Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

I'm Singaporean. Born and bred.

Although I've lived for almost 9 years overseas, I've never once considered exchanging my passport for a European one.

I can't describe what it means for me to be Singaporean.

Ask any overseas Singaporean and they'd probably tell you it's the Singlish or the local food that you miss no matter how long you've lived abroad.

It didn't matter if you're Chinese, Malay or Indian. You'd inherently feel a sense of patriotism of being Singaporean. Singapore is a multi-cultural, multilingual and multi-religious society so intrically-woven together that every person, regardless of race or heritage is proud to be a Singaporean.

I've always felt proud of being Singaporean.

It's safe, the food is the BEST in the world, everything is efficient and it was home to me for the first 23 years of my life.

Once, I had to renew my Singaporean passport in Germany and seriously, it was as easy as an online application and voilĂ ! I got it within a couple of weeks! I was mega impressed!

I enjoy hassle-free visa-free travel to so many countries in the world. The last time I went to Bali with my family, everybody had to pay a visa-upon-arrival fee of about US$30 per person, while I could happily go through for free.

When I first relocated to Germany, I could conveniently convert my Singaporean driver's licence for the German one because Singapore fell under the list of "exception" countries that Germany recognized had high enough standards of driving requirements, such that I didn't have to fork out another 1,000€ to re-do my driver's licence here.

These are real conveniences of being Singaporean. 

When I got the news that LKY died, I felt so upset.

It felt like my own grandfather had passed away.

I didn't know LKY as a person, but without him, the Singapore I know wouldn't be in existence today.

I've been reading all the articles and videos of LKY that have inundated my FB the past 2 days. And each read only made me feel so deeply appreciative, grateful and thankful for all this man has done.

He was truly a gift to Singapore.

One thing that struck me was that when LKY became PM of Singapore, he had to take care of 2 million Singaporeans - create jobs for them, housing, schools, root out corruption, ensure the security of the country....

2 million! That's 2,000,000 people!

My hubby is boss to a medium-sized company with 25 employees and I know the type of issues and level of decision-making he has to deal with on a regular basis.

I have a family with 2 kids. And taking care of these 2 kids is enough to tire me out at the end of everyday! 

LKY took it upon himself to take care of the welfare of 2,000,000 citizens!

One only does that when one truly has a heart and a vision for this people. He literally lived and breathed Singapore.

Due to the government's policies of meritocracy, Singapore has one of the most rigorous education systems in the world.

I say this from experience. I had my first exams in English, Maths and Chinese when I completed kindergarten. Can you imagine my pleasant surprise when I found that in Germany, children do not have any tests / exams in kindergarten?

One is not required to know how to read / write properly before grade 1. I think you only need to know how to write your name?

Sammy, in comparison to his Singaporean friends, is most definitely trailing behind when it comes to academics even at this age!

I graduated from university almost 10 years ago (ah-hm) but I still recall having nightmares of Chinese exams years after I graduated! That's how terrified I was of exams, especially Chinese exams!!!

I do appreciate the fact that children are allowed to have more of a childhood in a laid-back environment in Germany. And Germany's economy is still prospering, (despite) its lack of a rigorous early education environment.

My point is, growing up in Singapore, I know that the government's policies may not have been the easiest for everybody. For myself, my entire childhood was made up of studying, exams and more exams.

BUT at the end of the day, this education system brought forth a lot of fruit for the economy and produced a people who are known worldwide for their efficiency and high standards of work ethics.

I was whatsapping a fellow Singaporean of mine and we both felt that, when LKY was around, there was this sense that Singapore would do just fine.

Economic crisis. That old man knew what to do to turn Singapore around.

Terrorism. SARS. Whatever you name, it felt that as long as LKY was around, Singapore was in safe hands.

I'm so thankful that LKY stayed on in cabinet even after he stepped down as Prime Minister. He was in cabinet for 52 years (!!!) and was the longest-serving PM in the world when he finally stepped down in 2011.

He could have easily chosen the easy path of retirement but instead he stayed on to mentor the next generation of leaders.

I realize that my opinions of him might not be shared by every person. To each his own. 

LKY's works speak for itself.

He may not have been perfect but nobody is. (Except Jesus. And even he had enemies who wanted him dead). 

To me, LKY was the best gift that Singapore could ever have.

Lee Kuan Yew truly is Singapore.

