Community cats: best thing ever.

Yet another excellent thing about Singapore is the phenomenon of community cats. Ahh, community cats. Australia truly is a backwards society, you know.

As a cat enthusiast (we don’t like the term ‘cat lady’), I have been known to bestow love on needy albeit flea-bitten street cats. Ugly cats need love too. Despite the risk of rabies and parasites, I have chased cats all over the world: from the alley ways of Ho Chi Minh City to the streets of Cape Town. Here is no different but most street cats tend to be friendly and well-fed here. How can this be, I wondered. Does Singapore have some kind of advanced cat welfare system? Meow for the dole? The answer came on a trip to Tanah Merah. After meeting a delightful street cat, I noticed a sign explaining that dogs were banned from the area because one had attacked one of their beloved community cats. Community cats. The answer.

The vast majority of people here live in high density housing, huge blocks of thousands of apartments, it makes sense to have communal pets. I was impressed: damn Singapore, you think of everything! But the true potential of the community cat wasn’t revealed to me until I turned into my street at the end of a sweaty run. A lady was empty a tin of cat food onto the footpath much to the delight of two hungry kitties. This probably sounds unhygienic but, trust me, the cats are clean eaters and gobble up every speck. There’s never any fishy surprises underfoot when you walk to the train. Such potential though! We have community cats in our street! A different evening revealed the full extent of our community cats. Walking home from dinner, we found a lady dishing up cat food to a horde of cats and kittens. At least 10 or 15. She was a bigwig in the community cat community apparently. It was amazing. I felt like this:

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So I’ve been wondering how to break in to the community cat racket. Is it as simple as buying some extra cat food and dumping it on the footpath? Or do you need to amass some followers first? Should I poach those followers from the bigwig cat boss or is that leaving me open to retribution? Will I wake with a severed mouse head on the pillow next to me? You can understand my conundrum. So for now, I’m restricted to my one private cat plus one loyal street cat affectionately known as The Cat. The Cat is barely older than a kitten and lives between our apartment and the train. We see her when it’s cool, usually in the late afternoon. She has taken to ignoring other suitors to trot over and say hello to me. It isn’t much, but it could be the start of something. A community cat colony the likes of which have never been seen before. Excuse me, I’m off to force Tippy to sit on my lap so I can pet her evil villain-style.

The Trailing Talent’s Guide to Expat Life

(Alternate Title: So You Followed Your Husband onto a Plane)

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Ah learning. If it wasn’t so much fun, we wouldn’t keep doing it, amiright? I found myself at an expat “welcome to Singapore” morning tea about a week ago, having finally been coerced into attending despite being here for three months. And goodness gracious me, did I learn a lot!

Having charged past the mingling groups to the coffee pot and filled my cup, I sat down at an empty table. Honestly, who can network pre-coffee? Not me. While caffeinating, I was joined by three women, probably mid-to-late thirties, wearing florals. I had missed some sort of memo apparently.

The first thing I was asked was how many kids I had. Fun. I managed to suppress a hysterical shriek and smile politely, “Oh me? Teehee, I don’t have any children, I’m much too young!” That’s what I meant to say anyhow, what really came out was a snort of coffee and “No.” The next question I was asked was what my husband does for work. Hmm. Another head-scratcher. Again I was tempted by the low road, “I don’t see no raaaang on this finger!” Instead, I told them what my partner did for a living, and they were most relieved when I eventually used a male pronoun.

Then finally, did I plan on working? Yes. Easy. What do I do? More complicated. I swept what was left of my dignity up off the floor and cupped it in my hands. “ACTUALLY, I’M ABOUT TO UNDERTAKE DOCTORAL STUDIES IN THE FIELD OF DEVELOPMENT AND COMMUNICATION.” A mild exaggeration, I may not have applied for anything yet, but it sounds good. I was met with polite smiles and nods. They were much better at this than I am.

Mercifully, the presentation started. I learnt more than I ever cared to know about schools and good children’s health care. I picked up a few tips on managing overseas finances and converting your drivers’ license. I also learned my place in the expat hierarchy. “We understand that the trailing talent market is completely overlooked by employers.” I’m sorry, the what now? Trailing talent? Really? I swung around in my chair, searching the audience for incredulous faces and shared “is she serious?” looks. Nope. Everyone was listening politely, some were jotting down notes. Eish. We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Trailing talent sounds like something you used to be good at. Hey, I used to speak fluent German but I’ve kinda let it slip, it’s my trailing talent now. I tuned back in to the presentation, the lady was now explaining the careers section of their website. “We understand you and your circumstances! That’s why we predominantly advertise jobs that are part time (because we know how you feel about leaving the kids with your Indonesian ‘helper’)! But there are other jobs too, if your husband feels like a change!” It was along those lines anyway.

