Saturday, December 19, 2009
American English: We can't do it this time.
Singlish: Last year we have. This year don't have.
American English: We had it last year, but not this year.
Singlish: I like this also wan.
American English: I like this too.
Singlish: You no like?
American English: You don't like this?
These are very simple snippets, but ones that I hear almost everyday. I've learned that the Singlish sentence structure is like this because they've combined the structure of their native tongue (usually Mandarin) with the English words. That's why it comes out all jumbled to the American ear.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
A kelong is basically fishing hut that is either floating or on stilts just off the shore. There are not many left in Singapore as the fishing business has become more modernized.
Yet, the few traditional kelong fishermen left in Singapore live and work in these fishing huts. Some also host lunches and dinners at the kelong for those who want to dine on the freshest seafood in Singapore.
That'd be us. We heard it'd be fun. And we brought along our family type people too.
Aaron was horrifi —uh —thrilled!
When we pulled up to the kelong, we saw Kujo here raising a ruckus from a rusty chain.
Aaron goes, "Oh God. That's lunch, isn't it?"
My husband is such an optimist sometimes.
Actually, the kelong housed many nets that held the catch of that day or week. That was lunch.
I only walked around the kelong for a minute to take the needed photos for proof that I was there. Here's why:
I wasn't all that confident that my flip flop wouldn't go right through these planks. They weren't lookin' too sturdy.
The kelong was set up for all twenty of us to eat around two tables. It took up most of the outdoor living area, leaving only the walkways and fishing nets clear.
Here is the owner/chef preparing our vegetables.
In Singapore, they refer to leafy greens as vegetables and often cook them in a sauce. Americans would usually put these in a salad and eat them smothered in Ranch dressing without cooking them. It took some getting used to, but I like them either way now.
I've expanded my veggie horizons. Mostly out of fear of starvation.
P.S. I have no idea how Chef Dude doesn't have a million splinters in his feet since he walks around the place barefoot. Calluses of steel? Sorry. That's gross of me to say.
Here are some of the dishes that were served. Ignore the chicken dish. Sometimes Americans just need a seafood buffer.
It was a perfect December day in Singapore. We lucked out and didn't get a drop of rain while we were cast away.
We were out on the kelong for almost three hours. They allowed us to bring our own beer, wine, soda and water for the luncheon.
After about an hour of gulping down wine and beer, we discovered a problem.
This was the bathroom:
There's nothing like a hole in a bunch of decrepit planks over the ocean.
The beverages flowed a lot slower for the ladies upon this little discovery.
I still don't understand the physics of that whole thing.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
That's why when I saw this little ray of sunshine, I felt a little less nervous.
There IS a place out there just waiting for me to join the ensemble of awesomeness.
Now if only I could just figure out what company these people work for.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Ok, not really.
They look nothing alike, but their baking abilities mirror each other to a "T". So for that, I've crowned my friend Sandra as the Martha of Singapore.
In her kitchen, she makes everything from scratch. Everything. No joke. Cans and mixes do not live in Sandra's pantry. She also only uses fresh ingredients. It's equal parts impressive and intimidating to the girl whose favorite cookies involve a cake mix and take less than thirty minutes.
So when Sandra invited me to help her make her signature pineapple tarts for Christmas this year, I jumped at the chance. I desperately needed to expand my cooking horizons.
She was even kind enough to make the whole day a learning experience for me and allow room for me to potentially mess up her Christmas tradition.
She's a sweet-tart. (Ha ha, get it? Lame? Ah-hem. Sorry.)
To start, we had to make pastry dough. Now, I'm a "run to the store and buy the pre-made, refrigerated dough" kind of girl. This whole "make dough from scratch" world got me a little anxious.
Sandra called me silly and handed me the ingredients anyway.
So with a bag of flour and two blocks of butter, I dove in. She told me to put everything in a bowl and just mix it with my hands until it was dough. Easy enough.
This is what I came up with:
(Oh and by the way, some of these pictures are blurry because I was taking pictures with dough covered fingers.)
So yeah. You see that mess all over the counter? That's how good I was at that task. I also had a flour and dough covered gut from leaning against the counter. It was a beautiful site.
Then, the expert, meaning "Martha", took over to roll out the dough cuz I was sure I wouldn't do it right.
Next was the pressing stage of the lesson. To make the tart base, we used a plastic press to push the dough into a mini tart-like shape.
Sandra demonstrated it for me first.
Then I tried.
The two at the top are hers. The two at the bottom are mine.
I was fired.
So I tried a new job.
I, instead, took the tart bases (pressed by Sandra) and filled them with pineapple jam.
Sandra makes her own pineapple jam from fresh pineapples that she gets from the wet market. I missed that part of the tart making lesson because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Here's the jam:
It smelled amazing. I really wanted to eat the jam with a spoon. But I didn't. Sandra already thinks I'm weird. I didn't need to give her more reasons to think so. Plus, I'd already been fired from one task, I didn't need to put my other job in jeopardy.
So I just kept to putting the jam in the tarts — instead of my mouth.
Then after I filled over 50 mini tarts, it was time to brush them with Sandra's special egg wash.
I've only ever used egg whites for an egg wash, but Sandra uses the yolks mixed with a bit of butter. She said it gives the tarts a nice color.
Since I don't know anything, I just did what I was told.
She was right. The wash gave them a really pretty golden color and made them look so scrumptious.
They were like a party in my mouth. The pastry part is the perfect blend of crusty and buttery while the fruit is sweet and tart. We both ate way more than I'd admit on the internet.
And then she sent me home with more.
I've since had to ration it out and put some in the freezer to keep my butt in the same size jeans. That won't last long though. Those tarts are still calling to me.
