All posts by laurablinkman

Trailing spouse, American expatriate living in Singapore, mom of three teenagers, explorer, photographer & adventurer. Budding author documenting the days of our lives!

Coach-less in Singapore

One of our biggest fears and concerns about our two year stint here in Singapore was wrapped up around our swimming.

Maria has been swimming competitively since she was 9, and Shane and Cale since they were 8.

Cale holds the Minnesota state record for 9/10 year old boys short course 50 Backstroke, and Shane holds 13 Minnesota State records (two of which have been since broken), and several Central Zone records. They have put in hours and hours practicing, sacrificed weekends to swim meets.

HASA (Hudson Area Swim Association) has a dynamic swim coach duo, husband/wife team of Bob Young and Jen Ridge. We were so happy when they decided to move to Hudson Wisconsin to take over our team.

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They changed our little team in one short year, changing the workouts and adopting the USRPT method of the Andrew family. To say that the thought of leaving Coach Bob and Coach Jen was the hardest thing we had to do is an understatement. They are not only our coaches, but have become our family as well.

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For the last year we have trained under the famous David Lim and Swimfast Aquatic Club, but we have recently made the tough decision to leave the team and go independent. We are coach-less.

Since August, Shane and Cale have been training independently, using a workout that is emailed to us daily by Coach Bob. We have a wonderful training pool that we go to, and the boys have found their own motivation and discipline to push themselves. It’s remarkable really, to see these two young boys work so hard without a coach to push them.

To keep their technique in line, we use a device called Blue Core Swim.

Maria no longer swims competitively. She didn’t have a great experience with the high school program at the Singapore American School, and has decided not to swim this season, her sophomore year. I think that when we get back to the states and our coaches that she will get back into the water. For now, she comes to the pool with us two or three times a week and works out with the boys. She is a huge distraction to the boys, with her silly conversations, jokes, and her contagious laughter and goofiness. That girl brings joy and sunshine everywhere she goes.

I am so proud of and impressed with my three kids. This transition to living in Asia, trying to navigate the swimming world here … well, they have really stepped up to the challenge. We have so much to be thankful for, so many blessings. But we just cannot wait to get back to Hudson to be with our coaches and get things back to normal for the kids and their swimming.

http://blucoreswim.com

http://www.HudsonSwimTeam.org

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Nikoi Island

Thursday and Friday with teacher inservice days? Yea! We needed to get out of here, so luckily, back in March I booked a four day get-away at Nikoi Island.

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Nikoi is a small Indonesian island, leased by three expat couples in 2004. They had a vision, and saw it though, and today, it’s booked months and months in advance. Back in March, when I started looking at the place, there was a cancellation and we got lucky that it worked for us … Must be my two gold Fortune Cats?

To get here, we took a ferry from Singapore to island Bintam, Indonesia. From there we had a nearly 2 hour car ride to the other side of the island, where we then took a fast boat to Nikoi Island. When I say the journey is part of the adventure, I am not kidding. When leaving Singapore, there was a sudden tropical storm, with heavy rain going sideways as we were getting on the ferry. The large boat was rocking back and forth, front to back, side to side, while tethered to the dock.

This girl gets car sick when going around a curve too fast, so this was not how I wanted to start off our holiday. I sat in my front row seat on the ferry, pressing on my pressure points on my wrists, watching other passengers try to navigate their way on to the boat, which was literally tossing people down the aisles. It was hard not to giggle, I had never seen anything like it!

But not long after, the blue skies came out, and after traveling only a few hours, we found ourselves on a nearly deserted island that was very much “Disney-like”. It was magical.

We had a two bedroom bungalow, right on the beach. No windows, no air con. We had the warm ocean breeze at night, mosquito netting, and the sound of the waves and far-off chatter of the local fisherman out on the sea.

Waking up in the morning, the view from our bed was something that we will never forget.

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We spent our days snorkeling in the crystal clear water, jumping on the water trampoline, kayaking, paddle boarding, and jumping off the pier. The boys went fishing for squid from a kayak at sunset with Boyan, one of the locals who work on Nikoi. Cale and I saw a tuna darting into the shallow water (about 15 feet) from the drop off into the deep water, where it plummeted down to nearly 100 feet. That was so exciting, to see the flash of silver as it darted by us.

