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Friday, June 11, 2010

2 of the grandchildren arrive for the summer

We motored over to One Degree 15 Marina in Singapore a day early so we could be all settled before our guests arrived. Very glad we made that trip on a bright and sunny Friday because Saturday it rained all day. There went my plans for getting a haircut and highlights before everyone arrived. We didn't budge off the boat until 21:15 Saturday night when it was time to catch the bus from Sentosa Cove (at the marina) to Vivo City where the Harbourfront MRT station is located. The MRT (subway) is the easiest method of transportation to Changi Airport. Unfortunately, the subway does not run all night. Our daughter-in-law, Lynn, and our 8-year-old granddaughter Elisabeth (a/k/a BeBe) were scheduled to arrive near midnight. Their flight was right on time and we chatted away during the taxi ride back to the marina. Lynn and BeBe got settled in and Bill and I grabbed a few hours sleep before meeting the taxi driver again at 04:45 for the second trip of the night back to the airport. Zachary, our 9-year-old grandson, arrived around 06:00. The taxi driver waited and brought us on the return trip to the marina. We hoped everyone might sleep in for a few hours, but that didn't happen.

Elisabeth and Zachary are cousins. Even though they live in the same city, they rarely see one another. So there was lots to catch up on by those 2 as well as with their grandparents. Everyone was too excited to sleep. Bill unpacked luggage and it was like Christmas in June with all the boat parts and odds and ends the kids had delivered to us. None of us ever made it back to bed that day, but we didn't venture out of the marina. Plus, it was Bill's 63rd birthday. His birthday present was seeing both grandkids and their delivery of a new saltwater pump for our air-conditioning system. The old pump is on its last legs and expected to fail beyond repair any day. And facing this climate without air-conditioning would be intolerable!!

Monday we initiated everyone on the MRT. Singapore has such a wonderful mass transit system. It makes getting around this island-country so very easy. We visited the Bugis market area, where Lynn and Elisabeth shopped and visited a nearby small Buddhist temple while I got one of the worst haircuts imaginable. Bill and Zachary visited Sim Lim Tower to purchase electronic things. Then we all met for a late lunch at one of the many food vendor areas adjacent to Bugis markets. Elisabeth is going to have a difficult time finding foods acceptable to her discerning palate during this summer. But she will adjust once she realizes that the foods she normally enjoys are not available here. That is what international traveling is all about -- experiencing different cultures. I'm not worried about it. She won't starve.

A quick hop on the subway and a good walk through the rain brought us to the Singapore Flyer. Bill and I had seen this many times but had waited until the kids were here to ride it. The Singapore Flyer is like an extremely slow Ferris wheel. Each gondola holds more than a dozen people and you can walk around inside the gondola as it completes the circle. One can even eat dinner inside a gondola but we weren't interested in doing that. The Flyer reaches 165 meters height (536 feet) and provides a good overview of Singapore. Since it was raining our views were not quite as spectacular as they would have been on a clear sunny day. But the rain also made the walking cooler and I will take the cooler temperature over a pretty skyline view any day.

There was one 'building' that caught the kids eyes. It actually was 3 tall buildings with what resembled a long boat on top connecting all 3 buildings. It looked like there was a park on top of the boat, as we could see lots of palm trees up there. We learned at the Flyer that we could go up on top of the boat if we felt like walking across the bridge in the rain. There is a casino up there. This general area is called the Marina District, although that does not connote the normal definition of marina as there will never be a place for docking boats here. Much later, we learned that the 'boat' on top of the 3 skyscrapers is the Sands casino. When the new city of Nusujaya in Malaysia is completed (where Puteri Harbour Marina is located) there will be a ferry operating between Puteri in Malaysia and the Marina District in Singapore. That will be really convenient. Singapore is focusing more on entertainment for adults (casinos) and Nusajaya is focusing on family-oriented entertainment. Having a high-speed ferry between the 2 locations will allow families to visit both places easily during their vacations.

We took the subway back to Vivo City and leisurely strolled around this large shopping mall. Anything for air-conditioning. This 'shopping' through the huge food courts also further reinforced to Elisabeth that she was not going to find orange chicken in Singapore so she might as well give in and eat what is available.

Tuesday the kids discovered the marina swimming pool. I don't remember what else we did that day. This is also the day the kids discovered the 2 peacocks that freely roam the marina area

Wednesday Lynn and I took the kids to see temples while Bill worked in the engine room. We visited Chinatown and saw a small Hindu temple and a small Buddhist temple. At the Hindu temple there was a ceremony in progress for 2 small boys. They and their family all lined up and presented offerings which were then burned. Two men nearby played very loud music during this ceremony. We had no idea what this ceremony was for, but I told the kids that maybe it was like a confirmation for the 2 young boys. This temple was quite colorful and totally different from the ancient large stone temples that Bill and I were familiar with in Bali and Cambodia.

