A Day With Some of Singapore’s Bravest

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Nicholas’ Cub Scout Den visited Singapore’s oldest fire station.  The had a great time and a BIG thank you to all the men that showed the boys what it is like to be a fire fighter in Singapore!!!

Watch this quick video to get a sense of what a great time they had!

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Fashion Week 2013 – Singapore

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Fashion Week 2013 – Singapore

Last night was the end of 2 weeks of some incredible fashion here in Singapore at the Marina Bay Sands!  It was FIDe Fashion Week here in and it was amazing!

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I had the privilege to attend 4 nights of the show and had the opportunity to experience Asian, French, and European designers.  The collections that I viewed were everything from Women’s Ready to Wear, Men’s Ready to Wear, Asian student designers, and Haute Couture!

Experiencing one of my all time favorite designers on the first night was a real treat, Anne Fontaine

Kurt and Lauren attended an event on the 1st Saturday and night and they were wowed with Men’s Ready-to-Wear, and music performance by G-Dragon! (Fantastic Baby), and Lauren even had the chance to meet and “friend” Jeannie Mai.IMG_2576

I had the honor of seeing some of the most fab pieces from the French Couturiers, on Thursday night Alexis Mabielle, On Aura Tout Vu, and of course WOW’d by Julien Fournie!

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Enjoy the photos, and to all my classmates from https://www.facebook.com/CanadaCollegeFashion, I thought of you over the past few days.

To see all that took place you can look at Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/FideFashionWeeks

or Instagram: http://instagram.com/FideFashionWeeks

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Spa Day

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Spa Day

A day at the spa is definitly a bit different here in Singapore.  First of all it is quite the task just to figure out which spa you are going to for the day!

Here’s a sample that I have collected over the last several weeks of how one can enjoy the spa!

One can visit the traditional Nail Spa and Day Spa, that is always an option.

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Then of course you have the Hair Spa (which I am guessing is a fancy place for getting your hair cut),

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or if you are feeling adventurous you can hit Nicholas’ favorite the Fish Spa (that is for cleaning your feet, not taking your pet fish to the spa), by the way Nicholas had been begging to go try this out so Kurt and I took him one day, it was so much fun.

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Of course you can visit the Pet Spa (yes I know similar to what you might find in the US), but then whilst your pet is getting a bit of pampering you can drop your handbag off at the Bag Spa, yes, that is right, the Bag Spa, this is where your designer hand bags can go for a bit of TLC!  Very important to take care of those bags (though I must admit I did take a bag there for cleaning, I was a bit curious).   Amazing business model this place has, their slogan “Staying Clean IS Beautiful”

Lauren and Nicholas have even gotten in on the spa action at the Foot Spa!

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And last but not least if your little bundle of joy fancy’s a day at the spa, there is the Baby Spa!  This is by far Lauren’s favorite, she loves watching the babies at this place.  It is hilarious, not so much watching the babies, but watching the parents that bring their babies here for a day at the spa!  Have fun watching this video it is so funny!

NOW I AM OFF TO THE SPA!!!  You can guess which one?

Vesak Day

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Vesak Day

Today I had the opportunity to get more acquainted with the local culture and take a tour with the American Women’s Association of Singapore (AWA).  Because Friday, May 24th is a public holiday celebrating Vesak Day, the tour was focused around the Buddhist culture and religion.  To say it was an “Enlightening” Tour would be a bit of tongue in cheek, but it truly was filled with enlightenment.

Vesak Day is one of the most religious of Buddhist holidays, this day of devotion and prayer marks the birth, enlightenment, and attainment of ultimate bliss and peace by the Buddha.

Our first stop on the tour was the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple, a Thai Buddhist temple and one of the older temples in Singapore (this was built with contributions from the brothers that started the Tiger Balm business).  That is why the tigers are on the outside.  This temple boast a large Buddha of a 1,000 lights, and the cool thing is that you can enter the Buddha from behind.  There is also a place to have your fortune told.  This is also the only Buddhist temple in Singapore that has the Hindu god inside of it as well, this dates back to WW2 when the statue needed to be protected to avoid destruction.

