Thursday, September 22, 2016

Cultural Shape-Shifter in Singapore


That day you wake up and find out you have been called the cultural shape-shifter of a country.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Happy 51st Birthday, Singapore!!



And borrowing words from Jerry Maguire: "You had us at hello."


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Snapshots from a Summer Holiday

"I should have expected this..." -Rembrandt, original master of selfies (National Gallery, London)



"We can take him." (Arena di Verona)
"One day, this will all be yours." (Lungadige Verona)

Aperitivo with a view.

In Italy, these bathing suits qualify as scuba gear. (Gaeta, Italy)


Not sure this is the quickest way to get to Singapore but it's worth a shot.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Coffee, Anyone?




A Tale of Two Bars.
My father will only go to Bar Jolly, my brother Julian only to Bar Rialto. So when we are in Verona for the summer holidays, the seemingly simple choice of where to get one's morning cappuccino can have serious implications. Lines are drawn, alliances formed. It's like a play by Eugene O'Neill only with less potential for a happy outcome.
(In list above, Eliot clearly feeling the pressure already.)



Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Fourth Graders Land in Sibu, Malaysia

Notwithstanding the fall from the bunk bed on the first night, the bloody nose from the errant volleyball, and the heat rash...seems like Eliot's very first school trip away from home was a smashing success!! True, the water had an unusual taste and air conditioning was high on the list of things missed by these Singapore kids but the biggest takeaway (apart from the sand that made its way home) was that you need to work together as a team, help one another, and be a risk taker. Oh, and if you pull too hard on the mosquito net covering the bed it will in fact land on your face.

P.S. My own first school trip away from home wasn't until high school and my Mom was not only one of the chaperones, but somehow my roommate as well. Good times. (Photos by Roxanne Walker).

"So you say we're going to boogie board..."

"Not so shabby..."


"It's a jungle out there."

"Best trip ever!"

"I'm alive!"-Ms. Roxanne Walker after four days in Malaysia with her class.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Writing a Book




Well, I finally found the perfect pencil. Now, all I need is a room of my own. And a plot would be good too.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Portrait of a Mom


An Audrey Hepburn meets Alice in Wonderland type of Mom.
The kind who believes in fairy tales and the magic of snow. The kind voted best dressed in high school but who also bought her own presents as a child so she would have something to unwrap on Christmas day. The kind who made every holiday a special event with baked cakes, basted turkeys, and pine cone decorated trees. The kind who always made hot chocolate and sent you on trips with a little extra money and a note to read later.
The kind who made motherhood seem like a cinch: whipping up impromptu meals for large groups of people, wrapping up presents at the speed of light, dressing up to go out leaving behind a faint scent of Chanel n.5. The kind who has her grandchildren call her Bronte, who is impossible to say goodbye to on the phone, who suggests Witch Hazel or Bengay (sometimes both) as a solution to most problems.
The kind who greets disparate news with the exact same wide-eyed look of disbelief: "You're moving to Singapore?" "You're not wearing a scarf?" "You're cooking?"
Not always the best organizer: "But Signora, the bus you chartered to bring the group to the airport has less seats than people...Isn't that a map of San Francisco? I thought we were going to New York...We've been assigned to sleep in rooms with random people. " (Good news for some, less for others.)
Not always the best at boosting confidence: "Don't worry, you'll be beautiful at sixteen. What's that? You are sixteen. Well, that's odd. Fingers crossed for seventeen."
Not always the most discerning: "If you're not going to eat that perfectly fine piece of cheese on your hospital tray, I will."
Not always the most trustworthy: "Purple corduroy is all the rage. Your friends will be jealous."
Not always the most reliable: "Childbirth? A cakewalk. You were born before I knew it."
Not always conventional : Mom, isn't it 4 am where you are? "Yeah, I just felt like chatting."
But always, no matter what...our biggest fan. Thank you, Mom.
Happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ten Things I Learned at My Son's Swim Meet

Dragons Den 2016, UWCSEA EAST 

Over the weekend, I watched my son compete in Dragons Den, a yearly International Swim Meet held at UWCSEA EAST with swimmers coming as faraway as Thailand and Japan. As expected, the swimming was unbelievable, the coaches amazing, and the spirit second to none. However, as I sat nine hours straight under the sun each day, there were a few things I learned. Mostly about myself.

1) Watching a swim meet in Singapore is the closest I will ever come to participating in an extreme sport.
2) Singapore swim meets are grueling, stamina building, heatstroke defying tests of endurance...and the swimmers have it pretty tough as well.
3) Like real estate, location is key. If possible, avoid sitting behind the guy with the whistle or microphone. Likewise, the overzealous mom who sounds like she wishes she were in the pool swimming alongside her child.
4) Bring an advil. At some point, you will need one.
5) After sitting for so many hours on a metal bleacher, you will lose all feeling in the bottom half of your body.
6) Thanks to the humidity, your hair will frizz to new heights and your clothes will stick not only to you but to the person next to you.
7) Bringing a newspaper to the meet, may have sounded like a good idea at some point.
8) Only wear suede shoes and sit ringside at a pool, if you want to test how good you are at anger management.
9) Jump up to cheer only if you don't have a cup of very hot coffee in your hand.
10) You are watching some of the best young swimmers in South East Asia, some are even headed to the Olympic trials. So sit back and enjoy yourself. Just remember there are no backs on bleachers.



