Sunday, August 31, 2014

A little fun before the finish line

The end is in sight!

We are almost finished with the move that feels like it is lasting forever.  Tomorrow at 2pm, Melissa and I will take over the keys for our new (to us) condo in Singapore.  We've been cooped up in this little serviced apartment for about a month now and we're very ready to move into our permanent place.

We've got about a week of overlap between the two places so that we can take all of our deliveries and move in.  Our sea shipment as well as the furniture we are leasing locally arrive on Friday.  I will unfortunately be in Japan on a business trip that day, so Melissa will be handling that full day on her own. (I can see this trip to Japan becoming it's own story a mile away. I've already been asked to come up with a speech for an authentic Shinto ceremony. Stay tuned.)

We still have to set up internet, cable and a few other details, but we're planning to spend next weekend unpacking and getting completely out of the temp apartment.

As a way to have some fun before all of the heavy lifting starts, Melissa, Jack and I spent the day at Universal Studios Singapore today.

The park itself is very nice and in pretty good shape.  The biggest drawbacks are that it is quite small (compared to American parks) and the signature roller coaster has been out of commission for over a year after having a number of technical problems since it's debut.

There are about seven or eight sections to visit, ranging from Shrek to Sci Fi to Egyptian Pyramids.  Each section usually has a signature ride as well as one smaller ride for the kiddos.  For the most part, the rides are pretty short and tame based on US standards.  




We made it around the whole park in about four hours. That includes going on most of the rides.  The lines were pretty much nonexistent though because we elected to go with the annual pass with the "express" (cut the line) option.  The lines today didn't look to bad compared to Disneyworld, but after riding the little, short rides, I'd have been frustrated about waiting for more than 30 minutes to ride most of them.

Without a doubt, the best two rides were "The Mummy" and the "Transformers 3D" rides.  The Mummy was very similar to the Dinosaur ride at Animal Kingdom, but a lot darker and faster.  The Transformers ride was similar to the Star Wars ride at Disney Studios (ex. MGM Studios) but the car you were in drove around from screen to screen.  Pretty cool.  That was the only ride Jack and I went on twice.

One last story before I call it a day.  

After riding the obligatory river raft  ride that is at every amusement park in the world (here it has a Jurassic Park theme), we got nice and wet but didn't mind too much because of the usual Singapore heat.  As we came out of the ride exit, we saw this:

That's right, it's a big blow dryer dryer for your whole body! S$5 to get blasted with hot air in a town drowning in hot air!  They think of everything in this town.  If someone ever figures out outdoor air-conditioning, it will be a Singaporean.

That's it for now.  Hopefully the next post will be pictures our our new condo.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A week goes by quickly/slowly


Sometimes a week can feel like it has gone by in a blink, other times it feels like it drags on forever.  I guess I feel somewhere between the two right now.  We've been here in Singapore for about 10 days now. When I think about everything we've done since we arrived, I'm impressed with all we've accomplished.  When I think about how much longer we will be stuck in the serviced apartment until we move into our permanent place, a week feels like a year.

The two biggest stories of the week are that we went to the open house at Jack's school and we made an offer on a condo.

The school was great, just like we remembered it.  Judging from the picture above and the picture below, Jack is what has changed the most over the last 4 years.

We met most of Jack's teachers and were thoroughly impressed by everyone.  From English to band to science, all of his teachers seem great so we're hoping for a smooth transition to 7th grade.  We even ran into Jack's 2nd grade teacher who is his favorite teacher ever.  She recognized him right away and came right at him with the biggest smile and a hug.

One big change from the public school in Texas is that every student in the Middle School gets issued their own computer. Homework, classwork, tests, etc. are all done on the laptop.  I agree with the school that this will help the kids learn the computer skills necessary in today's world, I just can't imagine that Jack can make it through the rest of his life without his penmanship improving.  Tuesday is the first day of school, so wish us luck.

House hunting was the other big activity of the week.  The day after we arrived, we met our real estate agent, Heleen.  Heleen is from The Netherlands, but has lived in Singapore for about 20 years.  It was nice to be able to work with someone who knew the island like a local, but could understand your perspective like a Westerner.  We spent a lot of time looking over the span of a week and saw about 20 different places in locations all over Singapore.  We were having a hard time deciding where to live while balancing distance from work, school, the subway and other local amenities like the grocery store.  You have to plan a bit differently than you do in the US when you only have one car and it's too hot to walk very far to the store.

While we never found a place we all thought was "perfect," we are pretty happy with the decision we made.  On Friday, we put an offer on a condo at Sky @ Eleven.  It's pretty much dead center in the middle of the island, and while the subway is not directly out the front door, it's only a few bus stops away.  We are going to be on the 41st out of 42 floors, so I hope the elevators aren't to busy.

We should hopefully confirm the contract this week and the place is move-in ready. If all goes well, we'll be able to move in right when our sea freight arrives during the first week of September.  Once we settle in, I'll get some pictures posted online.

I was also able to move into my new office this week.

Melissa took this picture before I received my boxes and unpacked, but you get the idea.  It's an office.  However, one of the best perks of this job is the view.

We did try to take a break from all of the work, errands and house hunting too.  Jack and I went last weekend to see Guardians of the Galaxy.  Jack and I both really enjoyed it.  There were plenty of laughs, the action scenes were the usual Marvel goodness and the story was just good enough the keep it all together. Just right for a 12 year old boy and his dad looking to blow off some steam.

I'm now sitting on the couch with a full belly on a Sunday night after going to the hawker center to eat Singapore style with the family.  If you haven't seen one before, a hawker center is essentially an outdoor food court with dozens and dozens of stalls.  In Singapore, each stall has a local specialty, such as roti prata, satay, grilled chicken wings (Jack's favorite), seafood or noodles.

Our back door is less than a 5 minute walk to the most famous hawker center in Singapore, Newton Circus. Because it is so large and well known, it tends to cater a bit more to tourists and expats.  As I'm an expat, you'd think that would be a good thing, but not really.  The prices are a bit higher then most places (but still pretty cheap...maybe a $5 plate instead of $4) and the stall owners are a bit pushy trying to talk clueless tourists toward their stall.

Regardless, we had a great meal and would not hesitate to go back.  We're hoping there is another great hawker center near our new place after we move in. (And also hoping that the weeks start speeding along.)