vrijdag 29 juni 2012

Singapore maakt ongeschikt voor de wereld

Singapore is veilig. Daar worden grapjes over gemaakt, zoals dat je niet te lang in Singapore moet blijven hangen omdat het je ongeschikt maakt voor het leven in de rest van de wereld. En dat is waar.

In Singapore loop ik om middernacht in mijn eentje door het grootste park van de stad om aan de andere kant op het verlaten metrostation de laatste trein naar huis te pakken.

In Singapore ga ik met Elsemieke naar de fonteinen op het centrale plein van het uitgaansgebied om in het water te spelen, en niet alleen hoef ik me geen enkele zorgen te maken over glas, sigaretten of andere smerigheid, maar ik zet mijn tas aan de rand van het plein neer en als ik een half uur later terug kom, staat die tas met portemonnee en telefoon daar nog onaangeroerd. 

In Singapore rijden alle taxi's op de meter en brengen ze je naar de door jouw gespecificeerde bestemming (als ze die kunnen vinden). Op het bonnetje staat de naam van het bedrijf, de taxi chauffeur en het identificatienummer van de taxi. Laat je dus je telefoon liggen, dan kun je die zo weer terug krijgen. En dat gebeurt ook echt. 

In Singapore kan S. 's ochtends in alle vroegte tussen de dronkaards door slaslommen wanneer hij gaat fietsen, zonder ook maar enig vertoon van aggressiviteit te zien. Ook niet als dronkaards elkaar de spaarzame taxi's afhandig trachten te maken. Er wordt zelfs niet gescholden.

Er zijn natuurlijk wel gevaren. Onze oven zit op grijphoogte voor E. Singaporezen hebben een geheel eigen interpretatie van verkeersregels, die niet strookt met hoe S. en zijn mede-fietsers in hun thuisland gewend zijn te opereren. In natuurparken wonen ook giftige slangen (vandaar dat de geasfalteerde paden erg populair zijn bij lokale wandelaars). En een drukke weg blijft een enge drukke weg als je die moet oversteken met een peuter, hoe veilig de stad verder ook is.

Maar in Singapore wacht iedereen op het stoplicht. Ook E. en haar leeftijdsgenoten. Die bovendien heel braaf op de brede, goed onderhouden stoep lopen.

Fysiek heb ik me nog nooit zo vrij gevoeld als in Singapore. 

Die fysieke vrijheid is te danken aan de overheid, die strenge wetten en regels hanteert met harde straffen. Dat is niet altijd zo geweest - ooit was Singapore een echte handelshaven, met de welvaart en de smerige onderbuik die erbij hoort. Maar na de onafhankelijkheid van Groot-Brittannie en de afscheiding van Maleisie (hier ben ik nog niet met biografie van Singapore, dus dit is de versie-in-vogelvlucht), braken er rellen uit in de stadstaat. Premier Lee Kuan Yew greep met harde hand in en regeerde Singapore de daarop volgende jaren streng en met het oog op rust, reinheid en economische groei. Dat is gelukt.

Toen mijn ouders in Singapore arriveerden was dat twee decennia na de rellen. Toen al had de stadstaat de onrustige tijden achter zich gelaten, hoewel het onder de oppervlakte nog wel borrelde en de herinnering aan 'vroeger' nog levendig was. Politieagenten waren zichtbaarder dan dat ze nu zijn. Maar Singaporezen zagen de veranderingen, en voelden het verschil tussen hun land en buurlanden als Maleisie en Indonesie. Lee Kuan Yew bracht geld, welvaart en veiligheid en kreeg respect, waardering en gehoorzaamheid.

In 2011 trad Lee Kuan Yew af als "Minister Mentor", de laatste post die bekleedde in het kabinet. Daarvoor was hij drie decennia premier en vervolgens bijna vijftien jaar "Senior Minister". Indonesie en Maleisie zijn met een inhaalslag bezig, om niet te spreken van de economische grootmacht China. Na een halve eeuw als glanzend voorbeeld van Zuidoost-Aziatisch kapitalistisch tijgerdom moet Singapore hard aan de bak om de eigen positie veilig te stellen. Het internet is rumoerig met meningen van Singaporezen, die de opkomst van de middenklasse in hun goedkopere buurlanden met argusogen volgen. Maar iedereen geniet van de veiligheid en de schone stad - niemand wil daadwerkelijk verhuizen naar Maleisie.