-- A truly grateful Singaporean

#remembering LKY

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Singapore 2015 - Botanical Gardens

While I'm still on the topic of what I did in Singapore, I want to mention that Botanical Gardens is not just superb for Jacob Ballas.

The rest of the gardens, which span 74 hectare, is a haven for kids because one can play ball, feed fish and do all sorts of outdoor activities for free! In a very well-kept garden.

Sam is born only a couple of months apart from some of his friends from church in Singapore. Naturally, each time we're back, we had to make it a point to meet up and catch up!

So, with 5 kids and 3 Moms, we managed to go on an epic playdate! To botanics no less.

It was so fun! And so chaotic and stressful at the same time!

But fun nevertheless! And memorable!

To give you a glimpse of how chaotic it can be go out with 5 kids, one of the kids even vomitted on the cab ride on the way to the gardens!

I think she had some motion sickness cos she wasn't sick otherwise.

But you can imagine what it was like for 2 moms to get out of the cab and try desperately to clean up all that puke, change her and clean up the cab a bit!

That was thankfully the only unexpected event of the day.

The kids had a whale of a time playing ball, roaming the gardens and just do things that kids do!

We ended the day at a very kids-friendly restaurant called "Food for thought". It's on the opposite end of Botanical Gardens from Jacob Ballas. So do not make the mistake of thinking that you can go to Jacob Ballas and walk to the restaurant. It'd take you 1.5 hours (I think).

This restaurant is pretty much the only restaurant in Botanics and it comes well-equipped with children utensils, kids' menu and even has a small playground on the outside where the kids can play while the Mummies eat.

I ordered a pasta dish - which left much to be desired, but I heard that their burgers are pretty good but they were already sold out by the time we had dinner there.

Would highly-recommend this restaurant to end off playdates at the garden!

This is more of a photo blog entry because I simply had to share these shots with you.

Looking at them makes me sigh with contentment and happiness. We are blessed with such great friends - both Mummy and kiddo friends! And even though we live halfway across the world from each other, we'll still be able to cheer each other on in our journey of motherhood together! 

All excited just before embarking on their little outing

We were feeding the ducks!

Swans and the black mass which were actually catfish


 All the birds tried to snatch some of the breadcrumbs! The kids got quite afraid of them!

 Gabe trying his hand (or should I say "foot")at football with his first female fan

He was genuinely interested in the name of the flower!

My friend, V told her son, "You gotta run for the ball! Sam is German, he's not gonna give you face!" LOL!

Love how Sam crossed his arms like a big boy!

Sam and S. born a few months apart

Gabe started crying cos he didn't want to have his photo taken!

I think the Mummies looked forward to dinner more than the kids! No photos of food cos we were famished!

Everyone busy calling for a cab home!

Food for Thought

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Singapore 2015 - Things we did with 2 toddlers under 4

So here we are. Back from our epic 6-week holiday in Singapore and Bali.

It has been so AMAZING!

This was the longest trip I spent in Singapore since I got married and moved to Germany in 2006! 

Now that I'm back to the daily rut of washing laundry, preparing meals, cleaning up after meals, fetching Sam from preschool (the hub brings him), spending 24/7 with my little pet Gabriel, I figured that I should revive my blog! 

I guess this trip to Singapore was long enough to make me feel homesick again! 

Don’t get me wrong. I always feel homesick whenever I leave Singapore but after having lived in Germany for the past 9 years, Singapore has become more of my second home / holiday destination. The fact that I’ve never stayed there long enough for me to really remember what it was like to live there and not just have a holiday, made it somewhat easier for me to leave again. 

This time though, I had my hubby with me for 4 weeks and my 2 boys with me for the entire 6 weeks. It was Gabriel’s maiden trip and Sammy’s second Chinese New Year. There's something so heartwarming to watch your own kids share in things from your childhood! I wish they would be exposed to the Singaporean culture as much as they are to the German one. 

Foodwise, Gabriel is more adventurous and would gobble up his char siew pau (pork bun) and sliced fish soup. Sammy would usually be quite skeptical about “unfamiliar” food and would only chew his food hesitantly after seeing his brother take his first bite. 

My boys in their crew cuts savoring their fresh mango juice

We found an old-school shop that sold biscuits from my childhood!

Both kids took very well to the weather and other than a mild case of diarrhoea towards the end of the trip, none of us fell sick during the entire 6 weeks! Praise God!