This was the kids' first exposure to different religions. I think they both found the Buddhist more interesting than the Hindu. Zachary bought a book about the wisdoms of truth according to Buddha. Zachary and I were impressed with the walls of tiny Buddhas on the third floor of the Buddhist temple. Zach counted the columns and rows and the number of wall panels. Each Buddha statue was inside a plastic cube that measured approximately 3 inches on each side, and each had a name and number written on the front of its case. On the fourth floor we saw a sign that offered these tiny Buddha displays at $1800 for 5 for 'remembrance.' When we returned to the boat that day we calculated how many Buddhas were lining the walls on the third floor and how much money the temple had collected by selling these displays at 5 for $1800. The temple had collected $3,033,000. And we didn't even count the displays lining floor-to-ceiling inside the prayer wheel room on the third floor! Got to hand it to the Chinese. They have figured out a way to collect far more money per square inch of temple or church space than the Catholics do by having 'sponsors' of stained glass windows. The photo on the right shows the kids bathing the Buddha statue. We don't know why one pours water over the statue, but why not?

Chinatown did not really impress either of them with all those sidewalk shops selling tourist goods that none of us were interested in buying.

Next was Little India for lunch. Elisabeth managed to eat 3 small steamed dumplings, but she shunned the accompanying pork and noodles, as well as the lime juice drinks. Zachary loved his Thai pineapple rice. Lynn and I had the more spicy chicken biryani, Both kids loved the waffles filled with chocolate. Finally found something local that Elisabeth really likes and it is a junk food that she won't have the opportunity to eat again except possibly when we make day trips back to Singapore from the marina in Malaysia. We will be taking the boat back to Malaysia as soon as her mom flies home at the end of this week.

We returned to the marina. Planned to take the kids to one of the beaches on Sentosa island; but we missed the bus and none of us felt like waiting 35 minutes in the heat for the next one, so back to the marina swimming pool. I love this pool. One long side of the pool is a solid piece of glass. It is more than 4-inches thick and water constantly flows over it. When someone is in the water, from the outside it appears that their body and head are in different places. Appears very funny. In the photo on the left Lynn's body appears past Elisabeth's head. The bodies are all well away from their owners' heads. Notice in the photo on the right how Elisabeth's head appears to be following a couple of feet behind her body as she approaches the glass wall. Just an optical illusion. Zachary appears normal because he is right against the wall.

I could spend half of every day sitting at this swimming pool......especially late afternoon when it is shaded from the sun by the tall buildings.

Thursday was another rainy day, so we all went to the Science Center and Snow City. The Science Center is very large and has many things to entertain children of all ages. But the big hit of the day was Snow City. Kids and adults can slide down a hill sitting on inner tubes. This was a blast! I couldn't do it because I had recently cut my heel deeply and could not wear regular shoes or boots. The complex provides parkas, boots and gloves to make certain that everyone is properly attired for the very cold experience, but I was barefoot in sandals because of my heel injury. It really wasn't bad until a little boy decided that he needed to kick snow to cover my feet. Bill rode down the hill with both kids. After that, the kids were ready to do it on their own. We stayed inside until Elisabeth's face was bright red from the cold. Cameras are not allowed inside Snow City because they want to sell photos that they take. But I did slide my camera out and hold it under my parka to catch a short video of Bill and the kids sliding down the hill.

There were lots of interesting things in the Science Center (or Science Centre as the Singaporeans call it due to their prior British influence).

There even was a Tesla coil in the Science Center. We watched a demonstration of the Tesla coil. The visual electricity was quite dramatic. They used the energy to pop balloons and also demonstrated the effective safety of a Faraday Cage.















Part of the Science Center is a large Eco-Garden. In the garden there was a large tree house for the kids to climb and play. There also is a Pixar Studio section and Imax theater. But the Imax was showing a film about beavers that that did not seem too interesting; and Pixar was showing Toy Story I and 2, both of which the kids had seen far too many times already. We decided to skip that part of the complex. Maybe we can return later this summer if they start showing the new Toy Story 3.

Late that night Lynn headed off to the airport for her long flights back to Houston. She had originally planned to spend 2 weeks with us but her job duties intervened. She had to work several nights during her visit to Singapore and had an executive meeting scheduled for shortly after her return to Houston. It had to be hard on her physically to fly 24 hours each way to deliver Elisabeth to us for this summer visit. Elisabeth's dad, our son Aaron, will fly here in August to pick her up. Aaron will be staying with us for 2 weeks in August, assuming his job doesn't also interfere with that scheduled time off. Zachary flew as an unaccompanied minor on Singapore Airlines and will return home the same way.

Friday morning we cleared out of Singapore and motored back to Puteri Harbour Marina in Malaysia. The marina was setting up a large projection screen to show the opening game for the World Cup, and there was no one available to drive us to clear in with customs and immigration late this afternoon; so we are scheduled to go clear in tomorrow morning. It is a very long drive to the official port offices. Hope that delay in clearance will be okay with the Malaysian officials.

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