Tag Archives: Singapore

Cousin Brings Rain

Friday morning brought an unexpected email. It was from a cousin of Andrew’s whom I had only met once and we hadn’t seen in years. This cousin was hopping around SE Asia and was stopping in Singapore… the next day! We were thrilled to hear a relative was going to be in our neck of the woods and set about trying to find a time to meet up.

Due to the hectic schedule of an already planned out weekend, we settled on the window of Sunday lunch time down town at the merlion. We figured we’d skip some places, such as the Botanic Gardens, that were sure to be brown from our record drought. Instead we banked on walking around and enjoying the downtown city landscape that was less marred by the dry whether. As we waited for a taxi, the unplanned, but desperately awaited even occurred: it rained.

Of course this meant getting a taxi was now not an option (because every other person going somewhere decided to get a taxi too). Consequently, we ended up taking the train down town (which took longer) and we had to walk quite a few blocks to get to our meet up point… in the rain. Although we had become accustomed to the new “dry-Singapore,” old habits which died hard dictated that we had brought at least one umbrella with us. In addition, Gideon had shelter in the “umbrella” of the stroller. But make no mistake – we were all wet. Andrew cheerfully remarked, “At least we wore our contacts and not glasses today!” True.

Wet and late, we met up with Andrew’s cousin and his friend. We apologized for the sudden break in our dry weather right at a relatively inopportune moment. Andrew’s cousin must’ve been related to him and piped with the same spirit of cheerful optimism of, “Well at least we’re witnessing history in the making,” referring to the record drought since the 1800’s being broken. We scrapped our plans for the stroll outdoors and made our way to a mall where we could roam without the rain soaking us.

It finally rained.

Despite the crowded mall, and the disappointment of failed plans, we were glad to have the opportunity to share a meal and conversation with the cousin. After receiving a bread stick at lunch from his daddy’s cousin, he decided the stranger was worth a smile. For ourselves, we noted that this cousin won the award for being the first on Andrew’s side to make it “visit us” in Singapore – that was worth a smile too! (Okay… maybe that wasn’t his sole reason for coming to Singapore, but it wasn’t a huge skew either, was it?)

Thankfully the rain finally let up enough for the wet-then-dried group to travel back outdoors. The originally planned outdoor route didn’t happen, but wandering was still worthwhile.

Always glad to have a visitor.

Fast forward a few hours after our family of three got home from church and dinner: We walk up to our block checking below our kitchen window to make sure no clothes had fallen from the poles where we left them to dry. Several hours past when we left our house we had thought surely there was no chance of today being the day that would break the drought. Then we looked up. Oops. The pole had become accustomed to nice and easy, lightweight, quickly drying clothes. It had forgotten what it felt like to have wet clothes further soaked by hours of rain. Not used to the extra weight, it collapsed.

Looking down from our 5th story window on our broken pole hanging on by a thread.

Needless to say we ended up adding an extra spin cycle to our evening. Oh, but it was worth it to smell the freshly wet earth and feel the air cooled by the rain.

Thanks Simon for the visit as well as for the rain! 🙂 Come again, anytime.

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Grandma Meets Toddler

Thanks to the marvel of Skype technology, we’re able to keep in touch with our family without feeling too deprived or lonely separated by, oh, half the world between us! However, there’s nothing like sharing life in person.

My mom made it out back in 2012 to visit us her grandson, but this time the grandson is a grown up toddler! Here are some of the highlights from her stay with us.

Everyday life

While seeing some of the grand destinations that Singapore has to offer is fun, really the best part of visiting is sharing every day life. Incorporating my mom into our daily routines and giving her a [second] taste of Singapore was what made her visit special. Now when we catch up with one another while we’re apart she’ll be better able to picture what our lives are like even though we’re on the other side of the world.

Reading a book.

It didn’t take long for the grandson to realize that while Mommy was busy with household chores, his Grandma was only too happy to spend time reading books with him. To add to the treat he received quite a few new books from the doting grandma. Grandma also introduced him to the past time of coloring.

A veteran colorer teaching the novice.

Of course our daily routing in Singapore included a lot of “normal” things like going for walks.

Gideon leading the way while Daddy and Grandma try to keep up the pace.

And much of the time the walks involve a little toddler control or perhaps a dash of playful chasing!

The chase is on!

The downside to all this activity is that it is always summer here. Though my mom would argue that isn’t a downside at all. Despite which point of view of the pros of summer one holds, one would probably concede that walking, running, or otherwise in Singapore outside results in a hot sweaty mess. Thankfully there is a temporary remedy for such sticky situations:

Ice cream covers a multitude of problems.

