The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

SayoNara Osaka

All good travelling companions are the ones that show a bit of compromise. So it was that we found ourselves on the way to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyunkan (www.kaiyukan.com/language/eng) instead of Osaka Castle which looked majestic in the guide book. Ah well, there’s always another time.

We took a rapid local train to Osaka arriving in 45 minutes and completely bypassed any other part of Osaka to get to Osaka Aquarium which is also quite near to Universal Studios.

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So when I went to S.E.A Aquarium in Singapore, it apparently was ‘the world’s largest aquarium’ and I believed them. Then I arrive at Osaka Aquarium and that too is ‘the world’s largest aquarium’. How can that be? Should I write to someone about this in case they don’t know?

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The Aquarium is thoughtfully designed leading you up and down five floors and through 10 exhibition areas that are all interlinked like a pathway around the globe. It’s not all about tanks of beautiful tropical fish and playful seals but pay attention and you can see lots of education and conservation work in place educating people on the dangers our demands are putting on the demise of many species

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Osaka Aquarium wouldn’t have been on my list of things to do without #1, 2 and 3 but I enjoyed it very much. If it’s not ‘the world’s largest aquarium’, it definitely has ‘the world’s broadest range of aqualife’. Whilst we were there, we didn’t get to see the whale sharks who had been moved out for a check up. I still don’t get how the smaller fish aren’t eaten up in those great big viewing tanks with lots of different sharks and things.

So that outing was a treat for #1, 2 and 3 and our next train ride out of Kyoto was to Nara, once formerly the capital of Japan. Though I didn’t know this until the day we went. (In fact I learnt yesterday over a few beers with friends back in Singapore for the day that during WW2, the US made a promise not to bomb Kyoto because of its historical value.)

Nara is also about 45 minutes out of Kyoto on a rapid local train. I mention rapid train because the non rapid ones are a lot less rapid as we found out on the way back from Osaka. Even if you have to wait 20 minutes before a rapid one when the non rapid one is going to leave right now, you’ll still get back to Kyoto a lot faster. I don’t know how it works either.

When we exited Nara train station there was hardly a hint as to what glorious sights were hidden within this small town. You know, you just see lots of traffic and modern buildings. Unlike the GNER train approaching Durham station as you pass the glorious Durham Cathedral. That feeling of almost being home never leaves you every time I take that route. I’m digressing. The very helpful Tourist Information Window at the train station have a very helpful map, carefully not drawn to scale with all the temples and shrines to see in Nara. A proper full day starting early in the morning would enable you to take in quite a few sights around Nara but with #1, 2 and 3 we took a city loop bus that dropped us right by Nara Park.

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Nara Park is well known for the free roaming deer that live there and who are no strangers to visitors feeding them. Bouyed on by this fact and the high probability that the deers ought to be feeling quite well fed by the high volume of people feeding them shika senbei. I (who am not a natural one with all things animal) thought it would be within my capabilities to also feed them. Even #1 was successful at doing this. So I get my deer crackers from the stall and start feeding one, then two come along, that’s still ok and then four and now I’m not so comfortable when there’s six deers jostling for cracker space. So I do what comes naturally, I yelp and toss the crackers far away from me. Husband guffawed and regrets he didn’t get a video of it but will happily re-enact the scene for you.

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Within Nara Park is where you’ll find the infamous Todaiji (Great Eastern) Temple with the main hall, Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) that houses one of Japan’s largest bronze Buddha statues. The Todaji was once the most influential Buddhist Temple in all of Japan. It was because of this immense accumulation of power that caused the capital to be moved from Nara to Nagaoka to withhold its influence on government.

Like with many of Japan’s Temples, you are instantly impressed just by the huge entry gates that you pass through, the Nandaimon Gate. It looks a bit weathered as is the duty of gates to be but it’s still beautiful nonetheless. Intimidating even. There’s another building to enter where you buy tickets for the main Daibutsuden Hall and at this point I’m still oblivious to just how majestic the main hall is going to be.

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Then we pass through the ticket check and you see it straight ahead of you. This amazingly well preserved stunning building looking back at you. Even #1, 2 and 3 sat and stared at it for a while.

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Inside the Hall is another smaller Buddha statue, a couple of huge guardians as well as wooden replica models of the original Daibutsuden, this current Hall is a lot smaller than its predecessor. At the time I didn’t know what this school group were lining up for but #2 and I still watched with some amusement as one of them was squeezing themselves into a wooden column as the others looked on. The young, I thought. It was afterwards I read that this hole is the same size as the Big Buddha’s nostril and if you can get in then you’ll achievement enlightenment in your next life. He quite likes a good laugh I think and that in itself can bring enlightenment.

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Surrounding the grounds outside of the Daibutsuden Hall are plenty of smaller buildings and the Todaiji Musuem. We chose to wander up the hill to look around rather than be indoors in the Musuem trying to shush #1, 2 and 3.

As much as the deers are mild and used to people around them, there’s still going to be that natural instinct to protect their young. #3 happened to stop and stare as a doe and her young one walked by when the mother turned around and came back to butt #3 in the chest. Again I yelped in real fear this time but no harm was done. #3 was more surprised than scared that she’d been pushed over by a deer.

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So that was Osaka and Nara for us. Admittedly we didn’t really see much of Osaka but #1, 2 and 3 had the best time at the Aquarium. The day out to Nara was a pleasant surprise with all the open space of Nara Park that I haven’t seen since being back in the UK. There’s something quite soothing visiting the Todaiji and how peaceful the grounds are that you can amble around in for a while. It’s a fine contrast to the hustle and bustle of Kyoto. So different and well worth taking time out to see.

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Arigato Kyoto

Kyoto is located in the south of Japan, about two and a half hours from Tokyo station on the Shinkansen, Japan’s bullet train, through towns scattered amongst paddy fields and passing factories with recognisable brand names. It’s been a long while since I travelled by train and I think it can be a more relaxing, more interesting way to get places (providing you get a seat).

#1 being a longstanding fan of all forms of transport was hugely excited at travelling on the Shinkansen. As was Husband. Once we got ourselves and two large suitcases, hand luggage case, rucksacks, buggy and extra bag of stuff onto the platform was I then able to get excited too. The front of a Shinkansen train looks like a slightly squashed goose head.