I was starting to feel like an undercover agent in a cheap disguise. Soon my fake moustache would peel off at the corner and they would realise I was an interloper. I’d be tied to a chair with statement jewellery and pistol-whipped with oversized clutches. I’d disappear for a week to be re-educated and emerge a perfect, floral-clad trailing talent.

The presentation wrapped up and we were invited to linger for lunch. At an Australian pub. In Singapore. No thanks. I said my goodbyes (“Lovely to meet you, lovely to meet you, see you next time!”) and bailed. While the ladies lingered, waiting to be picked up, I stomped through the puddles to the train. Expats are a strange breed of people, but I guess this is what moving overseas is all about: getting to know new cultures and people you wouldn’t normally mix with. Even if those people happen to come from Brisbane.

The hornets on Lion Rock

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Sigiriya, the sign and the nests

As an aside, the title sounds like it could be an episode of Game of Thrones. Alas though, brothers, this be not a tale of elaborate deceit and twincest, tis simply a tale of the hornets on Lion Rock.

Yesterday we left the cool mountain air and Perahera madness of Kandy for the scorching plains, home to Sri Lanka’s ancient cities. The itinerary was Kandy -> Dambulla -> Sigiriya -> Anuradhapura, or A-rad as it will henceforth be known. Our driver suggested we change our itinerary, visiting Sigiriya first, then Dambulla. Yep, fine, no worries, why? “Sigiriya very dangerous, 12 o’clock after,” he told us seriously. Yep, ok, heat stroke, hot, maybe crowds, why? “Many wasp attack.” Wasp? That was chalked up to the mountain of what is and has been lost in translation.

It took us about two and a half hours to go the 90-odd kms from Kandy to Sigiriya. There’s a few theories about the history of Sigirya but nothing concrete. Archeologists say it was most likely a meditation spot but locals maintain it was a palace or a fort. A rock fort. Sigiriya is most commonly known as the rock fort of Sri Lanka.

Something I’ve noticed, and I’m not sure if it’s the Bundaberg showing, is my cavalier attitude towards things that people in other countries tell me to watch out for. African sun? No worries, mate, I’m from ‘Straya. Second degree burns and superficial pride wounds ensued. Snakes? Mate, we had a red-bellied black the length of your ute in the back yard the other day, now THAT would make you run like a rat up a drain pipe. I swear I even get more of an accent. The wasp warning was no exception. My scorn grew at the Sigiriya ticket booth, when we were told we could only proceed to the summit at our own risk. They recommended coming back at the Lion’s Paws. Mate, if I’m gunna pay 3900 rupees, I’m gunna bloody well go to the top of the bloody rock.

So we did. Joined by a British/Aussie couple, we climbed countless stairs to the Lion’s Paws, about halfway up. People lingered, posed with the paws, and the more cautious collected apiaries costumes from the First Aid shed before making the summit climb.

How we laughed! Those paranoid tourists sweating in their modified raincoats! Signs warned us to be quiet but we simply mocked the scale of the hornet illustrations. Then, we climbed the narrow iron stairs, bolted into the rock face. About 100m up, we saw them. They clung to the rock, five or six, each one the size of a human child, their surfaces shimmering with the movement of a million wings. The nests. The line of summit-bound tourists hushed as they saw them. I began calculating the reaction of a hundred tourists on a narrow stairway when faced with a swarm of angry hornets. Humbled, I tiptoed past and triple-checked my flash was off when snapping a few pics.

To summarise, thus far Sri Lanka has left me humbled. Not in a Buddhist-enlightenment kind of way, more like when they say watch out for hornets, they’re not fucking kidding.

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Singapose?

Thanks to a combination of working from home and the omnipresent heat, I have joined the cult of Ceebs. Short for CBF, which is short for Can’t Be Fucked. Ceebs: when you’re too lazy to even use a three-letter abbreviation. The Ceebs garb consists of whatever is on the floor, today it’s a pyjama singlet and a hand-me-down skirt from a former housemate. The cult of Ceebs is non-committal on issues of hair. Long hair, don’t care. Short hair, don’t care. Hair, don’t care. Proper bras? I’m sorry but you’re not an ideal candidate for this religious movement. Deodorant? Well, actually yes because it’s 32 degrees and 95% humidity, show a little consideration!

