hike (I have written about it a few times) around Macritchie Reservoir with Therese and Vishal. We saw a few monkeys and a flying lemur or something on a tree, and we had a really nice (and to be honest, a bit difficult for me to keep pace with the others!) walk. Sam was super happy for all of it - except for when she was sleeping. She was a champ, as it was HOT HOT HOT!

Enough catching up - so Sam is ten months. When we went to the doctor when she was five months, the doctor said that Samara was ready to eat. She said it would take some "pumping pressure off" if she got calories from food, so she suggested starting feeding her. So we did. And we did this everyday since Sam was five months. Until today (minus about three or four). Sam did not eat. There were two times when she brought papaya to her mouth. But other than those, literally, Sam has never taken food from a spoon. She has never taken a cheerio in her mouth. She has gagged, thrown up, flipped out and overall totally just never eaten solids.

I tried to not worry - babies do things at different times. But then I got home and "someone" told me that we might need to see a therapist and that this is not normal. Then we saw a pediatrician at Michigania, and she sort of laughed it off and said (like my pediatrician here) - KEEP trying.

We always put music on. We danced. We smiled. We sang. We made rhymes. We counted. We looked at colours. We have tried super pureed foods - baby foods, phase 1 and 2, we ground our own food. We gave her overcooked vegetables (at least five different kinds). We tried salmon. We tried many different types of fruit. We mashed. We boiled. We left whole. We seriously tried everything. No success.

A week and a half ago, I got more worried, so I called the pediatrician here, and they said to bring her in. Samara was diagnosed with Oral Sensitivity. She also said that Samara can get all that she needs from formula for a long while, so rather than focusing on how much Sam eats, we should focus on getting a variety of tastes and textures.

So, of course, I google (bad idea if you're a mom or pregnant). Many babies or kids with this don't take hot or cold. They don't put things in their mouths. They don't brush their teeth. Sam's totally not like that. She puts EVERYTHING in her mouth (except food). She likes cold teethers. She doesn't care if her milk is cold, warm, room temperature. She loves brushing her teeth. When she sees the toothbrush, she basically sticks out her cute little teeth. She didn't seem as serious as most of the babies, but there was definitely still a problem.

I think that Sam listened to Dr. Belinda and didn't want to be like that. That was last Friday, and since then, she has almost turned a corner. She put a spoon with yogurt on it in her mouth multiple times. (we don't really try to feed her anymore - we don't want it to become a control thing - so we let her do it herself). She put papaya in her mouth. She ate watermelon and kept going for more. She even ate a bit of baby food for the first time. Today she even ate a french fry. Even though she's still not getting nutrients or calories from the food, at least it shows us that she WILL eat, she does not need to gag all the time (only minimally!), and most likely, she will be totally fine.

It has been a wee bit stressful, though.
video

Saturday, July 2, 2011

30 Hour Journey to Bring Samara HOME

Last weekend Matt, Samara and I started a 30 hour journey that would take us to Tokyo, LA and finally Detroit. I had stressed about this journey for about eight months. Matt and I had a major disagreement, as I wanted the shortest route possible - not really caring that it might mean that we would spend an additional 3K (ok, I care, but still). There's a flight that goes to Tokyo and then directly to Detroit, and it takes 21 hours. I pleaded my case when Sam was about three months old and we were buying the tickets. "She'll be crawling!" "She'll be too big to carry around!" Plus, flying to LA meant that we had to get a separate ticket from LA to Detroit, which meant that if we were late arriving to LA and we missed our connection, we would have to buy a completely separate ticket (if the Delta people are meanies - which they usually are). In the end, I lost, and I worried for months.

7am Sunday morning, we woke up Sam and took a taxi to the airport. The first flight was no problem - Samara slept for an hour, but mostly she just hung out, played and chilled. In Tokyo we had a major bottle cleaning operation - where Matt went into the men's bathroom and washed everything so it would all be available for the next legs. While he did that, Sam and I waited outside and about 15 women ooh'd and aah'd over Samara. At one point these two women who spoke only Chinese came back, picked up Sam (without even a glance in my direction) and started taking photos. They took photos with her and of her alone. I have a photo of this that I will post later. She didn't seem to mind.

