Monday, February 29, 2016

Faking a Schedule to Combat Boredom

I don't have enough things to fill my day yet and I am starting to get bored after living here in Singapore for six months and not working. I have identified a few things that have helped me fill my days somewhat, but I need to add more activities. I think the most important thing is to create somewhat of a schedule so that each day I know something about what I am going to do. 

I work out daily and that hasn't changed from day one. It's a good habit I have maintained that automatically fills an hour in my day. I am either walking somewhere around the island or doing my barre workout on our deck that I memorized from when I did Pop Sculpt because there are no barre classes here in Singapore yet. Still I wish there were other interests I had cultivated in my life other than exercise so I would have more things to be interested in. But here are some things I have learned about moving to a new country and filling my day. 

Homemade granola
Have a food strategy. One of my coping mechanisms for handling workers in the house is to eat a couple of chocolate chips, but luckily workers aren't in my house too often. This is an example of eating when I am anxious or bored, my head hunger gone awry. 

I took this picture of my homemade granola sprinkled on top of muesli with cut up apples as I was getting ready to eat breakfast. I have time to make homemade granola every week because I am not working in and office. I like the pretty bowl. The white dots are coconut cream, the coconut version of creme fresh which is delicious and filling. This small, pretty bowl is only 5 inches in diameter because if I put my cereal into the 8 inch bowl my husband eats from I would eat too many calories. This is only one of a series roadblocks and rules for eating to make sure I don't get fat because I am near the fridge all day. 

It's the difference between head hungry and stomach hungry I manage. Head hungry is when I cannot tell when I'm full because my head is telling me to eat more and eat bigger when my stomach doesn't know it's full. Stomach hungry is the gnawing feeling that I need to eat and is followed by moodiness and a headache and some questionable food choices. It may sound like a lot of work because it is. Waiting until I am hungry to eat results in feeling bad because by the time I know I am hungry it's too late and then I am ravenous and will eat anything. So instead I manage eat at 9 am, 1 pm, 6 pm plus a piece of fruit or low calorie snack at 3 pm. And I let myself have chocolate after dinner. 

Don't wait too long to begin joining groups. The loneliness hits like a wall when you realize you have nobody to talk to. Here in Singapore you can't start a conversation with anyone because even though all the signs are in English the locals my age and older really don't speak English that well. It's a really shallow understanding of English that works when you say " NETS please" to pay at Fair Price, but once you need something that's not on the shelf you see how poor the understanding of English really is. I waited three weeks to join Meetup groups and start going on walks but joined Meetup two months before I arrived. It took another two weeks after that to begin meeting some of those people for coffee. Now I have regular coffee dates and have coffee with a different person every week, which is fine for me because I am somewhat of an introvert, but I don't even know if that's true because I didn't want to feel overscheduled when I used to work 40 hours a week. 

I am still learning if overscheduled is even something that exists now that I don't work. I know that I need to have something to do every day, preferably something that keeps me busy before lunch and after breakfast, and then another thing to keep me busy between lunch and dinner. So the meetup groups are good because I have a three hour walk around the island every fortnight and from there I meet new people to have coffee with. My evenings are generally free but that's because I can't stay awake much later than 8 so I am no good socially after dinner. 

Start scoping out the groups you want to join early, join them, and then see what the meetings are like and if they are the type you want to going. Some have heavy fees because they're instruction led, some have nominal fees to ensure against no-shows, and many are free or just meeting for dinners. But you can get an idea of the focus of the Meetup long before you arrive. I signed up for a Tarot Card meetup only to realize it was a guy selling readings when the group originally sounded like a bunch of people meeting to share information about Tarot Cards and how they work. 

Set a schedule for housework or get a helper. Don't let your life get bogged down in house work. The women I met through meetup all scheduled housework for two days a week instead of doing a little bit each day. This works because not only do you have a schedule that you can plan other things around but it keeps you from obsessing about it 24/7. I didn't do this and ended up spending hours tidying up, which kind of blew up on me because I was following my husband around the house and wiping up every drop and fingerprint until I learned that I was being so annoying that we had an argument over it. I was trying to be useful and keep the apartment perfect because I wasn't earning a living. But I'm not a maid and my husband didn't marry a maid, so we ended up getting someone to come about twice a month and I do some light cleaning during the week but leave the mopping and shower glass cleaning to the maid. 

A big component to my housework was reading the tidying up book so I was also organizing and purging like a mad woman. The good thing about this is we don't have a lot of extra clutter and my drawers fit all of my clothes, the bad thing about this is that anyone who hasn't read the book still has to live with you and gets swept up in the maniacal folding of laundry or the need for everything to have a home. I learned that some things I just have to live with, like the pile of receipts or credit cards emptied from pockets at the end of the day because you just can't put a money clip in a drawer every time you come in the door. Either that or I just have to accept that the home for things that come from pockets is the dining room table because it's close to the door. 