Once inside though, oh my word. More leg room than the one and only time I’ve flown Business Class on an A380. For a fraction of the price too. Reclining seats that aren’t sticky, window shutters. This is nothing like being crammed into the London King’s Cross to Newcastle GNER. And if like me, you are rendered immobile on most forms of transport through motion sickness then you’ll be pleased to know that the train seats in Japan can be flipped around so that you’re always facing the direction of travel.

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Even better for #1, was the fact we stayed at the Hotel Granvia at Kyoto station overlooking the Shinkansen and local train platforms. This may not sound like a great view to you but for a 1, 3 and 5 year old, it provided great entertainment for pointing out all the trains arriving and departing the station. It’s a lot and all needed to be acknowledged. Thankfully our hotel room was BIG!

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Prior to arriving in Kyoto, I had heard it was full of the old charm of Japan with magnificent temples and geishas still practising an ancient art in such modern times. But when you arrive at Kyoto station this is not quite apparent as the station itself is a structure of modern interest. On one side you see steps that seem to climb up into infinity. We always had to catch the lift though.

We spent six days in Kyoto because as tourists you can buy a special price Japan Rail travel pass (before you get to Japan) that you can use for unlimited journeys in a seven day period. (Passes with longer durations are also available) So although we could have easily occupied all our time in Kyoto, to make better use of the JR pass we also took day trips to Osaka and Nara but those I’ll leave for another post.

I suppose what truly lures you to revisit a place you’ve already been to is the way it captures your heart and leaves you feeling like you really want to get to know this place better. Like that person you meet and get on really well with and you look forward to seeing again.

Kyoto has many, many hidden treasures of peace, beauty, opulence and magnificent architecture. On our first day we took the train out to Saga-Arashiyama station, from the station it was a short walk to the start of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Before we headed into the Bamboo Grove we had a really yum lunch at a beancurd in a pot place that also had an ice cream and mochi shop right beside it.

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It’s impossible to show you in a photograph the exceptional beauty of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. I’m a big fan of trees as it is and entering this magical display of greenery was simply quite breathtaking. Being surrounded by all this lush greenery seemed to envelope us all in a world of calm. Green is a soothing colour after all. Unlike big bushy tree forests which obscures the light from above, the elegantly tall and slender bamboo trees let in light all around you.

There are recommended walks you can do that take you all the way up a hill which I’m sure would have provided amazing views but with #1, 2 and 3 we did half a route and took in the Tenryu-ji temple, past the Okochi-sanso Villa and Jojakka-ji temple before heading back to where we started for the ice cream we promised #1, 2 and 3. Perhaps Tenryu-ji gets the most visitors with it being the first temple you pass on the route and there are so many temples scattered around that you simple can’t visit them all at one time.

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One temple that you definitely can’t miss going to see is the Kiyomizu-dera. It’s described as the spiritual heart of Kyoto set atop a hill that overlooks all of Kyoto and built around a holy spring. We caught the bus from Kyoto station directly to the base of the hill but if you catch a taxi you can save yourself part of the walk up the hill. This is where #1 really showed us the difference going on holiday with a five year old makes. He being the oldest, was asked to walk the same number of steps as us. #2 mostly occupied the buggy and #3 the baby carrier, I slept well every night from the lugging around of small child I can tell you.

But up this stretch of hill you see other tourists getting into the spirit of their stay and wandering around the streets of compact houses in brightly coloured kimonos and men in traditional dress too. Half way to the temple, lining both sides of the street are shops selling their wares of special Kyoto sweet treats, cucumber on sticks, ice cream, delicate fans and bold, eye catching souvenirs.

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It’s heaving with visitors travelling to and from the temple until you reach some stone steps that open up to the entrance gateway and you stand and marvel at the ancient architecture. But time and again, you can be fooled into thinking this first appearance is the extent of what you’ve come to see. It’s just the beginning as you enter through the gates and walk further in to find the main attraction inside. Kiyomizu-dera appears to have been built into the hill.

This temple is also famous for those looking for luck in love too. If you successfully walk with your eyes closed from one stone to another then you will soon find an honest and true love. If you don’t then you won’t but I’m not sure how long you won’t for. I don’t think you’re forever going to be on your own though. There’s also a secret passage you can walk through that is meant to resemble walking into the womb of Bodhisattva and symbolise a spiritual rebirth but we didn’t do that.

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By the time we made our way around the grounds and washed our hands in the holy spring, it was getting on for tea time and as Kiyomizu-dera is a short bus ride to the Gion district, we headed over to take a look. As it wasn’t yet 6pm, not much was happening in the area but it was interesting all the same to wander through the streets of small buildings with their bamboo awnings and easily imagine a time from years past with it thriving with tradition. It’s a shame we didn’t see Gion in all it’s night time glory and catch a glimpse of the fascinating world of Geishas.

It’s quite amazing that a few streets away from Gion by Pontocho resides a whole host of modern bars and restaurants and further along to a densely packed area of shops and department stores.

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On our last full day in Kyoto, it was a choice of either the Imperial Palace or the famous ‘Golden Pavillion’, Kinkaku-ji. You could definitely do both in one day as both are quite near to each other. But again with #1, 2 and 3, we were just a bit restricted to make a full day of it as the tours around the Imperial Palace are at 10am and 2pm. We weren’t able to book our visit on line and it said it was fully booked anyway but I read in the guide book that you can go to the Imperial Household Agency at least half an hour before the tour starts to register. So we thought we may as well try our chances and it actually paid off.

I can’t really tell you much about what I learnt on the tour except that in the wintertime with no heating the women would have to wear 12 layers of clothing to keep warm. And that every time the Imperial Palace was burnt down then they would just rebuild it. And that there’s a special gate that only the Emperor and quite possibly the Empress, can use. It was stunning though, the buildings and the grounds that we passed. The gardens they had were just amazing and so pretty. Not many places to lounge around and the pond definitely wasn’t one for swimming in.

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One final temple we went to see that was a short walk from our hotel was the Higashi Hongan-ji. The main Founder’s Hall was huge which only tempted 1, 2 and 3 to run circles within it, which of course is not appropriate behaviour within a Buddhist temple. The adjacent Amida-do Hall was under preservation so we couldn’t see everything in all it’s glory and I had read that within this temple you can find the longest coil of rope of human hair on display. It was donated by women in the 1880s to the wood logs needed to rebuild the destroyed building. Imagine that. The other thing I was really impressed with were the facilities. Multi function room encompassing disabled toilets, sick bay and baby change plus a separate Nursing Room. In a temple hundreds of years old! You may wonder why I keep marvelling at such things but having worked for a disability charity and being a parent, these things matter and make you feel welcome.