The second leg was the longest and the most miserable, though even this leg wasn't all that bad. Sam slept for about two hours in the bassinet, though it was a bit too small for her, so she couldn't quite get her elbow high enough to suck her thumb comfortably. She also needs to whine a bit before she falls asleep (or at least sing really loudly), but when everyone around you on the plane is sleeping, you're a crap parent if you let your kid make that noise. I knew that if we picked her up, that would just mean that she would stay awake longer and have to make noise the next time she fell asleep...but we did get some dirty looks, so in the end we tried to keep her as quiet as possible, forgoing some precious sleep. She watched some Monsters, Inc. and some other movie about Gnomes. She got SO excited when she saw the characters moving. She turned to look at me as if to say, "MOM!! Do you SEE THIS!? It's AMAZING!!!" The weirdest thing about this flight is that we arrived before we even left on Sunday (with a shorter flight than time difference).

In LA we were the last in line for immigration because we had to wait for our stroller at the gate (in many places in Asia if you have a baby you get to go to a special line and not wait forever...), so that took a bloody long time. The immigration official asked Matt was he did, and he said he was an economist. "Economist means finance which means money. Do you make a lot of money?" We wanted to ask if that was part of her job to ask or just out of personal curiosity. We just smiled awkwardly. In LA Sam played and we ate pizza.

The last leg, from LA to Detroit, was a piece of cake. Samara was so wiped that she fell asleep in the ergo, which meant I fell asleep as well, and though we were scrunched into a domestic Delta airplane with no bassinet and no friendly Singapore Airlines flight attendants, we were golden. We slept for about two hours and hung out and played for the other two.

All that stressing, and really, she was a champ.

In the meantime it has been so incredible to be home. Sam has met her relatives - like our closest relatives that we grew up with who are such a huge part of our lives. It's crazy to us that she hadn't met them yet. She met my grandparents, Matt's grandma, lots of cousins and aunts and uncles.

Yesterday she got to meet some of my closest friends and their kids as we spent the day together in Ann Arbor. We gathered from Toronto, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus and Singapore.

Shana and I met in 1988 at Camp Ramah. We became really close in high school, lived together for all four years at Michigan (including a year abroad) and have remained close since. She lives in Toronto with her husband Daniel and sons Joseph who's 3 and Sam who's 7 months. I have been so lucky to meet Joseph three times before, and this was our first time introducing Sam to Sam (they loved each other).

At orientation for U of M, I met Seth and Mike, super awesome twins from Cleveland. We spent our time in Ann Arbor hanging out together all the time, and by the end we were watching Office Space together at least a few times a week. Since college we have all visited each other in different locations at least once a year (though it has been only once a year since we moved to Singapore!).

In college, Seth had a girlfriend from high school, and after college, they got married. Seth and Emily live in Cleveland and have Ariel who's 3 and Eli who's seven months (each one week apart from Shana's kids above!).

Mike moved to Chicago, and so did my good friend Joanna from Otzma. I sent them an email saying that they were both so important to me and cool. They got married six years ago and live in Columbus and have a two year old, Charlie.

Jill and I met in high school, though we were in the same group of friends but didn't really get close until college. Since college Jill has been one of my closest friends, also going to Social Work School at U of M together. Jill and Ben live in Chicago with Joseph who is a week older than Samara.

For us all to be together, have our kids interact, and eat Zingermans, Dominicks and play on the diag is seriously a dream. It was such a happy and wonderful day.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Visa Photos

This is an old story, but it's worth sharing.

I had to get four passport photos for visas in just a few days. I needed three for a visa to Bangladesh and one for a visa to India. I remember that there was a photo booth in the Mustafa Travel Centre right by our house, so we went in. It was packed with people. Saturday night at Mustafa's. Crazy. The photo booth was nowhere to be seen. We decided to do our shopping and figure out the photos tomorrow. Then I spotted the random ID photo booth that had moved outside and onto the street. Perf. Put in my money (S$7) and it gives you all of the instructions. It framed my face in the face area, and then it showed my whole head, neck and shoulders in the screen. SHIT! This is for BANGLADESH! They don't do bare shoulders! 20...19...18...please press OK to take the photo...17...16...

MATT - quick! Take off your shirt!

NO! We're in the middle of Little India!

Exactly - no one will notice! Please take off your shirt! Just for one minute - I will just put it on for the photo and give it right back!

No!!

