We’ve Moved!

After 7 good years of living in Jurong East, we moved to a new place in Woodleigh last week! 7 years is a long time and although we knew months before that the move was coming, we still weren’t prepared when it was time to pack all our belongings and leave. I’m not as sentimental as most people, and I have gone through a number of moves in the past without looking back, but this was different because Mayfair was more than just a place I lived in. I lived there with V and my sisters, people I love and care about the most, and together we had made it our home away from home. We had so many nice memories tied to the place.

In comparison, Woodleigh is a less developed area. Many developments are just starting around here and the number of residents in the neighborhood is yet to grow. Our new home is a 3-bedroom penthouse unit on the top floor of a new condominium with big windows letting generous amount of light in, balconies extending through all of the rooms, and a great view. I imagine it wouldn’t take long before we truly settle into the new environment and routine, but we have a lot of work still to furnish and transform the place into a cozy and beautiful living space. I guess that’s part of the fun.

I’ll post photos once things start coming together, i.e. all boxes are unpacked and the place looks less like a shipwreck. In the meantime, we’re trying to put the knowledge we’ve surely gained from watching all those home decorating shows to good use!

MRT Ethics

Don’t you sometimes wonder who is most deserving of seats in the MRT? We know the corner ones are reserved for the elderlies, pregnant women, parents with small children, the disabled, but that’s more a guideline in Singapore than a common practice. What about people with ailments or burdens we could not see?

I’m all for giving up my seat to those who need it more, but there are times when I do need it too. Once I had my usual episode of dizzy spell caused by my inherently low blood pressure. I knew if I continued standing up it would get worse, so when a lady exited the MRT, leaving the corner seat unoccupied, I took it. A few stops after, a pregnant lady entered. Hmm, quandary. Self safety or selflessness?

It took me almost a minute, admittedly, but I finally stood up and offered the seat. You’d think the lady would smile and thank me for my sacrifice, but no, she gave me a steely stare, then sat down without so much as a mumbled thank you! I almost instantly regretted giving her the seat!

In some countries, people do not hesitate to give up their seats for others in need, I know. But in those same countries, the people whom the courtesy is extended to happen to be sweet and grateful about it too. You feel good being kind when it is acknowledged, and it becomes a reinforcing loop. It makes me question whether a person deserves kindness if he/she doesn’t extend the same to others.

Learning Scuba Diving

V is a certified diver. He loves to dive and has been telling me to give it a try. For a number of (logical and practical) reasons, I’ve been putting it off, but lately I feel like finally taking him up on his offer. It’s a new experience, and if I end up not liking it, then at least I can say I’ve tried.

See, I’m open. Even to going someplace we humans are not meant to go. And even if our last snorkelling adventure in Sibu island just served to reinforce that biological limit.

So I rounded up a group of enthusiasts (or stupid masochists, depending on where you stand on this issue) and signed up for a diving certification course. V was certified by CMAS, but I couldn’t find any CMAS dive center in Singapore, so between PADI and NAUI, we finally chose NAUI, the less commercial and more technical of the two. I wasn’t too bothered, but after B complained dramatically about the lack of quality in PADI diving education and raved about NAUI’s reputation, I was swayed.

My colleague Zhongjie happened to have a friend who owns a NAUI dive center in Singapore, so I contacted him and got everything settled! No excuse or backing out now.

Last weekend all of us (Luis, my sisters, my sister’s boyfriend Greg, V, and I) attended the theoretical classroom session and the practical pool session. Boy, we did not know what we were in for! The pool session was hard on all of us. We had to swim 200 meters and tread water for 5 minutes at the start as prerequisites! V said at his time the requirement was 15 minutes, by which time I think I would happily drown.

We wanted to call it a day and go home to nap after, but alas, the day was just starting! Throughout the day, we learned how to assemble and don the equipments, how to enter the water, how to recover our regulators, the purge and blast method to clear our regulators, how to clear our masks of water, how to take off and put back on our entire equipments under water, how to share air with our buddies in out-of-air situations, how to do an emergency ascent, and the session seemed to take forever!

Luis did marvellous, considering he’s 65, making all of us feel out of shape in comparison. He was also very calm underwater, though the day after he admitted to staying still because of fear he would shoot up if he moved (he was struggling with buoyancy control). I did alright, but I was too weak to handle the equipments. Taking them off and putting them on underwater was almost impossible to do on my own. Meli was too panicky and her instinct to surface would be dangerous in the sea, so she needed to practise breathing with her mouth and keeping her cool. Christin and Greg were OK too, but Greg lost one of his contacts sometime in the session. He’s severely short-sighted, so he was almost completely blind on one eye after. Lesson to take away: bring dailies!

V? He was completely in his element. He told me how out of shape he felt and that he needed to work on his stamina before the actual dive. He also complained about being more buoyant now that he’s a few kgs heavier (he was a stick back in high school). Seriously, if I didn’t know him well enough, I’d say he was showing off.

We finished the day feeling like we were turtles who just went through a marathon. But we DID IT, we COMPLETED the session! I regret not having any picture taken on the day to brag about, but then again, we were tired, hungry, and sunburnt. Maybe I should be grateful instead.

Our open water diving trip is scheduled on the first weekend of October. We all wanted it earlier so we wouldn’t have much time to dread it and chicken out, but arranging this based on the schedules of six people is not a walk in the park! In fact, we’re cutting it close to the start of the monsoon season. While we’re in the spirit of overcoming our fear of the unknown that is the ocean, why not throw in choppy waters to elevate the experience and make it more fun!

