Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Yorkers “Flying” in Singapore

Now that the jet-lagged friends had traveled to and from Malaysia and had received a night’s sleep in a yellow guest room in Singapore… it was time to get down to business: Sightseeing in Singapore.

Andrew went back to work Tuesday morning (after we realized that we conveniently happened to take Labor Day off for our trip to Malaysia). I snagged my brother and brought him with me to my computer class. Jehiah graciously gave a talk to my Middle School Computer class. He engaged the class by showing him the hobbies of a web programmer: personal annual reports and making Amharic apps.

We brought home a cheap lunch of chicken rice to Selam. After lunch we were ready to explore.

Our afternoon agenda was to head down to Little India.

Little India

Little India

While in this little piece of Singapore, Selam was able to find a Sari that she liked (although the lady tried to convince her that she wanted to buy more than one). J&S looked at some jewelery in a Indian jewelery shop. They considered one that had the price of $25… only to find out it was really $437! Apparently the $25 on the tag was only the “making charge”… oops! Our walk around town ended with a delicious meal of Murtabak: prata with beef/lamb. Mmm!

With filled stomachs we caught a bus to go meet Andrew. After connecting with the hubby we walked towards our big evening event: The Singapore Flyer. (We used passes that were happily provided through Andrew’s workplace.)

A Preview of the Grand Prix Track

A Preview of the Grand Prix Track

As we walked there we came across the preparations for the Grand Prix that will be held later this month. Regular roads had been made special with strong barriers, tall and secure fences, and BRIGHT lights! It was neat to see the track in person.

We approached closer to our destination and looked up. It started to sink in, just how massive this creation was!

Looking up at the flyer

Looking up at the flyer

We were one step closer to flying. After all, with a flight enthusiast such as Selam – it seemed that we should get on a touristy contraption named the “Flyer.”

Singapore Flyer

Singapore Flyer

There was hardly a line for the Flyer, so after very little wait-time we found ourselves on the flyer!

Our Flyer car awaits

Our Flyer car awaits

The views were simply spectacular! What a neat way to view downtown Singapore at night.

"Flying" through downtown Singapore

“Flying” through downtown Singapore

It was easy to forget that you were moving on the Flyer as the ride was so smooth and the cars rotated independantly of the wheel. All too soon we came up and over the top. But the sadness of realizing we were over halfway done with the ride was overshadowed with the captivation with the Marina Bay Sands light show!

Pyrotechnics at the light show! (as seen from the Flyer)

Pyrotechnics at the light show! (as seen from the Flyer)

Marina Bay Sands at Night (As seen from the Flyer)

Esplanade Theaters (As seen from the Flyer)

The sight of the Marina Bay, the Marina Bay Sands, the Helix Bridge, downtown, etc… all lit up was the perfect way to end the evening.

God answers my nieces’ prayers

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

I must admit: after working full-time while we waited for the Lord to grant Andrew a full-time job… well, I have been enjoying the break from work ever since moving to Singapore. A close friend put it this way, “It seems like you have adjusted nicely to house wife.” I was (and am!) enjoying focusing on setting up house, decorating the home, trying new meals, and spending a lot of time “nesting.” Although Andrew and I had just moved half way around the world and we were missing family – I can honestly say the changes in our lives had reduced my over-all stress level significantly. But I would be lying if I said that I didn’t use my newly unemployed nature to my advantage – often giving in to lazy habits.

We often discussed the topic of whether or not I should go back to work. While not completely opposed to the idea, neither were we eagerly searching for a position. We prayed that the Lord would give us wisdom on how we should proceed in the realm of job opportunities.

Earlier this summer I discovered through my sister that my nieces were being much more direct with their line of prayers. Apparently they had been praying diligently for “Aunt Age to get a job.” My sister gently reminded them that their Aunt might not be that interested in finding a job and posited that perhaps they might want to revise their prayer topic. But they were not thwarted. They continued to pray for that which I wasn’t sure I even wanted: a job.

