New Life in Singapore

The bike pedals creak and moan as I strain to pedal to the top of Jurong Hill. There’s a 12 kg 19 month old baby on the seat behind me and his 9 kg little brother in the bike trailer I’m pulling up the 60 meter hill with each crank of the pedals. It’s the most physically difficult thing I do in Singapore and I kind of look forward to it. 200 feet in elevation change on a smooth paved surface isn’t much to brag about, but it’s slightly more challenging with the added weight of both of my offspring.

Jurong Hill isn’t a place people visit in Singapore, but I visit it most days. It’s a little less than 4 km from our flat in Boon Lay, near the library, to the top of this hill and I can ride the whole way on the Park Connector, a well-developed bike trail linking all the parks of Singapore. I didn’t buy a car in Singapore. I could tell you all the reasons why it’s saving me so much money and the great exercise I’m getting, but it’s a bit boring. Better to write about why I like riding a bike around town with my babies.

JurongIsland
Looking towards Jurong Island from the Jurong Hill lookout tower.

At the top of the hill, we park the bike next a tree Queen Elizabeth, II planted back in 1972, but we don’t bother locking it because this is Singapore and there’s no crime here, so we don’t worry about theft, ever. One less thing I suppose. We don’t worry about violent crime, homeless people, vandalism, or drug addicts either, so honestly it’s a bit more significant than one less thing, but the key point is that we don’t worry anymore. There’s a lookout tower here at the top of the hill with a spiral walkway and the big baby likes to push the little baby in his stroller, so I detach the bike trailer and now it’s a stroller. We walk around and around the spirals and make our way to the top of tower. Then the big baby got mad and cried because he’s still learning about the world around him and he’s a bit frustrated that the spiral path to the top of the tower ended here. He wants to go higher! He’s crying loud and I’m trying not to laugh at him.

GardensByTheBay
Visiting Gardens by the Bay with Junior, one of the icons of Singapore.

From the top of the tower, we can see out to Jurong Island, a purely industrial and restricted area that’s mainly devoted to the petrochemical (oil) industry and shipping. I think that’s why Queen Elizabeth II planted a tree up here in 1972. Singapore was an up-and-coming developing economy back then and the leaders here probably liked to show off the marvelous port they’d just built. I don’t know for sure what ocean we’re looking at from here, but somewhere in the distance, the Indian Ocean meets the Pacific Ocean. Those two oceans coming together out there near this spot is probably the main reason this little red dot became one of the best cities in the world over the last 50 years despite its fairly recent former circumstances of a jungle swamp mostly devoid of natural resources. This place here, near where her majesty planted that tree on this hill that nobody visits anymore, is where the East meets the West. Location may be the only advantage Singapore has over lesser cities and map dots of other colors, but here it is in 2018 among the handful of top international cities with the lowest crime rate, longest life expectancy, highest per capita income, and best schools. It’s an open book, what they do here in Singapore. Not really shocking to be honest. Strictly enforce the law and keep taxes low for a few decades and behold, a world class city pops up. Any king or queen can come and see the Garden City and plant a tree too, but so far, no one can replicate the all-around success of Singapore. I think it must be the best city in the world and I feel very fortunate to live here with young children who will certainly just take it forgranted as children do.

HDB Floor
We get everything delivered in Singapore since we don’t have a car, mainly groceries. Junior always colours the boxes before we throw them away.

Singapore has over 5 million people and it’s one of the most densely populated cities in the world, but here we are with this 5 acre park and a really nice view all to ourselves on a weekend. Sometimes we see other people around here, but never more than one or two. I’d imagine there’s some place like this in every corner of Singapore, but since I’ve been here just six months, I only know my own little corner of the red dot. I didn’t stumble onto this hill top park until recently. It’s still a new find and I’m excited to have this hill as an approximation of a work-out since I no longer have any time to exercise by myself since these two little boys came along. That’s ok for me. I know they’ll grow up fast and one day I’ll miss bike riding and exploring with them like this at the end of the earth, where Queen Elizabeth II and the Shah of Iran came to plant a tree back in the 1970’s.

Bike
My family car in Singapore. This photo is at the Chinese Gardens in Jurong.

