Thursday, 8 November 2007

The other side of Singaporean life

On Saturday Aimee and I joined our Dutch neighbours, Paul and Sylvia and their two eldest children Roma and Vince on a Charity Food Drive which was sponsored by Paul's company.

Paul works for Cargill, a privately owned American company. They seem to be highly committed to supporting charitable works in all of the local communities they operate in, from Singpaore to the American Mid-West to the Amazon. It was really refreshing to be asked to join in this type of event given the view of mulit-national business we have seen since Leigh started working for a company owned by dollar-hungry venture capitalists!

We went to the oldest social housing development in Singapore which is about a mile or so from our home. As most of the occupants have lived there all their lives, the average tenant is a senior citizen and often living on a very low income. Every weekend a food drive is organised by a local Charity and all of the eligible families in the development are able to turn up and collect groceries for the week, free of charge. Cargill sponsor the charity with other local businesses on an ongoing basis to ensure there is sufficient food available each week.

The Charity responsible for the project invited Cargill employees, family and friends along to see their work and to get involved with distributing the food and visiting some housebound recipients whilst delivering their groceries. That is how Aimee and I ended up there last weekend.

I've spoken to many of you about the "bubble" we live in here as expats. Singapore whilst in Asia, is often described as "Asia-Light" as it does have poverty but in comparison to what we see when we drive for 30 minutes over the border into Maylasia and beyond, Singapore really is the posh relation in Asia. Life for us as expats is so far removed from that level of poverty and even from the average Singaporean that unfortunately, I'm ashamed to say it is very easy to forget just how lucky we are living in our "paid for by the company houses", private schools and with great tax breaks to finish off the deal. As adults Leigh and I can keep ourselves grounded and remember our place amongst all of this, but for the children it is becoming harder and harder for them to know their place in the world when everyone else they mix with leads the same privileged lifestyle as they do.

Leigh and I can talk to the kids as much as we like about how lucky they are and through school they can learn about and be involved in charities which benefit the less fortunate of Asia but like all things in life talking can never teach as well as actively doing and participating.

Aimee didn't know what to expect from the event though I spent time explaing the economic situation of the people she would be meeting and how important it was for her to be interested in them and to show her interest to them if only through smiling and talking to people as she gave out the food.

We arrived at the distribution point and divided into groups of 2 or 3 to each food station giving out various items. I was giving out onions with Vince (age 3!) and Zion (age 5!). Aimee and Roma opted to give out the bread - this is them waiting for the event to get started...




It was quite a humbling experience meeting the poorest people of Singapore and I have to say that I was amazed by how well all the kids handled themselves. They were full of smiles and laughter and interacted well with everyone they met. Poor little Vince got a bit freaked out by the one-legged lady and the Hindu man with red paint all over his face but he is only 3 years old and I think his main problem was absolute tiredness as it was very hot. I was so proud of Aimee, she positively BEAMED at everyone she met and wasn't at all fazed by the old people wanting to stroke her curly hair and chatter away to her in Mandarin.

After the last of the people had been given their weekly groceries I took the 4 children off to visit 3 recipients in their homes with a member of the Charity. Unlike some of the estates in London and even Medway where I'd fear to tread, a Singaporean housing estate is actually a pretty safe place to be. The lifts work and they don't smell of wee!! Its amazing how well people respect property here but then I guess with a rather strict Government and a harsh penal policy its easier to wait till you reach the toilet than wee in a lift and risk a few years in prison!

The kids were interested to meet the families we visited and were amazed by the small living spaces. The people we met all live in studio flat of just one room with a kitchenette and a small bathroom. One man was sleeping on the floor when we arrived and clearly had not even a bed or chair to sit on. That was a visually graphic explanation of these people's situation for Aimee especially.

We stayed for a few photos after we'd finished our deliveries as the American Ambassador had come along to help so I guess there will be some publicity for the Charity at least due to his attendance. But for Aimee and me the main thing was that we'd had a chance to talk about and meet some people we would never normally ome into contact with here in Singapore. Aimee learnt a great lesson in appreciating her own lucky place in the world by understanding how others less fortunate than her are living only a mile from her home. Its hardly going to turn her or I into Mother Theresa overnight but its a start and you have to start somewhere right?





Thursday, 1 November 2007

Halloween

Halloween was great fun again this year. Being a street well known locally for its ex-pat population (and therefore willingness to dress up and doll out huge quantities of sweets)we were awash with kids and their parents trick or treating.