Ok - give me the shopping bags. I took our white, cloth re-usable shopping bags and slapped them over my shoulders. Just in time...4...3...2...1...SNAP!

It didn't occur to me that I could go back the next day, with a proper shirt on, and take new photos for a mere USD5.

Then the photos printed. Head and neck only. Not even a speck of shoulder. All that for nothing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Trailing

This article in the New York Times reminds me about how complicated it is to be a trailing spouse. It's no small compromise to give up your job (or even your career) to move across the world for your partner's professional opportunity. It's hard to find a job in a new city, country and culture. If your field doesn't exist (for example, informal Jewish education), you have to either get extremely creative or find something new. Your identity shifts. Your circle of friends shifts. Now it's really about having couple friends and being seen more as a unit. You are somewhere because of a job or professional opportunity. Your family is somewhere else. Your best friends are all somewhere else, yet you're chasing something professional. That says a lot about what's important to you (I struggle with this a lot), at least at this moment.

Four years on, when someone asks what I'm doing in Singapore, I never say that I work in Diversity and Inclusion at a big bank. I say, "well, I came here for my husband's job. Since I was here I got an MBA and found a job, and now I work in D&I in a big bank." I do not internalise this move as my own. I don't resent Matt for this, but if I hadn't found a job that I like, and if I hadn't found a good support network, and if I hadn't had all of the other great opportunities we have taken advantage of here (traveling, diving, etc), I would be.

It's complicated. The next move is mine!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

More Bangladesh Impressions

I still haven't really gotten out, though this morning I woke up early to at least have a little walk, since the hartal is over (though they declared to start another one tomorrow...). I wanted to visit the wet market. Most markets I have been to are only open first thing in the morning. Some are already finished by 8am. This one doesn't OPEN until 10am! Luckily there were a few stalls open and there were loads of mangoes to be had. Fear not. When I gave my bags to the hotel staff to hold until I go to the airport tonight, I asked them to please be careful with my bag of mangoes. "Don't worry ma'am. Bangladesh is very amenable to mangoes. If you go to the countryside you will see that everyone has mangoes." Does that mean that they know the importance of treating them well or "don't worry - you can just get more"?

The streets are really busy, lots of honking, very colourful dress. People definitely gave me a second glance, but I felt very comfortable walking around. There are so many different types of transport - MANY rickshaws, tuk-tuk type things with caged in seating areas, cars, busses, open trucks, everything!

The difference between rich and poor is absolutely crazy. There are people who drive fancy cars and others who walk barefoot on the street. I don't think I have been in a place with such a disparity.

I have had *VERY* little local food (apparently they tell the locals that our stomachs can't handle it...), so I have had Italian and Japanese...but the local food I have had is extremely tasty and a bit different than Indian dishes of the same name. My dosa this morning had cashews in it, which I have never seen in Little India at least. I don't know the names of the spices, but the tastes are a bit less sweet than Indian and the spice combination seems quite complicated. I love it.

Disappointment in my super fancy hotel - I got someone else's 5am wake up call, the walls are so thin I could hear everything going on in the rooms next to me, somehow the LAN cable burned my LAN input and my computer is now broken...so I feel like this place is a dump...and then I walk out onto the street, and I can't believe the hotel is as nice as it is. Perspective is important.

Though I will be in Singapore for about ten hours, next stop is Bombay...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hartal

A hartal is a strike in Bangladesh. Why would I ever know that? Because I'm here. In Bangladesh, and there's hartal.

I arrived late last night, on a plane that was at about 10% capacity. Was that because of the hartal or because it's usually empty? I have no idea. It took maybe a half hour of CRAZY driving (why do they even put lines on the road?) to get from the airport to the hotel. I saw tonnes of trucks, busses, rickshaws, motorcycles and loads and loads of people on the way here. When I checked in, the guy told me that the streets were "empty" because of hartal. Huh? Really?

Basically all I can do is stay in the hotel and go to office. The hotel guys said that because of voilence, it's not a good idea to be walking around on the streets alone, right now. That is quite sad, since I'm slightly obsessed with the food here, and it's a whole culture I haven't yet gotten to know. People seem so warm and welcoming, yet I can't really go check out their space. It's a bit painful, really.

The hartal is done on Tuesday, though Tuesday is also the busiest day here for my work, since the hartal will be over...so I don't know if I can go out and explore.

