Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Great Expectations

A perk of our skyline view is front row seats to most of Singapore's fireworks.  Last week's Army Open House did not disappoint; we had a show for at least five nights.  On Monday night, after the festivities had ended, B3 insisted that there would be fireworks.  He resisted bedtime and left his room six or seven times to ask if it was yet time for fireworks.  Finally, He went to bed as we promised to call him if we saw anything outside our window.

Evidently, he didn't believe us.
Instead, he propped up on his Big Penguin, played with trucks, opened the curtain, and waited. 

He didn't miss anything!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Army Day

The Singapore Army is having its Open House this weekend, so we decided to go check it out.  The event is held in the Formula One pits, which we can see from our windows, and we've been watching them set up for a while now.  In fact, we've enjoyed the practice parachute runs, helicopter fly bys and fire works trials.  Gotta love a country that practices fireworks shows right outside of our window. We've seen them three times this week, and there's another tomorrow night.

When we first got there, we went straight for the landing vehicle rides, only to discover that B3 was way too short to participate. The boys went off to explore helicopters while the girls waited in line, but a little black rain cloud soon suspended the rides.  Too bad! 

Our morning was off to a dud of a start, but the Kids' Area remedied that quickly. There was a bounce house,

and face painting.  Army camo, of course!

These soldiers were more than happy to pose with our crew (friends joined us for our Army Adventure).  In fact, we were very impressed with all of the men in camo that we encountered.  They were polite, friendly, helpful, and always smiling.  It seems they've taken a page from the Disney Public Relations book too; everyone had stickers, tattoos, pins, badges or magnets to pass out.

The dads took a turn at target shooting; that's likely the only time while we're in Singapore that B2 will have a chance to do that.  There were helicopters, tanks, trucks, and all sorts of things to crawl in and out of.

We continued our morning adventure with some lunch. B3 enjoyed his favorite Singapore food:  satay. He's definitely his Father's son. He loves food on a stick!  He thinks that Popsicles should be a daily occurrence, and he would eat corn dogs just as often if allowed. 

 B2 and AK finished their day with a quick spin in an armoured personnel vehicle.  Again, B3 was too small to ride.  There's an excellent photo of B2 stylin' in a hairnet, and I'll add it if I can get a copy. 

It was a fun day out with the army. It was obvious that Singapore is very proud of their military, and we enjoyed seeing a little bit of their equipment. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Kindergarten Lessons

In just eleven days, the school year will be over.  I can't believe that we'll have a first grader in our house!  it's been a good year.  She's made lots of friends, she's been a munchkin, and she's learned that math is fun.  In fact, I just learned tonight that she thinks math is great, thanks to a discussion as we read Little Town on the Prairie.  I breathed a great sigh of relief when she said it, because we've had more than a few tears over addition this year. Addition?    We will survive the next twelve years of school, I'm sure, but I'm ready for the summer!

AK's school is an IB school, which means that all of the activities are centered around a theme, or a Unit of Inquiry.  Currently, our theme involves caring for our world.  It's been interesting to see how she brings home what she learns and applies it.  For instance, yelling, "AIR POLLUTION!!" as we walk past the smokers around the bus stop is not likely what her teacher had in mind, but she's gotten the message.  She's indignant when we see trash on the ground ("We don't litter, Mama!").  I've reached my limit of "art" that she's brought home from recyclable materials.  No matter what color you paint old tissue and juice boxes, it's still trash.  Down the chute it goes.  There is absolutely no room in our 1400 square feet for someone else's rubbish.

My favorite application of her classroom lessons happened tonight during prayer time. We had the typical prayer: thanking God for her family, the butterflies, and so on.  She did leave the unicorns out this time, but her closing statement was the clincher...

"....and help us remember to reduce, reuse, and recycle.  Amen!"

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Market Madness

Last Friday, I left everyone else in our family sleeping soundly and caught a cab at 5 am.  Singapore is barely awake at that hour, but the airport is already in full swing . I was off to Bangkok with 4 new friends (who I had just met on Wednesday).  This is the trip that I was supposed to go on in December, and I was thankful that no illnesses or business trips derailed my plans to finally go.   I made sure there was Zesty Zappel in the fridge and mint chip ice cream in the freezer to help Ben survive his 3 days of single parenthood.

We arrived on Friday just in time to walk down the street from our hotel to find some lunch.  We were on a street with lots of traditional, shiny, upscale shopping malls, so lunch was easy to find.  Of course, figuring out how to cross the street was not.  Never have I seen such crazy traffic.  Driving in Mexico City would be a cake walk compared to the crazyness of Bangkok (and driving in Mexico City is not for the faint of heart); there are no lanes, and the traffic lights are mere suggestions.  A kind man saw the five of us staring at the six lanes of traffic we had to cross (twice), and he guided us across the streets.  Had he not done so, we might still be standing there trying to figure out why the crosswalk signal is green but the motorcycles aren't slowing down a bit. 

In the mall, most things looked like they do at any other mall I've ever been in.  Most things.  Then, there was Dairy Queen.  As I was snapping this picture, one of the other girls remarked that Dairy Queen wasn't special; we even have them in Singapore.  Indeed we do.  But I think that the "Mango Sticky Rice Blizzard" is a bit out of the DQ ordinary. 