Ik was in Kuala Lumpur, de Maleise hoofdstad. "Hou je tas stevig vast", maande de douane-beambte, toen ik die neer wilde zetten om mijn paspoort te tonen. "Hoe duur een taxi naar het convention center is?" twijfelde de hotelreceptioniste. "Op de meter weet ik het niet precies, maar in ieder geval niet meer dan 20 ringgit zonder meter." (Op de meter - de vierde taxi wilde die dan wel aanzetten - was het 8 ringgit.) "Nee, je kunt niet 's avonds teruglopen", schrok een Maleise kennis via Facebook. "Je hotel is weliswaar niet in een slechte buurt, maar er wonen daar wel veel migranten." En, voegde ze toe: "Niet het water uit de kraan drinken, he!"

Singapore heeft mij ongeschikt gemaakt voor reizen in Zuidoost-Azie.



Dit is een kunstwerk van Botero. Deze vogel staat, getuige het eronder gemonteerde bord, voor inspiratie, sereniteit en vrede.

woensdag 27 juni 2012

Singaporeans do things differently: bra's, buying and wearing

I have favourite body parts, as I believe we all do. Personally, I really like my smallish waist and accompanying hip-waist ratio (which falls into fertile bombshell territory, thank you very much). I also enjoy having an hour-glass shaped figure. Still, I restrict clothes shopping to happy days, because self esteem is a terribly fragile thing.

However, I never used to have a problem with bra's, seeing as how I am quite fond of having to ask for smaller waist-sizes while upgrading the cups. In Europe I was a 70D, which is not a standard size (especially not if you're as tall as I am). But I could get away with a 75C as well.

And then we moved to Singapore and within a month all my three favourite bra's decided to die on me.

Buying bra's
I asked my Parisian fashion-loving friend M. where to go, stupidly forgetting that although French by upbringing she is actually descendant from Vietnamese people on all sides of her family and thus in possession of the enviable slim, Asian figure. "Go to Tang's", she said, a stylish local department store. "They have all the brands."

And they do. However, all the brands have been adapted to Singaporean standards.

Which means they have been padded. Now, I don't have any problem with padding. Not only does it give a nice rounding beneath a T-shirt or blouse, but it also hides all manner of awkwardness by, well, padding it.

But in Singapore (and maybe all over Asia) the padding is not taken into account when measuring the cup, meaning that the actual cup size is about two sizes smaller than advertised, because the cup has been filled up with padding. And there's no room left for breast.

I discovered this when I tried on my trusty fall back 75C and spilled all over the place.

So I went out and asked for a D-cup. They did not have any in that particular style. Fine, I said, give me any style. Well, actually, they did not really have D-cups in any of the styles. Although I could try the granny department for those with droopy breasts (they did not call it that). Which I did. And where I found ONE bra in an unmentionable pinkish-greyish-blandish colour (with padding, aunties too like to look good) that (sort of) fit me. So now I have three of those and I resentfully wear them everywhere.

Wearing bra's
Apparently, according to local model and blogging party girl Christine Ng, us Caucasians have a careless attitude when it comes to our bra's, quite unlike our Asian counterparts. I will quote her:

"The Caucasian will
1. Put the bra around her waist, clasp in front, cups at the back.
2. Then, looking down at the clasp, she hooks it together.
3. She then turns the bra around her waist so that cups are in front.
4. Lastly pulls it up to her chest and puts her 2 arms through.
5. Puts top/ dress on.

Whereas the Asian will
1. Put her 2 arms through.
2. Clasp at the back.
3. Gather the fats at the sides & push it into the middle.
4. Puts top/ dress on."


The first one is definitely how I do my bra up. And it's quite possible that Asian women do it differently - I'll take Christine's word for it. She then goes on to analyse what this might signify about our differences:

"A. it could mean that Caucasians don't care as much as Asians about their personal belongings and thus not treat their bra delicately (wearing the bra waist up stretches the bra). It's like machine wash versus hand wash (i hand wash, you?)

B. Caucasian women are rougher, more assertive and speak their mind as demonstrated by their attitude towards bras.

C. In Western countries, Caucasian women buy their bras from Target etc where it can be as cheap as $5 VS Asians where Triump or Wacol can cost a minimum of $39.90.