Jurong Bird Park is the well-known tourist destination at the bottom of the hill. It’s not as popular as the night safari in Singapore, but I think it’s all operated by the same organization. Basically, it’s just a zoo for birds. It might be a tourist trap, but since it’s the tourist trap at the end of the bike trail less than 4 km from my house, it’s my favourite tourist trap. It’s kind of far from some of the other attractions in Singapore, so it’s maybe a little less crowded. During the week, especially after a rain storm passes by, it’s also nearly empty. That’s when we most often try to go. It rains a lot in Singapore, so we go at least once a week, right after the rain cools down the temperature and the tourists go back to their hotels. It’s a very nice park. There are very large aviaries here that you can walk inside and feed and interact with the birds that live here, almost like wild birds building nests and raising families just like we’re doing in Singapore. A bird that lives in a big cage with everything it needs and wants doesn’t know it lives in a cage.

BirdPark
Inside a huge bird cage at Jurong Bird Park and it’s all fake, but who cares lah?

There is one aviary at the back of the park with a 100 foot tall water fall and a bridge. We go there most often. I know it’s fake, but it’s the best fake waterfall I ever encountered and it’s a really nice place to just sit for a while. The big baby walks back and forth on the bridge chasing after the exotic tropical birds. I can see him pretty easily and there’s not much there that can hurt him. The waterfall makes a pleasant back drop and helps me relax. It’s my favorite place in Singapore. I don’t even mind telling everybody on the internet because I don’t think too many people will leave the shopping mall to come over there after the rain anyway. The bird park had a really great promotion going on and the cost of a year pass was the same price as a day ticket, so we got that deal and now we’re definitely getting our money’s worth. The babies are both under two years old, so they’re free. There’s a good playground in the bird park too. It’s got a water park with lifeguards on duty and playground equipment that includes swings for babies, so it’s just right for us at this stage.

Library
Junior checking out a library book in the Chinese language. Just kidding, he has no idea, but we live right next to a library and we go over there once or twice a week and do our best to follow along at story time. He’s more interested in playing chilut-ba (peek-a-boo) in the bookshelves.

Sometimes we go the other way on the bike trail along the Jurong River to a place called Jurong Lake. The river is fully enclosed in concrete and I didn’t realize it was a natural river for a while. I thought it was more like a big storm drain. It’s full of fish and on Christmas day I talked to a guy who was fishing in what I thought was a storm drain. He’d caught ten tilapia so far when I talked to him. Merry Christmas, they were pretty big too. I haven’t tried fishing here yet, but I intend to try one day, since I saw that. It just seems so unnatural to fish in the city, but I guess that’s all in my country boy head. I see lots of fish in there though. The water is clean and clear, so you can see them easily. I think it’s a mixture of native and introduced species. Sea eagles come along in the evening sometimes and catch one. I’ve seen otters in there eating them too. Otters came back from extinction in Singapore just a few years ago and are now pretty common. I’ve also seen a couple of iguanas here. Iguanas aren’t native to SE Asia, so these are escaped pets I think, but they are huge and clearly doing well. I’m just impressed with the amount of wild life that I see in this city when I go out and about, especially on the bike. I come from the country and we always kept a look out for animals, so maybe no one else notices. Recently I saw a wild pig. There’s a few of those around too.

Singapore
Wearing his Indonesian Batik around the Singapore tourist traps. A mosquito got him on the forehead that day, but thankfully, they’re not a huge problem here.

I thought I wanted to live at Jurong Lake because I like it so much. It’s slightly farther from work though, slightly more expensive, and the apartments we looked at there were just slightly smaller. We thought we were moving there and we were $100 away from a deal on a lease when our place came up. It was cheaper, bigger, near a shopping mall, and didn’t have any stairs. We didn’t really like stairs since we have these two babies to think about. I wanted to live there because the flats there have a water view of this lake and it’s just really nice to wake up to a water view. I also liked the idea of being adjacent to such a big piece of parkland for recreation. We don’t live far though, so we come here pretty often too, second only to the Jurong Bird Park, which has a much better playground.

Bird
Chasing some kind of exotic bird at the Jurong Bird Park. He never catches them. We come here once or twice a week because it’s close and they have a promotion for a one year entry pass for the same cost as the day pass. Maybe I just like birds. I suppose that’s true too.

