Wednesday, April 25, 2012

nee how ma

How are you? Nee how ma (in  Mandarin)
I went to the Chinese Opera. Actually a talk about Chinese Opera, and a scene performed. It was fascinating.
I met a woman last week at the FOM group I joined. Laurie is from Calgary, her husband is in oil and gas, and they have lived in Scotland before this. We talked briefly at the meeting, and she had a very rough start too. Empty nest, adjusting to here, and new role of "wife of". It isn't easy. But she is through the worst. As am I. (Just this damn pain. But I have wonderful distractions.)
This morning was one. Laurie invited me to an event put on by the Canadian Association (women in Singapore, that come from Canada. They have meetings, tours, book clubs, etc-). We met in Chinatown, at a Chinese tea house. The director gave us a talk on Chinese Opera. Explained how each area of China has their own style- Shanghai, Quongchou, Beijing, etc. The opera is a play, in that most is spoken, but in a nasal singsong style. The costumes she explained. Some have very long sleeves. Almost like the lining of the already big sleeves, came out and hang down. They are called water sleeves. You can do so much with them!  Such subtle movements of these water sleeves tell a whole story, wavy like water, flipped over to say hello, flipped a different way to say goodbye, shake to show fear, a different way to show anger, rolled up different ways. Amazing what they call tell. Warriors do not have water sleeves. (clue as to who is who)
The operas tell stories of history, legends, and fiction. The women take two hours to paint their face, stick on hair pieces (with gum bark). Female role has very thin eyebrows, very arched, maybe held taut with scotch tape!, male has thicker eyebrows. Another clue as to who is who. The embroidery on the very elaborate costumes tells much. Dragons- male. Phoenix- female. Wedding -red. White- ghost. Black- the bad guy. The male wear boots, with very high wooden platform (like 6"), female silk slippers with a tassel. There is an amazing dying art of face-changing. It is truly like magic. She showed us a performance on video. The guy turns with his back to you, and comes back with a very elaborate painted face in completely different colours. We watched him do this 4-5 times. It was amazing. She described the meaning of the painted faces. That tells you more about the story. I haven't seen my photos yet but I hope when I post them you can see the masks in the background, with the different "styles" of face painting.
Then two women played a "Romeo/Juliet" kind of scene. I videoed it but not sure you will be able to play it. But I will try.
I think I have used the word amazing a few times. To have a lovely social event be so educational. And you like me have probably seen some Chinese opera and had no idea what was going on.
After the morning we went to a restaurant and had amazing Laotian food! What a morning!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

here come 1000 words

Here is paradise!
1&2. Sunsets two different nights.
3.The beach.
4. The tractor that took us out to our long boat on the way home. (transportation to the beach which is not accessible by car, on the way there, was a  taxi that took us from the airport to the dock (40 minutes) then we waded in water to get to the water taxi long boat. I had on long white pants. The water's edge was green and slimy. My pants had zippers at the ankle, thank goodness, so I could haul them up. On the way back, they had a tractor with a "caboose" to take us to the long boat. A long boat is a very long narrow boat, wood, probably teak, with a bow and stern that is higher than the rest of the hull. It is flat bottomed, and basic board across to sit on. At the stern, up like a Venetian gondola, stands the driver, who has an outboard, with a very log way to the propeller. It is a car engine, very noisy, but amazingly efficient. Tim says if you muffle the sound you lose efficiency, so like a small plane, the boat engine is very noisy. (No private planes to be seen over here. But we kept looking up as we heard these longboats coming and going.)
5. The fried egg. How could you resist that on the buffet breakfast table!
6. These rocks are characteristic of this area. Well known for rock climbers. A rock climber's destination.

The resort was perfect. We had like a town house, through a high gate, to a patio, jacuzzi out door bath and shower, and then a charming "thai" bedroom. Absolutely silent at night. ( I wonder in high season though) Except for the cicadas. They start up at different times of the day, but are so loud they are deafening. I can not imagine in the jungle, the volume. We also saw some monkeys at the resort. Little grey ones with black glasses. They were jumping from tree to tree and as Tim was trying to get a pic, ripe fruit started to shower down. Miraculously missed him, but the path was covered in mushed orange fruit.

