Living in Singapore Magazine - February/March 2020

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February-March 2020

The Story So Far Interview with Rafik Mansour, US Chargé d’Affaires, Singapore

With the Obamas

Barackfast and Conversations with the Former President and First Lady

Bond Expat, Bond

Forging Relationships while Living Overseas

Check Out What’s Happening! Every month, AAS brings its members a wide variety of events that are either discounted or member-exclusive. Sign up online to book your spot at our February and March offerings!

Coming This February and March

CRCE This February and March

The 87th George Washington Ball: A Breath of Glamor – the highlight of the AAS calendar! A fabulous gala evening, supporting People’s Movement to Stop Haze.

Job Search Like A Headhunter – super-charge your job search using strategies and hacks a headhunter would use

Burger Crawl – a night out for burgers at one of Singapore’s top burger joints International Women’s Day – celebrate the awesomeness of our everyday heroines Living in Singapore Talk – informative talk about getting the most out of the island

Teaching English: Your Portable Career – building a career in teaching and your job prospects in Singapore Working Across Cultures: Boost Your Professional Success in Singapore – develop your cultural awareness and hone your own cultural competencies

Our Regular Monthly AAS Events Coffee Connexions – make new friends and catch up with old ones over coffee

Metworks – lunches and happy hours with our networking group for men

Third Thursday – gatherings, talks, quiz nights and more, every third Thursday of the month

Men’s Tennis – looking for a men’s tennis ladder? We’ve got one for you!

Join AAS!

• Have Fun • Give Back • Be Involved

Enhancing the lives of people living in Singapore through social events, charitable activities, career support and community news. Stay connected through our: • Living in Singapore magazine • Living in Singapore Reference Guide • Career Resource Center for Excellence (CRCE)

Have fun at our annual major events! • • • •

George Washington Ball 4th of July Celebration Ambassador’s Cup Golf Tournament Toys for Tots

For more information:


who we are With celebrations of the new calendar year and Chinese New Year in February, for many, this time of year symbolizes new beginnings, new challenges and new explorations. A year ago, we took the intrepid step to move away from our beloved Singapore American Newspaper to bring you a fresh and glossy magazine. At the time, I was daunted at the prospect, but through the quality content from our contributors and our continual endeavor to improve, I am proud to say that we have truly grown, and I am quietly confident that this is our strongest issue yet. In our cover story, we talk to US Chargé d’Affaires, Rafik Mansour and his wife, Nermine, about their transition to Singapore, Rafik’s exciting new challenges at the Embassy and their hopes for their time on the island. We also report on the exciting high-profile visits to Singapore for which the Association was honored to be a part of in the latter half of last year; namely those of President Barack, former First Lady Michelle Obama, and Dr. Jane Goodall. Our usual features are as packed as ever with hints and tips for you to get the most of the island. Get out and about or inland and indoors in the East Coast; dine sustainably with one of Singapore’s premier Chefs; create lasting bonds with expats friends; get your career on track this 2020; and romanticize over your travel plans – could a trip of a lifetime to India, or a short break to Langkawi be next? This Chinese New Year welcomes in the Year of the Rat; a sign, for those born under it, that represents optimism and energy. As Living in Singapore magazine turns one year old in its next issue, I am optimistic that we’ll continue to bring you great stories and features, and we’ll plough all of our energy into this. Happy new year, everyone!

Editor-in-Chief Katie Baines


EDITORIAL Editor-in-Chief: Katie Baines Publishing Editor: Christi Novomesky LAYOUT Graphic Designer: Liz Wirtz ADVERTISING Advertising Manager: Thila Chandra COLUMNISTS Dee Allan, Alka Chandiramani, Julian A. Chua, John S. Hamalian, Richard L. Hartung, Andy Lee, Amanda L. Lim, Andrea McKenna Brankin, Laura O’Gorman Schwarz, Tyler Wisler CONTRIBUTORS Lauren Arena, Jacob Bailey, Katie Baines (for AAS), Alisha Bhandari, Melindah Bush, Fran Martindale, Liz McGuffee, Lily Ong, Sophia Ragland, Marc Servos, Susan Williams, Constance Yeo AMERICAN ASSOCIATION BOARD MEMBERS President: Michael Borchert Treasurer: Ria Hoban Secretary: Brian Schwender Directors: Sammie Cheston, Blair Hall, Christin Gustafson, Jason Iafolla, Michael Johnsen Immediate Past President: Stephanie Nash AmCham Chair: Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei The American Club President: Richard Hartung AWA President: Mel Rice SACAC Chair: Jeff Majestic SAS Chair: Tom Boasberg Non-Voting Members: US Embassy: Tor Petersen US Military: Rear Admiral Joey Tynch AAS: Christi Novomesky PUBLISHER – AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE The American Association of Singapore (AAS) is a professional, not-for-profit organization established to enhance the well-being and living experience of Americans residing in Singapore and to promote relationships, both business and social, between Americans and those from different cultures and nationalities. 15 Scotts Road, #03-02 Thong Teck Building, Singapore 228218 (+65) 6738 0371 • • Living in Singapore magazine is circulated six times per year, with a readership of 24,000, with the purpose of enhancing the expatriate experience in Singapore.

SUBSCRIPTION A subscription to Living in Singapore magazine is complementary with an AAS or CRCE membership. AAS annual family membership is $120. CRCE membership is $220. To join, visit and have Living in Singapore magazine delivered to your home. Reproduction in any manner, in English or any other language, is prohibited without written permission. Living in Singapore magazine welcomes all contributions of volunteer time or written material. Living in Singapore is printed by Ho Printing Singapore Pte Ltd. 31, Changi South Street 1, Changi South Industrial Estate, Singapore 486769. Living In Singapore magazine Print Permit No. MCI (P) 077/04/2019.

what’s in... 14 The Story So Far Get to know Rafik Mansour, US Chargé d’Affaires, Singapore

12 With the Obamas Feast on Barackfast and conversations with the former President and First Lady

34 India: A Bright Shining Land of Infinite Spirit Marvel at the mystique of one of Asia’s most diverse of countries

38 One Chef’s Mission Dine sustainably with Grand Hyatt Chef, Lucas Glanville

42 Bond Expat, Bond Forge stronger relationships while living in Singapore

14 12




Cover image: courtesy of The Singapore Bicentennial


community calendar Message from the President We’re already a month into 2020, but since this is the first opportunity I’ve had to say this to all of our community: happy new year! Now that we’re settled back into life in Singapore, it’s time to get the party started again as we look forward to one of the highlights of the AAS calendar, our premier gala event: The 87th George Washington Ball, A Breath of Glamour. While guests will be enjoying a delicious fourcourse meal, free flowing drinks, live music and dancing, there will also be the opportunity to get involved with the excitement around the lucky draw, silent auction and live auction. This year, the proceeds from these three Ball events are in support of the People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PMHaze), a cause which is particularly pertinent to Singapore. The charity focuses on outreach, research and advocacy on the transboundary haze crisis, steering consumption patterns towards sustainable palm oil and paper as well as assisting Indonesian and Malaysian farmers to create a sustainable livelihood. We are proud to get behind such a worthy organization. As well as our regular smaller events, such as Coffee Connexions, Metworks and new favorite, Burger Crawl, we’re also hosting our ever-popular Living in Singapore Talk and Newbie Night. Both events are geared towards getting the most out of your time in Singapore and are open to newcomers and seasoned expats alike. Places fill up quickly though, so register via our website now to avoid disappointment! Have a great couple of months ahead. Michael Borchert AAS President

American Community Organizations Directory AAS +65 6738 0371 American Dragons AmCham +65 6597 5730

AWA +65 6734 4895

Navy League

Sacac Sports

TAC +65 6737 3411

SAS +65 6363 3403

US Embassy +65 6476 9100

Scouts BSA Scouts Troop 7B: BSA Scouts Troop 10B and 1010G: Cub Scouts Pack 3010: Cub Scouts Pack 3017: USA Girl Scouts:

American Association & Sister Organizations Events American Association of Singapore (AAS & CRCE) Coffee Connections February 5 & March 4, 10 – 11:30am Metworks Happy Hour February 13 & March 12, 6 – 8pm The 87th George Washington Ball February 15, 7 – 11:45pm Third Thursday: Newbie Night February 20, 6:30 – 8:30pm Living in Singapore Talk February 25, 7 – 9pm Politics with Steve Okun March 5, 6:30 – 9pm International Women’s Day March 9, 6:30 – 9pm Third Thursday: Burger Crawl March 19, 6:30 – 8:30pm Job Search Like A Headhunter February 6, 10am – 12pm Working Across Cultures: Boost Your Professional Success in Singapore February 19, 10am – 12pm Teaching English: Your Portable Career February 27, 10 – 11:45am Becoming a Singapore Permanent Resident: What You Need to Consider March 18, 7 – 9pm American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) LKYSPP Three-Day Joint Program on Inclusive Leadership February 4, 9am – 6pm Breakfast with General Charles Q. Brown Jr. February 11, 8 – 9:30am American Women’s Association (AWA) Night at the Races February 28, 6 – 10:30pm Arts & Culture: A Close Encounter with Kathakali March 3, 10:30am – 12:30pm Singapore American School Faculty Inservice Day February 21 (No school for students) Elementary School Parent/Teacher Conferences March 19 & 20 (No school for students) Spring Break March 23-27 The American Club Chinese New Year Family Fun Day 2020 February 2, 11am – 2pm The Big Game – Super Bowl 2020 February 3, 7:30am – 12pm


notable events The 87th George Washington Ball: A Breath of Glamour Join us for a night of all things glamour while you enjoy a delicious four-course meal, free flowing drinks, live music and dancing, and the opportunity to raise funds to support Singapore charity, People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PMHaze). W Singapore - Sentosa Cove, February 15, 7 – 11:45pm

member benefits Benchmark Wines 10% off your first purchase from Benchmark Wines. Enter discount code AAS10P upon check out. www. Through March 31, 2020. Tel: 6256 5290. T&C applies. California Pizza Kitchen 15% discount for à la carte menu for dine-in only. Through June 30, 2020. Tel: 6836 0110. T&C applies.

Living in Singapore Talk Informative talk based on our popular Living in Singapore book with tips on how to navigate through life in the Lion City. Registration required. Free for AAS members, Singapore American School parents and The American Club members. Think Space, The American Club, February 25, 7 – 9pm

Drinks & Co. 20% discount on all food items. Offer valid at Holland Village outlet only. Through March 31, 2020. Tel: 9619 4568. Reservations recommended.

Politics with Steve Okun Join Steve Okun, CNBC co-host and in-studio election analyst for Channel NewsAsia, for a presentation and interactive discussion on how the democratic primary is shaping up and what to watch for the presidential election. Think Space, The American Club, March 5, 6:30 – 9pm

Hard Rock Cafe (Singapore & Sentosa) 15% discount on food and beverage upon showing your AAS membership card. Through May 2020. Tel: 6235 5232 (Singapore), 6795 7454 (Sentosa). T&C applies.

International Women’s Day Come celebrate the awesomeness of our everyday heroines for the second instalment of International Women’s Day. The Galbraith Ballroom, The American Club, March 9, 6:30 – 9pm Burger Crawl Join us for burgers and drinks on the fourth leg of our tour as we sample our way around Singapore’s top burger outlets. March 19, 6:30 – 8:30pm (venue TBC) Working Across Cultures: Boost Your Professional Success in Singapore Career Clinic with Expat Living As an expat, understanding the influence of culture is critical to surviving and thriving in Singapore. Join Dr. Zsuzsanna Tungli, of Developing Global Leaders Asia, for an interactive workshop on developing your level of cultural awareness and honing your own cultural competencies. Cafe Melba, Mediapolis, February 19, 10am – 12pm Becoming a Singapore Permanent Resident: What You Need to Consider Come to this workshop, led by Asha Dixit, and learn more about the current trends and updates, including Buying Singapore Property, Education, National Service, Children’s Education, Taxation, Retirement and the Central Provident Fund. March 18, 7 – 9pm, (venue TBC) AAS Members who do not have a membership card, please contact the AAS office (6738 0371) for your card.

Estheclinic 10% discount for all their treatments. Through September 30, 2020. Tel: 6221 4797. T&C applies.

Hedger’s Carpet Gallery 10% off professional carpet cleaning and restoration services. Free high-quality underlayment with every purchase at our store (while stocks last). Through March 31, 2020. Tel: 6462 0028. T&C applies. Lawry’s The Prime Rib 15% discount for à la carte food bill for dine-in only. Tel: 6836 3333. T&C applies. Morton’s of Chicago Complimentary cocktail or mocktail (one per diner) and one complimentary dessert per table. Applicable for main dining room only. Through December 30, 2020. Present AAS membership card to enjoy. Tel: 6339 3740. T&C applies. QB Food $20 e-voucher with a minimum spend of $150 for home delivery, use code ‘Newbie’. Code is for single use and new members to QB Food. Shanti Residence, Nusa Dua, Bali AAS Members get 15% off room bookings directly. Quote AASSHANTI. Tel: 6338 2069. T&C applies. Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel AAS members enjoy 25% discount on F & B. Present AAS membership card to enjoy. T & C applies. Tel: 6735 5800. Telunas With a minimum three-night stay at Telunas Private Island, receive a complementary 90-minute body massage for one person. Through March, 2020. Tel: +62 811-7710-951. T&C applies.


up close and personal with... Dr. Shaun Thompson at Expat Dental What tips would you give expats living in Singapore to find the right dentist for them?

AAS Eagle Sponsors, Expat Dental, has long been a supporter of the Association, most notably at our Ambassador’s Cup Golf Tournament where the team has been endless fun both on and off the fairways. We caught up with founder and Managing Director of Expat Dental, Dr. Shaun Thompson, about life in both Singapore and the surgery, and keeping dental health in check while living overseas. What brought you to Singapore? What attracted me to Singapore is its ‘can-do’ culture for business and its great quality of life. It provides an amazing environment for raising a family. I had an opportunity to open my first clinic here at Novena Medical Centre in March 2013 and in March of this year Expat Dental will open its second clinic in Raffles Place in the CBD. We are excited and grateful for our growth and for the support of the Singapore expat community. What does your day look like at Expat Dental? My typical workday involves treating patients at the Novena Medical Center Clinic – that is what I enjoy the most; seeing patients walk out the door smiling. I am also involved with the setup and opening of the new clinic in Raffles Place. I enjoy spending my free time with my wife and two children while squeezing in a game of golf here and there, and working out when time permits. What are the most common issues and procedures among your patients? We offer a full range of services for the entire family, including adult and child orthodontics. Some problems we often see are teeth requiring restorative work after periods of neglect. When expats are travelling frequently for work, it’s easy to neglect regular checkups and this is when small niggling pains and problems arise. These small problems can turn into major issues if ignored. That is why we recommend six-monthly checkups and regular cleaning with a hygienist.

