Matthew and the Motorshow

Matthew and the Motorshow.

We have always been car guys. And while it is extremely difficult for us to own a car in Singapore, I have always made sure that our passion for cars doesn’t disappear into the darkness. We did this by getting cars on a much smaller scale. Cars that would fit in our house rather than out in a garage. They may only be toys but they filled the void and we were happy with them. And then there’s the Singapore Motor Show.

You would have thought that the car market in Singapore is dry due to the exorbitant cost of owning a car here. You couldn’t be more wrong. The car market in Singapore is, in fact, flourishing with a modern fleet of cars. And they are as diverse as the people living on this little island. There is a good representation of automobiles from Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, France, Sweden, and even the Czech Republic. We went to the motor show expecting to see some of our favorite cars and we weren’t disappointed. In fact, it was mostly a surprise.

There are a good number of cars representing the different types of transport demands. Sedans dominated the floor followed closely by SUVs. You have the executive class, the compact and sub-compact classes. You have people movers. You have fleet cars. You have hybrids. You have fully electric cars. You have sports cars. You have luxury cars. The list is exhaustive if you have money to burn. Of course, different people have different needs and different wants. Covering the motor show is a job for journalists. Here we are just going to talk about the cars that made an impression on us.

Subaru VIZIV Tourer Concept
Subaru VIZIV Tourer Concept

We were greeted by Subaru’s VIZIV Tourer concept car. The latest iteration of the car since the VIZIV name was introduced in 2013. As far as concept cars go, this is an edgy low-slung SUV-ish wagon. And it looks good. This was also your ticket to getting tickets for the Russ Swift Stunt Show by posting a photo of the concept car in your Facebook profile.

Honda Civic Type R
Honda’s Unicorn, Civic Type R

The Honda booth was dominated by Civics but it was the Civic Type R after all that was still the talk of the town. Under the shadow of the Type R is the Turbocharged Civic which is a pretty good car but the Type R is just on a whole other level. None of these made Matthew excited. The Honda motorbikes on the other side of the show floor did though.

The Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf

While Nissan was giving away a free Tomica Nissan Leaf, it was the 1:1 version that was being promoted alongside the e-Power Nissan Serena. An electric car and a hybrid. After the dominance of the Toyota Prius in the hybrid arena, other manufacturers are finally stepping up into the ring with various vehicles utilizing electric motors.

Matthew’s favorite car in Forza Horizon was there in the metal which of course made the little man smile. Not in the pictures though. I told him that since he really loved the Range Rover Sport, we should take a photo of him with it to inspire him to own one. Maybe not now, but it could be soon. This Sport also happens to be the P400e, another car employing a hybrid powerplant.

Suzuki Swift Sport
Suzuki Art. The Swift Sport.

Colorful Suzuki Swift Sports were just what the doctor ordered for cuteness in a world that is now being overtaken by big, burly SUVs. The Swifts didn’t disappoint but there’s no hiding the fact that these are small cars.

Inside the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.
Inside the Eclipse Cross.

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is another addition and proof of the ever-growing demand for SUVs. SUVs have become a lifestyle vehicle for most people being stylish and usable in just about every situation. The Eclipse Cross is a big car though, and while it is a good looking car, it wasn’t the one that Matthew had been attracted to.

Funky Digital Dashboard of the Citroen Cactus.
Funky Digital Dashboard of the Citroen Cactus.

Over to the Citroen booth was the Air Cross and the Cactus. Two very cute runabout SUVs that will catch your eye because of their quirky looks. Even in the normal looking colors that were on display at the motor show, these small cars still shown. It is the Cactus though that stole our hearts. And as Matthew and I were talking about cars, we decided that realistically, the Cactus would be the car that we would own if we ever decided to buy one.

Soul Red CX-3. The Sub-compact Sport Utility Vehicle.
Soul Red CX-3. The Sub-compact Sport Utility Vehicle.

The Mazda booth was more of my personal haven. I have been a Mazda enthusiast for a very long time. And seeing all those Soul Red cars at their booth really makes my heart race. But while the new Mazda 3 is special, it is the CX-3 that has been calling me by name.

