Sunday, September 2, 2012

First Three Months Working in Singapore

The last three months have been an absolute whirlwind, I don't know how my mind has been able to keep up.  I knew that starting a new job in a new part of the world would be a challenge, but what has been the most difficult is learning to communicate and the social etiquette of those around me. Once you move to a foreign country outside the US, you realize how much of what we speak is figurative or are idioms that don't translate to someone who speaks English as a second language. The Singaporean language is very efficient and often curt. Taking this into account when you are trying to speak to a client professionally yet respectfully gets my brain going on many cylinders.  One of the best words I have begun using in my daily communications is "revert".  So much of correspondence in today's day and age is done via email and in the US if you want to let someone know you are working on something and will respond shortly, you say, "I'll get back to you soon", in Singapore, it is simply.  "I will revert".  It is the simple words like this which I feel are chosen so carefully, I feel the need to obsess over my emails as each word must have the absolute maximum impact.

While communication has been something of a challenge, learning the customers and lay of the land was a slow process in the beginning but is beginning to come together.  Just like I have done with my past two jobs, you have to start by learning the names of the customers in your territory, what their lines of businesses are, who they key stakeholders are, and then what are their pain points.  This last point will take the longest time but is the most important.  I have never been an Enterprise Sales person before and it is a completely different kind of sell.  That said, you have huge potential to be a consultant  for your customers and advise them on the strategies and solutions they should be looking toward that will help them meet their business needs. I love that aspect of this job.  I get to help my customers look like rockstars... perhaps its the American in me that thinks everyone wants to be a rockstar :)

After having spent the last year and a half working from home, I was a bit worried about how I would do in an office environment again.  I have also never used public transit to get to and from the office.  I was surprised at how easily I have fallen into a routine.  It has not been difficult getting up in the morning, usually making it to the gym before work, and then getting into the office (usually before the rest of my team) and starting off the day working.  It has been awkward learning what the local norms and expectations are in this particular office. My last two jobs would easily permit me to work from home and manage my own business. I feel that in SEA, the norm is more along the lines of, your butt needs to be in your seat during business hours unless you are out on a client meeting. This has taken some adjusting to and will hopefully get easier.  In terms of my colleagues, I initially gravitated toward the ex-pats as they are most familiar.  After being with the company for a few months now, I have found that I am growing closer to many of the locals in my office.  They are such high-spirited and good-natured people that i am enjoying getting to know them very much.  Many have taken on Western  names but for those that have not, it is very hard to learn their Eastern names and ensure I pronounce them correctly.  Slowly, but sure I'm getting there.

I just returned last night from Phuket, Thailand which was a beautiful experience.  We were only there for the weekend and look forward to going back and exploring more of the island next time.  I am off today to KL for a very senior level meeting with the largest telco company in Malaysia and hopefully will be moving toward closing some business for Q4.  I did not get near to hitting my goal for Q3 and really want to do well this upcoming quarter to make up for it.  I leave for the US on Friday and will be home for a week.  It will be my first trip home since I left at the end of February and I am SO excited to be home. In'n Out Burger is calling my name.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Last day of freedom

Today is officially my last day of freedom before rejoining the corporate world.  The past year and a half of my life, I have worked remotely out my home office and the past 3 months have worked very part time so this will definitely be an adjustment going back into the working full time in an office.  Truth be told, I am actually very excited to meet new people and feel like I am finally grounding myself locally.  I accepted a job with Adobe about a week and a half ago and will be selling their digital marketing suite to South East Asia.
The interview process was wonderful and I had a really good gut feeling about everyone I met with.  I really like my new boss and think I will learn a ton from her.  I will learn more about the specifics around what I will be selling and my territory in the new couple weeks.  The timing of my start date worked out perfectly with the beginning of Adobe's 2nd quarter as well as my first day on the job, there is a major sales training which is held at the Marina Bay Sands where Adobe sales offices from all over Asia including India as well as Australia will be joining and meeting in Singapore. It is going to give me the opportunity to meet a lot of the regional team and receive some very high quality training that will hopefully make successful in this new venture.
The only major concern I have about starting my new job is Chewie. Her separation anxiety has gotten increasingly worse since we have gotten here and she is not used to having me be gone for 8-10 hours a day.  I finally gave in to Drew's persistence and signed Chewie up for obedience training. For the most part, Chewie is very well behaved except for when I leave.  The dog trainer swears that this is because she does not have confidence and the obedience training will help her to overcome it.  We have to spend 40 minutes every day training her and working on her beginning to listen and follow directions on a leash.
I scheduled my gmat test which I have set for two weeks away.  My class ends on Thursday and I have done a lot of the homework.  I am going to have to really commit to studying every night when I get home from work to make sure that I am prepared for the exam.  I don't want to take it more than once. Hopefully I will be able to enroll in an MBA program early next year.  One of my favorite things about Adobe is that they offer educational assistance and will cover almost a third of the cost of my MBA program which will be very helpful.
Our friends Matt and Nina are coming out to visit in three weeks and I am very excited to see some friends from back home.  We are going to take a couple of days and go to Koh Samui, Thailand and then go to Koh Phagnan for the full moon party which will happen to be on the 4th of July.  I thought it would be fun to get an American Flag bikini but Drew didn't think it was a good idea to draw that kind of attention to ourselves. We are supposed to go home in August for a wedding but I have to make sure my job will allow me to take the time off work before I can book the trip.  That's the only tough thing about starting a new job is it is going to cut into my leisure travel time. :)
This was one of the most fun weekend's we have had in awhile and I feel like we squeezed in a  lot of fun before I am going back to work.  Drew took me and a a couple friends to dinner Friday night to celebrate my last weekend of Freedom and we went to a really neat area called Dempsy Hill.  This area used to be army barracks that was converted into a little community of very unique restaurants.  We got tapas at a place called Don Quixote and then drank the night away at a local chain pub called Harry's.  We were finally ready to go home and were outside waiting for our taxi when Drew decided he could not resist and had to run into Ben and Jerry's. He came out with not one, not two, but three scoops of ice cream with chocolate fudge in a waffle cone bowl.  The night could not have ended better.
I had my class Saturday afternoon but we coordinated a lunch with some friends of our friends Sergio and Sarah from back in the states.  We ended up meeting them at a different restaurant in Dempsy Hill which was ironic because we had never been there before the previous night.  Both parties arrived a bit hungover and we ended up having an amazing meal that was extremely necessary on my uneasy stomach.  I had a pulled pork sandwich with french fries that was incredible.  The owner of the restaurant wanted it to look like a place in the New York meat packing district, even though he has never been to New York which I find pretty funny.  It was really nice meeting these new friends and made plans to go to Beer Fest with them next weekend. Saturday night we went to an authentic Thai restaurant near our apartment where the electricity went out, luckily after we received our food. Saturday night we made plans to go to Singapore's full moon party which takes place out on Sentosa.  Sentosa is an island known for being a bit touristy and Drew has refused to go there up to this point.  I was thrilled to finally make the trek out there. The party is known to be nothing remotely near as cool as Thailand's full moon party, but this was still a party that apparently lasts until 5 or 6 in the morning and hundreds of people party on the beach, in the sand, in bikinis, while several different DJs blast music and entertainers dance with fire or pole dance.  It was an amazing experience.  It was nice to finally see Singapore let loose. The city seems very stiff in many ways and this was the first time I saw it go a little crazy.  Drew and I both way overdressed for the party and next time will go in our swimmers.  Among the hundreds of people dancing, there was not much of a breeze, and the cloud of cigarette smoke that hovered above the crowd made it a very sweaty evening but was so much fun.  We will definitely be going back there soon.
Going to have a glass of wine and hopefully get a good night's sleep before the big day tomorrow. I haven't had to get up at 7am since we have been here so I hope I'll be able sleep tonight.  Usually the night before a first day, the anticipation keeps me up.
P.S. Chewie is snoring next to me right now. Obedience class pooped her out!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Too busy for someone who is unemployed