We really spent our time in Singapore relaxing, swimming (lots!), hanging around in malls and meeting up with friends and family over food, food and more food!

Love Bak Chok Mee!

We didn't want to burn a hole in our pockets since we had just moved house and still have to be cautious with our spending (ah-hem), so we opted for cheaper or better still, FREE things to do!

1. Sentosa

Sentosa has become so easily-accessible by train from Vivocity so we brought the kids there about 3-4 times! Sammy lurved the Luge, while Gabriel had a love-hate relationship with it! I had to navigate the slopes slowly with him otherwise he would scream his lungs out! The view from the lift up the slopes was awesome though!

We would leave home by late morning, have lunch at Vivocity (much cheaper than in Sentosa), take the train to "Beach station" and just hang out at the beach and go to the Luge.

We didn't bother much with Universal Studios or the aquarium, since we went to the latter during our previous trip and our kids are still too young to meet the minimum height requirement for most of the rides at Universal Studios.

After the Luge rides, we would have some bubble tea (they have Gong Cha there) and Old Chang Kee. Oh yeah! Gabriel loved the "bubbles" from bubble tea and both kids loved anything deep-fried from OCK. Who wouldn't?

On the ride up the slopes

Helmets make us all look DOH!

The boys squirming over their helmets

Sam rocking his helmet

The beach at Sentosa actually looks pretty nice!
Sand gorgeous sand
Recognize that OCK stick?? Yum!

2. Shopping malls

The afternoon sun is blazing hot in Singapore so the next best thing to do is to take shelter in the malls.

I made the mistake once of bringing the kids to an open-air playground at noon! I guess those years of living abroad blurred my memory of how hot the sun really is! Sammy couldn't even go on the swing because he said the seat was burning his bum! 

Thanks to Dad for the Maclaren double stroller, my boys could nap on the go.

The only problem we had very often is that the boys wouldn't nap simultaneously. Of course one would wake up exactly when the other went down for his nap. Still, one kid awake is only 50% the work of 2 kids right?

Oh, you won't believe how many people asked us if they were twins! I suppose that question should be expected when one uses a double stroller, plus the fact that they do look pretty similar. But we were still quite surprised at how often we would have to answer, "No. They are 2 years apart."

Things in Singapore have gotten sooo mega expensive - more so now that the Euro is so weak! Argh! Hence, we were so thankful that my Dad blessed us with quite a bit of shopping vouchers so we could buy summer clothes for the boys "for free!" Singapore is after all a shopping paradise!

I did spend one long afternoon at Paragon Shopping mall for their indoor playground. The stores on that level are exorbitant - think Armani kids prices. But if you go there to just let your kids run crazy in an enclosed area that's FREE, this is the place for you.

They absolutely love this "Chuggington" train! It's a money-making machine!

 3. Botanical Gardens - Jacob Ballas

Seriously, this garden deserves an award of sorts.

It's THAT good!

I would bring my kids there everyday if I lived in Singapore!

Gorgeous kids-sized waterfall
The kids' play area is one-of-its-kind! There's a waterplay area, sandplay area, waterfall, suspension bridge, treehouse with 2 slides and all sorts of educational spots where one can learn about flora and fauna.

The garden is also enclosed, so if one loses a kid, the kid wouldn't be able to leave the garden without passing through a barricade which is always watched by some botanical garden staff.

And the best part of it? This entire garden is free!!!!

There is even a cafe just outside the garden where one can grab some very reasonably-priced fish and chips. Oh the tables and chairs are even miniature. And the toilets too.

Gosh. I'm missing the garden even as I'm writing about it.

Spot the little monkey running around?

 Taking turns to splash each other

 The story behind this is that I told Sammy that he shouldn't pour water on Gabe because Gabe hates it. So he decided to pour water on himself instead! And he got such a kick out of doing so!

So proud of my little man who insisted on helping his friend buckle up

The walk thru botanics is beautiful too!

4. Couple dates

I think it's an age thing. But as we get older and especially now with 2 kids in tow, we find that we would rather meet up with less people and have more quality time.

Couple time was far and few between but we managed to sneak out for some supper time after the kids fell asleep - which was very rare and very late. No thanks to the fact that we all sleep in the same room and they wouldn't go to bed when we're not there.

We went to Cajun Kings after hearing so much about this place! I first thought it would be down town so I was pleasantly surprised when it was hidden away in a private housing estate! Not far from my Dad's place too!