Every now and then I would do web searches for part-time tutoring opportunities. But typically the positions would require SG citizenship or permanent residence status, willingness to work weekends, or full-time commitments – none of which suited me. Finally about a month ago Andrew and I decided we would put forth a more concentrated effort on looking for a part-time position for me. A job posting was found for a Christian tutoring company that was looking for part-time tutors. The job interested us enough for me to work on updating my resume and fashioning a cover letter to send to the company. While the company ended up expressing an interest in me, my particular skills and desires (ie: not to work on weeknights) weren’t exactly suited for their present needs.

Meanwhile two ladies at church encouraged me to look into substitute teaching at a local Christian school. One of the ladies had children that attended the particular school, and the other lady had a background of substitute teaching. The school was one that I was familiar with and had even looked into. But the fact that they didn’t have job postings that seemed to matched my interests had previously discouraged me from investigating further. I discovered that another lady at our small church was the music teacher at the school. I spoke with her, and she gave further confirmed the encouragement I had already received and gave me a name of one of the individuals at the school to contact.

Due to the encouragement I had received, I put an email in to the school. When I sent my email in, the school was in the midst of preparations for the school year which started within two weeks! After my email getting juggled around, the high school principal contacted me and expressed an interest in speaking to me. An interview was set up for Friday. Thursday night I was a nervous wreck. I had never done a true in person interview with someone I had never met before. Andrew kindly reminded me that God was in control. After refocusing on the One who could worry about it and praying about what the next day would hold – I worked on getting a good night’s rest.

The next day I showed up for my interview. The Lord answered my prayer for a good interview, and I was informally given the job on the spot! After a wonderful tour of the school, I left to walk back to the bus. About a block away I heard someone call after me. I turned to find a gentleman from the school literally running after me! Once he caught up to me, he joked, “This is how much we want you, that we’re chasing you down!” He was the elementary/middle school principal and was catching me to speak about whether or not I would be interested in (and/or suited to) the opportunity of a full-time position as a teacher’s assistant for a kindergartener’s class. I was a bit shocked – but told him I would consider it. That  night I received an email from the first principal. He was following up on the interview and was curious if I had any interest in teaching a middle school computer class. I was bewildered: here I had been originally nervous about the interview, and the Lord had provided three opportunities for me to consider!!!

The next morning I went back into the school, this time find out more details about the opportunity to teach computer. That gave me the rest of Saturday and Sunday for Andrew and I to discuss and pray about the opportunities. It didn’t seem like a lot of time to us for making a wise decision. However, the Lord’s plans were in place long before we realized them, and he was not concerned about the time crunch! By Sunday evening we had arrived at the decision to accept the offer for me to teach middle school computer and to do substitute teaching in addition.

Things continued to move quickly, and within 12 hours, I was headed to school for my first full day of work! Tuesday was Singapore’s National Day, so I got that day off. But Monday and Wednesday were spent trying to quickly settle in and get somewhat acclimated. Thursday I taught my first class to a group of energetic 6, 7, and 8 graders! WOW! What a week. In some circumstances the Lord answers prayer quickly.

It has been a week now at my new job. I teach one class a day. Since the class is an elective, each class I teach is every other day. Consequently, one day I teach one class; the next day I teach the other class. I had one student ask me if I like computers. Boy do I!? And how fun is it that I get to teach computer!?  I am still spending a fair amount of time working on planning out the year ahead of me – but I am looking forward to getting into a routine of teaching while still having the time at home that I enjoy.

The school is wonderful – just a short bus ride away, located in the same town as our home. It is a private, American, Christian school with excellent students and a superb staff. I LOVE it already! I could not have planned for a more excellent part-time job, but the Lord did. And I am convinced that my nieces committed prayer had some part to play in the perfectness of the situation 🙂

All In a Day’s Bus Rides

Before moving to Singapore, I would have not been too keen on using mass transportation so regularly. To be frank, it would not have been easy to do so living in Anne Arundel County.

Since moving to Singapore, I have adapted integrating mass transit into my daily life. Singapore makes it easy to do so. Or at least, they give enough motivation.

