Sunday, March 24, 2013

Calogero Failla: Black Swan of Singapore

Black Swan of Singapore
Remember the psychological thriller Black Swan, starring oscar winner Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, and Vincent Cassel? Who knew you could find that much intrigue, jealousy, and ambition in a ballet company? Calogero Failla, that's who. Over coffee yesterday, I had a chat with this Italian export who is now a professional dancer at the Singapore Dance Theater. Failla, who has travelled the world for his art, left home at just fifteen. And if he had to do it over again? He would leave at nine.
Here are my 10 questions to an expat (edited version), for the unedited you'll have to wait for the book!

1) So Calogero, how long have you lived in Singapore?
Six months.

2) Where are you from originally?
Ragusa, Sicily.

3) What brought you here?
Ballet. I don't travel for tourism, only for work.

4) What do you do in your spare time?
I don't like to go out drinking or to discos...I like to sit in a cafe' and write. Poems and stories.

5) What do you like about Singapore?
People are quite reserved here. Although, sometimes they are too detached. The pas de deux is like making takes two people. Otherwise it doesn't work. Ballet may belong to everybody but it is not for everybody.

6) Interesting. So what do you like least?
The weather and the food.

7) Never leave the house without?
A notebook and a pen.

8) Best weekend trip?
I usually work on weekends. The daily regime of a dancer is very tough. If we have no shows on the weekend and are not on tour, I usually just take it easy.

9) Interesting fact people don't know about you?
I know how to cook. My specialty is pasta with red pesto. I will have to make it for you one day.

10) Gladly. So what advice would you give someone who is about to move here?
Go back. Just kidding. But seriously, it depends on what you want to do here. Asia is not for everybody.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Stuff First Time Visitors to Singapore Say

"So this is Singapore?!"

1) It's like being on vacation.
2) Is it always so hot here?
3) It doesn't look like it's going to rain.
4) Why is the air con on all the time?
5) Can you turn the air con on?
6) I love walking.
7) Maybe we should take a taxi.
8) If I had a pool, I would always be by the pool.
9) I never get sunburnt...
10) Do they sell aloe vera?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

10 Question To An Expat: Beautiful Brianna

Brianna with her lovely family
Introducing our expat of the month, Brianna Gardiol Foulds, beautiful wife and mother of three. When she's not training for a marathon, this Texan dynamo can be found at a Singapore Slingers game sporting cowboy boots and a huge smile.

1) So Brianna, how long have you lived in Singapore?
We moved here in October 2011, so about 16 months.

2) Where are you from originally?
I was born in Idaho but lived in Tokyo as a child. My family finally settled in Texas, which is where I moved to Singapore from.

3) What brought you here? 
My husband Todd's job. He manages a team for a US based tech company.

4) What do you do in your spare time?
My free time is pretty random and never scheduled far in advance. I volunteer at my kids' school, go running, catch a daytime movie with my friends. I think a course in hot yoga and hip hop would be fun.

5) What do you like best about Singapore?
I LOVE that I have made so many friends from Singapore and from all over the world. I get to learn about about so many different cultures and traditions. 

6) What do you like least?
Durian. Seriously...who thought it would be a good idea to put something that smelled that awful into your mouth?!

7) Never leave the house without?
A hair band and a scrunchie. I have to control my frizzy hair! If only I had lived here in the 80's my hair would be rockin'.

8) Best weekend trip?
We have not traveled a lot yet but we do have some trips coming up: Kota Kinabalu (on the island of Borneo in Malaysia), Khao Lak in Thailand, Beijing, and Siem Reap in Cambodia. I'm not sure which one I'm most excited for.

9) Interesting fact people don't know about you?
I started a facebook group because I couldn't find Cheez Wiz for a recipe for my first Thanksgiving dinner away from home. Yes, Cheez Wiz was the motivation behind a group that now has over 800 members in it. I also have a motorcycle license.

10) And finally, what advice would you give someone who is about to move here?
Be prepared for the ups and downs of being an expat. Not every day is going to be filled with rainbows and unicorns. But make the most of it because before you know it your assignment here will be over. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ten Sure Signs You Are At An International School in Singapore

"Please, sir, I want some more..."

A few weeks ago, I was invited to give a writing workshop at one of the better known international school in Singapore. As expected, it was great fun to meet such an engaged group of students. Afterwards, over a delicious meal of naan and curry, I wondered if there were any tell tale signs that I was at one of those landmark institutions in Singapore: the international school. 
Here's what I noticed:

1) The kids' sneakers cost more than my handbag.
2) There's an olympic sized pool.
3) There's kayaking for P.E.
4) Students walk around with water bottles. You know, for the drought you haven't heard about yet.
5) Lunchtime looks like a mini UN convention.
6) Kids have a hard time pronouncing their best friend's name. 
7) Field trips include skiing in the Alps and trekking in the Himalayas.
8) Kids only see their grandparents on skype.
9) On the day back from school holidays, most kids walk around in a jetlagged stupor.
10) The canteen has its own clay pot tandoori oven (see photo above).

Friday, March 8, 2013

Does The Tooth Fairy Come To Singapore?

Eliot lost another tooth. That is a big deal for a kid. Before bedtime, she wrote a carefully worded missive and wondered if the tooth fairy would be coming.
Because even a 7 yr old knows there are no certainties in life. Especially at night time.
A couple of nights ago, I read her a short story by Oscar Wilde called The Star Child. It's about a young boy who rejects his mother because she is a beggar woman. He was stolen from her as a baby in the forest and she only finds him after a desperate search that has lasted for years and left her destitute. But the child is not happy to see her since he had always imagined and told his friends he was a royal prince. He is disgusted by her ugliness and embarrassed by her poverty so he throws stones at her and calls her names. This image really upset Eliot, especially when I volunteered: "What if that were me?"
Last night, an old fear came back with a vengeance- her fear of crocodiles. Nothing I could say was comforting. Not even that there are no crocodiles in Singapore. She quickly pointed out: "What about the zoo? I saw one at the zoo." I ended up just sitting next to her and singing the song I used to sing when I rocked her to sleep as a baby Knick Knack Paddy Whack Give a Dog a Bone. She finally dozed off clutching my hand and her bear.
I definitely prefer her daytime fears: "I don't want to do a spelling test. I wish we could have a spice test, instead." Clearly, years of eating curry noodles have given her incredible confidence.
Do you still remember the things you feared as a child?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Signs You Are Not Slumming It In Singapore

It's a bargain!

1) You eat cheese.
2) You drink wine.
3) You have a car.
4) You have a child. That child goes to school.
5) You buy your fruit from Isetan.

(For reference: $59 sing dollars for 1 melon= 47 US dollars or 30 GB pounds or 35 euros.)
Unfortunately, I cut off the top part of the sign which says: On sale. At least, they have a sense of humor...I think.