The food was AMAZING! The cajun prawns, mussels mix is not for the faint-hearted though! So very spicy it is! But very shiok!

Highly-recommended to go for a finger-licking good time with friends!

One rare couple shot.
At Cajun Kings - We had such superb cajun shrimps, corns and mussels!

15-1 Jalan Riang
Singapore 358987

We did quite a bit of other stuff in Singapore and Bali too. But these were the main things that I felt was worth mentioning in a nutshell.

I hope to be able to sort out my photos and blog about it before the year is over!!!! - Just kidding..... (hopefully!)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Our Christmas this year (2014)

I can't believe that we are a day from the end of the year!

This year has gone by even faster than the previous year!

I'm so thankful to have my little family that I love and an extended family with grandparents and a sister-in-law who care for us!

There are 2 public holidays over Christmas in Germany - the 25th and 26th.

In the past, we would spend all 3 days from 24th to 26th December with the entire Tews clan - ok, there's only 3 other family members, so that's not exactly a "clan" but you get the idea.

For the past 9 Christmases since 2006 (when I relocated to Germany), we always had a guest(s) over for Christmas.

It all started with my Brazilian classmate, a 50-year old guy who stayed on in Germany after the World Cup to learn German and reorientate his life.

I felt that it would be a pity if he had to celebrate Christmas alone in a foreign city so I invited him over to join Christmas with the Tews family - after consulting my in-laws of course.

Since then, we somehow always had a visitor over Christmas. At its peak, we had 5 Singaporeans and 4 Germans at the dinner table before!

This year was the first year since I got married into the family, that we actually had Christmas just by ourselves.

It was so cozy! And small! And very relaxed!

And it was our first Christmas at our new place!! Such a blessing! We love our house! 

On Christmas eve, we went to church in the afternoon for the traditional nativity play. I actually sat on the floor with Gabriel right in front of the stage since that boy insisted on marching all the way to the front! And oh boy, was he enthralled by the play, music and all the sound effects! I hope he understood the Christmas message of Jesus' birth too!

We went home by 6pm and got ready for raclette with the extended family. Dinner was ready by around 7pm and we all feasted on scallops, prawns and a couple of servings of melted raclette cheese on cold cuts of meat.

We also decided to cut down on presents this year.

The kids only got presents from us and little gifts from their grandparents. I made a personalized photo calendar for my family and in return, we got some home-made jam. There was some money which we have put aside.

I'm all about not buying stuff for the sake of having presents because it's such clutter! We don't have unlimited space at home and neither do we want to transform our living space into a mini playhouse. So we have to be pretty selective about what we buy for our kids.

And to be honest, I didn't have a lot of toys growing up. One learns to be creative and find different ways to play with the same toys. Or one makes toys! I remember transforming the bottom of my study table to a little grocery store!

I'm still trying to figure out how I want to be able to bless my kids with presents but not raise them up to think they should be entitled to everything. Such a delicate balance!

We got Sammy a remote-controlled toy car and Gabriel got a Brio engine which he can now use on his Ikea train tracks.

Seriously Gabriel was actually shocked that the train could move by itself! He was actually a bit scared at first! Like "How can this be?! My train is alive!" I wish I took a video of it!

It was such a lovely Christmas. We hope you had a great one too, filled with joy and being surrounded by those you love.

Above all, we thank the Lord for sending Jesus in the form of a baby for the salvation of mankind. He truly is the reason for the season.

 Our first Christmas tree in the new house!

Gabe was so hungry, he was the first to eat!

Raclett - basically you BBQ either on the hot stone / grill or you make your little pizza with toppings and raclette cheese

In his new pullover before he removed it cos the living room got so warm

LOVE his "caught-in-the-act" expression!

The happy guests

Still looked like we had a lot of presents huh!
A couple of the snail mail Christmas cards we received!

Sam went straight for his present from us!

It's so nice that Sam is at an age where he understands the concept of presents
Before he went crazy with his toy car

 Gabe needed a bit of convincing to open his present and when it was opened, he was too skeptical to take it!

We gave my Mom-in-law her first Chinese wok
Doing the obligatory pose next to our tree

That's what babies are for! Endless snuggles! Ahhh... Gabe still has his very delicious baby smell!

He has a thing for necklaces! As a matter of fact, he broke mine (and I had to repair it) that evening!


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