My cult of Ceebs has had little uptake here in Singapore though. It appears to be limited to me and elderly Chinese grandpas. They rock the knee socks and sandals combo, often paired with no shirt and safari shorts, like no one’s business.

No, appearances are a big thing here. Labels, designers, malls at every train station. The constant, relentless pursuit of what is new and trendy. Do people still say trendy? Anyway, as Barney Stinson would say, “New is always better”. He could have been talking about Singapore rather than boobs.

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I think I have cracked it though. The reason for the constant shopping and reflection-checking. The holy grail of “New is always better”. Bow down, sinners, and drink from the sacred, everlasting cup of Selfie. The Selfie reigns supreme and we are its mere followers. Repent your invisible, undocumented, offline existence, and you too can be saved! Testify, Tweet and praise the name of the Almighty Selfie. Blessed is thy profile, Facebook be thy name. Thy Kingdom come on Earth as it is on FourSquare. Forgive us our daily down-votes, as we forgive those who have down-voted against us. That was fun, but I’ll stop now.

Case in point:

A friend was visiting so we went to a hawker centre on Marina Bay for dinner last night. It was a beautiful spot, looking out over Marina Bay Sands (boat hotel), the Singapore Flyer (Ferris wheel), and the merlion (still not sure what it is). The group on the table next to us were taking photos. Fair enough, it was a touristy spot and very photogenic. But they weren’t capturing the bustle and colour of the hawker stalls, or the city lights reflecting off the water in Marina Bay, they weren’t even Instagramming their food. Selfies. A girl whipped out her telescopic selfie stick, extended it to a good metre in length and snapped flattering, high-angle shots for most of their meal. Not capturing candid moments of friends sharing a meal, or even the beautiful view in the background. Just themselves. It was deeply weird. It makes you wonder about the barrage of images their online friends and followers must be battered with. To quote Facebook: “I don’t want to see this”, “Hiding post…”.

Selfies are epidemic here. In the strangest places: in front of billboards, waiting for and riding on public transport, in the bathrooms of shopping centres, everywhere. Trying to think of a word to describe is it difficult, vain seems too callous, as does self-obsessed (maybe selfie-obsessed?). It’s almost an national youth identity crisis. The classic case of if a tree falls in the woods and no one sees it, photographs it, uploads it to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, hashtagged #tree #nature #goingdownyellingtimber #fail, and used three different Emojis in the caption, did the tree really fall? The lesson being that the tree is the real winner, especially when you’re too busy looking at your phone to notice said tree looming in front of you. Don’t worry, the girl was fine, she didn’t even drop her phone.

I want to be a fashion blogger

I’m just going to come right out and say it: fashion bloggers earn an obscene amount of money. There’s been a few articles, such as this one, the one that tipped me over the edge http://www.fastcodesign.com/3032096/how-top-style-bloggers-are-earning-1-million-a-year , kicking around about how fashion bloggers (floggers?) are joining the “top 1%”.

I call bullshit. I also want in.

So here’s my “fashion” post.

As seen in the hotel rooms of Singapore…

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I love the crispness of this look and the way it’s just so organic in its construction. There are some really interesting lines created by the ill-fit of the top and the irony of those sunglasses just completes the ensemble.

The model wears a shirt with a tiger on it, really old shorts that the washing machine bled all over and have just about worn through on the left bum cheek, and sunglasses from Dollar Corner in Brisbane.

You can make the cheques out to: “The Frugal Fashionista”, actually no, that word gives me mouth ulcers. Just Bridget is fine.

Seriously though. Bloggers who earn that kind of money should be social change advocates, environmental activists or the people who make cat gifs. Don’t give people who make their living wearing expensive clothes more money to buy expensive clothes! I know this is taking a naïve view about what should be making money on the internet (ahem…) but when there are independent journalism projects like the now-defunct Global Mail and worthy not-for-profit causes trying to be more than a line in a list of search results, it’s hard to subscribe to the idea that fashion bloggers are earning their dough. I’m sure it takes a lot of billable hours to change your iPhone camera filter and achieve that perfect “What? Your taking a photo? I had no idea!” face. But come on, people. Millions of dollars? That’s a lot of pairs of dollar-store sunnies.

