So far, so good.

It’s been a month now since we started in secondary school. And it has already been a ride. Back when I was in secondary school, all I had to do was pass primary 6 with decent enough marks and that was it. My school then had both primary and secondary so there was no additional criteria to get into secondary school. Well, all that calm was thrown out the window when we brought Matthew in for school in Singapore.

The PSLE is behind us now and it was a memorable journey that one would like to forget sooner rather than later. But no sooner than it had been forgotten that we were now thrown into a new learning journey. Apparently, just getting into the school of your child’s choice was just the beginning.

We managed to get Matthew into one of the schools that he chose after getting his PSLE results. His first choice. Choosing the school was one thing, choosing to be in one stream or the other was a different thing. We were one of those that had the option of choosing to go on the express stream or the normal stream. The main difference (for us at least) is choosing to complete secondary school in four years or five. That was our deciding factor, although the technicalities are far more complicated than that.

When school started, we were informed about having to choose our son’s Co-Curricular Activity. Another one of those technicalities that he would have to live with throughout his years in secondary school. One thing that I appreciated was the open house that gave us parents (and our kids) an opportunity to make an informed decision when choosing the CCA. Getting in to your CCA of choice though, is once again a different matter. That would mostly depend on the child’s willingness to be a part of that CCA. That meant tryouts and interviews. With time and choices limited, Matthew only had a chance to go to 2 tryouts. He could have gotten 3 if he was not so sick that week but health is the choice we took. After another week of waiting, it was finally revealed that he would be attending Military Band. So yes, we were like – speechless.

—–

We have had a great many weeks so far. Matthew has adjusted well to his new friends and new school. He has also gotten along well with his teachers and his studies. He and math still don’t get along quite as we would like, but he is getting there. This improvement in his school-life balance thus far, is being achieved by a little bit of work from him, us – parents and thankfully, the school itself. Honestly, we are very happy with how the school is looking after these rascals -err- pre-teens. After all, kids would be spending more time in school these days than at home. And for the school to reach out and work hand in hand with the parents is a good sign that they are after the well being of the child.

Intelligence, after all, can be taught and learned. It is the foundation of a child’s mental and emotional well being that would allow them to make decisions that would help them grow to be the person that they want to be. We can only hold their hands so far to guide them. They would be starting their own journey sooner than any of us realize.

But so far, so good.

Advertisements

A Coming of Age

Life is good!
Life is good!

Time has definitely passed me by.

It took some time before I realized that Matthew is now in secondary school. Or did it take some time before I accepted the fact that Matthew is now in secondary school? It just doesn’t feel like it at home. I’m not complaining though. Because at home, he still gives us hugs and kisses. He still asks us to open jars, wrap his books and find his spectacles. His room is still always a mess and his hair is still mostly unkempt. He still forgets everything and he still does not have a care in the world. He did grow up a bit in some way. It is no longer milestones but you could still say that the changes are mild improvements. He no longer wants us to give him baths for one thing (although I still need to drag him out of bed in the morning). He has his own choices when it comes to clothing him (preferring -ehem- to be comfortable at the expense of looking like a rag doll). He eats most of his food now if he likes it (it still takes him an hour to do so). And other little changes here and there.

I keep having to remind myself that he is twelve now. A pre-teen. And probably the start of even more headaches and heartaches. Sometimes I think about asking my parents how I was like when I was twelve, but they will probably only say that “I had been a handful but a good kid nonetheless”. It’s like those random psychology tests that you get asked on Facebook. The results are always answers so vague that you think that you already knew them all along. To be honest, Matthew does not really like being compared to anyone, including me. From time to time he would point out things that he has been doing that is similar to what we have done before (based on stories that we have already shared). But directly comparing what he is doing to others is a big no-no. What I’m afraid of though, is if he becomes more of a handful than I had been when I was his age.