Mini was just as interesting and we had always had a soft spot for the little car. Unfortunately, the Mini is not so mini anymore. It still has its charm, but not the same as before when the Mini was still the icon of small cars.

The Hyundai booth made for an interesting presence with the Kona electric. Of course, Kia wouldn’t be left behind in the race and they have the Niro to show for it. But it was the Stonic that seemed to be bringing in the crowds. It is one of the new sub-compact SUVs after all.

The Pink Porsche Boxster.
The Pink Porsche Boxster.

Of course, we had to take a look at the Porsche booth as well. There was a pink Boxster on display after all. And not to be outdone in the green car race, the Panamera e-Hybrid Sport Turismo sits in silence to wow the crowds.

The surprise for me was when we went over to the Isuzu booth. Yes, they seemed to be the only one selling trucks at the show. And these are proper semi trucks and refrigerator trucks. And there was a plain white single-cab D-Max. It was barebones. It had a manual transmission. I had Matthew climb aboard and had him feel what it was like to shift a manual transmission gear lever. This seems to have left an impression on him as at the end of the show, he was torn between the Cactus and the D-Max.

Russ Swift at the helm of the Subaru Forester.
Russ Swift at the helm of the Subaru Forester.

And then there was the Russ Swift Stunt Show. We were expecting a wow experience. To a point, there was a wow-factor, but it was not what we were expecting. Maybe we expected too much. The show was a brilliant display of high precision driving and you really can’t say anything bad on that front. But we couldn’t help but feel that there was something lacking in the show. Maybe it was because of our seats. Maybe because the venue was too small. We went home after the stunt show that we liked but we never figured out what it was that was missing though.

And that was the Singapore Motorshow this early in 2019.

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Growing Up

Matthew turned thirteen last November 2018. The key word there is “teen”. There are lots of different stories from parents about raising their teens. There are good stories and bad stories. Some of the stories may have been exaggerated and some may have been toned down but the fact of the matter is that the teenage years can be the most troublesome years for parents and their children. I know my parents had their own stories to tell about my teenage years and I have my own stories as well. It is time to get a helmet because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Thirteen
Thirteen

Honestly, this is not going to be pretty. I don’t think there is a way of sugarcoating raising a teenager. As parents, we need to understand that our children have their own minds and their own free will. We could guide them as best as we could but in the end, the choice is theirs to make. We have already been butting heads since his anxiety started acting up. It has not been easy and we even looked to professional medical advice at one point. And now here we are entering a new era in our parenting journey.

Matthew had already shown a different side of him since he turned twelve. This proved that he is growing more mature and that he is starting to experiment and change his experiences with us first. He would now normally keep to himself by staying in his room. He even locks the door now. An act that we had to take action and compromise on. I installed a chain lock on his door so that he would only use that instead of fully locking the door. We recently also just let him go to his friend’s house and spend the afternoon there with his friends. We are still new at this but he seemed to be happy with his experience. We had already laid down ground rules for him to follow when going to other people’s houses and we can only trust him to follow them. He also had his best friend come over during the holidays and they spent the afternoon goofing off in the house. We do believe that part of growing up properly means having to expose him to socialization. I am just hoping that we are going in the right direction with this.

Trouble brewing
Trouble brewing

As much as we would like to believe that he is growing up, the pace that he is growing seems to be irrational. A few of the things that we had hoped he would have changed for the better for are still the same after all these years. His room is still a mess despite having been told to clean up every day. He still takes more than an hour to finish his meal because he reads while he eats. We also still need to call him three or more times before he actually comes around to do what he is asked to do. And even then, the tasks he does are incomplete. He is still indecisive to the point where we have to decide for him because if we don’t, he is going to miss the opportunities that are sitting in front of him. And then there is this thing that he seems to have suddenly turned into the shyest person in the galaxy. He would hide behind me when someone talks to him and he would rather not drink anymore if you ask him to buy his own drink from the store. These traits were totally not him five years ago.

