Thursday, August 30, 2007

Back in Action

Those of you who have followed this blog for any length of time will remember that my favorite Christmas gift was the pedometer Josh bought me. And, you may also remember how sad I was when it broke.

When we moved to Singapore, I mentioned to Josh that I would love to have a pedometer here because we walk everywhere. He said, "You ought to get one." That was encouragement enough for me =) I've been using my new pedometer for about two weeks now. As I guessed, Singapore living is conducive to meeting the 10,000 steps/day recommended by the American Heart Association (and a bunch of other "experts" too). If I go out at all, I am guaranteed a minimum of 4,000 steps; it is about 500 steps from our front door to the entrance of our condo complex, and another 1,500 from there to main bus stop in our area. Add to that the walking I do once I arrive wherever the bus takes me, and you can see why 10,000 isn't a difficult goal.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The most important question. . .

Josh is now in his second week of classes. What we have discovered is that teaching is more than a full-time job. In fact, I think teaching might be the second-most time-consuming job in the world (motherhood being the first).

I am sure it will get easier for him as he settles into a routine, but even with a routine, it is difficult to lesson plan, grade and teach 125 students ranging in age from 6 to 18 years old. Despite all the obstacles, Josh has kept a great attitude and has risen to meet the challenge. I admire the fact that he doesn't complain when the alarm has gone off at 5:00 AM after only a few hours of sleep. I admire that he hasn't taken the easy way out and gone with status-quo, but has thoughtfully attempted to make each class the best it can be. The thing I admire most, however, is that Josh is continually asking himself the most important question, "What can I do to make a difference for Christ?". . . After all, isn't that why we're here. Isn't that why you're there.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

From My Kitchen Window

Per Kendra's request, I took a picture from my kitchen window. . . well, actually from the doorway into my kitchen, but you can see the window. The kitchen is, hmmm, how shall I say this, tiny. And, it's HOT. But, there is a heavy wooden sliding door that closes off the kitchen from the rest of the house, which, although it creates a sauna-like effect in the kitchen, is a good idea because it keeps the food smell from permeating the entire house. The glass door opens to a small balcony where the laundry is washed in cold-water-only-teeny-tiny-washer. Most people hang their clothes to dry here, which is a mystery to me, since it is so humid that it takes three days to get anything dry. One of our first purchases was a small electric dryer, which is also on the balcony, just below the window. We've heard that electricity is outrageous here, but my mental well-being was dependent upon having fresh smelling, dry clothes. =)

The view from our living room window is actually a much better view. Our flat is located on the 4th floor and our building faces a naturally forested hill. The foliage here is very lush--almost rain forest-ish. I'll probably be posting more about the climate and foliage on the Singapore site, but at least now you know what I look at when I open the drapes in the morning.

Here is a picture of my favorite room in the flat. We put up new drapes and bought a bed and duvet and lamp. It's really the only room that is decorated 100% with furniture we chose. . . the rest of the house came partially furnished. We like the other furniture okay, but white couches and glass tables aren't exactly a great choice with a busy toddler in the house! I'll post more pictures of the rest of the flat once we're done settling in.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Recent Reads

There are a few perks to being in a foreign country, sans internet and telephone. One of the best is the time it affords one to read, read and read some more. Over the last two weeks (in addition to spending numerous hours on the bus exploring the City), I have managed to cross off 5 books on my To-Read list.

Yvette loaned me Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach just before we left the US. I figured that nothing could be more apropos for a long flight than a travel log. Alas, a certain wiggly (albeit, very cute) boy kept me from getting any reading done on the 20 hour flight. And, since the first 10 days after arriving in Singapore were hectic as Josh, Caleb and I raced all over the city to find basic items like sheets and milk, I put aside the thought of getting any reading done. Life demanded my attention; the book would have to wait.

On one of our many excursions during that first week, Josh and I located the only decent-sized bookstore on the island, Borders on Orchard Road. He perused the computer section whilst (I have decided to adopt this whimsical, British version of "while" since that is what the Singaporeans use) I admired their beautiful display of award-winning literature. Josh bought a textbook on teaching HTML, I bought The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, the first novel written in English by an Afghan. Since we have friends who will be moving their family to Afghanistan the end of this month, I was drawn to the book.

Now I had two books calling my name and no time to read either. Pure torture!

Thankfully, life quickly settled into a routine. Josh started new teacher orientation, Caleb started napping and I started reading.

I decided to start with the first book first and then move on to my most recent purchase. The only other travel log author I'd read was Bill Bryson, whose hilarious take on England in Notes from a Small Island had me in stitches, so I wasn't sure what to expect from this more serious-looking book about one woman's travels through Europe. What I found surprised me. Ms. Steinbach, so full of memories, insight and humor, was an excellent travel companion. I loved her vivid imagery and frequent allusions to literature and art. And, I loved the places she wrote about: Paris, Rome, Oxford. By the end of the book, I wasn't ready to be done with my vicarious travels, so I did two things. . . started reading about Afghanistan and planned another trek across Singapore to see if I could find Steinbach's second book, Educating Alice. By the time we made it to Borders a day later, I had already devoured (the only appropriate word for how I read this book) The Kite Runner and had expanded my shopping list to include Hosseini's second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, as well.

The Kite Runner, Hosseini's first book, was gripping. He is an amazing storyteller. Actually, more than a storyteller. . . his historical and political documentation of Afghanistan's past 35 year turmoil was fascinating. I appreciated the skill with which Hosseini wove fact and fiction together to create a heart-wrenching story about two Afghan boys who, although fictional, were surrounded by concrete information about Afghan culture, Afghan politics, and Islam. Although I would highly recommend The Kite Runner for both it's literary merit and it's insight into Afghanistan, you should be aware that Hosseini deals with some very disturbing material. I felt that he handled it very tactfully, however war and the human heart are evil, and to read about evil is disturbing. There is simply no getting around it.

While I would highly recommend Hosseini's first book, I wasn't as sold on his second. Perhaps it was because I read it right on the heels of his first, or perhaps it was because it just wasn't as good. I think that a large part of my detached feeling toward this book was the shift in perspective. In The Kite Runner the story is told in first person, making the character come to life. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini used the third person, with shifts of focus between two central characters. I didn't care for the style.

Where Hosseini's second book disappointed, Steinbach's book made up for it. I loved her first book. I absolutely adored her second. By the end of her second book, I was literally laughing out loud. Not because she is a comedian but because her commentary on the places she visits is so true! And because her commentary on herself is so honest! Read it and you'll find out what I mean. I am quite certain that nearly all of the people who read this blog would enjoy her wit and forthright style. Actually, as I have been reading this book, a certain dear friend of mine (Christianne!) kept coming to mind. Even if the rest of you ignore this recommendation, I do hope that my curly-haired friend in Florida will stop by the library to get a copy of each of her books.

In addition to the aforementioned, I also finished Bringing Up Boys by Dr. Dobson, but I think I've already said way too much in this post. Since a large part of this blog is devoted to Christian Mothering, I think I'll spare you a detailed review of this book and simply say this: The book was good.

A few pictures

This photo is a bit old, but it says everything about our plane trip to Singapore. . .
Caleb loved flying "the friendly skies."

The good thing about 10-month-olds is that they don't know that the rides in the mall are supposed to move =)