Saturday, 24 September 2011

Bits & Pieces

When I was moving from [smaller midwestern city] to [larger midwestern ci...whatever, it's no secret that it was my beloved CHICAGO], I was lucky enough to have two sets of friends helping me out. The first group helped me finish off the last of the boxing-up and packing-the-truck, while the second set pitched in for the "driving to Chicago and unloading the truck" portion. Fun times.

One friend from the first set at one point pointed at a box, pointed at me, laughed, and said, essentially, "You named a box 'odds & ends' because THAT'S TOTALLY HELPFUL." Not helpful. But descriptive! Right?

That's the entry for today. Nothing BIG and EXCITING is going on at the moment. Just little moments that I want to pack away and be able to pull out in years to come. Because they make me happy, or make me laugh, or make me ponder. And that's all I want out of life. To think, to laugh, and to look around.

* Explorations:
I'm trying to take some time to explore the Singapore museums. I'm not as fond of the Singapore Art Museum (Spoiled!) (though I love the acronym - SAM), but the National Museum? Quite cool! Some pictures below, and I lovedlovedloved the video & music in the entry to the history portion. Will post a link if I can find more info online.

* Meeting People
I'm trying, I really am. I'm lucky to be surrounded by good colleagues who can occasionally be enticed out; and by other expats who may be looking for an opportunity to socialize.
A (blurry!) shot of home

Clark Quay on a night out

* Sporty stuff
I'm still jogging some, going to the gym, biking & heading off to pilates, but...something happened, which I mentioned in an earlier comment. It's...shall we say, unexpected?

I went to an expat gathering a couple of weeks back and met some very snazzy people, one of whom I got along with quite well. After we had talked for a while, she asked me a couple of questions which were...not unexpected or unheard of, but perhaps not ones that I usually link. The first? " long will you be staying here?" The second? "Um...ever play basketball?"

The first question is not uncommon for any expat. How long have you been here, how long will you be here, where are you from, and for whom do you work are the four question that will ALWAYS  come up. We're a nosy bunch, us expats!

The second question is one that I get occasionally. I may have mentioned this? I'm tall. Not so tall that it's the first thing you notice, but tall enough that it generally registers that I'm taller than the average female. I am the quintessential tall American.

But do I play basketball? NO. Emphatically no! Mostly no. Somewhat no. Maybe no. Oh, hell. Would I be willing to give it a shot? Sure.

And so I did.

I am BAD. Awful. Deplorable. I have no rhythm. I don't know the rules. I'm distracted easily. I forget that it's a game. I forget that my name on the court isn't the same as my name off the court because my name? Not that easy for everyone. I got hit in the face with the ball twice and my nose is still swollen. I pant as we run back and forth along the court. I'm still not sure who I'm guarding. I tip the ball in the wrong direction.

I love it. I want to get better. I'm so grateful that everyone is so patient and forgiving. The other women? ROCK. They're talented and kind and funny and interesting and patient (oh, so patient). I'm a little bit in love with the whole thing. We'll see how it goes, but at the moment, at least, I'm in. I'm all in. I can't wait to suck a little less at the next practice.

My active endeavors have generally been solitary. I walk, I bike, I do pilates. If I'm a bit better or a bit worse than before? I certainly notice, but I don't pretend to think that anyone else would.

Here? They will definitely notice if I get worse rather than better. And I definitely want to get better. Mostly for me. But also? Because these are COOL WOMEN who the cool women I knew back in Chicago would love. And I want to be a good representative for the Chicago women. To show that American women can be competitive and sporty and coordinated, too. To not suck and to do myself and my city proud.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Fit-ting in

Bikes at the Boon Lay MRT station
For the two of you reading who don't know me, I should perhaps mention that I don't necessarily look like a terribly active person at first glance. Of all the insecurities I struggle with (including, but not limited to, intelligence, compassion, kindness, and patience), perhaps the most daunting and irritating to me is that which deals with my physical appearance. I'm plain and not-small, and most of the time I can deal with that. Sometimes, though? Eesh.

Today, for example, I manged to convince myself to go to my gym after what had turned out to be a very long (though productive!) day at work. I got there, changed, hit the elliptical and then the stationary bike (yes, better to be on the real bike, but there were clouds! lightning! thunder!) for a total of about 50 minutes. Now, I was working fairly hard. Good resistance, good speed, and the snarky and delightful sounds of my beloved "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!" in the background. A good workout, and I headed back to the shower feeling bouncy and energetic.

And then, oh heavens, the MIRRORS.

See, I was lucky enough to not see my post-workout self all that often in Chicago. My esteemed pilates studio didn't have many mirrors around, it was easy to avoid them at my gym, and I was great at knowing how to avoid looking at myself in my apartment when I knew I looked like crap. Here, however...mirrors all around. I could see my red face, sweaty hair, and just general URGH from all angles.

And I know it's all in the interest of keeping up my fitness. I know that it's a process, and that the gross is a sign that I'm working hard. I know, realistically, that I'm in fairly good shape - I bike, walk, hike, work out, and do pilates whenever I can. My camera is filled with pictures of the Singaporean outdoors because that's where I most like to be, and what I most like to experience. I'm working on planning a trip here later in the year because how cool would that be?

My physical ability was really limited when I was a kid. I joked with my dad the other day that I'm in better shape now - in my 30s - than I was when I was in my teens. It's sad, in a way, that that's true; however, as my dad noted, better to be getting better than getting worse. It's hard to remind myself of that sometimes, though. I see the people I'm surrounded by - fitter, more tone, less self-conscious - and wonder why I keep on trying.

And then I walk back to the office. Or skip the bus in favor of a bike ride. Or catch an early breeze off the canal. Or receive a smile from a fellow cyclist at a difficult intersection. And remember that this is why I do it. However disgusting I may look, however insecure I may feel, I am active. I am trying. And I do love the act of trying.