But most exciting was when I was off snorkeling with Maria, and we saw a large squid! It was about the size of a beach ball … and in our books, that is HUGE!! Maria spotted it first, and terrified me with her horrendous scream that I heard from under the water. I thought the girl saw a shark, my heart was out of control, pounding so hard I could hardly breathe. In a quick moment we went from playing with little Nemo fish to chasing a large squid through the reefs. Our fun didn’t last too long, we had no idea that squid camouflage themselves!

When the tide went out, there were sea cucumbers everywhere! I have never seen one of these before, so of course I had to investigate, and I convinced Cale to pick one up. Almost immediately he was ‘slimed’ by the thing, which was super gross, but totally cool at the same time.

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I have been told by my friend Wayan in Bali that these sea cucumbers are very expensive at fine restaurants. There is nothing you could do to get me to eat one of these, let alone pay loads of money to have it served up to me. No thank you.

Here is Cale on his first attempt to pick up a sea cucumber. This video is so funny, because I nearly fall, the cucumber pees, and to top it off, Maria’s cracks me up.

Meals were served in the dining hall, with sand under our feet. Here’s a picture of a fruit platter … ever hear of “dragon fruit” ? This is how they posted the upcoming meals, at lunch the dinner menu was posted, etc. But what on earth were they serving??

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One late afternoon, the boys were fishing off the pier, Maria was snorkeling, and I was searching for shells … this is what I found!

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A giant shell!! This bombshell weighs nearly 6 pounds!! I put a dinner fork inside the shell so you can see how big this shell is!!

The boys caught tropical fish with bamboo rods,

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and when we were all bored with that, suddenly we all found ourselves jumping off the end of the pier!

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Here’s 7 second video that sums it up … thought I was taking a snapshot, but in fact I was video taping. Is that even a word anymore?? video taping? Clearly I am technology challenged, and the very fact that I can even manage this blog is a miracle!!

http://www.Nikoi.com

Pulp Fiction

I often have people telling me that I look like their cousin, neighbor, best friend. I have a very common look I suppose, because this happens to me all the time. Just last night, while playing Bunco, a new friend told me I looked just like her best friend, who also happens to have the name “Laura”.

My friend from Minnesota left me a note yesterday that my drivers license photo looks like Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction. This totally made my day! What a great compliment, right? Although I think Coach Tim (he was the boys football coach when they played in Stillwater) is off his rocker.

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I say why stop with Uma? I also look like Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Katie Holmes.

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Once I was told I laugh just like Demi Moore. And I don’t care what you say, I love Kris Jenner and her spunk. My mom has that spunk, and I do look exactly like her! Here’s a great photo of my dear momma throwing a snowball, probably at my dad!!

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Lastly, a great photo of Shane and Cale when after a football game! This one’s for you Coach Tim!!

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Maria loves to bake, and she especially loves to make chocolate chip cookies. So one night a couple of months ago, she decided to teach Leny how to make the cookies too.

We are the first American family that Leny has worked for, so chocolate chip cookies were new to her. She tells me all the time that I only like to eat food that is “sweet sweet” … like pineapple, chocolate, apple pie, chocolate, ice cream, chocolate. Ok, I really love chocolate. She likes to eat rice, chicken, mangos, even for breakfast!

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The two of them had a great time together!

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This is where I buy all our baking supplies, it’s a fabulous little store by Holland Village, tucked away on a side road called “Chip Bee Gardens”. It’s very small inside, like you need to turn sideways to get down the aisles. They have the frozen berries that are so hard to find in Singapore, giant bricks of cream cheese, all kinds of decorating tools and icings, nuts, and bulk chocolate chips!

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Fortune Cat

The Cat with the waving hand, you’ve seen them, right? The Fortune Cat. This one is great. I have seen them on teachers desks, on the dashboard of taxis, in stores by the cash register, they are everywhere. Supposedly every time the cat waves it’s hand, it’s saying “Money, money, money” and brings good luck & yes, money, to you.

Yes, I have a waving cat. Actually I have two. If one is good luck, then two must be really good luck. Here’s a quick video, with my black man Jazz, he’s totally bored and uninterested in my waving gold cat, and he refuses to wave to me.

There’s actually a meaning behind which paw the cat is holding up. If it’s the left paw, this is supposed to attract customers. If the right paw is raised, this invites good fortune and money.

They both sound pretty good to me, which is why sometimes you can find a Fortune Cat with both of its paws in the air. Two paws up can also represent protection.

While you’ll most commonly see a white Maneki Neko with orange and black spots, there are quite a few color variations and they each have a special meaning.