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So that was Kyoto for us. I love Kyoto. Reading about these amazing sights in a guide book just didn’t prepare me for how exceptional the real thing would be. I would love to go back again on another visit but then again, I’ve heard that Hokkaido is pretty amazing too.

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Konnichiwa from Tokyo!

I can’t believe I’m almost 40 and this is the first time I’ve been to Japan! The country of kitsch, kitchen gadgets, Banzai and life size Tomica vehicles for #1.

It feels good to be in Japan. A much welcome change from Singapore to be in a country with more open space, buildings that have character and traditions that haven’t fallen away.

Before we had even booked flights for our trip, I have to admit to feeling slightly apprehensive at the thought of travelling to such a reputedly busy city as Tokyo with #1, 2 and 3.

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Would it actually be much of a holiday with three children aged five and under? The last time we took a city break to Hong Kong was over three years ago with one less child and two pairs of extra hands in the form of Grandma and Gramps. That felt challenging enough finding baby change facilities, places to eat that had high chairs and clambering up and down stairs with the buggy and I speak the language too.

You can read the guide books cover to cover before you get somewhere new but you can’t really tell what it’s going to be like until you’re actually there. When it takes a few days to get your bearings and just as you do it’s time to leave but not before you notice just another street along there was a bigger supermarket and better looking places to eat at. Ah well, there’s always next time.

The first hotel we stayed in was located in Shinjinku, Tokyo. The photos on their website looked fine and was one of few hotels that had a lobby which we thought #1, 2 and 3 could loiter around in to get away from the room at times. More on the loitering later.

Husband and I had to take a room each and divide up the children by favourites. #3 started off the holiday very unwell with all the sides that go with it, so she and I bunked together in a room that a few people I know (such as Big D and Mrs Cake Pops) could stretch out horizontally and be able to touch one side with their fingers and the other with their toes.

We’re definitely in Tokyo I thought. In conjunction with a first foray into the washrooms at the airport after getting off the plane to find the toilet has all sorts of bideting functions that I had only previously seen on Tarrant on TV. Marvellous. #1 and 2 find these facilities absolutely hilarious I can tell you.

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On this holiday with no three course buffet breakfast to hand, it’s become a real concern for #1, 2 and 3 where food is going to come from, having grown accustomed to meals just appearing at certain times of the day. On occasion by the time we’ve got them all up and out and located a place to eat, they may as well have lunch at the same time.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we are in Japan to attend a wedding. Shinjinku is very near to the wedding venue of Meiji Shrine which was a good choice of location in order to ensure we would be at the venue in time for the ceremony. We later learnt from others who are more familiar with Japan that Shinjinku is by far one of the busier suburbs of Tokyo, there’s a lot more local feel to it.

If Shinjinku is one of the busier places to be then the rest of Tokyo should be easier to navigate surely? Tokyo definitely thrives with people but unlike the throngs of London and Hong Kong, it feels manageable rather than overwhelming. There is no elbow barging. There is no harassed commuter dodging around you. There is an effortless flow of movement that seems to work on mutual respect.

A well known example of this is the Shibuya crossing right outside Shibuya station. We got there around 8pm and just watched as crowds gathered at the different crossings. Then the lights turn to green, vehicles stop and people walk in seemingly all directions without anyone bumping into each other or getting rageful. Then the lights turn red, the vehicles move on and crowds start to gather again and the process is repeated.

This flow of movement works so much better when you know where you’re going, can read Japanese and don’t take up half the walkway with five of you, a buggy and two bags of stuff.

The subway network at first looks hugely complicated with its series of complex routes and a myriad of stations all on a very small scale map but once you work it out, it’s quite simple. It makes a refreshing change from the very modern feel of the MRT system in Singapore and better than the hot overcrowded platforms of the London tube.

What I have found amazing is how well things work here. The disability access to public transport is one that ought to be emulated in all places. Of the stations we used there wasn’t one we came across that didn’t have a disabled access route into the station and in and around it. This made it a whole lot easier for us to travel around on the trains and underground with a buggy, especially when taxi fares really are a luxury.

Whilst good disability access to transport may not seem that surprising, it was just as easy to get to temples hundreds of years old. We went to Senso-ji shrine which was packed with visitors even on a Monday. After meandering along the stalls selling fans, food, wind chimes and lucky charms we arrive at the grand wooden entrance. As is custom, we washed our hands and mouths before entering the shrine, took in the smoke that made us more intelligent, shook the sticks for our fortune and burnt incense for our forefathers.

From this ancient shrine a short walk and train ride took us to the new Sky Tree Tower, the tallest building in all of Japan. A tower that stretches 634 metres into the sky with magnificent 360 degrees view of all of Tokyo. The lift took seconds to reach the first observation level at 350 metres and you could feel your ears pop on the way up. There was also a glass floor you could see all the way down to the ground if you dared.

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Ginza right by Tokyo station, is perhaps the equivalent of Park Lane in London and Orchard Road in Singapore with its luxury shopping malls and hotels. It is glitzy and full of glamour but down a side road you can spot lots of cool little bars and places to eat. One bar could possibly even be the smallest bar in Tokyo but with their ability to do compact so well, it probably isn’t. The bar could stand maybe eight people across and one person deep. It looked like you were walking into a space enough for one person and take a step back and you’d be on the street.

Ginza is very different to Shinjinku besides the high end shopping, it’s less frantic, polished and more spacious and not far from the Imperial Palace, Tokyo. Disappointingly there wasn’t much to see as the Imperial Palace was under restoration and covered in scaffolding.

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We also went to Roppongi Hills which wasn’t a hill at all but where you can find Mori Tower, another really tall building with an observation deck and art gallery. We gave that a miss considering we’d done the Sky Tree Tower already but what we did find was a free ‘rest’ play area downstairs that #1, 2 and 3 whiled away an hour at whilst Husband and I took it in turns to have a peaceful coffee.

Tokyo is a beautiful, sprawling city. There is an understanding of how things works. Perhaps because the population is still predominantly a home crowd. We met up with friends we had made in Singapore who had recently returned to Japan.

She mentioned a few good manners to us that was expected in Japan. Like keeping things tidy after a meal in a restaurant. Even in McDonalds you are expected to separate your recyclable rubbish into paper and plastic. Children on the whole are still expected to be seen not heard. No public tantrums or unruly behaviour. We were doomed really.