To my South African friends

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Sprinkbok about to be lunch

Why? Please someone explain to me why your national emblem is the springbok. Of all the awesome animals your fine country is blessed with. Why the springbok?

This is a question that has plagued our half of the share-house recently and I’m yet to receive a definitive answer.

Yes, I am aware they can jump 3 metres in the air and 15 metres forward. Good. They are also super cute! But a national emblem? Really?

You could have had lions or elephants or hippos or rhinos! Or giraffes! I’ve recently learned that they are totally hardcore when they fight!

But a prancey deer?

I can see your side of it: “Ach no man, Australia has a kangaroo and emu, not much better!”

Agreed, but they are the best animals we have! They can’t go backwards! And they’re scary when they want to be.

Australian animals that would make better emblems than the current ones:

– None: Koalas = lame, wombats = lame etc etc

We’re working with what we’ve got. You guys though!

South African animals that would make better emblems than the current one:

  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Hippo
  • Giraffe
  • Rhino
  • Wildebeest
  • Leopard
  • Buffalo
  • Ostrich
  • Cheetah
  • Black mamba.

So many. Even your food would make a better emblem! No-one would play rugby against you if they had a plate of koeksisters first!

Please rectify this oversight quickly.

*Fun wikipedia fact : “During the Second Boer War, a Boer force attempting to sneak up on the Royal Canadian Dragoons was defeated after their movements startled the nearby springbok, thus alerting the Canadian sentries, which is why the Dragoons have the springbok as their cap badge and as their mascot.”

Girl vs wild (kitten)

This is Tippy.

She’s our kitten. 🙂

She has a Facebook you can like if you want:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tippy/262847260425319

Yup, I’m that crazy cat lady.

But somehow, I’ve become the disciplinary one in the household.

She’s cute but I’m not raising a spoilt demon cat.

Key Tippy Issues:

  • Cat chews my laptop. This behaviour is undesirable.
  • Cat thinks it’s ok to sit in the kitchen sink and eat food off the bench. It’s not ok.
  • Cat, and boyfriend, thinks it’s funny to try and stick her nose in my mouth while I’m sleeping. This is probably unhygienic.
  • Cat tries to climb walls by running at them and using her claws. Landlord will not like this..
  • Cat waits outside toilets for occupant to come out. Creepy.
  • Cat plays in litter box. Also creepy.
  • Cat chews any phone that isn’t an iPhone. No creature of mine will be an Apple fanboy.

Cue Super Soaker.

Camping

Why does everyone go camping as Easter?

Looks like fun, right?

We know it’s going to rain, the roads will be chaos and the campgrounds will be packed, yet we still do it.

What is this obsession with ‘getting back to basics’ and embracing our inner Neanderthal albeit with expensive tents and gas cookers?

Having only been camping a few times prior to this Easter, I was a little apprehensive about the whole thing.

The first time I went ‘camping’, it rained and I was stuck in a camper trailer with my family for four days.

The second time, I walked across hot coals because I didn’t think they’d still be hot from the night before.

They were.

That was a long time ago though, so I gave it another chance.

Plus this time there were the added incentives of no family, being old enough to drink and an excellent music festival to attend for three days.

So here are some of the things I learnt I don’t like about camping:

  • Everything is on the ground and therefore can be tripped over.
  • Tripping over everything.
  • Rain.
  • Dew.
  • Getting changed in a tiny tent while standing on an air mattress, then falling over and briefly being stuck between the tent and the mattress.
  • Stealthily being stuck between a tent and a mattress because there are people cooking just outside said tent.
  • Black tent ropes.
  • How difficult everything is. For example: To make morning coffee:
  1. Find gas stove
  2. Figure out how to insert gas
  3. Figure out if can has gas in it
  4. Figure out how to light stove
  5. Find lighter
  6. Find water to fill kettle “OH WAIT. WE HAVE NO KETTLE.”
  7. Drive to Brunswick Heads Antiques and purchase kettle
  8. Repeat steps 1-8
  9. Wait for kettle to boil
  10. Find coffee
  11. Find cups that aren’t full of old vodka/damp grass
  12. Find milk
  13. Move lit gas stove off esky to access milk
  14. REALISE IT’S NOW DINNER TIME AND YOU NO LONGER WANT COFFEE.

    Damn kettle….

Maybe I need more practice…