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Things We Remember



I remember moving to Verona from South Carolina. Having a southern accent, not liking the taste of Italian milk, or the different way meat was cooked. Not seeing well but nobody noticing I needed glasses.
Spending recess alone at the school library reading. Not being allowed to go on sleepovers.
Watching the series "Roots" in the darkened cafeteria while it snowed outside.
Going home after school and reading instead of doing homework. Always reading. I remember walking to drama class on my own and an old man sticking out his tongue at me in a strange way.
I remember walking home in the dark to a warm house with delicious smells coming from the kitchen.
I remember creating a makeshift post office in the house and writing all of the letters myself. Hearing arguments because my older brother wanted a vespa and my parents didn't want him to have one. The sound of a piano playing all afternoon. My great aunts laughing at one of my stories.
Now that I have a daughter who is the same age I was then, I wonder what she will remember? Will it be the apple slices I put every day in her lunch box? The goodbye hugs before boarding the bus, the ride to school sitting next to her big brother? The evening I mentioned I was home cooking dinner instead of being at a fancy movie gala sipping champagne and she answered, without missing a beat, that that was my choice. The quick wittedness of which I begrudgingly admired, wishing I had been so logical as a child.
Or will her deepest memories have nothing at all to do with me. After all, what are apple slices and hugs when compared to being chosen for a school team, invited to a party, or told someone has a crush on you.
What I do know is that as I cut the apples, tie the pony tails, and listen to the science reports, I am the one who is already reminiscing, looking back on these days, and feeling, what the poet Jorge Luis Borges called, nostalgia for the present.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

When Visitors Come to Singapore


Yes, the sun rises and sets the same time all year round in Singapore.
My brother Stephen and his family just returned to London after a whirlwind vacation here in Singapore. Although when you're travelling with three small boys, I think the appropriate term is "working holiday'" and not vacation. Now that the house is silent and we can put the good china out again (just joking...that was the good china), here are some things I noticed visitors do when coming to Singapore.

1) They spend a lot of time either at the pool or talking about how they could be at the pool.
2) They think visiting temples in the midday sun is an acceptable plan.
3) They question the quality of jade souvenirs bought in Chinatown.
4) They are happy it's so sunny outside. Even when they are outside.
5) They go to Sentosa. A lot. Definitely more than is recommended.
6) They research and visit places you have yet to go to: Artscience museum, for example. This might make a lesser person feel guilty. I am not that person. Especially if they take the kids with them.
7) They spend 9 hours at the zoo. In fairness, the Singapore zoo is very cool and the only zoo I know of that doesn't keep the animals in cages. Still, 9 hours! Then again, this could be just my brother known for his freakish stamina on very few hours of sleep. I don't think my own kids have ever been out that long in one day. When spending the day out with Stephen, a medical certificate or basic training is advisable.
8) They drink a lot of coffee but not nearly as much water. The concept of dehydration in the tropics hasn't really sunk in.
9) They appreciate a good masala dhosai breakfast in Little India. Even if the place looks a bit dodgy.
10) Upon arrival, the humidity doesn't wreak as much havoc with their hair as you would expect, nor the jetlag with their mood, but that could be from the elation at having survived a 13 hour flight with a toddler.

We miss you guys!

Breakfast with the Orangutans...just the beginning.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Some Impressions on Myanmar: the Country Formerly Known as Burma


Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Midday Sun

1) If you live in Singapore, seeking respite from the heat in Myanmar is not a great idea as it is roughly 40 degrees celsius there. And April is the hottest month. Something to think about when planning Spring break.

2) When visiting pagodas, go in the early morning or late afternoon as you need to remove shoes and socks. Those black tiles are unforgiving on the bare soles of your feet. Unless you are auditioning for a Bollywood movie, jumping up and down is not an attractive look.

3) Public buses do not have air conditioning and the number of occupants allowed is more of a recommendation than a legal requirement. On the upside, when it comes time for the driver to signal for a turn, that extra person nearly flying out the passenger seat with flailing arms comes in handy.

4) It's hard to make definite plans as traffic can be atrocious. I'll see you in twenty minutes can easily turn into two hours. Useful when gauging the strength of relationships, less so when making dinner reservations.

5) Now that the military junta has been officially disbanded, the country is optimistically being led to democracy by Aung San Suu Kyi, finally freed from house arrest. The hope is that while allowing for much needed foreign investment, beautiful Myanmar keeps its traditions and landmarks. Resisting, for example, the temptation to surround the spectacular Schwedagon Pagoda (pictured above) with modern condos boasting a temple view.