Week 1 with the black spitting cobra...
(12/04/05)

Let me start with a small word of warning: should you decide to visit us in Southeast Asia, do not purchase a pack of gum in the airport, assuming that you either (a) will consume it all before arriving in Singapore, or (b) will remember to discard the remnants before going through customs. I went with the less popular option (c): forgetting I even had it until the rather serious, and rather armed, customs agent discovered it in my purse. After being labeled as “suspicious” (and, really, can I argue with that assessment?), the authorities decided that a thorough look through all of our bags was well warranted. Imagine my surprise to find that an “adult” video accidentally had been packed along with the boys’ Disney DVDs? The growing number of officers was not at all amused, to say the least. In an ill-advised attempt to inject some humor into an increasingly uncomfortable situation, I not-so-cleverly remarked, “at least they didn’t find the drugs...”

In reality, the trip was not bad, and the customs agents allowed us to proceed freely into the country. The boys did very well traveling overall, once we got on the cushy Singapore Airlines flight (the trip to LA was another story entirely). The only complaint at all was from Cameron, 16 hours into the 18-hour final flight: “Are we THERE yet?!” The Sponge Bob and Patrick toys they received from the stewardesses, cleverly clothed in pajamas and holding a pillow (the toys, not the women!) may have helped with the good attitudes, and with the 9-hour nap (I didn’t even have to break out the Benadryl).

As for life in the Asian realm of Singapore, it isn’t really that different from Texas. The weather is just like Austin in June: not too bad in the mornings, freaking hot and humid by noon. The shopping opportunities are surprisingly similar as well. On our first trip to one of the many malls within a 10-minute ride from our temporary apartment, I realized, as I passed a Nine West, a Starbucks, and a 7-Eleven, that I may have jumped the gun in bringing two years of clothing and toiletries with us (including eight boxes of feminine hygiene products). It appears that we can buy just about anything here that we could back in good ol’ Round Rock. One added benefit of the malls here: they all have grocery stores in their basements – fabulous one-stop-shopping.

Despite all of the comforts of home, though, the hardest adjustments so far have been the time difference and the very, very unfamiliar food options. Between the two, we are all either hungry or tired and cranky much of the day (the boys got up at 3:00a this morning - again). Another mother from Texas, whose family just moved here, said that it took about a week for her kids to get adjusted; so, a few more days and we should be getting some much-needed sleep (of course, she also said all three of her kids had diarrhea for the entire second week, so I’m really looking forward to that). The food issue may take a while longer... Despite the prevalence of western fast-food eateries like KFC and McDonald’s, everything just tastes a little different (keep your dog-ingredient jokes to yourself, please :).

All in all, it really is beautiful here. For those of us with bleeding hearts, there are giant signs at most intersections urging folks to either help the elderly cross the street or engage in a variety of community service activities. Of course there are just as many signs urging local revelers to not “let your holiday joy turn into crime.” I’m not yet sure what that means.

And, what an OCD paradise: no litter, no crime, everyone touts sanitary, healthful practices everywhere, and every means of transportation is on time all of the time. If only there was a Whole Foods, I’d be in manic Mecca. I’ve heard whispers of an organic grocery store above the Borders book store downtown, so I’ll be jumping on the 4:07 shuttle this afternoon once Greg gets back from the electronics mall…

I hope all is well with you North American residents. I’ll be starting a blog with pictures once the slow boat to China (literally) arrives with my computer and requisite software.

Take Care,
Shannon et al.