It was quite impossible we found to keep #1, 2 and 3 respectfully quiet. Especially when they were tired from late nights and excited at all the new sights they saw. They operate on a say what you see basis. On the subway, #3 inadvertently kicked a man’s manbag with her shoe and the man gave several disapproving tuts. Of course it made me feel bad and that the children were out of control. They probably were at times. But then the next day I saw two women tutting at each other as one interrupted the other’s flow of walking. It was then I thought, if tutting is as bad as it gets when you’re annoyed then that’s not such a bad thing really.

Meal times were by far the most challenging in restaurants that often were too small to accommodate all of us. Thankfully living in Singapore, #1, 2 and 3 are quite familiar with Japanese food which meant they could always be fed a bowl of udon noodles and gyoza some place. But we found that we had to forgo many places that looked interesting because it was standing room only or only one type of food like sashimi.

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We’ve barely scratched the surface on this visit to Japan. I’m already thinking about when can we come back. Without #1, 2 and 3 in tow we perhaps could have done twice as much as we have. We could have explored the night life beyond 9pm and sought out the kookier side to Tokyo. But I know #1, 2 and 3 have enjoyed what they’ve seen too. They’ve spent a lot of time outdoors and walking. We’ve asked a lot of them really. It’s been especially funny the amount of times #1 has pointed out vehicles he has the small Tomica models of.

So that was Tokyo for us. Busy at times but mostly because the children are so young. Worth it though. It always is when you go somewhere you’ve never been before.

Next will be about our stay in Kyoto and that was truly spectacular.

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We’re all going on a summer holiday

We’re at Changi International Airport. Slightly sweaty, at risk of smelling before we arrive in Tokyo, frazzled but ready for boarding at the gate ahead of time.

Some small miracle considering the circus of transporting all five of us and two large suitcases plus miscellaneous items of hand luggage that I think we may need for a seven hour flight. There is no way we’re ever going to get a free upgrade ever as we arrive as a rabble at check in.

There’s something about travelling with small people that induces a mild sense of panic in not being able to bring with you everything that you have at home.

I have more changes of clothing for them than number of days we’re away. With garments spanning the four seasons because a check of the weather says the temperature in Tokyo ranges from 17 to 29 degrees. I have a small medicine bag for them and us. I’ve packed snacks and toys but it just doesn’t feel quite enough to stem the flow of ‘boredom’ that can erupt at any time.

Long gone are the days of leisurely strolls through Duty Free or even a pre flight drink. These days I just want to get to wherever we’re going by teleportation.

To avoid lugging the buggy with us we decided to let #3 run free which is exactly what she did. As we tried to grapple rucksacks, cabin case and #1 and 2 by the hand with #3 fighting to get down onto the travellator. Husband and I looked at each other and wondered when the holiday relaxation is going to start.

You can tell #1 and 2 are not used to cold weather. The mere act of wearing long sleeves and long trousers for the flight is causing excitement enough and they are bellowing through the airport that they are cold and need to wear all their jackets at once.

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As Mrs 192 aptly puts it, travelling is a ball for #1, 2 and 3 but for us it’s to be expected that it will be a bloody nightmare!

Here’s hoping not. We’re about to board now. They’re cruelly leading us through Business Class first to rub it in. I can see many a look of relief as we don’t stop to sit down.

I’ve a few more minutes before we take off as there’s a delay. #1 has the window seat, the space I once would occupy by choice. Both are settled ready for their meal, choosing the films they want to watch and shouting out loudly to no one in particular that ‘We are ready to go!’. ‘Why aren’t we moving?’ ‘When are we going to be up in the air?’ #3 is desperate for a nap and rotating in circles in the galley.

It’s only a seven hour flight. It’s only a seven hour flight.

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Soon. Soon everyone will be comfortably occupied and I can sit back and relax…Yes indeed. So how many films will I get to watch do you think?

Despite the mayhem it takes to get started, we’re really excited about our first two week holiday and to be going to Japan!

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When you can give children a bit of magic – Legoland Malaysia

Have you seen the way children’s faces light up when they feel something really special? It happens when they see a certain someone; when it’s their birthday or Christmas and they see presents and decorations; when the occasion of asking for ice cream is answered with a yes for a change.

For the many times a day in our role as parents that we have to put good behaviour, healthy eating, life affirming activities above things that children really consider fun, it is good to be able to let go of the reins for a few days and let them have such a good time they feel dizzy with it.

Holidays are exciting enough as it is for children. The anticipation of packing suitcases and what should they bring; the travel to the airport; the long sleeves and long trousers for the flight; the airport and all the buzz that comes with it. The arrival at the other side and getting to the hotel; disbelief our ‘home’ is now just one room; the endless reassurances that we haven’t actually moved from Singapore really, followed swiftly by the questions about what are we going to do. How about have long sleep ins, take in some culture, drink wine at lunchtime and stay up all night because we can? Not for you kids? Ok.

So Husband and I didn’t break the news we were going to Legoland Malaysia until three days before we were going. This was to save ourselves the endless reiteration of how many more sleeps it was going to be. Far easier on yourself to employ this tactic too. #1 packed his suitcase full of toys and took some persuading to leave nearly all of them at home because there’s no room in the car and he found it hard to believe we can go on ‘holiday’ without catching an aeroplane.

It’s a 40 minute drive to the border of Singapore to get to the bridge that takes you into Malaysia. It’s long enough to answer on loop the questions from #1 and 2.

‘Are we there yet?’
‘Not yet, we’ve just set off.’
‘When will we be there?’
‘Well, we have to cross a big bridge first.’
‘Is this the bridge?’
‘No, this is just a regular bridge.’
‘Is this the bridge?’
‘Not this one either.’
‘Is this the bridge?’
‘No.’
‘But you said it’s across the bridge Mummy.’
‘Would you like some snacks and a drink?’

Perhaps we should have just took them there and shouted ‘Surprise!’ But then we wouldn’t have had the anticipation and excitement of the last 10 minutes of the journey as we all looked out for the road signs to Legoland.

Then suddenly #1 is the first eagle eyed one to spot where we should be heading. ‘I see it, I see it. Over there! LEGOLAND.’ Really? How do you know what it looks like? We get our first sighting of the Legoland Hotel in the distance and it looks like a hotel made of, well, Lego!

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I’m well beyond five but I’m so excited too! It’s a hotel that looks like it’s made from Lego! We park up in the basement and find our way to the lifts and get our first glimpse of Legoland and the giant Lego figurines outdoors. The lift doors open and inside, the walls are decorated with Lego murals. We enter the lift, press G and then suddenly disco lights rotate from the ceiling throwing spinning blue lights everywhere and ABBA’s Dancing Queen bursts out from nowhere filling the small space.

