It is almost cliche to say that the only constant in life is change.
Yet, it is such a difficult subject to deal with.
It is not easy for the adults.
And it is probably much worse for the kids.

Singapore has changed so much that it can be difficult to deal with.
After just 1 year of being away, our first rude shock was when we got lost on the ECP going towards AYE.
We used to drive home along that route so often that the effort was subconscious.
ECP always led to AYE so you didn’t have to navigate and look for exits.
So imagine our shock when we found ourselves lost on the MCE and looking at unfamiliar road signs.
We exited the MCE and found ourselves in familiar surroundings but on roads that did not yet exist in our conception.
Finally, the GPS locked in and guided us to our destination.
Over the next few weeks, we had more surprises.

Some parts of the PIE had been “upsized”.
The giant structure staring at us across the bay was not an alien.
spaceship; it was the newly completed Sportshub.
The National Day celebrations are going to be held there instead of the floating platform at Marina Bay.

And this story repeats itself again and again.
Familiar structures disappeared, new ones popped up.
There was construction everywhere.
Car and property prices are astronomical.
Add our move from the United States to the equation.
And life becomes almost too stressful.

But external change is not all that needs to be dealt with.
Change also comes from within.
And because internal change can be so foundational, it could be so much more difficult to manage.
And for us, the internal change had been profound.

Take for example the children.
They went to a private school in the States, where they not only learned, but they had fun.
It was amazing.

The school teachers treated the children like equals; respected them; listened to them; and had fun together.
It was truly a journey of learning that teacher, child and parent alike took together.
We got involved with the school not because we had to do.
We got involved because it was the spirit.
Where everybody contributed a little bit to the school community.
All the parents volunteered a little, baked or cooked a little, or helped to man the stall at the school festival, or helped to clean up after that.

Sure, we paid a premium to get our kids to that school since going to a public school would have been completely free.
But, what we paid was only a fraction of what most parents pay for a preschool here in Singapore.
Money aside, can we find a school like that in Singapore?
Where it is not just about the PSLE, but also about the community.
A community where even strangers from far away lands feel a part of.

Malcolm and Marcus miss their schools in the States.
Malcolm has letters from his teachers thanking him for the little things that he did in school.
Marcus has wonderful memories of his time there.
I think it was a special time for both of them.

So we were hesitant to put them back into the schools here.
We wanted to find something that would bring back the sense of belonging, community, and most importantly fun.

We looked high and low, visiting schools, looking at parent forums.
But no matter what, it always seemed to fall short of our expectations.
I can almost feel the virtual cogs turning in our children’s schools, driving the machinery necessary to transform our kids into ace students and top athletes.
It didn’t matter if it was a renowned school. It felt the same.
It was about the measurable results and the quantifiable outcomes, even as touted the holistic children development programs and so on and so forth.

It didn’t matter that Malcolm had already read the Lord of the Rings trilogy at the age of ten, and had consumed more novels than both my husband and I have combined.
He is still just a regular kid, unless of course he scores a PSLE aggregate of 270+, and then he would be someone special. Around here at least.

But in the heart of his teachers in the little school, Malcolm was that new student who had a wager with the school librarian on who could read more.
Malcolm was that special kid that won the bet and shaved the librarian’s beard in front of his cheering classmates and whom they believe will go on and achieve great things.

We put both kids back into their old schools. Malcolm accepted it.
Marcus resisted initially, but finally acquiesced.
We realised that the schools didn’t really matter that much anymore.
We have changed.
Our perspectives have changed, maybe for good.
The year in the States had left an indelible mark on our consciousness; even for the kids.
And we are unlikely to repeat that experience here in our school system.

Instead, we decided that we would let the schools do what they do, and on our part, we were going to make up for it.
We would make a conscious decision to live, learn, have fun, respect each other, and remember that our kids are all special in their own special ways.



A Hectic Month

We are back in Singapore and the first thing we did after we landed at 1am on a Monday morning was to lug 8 luggages, board the sky train and head over to Toastbox for these.

And we spent the next one week combing through every foodstore in hawker centres.

It has been a hectic month and I haven’t sat down to write a proper post since like forever.
Ok I exaggerated, it was a couple of weeks but it felt like forever. I guess that’s a sign that I do enjoy writing in this space.

The busyness started more than a month ago when the whole relocation madness began.
The fact that our stay in the States was cut short by a year threw all plans into disarray.
From selling and getting rid of almost everything we had in the States to resetting up everything here again.
From house to car to furniture. We decided to bring the sunshine back with us!

It was complete madness but thankfully there is some truth in the saying that ‘practice makes perfect’ and we survived our 6th move in the last decade. It was as if all those morning runs helped build up my stamina for this day!