D. Caucasian women do not need to "push in fats" like Asians do because they generally have bigger breasts."

I think there might be an E, a simple physical explanation. I have an hour-glass figure, whereas most Asian women are blessed with fairly straight bodies with little to no wobbly bits. This means that my waist (where I put my bra on) is actually the narrowest part of my body. Thus, pulling the bra up from there does actually not stretch the bra, since the fabric should be wider than that part of my body to fit properly. Also, due to the bigger breast thing, most of my bra's don't have a single clasp, but three of them. This is a pain to do up backwards.  (And a pain to take off backwards as well, as many men dating Caucasian women have experienced.) And lastly: in my Singaporean bra's I do have to push in the "fats" - because my bra pushes them out.

Next mission: underwear for S. This should be interesting.



ps. Fellow caucasians living in Singapore: I have since discovered this little boutique at Holland Road Shopping Centre where a woman similar to myself in size and shape sells Change of Scandinavia, a lovely Danish brand of underwear suited to our figures. I am now hoping for my bra's to die on me again, but they seem unfortunately sturdy, however often and carelessly I wash them.

dinsdag 26 juni 2012

Plaatjespost & Picture Post: Wet Market

Wet markets are what us Dutchies would call a "markt", a place where people buy and sell fruit, vegetables, dry goods, meat, poultry, fish, frogs and an assortment of other food stuffs (ready made dumplings, tofu in all size and shapes, you get the picture). They are called wet markets, according to my tiny Lonely Planet city guide, because the floor is regularly cleaned with great bursts of water, leaving it wet at almost all times.

Wet markets are generally inside, in designated areas and run from early in the morning until early afternoon - no surprise there, unless you factor in the fact that all other Singaporean shops do not deign to open their doors before at least 10 am and don't close until 10 pm (which is how I ended up maternity shopping with my very pregnant, long time friend L. last Sunday evening).

Us living in the centre of all things happenin', we do not have anything as suburban as a wet market nearby. They are generally located within HDB estates (where 80% of Singaporeans live, and I am quoting the guide book again here), near to hawker centres and local shops selling, well, local stuff (incense, red gift envelopes, very cheap and slightly dodgy looking flip flops and clothing, tents to use for beach outings, you know the sort of thing.)

Fortunately, the nearest one to us is actually not only really big, but also located in the middle of one of the liveliest and most fun ethnic areas of the city: Chinatown. The touristy bit doesn't really get going until the wet market closes, which means that during the morning grocery run, I rub shoulders with hard haggling aunties and determined uncles who know exactly which roots and seeds are supposed to go into which medicinal soup.

(As a side note: Chinese medicine is a protected area of expertise in Singapore, and if one wants to practice in Singapore, as my fully qualified friend S. would have liked to, one has to apprentice with a local doctor for a few years first. This whole herbalism/nutritionism/acupuncture-thing is taken Very Seriously in these parts. Up to the point where the principal of our childcare centre offered to hand me a traditional recipe for E.'s coughing and colds, since regular medicine wasn't helping. Oh, and he told me not to give her too many citrus-y fruits. Like oranges. Apparently they make it worse.) 

But. On to the goodies! What do you actually get at a wet market?












































vrijdag 22 juni 2012

E.'s eerste woordjes

E.'s leven wordt niet gekenmerkt door een razendsnelle ontwikkeling. Waar haar Chinese vriendinnetje K. (twee maanden jonger) inmiddels al hele zinnen spreekt ("mummy more snack please"), redt E. zich nog heel aardig met gebaren en stampvoeten. Zo wijst ze naar haar hoofd als ze wil dat we een liedje voor haar zingen (het gevolg van het enthousiast inzetten van "klap eens in je handjes" elke keer dat ze haar handje hoofdwaarts bracht), steekt ze een gekromde arm de lucht in zodra een olifant ter sprake komt en neemt ze haar ouders bij de hand mee naar de kast met crackers als die niet snel genoeg snappen dat er een leegte is ontstaan in haar peuterbuikje. (Het stampvoeten volgt daarna.) 