For people choosing a new dentist on arrival in Singapore, I recommend they visit Expat Dental! But seriously, there are a few issues to consider. Firstly, look for a dentist who has a holistic approach to your oral health. You should expect oral cancer screening and preventative information on major health issues like diabetes, sleep and hygiene issues before they become a problem. Your dentist should also be able to tell you about new technologies and research in oral care and take an interest in your overall well-being. This includes regular reminders about check-ups and cleans. Also, your dentist should present you with a clear and specific plan when treatment is required. They should also be able assist with insurance issues. Lastly, it’s important to know who to call in an emergency. A dentist who knows you and your family and has your x-rays on hand can treat your emergency problems quickly and this will reduce anxiety and pain. Your dentist should offer you peace of mind knowing you’re always in good hands. What advice would you give to patients living overseas to maintain healthy teeth and gums? The best advice I can give is to brush and floss regularly and get regular check-ups and cleans. Water is vital to good oral health. Sleep is also an important factor for oral health and overall well-being. If you are not sleeping well, your health suffers.

AAS Strategic Partners We would like to extend our thanks to our strategic partners at the Association for their continued support and contribution.

Centennial Partners

Eagle Partners


Pantone 424c: C 57.4 M 47.29 Y 47.86 K 14.12

Community Partner PANTONE 424C


ARE YOU LOOKING TO DEVELOP YOURSELF PROFESSIONALLY OR PERSONALLY IN SINGAPORE? If so, the Career Resource Center for Excellence (CRCE) is the place for you! CRCE is for individuals residing in Singapore who are: • job hunting in Singapore • contemplating a career change • looking to get back into the workforce • wanting to further develop their professional skills • considering entrepreneurship • interested in personal development

JOB SEARCHING • Exclusive access to a members-only jobs board • Weekly email alerts with latest jobs • Upload your resume for employers to review

Member Benefits WORKSHOPS & EVENTS •Member pricing to workshops and events •Complimentary admission to one workshop •Complimentary admission to our Living in Singapore Talk

Join CRCE today!

Membership begins on the day you join for 12 months. CRCE membership is $220. If you’re a current AAS member, for an additional $100, you can add CRCE access. Talk to us about joining now!

We are opening a second clinic in the CBD in March! 20 Malacca Street, #01-00, Singapore 048979 Make an appointment now!

Welkom 欢迎光临 Welina Bienvenue selamat datang

herzlich willkommen



Novena Medical Center, 10 Sinaran Drive #08-15/16, Novena Medical Center - Singapore 307506 tel: +65 6397-6718 | 24HR: +65 9833-8706 |

Toys for Tots 2019

A Time-Honored Tradition! By Katie Baines On December 2, we flung the doors open to The Galbraith Ballroom, full of festive cheer, at The American Club as we gathered together to enjoy our annual Toys for Tots event. Members and friends of the organization kindly donated toys for less fortunate kids in Singapore and came to enjoy an evening of camaraderie, holiday crafts, carols and, of course, a visit from Santa himself! The Toys for Tots program began in California in 1947, when Major Bill Hendricks, US Marine Corps Reserve, oversaw a campaign that collected 5,000 toys for underprivileged children. The Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots in 1948, expanding it into a nationwide campaign, and it became an official mission of the US Marine Corps Reserve in 1995, which, to date, has distributed over 566 million toys to over 258 million less

fortunate children worldwide. This is the ninth time that the American Association of Singapore has hosted Toys for Tots on the island. AAS could not co-host this event with The American Club without the invaluable support of our sponsors. We are grateful for the generosity of Supporting Sponsors Alfatech, Caterpillar and the Navy League, and special thanks, too, goes out to our Community Partners Hard Rock Cafe, Kids Treasures, Smilefocus, Stamford American International School and Tanglin Mall, who contributed to the children’s goodie bags. Many thanks to our amazing volunteers from the US Navy who led the craft tables and delighted children with an assortment of holiday activities. Our wildly

popular, ongoing tradition of holiday cookie decorating is supported by the donation of homemade cookies by US Embassy families and of homemade icing by Hoe Brothers Catering. Sincere thanks to our logistics partner, Allied Pickfords, for collecting and delivering the toys amassed by our generous guests to the US Embassy, which were then distributed to Singapore’s less fortunate children by the Marines. A warm welcome was given by AAS President, Michael Borchert, followed by heartfelt words from Rafik Mansour, ChargÊ d’Affaires, a.i., US Embassy Singapore, depicting the touching history and spirit of the time-honored tradition behind the Toys for Tots drive.

The sound of Christmas songs filled the room with festive spirit, as we were entertained by the Singapore American School High School Choir. With the final song, Santa made his arrival, accompanied by two of his trusty elves, before the children enjoyed sharing with him their Christmas wishes and having a photo with him as a souvenir. Characters from the world of Star Wars who roamed the room were also a big hit with the kids and were an entertaining twist on the holiday theme. We would like to thank everyone involved; members, volunteers, supporters and sponsors for making this a truly wonderful gathering and a fitting way end to a wonderful 2019 for the American Association.



Supporting Sponsors

Community Partners

Logistics Partner

Photos courtesy of Moving Stills and Katie Baines


our community

With the Obamas By Katie Baines December at AAS was the month we awaited with much excitement. Yes, the Holiday season was upon us, but there was a certain couple that was due to come to town: Michelle and Barack Obama. First on stage was the former First Lady. As well as her work and involvement in the Let Girls Learn, Be the Change and tackling child obesity through the Let’s Move! initiatives, she spoke warmly of her upbringing and gratitude towards her parents, of being a parent herself and her protectiveness in raising her girls at the White House to a more than 2,000-strong audience. Next up was Barack; not before


Barackfast, though. Never ones to miss out on bringing a little extra to our community, the AAS team collaborated with The American Club to lay on a sumptuous pre-event breakfast with mimosas, where both James Andrade and Steve Okun spoke about innovation, trade and politics, before excited attendees boarded the bus to Singapore EXPO for the main occasion. To a captivated crowd, the President reflected on his time in office, sharing his views on political polarization on a global scale, climate change and the potential dangers behind the rise of social media. He also divulged his feelings on the challenges he

faced in striving to be a family man and the leader of the world’s most powerful country and adjusting to life after his term in office. As an Association, it was a joy to work with The Growth Faculty in bringing members of our American community in Singapore the opportunity to be in the presence of a former US President and First Lady. Regardless of political stance, it was truly a privilege to be a part of what were unanimously two unforgettable events.

Photos courtesy of The Growth Faculty and Katie Baines

our community

An Audience with Dr. Jane Goodall By Katie Baines When The American Club president, Living in Singapore magazine columnist and long-time friend of AAS, Richard Hartung, got in touch with us about his involvement with the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore as a Global Board Member, and that she was going to be visiting the island, we were only too glad to be able to offer our support.

As guests dined on a three-course sustainable vegetarian meal, there was much excitement over the live and silent auctions. Prizes ranged from family trips in the Bornean jungle to guided walks to catch a glimpse of Singapore’s own Raffles banded langur with primatologist, Andie Ang, with all proceeds going to Jane Goodall Institute Singapore.

Dr. Jane Goodall’s work spans over 60 years, from her beginnings in research into chimpanzees as part of paleontologist Dr. Louis Leakey’s work on the origins of humankind in Tanzania, to conservation and activism. At the age of 85, she now travels more than 300 days a year, addressing audiences around the world about threats to chimps, their habitat and other environmental crises.

While it wasn’t part of the agenda, I had the opportunity to attend a private screening of National Geographic’s Women Of Impact: Changing The World and panel discussion at the Art Science Museum with Dr. Jane and fellow National Geographic Explorers, including conservation journalist, Laurel Chor, marine biologist, Intan Suci Nurhati, and also Andie Ang, celebrating all the women who fearlessly push boundaries and inspire the next generation of changemakers.

A highlight of her three-day visit was the Action for Conservation Gala, hosted by The Grand Copthorne Hotel, which was attended by AAS’s general manager, Christi Novomesky and daughter, Tesa. The ballroom was vibrant and bustling as two hundred and ninety guests awaited Dr. Jane’s arrival. Her 40-minute speech included what drove her to save her salary as a waitress to buy her ticket to Tanzania at 26 years of age, both her hopes and fears for the future of the planet, her sadness at its current state and what has been left for world’s children to address, but also of what we can do to put change in motion. On being asked during the Q&A session about slowing down in the twilight of her years, her response was that she felt the opposite had to be true; that, in fact, she needed to acclerate her pace of work since her remaining years to be able to continue are coming to a close.

The documentary narrates the stories of over 40 women across a wide spectrum of disciplines, backgrounds and generations. Many of the women interviewed are among the first women in their field, and they discuss the difficulty of blazing that trail. The panel discussion continued with the theme, with each woman sharing their own experience of being female pioneers and closing with Dr. Jane’s words of empowerment: “Together we can, together we will.” What an honor it was to be among an audience before such as wonderful woman.

Photos courtesy of Sandra Johnson and the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore.


Rafik Mansour US Chargé d’Affaires, Singapore

The Story So Far By Glenn van Zutphen, former AAS President


Since arriving in Singapore in July of last year, life for the new US Chargé d’Affaires, Rafik Mansour, has been anything but uneventful. Overseeing 23 agencies at the Embassy may seem enough to keep even the most dedicated of diplomats occupied, but the Mansour family have thrown themselves into their new life in Singapore with just as much fervor and enthusiasm. I caught up with both Rafik and his wife, Nermine, who took time out of their busy schedules to join me on my Weekend Mornings show at Money FM, where they spoke of family life and adapting to their new adopted home. So, new to Singapore, new to this posting here. How’s it all going? RM: It’s going very well – you’re absolutely right, it’s always busy here. I’m glad to say that it’s good busy, but in Singapore, you don’t even have time to think about jet lag because there is always something going on. We are busy at the Embassy, we are busy as a family and we are incredibly fortunate. We are so thankful for being posted here; it’s a great place to live and work. Nermine, you have a long and illustrious career yourself, but more recently you have been making sure the transition for your two lovely girls goes smoothly. How are they settling in after moving here from Armenia? NM: We feel so blessed and I think it’s fair to say that ‘warmth of character’ and ‘efficiency’ exist together in one spot here. This is something that both I and the kids appreciate very much. So, I think we have had a smooth transition and we are very grateful for that. There’s no language barrier, there’s an excellent public transportation system, so there are many advantages. One simple thing we have noticed is that we are allowing the girls to eat street food here! We stop anywhere and grab a new and interesting dish to try all the time, and we never say ‘no’.


Rafik, you’ve been a diplomat for decades now and you’ve done this in other countries, are the challenges any different here in juggling your work with family life? RM: Believe it or not, we have 23 government agencies at the Embassy. Naturally you have to trust and empower your people, and we are blessed to have a very strong team among those 23 agencies. We cannot speak with the government of Singapore in 23 different languages, of course, and so we have have a wellcoordinated single US government position. So, we do focus on interagency collaboration, whether that is here at the US Embassy in Singapore, or in dealing with Washington with all the agencies that have an interest in the bilateral relationship. This relationship is major league; we have 4,500 US companies who employ 200,000 people here in Singapore and the US is the largest foreign direct investor here at about a quarter trillion US dollars. The robust trade relationship we have, since the US is Singapore’s largest trading partner in services, also helps create over 200,000 jobs in the US. This is on top of the very close bilateral security and military ties, and law enforcement cooperation.

So, we have a very rich relationship, and yes, it keeps us very busy, but I am blessed to lead a fantastic team at the US Embassy in Singapore and at home I am blessed with a fantastic spouse and two lovely children. It’s wonderful to see the world through their eyes and through their first experience in Asia. Nermine, when you were in Armenia and you first found out you were coming to Singapore, what was your first reaction? NM: I was thrilled, honestly! Being a food and travel writer, Singapore is a dream destination; it’s a foodie paradise. We also read a lot about education standards here and I was so optimistic for the time the kids were going to be spending here. I read, Nermine, that you have a lot to do with food diplomacy. Tell us a little about that. NM: Food is the most evocative form of art. On the other hand, diplomacy is the art of forging bonds and building ties. So, in combining the two together, you get a very influential tool to advocate your interests, promote your culture and challenge stereotypes. So, in Armenia I had a very interesting experience – I volunteered with Syrian refugee women. A group of expats got together and we initiated a women empowerment

program for refugee women. We figured that food was part of healing, integration and a way to make money, and I started to document immigrants’ and refugees’ food stories on my blog, Chez Nermine. I try to promote certain values through my stories; women empowerment, human empowerment and harmony. And what have you seen so far with the Singapore food that you or the kids have liked? NM: There are so many! Laksa, of course, all types of noodles. It’s difficult to say, because all of them have such remarkable flavors and very exciting combinations of flavor notes. I can’t even mention one dish I dislike! Singapore has an incredible vibrant and harmonious food scene that mirrors its unique existence. Let’s back up a little… Tell us about how you guys met. RM: We met at a Fulbright conference. I was serving as the Public Affairs Officer in Algiers and that year the Near Eastern Affairs Fulbright Conference was held in Cairo. Nermine was an Egyptian diplomat at the time, serving at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and we met at this reception. So, conferences are occasionally useful for something! What were your thoughts when you first started talking to Rafik, Nermine? NM: He has a very interesting education and ethnic background, and I think I was attracted to that. He has a wonderful combination of values; he’s very passionate about what he’s doing, he believes in the power of diplomacy (I do too), and this was something very fundamental that brought us together. Rafik, you went to the University of California, Irvine, and your folks are still there. How was it for you growing up in that environment and coming from a multi-ethnic background? RM: For me, my upbringing reflected the American Dream. The American Dream is not about making as much money as you can; America is, simply put, the country that gives opportunity to all. So, if you work hard and you’re honest, the sky is the limit, regardless of your background and this is something

I’ve lived myself in the US. Having moved there at the age of 15 from Egypt, I became a US citizen at the age of 21, and I became an American diplomat a couple of years later. I would argue that the US is exceptional and among the many reasons for that is immigrants are welcome to live and prosper. So, I’m very proud of that, and this is why I left medical school to join the Foreign Service; there is no greater honor for an immigrant than to represent the country that he deems to be the greatest country on Earth in the international arena. I’ve been doing this for a little over 20 years and for us, one great thing about being in Singapore and the girls going to the school they attend is that it’s incredibly international. I believe these girls will grow up truly colorblind and find human values and human qualities in everybody around them, and that’s very important for us. Nermine, you also grew up in Egypt, you had your own life and career, then you both met and had two beautiful kids. How was your growing up experience? NM: I grew up in Alexandria, which is very cosmopolitan, and this really prepared me to take advantage of the multiculturalism of the United States as I didn’t have any issue mingling and integrating. It really is a place where everyone has an opportunity to be a big success story, or even to be self-fulfilled, and this is something I always appreciated. We don’t take for granted that we are representing the United States, it’s a great honor for the entire family. How about the girls? How do you carve out that family time? RM: The morning is ruled by the school bus and a 6:40am pick-up dictates how your morning is going to be. Nermine spends time with the kids when they come back from school, maybe they’ll get an early dinner or spend some time on homework. Over the weekend, I try to spend some quality time with them and that could be some one on one time with each of the girls or we would go out as a family to the zoo. We are fortunate that Singapore caters to children so well, and there are so many educational and meaningful activities. It never feels like mindless entertainment! NM: Quality time as a family when Rafik is home is important.

