Saturday, April 24, 2010

See ya later Singapore

The time has finally arrived where I must say goodbye to my little corner of Southeast Asia. As you read this, I am groggily sitting on a plane back to Kansas where my very giddy parents are awaiting my arrival.

I've greatly enjoyed my time in Singapore. It has been one of the best learning experiences of my life. I was able to try new foods (although that part wasn't always positive, ahem, durian), meet awesome people, learn a way of life that was very different to my own, see some beautiful places, and enjoy constant warm weather for 24 months.

When I originally set out on our adventure to Singapore, I was supposed to be there for three years. After about one, we decided that we had other interests back in the States that we wanted to pursue. So that's why we're headed back earlier than I originally told you all.

I apologize for originally leading you astray.

I feel that I got a very fulfilling experience in my shortened two year adventure. Another year of constant summer may have permanently ruined me for winter forever.

So as I leave, I want to send a big thank you to all of you who came and read my ramblings over the last couple years. You have taught me so much and given me a wonderful community that really helped me live this life in Singapore. I loved reading the emails, comments and all of the feedback you left. It was so much fun.

You guys are awesome. Thank you.

In closing, I've gotten a lot of questions as to whether or not I'm going to continue blogging. I will finally answer you all.


I will definitely be continuing the adventures of this roller coaster life we lead on my new blog:

Walking in Ruby Slippers

There I will share our stories as we relearn how to live in Kansas...and America in general.

I hope you visit us there. The Kansans are going to think I'm weird when I start jumping up and down in the dairy aisle over a huge tub of ricotta cheese for US$2. But you Singapore, you will completely understand.

In the words of my wise friend Sheryl,

See ya later, never goodbye.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew

In our continued quest to use up all items in our pantry, we discovered an unopened bottle of wine tonight.

How this bypassed my attention until now is beyond me.

So we immediately set out to have it with our random half-Asian, half-American dinner of Teriyaki chicken, bean sprouts and corn.

One small problem though.

The movers packed not one, not two, but all three of our wine bottle openers.

That's what you call a predicament right there.

So we did what any 20 something would do and consulted the all-knowing, ever wonderful Google.

And as expected, Google delivered. We found this video.

This is our version of that video (only in the much more elegant setting of my bathroom).

I wish I could tell you that after all of that work, (there was about ten minutes of banging the bottle against the wall before this clip) we just popped the cork out and enjoyed our wine.

I also wish I could tell you that we didn't have to get out pliers, break it into multiple pieces, and jimmy rig a wine strainer in order to drink it without pieces of cork floating in our plastic cups.

But I cannot.

These types of things are best left to the Europeans. They're much more experienced wine drinkers than Americans.

However, we will continue to class it up by opening it with shoes in our bathroom and drinking it out of plastic cups.

Always keep it classy. That's my motto.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The American Girl Cooks Phad Thai

I finally made phad thai from scratch last night.

It was an interesting experience.

Not only did it take close to an hour to find the ingredients in Cold Storage, but the cooking portion was quite "colorful" too.

First off, while shopping for the ingredients, we had to ask an employee to help us because we couldn't find anything other than the bean sprouts.

Lesson learned: Palm sugar is "gula malaka" and tamarind is "asam paste". Thank goodness that guy could understand our American accent. It seems that the Malay word is always preferred over the English word when labeling foods in Singapore supermarkets. (Also to note, I've never seen "Bok Choy" in Singapore. They have it, but I have no idea what the Malay word is that they use to label it. I'm also not worried enough to Google it.)

It makes sense to use the Malay words, in retrospect, considering a large number of the population here is from Malaysia. I just wish I'd thought to look up those words before we left.

Eh well.

To figure out how to cook this dish, I found a very helpful YouTube video that teaches Westerners how to make it at home. However, some of the ingredients in the video were a little different than the ones we found.

It wasn't a big deal though.

You know what was a big deal?

The stench that cooking phad thai produces in your kitchen.

It smelled of things that I can't even discuss on a family friendly blog such as this.

And it was totally the fish sauce's fault.

I now totally get why they don't have air conditioning in kitchens in Singapore. After cooking with something like that, you have to open a window to keep from gagging.

Or dying.

It smells something retched and dead.

On a more positive note, the finished phad thai tasted really good despite the nose-killing fog in the kitchen. Once it was finished and removed from that area, it didn't stink at all. It even tasted very close to the yumminess we had in Thailand.

It was surprisingly good, even considering that some American chick made it.


I don't know if I can handle a kitchen that smells like that. If I had people over for dinner and they smelled that, they'd run and hide. This may just have to be one of those dishes that we order in.

Please God, let there be somewhat decent phad thai in Kansas.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Inevitable Shopping Day

After two years of procrastination, I finally own authentic Singaporean items.

