What A Day

My Sad Keanu interpretation

My Father’s Day gift this year was being slapped in the face that I have not been a good father (or just not good enough).

Ouch. Reflection follows.

When I started the journey into fatherhood more than 13 years ago, I promised myself that I would be the best father that I could be. I had ideologies, I had dreams, I had plans, I had quite a lot in mind, to be honest. That was thirteen years in the making. And then a brick wall hit me. When you hit a wall, you become dazed and confused. You stop for a while and get your head back on straight. Or at least you try to. Looking back at those thirteen years I have to admit that it hadn’t really been smooth as the journey in my dreams. There were things that I know I should have done differently. There are things that I should have said differently. There are decisions that I should have made differently. Not going into the mumbo-jumbo of time-travel and alternate universes, it could have made a difference in how I am now. I can’t say how much of a difference, but it would have made one.

Breaking things down, one of the things that I regret the most is showing Matthew how I lose my temper. I am very bad at this. Unfortunately, this is one thing that I can no longer undo. This is also one thing that he seems to have gotten from me and it is utterly frustrating being stuck between calming down and flaming up when both of us are doing the same thing. It’s like a Dragon Ball Z fight.

The next thing is actually one that may have been a by-product of my temper outburst. I thought that I would not come to the point that I would need to shout at Matthew. But it did. It was becoming harder and harder to get him to stop and listen. It had gotten to the point that I would be shouting because of frustration and even though I know that I shouldn’t, I could not get myself to stop.

I also told myself that I would do my best not to curse in front of Matthew because I get really disappointed when I hear young kids shouting expletives that they may not even understand. There are places and people that they hear these, and parents should not be one of them. Again, this is where I have failed when I have been taken over by my temper.

Spare the rod and spoil the child is a term that has been thrown around from generations ago. I did not want to ever reach this point in my fatherhood. But I crossed that line. At the boiling point, I have gotten to slap Matthew on his bums. Not a lot of times, but I didn’t think I would need to do it. Another case of an unfortunate event.

Whenever I realised that I had done any of the things that I wish I didn’t do, I would try and go into a calmer state (believe me, this is easier said than done) and try to douse the fires that have been set. I would do my best to explain what had happened and why I had done some of the things that I had done. I would break down what he had done that had gotten me to act the way that I did. I would explain why I shouldn’t have done what I had done and especially why he shouldn’t do what I did.

And I apologize.

It wasn’t like this when we were younger. In fact, it wasn’t like this until he had gone to school. It started probably somewhere between primary four and primary five. It had become a journey that went in and out of bad experiences which had affected us in a way we didn’t expect. There are things that Matthew does that has already become an instant trigger to my frustrations. And no matter how many times I have talked to him about it, he would still go on and do them, seemingly without a care in the world. I try to avoid it as best as I can because I am really tired of telling him off again and again. It’s fair enough when he does these things to me, but they become hairline triggers when he does it to his mum when I am around. And I just explode.

So I guess I have not been the good father that I thought I would be. It’s harder than I thought. This is definitely not turning out to be the happy, ever-laughing, and ideal parenting blog that I initially thought it would be. And that’s fine with me now. I realised that life isn’t all about the fun and the laughter. It comes drizzled with sadness and frustration as well that should not be ignored. This is a realisation. A reflection. No, I have not been the ideal father. And you can’t create a new account and start all over. You can only learn from your mistakes and pick up the pieces and hope that you can turn things around while there is still time.

Matthew is a good person. I don’t doubt that one bit. He just needs to realise that he has the potential to change the world. I guess that means me too. This is not a reboot, but a sequel. Welcome to fatherhood season 13.

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Down the Rabbit Hole

The Singapore ArtScience Museum has recently launched a new exhibition involving a rabbit, a mad hatter, and a girl named Alice. Wonderland is an interactive exhibition running from 13 April through to 22 September 2019. And it has been a while since an interactive exhibition has gotten us interested and excited. Thankfully, Wonderland does not disappoint. Well, maybe it’s a bit too short, but that’s it.

Our journey began with a very long queue. Ys, this is what happens when you go to an anticipated exhibition near the dates that it has just started. On the other hand, you would probably see most of the exhibition in prime condition before wear and tear has a chance to wear it all down. But, I digress. We were given the Lost Map of Wonderland while we were on the queue and these maps were registered on the system before you follow Alice. Each map follows a character from Wonderland, the Queen, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, and the Cheshire Cat and they each have their own unique artwork to find.

Right off the bat, you are given a choice to use the normal door, or a shrunken door just like in the book/film. Of course, we took the small door. It’s perfect for small kids but a bit of a squeeze for bigger kids (like, adults). And from there, your adventure begins as you follow Alice through her adventures in Wonderland. Actually, you would be following several adventures seeing as there have been over 40 films, over 30 television programs, pop-culture references in books, music, video games, and even fashion. So, if you venture forth, follow your map and learn more about the world of Alice and the various interpretations of her adventures.