The motivation starts with their discouragement of using cars. It is not impossible or illegal to own a car… but it sure is expensive. The cost of owning a car is not cheap. Mandatory fees rack up quite quickly. According to one acquaintance of ours, the registration fees alone can easily cost around $10,000 a year. Mind you, those registration fees don’t include the cost of the car. Nor do the majority of unique-to-Singapore car-owning-costs include the price to actually drive. I must say, we have enjoyed not thinking about gas prices, the cost of car insurance, or the price tag of car upkeep and repairs. All this being said, plenty of people drive cars – and nice ones too. But the luxury of a car in Singapore is not in our budget.

All of the incentives to refrain from buying a car would be useless if there were not a viable alternative. Consequently, Singapore has made huge efforts to have an efficient and affordable mass transit system that aims to make it possible for anyone to travel anywhere in Singapore. There is always the option of a taxi. But for everyday traveling, most Singaporeans use the bus and MRT (rail) systems.

Never before have I been so comfortable with using mass transit to get around. It has taken some getting used to. And you have to know what resources to use to find your way around, as most bus stops do not have maps to aid the unfamiliar traveler. But with the use of GPS, computer (specifically maps.google.com.sg and whereto.sg), and a handy map book, Andrew and I have been able to make our way to virtually any destination that we have desired. (This doesn’t included our very first bus-trip on our very first day in Singapore. We were mis-informed by hotel staff as to the right bus stop. Consequently, we took the bus 5 stops in the completely wrong direction and had no idea of figuring out where we were. Needless to say, one of our first purchases was a map book.)

There are two primary bus company’s: SBS, which has roughly 200 bus routes, and SMRT, which has about 75 bus routes. Both companies use the same bus stops and use the payment methods for bus fares. The card that is used to pay for bus fares also is used for riding on the MRT. One of our favorite features is that you can get transfer fares. Because of the tiered distance vs. fare payment schedule, you can actually transfer and not pay anything if you don’t travel that far.

Anyways – all this is to say that we have really enjoyed becoming accustomed to using mass transit on a regular basis. We feel safe, can figure our way around, and for the most part have little in the way of complaints. Typically our biggest complains consist of slow drivers or bus drivers that seem to drive in a jerking manner.

However, the other day I had several new bus riding experiences that I thought were blog worthy. I recently started a new job as a part-time teacher (more details to follow later in another blog). Thursday was my “first day of school.” I had timed my travel to work a few other days and was expecting the average 10-12 minute bus ride to work that morning. The bus route from home to school included 4 bus stops. This morning the bus was PACKED! I got on the standing-room-only bus and was sandwhiched between several other human bodies. At the first stop the bus driver allowed 2 more people on, but it took several minutes (compared to the usual few seconds) to get them on as the bus driver had to make sure they could fit in before closing the door. On stop #2 a few people got off and lightened the load, but even more people were lined up to get on. It took so long for the few people to pile onto the bus that another bus of the same # came up behind us and filled up with the people remaining in line. Bus stop #3, not much changed. Here is where the story took a change none of the passengers were expecting. Instead of traveling over the highway to the next road with my destination bus stop, the driver took the on-ramp onto the highway. I was bewlidered as I realized what was happening. My first thought was that maybe I had gotten on the wrong bus and not realized it. The second thought was that perhaps the bus route had changed, and I had not payed attention to postings.

Occupied with these thoughts it took me a few moments to realize that others around me had the same look as I did: one that was a mixture of confusion and bewilderment. We were headed in the wrong direction, and fast. It was a highway and there was no exit nearby that would head us in the proper direction. My conviction that the bus driver was going the wrong direction was affirmed by a passenger in the back of the bus that piped up, “HEY! WHERE ARE WE GOING!?!?!” The bus driver must have been too embarassed to respond. Thankfully we took a nearby exit, but the road we exited onto headed north (our stop was south). We took another left and were on the road with the prvious bus stop #1 and 2… but in the opposite direction. Finally we headed back on the road that we had deviated from and passed bus stop #3. Our path seemed to be rectified and we arrived at bus stop #4. I got off of the bus bewildered at my experience. The extra detour had cost us time and the entire trip took twice as long as I normally would have expected. Not the way I planned to arrive on my first day of classes.