Those suckers are addictive. There needs to be a 12 step program to get off of the tarts.
So I declare my first Singaporean cooking experience a success.
Just don't ask "Martha". I'm sure I messed up a bunch of things.
But she'd never admit it. She's way nicer than the real Martha.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
It made me laugh out loud, right there at the mailbox.
"Long Queues mean Great Deals". That's the exact opposite of what my American brain thinks.
(Oh and for the Americans just joining us, a queue is the British word for "line", as in waiting in line).
In my own American terms, it means "Wait two hours in line to pay the same price or much more than what you'd pay back home for your Christmas gifts."
It's not their fault though. Singapore is a smooshed country. It's the second most populated country behind Monaco. Lines and queues are inevitable. Even if they put seven outlets of the same store in a mall, there'd still be a line. There's just too many people on the island.
As an American, we're brought up in a world where lines indicate that an establishment or employee isn't doing their job. Customer satisfaction is the first priority and having a customer wait more than five minutes to give you his or her money is just unheard of. Why should you have to be inconvenienced to give a certain store business? You could take your money elsewhere and not wait in line.
At least that's the American line of thinking.
So when I see that a mall is boasting about their long queues, I immediately take note to not go there and order online instead.
I'm sorry, I'm a spoiled American brat who has better things to do than wait in a line.
And I like it that way.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Back then, I mimicked her every move. I listened to the same music she did. I watched the same TV shows that she did. I even played in her room when she was at school just so I could be around all of her "cool" stuff.
All of this resulted in a five year-old girl who watched 90210 in her hand-me-down New Kids on the Block t-shirt and got repeatedly locked out of her teenage sister's room.
It didn't matter. My big sister was the coolest person on Earth and I wanted to be as pretty and grown-up as she was.
She taught me all of the important things in life: how to curl my hair, mix cookie dough in the living room, eat soup out of a mug, tell the "My name is Chubby" joke and countless other valuable lessons.
I can still remember crying on my bedroom floor the day after she moved away to college. It was the first time I had ever experienced what it felt like to genuinely miss someone. My little heart ached, I missed her so much.
Twenty years later, I am thousands of miles away and again, I miss my sister.
Today is her 35th birthday. She has become an even more amazing woman than the teenage girl I followed around.
She's now a loving wife, a caring nurse and an amazing mother. She cooks the best food, arranges the cutest wedding and baby showers, gives the best speeches, and teaches me everyday how to be a better person.
She's the best example of everything I strive to be as I enter each stage of my life. I look up to her now just like I did then.
(Only now she has better taste in music, hair styles and TV.)
Happy birthday Cori. I'm so glad you're my sister.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
But let's not lose our heads in all the Holiday twinkly lights and glitter.
(This post won't seem extremely relevant to the Singaporean readers out there, but it may provide some insight into the world of American restaurants should you find yourself visiting anytime in the next ten years.)
In Singapore, tipping isn't quite the standard practice that it is in the States. Here, a ten percent gratuity charge is added to every bill. In most cases, that gratuity is then given to the establishment who then divides it evenly among the servers. (This is what was told to us by a local server, if you are a server in a restaurant that doesn't do this, please share!) The point being, tipping isn't the big deal it is in the States. The waiter or waitress is not expecting you to lay down 20% when you leave the table.
However, this is an entirely different ballgame in the States.
My husband and I were both servers in college. We've experienced this under appreciated job first hand. I even worked at four different establishments as I moved around the place during my studies.
It is hard work. It is stressful work. It is mind numbingly aggravating work at times too.
And people are rude.
I made a lot of friends with my coworkers over the years and I heard just about every one of them say at some point, "It should be a law that you must have worked as a server before you're allowed to go to a restaurant."
Servers are the lowest paid workers in the United States according to their base pay. Servers make a measly $2.13 an hour (at least this was the case when I was a server). The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Yeah, big difference.
So when you go into a restaurant with your three friends, order water and an appetizer to share, we hate you. Your bill will usually only be about $12 and you'll leave us about $2. So that hour or 45 minutes that we refilled your waters, delivered your food and cleared your plates only earned us less than five bucks.
Now I'm not saying that you should have to order things you don't want or needlessly overtip, but do keep in mind that the people busting their butt to keep you happy for one measly meal are also trying to buy presents for their nieces, cousins, brothers and so on.
I think there's a lot of things about the restaurant industry that people don't know. That's why when I ran across this article on Reader'sDigest.com, I really wanted to post it to the blog. I think a lot of people are clueless as to what really goes on and what goes through the minds of the people at the local Applebee's or Chili's.
So in addition to the list of 30 waiter secrets listed in the above article, Aaron and I have come up with an additional five.
5 Things Restaurant Diners Should Always Remember
5. You are not the only person in the restaurant that your waiter or waitress is tending to. Most servers have between 4 and 5 tables that they are serving at any given time. If all of those tables are full, that's approximately 18-25 people in his or her section. Not only are they fulfulling the request of each of these people including your own, they probably are having to do other remedial tasks such as make salads, drinks and run other people's food. So when you wonder why your cup of ranch dressing doesn't magically appear in 30 seconds, it isn't because he or she is a crappy server. To avoid this, try ordering your dressing with your food if you require extra. That way the server can make a note of it on the computer and someone else can bring it out with your food.
4. The nicer you are to your server, the more time they will focus directly on you. If you make an effort to make small talk, learn his or her name or genuinely act like a nice human being, your server will more than make it up to you. Your food will come out faster, with less errors and have any special requests met to a "T". Just by doing those simple things, you will then stick out in his or her mind, thus making your server want to make you have the best meal of your life. You'd be surprised just how many people are naturally rude. A simple kind word will do wonders in a restaurant.