 

I don’t want to think about the negatives because there will always be bad stuff with the good stuff. After all, balance is the key. It is a bit difficult writing about life only when there is absolute good in it. Because honestly, everybody has their good days and their bad days. There may come a change in the way this blog moves forward from here on in. I will still try and balance writing about things that can be discussed and of course keep things that are private, well, private. We’ll see how things go along this year and the coming years. Fingers crossed.

A Merry kind of Christmas and a Happy kind of New Year

Hello 2018! (from Matthew)
Hello 2018!

When I was younger, my memories of Christmas was a day that had always been celebrated with family. And we had a big enough family back when everyone was more or less younger. We would go to Christmas mass either on the eve of the 25th or early morning on Christmas day. Us kids would then go around to our grandparents houses where Christmas parties would be celebrated (it was a time to get re-acquainted with our cousins and aunties and uncles). There would be party games such as “bring me” and “make the longest line”. There are times that we would have programs as well (but that was very rare). And of course, Christmas parties would not be complete without exchanging presents. Throughout the years, people grew older and traditions started to disappear. I’m just glad that I could recall those memories because life was simpler back then and happiness could be served with just a smile.

We tried offering the same memories with Matthew now onboard. And with life away from “home”, we felt like we had never had a real tradition that we followed. We were more like “go with the flow” kind of people. And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it makes our lives a lot easier to control when we don’t have to trouble ourselves too much with things that people say need to be for feeling Christmas. And so we make our own rules. Sometimes we are in the Philippines with family, and sometimes our family are with us here in Singapore. As long as there is love, it is pretty much Christmas to us.

This year is no different. We would wing it, like usual.

We didn’t have Christmas Noche Buena this year (for those who do not celebrate as such, it is having a celebratory dining at midnight). We were planning on having Christmas ham and assorted cheese board and maybe some drinks. Instead, we had an early Christmas dinner with healthy servings of meat, bacon and eggs at Wild Honey. We had a feast and only the Christmas songs in the background gave a hint of the season. We didn’t watch the animated Rudolph or Santa Claus movies that were Christmas favorites on the eve (for children anyway). Instead, we were watching Star Trek. In fact, we were so hooked watching that we didn’t even see Santa come in and drop off his gifts. We opened our presents after the movie and had a good sharing of hugs and laughs and love. And then we hit the sack like potatoes. Yup, we were dead weight by the time Christmas had come.

We do hope that everyone had a very Merry Christmas. Happy birthday, Jesus!

Unlike our Christmas, our New Year didn’t quite pan out. Maybe it was because we were all tired (my sister and her family were here for a visit), or maybe we weren’t really that hyped up about new year celebrations anymore. Whichever the case may be, we had our dinner between early and late, keeping it somewhere between evening and midnight. Matthew had initially complained since he seemed to have wanted to welcome the new year. Still, our dinner was warm and cozy. An assortment of cheese and ham and just the right amount of sparkling drink to cap off 2017.

There were no firecrackers or loud noises. There were no door knocking and greeting your neighbours a happy new year (it was another old tradition with the family). There were no sparklers or poppers. It was a quiet and seemingly uneventful evening. It was just us and the rainy welcome of 2018.

On that note, there are things to do and a lot of improvement has to be made (both personally and in the world). I’m hoping to get the momentum going early on so that it picks up speed and eventually run us off the ground for take off.

Happy New Year to everyone. May 2018 bring about realities to our wishes and dreams!

Twelve

November 24. Matthew’s birthday. As always, it’s a wee bit more special than any other day.

Twelve
Twelve

The days leading to his birthday was actually quiet and uneventful. I’m not sure if there was something brewing on the back of his head that he just wasn’t telling me or if I was just being paranoid. But it was nice to get to his birthday without worrying about a party or a day trip. And as it turned out, I was just being paranoid and Matthew did not secretly plan on taking over the world. Instead of cake (that we would probably not finish), we bought some cupcakes and candles to celebrate his birthday. We handed him his presents and that was it. The rest of the day played out like a normal day. Except maybe for that trip that we had to make to the school. Because his birthday also happened to be the day that the PSLE results came out.

