Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jacob Ballas Children's Gardens

Sam and I are in love with the Jacob Ballas Children's Gardens. When we pulled up in the taxi this morning, Sam said, "that's mine place!"

It is part of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, and it is pretty much heaven for a two year old. Just this morning, we with with Savta and Papa who are visiting. We arrived and went straight to the sand area with the huge tree house with two tall tube slides. Sam probably played in the sand and on the slides for about an hour and a half. It's shaded. There are other kids there. It's clean (like no trash but way dirty like lots of sand and dirt). And the kids can basically do whatever they want.

After the sand/slide area, Sam showed Savta and Papa the shaky bridge, then the other sand area with the playground for older kids. There's also a little area where you can make music. There were lots of labeled plants and trees so you can see your food and spices growing. After the second playground area we went to the water play area, had a snack and left. We didn't even see the floating dock with loads of fish, turtles and everything else, the little shelters along the way, the big hills, logs to climb on, the maze of plants, the giant mushrooms, the waterfall and everything else.

Sam and I meet friends there about once a week. Come join us on a Wednesday or Friday morning!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Guests who are welcome to stay

We have now lived here for five and a half years, and we have had many guests come through - some were random people we didn't really know, others were random friends who happened to be in Singapore, others were super good friends who came to visit, and of course the most common visitors are family. Overall, we have had fantastic visitor experiences (minus the one year we lived in a 450 square foot one bedroom where we weren't the most hospitable...though we still hosted some of my best friends!). Throughout the visits we have also learned to identify a few characteristics which make great guests. I will also admit that our last visit by Jer really helped us to clarify some of these, as it was a fantastic visit, and I would have been happy if he stayed for another two weeks.

Great guests find some things about Singapore exciting. They bring positive energy into the house. At least something makes them excited and happy to be here. They can complain a bit (perhaps the heat - that's clearly the most common), but then they get excited for the Thai dinner or the museum exhibit. Positive energy in the house is a fantastic guest contribution.

Guests who clearly outline their expectations and hopes for their visit leave nothing to the imagination. One of my least favorite things in life is trying to guess what people think - if you want me to know, just tell me. Please don't beat around the bush. So if you want to exercise everyday, or if you want to eat six different types of noodles, or you want to eat Indian every night (or never), just get it out there. As a "best practice" example, Jeremy created a Googledocs sheet with all of the foods he wants to eat and things he wanted to do. I could literally plug them into my diary, plan in advance to make sure I knew the best way to get there, opening hours, etc., and we got them all in. Not only is sharing expectations valuable, but having expectations and things you want to do also make you a great guest (this relates back to the first point).

Following from this point is general honesty of guests. Passive aggressive answers get us nowhere. Do you want to go for brunch? Yes or no. If it's no, please don't say yes. If you don't like Chinese food, don't agree to going for Chinese food. Just be honest - that helps a lot. Again - that guessing thing is so not my style.

Great guests get out of the house. Again, as best practice, Jer went for a coffee and did work/read for a few hours each day. This gave him some personal space and it also gave us some personal space. We live in 1100 square feet - normally three adults, a two year old and a cat. With guests that's even more people. The general gathering place is the living room, and having people always in your living room is tough - even if you love them to pieces. Just a few hours of an empty couch and no pressure for smiles and conversation is critical.

 (sorry sarah and ben - i can't turn this!)

A few simple tips - please feel free to comment on other good ideas. These are key to me. If you have stayed at our house in the last five years, please do not take anything I said retroactively personal. It's cumulative observations, and all names have been changed to protect the innocent.