3. Yeah, the tips can be great. If you're good at your job, you can make a killing in tips. This is what most people think happens to every server. However, most of us only have a great night about one or two days a week (and that's only if we get the good sections). On the other days, servers work long hours with few tables and a lot of crappy sidework. They have to do stuff like rolling silverware, refilling salad dressing containers, dusting table ledges, windexing windows and restocking cups. The majority of this work is done when the server has zero tables. That means they do this work for their measly $2.13. So really, when you figure it all together, the couple hundred they made on the weekend just made up for the $30 they made for working 10 hours the previous Tuesday.
2. We're not your babysitter or your kid's maid. One time when I was working in a pizza restaurant, a huge family came in with 15 children under the age of 10. Once the adults got situated with their beers and conversation, they allowed all of their children to proceed in a restaurant-wide game of hide and seek. While we were trying to serve other customers, these children were running around, hiding under tables and almost knocking people over. Not only were the other customers pissed, but some people almost got hurt. The parents then got irritated with us when we told their children to stop. Seriously, that happened. Also, when you forget your baby's toys to keep him occupied, it is never OK to let your baby play with the sugar caddy and rip open every packet of sugar onto the table for us to clean up later.
1. Fifteen percent is a crappy tip. No joking. Also, 10% is an embarassing tip (unless your server was the worst you've ever had). For good to decent service, 20% is the standard. For excellent service, 25 to 30% is great. Servers work hard to make sure that one meal in your lifetime is perfect. If it's not, they stress about it, freak out on people and yell at cooks. They're the one batting for you and the ones who will beg the manager to comp your meal just to appease you. It's a shameless job. Reward them for it. They'll remember you the next time you come in and automatically work even harder to keep you happy.
*Amendment* We forgot one very important thing.
1a. NEVER go to a restaurant that closes within 30 minutes. The cooks are trying to close down the grill. The servers are tired and trying to clean up the place to get out of there at a decent hour. When you walk in at 15 minutes till close, you anger the entire restaurant. Ever wonder if you've eaten someone's saliva in your food? If you've broken this rule, chances are, you have. Seriously, don't do this. You're better off at McDonald's 24 hr drivethru.
So when you are beyond cranky from the crowds of other cranky shoppers, don't take it out on the person serving you your lunch. Their job isn't as easy as it looks and they've probably had a far worse day than you. They have to deal with jerks everyday, not just during the holidays.
On top of that, you should NEVER mess with the people that touch your food.
Have you seen the movie Waiting? There wouldn't be a movie about it if it wasn't true.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Then, I did move away. I moved probably about as far away as I could physically go. I moved to the opposite side of the globe.
For that I'm extremely thankful...but not in the way you'd think.
You see, it took me moving this far away to realize that that boring little place called Kansas is exactly where I belong. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to spit that I got to have this amazing experience. I'm just a Kansas girl at heart. It's were I'm supposed to be.
So my last list of thanksies are the things that make me thankful to be from the State of Kansas.
5 Thanksies of a Kansas Gal
5. Barbeque. Kansas City is the one of the BBQ capitals of the world and I had no idea how much I loved it and took it for granted until I came over here.
You just can't beat the combination of smokiness, caramelized sugar and tang that the Kansas City people do. It's unmatchable.
4. Going to the lake.
This is Aaron's gorgeous sister Jessica and I on their boat at Lake Perry. Our family absolutely loves trips to the lake. Usually, we just go to Lake Perry, but occasionally some of us may make the trip down to the Ozarks for a long weekend. It doesn't matter which lake it is. There just needs to be water and some brews in a cooler. It's the best way to spend a hot day in July.
3. Being a Jayhawk.
Long before I attended the University of Kansas, I was a jayhawk. My dad taught me the Rock Chalk Chant as soon as I could speak. During the Big Twelve tournament every year, he'd let us skip school one day and go watch the team practice at Kemper Arena. He took me to my first basketball game in Allen Fieldhouse when I was a junior in high school. When most girls were crushing on Jonathan Taylor Thomas, I was crushing on Ryan Robertson, Scott Pollard and Jacque Vaughn. I was a jayhawk long before I was officially a jayhawk. It's a great university, an awesome fan community and glorious basketball team. (We just won't talk about the football team this year.)
2. Wide open spaces.
This is the view from my in-laws' back door. I love it. In the fall, the trees are beyond pretty. Just a few years ago, I hated the huge expanses of nothingness. To me, it just meant that I was missing out on all of the things that people in big cities enjoyed. Now that I've lived in one of the most densely populated countries in the world, the nothingness seems very appealing.
1. These people.
This is my family. Of course, this photo is a bit outdated. I think that's my 5th grade self standing in the back there. I love these people. We're also super close. Since this picture was taken, we've added five spouses, five babies and have two more on the way. They are the main strings pulling at my heart to come back to Kansas. I'm a very lucky girl to have them. I'm also a very lucky girl to be a part of another wonderful family that belongs to my husband. If I had a picture of all of them together, it'd be on here too. I miss them all like crazy.
So after this whole Singapore thing is said and done, I'm going back to Kansas.
I'll bring Aaron with me too. :)
Thursday, November 26, 2009
So now we can eat, eat some more and then take a nap.
For Aaron and me, this was a busy day. We cooked from 8am until 2pm. Our kitchen was scorching hot by the time we finished (Most Singaporean kitchens do not have air conditioning, ours is one of those).
So since we were missing about 60 of our relatives, our thanksie list for today is going to focus on what we were did have with us today.
