Category Archives: new home

Memories of our adjustment into our nest

Do you drive?

First day of CNY:
When leaving a relative’s home, I was asked “Do you drive?” What should I answer? I have a driving license, but not a car. I can drive, but you need to supply me with the car. A truthful answer but not very impressive. Given that the person asking this question is a rich relative with an even richer boyfriend, I felt that the most factual answer may not be the most acceptable.

“I drive, but not today.” I think she might have missed the implications because she went on to tell us how her even richer boyfriend has just burst a tyre in his porsche and had to take her car today, so she travelled around with her parents in their car. She might have thought that I was not able to drive my own car today because it was not available, for some reason. Evasive answer?

Somehow, appearances are very important for the Chinese, especially on CNY. Especially when the relative in question is on the in-laws side and I have to put up some show of strength.

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Residents of my town

When I first moved into Tiong Bahru, I had expected to see old folks at every turn. This is after all one of the oldest housing estates on the island, with the famous 4-storey high, white-washed “Tiong Bahru flats” that even NTU hostels are nicknamed after. Only old folks will want to live there, surely.

I was happily disappointed. My apartment block is in one of the zones that have been rebuild under the en-bloc scheme and bought by lots of young couples, pretty much like ourselves. The scheme has reduced the average age of the residents, but we still ignore each other most of the time. I remember back when we grew up with the kids of the next few units. Our parents knew each other because they had to watch over us and they trusted each other, so much so that they could keep a spare set of house keys with each other in case they lost their own. No fears of neighbours making off with a few prized possessions. No so with our present neighbours who either smile politely or turn their back and pretend that we don’t exist. I suppose we have to wait till we all have kids of our own.

There are ground floor units that I had thought will be taken up mostly by Malays, judging from what I saw in other housing estates. I was proven wrong again. Most units were taken by Chinese who enjoy the kampong feel. Many have huge pots of plants that line the corridors and hang their laundry on racks of bamboos outside the house to catch the breeze. Some even have deck chairs that they leave outside their doors so that they can lounge outside. Not unlike holiday chalets? They might blend well with the budget hotels that they are doing up nearby.

People have told me how they envied the good food that I have around my area. The hawker centre nearby is very popular, and there are a few good Chinese restaurants that we have tried but I still prefer the Redhill Hawker Centre that is a train station away though. I guess people have their own preferences. What we all agree is that we are paying a premium for the location. The same price that I am paying for my HDB unit can get me a condo in a more far-flung housing estate. I chose to give up that exclusivity and snob value for convenience and accessibility. After all, buying and maintaining a car in Singapore is a killer with the COE and ERP and current high petrol costs. With the bus stops and train stations nearby and with so many taxis in the area, I might never need to buy a car. It can be hard getting a taxi if you are living in ulu Seng Kang, but this is the heartland and is full of taxis.

The seventh month festivities is not as bad as I had feared. The getai is loud enough to be heard, but still bearable. The burning of incense paper is quite orderly. My old estate had lots of mentally unstable people whom we knew to keep away from. No such sightings yet in this area. The only problem would be to find a good primary school for future children. But that is still years away.We would hopefully work something out by then.

And something is wrong with my new laptop. Haven’t been able to post to for days, though I can navigate through the dashboard without problem, surf other sites and post to gmail. Keeps timing out. And I don’t have this problem with my office PC. Strange.

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Tying the flag

One of the things that are expected of a HDB resident is to display the national flag as a show of your patriotism. You are supposed to do this for a couple of months around the 9th of August, so that everybody can look up and see how united we are and how much we love our country. If you don’t take it down a few weeks after the event, you will be reminded to do so, too.

Having moved into my own apartment, I had to tie up the flag at the designated spot for the first time ever. Yeah. Some woman even knocked my door at 11+ on a Saturday night to ask me to help her put up the flag at my window. I suppose she has finished tying the flags at all the units along the corridor and needed our help to do so for the corner units that she has no access to. She is probably from the Residents’ Committee. She did not explain and I did not ask. Really, who else will bother to do such a thing?

Ours is a well-planned nation. 2 metal rings have been screwed into the wall, just under the window, before I got my keys to my apartment. I have seen how they did it years ago when they first started with the flag-hanging thing. Contractors will go around with an electric drill and a length of wood with 2 holes measured out, so that they can just use it as a template and drill 2 holes with the appropriate spacing. Idiot-proof.

I procrastinated for 2 days before deciding to do so last night. Nothing urgent that I had to do anyway. And it was something new. Now, to wait for her to come remind me to take it down in about a month’s time 😛

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“Not budgeted for”

My managers will disappear for at least a month every half year to do their budgeting. They will spend enormous amounts of time scrutinizing the budget forecast and making sure that we have enough work to do, but not too much, and that we are making enough money to cover our salary, rental and other stuff.

All is well and good, but I often wish they will spend the same effort on tracking our projects and ensuring that we are on track, rather than panicking when we hit problems. That aside, budgeting is something that they understand, and we are generally effective at controlling user requests by using the budget as a plan of how we would allocate resources, and would inform user that we are all tied up, or that the users’ budget has been exhausted, so could we do this next year instead? Something big that is not budgeted for can thus be averted, because bosses here value stability and would not want to incur additional expenses because they dislike having to explain such things to senior management.

Apparently, this is a concept that is well-understood by executives all over Singapore, and is thus useful when we need to explain away why we are not doing something. Take as an example, a concerned (or merely kay-po) friend who like to ask “Is there any news?” a few months after I got married. By news, they are not asking if I have been promoted, won the lottery or some nobel prize, or discovered the cure for Aids, worthy though these may be. The only news that they are interested in following a wedding is our announcement that we are having a baby. It has been very useful to tell them that this is not budgeted for, and they will laugh it off and leave us alone.

Far more useful, really, than trying to explain that we have a Plan, and that we planned to have the baby sometime down the road. Invariably, they would like to question when that would be, why not earlier. It is useful to be able to explain in a common language.

Apparently, the cost of having a baby, and then raising it, can be intimidating when you are living in Singapore, and thus the concept of “not budgeted for” is easy for them to swallow.

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Home-cooked dinner

Sunshine had to clear a day of leave today, and took the opportunity to roll up her sleeves and cook up a few dishes for our dinner. That’s sweet of her! I’m not able to do much beyond cleaning up the house when I do have a free day.

She had to do the marketing, marinating, cooking and serving. I helped with the eating and cleaning. Nice share of the work, for me! 😛

The first few times that she cooked, she realised the lack of pots and pans, vital ingredients and seasonings that are essential for any local kitchen. She buys what she needs as she goes along. Nothing that she has never done before, but this is the first time she’s doing this at our new home, and there is the sense of the house becoming more and more of a home.Best of all, she promised to cook other dishes in future!

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