Tuesday, 26 July 2011

a whiff of india

So titled because, " A Taste of..." is so cliche! I believe, Indian culture is more than a teasing of the palate. It's an assault of the senses. Your olfactory can sense it in the air, even before you can catch sight of the colorful Saris, or feel the stare of deep-set eyes, behind you in the grocery counter.

I've always wanted to go to Little India. In the times I've been to Singapore, my colleagues & my husband would decline. It's a noisy, smelly, hot and crowded marketplace. They take me to the nice air-conditioned malls and coffee shops. Not that I'm complaining. But malls are almost the same anywhere in the world you go.

Now, that I'm here. I am bent on exploring. I'm the type who likes cultural / historical places & stuff. I also like to go where ordinary people go. Think 168 or Divisoria in Manila. Mangga-duwa in Jakarta. Chatuchak in Thailand.

For this adventure, I dragged my BFF Mitch. She's the kind of gal who would be at home, whether in the high-end Rodeo Drive in LA or in the backstreets of Quiapo. In short, her class cut across social classes.

For a city of skyscrapers, Land is a national treasure. The Singapore government conserved this area of small, usually two-story shophouses, to preserve the culture of the Tamil People. An ethic group whose roots traces to India. Tamil people comprises 9% of Singaporean population. (Chinese 74%, Malays 13% and Others 4%. The India enclave here in Singapore, is much like how Chinatown is dominated by the Chinese anywhere in the world.

I've been lounging in Ikea the past weeks. I can't help but compare how Swedish decors pale in comparision to the richness and "effortful" bric-a-bracs of Asian culture. So have so much more interesting things to offer.

Just one of the shops that we went to.

Check out these bass reliefs! Perfect for your garden or even indoors, just mount it in a clean board.

This elephant is a must-buy! The colors just pop out!

Any one of these will look lovely in your mantel...

There's still one in existence! A great conversational piece in any living room.

Classical Puppets! Ignore Pinocchio. The characters from Mahabharata has more personality.

Cute window Treatments. Will liven up a boring view.

Enough of domesticity -- Off to Fashion Shopping...

Colorful Saris. Don't you just admire Indian women? Despite the western fads and trends they still wear traditional Saris in the 21st century! I'll only wear baro't saya, probably on a United Nations-themed party or a Terno, if I'm attending the SONA.. which is out of this world.

The burnt sienna color is fab, the sequins and the faux gems lends that indian touch. But the cloth is a tad itchy, and would it be alright if I just wear the top? The pants will reduce my size and the scarf is overdoing it a bit!

Look at these shoes! So Sex & the City 2, the Marrakesh, Morrocan Adventure!

The shoes don't discriminate. You can interchange both right-left feet! They don't have my size :( Not that I'm gonna wear them. I actually just want to place them somewhere around my Kikay domain in the house.

Funky bracelet! Soooo her!

Carry your religion! Edgy Totes, with images of Vishnu, the Hindu God of War.
If we do this with the Sacred Heart, or Mama Mary, we will probably get excommunicated.

Jewelry boxes made from cut-glass. Nice to keep your shiny baubles in.

We worked up an appetite going around the shops. To keep up with the themed-expedition, lunch, of course, is Indian cuisine.

Just one of the many hawkers (carinderia).

It just looks mushy, but it actually taste delicious! Biryani (Rice) with lots of spices. Chicken moist with red curry.

A piece of Naan and Prata, to be dipped in Dhal (curry sauce).

We are not foodies, so I cannot give you glowing descriptions. Words are cheap. Experience is the best! Just come over, and we will let you taste them :)

I washed it all down with Laasi Drink (Yogurt and cream). Basta, masarap sya!

We were apprehensive. Omigosh. Baka lokohin tayo dito. We didn't ask how much. They were asking us where we were from etc. etc. Just being friendly, we breathe a sigh of relief. Just 12 SGD! Hay..

There were plenty of desserts/ snacks. Colorful but doesn't really look appetizing.

S0, we went back on track ...

Indian women are known for the dots on their foreheads. Originally, it's only for married women, and the color is red. To discourage adultery?! Seems to shout, "I might be a hottie in my Sari, but I'm Taken, Sorry! "

Nowadays, the Bindi, is just part of Indian fashion... in fancy shapes & colors!

This little girl's mom asked us for directions. But the kiddo ran after us, asking where we got our Bindi?! It's ok, girl. Your hip Big Sisters will give you one!

Indian women also looooove bangles. You can get them here, in all the funky colors...to match your shoes, bags, tops. And if you're a belly dancing aficionado, to match your mid-dribs!

Or if bangles bore you, how about these glittery hand stick-ons to call attention to your smooth arms?

If Catholics offers flowers to the Saints. Hindus are no different, in fact, they lavish their gods with thicker, more over-the-top leis, be it fresh or artificial. There was one shopkeeper whose garlands is as thick as his arms, running the whole length of the wall. But I was shy to ask for photos, lest, I might offend. Next time!!

We came across several temples. For Hindus, and a little bit further, a mosque.

Apart from the quaint shophouses, there are also malls within Little India.