I did a cooking class. Now I am ready to try Thai cuisine. As most of you know, Thai cuisine is much lighter than Chinese or Indian, so I am more eager to cook Thai.
Other than the class, we did NOTHING! We lolled around, in the jacuzzi, eating, walking the beach, snoozing. It was exactly what we needed after the months here getting "on line".
Now beat this. The four days cost us S$1200, flight, hotel, food. Everything! Eat your heart out!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I've found it, you can stop looking

I have found paradise. Google Raialay Beach, Krabi, Thailand. There it is. I booked this little getaway, and wondered if it would meet the impression of the web site. Well, it does.
This morning we flew 1 1/2 hours north of Singapore, north over Malaysia, to the south end of Thailand. We are on a spit of land that crosses east to west. Not sure the Sea on the east, but on the west it is the Andaman Sea. Our daughter Elizabeth had travelled India and she said the most beautiful spot she went to was the Andaman Islands. So I wanted to go there. But from Singapore you would fly 6 hours to Chenai and then fly 5 hours back to the Andamans. Or take a 4 hour boat ride off the coast of Thailand. So the next best is to be looking west out over the Andaman Sea at the Islands which are out there somewhere.
Railay Beach is gorgeous. No question we are not in a first world country but a third world country. But the room we have is wonderful. A cottage, gated, high wall, and an outdoor jacuzzi and shower, sitting area, sunbathing beds ( in this heat!!!!) and our room has a day bed, a king bed, a bathroom. We have total privacy and it means we can come and go as we please, if you know what I mean. An outdoor jacuzzi, tonight, after dark, looking up at the same moon and sky that you do, but not the stars, I don't think because we are so far south. The beach is gorgeous, shallow sandy bottom out, and warm, so you can stay in for ever. You can rent kayaks, go rock climbing. Tomorrow Tim plans to book a snorkel trip in the morning. I a massage in the morning and a cooking class in the afternoon. Paradise, right?
The place has all kinds of people staying here. The Aussies who are out baking in the sun, red lobsters, the French in string bikinis, the rock climbers in dreds, the singles primping ,and oh yes, girls taking the most seductive looking pictures of each other in their bikinis at the water's edge. They are a riot to watch. Like a playboy shoot.
We had lunch in the open restaurant. Roof, and open all round. Interesting, the one comment Trip Advisor had negative abut this place is that the service in the restaurant is horrible. It is. I would think with a negative comment like that they would fix it. But we had the most sullen young woman serve us. Tim's pizza came an hour after ordered. but we were in no hurry, so it was fine by us.
I will add photos another time. I am on my iPad and I don't know how to take pictures on my ipad and add them as an attachment yet. Maybe tomorrow. Or when I get home.
Yesterday back in Singapore I went to a meeting of FOM. Friends of Museums. It took my friend in Canada, thank you Pauline, to tell me about FOM Singapore. I contacted them and went to a meet and greet. Already I have been invited to an event next week, a walk through Chinatown, and then A performance of a Chinese Opera. How cool is that! They are a wonderful group of 2000 volunteers committed to exploring and teaching about Asian culture. Often to the Asians. Singaporeans are not museum-goers, and FOM works at getting them out to events. It was very touching. We went around the circle (40 new members) and said a blip. 4 Singaporeans were there and they were humbled by these people who work so hard to educate people about their culture. There were people from all around the world, Calgary, New York, Spain. Great Britain, Japan, China, India, and on. What an opportunity for me to meet with and get to know these folks. They have study-travel, book clubs (4!!), training for docents, Monday morning lectures, films, bulk ticket opportunities to ballet, opera, concerts. And it goes on. It will be wonderful. I now know how to fill my dance card!
Right now, Tim and I are sitting on the bed ( in the AC) on our iPads. He has finally come over to Apple!!!! But how ridiculous is this, we are in paradise, and on our iPads. Yikes. I have to go!

