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

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Human Body Experience

The Science Center Singapore recently had an exhibit called “The Human Body” and from the little I had seen and heard about this temporary exhibit, I just knew I had to take my kids to experience this.

It was quite interesting, to say the least. It all began with a journey down the food tube:

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And yes, you were then swallowed alive!

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You literally climb into the mouth to begin your journey through the human body! I nearly peed my pants laughing, this was so funny. After traveling down the esophagus, then we were in the stomach. Next we found our selves in a pulsating lung, and in the picture below, here I am in the blood stream!

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After trying to keep up with Maria, Shane and Cale, who didn’t find this exhibit nearly as funny as I did, I found myself pushing my way out through … you guess it … the bum!

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Only in Singapore my friends. Only in Singapore.

Oh, wondering what the next exhibit will be? I saw this sign while standing in line for our tickets, and yes, I do believe that I will be taking the kids to this one as well.

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http://www.science.edu.sg/Pages/SCBHome.aspx

Swimming in the USA, Summer ’14

This past summer, the kids and I traveled to back to the USA for eight weeks, our plan was to visit family and friends, but our main goal was to re-connect with our Hudson Wisconsin coaches and compete in some competitions. Our transition to swimming in Singapore has been difficult, and the kids were desperate to get in the water with their coaches Jen and Bob.

With such a short time frame to work with, we decided to schedule in as many swim competitions as possible. We landed in Minnesota on June 7th, and the boys were at the University of Minnesota at 6:30 am on June 8th. They were exhausted, jet-lagged but thrilled to be back in familiar swim territory with their Minnesota teammates. I knew better than to sign up Maria to swim, that girl was all about seeing her friends, and me? well, I was so jet-lagged it was a miracle that I didn’t fall asleep in some random stairwell somewhere in the Natatorium.

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The rest of the summer went much the same way … early morning swim practices and afternoon swim practices as well. If the kids weren’t at practice, they were busy with friends. Weekends we were at competitions. It was a rush of busy-ness, and the kids were totally in their element. I loved every single second of it!!

Our second meet was at the University of Iowa for a “Swim Pink” fundraising meet for Breast Cancer.

Shane @ Swim Pink

Here is a selfie of Tina and I .. she is mom of Michael, and she is the ultimate swim mom, full of grace and humility, despite her son breaking 70+ USA National Age Group Records.

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From there we went to Eau Claire Wisconsin,

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Shane and my dad chilling out poolside between races:
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My boys!
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then back to Iowa for Speedo Sectionals,

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back to the University of Minnesota for the State Championships,

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and then to Oklahoma for a zone meet. Shane did well at all of his meets, but his 100 Freestyle win by out touching his competitor was the most exciting for me. It was such a close race!

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Shane earned the High Points 2nd Place Award for the 13/14 boys, representing Team Minnesota.

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TeamMinnesota

A couple photos of Maria ( who gave permission to post photos as long as you cannot see her face. Really Maria??) and Cale:

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Breaststroke8*.2014

Breaststroke7*.2014

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And finally, one last selfie! Wendy and I were supposed to be taking pics of our daughters posing together, but we were sneaky and took a selfie of ourselves instead. We’re like that!

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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.

SingaporeSling

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.

BartenderMakingDrinks

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

TrentWithDrink

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

LauraWithBartender

LauraWithADrink

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

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Wanken Chiropractic

Shane has had some pain issues going with his shoulder. Pretty common problem for swimmers.

He was fine, going full steam ahead, and after finishing the Australian Nat’l Championships in April, he took a two week long, much needed break from swimming.

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That is when the pain started. It was like he finally relaxed, and could feel the pain. Kind of like the rest of us, we go on vacation and get a cold, right?

I took Shane to physio and the chiropractor here in Singapore, but he found no relief. As soon as he would get in the pool, he would feel pain again. He was getting out of practice early, skipping sometimes even altogether. So once we landed in the USA in June, the first thing on my to-do list was to take care of Shane, get him back at 100%.

And that’s where Dr. Jay Wanken entered the picture.

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He’s a swim dad on our USA club team, a strokes & turns official and he’s a chiropractor. When I took Shane to see him, he immediately connected why Shane’s shoulder was hurting, and he knew how important swimming is to our family. He knew that he had to get this taken care of for us, and there was no messing around. Shane had some big meets scheduled for the summer, one of the main reasons we even came back to the states for the summer.

To make a long story short, we saw Dr. Jay almost every day, all summer. Shane would go to morning & afternoon practice, and then go straight to Dr. Jay’s. He would do some adjustments on Shane’s spine,

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then his shoulder

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and then use the low-level laser therapy on him. This is the newest technology, and if you haven’t heard of it yet, you should read up on it. I’ll add a link to the info at the bottom of this post for you. I have searched high and low here in Singapore for chiro, physio, or doc who might use this laser in Singapore, and I even called the company. It’s just not here yet.

The last thing that we used was this Voltaren gel, it’s an anti-inflammatory gel, that we rubbed into his shoulders. I don’t know if it worked or not, but Shane seemed to think this helped, and so we will continue to use it. And yes, I was able to get a year supply approved and paid for by our insurance. (In Singapore we can get some of the same medicines that are dispensed in the USA, they may not quite the same, but somewhat similar at least. I just couldn’t take the chance of not being able to get this gel, so yes, I loaded up!!)

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And this combo of adjustments, laser therapy, the voltaren gel, and getting some technique work with his coaches worked wonders on him!! As soon as he get back to the USA, we’ll be back to our daily visas with Dr. Jay!

http://www.wankenfamilychiropractic.com
http://www.erchonia.com/low-level-laser-therapy

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.

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