We have a homemade breakfast on Saturday and Sunday, we take the girls sightseeing, or even mingle with people as this has a lot of value. You can tell that respect is a remarkable value, particularly towards senior citizens, which is something that we appreciate, so we want to immerse them as much as possible in the local culture because there is a lot to learn and grasp. What are your goals and what do you hope to learn as a family during your time in Singapore? NM: I would love that the girls embrace the values of ‘perseverance’ and ‘hard work’, especially as they are growing up to be young women. ‘Resilience’, too, and ‘respect to others’ regardless of their ethnic or religious background. These are wonderful values that are celebrated here. RM: I think I would just add, ‘inclusion and diversity’, the ‘value of education’ and being an ‘open-minded and independent thinker’. I think absorbing these is excellent preparation for future young women as they one day embark on their professional journey, and you can never start young enough. How about travel? Are you hoping to do some regional travel while you are here? RM: I think our initial plan is to take full advantage of Singapore because, frankly, while it may only be the size of Manhattan, it has so much to offer. As a Chargé d’Affaires, I am a little limited in being able to leave Singapore, but our eventual goal is to take advantage of the island being an amazing hub for regional travel and discover Southeast Asia. There is so much to see in this region.

Rafik Mansour arrived in Singapore to begin his assignment as Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. of the Embassy of the United States of America on July 30, 2019. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, Mr. Mansour obtained a BS in Biology and a BA in French Literature from the University of California, Irvine. He received a Master’s degree in National Security Strategy from the National War College. He speaks Arabic, Russian, French, Italian and Creole. Photos courtesy of the US Embassy. LIVING IN SINGAPORE 17

ity un m m o our c

Merit Badges for BSA Troop 1010

Photos courtesy of Sophia Ragland

By Sophia Ragland For our final meeting of 2019, the Troop 1010 Scouts conducted our second Court of Honor. This is an important ceremony for our Troop, allowing us to recognize our Scouts for their many achievements and recap our recent activities. Several Scouts earned rank advancements, which is a fundamental part of the Scouting experience. One Scout earned her First Class, which means she is well on her way to Scouting’s highest achievement, Eagle Scout. Other Scouts achieved Scout rank, the first stage in advancement, and Tenderfoot, which means the Scout has demonstrated the basic skills and knowledge of a Scout. We are so proud of their accomplishments.

where Scouts learned about the most common technique for identifying individuals, used by law enforcement authorities all over the world. Another Scout earned the very challenging Hiking Merit Badge. In addition to learning about safety, preparation, route planning, and a variety of other matters, the Scout hiked more than 70 miles over the course of several weeks. We are very proud of this young Scout’s efforts.

and gaining knowledge and confidence from each other. We have girls from all around the city and from many different schools who come together through Scouting to learn, interact, and bond, making new friends and helping each other as a Troop.

We are really looking forward to the new year and all the upcoming activities like our joint campout with BSA Troop 10 and the Cub Scouts Pack 3010, as well as the MiniJamboree campout that will include Two Scouts earned the Disabilities Many Scouts also earned Merit other international Scouting groups Badges. Working closely with an adult Awareness Badge in which Scouts learn in Singapore. We are always happily about people living with disabilities and leader, a Merit Badge Counselor, Scouts welcoming newcomers and any of how to support them, accommodate learn the material and demonstrate us would be glad to answer questions their needs, and treat them with their knowledge and capabilities in a from anyone who might be interested. wide range of subject matter specific dignity and respect. One Scout also If interested in joining, please contact earned the First Aid and Emergency projects. Preparedness Merit Badges; Eagle- our Scoutmaster, Paul Adkins, at Many of our Scouts earned the required badges to learn life skills that Fingerprinting Merit Badge during will serve her lifelong! participation in a Merit Badge BSA Troop 1010 is growing steadily Marathon organized by Troop 10,

Photos courtesy of Susan Williams

Fun Times with USAGSO!

By Susa n Williams

Our Girl Scouts have been keep ing busy. One of the highlights of the year is the Father Daughter Dance. This year’s theme was “Hollywood,” and girls and their dads (and sometimes moms!) turned out dressed to the nines! Some wore classic Hollywood glam our, while others dressed as their favorite movie characters. In total, 215 girls and 190 adults attended. Junior Troop 15 deserves kudos for their hard work in putting the event toge ther.

Older girls enjoyed Adventure Day , traversing a high ropes course and doing som e rock climbing and kayaking. We also trained older girls to be future leaders at camps and activitie s. Coming up, our Brownies will be doin g a journey in a day, where they will learn to think like citizen scientists, while our older girls will take part in the Singapore Scurry; a scavenger hun t that will take them across the Little Red Dot. We’ ll also have Day Camp for our younger girls and ove rnight camp for the older girls. There’s always som ething cooking with our Singapore USA Girl Scouts!

UPDATE FROM CUB SCOUTS 3010 By Francine Martindale, Pack Trainer

In the last year of Cub Scouts, known as Webelos Rank, the Cubs need to complete a number of activities and adventures that will bring them out and about in Singapore, learning to do more outdoor skills independently, as well as developing characteristics which will make them better citizens and contributors to society before they transition to Boy Scouts. Pack 3017 and Pack 3010 Webelos Scouts were fortunate enough to join together to meet the Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in November. They also got to witness a flag ceremony demonstrated by the US Marines, and learned that while the Cub Scout salute is done with two fingers, and Boy Scout salute has three, while the Marines salute has four. Some Cubs took their cooking skills to the next level by constructing their own box oven, using just a cardboard box and tin foil, and roasting a chicken inside – delicious! Others have been busy performing community service

by gathering toiletries to give to foreign workers in need in Singapore, and attending the Purple Parade, which raises awareness for several organizations that support people with special needs. While these Webelos will be moving on to Boy Scouts soon, they will take with them a wide array of skills and experiences, as well as friendships they have made during their Cub Scouts years, already ready to take on the Boy Scouts motto: Be prepared! Photos courtesy of Francine Martindale

together As the sun set, all scouts came let fresh of a with a hatchet so they could ause Bec . pfire cam r mouths. for one final were coconut water flow into thei ws allo shm mar m, stor rain and then surprise Finally, it was time for dinner instead of around ps, we roasted on stoves ley dlam Bai hea ob just Jac With By t game. nigh a ter that it was deck of a . the campfire. It didn’t mat As I stepped off the rocking freeze tag as well as virus tag ed play Jokes and fun. had still happiness filled all wet because we bumboat, I felt a twinge of strong sense of brotherhood A e again, Onc . told e wer es had tu ghost stori shoot through me. Pulau Han when “Taps” and “Vespers” was uts Sco s” and “Tap year for the evening finished with been closed for over a r that, we retired to our tents Afte . sung be back talk until “Vespers.” renovations, and it felt great to and hammocks to quietly a flag ds frien The next morning, we held my of 15 r ove on the island with time. apore bed Sing and US the with at y ped ceremon from Boy Scouts. My pulse jum Chirp!” Went the sound of the irp! k to “Ch bac d to hea ories I each flags. As we prepared the thought of all the great mem waking up and calling out to s and s bird tent our up ked after the and out of Singapore, we pac would be able to bring home other. When all boys were up for trash to keep the area the ced poli ol. Patr t. by pou two-night cam r tents, breakfast was served kend had time for thei t environment clean. The wee After setting up our tents, it was leadership responsibilities wen with s Boy to wrap sad grilled ing, gone so quickly, and I was lunch. The smell of fried rice and next section of leadership train the away, to ored mot t on camp it up. As our bumboa cheese sandwiches cooking rs learned important first aid othe e the whil and d islan the at k bac air. After ined we all looked stoves wafted through the , including how to wrap a spra our skills from e hav ld wou we s orie for nt time arm. great mem lunch, it was rank advanceme and take care of a broken limb icipated a one mile trip. some Scouts, while others part Later in the day, we organized time was it t, Nex rested in in a leadership course. run for anybody who was inte ss Scout in Troop was t onu coc A g. plete Jacob Bailey is a First Cla lorin com exp for some island g their mile. Boys trying to timin SAS and is the at 7 de Gra a in of is es e 07. He found beneath the towering leav onal Fitness merit badge cam Pers the ed others plans. Cobra Patrol Leader. palm tree. Older scouts show together to work on their exercise t onu coc the n ope how to safely crack

Diary of a Scout

Photos courtesy of Jacob Bailey


our community Just Keep Swimming Alisha Bhandari Eleventh grade student at Singapore American School Collin Schuster, a senior at Singapore American School, qualified for the 100m backstroke this summer at the US Junior Nationals. According to SAS swim coach, Aaron Gray, Schuster’s preliminary swim was his best, and this was when he qualified for the Olympic trials. It is a great achievement for a high school student, since the US qualifying trials are considered to be one of the fastest meets in the world. Due to this huge accomplishment, colleges all over the US are eager to recruit Schuster to attend their schools and be a member of their swim teams. This was made possible because of his incredible work ethic and rigorous practice schedule. He does nine swimming sessions each week, an hour and 45 minutes each, and two and a half hours on Saturdays. Speaking of the swim training culture at SAS, Schuster says, “Being a part of the SAS swim team and SAS community has helped me grow in numerous ways as both an athlete and a person. I feel the atmosphere has been very conducive to helping me become the best swimmer I can be. It’s great to have other talented teammates who share the same goals and aspirations. We push each other through all the hard practices and we support one another through hardships. Even though swimming is an individual sport, having a supportive team that gets along well and encourages each other is key to getting better as a team.” Along with his swim schedule, he also does a lot of gym work; three sessions a week, one hour each. His school training sessions are six days a week on top of his practice sessions outside of school. In total, he swims around 20 hours a week. Even when he goes back to the US, he is still working, where he trains with a small swimming club to ensure he stays in shape. Recently, Schuster signed his National Letter of Intent to attend Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. While we mainly focus on Schuster’s personal achievements, we have to take into account his parents’ sacrifice and continuous support. Schuster’s mother, Donna Schuster, drives him and his brother, Connor, to practice twice each day during their summer holiday. During the summer, they spend almost four hours a day driving in addition to the time they spend at the pool. It’s not only a huge commitment for the swimmers but it is also one for their parents, both who teach full time at SAS. SAS swim coach, Aaron Gray, explains, “The Schusters live their lives around the swimming schedule and swim meets that Collin attends each summer.” Schuster adds, “I am grateful for being a part of such a wonderful community that helps with everything behind the scenes. From my wonderfully supportive 20 LIVING IN SINGAPORE

parents who have helped me along every step of the way, to my teachers who have guided my academic journey, to my coach, Aaron Gray, who has encouraged and pushed me to be the best I can be, I know I wouldn’t have reached my goals in the pool without these members of the SAS community behind me.” Collin hasn’t had any time off swimming for a number of years, practicing every day pretty much non-stop. He is proof that perseverance, determination and dedication will lead you to success. No matter what your personal passion is, just keep swimming!

Alisha is currently enrolled as a junior in the Quest program at Singapore American School and works as an intern in the communications office. An avid film maker, Alisha is one of the stage managers for the SAS theater department and has been part of 20 productions. Photos courtesy of Singapore American School.

our community International Women’s Day at The American Club A woman is a daughter, a mother, a spouse, a friend, an entertainer, a teacher, a multi-tasker… the list never ends! Come join us to celebrate the awesomeness of our everyday heroines on March 9 for the second International Women’s Day,

jointly organized by The American Club, American Association of Singapore, American Women’s Association, AmCham and Canadian Association of Singapore.

International Women’s Day 2020

Monday, March 9th 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM The American Club The Galbraith Ballroom


Shaping the World

Register your spot now via your community group American Association of Singapore The American Club American Women’s Association

AmCham Canadian Association of Singapore


living in singapore Fort Fullerton to Fullerton Hotel By Marc Servos Sitting prominently at the western promontory of the Singapore River’s entrance is the eye-catching, five-star luxury Fullerton Hotel. It is well-known that this neo-classically designed structure originally operated as the General Post Office after its completion in 1928. Perhaps not known to many, though, is that the Fullerton name was used for Colonial Singapore’s first major fort a century before and located at the same site, known at Battery Point, and built to protect the new and flourishing town. Between the period of Fort Fullerton’s closure and the development of the current building, this exact location housed two other Post Office buildings and facilities for other use. Shortly after Sir Stamford Raffles’ historic arrival in 1819 and his securing Singapore as a trading post for the British East India Company, he instructed Resident and Commandant William Farquhar to establish artillery batteries along the coast and a fort to protect shipping. A small fortification was built in 1820 at the mouth of the Singapore River at a site known as Rocky Point. But the need of a more extensive fortification to replace the meagre defenses was recognized later that decade, and Fort Fullerton, named after Governor (first to hold this title which replaced that of Resident) Robert Fullerton, was built.