Ice cream is good, but thankfully it isn’t the only way to escape the heat. (Good thing too, or our stomachs would show our predicament!)

Quick snap the picture, then come in to help play with the toddler!

But not all of our day to day actions are quite so laborious as chasing a toddler or making sure the toddler had adequate support in the pool. And ice cream and water aren’t the only ways to forget about the uncomfortable humidity and heat. Some of best moments during the days, rain or shine, are spontaneous hugs and snuggles.

A cute hug. Need I say more?

And if you’re paying attention to the above pictures you’ll not that there is a distinct theme that came about because of the nature of the visitor. And that theme would be Grandma Green!

A bit of green wasn’t hard to find while my mom was with us.

Now on to the unique points of our time together

Gardens By the Bay

Although my mom would’ve been happy as a clam to sit at home every day reading, coloring, and snuggling with a 15 month old, she did politely request to see Gardens By the Bay. She did fly umpteen many miles, the least we could do was bring her to the beautiful gardens (twist our arms!).

The first glimpse of the GBTB.

Visiting the Gardens gave us a good excuse to catch a glimpse of the Marina Bay Sands – the backdrop of the gardens.

Letting our visiting tourist snap some shots.

Although the sites were spectacular, I think Gideon was more impressed with the grassy area where we allowed him to run around freely.

Freedom!

One of the advantages about visiting a touristy location is that there are always several strangers that are only too eager to stop and help us with a group shot!

Probably my favorite group shot from the visit.

It is amazing how neat the view becomes when you take the elevator up to the top of the trees for the Sky Walk.

Marina Bay Sands again – this time from a little higher.

But, really to be honest, everywhere on the grounds, high or low, at Gardens by The Bay provides a beautiful backdrop or subject for scenery.

Me and my Mom – The first of many treasured mother-daughter shots.

After eating a lunch outdoors we sought refuge from the heat in the coolness of the Cloud Forest.

Getting up close to the cool spray of the waterfall for a fun shot. (Almost like this visit.)

My mom didn’t care as much as we did for the cooler temperatures, but she did care when it came to the gorgeous tropical flowers all around her!

What do you know! We match the flowers!

Gideon slept through the first of the green houses but woke up in time to enjoy going through the second, the Flower Dome.

3 generations

I could go on and on, but let me allow the pictures to talk for themselves.

Pictures from both domes.

Though we had seen a lot we had time to stop at the newly opened water park to let the little guy have some fun.

Sprinklers galore!

Suffice to say my mom was glad that she put the Gardens By The Bay on her list.

Bird Park

We also visited the bird park again during my mom’s stay. I think she enjoyed the greenery and flowers almost as much as the birds.

Guess who found some orchids!

As Andrew was only able to spend part of the time with us before heading off to work, he requested that we first visit the Lori Loft. My mom was in for a surprise when she saw birds clambering to Andrew to take a sip of his offerings. It took a bit of encouragement but both of the ladies in the group were convinced to try feeding the birds once we were reasonable sure they would stay on the railing and not claw their way onto our arms!

Feeding the birds.

My mom and I remarked that after awhile you start to become numb at the sheer variety and impressiveness of the birds on display! The bird park really is amazing. (And Gideon thought their play area was amazing too!)

Backed by the largest manmade waterfall in the world.

After a long day, and a short break at home, none of us had the energy to tackle preparing dinner. So we took the opportunity to introduce my mom to an Asian adventure: Sushi! (Complete with the conveyor belt.)

Don’t worry all the plates aren’t solely from my mom.

Despite not trying the raw fish sushi, she thoroughly enjoyed her time at Sushi Express!

Singapore Flyer

We worked out that this had probably been Gideon’s forth or fifth time on the famous ferris wheel (the advantages of free admission for the little guy)!

So blessed he doesn’t realize it.

But it was Maureen’s first time on the big wheel, and it was her first time seeing the city lights of Singapore at night.

Rapt with attention.

I have to say, even though I have been on the flyer quite a few times (the advantage of having visitors and being able to obtain passes through Andrew’s work) … the city still looks great lit up at night!

Isn’t that pretty!?

After the “flight” on the Singapore Flyer, Gideon and Grandma felt like they were ready to direct the flight.

Mrs. Pilot and her assistant, Mr. Cute.

Okay, maybe not quite – but it was so cute, I had to chuckle.