Friday, April 13, 2012

the palette gets some colour

 This is going to be a busy while. Such a contrast to the last few months. I have never awakened to an empty dance card. But the last months here, the only thing was chiro, or physio. But now I have yoga almost every day. AND
 I took a day last week to be a tourist. I had an appointment downtown in the morning, and one again late afternoon. So I stayed down for the day. Went to the Singapore Art Museum. As I arrived, they asked if I wanted a tour. I had my private docent for a tour of the museum. It is a charming place. An old Catholic school. Small galleries upstairs and downstairs, and on different levels. Very unusual. But charming. They had a showing of a Chinese artist whom I had seen in October when I was here. When he died he gave away all his paintings to galleries, and SAM got 150 of his paintings. He figured he would leave his properties to his kids, and the paintings were for everybody, the world. He is fascinating. He started out as a traditional Chinese painter of watercolour scrolls. The cultural revolution drove him to Paris, where he was greatly influenced by Impressionism. He then chose to come back to China after the Revolution, and now his style is a mix of tradition and Impressionism. I am going to go back to buy a print of one of his paintings to hang here in the apartment. It's down below, I think called Waterlilies.
Then I went to the Museum, but actually, if the truth be told, only for lunch. And a bride was there getting photos done. They do them ahead of their wedding.
I visited a very old church. The Church of the Good Shepherd. 1854. One of the few old churches here. It was a part of a Catholic School which has since moved. Church of the Holy Infant Jesus. Nobody could pronounce CHIJ so they added MES and it is now called CHIJMES 9Chimes) and is what else, a mall and club area. But they have kept and restored the old building. Love that, go for drinks in the Catholic School.
There was Gregorian chanting coming from somewhere at the back of the altar. It was lovely to spend some time in a traditional old church. Everything seems so new is Singapore.
One of the appointments was to pick up my Chinese visa. I am going to Beijing May 14-18. I think I have said I have friends visiting Singapore, and I will go on with them to Beijing for 4 days. I went to the visa place and finally got my passport back. It is very uncomfortable to give it up. For days. One guy had a handful of passports and paid S$1550 for visas. I paid S$25 for mine.
At the bank the other day, I saw people coming in with bags, yes bags, of money. Piles. Like what would be the size of a briefcase, like 6" X 15" X 10". Just like the gangsters in the movies. I've never seen so much money at once. Coming out of plastic grocery bags or whatever. Wow
Another day, I dragged Tim out as a tourist. I see he is not a big tourist type. After 30 years I learn this. (So I do think a lot of my travel will be on my own.) But we went to the Art-Science Gallery down at Marina Bay. The architect is Moshe Safdie, and the gallery is in the shape of a big BIG lotus flower. The gallery is amazing. There was a Warhol show, that was terrific. Then we went up to the top of the Marina Bay to the big "ship"  
Next week is going to be  good one.
Tuesday I am going with Nancy to Batam. And where is Batam? I have no idea. It is an island just off the shore of Singapore. I think. It is a spa. So we get a ferry in the early morning, and then check in to the spa for the day, and head home that evening. Sounds great.
Then Wednesday I am going to a meet and greet of FOM. I got an email from a friend who lived in Japan for years, and told me about FOM Friends of the Museum. I googled them, filled out an application, mailed it 2 days ago, and got an email today inviting me to this Wed a.m. coffee meeting. Whooppee.
Then Thursday-Sunday Tim and I have a little trip to Krabi, Thailand,to Railay Beach. Google it. It looks picture postcard beautiful. We will see. It has kayaking, snorkelling, and of course rock climbing! No we will not be rock climbing. But may do a cooking class!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Captain Tim Callahan of Tiger Airways

Dare I say finally.
Now to work! Where he has been sitting around, stressing and studying, he now will work like a dog. The prize for getting his ride was a 5:00 a.m. departure the next morning. No celebrating for him! Up at 3:30 to open the office at 4 a.m. for the flight. Then because he is available, another 5 a.m. start the next day. This budget airline sure does work their pilots hard. Long days and lots of them. Nothing like change to realize what you had! Ah Air Canada.
So three months from going on contract January 4 with Tiger, he is on the line. It seemed every bump that could happen to anyone happened to Tim. But all almost forgotten now as we move ahead.
Happy Easter. You wouldn't know it was Easter here. Of course such a small percentage of the population is Christian. I found out by chance on Thursday that the next day was Good Friday! The church we go to is lovely. I must admit I spend the service looking for and counting the Caucasians. 10 today, 20 Friday! It is strange to be in "my" church and be such a minority. The church site is old, but it was rebuilt in 1999. They must have brought the rose window from the older church. It is spectacular. And faces east so basks the church is the glow of the spectacular stained glass. And the entrance doors  are huge, thick carved wood. Otherwise it is quite modern. Built one story up, parking on the street level underneath. I choose to sit near the choir. The choir is excellent. They have an organ, modern, and they pullout all the stops to get an orchestral sound. Think Elgar, Land of Hope And Glory sound. Or it is a American Spiritual sound with the pumping drums and bass. And they have a grand piano, and instruments as well, and about 5 different conductors. I guess they share the load. The congregation belts out the hymns. I always said Catholics were lousy singers, but not these. They sing away. At full volume. All the verses. Often repeating verses.
I am off to a party this afternoon. One of the pilots is having a bbq. You bring something to throw on the barbi and bring whatever you want to drink. Tim will come from the airport- he gets in around 4. I will head over with Nancy. I do look forward to meeting some wives. In the same boat. Husbands happy doing what they are passionate about, and wives trying to find a purpose to their life here in Singapore. I do know my first purpose is to regain my health and my body. But after that.....
And speaking of that. I am still confused as to what all this was and what it still is. I have been doing yoga at classes and at home. And feeling much better for it. What I don't get is that I seem to be back at square one every morning and have to work out the pain over the day. My three physios have had varying diagnosis, and all I know is it is not joint, or muscular. I think it is connective tissue and nerves. But whatever, blah, blah, it is minusculely better, and I can a at least do yoga. How I love it. But oh my, how I have regressed from a few years ago. My goal, to get it back.
I sit on the balcony. It is cool. Maybe 72'. Not much breeze. And thunder rolling away in the west. I hope not for the bbq. I am learning the subtleties of the weather. I have been saying hot and humid. But within that, there are differences. It might be 86 and humid and a breeze. That might feel more comfortable than 78, full sun and no breeze. The breeze is the thing for me. And that it hardly cools down at night. Maybe a degree or two.
Saw this when I was walking home yesterday, in a teak furniture shop. Don't you think it is just perfect? I have just the place for it. What I don't have is the $2400. It's a dresser. The dresser part  about 4' high, with the neck about 8'. Those are all drawers!
Happy Easter