Aimee was a vampire's cat (basically a black cat with vampire teeth which she soon bored of) and Ollie was a skeleton courtesy of the Sainsbury's outfit Auntie Sarah bought him over last year which fortunately still fits him. Afraid I just couldn't contemplate dressing up this year in my pregnant state - all that man-made fibre and a wig in 33 degrees?? I'm suffering enough in the heat and didn't fancy making it worse for myself so I left the sweet distribution to Mary this year (who was NOT interested in being my substitute evil witch of the house) and went off trick or treating instead.

Was a great atmosphere with lots of people about, various parties going on and a lovely community feeling we've certainly never experienced in England. Halloween in our little expat community of Kingsville is how I imagine it to be in the US - certainly American friends and neighbours who've joined in the fun say its very similar to a US Halloween.

Leigh cancelled his trip to Bali this week due to a bad back but it meant that he got to join in the fun as he was away last year. He wasn't up for a costume, this was his sole effort towards anything remotely ghoulish.......



Unlike our friends Paul and Adrian who you can see really went to town and scared the living crap out of most of the kids! Paul's wife Sylvia is already well known on the street for her extreme enthusiasm for any kind of holiday/celebration. (She happily donned a full Easter Rabbit costume in this heat/humidity, played for an hour with the kids and led an Easter Egg hunt! I can't emphasise how nuts about this kind of thing you need to be to agree to that out here...)




Regina and I were the top-dogs of decorations till Sylvia arrived. Now we merely pale into insignificance! I'm gutted I didn't photograph her house but suffice to say she worked on her plan for weeks and painted a backdrop which covered the whole front of the house and added all sorts of props. That combined with the Paul and Adrian duo was quite a combination.

Here are some of my favourite pics of the evening starting with my favourite costume, Senhon's dead pirate. Loving the grey wig....

href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_WGTPEFH2HB4/Ry8W5LTop0I/AAAAAAAAAVA/PetTo7V76NQ/s1600-h/Halloween+2007+003.jpg">



Saturday, 27 October 2007

Half Term Fun

Half term is well and truly over for us and the kids are back to school. We were all glad of the break though and especially enjoyed the last day of term which was United Nations Day.

UN Day is a big deal at the kids school as there are between 35-45 nationalities represented in the school at any given time. This year saw a bit of controversy with the Scottish, Irish and Welsh branching off into a little group of their own. Last year I tried to manage a minefield of disagreement amongst parents on the Irish Question and other such regional battles. It amazes me that the adults are able to get so het up about this type of thing and they forget the day is meant to be about the kids celebrating the fact the school is a "uniting" of nations...ah well, some things are clearly lost on some parents!

I ended up being the co-ordinator for the English kids again despite a genuine get out of jail card with the pregnancy from hell - but then that got trumped by my friend's dad suddenly passing away and prompting her unexpected return to England. Poor love, it has to be every expat's worse nightmare to have that happen and so the least I could do was take over organising UN Day for her.

There were 124 English kids and in the absence of a National Costume (chav outfits do not count!) we opted for T-Shirts with the St George's Cross. The kids had a great day and they all looked great in the parade. Here's a pic of some of the kids and then Aimee and Ollie....




Once UN Day was over and done with we headed off to Bintan for a little holiday. Poor Leigh was feeling knackered after an especially stressful few weeks at work so it was great for him to have a break. The hotel looked spectacular on the website, was great when we got there but to be honest, lacked any real personality. It was also very quiet which didn't help but it wasn't school and it wasn't work so we can't complain.

Leigh and I have decided that even after only 18 months in Asia we just don't get that initial "WOW" feeling anymore on holiday out here as everywhere you go its stunning beaches, great scenary etc etc. When we're back in England we'll be beating ourselves but I suppose its a good thing that we are still able to realise the vista should be taking our breath away, even if it isn't! God, we sound like spoilt brats - I promise we're not and haven't morphed into hideous expats quite yet!!!!

The kids enjoyed the break despite the lack of other children to play with. They especially liked the garden and outside jacuzzi that came with our accomodation. I love this picture of them in the "bubbly pool" with Leigh - doesn't he look like a giant with those long legs hanging over the side?



That's it now though, definitely seems like no more opportunities to enjoy short breaks Asia style for quite a few months as my belly grown larger every day and my Doc puts a ban on travelling outside of Singapore. We do have an exciting Christmas and New Year to look forward to though as Jon and Tracey are coming to visit from England and Leigh has booked off the whole of the holidays from work.

In the meantime, we return to school and work for Leigh and the Kids and I get into some serious glueing and sticking for the Infant Nativity play - apparently, if I'm very good, I might be allowed near a sewing machine. See, would a spoilt expat brat put up with that????