This is my first official week of being unemployed and I am way to busy to be doing all of the fabulous things I am supposed to be enjoying like going to yoga, lunching with friends, tanning, and going shopping. I have had so much homework and studying to do for my GMAT class, I don't know how people with full time jobs are able to get all the of required homework and studying done. 
The work has been very frustrating and tiresome.  I have to walk away after awhile, particularly when doing the verbal portion.  I am starting to feel the math coming back but have been so amazed at how much I have needed to re-learn.  It's like using a language.  We spend at least four years of our lives learning a language between middle school and university and for many people, if they don't use it, they lose it.  I don't think I have seen a fraction or exponents in the last 10 years as there isn't much math in advertising. I am really hoping that as I continue to practice, I will start getting more answers correct. I have already finished my verbal homework for the week but I still need to do the math, the online tutorials for verbal and math, and then take another practice test.  That alone is probably at least 9 hours worth of homework and I have already spent 4 on the other verbal homework. 
Other than GMAT preparation, I have been actively moving things along on the job front.  I am in the final round of interviews for one company and am at about the mid-way point for another.  I have an in person interview this afternoon with 1-2 people and have a really big in person presentation with another company tomorrow.  I spent about 8 hours yesterday working on the presentation for tomorrow. I have to essentially look at a local advertiser, evaluate their current social strategy, and then build a business plan using the solutions I would be selling to better their business.  It was a fun task and I love solution-based selling.  The challenge was that I have not had to build a power point completely from scratch since college.  Typically, there are company charts, infographs, and marketing slides that I can modify to my need but I had absolutely nothing and had to build from the ground up. I spent a lot of time yesterday on Google Images trying to ad some color to my presentation. 
I received my first job offer last night for the ad agency. I have been very excited about the role, the company, and the people I would be working with but the offer was as I suspected, far too low.  I knew that I would likely take a pay decrease since I am used to making a fair base salary and a large amount of commission.  This new role would be almost completely salary base with a small bonus.  The base salary itself is far lower than what I have been making and I just don't think I can afford to live off it.  The media director made it sound like I might be able to counter, but they couldn't offer me much more than that. 
Drew and I now have a gorgeous apartment that costs quite a decent amount in rent and I have my condo back home that looks like although I may be finally getting a tenant, I am going to have to pay over $400 a month between what I will be able to rent it at and what the mortgage is costing.  Most importantly, Drew and I moved here to be able to travel and I want to be able to ensure that I can afford to travel to all of the wonderful places we planned visiting while we live here. 
One of the companies I am interviewing with this week also offers the perk of educational assistance.  If I start my MBA program while I am here, it would be amazing if the company will help fund it.  That is something else which is drawing me away from the offer I received yesterday.
Anyways... praying that what is meant to be will happen and something good will happen this week.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Ferrari and KK, Malaysia

It has been almost 2 1/2 weeks since my last post and I have lots and lots of updates. When we got back from Sydney, AU, we found out that we officially got the fabulous "ferrari" apartment. It is at the top of our budget but everyone we have had over has told us this place easily should go for $2-4k more than what we are paying for it.  Everyday we are here, we are in awe in at how grateful we are to have such a beautiful place so well located. If I were to describe this to someone in the US, I would describe it as 5th Avenue combined with Rodeo Drive and the Santa Monica promenade/place.  I have seen two Hermes in less than a quarter of a mile and there could easily be more in one of the many many floors of the malls around Orchard Road.
We got back from Sydney on Sunday night and left for KK, Malaysia on Saturday morning.  Drew was attending a conference for the ad industry so his flight and our gorgeous room were both free.  The conference was at the Shangri-la and our room was stunning.  We looked out onto a mini-golf course and out onto the ocean. The hotel had a mini-water park, three different pools, a beach, and the most amazing bar I think I have ever seen called the "Sunset Bar". Every evening people gathered out at the bar at tables and on lounge cushions to watch the sun set behind thunderous clouds to create the most spectacular view of pinks, purples, and oranges.  I think Drew took over 300 pictures of the sunset with this camera.  We have some truly breathtaking photos.  
The conference was interesting and we did some great c-level networking to help build our relationships in SEA. We were able to get away one afternoon to go to a nearby island for snorkeling.  The island was beautiful and we enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch before trying out snorkeling.  The water was pretty nice and we could see almost everything without the need for scuba.  The only problem is that as we were out in the water, I started feeling little stings.  They felt like mini jellyfish stings but there was absolutely nothing I could see in the water.  I later found out there are microscopic critters in the water called jellybugs.  They left little red bite marks on my skin and were itchy and burning but finally went away later that day.
Malaysia is predominantly a Muslim country so I was definitely a minority in a bikini out on the islands. Our resort is mostly expats and tourists so it wasn't as noticeable.  But out on the islands, there were mostly locals so most of the women were completely covered up.  Even when they went in the water, they donned full wet suit style clothing to cover their heads, arms, and legs.  It must have been 90 degrees with almost 100% humidity and I can't possibly understand how the women can manage to be in all black head to toe.
The trip was fabulous and we were very sad to leave.  We got back on Wednesday afternoon and went straight from the airport to go pick up Chewie who was SO excited to see us.
The next couple days I packed up our apartment and on Saturday morning we made the move into our new apartment.  The movers brought in 99 items which included all of our furniture and all of the boxes containing our clothes and every last bit of our lives from the US. I have been waiting two months to settle into our life hear and I was on a mission to get unpacked as quickly as possible.  I have been working from home so being around clutter night and day drives me absolutely crazy.  Drew called me a woman on a mission.
I hosted my first girls night here the following Thursday night and managed to have our paintings and pictures hung up and had all boxes cleared out.  I let Drew go out to buy the TV which was probably a big mistake as he came back with a 42 inch HD 3-D television. I also sent him out to buy a coffee machine and he came back with an espresso machine. We ended up getting everything sorted outing the long run but had to make four trips to the electronics store which just about put me over the edge.
My last day at comScore was officially on the 30th and I received my separation papers via email yesterday.  I dropped off my stuff at the local comScore office and will receive my final paycheck hopefully in the near future.
I have been interviewing heavily with three different companies and all three interviews have been going very well.  I should be expecting an offer from an ad agency in the next week or so. I have also been also interviewing with a couple of competitors to comScore that have been going very well and I think would be exciting and challenging opportunities to me.  Both of the companies though have been taking a long time and the process has already been over a month and will likely be a minimum of two weeks before I could even get an offer. I am grateful for the time getting settled in but am also looking forward to starting work.
I have been keeping myself busy the last week and a half by beginning to study for my GMAT test.  My GMAT class has proven to be extremely helpful but also made me increasingly aware of how much I have forgotten since high school.  The test consists of two parts like the SAT, math and verbal.  I took the diagnostic test and could not believe how poorly I scored. I was always an honors student in school and this test score did not reflect that at all. During our first lesson we reviewed several components of the math portion and I felt so embarrassed that I had forgotten simple mathematic procedures such as multiplying and dividing fractions, how to add and multiply exponents, and I felt a wave of nausea when I was shown quadratic equations.  My brain knows that I have the knowledge somewhere in the deep dark crevices, but my conscience cannot pull up the memories to help me solve the mathematical problems.  That said, I have been spending a lot of my newly unemployed time by re-learning all the math I learned from grades 6-12.  Thankfully it has all been coming back relatively easily but I definitely need to practice as much as possible as the GMAT doesn't just test your basic knowledge of these mathematical skills, but it checks to see how it can trick you and determines your ability to reason while using advanced mathematical skills.
Today is Cinco de Mayo and this is a day we would normally surround ourselves with friends to indulge in Mexican food, margaritas, and tequila.  We are going to have people over at our place this evening so Drew can truly break in the bar and then go out to Cafe Iguana (yep, that's really what it is called) to drink and have a Mexican feast.  The restaurant is offering 40% of happy hour prices which is a REALLY good deal for Singapore so I am excited to enjoy the festivities. I have also been really trying to cut back on the alcohol consumption as it is SO expensive to drink here and I frankly don't need the calories.  I haven't drank anything since last Sunday so I feel like I have earned the right to indulge tonight.
I promise to blog more soon.
Besos y Abrasos,
Alicia