And then there was Ronald. Note his pose.

It's the typical Thai greeting pose. Hotel staff, airport staff, restaurant staff, and anyone in a service role would put their hands together and bow ever so slightly. 

After lunch, our shopping guide took us for an hour long traditional foot massage. You may be thinking, "She let someone touch her FEET for an hour?!?" If so, you should know that you know me too well, and you should also know that I highly recommend it.  really!

Since we had the evening free, we walked down the street about a mile to a mall known for its bargains.  It was full of fakes and inexpensive items, but I saw nothing I needed. As we walked to the mall, I was tempted to shop along the street where many vendors were set up.  Seriously - who wouldn't want a trendy shower cap featuring the Cornflakes rooster or your favorite pizza?

Saturday morning, we were off to Chatuchak Market.  It's reportedly the world's largest market, and it did not disappoint.  We were thankful to have a professional guide with us; the market's stalls were unending.  We spent both Saturday and Sunday morning at Chatuchak, and we barely scratched the surface of what was there.

If I ever have a chance to go back, I'll be there without hesitation. There were elephants and textiles and Buddhas. Oh My! There were antiques, things made to look like antiques, chickens, guinea pigs, puppies, clothes for puppies, and everything in between.

One of the odd 'in between' items were these portly figurines in various dance poses.  They were everywhere!
 At least these were clothed.  That's all I have to say about that.  Moving on...

The number of motorcycles was amazing. They were everywhere! I suppose most of these belong to market workers.

Inside the market, there was more to see than just stuff to buy.  This woman walked all of the aisles carrying these baskets on a stick slung over her shoulder. The baskets were full of some sort of peanut looking thing. 

Of course, no market is complete without food. Most of it looked and smelled delicious.  The abundance of fried chicken was curious, and our guide says it's the best she's ever eaten.

(that's not fried chicken; it's squid.)

There's the chicken!

It was incredibly hot in Bangkok - over 100 degrees.  Most of the market isn't air conditioned, so one tends to just bake under the metal roof.  Fortunately, our kind driver for the weekend delivered these little jewels each day:

Who knew that a frozen, damp washcloth could be so refreshing?  While I could have done without the pungent scent, it was easy to look past the smell and enjoy.  I think someone needs to market these here in Singapore; I can think of a few dozen places where they'd be best sellers.

There was an interesting variety of items for sale at the market.  For instance, need any bathroom signs?  In Thai or English?

What about a bracelet or 20 made of mango wood?  I bought one for less than $1. 

Or, maybe a mask?  I didn't need one. 

These button covered shoes were incredible, but I didn't know of anyone who would wear them.  While they were definitely cute, they weighed a ton.  I did watch three girls sew button after button onto shoe after shoe.  Amazing.

As we were walking back to the car one afternoon, one of our drivers commented that the cars parked in the aisles blocking others in were in neutral; if you needed to get your car out, you just pushed the other out of the way.  Unbelievable!  When we reached our car, we were delighted to see that we'd get to see it first hand.  Just a normal day in Bangkok.

On Saturday afternoon, I went to the Jim Thompson Warehouse for a little shopping. Actually, it was more like looking.  Although the prices were less than retail, they were still a little high for me.  I was in my market mindset, and I was looking for a bargain.  I did buy a little fabric, but look at the selection:

Be still my fabric loving heart!

 Once I got home, I spread out all of my goodies on a bed. B3 gasped with delight when I showed him the construction equipment t-shirt I bought for him.  "For me?!"  He said.  He was equally thrilled when I revealed a family of straw elephants, one of which was for him.

Later, I found the entire family on his bookshelf.  Oh, to be so happy about a seventy five cent straw elephant.

Most of my other prizes didn't thrill him as much.

I bought $4 sunglasses (designer of course. Although, I did have to really look to find a pair that had an intact designer logo.  Who wants just '_rada' or 'Ray Ba_'  shades?) and reading glasses.  There was batik fabric a few purse handles, palm spoons, bookmarks, and other do dads. 

My favorite purchases were from the Hmong group in the northern mountains of Thailand. 

 Never, ever can I resist folk embroidery,  especially when it features spinning and weaving.  Perfect!

And these hats...I sense a new family birthday tradition.  AK is on board; the other two are going to take some convincing.
 And if there was anything I absolutely did not need, it would be a purse or tote bag.  So, I bought two! 
These are made from recycled pieces of embroidery - skirts, head decorations, baby carriers, etc.  The bird is obscenely bright and obnoxious.  It's over the top and absolutely wonderful. The bag's seller was a friend of our guide, and she took great pride in explaining what each piece of fabric would have been.  the birds, she said, were most certainly from a wrap made to hold a baby.  The detail is amazing, and I can just imagine the bright, happy stitches holding a squirmy baby on a mama's back.  If you take a moment to google the Hmong people, you'll see an incredible story of beautiful people.

It was my first trip to Bangkok, and I still haven't really seen the sights.  This was a shopping trip, and shop we did.  My List of Trips to Take still includes Bangkok. Wonder if I can find the market when we make it back?