Car shopping

After seven months of buses, taxis and trains (MRT) we broke down and bought a car.

IMG_4904As I have discussed in the past, cars are very expensive in Singapore.  Part of the reason is that you have to buy a COE, a special license for the car.

The COE is only good for 10 years.  After 10 years you turn the car back into a car dealer who then gives you back a portion of the COE (the government decides how much for each type, make and model of car and reimburses the dealer) and a little bit of money for the car body.  The dealer then sales that car onto another country, usually Malaysia, or sells the car for parts.  Therefore the only cars you will see on the road older than 10 years old are taxis which have different rules.

We did our research and priced out renting a car ($1400-$2000 sing dollars a month for the car which includes insurance and maintenance) and buying a car that only had a 1 1/2 – 2 years left on it’s COE.  Every year closer to the end of the COE the less you pay.  So you don’t have to pay for all 10 years just what’s left on the COE and what you would pay for a used car.  It’s a bit confusing but we did the maths and even with maintenance, road tax (which you pay every year on top of the COE) and insurance if we got a 2005 car and drove it for the next 1 1/2  years or so until the COE ran out it would be cheaper than renting.  Once the COE runs out next year we can get different used car for how long we decide to stay here in Singapore.

That all sounded good until we started looking.  There a couple of places around the island that are basically used car malls.  There a bunch of dealers with all their cars lined up next to each other.  You go look and figure out what you want and who has it.  We knew we wanted a 2005 car that had a COE until at least next Summer.  I didn’t want anything too large because the parking garages and lots here aren’t made for big cars and I was a bit nervous driving here anyway (more on that later).  Something that gave the girls plenty of room and that we could bump a lot of stuff in the back.  Gas is pretty expensive so I wanted something that wouldn’t cost a fortune to drive.  I wasn’t asking for much, was I?

We looked and looked so much my brain started to hurt.  I think we may have over thought and looked it but in the end we got a 2005 Honda Airwave.  It’s a small Honda station wagon that looks big and feels big inside but is really very easy to drive and park because it is small.  It’s perfect for us.

No one was happier than the girls.  No more two buses home from school for Ellie.

IMG_0046It has a very groovy whole roof sunroof that they love looking out.

IMG_4906 IMG_0048Having a car has opened the whole island up to us. I was a bit nervous at first.  Think driving in Northern New Jersey during rush hour, on the wrong side of the road, on the wrong side of the car while being cut off by Maseratis, Benetly’s and Farraris.  That’s what it feels like driving here.  I think after a week with the car I’m beginning to get the hang of it but I don’t think I’ll ever master the Singaporean back into parking places trick (you can always tell the Expats in a parking lot they are the only ones that pull into parking places Singaporeans ALWAYS back into places).

There will be times that we still take taxis and buses and the MRT but mostly we will to be driving everywhere.  Ken says having a car makes him feel like he actually lives in Singapore and with what we will be able to explore now I can see why he says it.

 

 

Back to School

When we thought about the move here to Singapore and how it would effect our family we never thought it would be Sadie that would have the hardest time settling into life here.  After all, she is our easy going, laid back, roll with it child.  We never thought that she would miss having a yard and swings and grass and even the stairs to the second floor in “our yellow house”.

She has been sad and I think part of that is because she didn’t have her own “place”.  Ken had work, Ellie stared school a week and a half after we got here so she has school friends and everything that goes into school.  Me?  I’ve got getting everyone settled and setting up house.  Poor Sadie was just dragged along for the ride.

The original plan was to wait until January to put her in school.  We still haven’t sold our house in the States and Sadie can’t officially start Kindergarten I until January anyway.  It seemed like an excellent plan.  She would stay home and have adventures with Mommy.

It didn’t take us long to realize this might not be the best plan.  Sadie missed school and friends.  She was constantly talking about her old school and her old friends and her yellow house.  We knew we had to start building a life for her here as well and figured we would make it work.  So off  I went on the hunt for a school.

We were looking for a school that was warm and caring but also where she could learn.  It’s hard here in Singapore to find the right mix.  There are many schools that are learning focused almost to the point of the children not having fun or being kids.  There are also “western ” schools that are all about the play and the children don’t really learn anything.

After two weeks of on line searching, reading reviews, talking to people and looking at centers I think we have found the right place for our Sadie.  It is actually right beside Ellie’s school and I have figured out the buses so I take two buses (about 30 min on a good day) to take them and walk home (it’s about 3.6km or 2.3miles) on days when it isn’t raining.  Then bus back to get them and home again.  Not too bad.

The school we decided on sending her to is actually a  National Chain school called Kinderland.  They have there own learning curriculum that includes Chinese everyday, music and computer lessons every week and in January, when she starts Kindergarten I, she will be learning to read and studying phonics.  The school is  actually open 7am-7pm but we take her for 8:30 and get her at 4:30.  They serve the kids breakfast lunch and afternoon tea.  So Sadie is tasting the local fare everyday.

I liked the school for the mix of learning and fun and the fact that there was a good mix of kids.  After a week she seems to really enjoy it.  All the kids are welcoming and friendly yelling her name when she gets there and waving good bye when she leaves.  Sadie even has a P.E. uniform and a regular uniform just like Ellie.