The Chinese and Japanese gardens at Jurong Lake are fake replications of gardens and architecture from China and Japan. I don’t know all the details, but it’s a pretty good replication. I’d rather sit here at the Chinese gardens in Jurong than go to China. It’s cleaner! My big baby is 19 months old now and likes to throw pebbles into the water from one of the bridges, so we find a nice spot to sit and then mess around doing things like that just to kill time. They sell cold drinks there too and it gets pretty busy on Sundays. Domestic helpers (maids and nannies) get the day off on Sunday, so they come to places like this and the guys here from the subcontinent doing construction or working at the refineries and the factories roam around trying to find a Filipina girlfriend. That’s my assessment of what goes on around there on Sundays. We like to have little picnics with subway sandwiches and this is my favorite place to picnic. It’s quite popular though. Everyone else likes to picnic there too.

We watched the lunar eclipse at the end of January here. One of the few English words the big baby uses is “moon.” He loves to see the moon. It was pretty cool to see it, red and hanging low over the lake at the Chinese garden as the earth’s shadow covered it for a few hours. It seemed like half the city came out that night to take a picture.

HDB Swimming Pool
We installed a swimming pool on the balcony of our HDB flat

Like most people in Singapore, we live in an HDB. HDB stands for Housing & Development Board. Most expats live in a condominium. I looked at the condominiums and they are a bit fancier. They tend to have carpet and just nicer construction, nicer cabinets, nicer furniture, and recessed lights. I don’t really care about that stuff, especially with two babies who might find some way to tear it up or color it with crayons. That said, I admit there are definitely two benefits to the condominiums, well, one definite benefit and one questionable benefit. The questionable benefit is 24 hour manned security. The condos all have security staff. Singapore has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, if not the lowest, for any international city. I live one mile from the police headquarters. I just didn’t think security was something I needed raising the cost of my rent in the safest city in the world, so I believe this benefit is questionable. I don’t fault people for wanting security though. It’s definitely something you get with a condo and not with an HDB flat.

MRT
Going the opposite direction of everyone else on the MRT on a Friday night in Singapore. We had the train to ourselves. Singapore is wall-to-wall with people, but we avoid a lot of crowds by doing the opposite of what everyone else does.

The main thing they get with a condo is a really nice pool. I do sometimes lament not having a swimming pool. My babies like to swim and I’m sure we’d use a pool most days. We used the pool every day in Indonesia. The price difference for three bedroom HDB flats and three bedroom condos came to about $600 a month and the condos were about 50% smaller in total area. In addition, the utilities cost more in condos for some reason. My wife told me it’s subsidized or something for HDB’s. Anyway, for $600 a month, multiplied by the 18 month lease term ($10,800), we decided we could live without a fancy swimming pool. I won’t argue that it’s a sacrifice because we really like swimming pools and water in general.

BasicHDBFlat
Dressed like twins at the HDB flat. It’s a pretty ordinary apartment, but I like the simplicity of it and the additional floor space. This kind of floor is great for kids because it’s easy to clean. The nanny mops it every morning at 5 am before they get up.

We bike ride to a few other places I didn’t mention, including a couple of huge waterparks. They cost about $2 for entry. They get a bit crowded on hot weekend days, but never so bad that we didn’t go in anyway. They have wave pools, lazy rivers, fountains, swimming pools, and huge waterslides. We’ve also been to the beaches a few times. There are several good beaches in Singapore. We’re only about 15 minutes by car to the beach and it’s one of the few places where we take a taxi. We haven’t been very much yet because the smaller baby was just too young for a day out in the hot sun, but I think we’ll go more as he grows. We really liked East Coast Park which has a long stretch of beach and our favourite is Palawan beach at Sentosa Island. Sentosa Island is entirely a tourist trap, but we aren’t affected by that. I just tune it out and don’t have any trouble not buying anything except a few cold drinks from 7-11. I think it’s a very nice beach there, but people give it very bad reviews. I guess they’ve just come from Phi Phi in Thailand, the Maldives, Bali, or maybe Bondi in Australia and compare it to those places when they review Singapore on trip advisor. You definitely wouldn’t come to Singapore for its beaches, but if you’re in Singapore already, they’re pretty good. I don’t think I’d feel the need to leave Singapore to go to a beach until my kids are a lot older. These are excellent beaches for smaller kids. They’re very clean, they have lifeguards, and there aren’t any waves.

