Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Broadcast Exercise

"Sport played a very important role in the Mao period. It was an instrument and expression of the new political reality, as were Broadcast exercises. Both were forceful, regulated, and full of group slogans. They trained the public to have discipline and obedience."

There is a really wonderful art gallery at the mall with a sculpture collection I love -- it cracks me up. Lyvi also loves it and yabers at the statues each time we pass.

It is called "Broadcast Exercise" by Ren Si Hong, an artist from China. By living in Singapore, of course we can be exposed to more of China's culture than living at home. This is a perfect example of something that would be a rarity in my part of the world. Since the art is based on events that took place in China, we learn a bit, too.

Here the artist describes her work.
Campaign- Broadcast Exercise
BY Sihong Ren, 31 September 2005 (Sport: Rensihong Works, 2005-2006)

For most people, school recess is a time of play and relaxation. For schoolchildren during China’s Cultural Revolution, it was a time for group callisthenics performed to the dictates of an authoritarian voice broadcast over every school’s PA system. These endless group exercise sessions form a collective indelible memory in the minds of those who experienced them as schoolchildren.

During the 1970s and 1980s when I was young, the voice of the broadcast was always rigid and emotionless. Every movement was expected to be in harmony with the voice, a voice that was at once our authority and our mainstream media. The Impressions we form in childhood was usually always fresh and innocent. Blue skies and white clouds were enough to bring brilliant smiles to our faces. In the face of those monotonous, artless, and vapid broadcasts, only the girl’s graceful postures and curves afforded us any distraction or delight.

Teachers and leaders regarded broadcast exercise as an organized and disciplined review of students. It was individual exercise appropriated by the group, and hence largely symbolic of the zeitgeist of the time, though we were too young to know it. Furthermore, good individual performance in broadcast exercise brought group honour. However, if an individual performed too well, it could bring critical comments borne of jealousy."

better pics of the series

Super Visit!

Just what we needed -- I had met another adoptive mom on the internet who lives in Singapore. She was so gracious and invited us over for dinner tonight even though they just arrived back from a trip to the states Monday morning.

She and her husband were nice as can be and their kids were really precious. She is also the person who first told me about the school that currently has space for Jonathan and Lindsay (the one we freaked out about.) She loves the school and her two daughters did a great job of telling us everything they love about the school, too.

The funniest thing is that tomorrow we are looking at a house that is just down the street from where they live and they actually know the family that lives there. Her precocious daughter was able to give me a tour of their home (three stories tall + a basement) and tell me in detail all the similarities and differences between the two homes. I really love the area and think I could just sign up to rent this place on their street! Lots of things within walking distance including the grocery store, a wet market and the MRT -- Jason could easily walk to the MRT and get to work.

We have to move at a fast paced speed tomorrow, but I will definitely try to get pictures of that place.

Anyway, they were a fabulous family and it was great to see first hand what living in one of these semi-detached homes would be like and to see how the maid functions in the family. The dinner was really delicious. It was nice having a break from eating in a restaurant, too. I do feel like I'm just copying catting this family, but she has set up a great life. I get a bit stressed whenever we drive in the Orchard area -- high rise living with all the shopping glitz and glam.

Here is a picture of a wet market in Singapore -- not the one by her house, but just an example.

Fun in the Food Aisle

I love, love, love shopping for snacks in foreign countries. They have the neatest treats just waiting to be discovered! This is today's loot for the kids. Wednesday is house shopping, which should be a nightmare with them, so hopefully this will help motivate them.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Back to School

I can't remember what I even typed before, but let me start by saying that there are a ton of wonderful private schools in Singapore. However, almost all of them have waiting lists. Schools that have never had waiting lists in Singapore before suddenly have waiting lists because of the recent influx of expats. I knew we couldn't get into the top tier schools, but there were still some interesting ones available.

I had personally narrowed our search down to two schools. Both are International schools and follow the IB system, which integrates learning more and focuses on the whole child -- it really sounds like a lovely teaching method. Both schools have children from 40-60 countries. One of them even limits the amount of children enrolled to 30% from each nation.