Like I said. It is time to get a helmet and prepare for an even bumpier ride. This is not going to be pretty.

Looking Forward

We welcome the new year with open arms today. As we poured our sparkling grape juice between the three of us, we talked about the year that was. And as we were talking, it occurred to me that this may have been the first time that we really talked about it.

Our New Year welcome dinner
Our New Year welcome dinner

2018 had been good to us. It had its ups and downs for sure, but it treated us more kindly throughout.

Matthew had been able to go to his chosen secondary school after the grueling assessment exam courtesy of the PSLE. And during his time in this new school, we realized that this was the school that we were looking for. Over the course of the year, we attended school events and gatherings. We made sure that we were able to attend parent-teacher sessions and we got to know the teachers well. We attended parent-child bonding activities to help us understand each other better. Through those interactions, the teachers were able to talk about their concerns and we were also able to voice out our own. As time passed, we felt that the way the school managed the way they teach is the right way for Matthew. Although all schools need to comply with the strict academic benchmarks by the Ministry of Education, they are given enough freedom to use different teaching methods. We are thankful that this school gives importance to a child’s potential rather than expecting them to perform at an unbelievable performance standard right off the bat.

Mister Matthew
Mister Matthew

We had good times just roaming around Singapore all throughout the year. We went to the Tampines Eco Green and tried grounding. We also frequently cycled to Pasir Ris Park. This served as our exercise and our bonding time as well. There was no fixed schedule and we went as often as we could. It could be to catch the sunset or to catch the sunrise. Sometimes, it is just to catch good food at the nearby hawker center. We went to a fair and rode the crazy swinging ship. We ate hipster food and drank hipster drinks. We visited the Turtle and Tortoise Museum for the last time before they closed the gates at the Chinese Garden. It was sad that they had to leave that place and we do hope they manage to find a new home soon. We rented a car from time to time just for the heck of it. And we finally got around to go to the places that we had only previously talked about.

Catching the sunrise at Pasir Ris Park
Catching the sunrise at Pasir Ris Park

We managed to go on a trip to Tokyo. And during our stay, we managed to go to places that we didn’t even think we could reach. Often times we got lost or got to a place that was not on our plan at all. We even got to take home souvenirs from nearly all the towns that we visited. A short visit to an aunt and our cousins made the trip a little easier during the first few days. And then a visit to a friend in Osaka also made it into our itinerary. But the best places that we managed to go to this time around were in Tokyo. Akihabara, Tokorozawa, Diver City and Yokohama to name a few. Okunoshima and Kyoto were also memorable places for us. Japan is definitely one of the highlights of 2018.

Welcome to Akihabara
Welcome to Akihabara

I also started teaching Matthew about photography. It’s time he advanced from just pointing the camera and shooting. It’s time for him to understand the concepts behind photography and make a hobby out of it. I can’t stand to just see him sitting on one corner and reading a book over and over. He really needs a more active hobby. And so do I. We do attend anime and gaming conventions now, but I don’t think that counts as an active hobby.

At Paradores Del Castillo
At Paradores Del Castillo

We visited our families in the Philippines at the end of the year. We tried to spend as much time as we could with them. We took them out to eat and to travel around the nearby provinces. We enjoyed our stay there and we had fun. While we also had a lot to eat, Matthew seemed to be the only one to not gain weight.

We had our downs too. But we’d rather not recall those. I think we already learned our lessons from those times. And its better to let those experiences go.

Yes. 2018 had been a good year. And here’s hoping that 2019 brings us more blessings and happiness that we can share.

A River Safari

Fresh off our revisit of the Singapore Zoo, here we are now at the River Safari. What is the River Safari exactly? And did it really need to have its own spinoff wildlife park? I mean, we already have the Singapore Zoo which is the standard definition of an open concept zoo where animals are not “caged” (at least not entirely). And then we have the Night Safari which differentiates itself from the zoo by being nocturnal in nature. And then there’s the Jurong Bird Park which by the name alone should tell you specializes in our avian pals. And now The River Safari which attempts to diversify itself by being a river-themed wildlife park, just in case the name has not tipped you off yet. These wildlife parks all offer safe haven to various species of animals and they ensure that endangered species in their care are preserved as much as possible with professional care. But do we really need four separate wildlife parks?