Desondanks spreekt ze toch al een aantal woorden. Daaruit is af te leiden wat belangrijk is in haar leven (hoewel "no" dan wellicht wat hoger had mogen eindigen). Het is geen uitputtende lijst, en zeker niet de lijst van alle woorden die ze kent, maar wel een lijst van de woorden die ze met veel genoegen zelf spreekt. Nota bene: "ja" en "au" ontbreken. 

appel - sinaasappel / appel
nana - banaan
aardbei - aardbei
eten - eten
krekkah - cracker
meej - meer
jalijoelijoe - yoghurt
opuh - open
digg - dicht
oto - auto
moto - motor
iets - fiets
ies - vies
wasje - handen wassen
does - douche
ba - bad
bah - bah
bed - bed
boem - boem (of: oh, het is gevallen)
mama - mama
papa - papa
baby - E.
oma - oma
opa - opa
beppe - beppe
tietsja - teacher
bir - beer
kuukeruukgggrrrr - kukeleku (haan)
aaarrrgggg - tijger / leeuw
waf - hond
woef - hond
foon - mama's telefoon
winkel - winkel (of: het is hier saai, zullen we naar buiten gaan?)
winkel winkel - twinkle twinkle little star (of: mag ik alsjeblieft youtube filmpjes kijken?)
mee - ga met me mee
no - nee
no - neus
sit - zit
Elmo - Elmo 
elmo - luier
mooooooj - mooi
mornink - good morning
baaj baaj - dag



E. en S. in het ARMA museum in Bali (juni 2012).

woensdag 20 juni 2012

All this Father's Day stuff made me think

Father's Day (or Mother's Day for that matter) was never a very big thing in our household. My mum used to think it a bit ridiculous and would always request "nice children" when asked for her wishes. (Now having a toddler of my own, I finally realize how heartfelt this wish must have been.) She was an early riser and didn't enjoy crumbs in her bed, so breakfast in bed was limited to a cup of tea. If we thought of it.

However, what I wanted to talk about is not my mum, but my dad. I've been reading my mum's letters to my grandmother while she was living in Singapore and one thing that stands out is how often my dad would be travelling. At one point he even went to the Netherlands for a few weeks, while my mum stayed in Singapore with us. I don't think I'd let S. get away with that one. Even after we moved back, he used to work long hours, at one point even driving down to Germany on a daily basis. Later, after I'd already moved out, he flew out to all corners of Europe on a weekly basis with thrice yearly visits to Taiwan and China thrown in as well.

So, it's safe to assume that my dad was not a big presence in my childhood.

However, that assumption would be wrong.

During our time in Singapore we used to have helpers, the last one live-in. I have more memories of my dad than of our live-in helper (still called "amah" in those days). My dad has been a constant presence throughout my life. The helpers weren't. I think that is the reason for this seemingly strange discrepancy in number of hours spent in their company and number of memories retained of them within that period. I think it means you do get second chances with children, if you want them. Because my dad (after a talking to by a dear family friend) did mend his ways. A little. (He does love travelling.)

My parents' life for a large part revolved around us. They always came to our events. They stood on the sidelines in the icy winter drizzle watching our hockey games (field hockey, you ice-lovers). They volunteered for parental duties at school, from typing up the weekly newsletter (even though my mum can only type with two fingers) to sitting on the board of our secondary school. But they would also have yearly vacations for just the two of them, leaving us in the capable hands of friends or family, go out to theatre or music performances regularly and have friends over for dinner, while we'd be shoo-ed off to bed.

And it wasn't just my mum. My dad tried to teach my sister and myself mathematics (we both have a masters in decidedly non-science-y history). He taught me about stocks and dividends long before school got around to it, and explained complicated excel files to me. His unspoken assumption that I could understand all this mathematic-y and economic-y stuff has made sure I have no fear of numbers. I never felt stupid for asking questions, as he loved explaining things. He would also readily admit to not knowing stuff and encourage me to figure it out. He loved and respected my mum and would listen to her advice, not just on child rearing and food cooking (in which he would usually defer) but on financial decisions and job related issues as well.

My dad has made sure I can look after myself and he has always trusted me to do so, even when I decided to hitchhike through Albania with a friend. And when we managed to find ourselves without money in Montenegro, his calm voice on the phone gave me the confidence that we could sort it out. And we did. (But that's a whole other story, involving an incredibly nice woman at the bus station, a couple of Serbian soldiers and my love of all things religious.) He never let on how worried he must have been. When my bag containing my passport, drivers license and money was stolen in Bolivia, my first instinct was to call home even though by then I was thirty years old. (S. told me to grow up and sort it out myself. He's really quite like my dad in many, many ways. And I did sort it out, involving a passport, an airport strike in Lima, a new ticket, the ugliest passport pictures ever and a loan from a newly made friend.)