So, time for the visits! We drive up to the smaller of the two schools and I am pretty sure it is a good 10 mintues before I start breathing. Shabby doesn't quite explain the school. On my off day I would call it a dump to be kind. It reminds me of schools I saw in Belize. The only enclosed areas are the classrooms. All the halls and stairways are open to the outside. It is made of concrete then painted, but the paint isn't very fresh. I feel like we have about as many books as the school's library. It is lacking most all the facilities that a lot of the other schools have like a gym and a pool. They don't even have a cafeteria there -- the kids eat in the classroom. It did have a computer lab though. Most unfortunate is that the person who showed us around did a really poor job of explaining the school. I think if a teacher had been there she would have been able to make us feel more comfortable. The experience was so far from what I expected that I hardly knew what questions to ask.

I have an online friend that LOVES the school. She has two girls that go there now and a third starting in the fall. Tonight we are eating dinner with them so I look forward to hearing more about the school from her perspective since this is the only school with spots available for Jonathan AND Lindsay. It is also a very small school -- only three classes per grade.

Next door to this school is another school that is huge -- 3400 students. There are about 10 classes per grade, but it is also very international and follows the IB program, too. While it was also a shocker to visit, it wasn't quite a shabby as ISS. Still a bit of a dump though. They don't have availability at the moment, but we are on the waiting list. My other friend from home has her kids attending there in the fall.

The American School is out-of-this world. So fabulous that we haven't planned on visiting. We said that we wanted to put our children in a more international school and didn't want to be swayed by the glitz and glam of the American School. The school is also very large (13 classes per grade) and located at the top of the island -- far in Sing terms from where we plan to live.

While we were both floored by the schools we visited, Jason seems to be having a harder time. I'm going to talk to people I know who attend the schools to get a better idea of the education compared to the facilities. Now that the shock has worn off, I think the two small schools are kind of fun and campy. I may be interested in putting Jonathan in the large school (once he could get in) and Lindsay in the smaller school. They are right next door to each other. Lots to think about!

update -- btw these schools are about $10,000 a year
We found out that the American School is 70% American -- just not international enough for us

Three different schools

School Shock!

I'll have to add a proper post later, but CULTURE SHOCK at the schools today!!! Wow. Totally not what I expected after reading about them online. We visited two schools that were next door to each other and tomorrow we are visiting one more that is in a different part of town. There has been a surge of expats this year so almost every school has a waiting list. We really didn't want to send our children to the American school because they have other schools with more of a mix. One even caps the number of students allowed from each nation. Well, we have heard the American school is fantastic, but they are closed to new applications so that is a second reason to not visit and be tempted by its fabulous facilities.

I knew the two schools we were visiting were older but it was still a shock. We are heading to the pool so I will have to post pictures later. I was in such a state that I didn't take nearly enough pictures. I think my mouth might have even been hanging open.

Today's schools follow the IB curriculum. Something I didn't know about, but actually sounds really good. The one we are visiting tomorrow follows the British system.

So, that is all I have time for now -- more later!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Singapore Zoo

After realizing we had a stroller, we picked it up at the hotel then hired a Maxicab to get us to the Singapore Zoo. It costs $35 SGD to get us there. Fine for now, but I think we really are going to have to buy a car. Jason talked to the driver (they have all been friendly as can be) about cars. He said that our best bet could be to buy a 7 year old car because at 10 years they generally scrap them. I guess the government wants all the cars running well. When your car is 10 years old all the taxes suddenly go way up. We will have to investigate this a bit more, but how interesting!

GREEN! Biggest impression on the way to the zoo was how green everything is! It is really beautiful and made my heart sing once I realized I was not in an all concrete city. The zoo here is wonderful. A lot of the primates just wander the trees in the park. Jason only saw one on the walking path though. I’ve never been able to get so close to so many animals. They have taken the natural barriers to an extreme. It even looks like the zebra and giraffe could probably walk right out of there area. The coolest is the rainforest walk. While we were there they were feeding some primates fruit and you could try to touch them. Fruit bats were hanging right in front of your face and those beasts have some serious fangs.
They also had a park and water park for relaxing.