The River is Calling

I don’t really have a straight answer for that. But our experience at the River Safari would have us believe that it is.

Manatees
Manatees

The Singapore River Safari sits just beside the Singapore Zoo and finds itself sandwiched between the Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari. When we entered the River Safari, it looked just like a normal zoo. I guess you should expect that since it also falls under the Singapore Wildlife Reserves. The map gives you two ways to go about the safari, and we chose to go through the right wing of the Amazon Flooded Forest (which is opposite the “your journey starts here” direction). This brought us to a few giant pools. We weren’t expecting to be greeted by pools, but as we were looking over them, we realized that they were actually giant aquariums. Based on the information blocks, we were about to embark on a short trip through a river environment. And that’s when we saw this enormous creature swimming about in the aquarium. We were then introduced to the Manatee. We spent most of our time at the Manatee enclosure just laughing our heads off since the Manatees are like big, gentle giants swimming around. Farting. The other fishes were nice to look at, but not nearly as entertaining as the loveable Manatee.

A Squirrel Monkey

Moving along, we reached the Squirrel Monkey Forest. This enclosure is home to, you guessed it, Squirrel Monkeys! And some Black Howler Monkeys as well. We spent our time in the forest following a pair of naughty Black Howler Monkeys that have been chasing each other and seem to be in heat. And yet, a Squirrel Monkey had been tagging along and keeps on coming in between the two lovebirds who are not really paying much attention to the Squirrel Monkey. We just followed them around having another round of laughs.

We hit the Boat Plaza next to hitch a ride on the Reservoir Cruise. That was an informative cruise, but honestly, there was nothing to see. It’s a good thing it was free. It did help to buy us some time and we were back on shore just in time for the Once Upon A River animal show. It’s best to sit in the front row for this bit as the trainers will get you up close and personal with some of the endangered wildlife living along some of the world’s rivers. You can’t beat the experience of nearly kissing Iguanas and snakes. The show is full of surprises and is really quite entertaining. After the show, we paid to hitch a ride on the Amazon River Quest. This is like a very toned down River Log Jam ride. The difference is that you won’t necessarily get very wet and that instead of steep drops, you get surrounded by animals that are found in the Amazon. Not a lot of them, but enough to keep you in your boat. After the boat rides, it was time to grab some lunch.

After lunch, it was time to hit the road again. We were on the other side of the Safari by now and we are about to enter panda territory. Kai Kai and Jia Jia are a pair of giant Pandas under the care of the Singapore Wildlife Reserves. The Giant Panda forest is where they are being kept. It is a huge enclosure that is cooled to a very low temperature to match the Panda’s living environment back home. Unsurprisingly, the pandas were asleep. I would be too if I lived in a cold forest. There was one other panda in the enclosure though, a Red Panda who was a bit livelier than the two giant pandas. This side of the River Safari is called the Rivers of the World. And you guessed it. It will take you around some of the world’s largest and diversified rivers.

The Yangtze River was our first tour. This is where we met the Sturgeon, the Yangtze Alligator, and the Chinese Giant Salamander. On the opposite side is an open area where Crab-eating Macaque roam. Further down the route are Storks and later on, you come around to another giant aquarium with the Mekong Giant Catfish and the Giant Freshwater Stingray. This signals your entry to the Mekong River. The Giant Catfish is where we spent a lot of our time laughing at one of them who kept staring on the riverbed and its eyes are already turning red. We called him Bob. And he seems to have lost his coin and has been looking for it in the sand for a long time. The Mary River came on the next corner where the Australian Lungfish was swimming. While at the Ganges River, the Indian Gharial stood to watch while the Goonch Catfish swam in a pool nearby. The River Nile is where the Tiger Fish caught our attention, mainly for the fact that it does look like a very anger tiger with its teeth showing as an evil grin. Moving along through the Congo River and its African Dwarf Crocodile. The next incredible animal was the Alligator Snapping Turtle living in the Mississippi River. You will then be back at the Entrance Plaza.