It’s only a DISCO LIFT!

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A Disco Lift! How cool is that? Already we were won over. What could be more uplifting than a Disco Lift? If all companies had Disco Lifts, productivity would definitely increase.

Right by the hotel Reception is a magnificent Lego castle and pirate ship with Lego all around it for children to play with. It certainly helped to keep them entertained as we waited to check in. We didn’t think our room would be ready until 4pm but found it was ready by midday. Another boogie in the Disco Lift before we headed off to find our room. #1 and 2 were amazed with #3 joining in swept away by it all! The carpet, the walls, the doors, every detail is all about Lego in the brightest, boldest colours.

We chose a Kingdom themed room, the whole floor was decorated with the Lego Kingdom characters. You could also choose from Pirate or Adventure themes. I’ve stayed in some pretty amazing hotel rooms and some pretty dulls ones too but never one that was so much fun with its colourful walls and carpet. The Lego crafted interiors were quite brilliant as was the thoughtful added touch of a sink in the bathroom especially for the small ones.

If I felt that way, I can only imagine how #1 and 2 felt. The squeals of excitement as they marvelled at the pictures on the wall, looked for clues in the room to find some treasure and the view of Legoland from our window with all the possibilities of play before us.

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It’s been a while since I’ve been to a theme park. The first time when I was ten was to Lightwater Valley, North Yorkshire with the terrifying Hell Slide. It felt like I had to build up all my courage to go on it. Yet a visit some six years later showed me that there was hardly anything terrifying about it. Funny, your perception of size when you’re young. There’s been Flamingoland, Alton Towers, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Thorpe Park; all filled with rides for the adrenaline junkies and whilst I’ve had my fair share, the thrill and relief afterwards that I survived is insurmountable. What is it about the anticipation and fear of a roller coaster ride that can leave you feeling alive and energised plus a little bit windswept?

To be honest, I’m not good with rides. Ever since I was a child and the annual travelling shows came to town and everyone from school went down to go on the rides for 20 pence a pop. I’m not good with the round and round rides. I come off them feeling green, followed by being sick. I’m ok with the rollercoasters. Sort of. I love the water rides. I did until going on that massive one at Thorpe Park.

I thought I had put those days behind me but it appears not and so I’ve had to put on my brave face and muster up the courage for that round and round ride. #1 shares my apprehension about the round and round rides and openly admits to not liking anything that goes round and round and too fast. #2 does not. She loves nothing more than fast rides and her favourite one is the one that bounces up and down from a great height. To be fair, these rides are aimed at those with a minimum height of 80cm and even I can manage the high octane thrills of those rides.

For old time’s sake, Husband and I went on The Dragon, a roller coaster for the over 120cm. He was going to sit at the back for maximum fling and I wanted to sit at the front for minimum fling. We decided to try the front first and go on a second time at the back. However, just the once was enough as we both looked at each other and confessed to feeling a little too flung about already.

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What the children really loved about Legoland, were the ‘grown up’ things they could do like drive a car and get their own driving license with photo ID, sail a boat, ride a massive fire engine, sit on a moving Lego train. They also loved the Lego Miniland which included landscapes they’d seen in Singapore. I was impressed with models of the beautiful places we’ve yet to discover in Asia.

Legoland Malaysia is not a huge theme park and you can get round all the different sections quite easily in just over half a day. There is perhaps only a handful of activities for children over ten years old to enjoy but the adjoining Water Park just a few steps away makes up for this with towering water slides, wave pool and tidal river. It’s exactly the invitation you need to cool down!

Spontaneous words of happiness and appreciation from children are precious. Like when they tell you ‘I love you’. So to hear them say how much they love something and how much fun they’re having, you know it is so true. It made me feel good that Husband and I can give them a memory like this.

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Quite soon it may grow into a rather fuzzy memory and certainly one day when they come across bigger, fancier theme parks, Legoland will not seem all that. But for now it is. I ask #1 what was his favourite part of the trip and you see a half smile forming as he thinks about it. Nothing, except for Radiator Springs or the Kingdom of Arendelle, could have captivated my children more than this.

We stayed for two days and I think that’s more than enough. There’s a lot going on and even those programmed to play all day can grow weary of the endless opportunity to play.

In my opinion, the one disappointment was the Family restaurant in the hotel that stopped serving at 4pm and reopened for buffet dinner at 6.30pm which can be late for small children. The food for children was cold and unappealing though #1 and 2 didn’t take exception to the huge array of sweets, ice cream, biscuits and chocolate fountain available. We felt for the cost of the buffet dinner and #1, 2 and 3 in tow, we couldn’t enjoy it as much as we would have liked. However, right opposite Legoland is a mall with enough restaurants to find something suitable.

This trip with #1, 2 and 3 was a brilliant couple of days and I will always remember the looks on their faces as they took everything in. Through their eyes, we saw the magic of having uncomplicated fun. For ourselves, Husband and I can see ahead of us the many new adventures to be had with #1, 2 and 3 and we’re looking forward to them all.

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Walk not run

Sometimes you do something and then wonder why you never did it more often. In our London life, weekends could be booked up months in advance filled with Birthdays, weddings, family visits, catching up with friends you haven’t seen for far longer than you would like. How does it happen that you can live in the same city and realise you haven’t seen a good friend for a very long time.

I love London, even more so now that I probably may never live there again and look back with a rose tinted haze. But with living in any confined city, you often wonder what’s out there. Where exactly are the rolling green fields of England. They’re always closer than you think.

So for no particular occasion a group of us rented a holiday home and shared a long weekend together with wine, beer, food and a plan to do a long walk along the Dorset coast.

The weather six years ago this week couldn’t be more different to the reports I’ve been reading about today. Storm battered Britain. Floods. Thousands left without power. Coastlines falling into the sea.

This is Golden Cap, Dorset in early February 2008. We were staying in a farmhouse in nearby Charmouth.

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Look at the clear blue skies and winter sunshine. Just going back through these photos makes me smile. Look at the beautiful views and rolling green fields and how can you not feel happy. We were fully expecting grey, wintry weather with it being early February and the fact that this wasn’t going to put off our friends from joining us is always a good sign.

