A Weekend in Singapore

When I considered how to celebrate my thirtieth birthday, the one thing that came to mind was a weekend away. And when I discovered that my sister had to make a visa run the weekend after my birthday, and that Singapore was one of the possible destinations, it all fell into place. So this weekend we bundled up Baby Engineer for her first plane ride, and jetted off.

Anyone who has travelled to Singapore before will probably know that the accommodation there is ridiculously expensive.  And if a room is not ridiculously expensive, it’s probably ridiculously small!  And when your baby goes to bed at 6:30 pm, and ties you to the room for the rest of the night, ridiculously small is suddenly not really an option any more.  So we ended up booking a whole apartment through AirBNB, which was pretty much our best decision ever.

The apartment was walking distance from an MRT (subway/metro/whatever you like to call it) station, which meant we could catch the MRT to and from the airport and not worry about taxis or car seats.  We had two rooms, so we could leave Baby Engineer in the bedroom sleeping while we enjoyed our evening.  And this was the view from our bedroom.  Yes, that is a private roof top pool, and yes, it was amazing.

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The apartment owner was nice enough to leave some restaurant recommendations, so while we waited for my sister, we wandered down for some Chicken Rice and explored the mall a little.  We even found Cotton On Kids (aka best children’s clothes shop ever).  The food was amazing.  The mall had good shops.  The public transport was quick and easy.  Until that point, I hadn’t really realised how much I missed while living in Kuala Belait. When you’re in the thick of a place or situation, it’s easy to forget that other places are not like that.  There is so much we love about our lives here, but there are also times I miss living somewhere a bit more modern.

When my sister arrived from Yangon, Myanmar, we rambled about how modern and fancy and green and functional Singapore was for a while.  The baby met her aunty for the first time, and we hung around the apartment.  We went out for food.  We realised that going out for food was not such a good idea when the baby was supposed to be sleeping.  We stopped in at the supermarket.  We chatted and chilled.  It was lovely.

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The next day we started with prata (delicious) and coffee/tea, and filled the day with shopping, in true Singapore style (actually, not really in full Singapore style – we favoured IKEA and Uniqlo over Louis Vuitton and Armani).  We were delighted about the feeding and baby care rooms in all the malls.  We were surprised at how quickly the day disappeared.  We were exhausted by the time we arrived back at the apartment.

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The next day we aimed to be a bit more historic and a bit less capitalistic, but we kinda failed.  We walked to Sentosa Island, and had a look around Chinatown and Little India.  But really, we hardly did anything.  Time flew, The Engineer started to feel pretty ill (I passed the bug that I got on the afternoon of my birthday onto him, apparently), my sister had a flight to catch.

We definitely didn’t leave Singapore feeling like we had done everything we wanted.  Far from it.  But I did leave with some pants that fit me (after the baby, I am unfortunately no longer catered for in most Asian stores), some rad Christmas presents, and some new and amazingly cute pyjamas for Baby Engineer.  We also left knowing that Baby Engineer can handle the plane, even if it requires a LOT of aisle pacing, and can handle a lot of walking around and non baby-centred activity.  And the best thing about Singapore being so nearby?  When we need a dose of modern life, we can always go back!