Thursday, April 19, 2012

End of Sydney and back to house hunting

The last night in Sydney we took a dinner cruise around the harbor.  It was the perfect, touristy thing to round out our time in the city. We almost missed the boat because we were running late but ended up making it on time.  The dinner cruise was kind of pricey but I paid $25 extra per person for us to have open bar which we easily got our money's worth.  We were greeted with glasses of champagne.  Went through probably two bottles of wine at dinner and Drew had two large glasses of whiskey.  There was a live band which played a compilation of music from jazz, oldies, to pop and no one was dancing though they were begging for people to help them out when the singer announced we were celebrating the fact we recently got engaged.  Other couples were announced as celebrating a birthday or a reunion or something but because we were on the dance floor and Drew was twirling me around, we had people stand up applaud us and start taking our pictures.  It was  SO embarrassing.  We laughed for the next 5 minutes while the singer dedicated some classic love song to us and we slow dances as people continued to take our picture and we tried not to look at the cameras.  It was a very fun night, the food was pretty good, and we were back in our hotel well rested for the very long flight back to Singapore.
Drew's flight was early in the morning so I ended up being alone most of the day Sunday which was Easter.  I felt a little homesick I wasn't with my family or around people but managed to make do.  It was also the first Easter I have never received an Easter basket which I realize to many people is crazy that as an adult my mom still gives all her kids Easter baskets but it has become a tradition regardless.  The only perk is that I did not have to try to resist the temptation of downing the chocolate in the basket and therefore was able to save myself at least a thousand calories.
The long flight back was uneventful but getting home to see Chewie was glorious.  I have not been apart from her that long in many many months so she was beyond excited to see me.  The week back from Sydney was very full of job hunting, interviews, and house hunting.  I have a couple of very interesting opportunities that I am exploring and while I have loved being able to work part time, I am excited to get back into productive mode.  The most exciting highlight of the week I am happy to share is that we finally found our apartment.  Tuesday was a long day and I viewed about 10 apartments but we definitely found our home.
I have been explaining to people that many of the beautiful new places we have been looking at are like a mercedes and the older apartment I thought we were going to get stuck with would be settling for a prius.  It's still a good car, reliable, does it's job and is more economical in many ways.  The apartment we chose, I can't believe to say, is a Ferrari.  The listing agent knew our agent and told us that this place normally rents for $2-$3k per month more than what we were able to get it for.  It is at very top of our budget but the location is perfect, it is absolutely gorgeous, and the rooms are large enough for all of our furniture.  It has a private elevator, maid's quarters, a service elevator, and a rooftop pool.   Drew and I actually feel guilty that we are going to be living in such an incredible apartment.  That said, we get the keys tomorrow and have our stuff moved on Saturday including the sea shipment.  I am SO excited to be finally moving into our own place, getting to sleep in my bed, and being able to unpack everything.  Its' been a great week.
It sounds like I may be getting an offer on a job that I am very excited about.  It is definitely going to be a pay cut since our industry doesn't pay as much here but I am very excited about being part of something big and helping to change and shift the industry in SEA.  The next week is going to be a big week.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Darling Harbor is Darling, Blue Mountains- Three Sisters and Bushwalking

The past two days have been full of activity and fun.  I went to Darling Harbor yesterday which is an adorable part of the city full of restaurants, shops, tourist attractions, and the Maritime museum.  I opted to go to the Aquarium.  I saw lots of beautiful fish but frankly nothing that was amazing I haven't seen diving except for some rare sawfish and a very cool fish called a flashlight fish.  The fish live in pitch black water but their eyes shine an eerie green color that glow in the dark. I still had some time to kill so I figured I might as well do the Wildlife experience which was right next to the aquarium.  This was pretty unique since I got the chance to see many of Sydney's rare and renown species.  I saw kangaroos, a platypus, wallabies, wild dingos, emus, and one of the world's largest crocodiles. Australia is also home to the most poisonous spiders in the world and after leaving that exhibit I kept feeling itchy.  My favorite part of the experience was I had the opportunity to interact with a koala.  This means that for $25, I get to go into an enclosure and have my picture taken right next to a couple of koalas and even get to pet them!  It has been a lifelong dream to do that and I was stoked to get the chance to do it.
After finishing my touristy activities, I met up with my friend  Ranjani who was also visiting Sydney from Singapore.  We found a restaurant that was already serving happy hour at 3:30 and shared a nice bottle of wine over the course of the next two hours and talked about what our experiences have been like moving to Singapore since she has had to go through about everything I have experienced as well including finding a new job, apartment hunting, and being home alone a lot. I am very grateful I connected with her since we moved.
We met up with Drew, Ranj's husband, and another colleague from the LinkedIn Sydney office at a bar and had a drink before going to dinner at Malay.  I know it doesn't make any sense to leave Singapore, go all the way to Sydney, and eat Malaysian food, but several people all said this was their favorite restaurant.  The food did not disappoint. It was extremely flavorful, not too heavy, and absolutely delicious.  We had black pepper chicken, a coconut fish curry, and some kind of lamb dish. I walked out feeling extremely full.
Today I took a two hours train ride out of Sydney and up into the Blue Mountains.  From everything I have read online, it didn't seem a trip to Sydney would be complete without coming up here.  I braved the CityLine and drug my suitcase and backpack to the train station, had to change trains at Central, and then rode a good 2 hours through the suburbs of Sydney and up into the mountains.  I am staying in the city of Leura at a quaint little hotel by myself tonight and am proud to say I have managed to navigate my way around pretty well.
I got up here around 1 and rather than taking a taxi from the train station, I decided I would walk.  It ended up being almost 2km (1.2 miles) dragging my suitcase through residential streets to find my hotel. Once I checked in, I packed my backpack and called a taxi to take me to Echo Point which is the central point in Katoomba (the next village up) to go bushwalking.   Bushwalking is the Ozzie term for hiking.  I enlisted the help of a guy in the information booth and told him I wanted a challenging hike that would also be beautiful.  He sent me on the perfect route.  You start by walking out to Three Sisters, which many people know of as a famous rock formation in the Blue Mountains, and then down the Giant Stairway.  I find it pretty funny they couldn't come up with a more creative name, but it really is a GIANT Stairway.  There are 1,000 steps down from the top of the cliff into the canyon and they are very steep, uneven, and narrow.  Many are formed right into the rock and if there were not two railings on either side, one misstep would lead to certain death.  I was very happy the guide has suggested I go down these steps first rather than sending me the opposite direction so I would have ended up coming up them.  The others bushwalkers seemed miserable that were on the way up.   Once I was down at the bottom the stairwell, I made a left toward Dardanelles and walked through this forest and had to fight off wild snakes, dodge poisonous spiders and machete my way through the greenery.... JUST KIDDING.  The forest was very lush though and there were several huge trees that had fallen across the path so that you had to nearly crawl underneath them.  Because there is such heavy rainfall in this region, I trekked through a lot of mud and at one point my shoe sunk down several inches and I was worried I wouldn't be able to get it out. I walked the first 30 minutes without seeing another person which kind of concerned me but finally I passed a couple and then later another guy.  After Dardanelles, you walk through Federal Pass.  This is a gorgeous area full of waterfalls, creeks, and beautiful scenery.  I took so many pictures initially and by the end you're just thinking..."oh, there's another one"'.  I was very happy to have made the trip, ended up hiking for almost 3 hours and worked up a huge sweat in doing so.  I will have lots of great pictures from today.  Going to try to catch a bus and head into town to grab dinner and then get a good night's sleep tonight as I have a full 8 hour day tomorrow of canyoning and abseiling (rappelling) before getting on a train to head back to Sydney and have dinner with a comScore colleague.
Also, our offer was rejected on the apartment and even though we gave the almost asking price, the brother and sister who own it decided they wanted to ask for an additional $700 which is what the previous tenant was paying. Drew and I might put in an offer on one of the older places we saw that was substantially cheaper but had beautiful views, lots of living space, and was well located. Trying to keep up the attitude if it is meant to be it will happen.  Two years is a very long time to sign a lease for and we don't want to get stuck in a place we will end up hating.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Trip out to Manly