The Dorset to East Devon World Heritage site is also know as the ‘Jurassic Coast’. It stretches across 95 miles of stunning coastline. Not only is it gloriously beautiful but it provides an education into the science of the earth. Which we didn’t learn much about except look for a few fossils along the beach and we barely covered much of the 95 mile available to us.

What I did learn that weekend is how to take an almost authentic ‘face punch’ photo. Yep. Courtesy of Ms Beefy who bestowed this new skill upon us. She does it scarily well. It’s a three person stunt. One person has arm outstretched locked in ‘punch’ mode, the second vigorously shakes their head from side to side with jowls loose. Only with jowls loose can you achieve the desired effect. Then the third person takes the photo. This is not an activity for ‘selfies’. Hours of fun. Though I haven’t tried it since. It gives me a headache all that head shaking.

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I love long country walks. I’m sure many of us do. I have romantic notions of dragging #1, 2 and 3 on many of them in years to come. Will they love it or will they complain about it and say it’s pointless? Either way, I think they’ll look back and appreciate it. Hopefully they’ll have an idea of what a ‘long walk’ is because it is quite possible to reach your mid thirties and not know.

Who could not know? Well, for some of us, enjoying the amble and taking in the view all around us is part of the whole enjoyment. For others, point them in the direction of the summit and that’s their goal. So off they zoom. Without pacing themselves. Without even the correct footwear. Like one of those wind up toys that go off and then wear themselves out. Expleting the F word quite liberally along the way and yet proclaiming to be having a really good time but F word where’s the pub and pint coming along? I suppose I shouldn’t say who that could be…

You can go away with a group of friends for the weekend and relive the good parts of when you shared a house together. The laughs without the quirky habits they have that you remember from ten years ago. It’s good to get together away from the usual places we always go to and all the things we usually do. So why on earth didn’t we do it more often?

It may be a while before we’ll be planning a long weekend away with just friends again and I wonder what new skills we’ll be picking up then?

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Ich liebe dich

Nana Moon and I currently have a difference of opinion on what 20 degrees Celsius will feel like. She thinks it’s short sleeves weather just like a British summer’s day and I think it’s jumper, jeans and quite possibly a winter coat weather. We haven’t even started our mini trip yet and already a minor dispute.

We’re off to Hanoi, Vietnam tomorrow morning for three days SANS kids! What will that feel like? At the moment full of super excitement tinged with a modicum of guilt to be off on a jolly without the family so it seems only right that I fully maximise this opportunity to balance out the guilt. Late nights, long lie ins, leisurely breakfast, lunch and tea at child unfriendly restaurants, (actually why bother with restaurants let’s just hit the bars) and tourist activities that don’t need to accommodate a pushchair or have baby change facilities. No rucksack filled with endless snacks, wet wipes and nappies. No eating meals earlier than everyone else and lying very quietly in the dark whilst #1, 2 and 3 fall asleep before watching television on mute.

Even if it’s only for three days, it’s three days to remind me of Holidays Before Children. Before the resort based with Kid’s Club option we tried to resist but now find so appealing. It took a while to accept that holidays are not just about us, it’s about the children too and the fact they still need to eat and sleep on time. When we went on our first family of five holiday to Phuket in August this year, we were sometimes THAT family with the over tired, over hungry, angry baby trying to do a bit too much just because we’re on holiday. But what a shame it is to take the trouble of going all that way somewhere new by aeroplane and yet never leaving the resort.

Nana Moon is rather well travelled around south east Asia but Vietnam is a place neither of us have been to. I’d been fully reassured by Ms Beefy that Nana Moon is THE best travel companion because she produces fully illustrated travel itineraries that come laminated. So I waited. And waited. And nothing came. Eventually time was running short and I thought I best get something booked in. So we’re flying Tiger Airways and staying in a hotel with 55% discounted rates I found on Agoda and we’re only taking 10kg hand luggage which would be more than adequate until the question of packing winter clothes came in.

I take this faith in my holiday planning skills as a sign of trust because the last time I booked us a cheap mini break away in November 2004, the hotel was in Croatia, the airport we landed at was in northern Italy and the route from A to B in our hire car took us through Slovenia.

How did this happen? Well, have you ever wondered exactly what sort of people pay attention to those ads in the daily newspapers that say ‘£12 a night hotel deal’? Yep. Neither of us had a lot of spare cash at the time, £36 for three nights in a hotel plus £40 Ryanair flights seemed a bargain worth taking a risk on. Sort of assumed Trieste Airport would be nearish the hotel and most definitely in the same country at least!

Quite a surprise to discover it wasn’t and would involve driving a vehicle across two borders on the other side of the road in a car where the passenger usually sits. Until that point I’d never done either things with a car before and it was very weird and scary too plus Nana Moon was making me nervous with her fierce concentration. Our road trip didn’t start off well upon exiting the airport and looking in the wrong/right direction and narrowly avoiding some car on the wrong/right side of the road and constantly grabbing thin air with my left hand when going to change gears even though there wasn’t much room between hand and car door but 13 years of natural reflex is to blame.

I think I’d still rather drive than read the map though because the pressure would have been even greater and I certainly wouldn’t want to ire the wrath of Nana Moon in a confined space in a foreign country. So we’re driving out of Trieste, northern Italy on our way to Croatia trying to locate the toll road that was only meant to take us a few junctions into Slovenia before looping back out again. Except we somehow missed the exit. We’re driving along this near deserted motorway, higher and higher, the air is thinning out and there’s mist enshrouded mountains ahead. How did that happen? I don’t think we’re going the right way you know. Somehow though we manage to get out of scenic Slovenia and back on the road to Croatia.

I think I’m doing ok with the driving now after that detour added a bit more driving experience. Except I somehow manage to mount a curb at an empty junction. There’s silence in the car but I can feel it. The ‘you better not have damaged the car and cost us millions in the excess’ telepathic accusation coming from my right. Then it’s time to switch over the driving and guess who clips the wing mirror of a parked car? Yep but I’m not going to say anything about that.

Although we were in Croatia, it was the mostly Italian influenced Istria region. We didn’t see any war bunkers or discarded army tankers where we were, you had to be more on the mainland. It was out of season when we went and fairly quiet but I like it like that without much hustle and bustle. It was beautiful from the little we got chance to see and I would definitely go back to Croatia again.

