Wednesday, November 30, 2011

10 Questions To An Expat: Southern Belle

Second in line, for my newly introduced series: "10 Questions To An Expat" is mother of two, entrepreneur Belle Waring. I got to catch up with the stylish 'nobody wears vintage better,' queen of soul, over a slice of delicious home-made pecan pie. Yes, she cooks too.

1) How long have you lived in Singapore?
11 yrs.

2) Where are you from originally?
I was born in Savannah, Georgia, lived in South Carolina until 12, and then moved to Washington, D.C.

3) What brought you here?
My husband, John, was offered a tenure-track position teaching Philosophy. It was either Singapore or rural Arkansas. Not a hard call.

4) What do you do in your spare time?
I like painting with my daughters Zoe and Violet, making 'saddest song ever' compilations, and collecting used vinyl LP's. I also run a funky shop with my partner Cheu Koh ( We sell vintage, rehabbed, and industrial furniture. Come check us out! We have a Nespresso machine so... coffee is on the house.

5) What do you like best about Singapore?
Having a full-time maid.

6) What do you like least?
It's too hot to walk anywhere.

7) Never leave the house without...?

8) Best weekend trip?
Villa Qunci, Lombok (Indonesia).

9) Interesting fact most people don't know about you?
I have an advanced degree in Classics from Berkeley. That, and I can apply mascara and curl eyelashes in a moving taxi.

10) What advice would you give someone who is about to move here?
Get a maid!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ten Things I Learned About My First Grader

Yesterday, I went to the first Parent-Teacher Conference of the year at Eliot's school. This is what I found out:

1) Eliot does not work well if you push her. Teacher repeated this twice. You must not push her. (No surprise here, she is her Dad's daughter.)

2) Her teacher noted that when there's not enough room to complete a word, instead of writing the remaining letters under the word like most people do, she writes them on top.

3) Needs to de-code things and proceed to do them in her own way (see point 2).

4) She still can't read.

5) She was the only student able to provide a definition for the term 'get along.'

6) On the classroom wall, where it says: "Who I am," she has written: "I am my brother's little sister."

7) First, Eliot told me that her classmate likes me. But then, she clarified that she doesn't really like me. It's the blueberry muffins I brought after reading that she really likes. (Honesty is so overrated.)

8) Her cubby hole has a suspiciously high amount of little raisin boxes.

9) Her Chinese name 'ai le' means 'loves smiling'.

10) She always hugs the teacher on her way out of class.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ten Things I Do Instead of Working on My Book

1. Make coffee.
2. Read book reviews online.
3. Order some of those books on Amazon.
4. Think how helpful reading those books will be for writing my own book.
5. Update my blog.
6. Email friends.
7. Change my screen saver.
8. Congratulate myself on finally sitting down and writing a book.
9. Think maybe I should be writing a different book.
10. Make more coffee.

I Just Read This in Alexander's School Journal

Singapore. 21.11.11

Swimming. The True Storie
I think I am supposed to love swimming, but i just dont, my mom and dad are trying to make me love it or something I can tell because all my life (so far) I have done swimming lesson after swimming lesson I am on the swim team but did I want to be on it no!! can I quit and join something else like all the other kids NO!! so now I am stuck with a bunch of kids I dont know and my mom says I am supposed to "bond" with them? To me swimming is just something you learn to not drown but no you gotta take swimming to a whole new level with the (over exaggerated) amazing, fantastic Championchips?? I just dont get it at all.

Hmmm, I'm starting to think this boy really doesn't like swimming.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Thing I Hate About Singapore

Last night I had a wonderful dinner out: delicious food, generous hosts, and fun company. It was a bitter sweet night, though, because it was a farewell party. Another one. It seems many of the good friends I have made these last few years are moving away in the next few weeks.
I have always said that the thing I like best about Singapore is the amazing, eclectic mix of people you get to meet. The thing I hate most is when those people have to leave.
And so I am now forced to say goodbye to dear Odette, who is moving back to Switzerland (not so shabby, I know) to take the pharmaceutical world by storm, wonderful Tina who returns to Sydney where she will work and in her free time (oxymoron for this girl) become the global Montessori leader we all know she was always meant to be, and sweet Yasuyo, who will brave the waters of Bangkok to join her husband.
I will miss you guys. Your positive energy, good advice, and the breakfasts in Little India, where over masala dhosas we went from being homesick to accepting Singapore as our new home (sort of).
Goodbye Odette, Tina, and Yasuyo.
Bon voyage. Until we meet again...

Poker Face

Eliot: "I'm NOT shellfish."
(Don't you mean selfish?)

"You only care about the big people, like Alexander."
(Technically, Alexander isn't that big.)

"I know I'm a really good reader, but why can't I read books?"
(Hmmm, tricky question.)