The first day went well dispite the odd beginning. However, things were again curious as I headed home.

A few stops into my bus ride home a lady was attempting to get onto the bus. Several people were standing on the bus, but it was by no means packed (as it had been that morning). This driver (perhaps it was the same one from the morning?) didn’t take the time to check that his passengers had completed their ascent onto the bus. Instead he prematurely closed the front bus door on the poor passenger! She yelped out as she was caught between the two closing doors. I was shocked. Never before had I seen such an occurrence. In fact many times I have witnessed a bus driver take extra care in waiting for a fragile passenger to find a seat before continuing on his way. My amazement was heightened as immediately after the driver opened the door back up the situation was repeated. The lady had not recovered from her first experience and finished getting on the bus, and was instead caught in the door yet again. I was aghast. I really was shocked. I couldn’t believe the carelessness of this driver. The lady seemed to recover well enough and finally passed the doors and made it into the safety of the bus. If the experience proved memorable for me, I’m sure it will be burned into the poor lady’s memory.

That evening I took the bus to meet Andrew for our date night dinner (at IKEA of all places). One of the buses I rode was a double decker. This afforded me yet another bus experience that I never had before. The upper level was occupied, but probably less than 1/2 filled. At one of the bus stops several people were waiting to board the bus. I was surprised when no one came upstairs, as I had seen a long queue of waiting bus customers. A few moments later, I heard the distinct voice of the bus driver saying, “Hey, there is room upstairs. Please go upstairs. Excuse me, there is room upstairs. Please go upstairs.” Apparently what had happened was that the bottom level became full enough that more passengers could not get on, but the top level had ample room to offer to those extra passengers. It took several promptings of the driver before some brave souls decided to mount the stairs and make room for the others to come onto the bus. I was surprised. Yet another experience (but less shocking than the other two) in a day of traveling in Singapore.

Now I realize that these three stories might put the buses of Singapore in a bad light. But in all reality, for as often as I ride the buses, I am surprised that is has taken this long to experience such occurrences. And 2 lessons should be learned: 1) don’t stand in the doorway while it’s closing, and 2) go upstairs if downstairs is crowded. As for riding on a bus that is not following the correct route, I guess the lesson would be, just be patient.

Eppy Log 3: Saga of the Snails

Much has happened since the last aquatic creatures update!

Sad news: Spike has departed. Here’s the story:

When we got the snails, Andrew suspected there might be issues because they seemed to prefer to stay near water line. He researched snail behavior online and decided that the likely cause of our snails water-line-hugging-ness was the water quality. He made a trip to the fish store. The store employees were fairly emphatic that he did not need any water treatment. Frustrated, Andrew waited a few days before trying again, this time to the other fish store literally a few stores down the block. A similar sentiment was expressed by these store employees.

Meanwhile our poor snails seemed to become more lethargic. (I know… you’re probably thinking, How do you tell how lethargic a snail is?) The need to help our snails became urgent! Finally, Andrew couldn’t take knowing he might be contributing to the seemingly poor health of our snails. He went to the fish store again. This time, he didn’t ask the “experts” their advice. Instead he went to the shelf, found the water treatment that he wanted, bought it, and walked out of the store.

Unfortunately it was too late for Spike. <sniff sniff> The one water creature that was mine – gone.

Good news though: The water treatment worked! The other snail, Zebby, perked right up and within a few hours he was zooming around the tank. Andrew’s efforts seem to touch the little fellow and he now was going all around the tank.

Convinced that we now had the means to keep snails happier, Andrew thoughtfully bought me a new snail for my birthday:

Meet our newest tank addition

The store was out of spikey snails so Andrew picked out this pretty spotted snail instead. Its spots go in a spiral pattern. I haven’t decided on a name yet. Any suggestions?

