Category Archives: Singapore Adventures

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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Two Snakes in One Day!

Can you believe it??!! I saw TWO snakes in ONE day!! And I didn’t have a heart attack!!!

Well, maybe my heart was pounding a bit. Okay, I was terrified.

Here’s the story: I was with my Singapore BFF Jacki and I were off on one of our weekly adventures. (Jacki is a Philly girl and has the exact same personality as me, except she swears more.) Each week we take a day to try something new in Singapore, and each time we find ourselves in some type of unforgettable situation.

Last week we met at Starbucks, decided to walk to the Peranakan Museum, but we got lost, we were so busy chatting & giggling, the we walked the wrong direction without realizing it for about 30 minutes, and ended up having to take a taxi to the museum. Neither of us knew anything about this place, all I knew was that I loved their pottery. So, we took a guided tour of the place, which was fascinating.

I found this sign interesting, their expectations of the girls. Practically from the day the girls are born, they are taught how to be good wives, and their marriages were planned & arranged starting when they were about 8 years old, with the ceremony when they are about 15 or 16 years old.

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This is a photo of a small part of a large tablecloth that was displayed under glass. It was absolutely gorgeous. I have always enjoyed crafting … embroidery when I was a young girl, making garden art, and recently, I have become obsessed with crocheting. But this beadwork was nothing like I have ever seen or can imagine someone making!! This picture doesn’t do it justice.

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“A million glass beads make up this tablecloth, and is the largest example of Peranakan beadwork known. It’s original design shows various European and South American birds and flowers, with only a few Asian species. Parrots and macaws stand on branches with butterflies and dragonflies hovering nearby. The tropical hibiscus and pineapple can be seen along with the many European flowers. The combination of pink and yellow on a turquoise background is characteristic of Penang Peranakan beadwork. During the 12-day Peranakan wedding, the family would decorate the table with prized pieces of silver and porcelain, as well as gifts and, of course, food.”

There were displays of their beautiful pottery, which is known for the pastel colors, painted on the inside and outside of all the pieces.

Now, flash forward to this week: Jacki and I decided to check out a local pottery place, where they sell the Peranakan pottery. This stuff is gorgeous, and we both hoped to pick up a few pieces as souvenirs.

This is where we saw the snakes. Granted, this place is on the edge of Singapore, and there is lots of green space (jungles). In fact, there is a sign nearby that explains what to do if you see a snake, or a wild boar (yes, there are wild boars here!).

http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/environment/story/5-things-about-wild-boars-singapore-20140729

But never actually thought I would encounter a snake, let alone TWO in one day!!

After Jacki carefully parked her car (she’s not a very good parker, not nearly as skilled as me) and we were walking through the lot, sure enough, my hawk eyes spotted a snake slithering across the gravel road we were walking on. After nearly hyperventilating from shock, and searching frantically for my phone so I could take a pic, we realized that the nearly 2 foot long snake was in a hurry, and off it went under some thick greenery where it disappeared from sight.

So exciting!! We continued on into the outdoor pottery store, where we giggled and laughed about finally seeing a snake, still a bit nervous on edge. I mean, this is an open air store with stacks and stacks of large crocks laying around. There could be more snakes anywhere. Bigger snakes. Maybe huge snakes who were not in a hurry. And were hungry.

Well, we quickly forgot about the snakes, as we were happily hunting for some good finds. Here are some photos of the Peranakan pottery:

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Anyhow, they next thing I knew another customer was pointing to a basket on the floor, about 4 feet from where I was standing, and sure enough, there was a snake in it!! It was quickly swished out of the basket and away from me and the other customers. I was nearly breathless with shock, hanging onto Jacki, who was equally traumatized.

No, I didn’t get a picture of that snake either.

And there you go, two snakes in one day!! Last night I was telling this story to my friend, Uncle Lim, a local Singaporean, who insisted that seeing two snakes in one day is good luck. I think what he means is

“if you see two snakes in one day and live to tell about it, then you are lucky”.

http://www.peranakanmuseum.org.sg/home/home.html
http://thowkwangclayartists.wordpress.com
http://www.themarthablog.com/2010/07/visiting-a-dragon-in-singapore.html

Singapore Sling

Yummy! The Raffels Hotel is a must-see here in Singapore. The Long Bar is famous for the Singapore Sling, and of course Trent and I just had to have one (or two) of these.