We helped three kids find their parents while we were there. I was so excited when a Chinese child ran up to me screaming, "I can't find my Mommy!!!" While helping her, it did make me happy to be in an English speaking country. What a great place to have all these cultures, but be able to understand the locals. While I would love to learn another language, I seem to be hopeless.

The kids really enjoyed the zoo and can’t wait to come back and do everything we missed. Their favorite thing was taking turns with the camera so I'll be sure to always have Jonathan's digital camera (thanks, Gi!) with us.

Again, we could barely made it through dinner without children falling asleep. We cajoled Lindsay and Jonathan enough to keep them awake until we could get home. At least this was at lot later tonight compared to last night.
Tomorrow we start working with the relocation people to see schools.

Stroller Search

Today we headed out again in search of a stroller. As we walked underground to the mall down the street (raining buckets), some woman just couldn’t conceal the shock and awe when she looked at our family. She seemed nice enough so I had mercy on her and explained that Lyvi is adopted from China. Well this woman ended up walking with us for at least 10 minutes talking all about this and that. She was nice as can be – VERY talkative, but gave me some hope that all Singaporeans aren’t standoffish like I have been told.

We made it to Toys R Us. I ran into "One of Those Things I'll Have to Get Used To." By the time we walk there, Lyvi is getting heavy so I was VERY happy to see a shopping cart. Turns out you have to pay $1 SGD use it! It reminds me of how we had to pay for our napkins at the resturants in China.

After figuring out that even if the umbrella stroller was in stock it would still cost us quite a bit we thought, “Why don’t we just use the Sit N Stroll we brought to Singapore?" It is a carseat that turns into a stroller – very cool and worked great at the airport. Jason and I got a kick out of that because it shows how we aren’t operating at 100% capacity. After thinking ourselves brilliant for finally coming up with the idea to use the stroller we already have, we wondered back out of the mall and saw some neat things there because everyone is celebrating National Heritage Month. The kids got to listen to a storytime about one of Singapores fables and free "candy floss" aka cotton candy – no wonder they love it here!


Jonathan and Dylan couldn’t even stay up long enough for dinner to arrive at the restaurant and Jason had to take them back upstairs. So, two down at 5:30/6:00 without food in their bellies. Lindsay and I got our food and brought it back to the room. We had quite a show with our dinner. Seems the Singapore government or party planner didn’t want any mistakes at the National Day celebration so they practiced the entire thing. I’m not sure what they left out, but we saw a band, parade, helicopter formations flying the flag, fighter jets rumbling overhead, cannons, some fireworks, boats in the harbor and very cool lit balloons. At least we got a taste of what is going to happen August 9th!

Have I mentioned how happy I am that we didn't take everyone to China with us? The kids are GREAT travelers, but getting four kids acclimated and fed takes a lot of energy. I think Jason and I really would have missed out on a lot of opportunities on that trip if we had the kids with us. With all the wonderful food available in Singapore, we are eating easy. I've had pizza, Subway and a Cesar salad! My only Chinese food was a the food court at the zoo (I savoured every bit of it!)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

First Day

I am operating at high alert since we arrived. I think it is because this is just the look see trip and we can still back out of a move to Singapore. I can certainly see why Dell forks out the money for these trips. It is really overwhelming to arrive in a foreign county with the knowledge that you are choosing to return and live. All my other overseas jobs and visits have been formulated in the safety of my home. In those cases, once you arrive you are stuck with your decision like it or not. That was the case with my student exchange programs, Vienna job, our move to Cape Town and even when we moved to Washington DC we just chose a place to live and headed there. So, this is a really different experience especially when four kids are added to the equation (fabulous travelers though!)

