Friday, August 29, 2008

Trying not to get fired

I am not going to write the post that has been brewing in my head for the past few days for fear of being "Dooced".

You see, there's this crazy lady with a very good blog named Heather B. Armstrong who learned a very hard lesson a few years back. If you blog about work in a critical way, it can cost you your job. Honestly, it makes good sense. If you're dumb enough to air private company laundry in a public forum, you do deserve to get fired.

As I have nothing else I'm able to say, I'll give a short update about what's been going on in the Tremblay household:
  • I fixed the toilet.
  • The air conditioner was dripping water all over the place and then it just stopped.
  • The cell phone signal in my office is horrible.
  • Melissa is shaping up to be a great Tiger Cubs den mother.
  • Jack and I are going to work on his first Tiger Cubs award this weekend (swimming).
  • We're going out for dinner tonight, but we haven't decided where yet.
  • "My name is Earl" is hilarious.
  • Melissa and I watched Barak Obama's speech. That guy could sell ice to Eskimos.
  • My parents are moving to Andros island as soon as their employment visas come through.
  • It's rained every day for three weeks.
  • It's not the rainy season yet.
  • Jack has been to the school nurse 4 times in a week and a half.
  • I'm better at Fantastic Contraption than Kobs and Berto.
  • The running backs on my fantasy football team are really old.
  • My cousin Nathan and his wife Sue are having twins!
  • I can't wait for football season to start.
  • Jack and I are going to see the new Star Wars animated movie this weekend.
  • Uncle Mike needs to find a new job.
  • I've been listening to a lot of "Guster" on the iPod recently.
  • Still haven't sold the damn house in Texas.
  • Thank God it's Friday.
That's all for now.

Monday, August 25, 2008

To sit or to squat

Be warned. If you're not interested in reading a potty story, leave now. If you're like most of my friends and consider toilet humor to be the apex of modern culture, keep reading.

Melissa, Jack and I were walking through a mall on Saturday during our trip to check out Chinatown (that's for another post) when Jack announces he needs to use the potty. Being the amazing dad that I am, I dutifully hold his hand and start walking toward a dark back corner of the mall that the blue restroom signs pointed me toward.

He and I walk through a pretty busy hallway that leads toward the loading dock, past some guy with 6 teeth sitting at a small desk, and finally into a busy restroom. I point to the child height urinal and tell Jack to get started.

"No Daddy, I need to poop."

"Ok, but all the (4) stalls are full. Let's wait for one to open."

After a minute, the stall on the far right opens up and we start to walk in. Here's what we see.

Damn it! What the hell am I supposed to do with this thing?!? My kid's got his hand on his ass trying to hold the poop in and I'm staring at what might as well be a hole in the dirt floor of a log cabin in 1765. I don't get it. I'm pretty good about adapting to cultural differences, but the Asian style toilet is where I draw the line. I just don't get it. Why would I want to squat like I'm over a hole in the ground with my butt hanging in the air like I'm Godzilla bombing Tokyo? And what do you do with your pants?!? If they're around your ankles, aren't you going to crap right into them? Do you pull them forward? Just take them off? I need answers!

"Uh-oh Daddy," says Jack.

"Darn, lets wait for another one," I say.

Another full minute or two go by and another stall opens. This one is a regular American style commode but of course, another problem. There's no seat. Just porcelain.

"Can you wait for another to open, Jack?"

"I think so," he says.

Finally a third one opens, but again, no seat, just porcelain.

"It's ok Daddy. I can do it," says Jack. What a (pooper) trooper.

So the little guy heads in there and I guess he just hung his little cheeks over the edge of the bowl. I was standing outside of the stall just waiting to hear a splash. That would have been all I needed. My son's little buns stuck in a commode with the stall door locked and me trying to break the door down to yank him out. Remember, through all of this, dozens of people are coming and going wondering why the tall Ang Mo is standing around in the bathroom.