A few observations from my very limited vantage point:


  • Coming from Singapore where I believe cars aren't allowed to be on the road after about ten years, the cars are shockingly old. At leaset 20% look like they're from the 80s. Earlier? One's trunk literally looked like it was going to fall off.

  • I didn't see any traffic lights last night, but at each intersection, my driver slowed down, honked and kept driving. Seemed effective.

  • When we walked into the office today, there was a tea-dude with a tray of bottles. They were vodka, rum, etc. bottles, but they looked like they were all filled with water. That was weird enough, but when I saw a guy take multiple swigs from a bottle of rum (really, I believe it was water), it was even weirder. I laughed (in a meeting). This is a Muslim country, and I was definitely in a business environment. Really - there is no way it wasn't water. But it was funny.

  • Looking out my window from the 12th floor, I can't tell if the city is filled with construction or destruction. It's very grey, and there are lots of buildings that aren't being used - and aren't in full form.

  • Dhaka is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. 12 million people. It is also super poor. GDP per capita is 1,500. In the US it's about 47,000. There are 400,000 rickshaws.

In other news, last night was my first night away from Samara. I feel excessively guilty, but really it's okay. I had convinced myself that she wouldn't even notice. Then I was searching online about ceasing breastfeeding (tmi, sorry), and I read that I was abandoning my baby and causing permanent damage. Hopefully that online source is not legitimate. Honestly, it's sort of nice to not think about every detail of her life for a few days. I thought it would be nice to sleep and not have to worry about waking up, but that didn't work (call to prayer being one of the reasons). Really, it's such an opportunity for me to be here (professionally and personally - even with the hartal), and it would be REALLY stressful to have Samara here (the whole sterilizing game would be to a new level), so all in all, it's totally fine.


But...I can't wait to squeeze her and give her hundreds of kisses when I get home (for ten hours...) on Wednesday!!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Weekend Edition

The Weekend Edition music (funny link, but does the trick!) makes me really homesick. I hear the music, and I picture my grad school apartment in Ann Arbor. I picture sitting with a cup of coffee and reading the New York Times. Like - real coffe. Like - the REAL paper New York Times. I can smell the (mold?) smells of our New York apartment and see the light coming in the windows of our living room on Sunday morning. It's just a good feeling, and that show always has interesting things to tell me.

Here, I sometimes stream public radio, but that's usually the middle of the night in the US, so mostly it's the BBC on Michigan Radio. Generally, my NPR exposure in Singapore is through podcasts (which I know I have mentioned multiple times). This post talks about my hierarchy of podcasts, but the Slate Culture and Political Gabfests have moved to #2 and #3, pushing the rest down, since 2008.

Generally, there is something about NPR hosts' voices that I am very attached to. I remember when Bob Edwards retired in 2004 I didn't know what my mornings would be like. I thought my life would drastically change. I'm not real big on transition in the NPR world.

Well, I'm a week or so behind on my podcasts (working two days from home...less commuting time...), but today I heard that the 29th May was Liane Hansen's last day hosting Morning Edition. I have to admit that I shed a tear (one only, but still) in the MRT.

I sort of want all of NPR to just stay as it is/was so that it's all nice and neat when we move back. NPR is one of those things that I look forward to enjoying more when we live in America again...one day. Metroparks, grass and outside in general, family, friends that I grew up with and have loved for years and Sourpatch Kids also rank up there.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

MRT Videos

There are great screens here in the MRT so you can (usually) see how long you will have to wait for the next train. I loved that about living in DC and I hated that they didn't have that in NYC. In addition, the screens are used for multiple useful (and hilarious) other reasons.

For example, sometimes the MRT has manners campaigns. These are campaigns where you learn, for example, to step aside to let people off the train (which never happens), or to let old people or pregnant people sit down (which usually does happen). For example we have this "Love Your Ride" throwback to the 50s, which was really big before Sam was born, and it seems to have disappeared while I was gone. We also have the "Happy Journey Starts Like That" version, which was big about two years ago. I can't wait to see the next!

In addition to these campaigns, we also have videos about how to call for assistance if you're sick, or to ride the elevators if you have a lot of packages. There was one about generally being pleasant on the MRT.