The Hallway of Doors is where we began our journey. Quite a few doors were around and each one holding bits and pieces of the tale of Alice. Behind the doors are concept art, manuscripts, drawings, and more inspiring works that have led to the pop-culture icon which is Alice. There is one particularly interesting corner here which is the glass table with the key that Alice works so hard to reach since she had been shrunken down after drinking the potion in the bottle that was labeled, “Drink Me”. Soon after though, we find ourselves in The Pool of Tears. Of course, in the book, this pool was actually created by Alice when she cried so much during the time that she had grown nine feet tall. This room houses early image projectors that were called magic lanterns. Think of it as early animation techniques. And through those technologies, Alice made her appearances in film with better special effects as the years moved forward. The Looking Glass House takes us deeper into the special effects that were used on the olden day films of Alice and eventually, the sequel to Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass. As the name implies, most of the effects are done with trickery using mirrors. A very old, but very ingenious way of basically superimposing images on top of each other to create an effect.

Over at The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill, Alice’s adventure takes a detour from the normal stories that we may have heard. This is in part due to the interpretation of the story by a Czech filmmaker named Jan Svankmajer. In these bits of Wonderland, the world becomes surreal and everything becomes eerily interesting that you would do a double-take on the things that you see. You would then seek Advice from A Caterpillar. The Caterpillar is one more character that makes up the Wonderland crew and is represented in all sorts of ways by different characters and interpretations. But it is the question that is significant here, “Who are you?” asked the caterpillar to Alice. The Queen’s Croquet Ground is a small activity area where you turn yourself into one of the Queen’s guards. Yes, you will become a playing card. After croquet, it’s time to sit down to have tea with the Mad Hatter. You are invited to attend A Mad Tea Party which is an animated 3D tea party made especially for visitors of Wonderland. An amazing concept, but nothing really new if you have been coming to Singapore’s Art Festivals for the past few years. Who Stole The Tarts? This place showcases the Queen in all her mean and nasty glory. It is one of the smaller, but nicer places to visit before heading over to see Alice’s Evidence. This last room is where you realize how much Alice and her Adventures in Wonderland has influenced our culture. It has been one of the many stories that many know and remember, but some have only just vaguely heard of. But the influence of the many films show just how much Alice has been a part of our lives.

Not Just A Dad

I wanted to write a blog about Fatherhood and I thought that was what I was doing. But I came to a realization that you cannot be a good father if you are not a good husband. Yes, there are technicalities in relationships in this day and age, but I would like to keep it simple.

Often times I find myself between a rock and a hard place whenever there is an argument at home between my wife and my son. These don’t happen often, but when they do, I am usually left to decide if I am going to take sides. And yes, there are times that it becomes a difficult choice (though you’d think it shouldn’t even be a choice).

We all have our thoughts about what’s right and wrong. It shouldn’t really be about who is and who isn’t but deciding on that is more difficult than it seems. During one of these tough tugs-of-war was when I realized that we, as parents, shouldn’t be biased. I had been biased towards my son most of the time because of my thinking that he was “still a child” and that he was “still learning” and all those other alibis that fathers can think of just to put an argument to rest. And that’s wrong.

I understand that it is going to take a while to fix that. But it needs to start with a thought. And that thought is my wife. I wouldn’t have been a father if Matthew didn’t have a mother. And to raise Matthew into a beautiful person, I need to do it together with Judy. I had been blinded by my need to become important as a “father” because the world has changed. It has now accepted and is even preaching that fathers play an equally important role as a child’s mother. I made that my goal without realizing that being a father is not a competition. Rather, it is a joint venture called proper parenting. And having two parents is definitely an advantage over having just one.

Then we come to the point of being a good husband, partner, and friend. It is very important to take care of your partner (and you should know that my wife is standing behind me as I type this). As a child grows up, he would be growing with the values and behavior of the people he spends his time with the most. And from the beginning of his life, his parents would be the primary source of his love and inspiration. Matthew grew up as a very caring person. He would attend to you when you are feeling sick. He would give you hugs and kisses for no reason at all. He would often hold your hand when you had to poop in the toilet. Some of those traits were slowly lost to us as he grew older. He is now thirteen years old and he has been exposed to a lot of people with different views in life and different ways of dealing with their emotions. Inevitably, this has affected him. And like all kids that are growing up, the people around him play a part in his development – mostly these are his peers.

Luckily for us, his foundations had been strong enough to allow him to keep his identity. He would still hug and kiss you out of the blue, though not as often as before. He would still take good care of you when you are sick and he would still make sure that you are comfortable, though he would always take care of himself first. But he would no longer hold your hand when you poop in the toilet. Some of the traits that he developed are understandable but there are still some that we have been having difficulty trying to understand. I guess that’s part of parenting. And like what we have always been telling ourselves, this is a journey that the three of us are taking together and that there would always be surprises along the way.