Of course, the saga isn't nearly over.

"Daddy....there's no toilet paper."


Take a deep breath Tremblay. Don't lose it now. If you just punch a random guy in the face in a Singaporean bathroom, it might make you feel better, but it won't help the situation.

"Ok buddy. Give me a minute for another stall to open and I'll get you some."

"Ok Daddy."

It took a good three minutes for another stall to open up. Trust me, that's a long time when your kid is waiting to wipe the poop off his butt. Of course, there was no paper in that one either.

Not only was there no paper, there was no dispenser! What the hell are these people using to wipe themselves?!? Are they bringing paper from home? I've seen three different people come out of the toilet after being in there for 5 minutes. Is there some secret toilet paper society in Singapore I don't know about?

"Jack, stay put. Don't open the door until I come back."

"Ok Daddy."

I've now left my 6 year old son alone in a public bathroom while I go on a toilet paper hunt. I may not be the worst dad ever, but I'm in the hunt for the title.

Now, remember that desk I walked past on the way toward the bathroom? What I didn't notice was the small sign on the front. It looked like someone had taken the top of a shoe box and scrawled on it, "Toilet, 10 cents."

The guy with six teeth had a little pile of dimes and a very bored expression on his face. My guess is that this guy didn't even work for the mall. He could have easily just walked in there, sat down and put up a sign. This is Singapore. If there's a sign, you must comply. (Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.)

The only thing that made me give this guy a second look was the three industrial size rolls of TP on the floor behind him. I walked up to who was now the most influential person in my life and dropped a dime on his desk.

"Toilet paper?" I asked. He just grunted at me and pointed at the wall near the door to the bathroom.

There, hanging about 5 feet off the floor was a big roll of beautiful toilet paper. It's "community" toilet paper, I guess. Why on earth you would put the TP there I have no idea, but at that point I didn't care.

I jogged over and pulled off a few feet looking like a magician pulling out that big long handkerchief that just keeps coming and coming out of his sleeve. The fact that I've been reduced to announcing to half the mall that there will be butt wiping in my future eludes me for the moment. I'm just too elated at the thought of finally being done with the bathroom from hell.

Compared to the rest of the experience, things end smoothly. Jack wipes up, washes his hands, and he and I head back to mommy who's been waiting near the stationary store the entire time.

"What took you guys so long?"

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mosquito Watch

All over Singapore, you see signs on buses, billboards, and posters about how you can prevent the spread of Dengue fever. Dengue fever is a virus transmitted by a specific type of mosquito that feeds during the day. It's sometimes called the "bone-break fever" because of the immense headaches and joint pain associated with infection. The infection lasts 6-7 days and can be fatal to the weak and the young. The main means of prevention is through control of the mosquito population.

I've always thought that the constant ad campaign was just a symptom to the Singaporean nanny state mentality. It seems once again, Matt is an idiot.

Last night we gave one of our neighbors a ride home from "SAS back to school nite" and she mentioned that she was grateful for the ride because she was scared about having to walk home. This being one of the most affluent neighborhoods in all of northern Singapore, I told her I was surprised that she didn't feel safe.

"The mosquitoes," she said. "With so much Dengue recently, I hate to walk around outside at dusk."

When I asked, she went on to say that she'd heard about 4 cases in our part of Singapore recently. One was an employee at SAS.

I looked online today to see what I could learn. From the news reports, we're in the middle of a Dengue outbreak. The number of outbreaks this year are 60% higher than they were during the same period last year.

In 2007 there were 8,826 infection and 20 deaths. This is out of a population of a bit over 4 million.

I've now learned that having standing water on your property, such as rainwater in empty flower pots or old tires, is grounds for a fine of up to S$200. Ads for insecticide are all over the place and it's recommended by the government that you use it in the dark corners of your home where the mosquitoes may be hiding.