Monday, 8 October 2007

"Useless Blogger Finally Updates"

Its official - I am the worse Blogger around!! After a worried phone call from Lisa in England 'cause the Blog was "stuck" on 14 August and a little nudge from Nat (aka Marmite Breath) I've been kicked and shamed into action to get back to blogging.

I could bore you all with my excuses as to why I haven't been doing blog updates but you are probably all sick of hearing me moan about this pregnancy and its associated troubles already so I won't bother with that. Since we got back from England on 20 August its been pretty glum around here as we've battled with homesickness (me), work issues (Leigh), the move into big school (Ollie) and the increased levels of homework at year 5 (Aimee).

Some welcome relief came in the form of Maz (Leigh's sister) when she visited for a couple of weeks with her little boy, Laurie. Was great to have her visit us and experience Asia from a different perspective to her days globe trekking pre-children. I persuaded her to take a trip to Sea Gypsy which she really enjoyed, as did the little man himself.

Life is slowly settling down to normality again, though I'd be lying if I didn't say my hormone surges make me a little tearful for England at times still. The kids have now settled back into school and the routine of school events, parent meetings and such like continues. United Nations Day is fast approaching and with the usual parent "discussions" as to what the British kids will wear in lieu of a National Costume. It is shameful that we haven't got one really, especially in a school with kids from 35 different countries, all of whom seem to have beautiful, elaborate national costumes. Anyway, pictures will follow after the event on Friday.

Ollie has some big news to share though - he has not only moved into Big School but also onto the "Big Boy" bike - i.e. no stabilisers/training wheels (depending on which continent you are reading this on!) He was fantastic. I held his seat for maybe 5 seconds whilst he steadied himself and then, he was off. Now he thinks he can do tricks and become the Evil Knievel of Singapore. Here's what his face looked like after a couple of days with that mindset....



And a little clip of him riding...




Aimee had an exciting weekend as she was asked to sing with her school choir for the Singaporean President at a big event to celebrate the end of Charity Week here in Singapore. (And no, unfortunately no-one here says it like it Smashy and Nicey so my "Charrr-it-yyy" comments have fallen on very deaf ears and confused faces - another lost in translation moment). Anyway, back to Aimee. She was so proud of herself, especially when she was put at the centre of the first row, holding up a candle - "he'll definitely be looking at me mum!!". Bless her heart. Was Leigh's birthday this weekend so we couldn't go and watch her as we'd already invited half the street over for a BBQ but Aimee forgave us when I bribed her with the chance to stay up late and watch Cheetah Girls 2.

What else is new??? Ummm, we've booked a holiday for half term as we never managed to get away in the summer what with all my vomiting and being in hospital. We're off to a nearby Indonesian island called Bintan where they have golf, a kids club and a spa so all members of the family are happy! Our plans to go to the Maldives were crushed by my Docs due to lack of nearby decent medical facilities. Oh well, save that up for next year maybe. Well, better go as I have to collect the kids from school. I promise I'll get better at blogging again but for now here's some pics of life since August....







PS Its a girl in case you haven't heard by now!

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Baby Leather Scan Pictures






I went for the 13 week scan at the local BUPA hospital whilst in UK on holiday and came away feeling greatly relieved that all is well and where it should be after the eventful last 12 weeks.

Obviously Leigh wasn't there but my lovely Lisa came with me and held my hand, which was actually more necessary than I realised as I was terrified - easy to admit now!

Anyway, all well, have loads of pictures and and some DVD clips, including 4D which was AMAZING!

V xx

PS Doctor told me the sex of the baby and was 80-90% positive (best we can ask for at this stage). Boy or a Girl??? What do you think??? Not telling you till I've told Leigh....

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Summer Holidays...

The children and I are now in England for our 4 week summer holiday, which we have been greatly looking forward to.

We are spending the next 2 weeks or so staying at Jacinta's house in Rainham, doing cat-babysitting whilst she is on holiday. It is so kind of her to let us stay here, I really appreciate her hospitality and hope to return the favour next year as I seem to be persuading her a trip to Singapore is a good idea....

I've been a bit useless on the blogging front again in the last month as I've been pretty ill and have been in hospital twice due to a ruptured ovarian cyst and some other lady complications due to the fact I am pregnant!!! Yes, we have decided to add a third and final baby-leather to the gang and am currently about 10 weeks pregnant. Things have been a little complicated by the cyst and the fact I have hyperemesis - basically the worst form of morning sickness you can get. Typical!! After my last stay in hospital for severe dehydration I was put on some tablets which have reduced the vomiting from about 25 times a day to an average of 5. Much better but still feeling yuck. Keep your fingers crossed for me it goes off in next couple of weeks.