5 Thanksies for Thanksgiving Day in Singapore
5. Pumpkin pie.
I could only find the large, double-sized cans of pumpkin puree here in Singapore so I had to make two pies. It's ok. That just means two times the fun. BUT, the frozen pie crusts I found were way too small for the recipe. Therefore I overfilled the pies to keep from having to throw out a whole pie's worth of filling. (That's why they look a lil' burnt and strange.) Oh well, Thanksgiving cannot be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie and Cool Whip.
We were lucky to get turkeys at the Navy Exchange for fairly cheap. Out in town they're selling 10 pound turkeys for S$43. Yeah, that's so not happening at our house. We don't pay that much for turkey. However, if there were a turkey famine on Thanksgiving, I might cave. My absolute favorite thing about the actual holiday is having the entire house smell like roasted turkey. It reminds me of when I was a kid and waking up to the smell of turkey on Thanksgiving. I'd always hurry downstairs and hover over the stove until it was time to carve it. My dad would let me "assist" him in this carving process, which really meant that I could stand there and he'd give me small pieces of turkey when my mom wasn't looking. He's a good dad like that.
3. Homemade dinner rolls.
After finding out that the only dinner rolls they had in the grocery store near our house were either vanilla flavored or filled with beans and corn, I took matters into my own hands. The Pioneer Woman has a wonderful recipe for dinner rolls that looked easy enough for me to do alone. It took me a bit to do, but it was so worth it. They are delicious. Plus, homemade dinner rolls also make your house smell amazing. I may make these periodically just to make my house smell like that again.
2. Hungarian wine.
My big brother and his adorable wife from Hungary gave us this bottle of wine the last time we went home for a visit. They got it when they visited her parents two summers ago. We've been saving it for a special occasion and picked today as the day. It was deliciously sweet and the perfect treat for our Thanksgiving lunch/dinner. Thank you Mat and Imola!
1. This guy right here.
My biggest thanksie of the day is my husband Aaron. He's the funniest, sweetest, most interesting person I know. He's my favorite person in the whole world and the one that I'm thrilled to pieces to be attached to for the rest of my Thanksgivings. I thank God everyday that he's my husband. I'm such a lucky girl.
Happy Thankgiving to all of the Americans out there. I hope your Turkey Day was as delicious and great as ours was.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Fast forward to May 2008.
And take away everything that I've ever used to get ready in the morning, everything that I've ever watched on TV and my dear sweet junker of a car.
Add in a heavy dose of heat and humidity, a TV that plays shows that are at least three years old, and a transportation system consisting of walking, riding, standing, squeezing and shoving.
That's the recipe of a life that I was faced with when I stepped off the plane.
It was way more difficult than I anticipated. I mean really, how often do you think about things like the kind of hairspray that you use? Or the kind of makeup that you wear? Or the fact that you won't be able to find any of it again in a store for 2-3 years?
I sure didn't before. But I sure do now.
My thanksie list today consists of all of the products that I cannot live without in Singapore. And I mean CANNOT live without.
5 Thanksies for 5 Amazing Products for Expats in SG
5. Bags. I'm talking totes, reusable grocery bags, duffel bags, laundry bags, shopping bags, canvas bags and backpacks. Any kind of bag that is made is on my list. I've never appreciated a bag so much in my life. As a resident in Singapore without a car, a bag is a must. I don't have that luxurious hunk of metal and plastic to house all of my stuff, like I did back in the States. I have to carry everything I need for that entire day with me all the way to where ever I'm going. After a while, I even converted my laptop bag into an extra large purse just to be able to carry everything I need. It's now falling apart from over usage. I need a new, bigger and better bag. Seriously, I'm obsessed with bags now. I couldn't have cared less as a Kansas resident.
4. Too Faced Shadow Insurance. Singapore melts many things. It melts ice cream on the walk home from the store. It melts a chocolate bar left in a laptop bag at a picnic. It also melts makeup in a way that I was not prepared for, especially eye makeup. You see, I've always had very dry skin and never even understood what people were talking about when they said that their makeup kept "sliding" off. I'd never experienced such a phenomenon. Well Singapore sure taught me that lesson. Makeup simply will not stay on my face here for an entire day. The humidity and heat slick it right off before noon. That is until I found Shadow Insurance at Sephora. I just put a dap of this stuff on my eyelids before I put on eyeshadow and it's like magic. The makeup will NOT move until I take it off with soap and water. It even stays on overnight if I forget to wash my face. It's amazing and worth every penny.
3. PHYTO's Phytodefrisant Hair Relaxing Balm. If the humidity here can do such mean things to makeup, you can't only imagine what it will do to hair. Phytodefrisant is like an imaginary shield to this steamy climate. Without it, my hair turns into a giant red afro that resembles a clown wig. With it, my 'do lays almost as if the humidity did not exist. Almost. This stuff is awesome and the best weapon against the weather that I've found. Occasionally I can find it in John Little, a Singaporean department store, but more often than not, I have to order it from Amazon.com or Drugstore.com.
2. Slingbox. A Slingbox is a magical little box that enables you to connect to your home's cable connection from anywhere in the world via an internet connection. In simpler terms, it means that we can watch television being broadcast from Kansas all the way in Singapore on our computer. When you get a Slingbox, you can also watch your cable TV from your phone, laptop or international location as long as you are connected to the internet and have the proper software installed. I heart it a lot. Singaporean TV isn't horrible, but it isn't good either. They show a lot of American shows, but they are usually a few years old. So when we need a good TV fix, we just hop on the computer and catch up on our favorite shows as they're being aired from Kansas.
1. Skype. Hands down, best invention ever for people who travel or live abroad. With Skype, we can make calls to anywhere in the world with our computer. We can call landline phones, cell phones and other computers that have Skype installed on them. We've even set up our account with a local Kansas City phone number so that people can call our computer from any phone without being charged a long distance rate. AND! If we ever miss a call, we've set it up to transfer to our Singapore home phone so that we can take a message. It's been a real life saver. Before we discovered Skype, Aaron and I were spending about $50-60 a month in calling cards. It sucked. Now, we only pay $5 a month and that's solely just to have our local number. The Skype service alone is free. It's made living so far away a lot easier.
