Monday, June 30, 2008

Suzie 2

My brother Joe and his wife Liza have two dogs; Lucas and Suzie. They're really good pet owners. They treat their dogs way better than I treated mine (before I pawned them off to my wonderful mother-in-law who was nice enough to take them when we moved).

I was kind of happy that after I arrived in Singapore, I was living animal free for the first time in about 11 years. Not anymore.

There was no full frontal assault. Jack and Melissa started on me slowly. They played the guilt card, they smiled, they frowned. Our airfreight arrived and we'd hardly packed any more toys in it. Jack was depressed. He missed his dogs, he had no toys, yada yada...we got a gerbil.

Of course, you don't just buy a buy a two story gerbil house, a water bottle, bedding, food, blah blah. BLAM! $100 gone.

It was an interesting purchase as well. While we've seen a lot of pet supply stores, we've haven't seen any that sell actual pets. Jack and Melissa walked into one of the stores on Saturday afternoon and Jack decided to take matters into his own hands. He was very mature about it. He walked up to the counter himself and asked the clerk, "Excuse me, where could I buy a gerbil around here?"

The lady behind the counter told him to follow her to the other side of the counter and pulled out a box of young gerbils from behind the counter. We were told that the gerbil would be $25 but they could only accept cash. We were able to pay with plastic for everything else, so I'm thinking we just bought a black market rodent. Hopefully the Singaporean police don't read this blog. I'd hate for Jack to get caned.

We were told it's a girl gerbil, so Melissa and Jack decided on Suzie for a name.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another food post

Why is it that the food that looks the funkiest always tastes the best?

This thing is called a rambutan. It's just a bit smaller than a golf ball. One of the ladies in my office has been telling me to try it since I got here. In this part of the world, it's a very common fruit. It's closely related to the longan and the leechee, which I know you're all quite familiar with (right?).

The red hairy skin is pretty tough, but you can slice through it with a knife pretty easily. Once you split it open, the white flesh of the fruit pops right out. The texture is like the inside of a grape, but a bit firmer. It's delicious and super sweet. The nut inside isn't edible, so you just chew the meat off and then spit out the seed. Tasty.

I've tried to get Melissa and Jack to try it, but they won't even consider it. I just don't understand not even trying something to see if you like it. I was able to talk Jack into trying a bite of papaya last night though. He likes cantaloupe, so I thought I might have a chance. No dice. He did try a normal sized bite, but he pretty much made a sourpuss face and said he didn't like it. We'll just keep trying I guess.

Additional Note: We went to Pizza Hut for dinner last night. Jack is much happier now.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Animal, Mineral or Vegetable?

I took a few of the new folks in the office out for lunch today. We went to one of the local hawker centers (huge open air food court) and we each got different things.

I was in the mood to be adventurous, so I tried a new stall today that offered what looked like different Malay dishes. They give you a plate with a banana leaf on it and a big pile of rice on top of that. Then you just point to whichever of about a dozen different things that you'd like to have and they put it on the plate.

First, I chose a chicken leg that was braised in a red chili sauce, then some stewed greens that were very good. I wanted another vegetable, so lastly I pointed at what looked like roasted eggplant with a dark sauce.

The eggplant here is different from the US. It's the small Asian version. It's commonly roasted or grilled and flavored with a sweet black sauce. It's really good. Not as bitter as the big ones inthe US.

I got to my table and took a big bite. Turns out it wasn't eggplant. It was some kind of eel jerky. Not horrible, but not good either.

I've been pretty good about trying new things and I can usually make a pretty good guess about what something will taste like just by looking at it. This has been my biggest miss so far. A horrible miss. If I can't even tell if I'm about to eat an animal or vegetable, how am I supposed to shepherd Melissa and Jack (two notoriously picky eaters) through this melting pot culture of different foods. Imagine if I'd talked Jack into eating something and it turns out to be eel jerky? The kid would never eat anything but peanut butter ever again.

Monday, June 23, 2008

It smells like sheep in here

We've now been in Singapore as a family for almost 4 days. We've got all of our luggage unpacked and are anxiously waiting for our airfreight shipment to arrive this week. Melissa is feeling much better. She was still a bit uncomfortable on Friday and Saturday, but she was off of the Vicodin. By Sunday, she felt well enough to adventure out a bit, so we went to the local mall and then hopped onto the subway and went downtown to Orchard Road for a couple of hours.

Melissa's general impression so far is that it's hot. Outside is too hot, the mall is too hot, the grocery store is too get the idea. Most every building is air conditioned, just not to the chilly temperature it is in Houston.

Jack's impressions are always more blunt and interesting. As we were walking into the subway after visiting Orchard Road, Jack puts his hand up to cover his nose and says, "It smells like sheep in here."

I have to give him credit for being specific. And correct. It did kinda smell like sheep. How he came up with that reference, I'll never know. I can't remember him having much access to large groups of sheep over the six years of his short life.

For now, we're just settling in. Melissa is trying to figure out what types of things are available at the stores and what aren't. I'm sure it will be a bit of a struggle keeping Jack fed with things that are both healthy and "not yucky." We've already been through three brands of apple juice, but we've found a winner. The kid is constantly eating. Buy stock in peanut butter. Whoever imports Chunky Style JIF into Singapore is about to make a lot of money.

One more story...

Last night we got home and then went for a swim in the pool. Since we were a bit worn out from the long day and hadn't made any plans for dinner, I just threw a frozen pizza into the oven for us to eat. After cooking, it didn't look anything like the pretty picture on the box, but I wolfed down a piece of the cardboard pizza and gave one to Melissa while we let two pieces cool for Jack.