Friday, 9 September 2011


In the movie American Splendor (which is one of my favorites), there's a scene where Paul-Giamatti-as-Harvey-Pekar wakes up in a cold sweat saying, "I got a job."

I sometimes feel that way. Particularly now, when everything feels a bit unsettled and uncertain, it's a good thing to think. They hired me. Yay! I get a paycheck. I have something to do during the week between the hours of 8 and 5, and sometimes beyond that.

Even better?

I really do love my job. I really do love my field.

I'm still not entirely sure how I managed to stumble my way through working in restaurants, retail, temping, front desk clerking, etc. to wind up in an area where I just fit. My interests, my hobbies, my geekish tendencies all coalesce into a great big ball of, "Right here, yup, this is where you belong." I can, will, have, and do talk about my job and my area for hours. Thankfully, it's an area that friends and family can talk about as well, and have opinions on, and display (at least for my benefit) interest in.

Which is ever-so nice for me.

I went to a lecture this afternoon on a topic in my area that I'm particularly interested in, as it combines sustainability, technology, and common sense. The crowd was good, the speaker excited and passionate, and the setting lovely. I sat, listening and taking notes, and thinking, "I'm such a geek! I want to be more of a geek! I want to learn more about this, and how it works, and how to make it work better, and how it relates to things that we're working on!." And then I went to the post-lecture reception and spoke with others in the field, and in related areas, and the conversations were great, and the people were interesting and funny and engaged and I thought, over and over:

"Lucky. I am so lucky."

And I am.

Monday, 5 September 2011

And a very happy day to you as well!

After my last post, I knew that it was time to start living here as though I'm LIVING here, instead of just feeling like I'm a long-term visitor. With that in mind, I made mental and logisitic preparations for the weekend, and had a wonderful time.

Saturday. Ah, Saturday. You were a wonderful day.

The day started off cool-ish (cloudy!), so after waking up early I made the (roughly) 2 1/2 mile walk to Holland Village for coffee and breakfast (a coddled egg, toast, and salad - I love that salad comes with breakfast!). A bit of puttering around and reading later, I headed home to get ready to go to...pilates! Yes, I found a studio not (too) far from me, and they had an early Saturday afternoon jumpboard class, so off I scampered. I didn't like the studio quite as much as my old one in Chicago (though, to be fair, I've never been to any studio anywhere that I like as much as Spring), but the people were nice, the space was clean, and the class kicked my butt (and thighs, and abs, and arms). So there's that. I will, I'm sure, be going back.

Class over, I took my stinky self home and was about to jump in the shower when I thought, "Hang on, as long as I'm gross already..."

Meet Callie. Callie is my dear little sage-green Dahon Speed purchased from this place. The people were incredibly nice and helpful, and I'm a little bit in love with the bike. No offense meant to Sars (my beloved Trek hybrid in Chicago), but Callie is more of a Singapore bike. She's smaller, lighter, and has a tighter turning radius. Sars is the perfect bike for Chicago, and I don't know that I'd be as comfortable on Callie there - for one thing, I don't know how Callie would handle the snow! I don't get the speed on Callie that I could get on Sars, but she had me sailing along on my commute this morning and afternoon, and I was so, so happy to be back out on the road with a helmet on my head!

(But back to Saturday...)

So, bike purchased, I rode around for a while, and finally made my way home. Jumped in the shower, changed clothes, and headed out (to the bus - yes, yes, but I wasn't entirely sure where I was going and it was getting late for a first long ride!) to meet up with a Meetup of expats and friends. One of my coworkers met me there, and it was such a great time. Really nice people from all over the place gathered together for a beer and a chat. There may have been dancing. There were definitely fries at around 2AM.

I was oh-so-very sleepy when I went to bed, and so happy when I woke up. A lovely day, and feeling more like myself than I have since, oh, December?


Friday, 2 September 2011

Routines (beans)

I am a lover of routines. I like, yes, to have things occasionally go off the map, but I like to come back to schedules, to planning, to knowing what's coming next. It can make me a bit of a control freak,'s who I am. It's what I do.

It's what's been making me crazy since the move.

My routines have been OFF. All off. No pilates, no biking, no regularly-scheduled phone calls with friends and family, no salad-for-lunch-potato-for-dinner.

No Cooking.

Let me allow that to sink in. NO COOKING.

I have lived here for just over a month now, and not once had I lit the stove. Yes, I'd made salads and cold things, but top-of-the-stove cooking? Nope. None of that had taken place. And there's no oven here. For those of you who know my love of bread making, vegetable roasting, and potato baking? Please say a tiny prayer over my broken heart. It's just not something that's common here.

Tonight after work I walked to Holland Village for a cup of tea and a bit of reading (side note: I'm ashamed to admit this, but I just finished my first ever full-length Hemingway (A Farewell to Arms) - loved it). I sat in The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf for a couple of hours, reading the last of the novel, savoring the decaf iced tea, and thinking about things I need to do. Find a pilates studio. Get a bike. Revise some dissertation chapters. Update my CV.


I found myself thinking about the book Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone, which my friend laflaneuse gave me a while back. I thought of the essays in the book, and what I've cooked alone for myself over the years.

I thought of black beans.

And so I walked to the grocery store. Bought a can of black beans, an onion, garlic, a red pepper (capsicum), tomatoes, cumin. Brought them home on the bus. Chopped up the vegetables with a knife that doesn't deserve the name. Opened up the beans. Made myself a good meal, topped off with some Greek yogurt and Chipotle Tabasco (made in Louisiana and purchased in Chicago).

Gave thanks for the creation of new routines in a new place.

And ate.