Till then, we’ll be preparing ourselves for the theoretical test. By any luck and evolutionary leap, we may even grow gills.

Gardens by the Bay, featuring The Rinconeses

The last weekend that Ylsa and Ligia (Luis’ sister and mom) were here, we went to check out the newly opened Gardens by the Bay at Marina Bay. The gardens were meant to further enhance Singapore’s reputation as the “City in a Garden” and would no doubt become a new Singapore’s premier urban outdoor recreation space, tourist attraction, and national icon.

The gardens cost more than a billion dollars to design and construct. It houses a nice variety of spring plants, flowers, and vegetations in 2 climate-controlled conservatories, a few solar electricity-producing man-made structures called the supertrees, surrounded by an area of gardens and a lake perfect for strolling around.

You can enter the gardens for free, but the domed conservatories would set you back about SGD 20 each. We checked out both, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest, and were fairly impressed! Both conservatories were climate-controlled (it’s eternally spring in them!) and in the Cloud Forest, we were shown how the gardens by the bay were made to be self-sustaining. The energy generated by the solar panels on top of the supertrees is used to light up the gardens, the rainwater flows through and waters the plants, and the wood and old plants are burned to generate energy to cool the conservatories.

There was a light drizzle the day we went, but we had a wonderful time. It was probably better than a hot, sunny day. Bring an umbrella with you if you decide to go, and perhaps a light jacket for the conservatories if you get cold easily. Don’t forget your camera too! V got a bunch of gorgeous pictures, some of which I share below.

Ice-Skating in Tropical Singapore

With the opening of Jcube, Singapore now has an Olympic-sized skating rink so close to where I live! Of course V and I have to check it out!

Skating in Jcube costs about SGD 20 for an adult. Depending on whether you bring your own skates, gloves, and socks, it can be cheaper. The rate applies for fixed two-hour blocks, between which a Zamboni (ice-smoothing vehicle) prepares the rink for the next session.

Mind you, I’m not a good skater. Very few people here are, since we do not get natural snow and winter, but I know how to move on ice. I’m still figuring out how to move backward, brake, twirl, and more, but it’s pretty fun just moving around the rink, enjoying the rush of cool air and the wet, slippery ice beneath your feet. Plus, everyone on the rink were generally having a good time, beginners or otherwise. We saw some fall multiple times, some hang on to the railings for dear life, and a few experts zoom really fast past the rest, zigzagging, racing against one another, showcasing their tricks. It was lively! We had a lot of spectators! People crowding around the rink, watching amusedly and taking pictures.

By the time our two hours were almost up, my feet were dying to be let out of the skates. It’s hard work, so we rewarded ourselves with a good Japanese dinner at Ginza Bairin, also at Jcube. Ginza Bairin is famous for its tonkatsu don, and now we know why! Go give them (skating and the tonkatsu at Ginza Bairin) a try?

A Saturday with the Rinconeses

V and I watched A Chorus Line yesterday, and we went with the Rinconeses (Luis, his mom, and his sister)! It was a privilege: Luis’ mom was gentle, beautiful and you could tell she took care of herself pretty well (eye and face cream take priority over food, she quipped jokingly). His sister Ilsa is an artist and a practicing interior designer, so she knows a lot about trends and finds inspiration everywhere she goes. Both of them would be in Singapore for 2 months, but while in the region Luis made plans for them to travel to China and maybe Japan as well.

A Chorus Line was a great production. We followed a dance audition involving sixteen dancers with various backgrounds and personalities, and got to know each of them before eight were finally chosen to be in the final lineup. The dancers’ life stories were amusing, touching, and heartbreaking. The actors and actresses playing them did a fantastic job portraying the characters, and at the end of it, I marvelled at how dancers, who have to lose themselves to be in perfect sync with one another in performances, are singularly distinctly different people, with their own past, their own demons, their own reasons to dance, their own dreams, but share the same love and passion for dancing and wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.

And finally, I managed to find the time to sort through, pick, edit, and upload the hundreds of vacation photos V and I took in our recent trip to Bangkok! Bangkok was magnificent, and we would definitely go back there again. Check out the photos at http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150819181565840.399818.508000839&type=1&l=f51696715c

I hope you had a good weekend!

Recipe for A Perfect Weekend

I hope everyone had a good weekend. I certainly did! I had a Saturday packed with exciting activities and a relaxing, stay-at-home, no-fuss Sunday. That’s how I love my weekend, busy but fun Saturdays to shake the work worries away and put me in the weekend mood, Sundays to recuperate from whatever happen on Saturdays.

This weekend, the Iwasaki Onikenbai are in town and they were performing at a number of venues: the Japanese elementary school, the Japan Creative Center, and at the Outdoor Theatre of the Esplanade. V and I registered for their performance at the Japan Creative Center and met Luis there. It was a captivating event, in which we learned about the 1300-year-old tradition of ogre sword dance born in Iwasaki farming village of the Iwate Prefecture, Northern Japan.

The dancers wore elaborate costumes consisting of 24 items. The dance was a form of prayer made by the farmerfolks to rid the land of evil and hope for a bountiful harvest.

Though they wore masks which made them look like the demons, they were protectors of the land, believed to be reincarnations of Buddha.

The troupe wore masks of 4 different colors: white, black, red, and blue, symbollizing the 4 seasons and 4 directions, but only one of them had a white mask. He was the leader of Iwasaki Onikenbai and had to perform the Hitori Kago, One Person Protects.

Do you notice? Each of them actually held a fan in the right hand, a sword sheathed on the side, and a modern interpretation of a red walking stick on the left hand.

It was so special, to see the people preserve this important cultural heritage to this day and age.