Calico: Traditional color combination, considered to be the luckiest

White: Happiness, purity, and positive things to come

Gold: Wealth and prosperity

Black: Wards off evil spirits

Red: Success in love and relationships

Green: Good health

Both of mine are gold, but I think before I return to the states, I should pick up all the others, right? I’ll line them up on the windowsill …

Fortune Cat figurines often holding other things in their paws. These include:

A koban worth one ryo: This is a Japanese coin from the Edo period; a ryo was considered to be quite the fortune back then.

The magic money mallet: If you see a small hammer, this represents wealth. When shaken, the mallet is supposed to attract wealth.

A fish, most likely a carp: The fish is symbolic of abundance and good fortune.

A marble or gem: This is another money magnet. Some people believe it’s a crystal ball and represents wisdom.

Lucky Cats can also be found holding gourds, prayer tablets, daikon radishes, and ingots. These items also represent wealth and good luck.

Regardless of the name, legend, raised paw, color, or item in its paw, you basically can’t go wrong with a Fortune Cat perched by your side. If you want me to bring some home to you, let me know!!

Superstitions

I love all the superstitions the Chinese have, I find them fascinating, and am even more fascinated by how much they are followed. Most of these superstitions have been passed down through the generations, and while many do blindly believe and follow, most here do not behave like nervous wrecks, jumping at every sound and shadow, as I think I would do if I believed in all of these. I would never relax, seriously!

I have been collecting the taboos, do’s and don’ts, and superstitions that I have heard about since moving here, and thought I would share them here.

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1. Do not shake your legs when sitting, because you are shaking your luck away.

2. If you get wet from rain when the sun is shining, you will be afflicted with bad headaches.

3. Do not point at the moon, or your ear will have a cut on it the next morning or it will make your earlobes fall off.

4. If you find tears flowing from a dogs eye, touch the teardrops with your finger then touch your own eyes, thereby “transferring” the liquid, and then you will be able to see ghosts! I never saw tears from a dogs eye, but I have seen dogs with “eye goobers” .. is that what they mean? Yikes

5. For the boys… do not pee on any red ants, as it will cause pain to your “dicky bird” (their word, not mine! )

6. Don’t go to the beach during the Seventh Month of the Chinese lunar calendar, which is believed to be the “hungry ghost month”, when they believe the gates of hell are opened for spirits to roam the Earth.

7. When you are pregnant, don’t be cruel to animals, for whatever it is you inflict on the animal, it shall be inflicted on your unborn child.

8. The Chinese believe that the number 8 is a lucky number because the pronunciation of the number ‘eight’ and the pronunciation of the word for ‘prosperity’ in Chinese are similar. Hence, the number 8 has high value. So if a house number or the registration number of a car has the 8 as a number, people think it is a lucky sign.
— A few months ago I went to a local butcher shop to buy sausages for dinner … I wanted 7 of them, figuring Shane and Cale would each have two. The butcher insisted on my buying 8, saying “must make 8, must”.

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9. In another popular Chinese superstition, the number 4 is considered as unlucky, because the pronunciation is similar to the word for “death”. Hence this number is unacceptable for vehicles and houses, nor can you give presents in quantities of four.

10. Do not sweep the floor during the Chinese New Year celebration, because if you do, you will sweep away all the good fortune. Same with cutting your hair, cannot cut your hair during the CNY celebration, because you are cutting off all your good luck and throwing it away.

11. Never offer pears when visiting sick people in a hospital, as this is a symbol that the patient will die. It is also bad luck to send red flowers, especially red roses, as this signifies blood. Many other Asian cultures also believe that sending red roses will cause death to occur. Best colours for hospitals are white and yellow.

12. Do not place a mirror directly facing your bed – this always brings a third party into the marriage of the sleeping occupants of the bed. Superstition frowns on having a mirror directly reflect the bed, but here the reason given is that doing so causes the spirit of your sleeping soul to enter into the mirror and you may not be able to return to your body when you wake up in the morning. In other words, it could cause you to get “trapped” in the in between world that exists between sleep and wakefulness. Another explanation is that the mirror attracts wandering spirits who come to steal your consciousness. Either prospect sounds scary, so it is better to avoid mirrors facing the bed.

13. Another major taboo handed down through the generations is never to leave laundry hung in the sunshine to stay there through the nighttime hours. Always remember to bring the washing back in when dusk falls, otherwise wandering spirits will be tempted to “attach themselves” to the clothing and take over the personality of the person when he/she wears them.