The most famous of which, is The Mustafa Center. It's not a mall per se, but more like a hypermart. It's attracts soooooo many customers, that they operate 24 hours!

They have rows, and rows, floors and floors of different brands of groceries, electronics, accessories, and toiletries. What probably attracts the crowd, is they import brands come from different countries, from Sri Lanka, to the UK! As in, variety!

We only made it to the 2nd floor, we almost choked on the variety of choices. No Kidding! Look at some of these brands, whom we only remember during our childhood days...

---------- Brut!!
Jovan! Our house boys in Masbate, used to make "vale" advance their salaries, to buy these, while the female help, buy "Charlene" cologne and "verbena" powder.

Lux Bath? in Wines & Roses scents?

"Omigod!" shrieks Mitch. "I remember my mother, used to have this Enchanteur in her dresser, all the time!"

Mind you, these are not old stocks ha. These are newly-imported items from God knows where.

Then, we remember our history. Since, the British colonized India, and also Singapore. These Indians here, naturally, have British tastes! None of those American stuff that we are so used to. O di ba!!

Look at these Yardley Talc from London!

Mitch tells me that these weird brands, are not even found in the usual shops in the city. We stuffed our basket with the English Rose and Lavender hand soaps ;)

We also went to some Goldsmith shops... looking for the perfect hoops. Gold is expensive these days! Wisdom from my BFF, a wife of an investment banker. So, take heed!

We went back to her place, dragging our tired feet. Nothing that a cup of hot tea (Four Fruits Flavored Twinnings only, please!) and a whole pack of biscotti won't cure !

Did you notice the Shops' famous monicker?


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

eye of a needle : singapore schools

Spot the Difference:

Company to Jobhunter:
Sorry. As of the moment, we do not have any vacancy. But, if you leave your resume, we can call you of any slot available.

Schools in Singapore to Applicants:
Sorry. As of the moment, we do not have any vacancy. But if you leave your son's credentials, we can call you of any slot available.

I thought I already graduated from scenes like this. But apparently, not. School hunting here is like applying for that elusive job. There are many companies you would sell your soul to employ your God-given talents & skills; companies you heard to be giving-away up to 16th month bonuses. But sadly, they don't have a place for you. (I was praying for this with Smart, but it was Globe that hired me.) (until now, i cannot forget that :)

I heard a lot about of Singaporean Education, mainly horror stories.

Schools are tough. Competition to get into a good school is cut-throat. Kids take extra tutorial lessons on reading and math, even the smart ones. Tutorial businesses, is as common as beauty parlors in the residential areas.

Teen Suicides. Teens literally jumping off the building due to sheer pressure (5 to 8 suicides, in the age range of 10-19 in the last 5 years) In a country of only 4M pop, if this will not scare you, I don't know what else will.

Plus, the parents extend the most pressure, too. They have this colloquial term for parents who drive their kids to excel. Excellence in both academics and extra-curriculars. KIASU. Sounds like the legendary best-selling book, Tiger Mom, right? If you've read the book, you'll know. These parents even have a network here, if you wanna know, go to www.kiasuparents.com

Primary school is one-big preparation, for what they call PSLE (Primary School Leaving Exams). Primary 6 students sit on this nationwide examinations, and they are ranked among their peers. One's destiny of getting into an excellent secondary school, and consequently a great university or college, will depend on your PSLE scores. It's like NCEE before, in our time in the Philippines. :) Imagine, putting your elementary school students into such pressure.

So, there we were, scouting for a primary school for my eldest. It's tough. We tried 5 schools within 5km periphery of our neighborhood. No Vacancy! To say they are strict in the number of kids per class is an understatement. My heart was set on a De La Salle school. A private school, quite pricey. We need to tighten our belts, i wanted a Catholic School.. i want rosaries, novenas.. the works! No Vacancy!

If this were the Philippines, anong no vacancy? If you can afford our tuition, by all means, we welcome your son. :)

So we trekked to Mt. Sinai to appeal to the gods. The Ministry of Education requires all children 6yo up to be in school. It is a criminal offense if parents neglect to do so. Parents can get imprisoned. So, naturally, it is their duty to provide us a school, since we cannot find any available.

One can get spoiled transacting with the government here. They're so efficient and organized. I felt like I was doing my banking, caliber BDO along Ayala Avenue. The government staff are in business suits. They can even time my waiting time. You're #3, that's 10 minutes wait to serve you.

So, you need a school for your son? Ok give us two weeks. They didn't even ask for my hubby's background, how long we were in Singapore, blah..blah. Those stuff are probably contained in the ID, i was telling you about. My Dossier. :)

Good thing, we also had our dependents' pass already. Otherwise, my son, will be treated as an international student, and he has to sit in examinations, for the government to place him in the correct level and the school might not be our choice. I know parents who literally have to move residence, because the school their kids qualified are too far.

We got a call two days after. We have a school for your son. It's also within the periphery of your place. Call blah..blah..blah.. They are expecting you. How about that!

