Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Year's, Take 2

It was our third Chinese New Year in Singapore, and oh, how we’ve adapted. Last year we tossed yu sheng a number of times, watched the Chingay parade, and immersed ourselves in the colors and crowds and noise of Chinatown at night. This year, apparently, we’ve become so blasé about it that, aside from a leisurely daytime stroll through the Chinatown stalls, we hardly did any outside celebrating at all.
It wasn’t entirely our fault.
We scheduled our vacation around the neighborhood CNY potluck, only to have them change the date at the last minute; and our traditional steamboat (huo guo) celebration with close friends was cancelled when the hostess got the flu. (None of this got us off the hook with our friends’ children, though - they all got their hong bao anyway!)

But as it happened, we did most of our celebrating at home, where we finally succumbed to our friends’ pleas to put more decorations up. With just a short few weeks between Christmas and CNY this year, we went straight from the Christmas tree to the “CNY tree” – a vase full of long pussy-willow branches, decorated with a couple of hanging goldfish ornaments. We bought a cute little kumquat tree, too, which reminded us of the oranges people like to exchange this time of year. And we put a couple of lanterns with the fu character (“blessing, good fortune”) out front.

We took down the lanterns at the official close of the holiday two weeks later, and we threw out the pussy-willow branches when (appropriately enough) the cat got interested in the puffy white blossoms. But we’ve still got our kumquat tree to remind us of the golden glow of the Chinese New Year.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Luddite and the ATM

Yes, I know, just because someone is wearing the saffron garb of a monk doesn’t mean he’s a Luddite; we’ve certainly seen our fair share of monks toting cell phones. Still, the flash of bright orange robes in the ATM queue got my attention as one of those things I’d be unlikely to see in the States.

It reminded me, too, of how we’re all impacted by global economics. No matter how much you might try to live a cloistered life – even if you’re a locavore, you’re off the grid, you have someone spinning straw into gold a la Rumpelstilzken – chances are, you have to store some money, somewhere, for later use. Which leaves you standing in line at the local ATM in the hope that your bank is still solvent. Just like everyone else.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


We’re behind on blogging, but we have a reasonably good excuse: we’re driven to distraction by the newest (and nuttiest) member of our household: a giant orange kitten named Oliver.

We came across Ollie online about a month ago. He’d been dumped next to a construction site and spent a terrified few weeks out in the open before being rescued by a local cattery, where he was under the name of “No-No.” (I admit I don’t understand Chinese names, but surely in a Chinese/English-speaking community this is not the best name for a pet?)

His tufty feet and long fur reminded us of our late, beloved first cat, though he was maybe a tenth the size. Plus, he seemed calm and quiet at the cattery and his age was listed as “mature” – plenty of people love to adopt zany kittens, but we love adult cats and their quieter, more developed personalities.

But once we got our new kitty well fed and well rested, it was clear that he was anything but “mature.” Though we’d guessed already from his bounding jumps and schizophrenic romps up and down the stairs, the vet confirmed it: we had a barely one-year-old kitten on our hands. True, he was already the same size as most adult cats in Singapore, but apparently he has a long way to go before he grows into his outsize feet and massive fluffy tail.

We tried many names (Linus was an early favorite, due to his habit of wrapping his tail around him like a security blanket), but Oliver was the only one he ever answered to. It’s a fittingly Dickensian name, perhaps in tribute to the large, tranquil cat we still miss.

As Chinese New Year came and went, we were reminded that in Singapore, as anywhere, holidays are much better when shared with pets. Ollie, for his part, helped us celebrate Chinese New Year by investigating the decorative pussy-willow branches and making friends with the lion-dance marionette we bought in Chinatown. Sounds auspicious to us.

To find your own fun and fluffy bit of good fortune, take a look at the pets available for adoption at the Singapore SPCA, Cat Welfare Society, or this blog.