 

PSLE stands for primary school leaving exam. I have my opinions and views of the PSLE like every parent with their kid/s taking the test. I will, however, keep my opinion to myself as this isn’t really about the PSLE, but Matthew’s day.

Thankfully, the school that Matthew was coming from had a 100% passing rate for PSLE this year. We just considered it as a birthday present for him. On the back of the results, we had a deal with him. The deal we made was agreed on the week before the tests. His results would give him the chance to ask for something that he really, really wanted and there would be no questions asked. I still had to bring his wishes down to more manageable levels before we made the pact of course (seriously, he doesn’t need both a PS4 and a Switch). And once all parties were happy, we spat on our hands and shook on it. Okay, so we didn’t spit on our hands because that’s kind of a bit gross. But we did have an agreement and we were going to honor the deal on that day. So by the end of his birthday day, he was an even happier kid with a brand new handheld console (sorry bud, you didn’t get the top prize. but it was never about the prizes, it was all about giving your best).

We continued the celebration the next day by going out more and eating out more. Sometimes, just spending time with the people you love is enough to make it a celebration. And that’s what we did. We walked. We ate. We laughed. We joked. We irritated each other. We made fun of each other. We had a good time. Yes, some of our jokes hit below the belt. And maybe you wouldn’t understand that it’s just a joke if you don’t know us, but believe us, we can be annoying and irritating and still end up laughing and loving each other more.

Matthew, your journey has just begun.

Gone to Saigon for Poh

We arrived at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. This was a short trip that Mum had planned when she realised that we needed to de-stress. Deciding on the destination and the dates had been quick, but it was reasonably well planned. Our itinerary was composed mainly of finding good places to eat, followed by sights to see with other tourists (we did our own tour) and lastly, we said there was no need to go shopping except for a few souvenirs.

We crashed at the Silverland Jolie Hotel & Spa in Ho Chi Minh and right off the bat, we knew we would feel at home there. The lobby wasn’t big, but the high ceiling made it feel airy. The French vibe was there although you can’t really say that it is truly authentic (very good effort though). The staff were all friendly and they were all smiles too. To top it off, we arrived just in time for tea. As we were waiting for our room, I managed to get my taste of local Vietnam coffee and I fell in love. After our afternoon tea (or in my case, coffee), we were ushered into our room. I wasn’t expecting the room to be big, considering the size of the lobby, and it wasn’t. Even though it’s smaller than some of the hotels that we stayed at before, it was a cosy little nook with a king size bed and a hot tub. We were told that they had bumped us up to a suite for the duration of our stay. Cool.

A night in Saigon
A night in Saigon

We rested for a while and took out my crudely detailed map of where we could go. In my map it looked like all the places we were planning to go to were all nearby but we decided to hit Ben Thanh Market first. Being the great navigator that I am, I kept my fingers crossed that I was actually walking us in the right direction. Well, I was, for 90% of the time. For the other 10% I had to rely on Google maps and the portable WiFi that I rented from Changi Recommends before we left for Saigon. Since this is not a review of the Changi Recommends portable WiFi, let me just say that it is a handy thing to have to keep you connected when you need to. For about 5 SGD a day, I had unlimited Internet access for up to six devices while we were in Saigon. There are terms and conditions and such, so it may end up different for each country and for the duration of your stay. Overall, it was cost effective and useful for our trip. Especially since I had to rely on Maps to navigate the city (which was pretty cool). The highlight of the night was Ben Thah Market Food Centre where we had our first taste of Vietnam food. The tasty dinner was enough to make me and the wife happy. Matthew, on the other hand was in his moody self once more and was trying his best to keep the dark clouds over our heads. Unfortunately for him, when our tummies are happy it is quite difficult to keep us down for long. We ended the night by burning the fat we took in by walking back to our hotel.

Book Street.
Book Street.