The past two days have been wonderful. It has been so refreshing to walk around without humidity torturing us.  The weather has been wonderful and around 77 degrees the past two days.  We slept in very late on Saturday not quite used to the time difference here.  We walked down to the Opera House and had a late lunch at Opera Bar which sits right next to the water in the harbor.  I had a salad that had roast pumpkin, asparagus, and feta. It was delicious.  Drew ate a pizza that was topped with Wagkyu Beef.  We then took the short walk to the Opera House and took pictures admiring the amazing architecture.  We were hoping to maybe catch a play while we are in town but the only thing that seems to be showing is "MacBeth" so we might see it, but were hoping for something a little bit more light-hearted. One of the fun things about being there on a Saturday afternoon was that there were weddings everywhere.  There were three different couples we saw taking pictures in their wedding dresses and tuxes and then saw several other groups wandering about the city as well.
After viewing the opera house, we walked back to the hotel to relax for a little bit and then freshened up to head out for Happy Hour.  We were hoping to find a place that had a rooftop bar or sweeping views of the city and the concierge directed us toward the Goodwin Hotel.  We arrived to find out that is has been closed for renovations.  We meandered through a part of the city called The Rocks which is full of restaurants, shops, and cobble-stone streets.  Heading down Argyle Street, we passed a venue called "The Argyle" which was a huge indoor/outdoor club lined with rainbow banners, tables topped with feathers, and boas. It looked like a fun spot for later in the evening but it wasn't quite the place for happy hour.  We continued down toward the water and in front of the cruise terminal, we found a perfect spot to enjoy twilight. Drew has discovered his new favorite drink, a lychee martini and downed a couple of those while we tremendously enjoyed people watching (I cannot figure out Australian fashion- it's interesting to say the least) as the sun went down.
After happy hour, we headed back up Argyle street to a sushi restaurant called Sake which came highly recommended to us by Drew's coworkers. The food was fantastic and the sake sommelier ended up guiding us through the entire menu and brought us several different cocktails and varieties of sake to bring out the flavors of the meal.  It was divine.  Several of the courses we had included King Fish, which is not something I would normally associate with high end sushi, but it was GOOD! We left feeling very happy.
Just down the street from Sake was a German pub called Lowenbrau.  They actually brew their own beer here, have a beer garden, and a dance club upstairs.  We made our way up the steps and proceeded to dance for the next three hours to music ranging from oldies, disco, 80's rock classics, to modern day pop.  It was SO much fun.  In a brave moment, I jumped up on Drew so he lifted me up I and rocked out to "All the Single Ladies" which received a round of applause when the song was over.  When we didn't think our booties could shake anymore and Drew had sweat all the way through his shirt, we made it back to our hotel around midnight and had a good night's sleep.
Yesterday Drew got me up way earlier than I would have liked and we headed down to the wharf to catch the ferry to Manly Beach.  Manly got it's name from when the beach was discovered, the local tribes were known to look very "manly".  The ride on the ferry was gorgeous and gave us beautiful views of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge.  So far, the weather has been perfect but there is a 70% chance of rain today (Monday). Once we got to Manly, we were amazed by the tall trees that stand over the ocean, the beautiful blue color of the water, and coziness of Manly.
We walked through the Corso (their version of third street promenade) which takes you out to the beach on the other side. The beach is very large but because of the strong currents, most of the water is only open to surfers and the swimming area is a very small section in between two flags.  We set up camp on the beach and enjoyed the water very much.   It was cool and refreshing, but not too cold to enjoy.  After a couple hours of relaxing, the clouds started to come in a little bit and the air got a bit chilly so we decided to rent some bicylces and go for a ride around Manly.  We rode up the bath to Shelly Beach and were constantly dodging pedestrians and am fortunate to say I didn't hit anyone (hard). Shelly Beach is in a secluded cove and is a beautiful area where it is best for snorkling.  We stopped and took a couple of pictures but since the sky had turned grey I don't think they will do the beach justice.  We rode past Shelly and ended up in a residential neighborhood where the houses looked spectaucular.  Glass windows everywhere which I'm sure provide amazing views of the beaches. We then went the other direction past Manly and ended up in a park where we hopped off the bikes to ride the swings for a few minutes before heading back.
After returning our bikes, we went up to Murray's Ale House for happy hour and another great view of the sunset on an outdoor patio. We tried the beer sampler and an appetizer and then walked up to Manly Wines. I loved this place and could have stayed for hours. The wine was very reasonable priced, the decor was french country meets art decco and the view was beautiful.  We had a pitcher of rose sangria and a pitcher of white sangria which were both delicious and unique (and only $15 each!).
We headed back  toward the wharf to check ferry times and then decided to try Hugo's for dinner at another recommendation.  I ordered Wagyu Beef and Drew had a pizza that came with lamb and figs.  Hugo's is known for their unique pizza selection and so it was something we had to try.  The meal was incredible and was the perfect way to finish off our weekend.
That said, I am going to head to the gym and try to burn off some of the gluttony from this weekend.

Friday, March 30, 2012

One month anniversary of our move to Singapore- let's go to Australia to celebrate!

One month ago, we arrived in Singapore.  The time has definitely flown by.  What better way to mark this occasion than to leave Singapore? Drew had a trip planned to go to Sydney for work and had to be here for 8 days so we decided to extend the trip to the following weekend for a grand total of 10 days.
They say good things happen in threes, so fingers crossed this comes true for me. First of all, we find out tomorrow at 12pm Sing time if our offer on the apartment has been accepted, Second, I will be exploring Sydney this week which is just amazing.  So far I am loving this city.  I have seen a Lulu Lemon, Target, and wine that does not cost an arm and a leg! I am SO excited to explore the beaches here.  They are supposed to be epic.   Very curious to see how they compare to San Diego.  Third, as today is the last business day in the quarter, I have about an additional $500k I am trying to close today and it looks like it is going to come  in.   Three good things indeed.
It is 2:20am here in Sydney and Drew wants to go to bed so I will finish up tomorrow.

Monday, March 26, 2012

House hunters international

We started house hunting this weekend.  The cost of rent in Singapore will make your stomach flip.  We sent our  agent some of the districts (aka regions) of Singapore we are interested in and our price range of $4-5k.  We said if we had to go above $5k we would consider the listings.  Yesterday was a long day where we viewed 9 properties primarily around Orchard (where we currently are) and CBD- City Business District. CBD is closer to Drew's work and is pretty close to China Town and the Quays.  The first place we looked at was old and gross, I won't go into too much detail. The second place we looked at was much better, but still not great. If a building in Singapore was built 5 years ago or more, it is considered old.  The difference in this five years is pretty amazing.  The kitchens in most moderns homes are open and connected to the family room so there is one communal open space.  Most condos are all in buildings, but the newer buildings are high rises vs "low rises". Newer homes have large open bay windows, lots of natural light that spills into the unit, light marble, tile, and wood flooring, and bathrooms with minimal bathroom space.  All units have bomb shelters... which I find pretty hilarious. This is one of the safest countries in the world and yet they all have bomb shelters!  Square footage is so precious it's shocking to see this.   Also, may of the units have maid's quarters.  These are tiny rooms you might be able to fit a single bed in, with no windows, and no air conditioning.  Many people we know use them as storage. The older units however, have narrow rooms that are separate kitchen, many don't have ovens (only microwave ovens), and the color scheme is dark oranges, dark grays, and is pretty depressing.  The trade-off is that newer places don't have a lot of closet space and the bedrooms are extremely small.  This is a problem Drew and I keep running into.  It has been very challenging to find a place that is nice, reasonably priced, in a good location, and has rooms big enough for our furniture,  and enough closet space for our clothes.
I thought I found the perfect spot today.  One of Drew's clients had mentioned the complex and when I researched it I instantly fell in love. It is down by the water,  has a view of the harbor, and is a unit on the 22nd floor.  When I walked in, I instantly felt happy with the natural light that poured in through the floor to ceiling window and loved how the light reflected off the white counters, white walls, and white floors. The kitchen had more storage space than anything we had seen, there was ample closet space, and the bathrooms looked pristine.  Most units in Singapore require a 2 year lease and Drew had said he trusted me that if I think it was good for us, he would trust me to commit and we would move forward.  This place was $5,500 per month and would be a major investment.  I loved it, love the pool, the area, and everything about the unit. The only thing I was concerned about was that Drew would think we were too far removed from the city.  He didn't think he would be able to view anything this week because he's so busy with work but managed to slip away during his lunch break.  From the second he arrived I knew he wasn't into it.  I could have gotten him into the actual unit, high floor, amenities, etc, but he hated being so far from city center. So, this gorgeous place is a no, and I get to spend the next two days looking at places to live.

www.reflectionsatkeppelbay.com.sg/


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Exploring Pet Hotels

After our late night out on Saturday night, Drew and I slept in until about 10am on Sunday and then took our time getting our day started.  We leave for Sydney on the 29th and will be gone for 10 days so we started looking into options for Chewie while we are gone.  Because Singapore is such a central hub for businesses, people travel quite a bit to the surrounding areas.  Pet boarding and pet sitting is a large business in Singapore and we spent the majority of our Sunday exploring Pet Hotels.  Pet Hotels are people who open up their homes to take in 4-8 dogs to stay with them for various periods of time.
The first place we went to was in the far Western part of the island.  The apartment was very nice, Chewie seemed very comfortable and at home, but at no point did the girl try to interact with Chewie or play with her.  Chewie needs lots of attention and to be played with everyday so I didn't feel like she would get what she needs staying there.  It was almost impossible for us to catch a taxi so far out of the city and the sun was blazing.  By the time we finally got a cab, we made it just in time to our next appointment to view the second place.
The second place  was actually very close to the quarantine station in the north part of the island.  Drew and I met Jason and Shirley, a wonderfully nice mom and son who lived in an older apartment, but it was by far the biggest apartment we had every seen.  I think you could have easily fit our apartment three, maybe four times in theirs.  They keep a maximum of 4 dogs there at any time and all of the dogs seemed extremely happy and jason and shirley gave them lots of love and attention.   I had a great feeling about that place.
At this point it was almost 3pm and we had not eaten lunch so we made our way to the far eastern side of the island near the airport (we traveled almost the entire island that day) and stopped in a beautiful mall to grab some.  Drew and I were extremely happy when we stumbled across Din Tai Fung.  We went to the original restaurant in TaiPei and it was one of the best meals we had in our last trip to Asia.   We ate a delicious meal of Pork buns, pork wontons, and veggie and pork noodles, and washed it down with jasmine tea.
We caught a taxi to the final spot. This place had a really good website and great reviews online.  When we got to the apartment, we were greeted by 5 dogs, one of which was a very hyper Pug named Motza Ball aka Mozzie.  He was HILARIOUS! So much energy, so much personality, and just wants to play.  The people seemed very nice and had been in business for 5 years but the dogs there were just too hyper and borderline aggressive to Chewie.  She hid in a corner under a chair the entire time we were there.  This place normally has 8 dogs during the day and we decided that would be WAY to much for Chewie so we are going to book the second place we visited.
Last night was Web Wednesday.  This is Singapore's LA Ad club for the digital community.  It meets at this bar called the Beer Market which is like a stock market for beer.  As the demand for a particular beer goes up, the price goes up.   As the demand decreases, the price goes down and the prices stay fixed for 30 minutes. There was presentation by YouTube and then IAB before everyone was left to their networking. The bar was extremely crowded and not very conducive to hearing a presentation but it was great to get out and meet some new people in the industry.  Drew kept getting knocked around and he was ready to leave pretty quickly so we went with some of his coworkers to grab some food.
We walked from Clark Quay along the river as it started to rain lightly.  We had to cross the bridge to get to Robertson Quay and we tried to go to Wine Connection but both locations were completely full.  We ended up at a spot that served pizza since that sounded absolutely perfect.  We had five minutes left until happy hour ended (9pm) and were able to get a bottle of white wine for $39!.  I couldn't believe it.  We ordered a bunch of plates for the table to share- everything from pizza crudo, rissoto, sausage, chicken kebab, and caprese salad.  Very full and a bit drunk, we headed home so I could awaken to a wine headache this morning to start our Thursday.