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Here’s some information I found on-line:

“The Singapore Sling is a South-East Asian cocktail. This drink was developed sometime before 1915 by Ngiam Tong Boon, a Hainanese bartender working at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel Singapore. It was initially called the gin sling – a sling was originally an American drink composed of spirit and water, sweetened and flavored.

Most recipes substitute bottled pineapple juice for fresh juice; soda water has to be added for foam. The hotel’s recipe was recreated based on the memories of former bartenders and written notes that they discovered regarding the original recipe. One of the scribbled recipes is still on display at the Raffles Hotel Museum.

Recipes published in articles about Raffles Hotel before the 1970s are significantly different from current recipes, and Singapore Slings drunk elsewhere in Singapore differ from the recipe used at Raffles Hotel.

The current Raffles Hotel recipe is a heavily modified version of the original, most likely changed sometime in the 1970s by Ngiam Tong Boon’s nephew. Today, many of the Singapore Slings served at Raffles Hotel have been pre-mixed and are made using an automatic dispenser that combines alcohol and pineapple juice to pre-set volumes. They are then blended instead of shaken to create a foamy top as well as to save time because of the large number of orders. However, it is still possible to request a shaken version from bartenders.”

Our drinks were shaken, and they were mmm-mmm delicious.

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Trent wasn’t too crazy about his sling, he said it was too sweet!

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And so I had to force myself to drink his, and mine.

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Nothing like slurping up $55 worth of sweetness at the famous Long Bar!!

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Sharing the road with motorcycles

Sharing the road with motorcycles. That’s what we do here! It’s about constantly looking in the rear-view mirrors for motorcycles that are coming up on you. They overtake the cars & trucks, passing right on the dividing line, sometimes with barely enough room to squeeze through. They weave in and out while at high speeds, risking their lives, and everyone else too. It’s terrifying.

I completely understand their need to drive the bikes … they are more economical, in many ways. If I was a long time resident, I’d have a bike too. But, it’s like the wild west here. The bikes rule the road, and yes, there are many fatal accidents here.

When I took my driving test to be a licensed driver here in Singapore, there was not one mention in the study booklet about the motorcycles. Not. One. Word. Why?? A lot of them are Malaysian, they drive into Sing for the day and return home at night. I suppose that since they are not registered vehicles in Singapore, it’s like they are treated with indifference, they are invisible.

My friend Jackie and I went to our kids “Meet The Teacher Night” at school last night, and it just so happens that the Singapore American School is right near Malaysia. So on our drive to school, I took a couple quick videos to show you all what it is like driving here. These are small snapshots of driving in Singapore!! Enjoy!! (btw, Jackie has the same crazy outgoing nutty personality that I have, so when we are together, look out!!)

Oh, and YES, I did pass my written driving test, back in April. I had waited so long to sign up, that by the time I was able to get it scheduled, I had to wait for 6 weeks, and so then I HAD to pass. If I would have failed the test, then there would’t be time to reschedule and retake the test, and then I would have lost my insurance. And that, my fiends, is something I cannot live without. I studied the book, and I used the apps.

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Yes, I passed the test!!

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And for everyone who knows my smarty-pants husband, I just want to put this out there … He missed two questions on the test and I only missed ONE!!

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Leny

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I have been so lucky to have to opportunity to live in another culture, and experience new things, new ways of doing things. Most families in Asia, including expats, hire a live-in maid. A “helper”. I had no intentions of participating in this, as I have never had help, nor have I ever needed it.

But after a few months I changed my mind, and hired Leny. She has been living with is since October 2013, and is such a blessing to our family.

She does the laundry and cleaning for me, a good part of the cooking, and watches the cats for us when we are away.

She is my age, only a year older than me, and hails from the Philippines. She left her home country 23 years ago, leaving behind her 15 month old baby girl, in order to support her large extended family. When she was finally able to go home for a visit, after 5 years away (remember, this is before skyping, FaceTime, even cellphones… All she had was a five minute phone call home on Sundays) her little baby, now 6 1/2 years old, didn’t know her or recognize her. She didn’t know her own mom. Leny was devastated.

She sends every paycheck home. Every month, saving only a little for herself to live on.

In 23 years, she has lived with 3 other families, raising their children, tending to each family members every need. With one family she shared a room
with the kids, and with another she only had the storage closet for herself to sleep in.