Every day when my dad came home from work, he'd waltz into the kitchen, grab my mum and kiss her, beaming that he was home again. She'd sit him down, get his dinner and while we'd be off somewhere watching telly, they would talk about their day together. To me, this is not an example of classic family patterns. It's not about who does which part of the sequence. It's about the kiss, it's about the sitting down, it's about the spending time and listening to each other. To me, this was the loving heart of our family.

A large part of who I am and what I do today is because of my dad. I, a medieval historian, would never have ended up on the business and energy end of journalism if he had not instilled in me the confidence that, yes, I could understand what was going on, if I would just keep on asking questions. And he taught me the joy of asking questions, how much people love to answer them as long as you are truly interested in the answer. His love of all things technical opened my mind to the wonders of science and his love of travel - well, see above.

I have always known my parents' love for me and my brothers and sister is unconditional. That didn't mean they mollycoddled us. It meant they expected certain things from us, they instilled values and taught us respect and hard work. They thought we were worth going through all that, worth fighting for and with, because they love us. And I fought a lot with my dad, because we are so alike. And after every fight, as I lay in bedroom contemplating further cutting insults and dramatic ways I could prove my point, he would come into my room, sit on my bed, apologize for getting angry and explain himself calmly. And as often as not, I would find myself agreeing. Neither of us is very good at sustaining anger over longer periods of time.

The whole grandfather-thing took a bit of getting used to for my dad. He didn't dare hold E. until she was six weeks old, scared of the fragility of a newborn. But when she was eight weeks old and screaming for her bath, he held her again and his deep voice soothed her so that she lay calmly with her head on his shoulder and her eyes wide open in wonderment. He's looked after E. on his own a couple of times since and the pride he takes in his granddaughter is heartwarming to see.

According to my mum, he never used to do that when we were little. But, mum, I've read the letters and that is not quite accurate.

And dad, you were a good father all along.

dinsdag 19 juni 2012

Plaatjespost & Picture post: Travel with toddler in Bali

Bali really is paradise on earth. The weather is lovely, lush foliage is laden with flowers, the people smile, stone houses are intricately carved, rice paddies are lined with palm trees and populated by ducks - what we have come to call "classic Asia". We like classic Asia. 

We went cycling, we saw a volcano, we had lots of Balinese food in picturesque settings, S. even had black Russian pie on his birthday, we saw amazing paintings in a museum that turned out to also be a spa and a resort, and we walked around the lovely city of Ubud and saw lots of plants and wild life and a guy imitating horse while dancing through fire. E. particularly enjoyed the chanting and hand waving that accompanied him.  S. claims it was probably his best birthday ever. 

However. It is widely understood that the Balinese adore children, it says so in all the guidebooks. But see, we've been living in Asia for a while, so our standards of "child friendliness" are slightly higher than those of twenty-something Danish guidebook writers.* We loved the food, but no restaurant was able to provide a high chair. Our wonderful hotel (with a bath tub rivalling the lovely pool outside our hotel room door) did not provide a child cot. As E. is under 12, she had to pay half price for the bicycle tour (I mean, really? For a toddler seat strapped to the back of a bike, five grains of rice she ate at lunch and sitting on her parents lap in the bus?) This would not happen in Singapore. 

Neither would we be charged almost 2 euros for the non-voluntary buying of a promotional leaflet at a museum. "But see, you get a complimentary coffee!" insistent ticket-selling guy pointed out. Well. That depends on your definition of complimentary, doesn't it? It was however another utterly lovely cafe in a wonderful rice paddy setting, where E. got to play peek-a-boo with the girl one bamboo hut further on.

The other lesson we learned is that having a manduca, while utterly wonderful just doesn't cut it anymore six months later. E. refused to sleep during the daytime. Admittedly, all the ducks and chickens running around, and the roosters crowing in the background - kukelegrrrrrrrooo as she prefers to call them - made for a general atmosphere of wild excitement that meant that sleeping would not have been part of her agenda anyway and woke her up early every morning, but the lack of proper child cot ensured two long days of bright eyed wakefulness. (Yes, she would sleep at night. If I stayed with her until she had finally surrendered.)

