Borneo~ October 2015

Sixteen years ago, living in Phoenix with our precious baby girl, Bill and I became hooked on a new reality T.V. show called Survivor. It was highly publisized in Phoenix because host, Jeff Probsts’ parents lived in Scottsdale at the time. This would be the first time I’d hear of the exoctic island of Pulau Tiga in Borneo, Malaysia. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that 16 years later I would be visiting the island of Borneo, with my three teenagers, hubby, and sister.

Now, if you are wondering if we made it to the small island of Pulau Tiga, the answer is no. We looked into it and the island itself is not really known for much except that Survivor was filmed there. So, we opted to take a side excursion to Sandakan and make our way to one of the world’s richest ecosystems on the lower Kinabatongan River.

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Kids enjoying the scenery as we drove to the Gomantong Cave.

On the way to the Bilit Rainforest Lodge, was the Gomantong Cave. This cave was unlike any other cave I’d ever been to, and I’ve been to quite a few. I had done zero research on this cave as our main focus was on the wildlife we were going to see along the river. Luckily, our guide was quite informative about the cave on our two hour journey from Sandakan airport to the cave. Let me start with a little background on the unique item that is found in this cave.

Living in Asia, I have been exposed to a very expensive and rare treat that the Chinese enjoy called bird nests. Edible bird’s nest, made from the hardened saliva of cave-dwelling swiftlets, is one of the most expensive animal products consumed by humans, sometimes referred to as ‘the caviar of the East’. Yum. Ok, I can totally handle seeing cute little birds in this cave, but wait… there’s more. He goes on to tell us that it will stink due to the ammonia smell from the bat guano, but we will get used to it after a few minutes. He then suggests that if we don’t care for cockroaches that he has bug spray if we need it. Since I was little, I’ve been terrified of cockroaches. A few tramatic experiences as a child/teenager has them right up there with spiders as scary things my husband has to deal with. Did I mention that we were there right before Halloween? I think that this whole cave experience qualifies as my scariest haunted house visit EVER!!!!Ok, so we get to the cave, it stinks really bad like he said. There is a nice wooden platform to walk on with a rail that takes us through the cave. It’s very dark. He points out some nests that are above our heads, ohhh and ahhhh. As we get farther into the cave we notice lots of movement…everywhere. Again, it’s pretty dark in there. The cave wall, the floor, the middle of the cave floor, the railing, it was all moving. As we look down at the wood platform, it is covered in guano and roaches. We found ourselves moving closer to the rail to try and tiptoe around the nasty critters until we noticed the rail was also covered in roaches!!!! OMG! I can’t escape! Can’t go next to the cave wall, yep, covered in creepy crawly roaches! Our guide was hilarious trying to point out the cool roaches (a rare white one that his dad had in his roach aquarium) as we are literally running and stomping (to scare away the little bastards) trying to escape this guano laced, roach filled hell! “But wait! Let me show you something really cool”, he yells as we are trying to retreat. Posted the video of “something really cool” for your viewing pleasure. We did manage to leave the cave without incident, except for some bat guano dropping on Alicia’s helmet. I have to admit that one of our coolest moments in Borneo happened as we were leaving the cave area. It was a short walk through the forest to where the van was parked and we were lucky enough to witness two Orang Utan in a tree right next to us. Unbelievable! Our guide mentioned that we should buy a lottery ticket, because a sighting like this never happens. This realization of how ‘in the jungle” we were, was pretty amazing and the ultimate reason why we wanted to come here to this beautiful country.

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The entrance to the cave.

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The entrance

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Walking in…

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Look closely and you can see the roaches on the bamboo.

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Our guide talking about the nests.

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Escaping to the light!

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The “albino” roach

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We are now onto our final destination another 30 minutes away to the lodge. We arrived in the afternoon, so we were able to head out on the evening boat to look for many different species of monkeys, birds, maybe the elusive pigmy elephant, etc.

I’ve put on a few of my favorite photos of the 3 different boat rides we took over the two days. The lodge itself was a bit rustic, but comfortable. The biggest nuisance was the constant banging on the roof by the wild monkeys in the middle of the night. Was quite alarming! The first night we were there I somehow managed to get my pinky toe stuck under the door as I was shutting it. Pretty sure I broke it. Totally sucked, because I was really excited to do the jungle hike instead of the boat ride to spot more wildlife.