Fullerton’s purpose to protect commerce, many merchants were not happy with the constant artillery practice and what they saw as prime land used by the military. More relevant concerns were that the fort would draw enemy fire on this commercial area in the event of an attack and possibly leading to the destruction of the town of Singapore. A committee that convened not long after the completion of the 1850’s expansion eventually concluded that Fort Fullerton was ineffective and naval defense would be more effective. Demolition of the facilities was carried out in 1873, during the period when construction of several fortifications was underway at Pulau Blakang Mati, presentday Sentosa, and its adjacent locales. Other existing installations had already been in operation, most notably Fort Canning. Practical use of this site almost immediately continued. In 1874, the Post Office relocated from across the Singapore River to a bungalow located on the site of the fort. This was demolished in 1882 with the construction of a new Post Office, the latter existing until 1922. The Singapore Volunteer Artillery’s headquarters, Drill Hall, was built in 1891 at the site of the previous Post Office, and they often conducted artillery firing drills after business hours until moving their headquarters in 1908 to Beach Road. Also located at the former site of Fort Fullerton included the exclusively all-

Sources vary on the year of its completion, with 1829 being the most accepted, and by 1830, Fort Fullerton, built of high-quality local bricks and hydraulic lime, consisted of an artillery barracks and an officers’ house. Battery Road provided access between the fort and the economic hub at Commercial Square, currently known as Raffles Place, being renamed that in 1858. Later expansion resulted in the destruction of the Singapore Stone in 1843 to widen the passageway and to provide space for living quarters. A sea wall made of red sandstone filled in with lime mortar was completed the following year. The fort was enlarged three times the original size from 1854 to 1859 with convict labor, extending it from the Singapore River to Johnston’s Pier, after which it was armed with seven 68-pound cannons and an array of howitzers and mortars. But there were issues to contend with considering its adjacent location to Singapore’s primary commercial district. Despite Fort “The River from Monkey Bridge”, by Brandon Servos

Marc is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and a graduate from Indiana University. His US Army experience includes being stationed in Germany during the mid-1980s while enlisted and later an officer in the Indiana Army National Guard. In addition to writing for the Living in Singapore magazine, he also has contributed to the Canada-based History Magazine. 22 LIVING IN SINGAPORE

European, all-male Singapore Club, the Chamber of Commerce and Singapore Exchange, along with the construction of new buildings. The present building opened as a Post Office six years after the previous one was razed. Named the Fullerton Building, it also housed tenants of the previous location, the Singapore Club and the Chamber of Commerce, and ten governmental departments. The British used it as a makeshift hospital during the Japanese invasion in 1942, and it subsequently housed the Japanese military administration headquarters during the Occupation. The building reverted to its pre-war use in 1945. The Fullerton Building closed in 1996 to undergo extensive renovation, and the 400-room Fullerton Hotel opened in December 2000. It was officially gazetted as a National Monument by the National Heritage Board in December 2015.

SINGAPORE STONE The Singapore Stone, displayed at the National Museum of Singapore, is a remaining fragment of a larger slab and its namesake, which was discovered at the mouth of the Singapore River by laborers while clearing trees in June 1819. The original intact slab was made of sandstone and measured approximately three meters wide by three meters long and bore an inscription believed to be either Old Javanese or Sanskrit. It is thought to have existed at least since the 13th century and possibly as far back as the 10th century. These inscriptions have not been deciphered to this date, despite many attempts, including by Raffles himself. The original Singapore Stone was blown up in 1843 on the orders of acting Settlement Engineer, Captain D.H. Stevenson, to provide expansion of Fort Fullerton. Following this, Lieutenant-Colonel James Low, who had opposed the destruction, collected fragments with letters inscribed which were later sent to the Royal Asiatic Society’s museum in Calcutta, now known at the Indian Museum in Kolkata. One fragment was returned to Singapore in 1918, and it was designated as one of the 11 national treasures by the National Museum in 2006 and by the National Heritage Board as one of the top 12 collections held in Singapore’s museums.

T hree ways to do In East Coast

By Laura Schwartz

East Coast Park is the largest park in Singapore and what most people picture when East Coast is mentioned. Unsurprisingly, the list of available outdoor activities is quite a long one. However, there’s plenty of treats inland as well should rain clouds appear, or if the sunshine gets too intense, or if you’re

just not much of an outdoorsy person. For those whose base of operations is Orchard or Woodlands, East Coast might seem a bit out of the way, but it is well worth making the effort to explore. Since the district is sprawling and encompasses everything from boutique shopping to beaches, it’s best to have


a game plan. Even with two itineraries, we’re barely scratching the surface of all the cultural, creative, active, indulgent and tasty hidden gems in this part of the country. I’ve divided the indoor pursuits and the outdoor activities. Dive headlong into one itinerary or mix’n’match as you see fit!




Baker’s Well offers a delectable selection of freshly baked bread, savory pastries and muffins for a breakfast on the go. And Mr and Mrs Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata is to die for, though their opening hours are only 6:30am-1pm.

Time to tackle the park! Take advantage of the morning before it gets too hot. The 15-kilometer stretch of beach features wellmaintained paths for walkers, runners and roller skaters. The Cyclist Park features two circuits that serve both beginners and experts, while the Xtreme Skatepark ups the ante for sporty people seeking a bit more adrenaline.

INLAND AND INDOORS You might know Group Therapy Coffee from their outlet on Duxton Hill, but they also have a café in Katong V mall that’s perfect for starting your day with delicious coffee and breakfast fare. Ninethirty (by Awfully Chocolate) is another decadent option, though it’s only open for breakfast on weekends.


INLAND AND INDOORS Katong Antique House on East Coast Road is a beautiful centuryold shophouse filled with carefully curated vestiges of Peranakan culture. Tours begin at 11am and take 45 minutes, during which owner Peter Wee explains the fascinating history of Singapore’s uniquely diverse population. For children aged 12 and below, The Artground near the National Arts Council provides interactive installations, storytelling sessions and creative programs.


Marine Cove was developed as a recreational space Right next door to The Artground is Café Melba, which serves specifically for families, and their array of dining options keep a mean brunch and is notably kid friendly. The grassy field that you near to the sprawling playground. borders its outdoor seating features a bouncy castle in the Picnic space abounds at East Coast Park, so another fun afternoons. possibility is to grill up lunch yourself at one of the barbecue East Coast Road is home to the much raved about 328 Katong pits. Note that you’ll need to reserve in advance at an AXS Laksa, Zaffron Kitchen for scrumptious Indian fare and Alt. Pizza, machine. which I consider one of the best pizza places in the country (and I’m from NYC). All also make excellent starting points for an afternoon of shopping. 24 LIVING IN SINGAPORE



OUT AND ABOUT Splash-n-Surf is a free water playground at Singapore Sports Hub that will keep the kids entertained and cool with a lazy river, water slides, bucket swings and more. Those looking for a bit of peace should head to Bedok Jetty, the longest and most popular fishing jetty in the country. However, if you’ve only just warmed up, challenge yourself to learn windsurfing or stand-up paddle boarding at Aloha Sea Sports Centre. Call ahead to book with an instructor.

INLAND AND INDOORS Joo Chiat Road is a street art-splattered goldmine of historic shophouses, quirky boutiques and tempting eateries. Check out Cat Socrates, The Wyld Shop and The AC for chic clothes, accessories and home décor. Tag Team provides a vastly different form of indoor exercise: laser tag. Their walk-in option makes it easy for even two or three people to join a game, though I suggest you call ahead to make sure they’re not booked for a private event. They also offer VR games and drone flying arcade challenges.

Got a big group of people and are looking to do something totally off the beaten path? Head to Castle Beach and learn how to build your own incredible sand sculptures with Castles Can Fly. They also do eye-popping exhibitions.

INLAND AND INDOORS Take a load off and get zhushed up before your night out. Boo-ti Parlour is pure French luxury for nails and facials. And both BeautyLane and Orchidée have won awards for their services. Alternatively, delight the kids with a lively puppetry performance at Paper Monkey Theatre. Check their website: for showtimes.

5-7PM OUT AND ABOUT Whether you want to start winding down the day or still have some fuel to burn, head to the Singapore Wake Park, where novices and expert riders are welcome to wakeboard. For those happy to stay on the shore, the waterside Coastal Rhythm offers a chill atmosphere perfect for watching the sunset.

INLAND AND INDOORS Chill out with cocktails, tea or homemade sodas at Baba Chews, the delectable bar and restaurant of Hotel Indigo. Formerly the Joo Chiat Police Station, the space is an elegant blend of modern Singapore and its Peranakan heritage. If you want to stay on for dinner, no one will blame you.



If all that seaside activity has put seafood on your mind, end the day with an extravagant dinner at Long Beach or Jumbo, just two of many restaurants at East Coast Seafood Centre.

Indulge in some high-end Italian cuisine at either Al Forno or Etna, neither of which will disappoint.

For a more varied spread, head to East Coast Lagoon Food Village. I recommend Cheok Kee Duck Rice, which has been around for 60 years and always has a line.

Or head further inland to feast yourself on delicious hawker food at Old Airport Road Food Centre, one of Singapore’s largest hawker centers. Check out Dong Ji Fried Kway Teow and Hua Kee Hougang Famous Wan Ton Mee, which have been staples there since the 1970s and 1930s respectively.

Laura grew up in Tokyo, Singapore and New Jersey before majoring in Japanese Studies at Bard College, upper New York. Her fiction and non-fiction writing has appeared in The Shanghai Review, Thoughtful Dog Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. A voracious traveler, Laura has visited over 30 countries. LIVING IN SINGAPORE 25

living in singapore Finding an Interior Designer By Tyler Wisler You’ve finally made up your mind and you are going to do it. You are ready to make the investment and transform your dwelling into a home – a home that is tailored to you and your family! Great!... But now what? Where do I get an interior designer from, and how do I know if he or she is the one I want to work with? Where do I start? Referrals are a great fast track to making your decision, because someone you trust has already vetted their designer’s credentials and processes. Wonderful if you do have friends that can make a referral, but if not, it’s a good idea to ask at the stores or showrooms you like. If your aesthetic is drawn to a particular establishment, the staff may be able to pair you with a designer who has a similar vibe.

Keep in mind that the relationship with a designer is one that is quite intimate. You will be discussing your home, your personal space. You will be talking about your family and how things function day-to-day. Money will be a frequent topic. At certain points during the project you might be speaking every day, if not multiple times a day.

Online sources are also great – Houzz is probably the most widely known in the region. Also, contacting professional organizations, such as Interior Design Confederation Singapore (IDCS) and the Society of Interior Designers Singapore (SIDS), can help give you options. Then there’s always a good old-fashioned Google search which can provide quality results, as well.

Be honest about your budget! When the designer asks what you would like to spend, do not say, “Well, I don’t know…” You might not know the exact figure, but give an honest ballpark amount. If budget is not a concern, or you really just do not know how much a project “should” cost, ask the designer to give you an idea of a realistic budget based on their experience.

So, now you have someone you love; their online presence feels right and their aesthetic is a Pinterest dream. Great! Now is the time to reach out and set up a meeting. “A meeting?!”, I hear you say. “But Tyler, everything is good and they have exactly what I want?!” You need to meet with this person and talk to them. This is like dating. Swiping right on their profile is only the first step, now it’s time to see if you are compatible.

Come to the meeting with visuals of your own so you can have a proper conversation about spaces you find appealing and why. Start a Pinterest board so you can have things to reference. Also, something even more important than your likes are your dislikes. Knowing your immediate no-go items for you are will save everyone’s time.

Fair warning, many designers will charge for this consultation time. This is a standard practice, and just like meeting with a doctor or lawyer, a designer’s time is just as valuable. Don’t think that anything is off limits during this initial meeting. I am a firm believer that communication is key. This is so easy for me to say, yet it is so difficult to pull information out of some clients and vice versa. I find that when I have spoken to clients who have had a negative experience using an interior designer in the past, it’s because they didn’t speak up. They didn’t ask questions. You need to feel like this is a person you can vocalize your concerns to when you don’t like something. You never want to feel intimidated because of a big personality.

Listen to the designer during your meeting. Are they just “yessing” everything you say? A good designer should offer opinions and insight; after all, that’s essentially what they are being paid to do. They should be asking just as many questions of you, as you are of them. If they don’t engage with you about who you are and how your home functions, red flags should immediately go up in your head. The relationship with an interior designer can easily be one that lasts from a couple of months to a couple of years, so listen to your gut. You should leave that meeting saying to yourself, “I like this person. I feel like I can speak openly and honestly to them. I feel like they understand me and my expectations.” Then, and only then, are you and your new designer ready to make the magic happen!

Photo courtesy of Tyler Wisler Tyler is an international, influential and sought-after designer. He currently stars as a judge and mentor on Asia’s biggest design competition show, Sony Channel Asia’s The Apartment, where he is known for tough love and sound, practical advice. His work has been seen in Architectural Digest, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Elle Décor and Better Homes and Gardens.