Without all of these products, living in Singapore would be ten times harder for the kids from Kansas.
Oh and should probably add one more thanksie: I'm thankful to Amazon.com and Drugstore.com for always shipping us our goodies.
(P.S. As I've said before, no one pays me to say nice things about their company. I say them if the company is deserving. So everything above is my real, honest, true to goodness opinion.)
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Today I'd like to give thanks for the lovely internet websites that make my world keep turning in the correct direction as I live on the opposite side that I'm used to. These sites are what keep me in tune to my American peeps back home.
Here we go:
5 Thanksies for These Amazing Websites
5. ThePioneerWoman.com Seriously, I love this site. It's written by a woman named Ree Drummond who lives in Oklahoma and is one of the most interesting bloggers ever. She covers a broad range of topics such as photography, recipes, ranch life, Christmas gift ideas and homeschooling. It is because of this woman that my husband started to actually like the food that I cooked. Her recipes are phenomenal. It's also so refreshing to see pictures on her site that look just like home. She photographs cows, horses and the midwestern landscape. She even does tutorials on photography and photoshop. It's just a great, fun site. I'm so sad I wasn't home when she came to Kansas City last week on her cookbook tour. I'd love to meet her.
4. Twitter.com It took me a while to get into this one. Mostly I blame my stupid phone which is not internet compatible. Furthermore, for me to connect, I must SMS Great Britain...which doesn't sound like such a great idea for my bill. They already charge me for stupid things I don't want. However, Twitter is a great source of quick information and up-to-the-minute news. Newspapers, magazines, celebrities, news channels and random "tweeters" are on and constantly posting updates. I hear it's also a great way to find out about discounts and specials at stores and restaurants. I wouldn't know though. I live in Singapore. I'm lucky if places here even have a website. A Twitter account would be asking too much.
3. Digg.com Digg is a website in which people sign in and "digg" certain online articles, videos, photos and such. When someone "diggs" something, it keeps a tally. I then go onto Digg's site and check the most "digged" items in the last 24 hrs. It will then bring up the most popular items in the last day. It's the best way to find out about viral videos, interesting news items and just what people are talking about everywhere. I hate feeling left out and Digg helps with my issues.
2. Google.com Really though, how did the world function without Google? I Google at least ten things a day. It's so second nature to me that I have a Google search bar at the top of my browser. As an American girl in Singapore I Google the same questions a lot, such as: "How many milliliters are in a cup?", "What is 350 degrees F in celsius?" and "How many pounds are in 500 grams?". Google has saved our dinner many an evening. It's really an expat's best friend.
1. Facebook.com I literally could not function if Facebook crashed tomorrow. It. Is. My. Lifeline. Because of the time difference and limitations in people's Skype abilities, it is often times the only way I get to hear from my sister, my best friend and all of the important people back home. It's how we get to see how big my brand new niece is getting, how much fun our nephew's 4th birthday party was and how cute my BFF's new hairdo is. These are people that I used to see on a weekly basis. Now we don't see them for six months at a time. It has become an absolute necessity. And now that my two big brothers have both joined, I'm beyond pumped.
So to conclude this list, I'd like to extend a thanks to the internet people out there who create, maintain and put together these wonderful sites. They have made my life a lot easier and happier.
For that, I am very thankful.
Monday, November 23, 2009
So since I can't be there with my family again this year, I'm going to make up for lost "thanksies" -yeah, that's my word.
I'm going to do a 5 Days of 5 Thanksies. Each day I'm going to list five things I'm thankful for. Why five? It just sounded like a good round number.
Today, I'd like to address our life in Asia. I don't hide the fact that I'm crazy homesick and I long for the day that I can eat a Cheesy Gordita Crunch again, but I think I dwell on it far too much. To force myself out of this mode, I need to remember the many positive things I've gained from living on this small island.
Thus, my first list is dedicated to Singapore.
5 Thanksies as a Singaporean Expat
5. Mastering the art of driving on the wrong side of the road...and car. Not many people can claim that they've driven on both sides of the automobile and I think it's an awesome random fact for future ice breaking opportunities. (i.e. "Please tell us your name and one random fact about yourself", "Hi, I'm Megan and I've driven on both sides of the road and car.")
4. An appreciation for decent rice. I'm sorry to tell you this, but Uncle Ben doesn't know squat about rice. In fact, most American rice is just plain gross. It has no taste, is hard and is beyond boring. In Asia, rice is a very important part of every meal and they do not mess around with the quality. They appreciate the flavor (and yes, good rice has that), texture and grain size. There's a type for every dish and several different kinds. This was an excellent lesson to learn. We will never buy Uncle Ben again...unless it's an emergency.
3. The introduction to Indian food. Before we came to Asia, Aaron and I were terrified to touch Indian food with a ten foot pole. We both saw the scene from Along Came Polly and we never wanted to have an incident such as that. I'm so glad we got brave over here. Indian food is now my second favorite food (right behind Mexican). I now constantly crave prata, naan, briyani, mutton curry and just about every other Indian item that's ever been put on my plate. It's delicious.
2. Exposure to such a wide array of cultures, people and traditions. We have both learned more in the last couple years than we ever learned in our many years of schooling. From weird things such as using urine as an eye healing remedy to surprising things such as finding a red envelope full of money in the mailbox at Chinese New Year, we've seen and heard a lot. We've been introduced to things that they don't write about in travel books and we'll come back with an education that we'll never even be able to fully describe to our friends and family. For the record, we did NOT adopt the urine remedy.