SEA Aquarium

Our final special outing that we saved was the Aquarium. We had heard many rave reviews of the new aquarium from our friends since the attraction opened late 2012. (I don’t know why we didn’t realize it was already open when we had all our other visitors last year! Oh well. If you’re one of them, you know who you are, come visit us again and we’ll take you there. 😉 )

In order to visit the Aquarium, we had to get to Sentosa – the resort island of Singapore.

Mom’s first time, and our first time in almost 2 years.

Oh my – the aquarium was amazing!

Big observatory windows into the world of fish!

I really don’t think our pictures of the vastness of the view of the home to these sea creatures would do it justice. So let’s focus on the pictures that show off our enjoyment of the visit to the world’s largest Oceanarium.

Look up and all around!

Taken in one of the tunnels.

Reminds me of our Barcelona trip.

The aquarium really was stunning. I can’t say enough.

The variety of God’s creation is incredible.

I could’ve spent many hours gawking at the ocean creatures right in front of my eyes … if I didn’t have an important toddler to keep occupied. So eventually we had to leave the ocean behind us and head outside to see some of the rest of Sentosa.

A merlion shot for the books.

I don’t know how to sum up my mom’s visit or adequately share all the pictures while being concise, so I’ll end my post here. But I just want to take a moment to thank my mom:

Mom, thanks for coming. We made so many memories. I can’t thank you enough for visiting and sharing our life here in Singapore together with us. Can’t wait till we see you again.

The last group shot before the visit came to an end.

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Day 55/365: Feb 24, 2014

I’m thankful for:

  • Drier (not dry) weather for the past 2 months in Singapore.
  • New Zealand Ice cream on sale.
  • Playing with my niece even though we’re on opposite sides of the globe.

Looking forward to when Singapore returns to it’s rainy and green self!

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Day 6/365: Jan 6, 2014

Thankful for:

  • Night lights.
  • Living in Singapore.
  • Friends to share the above with.

The Singapore Flyer

Uncle Nate Visits Singapore

I’ve contemplated how to write this post since a month ago. I’ve gone through the pictures multiple times trying to figure out how to piece it together in a concise manner. And I’ve had the beginnings of the post written for several days. I have come to this conclusion:
We had too much fun with Uncle Nate to be able to share it all with you!

Maybe, some day I’ll get around to putting pictures together in a booklet like we did for our last visitors. One can hope, right? But I digress. I am going to try to pick my favorite snippets from his stay. Here goes:

Meeting Uncle Nate

For someone that has quite a few uncles, Gideon had to wait a while before he actually met one of them in person. Actually, he had waited his whole life, until finally at the beginning of last month, he met one!

It was Gidoen’s mommy who first spotted him at the airport.

Spotted (only in the number one airport in the world)!

Spotted (only in the number one airport in the world)!

The wary traveler looked great for having just completed his first flight(s) (except for one when he was Gideon’s age)! Since it was in the wee hours of the morning when he arrived, we went straight home and to bed. Consequently, Gideon was actually asleep for his arrival. But he was more than happy to meet him the next morning.

Happy to meet his Uncle Nate!

Happy to meet his Uncle Nate!

It didn’t take long for the little guy to warm up to his cool uncle.

Ice Cream Sandwich

Most of the ice cream cart vendors will sell ice cream sandwiches served two ways: in between two wafer biscuits or using real bread for the sandwich part! I’ve tried a lot of things here in Singapore, a lot of ice cream too… but I haven’t had a ice cream sandwich that way. Well, it wasn’t long (second day of his visit) before we were out and about and stopped to offer him an ice cream sandwich. The adventuresome traveler readily tried the “Singapore” way.

Trying the Singapore Ice Cream Sandwich

Trying the Singapore Ice Cream Sandwich

I have to say that I really enjoyed the bit he shared with me. I would even order it again, this time without being so skeptical. But, the Randles played it safe and shared a cone from McD’s.

Playing it safe (if all be it messy)

Playing it safe (if all be it messy)

Boggle – Phlegm

There is a long standing tradition in the Czebotar household of playing boggle against each other. Unfortunately, the tradition doesn’t work so well in the Randles household. (Let’s just say, the brainy PhD guy doesn’t find Boggle quite the right application for his mad skills 😉 ). In any case, I jumped at the opportunity to play with someone who would enjoy the game.

On night during his visit, my brother accepted my invitation and we started playing with rigor right away. A few games in we were going over our word list and my brother calls out “Flem.”

I responded, “Ummm, I think Phlegm has a G in it.” (There wasn’t a G on the board that round.)