SentosaBeach
Showing off my dad bod at our favourite beach at Sentosa Island, only about 15-20 minutes by taxi. It’s got bad reviews because people don’t like the boats you can see in the distance. I come from the mountains in Virginia, so I think it’s awesome to live near a beach like this with little kids.

We put a baby pool out on the balcony. It’s kind of funny looking. I saw one of the neighbors doing it, but I think it kind of works out. I have babies. They can’t swim anyway. So instead of nearly $11,000 extra rent, I just bought a $12 kiddie pool for the balcony. I probably wouldn’t even have that much room on a balcony in a condo. That’s the primary benefit of living in an HDB in Singapore, the space. You get more space for less money. If you’re ever living in Singapore and saving 5 figures in rental costs matters to you, I recommend leasing an HDB.

EastCoastBeach
Our second favourite beach at East Coast Park. It’s much bigger. It’s only second favourite because it’s 5 minutes farther. This is a really good place for biking too.

You never see expats in HDB’s. There’s just me as far as I know. I mean I’m sure that there’s another expat out there somewhere living in an HDB, I just haven’t seen the guy or heard about him yet. They definitely don’t live in my neighborhood. My neighborhood is mostly Chinese, although my floor in the HDB is all Malaysian. I guess we fit in a little better there since my wife is Javanese (Indonesian) and so is our nanny. Everyone on our floor speaks Bahasa and practices Islam to some degree, but in the wider community, most people are Chinese. There’s an African family too and India is definitely well represented. I really like that it’s a very diverse community and everyone gets along. The first memories of childhood for both of my children will come from around here where people of many colors speak many languages and that’s absolutely priceless. If all I have to tolerate is the scent of prawn paste from my Malaysian neighbor’s cooking to get that kind of result, then lucky me.

FakeSnow
At Snow City in Singapore. It’s sort of like a big refrigerated warehouse with fake snow. You can even ski in there. I hated it, lol. I think my wife liked it though. She’s never seen real snow.

My wife works full time, breast feeding a 19 month old and his 6 month old brother at home. The older baby started “school” about a month ago. He’s the youngest one in his class, just barely made the cut off for this intake in January 2018. The preschools are mostly on the lowest level of the HDB flats, so it’s really convenient. The idea being that a working mother can drop of her child and head into work all in one go. Since my wife doesn’t work, it means she doesn’t have to walk far or cross the road. We just put him in the two hour program, because that’s long enough for his age. It’s not really school, it’s more like a playgroup. They actually call it a playgroup, but the lady in charge has an early childhood education degree. There are 10 kids total, mostly Chinese, but I think there’s another Indonesian child and one from an Indian family too. They focus on English but they call the teacher lao-tse they’re mostly Chinese. If we stay in Singapore, I think they start teaching Chinese around 3 years old, so that would be a pretty good skill to pick up, but it’s down the road a bit. For now, I’m just glad this school is so close and convenient and only $175 SGD a month (about $130 USD). Some things in Singapore are expensive, but others are a real bargain.

Playground1
Some of the playgrounds in the malls are very good. This is at Jurong East Mall. It’s got a water park too. All free, if you can walk through a mall without buying stuff.

I think school may be the reason I either stay or go from Singapore in a few years. Singapore schools are the best in the world. As a result, only Singaporeans and permanent residents can go to these schools, with few exceptions. Private schools are also very good in Singapore, but at a high cost. The private schools cost more than college in America, then you still have college to pay for too! I’m not the sort of person who pays for private schools when I have other options. I think I’d most likely leave Singapore before I paid for private elementary school here. I might change my mind about that if circumstances change, but I doubt it. On the other hand, if my kids were eligible for public school, I’d probably stay as long as I could. I’m not sure that’s possible and if it becomes a possibility, I have to seriously think it through. Singapore requires all Singaporeans and permanent residents to serve two years in the national service. That only affects boys because girls are exempt from service, but I have two boys and if we stay here, they will get a wonderful Singaporean education, but then Singapore will draft them into two years of military service. I don’t think it’s bad, just that it deserves some consideration if I have to make that decision for these boys. Maybe we’ll never get to that point, so no sense worrying about decisions that aren’t on offer yet anyway.

(This baby comes from the Indonesian jungle and he’s scared of modern appliances in Singapore. He won’t go in the room with the washing machine, but he’s recently gotten brave enough to go look through the door.)

