Thanksgiving in Bali

It’s after midnight. Standing between the cars at an intersection she looks to be around 11 yrs old. Peering sullenly into the van window right at Emily, the image is still fresh on my mind. She has a baby strapped around her. Is it her baby? A brother or sister? Not really what I was expecting upon our arrival in Bali.

Before coming to Bali I did a lot of research on places to stay and got a contact for a tour guide. With the size of our family it looked like a villa was our best option. Most resorts only allow up to 4 persons, which meant an additional room. This added up to the price of a villa. No brainer! Our villa had a private pool, chef to come prepare breakfast every morning, and a spa around the corner. The only downside was that it was not on the beach.

I had pre arranged a two-hour massage for a mere $27! How can you pass that up? So, Bill and I enjoyed a fabulous couples massage to begin our Bali vacation. The kids slept in and took a dip in the pool after exploring the villa. Our first night was not the best as our villa was right off the very noisy main road. We mentioned this to the front desk and they moved us to an even better villa within the compound. Score!

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That afternoon we met our friendly tour guide, Wayan Ari. My friend, Laura was so taken with him and his family she sent me with gifts in tow. This man ALWAYS had this huge smile on his face. He asked us if we like birds? We all snickered, and replied, YES! Fun Fact: Bill hates birds, especially ones that sit on your head! So, off we went to the Bali Bird Park. We loved this place! As soon as we walk in they are putting huge parrots on us for pictures! Bill even braved a picture or two. Emily was getting two beautiful toucans put on her shoulders when one decided to stick his long beak down her shirt! Man, if I had only had the camera ready for that one!

Wayan Ari and adorable children.

Wayan Ari and adorable children.

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Temples, temples, everywhere!
One of my favorite temples was Tanah Lot (which means small island floating on the sea). It’s situated on a beach with black sand, something I’d never seen before. We stayed to watch the infamous sunset over Tanah Lot and it did not disappoint.

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Tirta Empul Temple was probably the most entertaining temple we visited. The unstoppable water is believed to cure any diseases. While we were visiting I observed a grandfather with his granddaughter. She suddenly noticed a very large fish swimming near her and started hysterically crying and clawing her way up her grandfather. I couldn’t help but giggle.

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We watched “The Barong and Kris Dance”, a play that represents the fight between good and evil spirit. It had five acts and by the second act the kids (and us too) were ready to go. The costumes and makeup were by far the best thing about this play.

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MONKEY FOREST in Ubud!!!
Probably our most fun and SCARY stop. It was on the Amazing Race, so of course I wanted to stop here. When we entered the park there was a lady selling bananas to feed the monkeys. Who wouldn’t want to feed these adorable furry monkeys, right? Being the typical tourist we had to do this. We held the banana up and then walked towards a monkey. The monkey then crawls up you to get the banana and proceeds to sit on your shoulder while eating. We got some great photos of the kids with these cute guys. I had a more intimate time with my little furry friend. He scarfed down his banana, burped a few times, rubbed banana in my hair, proceeded to give me a new hairdo, and caressed my face. By the time the assault was finished my family was crying from laughter.

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We also stopped at a tea/coffee plantation, ate lunch with a view of a volcano, went snorkeling at the blue lagoon, shopped, our guide got taken to the police station, rode elephants, fed tigers, celebrated Thanksgiving, and enjoyed multiple massages. Next time we might take it easy at a beach resort…nah.

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Volcano

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Wayan coming out of the police station with a smile on his face :)

Wayan coming out of the police station with a smile on his face ūüôā

Tasting "CATPOOCHINO" The coffee plantation had special beans digested by Luwak.

Tasting “CATPOOCHINO”
The coffee plantation had special beans digested by Luwak.

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Vodka bottles filled with...petrol!

Vodka bottles filled with…petrol!

Family on a scooter.  The mom is hiding behind the baby.

Family on a scooter. The mom is hiding behind the baby.

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My heart still breaks for that little girl who was begging at the intersection the night we arrived. It’s funny what images your mind won’t let you forget.

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. ūüôā

CHRISTMAS ROLL MELTDOWN!