"This boy in my class is sooo mean. He always says no to things. Like when I ask him to marry me."
(That is pretty rude. I should probably talk to his mother.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

10 Questions To An Expat: Gorgeous Germa

Helping me kickstart this new series is the lovely Germa Von Heydebreck- Stricker (pictured here with actor Ethan Hawke, just one of her many admirers). Over a glass of wine at a recent barbecue, I got the chance to sit down and have a chat with the super dynamo, expat mother of four.

1) How long have you lived in Singapore?
Almost 11 years.

2)Where are you from originally?
Hmmm, that's a tough one. I'm German but I grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

3) What brought you here?
My husband Gerald's job. We came for a 2 yr contract with an option to extend for one year. That was more than a decade ago. When we arrived we were four, but then the twins came so now we are six: Alicia (13), Cecilia (11), Lennart and Victoria (9). They all go to the German European School.

4) What do you do in your spare time?
I work at the Goethe Institute organizing events for the language department (, play competitive tennis, kickbox, and enjoy romantic dinners with my husband Gerald.

5) What do you like best about Singapore?
I love what most people hate: the weather, no seasons, eternal sunshine.

6) What do you like least about Singapore?
Friends moving away.

7) Never leave the house without?

8) Best weekend trip?
Rawa, Malaysia.

9) What's the most exciting thing about living here?
The incredible mix of cultures.

10) What advice would you give to someone who is about to move to Singapore?
Go out and meet people...there is so much to do here!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

It's All Relative

Mommy, when Alexander gets married, am I going to be the grandma?

(No wonder, the girl is not looking forward to her brother's future nuptials.)

What Happens in Vegas...

Alexander brushing up on his para-military skills
In the last couple of weeks, Alexander's homework has dwindled to such a suspiciously low amount that yesterday I felt compelled to contact (in what I thought was a super secret email) my concerns to his teacher. I was hoping it would be all hush hush. Alas, his super vision is such that, when called to his teacher's desk to 'have a little chat,' he spotted and read my email (still open on her screen).
When he came home today, not unlike a young Robert De Niro playing Jake La Motta in Raging Bull, he said: "I told you NEVER to tell my teacher anything that happens at home."
Ummm, really? When exactly did we have this conversation. And what does that even mean?
As a friend pointed out today, it could be that he's referring to The Hangover franchise movies, you know the ones that follow the mantra: "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas."
Excuse me, but this is suburban Singapore, a far cry from party town Vegas. At most somebody here chews gum brought surreptitiously into the country. (Not me, I would never do that.)
Not to mention, we rarely leave the condo, kind of like living in a Mormon compound (ok, that's a slight exaggeration). But back to the issue, you're in the fifth grade, why are we even having this conversation?
Because that is the evil genius that is Alexander. He's my firstborn and I love him. But I would rather be shot in the foot than home school him. And this is the reason why: reasoning with him is like a mental cirque du soleil. He will confuse you, change the issue, use special forces tactics.
And that's when it hit me, the summer reading (pictured above) that seemed so casual and harmless at the time...aha, maybe not so casual after all.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

After School Clubs

Now that Eliot is in the first grade she gets to join clubs at her school. She chose Chinese Games (I wonder how long before she realizes that the games are actually in Chinese) and Sports Club.
Yesterday she had Sports Club. I came a little early to pick her up so I could see how she was getting on. By far, the smallest (the club includes students up until the third grade), she looked thrilled when selected to be on teams which included 'big girls' but after that didn't look like she was running very much. Having been officially named myself, way back when, member of the 'No Sweat Society' by my badminton coach, I shouldn't judge. In the open hall where the humidity index factor was easily 100 (typical temperature right after a rainstorm in Singapore), Eliot was conferring very seriously with another tiny girl also from first grade. The very patient and enthusiastic coach (you would have to be, to teach small kids a ball game in that steam bath) came over to see why the two girls were having such an animated debate instead of playing.
Later, she confided to me that they were asking each other: "Is this game fun?"
One thing is sure: it takes serious stamina to play outdoor sports in Singapore weather.
What was your favorite outdoor game as a kid?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Introducing Mr. Singapore

Eliot and Alexander with Mr. Singapore himself
By popular demand, here is a photo of my kids' swimming coach: the indomitable, incredibly patient Nelson Lee.

Not your average swimming coach, Nelson, is the 2009 Mr. Singapore winner, Mr. Universe finalist, and Model of the Year. Swimming lessons have never been so interesting.
But seriously, if you are thinking of booking him for yourself (I mean for your kids, sorry-Freudian slip), you may contact me in private. In the meantime, these are five things you should know about Nelson:

1) He has an Australian accent.
2) He attends red-carpet events in Singapore
3) He has helped Alexander get a killer freestyle.
4) He is a scientist (no, seriously).
5) And, most importantly, he gives out lollipops at the end of class.