Thirty thoughts as I turn thirty

  1. My Mum turned thirty when I was four months old.  I am thirty the same day as The Engineer’s Baby turns four months.  I like the pattern, even though it’s not perfect.
  2. I have pretty much thought I was thirty for the last two or three years, so I don’t feel any huge shock about being here.  But the realisation that I was twenty ten years ago is a bit of a surprise.
  3. In some ways I am pretty much where I hoped to be in life by this point.  Married to a rad dude, mother to a rad baby, doing some interesting travel.  But I always thought I would have a PhD by now, and until a couple of years ago, I never would have predicted that I would turn thirty in Brunei.
  4. The list of things that turn thirty in 2014 includes Tetris and the Cosby Show.  I am proud to share a birth year with them both.
  5. I have done twenty-six of the thirty things on this list of things to do before you turn thirty.  I am surprised and kinda proud of that.  I probably don’t have time to bungee jump, test drive a dream car, learn to bartend, and go whitewater rafting before the end of the day, unfortunately.
  6. I thought I would dress a little classier by the age of thirty.  But I’m pretty happy living in denim shorts and jandals (flip flops, thongs, slippers, whatever you like to call them).
  7. I made my own birthday cake.  It’s carrot cake.  The carrots remained weirdly orange, but it smells great.
  8. Ten years ago, we had one of the messiest parties in the history of parties for my twentieth.  This year there were three small babies at my party, and it was an entirely different affair.
  9. In the last thirty years, I have called twenty different houses “home”.
  10. As of now, The Engineer and I have been together for more than a third of my life.
  11. I am pretty sure that my predictions for my thirty year old self would have been completely different at five, ten, fifteen, twenty, even twenty-five.  I may be older, but I certainly haven’t stopped changing, not even close.
  12. I have made mistakes and bad choices in the last thirty years, quite a few actually.  But I can’t quite regret any of them, because they all brought me here, and here is pretty good.
  13.  When I was born, floppy disks were new and fancy.
  14. One of my favourite gifts has been pictures of the cake my amazing three year old nephew built me out of blocks.
  15. In the next thirty years, I would like to: write more, train as a yoga teacher, have fun raising Baby Engineer, travel to some new places, complete a Masters or PhD, and do a whole lot more tramping and mountain biking.
  16. In the last thirty years, I have visited twenty-two different countries.  I would love to return to most of them, and there are so many more I’d like to add to the list.  I don’t think I’ll ever get everywhere I want to go.
  17. Sometimes I think I am quite young and modern.  Then I see a teenager…
  18. I have never really been a late sleeper.  But I still know that the fact that I now think of 6:30 as a bit of a sleep in is pretty ridiculous.
  19. My phone company just sent me $10 credit as a birthday present.  It only lasts a week, so I might need to make some expensive phone calls!
  20. Most lists like this seem to have some wise advice for younger selves or deep life lessons.  I don’t really have anything to offer in that vein.  I’ve learned some lessons, but they don’t seem any more relevant today than every other day.
  21. Twelve years ago, on my eighteenth (golden birthday), I sat my first end-of-schooling exam and had a mini bottle of bubbles with my lunch with Mum and a friend.
  22. I feel like I’m not supposed to celebrate or enjoy my birthday as I get older, but I still love it.  I love the breakfast in bed and the gifts and the chance to celebrate life.
  23. I added this sweatshirt to my wish list three or four birthdays ago, and I still love it and still don’t have it.  Moose in snowshoes!
  24. I need to wear my glasses more often.  I’m getting frown lines!
  25. We went out for lunch to celebrate and The Engineer’s Baby sat in a high chair for the first time.  It was revolutionary to eat without using one hand to wrangle the baby (even if it only lasted part of the meal)
  26. Tonight I will celebrate again with burgers and Vanilla Coffee Porter from Mike’s Brewery in Taranaki.  Yum!
  27. In my thirtieth year on the planet the only alcohol I have had is two small glasses of beer. In my twenty-ninth, I didn’t have much more.  I now get tipsy extremely easily.
  28. The next birthday in our family will be a new niece or nephew.  I can’t wait to meet him/her at Christmas time!
  29. I live in a town where the firemen catch 5+ metre pythons at least somewhat regularly.  This is not really birthday related, but seemed worthy of comment.
  30. This is what I look like today:
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When it’s close to thirty degrees during the day all year round, and rains fairly often, it’s easy to think a place like Brunei doesn’t have seasons.  Our first year here was quite wet during the dry season, which made the distinction even harder to spot.  But now that we’re on our second time around the sun, it’s getting easier to spot some of the differences.  And the fact that a sniffly annoying cold seems to be making its way around the house lets me know that we are in the middle of a season change right now. We have also noticed:

  • Ant season runs from August to November.  After taking over our kitchen for months, they seem to have abandoned ship fairly rapidly in the last couple of days (yay!)
  • December and January are for rain, and lots of it.  A perfect time to escape to a lovely New Zealand summer (I am getting just a little bit excited.
  • Durian season is at its peak during July.  The market can be fairly overpowering when they’re around (although with all the dried fish, the markets are never without smells)
  • Mango season seems to come around about October, and there are still quite a few in the markets now.  Mangoes are not very popular in The Engineer’s Household though, so I could easily be wrong on this one.

When you’re used to four pretty distinct seasons – warm, sometimes even hot, summer and the wonderful berries and veges; cool and crisp autumn when the apples are at their best; grey and dreary winter perfect for soup and roasts; rainy spring full of lambs and daffodils and asparagus – the seemingly seasonless year can feel very strange.  And since I’m not really a summer person, I find it quite relentless.

I think, though, that I romanticise New Zealand’s seasons.  I sit here in the muggy heat wishing for morning frosts and boot weather and big snuggly jerseys.  But my mind manages to eliminate the feeling of sitting at a desk all day drinking hot water just to try and warm up my hands.  I forget the mad rush too and from the shower in the morning, and snuggling back into bed afterwards to recover from the journey to the un-warmed sections of the house.  My skin wishes for a breeze, but not for the biting wind and rain that winter can bring.