Christmas Eve. I stand staring through tears in the refrigerated section at the grocery store, unsuccessfully willing the lump in my throat to go away. Weeks earlier, I started the hunt for frozen dough (Rhodes rolls to be exact) for our traditional Christmas roll. I looked in every Expat grocery store around to no avail. Time got away from me and now, at the last minute, decided to go with plan B. Same recipe only with Pillsbury biscuits (in the can). I know I’d seen those around. So, here I stand in the third store having a meltdown on Christmas Eve staring at twenty or so Pillsbury cans of…pizza dough. What??? I seriously considered if this may work. No, it won’t be the same. Nothing is the same. Yes, I was having my own little pity party right here in the middle of the grocery store.

Why was this bothering me so much? It’s just food, right? No. It was the culmination of all the traditions that we were giving up by being here in Singapore. No Target Pj’s to open on Christmas Eve. No Christmas china to use for our meals. Only one Christmas tree to decorate. No chimney for the stockings. It’s all the little things that we do for our children and as a family that have me in a this state of sadness.

I leave the store feeling defeated and pulled myself together to walk home. Thankfully, no one was home except for Bill who greeted me with, “Well, I have some bad news.” Instantly, I started sobbing. I croaked out, “I can’t take anymore bad news.” Of course, I’m sure he is thinking the worst. A death in the family, something dire has happened, etc. As he holds me in a bear hug, he asks what’s wrong. I can only imaging now how stupid I must have sounded as I unattractively sniffled out, “I couldn’t find the rolls.”

As he squeezes me tight, he reminds me that we have all we need for Christmas. Our family is together, healthy, and happy. Leave it to him to calmly put it in perspective for me. I love this man. I know he loves me, especially after all the snot, tears, and mascara I just left all over his shirt.

So, I’ve learned that traditions are important, but change is ok. There is always a plan C and new traditions to be made. The “expat breakdown” I’d read so much about is a real thing. It happened and now it’s over…I hope.

PS – If you are wondering what Bill’s bad news was…comment on the blog and I’ll tell you. ūüėČ
Merry Christmas and Happy 2015!

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

Bintan, Indonesia

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Bintan is a 45 minute ferry ride southeast of Singapore. I knew Bill would be traveling during the school October break, so this was the perfect “beginner” trip for me. We had only been in Singapore for two months and I wasn’t quite ready to travel abroad alone with the kids. We planned this trip with another family whose father was also traveling…which tends to be the norm around here.
I did my trip advisor research and decided on Club Med (all inclusive…easy) resort and spa. I wasn’t expecting much since I hadn’t been impressed at all with the beaches here in Singapore. As you can see in the pictures I was pleasantly surprised. The beaches were gorgeous! What a nice hidden gem so close to Singapore.
The first morning we were awakened by little kids laughing and high-pitched squeals of excitement. Looking out on our balcony we were face to face with a family of monkeys. These little guys weren’t afraid of anything! Hotel staff swooped in a shooed them off. Boo…the kids loved these furry friends.
By far the most exciting activity for the kids were the kayaks! They overturned on every wave and LOVED it! They had fun comparing battle bruises. Second, was probably the snorkelling. I wish I had a camera to show you Emily holding a clown fish scooped up in her hands. Amazing! We also enjoyed archery, trapeze, karaoke, staff shows, and ping-pong. Needless to say, the kids were never bored.

The Dragon Kiln

 

 

It’s funny. ¬†I was just looking at my last post and it too was about “dragons”. ¬†Guess you know you’re in Asia when…

My mom would love this tour!  You can be assured when she comes to visit I will be bringing her here to Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle (home of the dragon kiln).  It is called the dragon kiln because it does resemble a dragon.  It is built on a slight incline with the mouth at the bottom and the tail at the top.  The belly is filled with local artist pottery and only fired 2-3 times a year.  There are only 2 remaining in Singapore with one being operational.

Thow Kwang Dragon Kiln was built in 1940 and is one of the oldest surviving brick-built kilns in Singapore for wood firing.  The pots are engulfed in a river of fire and the ashes reach with glaze to produce unpredictable colours and textures, producing unique pieces unlike firing by gas and electric kilns.