My favourite, and the most disturbing, by far, are the terrorist-fear ones. When we first moved here (FOUR YEARS AGO TOMORROW for me!!) we saw the videos where they showed horrible terrorist attacks. They show pictures (like bloody and bodies and yuck) from terrorist attacks in London 2005, Spain 2004, and others in Bali. They literally show shots from afterwards, and then the words "Be Vigilant. Don't Let This Happen To You."

There was also a video where a "shady guy" gets on the train with his bag, and then he gets off and leaves his bag. These two women see it and they call the train operator and tell them about a suspicious object. It seems to me that they're now showing an extended version of the same video (unless somehow I missed the ending for my first few years here?). Now, the guy gets off, and then they show him flip up his mobile phone, push a button, and it literally shows the Singapore MRT go into a tunnel, and then a blast of fire. It's SUPER disturbing. While the videos are quite quiet (you might not even notice that they're playing), every time the train blows up, they also play a horrible sound clip of lots of people screaming. It definitely catches my attention each time.

In other news, we are just really looking forward to our trip to the US in three short weeks. In the meantime, I have loads of work to do to be able to take off for three weeks, and I will be going to Dhaka, Bangladesh next weekend for three days. Then I'll be back in Singapore for ten hours and I'll be heading to Mumbai for three days. All in all, I'll have two red-eyes, 2.5 wasted weekend days (coming back a week before I leave, with a baby, for a three week trip...after a four hour red-eye), my first night (and 2nd, 3rd...6th) night away from my baby, my first work trip for my current job, my first trip to Bangladesh, my first trip to India...It will be a little rough for me. I sort of wouldn't mind if they refused my visa. I mean, it is an amazing opportunity.

Here's a link to current photos and videos of Sam (and friends).

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Zoo

We have lived here for almost four years (next week is my anniversary - Matt's was a few weeks ago). The Singapore Zoo is supposed to be a big attraction in Singapore. We had never been. We FINALLY made it to the Night Safari a year and a half ago when Sarah and Ben were in town.

The last time I went to a zoo was in St. Louis when we were there for Danny and Lisa's wedding four years ago. It was supposed to be one of the best zoos in America, and I had been excited. Though I love animals, I hadn't really been part of the anti-zoo movement, and I hadn't even read or thought about it much at all. It caught me by surprise that I was so upset about how the animals were so enclosed and on parade for people to see and tap or yell at. I really felt sick about it. I swore off zoos, but not too seriously.

Our friends, Julia and David suggested that we go to the zoo, and we jumped at it. I couldn't believe that we hadn't gone yet, and I also couldn't believe friends who don't have a kid are interested to go with us. We suggested meeting there at 8:30, but they were even up for that!

This zoo only upset me in a few places - I mean the whole idea is still upsetting, and life looks EXTREMELY boring for these animals, but they are not as enclosed as other zoos, and their areas look much nicer. I think it actually just made me feel better, and it might not actually BE that much better for the animals, but it just didn't seem as bad. Highlights included LOADS of monkeys and orangutans making crazy noises (Sam only cried once...) and swinging all over the place, the manatees, which are just huge and awesome, and little field mice. The tigers and cheetahs were cool, but they fit into the "sad" category. Sam took two naps, she looked at a few animals, but mostly she enjoyed watching the other kids and eating the map (it was especially tasty). She was a champ, though, because we were out for SIX hours (remember, she REALLY likes her sleep...).

I can't be bothered to look through the 198 photos that Matt took of the animals at the zoo, so I'm posting a few of us from the day. Sam is sitting with Julia and David. Sam is pouting on the tortoise (we love that face - but why be so scared of sitting on a tortoise?).

In other news, it was my mom's birthday yesterday. Happy birthday, mom!

In yet other news, Samara still hates eating, but we're getting better at feeding her. She is now happy when she's eating - she smiles, laughs, plays, but she turns her head at the food and gags very dramatically when food goes in her mouth. We're working on it.

She has also started moving all over the place - like crawling but not exactly crawling. At least she doesn't use her head anymore - just arms and legs. I left her on her tummy in the middle of the floor for a minute earlier today, and I looked over and somehow she was sitting up. That was a first, but I have no idea (and I'm sure she also has no idea) how she got up.

