Life is starting to flow a little more easily from day to day, and every little thing I need to do is not feeling like such an obstacle any more. I think I am slowly moving from stage 2 to stage 3 of culture shock at this point. The four stages are excitement, withdrawal, adjustment and enthusiasm (more info here). I have good days, bad days, and occasional extremely bad days where I am crying all over town. But I have heard this is pretty normal. Sunglasses help a lot. I’m trying to cut myself some slack and give myself time to adjust. I’m just not very patient…
So what is life like here? For me, the day starts at about 6:30am when the kiddo comes running into the room declaring, “Es luz!” (It’s light out!) “You wanna play with Yenna?” (Do you want to play with me?) This is deceptively manipulative (and very sweet). I cannot say “No, I want to sleep.” Not the way she words it. So I get up and we read a book or play with a doll. Then I get her ready for the day and plant her in front of her favorite video, and take care of myself. Next I put all the dry dishes away from yesterday’s cleaning (no dishwasher), and I make breakfast. After breakfast, I plug her back into the TV so I can do the dishes and start laundry or cleaning in peace. I hate that stuff, so it is much better for both of us if she watches TV and I listen to music or to a This American Life program (the last few weeks we have actually not watched as much tv… strange, as I thought this would be a nearly permanent dependency). Laundry is best started early in the day, as most people out here just have a cold washer and no dryer. So by getting the laundry hung out to dry early in the day, it is out there for the hottest part of the day and usually dry by the end of the day.
Below is what our laundry situation looks like. Every apartment out here has a little outdoor area where the storage area (or “helper’s room”) is located (behind the wall with the laundry bag), along with the washer. The area faces the open area at the center of the building, so rain can’t really come in sideways there and laundry stays dry even when it rains for the most part. Our kitchen just has a sort of sliding door to get out there, with a lock. We have no room to hire a live in “helper” (basically a maid/babysitter, usually from Sri Lanka or the Phillipines), as we have filled that area with storage stuff. At the moment, I also love my privacy too much to have someone living with us, but who knows what the future holds? Every property we saw had a room like this, and it seems super common to have a helper. It sounds nice, but there are a lot of issues that can come up with it (read more here if you find this interesting). (Sorry for the crunched photos! Not a lot of space around here to maneuver and get good ones.)
After all that, we play or do some educational/homeschool type stuff (ideally), then head out to run errands or do something fun. On her preschool days (just a couple days a week), we head out right after breakfast. Here is a group of photos from our walk to the MRT (subway) station. There is a grocery store, outdoor market, hardware shop, salon, tutor center, furniture store, and more, all by the MRT station (about a 10 min walk from out place) as well as a typical Singaporean food center. There is a McDonalds there that is open 24 hours and delivers, and a KFC that also delivers. Love it. Tons of local food options too that are super cheap (S$3 a plate or $2.40 US dollars). I am very happy to live near so much.
The name of our local grocery store (really only frequented by locals) is called Ang Mo Supermarket. There is a bit of controversy about whether or not the phrase ‘Ang Mo,’ which refers to white people, is derogatory or not. It is a bit like calling the store Honky Supermarket in US terms. We shop there anyway, well we used to. It has very tiny aisles and gets crowded easily. With a large preggo belly, a toddler, my purse, a rolling cart for hauling groceries back home, and a shopping basket, I was constantly in someone’s way or knocking something over, so I am sticking to the larger chain grocery stores in the malls for now. This preggo Ang Mo just couldn’t take it anymore, especially the walk hauling the groceries back home in the heat.
At about 11 am the heat hits its max (sometimes earlier). The humidity is high every day, some worse than others. I am definitely having trouble keeping hydrated, and I am sure the being 9 months pregnant isn’t helping that. Working on it. We usually head back in by 11:30 to have lunch, sometimes bringing it down to the pool area to eat picnic style so the kiddo can play in the water when she is done eating (giving me some much needed peace to think, breathe, and get on top of my life). Then it is time to play with toys and wait for her to be tired enough to take a nap (futile these days). In the afternoon, we sometimes head out to a language class or to run errands or meet some other kids for a playdate.
Then comes more playtime, bath time, dinner prep, dinner, an hour’s worth of dishes by hand, and taking laundry off the line. Then I get a few hours of “free time” (AKA time to spend taking care of paperwork, bills, cleaning up the house, me time, or time with the hubs).
My favorite day of the week is Saturday. The hubs is home and lets me sleep in. Then we head to Ya Kun Kaya Toast to have an amazing breakfast. Kaya toast is a thin toast sandwich with chunks of butter and kaya (coconut jam) inside. It doesn’t taste much like coconut to me, but it is lovely. I have my tea, which out here is made with sugar and condensed milk (but you can get it any way you like really). The typical set comes with kaya toast, 2 soft boiled eggs, and tea or coffee.
Occasionally we also order the thick, deep-fried bread chunks that you dip in kaya, which I eat like —>. Then we head off to the kiddo’s dance class. I smile the whole time watching her and all the other little cuties do their thing. So much fun to watch (though they recently made all us parents go wait in the waiting room–huge bummer). Then we get a little grocery shopping done and take a cab home (a treat to me now that I am so used to the bus and the subway).
A new friend out here mentioned that she finally started feeling settled in once she got her kids into school/classes and they seemed settled. I think that is proving true for me as well. Now that the kiddo has a Spanish class, a Mandarin class, and a dance class, and has some friends to play with in our building, we are all having more fun. There are things to look forward to, and people to get together with.
***Odds and Ends***
What our home looks like. Again, some pics were super hard to take due to space constraints. You will notice our place is packed with stuff. And this is after getting rid of A LOT. American furniture is not a good fit in a Singaporean apartment.
Things that make me nutty out here:
- Long bus waits 15-25 min
- People ignore you until you say something. Literally, you don’t exist until you make yourself known.
- Crowded is typical. Everywhere.
- Long lines. Everywhere. It is joked about that queuing is a national sport in Singapore. However, it does tell you where the best food stalls are. :)
- Lack of customer service—people stringently follow guidelines out here, so if what you want is against policy, all you get is a “Cannot.” Can = yes, I can do this for you. Cannot = the opposite. No negotiating. No exceptions. I have lots of fun stories to tell about this… :)
- Fires in Indonesia (fields are cleared this way every spring) = badly polluted air for Singapore
- The kiddo is always sweaty. Always.
- Ants. The tiniest of tiny ants that get into everything and are everywhere. At least they don’t bite.
Things I love here:
- Tons of malls right by MRT stops with great free play areas
- Great public transportation coverage
- Tons of free spray parks/splash pads
- Garbage chute (MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE. Just bag it up and send it down the chute right outside my kitchen.)
- We can swim anytime. Go out and play anytime. Love the weather even though it is SO HOT.
- Tiny home, less to clean
- Great breeze and fresh air (most of the year), apartments that open easily to the outside.
- European style showers (I love the sprayer you can hold in your hand)
- Plants everywhere–green green green–the benefit of living in the tropics.
- Multi-culturalism out here is great, you have access to food from all over the world, and people from all over the world to meet and befriend.
- The girls in my block, and being able to walk to a party two floors up. Kind of like living in the dorms again, though I was not a “partier.”
- No more winter bundling, and dragging around tons of layers for me and the kiddo just in case the weather changes. We just need one season of clothes. Summer. People who are native to the area actually wear pants, sweaters, and other “fall/winter” items. I guess you get used to the heat after awhile (I cannot see that ever happening. My jeans are languishing in the closet.)