Breakfast at the hotel went great the next morning. I got my Vietnam coffee fix first thing and chowed down on some excellent Asian fusion buffet. We took to the streets of Saigon once again in comfy clothes. We were already expecting the weather to be hot and humid so we had prepared our gear just for the occasion. We did the tourist thing on the second day which had been an adventure with a few surprises along the way. We walked by Nguyen Van Binh while finding our way towards the Saigon Central Post Office. While we didn’t buy any books from this lovely book street, it was a beautiful place to be in (even if you just want to chill) with bookstores and books left and right and just the right amount of refreshments in between. We reached the Central Post Office and it was a very interesting building in itself. Beautifully preserved and fully functional, it felt nice just to be there (heat and sweat and all). Within the halls of the post office are remnants of the olden days with telephone booths that dial in to specific countries, postal services to cater to any of your postal needs, and of course, souvenir shops. Matthew finally had a blast. Across the street is the Notre Dame Cathedral, which is another architectural wonder in the fast growing city of Ho Chi Minh. Unfortunately during our visit, it was being renovated and no visitors are allowed. Sigh. Trudging along, we managed to make our way to the Reunification Palace (gotta’ love Google Maps). We had a peek into history here and as much as there are similarities in the décor and feel of the Reunification Palace, it still made an impression that says “Vietnam”. The palace is huge. Walking through its halls lets you see the life of Vietnam’s highest ranking political figures during the war and through the end of it. It was a great way to end our sight seeing. We wanted to do more, but the heat and exhaustion of the day caught up with us and we made our way back to the hotel (should be back in time for high tea, of course). Our third day turned to a shopping spree when we found the malls and the decent prices of pretty little things. That is to say, we were lugging an extra bag by the time we were on our way home.

Souvenir shopping.
Souvenir shopping.

What we found most interesting (and strangely enjoyable) is dodging motorcycles and cars as you cross the streets of Saigon. They are literally everywhere. They are on the road, on the sidewalk, heck even in places where there is no pavement. Surprisingly, we survived the streets of Ho Chi Minh without a scratch on any of us. That should be something that can be ticked off a bucket list. The rest of our trip involved enjoying local Vietnam food. And while we may not have taken the more adventurous route of eating from side street vendors (it was kind of difficult when you have a picky eater travelling along with you), we hoped that the places we ate at were authentic enough. Either way, we did enjoy a great deal of eating in and around Saigon. So much so that we even had some instant Pho taken back home. What was really neat was that the food in Saigon cost considerably less and taste considerably better than what you can get in Singapore. Must have something to do with all the herbs and spices that they put in their dishes.

 

We aren’t food critiques, but we love our food. And after our visit to Ho Chi Minh, we love our Poh. And not just Poh. Saigon is a great place to be when you want to eat. We had a sample of Banh beo (water fern cake), Banh nam (rectangular dumpling) and Banh bot loc (chewy tapioca dumpling). I can’t really say what was in them, but they were great appetizers. The Bun bo Hue, while not Poh, is a flavourful soup dish made primarily with vermicelli and beef. Like Poh though, the Bun bo is filled to the brim with vegetables and other spices while still having a generous portion of meat. The broth was rich, the noodles were firm and the beef was tender. There isn’t really anything to say about it from a normal person’s point of view except that you can’t go wrong getting this dish when you are in Saigon. Then we had Banh Mi, which, after some research told me that it was the Vietnamese word for bread. More specifically, baguette. Hoping to cut down on some of the fat that we were ingesting, we decided to get the grilled chicken variety from a local street stall. One thing to remember about Banh Mi, and bread in general, is that they always taste better when toasted. We tried some Banh ram Hue, which was like deep fried cake. Some Banh canh, which is another soup dish with thicker Vietnamese noodles. And then there was this fried chicken with minced chicken meat inside of it served with fried rice. I can’t remember the name, but it was good. And of course, you can’t leave Vietnam without having a taste of Poh. There were all sorts of Poh and we tried a number of them from different restaurants all the way until we were back at the airport. Yes, you can say we came to Vietnam for the food and you wouldn’t be too far off from the truth. Up there where the food is good, tasty and cheap, we wouldn’t mind going back just to eat some more Poh.