"Maybe she doesn't need her afternoon nap anymore?" suggested S. after the first day. But I do. I need her to sleep. And besides, after the seventh tantrum on day two (no you may not make anymore dents in the table with the salt shaker, no you may not swim with the fishes in the hotel restaurant, no you may not eat daddy's vodka drenched pie after you've polished off mummy's chocolate one) S. too was convinced that she really does need to nap. Which she has been doing abundantly and lengthily ever since coming home. 

Lovely, lovely Singapore.









































This is "a lighthearted view of a cremation ceremony" by Ida Bagus Made Wija (1912-1992), hanging in Ubud's ARMA museum. What I liked best is the guy with the camera in the middle, as made clear by the reflection of me, the photographer. V.v. post-modern.









* This is a wild guess.

woensdag 13 juni 2012

Reading round up: blog edition

We are off to Bali tomorrow! I can't wait. Apparently my little brother (so he's taller and better educated than I am. Boohoo) almost drowned there once and got pepper in his eyes and STILL my mom counts it as one of the most wonderful places on earth. Must be good so.

But far be it from me to deny you all your lovely reading time, so I decided to let you in om my secret blog list. You know, the one that is published next to these posts that nobody ever clicks on. Since this is my English-language post, I will limit myself to ones that all you will understand (if you really are that kay poh, you could always use Google Translate. I do.)

I've decided to randomly pick articles that I really like from the blogs I really like and not introduce the blog as a whole, this way providing myself with more fodder for future reading list entries and not forcing myself to keep on finding new blogs (I'm reading far too many as it is.)

Without further ado and in the order I thought of them (thus: randomly):

The Belgian constitutional crisis explained with seasonal produce
Belgian Waffle ("ex-eurodrone, unfit mother, slattern") is a British lawyer-writer living in Brussels with her two sons Lashes and Fingers. She is obsessed with beauty products, little animals and showing love by making cakes on request and she is wildly, crazily funny. Go read Belgian Waffling, please!

Finding Faith
This is not about what you think it is. This is about how Mrs Brown, married to blogger Mr Brown, one day lost sight of her autistic daughter Faith in the MRT-station underneath the people-mobbed Singapura Plaza mall. It made me cry. Mr Brown is known as an influential blogger in Singapore, and he points out society's idiosyncrasies with much humour. The podcast Mr Brown Show is also very funny and very worth your while. This post is all about family though, and all about how the different strands of the Singaporean internet community got together to find Faith.

Is this my Singapore?
Gintai, a train officer in Singapore's MRT and blogger at gintai.com, apparently struck a nerve with this blog post on housing cost. As a non-Singaporean and an expat I am well without the loop on this subject, and I do not have any opinion on the subject (but let me assure you that from what I've seen the quality of social housing or HDB's here far outstrips the quality of the social housing in the Netherlands). Clearly it is close to the hearts of many Singaporeans, so I enjoy reading posts like these which help me to understand the country I live in.

Tempting fate
Crystal of Expat Bostonians put this post up mere days after we had flown to the Netherlands with E., thereby destroying all my credibility in claiming that "the younger they are, the easier flying is". Flying with children just is not easy. To me, Crystal is an invaluable resource, as she has been living in Singapore and shared many (well-written) lessons with her readers. But I've also met her in person, and she is just really nice, funny and she loves Eleanor of Aquitaine.

E. has woken up. Good, this means I have lots more left over for another Reading round up. Hurray!

dinsdag 12 juni 2012

Plaatjespost & Picture Post: Hollandse Club

I really wanted to become a member of the Hollandse Club in Singapore. My parents had been members through my father's employer, other people I talked too were members and one former newspaper correspondent noted that the poolside and the tennis courts were valuable places to gather information on Dutch angles for stories.

I also planned on having mainly Dutch friends, since there is a large Dutch community in Singapore and I learned the hard way in Bolivia and Ireland that however lovely non-Dutch people are, it's quite hard to keep in touch with them once you or the other has left the country you both inhabited for a while. At least, if our local friends were Dutch, chances were that at some stage we'd end up in the same country again. If only for holidays.