This is not all that is worthy of reporting since the last Eppy Log.

Two days ago we looked into the tank. We were worried that Zebby had escaped as we couldn’t see him. We looked closer and finally found him – he had made it inside of the plant.

The next morning, Zebby was still enjoying the plant!

Zebby hanging with the plant

Is this a good sign? Does he like the plant’s company more than that of Eppy or the new snail on the block? I was just impressed that the plant could hold it’s weight and that could stay on with relatively little area that he was suctioning to.

I’m still curious how he even got there in the first place!?

Zebby getting along with the green creature

He was still having fun crawling along the plants late into the day.

I guess whatever keeps him happy. Come to think of it, if I were in his place with Eppy always staring at me and trying to intimidate me, I might cling to the plant and do my best to hide.

The snails trying to avoid Eppy

We’ll have to see what the next snail stunt becomes … 🙂

The Effects of Having Cheese Makers as Parents

Marrying into the Randles family has not come without a cost. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my in-laws. I couldn’t have hoped for better ones. But that doesn’t mean that while I love them, there aren’t consequences… good ones. For better or worse, my in-laws, Marge and Dave, have influenced me. Here is the saga of some of their hard work & ingenuity – and how it has affected me.

Picture taken by my Aunt at our wedding. If I didn't know better, I'd say by their happy faces that it was their wedding and not ours!

Andrew and I hope to someday have half the legacy that his parents have of hard work and ingenuity. Farmers by trade – his parents are truly hard workers. But in 2007 they took their hard work to a whole new level when they created Argyle Cheese Farmer (ACF) as a way to keep the Randles Fairview Farm alive. Some people doubted in the beginning whether they could pull it off, but they have time and time again proved those skeptics wrong.

The fruits of their labor don’t come easily. Andrew’s parents routinely wake up in the wee hours of the morning to start the cheese making process. Whether it’s hard cheese, cheddar cheese curd, mozzarella, yogurt, or any of the variety of delectable products – I think they would say the hard work is worth it. Their products make it every week to upto  5 farmers markets depending on the time of year. Some of their product also makes it down to NYC for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. There is even a restaurant in NYC that imports their product nearly every week – it is just that good!

This year we will miss one of my in-law’s most successful weekends: The Cheese Tour. Last year we were a part of this incredible weekend event. Over the course of the weekend thousands of people visit Argyle Cheese Farmer along with 4 other cheese farms that open up their businesses to the public the weekend after labor day. (ACF is the only one that sports cheese and other dairy products made from cows milk.) If you are up for a drive and a visit to the state of NY – I highly recommend The Cheese Tour as one of the neatest ways to combine a love for cheese with a beautiful drive through the country side (not to mention sampling of great products, like Maple Greek Yogurt!) Oh what fun. But alas, not for us this year. <sniff sniff>

I have always liked cheese, but becoming the daughter-in-law of cheesemakers has turned me into a cheese lover. I have even gone from tolerating yogurt to being a fanatic of Maple Greek Yogurt. Unfortunately, the way of a cheese lover is not easy in Singapore. There is no room for cows in Singapore. Consequently any dairy products are imported. This makes cheese and any good dairy products expensive. (We won’t talk here about how our new obsession with McD’s ice cream compares to my in-law’s gellato.)

The lack of good dairy in Singapore has not stopped us from our children-of-cheese-farmers-tendencies:

The other week we were watching Iron Chef America (I will be the first to admit it’s not as good as the original Iron Chef – but it’s still mouth watering fun to watch). We were ecstatic as we watched “Battle Mozzarella” unfold on our TV.

We were on the edge of our seats watching a show that others would have only been mildly interested in. As the iron chef stretched out some mozzarella that was sitting in hot water – I was transported back to my experience stretching mozzarella alongside my mother-in-law. Oh how I could almost taste fresh mozzarella curds they utilized it in their cooking. Our taste buds were tantalized and our imaginations sparked of what we could do with our parents’ mozzarella. We instantly were eager to tell Andrew’s mom about what we had just watched on TV!