Coming soon! The 15th edition of our Living in Singapore Reference Guidebook is almost here! Full of fresh tips, ideas and essential information for getting the most out of the Lion City. Watch this space for when you can grab your copy!

career resource center for excellence The Only Woman in the Room CRCE At the Table Event We caught up with Lisa Mulligan, Global Diversity and Inclusion Director for Worley, who was guest speaker at a recent event At the Table networking and career group for women. Lisa shared insights on the topic of being ‘The Only Woman in the Room’; a culmination of experience and knowledge of what it takes to progress to more senior roles, particularly when surrounded by men. As Global Diversity and Inclusion Director, what does your role involve? My role is responsible for supporting and championing diversity and inclusion within our global business. This involves driving our strategy, goals and actions, policies and program development, and governance and reporting work. Ultimately, I want to contribute to developing a culture where people feel they can be themselves, do their best work and contribute to the success of our business. When have you faced a challenging situation as ‘The Only Woman in the Room’ and what did you do to overcome the challenge? A few years ago, while working for a different company, I traveled from Sydney to the UK to attend the business strategy and budget review meeting. During one part of the meeting, the leader asked the two Human Resources people to leave the room because we wouldn’t be able to contribute! We were the only two women in the room. It was embarrassing and mortifying to travel 24 hours to be dismissed, especially as the leader of the business group I worked for and supported felt it was important that HR were present to understand and contribute to the business decisions. Following the meeting, I worked hard to develop my relationship with that specific leader to ensure he understood my capability and commercial acumen, so that I was never asked to leave again! How can we as women inspire, mentor and advocate for other women and their career progression? It’s crucial that women just do this for each other. Period. It takes absolutely nothing away from us to be supportive of other women and celebrate their achievements. The way I do this is to take time and have conversations with women if they are struggling or need advice. I attend events like At the Table to

share my experiences and if I see a woman doing a great job, I make sure I tell them and others. How can male leaders better support their female colleagues? I have worked with some fantastic male leaders and I have appreciated their guidance, mentoring and career development. I think there are two things male leaders can do to better support their female colleagues. The first would be to listen to and understand their perspective and experience. This includes understanding the challenges they have gone through in their career. The second is to sponsor and advocate for women in meetings when they might not be there, particularly when new roles and/or promotion opportunities are being discussed. I have been fortunate to have men advocating for me in these meetings, which has meant I have been offered opportunities that I may not have had access to otherwise. What are your top tips for women who are trying to advance in their careers, particularly if they are in male-dominated industries? Spending nearly all my career in industrial and maledominated industries has taught me to be pragmatic and assertive and also that timing is everything. We need more women in senior roles to contribute to business decisions that affect customers, employees and our communities and it’s important that women progress in their careers so they can be financially independent. To do this we need to be super organized, tenacious and not give up, even if at times we really want to. We need to support each other and celebrate the unique contributions women make. UPCOMING EVENT FOR WOMEN:

International Women’s Day 2020 “Women Shaping the World” Monday, March 9 | 6:30-9pm | The American Club Organized by The American Club, AAS, AWA, AmCham and Canadian Association of Singapore

Lisa Mulligan is the Global Diversity and Inclusion Director for Worley, a leading global provider of professional project and asset services in the energy, chemicals and resources sectors. She has nearly 20 years’ experience in Human Resources and Organizational Development. Her passion is developing diverse and inclusive organizational cultures so that everyone can fully participate and contribute. 28 LIVING IN SINGAPORE

career resource center for excellence Looking for New Job Opportunities in 2020? By Alka Chandiramani

Did you know you could write the best possible resume in the world, but if you don’t have ‘keywords’ in it, your resume may be tossed aside? Companies generate searches using ‘keywords’ – “insider” terms, or business jargon, used by in a specific profession or industry – through company resume databases, online job searches, resume databaases, etc. to find resumes that best match a specific job or profession. The bottom line is, if your resume doesn’t contain those keywords, then your resume won’t get picked out. Even if a company doesn’t use online keywords searches, you’ll have a better chance of making a bigger impact with the person who reviews your resume if it contains those key words that help them know if you fit the general profile for the job description. There isn’t one list of key words that can be published because every job has different key words depending on the profession, but here are few tips to keep in mind when you look at your resume again: 1. Does your resume contain both acronyms and actual phrases? If you only have the acronym and a recruiter searches on the actual phrase, then your resume won’t be picked up with a digitized resume search. Include keywords in multiple ways such as ‘MBA’ as well as ‘Masters of Business Administration’, ‘DBA’ and ‘Database Administrator’ or ‘CPA’ and ‘Certified Public Accountant’. 2. Do you cover your profession/industry in a variety of ways? For example, ‘oil and gas’ and ‘energy’, ‘banking’ and ‘private wealth management’, ‘office administration’ and ‘office management’, etc. There is no way to have every variation possible, but do try to include a few to increase the possibility of having your resume pulled from the database. 3. Have you included the techniques used in your profession, as well as software and hardware that you have either used or have been trained to use? This is particularly important if it is unique to your job, industry or profession; for example, Microsoft Project, SAP or CADD. 4. Did you sprinkle your resume with your profession or industry’s “insider” terms? These can range from the acronyms that describe your work, the typical products you work with, the services you’re involved in and even the type of customers and vendors you might deal with.

5. Did you include behavioral skill phrases with examples? These are the valuable behavioral skills for any company, such as ‘problem-solving’, ‘resource optimization’, ‘effective presentation skills’ or ‘business development’. It’s important to remember that if you list these in your resume, be sure you are able to give examples of how you did these, both in your resume and the interview. Can I Work with a Dependant Pass? While it’s all very well investing time preparing a resume for the Singapore job market, many who arrive in Singapore with their spouse fall under the common misconception that there is little point in doing so, since their status is ‘Dependant’ and that they are unable to work. However, Dependant Pass (DP) holders are unequivocally able to work in Singapore and the process is quite simple. All the employer needs to do is fill out a Letter of Consent (LOC) and send it to the Ministry of Manpower. The onepage form takes only ten minutes to fill out and requires 1) the DP holder’s FIN and education information, 2) the employment pass holder’s FIN, and 3) the name and address of the employing company. Once the LOC is approved, processed and returned to the employer, the DP holder can begin working. Here are a few important things to remember: 1. How long will it take to get my LOC? You can check status of your LOC about two weeks after submitting it. The application outcome will be mailed to the employer usually about three weeks from the date of the application, but this can vary depending on peak times. 2. Where can I find the LOC form? It is located on the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) website at Just type in “Dependant Pass” in the search box located on the top righthand corner of the MOM homepage. 3. How long is my LOC valid? The LOC ceases to be valid when the DP is cancelled, or if the Employment Pass holder (your spouse) is no longer employed by their company. 4. Do I have to renew my LOC? The LOC must be renewed when the DP is being renewed. The LOC renewal form will be sent to the employing company about two months before the pass expires. The completed form should be submitted to the Work Pass Division at least four weeks before the LOC expires.

Alka is a multi-lingual human resources practitioner with over 25 years of HR and legal experience. She provides neuro-leadership, intercultural training and executive career coaching to individuals, high school and university students in Singapore and around the region. In Singapore, she currently provides advisory services to the AAS’s Career Resource Center for Excellence (CRCE). LIVING IN SINGAPORE 29

jobs & career

How to Finally Achieve your Career Goals By Dee Allan

Do you want to know the real reason why you may not have achieved your goals? The truth lies within a four-letter word called ‘grit’. ‘Grit’ researcher, Angela Duckworth, made some headway in understanding the meaning of the word in the work context. She explains in her revered TED Talk, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, that both elements need to be present for anyone to be ‘gritty’, and that grit was also a more significant indicator of success than say, talent, for example. If we are able to become ‘grittier’, we are more likely to not only get our ideas off the ground, but to stick to them for the long-term. While there is further research to be done to understand grit and, specifically, how we can learn it, I have spent some time trying to build my own grit muscle by investing in personal development and setting up multiple businesses. During the last 18 years, I have interviewed and coached thousands of candidates and met with hundreds of corporate clients, and this has led me to conclude that there are four major personas that make up grit. Gritty people have a healthy relationship with these four particular personas, whom they consciously or subconsciously ‘call upon’ to help them achieve their goals.


Meet the Sage, Wizard, Warrior and Robot THE SAGE Our inner sage is responsible for our mindset and setting goals we are passionate about. The sage’s job is to keep our thoughts in check. For our thoughts lead to feelings, which leads to emotions, which become the basis of our actions, which are not always for the better. The sage is our inner mentor. We must have a healthy relationship with our sage, and must check in with them daily. When we don’t have a kind and loving relationship with ourselves, our clarity is not there. Hence cultivating selflove, self-care and balance is critical. For then we can really begin to design how we want our future to look. This enables us to set goals we can become aligned with and passionate about.

THE ROBOT Our inner robot is responsible for taking persistent actions. They allocate time to actions, ensure we are managing our productivity and efficiency levels and not getting distracted. They keep showing up and doing the routine, mundane and/or priority macro and micro tasks, no matter what. They are our time-keepers.

THE WARRIOR Our inner warrior is responsible for being resilient and persevering in spite of it all. They house our ‘fighting spirit’. Our warrior helps us go the extra mile when we feel we can go no further. They are our strength.

THE WIZARD Our inner wizard is our resourceful energy. They are creative, they find a way. They tap into solutions and make the best of what we have. Our wizard will direct us to finding answers, people, resources and ideas that can help move the needle for us. They are our inner troubleshooters, strategist and source of ideas.

THE GRIT TEST For those who possess grit, the above personas show up when needed to get the job done. Sometimes, a particular persona is required, other times all four need to show up. If you are wondering why you have ‘failedquit a task, or given up on yourself, then ask yourself if you have met your inner sage, warrior, wizard or robot yet. They each exist in each of us, it’s just we don’t have equal relationships with all of them. Indeed, we have preferences and natural strengths with some of the personas. Often one of these personas is dominant within us. The good news is, that we can strengthen all of them once we know the techniques to awaken them.

Indeed, you can learn how to apply the grit test to all your past failed pursuits and you will see that there was a fundamental flaw with your relationship with your sage, warrior, wizard or robot, that ended up resulting in the breakdown of your pursuit.

THE GRIT HIT TEAM To really self-assess how ‘gritty’ you are about your goals, ask yourself who shows up the most for you. Is it the sage, the warrior, the wizard, or the robot? Which persona is missing from your grit-hit team? Therein lies a major clue on which persona you need to spend more time strengthening. Once you understand which of the four personas is ‘weak’, you can source mentors, tools and techniques to strengthen that particular persona.

Finally remember: If you feel less than inspired by your goals and dreams, then that’s a huge indicator that you may need to go back to discovering your ‘Why?’. Why do you want what you want? Why is that goal important to you? Why should you invest your energy and time on that particular goal? As Simon Sinek says, starting with your ‘Why?’ is critical to really understand if you’re truly passionate with your reasons behind wanting to do something. If your ‘Why?’ is weak, you will likely not complete the task. So, spend some time with yourself to get crystal clear on what your goals are, and why they are important to you. Then you can move onto assembling your sage, warrior, wizard and robot grit team.

Gritty Girl, Dee Allan, is an international speaker, writer and entrepreneur. Dee runs an employment agency, blogs on the Medium platform and lives in Singapore with her husband, two cheeky kids and a fish called Wanda. LIVING IN SINGAPORE 31

By Lily Ong For a second, I thought I might have landed in the wrong destination when greeted by an airport scene very much different from the one just a year ago. I soon found out that Langkawi International Airport had undergone a 12-month expansion to increase its capacity to accommodate up to four million passengers a year and 1,000 passengers an hour during peak times. This was a necessary undertaking as Langkawi, an archipelago of 99 islands on the west coast of Malaysia, has increasingly made it on to the radar of travelers over the years. In 20 minutes, our group of three, comprising my mother, my daughter and myself, was shuttled from the airport to Anjung Villa where we were staying. Despite having modern facilities such as a swimming pool, this low-rise hotel was serenely nestled in the quiet of the ricepaddy fields; even our local driver was surprised to learn of its existence. We wasted no time in offloading our baggage before heading straight to Langkawi Wildlife Park. A year on, the park still calls out to the animal lovers in us, enticing us back to Langkawi. Those dreading the hot sun can take relief in knowing that the five-acre park comes with sheltered walkways providing shade throughout all the exhibits. We purchased a couple of bags of feed comprising seeds, cabbage, apples and carrots. At each exhibit, a chart is prominently displayed to educate us on the right items to feed the specific animals. Indeed, what we appreciated most about the park is the up-close interaction it affords its visitors with its inhabitants. Friendly parrots, hungry deer, curious emus, adorable bunnies 32 LIVING IN SINGAPORE

and elegant flamingoes, among others, all took food out of the palms of our hands with little hesitation, just as the hedgehogs did. We were privileged to run into the snake keeper with an exquisitely patterned python wrapped around her neck. She graciously allowed me to hold it, much to the giggles of my daughter and the disapproval of my mother. With a little encouragement, my daughter took the snake from me and charmed it with ease. A further hike into the park found us at the crocodile exhibit. We walked eagerly up to the keeper with a baby crocodile cradled in his arms. He beckoned for us to sit on a bench; no sooner had we done so, we felt the slap of a cold and sticky load on our bare skin. There it was, the little reptile looking as cold as it felt, making itself completely at home upon our laps. This night, we continued our adventure at a night market. Known locally as Pasar Malam, this is where street food can be seen being fried up in a wok, heated up on a grill and strikingly paraded upon rows and rows of makeshift stalls. As these markets move around through the week, be sure to inquire of their daily location with the locals. From chicken satay to mutabark (stuffed pancake), nasi lemak to drinks of motley flavours, pasar malam showcase authentic local delicacies in the most vibrant way. Haggling is a common sight among the locals but even if you aren’t skilled in the art, know that the prices remain a steal without you having to bargain. Besides food, toys, sunglasses, clothes, bags, shoes and an assortment of other merchandise are dotted throughout the night market.

On our way home, we came upon a roadblock by a herd of water buffalo. Having done their grazing all day, these fellows were just as ready to head home. We saw no herder around and learned from our driver that these well-trained beasts simply walk themselves home at night. A well-rested night readied us for a day of adventure at Kilim Geoforest Park, located at the northeast tip of Langkawi; as soon as were arrived at Kilim Jetty, we jumped on a waiting boat that would first take us to a floating fish farm. Sitting atop a timber platform floating upon large empty drums, the small fish farm is more a sampling exhibit of Langkawi fish than a commercial fish farm. Nonetheless, we took delight in feeding the water creatures, including the horseshoe crabs and the stingrays. It was an amazing experience to watch the large rays open up their mouths on their underbelly as they gently drew the cuttlefish out of our hands. Our next stop was Gua Kelawar, the bat cave. I couldn’t help but notice a monkey looking straight at us as we stopped at the entrance to rent a flashlight. Our guide handed me a threefeet stick, noticing the wary look on my face. Armed with my defense tool, I led my mother and my daughter into the dark cavern. We must have seen a few hundred pairs of eyes staring back at us as we shone our flashlight above. The cave itself wasn’t very large and we soon found ourselves on the opposite opening, only to be greeted by what appeared to be the same monkey that had been eyeballing us at the front entrance. This time, though, with half a dozen of his kind around him!

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After what felt like an eternity of avoiding eye-contact with these primates who took to following us, but was in reality no more than a 20-meter trek, we arrived back at the front entrance to hop on the boat that would take us away from the stealthy bat cave treacherously flanked by one rascally monkey too many. No trip to Langkawi would be complete without a voyage to one of its pristine beaches. We elected to dine at a beachside restaurant at Tanjong Rhu on our last night after the adults had pushed enough sand into footrests and the Frozen fan had erected her Arendelle Sandcastle. While breaking juicy prawns out of their shells and quenching our parched throats with fresh coconut water, my daughter blurted, “The monkey just wanted to play with me.“ “Maybe yes,” I replied, “maybe not.”

Photos by Lily Ong Former residents of America but currently based in Singapore, Lily and her daughter, Tess, traverse the world regularly as a motherdaughter team. Lily is involved in media and diplomacy while Tess is a kindergartener and the only one known to study the safety instruction cards before every flight.