I was very sick over the last week - a really bad cold with a fever. The fever lasted about 2.5 days, which is a record for me in the past years. I really feel like I rarely get sick, and I was a disaster. I only went to work on Thursday (and I tried Tuesday morning, but I went back home at noon), and I was in bed for a few days. Thank goodness, the fever is gone, and all I have left is the stuffiness. It stinks to be sick.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Same Same Boy

Finally - a post about our trip to Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, last weekend...

This is entitled Same Same Boy, because that came up quite a few times in our four days in Thailand. Boy? Girl? Girl. Same Same Boy.

Finally I got someone with better English skills to explain what this meant - your baby looks like a boy, even though she's a girl. Fair enough.

We had a mostly great four days in Chiang Mai. There were many dimensions to the trip which I will briefly outline -

1- The Weather. Somehow we completely missed that it was the rainy season. Apparently it was. It rained nearly all day, nearly everyday. We borrowed umbrellas, bought umbrellas (and a silly poncho), used our water-resistant-ish ergo for Sam, got caught a few times, but mostly we stayed somewhat dry.

2 - Sam's sleeping. Samara sleeps. She usually is awake for only five or six hours per day. She likes to sleep 12-14 hours per night and then takes 3-4 naps during the day. She prefers to stay awake only about 1.5 hours before her next shluf. This did not fit into our travel schedule. We pushed her (which I think is good for her, ultimately, right?), but sometime she didn't like it. Mostly, though, she was fantastic, and we gave her a morning nap before we went out, and we came back to the hotel for a long afternoon nap (all naps were had in her crib in the bathroom, obviously), and then we stayed out until about 8 or 9. I felt really guilty, but she was a champ.

3 - Food. Food in Thailand is the best food in the world. No question. It is so tasty, and it's the yummiest of all tastes. We had: yellow curry, green curry, at least four pad thais, pad sie ew (sp?), mango sticky rice, banana shake, some northern style tom yam, papaya salad, mango salad, chicken with cashewnut (or cashews as we call them back home), and I'm sure there were other dishes that I can't remember. We had an average of three dishes per meal. Four days. Three meals per day. That's a lot of yummy Thai food.

Sam's food was also an adventure. This was our first trip where I wasn't exclusively breastfeeding (TMI? Sorry). We had a whole assembly line - first we washed the bottles (brought a sponge and soap), put them to dry, then we put them in microwave steriliser bags, took them to the hotel restaurant, they put them on high for 3 minutes. Then they came up to the bottle rack, and then we packed them to take with us wherever we went. It's slightly stressful because the water is not clean in Thailand, but it seemed to all work (with one minor upset stomach for about four hours...).

4 - Beauty. Chiang Mai area is absolutely gorgeous. The mountains, colo(u)rs and temples are just unbelievably beautiful.

Babies in Asia are total rockstars. I posted this article on facebook a few months back, because it's TOTALLY accurate. Tons of people took photos of Sam. At least 20 pinched her cheeks, probably 40 grabbed her hands (yuck - but what can you do?). Grown men were oogling and aahgling. It was pretty entertaining. The hotel people all talked to her. Random people held her, and she probably caused at least 100 smiles (not including ours) each day. That's an accomplishment.

We went to three markets - the Saturday Walking Street, the Sunday Walking Street and the Night Bazaar. The shopping in Chiang Mai was really nice - creative pieces.

Sam went in her first (second, third, etc.) tuk-tuk. At first she seemed a bit confused and bothered about the air in her face (though mostly she was in the chest-facing-ergo), she looked around, she smiled at people on motorcycles next to us, and she LOVED the lights at night. I did feel like an irresponsible parent, but then I thought that we were going really slowly most of the time, and hey - I breastfed in a moving car in Lombok. This was definitely not that bad...