Thursday, April 5, 2012

absolutely hilarious

Maybe you have to be there to think it is funny but I'll try.
Singaporeans at first seem aloof, and not very friendly. They say it is because the city population is so dense, they carve out their space and guard it. I have rarely if ever seen anyone in public, in a crowd,  catch my eye  (or anyone else's) to nod hello. They just don't initiate contact, nor seek it out. We might nod at someone, smile and maybe think or say hello. Not here.
So, coming home on the subway with Tim, we were standing in the crowd on the train. I had noticed that in Jan/Feb when I was feeling so lousy, and got on the train, more often than not, someone would give up the seat designated for old, pregnant, or disabled, to me. I guess I looked REALLY old. Well I had noted that since I have been back, I have not been offered that seat. Now my hair is still gray. But I guess my demeanour has changed as I feel better. Well tonight, a young man got up to give me his seat. I went to sit down and a guy slid in before me, eyes down and just took it. Well I didn't really care, I thought how gallant of the young man, but I feel better, was standing with Tim, and did not have far to go. But I looked at the folks across the way, and they caught my eye, and laughed. At one point there must have been 6 people laughing out loud at this little exchange. Laughing out loud. It is exceptional in that there is so little personal contact with strangers normally. As we got off the train several smiled and shared the little scene with us as we left. We stepped off the train laughing out loud.
Went to the Chinese visa place. You go to the web site, fill out a 7 page online form, print it out, and book an appointment to hand it in. So I went at the appointed time, filled-in form printed out, with my passport, and dependant's pass in hand. And a copy of my 4 day itinerary, and a printout of my airline tickets. Oh yes, did I say I am going to Beijing in May. More of that in a bit.
So I go up to the desk to get a number to sit and wait to hand in my application, but they hand me another copy of the same form that I have to fill out by hand there. The one online on their site was not acceptable. Why? ??????
So hand in form, photocopy of pass, they take my airline tickets (oh you can make another copy) and then take my passport. TAKE my passport. They will have it until I pick up my visa which will be ready in 6 days. To hand over my passport goes against every grain in my body. But China. When I went to China in '78, we handed over our passports in the airplane before we landed and were given them back on the airplane after we took off. I thought maybe things had changed. HA
So yes I am going to Beijing in May. My girlfriend Patty (who I surprised at her place in Regina for St Pat's Day-she didn't know I was even in Canada. HA) So Patty is visiting her daughter Amy in Taipei. She is coming with her sister Trina. So Patty and Trina will fly Vancouver/Taipei for 4 days to visit Patty's daughter Amy, who is teaching ESL in Taipei. The three of them  will then fly to Singapore and I will show them around for 4 days (our first guests) and then Trina, Patty, Amy and I will fly to Beijing for 4 days. Do the Great Wall, Terra Cotta warriors,  Forbidden City, etc, and then they fly home and I come back to Singapore. How neat is that. Hence the Chinese visa.
Good night my friends

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Back again so soon. But I want to tell you about the storm this morning. I woke early (because an alarm went off at 4:30!!! urgh), so got  up. The wind was wailing, and it felt like the whole building was shaking. Being on the 23rd floor, it is a little disconcerting to have the building shaking. But it is all concrete and steel. I know it is concrete because to hang anything on the wall is a challenge. But I have never seen a wind like this. Our chairs did not blow around on the deck. The table and 4 chairs did, as a unit. An electric train, one of the those fast TGV trains!. And of course the plants are on their sides, but at least on their sides on our balcony!
But I looked out at the rain-spotted window and saw a vision. It wasn't the madonna, but it was an apparition. I think it was from Santa, to Virginia. Yes, there is a Santa. But this was yes there is such a thing as a Christmas tree. Look carefully in the rain spotted window. (I guess previous residents had  stickers on the wall!) OOPS two copies. Sorry, signed your I.T. Jane
It was solid gray out and the constant wail of the fog horn. The ocean was gray, no sight of ships, water, or anything. The rain was down the windows like at a car wash. I guess that wonderful wind yesterday brought this weather in.  It also gave us this sunset from our balcony last night