Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Day in the Life...

Wake up call at 6:45am, help kids with breakfast, lay out their uniforms, figure out which shoes Eliot wants to put on, tie shoelaces, fix ponytails. Walk with the kids to the bus stop, past all the construction workers building the new MRT stop, get on a bus while Alexander panics because Eliot is sitting next to a stranger (one of the many Bangladeshi workers headed for a site) or because I might leave Eliot on the bus when we get off (he worries a lot). Then we cross over the suspended bridge and walk into the school. Alexander runs off to his class ("Don't hug me here") while Eliot has me come with her to explain to the Chinese teacher that she doesn't like IT class and that she can't do water play yet because she has a bandaid covering her stitches. "Zai chen," she yells and comes for one last big hug. Then I'm off, speed walking down Bukit Timah rd, my one and only excercise of the day. About 2o min later, I arrive home feeling as crisp as, well, a crisp, and my hair isn't the better for walking in the sweet humidity of Singapore. If it weren't tied in a bun it would probably reach the heights of Marge Simpson. Not pretty. I'm not teaching today so, after a quick shower and checking my email, I'm ready to take some girlfriends to my friend Belle's cool and funky vintage furniture store. It's quite faraway (by my parameters) so I joke: "You didn't tell me we needed our passports to get here...are we in Malaysia?" She has delicious coffee and home baked scones and we get to browse around. I pick up a small, glass painting with butterflies inside. It's for the kids. They just saw Tinkerbell 3 and the Dad was a butterfly collector. In fact, the movie inspired Alexander to strongly request field journals where he could record important stuff ("like warrior swords...").
Lunch and then it's back to the school. I pick up the kids in a taxi and we race off to Eliot's ballet lesson which happens to be open door so Alexander and I get to watch her. Then one small Japanese pancake later and we're back home. Me, convincing Alexander that unless he does his homework (memorizing a Chinese poem) he can't play downstairs in his dugout. And Eliot and her ballet friend watching Dinotopia and playing with their Build-a-Bears. Pizza for dinner and Alexander brings upstairs both his friends, that totals 5 kids. I love it, but am glad their Dad is away in Bangalore (so is he). Then impromptu game of hide and seek. Everybody home before things get ugly and it's time to show the kids their surprise butterfly glass painting. 5 minutes later and they are hunched over it sketching inside their field journals. Moment of peace. Time to go to sleep. Alexander reads Naruto and I read Eliot Grimm's Fairy Tales until she falls asleep with her bear tucked under her arm.
Finally, the house is silent. Bliss.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Letters to Juliet

For most expats, sudden and unexpected bouts of homesickness are one of the hazards of living far from home. I usually realize I'm homesick when I call my Mom who is in Verona, my hometown, and she tells me that it's foggy and cold and my response is: "Really? Foggy and cold? Awww, I miss the fog."
It is therefore, with a feeling of great anticipation, that I go to see a movie that takes place in my city. In this case: Letters to Juliet. The reason I bring this up at all is because the other night a friend of mine told me how often she cries at sad movies and how I never cry at a sad movie. I mean, there are exceptions. The Bicycle Thief comes to mind. But most movies, no tears. I just can't do it. (In fact, suppressed sobs may be one of the causes of my gastric pain, but that's another blog post). Anyway, I suddenly recalled that I HAD almost cried at a recent movie, how could I forget, and that movie was Letters to Juliet. But not because it was sad, but because it was so bad. Perhaps, my expectations had been too high. I honestly feel that any First Year Film School student could have done a better job of portraying a love story in Verona. Not that there is much of the medieval city depicted anyway. Barring the few beautiful scenes there are and the wonderful Vanessa Redgrave, the rest of the movie was almost unwatchable. When the protagonist is driving from Verona to Tuscany to help find Redgrave's character's old flame, the background music is 'tarantella' (traditional music from Sicily not Verona). Seriously? (Note to any film makers out there: it would be great to see a movie that takes place in Italy that decides to not feature 'tarantella' music.) Any more stereotypes? Oh, how could I forget the ubiquitous Italian Mamma in the kitchen of the restaurant above Juliet's balcony (is there even a restaurant there?) insisting these random strangers drop everything and eat all of her food. Sure, that happens all the time. Yes, I know this is a movie (one basically with a very weak plot, relying solely on Italian countryside) but, when at the end of the movie, the boy realizes he's in love with the attractive ex-Mamma Mia actress (what's her name?), and looks for her all over the Tuscan farmhouse, the shot shows an ivy-colored balcony and I find myself hoping against hope: "Please don't be on the balcony, please don't be on the balcony." But of course she is. That's Hollywood. So much for a movie to keep the homesick doldrums at bay.
Maybe next time I'll just go watch a pasta commercial...

"I can see your Halo..."

I haven't been writing my blog for awhile because Eliot has been quite sick. Her bronchitis morphed into stomach flu which resulted in serious dehydration (a common problem here in Singapore). I carried her to the dr (you never know how strong you are until you need to be) and he recommended admitting her to hospital. I don't think so. I followed my best instincts and carried her straight back home promising him that I would monitor her closely and make sure she sipped her rehydration fluids. Her high fever kept returning at night so I ended up giving her antibiotics. With Daddy away on a business trip in Bangalore she ended up spending all her time with me. And I had a chance to discover new things: she loves the music video 'Halo' by Beyonce', can talk for long amounts of time to her stuffed animals (slightly worrisome), and insisted on drinking water from a bowl 'like her puppy,' (even more worrisome). She's finally better and today was her first day back at school. Yeah. I was beginning to dread walking in to check on her sleeping at around 11pm and feeling a burning forehead.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Yesterday I went to my favorite place in the whole world: the third floor of the Queensway Shopping Center in Singapore. Those who know me are aware that I avoid shopping malls like the plague, in fact, I only enter ION with my husband because I'm convinced it's been especially designed for me to walk in and never walk out again. And if we go to Takashimaya, he goes shopping and I wait for him in Kinokuniya bookstore. So why the Queensway Shopping Center?
I go there about once a year to get invitations printed out and there is something surreal about those people working the printers. Most of the time they don't know what I'm asking for. Though I've been there at least 10 times they never recognize me and in the past they have even denied that I've been there. It's like stepping into the Twilight Zone. So why do I go back? First of all, I am a creature of habit and I resist change at all costs. But also for sentimental reasons. In fact, it's like a walk down memory lane. Four years ago, when I first arrived in Singapore, I was finishing my dissertation from the University of Sydney. In what were some of the hairiest hours of my academic life, the 'layout' team and printers held my 'future' in their hands as they printed out the hard copies that I would then need to submit and mail to the board back at the university. Bated breath doesn't even begin to describe my feverish state at the time. So now when I go back to print whimsical birthday cards for my kids, no matter how many glitches or how many times I can't understand their pronunciation of the word: 'layout', it's really a walk in the park!
Some friends have called me up after sighting my recent blog entry: "10 Sure Signs You Are An Expat Kid in Singapore," in this month's edition of the magazine Expat Living. It's a great magazine, you should pick up a copy. After writing about expat kids and expat moms it's only fair if my next entry is about expat dads...anything to procrastinate from what I should be doing and that is writing my book. Yes, I am trying to write a book. Easy? Not really. Fun? Not as much as I thought it would be. Will write some here and see what you all think!