We then crossed the street and visited the Leong San Buddhist temple, where we saw how people pay homage to those that are deceased.

Then it was on to the Bright Hill Monastery, we learned about many of the rituals that would take place on Friday, such as the “3 steps – 1 bow”, here is a video from year’s past that shows the monks partaking in this event.  It takes them 2.5 hours to walk around the entire Monastery paying homage to Buddha.  Here is a bit more detail on the 3 steps- 1 bow ceremony.   The Bright Hill Monastery, which is located on a 3.6-hectare plot of former farmland.  The temple’s history goes back to the 1920’s when Abbot Zhuan Dao built the temple as a place to propagate the Dharma and to provide lodging for travelling monks.

From here we visited the new generation ‘Sago Lane’ better known as the Street of the Death Houses – once located in the heart of Chinatown.  Today, this is a one-stop centre that provides everything needed to organize a proper rite of passage, be it Chinese, Hindu or Christian!  We had the opportunity to see first hand how the items are built in order to be burned for offerings to send ones loved ones on to the after life.  As you can see from the photos, you can send one off in style, dressed to the nines in designer wear, driving your favorite car (no COE) and with a luxury house.  All of these items are made from paper and bamboo and are burned when the body is burned in the crematorium.  The Chinese are a bit quirky about their death rituals, very different from Western beliefs.

Then we visited the nearby Tse Tho Aum, Singapore’s biggest nunnery, which was a special treat.

The timing of this tour was great not only because of the upcoming holiday, but also because of the world religions that Lauren is studying in school right now.
Some food for thought, on the path to enlightenment Buddha preached that, “that nothing is permanent and that the only thing constant in life is change”  truely words to live by even today!
Enjoy the photos.

Cinco de Mayo From Singapore

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Cinco de Mayo From Singapore

Happy Cinco De Mayo!!!

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Yes, the Bilafer clan celebrated Cinco de Mayo in Singapore and believe me it wasn’t easy.  First of all there are only about 4 Mexican restaurants in all of Singapore, as you can imagine there is not a big Latin population here.  So we decided to venture to a spot that I have wanted to get to for a while, one that a taxi driver here highly recommended, (in fact this taxi driver had lived in NorCal for 10 years an knew that was the one cuisine that I missed the most while living here in S’pore).  So Kurt and I researched the place figured out where it was located and confirmed that it was open tonight for dinner.  Surprise, Surprise, we arrive everyone all geared up to sink our teeth into some great Mexican only to find that the place was locked up tighter than Fort Knox!!!  Yes, on Cinco de Mayo the Mexican joint was CLOSED!!!!  Even though there was all kinds of signage talking about Cinco de Mayo Happy Hour.  That is when I looked at Kurt and said “Today is the 5th of May, right?”

Never fear we still had 3 places to choose from, so with some quick thinking and Lauren’s skills for hailing a taxi cab, we hopped in and headed for Dempsey Hill to give a little place called Margarita’s a go.  On the way I had the forethought to call and make a reservation (good thinkin’ we got there the people were lined up).  We sprinted for our table, order up some Margarita’s (not as good as Kate & JT’s) and some cerveza’s (not for the kids of course!).  From there on they couldn’t bring the chips and guac fast enough, sparks were flying as Nicholas and Lauren were competing for who could put the most guacamole on a chip without it breaking.

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We got a good chuckle saying the only thing missing was the Marche, though that would have been pretty funny to see 7 or more Singaporeans dressed as Mariachi, singing Mexican songs, really that is something you have to stop for a moment and think about.  Are you laughing yet?

Here’s to Good Food (almost as good as home), Good Drinks, and Great Company!!!

