Posts tagged: Family

Sweet Justice? – Zuckerbergs Stung By Facebook Privacy Policy

By , December 27, 2012 8:27 pm

Now for those old enough to remember, Canadian singer Alanis Morissette was brought to account many years ago when people questioned the lyrics of her hit song, “Isn’t It Ironic” – many of us thought that the various examples she gave were more those of bad luck as opposed to true irony. For example, “…isn’t it ironic… don’t you think. It’s like rain on your wedding day…” – just plain old bad luck, but certainly not irony in my mind.

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What is ironic however, is the fact that the older sister of Mark Zuckerberg (he, of Facebook founder fame) got caught up by the social network’s privacy settings. Even more surprising, is that Randi Zuckerberg then got embroiled in a debate about ‘online etiquette’.

Randi has become somewhat a celebrity in her own right, after she quit her job managing Facebook public relations to pursue the launch of a Silicon Valley themed online reality show.

This latest online debacle began when she posted a family photo on Facebook (above). The post was intended only for those people on her friends list, but inadvertently ended up going public and subsequently, viral.

The picture can now be found just about anywhere across the world wide web and shows Mark Zuckerberg and family members in the kitchen who are ‘hamming up’ their reactions to messages with the latest FB feature, “Poke”.

For those who live in a vacuum and are not already aware, ‘Poke’ lets people send messages that end up ‘self-destructing’. Many people have alleged that the ‘Poke’ feature is designed for “***ting” and for sending ‘private’ (*nudge nudge, wink wink*) pictures… you see, the senders can have them quickly erased.

The problem that Randi ran into with her family picture on Facebook, was that she posted it for those people on her friends list only, however it also ended up being shared on the timelines of ‘friends of friends’ (the people she had tagged in the picture).

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So isn’t ironic (again) that the image then ended up getting posted on Twitter. The rest, as they say, is history…

Randi Zuckerberg was clearly not happy with this turn events, as she tweeted, “Digital etiquette: always ask permission before posting a friend’s photo publicly… It’s not just about privacy settings, it’s about human decency.”

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Heated debate then raged on at Twitter and hundreds of forums – the most common response was that after the way that Facebook handles the privacy of its users, this is ‘poetic justice’ – I call it irony.

Randi has since tweeted that the whole topic of online etiquette elicits “passion, debate, anger & Twitter crazies”, and she is thinking of making it the next subject on her reality show.

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Since I am now well down the path of obviously not having any ‘digital etiquette’ myself (by posting the picture in question above), then I may as well go one step further… I’ve posted more ‘candid photographs’ of Mark Zuckerberg with his partner Priscilla and dog, ‘Beast’ on my main blog. I didn’t take the pictures – so please ‘don’t hate the player, hate the game’

[CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE PRIVATE ZUCKERBERG PICS ON MY MAIN BLOG]

Kindergarten Marching Band or Rehearsal for National Service?

By , October 16, 2012 11:56 pm

Source: Aussie Pete

One of my mates that watched the video below commented that Jaime was very well-rehearsed in his debut in front of a large crowd and obviously knew exactly what he was doing… I agree completely, and this was as a result of months of practice and dedication.

He then went on to say that the marching band reminded him of the structured marching at Singapore’s annual National Day Parade and suggested that perhaps Jaime was being primed for his future in National Service  🙂

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I kind of doubt that, but it was wonderful to watch and when the crowd screamed in appreciaton at the end of each segment, I was filled with an uncanny sense of pride. Later, Jaime told me that he was extremely excited and amazed when he marched out to see so many people watching.

The performance was part of the opening ceremony of the 2012 “Singapore Kinderland Sports Fiesta” held at the Toa Payoh Indoor Stadium.

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The day itself was themed around, “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s about having fun” – and this was reinforced by the fact that every single child received a gold medal at the end of the event.

Kudos to the organizers and well done to the kindergarten staff members who went above and beyond their duties as school teachers to make this day a memorable one for all.

Casey also had a great day watching his ‘ge ge’ and was also beaming with pride when he saw his efforts in the marching band – I think his voice was louder than the rest of the crowd combined.  🙂

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Although the day was never about winning, it was quite amusing to see how serious some of the parents took the family and parents events… Sammi’s team came first in the ‘Let’s move as a team’ event (a variation of the old three-legged race) and we combined with Jaime to be a part of the first placed team in the ‘We are a Happy Family’ segment.

