You Say ‘Haze’ I Say POLLUTION

When I was at schools (very late-70s and all of the 1980s and 1990) we used to tune into to AM breakfast if it was raining to find out if outdoor school activities, like excursions/field trips and sporting events, were cancelled. When the announcements came that the athletics carnival was indeed cancelled due to the wet weather if you were like me at not at all athletic you’d let out a massive cheer! I assume if were a sporty type you’d be devastated, but I’m assuming here as wanting to attend a sporting carnival is very much outside my frame of reference.

The Little Missy, who is now 9, is scheduled to attend her very first school camp today at the Singapore Zoo. At her school this is the only camp that is actually a ‘camp’, most usually involve staying at a resort in Malaysia complete with housekeeping and proper beds. The kids sleep out in tents and see lots of behind the scenes zoo things that the public never get to see. It’s only for a night but it’s a great ‘taste’ of staying away from home.

Events are rarely cancelled in advance due to wet weather in Singapore. They might be paused for an hour or so while a thunder and lightning show plays out, but then it’s back to normal scheduling. The biggest threat to outdoor activities is the ‘haze’, which is a polite word for POLLUTION.

The pollution has been building all week, thanks to the plantations of Sumatra who are doing their annual ‘let’s burn everything’ routine.On Monday I went out in the car and to the shops for about 45 minutes. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening coughing. (I’m not normally prone to the effects of pollution but I’m still recovering from a respiratory infection. Yes, woe is me!)

Yesterday the PSI reading hit the ‘unhealthy’ range, where all outdoor activities are cancelled.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet we haven’t had to sit by the radio waiting for the announcer to tell us what will happen to the camp but the pollution has meant that Plan B will swing into place and the Little Missy will get to sleep at school instead of the zoo.

The pollution is one of the few downsides of living in Singapore. We are fortunate that it’s not ever present like it is in parts of China but it still sucks, especially as it has a very easy solution – SUMATRA! STOP BURNING STUFF!

It Will Be Fine

Just over a month ago we hit the 4 year mark of our expat adventure. Four years! I remember thinking before we left Australia that our three year contract would go slowly, but it really has gone very fast.

After four years I am in a very good place. Life in Singapore is my normal. All of the uncertainty of those first months has gone. Grocery shopping doesn’t bring me to tears any more. The GPS is rarely turned on, unless I’m heading somewhere out of my usual routine. When I hear the traffic report on the car radio I know exactly what PIE, KJE, CTE, AYE and MCE all mean. I even answer with can/can not rather than yes or no. I can pronounce Tampines properly (almost.

But…. within a year our life may look very different. The company my husband works for has a strict maximum limit of 5 years for expat assignments. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we will be heading home within the year as there’s a distinct possibility the OH could switch to a local contract and stay in Singapore.

Repatriation, a new country and staying in Singapore will all involve a great deal of change. All have their pluses and minuses. And all are exciting in their own ways.

Unless you’ve lived this expat life, where massive life changes can come out of the blue which makes uncertainty something that is lived with daily, this seems a strange way to live. I cope by not trying to dwell on the ‘what ifs?’ too much and trusting that which ever way the cards fall that things will work out. If we head home it’ll be fine. If we stay here it’ll be fine, and if we move to another country it will be fine (eventually!).


According to the saying ‘absence makes the heart grew fonder’, so the three* people who follow my blog must bloody adore me!

For the past few months all of my words have been going to places other than on this blog. To the book. to my uni assignment. Into some casual work that also involves words. After being a stay-at-home mum for over 12 years these opportunities are greatly appreciated and welcomed, but I haven’t been able to keep up with this blog. Although to be perfectly frank my days only involve getting kids to school and then writing with the occasional trip to the supermarket thrown in, so there hasn’t been a great deal to actually blog about anyway!

The only big thing is that we have passed our FOUR YEAR expat-versary. Four years!

If you do want to read some Singapore blogs here’s a random selection of some of my favourites:

Tails from the Lion City Bridget is a friend who has a passion for exploring this little island, and she usually does it on foot. She blogs about her adventures and has probably seen more square feet of Singapore than many locals.

Diary of an Expat Somebody is a satirical blog written by the fictitious Emma-Jane Austen-Jones. EJ is the stereotypical expat wife but amped up. There’s some excellent storylines developing and if you have a sense of humour this blog is well worth checking out.

Relentless Laundry is the blog of a (UK) Irish mum and her three kids. I have no idea who she is but she writes with wit and warmth, plus she throws in recipes!

Living in Sin is a food and travel blog that has lots of great tips. The writer has since repatriated back to France so you’ll get lots of French info, too.

Expat Kiwis is a blog written by New Zealand couple. They’ve been in SG since 2010 so there’s lots of great information, especially about restaurant and bars.

If you want something to listen to, rather than read, then download the Two Fat Expats podcast from iTunes. It’s not Singapore-based but Kirsty and Sarah discuss all things expat, both good and bad.

Once again, if you’re moving to Singapore feel free to drop me an email.

Happy reading!

* I have no idea how many ‘followers’ this blog has, or if it’s actually possible to follow this blog at all! I will know I have followers when I find a GOMI thread……

National Mourning

Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, died in the early hours of Monday morning at the age of 91.

