Weeks 24-26: Singapore E.R.

I don't know how many trips to the emergency room an average family makes over the course of a typical year, despite my best efforts to locate such a statistic, but whatever that elusive national average is, I think we have already surpassed it: in the six months we have been in Singapore, we have made the frantic trek, in a taxi of course, twice. Both with Alec. Both for head injuries. Bless his heart.

The first trip was on a sunny Saturday afternoon. We were getting ready to leave the house, so he was reaching for his shoes (we keep them outside), leaning down from the top step of our four-step porch to the one below it. He simply lost his balance and fell, face first, down to the porch base, inconveniently constructed of very hard tile. It was immediately evident that his little nose bore the brunt of the fall, as it swelled to three times its normal size in less than a minute, and assumed a curious curved shape that that I have not seen before, leading both Greg and me to believe it was broken. Plus, he cried and cried and screamed and cursed the steps and his shoes and the pool to which we were headed and all things in life which are hurtful or unfair for the next 15 minutes. It was quite dramatic, really. So, we called a neighbor to ask where one goes in Singapore when these things happen, then we called a taxi and headed off to the E.R. The physician on duty was not the wonderful, calm, and exceedingly patient pediatric specialist to whom we were accustomed back in Austin, but he was friendly and helpful nonetheless. Two x-rays later, with strict orders to stay out of the pool, Alec and I left the E.R., with all bones intact, and met Greg and Cameron at the American Club. I think the swimming ban actually hurt Alec more than the fall.

The second trip to the E.R. was two Wednesday nights ago. Greg and I both were working upstairs when we heard a loud thud, followed immediately by an even louder scream. The boy fell out of his bed. On any other night, he would have hit the pillows placed carefully on the floor at the head of his bed for just such an accident. On this particular night, though, Alec had decided to try out Cameron's new bed-time ritual of falling asleep at the foot of the bed, so he can see out the door and down the hall, knowing that one of his loving parents will move him back up to his pillow at some point during the night. Unfortunately, Alec moves around a lot more than Cameron does, and hence, the fall, right onto his head, onto another inconsiderately hard surface. Again the swelling was immediate and substantial - the bump was literally the size of an egg by the time I raced down the stairs and picked him up. When he still hadn't stopped sobbing 10 minutes after the fall - screaming, really, cursing the bed and the wood floors this time - we decided it would be best to have him examined. Three x-rays this time, and instructions to watch him "very carefully" for the next 24-hours. As luck would have it, my parents arrived for their first visit a mere five hours after Alec and I returned from the hospital. Again, thankfully, he was okay, but he spent the next day at home just to be safe, reveling in our undivided attention.

As a side note, while we were at the hospital, Cameron also fell out of bed. Fortunately, having learned our lesson the hard-headed way, Greg placed a cushiony mat along the length of the space between the two beds after Alec's fall. So, rather than going through the loud thud-scream combo from earlier in the evening, Cameron awoke on the soft mat in a very bewildered state, wondering what had happened, but injury free. Greg, who was sleeping in the room so Cameron wouldn't be frightened if he woke up alone, simply placed him back in his bed and he went back to sleep. Neither had fallen before that night, and neither has fallen since. Such interesting timing. Perhaps Cameron had a sympathy fall for his injured twin.

Fortunately, Alec's accident just before their arrival was the most dramatic thing that happened while my parents were here. By the next morning, he obviously was feeling much better, and he was out of the constant-watch zone, so, while Greg allegedly was toiling away at work, the grandparents accompanied me and the boys, and all of the other pre-K students and parents, on a field trip to the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Although we didn't see many of the insects we were there to find - as part of the school's recent bug-rich curriculum - we did see some interesting creatures, including lots of crabs, several mudskippers, a tiny little bird in its tiny little nest, and a giant monitor lizard, just hanging out on a rock watching the kids walk by. Perhaps all of the bug spray we applied before we entered the reserve may have affected our insect sightings…