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Somewhat disappointing was our efforts in the Yio Chu Kang Kinderland team for the ‘Tug-o-War’. If my back was not feeling old and sore before, this event just sought to remind me that I’m not as young and strong as I used to be… (of course I’m kidding – there was no disappointment – we had an absolute blast with our fellow parents)  🙂

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Watch the amazing Marching Band Video here (remember, these kids are only Kindergarten age):

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Again, thanks to Kinderland and the staff and volunteers. Special congratulations to the band master, Mr Victor Tan.

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Jaime had his own “End of day Gold Medal Celebrations”:

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Singapore in 18 Hours – The Express Tourist

By , July 17, 2012 11:35 pm

Source: Aussie Pete

Yesterday, I was very fortunate to be able to play the tourist guide for my very good friend, Ralph and his very lovely wife, Lesley. Hailing from Melbourne, the well-travelled pair had just disembarked from a flight out of London after their 5-week tour of Europe. They specifically stopped in to Singapore on their way home to spend time with us and indulge in some Singapore culture.

Ralph and Lesley - The Express Tourists

Ralph and Lesley - The Express Tourists

The only downfall of the entire day, was that in such a short time I did not manage to change or alter Ralph’s very dubious NRL (national rugby league) team affiliations, nor his very unhealthy appreciation of the player commonly referred to as ‘Billy the Kid’ (Billy Slater) – I will save this topic for another article some other time.

Given that flight QF10 touched down in Singapore in the early evening of Sunday, and departed again around 8pm last night (Monday), by the time you take into account the immigration and customs time and travelling to and from our home, it only allowed us around 18-hours to offer up the best of Singapore that we could manage in such a short period (including a night’s sleep). Obviously, the local food culture was a perfect platform to base the visit around.

The Crabs Cannot Be More Fresh

The Crabs Cannot Be More Fresh

Hence follows the ‘Express Tourist – Singapore in 18-Hours’.

8:30pm – Dinner at Fernvale Point Food Court (Koufu hawker centre)

After arrival at our home in Fernvale, quick calls back home, a freshen-up and quick play with the kids, we decided the most convenient way to jump into Singapore food, was to take Ralph and Lesley to our local haunt. The difference here to the standard chicken rice or 1-meat 3-veg options, was that as part of the shops in this hawker centre, we also have a very high standard selection of sit down, a-la-carte style food. This offers a nearly restaurant style menu and experience. And the food is actually awesome.

Ralph and Lesley are not fans of any very spicy food (chilli), so we were a little restricted with the selection. But we were not about to let this small detail hold us back. So we absolutely stuffed ourselves with Salted Egg prawns, hot plate venison, egg with onion, egg with minced meat, lemon chicken, seafood fried rice, Hong Kong style noodles, king of pork ribs… and a couple of other dishes, which allude me right now. Lesley even dared to try local kopi (although she found it a little sweet for her liking – I’ve become immune to the caffeine and sugar kick over the years… still my favourite coffee).

Salted Egg Prawn

Salted Egg Prawn

So we rolled home, showered, gossiped, played with the kids, argued about football and by sometime well after midnight managed to hit the hay for some shut-eye.

8:00am – Pete’s Home Cooked Turkey Bacon and Eggs

Always on the menu for any visitors that stay with us. We rose to alarm clocks at 7:30am, and wiping the sleepy-dust from my eyes and shaking the head clear, I prepared the now traditional Aussie Pete breakfast – accompanied of course by coffee and orange juice.

9:00am – First of the whirlwind outings and photo opportunities

We left home and braved the (close to) peak hour traffic down the CTE – surprisingly enough, the trip showed a very light side of traffic flow in Singapore. We managed to arrive at One Fullerton car park only some 25 minutes after leaving our apartment.
After a short walk around the area and into Merlion Park – we were quite disappointed to find that the icon of Singapore was closed for a facelift (in preparation for its 40th birthday in September) – we jumped on a bumboat with Singapore River Cruise.

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The 40-minute ‘Tale of 2 Quays’ cruise took us around the various tourist hot-spots – photo ops such as the Art Science Museum, Marina Bay Sands, Anderson Bridge, Fullerton, Cavenagh Bridge, Boat Quay, Raffles Landing Site, Elgin and Coleman bridges, Central and Clark Quay and up to Liang Court (and back again).

The Poor Old Merlion - Undergoing a Facelift

The Poor Old Merlion - Undergoing a Facelift

Along with the other passengers (3 other Aussies – 2 cane toads and 1 cockroach), a collective sigh went up, when they tourists realized that Sir Stamford Raffles was actually facing in the wrong direction for a good picture… I didn’t notice, because I was too busy ducking my head away from the financial district in case my boss happened to be peering out of the top floor of our building – here I was gallivanting and playing guide instead of being at work (of course I had taken a vacation for the day).