We were excited to go home yet sad to say good byes to our friends and what we have called home for the last one year.

In the midst of the packing, we managed to squeeze in some time to do some last minute baking. We baked some cookies for the teachers and a whacky cake for the kids to share with their friends in school.

Apart from getting ready for the move, there were more coffees and gatherings to bid farewells. For someone who doesn’t take to social events naturally, the last one year had been eventful. I met more people than I have met in the last decade as a stay at home mom. The most rewarding part has to be the many beautiful friendships that were forged over the last year.

Amongst these people were a mother of 4 who is my age and did a triathlon for the very first time; a mother of 3 (her oldest kid was 6 years old) who managed to find time to train for a half ironman; my jogging kaki who apart from learning Taekwondo with her kids, taught herself how to play the ukulele within the year and performed in front of an audience, and many more ladies who took to mothering their children in a foreign land, and speaking a foreign language with much grace and style.

This is my beautiful Scottish friend whom I miss dearly. She had prepared for us a beautiful champagne breakfast despite having to juggle 3 kids and keeping a big home impeccable.

I am thankful to have met these strong and capable ladies who have shown me so much about living a colourful life.



An Online Bookstore : NoQ Store

I was at my desk working late at night, and the light bulb blows. Intuitively, I click to the Amazon website, type in “light bulbs”, and get 1.5 million hits. I look at the bestseller, and think to myself that it looks about right. I select it, add to my cart, and select check out. Because the light bulb is on the Amazon Prime list, it would arrive in two days time at my door step and I didn’t have to pay a cent for shipping. All that in less than two minutes.

We have been spoilt by the online shopping experience in the United States. With so many retailers competing across the whole of the United States, we the consumers are the main beneficiaries, with lower prices and incredibly short delivery times. Online retailers such as Amazon have made going to the stores almost redundant, and malls across the United States are going bust.

Although I don’t think that Singapore malls were going bust anytime soon, I was exhilarated to find out that we were going to get our own online bookstore – NoQ store, the e-commerce arm of Times bookstore. We love books and we love hanging out at bookstores. It is a pity these days that there are less and less physical bookstores due to alternative print such as digital books. We were very sad when a large bookstore chain at Wheelock Place closed its doors due to bankruptcy. So, we are glad that an old brand like the Times Bookstores survived the competition and is now expanding into online retailing. One of our favourite hangouts in Singapore is the little Times Bookstore at Changi Airport. My husband and I would sit by the cafeteria opposite the store sipping our kopi-O while the kids spend hours at the bookstore flipping through books.

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So when NoQ store asked me to review their online store, I jumped at the chance. After all, I would get a couple of shopping vouchers at NoQ Store to buy books. I decided to look for Malcolm’s school textbooks as those were probably what we needed most. Finding the textbooks was a breeze, and soon they were all in the shopping cart. And since Father’s day was round the corner, I decided to find some of the books from my husband’s wishlist of about 20 titles. Because it was an online store, I could do all these while we were still in the States!

The NoQ Store search interface was usable and the selection of books was wide. There was hardly a book that I could not find. As long as you exceed $25 for your orders in Singapore, you get free shipping. Furthermore, NoQ claims that the prices are cheaper than in any physical bookstore and they are willing to backup their claim with a Price Guaranteed Program where they would refund you the difference if you can find the same item selling more cheaply in a physical bookstore. Delivery time in Singapore is estimated to be 7-14 working days. So if you want your book in a hurry, go to the bookstore and buy it. If you are willing to wait, get it online at a better price.

After the couple of pluses there, I must mention one important area for improvement. One of the most amazing aspects of online shopping in the US was the short delivery times. delivered many items in two business days. Zappos delivered the next business day, and even offer free returns for all its items. Yes, that means if you don’t like the item, you print out a return label, stick it on the box, and send it back to Zappos free of charge. We have been thoroughly spoilt by this experience, and so 7-14 working days felt like a really really long time. 14 working days could mean that the book is delivered three weeks from the date of order. I think many of us would be put off by the long waiting time, and would not mind paying the premium to get the book from the bookstore. After all, being a woman, most of my purchases are spontaneous and spurred by my intense need for (nearly) instant gratification.

To be fair to NoQ Store, this is a great step forward. Amazon was not built overnight, and they suffered teething problems in the beginning and many many years of negative earnings. I would say that the key to improving the shopping experience at NoQ is to substantially improve the delivery times. Perhaps one day, I would be ordering light bulbs from the NoQ Store too.

Get a 15% discount at NoQ Store
From now till 31 July, NoQ Store has generously offered a 15% discount to all readers here when they use the coupon code MALMAL at their online store.

So go grab some books for the kids this coming school holiday!

This entry was posted in review.
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