To which he outrageously shouted, “WHAT!? HOW IN THE WORLD DOES “FLEM” HAVE A G IN IT?”

We proceeded to use the dictionary to find out two things:

  1. Phlegm (the meaning he was thinking of) does in fact have a G in it.
  2. Flem (what he spelt) does have the same meanings as Flemish.

After several rounds, it was getting late, so I said we should call it a night. My brother was dismayed that he hadn’t won a round. I was shocked, sure that he had won a round. We went through and double checked the scores. His hunch was right – he hadn’t. I felt bad, especially since I had been thoroughly enjoying his company and had thought he was doing quite well. (This is why people give up playing Boggle with me… <sigh>)

Bro and Sis (picture from another night)

Bro and Sis (picture from another night)

A treasured memory with my bro nonetheless.

The Iconic Sights

You can not have a brother who has a Masters in architecture who visits you in Singapore and not visit the awesome architectural sites that have become so iconic! It’s like the fourth law of physics … or something.

Anyways, among the many cool places we took him to see we saw the Marina Bay Sands and the Gardens by the Bay – both next to each other – on separate days.

I think his shirt was an accurate statement.x

On the Sky Walk on the trees of the Gardens By the Bay in front of the Marina Bay Sands building… I think his shirt was an accurate statement.

We had to take a group shot!

We had to take a group shot!

GIdeon enjoying crawling around with the magnificent tree sculptures overhead.

GIdeon enjoying crawling around with the magnificent tree sculptures overhead.

Looking up at the biggest cantilever building in the world. (Correct me if I'm wrong, bro!)

Looking up at the biggest cantilever building in the world. (Correct me if I’m wrong, bro!)

At the top of Marina Bay Sands on the cantilever.

At the top of Marina Bay Sands on the cantilever.

MacRitchie Reservoir

While I prepared cakes for a baby shower, the guys all went to MacRitchie Reservoir for a hike. I was a bit jealous as we hadn’t gone since right after moving to Singapore, and I had been hoping to see it again. But I was grateful they went together and had fun. It was one of the highlights for Andrew of the visit with his brother-in-law.

Andrew enjoying the hike (and Gideon zonked out)

Andrew (and Gideon zonked out) at the Tree Top Bridge

And Nathan was glad that he got to see wild monkeys during their walk in the jungle.

Monkey spotted! (There were more too!)

Monkey spotted! (There were more too!)

Durian

I’m ashamed to say it, but we had lived in Singapore for over 2 years and never tried “Singapore’s National Fruit.” In our defense, every time someone would offer it we would ask if they liked it. Maybe just the wrong people were offering, but they would always demonstrate a face of disgust and say, “No.” So, we were intimidated, even by the people who said we should try it. And then there’s the smell – which is a bit indescribable but oh, so potent!

In any case, we figured we should do it while we had a visitor. We also figured it would be safer to try a cream puff with durian flavored cream inside.

It looks unassuming.

It looks unassuming.

Oh. My.

One of the worst things I have ever tasted in my life. And I am not trying to be dramatic. It was just that bad. I normally try to finish what I put in my mouth, but I could not. The trash received what we had put in our mouths. Even Gideon the Garbage Disposal wouldn’t eat it.

And his reaction wasn't as bad as his parents'!

And his reaction wasn’t as bad as his parents’!

To Nathan’s credit, he willingly tried it, and didn’t have the same visceral reaction that we did!

A friend later informed me that she thought there were two styles of durian, sweet and bitter. If that information is indeed true, there is no doubt we had the bitter kind. Perhaps there is a better variety out there? But I am unsure if we would have the courage to try it again.

But don’t worry. That was the only “sour” point during our visit together. We really had a blast with my brother and are so glad the Lord made it possible for him to visit. If anyone else comes to visit, we’ll try to make their visit half as fun (trying Durian is optional). 🙂

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Hazy Recluse Released

The last week our country of residence has hit international news. And it’s not because of anything we or our Singaporeans around us have done. No, it’s because of our “Indonesian neighbor.”

Indonesia and Malaysia produce most of the world’s supply of palm oil. Part of the farming process requires the clearing of land. The cheapest way to accomplish this is to “slash and burn” during the dry season. The combination of hundreds of forest fires, persisting dry (aka “non-rainy”) weather, and the close proximity between countries means that Singapore ends up with haze from its neighbors smoking habit. Sometimes this haze seems little more than a thicker day with less clarity than the norm. At other times the air quality diminishes and a smokey film descends on Singapore. Last week the haze was the worst in the history of the Republic of Singapore.