The big draw to this particular tour was that they were going to be firing up the dragon. ¬†In typical Singaporean fashion, things don’t always happen the way we plan. ¬†When we arrived we were told that the firing would be that evening (which would have made for some great photos) and not that morning as originally planned. ¬†Oh well, life goes on and more time to SHOP! ¬†This place was HUGE!!! ¬†Pots, vases, bowls, statues, etc were everywhere. ¬†I had one item in mind to purchase, an umbrella holder. ¬†I searched through thousands of pots looking for just the right one. ¬†In the end, I settled on a larger vase that is just going to have to double for an umbrella stand until I can find one that I like.

Although I didn’t witness the dragon awaken, I was fascinated¬†by yet ¬†another piece of Singapore’s historic art and culture.

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Boat

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As ¬†I peruse through the AWA tours for the upcoming month, Dragon Boating catches my eye. ¬†I’ve watched these beautiful beasts out on the water as the crew row in perfect syncronicity. ¬†What the heck? ¬†I’ll give it a try. ¬†If Emily can do crew 4 times a week, I must be able to handle this one day trial! ¬†I successfully sold the idea to one of my friends, Frances, to accompany me. It was a beautiful sunny day and the pollution level was quite low. ¬†We started out with some stretches and basic instruction of how to row. ¬†Should I be this winded after stretches? ¬†Geez, I’m really feeling my age these days. ¬†Now, we have to walk the boats down to the water. ¬†Luckily, they are on a trailer so it’s just a matter of not running them into anything. ¬† Once the boats are in it’s time to get the show on the road (or water :).

I was the odd man out in the division of the boat crew so I didn’t have a partner. ¬†Lucky me, I get to sit up front with the professional! ¬†Well, I only felt lucky for about the first five minutes when the realisation that the rest of the boat follows the first two rowers set in. ¬†We set the pace. ¬†This fit young lady that I’m partnered up with is counting on me to keep up with her. ¬† Ok, I got this. ¬†The first two runs, not so bad. ¬†Took a bit to figure out the oar placement, body form, and which muscles I should be using. ¬†More rowing….and more rowing….my mind is going to its happy place. We reach this beautiful area right by the Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Gardens By the Bay, and the Sports Arena. ¬†We stopped to rest and enjoy the view. ¬†Singapore has amazing¬†architecture. ¬†Getting to know my partner (Fabi I believe was her name) while we rest, I find that she is a fitness instructor at the Navy base. ¬†Her husband is a Navy pilot that has just left for Hong Kong for a year. ¬†Lovely young lady that is definitely making the most of her time here. ¬†She is giving me praises on my technique as I’m apologising for slowing her pace down (I’m pretty sure the ladies behind me were grateful for the slower pace).

Ok, it’s race time! ¬†We’ve waited for the second boat to come meet us and now we are going to row to the bridge to start the race. ¬†I feel sufficiently rested and ready to “do this!”. ¬†We row to the bridge to line up with the other boat. ¬†Uh oh, that was a lot farther than I thought. ¬†Now I’m tired again! ¬†Taylor Swift’s song pops into my head, “shake it off, sh shake it off!” ¬†I shake out my rubbery¬†arms and get in ready position…GO! ¬†My partner is yelling, “1, 2, 3, 4” I’m digging into the water like it’s a tub of Nutella! ¬†Dig, dig, dig. ¬†Arms… so… tired…. More yelling, “come on ladies, we’ve got this”. ¬†I can’t tell who is ahead, but from the frantic yelling I’m thinking we are behind. ¬†Finally, the words I need to hear, “hold!”. ¬†I was so happy to stop the pain, that I didn’t care that we lost. ¬†Well, not totally true, I am a pretty competitive person.

We did do a second race and I won’t go into detail, but we lost a second time. ¬† ¬†Now it’s time to get the boats back to the boat house. ¬†I thought the physical exhaustion was over…um no. ¬†Getting the boats in the water was WAY easier than getting them out. ¬†I honestly thought I was going to toss my cookies I was that physically drained. ¬†It’s times like these I wish I had the mind of a 40 something and the body of a 20 something. It’s now three days later and my body is still cursing me. ¬†Am I glad I did it? ¬†Hell yes! ¬†When am I ever going to do things like this again. ¬† Emily is going to be doing dragon boating in the spring (insert evil laugh) and doesn’t know what she’s getting into!