I am well aware that many of the emotions we might feel are temporary and expected. I have loved seeing so many different things in our one day here. It started with breakfast next to a lady wearing a burka. Aside from the obvious reasons why I would not want to be expected to wear one, how in the world does she discipline her two boys from under there? I checked out her eyes and there was entirely too much fabric and no way she could shoot the “The Look”. Breakfast reminded me a lot of what we were offered at buffets in China. I’ll have to get the congee, a dish our children from China are started on, for Lyvi one morning and see if she likes it. When we got her at 8 months she lapped it up the first day, but after discovering so many other new foods were now available to here we could’t get another bite down her!

In our part of Texas we feel like any other family, but here we are quite the conspicuous family. The realization that we catch almost every one's attention as we walk around is a bit disconcerting. I think we stand out in part because of the four kids, but our littlest shining star makes us quite the visible constellation. Most Singaporeans aren’t going to ask you about your Chinese daughter, so they just stare. Not as aggressively as in China, but it was probably the overwhelming theme of my day. I am VERY glad that we will be doing this while Lyvi is young. At 18 months I’m sure she is oblivious. I don’t think I would be comfortable putting her through this at an older age. I was relieved to have already seen another adoptive family at the hotel pool. Jason wouldn’t let me talk to them though because we had four freezing wet kids and he didn’t want to be put in a hotel room alone with them for who knows how long.

I’m sure this sounds ridiculous, but I am surprised at how many Chinese Singaporeans there are here. Singapore is so proud of its mixture of culture I guess I thought there would be more of a mix. I do love being out of my element and in with people from a different culture though.

At the children’s pleadings we visited the pool. Why is the pool freezing in July? I haven’t been warm since we left the house in Texas. I’ll need to few more days here to figure out what is going on and will pack differently than I thought when we move. They also wanted to go on the subway. They loved it and because all the Thomas trains have a name, Dylan wanted to know its name.

Just getting six of us through the gates to the subway is tough. We back up the line while we scan card after card and we all walk one at a time through the gate. Something the kids will need to learn how to do one day.

We took the MRT to Chinatown and it was just like the malls we visited in China with all the same merchandise available. Jonathan started to complain about the smell, but we were walking by a durian fruit seller and that thing does assault the senses. We really need a stroller for Lyvi although how do we get on the MRT with it? I'm not going to be able to take a single picture until we have one. The hip hammock went MIA while packing so thus far Jason and I are strength training with her.

At Chinatown I hoped to find a cheap stroller in one of the department stores. The kids were starting to sink, but they lit up when the toy department appeared before them. There is nothing on tv for kids so we let them buy a toy each. I even love experiencing stores in other countries. Today we head to Toys R Us for our stroller quest so it will be interesting to compare.

Lindsay wishes that this was our trip to move here. I don’t know how things look from her perspective, but she loves it. She just wishes it was already time to make friends. Maybe Jason and I will have to come back to pick out an apartment before we move so we can get settled even quicker.

I talk like we know we are moving. We know we want to move, but this is harder than we thought. I think I almost would have preferred to just show up committed. I feel like I have exchanged so many dreams for new dreams that I don't want to give this one up. I thought I'd be a jet setting career woman and excluding family and friends, I've never even left the kids with a babysitter. Since college, Jason and I talked about how we would love to live overseas with children. Here is the perfect chance at the perfect ages of our children.

We Arrived

Our unbelievable Singapore Airlines flight landed just after 5 am Saturday morning. Business Class was like a hotel on wheels. Definitely the way to fly with four children. Definitely nothing I could afford to do without The Company. Lots of good vibes were headed their way as I slept with my complimentary noise canceling head phones. The seats laid flat and the kids had the on demand TVs going shortly after take-off. They were really good about turning them off and sleeping when we asked. I think they got pretty much a night's sleep, which would be 8 - 13 hours depending on the child. The food was great and the snacks even better. After their big sleep I showed them the on-demand video, audio and games. Heaven for them.