So we might be in Singapore for a short time or maybe a long time. We’re just going to do what I always do. Like John Candy taught us in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, “Like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty river, I just go with the flow.” Three years ago I never thought I’d be married, but here I am now with two kids too. That’s how things happen when you just go with the flow. Not that I thought about it much, but I didn’t think an urban setting would be good for raising kids. I did wonder a few times why people all moved to the suburbs when they had kids. It seemed like it would be easier in the city to me with all its conveniences. Almost all people said you want a yard when you have kids. I think most people want a yard and a car when they have kids. Maybe I would too, but here I am with no car, no yard, and two kids. I don’t feel like they’re disadvantaged. We don’t have a yard, but we have the kiddie pool on the balcony, that tree Queen Elizabeth herself planted up on the hill, the fake waterfall, and a Chinese garden. We don’t have a car to drive anywhere, but we love riding the bike to see these places and the things we see along the way, like otters and escaped iguanas.

Playground
This is a pay as you go playground in the mall. There are a lot of these. We get our money’s worth I think. He seems to like playgrounds better than toys.

What else can I say about Singapore? I’ll tell you I’m writing this from a Starbucks in Surabaya, Indonesia today. I finally got a bit of time off from work and the babies are with their grandparents, the nanny is back in her village (she’s also Javanese), and my wife went to the spa. I’m going to try and get it all into one blog entry since these babies are relentless, especially the older one, so if I don’t finish it now during my week off from work and my afternoon off from family, I might never finish it! It might be too long. I’m not sure who reads it this far or who might find what I’m doing interesting, but I don’t write this to sell anything or recruit for my religion or pyramid scheme. I just write it because I think some people might like to know about places they haven’t been before or someplace they might go someday too. Other people might like to know there’s a country boy out there still living a simple life even in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I’m not happy all the time or sad all the time. I kind of expect a little bit of everything. I started a new job, moved to another country, and my wife had a baby all within a two week period of time about six months ago. I wouldn’t recommend doing all of that stuff in the same year if you can help it, but that’s the hand I got dealt and that’s the hand I played. The one word description of the last six months would be stressful. I’ll pick stressful over boring every single time though. Boring is as bad as it gets for me. I’d rather have some high grade stress!

(Video of a trip to the baby spa back in Indonesia. Singapore isn’t too far from Indonesia, so we go back when we can.)

I think some people are interested in the nanny culture of Singapore. It’s kind of different there than having a nanny in a western country. Everyone has a nanny in Singapore, at least it seems that way. Everyone with kids seems to have a helper. My first thought was where do they keep a nanny living in these little apartments? I think that varies from one family to the next, but a lot of people use their bomb shelter for the nanny. Most flats are built with what looks like a big closet with a heavy steel door and no windows. We use ours for storage, but lots of people use it for the nanny’s room or for a guest room. I don’t think it’s so horrible, but I’m American in my heart, so I don’t think we’re better than the nanny. We just have different jobs. I wanted her to have a room too. That’s another reason I wanted a bigger flat more than a fancier condo. I thought it was important that the nanny gets her own room.

Dogs
At the duck pond in Singapore. He calls them dogs. He thinks everything is a dog. Flamingos stink pretty bad. I think I prefer ducks, but they look cool.

Our nanny has a name, just one name, because that’s how a lot of Indonesians are named, but I won’t write too much about her personally. She seems like a private person. We don’t talk a lot. I don’t even think she works for me. She works for my wife. She comes from Central Java. My wife comes from East Java and both of my kids were born in East Java. The regional language of these provinces is Javanese. So one more person speaking Javanese to the boys in Singapore at home should help them learn it. It’s a very old language and the most commonly used unofficial language in the world. The official language of Indonesia is Bahasa Indonesia. I can understand and speak a bit of Bahasa Indonesia, but not Javanese. I think it’s important that we make an effort for the boys to learn Javanese as well as they can. They’ll probably be the last people to speak it in their mother’s family line, after a thousand years or so. The Javanese nanny helps with that, although it turns out she doesn’t speak so much Javanese as she used to speak since she’s been working outside of Indonesia for about 20 years. Learning Javanese won’t likely affect our boys at all. It’s just cultural enrichment. I think it’s good for them, so I hope they learn it well.

Lullaby Ride
Junior and Senior go for a ride every night at 9 pm in Singapore. It’s like magic and always puts him to sleep. The bike path in Singapore has lights and the temperature in the night is just right.