Monday, March 19, 2012

3 days of fun

The sun finally came out on Thursday and Chewie and I decided to work on our tans by the pool. Chewie is becoming an instant celebrity at Orchard Scott's Residence (our apartment).  On this day, there was a large group of little girls out at the pool around 5pm with their families and they flocked to Chewie, petting her, scratching her ears, and trying to get her to play with a stick.  I thought this picture was too cute and had to share. Here is a picture of what our condo looks like in case you want to see where we are living:
Drew's office had a BBQ near their new office which they will be moving into in May so they had a BBQ on the rooftop of one of the girl's apartments near the new office. I have heard rumors of these cool apartment rooftops but this was my first experience in actually seeing one.  Imagine a 15 story apartment building and then having a full BBQ with a huge grill, a soothing breeze, and amazing views looking out onto the cityscape. There was lots of wine (naturally), AMAZING BBQ- seriously some of most well seasoned meat I have ever had, and brownie sundaes for dessert.  It was absolutely perfect.
I managed to escape the hangover on Friday morning and had a productive day working and then a nice afternoon by the pool.  To start out our weekend, Drew and I decided we were overdue for date night.  We went to Club street which is in between Raffles Place (where Drew's current office is) and Chinatown.  Every doorway opens to a restaurant or bar, each filled with people out on the town on a Friday night. When the restaurant is full, people spill out onto the patio and when the patio is full, they spill out onto the  street. Yes, people are smoking, drinking, and even dancing on the street.  I have never lived in a big city so I imagine looking down the street and literally every doorway is bursting at the seams with people enjoying different types of cuisines, overly expensive drinks, and smoking way too much to be something like New York city.  I have always toyed with the idea of living in New York or San Francisco at some point in my life and instead I am experiencing city life in SE Asia.
Drew and I went a nice tapas restaurant for dinner and had a lot of dishes, favorite being croquettas and enjoyed a couple glasses of wine before we explored the rest of Club Street and to do some serious people watching.  The next place we went to was called 83 which had a really cool vibe and has original pieces of artwork on the walls which were very funky.  After a couple drinks we went to a place called Gem where we sat outside on plush chairs and put our feet up and watched people wander up and down the street.  I discovered three types of people out and about:
1. Couples out on dates - these are of course easy to spot by amply dressed couples lost in each other's conversations
2. The after work happy hour that just kept going- these couples and groups are both men and women who are still in business attire and who's colored shirts are extremely wrinkled at this point. They are  in fact some of the louder people out and about as they have been drinking for a good four hours or more at this point.
3. All the single ladies- Girls night out is quite the spectacle in Singapore.  Women are dressed like they are going to clubs in Vegas and are in groups ranging from 3-15.  These girls are on a mission and this is not a mission to talk shop or share the latest office gossip.  These girls are on a mission to find a man and take him home.   It is quite enjoyable to watch and Drew and I had a front seat to view the flocks as they wandered the street in search of their next destination.
After enjoying the spectacle at Gem, it was almost time to go home when we spotted a rooftop  bar called Fry's Bistro.  The rooftop bars are some of the best so we decided to grab a nightcap before heading back.  Most buildings have "lifts", this one did not so Drew and I climbed 5 stories to the roof.  At each floor, there was writing on the stairwell telling you how many calories you had burned  and your first drink was already worked off, it was awesome.
The rooftop bar was everything we hoped for, the cool breeze, the beautiful views, and the people watching did not fail us.  Right after we sat down, and older gentleman sat down next to us with a young looking asian girl in a leopard dress.  I thought it was pretty interesting but it wasn't  until after the man disappeared and and the girl finally left a short while later and we saw her back down on the street with a group of girls did Drew and I realize we had encountered our first prostitute in Singapore!  In a city where it is technically illegal to be gay (though not enforced) and the city is all about good appearances that prostitution is legal and actually government regulated so that they can tax it.  It's pretty twisted.
I found the drinks to be extremely reasonably priced and LARGE! I had a delicious lychee martini and Drew ended up liking it so much we ordered another one.  We decided to get a little snack as well since they had a pizza quesadilla and decided  it would  be a crime to simply not taste this delicacy and it did not disappoint.  Why haven't we put cheese, pepperoni, peppers, and onions, and melt them into a crispy tortilla? It's SO good! So good, we had to refrain from ordering a second.
We paid the bill and decided to grab water at 7-11 (where we also grabbed a pack of oreos in a drunken stupor) before trying to catch a cab.
Saturday was a productive day involving a $315 trip to the grocery story where we got 6 bottles of wine which easily accounted for half the bill.  It happened to be a beautiful day outside so I swam 28 laps in our 60m pool to accomplish just over a mile.  I brought Chewie down with me and tied her up in a shady spot but she was quickly rescued by some cute little girls who promised to watch her while I swam.
I made an appointment to get a mani pedi and decided since it was only 1km away that I would walk.  I managed to take a wrong turn and ended up walking 1 1/2 km and arrive sweaty and late to my appointment.  They did a very thorough job and I did my best not to grimace when I handed over $50 for the service.  Right as I began my walk back it started to rain. The beginning of rain in Singapore is not like the West Coast where it starts sprinkling,  then drizzling, then eventually might pour for 10 minutes.  The beginning of rain in Singapore gives you about 30 seconds or less to get your ass inside before the sky opens up and a monsoon pounds gigantic raindrops down on you soaking you instantly. Needless to say, I was screwed and even though I sprinted the kilometer home in my flip-flops (losing one at one point and having to go back and put my dirty foot back in it) and holding my maxi dress up to my knees- getting crazy looks from people in passing cars, I made it home.   When  I walked in the door as thunder pounded outside our window, Drew looked at me with my hair stuck  to my head and my dress now a darker shade of green like I was a crazy woman.  My mascara thankfully didn't run (thank you YSL).
After eating dinner and freshening up, we made it out to the Boat Quay to catch up with Drew's coworkers and celebrate St. Patrick's Day before going out to the club. We found an Irish pub called Molly Malone's and Drew ordered several round of jameson shots and guiness for the group.  The staff passed around a hot lamb stew around 11pm which was actually delicious even though eating something hot in hot and humid weather was almost against my ethics.Since Singapore is such a melting pot,  there was actually a substantial group of Irish people (including Drew's coworker) out and about basking in their holiday.  Many people donned costumes, green boas, and leprechaun hats. It was almost time for us to head to the club to meet up with our other friends but the group convinced us to go to a karaoke bar before we left.
This karaoke bar was the most pathetic and depressing place, I didn't believe Dave when he said that this was actually a karaoke bar.  The bar patrons were quietly singing songs in Chinese, while the rest of the bar ignored the person who sang. Well, I felt the need to change things up a bit.  I belted out Lady Gag's "You and I" with liquid confidence and felt the eyes of the weirded out Chinese patrons on me
After I finished singing, Drew's coworker nailed Pearl Jam's "Last kiss" and Drew and I had to skiddadle to head out to Avalon at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel to meet up with our friend who had competed in boxing match earlier in the evening and was having an after party at the club.
We made our way out to the hotel and had to walk through a promenade of shops out to the habor and through the dock to the club which is actually on the water.  Avalon is a HUGE Vegas like night club with about 6 different dance floors and people everywhere dancing their face off.  It had been along time since Drew and I had shaken it on the dance floor and had a blast letting loose a little bit stealing a few kisses along the way.  We were never able to find our friends but had an epic night out regardless.  This is definitely a spot we will be taking our friends when they visit.