Why is it that when you live somewhere, you purposely avoid all things that are remotely associated with being a tourist?

For example, my cousin has lived in New York City for years and when I visited her two and a half years ago, she still had never been to the Statue of Liberty.

As a resident of Singapore, I don't shop. Shopping is one of the things that the country is known for and I avoid it like the plague. It seemed like every mall I went to was crowded and expensive. So I just didn't do it.

I kept thinking, "I'll get that cute tablecloth sometime before we leave," or "I will stock up on those Chinese wine bottle covers before I ship out." I lacked a sense of urgency in the whole matter.

Then when I realized I was two weeks away from leaving, my excuses lost their footing. If I didn't break down and buy something already, I was going home with nada. Zilch. Squat.

That would make me very sad. It would also make my friends back home wonder if I'd even ever lived here because I lacked the physical evidence.

So I did some shopping research. Luckily, I found out that not all of Singapore is crazy expensive like I'd thought.

A few friends told me of these great deals and steals.

First Stop: Dilip Textiles, Arab Street

My coworkers got me a gorgeous tablecloth and scarf as a departure gift. I loved them so much that I decided that I needed more textiles to go back to Kansas with me. My military spouse friends told us to head to this place for such things.

They were right. This place was awesome. They have so many different types of cloth and for so many different uses. I got a six person rectangular tablecloth for S$26 and a long silk scarf for S$10. I love the stuff I got. It's all hand-stamped and in gorgeous colors. If I were going to be here a little longer, I would have totally gone back for more. They also have bedspreads, wall coverings, carpets and sarongs.

Second Stop: The Blue and White Store (that's not the official name), Ubi Street

The Blue and White Store has been a topic of conversation among military spouses in Singapore for as long as I've been here. The gals make a trip there at least once every couple of months. As a working girl whose free time during the day is limited, I had a little harder time finding my way here. Also, this place doesn't advertise, so it's not easy to find solo. The people who've been there only know about it because they found out from someone else who's been there.

Even once you find out the address, it's still a little tricky to find.

This is the building it's in.

I would have never guessed that an oh-so-popular pottery shop was nestled in here. It looks like an industrial warehouse building. Not a place that sells pretty pottery.

Nonetheless, I trusted my friend's instructions and took the lift up several stories.

And then it appeared.

Not the fanciest of digs, but the prices more than make up for the appearance. I got two vases, a dozen ceramic decorative balls, four oversized square coffee mugs (that are suprisingly very modern), five mini saucer cups, and some other stuff that I can't remember now because it's in a crate somewhere over the ocean. (Yes, I forgot to take pictures. Apparently, my brain turns to mush while moving.) But the important part is that all of that only cost me S$30. I've never gotten such nice stuff for so little. I was super excited.

Shopping day was a huge success. I had never been so unstressed during a shopping excursion here.

Then to top all of that off, my good friend Sandra gave me some wonderful presents to take back with me as well.

My Kansas house may just end up looking like a little Singapore by the time I get everything unpacked.

Now, I just need to grab some more recipes to accompany my new stuff. A special thank you to those who have already sent me some great ones! I'm excited to try them out on our unsuspecting relatives.

(As always, I have not been paid to talk about the above establishments, nor do they know that I have a blog to write about them on.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Moving a Family from Singapore to Kansas: Part 2

The movers showed up at just a hair past the crack of dawn this morning.

Actually, that's a lie.

They got there at 9am. It just seemed like the crack of dawn to me because we were up until 2:30 in the morning getting things ready for them to arrive.

We are fortunate as a military family to have the government pay for and arrange for our things to be packed and shipped back to the States.

You'd think this perk would take the stress out of moving.

But it doesn't.

The movers they hire are professionals. They pack stuff up fast. And they pack everything. No jokes. If it's out where they can find it, they will pack it. We've heard stories of ladies' purses getting packed, the family hamster getting packed and even a girl's sandwich was packed when she left the room.

So we spent the entire night last night grouping together anything and everything we'd still need until the day we get on the plane. This means all toilet paper, shampoos, and plane tickets needed to be out of sight.

We, unfortuately, forgot about the plane tickets. They are currently in a crate somewhere headed off to a big boat.

Oh well. At least those can be reprinted.

To illustrate the speed in which they work, here's a visual. When they first got here, I called my mom on Skype. By the time our 30 minute conversation was over, this is what my house looked like.

I was a bit taken aback. This was also around the time I realized the plane tickets were long gone.

So I started paying a bit more attention.

The coolest thing that I found that these guys did was this:

Many people in Singapore live in multi-story buildings, so I'm sure stairs start to really suck after a while for movers.

I really liked their solution.

They had a guy at each landing to intercept the package and send it along to the next guy. It was like watching a well-oiled machine.

So even though packing hasn't been completely smooth sailing, at least I was entertained.

Not that it's a hard thing to do.