Looking back at the map, it seems that we went through the route in the opposite direction. But it doesn’t really matter. It felt the same to us and we didn’t really miss anything. In fact, our timing for the boat rides and the shows were just right with the route that we took. And do take note that we were there as soon as the gantry opened to let visitors into the park. We had a great time at the River Safari. It’s relatively smaller than the Singapore Zoo in terms of land area, but the theme is intact and it shows with the animals that are in the park. There is a Park Hopper promotion on offer that lets you visit all four of the Wildlife Reserve Parks for a reasonable price if you have the time. If it is your first time visiting Singapore Wildlife Parks, the Zoo is still a safe bet, but you can’t go wrong with the River Safari either for a slightly different kind of experience.

Silent Nights

We have been celebrating Christmas in different ways for a while now. This is our tenth year living in Singapore, and that means spending Christmas away from our extended families. Not all of our Christmases were spent in Singapore, but we don’t necessarily fly home to the Philippines every year to celebrate. It would be nice to. But it wouldn’t be practical. So we call it as we see it.

Say Cheese!

We were out and about on the weekend before Christmas with Matthew’s cousins. If it wasn’t the Christmas season, it would just be a normal day out in Orchard. But it is the season, and Orchard road is lit up once again for everyone’s viewing pleasure. To be honest, we (me, mum and Matthew) stopped bothering with it after three years. To us, it just wasn’t worth the hassle squeezing yourself through a thick mob of sweaty people to get a blurry photo to share on social media. Nope. We grew wiser and decided to just stay home or go out only if we needed to. So we go out when we have family and friends visiting and want to see the sights. With kids in tow, we spent the afternoon in Bounce to tire them out, I mean, for them to have fun. Impromptu photo taking sessions followed and we ended the night with a quiet dinner at Din Tai Fung (yes, not very festive, I know). The highlight of the evening was the trip home, where our XL Grab vehicle turned out to be a mini-bus! We had a good laugh all the way home.

On Christmas Eve, the extended family had gone back to Batam and we were left on our own again. Being the working man of the house and the 24th being a Monday, I spent the day in the office doing office-y stuff and met up with the family for dinner. A short stroll down Haji Lane to look for a bag for mum got us chatting with the shop owner who happily offered us seats and warm tea. I think that friendly chat was one the best Christmas presents we received this year. Our Christmas dinner came after tea. It was made up of Truffle Fries, Turkey Ham Pasta and Guava BBQ Beef Ribs. The Turkey Ham Pasta we ordered with Aglio Olio … which turns out to be a very, very spicy version in I am …’s menu. The Guava BBQ Beef Ribs though were awesome. It was definitely not Christmas ham.

Guava BBQ Beef Ribs

On Christmas day, we attended mass at our new favourite church, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd on Queen Street. It’s quite a long way to travel to from Tampines, but we really like the service here. So even if we have to wake up much earlier, we travel anyway as it is worth it. Christmas day mass was no different, except that there are much more people around. But it remained a calm and serene celebration. After the mass, there was still time for Christmas lunch. The queue at PS Café was not what we expected (1 hour waiting time), but we’re glad we stuck around. This time, lunch was made up of Chicken Rossa Penne and Honey Glazed Iberico Pork Chop with a side of garlic bread. It seems that we were meant to put on pounds this Christmas as we were once again stuffed after lunch. That Iberico Pork Chop is not on the regular menu so I would suggest that you grab it while you can.

Glazed Iberico Pork Chop

We are thankful for the presents that we received and the greetings of joy and cheer from family and friends. This Christmas was a calm and easy celebration. Our family is small, but I believe that we had a better year this year than the last. We hope that everyone else had a good holiday cheer this 2018. Merry Christmas!

After Christmas Lunch …

Here we are looking forward to the new year and wishing everyone a blessed holiday season.