Right now Matthew needs to see more of our love and understanding. It would be wrong to give him all of ourselves. So, while trying to figure out how best to move forward, I think that I also need to rekindle love in our youth. I believe that setting a good example is always the best way to teach someone. And I know that I have been lacking in that department lately. So this is the year for a comeback. Matthew’s world is growing and I would prefer to be in a bigger part of that world as his life becomes fuller. At the same time, we would need to find ourselves again and live our own couple-lives as our son continues to grow. The future has just become more exciting.

iLight Marina Bay 2019

2019 marks the Singapore Bicentennial commemoration. Bicentennial meaning 200 years since the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles onto Singapore shores. Not to be confused with SG50 held back in 2015 where Singapore celebrated its 50 years of Independence. Therefore, iLight Marina Bay will also be in Bicentennial edition despite only having started in 2010. Leave it to Singapore to have something to celebrate and spend money on. So let’s not get into too much detail over those things.

This year’s iLight Marina Bay was a wet one. That being said, we were not really able to enjoy some of the installations due to the inclement weather conditions the night that we went. Still, you can’t let a good night go to waste so we made the most of what we had. The route we took started from the Prudential Marina Bay Carnival and the light only started coming on from the Promontory.

City Gazing Singapore
City Gazing Singapore

“City Gazing Singapore” is a suspended map of Singapore at night. Albeit upside down. However, it portrays a Singapore that is both “grand and humble” according to the artist/s (VOUW). It would have been better for us to see the installation in full if it wasn’t raining so I will leave it to the artist’s interpretation. Over on the other side of the Promontory were these lit up squiggly lines which apparently were named “Squiggle”. There were joysticks for visitors to use to interact with the installation which is an abstract reflection of the multicultural world that we live in according to artist Angus Muir. Again, the rain didn’t help much with our experience here. Trying to get away from getting sick, we passed by “Les Footballeurs” which looks simple with only a bunch of LEDs but when you see the fluidity of the movement that they managed to set with these LEDs, you just go “wow”. Kudos to the artist Remi Brun for this one.

Dune
Dune

Still trying to be in shelter from the rain, we reached the installation “DUNE” next at OUE Bayfront. According to artist Daan Rosegaarde, visitors become a part of the artwork, enhancing social interactions between themselves and the landscape. This happens as the light fibers brighten (or dim) as visitors pass by and touch the installation.

Over at The Fullerton, the “Time Traveller” stands between the old and the new as a bridge between generations according to the artist Eko Prawoto. It was inspired by bamboo fish traps from the past which is what makes this visitor in the present a time traveler. It looks nice but unfortunately, I still don’t get it.

Flower Clock
Flower Clock

Our plan was to grab dinner at Over Easy, but it was closed. And so was P.S. Café. So we walked along the “Flower Clock” in search of actual food. The design was inspired by the relationship between blooming flowers and time which also celebrates Singapore as a Garden City. This was an entertaining piece while looking simple so props out to the group of students from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (China).

The Merlion has always been an integral part of iLight Marina Bay. This year, the lights are from Loom Prod of France and are called “The Cat in the Garden”. Viewers will travel through seven colors of the light spectrum which is a poetic bridge to nature reminiscent of a rainbow. Yeah, we didn’t get this either. Last iLight’s take on the Merlion seemed to have been better executed and was better in terms of overall design as well. Not saying that this installation is bad, maybe it would just appeal to others.

Sebastien Lefevre decorated the Jubilee Bridge with hundreds of vertical flags animated by kaleidoscopic lighting in an installation called “Oriflammes”. As the flags wave in the wind, the colors and the lights play along with it creating an interesting display. I guess the word is festive.

Time Frame
Time Frame

DONIS, on the other hand, lit up the Esplanade Bridge with his “TIME FRAME” exhibit. Using information from http://www.worldmeters.info, TIME FRAME displays various information under the Esplanade Bridge like a ticker box. Some information is surprising, some relevant and some are just nice to know. Being Singapore’s Bicentennial, this display shows information represented by numbers in Singapore compared to numbers in the world. Interesting and informative is what I would say about this.

We managed to score a very late dinner somewhere between Makansutra and the Esplanade. And we decided to take the long route home by going back to Marina Bay Sands just so we could pass through “The Time Vortex”. This installation by Paul Vendel and Sandra de Wolf is easily our favorite. Set up on the Helix Bridge, you will be drawn to the light like a moth to a flame. Our only gripe is that the transition seems to hiccup in order to reset the journey. It would definitely have had more impact if the lights did not seem to switch off and reset in between sequences but this is still one of the best, if not the best that this year’s iLight has to offer.

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.

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?

DSC_1288

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.

DSC_1316

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.

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.