Following the success of the trip to the reserve, hot and humid though it was, we spent the remainder of my parents' 10-day stay visiting as many other tourist and local attractions as time would allow (all carefully scheduled in a spreadsheet of course):

  • Dinner on the beach at East Coast Park;

  • The Raffles Hotel, for drinks in the famous Long Bar, birthplace of the "Singapore Sling," and dinner al fresco on their patio, where the fish was so fresh that it jumped out of the chef's hands more than once before meeting its final demise;

  • The Night Safari, where Grandma overcame her fear of snakes and had her picture taken with a big ol' python;

  • The Singapore Science Center, where the new dinosaur exhibit features a life-size replica of the world's most complete T-rex skeleton: Sue;

  • Dinner at the Equinox Restaurant, located on the 70th floor of the Stamford hotel, where we were treated to a delicious meal and an amazing panoramic view that included not only Singapore's amazing skyline, but also glimpses of the neighboring lands of Malaysia and Indonesia; and

  • One new item we have added to the must-do list for visitors: feasting on fresh black pepper crabs at the fabulous Eng Seng restaurant near Singapore's eastern coast. Although this local eatery is well known worldwide - the famous New York chef Jean-Georges listed it as one of his five favorite Asian restaurants on the planet - it seems to be frequented almost exclusively by local Singaporeans. I was nervous about the entire experience, since Greg suggested the restaurant, and we all know what happened with the last choice he made (I am still on antibiotics, by the way). Plus, we were warned ahead of time not to even try to order in English if the place was busy - wait times can be as long as two hours - lest we upset the "Crab Auntie." This prominent Eng Seng figure is neither a crustacean relative nor a key player in STD transmissions, as her name might suggest. No, she is an Auntie, a term of respect used to refer to older women in Singapore, and she is in charge of taking the pepper crab orders. We hear that she has very limited patience with ang mohs at her restaurant. To avoid the crab-crazy crowds, we went on a Monday night, and we got there at opening time: 5:00p. Everyone, including the Crab Auntie, was very friendly, and very patient with our complete lack of Mandarin knowledge. The spicy crabs were delicious, albeit quite messy, and the waiter kept us swimming in cold Tiger Beer to cool our hot black-pepper-drenched palates.

By the end of their visit, I have no doubt that my parents were eager for a few days with nothing on the agenda but rest and relaxation, but we had a great time, and we loved the company. Having so many visitors around, life in the land of the black spitting cobra has been almost like life at home. Except that we're on the other side of the planet.. :)

Take care,
Shannon et al.

Bird at the Reserve

Alec & Cameron at the Raffles Hotel

in the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel...


Alec, last game of the season

Cameron & Alec

mudskipper at the reserve


Grandma & Cameron



Greg and Cameron, after the last game of the season


Alec, singing to his favorite song "Bad Day," playing on MusicMatch


Alec, Charlie, & Cameron, looking for insects at the nature reserve


Shannon & Grandma at the night safari


Grandma and Big ol' Grandfather at the Long Bar


Cameron & Big ol' Grandfather, playing rock, paper, scissors

Cameron & Alec, next to a dinosaur leg bone at the science museum


Alec, pretending he's a barracuda


Cameron & Grandma doing a puzzle at the science museum


Alec and a replica of "Sue"


the victor...

chefs at the Raffles Hotel


Cameron & Alec, on a giant tongue at the science museum



Alec, Big ol' Grandfather, Grandma, & Cameron at East coast Park


monitor lizard at the nature reserve


Big ol' Grandfather & Alec doing a puzzle at the science museum


Cameron & Big ol' Grandfather, arm wrestling


Cameron at the science museum





Grandma, Cameron, Alec, & Big ol' Grandfather


Big ol' Grandfather at the science museum



Greg & Cameron, thumb-wrestling


Cameron & Alec






Cameron at the science museum


crab at the reserve