It started out with what would be considered normal haze. The haze just continued to get worse. A funky aroma of something stale and burn was permeating the air in Singapore. Health advisories from the government recommend limiting exposure and activities outdoors. For more susceptible categories in the population, such as elderly and children, the advisement eventually became to remain indoors and limit activity… indefinitely.

The haze persisted enough to make me stir-crazy. But, eventually I was let loose.

Released from the haze:

Saturday morning dawned. Andrew got out of bed to go get Gideon, who was calling us to come get him. I asked what time it was.

Andrew replied, “Just after 9 o’clock.”

“WHAT? NINE????” I asked, sure that I had misheard.

Apparently, Gideon decided the day that his Daddy was able to sleep in was a good day for him to sleep in too!

It was a great way to start out Saturday.

You see I had been at home for over 90 hours. Gideon and I had been grocery shopping Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon the general haze thickened to a smelly smoggy don’t-go-outside type of haze. In fact, the haze pasted the from “moderate” to “unhealthy” levels according to Singapore’s pollutant standards index (psi). We stayed home the rest of Tuesday.

Wednesday the levels were in the unhealthy range almost the entire day. Gideon and I decided we could wait for the haze to pass and stayed inside with the windows closed and the air conditioners on to filter the air.

What we didn’t realize was that the levels were not on their way to decreasing, but rather to increasing. Thursday the levels hiked up and up and eventually passed the all time high EVER recorded in Singapore.

(Map taken from BBC News)

The bad news was that I became stuck inside as Gideon and I waited for the haze to subside. The good news was that I had a new hobby to keep me busy: stalk the online service that posted the psi readings every hour and read news articles about the historical moment I was living in.

Andrew went to work taking care to spend minimal time outside. His company  handed out respitory masks to their employees to use for commuting. By the end of the week they even went so far as to give employees the option of working from home.

Andrew would get home and gently suggest that I go out for a walk (with his mask). But I would look at the numbers and complain that I didn’t have a good enough reason to go out and deal with the pollution.

However, by Saturday I was really getting desperate.  With a glimmer of sunshine seen through the window and with the need to get outside and do anything, I masked up and went to the mall while Andrew stayed home with Gideon.

Masked and ready

Masked and ready

It took a few minutes to get used to walking around with a mask and not feel overly self-conscious. But I realized it was for my health, and also that I wasn’t the only one doing it. I counted people that I went by and realized that 30% of 100 people I counted were wearing some type of mask. Many were only wearing paper/surgical type of masks which do not keep the smaller pollutant particles out. But regardless of the type of mask, the number of people wearing masks made me feel like I wasn’t it in it alone, even though [besides Gideon’s company] I had spent several days straight alone and inside.

I was amazed by how it seemed to be becoming clearer by the minute as I walked outside. When I got home, we checked the numbers. While not out of the unhealthy range, they were the lowest they had been in several days! The forecast was calling for hazy conditions to persist for several more days, but the current haze level was barely in the unhealthy range. We decided it was time for the whole family to get out, because it might be last break in haze we would get for several days.

"Really, Mom? We can go outside?"

“Really, Mom? We can go outside?”

We decided even though it wasn’t necessarily “fresh air” – the sunshine and getting outside the house would effectively be as good as fresh air.

(You can see the haze in the background, but it was SO much clearer than it had been!)

(You can see the haze in the background, but it was SO much clearer than it had been!)

I think Gideon enjoyed getting outside of the house. I have been thankful that he isn’t crawling or walking yet: otherwise, I’m sure he would’ve felt much more cooped up in the house.

Feeling set free from the haze

Feeling set free from the haze

To match our light hearted mood, Andrew took it upon himself to stop by one of our favorite bakeries and get me my favorite treat: a mexico raisin  bun!

Me and my mexico raisin bun :)

Me and my mexico raisin bun 🙂

I have never been so happy to be out doors and away from home for a walk!

Sunday the winds unexpectedly changed causing the thickest of the haze to leave Singapore and head north to Malaysia. (Well, unexpected according to the weather report. I, and I’m sure others, had been praying that the haze would let up. I’m only sorry that the Malaysians are still dealing with it.) While the haze is still kicking around here in Southeast Asia, we have had a break of it for several days. It is still mildly hazy, but not enough to be constantly reminded of the awful thick stuff worth of breaking records from last week. Praise the Lord!

Now, I’m praying that the haze holds off through my sisters visit. I can’t believe she’ll be here next week!!!!