I landed in Singapore ready to see something familiar – my family! I was ready to empty out and fumigate my suitcase, sleep in the same bed for multiple nights in a row and get in the Christmas spirit. However, after a few hours in Singapore getting the tour of my sister’s home, sitting down to a family dinner, helping nieces with their homework – I quickly realized – this is probably the most foreign place I’ve visited so far. The idea of eating a well balanced dinner at 6:30, having a family conversation, getting up in time to get kids off to school, going to church on Sundays, helping with homework (which I have miserably failed at), getting to bed by 10:00, watching Disney movies, and generally being a good role model…well – I don’t live in this ‘family’ world normally. I know that by now (at 36 years old) I am supposed to be completely at ease in this world…but I’m not. This has been a bit of a culture shock – but a fun one. It has brought back so many childhood memories and it made me realize just how different my life in NYC was. In NY I was still working at 6:30, I had my first cocktail by 7:30, dinner at 9:00, bed at midnight, and I never once hung around school age kids unless it was a holiday that I went home for. So – I guess it was about time that I entered this world for a while…
Let me introduce you to my family – my sister, Cyndi, is married to Frank and they have 3 girls – Bethany, Megan, and Lindsey. My nieces officially refer to me as the ‘Crazy Aunt’…I think I’m ok with that…it’s better than being the ‘Boring Aunt’. I love being an Aunt – I always have. I love the fact that I get to do the fun stuff and teach them important things like how to spot a fake Coach bag, how to say hello in Italian, and what thong underwear is. However, I secretly imagine that every night before dosing off to sleep that Frank says to Cyndi “How long is your sister planning on staying here again?” There is one more person to mention in my Singapore family – Mylene. Mylene is from the Phillipines and works for Cyndi’s family tending to various household activites. She’s wonderful…not just because she calls me Miss Sherry (which I secretly love), but she’s a wonderful cook, and has a great laugh to match her easy-going personality. In my new ‘temporary’ home I share a room with my 7 year old niece – I sleep on the bottom bunk. She’s a pretty good roommate…no loud music, she doesn’t wake up when I go to bed late, and no snoring. She does however have numerous stuffed animals that I have to add and remove from the bed everyday – but that’s a small price to pay for free lodging. Considering I have had no flirting with the opposite sex in my last 4 months, a stuffed animal to cuddle with occasionally is not neccesarily a bad thing.
Photo: The World Famous Sinapore Sling from Raffles Hotel
Singapore is located approximately 85 miles north of the equator off the southernmost tip of Peninsular Malaysia. Basically – this means that it’s HOT and tropical. On one of my recent runs I kept on having one thought come into my mind- pressure cooker. Running in Singapore is like running in a pressure cooker. I even looked up the definition for those of you that aren’t from the Midwest!
pressure cooker n. An airtight metal pot that uses steam under pressure at high temperature to cook food quickly.
Yup – I felt like a jar of food – being steamed under intense pressure – so much so that I was ready to burst at about mile 2 – where I promptly stopped to walk for a bit. My sister always said that it was very difficult to run in Singapore in the intense heat and hummidity – and I certainly believed her – but you have to experience it for yourself to really appreciate it. My sister also failed to warn me about the other hazards of running in the jungle land…snakes. We were running on a trail one morning I was gasping for air behind her not paying attention, when she suddenly stopped and I pulled up right before running into her. She turned around and said…snake. Sure enough a 5 ft. long snake was slithering across the path. Sure – I tried to remain calm…no problem – I see snakes all the time in Central Park…yeah right. Needless to say – the next time we went running through the jungle together – I took a shorter path on my own for a mile and the only thing I could think about was ‘what if I get bit by a poisenous snake?’. I had planned out a way that I could survive for at least 15 minutes by using my bandana/sweat rag as a turnicate and sucking the venonm out of the bite. Luckily – I didn’t have to put my survival skills to use!
One of my first big things to tend to when I arrived here was to help my sister throw my annual Red Hot Holiday Party. I was so happy that she agreed to carry on the tradition and she did an amazing job. Give an Ott a theme party…and we are in our element! This was a great way for me to meet many of Cyndi and Frank’s friends, the girl’s teachers, and the neighbors! I even taught Mylene how to make Jello shots – I think she’ll be taking that recipe back home with her to the Philippines one day! In fact, everyone like them so much that just this week we made Virgin Jello Shots for dinner one night. I liked teaching my young nieces how to suck jello out of a plastic shot glass…yup…that’s why I’m an Aunt and not a Mom. Any way you jiggle it – the Red Party was a success!
My next big project was going on a field trip to the Rain Forest with Megan’s 4th Grade Class. This was my first dose of masses of hyper kids running around. This was a big wake up call for me! I was in charge of 4 of them as a ‘parent helper’…a title that I never thought I would be adding to my resume…but who knows. We carried out our assignment in the pressure cooker temps and found and photographed various vines, insect evidence, ferns, and fungi.
Then we took a little tour of the park with a guide. During the tour the guide spotted a viper…yes, a viper snake on the railing and showed it to us from a distance. Making a point to tell us that we would most certainly die if it bit us. This little deadly green snake was only about 12 inches long and blended right into the mossy railing…it was quite terrifying to me. However when the 10 year old boy next to me asked if he could touch it – I wanted to scream at him….”Hello…McFly….didn’t you hear the guide say that you would DIE?!” Once again…this is why I am an Aunt, and not a Mom. Plus – 2 snake sitings in the matter of a week was my limit.