The pay for a domestic helper in Singapore generally aligns with her place of origin and sometimes education. At the high end, there are Malaysians and Chinese nannies with degrees in early childhood development. They cost a lot. Filipino maids cost more than Indonesian maids because they generally speak very good English. Indonesians are the lowest paid. There’s a tax included each month for the government and a placement fee that goes to the agency that does all the paperwork. Due to some high profile cases of mistreatment and a few cases of nannies falling out of the windows of high rises while they hung the laundry out to dry on bamboo poles, all domestic helpers are licensed and regulated and employers must pay a maid levy (a tax). I think this helps some, surely it’s a better situation overall than it is in some of the nearby countries where domestic help is completely unregulated. I am not sure exactly what we pay, but I think it’s about $1,000 SGD per month, including the taxes and agency fees. The nanny gets $650 (less than $500 USD at the current exchange rate). She works six days per week and by law and contractual agreement, she gets Sunday off like many other nannies and maids in the city. A lot of them still work on Sunday though. I presume there’s some kind of agreement for overtime pay. I think it’s very important to give the woman a day off, just psychologically. It’s just common sense that you don’t want to mistreat the woman who takes care of your kids. She has a sister working in Singapore too, so they meet on Sundays and go to Quran recitations or whatever grandma aged Indonesian ladies do. Sundays are usually full-on, hard days for us. I really can’t do any other work on Sunday. I have to be a dad from 8 am until 8 pm, full-time. It’s my favorite day of the week, even though it’s sometimes the hardest. The best thing to do with babies to make the time go by is keep them entertained. The harder you go with little boys, the faster they go to sleep! So on Sundays we go out and do lots of things. Sunday is always a really fun day. I suppose it’s like a family day for us.

MonkeysAtMacRitchieReservoir
Wild monkeys at MacRitchie Reservoir in Singapore. We’ve seen wild pigs and otters too, but haven’t gotten a good picture yet.

From Monday to Saturday, the nanny goes to bed around 8 pm and wakes up at 5 am. If it gets really bad at night with both babies crying, she’ll get up, but my wife almost exclusively deals with this on her own since she’s breastfeeding. As an aside, the nanny works hard, but my wife works harder. She wants to be the mom and she doesn’t want the boys getting confused about it. I think it works best in this arrangement. The nanny is the helper. Her primary concern is the babies. They always come first, but since my wife mostly manages all of that, she mostly just keeps the house clean and does all the laundry. A lot of nannies do the shopping and cooking too. Some people employ a nanny just to mind their dog. Other families hire them to look after the elderly relatives. Everyone does it differently. It’s not uncommon for families to have a nanny for each child and they sleep in the same room as the child. Most moms seem to work in Singapore, so that’s how they manage it. Anyway, for us, the nanny mostly does the cleaning and other chores.

Nap
Taking a nap at Jurong Eco-Garden under a big fig tree on a Sunday afternoon. I really like this place. Almost no one goes there, so it feels like we just have a big, fancy back yard with a pond and a forest all to ourselves.

We don’t normally take the nanny out with us either. We just give her a break and let her relax at home when we go out. Most people seem to take them along with them when they go out. We go to storytelling at the library near us on Tuesdays and most of the children are accompanied by nannies, not their parents. Our nanny stays home then and most every other time we go out, unless I’m at work and my wife has to take both babies, then she goes along too.

EcoPark
Adik (little brother) at the Eco Park in Jurong on a Sunday. He rides in the bike trailer in a car seat and his big brother rides in the seat on the back of the bike. Their dad still passes everyone even with the full load.

I don’t think my wife ever told the nanny to clean the house. She just does it. She gets up at 5 am and cleans it all, every day. It’s always so clean we never have to say anything. She’s been doing it for 20 years so she knows what to do. I’m really impressed with her discipline of going to bed early and waking up before everyone else and just knocking out all the chores. Then the babies wake up and vomit on the floor and color the walls and poop on the rug and she has to clean it all again tomorrow.