“There are stories of children behaving queerly after wearing clothing that had inadvertently been left hanging outside soaking in the yin energy of the night. Better remind yourself of this no matter how busy you are. Clothes (and especially underwear) left hanging out should ideally be thrown away.”

14. The Chinese have a great aversion to covering the forehead with hair. This is said to create a serious block on your wealth luck and is especially applicable to men. Men’s foreheads are said to be the part of the face that attracts wisdom, success and good fortune. Covering it seriously affects good fortune coming your way. You will find that successful men often sweep their hair to one side. Obviously fringes on children are fine, as they have not yet started working life.

15. Avoid whistling at night. You could be taking a walk and feeling happy, and might start to unconsciously whistle a tune. According to the old folks, doing so is sure to attract the attention of wandering spirits who then follow you home.

16. According to the Chinese, one should never use the broom to sweep outwards at the front of the shop. One should always sweep inwards from main door and then progressively work your way to the back of the shop. This pulls in the luck. In fact, always take note that traditionally, the front of the house is where good luck enters and the back of the house is where bad luck leaves.

17. If you step on poo, you can expect some good luck to come to you. It is the same when you dream of poo. Apparently this has to do with the body getting rid of its undesirable negativities. It is also believed that when a bird poos on your head, it means you are about to come into some speculative money.

18. Do not be a bridesmaid more than three times. Doing so creates a negative effect on your own marital luck, causing you to have difficulties finding someone to settle down with.

19. Never point the spout of a coffee or tea pot directly at the patriarch of the house, as this denotes him as the “enemy” of the household. It causes him to leave and even set up a second family outside the home. Pointing the pot this way is also a challenging signal towards the person the spout is pointed to.

20. When eating, never point the knife or fork directly at someone, as this is a hostile signal and can cause the other party to have an accident.

21. In regards to pregnancy, don’t do home renovation! In Western culture, it is popular to carry out renovation of a nursery to prepare for the baby. In Chinese culture, however, renovating is a big taboo as any kind of sawing, drilling and hammering is considered very threatening to the baby. However, you can put a knife under the bed to protect your baby from evil or malicious intent. One Chinese pregnancy taboo forbids pregnant women from attending funerals, to supposedly avoid exposure to negativity and the presence of spirits. In the case she absolutely must, superstition says she may wear a red scarf around her belly and other lucky talismans for protection. Pregnant women are also to avoid weddings. It might make sense to avoid funerals, but why happy occasions like weddings, too? The Chinese believe that mixing two happy events together can create a “clash of joy.” If a pregnant woman wishes to attend a wedding, it is taboo to touch the bride.

22. Lions guard the house. I love this one, so I did find a great pair of lions, and yes, they sit at the front door of our condo. They each weigh about 50 pounds, and yes, I’ll be bringing them back to the USA. Love my Lions!!

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My very own “Three Star Gods”

After being distracted by the two snakes in one day ordeal at the pottery place, I gave up on my trying to choose a Peranakan piece, and instead choose to get my very own trio of Chinese deities.

Three wise men are Chinese gods who are ” Fu, Lu, & Shou”. They are also called gods of Longevity, Prosperity, and Fortune. They are used in Chinese culture to denote the three attributes of a good life. The start of the worship of these Gods is said to be from Ming dynasty, however they are no longer worshipped in the traditional sense, but they are considered auspicious by Chinese around the world.

Fu , is the happiness and wealth god, he stands for good luck and harmony, is taller than the other two Star Gods when being represented artistically, and is always placed in the center. Favors are asked of him on the twentieth day of the seventh lunar month. He holds a gold ingot.

Lu is the god of rank and affluence, stands for authority, power, and wealth. He is often depicted as holding a child or a sceptre of power. He symbolizes one’s ability to better oneself and reap high rewards. Having many children is considered a blessing by Chinese.

Shou is the god of good health and longevity. He is recognized by his high, domed forehead and the peach which he carries as a symbol of immortality.

These gods are often seen as a set in many Chinese homes. Depictions of them are used widely in feng shui.

How to Place Three Wise Men:
Fu, Lu, and Shou should be placed side by side in one row – Fu is on your left side, Lu is in the center and Shou is on your right side when you look at them. They can be displayed on the table in your living room or dining area facing inside (not directly facing the main door if facing outside). The level of table can’t be too low. In addition, you cannot display them under the beam or facing to the bathroom.

So many superstitions, taboos, should & should not rules to follow! Fascinating!!

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