Grumpy Old Man

Patience is overrated.

As a father, I’m expected to be patient and nurturing to my son. Well, that was the plan. I have been patient and nurturing from the day my son was born as far as I remember. But days go by, the years pile on and some things don’t go as planned. That’s not to say that I am no longer patient nor nurturing to my son. It’s just more difficult to be patient nowadays than a few years ago.

Parents should know what it’s like. One minute you are talking leisurely with your kid and the next you are wrangling each other by the neck. Okay, we have not gone that extreme yet. But I think we’re close. What I don’t get is why we have to go through the same menial argument over and over again. Seriously, how many times do you have to ask someone to clean their mess up or to finish their dinner?

Grumpy Old Man
Grumpy Old Man

I know I would sound like I’m ranting (and maybe I am), but just imagine the following situations:

You prepare warm oatmeal in the morning and tidy up the kitchen before calling your kid in to eat his breakfast. And he first thing he does is scoop powdered milk to spread on top of his oatmeal only the milk spreads on the table top instead.

You wake your son up early in the morning to take a bath (and get ready for school). He asks for five minutes at every interval that you try and wake him up from and ends up going out late for school. And he blames you for being late.

You ask your son if he has any homework from school and he says no. So you fool around with him and stay up late. The next morning, he panics saying that he actually has homework. And it’s mathematics.

Your son asks you to buy this really cool (but relatively expensive) new toy that you are actually also interested in. So you buy it telling him to promise to take good care of it (so that you can play with it when he’s not looking). The next day, the toy is missing a leg, or a wheel or whatever important part that he “accidentally” lost.

You give your son that new book that he has been asking for since the last time you went to a bookstore. He happily reads the book throughout the night. The next morning, you find that precious book neglected in the bathroom face down on a page that he wanted to bookmark.

Bang!
Bang!

We all love our children and deep inside we know that our children love us as well. We would probably think to ourselves that children are just being children. Heck, we might even have a recollection or two of how we were back when we were their age. But in my ageing years, patience has taken a back seat and I grow tired really quickly. It’s difficult to see where “kids are being kids” and “kids being downright obnoxiously irritating” is at times. I really admire parents who have more patience than me because I know how difficult it can be. Maybe they have a better coping mechanism than I do, or maybe they have better skills in teaching their kids how to follow them or maybe they just have less hyper kids than my son. Whatever it is, I salute you.

I may end up becoming a grumpy old man by the time I have grandkids. But that doesn’t mean the memories that I have of my son isn’t anything less to treasure. Every day is a day to cherish. Good days give us happy memories, bad days give us lessons to learn. Let us not let a day go by without taking something away from it and being thankful.

Yayoi Kusama in Singapore

It was packed and you need to queue up in order to see some (actually, most) of the exhibition. Seriously, this is not how you are supposed to appreciate the art of Yayoi Kusama.

Tulip Obliterated
Tulip Obliterated

Apart from the annoying bit that everybody just seems to want to take a selfie (or wefie), there is a lot to appreciate in the Life is the Heart of a Rainbow exhibit recently concluded at the National Gallery Singapore.

For the longest time since I have read about it, I wanted to go and see this exhibition. However, due to commitments both at work and at school (for Matthew), we found it difficult to set a date that was not a weekend. And so we braved the National Gallery one Saturday afternoon to visit the Yayoi Kusama exhibition.

—–

But who is Yayoi Kusama?