I am getting devoured by mosquitoes sitting outside right now so that is all for tonight.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chewie gets her hair done

Chewie has adjusted wonderfully to our new home and though she has been a little extra clingy about making sure I am constantly in her sight (including following me into the bathroom), she is loving "resort life".  In the morning she naps while I am working and then around 1 I take her in her carrier with me to the gym so the maids can clean and she can be at ease near me.
In the afternoons, Chewie and I have been hanging out down by the pool.  I bring down her bed, a bone, some toys, and water to keep her comfortable but she spends a lot of her time exploring and stretching out in the grass.  She is SO happy to be outside and as the kids come down in the afternoon to play in the pool, they are mesmerized by Chewie's smile and want to play with her.  There is this adorable little girl I would imagine is about 4 years old names Jasmine with olive skin, and brown curly hair who is SO cute and obsessed with Chewie.
I have been reading a variety of books of different genres and most recently picked a book off of Amazon's best seller list called "Fifty Shades of Gray".  Boy was I in for a surprise! The book appeared to be a cute chick novel, but oh my goodness it turned out to be a LOT more. My mom said they were talking about it on Good Morning America so she at least knew what it was about... I was totally shocked. My LA book club meets this week and I am excited to start the next book they pick.
Yesterday I decided to try to get Chewie groomed.  The post-quarantine smell was pretty bad and it was time.  Using my best Google skills, I found a grooming station nearby and made an appointment for 4pm.  My pre-pay cell  phone does not have data services so I cannot use the maps and gps once I leave the apartment.   That said, I ended up a little lost once  I left the MRT (metro) and had to walk about 1 KM from the MRT to the groomer. I got to the groomer about 15 minutes late but it ended up being okay and he ended up giving me a BIG discount because he felt sorry for me walking so far, getting lost, and being SO sweaty by the time I got to the shop. Chewie was NOT happy about being at the groomer but since it was only a bath and no cut, it only took about an hour so I went to a shopping mall down there road (THEY ARE EVERYWHERE).  I walked in and was presently surprised to run into a wine shop right in the entrance! They asked me to come and taste their wine and I didn't want to be rude! I tasted 4 little sips of reds and whites but purchased my favorite bottle which I was pleased to find they had in stock, Kim Crawford Sav Blanc. I then paid $6 for a grande iced latte at Starbucks (these prices are seriously offensive) and then bought a new light weight green polka dot skirt before stumbling upon a book sale.
Thinking this would be a great way to find some books reasonably priced, I was again suprised to see even books on SALE, were over twice what I would pay in the US.   I took this as an opportunity to browse titles and make a list of books to download on my kindle for far less than I would pay buying books in Singapore.
By the time I made it back to the grooming station Chewie was done and ready to go. She was SO happy when we left, she pranced the entire walk back.  Everytime we passed people on the street as we made the trek back to the MRT people smiled and would  say "so cute-la".  La is a Singaporean expression where they put "la" at the end of things they say.  I'm not sure what it means,  but you hear it everywhere.
I put her back in her carrier and headed back to the Orchard MRT stop underneath the ION mall.  I grabbed chicken and rice for dinner for me and Drew and paid $8 for both of us! It was one of the cheapest meals we have had and was plenty filling.  I made it home around 6:15 just in time to catch The Voice which is becoming one of Drew's new favorite shows.
Today is Thursday and he has a BBQ this evening with his coworkers so I think I may venture out to try to get my nails done.  The sun hasn't been out much the past two days so it is a little bit cooler, but limits my pool time in the afternoon and I get stir crazy if i don't get out of the house.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Day 10- The return of Chewie!!

The first week in Singapore finished much the same as it started with the daily routine of Drew going to work every day and I work for 4-6 hours on my work for comScore.  I would take a break at some point to go to the gym and then hurry out the door to go see Chewie.  She continued to do well in quarantine but by the end she wore a look on her face saying, "Can I come home now?".  She was over it.
Last Wednesday we had our first visit from friends from the states.  A girl Drew and I know from the LA ad industry was in Singapore for the day with her brother so we met for drinks at the top of the Marina Bay Sands and then went to Clark Quay for dinner.  They wanted to try some local Malay cuisine but we ended up settling for Thai food at an outdoor patio that overlooks the river.  The meal was pretty good but the best dish was a shrimp fried rice dish that came in a hollowed out pineapple.  It was SO good.  We enjoyed two pitchers of "happy hour" tiger beer for $35 a piece.  So ridiculous- 3 1/2 times what we would pay in LA for happy hour.
Friday night I met up with Drew and his office for Friday happy hour. He works with some wonderful people and I was thrilled to get to know some of them.  They loved hearing the story of our engagement/proposal and were amazed we had been together over 4 years. All of Drew's colleagues were wonderful, but I had a particularly strong connection with his coworker's wife Runjenny (spelling?) She was an absolute blast.  We ended up going to the Boat Quay for tapas along the water with her and her husband.  We sat next to a mom and daughter at dinner who ended up providing great entertainment and education on Singapore culture and etiquette.
After dinner, we reconnected with Drew's colleagues and some of their friends at an outdoor wine bar called the Wine Connection on the Robertson Quay.  We took a bunch of group photos together and the wine kept flowing until things got a bit fuzzy and drew brought me home.
Saturday morning I awakened to my first hangover in Singapore to find their just as bad if not worse in Singapore.  I had broken the first cardinal rule of drinking by mixing alcohol- wine, beer, vodka, then wine, then beer.  It was bad news for  me on Saturday.  Drew had a great time making fun of my misery. We went to the hawker stands nearby and ended up with a nice hearty meal of chicken and rice for breakfast. Drew went out and had a productive Saturday picking up some things he needed and doing some research on getting us new cell phones but I headed back to bed and read, napped, and tried to recover before I finally went out to see Chewie for the last  time in quarantine.  It  started pouring rain while I was visiting her so I ended up staying for 2 hours.  Saturday night we had an easy night in and discovered a place we could actually buy fresh salads reasonably priced. Asia is not knows for its salads so this find was a gem and we will be eating from here often, especially as it is one MRT stop away.
Yesterday we hosted a BBQ at our complex and had about 10 people over. Drew ordered fresh meat from a site TheButcher.com.sg  The meat comes pre-cut, marinated, and ready to grill. We cooked up a feast and had great wine, side dishes, and fresh dessert from a bakery brought by Drew's new boss.  The fun was interpreted by a torrential downpour that lasted about 30 minutes.
Yesterday was a fun day but the highlight by far was having Chewie delivered to me at about 11:30. I was SO happy to see her and I don't think she stopped smiling all day yesterday.  It's good to have her home and everyone loved meeting her at the BBQ yesterday.  The only problem so far  is that she STINKS. Quarantine made her very smelly and I need to find a groomer in Singapore to get her freshened up.  Other that that, it is a HUGE relief having her home with me knowing she is safe and happy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Day 5 in Singapore- Back to the grind

Yesterday was Monday morning in Singapore.  We were supposed to get our Air Shipment at 10am but we received a call last minute that they would not be able to deliver it until Wednesday morning so Drew and I are stuck wearing the same clothes we've had the past week and half living out of our suitcases.  
We had breakfast upstairs in the breakfast lounge and the sun was shining and it looked it would be another beautiful day. Out of nowhere the sky darkened and it was was of the biggest downpours I have ever seen.  It was Drew's first day of work and he decided to take a taxi to the office rather than show up looking like he had endured a tsunami. I spent the morning catching up on much needed work for comScore and getting back in the swing of working.  Drew's coworker taught me that I could VPN in on my company's network to appear that I have a US IP address so I was able to watch the Bachelor online.  SO happy.  The video quality wasn't great and it took forever for the video to buffer but I got to see it regardless.  
I made the trek out to the quarantine station by myself with a new James Patterson book on my Kindle so the journey went by very quickly.  I sat with Chewie almost a full two hours just petting her and giving her love while I read my book.  
Drew got home around 7:30 and after relaxing for bit we set out so he could try on some nice watches.  Having a nice watch in Singapore is a BIG deal.  Having a nice watch is like... driving a nice car or having a good haircut in LA.  Everyone has them and it is a BIG deal.  Even Drew's office admin has a Rolex!  That said, Drew feels the need to have a nice watch so he has been spending lots of time looking at nice watches (particularly TAG) online and in stores.  
We went to the ION mall which is the highest end (they're all high end) on Orchard Road.  We went into the TAG store and Drew tried on a bunch of watches and likely found the one (or two) he wants.  He took down the model numbers and prices and then shopped on Amazon when we got back to our room.  The sales woman was asking a price almost 3 times was Drew could get the watch for on Amazon, that said, he thinks he should get two. ;)
After trying on the watches we went back to the famous food court downstairs determined to expand our pallet for local cuisine. Not quite as adventuresome as Drew, I opted for Indonesian BBQ which included a piece of chicken in a sauce that tasted like a balsamic reduction with some bbq seasoning.  It was delicious.  It came with scoop of rice that had a coconut curry sauce on it along with a piece of an egg omlette in the shape of a pizza slice.  Drew on the other hand, saw this buffet of things which looked like dumplings which all went into a bowl and ended up bringing back soup that was very, very fishy.  He ridiculed me for going safe but ended up hating his meal so much he went and got a plate of what I had  ordered.  Ha! The mall was still bustling at 10pm on a Monday night when we made our way back to the hotel for the evening. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Day 4 in Singapore- Day of rest, relaxation, and FOOD