Our programs for 2019 are open for registration on our website. We work directly with most of the leading international schools and have programs open to the general public. Private tutoring for the SSAT is also available. Test prep and college tour information session on February 26th at the Hilton Hotel. Sign up link on our website.

+65 6728 7476

Some folks say India is a poor country. But after many visits to this unique place I believe India is actually a rich country: rich in history; rich in culture; rich in character. Filled with beautiful, colorful people; overflowing with vibrancy, passion and emotion. India is a fascinating destination largely because it is a land of contrasts: from the abundant to the meagre; snow-capped mountains to parched-dry deserts; wheel of life to crescent of hope. It is these contradictions, so firmly sewn into the magical tapestry of the country’s attire, that so well-characterize India and its unique persona. Indeed, is it not this legacy of extremes that defines us as humans? If you travel around India, you will experience markedly different faces, dress, customs, religions and languages. In a sense, India is actually a country of many different nations. Yet all these distinctive features somehow elope into a marriage of cultures, nearly seamlessly blending into one another, forming a rich collage of interwoven humanity that is just waiting to be explored. All you need is but an open heart and an open mind, and your compassion and curiosity will be amply rewarded with the experience of a lifetime. TIMELESS MONUMENT TO LOVE From his confines at the fort, the deposed emperor had nothing left to live for, save for the memory of his beautiful, loving wife. Imprisoned by his own son, in his last gasp of life, the defeated man gazed at a mirror on the wall, catching a final reflection of the monument he built for his lady. As his eyes closed for the last time, his memories faded away along with him, yet his love for her was to be immortalized forever. The man: Shah Jahan. His wife: Mumtaz Mahal. The monument: the Taj Majal. In its complexity lies simplicity. In its grandeur lies modesty. In its subtlety lies intimidation. When I first laid my eyes on the Taj Majal it was from afar - from the same fort where Shah Jahan was confined and lay on his deathbed. It appeared suddenly, as if from a dream. I froze immediately. It is hard to describe the captivation, the sheer power that this structure possesses. Though the monument is quite far from Agra Fort, it seemed to be much larger than it objectively should have been. Light reflecting off the finely polished white marble provides a stunning halo effect. Later, as I stood directly in front of the Taj, I could feel the full impact of its magical influence. Its beauty is so timeless. As you walk away from it, you can feel its presence behind you. It is inescapable. When finally forced to depart, you are persuaded to turn around




for one last gaze and try to etch it into your memory. I did not wish to ever leave that wonder of humanity. A COMPLEX TAPESTRY OF CULTURE Although India is predominately Hindu, there are significant numbers of Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and others, adding an interesting variety to the vast cultural landscape of this diverse country. The Taj Mahal itself is actually a celebration of Islamic architecture, perhaps at its finest. Most pictures of the Taj do not show the two large, graceful mosques that flank it. They were incorporated to give balance to the overall design. One of the mosques was never meant to be used as its main arch does not point to Mecca. As part of a strikingly simple yet exceedingly intelligent blueprint, the four tall minarets, or towers, that surround the Taj Mahal are slightly tilted outward so as not to fall on the central building in the event of an earthquake. The main structure itself is one of the pinnacles of human artistic achievement, possessing a sense of architectural balance virtually unparalleled in the history of construction. Its overall proportions have been exhaustively studied in an attempt to mathematically unlock the secrets to its majestic stance. Above the arched entrance hovers elegantly flowing Arabic script, meticulously inlaid into the ivory-like façade with contrasting black marble. A feat of not only design and engineering, but also of the human spirit, the Taj Mahal has certainly earned its rightful place among the current Seven Wonders of the World. EXQUISITENESS IN RAJASTHAN To visit a Jain temple is a truly unforgettable experience, as they are absolutely breathtaking in their level of detail, craftsmanship and beauty. The pillars, walls, roofs and adornments of the temples, such as the splendid ones at Ranakpur in Rajasthan State, are magnificently carved with superb intricacy. The Rishabji Temple that I ventured into features no less than 1,444 columns, each one unique from the other. Jain builders almost exclusively use shimmering white stone to craft their amazing works of art, an architectural reflection of one of the foundations of their religion: purity. Jains believe in respect for life to such a high degree that they sometimes cover their mouths with masks to avoid harming any living creatures. With the Jain, art, customs and beliefs all coalesce into a singular train of existence that is most admirable. And the princely state of Rajasthan offers much more, including the enchanting ‘Blue City’ of Jodhpur; the great Lake Garden Palace of Udaipur (location for much of the James Bond film, Octopussy); the impressive ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur; the palatial magnificence of Bikaner; and the immense fortress sitting high atop the ‘Golden City’ of Jaisalmer. Rajasthan is a must-see part of India and can surely be a trip in itself. It took me several short trips to see all the places highlighted above, but you could cover it

in one trip if you can block off at least a week, ideally two. CAVERNS OF WONDER One of the most impressive manifestations of Buddhist thought, art and culture can be found in the marvelous ancient caves I visited at Ellora and Ajanta (in the western state of Maharashtra), among the most important historical sites in all of India. In Ajanta there are thirty caves, the earliest of which date back to the 2nd century BC. The sculptures and frescoes that dot the interiors of these caves are considered to be artistic masterpieces and depict religious figures, as well as stories on the life of the Buddha. Incredibly, the entire area was swallowed up over time by the surrounding jungle and only rediscovered by accident in the early 19th century. In Ellora, there are over a hundred man-made ‘caves’, which can perhaps be more accurately described as huge sculpted temples and monasteries made by cutting out rock from a hill face. Amazingly, the work started from the top of the rock formations and then moved downwards, requiring intricate planning and construction techniques that took literally generations of builders to complete. One section in particular, known as Kailasha temple, features the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world. As opposed to Ajanta, the Ellora caves represent the artistic styles and religious themes of multiple faiths: Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. The fact that they all occupy the same space shows the way that religions in India often coexist and indeed intertwine with one another in a brilliant display of the adaptability of humanity. A BRIGHT SHINING LIGHT As my thoughts turn to an attempt to summarize my various travels to India, I struggle to make sense of the myriad of memories I have of this fascinating place: admiring the beautiful, colorful dress of the women, whose everyday attire seems like it should be their ‘Sunday best’; spotting a bus with tons of people casually hanging off the side and sprawled on the roof; meeting the cheerful Indian on the plane, who happily offered his contact number in case I had any problems in his country; watching a lone cow calmly lounging in the middle of a frenzied highway. Then I remember a term I had heard along my travels: ‘mashaal’, the Hindi word for ‘torch’. Like a bright, shining light, I realized that India represents the passion, diversity and interlocking fabric of humanity itself. The world is full of vibrant differences, colorful contrasts and vivid extremes - and perhaps nowhere else on earth is that epitomized as it is here. Yet no matter which side of the extreme they are on, whether dressed in pants or robes, driving Benz or bike, wearing turban or kufi, the people of this vast and varied land will always live their lives with one common, beautifully human trait: spirit.

Photo by Katie Baines

John is a US citizen and an avid explorer with a passion for travel journalism and photography. He has visited over 65 countries, including the entire Far East of Asia. He has written for the Singapore Straits Times, Shanghai Daily, The Armenian Mirror-Spectator, My Paper, The American Women’s Club of Korea and the in-flight magazine of Royal Bhutan Airlines.


SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL By Liz McGuffee and Lauren Arena When Lauren and I sat down to pen this article, we began by talking about how my motivation to find impactful travel opportunities was directly related to my desire to impact my children’s sense of self, beyond their daily lifestyle. And because we were fortunate enough to be expats, in close proximity to exotic destinations as a young family, we had plenty of opportunities to experience all the positive outcomes of meaningful travel. For my children of plenty, I hoped travel could alter their perspective, and at least check their sense of privilege or entitlement, as well as my own. My reference points included church work trips and Habitat for Humanity builds, where I had the opportunity to work alongside people I was “serving.” Even with this notion in mind, I knew I was learning more useful skills than anything I was contributing. When we returned home, I wanted to ensure the experience left a lasting impact on my family - that we were educated, realigned and perhaps even transformed. I don’t believe we ever met those goals, but, over time, I think we have all been changed. Twenty years later, the term ‘impact travel’ has developed more fully and refers to the possibility that the negative impacts of travel can be mitigated, or even eliminated, through careful planning to ensure that tourism does not negatively affect the host community. Our gain is not their loss. Yet the environmental impact of travel is well 36 LIVING IN SINGAPORE

documented - should we still be vacationing abroad? The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is responsible for the promotion of “responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, and promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability for the host communities.” According to UNWTO, the travel industry constitutes 10% of jobs worldwide, but it is also responsible for 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. So not traveling would also have a significant economic impact. Today, sustainable travel is one very important and achievable aspect of impact travel. In the face of climate change, there is greater awareness that travel - particularly airline travel - is bad for the environment. Our ability to offset any carbon footprint only requires a Google search and a credit card, and as travelers become increasingly aware of their carbon footprint, the power of social impact travel is also gaining momentum. In addition to being sustainable and responsible, social impact travel can be transformative, build lifetime bonds and is about learning rather than ‘imparting wisdom’. Through the gift of perspective, travel can have life-altering individual (or family) impact. In October, we had the opportunity to travel to Bhutan with Women4Impact; a social impact enterprise based in Singapore. Women4Impact’s initial impact was supporting the nascent law school in Bhutan by adding a donation in the package price, hiring young women as our guides and working to ensure sustainable approaches, such as limited conference handouts. The trip also provided us the opportunity to develop personal relationships with Bhutanese law students and entrepreneurs, develop a better understanding of the culture of Bhutan and Gross National Happiness, and to experience the beauty of the country in an ethical and sustainable manner.

Of the 50 men and women with whom we travelled, we each gained knowledge, experience and, in many cases, wonderful new friends. A group of travelers continue to work together with Bhutanese entrepreneurs to support the expansion of their business into Singapore and other new markets. The transformative nature of travel and building relationships through shared experience is something corporate incentive and meeting planners have preached for decades. Incentive travel can boost staff performance levels and build team bonds, and often includes an element of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), where a corporate group will ‘give back’ to the local community. Far beyond planting trees and building bikes for underprivileged kids, corporate incentive travelers are now looking for more meaningful ways to engage with local communities and leave an impact on the destinations they visit. Pacific World, a destination and event management company that has operated in more than 40 countries, including Singapore, has embraced this purpose-driven travel prerogative with both hands. “We see opportunities to make a difference in the areas of climate change, plastic pollution, waste management and social sustainability,” said global managing director, Selina Sinclair.

an individual level. From there, it ripples out – growing and evolving to where everyone believes in and supports sustainable solutions to move us forward,” Sinclair said. The new goal of corporate incentive travel, seemingly, is not purely to motivate staff to work harder, but to motivate behavior change. In a similar vein, impact travel should be as enriching to the host destination and its communities, as it is to the traveler. Like the principles of Gross National Happiness, positive impact travel is about reconnecting to the self, others and nature. It’s about balancing inner and outer change. How will your next vacation make an impact?

The company recently launched a grassroots initiative,

known as the #BringchangewithME movement, to encourage its corporate clients to “think globally and act locally” by supporting sustainable development initiatives.

• •

In Singapore, for example, Pacific World organizes bespoke experiences for meetings and events that support social enterprise projects like the Enabling Village, which develops employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

• • •

In Bali, the company helps corporate clients to reduce single-use plastic and organizes beach clean-up efforts. “We start by empowering and inspiring people at

Liz has worked in fundraising, communications and strategic planning for non-profits, colleges and universities across five countries. Lauren is a journalist who reports on the business events industry in Asia Pacific who provides on-the-ground reports from major events and regularly interviews business leaders and entrepreneurs.

Tell us about your culinary background. I started my culinary journey 35 years ago and have been blessed with the amazing opportunity to work at some of the best restaurants in the world, including Michelin award winner, La Gavroche in London, and Browns Restaurant in Melbourne, which is recognized as the best restaurant in Australia. Grand Hyatt welcomed me into the family in 2002 where I was tasked to drive the multi-sensory dining experience at their open-kitchen concept restaurant, mezza9, and I’ve been with the hotel group ever since. In 2005, I relocated to Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok, where I launched the hotel’s first organic farm and refurbished all of its restaurants and event spaces. I moved back to Grand Hyatt Singapore in 2010 as Director of Culinary Operations, which is my current position, where I developed the hotel’s sustainable food philosophy - “Thoughtfully Sourced, Carefully Served”. I also led the way in the installation of the world’s first complete vacuum waste management system. Grand Hyatt became the first hotel in Singapore to implement the nose-to-tail program, which positioned it as a leader in offering plant-based dining options.

What got you interested in sustainable dining?

One Chef’s Mission - Sustainable Dining in Singapore

By Julian Chua

Chef Lucas Glanville, the Director of Culinary Operations at Grand Hyatt Singapore, isn’t your typical chef. He grew up in Australia in a home with a vegetable garden and chickens roaming in the back yard from where the ingredients for family meals came. So, it’s no surprise that he brings his wholesome childhood food experiences to the hotel industry as a professional culinary chef, incorporating a full range of plant-based dishes on his menus and changing the way we see sustainable dining as a healthier and more vibrant alternative. I spoke to him about his passion for cooking and his hopes for more people adopting sustainable dining as part of their diet.


I see it as a duty to protect the planet for future generations by making sustainable decisions in F&B, especially on as large a scale as Grand Hyatt, where I oversee the production of between 3,000 and 5,000 meals a day. Moreover, I grew up growing organic produce in my back yard which made up most of the ingredients in the meals we cooked at home. Another huge aspect of sustainability is minimizing food waste by recycling, where possible, for other purposes. For example, our food waste management plant has been converting 1,000 kilograms of daily food waste to organic fertilizers since 2016, removing the need for thrash bags and landfills. In addition, edible leftovers are vacuum packed and repurposed for non-profit organizations as part of our food donation program, which has been active since 2015.

What are the top three reasons to convince people to adopt a more sustainable diet? Firstly, food is a finite resource, so we must make good decisions now to ensure that food shortages don’t occur in the lifetime of future generations. Secondly, as wellness continues to drive our food choices, we too must play our part in protecting the environment. We can do this by supporting food that

food & drink has been sourced sustainably without any adverse effects on the planet’s ecosystem.

includes all the nutrition you need to get going in the morning. Not to mention, it pairs perfectly with a Teh Tarik!