Melissa brought his pizza to him in his room about 5 minutes later (he was watching a movie in his pajamas) and left him to eat while she worked on some email. About 30 seconds later I hear Jack crying his eyes out in his room. I walk in there to see huge tears rolling down his face. He's crying so hard, I can barely understand what he's saying. "My favorite dinner is ruined forever! I'll never have pizza for years!" Apparently, he thought that this crappy frozen cardboard pizza was what all pizza was like in Singapore. He was so upset because he thought he'd never have good pizza again. Poor kid.

We're going to order Pizza Hut later this week.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Made it in one piece

OK folks. We're here. We had an uncomfortable few hours before we landed in Moscow, but otherwise, the flight went as well as can be expected. Melissa was a trooper and Jack did damn well for a 6 year old on a 24 hour flight.

We all slept for a good portion of the first leg of the trip to Moscow. Melissa's pain came back for about the last 2 hours of the flight, but once she was able to get up and around in the Moscow airport, she started feeling better.

The second leg to Singapore felt like it took forever, but that's just because we didn't sleep. Melissa felt a lot better for that part of the trip. We're now in our apartment and Melissa and Jack are sound asleep. I need to wake up early for work tomorrow, so I'm trying to stay up for another hour or two.

More detailed update tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On Our Way

Just a quick post to say that we're about to board our flight to Singapore. Melissa is feeling a better. Not nearly 100%, but well enough to travel with the help of Mr. Vicodin.

I'll post again when we get there.

Wish us luck.

BTW...the Celtics are World Champions.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I should have expected problems. Who schedules flying their family to their new home on the other side of the world for Friday the 13th? As far as problems go, we were blessed with a monster.

Melissa started feeling pain in her lower back on Thursday morning. We went in to the ER and she was diagnosed with kidney stones. After 6 hours, we were basically told, "They're small ones. Here's some Vicoden. Drink a lot of water any you'll pass them eventually."

We left the ER and for the rest of the afternoon, she was uncomfortable, but not in too much pain. Then around midnight, the pain came back with a vengeance. She suffered through the night with what I understand to be pain equivalent to labor pain. (Although I fortunately have never experienced either.) Apparently, a stone had lodged itself in the duct between her left kidney and her bladder and was blocking all flow. The Urologist said this can make a stone the size of half a grain of rice feel like a knife in your back. The kidney keeps producing urine, but there's no place for it to go. Ouch.

We were fortunate enough to get a good Urologist to help us without any appointment. He performed three different procedures that I can't pronounce (let alone spell) that crushed, dislodged and washed away the stones that were bothering her. Melissa is now sleeping comfortably at the hospital. Jack and I are at a hotel and we'll be able to pick her up in the morning. The doctor says she'll be as good as new in a day or so.

As you may have guessed, we didn't make it to our flight to Singapore this afternoon. I've talked to the travel agent in Singapore already, and we've got a new flight scheduled for Tuesday night. That will go from Houston to Moscow to Singapore and get is in on Thursday at noon.

Jack and I are fine (but he's dealing with the stress better than I am) and are looking forward to seeing a happy, healthy Melissa tomorrow.

In other news, our house in Tomball is now empty and has been professionally cleaned. The packers finished up on Wednesday afternoon and a cleaning crew went through it today. It looks better than it has in years. I expect it will be on the market at some point next week.

I hope your week has been less stressful than ours.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

8 years = 3 days

Well, it's done. The guys from Crown Relocation came to our home and now there's nothing in it. It took us 8 years to fill that house full of junk. In three short days, they took our home and turned it back into a house. It's funny how the things you collect, junk mostly, can be more than just junk. They're memories. Places you've been, people you've met... good times.

I'm always giving Melissa a hard time about about being a pack rat. She has a hard time throwing anything away. I'm just the opposite. If we haven't used it in a year, it's garbage, it's just cluttering our life. I'm guessing that (as usual) the answer is somewhere in the middle.

My new friend Flauto (one of the packers), pointed out that the gaudy ceramic Christmas tree that he was packing in our garage had a bunch of cracks in the bottom of it. I barely flinched. I told him it was fine, those cracks had been there for years. But inside, I was remembering an entire weekend almost 8 years ago.

Melissa already had one gaudy ceramic Christmas tree from her mother and her Grandmother had just sent her a second one. I was being my usual grumpy self and complaining about having two of the same thing taking up space in our house. Melissa wouldn't hear it. It was from her Grandmother, so it was important and we were keeping it.

I can't remember how it happened (I really don't think it was my fault), but the ceramic tree fell off of the table and broke into many, many pieces not long after me saying we didn't need it in the house. Melissa was really upset. Even emotionless Matt could tell that she wasn't just upset that her present was broken, she was upset that a part of her Grandma had been taken away.

Melissa then went out to go to work, so I did too. It's amazing what you can do with eight uninterrupted hours and a tube of super glue. It was the ultimate jigsaw puzzle. I finished just before she got home that night. It doesn't look perfect, but you can only see the cracks if you look.

I'm glad we still have that gaudy ceramic Christmas tree.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Well folks, it's been a week of fun. I was in training at the ABS Houston office all week. I had intended to spend my nights at home packing and doing general clean up. Unfortunately, 13 hours of jet lag kind of put a damper on the night time activities.

After being back for about a week, I'm finally functional after 7pm. Melissa and I have spent most of Saturday and today finishing cleaning up so that thinks are ready for the packers tomorrow. Not much else exciting to tell you about. I'll post again later this week after week meet the packers.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The eagle has landed

I'm currently typing this at 7:30am in the Houston Willowbrook Starbucks. For some unknown reason, the internet isn't working in my house and I had to send some email that I'd worked on on the plane.

The flight was as good as you can expect from 24 hours in coach. If you ever get the chance to fly Singapore Airlines, take it. Great service. Just don't get the Asian chicken with Chinese style noodles. Especially after eating fresh handmade noodles in Asia for two months.