Yesterday was the first day the clouds lifted and stayed lifted for most of the day.  Since quarantine was closed, it freed up a good three hours of our day and we decided to take advantage of it by BBQing poolside and inviting one of Drew's coworkers who lives in the complex as well.
Drew went to the grocery store around 1pm in the afternoon and I headed down to the pool with my book.  I ended up reading almost the entire book yesterday and couldn't think of a better way to spend my Sunday.  The sun came in and out of clouds a bit and I didn't feel like I was getting a tan but when I definitely had a sunburn bikini when I went to bed last  night.
Drew got down to the pool around 4 at which time his coworker Carine also met us.  She also transferred from LinkedIn out of the Toronto office and works in sales but on the hiring solutions side of the business which is a bit different than what Drew sells. She ended up being a wealth of knowledge since she has already been here for a month and knows the best  places to buy groceries, wine, and how to get many of the things we are accustomed to in the US.  BIGGEST discovery is that by logging into my company's VPN, I will appear to have a US IP address and can therefore watch my shows online that I haven't been able to see since we've been here including the BACHELOR!!!  Drew is beyond thrilled as you can imagine.  She also shared with us reasonable sites that will allow us to ship thing internationally for far cheaper than if we were to use FedEx or regular mail.
Around 5pm we started up the grill.  We ate SO much last night I could feel my stomach stretching. We BBQd chicken, veggies, and sausages.  Carine was kind enough to also make a risotto dish and share some off her delicious cheese, crackers, nuts.  It was a great picnic which was rounded out with about 4 bottles of wine :)  We stayed by the pool  until about 9pm so it took some time but we managed to go through 2 bottles of white and 2 bottles of red.
Two of Carine's friends ended up joining us who also taught us a lot about Singapore and its culture.  Her friend Roy has been here for 6 years and works in tech sales all over Asia.  He told us he has yet to close a big deal without going to a KTV which we learned stands for Karaoke TV.  There are places like this all over Asia.  This is a type of bar where men choose a type of women they like from physical appearance to educational level to personality type.  They then pay for the company of these women- this made me cringe and I tried not to appear judgmental although I doubt I succeeded in hiding my feelings. He then explained further that these women are nothing more than conversationalists and the men pay for their company so that they can talk to them and they often sing for them.  It's like a modern day geisha.  I couldn't believe that these kinds of things not only still exist but that men demand to be taken to them in order to close business.
I have LOTS to learn about Asian culture.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Day 3 in Singapore- Here comes the sun... and the HEAT!

Yesterday late morning the fun finally emerged in Singapore.  After a quick workout in the gym downstairs, we were out in the city by 11:30.
We had heard of a warehouse sale out in Marina Square in the Interlink Mall which is near City Hall.  When I had tried to buy new running shoes the day before, I learned they were about twice what I normally paid the salesman informed me of this warehouse sale  and I was excited at the prospect of finding shoes that wouldn't cost me $250.  Drew and I ventured to a new MRT stop we had never visited and continued to wander through yet another mall.  One of the things about Singapore that continues to amaze us are the endless vast malls that just go on forever and the rows of people in everyone of them.  Every time we think we come to the end of one mall, we enter a new one. The layout of Singapore is quite genius in that most of these malls begin below ground just above the MRT station.  As you leave the MRT you can pass by hundreds of stores, restaurants, and bakeries as you make your way through the city. If some pretty dress doesn't catch your eye and pull you in, the smell of the pastries undoubtedly will.  Drew and I have managed to resist so far, but the sweet scent of freshly baked pastries is like a slap in the face as you are strolling through the mall and the scent of maple syrup and hot bread fills your nostrils.
We managed to find the warehouse sale although naturally I was drawn into a store and could not resist the temptation to buy a new dress and belt on the way.  On the way back to the MRT we passed a cute wine shop. There was an adorable Asian woman who started talking to us about all of her wine from the South of France. The prices looked moderately reasonable (something very hard to find with wine in Singapore) so we ended up buying two bottles.  As we finished our transaction, we ended up learning that this cute Japanese woman who had been speaking to us with an interesting accent was in fact Russian.  It is so bizarre to speak to an Asian woman with a Russian accent. She told us the story of her family who lived in a region which used to be the far western part of Japan which had been won in a war against Russia in the early 1900's.  That region was eventually re-conquered by the Russians and although many Japanese left, her family stayed.  When we informed her Drew was 100% Romanian, she commented, "Yes, you look like a Slov." I found this funny.
Finally getting back onto the MRT with our arms full of shopping bags, it was time to make the daily trek out to visit Chewie.  We were further south than we normally start out so it was about 10 MRT stops to get to the Northern part of the peninsula. Drew had put $18 on each of our MRT cards on Thursday when we arrived and this fare has lasted us three full days as we have traveled all over the city.  It's pretty amazing for $6 a day we have been able to go everywhere.
As I mentioned earlier, the sun finally came out today which meant so did the heat and humidity.  The 15 minute walk from the MRT to quarantine was treacherous. vVisitng hours on Saturdays are from 2-6 so we arrived much earlier than usual. When Drew and I got to the station, we were both soaked with sweat.  We signed in and got to Chewie's room to the normal hyper freak out session we love.  Even though her room is well air conditioned, she pants a lot and chugs water out of her water bowl.  The main guy we have seen everyday in the facility is very attentive about making sure the dogs have plenty of water and he even made sure Chewie's water was cold. :)
We took her outside to one of the play pens to pee and to try to get her some exercise.  She had a HUGE smile on her face as she was with us.  It warmed my heart to see her so happy.  The heat made play time tough and she began panting pretty hard so we just hung out in the shade of a tree petting her and giving her some love.  When her panting got really intense, we went back inside to her cool room and played with her for awhile.  She finished  the chicken bone we had given her yesterday while we were there and once that was done, she was more willing to play.  We went outside one more time and then gave her another chicken bone when we left.  There are no visiting hours allowed on Sundays so hoping that the bone will help her pass the time until I can see her on Monday.  We stayed with her for just under 2 hours.
The sun disappeared behind some afternoon clouds and the walk back to the MRT was not nearly as bad.  Doing the shopping before seeing Chewie has not been the smartest idea since we have to lug our bags around with us everywhere we go.  We made it back to the hotel while the sun was still up for a change and immediately put on our swimsuits and headed down to the pool with a couple of cold beers (which cost about $5 each).  The pool is not heated and the cool water feel magical after being hot, sticky, and sweaty all day. Our residence has about 5 pools of various sizes and shapes which have waterfalls and fountains.  There is an abundance of families here which like us are in temporary corporate housing.   I am amazed at how many have young kids (and LOTS of them!).   There were toddlers splashing in the pool next to us and it was cute to watch the kids interact.
Drew noticed there are several cabanas outside by the pool which have large BBQ's and granite bars perfect for entertaining and dining poolside.   Drew asked one of the families if they had to reserve it and they told us it is free of charge when you reserve it with the concierge and they take care of setting everything up, providing BBQ equipment, and clean up. That said, Drew and I plan on BBQing Sunday afternoon and invited one of Drew's coworkers who just moved here from Toronto.  Drew loves to entertain and wants to enjoy this facility while we can.
When the sun went down, we came back up to the room, showered, and set out to go to try Singapore's signature dish, chili crab.  After doing some research online, we found the place which is said to have the best in the city, a restaurant called "No Signboard".  We got directions on how to get there via the MRT (it's in another mall- shocking) which is on the HarborFront.  This mall could likely have been the busiest one we had seen yet.  It was Saturday night but I have never seen so many people out an about in an area at one time.  Thousands of people wandered around  the mall, shopping with their families and enjoying the various dining options. Drew found a shop where he bought his beard trimmer (another thing on the to do list) and met me upstairs at the Vivo City Mall.  The best way to describe this mall is Universal City Walk meets the Santa Monica Promenade.   It was VERY family friendly and there many fun activities for little children which were still going on at 10pm  after dinner.
The restaurant No Signboard was a very interesting experience. Drew ordered the smallest crab on the menu which still  cost $50.  We were curious to know how he  would  eat it when he wasn't given a fork or anything to crack the crab open.  The meat came off the shell like  butter and the thick soup like sauce was a spectacular pairing (or so he said as I'm not a big fan of crab).  I wanted to be brave and expand my horizons, but the menu was quite a challenge for me.
First of all, they had an entire page devoted to shark fin.  The Asian culter is responsible for depleting the planet of 90% of the world's shark population through over harvesting sharks for shark fin soup. Because they world is now running out of sharks, Asians have now began catching the beautiful and rare manta rays and using their fins in the soup.  These are two of the worlds most beautiful creatures and I feel so strongly against shark-finning,  seeing it on the menu brings a wave of nausea over me. If you want to join the cause, you can like https://www.facebook.com/StopSharkFinning on Facebook.  Needless to say, I skipped this page on the menu and had to fight the urge to speak  to the manager about this.
As I'm not the biggest fan of shellfish, about half the menu was immediately undesirable.  The fish on the menu was served "whole" fish, not filleted. I have big problems eating fish that is looking at me so that was going to be another issue.  I desperately wanted to avoid ordering chicken or meat as this place is known for their seafood.  The price of the food here was pretty expensive so I wasn't going to get something unless I was going to eat it.  Drew convinced me to try some chili scallops which ended up being phenomenal.  I was very proud of myself for trying something I'm not familiar with and actually liking it. We both had a wonderful meal and were very happy we made the journey.  
Another thing which we are going to have to get used to is the price and serving of alcohol. Drew ordered Jack Daniels on the rocks and for $16 he got a shot of Jack in a glass with ice. We both may end up giving up drinking at this rate.
After dinner we walked around the top floor  of Vivo City and saw fireworks coming from Sentosa Island likely from Universal Studios.  The mall was still bustling at 10pm and among the concrete and benches were large pools of ankle deep water where people could wade through.  I have never seen anything like it but can imagine on a hot day walking around outside, soaking your feet in some cool water must feel amazing.
Fighting exhaustion we finally made our way back through the mall, down to the MRT, and were in bed by 11pm.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Day 2 in Singapore