Finally, we must not forget the importance of food as fuel for our bodies. Supporting sustainable food sources and balancing our diet with fresh greens, or even plant-based alternatives, will allow us to live better, while doing good for the environment at the same time.

Another favorite of mine is Laksa, particularly at StraitsKitchen, where they are prepared using the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified sustainable prawns, while proving to be a real comfort food.

What challenges and opportunities do you see in getting people to switch to sustainable food, especially here in Singapore? It is encouraging to see more restaurants and hotels in Singapore drive sustainability independently. This has not only reduced cost for everyone, but it has also raised awareness of sustainable dining in Singapore. I truly believe that the dining scene will become more sustainable here over time, and we will continue to come up with more initiatives in sustainability in the years to come.

How have the responses been so far to your sustainable dining initiatives? The response has been amazing for us. Our plant-based options have been very well received since 2018. We sell 800-1,000 plant-based dishes during our food truck launches, and our “Beyond Burger” outsells our regular burgers by a ratio of three to one at the moment. More recently, all 600 portions of our Heura plant-based Butter Chicken dish sold out within three hours at the “Purple Parade”, an event organized by the People’s Association to celebrate an inclusive society.

How can we make more sustainable food choices and eating habits at home? The great thing is that many of these plant-based products are also available at local supermarkets, and we expect to see more in 2020. But beyond using sustainably sourced ingredients or plant-based alternatives, we must also be very mindful of the food waste we create – buy what you need and repurpose edible leftovers. Growing up, our parents would have taught us not to waste our food and it is sad to see that this lesson has been lost over time. Start with managing food waste and everything will fall into place.

What are your top three favorite Singapore food items and why? A Nasi Lemak is a great way to start the day and it

My third favorite Singapore food goes to the Pepper Crab - it is truly a flavor that you can only find in this part of the region and we never had crabs prepared this way back home – it packs a fragrant kick with every bite of the delicate sweet tasting crab.

What are your top three favorite activities to do in Singapore or places to visit? I walk for an hour every day and enjoy a 6am walk around the district. It sets me up for the day and by the time I hit the kitchen, I have a clearly defined agenda of what I’m going to achieve. As a chef, I would recommend anyone to visit the local wet markets, to take in the energy and understand the local food culture at its source. I also enjoy the opportunity to visit local farms to listen and learn from our local producers.

What do you like about Singapore as an expat and why? I like the multi-cultural diversity of Singapore; a hotpot of culture and nationalities with many opinions that everyone respects in harmony. Also, coming from Melbourne, we often experience four seasons in one day, which isn’t much of a good thing compared to the weather in Singapore, which is simply amazing and gets even better as it cools down in the evening. Lastly, the ease of getting to anywhere I want to in Singapore is just wonderful. With a very efficient and clean public transportation system, you can get to anywhere you need.

What advice would you give to expats who are working in the culinary scene here? For visiting chefs, I recommend for them to get involved in the kitchen operations and own it by contributing to the success of others, sharing their knowledge and being humble. Use the time wisely and create a positive legacy on achievements, remembering that they are a guest in someone else’s country. Have a positive mindset and create solutions – you do not deserve to be here if you cannot solve problems.

Photo courtesy of Grand Hyatt Hotel Singapore Julian is an entrepreneur who runs several businesses that deal with consulting and brokerage in Singapore. He combines his love for food and writing with his business experience to provide readers with a balanced perspective on the F&B scene here in Singapore. For the past decade, he has been a freelance writer for NTUC Lifestyle, Business Times, Spin Asia, and Time Out.


health & wellness

Decoding Diet Fads: What Works, What Doesn’t and How to Make Nutrition a Lifestyle By Amanda L. Lim It’s the first quarter of the new year, and if you are a trainer or nutritionist that can’t make ends meet at this time of year, you’re probably better off hanging it up. This is the time when clients are literally crawling out of the woodwork to try and make significant life changes, whether it’s getting back to the gym, making long lists of new year’s resolutions, or going on the next fad diet. There’s nothing inherently wrong with diets, except for the fact that 95% of them don’t work (and, in my opinion, even that number seems low). Sure, you may go low-carb and lose a few pounds, or try veganism and drop a dress size, but rarely does the weight loss – or the food habit itself – actually stick. Diets fail because restriction over the long-haul is tough. What seems like a fun challenge in the beginning (think “30 Day No Sugar” plans) becomes a boring drudgery after day, say, 200. The thing is: Diets that can’t (or shouldn’t) become lifestyles will never succeed. No one can go without sugar for a lifetime. Joy cannot be found by eliminating an entire food group forever, and short-term solutions like teetotaling for Dry January or juice-cleansing for a week can only go so far – they’re not solutions for long-term health.

So what actually works? The reason that any type of diet succeeds boils down to one thing: caloric deficit. You must intake fewer calories than you are burning, and you must do this more often than not (think 80% of the time). Calorie deficits should be


created in two ways, both by controlling food intake and by participating in regular exercise. When my clients are just starting out, I recommend they aim for a moderate deficit of 250 calories per day, created by both diet and exercise. Once they get the hang of it (and stop feeling symptoms like hunger, tiredness, or irritability, all of which can come from a sudden drop of calories in your daily diet), I recommend they move to a deficit of 500 calories per day to produce a net weight loss of about a pound per week. This speed of weight loss ensures that you can maintain your metabolic rate and not experience the plateaus or “crashes” of faster styles of weight loss, such as long fasts or cleanses, or sub-1,200-calorie diet programs. Once you’ve mastered the deficit, it’s time to consider your macronutrients. Known as “macros” for short, this term refers to the fat, protein and carbohydrate proportions that make up your daily calories. For example, two people can eat 1,600 calories per day, but if one person is eating all of those calories from sugary carbohydrates, while the other is eating a balanced diet of high protein, some healthy fats and a few complex carbohydrates, the latter person will very likely look and feel much better (with a more favorable fat-to-muscle ratio to boot). If you are unsure about the ratio of carbs, proteins and fats that you are eating, I recommend using a free food logging app like MyFitnessPal, which converts your food into macros and helps you monitor your caloric deficit as well. Once you’ve got an idea of what macronutrient proportions you tend to eat, it’s time to decide what kind of

nutrition approach will work for you. Do you prefer more carbohydrates in the morning for energy, then taper off with lean proteins in the evening as you prepare for rest? Do you tend to spread out your meals into small, frequent servings or get most of your calories in one or two bigger meals? Do you like to count calories and track your intake to a T, or would you rather a more flexible approach that focuses on food choice rather than calorie counting? There is no single path to successful dieting; however, the closer you can match your normal preferences and ways of eating to the dietary strategy you want to try, the more successful you’ll be. For example, intermittent fasting (IF) is an effective weight loss approach that works wonders for those who aren’t hungry in the morning, prefer larger meals rather than several smaller ones and don’t want to necessarily focus on calories. The idea is that you eat all of your meals within an 8-hour window (say, 12pm-8pm), and only have water or calorie-free beverages outside of that window (no food). Proponents of intermittent fasting report rapid fat loss, increased mental clarity and even improved immune response when performed consistently over time. Another popular method is the Ketogenic diet, which focuses on high-fat and extremely low-carbohydrate eating in order to move the body into ketosis (a state where the body burns stored fat for fuel). Keto diets work great for those who prefer the satiety of higher-fat foods (hello bacon and cheese!), enjoy being in a community of like-minded folks (there are huge amounts of ketofriendly restaurants, shops and online groups to help support this style of eating) and don’t mind a little extra prep work in the kitchen (it can be challenging to find strict keto-approved foods at parties or when out and about). The benefits of the Keto diet include increased fat-burning metabolism, better skin quality and potentially a reduction in risk factors for several types of cancer. Though IF and Keto are surely trendy right now, don’t be lured by this alone: There is nothing about a diet or nutrition program that needs to be “hip” or cool. The best path to losing weight is simply to create and maintain a caloric deficit through a balanced, reasonable eating plan and moderate exercise, and while not glamorous or flashy, that’s the truth. If you are unsure where to start, consult a registered dietitian or certified nutritionist to help you turn a “diet” into a lasting lifestyle – it’s one of the best investments you can make for your own longterm health.

International Counselling & Psychology Centre

Continuing a tradition of community-based services with 40 years of experience in Singapore and the region

ICPC counsellors and psychologists work with individuals, children, adolescents, couples and families to address psychological health and wellness.

Lissy A. Puno, MA

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Sarah Haas, MSW Counsellor / Psychotherapist

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Counsellor / Psychotherapist Certified Imago Relationship Therapist

Rachel Williams, DipPsy Counsellor / Psychotherapist

Amanda is a certified trainer and nutritionist and director of Singapore-based fitness consulting firm Peak Health. With over a decade of experience in the health and wellness industries, Amanda has coached and transformed over 200 individual clients, and consulted for large multi-national companies. She has also contributed to fitness publications such as SELF magazine and

Miranda Ledesma, MA Counsellor

360 Orchard Road. #06-08 International Building, Singapore 238869

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health & wellness

Bond, Expat, Bond:

The Importance of Finding New Friends and Hobbies in Singapore By Andrea McKenna Brankin Starting out a newbie in Singapore can be daunting. We’re all looking for ways to better manage our time here, including managing the stress that these changes have brought to our lives. Loneliness and isolation, pining for home and loss of a sense of self are issues all expat spouses are dealing with, whether you’re working in Singapore or not. And sometimes, those things still occur even after we’ve been here for years! Expat experts say the more we can face the facts that we are in a new place with different challenges than home, the better we can adjust to our expat lives and maybe even have some fun along the way. Finding a bond among other expats is key to making things work. Irena Constantin, a psychologist at Scott Psychological Services and Co-founder of Sea Counsel seacounsel. org, a program specialized in offering lifestyle tools for mental well-being, has been living with her family over the past 12 years in Southeast Asia, including India and Singapore. Working abroad and being a traveling spouse herself, she knows about the challenges that can occur, especially bringing up kids abroad. She currently works and lives in Singapore with her husband, her two girls and a bunch of pets. As such, she acknowledges that dealing with too many changes at once can be difficult. “We might face different physical and/or emotional symptoms together, such as feeling tired and moody, being less motivated than usual or anxious,” says Constantin. She adds that those feelings can have a direct negative impact on our self-esteem and self-awareness by feeling helpless or, even worse, feeling ‘abnormal’ – “something must not be right with me…” Combine that with guilt – “I am in a privileged situation to travel and explore new countries, cultures, people, etc. so, why am I not happy?” That is where self-blaming starts,” she warns. One key point to understand about the changes you may be feeling, according to Constantin, is that human beings are ‘social animals’ and have a sense of ‘belonging’. “Relationships are important for our wellbeing; relationships matter!” she says. “Studies have shown that people deal much better with changes like loss of a partner or going through a divorce, for example, if they have a ‘social network’ they can rely on. People who are alone, or do not have a stable social network


they can rely on during that difficult time, are more inclined to increase higher levels of stress and anxiety or fall into a depression.” Those expats who have a few years of moves might have developed some skills over the years in coping with changes, “Often, though, it’s the overall frustration with the next stint, leaving all beloved friends behind us again and starting from scratch. Every time, that takes a lot of energy out of us!” says Constantin. In fact, some expats often lament the effort it takes to make new friends, only to have them leave by the time you really get to know them. Constantin has three excellent rules to help expats manage change, adjust and eventually thrive in our new posts: 1. Accept! The fact that living in a new country is combined with an emotional roller coaster that includes mood swings, feeling sometimes low and less motivated or even angry and frustrated. This is totally normal as long as you are able to get out of these ‘moody periods’ to overcome those feelings and not let them (your feelings) overcome you! 2. Look out for something ‘stable’ in your life which you can take with you to every new place. That can be a hobby you might have developed over the years – or anything you are interested in. Why not look out and start something new in your respected country? Our privilege is that we are exposed to things and people we might not have met being in our respected home country. See it as a ‘souvenir’ to and for yourself! 3. Bonding: Whatever you decide to do, either by reaching out to existing social networks or starting to explore your interests and hobbies, try to intensify them by making them meaningful for you. That creates a bonding that will bring in some purpose and necessary stability we definitely all need. “Many expats concur, particularly when it comes to finding hobbies, to pursue bonding with new friends. Often, it is what we have in common that draws us expats together, such as similar experiences, interests or living nearby”, says American expat of nearly 25 years, Meg Farrell Sine. She says that settling kids in schools and connecting with other company expats helped early on, though at later posts without kids: “I found joining American or international Women’s social groups helpful, but bonding with friends took a bit more effort.” All agree that “effort” is the key takeaway. If you have school-age children, often the schools will have some sort of parenting community, like the PTA or even just room moms meeting for coffee. Some families also meet up at condo pools and other community

areas to regularly get the kids together and have a glass of wine to unwind. Clothing designer and mom, Andrea Webb Discepola, suggests checking out Facebook groups closest to where you live. “I love how our Friday ‘kids clubs’ have now turned into parents’ late afternoon drinks!” Joining a social organization, such as the American Association, the American Women’s Association or other groups that put on community events, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations, can help keep FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) at bay. Those groups also have activities from professional networking and development seminars, to Mahjong and quilting. Bonding over sports is also a big winner for many expats, including dragon boating, rugby, golf, tennis, walking/ hiking and field hockey. Jessica Hinton, a former British military officer and current top trainer at Ministry of Fitness, who also plays field hockey with the Singapore Tornados, says it’s what you make of it that matters. She says: “It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, if you have a hobby there are always others who share that interest. So, join a team and you will feel like you are home.” Some sports even have a family element, such as the Titans Rugby Club, which is a kids’ offshoot of the Wanderers Rugby Club for adults,

Once you get to a group, whatever the nature of it is, you may be surprised with how you find your friends. American Martha Scarborough, a former Singapore – and current Japan – expat, says she met one of her closest friends in Singapore at a high school orientation meeting. But it was her shoes that drew her in, not the small talk! “She was wearing Birkenstocks and I said to myself, ‘She’s one of my people!’” Most agree that, no matter what, you have to keep giving your new home a chance. “As an expat you need to put yourself out there and explore your hobbies and interests even if you know nobody and it might seem daunting,” says Miriam Walter Feiler, an Australian expat and co-founder of the Singapore-based microconsulting firm, Bizzi Ptd Ltd. “Friendships build over time. Just put yourself out there and be brave and meet new people.” Read more about Irena’s work and publications at psychologist.php You can contact her for further information about her different programs she is offering under: Andrea McKenna Brankin has been a writer and journalist for more than 25 years, covering business and lifestyle topics in the U.S., Europe and Southeast Asia. Hailing from Mystic, Connecticut (USA), Andrea now calls Chicago “home away from home.” She has lived in Singapore with husband Christopher and daughter Georgia since 2012.