1. Learning to use chopsticks. As sad as that is, it is my favorite lesson of living in Asia. Aaron took me to a sushi restaurant in Lawrence, Kansas for our second or third date and the whole chopstick thing was a disaster. I could not figure the friggin' things out. I kept dropping the sushi or splitting it in half. It was messy and ugly. I had to end up using a fork...which is really embarrassing for me to admit. So yeah, I learned this lesson the first month we were here. In a lot of hawkers, a fork and spoon are not an option. You either learn to use the choppers or you starve. I'm now a black belt chopstick user. I can even eat rice with them. Booyah.
You're jealous, I know.
Except for you Singaporeans. You just think I'm weird.
Once again, I'm ok with that.
So that's today's list. Now I'm off to make the first dish of our solo Thanksgiving feast.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
If you're anything like me, you need all the ideas and help you can get. Also, if you're anything like me, you need all the ideas and help you can get as early as you can get them.
For those of us with family on the other side of the world, Christmas shopping happens ridiculously early. We started planning and budgeting in August.
We learned our lesson on that one. When living abroad, DO NOT wait until December to plan and purchase gifts for half a dozen nieces and nephews, two sets of parents, two grandmas, four gift exchange recipients and various friends.
It is not a fun way to spend Christmas Eve. "Have you gotten your box yet? It should be there by now! No? Look again!"
It's also not fun to be confined to your house for a month while you wait for a payday that won't go to bills and gifts.
So yeah. We're planners now.
Here's a great gift idea for those of you who are also planners, whether reformed or by your natural neuroses.
It's a photo book that I created and purchased from Shutterfly.com.
(By the way, I am in no way affiliated with Shutterfly. They did not pay me to write these things, nor did they bribe me with free stuff for doing so. Although, it'd be pretty sweet if they did. I just genuinely love them.)
Friday, November 13, 2009
We went to Quiznos on Wednesday. Yes, I'm aware that it has nothing to do with my Asian experience.
And I enjoyed every bite of it anyway.
This Quiznos is at the new-ish Orchard Central mall.
It's right next to the Carhatt store. How's that for a slap of home? It was like a shot of tequila to my homesickness.
The menu is a tad shortened, but we've grown accustomed to American things being scaled down in Asia.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
When Sandra, the Singaporean coworker of mine, sees weather like this, she excitedly goes to the window and says,
"Yay! I love this Christmas weather!"
And when she does that, I am always sitting in a state of confusion.
"Uh, no it isn't. That's rain, Sandra. Christmas weather is snow and cold."
Then she reminds me that she's from Singapore and the rainy season marks the beginning of the holiday season and that I'm from Kansas and don't know anything.
Ok. She's nicer than that, but I do forget that I was raised in a Christmas snow globe of a world sometimes.
Kansas Christmases are white and freezing and make me want my Grandma's hot cranberry tea, a cozy blanket and a fire in the fireplace.
They do not make me want my umbrella and a dry pair of pants.
I'm obviously still a work in progress. Singapore, I'll get it one of these days.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Because I love Adam Sandler...
Because everyone here skips Thanksgiving and goes right into Christmas...
Because I really needed some American festivities.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
In Asia, it is the custom for every person entering your home to first remove their shoes before walking through the door.
Simple, right? Ha, no. Aaron and I have a ridiculously hard time adhering to this one.
Yet everyone does it. EVERYONE.
The guys that moved our stuff into our apartment even removed their shoes. They would get a box from the truck, carry it up several flights of stairs, remove their shoes at our front door and then carry it to the desired room. Then on the way out the door, they'd put their shoes back on to grab the next box. It was a maddening thing to watch. How much of their day is wasted messing with their shoes? So after watching them fumble to remove their shoes while holding our heavy bedroom mattress, I finally had to stop the madness.
"Please just leave them on! I'll have to clean the floor anyway! It's fine, I swear."
They were very reluctant, but finally agreed that it'd be easier.
Yet, every maintenance guy that comes to our place refuses to keep his on. It's just not something they are equipped to do.
So fine. We got used to that part. And we got used to having to remove our shoes when we went to Simon's house or any other local's house.
What we do still have trouble with is our American friends.
It seems that every single American person we know in Singapore immediately picked up this Asian custom as soon as they stepped off the plane.
I cannot remember going to a single person's house in America where they made me take off my shoes before I was allowed to come inside. (That is, unless it was raining, snowing or muddy outside, but that's common decency.)
Seriously though. Why the flip as soon as we enter Asia? Are there shoe police somewhere that I don't know about? When did all of my American friends adopt this?
I have a real problem being barefoot in a stranger's house. It makes me feel very vulnerable. I even feel hesitant to remove my shoes when I'm getting a pedicure. I'm always thinking:
"Is their floor clean?"
"When was the last time they cleaned it?"
"Does anyone in this house have athlete's foot?" (call me crazy, but I got this once as a child from a gymnastics studio and that is a road that I NEVER want to travel down again)
"Am I going to step on anything?"
"Is my pedicure chipping?"
I know I have issues. I just don't feel comfortable being barefoot in someone's house that I don't know that well.
Aaron has issues with it as well, only his worries a different. He says that he's always thinking:
"Are my toenails dirty?"
"Do my socks match?"
"Are there holes in my socks?"
"Do my feet stink?"
Yeah, we're both a bunch of anxiety-ridden weirdos, I guess. Sometimes we just keep them on to see if we can avoid the whole thing and then feel like goobers when people send us back out to remove our shoes.
I've never told anyone this, but each time I remove my shoes, the scene from SATC always plays through my head.
I too, always want to exclaim "But this is an outfit!"