So, it was a wonderful way to arrive on the other side of the world as clear headed as possible. Arriving a five am made for a long day. The city was dark when we arrived, but the kids could still see and were amazed at the tall buildings. Our hotel rooms have a wall of windows, which is my new must-have in a big city (not that I'll always get it, but I'll know what to look for!) The balcony makes me a bit nervous, especially since we are on floor 13. You can see through it so hopefully the kids won't be tempted to scale it! Before dawn a crowd gathered at a park we can see from the rooms. The sound system must have been cranked because we could hear every odd-placed song and command given to the crowd. Think about "We like to move it, move it" blasting in the room at the crack of light. We later figured out they were practicing for Singapore's Independence celebration that takes place August 9th.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ready, Ready!

These kids woke up ready to get on the plane. I ran some last minute errands and while I was gone Jason got them all washed and dressed. The long awaited promise of an airline flight is about to come true!

Happy Birthday Spencer and Trenton!!

Spencer and Trenton!

We want you to have a happy 7th birthday today! We miss you and wish we could see you more often.

Your Texas family loves you!

Aunt Lela, Uncle Jason and the cousins -- Jonathan, Lindsay, Dylan and Lvyia

(Remember how much fun we had at Christmas?)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


We had our first night at Creekside! There are still a million things that need to be done on my dad's side, but he is actually moved in. We got our upstairs carpeted so we can sleep and enjoy that part of the house, but the downstairs has a way to go before we can move, enjoy and entertain. We were both heartsick thinking about leaving this gem for two years when we may hardly have our things in before we go. As we sat on the back deck, listening to the the night sounds and rushing creek, Jason and I started thinking if we could possibly put our kids in the locals schools and just move to the country. We couldn't, but it was fun to dream.

Now that we are able to slow down a bit, we actually got to REALLY enjoy ourselves! This time Jason and Lindsay fished and Lindsay caught a monster bass. Jason is still tickled about the size of the fish in the creek. Jonathan rafted down the creek while Lyvi and Dylan had a ball splashing and throwing rocks at the crossing. Then there were the moments when they played in their completed playroom upstairs and I had a few moments of blissful peace.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Nursery

The Texas rains have transformed the miniscule trickle behind our house into a creek. The neighborhood boys like to romp around back there and catch things so not surprisingly we became the proud owners of 6 tadpoles. They swam around in some seriously murky water in a tuperware bowl on my kitchen counter for a few days before I figured out they were family pets. I thought we were catching and releasing. Crazy, heartless me. Since they were staying, I researched and found out that they like to eat lettuce. I attempted to teach the kids AGAIN that if you are going to have pets, the goodness of your heart should make you want to feed them.
We did enjoy watching each of them slowly change from tadpole to frog. The lettuce was a hit (patting myself on the back.) We have a little pond in our backyard that they were rehabilitated to once they scaled the rock and perched on top of it.
Mighty tiny though!

Saturday, July 21, 2007


I seem to type ACK! a lot. It might be like reading a British novel for you. In them the main character seems to say "Er" a lot. I think it is the US version of "Um". Maybe everyone uses the word "ack". I'm not sure. Still, I seem to be suddenly stopped in my tracks over and over right now. Anyhow, I am having a minor conniption. I found a neat site that lists expat blogs. Naturly I click on Singapore and couldn't wait to see what "Singapore Adventure" had to say about being an expat.

Turns out they headed home last Februaby and the first line I read says "It's hard not to view the last two years as a horrible, colossal, nighmarish mistake." So, ACK!

I think it would be an understatement to say they did not like Singapore. Check out http://singadventure.blogspot.com/ if you are interested.

A lot of expats in Singapore are quite the complainers. There must be something about Singapore -- I've heard artifical and materialistic mentioned -- that really irks some expats. At some point they stop seeing the sunny side of their time in a foreign culture. I know when it happened in Africa for me.