This is not his school ID. This is the bus/mrt card for students, so they pay cheaper. Issued by the bus company. (which is government-owned)

Teck Whye Primary School (http://www.teckwhyepri.moe.edu.sg/) is just beside the La Salle School I wanted. This is a public school. So, no denominations. Tuition fees? Let's just say the monthly school bus fee is more expensive than the monthly tuition fee. This is Singaporean public school, afterall, where 20% of their humongous national budget is alloted to education.

The school year here starts January. So, Hans is continuing his primary one until December. I needed to enroll him ASAP, i dont want him idle and pestering me at home (let's be honest, moms!) waiting for January.

Making my hair grey lately is the required Mother Tongue subject. We chose Mandarin lessons over Tamil and Malay. (Parang sa atin, we study Filipino, our mother tongue) I did study Mandarin before in Manila, but i forgot most of them now. So, in a week or two, i would need to look for a chinese tutor. Might as well, sit in. :)

As for Ivan, he doesn't start formal education by 2013. I'm taking my time looking for a pre-school. Besides, I need to polish his English so he can communicate with his peers. This guys speak kantong tagalog ..astig..baliw.. BFF jolie, manang-mana :)

Though I'm a stay-at-home- mother, I don't plan on becoming a KIASU or a Tiger Mom. It's not necessary for me that they top the class or be the best among their peers.

Heaven knows my parents did not raise me that way, also. I distinctly remember, "Dewie, After ng homework mo na yan, Bantay ka sa Tindahan. Mag repack ng Asukal." That's my mother.

But still, I excelled because I love learning.

This is what I want my kids to develop, The Love of Learning.

With that, the rest will take care of itself.


Sunday, 10 July 2011

current status : dependent

The former working girl in me, would balk at the above status. Excuse me, I can make my own money!

But right now, by Singapore's standard, I'm just an extension of my husband. My and my children's stay here is largely due to hub's employment. Should the company decide to terminate his services, we're outta here.

Now, while I'm still here. Would you like to come over and visit? Singapore, like any other ASEAN nations (thailand, indonesia, vietnam, brunei, malaysia, hongkong) do not require tourist visas for fellow Aseans. They automatically stamp your passport with 30days stay. No Questions Asked.

Some enterprising folks come over here, look for job within the 30days, extend for another 30. But after that, they need to exit. The nearest and cheapest foreign country exit is Johor Bahru, (Malaysia) or Bintan or Batam (Indonesia). Spend overnight there and come back the next day, for another 30day stamp. But i heard the authorities have been quite strict about that lately, since it's being abused, and some have been refused entry. :(

But for those who have legit job offers. The employer process a work pass. Quite Funny, because the kind of work pass will depend on your Salary. So, every time you are asked about your status. They would sort of have an idea how much your salary range is. :)

1 SGD = 35 Php

E Pass (Employment Pass) (mostly professionals/ executives)
P1 - 8,000 SGD and above
P2 - 4,200 SGD to 8,000
P3 - 2,800 to 4,200 SGD

S Pass - 2,000 SGD to 2,800 (mid-level / skilled)

Work Permit
- below 2,000 SGD (manual labor to semi-skilled)
Dependent's Pass - no income but spouse salary is enough to maintain lifestyle here.

Epass holders can apply to bring their wife & kids as dependents; and/or their mothers/in-laws for long-term visitors pass. They can also apply to have a FDW (Foreign Domestic Worker) or helper.

One of my friends here, when he's asked. "What's your status here?" He says, "Oh, I'm an S Pass holder. I'm a SLAVE here."
And lately, he's into a relationship with a local, I think, he claim S Pass for "Syota ay Singaporean. :)

Remember that hot issue in the Philippines about having a National ID System? That project didn't take-off. The leftist were warning about invasion of privacy blah.blah.blah. As a result, we have tons of acceptable IDs in our wallet.. SSS, PRC, Voter's, TIN ID, Postal ID, and Drivers' License. Kulit ano.

Here's in Singapore. They only have one ID. It's the National Registration Identification Card (NRIC) for locals or Foreign Identification Number (FIN) for permanent residents & work pass holders.

You present the IC (identification card) all the time.. and I mean, all the time.

Want to buy a new SIM at 7-eleven ? present your IC or passport (if you're tourist)
Want to enroll your child? present IC.
Want to enter the school to enroll you child? present IC.

I'm a bit paranoid. I think, it's their way of keeping track of everyone. If I do nasty things with the SIM card, naturally, they can track the SIM number, and it was sold to me! :)

Applied for IKEA friends card -- present IC.
Leave your kids at Smaland to play while you spend hub's money --- present IC.

Stores here love issuing membership / rewards card. You need to present your IC each time. They can probably even track how many thongs and boylegs at i bought at La Senza, from the time, since I was issued this thing.

But it's ok. The Singaporean government is quite credible. I know all the infos they will get from all the transactions recorded in my IC will be in strict confidentiality.

I just wondered, how come I got Automatic SMS Messages, as soon as I activated my local SIM?
"Join Meet and Greet Piolo Pascual, Pokwang and Pooh, at Lucky Plaza on August..."

How did the telco knew I'm Pinay who knew these celebrities?

Grrrr... It's probably those folks at 7-Eleven!!