Happy Cinco de Mayo

Don’t ask how much a meal for burrito’s and quesadilla’s costs in S’pore, it is really just better to keep drinking the Margarita’s and not think about it!  I have had quite a few questions on the cost of our meal, so here goes, $180, 1 beer, 1 margarita, 2 burrito’s, 1 quesodilla, and 1 carnitas plate!

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Gong Xi Fa Cia

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Gong Xi Fa Cia

Sunday marked the end of the Chinese Lunar New Year, we have entered the year of the Snake.

For the last two weeks we have been taking in many of the traditions and celebrations that are conducted here in Singapore.

With Nicholas’ kindergarten class we did a tour and scavenger hunt throughout China Town.  As you can see from the pictures food is one of the many focal points of this celebration!

We celebrated the 2nd night of CNY with some local friends and enjoyed traditional dishes such as, Lo Hei (The tradition of Lo Hei or Lo Sheng stems from the phrase’s Cantonese meaning of ‘tossing up good fortune’ using Yu Sheng or Fish Salad that symbolises ‘an abundance of wealth and long life’. The word hei or ‘rise’ is in reference to a thriving business and thus, its popularity with businessmen during the New Year. Consisting of white and green radish, carrots, capsicum, turnips, red pickled ginger and such, this dish is usually served as an appetizer where families and friends gather to toss the ingredients while saying auspicious well wishes out loud to bring in good luck. It is also believed that the higher you toss, the greater your fortunes will be, of course that means a big mess to clean up as well.) , SteamBoat, and Fish Balls.

We handed out oranges (a symbol of good luck and prosperity), we handed out Ang Mo red envelopes (filled with money, always in multiples of $8, 8 is a lucky number), and we decorated our home in red and yellow (not too hard for us to do, we had plenty of those colors lying around).

When we awoke on the first morning of CNY, the streets were silent, except for the sounds of Lion Dances taking place throughout the city, it was somewhat magical.

We concluded the 2 weeks by attending Chingay, which is the CNY parade that has been held every year here in Singapore since 1973.  This parade was spectacular, seriously it is in a class of its own and I would rank it right up there with the Rose Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade.  The parade started as a result of firecrackers being banned in Singapore after a terrible fire in 1972 destroyed quite a bit of property, so the parade became the way to carry on the traditions of Chinese New Year for the Singaporeans.  It was amazing!  Here is the link to the video that I took. it is a bit long but I hope you enjoy. (YouTube Video)

To all of you that were born in the year of the Snake it is your lucky year!  May you have health and prosper!  If you aren’t sure what year you were born here is a link so you can find your year. 

Healthy Healing

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Healthy Healing

As most of you who know me I have been a big believer in holistic health for quite some time.  The exciting part about living in this part of the world is that I am now surrounded by all types of holistic alternatives, more than I ever knew existed.

So on Tuesday I joined a group of women from the American Women’s Association to seek out many of the different types of holistic health that one can find in Singapore.  The great thing about Singapore is its proximity to so many other countries and the migration of the cultures here has created an opportunity to explore many options.

I have practiced Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for quite a few years, mostly through acupuncture and herbal remedies.  When we arrived in China Town we had the opportunity to learn even more about the origins of the medicine how the body becomes balanced or unbalanced and even had the opportunity to taste many of the raw herbs (yum).

Then it was off to Little India where we demystified the world of Ayurvedic Healing which is Sanskrit for  life-knowledge.  Dr. Binish explained how everything comes together both internally and externally through pressure points (massage) and special diet to balance the body.  I will say, I am not sure if the slow oil treatment that was demonstrated would be for me, but I will definitely go back to try out a massage.

Then it was off to a region of Singapore where many of the Malays and Indonesians have settled and it was here that we learned about Jamu, the ancient art of natural healing from Indonesia.  It was here where we were introduced to the “Flower Lady” she is one of only two left in all of Singapore that uses combinations of flowers, oils and other ingredients to  create a healing bath that  you then take home and soak in.  I honestly don’t know if these actually work, but they were beautiful, smelled great, and it was interesting to watch her put them together.