After nine months living in Cape Town, we had just spent almost three months living out of our backpacks traveling over southern and eastern Africa. We were in the midst of a two week stay in Zanzibar and I got really upset that asking for ketchup was such a huge ordeal. I knew the "resturant" had it, I just couldn't get this guy to understand what I wanted. "Freaking KETCHUP. It says it on the bottle", I remember thinking. Now that I think about it, maybe they know it as tomato sauce or something. Anyhow, I was curt to him, which really made me feel bad because we had just lived in South Africa and seen one too many white people speak dismissively to black people. I knew it was such a silly thing to get frustrated about considering bed bugs were attacking me all night and our accomadations were seriously sub-standard. Those things did not bother me in the least (you should have seen the incredible location -- I've experienced nothing like it since.) I also had not recovered from my horror at how the Massai people lived. Visiting them was the first time after a year in Africa that I was disgusted by how someone lived. Even the townships weren't as offensive.

So that was as we neared the end of our time and I think I was looking forward to being home. I pray I don't spend my entire time in Singapore disgusted at out different everything is. That blog has me scared, but hopefully it will remind me to keep an open mind and remember that we aren't in Texas anymore.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Look and See and Like?

Next week are heading off on a looksee trip to Singapore! I so hope I don't freak out about moving to a big city once we are there -- Jason doesn't laugh when I tell him that. Dell is doing what it can to make sure we are comfortable and well rested on our way over there. We all have a seat (Lyvi is under two and they didn't HAVE to get her one) in business class on Singapore airlines. They even sprung for us to fly direct from LA to Singapore! Good news is that it is non-stop. Bad news is that the flight is like 17 hours long! Ack! Hopefully Lyvi rises to the occasion and relishes getting to be all over Mommy and Daddy in small area of our flying vessel. She has a very annoying habit of freaking out (that should really be in all caps) when she is awoken before her internal ticker is ready. Maybe I'll have an emergency bag of all her ridiculous favorite things like straws and panties. I think the other three kids will be fabulous on the plane. Dylan was a bit worried this morning and did ask if the plane was going to land before we got on board. I can't even fathom the picture he had in his mind!

I have four schools to possibly visit for the kids. The one I really liked is full at the moment even though they are a bit vague about that -- ugh. I had hoped we could visit THEIR school on this trip to help them feel more comfortable. Oh well. Singapore is such a hot spot for expats that even the schools all have waiting lists.

Now on to packing!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Singapore Bound!

Word from the HR department is that Jason's papers are sailing through the channels. I think this is finally feeling real for Jason. Maybe because he works there he knows all the things that can go wrong. I can say that because he reminds me constantly! For me, it felt real the minute Jason said there might be a job opportunity in Singapore! I went straight into project mode. For awhile we thought we might also have China as a potential base in Asia. While living in China would be a great opportunity for us since Lyvi is from there and we obviously love the culture, it seems that the choice has been taken off the table. Jason would spend too much time in the air. His job is in Singapore, Malaysia and India. So, we will have to make special trips to China while we are there -- I think it is about a 6 hour trip to the southern parts.

Decisions, decisions -- Now we are trying to get some plans in place for our stuff. It breaks me a bit, but we did decide to keep the rolling mom machine. My mini van isn't worth much these days so it would make more sense to keep the devalued car instead of Jason's truck for the next two years. I was so looking forward to selling the van, but really only because the windows don't work (SOOO annoying). The inside isn't too bad considering the punishment it has been put through. The outside is fortunately silver -- seems to camouflage the MANY dents and dings that all of my cars somehow end up with.

My dad said he would take farmdog Sadie, but we still need to find a home for Oliver -- Ollie boy. Oliver is too slow moving for my dad on the farm so hopefully we can find someone who wants a sweet companion dog. He is not very active, but we did just find out he has an ear infection. Maybe that has been the problem for the last few months. We thought he was going deaf, poor guy.

The sad thing for us is that we can't seem to get our farmhouse finished so we can enjoy the place before we leave. It always seems to be six more weeks before it will be completed. The torrential rains in Texas certainly don't help the situation either. My MIL is moving to a much smaller home on the range so at least she is generously sharing some of her excess so I don't have to spend a lot of time finding furniture and things once it is ready for occupancy!