If you were one of the few who came to the exhibition to actually experience the art and not just to take your Instagram feed to the next level, then you would have taken a bit of time to actually read up on her. It would have been told then that Yayoi’s childhood experiences had been the primary force in her art. Having lived through WWII despite the hallucinations she had been having in her head, it was easy to understand why her art is, well, classified as avant-garde. She would describe her hallucinations as “flashes of light, auras and dense field of dots”. At some point in my personal life, I’ve had those visions. I have not thought of them as hallucinations but rather, I thought it was normal happenings in my head since I wanted to be alone most of the time. She even managed to give it a name, “infinity nets” and “self-obliteration”. Big and apt words (and quite frankly, I wish I had thought of them).

She also had hallucinations of flowers that spoke to her and patterns that came to life. I didn’t have flowers speaking to me, although my dog often did. And I often spoke to my dog. Again, I thought that was normal. But Yayoi did something amazing with her hallucinations. She conquered them and used them as a means to an end. As such, you have these various art mediums that can only be described as distinctly Yayoi Kusama. I may never understand some lumps of it, but of those that I did, it made me see dots in my head again.

—–

Stay behind the line.
Stay behind the line.

 

We squeezed our way through the crowd and queued up however which way to get into the galleries. Each of which were suffocating due to the number of people. Whether or not they were there for the art or for whatever personal reason, it made the whole experience somewhat less personal. Admittedly, I tried getting photos of my family and myself to have a reminder that I had been to the exhibition. The rest of the photos were to remind me of the art that I enjoyed and had good conversations with my son while we were there. Surely, Yayoi Kusama would have flinched at the discussion my wife and I were having with our son regarding her work. Sure, it’s been viewed and appreciated by legends and critiques the world over, but I don’t think she’s ever been critiqued by an eleven-year old boy who saw tadpoles in her art.

"Tadpoles on purple water" - Matthew
“Tadpoles on purple water” – Matthew

 

"Circular Zebra" - Matthew
“Circular Zebra” – Matthew

 

We would love to see her work again, but not like it was in the National Gallery. Perhaps a trip to her own museum in Japan would be a better way (and more complete) to live and appreciate the art of Yayoi Kusama.

"How many parking lot mirrors did she steal for this?" - Matthew
“How many parking lot mirrors did she steal for this?” – Matthew

Interestingly, I read piece in the Straits Times with whom I share the same sentiment with. The link to the article is here, and as of this writing, is still a live link.

http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/yayoi-kusama-in-the-age-of-selfies-and-instagram

Monster Jam Party

When I was a kid, I remember having a small pick-up truck with humongous wheels. The wheels were so big that it was taller than the truck’s body. It was called a “monster truck”. These trucks would scale mountains, jump over cars and then crush them. It was mayhem watching them on the telly. I scaled a mountain of earth with that toy monster truck and it never emerged from the rubble after that (that was a sad day for me). A few years on and I am now in my first Monster Jam event in Singapore with my family in tow (my wife has always wanted a monster truck).

This was the first Monster Jam outing that was held in Singapore. Hopefully, it would not be the last as it was loud, fast and furious. Twelve feet tall monster trucks were ripping through the Singapore Indoor Stadium jumping crests, crushing cars, doing wheelies and toppling over. Who wouldn’t want to see that again?

"I don't like it here"
“I don’t like it here”

I actually booked the tickets about two months before the actual event. I got an Email about a promotion for a certain provider’s pre-selling special price and I took it. Matthew only saw the advertisement for Monster Jam a month later and he was so excited in telling me all about it. I asked him if he wanted to go and see it and his answer was a big “duh, yes!”. But I never told him that I had already bought tickets. I just said that I would see what I could do. He would remind me about it every time he had heard or had seen the ad and I still never told him about the tickets. It was difficult to hide it from him, but it was fun doing it.