All of these different types of healing were very much linked and utilized many of the same principles of healing, balancing the body, utilizing pressure points, and creating harmony.  I know with my time here in Singapore I will definitely try some of these and see how they work.  This was such an insightful and calming day.

Thaipusam

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Thaipusam

Before I write this post or put up any pictures or videos, this is a warning!

THIS IS VERY GRAPHIC AND SOME MAY FIND THIS DIFFICULT TO VIEW

(There were parts of this event that even Kurt couldn’t watch)  You have been warned!

What is Thaipusam?  Thaipusam is an important festival for the Tamil speaking Hindu community in Singapore.  “thai” is the first month of the Tamil calendar, and “Pusam” is a constellation that occurs around the first full moon of the year.  The celebration honors Murugan, a Hindu deity and son of Shiva and Parvati.  Because of restrictions in India, today Thaipusam is more popular in places like Singapore and Malaysia than it is in India.  Here is a video of the procession of the silver chariot from last  night. 

This celebration is a time to demonstrate devotion and do penance.  up to 48 days prior to the celebration, devotees begin their preparation by abstaining from all earthly pleasures.  This may include, giving up meat, shaving their heads, and sleeping on hard floors.  In Singapore this devotion culminates with a 4.5KM procession, carrying a burden, known as kavadi.  It is believed that only when the body and mind are pure can a kavadi be undertaken without blood and pain.  (Honestly we didn’t see any blood, both when inserting the hooks and removing them!)  You should know that many of the skewers used to secure the burdens were as big in diameter as your little finger and the burdens could reach as high as two stories!

The burdens that are placed on the devotees are elaborate alters weighing over 100 pounds.  The participants will pierce their flesh with skewers, which support these large alters.  These shrines boast peacock feathers, the heavenly vehicle for Murugan, flowers, and photos of deities.  The  bravest worshipers attach large hooks to the fleshy parts of their back to pull chariots!  Some will even where wooden clog type sandles that have hundreds of nails in them that they will walk on for the entire 4.5KM.  Here is a video that shows the skewers being inserted into the devotee and the continuation.

Milk features prominently in Thaipusam celebrations because of the nourishment it provides as well as its association with the sacred cow, which is important in plowing fields and growing crops.  Devotees may balance large milk jugs on their heads, these devotees were mainly women and they were dressed in bright orange colored saris.

Normally it would take someone about 45 minutes to walk the 4.5KM from the Sir Srinivasa Perumal temple to the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple, but on this day the devotees will take anywhere from 4-5 hours to make this journey as an act of the ultimate penance.  The journey takes this long because along the way they will stop and do “peacock like” dances jiggling the burdens thereby increasing the pressure on the skewers.

As we watched the devotees both at the beginning of the journey and at the end many of them were in a trance-like state.  We watched as the skewers and hooks were removed and ash was applied to the wounds (yet again, no blood!).  As the skewers are being inserted and removed the devotees families surround them with chanting, screaming, and drum playing in order to distract them from the pain that is endured with the insertion and removal of the skewers.

This was an amazing festival to witness, one of the things that was very striking to me was that only in Singapore could you have a Hindu celebration like this where the Buddhist were providing refreshments and the processions were going past the Christian churches.  It is always so amazing to experience this true melting pot of culture in Singapore.  A movie I created highlighting some of the festival from beginning to end.

Unique Fish Market

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Unique Fish Market

One of the things that we all love about Singapore and Southeast Asia is that even on a day of errands we always seem to “stumble” upon something new, different, and exciting.

Nicholas and I first stumbled upon this Unique Fish Market at Turf City just before Christmas. Yesterday we shared the experience with Kurt and Lauren. This is what we love about Singapore, you never really know what you will come across and this was a great find.

I have never seen a live fish market quite like this one, and all of us agreed the tank of frogs was the best!

The pictures say it all!