Everyday dress

Everyday dress

P.E. uniform and her sparkling new green backpack

P.E. uniform and her sparkling new green backpack

 

All in all Sadie seems so much happier to have her own place.

We are still working on finding places with grass for her…

The grassy green at NUS Utown green

Cloud watching on the grassy green at NUS Utown green

…and I’m trying to figure out what to do with all my “free” time.

One of the two pools in our complex. Please pass the bon bons and frosty drink

One of the two pools in our complex. Please pass the bon bons and frosty drink

 

Learning Curve

My entire life, every time I have ever moved to a new apartment or house, there has been a learning curve.  You know the weird quirky things about the new place you have to learn. The things that you always brief house guests on like, you have to jiggle the handle and watch out for that it is lose.

When you move to another country there is a whole new level of learning.  Things that are normal to them are new to you.

Here are the things I have learned about my apartment so far.

Our new elevator has a tv screen and talks to you

Our new elevator has a tv screen and talks to you

Our oven (luckily we have an oven lots of places in Singapore don't) is like a mini size version of what we have in the States

Our oven (luckily we have an oven lots of places in Singapore don’t) is like a mini size version of what we have in the States

We have to remember to turn on and then off the hot water heater to get hot water in the shower

We have to remember to turn on and then off the hot water heater to get hot water in the shower

This is the hot water heater in the shower.  Like the UK there is no where to plug something in anywhere in the bathroom because "it isn't safe" but they will put a hot water heater with electrics right inside a shower

This is the hot water heater in the shower. Like the UK there is no where to plug something in anywhere in the bathroom because “it isn’t safe” but they will put a hot water heater with electrics right inside a shower

My sink, the only way to wash dishes.  The dishwasher is me.

My sink, the only way to wash dishes. The dishwasher is me.

If I want hot water to wash dishes this is where it comes from my kettle.  There isn't a hot water heater in my kitchen.  The water in the sink facet is one temp. luke warm.

If I want hot water to wash dishes this is where it comes from my kettle. There isn’t a hot water heater in my kitchen. The water in the sink facet is one temp. luke warm.

Washer might be small but it’s mighty and because there is no hot water heater here either its all in luke warm water

Our dryer vents right on to the porch and holds maybe half of the load of the washer but at least I have one

Our dryer vents right on to the porch and holds maybe half of the load of the washer but at least I have one

This is how I dry the other half of the clothes, drying rack

This is how I dry the other half of the clothes, drying rack

Anywhere there is water there is a drain on the floor.  You can here the water actually draining and dripping.

The bathroom floor

The bathroom floor

The kitchen

The kitchen

There is even one near the washer.

I have also been reminded that tile floors show all dirt and dust so sweeping and moping is done everyday.

That’s about it so far.  I’m sure the list will grow as we are here longer.  Nothing bad really – maybe having to do the dishes with out a dishwasher- so I can’t really complain.

 

 

 

 

 

Things I’ve learned- fun facts and a little Singlish

A few fun facts:

The population of Singapore is around 5.3 million and it is a city and a country that is only around 247 square miles -which is a little smaller than New York City.

That 247 square miles consists of the major island -the city of Singapore-and 59 smaller islands.

It’s only 85 miles north of the equator so that means is hot- every- single-day-of-the-year. Crazy humid and hot. In fact it is a joke here. No need to check the weather everyday because its one of three things- hot and sunny, hot and cloudy or hot and rainy. It’s always around 32 degrees Celsius – 90 degrees Fahrenheit give or take a degree.

Of that 5.3 million people, 2/5 are ex-pats, those from other countries all over the world. My taxi driver last week informed me there are over 90 nationalities represented here in Singapore. Now that’s what you call multi-national.

The best places to eat at the Hawker stalls will be ones with the longest lines. No brainier right? Well not exactly, if you just walk into the market and think ” that looks good” and stop at that stall you might be doing yourself a miss service. Keep walking. You will see that there are probably at least three stalls that serve the same food and it all costs the exact same. The one with the longest line is always your best bet. The difference could mean a 15 min wait compared to a no wait but the difference in taste is totally worth it.

Back to taxi drivers, want to know something get a taxi driver talking. You might only actually understand ever third word because many have very strong accents and speak a lot of Singlish- the Singapore version of English- but they can tell you about anything and are extremely nice.

Speaking of Singlish I have begun to pick a few things here and there:

Can-can (almost sounds like ken-ken) means they can do whatever you are asking. Ask a cab driver to take you somewhere you will hear can-can.

Auntie/Uncle is a sign of respect to someone who is older than you, think of when you would use Mrs or Mr. For example our neighbor is Auntie Monica to the girls. You can also use it for the cab driver or a person out and about that is older than you as a way to be respectful.

Brother/Sister/my friend traditionally someone who is your age would be called brother or sister – like a person you work with or a neighbor- but I’ve been told that many people use my friend now more often in the work place.

I’m still feeling my way through the Singlish but as anywhere I’ve ever been I find that if you ask people with a pure heart and only good intentions they will tell you what something means and even explain.

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