Keep Your Hand in it Professionally. I still try to keep my hand eyes on what is going on in my industry. I comment on discussions in LinkedIn discussion groups, I have joined Meetups that are focused on software development, Kanban, and Agile, and I have set a goal to subscribe to  and read newsletters in my professional field. I think about the question I will be asked in an interview about being out of the workforce for two years as well as what my response will be. This is the one I am the worst at so far because the meetings are for people working and they're from 7-10 at night. I am a morning person so this type of thing is hard for me. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Observations in Singapore ...

No Jumping Jax

I've been here nearly six months and the shine of Singapore has worn off so there are some things I am noticing that I had not noticed prior. 

No cars broken down on the freeways. Mostly the cars on the freeways are relatively new. Owning a car in Singapore rise costly and requires a Certificate of Entitlement (COE) which represents a right to vehicle ownership and use of the limited road space for 10 years. Anyone able to afford a car is certainly going to make sure it's clean.

No dirty or old cars. With the exception of work trucks all the cars are clean. My guess is that the PDWs are washing the cars in the driveways because I also don't see commercial car washes.

Filipino Domestic Workers (FDW) have a uniform. It's shorts or capri, thongs, and an irreverent or nonsensical tee shirt that says something sassy, like "I like [picture of a banana] because it has no [picture of a bone]."

No mailboxes. I can never find them. How do you mail a letter here?

English as the spoken language is kind of a lie. If you are in the grocery store and doing check out that's the level of English is okay. "NETS or Visa?" when you hand them your card. Even if you ask for something like where the coffee is they can help you. But as soon as you ask for something new, like a 10 dollar gift certificate when they only have 20 and 5 dollar gift certificates the level of English isn't there. It's a very broad shallow level of English. They teach English in the schools so I am not sure why this is the case. It must be a generational thing because I hear the children on the trains speaking English. 

It's a mantra here of how hard everybody works. The taxi drivers preach this the most but everyone says it. I think it's because there is no such thing as social security here so citizens must plan for their retirement. Not that social security in the US takes care of us by any stretch in the US, so maybe Singaporeans are comparing their retirement to Europeans. But at 5 o'clock the streets of Orchard are packed on a weekday with people not at the office. 

Nonsense is cool. There are not only a lot of nonsense tee shirts, but there are nonsense bags and coffee cups with sayings that make no sense, Asian phrases translated poorly into English.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Singapore Signage: Context is Everything

The signage in Singapore is amusing. It looks as though key phrases and words from English have been copied and pasted into the signs, but without proper context or missing words so it reads as nonsense. The FDWs (Filipino Domestic Workers) or helpers as they are called locally have uniform of shorts, thongs, and tee shirts that either say I heart Singapore or irreverent or sassy phrases that are also missing context. Here are a few signs I saw traveling around Singapore that have amused me: 

Hush Hush Hannah
The trains are clean and everyone behaves, busying themselves with videos, games, or social media on their handphones. Hush Hush Hannah, who is on the doors when entering the train, has her own hashtag and is a reminder not to have the volume too loud when using headsets or talk loud enough to disturbs others. I guess her counterpart on the LA Metro would be STFU Larry.

Sexy Thai Food

We walked through the Star Vista shopping center after eating a paleo lunch at Cave Man Food and came across a Thai Restaurant. Porn means "blessing" or "fruit" in Thai, depending on the context. Nothing about the restaurant is overtly sexual, not even their menu suggests anything sexy like Jenna Jameson Fries. Then why the closeup of the elephant's butthole? I can't answer that. 

Calorie Suggestion

Singaporeans love their food, but as the obesity rate climbs 1% each year within the population I have seen a few PSA's that suggestion eating less. This is one of them. If you're watching your calories here are some Singapore Hawker meals and their calorie count. As long as you don't have snacks between meals or beverages you may be able to get away with three meals a day from a Hawker center, but don't expect the dishes to be healthy

Hot Desserts
Flavors vary from culture to culture. Western palates prefer sweeter tastes like fruits, chocolate, caramel, or liqueurs. Though local flavors like Durian are particular to southeast Asia, flavors like black sesame, peanut, yam, bean, water chestnut, egg, and fungus are flavors enjoyed by the local Chinese population. 

Poo Free

Who doesn't want to walk in a poo free park? I saw this sign during one of my nature walks. It was posted outside of a park. Fines for not picking up after your dog start at $1,000.

Watch Zone

This watch zone sign was posted outside of a HDB (Housing Development Board) property next to my home. (HDBs are apartments owned by citizens.) The area in question has picnic tables and a vending machine and is within the parking lot. It doesn't seem like a natural area to host a birthday party but I guess they didn't want the memorial services to be set up here, as memorial services are more appropriate to the badminton area.