As an outsider it’s been interesting to watch how Singapore mourns, and I can’t help but compare it to Australia. However, it’s a completely unbalanced comparison as Australia has no ‘founding father’. We don’t have one individual that we can point at and say ‘we are what we are today because of him or her’. One of our former Prime Ministers, Malcolm Fraser, passed away last week. There were articles and stories about his achievements and a state funeral will be held this coming Friday, but it’s an entirely different level to what I’m seeing here. Actually the only comparable Australian event I can think of is that of Phillip Hughes, a young cricketer who was tragically struck on the head during a match last year. Much of the response to Phillip’s death was, I believe, to do with his youth and the unexpectedness of his death.


Lee Kuan Yew was neither young nor was his death sudden, so those elements are missing here. I spent time this morning talking to Singaporeans who are queueing to pay their respects at the Parliament, where Mr Lee is lying in state. They all spoke of how much they respect Mr Lee for what he did for Singapore and how he built the tiny island into the business centre it is today.

On Monday morning none of the commercial radio stations were playing their regular music, rather they were all playing sad, classical pieces. A week of national mourning was declared and flags were lowered to half mast. The Esplanade Theatre cancelled all non-ticketed events. Communities have a central place where people can go to pay their respects to Mr Lee and condolence books can be signed outside the Istana.


The queue must be at least a kilometre long. People began arriving during the night, well before Mr Lee’s body was driven from the Istana to Parliament. The line was filled with all manner of people. Some had flowers. some had notes. It’s very, very hot out there today and most of the queue is not shaded but everyone seemed happy to wait. Eager to pay their respects to the ‘founding father of modern Singapore’.

Vale Lee Kuan Yew

Three Random Things


The weather has been amazing the last month. This time of the year is what passes for winter in the tropics – the humidity has been lower, there’s less rain and there has even been a breeze! It’s been lovely to open the windows and doors and have the breeze blow through, although there’s a landfill fire in Malaysia at the moment, so if the wind is blowing the wrong way I have to shut the house to avoid it smelling like a bushfire. Swings and roundabouts.


I have a new blog. It’s nothing to do with expat life and everything to do with telling the stories of long-buried people. If you’re interested you’ll find it at


I always feel as though I blog into a void. I blog as though no-one is watching, so to speak. I rarely look at my stats or promote this blog. It’s just not my thing. But it seems people other than my family and friends do read this blog as I’ve been given the opportunity to write the Singapore book of a long established series aimed at people relocating here. I’m apparently a little superstitious so I won’t say more at the moment but hopefully you’ll find my name on a book in March, 2016.

Digging in the Dirt

After a lovely five weeks back ‘home’ I returned ‘home’ to Singapore and had the very good fortune to spend my first week digging in the dirt for remnants of the Second World War. Now, this may well not be everyone’s cup of tea but I’m currently doing two history degrees at university (one at Post Graduate level and another bachelor degree just for fun), so the opportunity to touch and feel history was too good to pass up.

A couple of months ago I went on a walking tour organised by ANZA (Australia and New Zealand Association) of Hellfire Corner, which was one of the key battles leading up the Fall of Singapore. The tour was conducted by Jon Cooper, a battlefield archaeologist who had been working on The Adam Park Project, to uncover more detail about the fighting that occurred in the Adam Park area. The tour was very interesting and I was a bit miffed that I’d missed my chance to join in the archaeological digs the project had already carried out, but, serendipitously,  a new opportunity came up to explore the battles that waged in the Mount Pleasant Road area and so I spent most of the past week digging in the dirt for bullets.

10914991_10153026042501552_4156365360201859180_oThe aim of the dig was to uncover (and recover) evidence of the battle that was fought along Mount Pleasant Road on February 15, 1942. Sources from the time show that the British fought a battle from the southern side of Mount Pleasant Road toward the house on the opposite side of the road, which had been occupied by the Japanese. They also show that Captain Watson died during the battle and was buried at 159 Mount Pleasant Road, and although he was reburied at Kranji War Cemetery in 1946, there was hope of uncovering his initial burial site.

The project centred on two distinct areas. The first was a 2 metre by 2 metre area where ammunition littered the surface (an old tree had been removed and monsoon rains washed away the topsoil which exposed them). The second was a broad sweep of the yard using a metal detector, which registered lots of metal objects below the surface. A dig is quite labour intensive. After the initial use of metal detectors it’s elbow grease and trowels to uncover the hidden objects. Once an item was uncovered (and we managed to get well over a thousand items of the ground!) it is put in a plastic bag, tagged with detailed information (date, location, description), which is then also copied on to a central register. So, first we dig and then we record. The recording of the information is just as important as the uncovering as this will allow Jon to recreate a diagram of where everything was located. Analysis of the diagram will, hopefully, show a pattern that might shed new light on the Mount Pleasant Road battle.

10514582_10153023941886552_9026509724871466765_nA week ago I had never touched a bullet. Now I know that a round has two halves. The pointy bit is the projectile or bullet. The bottom half is the cartridge. The propellent used in British bullets was cordite, whilst the Japanese used gunpowder. Japanese rounds are about a millimetre thinner than British bullets. The small circle on the bottom of the cartridge is called the ‘percussion cap’. The bottom of a British cartridge has lots of information stamped on it (which is why they are called ‘endstamps’!), while Japanese ones have a pattern.

It wasn’t ALL bullets, though. The team also recovered coins, buttons, tubes, and some other bits and pieces.

If you’re interested in keeping up to date with Jon Cooper’s work, or volunteering on a project, you can follow his Facebook page, The Adam Park Project. There’s lots of photos and video of the past week. I am the badly dressed woman in the white shirt and blue hat.

PS: Any factual mistakes are mine. I have so much new information swirling around in my head that it’s inevitable some it got scrambled.