The kids are bursting with excitment and can't quite grasp how long the pregnancy will take. Ollie is talking to my belly constantly and kissing it a lot which is cute.

Unfortunately Leigh hasn't been able to come with us as he is busy at work so that is going to make this trip tough. We have also had to cancel our week in Turkey with Dad and Julie as my consultant wouldn't authorise the travel given the medical problems I've been having. So instead, on 9th August the kids and I will be moving up to Mike and Maureen's place until we return to Singapore on 19th August.

Well, I will try to email you all in the next few days with contact numbers etc and hope to catch with many of you over the next 4 weeks.

See you soon

V xxxx

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Birthdays, Bali and Babies

Hello everyone,

Apologies for being pretty slack this month and not blogging, but its been an action packed month and I'm only just slowing emerging from the yucky flu and chest infection I've been suffering with for the last week, which was my reward from the Gods for rushing around like a loony for weeks.

Ollie's Birthday party was a great success. He shared the day with his friend Lola from school. She holds a special place in his heart as she is the only girl in the class who will not give into his Romeo ways. Barney the Dinosaur came along to the party too and it was absolutely the best kids party I've ever been to. The kids were happy, calm (I know - at a kids party!) and totally transfixed by Barney's games. The fact they could see the lady's face didn't detract from their absolute belief in her Barneyness either. I never felt a moment's stress and will happily be hiring out this entertainer again and again whilst we live here.

Here's a few clips of the action....











The day after Ollie's birthday the 4 of us were off to Bali for 5 days with Mike and Maureen for a lovely holiday. We stayed at a beautiful villa with its own pool, so the kids were in heaven. We just chilled out really, eating and drinking our way through the week. Here are a few pics of the holiday....







When we got from Bali we had a few more days with Mike and Maureen so thought it would be rude of us to let them leave Singapore for the second time without having tried a Sunday Brunch. So off we trooped to Sentosa for a lovely afternoon of free flowing Champagne and food, followed by some napping around the pool whilst the kids were playing. My friend Michelle and her 2 kids joined us too....


href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_WGTPEFH2HB4/RnErzBpZP5I/AAAAAAAAAOM/0cWIVQCRNOQ/s1600-h/Sunday+Brunch+20+May+2007+006.jpg">





We said Goodbye to Mike and Maureen on the Monday, then Hello to my friend Emma and her 2 boys, Declan and Joseph on the Friday! It was wonderful for me to have Emma here, Singapore is wonderful but having her to stay made it perfect. We are having a great time here, but missing friends and family is still tough.

We definitely had an action packed week whilst she was here. Both of my kids had their Sports Days, plus we did the usual tourist stuff of Raffles, River Boat Tour, Photos with Sir Raffles and the Merlion, Night Safari, Science Centre etc etc. Emma and I even managed an evening out shopping, cocktails at a posh hotel and my favourite Singapore Restaurant, Din Tai Fung - mmmm, lovely. There was also a Brunch [Emma was not feeling the full ticket so didn't eat much] and some vodka drunk in the first few days.

I'll let the pictures do the talking - are you checking my new super-duper camera yet with 10.1 megapixels...??? I love it and am even more of a photo pest than ever now....
















Oliver's Sports Day efforts deserve some photos of their own. He started his 100 metre sprint in prime position to take the Gold...



...and then, disaster strikes [or rather, his Barney trainer fell off]...



...his nemisis, Lola was confused, should she stay and help or run for the prize.....



....Hugo tears past them both with glory in his eyes....





...But our lovely Ollie is the Hero of the Hour, when he puts his shoe back on and races to the finish line like nothing had happened to lots of applause and smiles from all the mums and dads watching in the stands...




Well, that's all folks for now. In just over 5 weeks me and the kids will be back in Blighty for 4 weeks of our summer holidays (though a week will be with Dad & Co. in Turkey) so I'm hoping to catch up with as many of you as possible. All dinner invitations, nights out, shopping trips, BBQs etc will be gratefully and cheekily accepted! Missing you all,

love V xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


PS For of you with the Beady eyes, I did talk about Babies in the title. Well, its not me, but my lovely Emma who is pregnant...



For the even more beady eyed amongst you, did you notice I said Babies as in plural???? That's right, we discovered whilst Emma was here that not only was she pregnant but also expecting two. TWINS!!!! OHMIGOD!!!!!

So that's TWINS by the way - TWO Babies!!! Emma, good luck to you, glad I was there to share the discovery with you but glad its you not me. Phew! Here's what Emma's number 3 and number 4 child are looking like in her tum so far...