So when we got to the venue and he realised the date, he was all smiles. He was still in his moody don’t-want-to-take-a-photo mode all throughout the time we were in the pit area and queueing up for signatures (and photos and souvenirs). We managed a few shots here and there, but I didn’t bring my DSLR because it was in the guidelines for entry to the Stadium. The joke was on me as there were a lot of people with DSLRs. It’s a lesson learned for the next time we hit the Stadium then. And because Matthew couldn’t decide which Monster Jam truck he really wanted, he wasn’t able to get the toy (obviously the most famous trucks were scooped out first). He started asking for Grave Digger and Max D but both were already out of stock. On the other hand, I already have El Toro Loco and just needed to queue up for signing and a photo op with the driver, Marc McDonald. After the Pit Party, we made our way to our seats with snacks in tow. And then we waited.

El Toro Loco driver Marc McDonald
El Toro Loco driver Marc McDonald

The trucks were loud. But not overly loud and we were glad that we didn’t buy earplugs (as you get to feel the atmosphere more without them). Younger folks would have benefitted from them though. The night was divided into race, two wheels skills challenge and freestyle. It was basically a knock out challenge based on a point system that was going to be judged by the audience via an online voting website. The sound of the trucks revving and the smell of exhaust fumes only served to elevate the excitement of the crowd.

The race was about to start. You can hear the trucks rumbling in idle at their respective staring lines. Matthew was ready to start filming with his trusty Olympus as he smiled toward me. And then the air was ripped open with the sound of the throaty exhausts from the monster trucks. Matthew jumped from his seat (it was funny seeing the look on his face). And just as the lap was about to conclude, Megalodon crashes. For some insane reason, the crowd goes wild. Yeah, we love crashes but we were praying that the driver was safe. Truth be told, I’m pretty sure that these monster machines are actually safer than your regular sedan. What was funnier though, was when the support cranes and forklifts came out from the pits like an orchestrated band which was more comical than anything else. Megalodon was upright in no time (although it had to limp back to the pits straight after the race). Ten monster trucks driven by talented men and women tore through the track each winning my mere seconds from each other.

Next up was the two wheels skills challenge where the trucks and their drivers were given two runs to show off their two wheel skills (yeah, that was kind of redundant). Front wheelies, rear wheelies, stop-stand and other neat tricks filled the stadium (as long as two wheels reach for the sky). One thing we particularly loved was when El Toro Loco finished his run and snorted nitrous through the bull’s nostrils. It was befitting the raging bull’s winning run. A break was then introduced as the drivers and their crew prepared the trucks for the finale. It was going to be all-out war in freestyle.

Monster Mutt Dalmatian
Monster Mutt Dalmatian

Finally, it was time for Monster Jam Freestyle. This was where the kid gloves come off. Freestyle is where each driver wrings the throttle of their trucks to bring out only the best stunts and tricks within the time limit. Of course, performing tricks is just part of it. Getting to finish the trick without wiping out is the second part. Since it is a judged competition, they really had to put on a show to impress the Singapore crowd. And impress they did. There were notable attempts from the competitors and it was sad to see some of them retire in the middle of the competition (Blue Thunder, we’ll miss you). But I guess that’s what makes Monster Jam great, there is no clear winner as long as there are trucks are still standing. We were personally rooting for El Toro Loco and Earthshaker, but that run by Megalodon was something for the books. He was the only one to do a three sixty somersault and live to tell about it. A big feat considering the damage Megalodon took early on (he was also the first to crash in the race). In the end though, the judges have spoken and the truck to win the freestyle event was Monster Energy driven by LeDuc.

The scores were tallied at the end of the night and jamming together the points from race, two wheels and freestlye, it was clear that Monster Energy was taking home the trophy, followed closely by crowd favourite Grave Digger and then Earthshaker in third place. It was a pity that El Toro Loco only came in fifth, but we have another new favourite in Earthshaker right there. It was great fun and it would be great to see these guys back in Singapore again.

Saturday. At the STGCC.

This year’s STGCC is Matthew’s first proper “convention”.