Lots of German tourists come to Istria because apparently it’s a straight route down from Germany and so the language of most Croatian tour guides include Italian and German as well as English. I always feel it’s good manners to try out a few phrases of the country you’re visiting rather than shouting English very slowly and so when our Guide said he spoke German, which I understood Nana Moon to have some experience of, I thought it would be a good idea they had a happy conversation together about our trip away. Except it didn’t seem to be flowing very well. In fact it wasn’t flowing at all. What did you say Nana Moon? Well, apparently she told the Guide ‘Ich liebe dich’. I love you. Wow, that was fast work, I thought you were asking him where did he live?

So tomorrow when we arrive in Vietnam, Nana Moon won’t be asked to practice her Vietnamese I don’t think. And I certainly won’t be repeating any useful phrases she tells me too after her German faux pas, I’ve seen Full Metal Jacket.

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When two become five – My Singapore Expat Adventure so far

It’s been two years since I was last on British soil. Two years! I know. That’s a very long time. During this time though we’ve had the arrival of #3 and logistically as well as financially, it has become far less convenient to make the 13, sometimes 14, hour flight back as much as we would like to.

This is the longest time I haven’t seen my Mum and Dad for and thank goodness for Skype. So I am finding it hard right now but I hope these feelings don’t cloud my account of my Singapore expat adventure.

As I’ve mentioned previously, before the start of all this I never gave much thought to living abroad. The closest I came to the term ‘expatriate’ was watching that awful television show El Dorado. There are many different definitions of ‘expatriate’ but commonly it’s a person living in another country other than the one of their upbringing, often temporary and for work reasons. Some would go on to further classify an expatriate as having ‘professional’ skills as opposed to a migrant worker who are mostly manual labourers. Why the need for such snobbery when collectively you are all living in another country temporarily for work is beyond me. Technically, I’m a ‘Dependent’ as I’m not the one doing the working. So that would make my current occupation Dependent Housewife/Homemaker. Marvellous.

Anyways, that’s not what I meant to tell you. I’ve given it some thought and the last five years has been a wonderful experience. I’m really glad we took this blind leap of faith into an unplanned adventure. I thought living in London was cosmopolitan but Singapore has me living in close quarters with people from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Holland, France, Switzerland, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philipines, Vietnam, Japan, China and a whole host more. It’s a real melting pot of nationalities here. At first I met a few people I didn’t think I would quite get along with but actually it was me not getting their tone of voice or their quirky sense of humour that threw me because it was so different to mine and they probably thought the same about me too.

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That’s the thing with living in another country. It’s so different to where you have come from and yet you arrive looking for things that are the same to what you are used to. Then feel somewhat surprised when you find things aren’t or that some things almost are but are not nearly quite the same. Isn’t that just so rude of me? I think though, that when you first arrive somewhere, you look for something familiar to cling onto to make the change less daunting. I had hoped that as we grew more familiar with our surroundings then we would embed ourselves more into the culture because otherwise what would be the point of being here? Some people are much better at adapting than others, quickly throwing themselves into local culture and creating a new social landscape for themselves. They’ve probably done this whole expat thing before and know the drill. I certainly would be better at it should it happen another time.

That’s another thing you see, how you adapt yourself. I was quite comfortable how I was in the UK before moving out here and to top it off, I was expecting #1 and the thought of my family not being around to share this precious time was quite horrendous. It made me very sad. It still does make me sad to think about what both sides are missing out on but I say to myself that the children are still young and there’s ample time for good, strong relationships to be formed with grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nearly aunts and uncles and nearly cousins. I know Husband felt guilty when I was sad and it was hard for him too but the first six months of any international move are always the hardest. We are in this together. I haven’t sacrificed anything that we had in the UK that Husband hasn’t had to give up too. My career perhaps you say? Well yes there is that and whilst I was indignant about having no official job title that I was pleased with, I’ve been given this rare opportunity of watching my children grow right in front of me during these fleeting formative years, which my Dad Mr Li never had, and I’m very thankful for that.

Singapore will always be a special place and a special time in my life because this is where #1, 2 and 3 were born and so we will always refer back to Singapore and come and visit once our time is up here. It’s Asia but then again not quite with nearly everyone speaking English as well as Mandarin. It makes me lazy in not having to try too hard in learning another language and managing very well. I live very centrally in a four bedroom apartment in a condo that has great facilities and even a corner shop and dry cleaners. As I drive into our condo, I can see that really tall building with the ship on top, we can walk to the Grand Prix track, we’re a 30 minutes drive from the airport and we can be sat on a beach in 20 minutes.

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Singapore gives off the impression of being very ‘polished’, safe and new. The sunshine helps, everything looks and feels better in the sun and you can get a fix of vitamin D nearly everyday with the temperature barely dropping below 31 degrees. It’s great that the children can play in the pool everyday if they want to, there’s always a play date to be arranged because the expat community is so big and our days are full of fun activities. If it’s not being on a play date, it’s out at a park or beach or down by the pool. I say I haven’t been back to the UK for two years but in that time I’ve been to Langkawi, Krabi and Phuket. Oh and we have home help. How can I not mention we have home help which means I barely have to do laundry, cleaning or most of the cooking on a daily basis. So even though we have three children, I don’t work and we have home help, so how hard can my life be?

It’s a thing often said amongst people who have lived expat lives that you can’t describe your existence to those who haven’t yet tried it. An expat life by all accounts is a privileged life. Especially living in Singapore with all the benefits it has to offer. I think if you said you were an expat in Siberia, your friends back home may feel an inkling of sympathy for you. As you read this, I don’t blame you if you think I’ve got it easy and that I’m living the life of Riley. I’m glad I’m reminding myself of all the good stuff about being an expat because right now after five years I’m growing weary of it. I told you some time ago that in five years I’ve waved off over 30 families who have done their time in Singapore. That’s like saying Goodbye to friends you’ve made and children you’ve watched grow from a seedling on average every two months. These people have shared so much with us from bringing new people into the world, to helping us find our feet to sharing their life experiences with us that can only humble my existence. I’ve found that part of expat living very hard. So difficult for my sentimental soul to take a battering so often. I still miss many of these families and on the flip side, these people will still be our friends in all the years to come and I am ever grateful Singapore gave me back Brilliant New Adventure friend. Whilst it was hard to see them go, it has been absolutely fabulous to have found more friends at a time of my life where I thought I had all the friends I would ever need.

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I miss the UK all the time, even though I’m told we are better off away as the UK is going down the pan. Is it really? I know there were those riots across London a couple of years ago which wasn’t pleasant and then there’s David Cameron but last year was a great year with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and a brilliant 2012 Olympics, most of which I missed watching because we don’t have the right cable channel. There was a real sense of camaraderie and good will which we’ll never know about.