But really, if my shoes ever get stolen, I will never take them off again.
Not that I have any worthy of stealing, but still.
Monday, November 2, 2009
My sis mailed us the costumes for our superhero themed party and we had so much fun with them, that we just wore them to everything, all weekend.
Don't worry Sis, they're still in one piece and unscathed. :)
One thing that surprised us though was just how many people asked to have their pictures taken with us. I'm not even talking about at the parties we went to, we kept getting stopped by Singaporeans walking along the street. We probably got stopped by at least eight random strangers to have our pictures taken as we were walking to our numerous destinations.
The conversations usually went as such:
"Uh sah, can I take a photo?"
"Sure. Why not."
"Oh great. Mr. and Mrs. Superman."
"Uh no, but sure. Whatever you wanna call us."
Several people said this. Now, I know The Incredibles is an American movie, but come onnnnn people. I know Singapore has at least been exposed to it.
For the locals that were this clueless, I'm sure they didn't even know we were celebrating Halloween. To them we're just the freaks walking around like super heroes.
I'm alright with that.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The one on the left was bought in the United States. The one on the right was bought in Singapore.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding this food additive and I'll be honest and say that I never really paid that much attention...
Until I moved to Asia.
Ever since we moved to Singapore, I get frequent headaches that seem to come out of nowhere. It's not because I don't drink enough water and it's not because I'm outside in the heat. I get them while typing at my desk in my air conditioned office while drinking a liter of water. I also get them while riding on the MRT in the middle of the day. I could not find a common link to solve the headache puzzle.
After months of this, someone told me that it's probably all of the MSG I'm eating in the food over here.
Like every paranoid American, I hopped on the Internet to Google it.
There, I found this website called MSGtruth.org. It's full of information about what it is, why it's used, what it does to your body and what it could potentially do. It was enough to make me uneasy.
Here's some snippets:
- MSG tricks your tongue into making you think a certain food is high in protein and thus nutritious. It is not a "meat tenderizer". It is not a "preservative". The food industry is trying to confuse the issue by focusing on the "fifth" taste sense they call umami. Free glutamic acid is detected by the taste buds as a simple way to signal the presence of protein in a food, just as there are fat receptors to detect fats and receptors that sense carbohydrate or sweet flavors. The purpose is to help us discern real food from inedible matter. It changes your perception of not simply taste but the nutritious qualities of what you put into your mouth. However, and here is the main problem with free glutamic acid - It is the very same neurotransmitter that your brain and many organs including your ears, eyes, nervous system and pancreas in your body use to initiate certain processes in your body.
- MSG stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. So many diets these days are concerned about the Glycemic Index of foods and yet none of them address the fact that MSG and free glutamic acid stimulate the pancreas to release insulin when there doesn't even have to be carbohydrates in the food for that insulin to act on. The food industry has found their own "anti-appetite suppressant". It's a convenient way to keep consumers coming back for more. The blood sugar drops because of the insulin flood. And you are hungry an hour later. Sound familiar?
But seriously, food shouldn't make you feel that way. Food is supposed to be filling. It's supposed to satisfy hunger, not antagonize it!
So after all this research is when I decided to search our cabinets and found the container of Accent. I had no idea that it was straight MSG. That makes me feel really good about all of those dinners of canned green beans that we douse in chemicals.
Aaron and I didn't stop the search there though. We rummaged through our entire pantry. You know what we found?
ALL OF OUR FAVORITE FOODS HAVE MSG.
Every bottle of Ranch dressing. Every package of Jalapeno Ranch Chips. Every granule of Parmesan cheese. Every Dorito chip. Every container of Lawry's Seasoning Salt.
It was one of the saddest and most guilt-ridden days of my life.
That is when it dawned on me.
I've been eating these MSG laced foods my ENTIRE life. Nothing bad has happened to me yet (that I know of). How can they prove that MSG is the thing making my head hurt?
I lived on Doritos and Ranch dressing for the entirety of high school. I don't ever remember getting a head ache. (A stomach ache and huge love handles is what I should've had. Yet, those gems did finally arrive later.)
So I think I'm over it. I do still think that they put a lot more MSG in Chinese-style foods and I am going to make a conscious effort to not to eat those as much. But really, it'd be near impossible to avoid it all the time.
Plus, I really like Ranch dressing too much to let it go.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
But it is at our house.
Aaron's (aka my newly adopted) Aunt Debbie sent us a yummy sounding recipe for pumpkin soup the other day and we just couldn't get it out of our heads.
So a week and four ransacked grocery stores later, I finally had all of the ingredients to make it. I'm getting better at this. When all other grocery stores fail, always go to Jason's Marketplace. They always have crazy expat stuff like canned pumpkin puree. I grabbed two big cans...because that's all they had. Go big or go home. So I figured I have one for our upcoming, mandatory Thanksgiving pies and one big can for our soup.
Have you ever had pumpkin soup? I know it sounds weird at first, but give it a go. It's surprisingly delicious. We had ours with sour cream and bacon on top.
Bippity boppity BACON. Just cuz it goes with everything.
Yes it does. Don't argue with me.
Oh and the Shiner Bock? It's just there because it needed it's picture taken. We never see Texas beer 'round these parts.
We always get pretty excited when Midwestern things find us in Asia.
Monday, October 26, 2009
It controls whether I blow dry my hair, get to play Wii, use 99% of my kitchen appliances or get to use my computer at all.
It is the magic box that converts the British system of 220V electricity to our modest US system of 110V electricity. It is my favorite thing in our Singaporean house.
Without it, I would cry. A lot.
We have about six of these magical boxes in our home. For two kids from Kansas who never planned to live abroad, that means that we have six plug-ins in our entire house.