Photo: Singapore Birdpark Resident
The next responsibility I had been given was to do a presentation for Lindsey’s 2nd grade class on my trip to Africa. OK – no problem…I’ve done millions of presentations at work…give me the PowerPoint and I’ll get that done ASAP. In true form – I procrastinated on it until the night before. So – I stayed up late and decided to work on it. I picked a background for my slide and started the title page, then on to the list of bullet-pointed topics that I would be covering in my 20 minute presentation……oh……wait a minute….these are 7 year olds, not corporate executives. Crap….I realized that I’ve never had to gear a presentation to such a young audience! I needed to strip this down to bare bones…they won’t stay with me for a title page and bullet points…I needed pictures, I needed safari animals, I needed goofy stories…I needed a drink. One vodka/soda and that got me a bit more in tune with the 7 year old mind. Of course I was still working on the presentation the next morning up to 15 minutes before my sister had to take me to school. I got to the classroom and walked in and had a twenty 2nd graders turn around and stare at me…wow…this was going to be harder than any Steering Committee presentation I had ever done before!
Photo: Me in the school cafeteria with the 2nd graders!
I decided to focus on telling them about the Samburu Tribe I visited while on safari, and talk about all of the animals that I saw. I told them stories about the elephant charging the truck, I told them about the hungry lions, I made them guess the animal names, I showed them the Samburu school children and the mud huts they lived in. I loved it. They raised their hands to ask me questions. One little boy actually raised his hand to tell me that he knew a joke about a giraffe. So I said – ok – let’s hear it…
“Why is a giraffe’s neck so long?”
“Because their feet stink”
It was at this time that I started to amuse myself by thinking that if all corporate presentations were this fun to give that I might have actually stayed working! They all had to ask me one question at the end. But first – the teacher made them all take 10 seconds to sit quietly and come up with a really GOOD question to ask Aunt Sherry. I got questions about what I ate, what I wore, where did I go to the bathroom (that was my favorite one of course!), and how to make an elephant sound (I actually tried my best to do one). At the end the teacher thanked me and they proceeded to all clap and give me ‘fireworks’, ‘Greats’ and ‘fantastiks’. It would take too long to explain what those fireworks, greats, and fantastiks were…but trust me…they were very cute. I even told them that no one at work ever had ever clapped for one of my presentations!
I proceeded to go to recess with the kids and then had lunch in their cafeteria. I felt like a giant among munchkins – but it was fun to see what it was like to be a kid again. Granted – it looked like complete mass chaos to me on the playground…but it beat eating lunch at your desk and checking email any day!
The kids are off school now, I attended all of their Holiday parties and concerts at school, even helped decorate some cookies. So now it was time to start to explore parts of Singapore!
Cyndi and I went to Raffles Hotel – the home of the Singapore Sling – this was a must see/drink on my list of Singapore things to do. I figured this was a good way to break up some of the holiday shopping! The next day we went to the Tiger Beer Brewery with Cyndi and some of her friends. They had a great gift shop and a fabulous company bar where we enjoyed some free beer. I think every corporation needs a company bar! Who’s in favor????
This week we went to the Bird Park. I didn’t have high expectations for a bird park – but it really blew me away. You could get super close to the birds, they did tricks, put on shows, and even let you feed them. I had fun getting out my camera and putting it to use again. Therefore you will see tons of bird pictures in my photography link this time! Bethany bought some bird food at the Lory Park and they birds nearly attacked her! We all had fun watching them land on her and follow her around! My favorite birds were the flamingos….it was as if a lawn somewhere in Florida came to life in Singapore.
My last big adventure was to finally go and get my hair cut and re-colored (Shock/Horror…I’m not a natural blonde!!!). Considering that I was used to having this done every 6 weeks in NY and I had been on the road for 3 1/2 months now – it desparately needed attending to! Somehow though my comment to the hairdresser about “I’d like to keep it blonde” got lost in the translation and I am now a brunette. When I got back to my sisters after becoming a new brunette, my nieces were a little shocked…luckily no one cried. Apparently last time Cyndi came home with a new haircut Lindsey cried…I think I would have lost it if that had happened to me! Once again – this is why I’m an Aunt and not a Mom.
Now we are hunkering down for Christmas Day. Lindsey asks me every day how many days until Christmas – I can feel her excitement building – she is about ready to burst. I used to be one of those kids…the kid who was so Christmas crazy that I couldn’t even function the closer it got. My parents made me sleep with my brother on Christmas Eve…he of course hated this as I would bug him all night with questions. It’s fun to be here, with family, and with kids at this time of year – I couldn’t have planned this any more perfectly in my year of travel. I do look forward to getting back on the travel circuit and seeing Asia with some crazy adventures throughout Thailand. However, there’s no place I’d rather be this Christmas Eve. I’ll be picking out my favorite stuffed animal to sleep in my bunk bed with, tucking in my nieces, and recalling fond memories of my own childhood.
Photo: Woman at the Bird Park…she looks so calm – I loved this shot!