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Not happy with us taking her picture.

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The “red chile”

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The sun was setting while this proboscis  monkey crossed overhead.

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Our guide said that they often spot the “red chili” before the rest of the monkey!

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Hiding and eating!

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Silver leaf monkey

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Now we are leaving the Kinabatonga River and are headed to Turtle Island via a boat from Sandakan. We stopped at the local market near the dock before heading over.

This is a one night adventure to see turtle eggs being laid, and then later baby turtles being released. Again, modest accomodations with running water, shower, toilet, and food. Our guide was back with us for this adventure to Turtle Island and he was giddy with excitement. We had the afternoon to explore the island and snorkle. Emily managed to brush up against something snorkling and had a skin reaction, nothing a little rubbing alcohol couldn’t fix. Finally, it was dinner time and the long wait for the turtles to come onto the beach began. They had a nice little museum/education room on the sea turtles, which we enjoyed walking through. Each guide gave their group the run down on the rules and how the night was going to go. We had to keep our voices down and vibrations to a minimum, (stay in one area only so the turtles wouldn’t get spooked), NO lights or flashes on cameras. We were told that once the signal was given to quickly follow the turtle guide to where the turtle was laying her eggs on the beach. The first one happened quite soon after we ate, but one of the guests kept using the flash on her camera and it totally stopped the process. The turtle went back to sea and we left deflated and pretty angry and annoyed with this lady. The second one came about an hour and a half later. We excitedly ran down the beach to witness this amazing sight. She did not dissappoint. I still can’t believe they pick up these eggs and transfer them right away.

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Cute turtle towel 🙂

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Emily snorkeling rash.

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Snorkeling!

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Monitor Lizard!

 

 

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Waiting for the call to see the momma turtle!

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Laying eggs!

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Head view

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She’s a repeat costumer!  According to her tag she laid eggs here once before.

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eggs

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Collected eggs

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Time to bury

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Our buried eggs

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Hatched turtles that we let go that night.

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Turtle egg grounds (female area, no shade)

After they collected all the eggs we went to the area where they bury them in the sand. The sex of the turtle is determined by the temperature of the sand and our batch was buried in the female area. Go GIRLS J! Now it’s time to release these adorable little turtles. Unfortunately, statistics show that maybe 2 or 3 will actually make it out of the 60 we released.

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It’s hard

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to say

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goodbye…

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We came, we saw, and we were amazed by the wildlife in Borneo. Kota Kinabalu was a short flight from Sandakan where we finished off our vacation with a couple of days at the Shangri-La. Did some more snorkling, relaxing, and shopping.

The Real “Expat” Wives of Singapore

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And so it begins…the story of our Expat friendship that started on Facebook.  Michelle and I have added to our little group with the addition of Frances (the Irish Lassie), Lisa (Southern Belle), and Kristin (California Girl)  For whatever reason, our paths have crossed and I couldn’t be more grateful.  We are the Fab Five!

What is the definition of an “Expat Wife” anyway?  There is not an official definition that I could find, but here is my personal simplified definition.  Expat Wife – A woman left to figure out a new country because her spouse is traveling for work.  For some, this would be the ultimate new adventure.  For others, sadly the final straw in an already faltering marriage. Luckily, none of us are in the latter category.

Our friendships developed quickly.  We bonded instantly over husbands travel schedules, kids adjusting to a new, more rigorous school, the struggles of getting a bank account, weighing the pros and cons of getting a helper, the list goes on.  When you have no family or husbands around, these ladies become your lifeline.

Now, we don’t have all the “drama” of a Real Housewives tv show, but we definitely have stories to tell and some to cherish forever.  The year has gone by quickly with it’s ups and downs, but we’ve done it together.  And now it ends, almost as quickly as it began as one of our Fab Five leaves us in June.  I can’t quite put my finger on why this makes me so sad.  We all have the common bond of arriving at the same time, struggling together, and most of all lifting each others spirits.  These coveted positions in our Fab Five can never be replicated or replaced.

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I’ve since revised my definition of an Expat Wife to –  A special woman that endures with a smile, finds a pack, and rolls with the changes.

As I look ahead, I’m excited of who will be put in our path as our journey continues.
Cheers to Kristin! You’ll be missed my friend.

Our first visitors AND first Christmas in Singapore!