(Adik’s nanny teaching him to walk at home in Singapore)

I guess I have mixed feelings about the nanny situation in Singapore. No doubt about it, the pay is shameful. It’s a lot more than we paid the nannies we had back in Indonesia though, so plenty of people want the job. At least in Indonesia they got to have a life of their own and go home at night. Singapore nannies just work all the time and send their money back home. We couldn’t live in Singapore without a nanny though. My wife would be alone with a 6 month old and a 19 month old and no family or friends to help. I know people do it harder than this, but that stress in addition to moving to another country a week after giving birth seemed too much. I’m really happy with our nanny and I want her to be happy too, so we try to treat her as well as we can. We’ve gone to Indonesia twice in the last six months and brought her with us. We buy her plane ticket and give her some extra money to go home to see her family while we’re here. Seems just like a decent thing to do, but I think it’s an unusually good deal for an Indonesian nanny in Singapore.

Catfishing
Catfishing on Palua Ubin, a small time warp island near Changi Airport in Singapore. This would be a good place to visit on a long layover. It’s like going back into the 1960’s in Singapore. I really like this place, but it’s on the other side of Singapore from where we live.

I’ll write about one more thing and then I’ll wrap this up. Once I add in some pictures it will be pretty long. I haven’t really made many friends in Singapore. I’m not really bothered about that. I think that’s just how it is for a married man with two babies at home. I go to work and I go home. I suppose I’m friends with people I work with to some degree. I really like a few of them, so I’d say they’re friends, but outside of work and my family, I have no social life at all. I’m not sad about it because frankly, I just don’t have the time for it right now. I think it will come back again when my kids get older. I’ve always been the sort of person who talks to other people and I never had trouble meeting people, so I think this is just a temporary condition, but it’s kind of noticeable and I thought maybe I should put some more effort into making friends a few months ago. I resolved that I would not turn down any invitation to go out and do stuff in Singapore if any invitations came my way.

About a week after I made that resolution, sometime around new years since that’s when I come up with these silly ideas, I got into an argument in the comments of a news story. It was pretty stupid. Anyway the guy asked me to meet him down at the train station so he could kick my ass. It occurred to me that I’d made that resolution to meet people and do stuff, so I said sure, I’ll meet you. He called me a c*nt, so I figured he was Australian. He wasn’t Australian, but I wasn’t far off. He’d just finished university in Australia. I told him it sounded good since my little boy had never seen a pu**y before so I wanted to show him what it looks like. Anyway, this dude loves lifting weights and he looks like a handful, but I had this resolution to be more social so we met up anyway. Like I said before, I don’t worry about this stuff in Singapore, nothing happens here, so I didn’t expect this to be any different. Maybe I was lucky, or maybe I was just right because we didn’t fight. We became friends almost immediately. I suppose it’s a little unorthodox, but that’s what happened. We both were admittedly idiots for arguing on the internet, but it’s probably more of a sign that we’ve got similar personalities. We decided to go fishing since we both like fishing. I never told him the day we went was my birthday, but that’s what I did for my 41st birthday. I went fishing off the coast of Singapore on an island called Palau Ubin with a guy who I met because he wanted to fight me.

gym
This outdoor gym is right in front of our HDB flat in Singapore, but I’m ashamed to admit that we very rarely use it. We’re into biking right now. The babies don’t like it when we go exercise alone. This is a pretty nice feature though and many people in the neighborhood do use it.

Pulau Ubin turned out to be really good. It’s not near my little corner of Singapore so I don’t think I would’ve gotten over there without some help. This new friend of mine grew up in Singapore, so he knew where to go. He hadn’t been since he was a kid, but he knew the way. We had to take a ferry across the water to this island that’s protected. I think it’s a national park. There weren’t many cars, just people riding bikes. It looked like an awesome place for bike riding. We found this place where he caught a catfish once when he was a kid and fished there all day. We saw monkeys and some other wildlife and caught a few fish. The tide went in and out and it rained a few times. I got sunburned, stung by two bees, and stung by a catfish, but I thought that was great. Those are all summertime problems and I was born on a snowy day in January back in America, but here I was on my birthday, catfishing near the equator on a tiny island in the tropical heat with a friend I made from starting a fight on the internet. Like John Candy said in Planes, Trains, and automobiles, “I’m like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty river. I just go with the flow.”

MahgribPrayer
We live close to this very nice mosque. Junior doesn’t know how to pray, but he’s trying his best.

Author: Aaron Hamilton

I'm a naturalized Australian who was born and raised in America. I've lived and worked in three US states and four countries over the last 2 decades. I married a Javanese flight attendant in Indonesia a couple of years back and we have two babies.

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