Revisiting Singapore Zoo

It has been a very long time since we have gone to the Singapore Zoo. The River Safari opened in 2012 and Inuka (the polar bear) was put to sleep in April of this year. And now, in October of 2018, we decided to come back and visit the zoo.

Do not feed the animals
Do not feed the animals

The cool thing about our recent visit is that the commute isn’t as bad as before. Don’t get me wrong, Tampines is still quite a distance from Jurong. However, we no longer took the train from Tampines to Jurong East and then transferring to the zoo-bound bus from the interchange. Instead, there is now a bus that you can take from OTH (Our Tampines Hub) which will take you straight to the Singapore Zoo. The Mandai Express is bus service to the zoo from Tampines, Bedok, and Sengkang. It’s 3 SGD per adult per trip. Children 12 years and below only pay $1 per trip. The service is available on weekends and public/school holidays. Full details are on their website (as well as booking details) at https://mandaiexpress.beeline.com

We expected changes to the zoo since it has been a long time when we were last there. The zoo still looks good. It still has well-manicured gardens, clean enclosures, healthy animals and the facilities are still well maintained. What seemed to be missing though, are animals. Wait, what? A zoo without animals?

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Let me explain. There are animals. But their numbers seemed to have dropped significantly. I only saw one white tiger, a pair of lions, one meerkat, one zebra, three giraffes, a bunch of chimps, two warthogs and then some. I’m just saying, the Singapore zoo that I remember was livelier than this. It’s still a zoo. The habitat is still there and so is the smell. I don’t know if it was just me or if the animals all decided to call it a holiday when we visited but to be honest, it became underwhelming. Yes, there are still portions that will pique your curiosity and places that feel better after revisiting them. But the experience doesn’t feel the same. Maybe I’m getting older or maybe I’m becoming more demanding. Maybe the zoo has lost some of its magic. Or maybe it was just one of those days. I won’t be dismissing the Singapore Zoo anytime soon. It is still a great zoo. And my experience may be different from yours.

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The Singapore Zoo is divided into zones. Depending on how you follow the map (if you decide to follow the map), you will go around and through the different zones before arriving back at the entrance (which is also the exit point). The map is a good enough guide, but one should note that it is nearly impossible to reach all of the zones or see all of the animals. Unless you are just running around and not really appreciating what the zoo offers, you would need to back up and slow down and you would be needing a whole day to see the whole park.

Timon, is that you?
Timon, is that you?

Our route took us through the Treetops Trail where surprisingly, the most interesting thing to see was not in the trees but rather down below in the water where an alligator was minding its own business. We continued on through the Otter enclosure but none of the Otters were there. We figured they were probably at Marina Bay Sands where they take selfies and wefies. We were trying to follow the suggested route on the map so we managed to enjoy the smell of the Malayan Tapis and we saw the White Tiger airing his … belly. We also saw Warthogs along the way and as if taking a cue from The Lion King, a lone Meerkat was on the opposite enclosure. It was supposed to be on guard duty. A few red bottoms of the Hamadryas Baboons later, and we found ourselves in Australasia. In here, the Kangaroos are nowhere to be found. They must have joined the Otters. We decided to move on through the Primate Kingdom after that and hoped that our cousins were hanging out. We were not disappointed as there were dozens of Colobus Monkeys and Patas Monkeys hanging out with Douc Langurs and Crested Macaques. This route led us to the Shaw Foundation Amphitheatre where we stopped by to catch a show with a Sea Lion. After the show, we were hungry, so we headed out for lunch.