Somehow, my life and my plans seem to only intersect sporadically. (And looking at my friends' lives somehow it seems they are better at actually following the paths they map out. Maybe somebody can give me some pointers on how not to get distracted?)

And so it was in this case. Somehow, all my mummy friends are non-Dutch (well, there is one exception, but really, she's an old friend from secondary school and technically she's not a mummy yet. So there you go). And most of our non-mummy friends are non-Dutch as well. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but we never managed to become members of the Hollandse Club either and we're too lazy to enroll E. in the local Dutch Jip en Janneke daycare center located Very Far From Our House, so maybe that has something to do with it. Also, we don't play hockey (proper field hockey, you Canadian ice-lovers). 

But sometimes I like to to try get back on track, so during April we were temporary members of the Hollandse Club. And it's such a lovely place! Secluded, peaceful, large terrace with fans where you can have lovely food (apparently they brought in a new chef after lots of complaints), toned down to suit our Dutch palate and humungous glasses of fresh juice. Birds ran around picking at dropped food, there are tennis courts, squash courts, an utterly lovely swimming pool filled with enthusiastic parents and lots of happy blond children. There's even a library with Dutch books, a huge gym and a puppy club to drop of your human puppy while you go off jewelry making, weight lifting, squash playing or cocktail sipping in the not-for-kids area. 

Even though it has all those lovely features (they provide towels!) we did not become members. Firstly, none of our friends go there, so we'd have to get ourselves a new social circle. And we like our current one. Secondly, it's quite far away again, so it takes a bit of planning to go over there. And thirdly, most importantly, it's just really, really expensive. Not only is there a one time registration fee (think three zeroes), there is a monthly fee (and we're talking hundreds here) and then you have free access to the club, the pool, the towels, the gym and the tennis courts. But all food, all courses, all swimming lessons and so on must be paid for separately. And, to make matters worse, it's actually quite possible to attend these without being a member (the fee in that case is slightly higher).

So, though it pains me to once again deviate from my well-thought out plans, we are staying on our picturesque alternative route with our lovely friends from all over and E. speaking a mangled type of Anglo-Dutch. When will my life ever do what I tell it to do?

Anyway. Here are the pictures of E. at the Hollandse Club.
















vrijdag 8 juni 2012

Geschiedenis herhaalt zich: brief editie

Mijn moeder bracht mij alle brieven die haar moeder (mijn oma) heeft bewaard uit de tijd dat mijn moeder in Singapore woonde. Er zitten ook brieven van tantes en ooms tussen, die bij ons op bezoek kwamen, en van mijn andere grootouders die hun mede-opa-en-oma op de hoogte brengen van ons wedervaren. De meest frustrerende is afkomstig van mijn peettante, die schrijft dat mijn kersverse oom allerlei indrukken had opgedaan van de familie - maar daar had ze het in een eerdere brief al uitgebreid over gehad. En die brief heb ik dan weer niet.

Ook leuk: een artikel uit een VT Wonen van 1981 (ik wist niet eens dat het blad toen al bestond!). De inrichting van huizen is sinds de vroege jaren tachtig absoluut veranderd - maar de manier om erover te schrijven dan weer helemaal niet.

Maar het allerleukste: de herkenbaarheid.

Boekjes
November 1981: "Ps. verjaardagswensen Katrijn:
- boekje van A.M.G. Schmidt, bijv. Otje en Pluk van de Petteflet. Dat is wat geschikt is voor haar leeftijd
- boekje van kleine beer van Minarik (ze heeft al "kusje van kleine beer"). Totaal 6 deeltjes meen ik.
- ev. kerstverhaal van Dick Bruna en andere Dick Bruna-boekjes bijv. de Nijntje-serie (heeft ze geen van)."

Twinkle twinkle
December 1981: "Katrijn krijgt morgen vakantie, ze heeft een feestje op school. Ze zingt de hele tijd "twinkle twinkle little star" en beweegt haar handen erbij, erg leuk."

Met tijd woekeren in Nederland
December 1981: "We komen zaterdag 16 januari aan. Ik met Katrijn en W. Ik had zelf zo gedacht dan naar Wassenaar te gaan voor enkele dagen, tot we niet meer zo moe zijn. Dan naar Oegstgeest en dan vlak voor we naar Savognin gaan, nog wat dagen in Vught. We gaan ca. 5 februari naar Savognin."