It’s not just our TV viewing that has been influenced by our parents’ career. What we notice in Singapore has also been influenced. For example, while we were at the zoo the other day we were determined to take our picture with some cows. You see, having the Argyle Cheese Farmers as parents has changed even our picture taking habits! (Not that we mind 😉 ) Actually, come to think of it, this influence started shortly after getting married:

Staged Cheese House Photo Shoot

And the influence on how we take pictures hasn’t stopped. Just last week while at a mall with friends from church, we spotted some more cows. (Again, as we’ve noted, Singapore doesn’t have room for cows, so we are excited when we do spot them.) They looked a little different then what we were used to for cows – but that didn’t stop us from taking our picture with them!

IMSC (Ignore my sweaty countenance)

There you have it – our nerdiness has been taken to a whole new level, all because we have cheese farmers for parents.

We have not finalized details for when we will next go back to the States for a visit. But we have determined this much: one of our first stops during our next visit to Argyle, NY will be some fresh cheese curd and some cold gellato. And I don’t care if we visit during the winter – we are going to eat gellato. (I have my heart set on some Joyous Almond flavored gelatto.)

And maybe while we’re there we’ll take our picture with some real cows…

There’s a Giraffe Outside My Window!

Learning to look at the positive side of perpetual construction

I LOVE our apartment. I really do.

I also really enjoy our community.

Except for… the construction. There is one building that has yet to have completed the elevator upgrade (changing from one original elevator for the entire building to a total of four elevators). That building isn’t our own thankfully. But it is catty-corner to our building. And while I really am thankful for having a corner unit, our corner unit is at the end where all this construction is taking place.

This means that shortly after moving in I realized that most days I would hear banging, jack hammering, welding, and an assortment of electronic construction equipment – all right outside the windows of my bedroom, kitchen, and 2 bathrooms.  Not my favorite aspect of our apartment.

There have been days that due to the seemingly incessant noise I will go into the bedroom, shut all windows and doors, turn on the AC unit for white noise, and try to take a nap to escape the noise. At other times I throw in the towel all-together and leave for part of the day.

To add to the feeling of being surrounded by construction, on the other side of our community they are upgrading a meadow to some sort of community area. You guessed, it – this requires more construction related noises. Thankfully though, this isn’t as noticeable or obnoxious as the noises right outside my window.

But I am learning to be thankful for some aspects of these situations.

For example, one day we come home to see these 3.5 story tall elevator shaft parts being hoisted into the air!

The crane was literally a few feet from our kitchen window at points. How cool is that!?

It's a Crane!

The crane was literally a few feet from our kitchen window at points. How cool is that!?

A crane right outside our window!

Now, not everyone gets to see such a unique sight like that right next to their home! I don’t think we ever looked out our window as much as we did the day that crane was in operation!

Today was even better.

I heard some noise outside the window (you’re getting the picture- that’s not an uncommon occurrence). This time I went to go check it out.

What!?!? I just went to the zoo… it seems like a giraffe must have followed me home:

Poor giraffe, his name is "52"

I was fascinated by this creature. It made the average day of construction interesting and vastly amusing.

Full size giraffe makes the ones at the zoo look small.

I bet that somewhere in the community there is a mom with little boys. I am sure that mom is loving days like these. And for that I can be thankful.

I can also be thankful that with this weird piece of equipment and another noisy day that the people in that building are one step closer to having elevator access to all floors.

And selfishly, I am thankful that I already have elevator access to our floor and that I am not living in one of the rooms right next to all that construction. I’m sure being in the building across from the construction is much better than being in the building where it’s actually taking place!

Dear Giraffe,

Thank you for reminding me to be thankful. I will miss you.

Yours truly,

~Me

#52 all packed up to go home

Bye bye!

Gallery

Still Life Photo Shoot

This gallery contains 5 photos.

We like geckos. Geckos don’t always love us. Most of the time (with a for a few exceptions) geckos are very skiddish. That’s why we were very surprised to find a gecko on the wall right next to our front … Continue reading