We were so excited to welcome our first visitors to Singapore!  Bill and Donna made the long trek from Sarasota to come celebrate Christmas with us.  I was shocked at how well they adjusted to the time difference!  They jumped right in and were absolute troopers.  I just wanted to share some pictures of things we were able to do in the 11 short days they were here.  We hope they are looking forward to coming again and maybe even braving another country with us!

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Emily taking G-ma and G-pa to her favorite dumplings restaurant, Din Tai Fung.

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The Ion on Orchard Rd. at night.

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Our new favorite activity, Lockdown escape room.  It was a group effort to combine strategy and intellect to escape!

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Emily competing at the regatta.  She placed first in the women’s singles!IMG_1772

Fun on the Singapore bus tour!

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Can’t come to Singapore without a stop to Jumbo Seafood for some Chili Crab!  Yum!!!

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Surprise afternoon high tea date at the Raffle’s Hotel.

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The beautiful Botanic Gardens.

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Special birthday treat for Grandma.  Chocolate and Cheese buffet on top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.  Our over indulgence hit us hard…ugh.

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So lucky to have grandma and grandpa here for our first Christmas in Singapore.  Merry Christmas!

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Orchard Rd. and the new selfie stick!

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Gardens By the Bay

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Gaining knowledge about tea at the Tea Chapter in Chinatown.

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The Merlion

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Blue Bali restaurant for some Indonesian food.

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Emily has finally caught up to Grandma!  One of them is not so excited. 🙂

Introducing…our newest family member!

Exotic travel destinations, private education, safe city living, helper to clean and cook, all great reasons to move to Singapore. Right?

Moving from a 4000+ square foot home to a 2000 square foot home was just one of the many adjustments we were willing to make to live in a great location. I often go back to the day we made this decision and wonder, what the hell were we thinking?! There is no escape from each other! I find myself grinding my teeth almost immediately after the kids walk in from school. The concrete walls and marble floors send the decibel level to new heights. Living in such a small quarters, it gets messy and quick. My kids joke that I should become a detective (actually a lifelong dream) because I can recreate the crime scene in about two seconds.
Crime scene: Empty can of Sour Cream Pringles lying on the floor between the couch and sofa table. I shall recreate the crime. The perp started in the kitchen. He opened the cabinet frantically looking for Sour Cream Pringles while knocking over the other two can of Original Pringles. Perp was in a hurry and neglected to close the cabinet door. Starving, he opened the can and left the lid on the counter. Stuffing his face with a stack of Pringles in his mouth he left a small trail of crumbs leading to the sofa where he plopped his butt down to watch tv. At this point the ravenous perp committed the horrible crime. Crumbs flew, evidence became lodged in the crevices of the couch, this guy was going down. I lined up the suspects looking for evidence. Not to my surprise, the suspect still had bits of Pringle stuck to his shirt. Upon further taste testing, I confirmed they were in fact, Sour Cream Pringles! Perp caught…the end.

Although I love playing detective, the constant clean up is not fun. Leaving the smallest crumb will bring tiny ants and huge cockroaches. Bill and the kids kept pushing the idea of the live in helper. I was not on board with this and opted for a part-time helper to come clean three times a week. How awesome is that? I was ok with it, but Bill and the kids still wanted a full time helper. Why, you ask? FOOD!!! No fast food drive through here, which means more cooking. Why was I still so against a live in? Well, two reasons. One, the helper room was our storage room. What would we do with all the stuff in there? Two, what would my role be? Well, Bill took care of number one and got everything put in different locations. So now it was only about me. I struggled with this for about two months. Do I really want someone else living with us? How will I closet watch Orange is the New Black, while eating a bag of chips for lunch? (No, not the Pringles!)

Most of my friends have live in helpers (FDW – foreign domestic workers), and love them. The cost of having an FDW is actually the same as the part-time coming in three times a week. So, I decided to take the chance and I’m so glad I did.

I’d like to introduce our newest family member, Jocelyn. She is from the Philippines, single, no children, and has such a giving heart. She spoils the kids rotten and treats them like they are her own. She loves to watch Robert play soccer (picture below)! Our home has never been so clean. She is a wonderful cook and surprised us with red velvet cupcakes upon our arrival back from Bali. Yes, I think I could get used to this.

I’ve made one adjustment since Jocelyn has started. I now watch Orange is the New Black behind closed doors…

Billy and Jocelyn

Billy and Jocelyn