The clouds have yet to lift and since we have been here we have seen two types of weather- light rain and heavy downpour.  There was a light breeze today and the temperature seemed much more bearable as we made our journey through the city on our second day of getting settled.  Keeping our fingers crossed that maybe this is a sign we are getting acclimated, but highly doubt it.
After a day of trying to recover from our long journey, we tried to start being productive today.  Things are simply going to take longer here as we don't have a clue where we are going and we no longer have cars.  The first thing on the to do list was get ourselves a cell phone. Verizon Wireless does not offer any service here and therefor our phones would not even work if we wanted to pay the exorbitant cost for international calling. The two primary cell phone carriers in Singapore are Singtel and Star-Hub.  We have been told that although Singtel is more expensive, it is better service and we will be able to travel with it as we go to different countries. I spent a long time on the phone with Verizon this morning to discover the iPhone 4 does not have international capabilities but Drew's iPhone 4S does.  Since his work will be giving him a new phone on Monday when he starts work, I can utilize his phone (and hopefully his itunes account!). One of the interesting  things about Singapore is almost everywhere we have gone, we have had to show our passports and Drew's employment pass.  For us even to get a cell phone contract required us to show proof of his employment.  Since he has not received his "green card" yet, we had to get a pre-paid phone which we will likely have for 2 weeks before switching to a regular post pay plan.  That said, we finally got a mobile phone!  It took about an hour of playing with the sim card to figure it out but we are live.
After getting the cell phone, we made our way to the ION mall which is the most high end mall in Singapore and probably the planet.  They are known for having one of the best food courts as well and Drew and I had lunch at the Food Opera dining on bbq pork buns, scallop rolls, shrim and scallop dumplings, and chili pork noodles.  We discovered this spot when we were in Singapore in November and it was one of our favorite meals we had.  After we filled our bellies, we stopped at the Novena MRT stop and grabbed some dog treats  for Chewie and a couple odds and ends we forgot yesterday.  We then made the long trip out to the North end of the peninsula to see Chewie in quarantine again.
She definitely seemed much more stressed out today than she had yesterday.  While it had been less than 12 hours since we had seen her yesterday, today it was almost 24 and she was definitely more clingy to us. We stayed with her for an hour and a half today and played, took her on two little walks, and just sat petting her letting her know we love her and this was only temporary.
We gave her one of the chicken bones we picked up on the way out and she didn't even look at us as we were leaving.  Good to know where we stand.
Drew and I decided to start getting back on track with diet and exercise today.  After a month of going away lunches, parties, dinners, and drinks, we need to deflate. We had a great workout this morning in our gym facility at our condoWe thought a nice sushi dinner seemed the best way to round out the first day of eating healthy and found a great spot called Tomi Sushi in the Novena Mall.  The cost of everything here is so much more than the states, it is going to take some time to get used to.  Made it back to the house and are going to enjoy a nice night in with a bottle of wine and a movie.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Moving to Singapore and Day 1 in the city

After 27 years of living in Southern California, I packed up my life and everything I am familiar with and moved with my fiance and dog Chewie.
The 21 hours of travel time  is tough to endure, I will not hide it.  As much as we hope friends and family will come to visit, we know the trip is not for the faint-hearted and will substantially limit the number of visitors we have out here.  That said, we made it.  While I usually enjoy a couple cocktails and a xanax to help shorten the trip, I was traveling with Chewie in cabin and was not sure how the long flight would effect her and needed to be alert so she would not disturb other passengers.  While carrying a dog on board is not typically allowed on Singapore Airlines, I had her authorized as a service dog a couple months ago.   This was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made.  Not only can she go with me wherever I am which helps keep her calm, I am calmer knowing she is safe and happy being with me.
Chewie did amazingly on the flight.  The reservation team gave us four seats for the two of us and Chewie so she was able to rest upon a throne of pillows on her own seat.  She is quite the princess.  When she had to go pee, we snuck to the back of the plane in front of the bathrooms, laid down a pee pad and she amazingly went right not it, no problems.  She was happy as a clam to be sitting with us and everyone walked by us saying something something which sounded like "Kauii" which apparently means "So Cute!".
When we finally arrived at Singapore Airport around 3:30 in the morning, someone from the airline met us as we got off the plane and took us to the customs room where I had to leave Chewie.   Being extremely exhausted and having to leave my dog with strangers in the airport to go off to quarantine for the next 10 days was so hard.  My nerves were shot and my anxiety was going crazy.  Drew was my saving grace. He was nothing short of amazing, comforting, and so caring including making me eat a McDonald's breakfast at the airport which I have not tasted in probably 10 years.
LinkedIn arranged for a car to take us to our corporate housing at Orchard Scott's Residence just off Orchard Road.  We arrive at our housing around 5:30 in the morning and were amazed at how vast and beautiful the facility is.  Our room is on the 10th floor of one of the towers giving us a great view and the chance of a breeze if we open the windows to turn off the air conditioning (not likely in the near future). We crashed out around 6:30 in the morning and slept hard until 2:30 in the afternoon.  After hardly sleeping the past 24 hours, this was extremely necessary. We got up,  skyped the family and then set out to visit Chewie in quarantine.
Drew ate duck and noodles from a hawker stand near our hotel which is an amazing meal that costs about $2.  We expect to eat at these stands a lot.  We then conquered the MRT (Singapore's gorgeous Metro) and rode about 20 minutes out toward the quaratine station.  We received poor directions from the clerk at the MRT and ended up walking about 1 1/2 miles (about 1 mile more than we should have) until we finally found the facility.  It was about 5pm when we got there and were able to spend a full hour with Chewie.  She was SO happy to see us.  As nervous as I was to see her, she look amazingly well accustomed. She has her own room which is indoors with its own air conditioning. We were able to give her two beds,  her favorite toys,  and two bones to help keep her busy and comfortable. We took her outside for a walk around the playpen but she preferred keeping in her room where it was nice and cool.  Leaving her was very tough but we will go visit her again today for a couple hours.
We stopped at Cold Storage which is a small grocery store in the mall one MRT stop away from our hotel. We picked up some basic essentials for our tiny fridge including produce, sandwhich stuff, breakfast items, and of course booze.  The price of alcohol is absolutely insane but at least there is a huge selection of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.
By the time we got back to the hotel we were extremely sweaty, tired, and hungry.  We ate a light dinner in and then took a dip in the pool downstairs before going to sleep early around 10:30.
It will definitely take some time to familiarize ourselves with city life and are not sure if we will ever adjust to the humidity but we are both excited at this great adventure.   More to come soon.