Did I say I haven’t seen my parents for two years? Granted that’s not quite the norm for all expats but that’s the way it has worked out for us recently and I don’t think I can fully describe how that feels. My parents are in their late 70s now and I feel immense guilt that we are this far away with three of their grandchildren and flying out this way with the humidity wouldn’t do them good either. Even when we do make a trip back it’s only for three weeks and there is never enough time to see everyone. I’ve missed weddings, I’ve missed the arrival of new people and most importantly, I’ve missed being present there in person when my friends and family have needed me. I also miss the change of seasons, the familiar language, the supermarkets, the people. I miss being part of something I recognise as real life.

On any given day, I can easily give you five things about living in Singapore that really irritates me. The heat and humidity; the cost of rent, cars and school fees; the driving; the customer service or lack of; strangers passing opinion on what #1, 2 and 3 are doing; the sound of Singlish; grown up people wearing clothing with cartoon characters or even worse, his and hers matching outfits; endless construction sites; women speaking like children in order to get their hapless boyfriends to carry their handbags; pedestrians walking on roads and cyclists riding against the flow of traffic; people picking their noses in public; my ability to find only one true Singaporean person and call them my friend. Oh look, more than ten and quite a lot more could come forthwith.

I know these aren’t real reasons, except for the cost of rent, cars and school fees, and for every irritant I can give you two reasons that makes living in Singapore great. Overall Singapore gives you the feeling of good, clean living and safety. Of course the bad stuff happens but somehow you feel less exposed to it. The range of food is amazing and you can eat good food for less than S$5 or amazing food washed down with free flow champagne. It’s a multicultural city that celebrates all religions and I’ve been educated about Ramadan and Eid, Deepavali as well as celebrating Chinese New Year and mid Autumn festival like the genuine Chinese person I was born to be. I barely spoke a word of Mandarin five years ago but since living in Singapore I understand a whole lot more and know when I’m being talked about as well. (If you’re going to call a Chinese person a banana then you really shouldn’t do it in front of them. Racism is even uglier when it comes from your own race you know.) I’ve been to countries I probably would never have gone to and I’ve met people of all nationalities who have enhanced and changed my perception of the world.

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It’s been a good life I know and to voice any complaint would make me sound spoilt and ungrateful but as with anyone, there are bound to be issues and concerns that sunshine and home help can’t eradicate. However, I should enjoy this Singapore Expat Adventure for all that it is because it’s not going to last. I’m an expat remember. Temporarily living in another country for work (or not working). Plus I am running out of tea bags. That’s one thing I can’t compromise on and that’s starting off my privileged day with a mug of shite Lipton’s tea. Well I was running out of tea bags until a call for supplies sent lots of back up including 600 tea bags from Mr Li. What exactly are you telling me people from the UK? Stay being an expat for longer?

You know, I think I just might because I’ve met someone, Mrs Cake Pops, who unwittingly is preparing me for my next adventure, the one of returning back to real life. To getting back into gainful employment, to making me see my value as an entire person again. It’s funny how things work out isn’t it. If I keep looking back to the UK, I’d be missing out on so much else right in front of me. Shamefully I haven’t even explored all that Singapore has to offer or find out what this nation is all about but before I go, I’m definitely going to.

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From heels to there and back again

It has been a day of 12 hour celebrations for #2 who has only just turned three which in her book is a very big number, little does she know. In all probability the 12 hour celebrations were perhaps a bit too much as even Husband and I are exhausted but I think #2 and #1 both had a great time. What is there not to love when you get to eat cake, ice cream, crepes and pizza all in one day? That’s almost a whole week’s worth of treats in a very short space of time so as #1 put it quite aptly, tomorrow will be a day of eating carrots.

I do admire the certainty of a two year old’s mind though because of course there would be presents and of course the presents would include Princess shoes and this jumbo Barbie car she had been eyeing up for some months. Ever since she came upon her Big Girl friend’s Princess shoes last October, she has been coveting them ever since and it was a promise of ours that she would be allowed a pair when she turned three. So the day has come and she is tottering around in a pair of blue Disney Cinderella Princess shoes. Her most favourite gift of all. Asides from the jumbo Barbie car which she opened just before bedtime.

I don’t even know where this obsession with Cinderella comes from as we have never read the story or watched the film but every time she came across a toy shop, she would sit and look at the shoes and sigh. I know that feeling though, looking on line at Net-a-Porter and seeing a pair of beautiful impractical and grossly overpriced shoes that even if I could afford would be a bit like #2’s Princess shoes and only ever be worn indoors. I love shoes. Typical of most females I know. At the moment I miss shoes. There seems little point indulging in a mass shoe wardrobe with small people to hoist around in tropical heat. However, as part of my ‘Important Things to Bring to Singapore’ are most of my good shoes collection, barely worn in almost 5 years. I do believe shoes play an important part of our history and symbolise a particular stage of our lives. There’s something about buying your first pair of ‘smart’ shoes’ which are a departure from your norm. Especially if they are for your first proper job, it’s a sign of moving on, gaining some responsilbity and most importantly having to look respectable for gainful employment which didn’t come naturally at first. I felt almost like #2 and her Princess shoes, playing at dressing up, at being a grown up but then you get used to them and your shoes become a reflection of your alter egos without delving too deep and they allow you to experiment without looking out of place.

So the good shoes collection are pleasing to look at but a pain to navigate in. Look at me walking in 4 inch heels because I work in an office and go out to smart drinking establishments. Before that the whole University era and slightly beyond consisted of navy Adidas campus trainers or shell toes. The need for practicality to get to places by walking and also for going out to the grungey, gunky floor drinking and bopping establishments. Slightly before that I think I may have owned three pairs of shoes before I went into freefall. One pair for school, one pair for going out, one pair of trainers and then a pair of winter boots. I think my brother still lives by this rule you know. Right now, I’m in a flat shoe, flip flops stage, mostly due to the hoisting of small people around but also because I have no need for other types of shoe and that made me feel a bit sad and missing my old self a bit. So earlier this year, I went out and bought a new pair of 4 inch shoes, black and white with a big red flower to the side. To me they are beautiful. I’ve worn them three times but every time I do, they make me smile because they remind me that I still can wear them and I feel good in them. So people may mock someone’s love of shoes but actually I think the shoes we walk in everyday are a huge reflection of where we are in our lives and I like to look at my shoe collection and remember why and where I’ve worn them before and also to think of when I may wear them again.

 

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