Winterspullen
December 1981: "Lieve moeder, ken je nog andere mensen met kinderen die ev. een skipak en schoenen voor Katrijn hebben? Het is misschien niet duur, maar fl 150,- voor 10 dagen is wat veel, vind ik."


Opvoeden is lastig
Januari 1982: "Honderduit gekletst en wijze adviezen gekregen wat betreft Katrijn's opvoeding want zo makkelijk is die niet, met name met andere kinderen erbij. Harde hand en consequent zijn is de enige methode. Valt niet altijd mee, maar ja, we doen ons best. Ze is ook nogal wispelturig."


Uit logeren bij opa en oma
Zelfde brief: "Het is erg fijn dat jullie op deze twee hummels wilt passen. Je zult het er druk mee hebben, ze houden je goed bezig. (...) In snoepen zijn we zeer strikt. (...) We verheugen ons op een tweede huwelijkstripje!"


Baby+jet lag=hel
Maart 1982: "We zijn goed aangekomen. (...) Vannacht wel wat wakker, maar nu hebben we 'm de 2e keer (1e keer 1.30 melk) om 3.30 laten huilen en hij viel weer in slaap en werd om 7.00 wakker. Dat moeten we weer doen om 'm weer de nacht te laten slapen. Katrijn wordt nog wel wakker rond 1.00, maar met een fles melk gaat ze weer rustig verder slapen. Zo'n reis is toch wel heel wat hoor. Niet eens het vliegen zelf, dat gaat best, maar de eerste dagen zijn wel moeilijk."


Verkoudheid
April 1982: "Nu maar hopen dat de kinderen mogen zwemmen. Het is namelijk nogal getob wat betreft hun gezondheid. W. heeft al 2x bronchitis gehad, zijn laatste antibiotica-kuur is bijna klaar en het lijkt nu wel goed te zijn. Echter Katrijn's longen zijn nu niet schoon en opgezette keelamandelen, dikke lymfeklieren. Ook veel antibioticakuren. Ze heeft geen koorts, maar is wel lastig soms. Hopelijk steekt ze W. niet opnieuw aan en gaat het goed over. (...) In elk geval zit ik elke week bij onze dokter Khoo."

Nog meer verkoudheid
Juni 1982: "De kaars heeft vast geholpen, want W. is al twee weken niet verkouden geweest (ziek dus) hetgeen zeer uitzonderlijk is."

Familiezucht
April 1983: "Enig dat Ardennen uitstapje. Goede keus lijkt me dat hotelletje. Veel gezelliger dan zo'n Holiday Inn. Wel reuze jammer dat ik er niet bij ben. Ik mis dat wel denk ik hoor, zo gezellig met zijn allen praten, kibbelen, kletsen, enig. Geniet er maar van jullie tweeen!"

Ik zou het niet beter hebben kunnen zeggen
Zelfde brief: "En je weet, een harmonieus gezin is de grondslag voor de ontwikkeling van je kinderen. Nu, jullie zijn daar uitmuntend in geslaagd. We zijn toch allemaal erg goed terecht gekomen, niemand op het slechte pad en ik geloof allemaal erg gelukkig (met wat downs zoals ieder mens heeft). Jullie werk hoor!! Een ouderpaar zoals ik niet anders zou willen, heerlijk, pluimen zijn verdiend."

Nu maar hopen dat ook die geschiedenis zich weet te herhalen.

maandag 4 juni 2012

Plaatjespost & Picture post: A day in the life of E. part II

Read part I in the life of E., where her normal routine is described, here. This post deals with leisure pursuits.


Us being stereotypically negligent Dutch parents means that apart from her daily chores (detailed here) E. has no classes or other worthwhile weekly activities. We trust the daycare to take care of that and they have assured us that she knows a few words of Mandarin already! Which is a big improvement on her mummy, who only ever got a "nice girl but is severely lacking in Mandarin" on her report card.

This frees up a big chunk of E.'s time for leisure pursuits, which generally fall into either of two categories:

A. inside with toys, and
B. outside with sand and water.

But let's start with brunch, shall we?





Inside: playdate and Royce's kids gym
(There are many similar kid's gyms located all over Singapore. Royce's just happens to be underneath our house.)



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Outside: pool, Jacob Ballas Garden and Sentosa