Yeah. Imagine living like that.
Because we have only five items that are made for Singaporean outlets/voltage systems, this means most all of our stuff is for US voltage systems. That was a fun realization. The five things we finally cracked down and bought were the only items we couldn't get around not re-buying upon our move here. There are just some things that aren't meant to be plugged into an inverter.
A hair straightener is one of them. Hair straighteners get really pissy when you plug them into an electricity inverter. I learned that the hard way when I came to visit. My hair was not anywhere close to straight that whole month.
So anyways, this is a post merely to thank Uncle Sam for giving us inverters. I tend to be a little hard on Uncle Sam sometimes.
And sometimes I'm sorry.
Not so much today, but some other times I am.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
One of the most shocking being this:
One of my work buddies has had his Christmas decorations up for almost two months now.
Yeah. Jumping the gun a bit, huh?
Actually no. You see, he's married to a Filipina and in the Philippines the Christmas season begins very early compared to the American custom. His family puts up the decor at the beginning of the "-ber" months. So the tree goes up in September and stays up throughout October, November and December.
I also found this article here that says some Filipinos even start the festivities before that. In fact, the Philippines are said to have the longest Christmas season in the world.
Can you imagine the sheer torture those poor children have to endure? When I was a kid, just the length of time between my birthday and Christmas was painful (it's really only 11 days. Yes, I was a dramatic child). That was nothing. These kids have to worry about making the naughty list for four agonizing months.
Then again, I could go for some Christmas lights for that long. Christmas lights make me giddy like a 7-year-old hopped up on sugar. When I'm in Kansas, I force the people I love to drive me around for hours just so I can look at them.
In Singapore, they light up the entire stretch of Orchard Road. It's just crazy awesome. I love how festive the whole atmosphere is.
Singaporeans too, start Christmas very early. Sandra, my good friend and one of the mystery coworkers that I'm always talking about, told me today that she puts up her tree in early November. She says that she likes to enjoy it as long as she can.
I can relate to that. We often don't take our tree down until February....because we want to enjoy it longer. Not because we're lazy. No, definitely not because of that. We like prolonging the joyful Christmas spirit into Valentine's Day. Yep.
But really though, if we didn't have these "buffer" holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving, wouldn't we be putting up the tree a little sooner too? It's only weird to put it up now because it's like "Hey! You skipped Halloween!" or "Hey! We haven't had turkey yet!"
Everyone who's not a freak loves Christmas. Who wouldn't love to enjoy some twinkly lights for a few more days?
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I just wanted to give you a pat on the back and say thanks for proving that people in the US aren't self-absorbed idiots with little regard for the rest of the world...like so many people in the rest of the world already believe.
I refer to this article here.
I'm guessing that since it was on the Idol Chatter page, that one of your high school interns probably wrote it. That could be the only logical explanation for your lack of editing or fact checking.
Referring to Singapore as a city in Malaysia not only makes your paper look ridiculously idiotic, but it also proves the care in which you take in reporting factual information. Whether it be about entertainment issues or not. Don't you have a map or better yet, access to Google?
The people here in Singapore that saw that article were more than a little peeved. It'd be like calling Lawrence a town in Missouri or Columbia a place in Kansas. (This is just to put it in perspective for my jayhawkers out there.)
So thanks for making the Americans look stupid again. We've needed a lot more help since Bush left office.
The American girl in Singapore
**UPDATE - The article has been edited to properly show that Singapore is not in Malaysia. So if you're going there to see what they messed up, you won't see it now. Thanks USA Today for correcting your error. I'm still a lil mad at you though.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Isn't it gorgeous? I love that hotel.
We had a blast and I finally took pictures to prove it.
I forgot last year. Wine does that to my brain sometimes.
I'll post some more later, but I need a nap right now. We got home waaaay after our 9 o'clock bedtime. Singapore has made us into geezers that go to bed at unreasonable hours for 20 somethings.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
...because they don't make anything pumpkin-flavored to celebrate "fall".
...and because I needed an excuse to make homemade cream cheese frosting.
I think any of those excuses shall work.
Everyday is a good day when you get to eat cream cheese.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
And it never stops moving.
To maintain its foundation is the mixture of Asian and Western values which I think of as the door frame. These are what keep the nation in harmony. They anchor this revolving door and keep it from falling off it's hinges.
For example: New restaurants come in (i.e. Chili's) and the failed attempts go out (i.e. Taco Bell).
This is also the same for shops, companies, hair products and even Boston Baked Beans.
Yes. I was deeply upset about the sudden lack of my BBB's.
But back to what I was saying.
It's amazing to me just how fast and how often this little island reinvents itself. It's like it never sits still. I'm constantly being rerouted around construction sites around the entire country and I don't even recognize the area between the mainland and Sentosa anymore. It's changed dramatically in just the year and a half that I've lived here.
So when the gals at work sent me emails with pictures of the "old" Singapore. I was beyond intrigued. This place has changed so much more than I even thought. It doesn't even look like the same Asian city.
I've shared a few of these treasures with you below. Next to each one, I've attached the modern day equivalent. Some of the differences are so astounding that you can't even recognize it as the same space.
The Singapore River
The NCO Club (as it was referred to in the 1960s)
Eu Tong Sen Street
Clifford Pier (as it was referred to in the 1960s)
*Some of the buildings I've shown you have been placed on the historical registry (or the Singaporean equivalent) and are kept in their natural state. That's why a few aren't that different.
In all though, it's amazing to me just how much Singapore has evolved in the mere 44 years that it's been an independent country. It went from jungle to metropolis in an astounding amount of time. Most countries take hundreds of years to build themselves into what Singapore has become in just decades.
Pretty sweet, huh?