In our home she has her own living quarters, with a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen. Trent bought her a flat screen tv with a subscription to the Philippine channels. We treat her as an equal, she is respected in our home. She sits at the dinner table with us. She gets every Saturday and Sunday off, and we include her in family activities.

Sadly, not all helpers are treated this way. There are constant troubling stories about maids being abused. I see these women in the markets, buying food for their families, usually with one or two small expat kids in tow. These ladies leave their own children behind in their home countries to care for and raise other children. It’s sad, and shocking, and I’m not sure that I will ever become immune to their sad faces.

I have had the opportunity to get to know a few of these helpers, through my Leny. And I am fascinated by their stories, their endurance, their resilience, and ability to survive cruel circumstances.

Would you like to hear more about these women and their lives? I have a few ideas in the works, so I am looking for your feedback.

Top 10 List of “What I notice in the USA” while home this summer

Since landing back here in my home country for a few weeks this summer, there are a few glaring things about the USA that really stand out to me now. Things I hadn’t really paid much attention to before our move to Asia.

So this is my Top 10 list of things in the USA that I cannot help but notice.

1. Texting drivers. Everywhere I look, I see texting drivers. It.Makes.Me.Crazy. Do we not realize how dangerous this is?? Do we not care about being the cause of accidents? Are we so arrogant that we think we can text and drive safely?? What on earth is so important that we have to risk everyones lives to text about?? In Singapore the penalty for texting/talking on the phone while driving is so high, that no one does it. How high?

http://www.singapore-the-fine-city.com/2009/04/handphone-driving.html

2. Vehicles in the USA are HUGE! SUVs, trucks, vans. We like big vehicles here!

3. Americans like to use trailers to tow things. Everywhere I look, I see those oversized vehicles towing something … a Uhaul, lawn mowing gear, campers, bikes, boats, cars, ATVs, jet skis. Look around, you’ll notice it too!!

4. There are very few motorcycles here, compared to Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, etc. And of course, the motorcycles that are here, are HUGE!! And some even have trailers! No kidding!

5. Road kill. Oh my word, there is so much road kill here. Skunks, raccoons, deer, squirrel, it’s just disgusting and gross.

6. Public bathroom stalls that offer no privacy: the frames are put together with large cracks in them, and the walls stop just below the knee. Some have locks that don’t lock, and some don’t have locks at all. When I mentioned this to my kids, they said some public restrooms that they’ve been in didn’t even have doors on all the stalls! Yikes! In Asia, the doors come all the way to the floor, and the stalls are put together properly with zero peek-through areas. I prefer those.

7. Restaurants are loud with music, and loud with customers. I notice that when dining out, we Americans talk loud to each other. We tease, laugh, tell stories, generally have a good time, and are loud doing it.

8. Americans strike up conversations with each other, at least where I live, here in the upper-midwest, the people are extremely friendly. I have noticed that we talk to complete strangers, have conversations, make friends, with just about anyone and everyone. We are not shy, and it feels like we want to connect with each other, we care about each other even though we don’t know each other and may never see each other again. Random people having random conversations with each other. I love it. I love to engage with complete strangers. I can ride in a taxi and know all about the drivers family by the time I get out. I really enjoy talking to people, and I have noticed that many Americans are chatty! See, it’s NOT just me!!

9. Fruits and vegetables don’t last here, when bought from the grocery store. I buy strawberries and I we don’t eat them in the next 24 hours, they are moldy & rotten. The same with the lettuce, berries, plums, peaches, etc. They just don’t stay nice here. In Singapore I buy everything at the wet market, which is very similar to a Farmers Market. The produce I get stays fresh three times longer!!

10. Choices! I am completely overwhelmed by all the choices that Americans have. Do we really need five different brands of ketchup, each in five different bottle sizes?? Is it necessary to have many brands in many sizes for all the products? We can choose from: original, Lite, Fat Free, Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Low Fructose, Peanut free, non-dairy, low carb, Vegan, organic … choices galore! It’s overwhelming, unnecessary, and a bit embarrassing at the same time. I would never have thought this had I never left the USA. I expected all the choices, felt that I needed them.

I am sure that I can add to this list, in fact, I just thought of another … wide open spaces! I love all the fields here by my home. Corn fields, soy fields, fields with cattle, friends with large pastures for their horses, even my own home and big yard surrounding it. I love all the wide open spaces!!

God Bless the USA!!