I'm trying to put all of this into perspective. What can I compare this to in Houston? It's a city of about the same size. How may people die of snake bites every year in Houston? I dunno. I just know that I've been reminded once again that no matter how westernized this city is, it's still just a small concrete village in the middle of a large tropical wilderness. Welcome to the jungle.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Busy Week

It was a busy week in Singapore. We had our first week of school at the Singapore American School. Wednesday morning, Jack woke up, put on his uniform, ate breakfast and began the first of his many walks to school.

From what Jack told us, his first day was pretty tough. The worst part seems to have been when it was time for afternoon snack, and he realized that he ate it for lunch. On top of that, his band-aid fell off of his finger and his teacher didn't stop class to attend to this dire emergency.

Day two was much better. This is primarily due to the fact that it was a classmate's birthday and everyone got cupcakes.

So far we've been pretty happy with his teacher.

Her name is Ms. Michelle and she's been at SAS for 4 years. Hopefully things will continue to go well and we'll have a happy year.

On top of school, we've been working on getting rid of the training wheels on Jack's bike. The toughest part is getting to spend enough time practicing. It's so damn hot out, we're both ready to jump into the pool after 10 minutes.

We're getting better every time we practice, but we do stumble now and then.

In other news, the volunteer life has begun for Melissa. She is now the den leader for Tiger Cub Den 2. She's already started cutting shapes to make the den flag and is working on finding a room at the school to have the monthly den meeting. Jack's new cub scout uniform is in the mail.

All in all, we're starting to settle in and it's beginning to feel less like a novelty to be here. I'm sure there will be more stories next week.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hello Miss Morton

Just a short post.

We got a call from Jack's new teacher last night. Her name is Miss Morton and we'll get to meet her and see her room at open house on Saturday, and again at our private teacher introduction meeting on Tuesday. We're all looking forward to it.

Here's a link to her class webpage from last year.
Here's a link to the primary school website.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sox Fans and Swimming Pools


On Tuesday morning, the Tremblay family went to "new student orientation" at the Singapore American School. They spread it out over a few days and also break the meetings up by grade, so in our group there were about 7 or 8 families with 1st graders who are starting this year.

During the small talk that is inevitable before one of these things, I heard someone on the other side of the room use the word. "Scituate." Situate is a town on the south shore of Massachusetts, about 30 miles from where I grew up. I figured that the number of towns in the world named Scituate was pretty small, so I thought it would be a safe bet to assume that this family was from Massachusetts.

Toward the end of the tour I approached the dad of the family, a guy who was about my age, and asked if he was from Massachusetts too.

Now tell me...if you just happened to be in Singapore, and someone asked if you grew up 30 miles apart from each other on the opposite side of the world, wouldn't you at least pretend to have a small conversation with the guy? No? OK. Apparently, your other option is to mumble something about the Sox being down by a run in the 4th inning and then walk off to talk to your wife.

Our luck making new friends here hasn't been horrible, but it hasn't been great either. I was kind of hoping that when school started, we'd have access to a lot more people who are like us; new American transplants looking to make friends. Hopefully, I just met a standard "Masshole" and we'll have better luck in the future.


When Jack went to SAS a few weeks ago for a summer day camp, one of the things he complained about was the water in the pool. He said it tasted so bad that he didn't want to swim in it. Apparently, he disliked it so much that he spent the entire swim time sitting on the edge of the pool. When I pressed him on the issue, he said that the pool was filled with seawater.

I've spent the last few weeks doing two things. Firstly, convincing him that no matter how bad it tastes, he's got to get in for swimming lessons; it's part of the curriculum at school. Second, trying to convince him that it's not seawater. There must have just been a lot of chlorine in the pool that day.

Once again, we come to an occasion where we clearly prove that Matt is an idiot. It is seawater. The 6 year old was right, I was wrong. It seems they don't want the children to be exposed to normal pool chemicals on a regular basis, so they fill the pool with seawater.

No wonder tuition is so high.