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After lunch, we found ourselves walking along the Orangutan Boardwalk. There was a family of Orangutans having a crazy day on the treetops and they kind of reminded us of ourselves. We may have evolved from apes after all. Maybe. We reached the Wild Africa zone shortly and observed some Giraffes eating. They were in the same enclosure as the Zebras who were strangely only eating from a designated area with a bunch of leaves. There were other plant life all around the enclosure but the Zebras didn’t seem to move away from their feeding spot. The grass must be greener there. It took us a while to find the Lions from their pride rock, but there was a pair of them in there. It must have been quite the party the night before as they were pretty much zoned out and couldn’t be bothered. It started to rain then which brought us inside Reptile Garden and RepTopia where there are, well, reptiles. Which included a vast variety of small snakes and desert reptiles. When the rain finally let up, we were only able to venture forward to the Fragile Forest. The Fragile Forest is home to a good number of animals including the Flying Fox and Ring-Tailed Lemur. A variety of birds were also there and if we aren’t wrong, some adorable Mouse Deers. Then it rained again and we were stuck looking through an enclosure of Proboscis Monkeys. I have had my share of the Proboscis that would last me a lifetime after being stuck with them for so long.

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Our trip back to the Singapore Zoo ended with a light snack while waiting for our coach to pick us up and bring us back home. Again, the Mandai service did not disappoint and we were back in Tampines without having to tough it out on the train coming from Jurong East. It had been a nice trip back, and while it would have been nicer if the rain let up much earlier, it doesn’t change the fact that the zoo experience has changed quite a bit. They are continuing to improve and update. During these times, your experiences may turn out better or worse than it should. Don’t let it hamper your enjoyment of the park, another opportunity will present itself soon enough.

Being Emergency Prepared

One of the things I like about Matthew’s school is the good wealth of activities that are offered to parents and their children. Most of these activities foster better bonding between parent and child and they offer these activities all throughout the year. This year-end, we enrolled in the Emergency Preparedness Program that the school offered with the help of the Singapore Civil Defense Force.

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This is not the first time that we attended such an activity. We had our certification two years ago through the town’s Community Center when the program had been offered there as well. Of course, this certification needs to be renewed, but that would be when we can schedule the certification again.

The program started out with some light breakfast and then the fun began. Our SCDF speaker was very good at speaking out the details of what we were to expect. It was not so serious that it made it interesting for the teens (and their parents). The first part of the Emergency Preparedness is our introduction to the government-sponsored mobile phone applications such as the SGSecure and myResponder app. Both can be downloaded from the Apple Appstore and Google Play Store. I would recommend downloading them.

The full course is to help the attendees become Response Ready. Participants learn the basic Emergency Preparedness knowledge. The main focus being practical hands-on training on three vital EP skills known as the Triangle of Life. The essential parts of the course were basic First Aid, CPR-AED training and Fire Fighting.

The basic First Aid taught us the basics of a First Aid kit and what to actually do with them. We were taught how to treat wounds of varying degrees including bleeding. We were also taught about what to do with burns. We learned how to treat sprains and even how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

We were then taught how to perform CPR and how to use an AED machine. These are all hands-on and everyone was encouraged to participate. As such, everyone took home a little bit of experience and a little bit of knowledge on how to save a life. While the exercise itself can be easy to understand, another important part of the training is actually knowing when to use this skill. CPR is only performed when a person’s heart has completely stopped and that they are no longer breathing.

The last part of the course was firefighting. The small kind of fire of course. As stated by our instructor, it is always best to contact the SCDF or the emergency numbers where you are. Know where the fire exits are and where the fire extinguishers are in a building. It would also be good to know the different types of extinguishers if there is more than one so that you know which type to use for the type of fire. It all ended in a high note and a mental high when we were all taught how to hold and use a fire extinguisher properly.

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Matthew was having so much fun that I hope he actually learned something from the course. I’m pretty sure that the most memorable lesson was finding out that it is safe to spray CO2 type fire extinguisher on your face.

Let’s Go (back) to the Toyota History Garage

Back in Odaiba, I wrote about our trip, mainly around the Gundam Base. While in Odaiba, we also managed to visit the Toyota History Garage.

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While the Mega Web is the main attraction here, we didn’t have enough time to go there. And since we were coming from Diver City, the closest attraction that we soon reached was the History Garage as we entered Venus Fort from the side. The History Garage, was actually a surprise as it wasn’t the museum I was looking at the map for. But for it to be there, just as soon as we entered the doors, well, it was an invitation that should not be turned down.