Wasai Kadir Recreational Park, Labi, Brunei, March 2013.

Wasai Kadir Recreational Park, Labi, Brunei, March 2013.

So today I am grateful for some of the things that an endless summer can bring:

  • We can go for a walk most days without wrapping up warm (even if it can only be morning or evening)
  • I don’t have to think about layering baby clothes, unless we go to the supermarket. I also don’t have to think about what size she might be in different seasons and buy appropriately.  As little as possible, all year round, pretty much does the trick!
  • It’s never too cold to get out of bed and go to the loo in the middle of the night
  • We can get wonderful fresh watermelon all year round
  • I can swim outdoors all year round, and there’s not even that slow-adjustment time before you get used to the water temperature.  It’s warm from the start

And I’m also excited to visit the slightly less endless New Zealand summer in just five weeks.

Lyall Bay Beach, Wellington, NZ,  January 2012.

Lyall Bay Beach, Wellington, NZ, January 2013.

“Weekly” Challenge 20: Cheese Icecream

We are up to our 20th challenge, which shows just how far away from weekly they have been (I have been in Brunei for 87 weeks, if my maths is correct).  I probably should have aimed for monthly from the start, but I am actually fairly happy with occasionally, even if it doesn’t match my initial promise.

This particular challenge has been a long time in the making.  We had the idea right near the start, but didn’t want it to be too close to the Yam and Corn Icecream or the Cheese Cake.  That obviously isn’t a problem now!  We bought the ice cream before Baby Engineer was born.  Then we tasted it and took photos when she was just a little squish (probably about three weeks old).  Now I am finally writing about it when she is three months and three weeks old!


So, the question is… what is Cheese Icecream really like?

To be honest, I don’t even totally remember.  It wasn’t as creamy or as sweet as yam or sweet corn.  It tasted a little bit like cheese, but not overpoweringly so.

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We definitely didn’t like it, or go back for seconds.  But as with most things, it wasn’t spit-it-out disgusting or anything.  The pictures suggest that I wasn’t a huge fan.  But it definitely was more palatable than the Cheese Cake.


The biggest question we were left with at the end was “Why?”  Why would you have cheese ice cream when you could have chocolate or vanilla or other wonderful flavours? Who decided this was something the world needed? What do you pair it with? I have been known to have a big chunk of cheddar with my apple pie, so maybe I should have tried it with that.

At the end of the day, I am just not convinced that it fills a gap for me.  I like cheese.  I like Ice Cream.  I see no need to combine the two!


The Engineer’s Baby

I’ve been blogging here for a couple of years now.  You wouldn’t guess it had been that long, based on the number of posts.  But I can promise you that it has.  Although the posting has been sporadic, I have really enjoyed having somewhere to document my experience as an expat in Brunei.  I have also met some wonderful people as a direct result of the blog.

Part of the reason that the blog has been so slow is that for the last year I have been really caught up in pregnancy and baby raising.  And for six months before that, I was pretty baby focussed as we went through the physically and emotionally draining process of fertility treatment.  In fact, not having and then having a baby have pretty much dominated my Brunei experience.  But I was adamant that The Engineer’s Wife was not going to become a baby/mum blog.  So rather than find other things to talk about, I just didn’t write.

Now I am coming out of the fog of newborn babyness and coming into a rhythm with this at home parenting thing.  And I have recently found myself getting a bit down in the dumps.  After a bit of soul searching, and conversations with some very wise women, I have realised that I am bored.  Our baby is wonderful and fascinating, but that doesn’t change the fact that parenting a small child is a fairly relentless process.  I would love to say that I can watch her all day and just be amazed at how she is learning and growing.  But the fact is, I can’t.  I am absolutely amazed at how she is learning and growing.  But I also need to focus on my own  learning and growing.

So I am now resolving to make better use of nap times.  I have to keep in mind that nap times still often look like this:

The Engineers Baby

But even with a baby strapped to my chest, there are so many better things I can do than skulk around Facebook and Tumblr.  I need some creativity and somewhere to calm and process my overactive brain.  Writing has always been something that has helped me, so as part of this nap time overhaul I am going to get back into writing my novel, and I am also creating a space where I can talk about motherhood without taking over my existing blog.  I also hope (quite possibly in vain) that by getting the motherhood stuff out, I might find a little bit more to say about expat life.

And thus The Engineer’s Baby is born… I have no idea how this experiment will go, but head over and check it out if you’re keen!