Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Furniture Shopping

One thing many expats located in this part of the work like to do while they are here is to take advantage of the reasonably priced handmade furniture that is available from Indonesia. Indonesia has two things in abundance: trees and cheap labor. This means that you can get some really nice hardwood furniture for about half the price you would pay in the States.

Two weeks ago, we decided it was time to start looking for a new dining room set. We'd already bought a bar/wine rack we've been very happy with a few months ago. We decided we'd look for a new dining table and chairs in a similar rustic style.

On a Saturday afternoon, Melissa, Jack and I went to an area called "Dempsey Hill" where there is a number of small restaurants and furniture stores. We'd wandered through some of the stores before and we liked what we saw, so we had an idea of what we were looking for and where to go. The first few places we looked at were smaller stores and while they had some nice things, they didn't really have many big tables like we wanted. We were hoping to find something that would seat 8 people comfortably.

We kept wandering around an made our way into a third store. As we walked in, we were instantly greeted and assigned our "shadow." We were clearly just wandering around looking at what was available, but of course, he asked if there was anything he could help us find.

"We're just looking, thank you," I said.

While salespeople in Asia tend to be over aggressive and pushy, they usually get the hint if you ask them to give you some space. Not this guy. He couldn't have been less than 5 feet away from us the entire time we were in the store. I understand that we must have looked like a walking pile of cash, but he was so close, he made us feel like he thought we were going to steal something. He just wouldn't back away.

After about 10 minutes of this, we'd had enough. It didn't matter what they were selling, I wasn't buying anything from this guy. We walked out of the store and started down the way a bit toward the next place. While they did have some patio furniture for sale outside, you would think he'd get the hint after we left the store. I turn around and the guy is still tailing us. Unreal. This was no longer just a bad salesman, it was weird. I actually had to stop in my tracks and turn around to face this guy.

"Stop following us now." I was not smiling or friendly.

That seemed to do the trick. He turned on his heel and headed back into his store without a word.

Now that I was in such a good mood, I didn't really feel like shopping anymore, but I wasn't dragging myself out looking for tables again next week. Thankfully,we were very happy with the next store we went to. The first thing the owner said as we walked in was, "everything is half off." Music to my ears. There was a lot of construction in the area and many of the shop owners were packing up to move temporarily during the construction. I expect this may have had something to do with the sale.

At first, we didn't see too many tables, but that was because they were all in the back of the store. There must have been 20 of them all lined up. Round tables, square tables, regular rectangle tables. Plenty to choose from. After a bunch of looking back and forth between a few different tables and chairs, we were able to settle on something Melissa and I both really liked (a rarity).

It has a rough finish and the wood is stained and oiled, but no polyurethane or hard finish. It's 2.1 meters (almost 7 feet) long and it weighs a ton. The chairs are big and really heavy too.

After we'd selected the table and chairs, Melissa of course then realizes that it will be hard to find anything else to match this custom furniture after we've brought it home.

"We should probably look for a buffet to go with it while we're here," she said.

While I was already hot and grumpy and I wasn't expecting to drop even more money, she did have a point. Finding another piece that we could both agree on wasn't as easy. At this point, poor Jack was just sitting on a bench under a fan trying not to complain about the heat so his Dad wouldn't get mad and take away his dessert tonight. Melissa and I must have spent another half an hour wandering around in the store before we were able to settle on the last piece.

I don't even know what the heck to call it, but it matches and we both like it.

After handing over a big pile of money, they agreed to deliver the furniture in a week. It all arrived on time an looking even better than it did in the store. While it was a bit of a frustrating day, we're very happy with how it turned out. Next year, the living room.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Monkey Boy

Last weekend, we took Jack and a few of his friends to Forest Adventure. Forest Adventure is a "ropes course" in Bedok Reservoir Park. If you've never seen one of these before, it's basically a series of rope bridges, catwalks and other obstacles installed up high in the trees. They are mainly used by teachers as team building tools or as a way to build self confidence. If you've got a fear of heights, it's a heck of a challenge. Walking across a 2x4 20 feet in the air can be a difficult task. Apparently, someone forgot to tell Jack it was supposed to be hard.

After strapping into his harness and getting clipped into the safety wire system that goes through the whole children's course, Jack began making his way through the obstacles. Most of the kids took a while to get used to being 20' in the air. On the first bridge that you need to walk across, the kids tended to hold onto the safety wire above their head while walking on the 2x6 boards that made up the "floor". When Jack's turn comes, he barely took his hands out of his pockets, let alone try to grab the safety wire. He wandered across the bridge like he was on his way to 7-11 for a Slurpee.

look ma, no hands

I was pretty impressed. Jack blasted through the course like he was part monkey. Absolutely no fear whatsoever. Here's another picture just so you can put the height of the course into perspective.

Jack and his friends all had a great time. They did their best to encourage each other and cheer each other on. Every once in a while, one of them would get their safety rope stuck and they would all help the others pull it through the sticky spot. Here's a few more pictures.

this was called "the trapeze", the hardest obstacle there

smile for the camera sweetheart

The course ended with everyone's favorite, the "zip line" Just jump off do the platform 20' in the air and slide to the bottom.

They've got an adult course as well. It's 3 times as high and twice as long. Melissa and I want to give it a try, but we're thinking we'll wait until next Christmas when my brother is visiting. Should be fun.