Small wonders
Small wonders

The History Garage is free to enter. Yes, free to enter. With the amount of automotive history inside, you would be surprised that they don’t charge you a single Yen for it. You would also think that since it is by Toyota, that it would be filled with only Toyota vehicles. Again, you would be surprised that it is filled with other manufacturer automobiles. And it’s not just Japanese domestic market cars as well because there is a good assortment of American and European cars in this huge garage.

Grand-daddy of the the Rotary
Grand-daddy of the Rotary

You have cars that have graced the history of the automotive world lined up neatly in a diorama-like setting. It adds to the nostalgia of the already nostalgic vehicles. There are cars that are lesser known to me and cars that already have an iconic status like the Toyota 2000GT in its very recognizable white paint job. There is also a Mazda Cosmo, also in its signature white paint job. There was a 1961 Toyota Corona, a 1966 Honda S600, a 1967 Toyopet and a 1963 Toyota Crown. The license plates on these cars give you the year of the car’s production, and these cars are as mint as they come. There is a BMW Isetta, a DeLorean DMC-12, Lotus Elan roadster, and a Ferrari Dino among others scattered throughout the museum. And that is just on the inside. Outside, you have a Nissan 240Z and a Jaguar E-type convertible.

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While wandering about inside, I was drawn to a set of stairs leading down. It was a pleasant surprise that it led down to a shop selling die-cast toys of various scales and manufacturers. From Tomicas to AutoArt, from 1:64 to 1:8 scale, there is more than enough metal in these toys to build a 1:1 scale car. There are other paraphernalia for sale as well such as tin wall displays and old car number plates. It would have been easy to burn through your wallet and melt your plastic in that shop. Across the shop is the café where you can cool off and just rest your tired feet. But you may not get the chance as you will also soon notice that the Toyota Motorsport Heritage section is on the same level. Here are various Toyotas that have competed in different motorsports around the world. The hero cars here though are Toyota’s rally mainstay, the Toyota Celica. The History Garage is definitely a recommended itinerary for gearheads or even those who have even just a remote affinity with cars.

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Crashing Exams

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It is the end of year exam week for Matthew. Honestly, he has not been doing so good. Math, in particular, had been a thorn on our side since P4 and it seems to have been haunting us ever since. At first, we thought that us (mum and dad) teaching him mathematics would be enough to keep his grades up, or at least level with the mean of the class. It didn’t pan out the way that we had hoped, so we got him a math tutor. We have gone through several private tutors and even some tuition centers as well. This was on top of us nagging him about math. It has been a rough journey for sure, and one that has been ending up in frustration most of the time. And while we are not really after stratospherically high marks, we would at least want Matthew to stay on his current stream.

He has been doing okay in his other subjects so far. But we really have a lot of catching up to do with mathematics. Of course, we still need to do well on the other subjects as well which will eat up more of his brain in the coming days. We are praying that he would be able to cope with the stress, something which he isn’t particularly good at. In his primary school days, he was able to slide through year after year probably only using remnants of what he has learned in school. That may have worked for primary school, but secondary school is a different matter. Also, the educational system in Singapore comes off as a bit strange for us. It is far from what I was used to when I was in school. And that streaming system in Singapore is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you are pushing students to be at the top of their game in school. On the other hand, you are segregating performers based only on academic performance. Quoting Albert Einstein, If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

Luckily, there are now schools that look at education in a different light. Matthew’s school seems to be one of those schools. Here we wave educators that are genuinely concerned with their students. His form teacher has been very helpful in filling us in on what is happening with Matthew in school. We are informed of behavioral concerns aside from the academics. The school evens out the spread of the examination instead of cramming them all in one short week. There are parent-children activities all throughout the school year with participation from the faculty and parent volunteers. There is involvement and exchange between the teachers, the students, and the parents. Something that was sorely lacking when we were going through Matthew’s primary school days.

Of course, getting good grades is only one of the hurdles that Matthew would be facing. We are all hoping for the best, and we are all doing our best. Together. How things stack up at the end of the year is still something for us to look forward to, tomorrow.