So, what is the STGCC? It stands for the Singapore Toy Game and Comic Convention and 2017 is their tenth year running. So obviously, we were expecting toys, games and comics to be at the convention. And they pretty much were. Now, the world is filled with all sorts of toys, games and comics and it can be quite a daunting task figuring out what it is that you want to see. The variety at the STGCC was quite big, and although it tried to cater to pretty much everyone, there was still quite a big hole to fill. As for being Matthew’s first convention, it did its job.

First up, the toys. Toys R Us being what most kids have come to picture what a toy store look like, this convention will throw that notion out the window. We are not going to be looking at Barbie and G.I. Joes here (not the mass market versions anyway). We are looking at Tamashii Nation, Hot Toys, Robot Spirit, S.H.Figuarts, Nendoroids and the occasional Funko Pops. Hobby shops like Action City, Simply Toys, Mighty Jaxx and The Falcon’s Hangar were there selling STGCC exclusives. I was never really into buying expensive stuff but I was familiar with them and so was Matthew. Seeing them in their actual sculpted glory was something entirely different though. Even though they caught our attention, we never really dug deep into our pockets for every eye candy that we saw. Yes, we liked the Pacific Rim action figures and the Star Wars light sabers but they weren’t really our kinds of toys (yet). So we dug deep enough to satisfy our current hobbies. Gunpla and X-Wings miniatures.

They actually already belonged to another section of the convention which was the space for games. In this case, games meant collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering, Vanguard, Yu-Gi-Oh and the like. It was also the space for table-top games like X-Wing Miniatures and Warhammer to name a few. In fact, a tournament was happening during the convention. It was when we were walking around that we were asked to sit down for a demo of The Walking Dead: All Out War. It was a game literally straight out of the TV show and comic books with the characters and scenarios that you can play out. The rules though, were a bit too complicated for novices such as Matthew and myself. When we moved on to the next table however, the Tanks game was pretty much spot on. It played similarly to the X-Wings Miniatures game and so we were able to get the hang of it pretty quickly. Not to mention the guys at Blitz and Peaces were very accommodating. We even had a German officer (in full military drab) building his tank with us at the booth. The conversation, to say the least, was lively and very informative. I wouldn’t have thought of getting a WW II history lesson while helping Matthew build a plastic tank!

The E-sports section was just nearby but we didn’t pay much attention to it. It is still not in the range of what interests Matthew at the moment. And thankfully so, as building a gaming rig (fun as it was during the time that I was into it) can be quite an expensive hobby. And that was just the rig without the games. I’m already obsessed with gaming keyboards and mice, not because I’m a gamer, but because I like the feel of these gaming peripherals. We did catch glimpses of some of the games, but they really didn’t pique Matthew’s curiosity at that moment.

I thought that the Akiba Zone was where we would actually see more anime related stuff, but it was for people that are more of an otaku than we were. Sadly, Matthew and I are just hobbyists in the anime world and not full blown geeks (yet). That may change depending on how the anime and manga industry grows around Matthew. And perhaps that will depend on his friends as well, but that remains to be seen.

Backtracking to the Star Wars world, we get reminded of this year’s STGCC theme. There were lots of Star Wars stuff. Including Rey’s speeder and the deck of the Millenium Falcon built to scale. Matthew being Matthew though, we didn’t have the heart to queue up for any souvenir photos for that Instagram post. Those duel-ready light sabres were very interesting though. As much as we would have liked to whack each other with those sabres though, we opted to forego them as well.

We walked around the convention hall a bit more to look at the weird and wonderful stuff that were on sale. Products that we have never heard of were there, Indie artists selling their ware, and weird things that you would never find in retail shops (ball sack pistols anyone?). There were handmade sculptures, handmade posters, handmade toys and comic books by independent artists. The place was nearly free-for-all and we had a good time.

By the end of the day, we had to pick something up to make the trip even more worth it than the experience we already had. So we picked out some toys to put in our toy box and we left the place happy. We didn’t get to make new friends yet, but the acquaintances that we managed to experience was a good step forward in the right direction. Maybe in the next convention, we wouldn’t be too shy.