We had a totally random experience on the Sunday Walking Street. It started pouring, and we ditched into a busy restaurant. It was full, but the staff found a place for us (they love babies - it's awesome). They put us at a table for four, but there were only 2 (and a half) of us. We saw another couple come in and look for a seat, and they couldn't find anything. I said, "no pressure, but we're only using two of these seats, so you're welcome to join us." "Wow - thanks!" Matt asks, "So, where are you from?" "The US." "Ah, us too. Where?" "Michigan." "No way! Us too!" Turns out they're from West Michigan. In 2003, they took 4.5 years (also 2004, 5, 6, etc.) and SAILED AROUND THE WORLD...with their THREE kids, between five and 16 years when they started. That's so fricken cool. The oldest daughter was doing a study abroad programme in Chiang Mai, and he was there for some medical tourism. They were really nice, interesting, and we really enjoyed meeting them. I just ordered his book, and I can't wait to read it. Here's his website. Our favorite part of the conversation was when Matt asked him something about it being hard with his daughter so far away on this programme in Thailand, and he said, something like, "no - I'm just so proud of her and who she's becoming. It's amazing to sit back and watch her blossom." It was really a beautiful thing to say, and I hope we feel that day about Sam and all of her 60 brothers and sisters one day.

All in all - it was a great trip. We love traveling. We love Thailand. We love spending family time (it was fun before Sam, but now we really enjoy it even more - she's soooo fun!). I have to say, though, that traveling with a baby (who likes to sleep a lot...in a place without clean water...in the rainy season...) is also a little bit difficult.

Here's a link to photos and videos. video

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Important Stuff

I remember before we had Sam, and I felt very mixed about buying a lot of things. I had that stupid Jewish superstition brain that said don't buy anything. I also was sure we were having a boy (for no reason at all), but had no confirmation, and finding un-gendered clothes is HARD. I also don't like STUFF and wanted to not get caught up in it all. Having done and said that, there are some things that I am so glad we don't do without, and I thought I should post them for future new moms (and dads).

Ergo - I think the ergo baby carrier is the best thing on the planet. When Sam gets tired, she doesn't cry or fuss. She just closes her eyes and goes to sleep. It's hot, here in Singapore, but so is carrying your baby without using a carrier, and this way you get two hands and a happy (sweaty) baby.

Sterilizer and bottle warmer - I would have never bought a sterilizer or a bottle warmer. I thought it was so stupid when you can just boil water and stick the stuff in. Someone passed both on to us, so I figured I might as well try them. So super easy to just stick the stuff into the sterilizer and put a bottle in the warmer for four minutes. When you work, there are lots of bottles to be sterilized and warmed.

Double pump - I didn't really know what I was talking about when I decided to get a pump. People said to get the double because it would save time. Yeah - like HOURS of time. It's essential unless you're able to be with your baby at all hours. I got the Philips Avent Isis Duo, but most people are happy with Medela.

Tyke light - Jill got us this. It was actually our first gift for Sam, because she was only about 12 weeks in gestation. I didn't get how awesome it was. At 2am or at 6am, you just don't want to turn on the light, but you need to be able to see enough to find the baby's mouth (or she needs to see enough to find the treasure), and it's just perfect. I also like that it has a 15 minute timer, so if I don't have a watch, I also know how long I've been nursing (I have been living my life in 15-20 minute increments for the last seven months, and I still have NO idea without a clock how long 15-20 minutes is. It's actually a bit weird.) The batteries haven't even died yet, and we used it every night for four months and on weekend mornings for the last three. It's like the miracle of Hanukkah.

Exercise Ball - this is a key when the baby's super young. We would just bounce her to sleep. It always soothed her. Magic.

Board books - I thought they were stupid. I thought we might as well just get paper books. Turns out they were invented for a reason. Sam wants to eat every book in sight. Cardboard books survive way better.

Giraffe - This giraffe (hand-me-down) and Sophie are both Sam's favorites. She LOVES them. Giraffes are clearly key to a happy baby.

Sleep book - Shana got me this, but when it was recommended by other moms I trust, I figured it was a good one. My doctor said that other moms might punch me if I talk about my baby's sleeping, so I can't, but I can say that I LOVE this approach. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is my go to when I am not going to pick up Sam at night when she cries. I literally take it off the shelf and read the part about how it's not abandonment, and you really love your kid a lot to help them learn to put herself to sleep, etc.

Digital SLR - who has an extra millisecond to wait when your baby is super cute NOW! Totally worth it.

Jumperoo - obviously.

Things I thought we needed -
Vaseline (why?)
Socks (TOO HOT!!!)
Pants (TOOO HOOTTT!!!)
Blankets (not even the heat - we got so many for gifts. We really didn't need to buy any)

We will finally be making a new album soon, but we have been adding more photos to this album of Sam. Enjoy!

Oh - and happy birthday, Matt! (too bad you don't read this so you'll never see this!)