health & wellness

A-Z of Health New to Singapore? Here is an A-Z of Health in Singapore that tells you all you need to know about healthcare on the Little Red Dot.

is for Ambulance

Remember this number: 995. This is what you dial for emergencies and will call out a government ambulance that will take you the nearest government/public Accident & Emergency (A&E) department. Call 6272 6018 for a private ambulance which will take you to a private hospital of your choice. is for Breast Cancer Worldwide breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women and is the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. Don’t put off your mammograms and breast screenings just because you are in a new country.

is for Chikungunya

This is a viral fever transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms are sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, nausea and joint pain. Most symptoms last three to


ten days, but joint pain can last months. Like dengue, the best prevention is insect avoidance.

is for Dengue This is a viral infection with flulike symptoms, spread by the Aedes mosquito. Unlike malarial mosquitos, they can be found in city areas in daylight hours. Fever, headaches, joint and muscle pain, rash and sore throat usually appear within five to eight days after being bitten.

is for Emergencies The healthcare standard in Singapore is very high. Accident A&E departments are open 24 hours and have access to on-call specialists.

is for Feeling Down If you are new to Singapore it is entirely understandable to feel lonely, overwhelmed, depressed or anxious at times. Reach out if you or a loved one is feeling they may need to talk to someone.

is for Gynae Did you know that for many of your regular gynae needs (including smear tests, reproductive health

discussions, contraception advice, Implanon, IUD insertion & removal, you can see your GP? No need to go see a specialized gynecologist.

is for Haze In recent years, Singapore has fallen victim to the forest fires in neighboring countries. The fine particles in the haze may cause irritation to eyes, nose, throat and airways and cause asthma to flare up. Children and elderly are more likely to be affected. See the National Environmental website for updates and consider an air purifier.

is for Insurance Although medical services are high-quality, they can be expensive. Please check your medical insurance coverage. ‘In-patient’ means being admitted to hospital and this is different to ‘out-patient’, which means seeing a doctor or specialist in a health clinic setting.

is for Japanese Encephalitis (JE) This virus is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable encephalitis in Asia and the western Pacific. For most travelers to Asia, the risk for JE is very low

but varies based on destination, length of travel, season and activities. If you are traveling to at-risk countries (Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc), please seek medical advice.

is for Kilos It is common to arrive and enjoy the fantastic food available in this culinary melting pot. Not all the food is healthy, however, and if you start to notice weight gain please take note. Check your Body Mass Index (BMI) and take advantage of the varied indoor & outdoor exercise classes available.

is for Lust Sexual health screenings are advised for all those individuals who may be concerned about their sexual health. Stay safe and get yourself checked out.

is for Mycoplasma This is a microorganism that can be responsible for atypical chest infections, especially amongst older children and teens. It is spread by infected water droplets through sneezing & coughing. Initial symptoms are described as flu-like (fever, dry cough, tiredness, body aches), & can cause a persistent dry cough and fatigue after many weeks. Treatment, however, is not always necessary as the condition is largely self-limiting.

is for Newborns If you plan on having a baby in Singapore, remember that your maternity insurance typically needs to be in place up to one year prior to getting pregnant. There are some great prenatal classes (check out Beloved Bumps or Mother & Child) & pediatric doctors to support your journey.

is Orthorexia Characterized as a harmful obsession with ‘healthy’ eating, orthorexia is a new & concerning eating disorder often found in teens. If you are concerned, see a trusted doctor.

is for Pregnancy Locate a trusted pediatric doctor who can guide you through. And remember: You don’t have to take the pediatric doctor assigned to you at the hospital!

is for Quality The Singapore health system is of a very high quality, so you can be assured you are in very good hands.

is for Respiratory Problems There is a high prevalence of respiratory issues in Singapore, including coughs, colds, asthma and haze related breathing issues. Be prepared and register with a trusted doctor at a clinic before you get sick!

is for Screenings Annual Health Screens are important to optimize your wellbeing, identify conditions that are asymptomatic & to screen for certain cancers, where early detection can mean a better outcome or cure. Health screens should be tailored to your medical needs and any significant family history or risk factors you have should be taken into account during your consultation. Don’t put them off and protect your health.

is for Tropical Ear Year-round swimming, together with a humid environment, can create the ideal conditions for ‘swimmers ear’. This is an infection of the ear canal caused by bacteria or fungi. See your doctor if your ear hurts for more than two days.

is for Urinary Tract Infections Urinary tract infections typically occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder. In this hot and humid environment it is important to drink lots of water and seek medical support if you start to notice symptoms.


is for Vaccines Here are the routine vaccines recommended for life in

Singapore: - Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis (DTP) - Polio - Hemophilus influenza Type B - MMR - Hepatitis A & B - BCG (against TB) - Pneumococcal - Dengue (if you have contracted dengue before) - Flu And don’t forget that if you are traveling around Asia, additional vaccines may be recommended.

is for Water The water supply in Singapore is of a high quality, suitable for drinking & is optimally fluorinated. Remember to drink plenty of water in this hot and humid climate.

is for eXterminate mosquitos! You may have noticed that many of the unpleasant viruses in Singapore are spread through mosquito bites. The best protection is to wear insect repellent and avoid getting bitten.

is for Yellow Fever Yellow fever is a serious, potentially deadly flu-like disease spread by mosquitoes. It is characterized by a high fever & jaundice. Jaundice is yellowing of the skin and eyes, which is why this disease is called yellow fever. This disease is most prevalent in certain parts of Africa and South America. It isn’t curable, but you can prevent it with the yellow fever vaccine.

is for Zika The virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infective Aedes mosquito. Singapore’s first Zika outbreak occurred in August 2016; however, there has been a low incidence since that peak. This guide was compiled by International Medical Clinic. IMC has 30 internationally trained family practitioners & pediatric doctors who speak over 10 languages. Based in East Coast (IMC Katong), Orchard (IMC Camden and IMC Children’s) and Holland (IMC Jelita).


education Spend Your Summer Wisely By Andy Lee How do you show colleges that you are much more than your GPA and SAT score? You need to truly excel in your extracurricular activities. Your summer break is the ideal time for you to hone your skills and build up your achievements, meaning how you spend your summer could have a direct impact on where you end up going to college. And now is the time to be thinking about this. Colleges actively seek out students who can ace an exam and score the winning touchdown in a football game. They want to admit students who will study in the libraries and research in laboratories, but also dance in the studio and perform on stage. How should you go about selecting summer activities that will make the most impact on your college application? Here is an easy to follow framework for you to identify the ideal way to spend your summer: Relevance: In ideal circumstances, you should participate in summer activities that are related to your existing interests. For example, if you are currently on the junior varsity tennis team, you should consider participating in an intensive tennis training program in the summer to increase your chances of making the varsity team next year. Duration: As a rule of thumb, you should choose programs that will allow you to truly immerse yourself in an engaging activity for a protracted period of time. For example, completing a six- week long Spanish program in Madrid is likely going to be much more meaningful than enrolling in a two-week long program where you spend half the time recovering from jetlag. Impact: Choose activities that will allow you to make an impact. For example, you may want to intern at a small startup company that allows high school students to work on actual projects, rather than intern at a large corporation that relegates students to dull clerical tasks. If you make a positive impression and leave a tangible impact on the company during your internship, your supervisor may even volunteer to write you a recommendation letter that you can submit along with your other college application materials.

If it satisfies all three of the conditions outlined above, you will have found the perfect summer activity! Here are examples of some worthwhile summer activities that you should consider looking into: Internships: Do you want to know what it’s like to be a software engineer or a prosecutor? You can learn about these exciting professions by speaking with current practitioners, but there’s an even better way to find out if these fields are right for you. By doing an internship, you’ll get to experience firsthand what these jobs actually entail. Instead of speaking with a software engineer, go spend the summer writing code in your internship. University Summer Programs: Are you curious about what it’s like to major in graphic design or marine biology in college? Unfortunately, these fascinating subjects are usually not offered in high school. Go enroll in summer courses offered by universities to learn more about these topics. Beyond coursework, many colleges also offer opportunities for students to conduct scientific research under the guidance of professors and graduate students. Sign up for a university summer program to gain exposure to new subjects and to get a preview of what it’s like to be a college student. Training Camps: Do you want to perfect your serve or your hook shot? There are many elite sports academies in places like California and Florida that offer world-class training at state-of-the-art facilities that will elevate your athletic skills to the next level. Spend the summer at these camps and improve your odds of making varsity next year. Don’t spend your entire summer lounging on the beach and sleeping in. Instead, you should spend your summer productively. By engaging in meaningful summer activities that build up your extracurricular profile, you’ll be able to rise above your competition when you apply to college.

Andy is a a seasoned American university and boarding school admissions consultant with nearly a decade of experience. He is a graduate of Columbia and Cornell and has provided comprehensive educational counseling to over 100 students, many of whom have gone on to attend institutions like Columbia, Cornell, Penn, Berkeley, UCLA, Georgetown, NYU and USC. 46 LIVING IN SINGAPORE

business Get the Insurance you Actually Need in Singapore By Richard Hartung As our lives have become more complex and the insurance industry has become more creative, the range of insurance policies we can buy has mushroomed. Along with standard life, health and automobile insurance, you can also buy insurance to cover your pets, travel, smartphone, cyber-risk, artworks and more. With so many options, and the costs that come with them, the question is what you actually need in a relatively safe and less-litigious Singapore. Insurance you Need Fundamentally, insurance is meant to give us financial protection if a disaster happens and buying the right insurance depends on your specific needs. Regardless of your situation, though, you should have two types of insurance coverage and consider a few more. - Health Insurance: This is a priority policy. While Singapore is safe and healthcare is excellent, even medical care at government polyclinics or hospitals can be costly if you have a serious illness, and private healthcare costs even more. Having health insurance ensures that you can get the care you need. You might also consider buying critical illness or personal accident insurance, too, though it may not be needed. - Disability Insurance: Even though many of us don’t expect to become disabled, statistics from the US Social Security Administration show that 30% of workers will become so disabled at some point before retirement that they are unable to work, and the Ministry of Health in Singapore says that half of healthy Singaporeans could become severely disabled in their lifetime. Even if you’re eligible for CareShield Life here, the payment of about $600 per month is hardly enough to cover your needs. Having disability insurance to make up for your lost income if you’re disabled and can’t work is essential. - Life Insurance: Though less critical, with the need depending on your stage in life. If you’re young or elderly with no dependents and few obligations, you may need little or no life insurance. If you have a family or some large loans, though, life insurance is essential. An easy way to figure out the amount is to calculate how much you’ll need to pay your debts and to provide for your children, as well as your spouse, until the children are independent. - Other Insurance to Consider Whether you need other types of insurance depends on

your situation, such as your age and lifestyle, whether you have children and what your employer provides. If you own a car, you’ll need automobile insurance to protect against liability and to repair or replace your car if you’re in an accident. If you own your home, you’ll need fire insurance and can benefit from a broader homeowner’s policy. A homeowner who recently paid about $28,000 to repair damage from a water leak found out the hard way. Whether or not you own your home, you should consider insurance for your possessions too. Buying travel insurance for holidays or business trips can make sure you get medical care overseas and can pay for expenses if your luggage is lost, or you get stranded in a European city during a strike. Where to Buy Insurance There are plenty of insurance companies in Singapore that you can contact to buy a policy, ranging from local companies, such as Great Eastern, and NTUC Income to international companies, such as AIA and Prudential. While you can contact those companies directly, a better option may be to use a comparison website, such as CompareFirst, GoBear, Insurance Market or MoneyOwl. You can input information about the type of insurance you need and the coverage amount, as well as the duration, then easily compare quotes from a variety of companies. Be sure to look at factors such as coverage levels and deductibles, too, to reduce your costs. Some of these sites, as well as personal finance sites such as ValueChampion, can also help you figure out which firms offer the best coverage. The Bottom Line As personal finance website Seedly says, insurance should be about getting sufficient coverage for the right reasons at the lowest cost. However, it’s important to figure out whether you actually need a policy when an agent is pushing it, as you may be better off self-insuring rather than paying for a policy. Once you have insurance policies, they can become set-and-forget activities that you automatically renew. It’s essential, though, to review your coverage regularly, read the policies, reconsider the types of insurance you actually need and compare costs. Even though you hope you’ll never need it, having the right coverage is essential, should something unfortunate actually happen.

Richard is the Managing Director of Transcarta and a freelance writer for Today, Challenge, The Asian Banker and other media, as well as writing for corporates. He is also the author of Changing Lanes, Changing Lives. Richard is a consultant in retail banking, focusing on payments strategy and efficiency, with more than 20 years of experience in Asia. LIVING IN SINGAPORE 47

Our Singapore:


How do you see Singapore? Every issue we’ll showcase moments captured by AAS members in a photography competition depicting our island at its finest; from the throng of the city to the wild wetlands, from the characters among its people to its varied landscape.

Storm over Singapore Strait – Katie Taylor AAS member, Katie, is from London and took this shot from her balcony in Tanjong Pagar.

Katie wins $100 of Outback Steakhouse vouchers.

2nd: Morning Sun in the Botanic Gardens – Anna Leonard Anna is from Windsor, UK, via Texas, USA, and has been living in Singapore for a number of years.

Anna wins $50 of Outback Steakhouse vouchers.

3rd: The Jewel of the Garden City – Graeme Oliphant Graeme is from Scotland and snapped this shot of the iconic waterfall at Jewel, Changi, during an afternoon at the complex.

Graeme wins a bottle of Fetzer Cabernet Sauvignon, courtesy of Benchmark Wines.

Submit your photo of your Singapore! Just snapped a cool picture? Send it on to our Editor-in-Chief, Katie Baines, at with ‘Living in Images’ in the subject line. The competition is reserved for AAS members only • Members may submit images that are 300dpi and 1MB in size (minimum half A4 paper size) • Each entry must include name, short photographer biography and complete caption • Readers must own the rights to the picture submitted and must have obtained permission to photograph human subjects depicted • Judges’ decision is final • Entries are automatically disqualified if they do not meet our criteria and stated T&C • Winners will be notified via e-mail when the prize is ready to be sent out • Prizes cannot be exchanged for cash.