Upon return to the Merlion Park jetty, we had another quick walk and a cool drink to rehydrate then Lesley wanted a quick browse in one of the souvenir shops.

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12:00pm Lunch (Feast) at Bottle Tree Park

We left the bay area with time enough to collect Sammi from Jaime’s kindergarten and head on out to Yishun, to another of our mandatory visitor treats – and also our all-time favourite dining location, Bottle Tree Park (off Lorong Chencharu).

Here is where the real eating (pigging out) took place. The dishes consisted (among others), of pumpkin and pork rib soup (served in a pumpkin of course), crispy roasted chicken (whole), crispy Shanghai stlye pig trotter (huge), Sea Bass steamed and served in HK style sauce (melt in the mouth), their signature Pork and Egg dish (always popular), and of course the obligatory Chilli Sri Lankan Crab (for the locals) and Creamy Butter Crab (for the non-spicy visitors)… at least I got Ralph to try the chilli crab sauce, by dipping the corner of a fried bun and tasting – although it took him about 15-min afterwards to cool down. 🙂

Signature - Chilli Crab

Signature - Chilli Crab

As usual, our eyes were too big for our bellies, so we had more than enough to ‘da bao’ for dinner later.

2:30pm – Orchard Road and Shopping

Orchard Road Shopping

Orchard Road Shopping

Back in the car (squeezing) and back down the CTE, we landed in the heart of Orchard Road. We wanted to show a couple of different sides to shopping in Singapore and this globally known strip. So rather than do much walking up and down the length of Orchard Road, we did the up-market and branded type outlets in Paragon and Takashimaya and balanced it off with the bargain-basement style of Lucky Plaza. For those of you already familiar with these local retail landmarks, you will easily identify with the contradiction of these shopping experiences.

Lucky My Boss Isn't Looking Out The Window

Lucky My Boss Isn't Looking Out The Window

4:30pm – Back Home and Departure Preparations

With the family reunited after kindergarten, sightseeing and shopping we took the time for a final catch-up at home (although I was actually feeling quite worn out and succumbed to a 10-minute power nap as well – unplanned).

Dinner (or ‘tea’ as it is commonly referred to in Australia – I sometimes forget local Aussie English, and it actually surprises me to hear how weird some terms that I grew up with actually now sound… the word tea for me now is usually accompanied with another descriptor – ‘green’, ‘ice-lemon’ etc. I forgot that I once used it to describe an entire meal) – did not happen – unanimous decision! At least not so early – we took some food (da bao from lunch) and fed the boys a little later after we returned from the airport.

Some final packing and freshen up and back to Terminal 1 for the Qantas flight.

6:20pm – Check-In at Changi Airport

True to form, I landed us at the check-in counter exactly 2-hours before scheduled flight departure time. With little or no queue to speak of, we all took the opportunity to browse the terminal bookstore (I was actually without reading material for my de-stressing evening bath-time, which is very unusual – so why not kill two birds with one stone).

Some final farewells, and Jaime getting a little sad and watery-eyed (as is always the case with departing visitors), Ralph and Lesley entered the immigration area for the final time on this trip. I am quite certain that after 5-weeks abroad, coping with jet-lag and being walked and eaten off their feet in such a short time in Singapore, they would have been more than happy to return to the comfort of their own bed (I’m wondering if they even managed to wake up for a meal on the plane). 🙂

Ralph (MBS in the Background)

Ralph (MBS in the Background)

In all, we had a very enjoyable, albeit short time, with one of my best mates and his wife – pictured above with the MBS in the background.

Click here to view all pictures of the Express Tourist (added so far)

HDB or Private? You Can Make Up Your Own Mind Already!

By , June 26, 2012 1:54 am

Courtesy of Aussie Pete

The following is an article that I wrote for the iProperty website and was published just last week… (all images have appeared before on my blog and were republished to serve the purpose of the article)

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Why I Chose HDB Over Private Property

When deciding on a property—one that you and your family will call ‘home’—there are some important factors besides finance that you should keep in mind.

As a foreign-born HDB dweller, my housing decisions have been often inquired upon. With this article, I hope to shed light on why I chose a HDB flat over private property, and why Sengkang West of all the housing estates. I will also offer some friendly guidance to those also looking to make Singapore their home.

Celebrations at Sengkang West. All images courtesy of Peter Breitkreutz

Celebrations at Sengkang West. All images courtesy of Peter Breitkreutz

Resale HDB: Are you qualified?


This should be the first checkpoint for non-Singaporeans deciding between HDBs and private properties. For those considering resale HDBs in particular, there are quite a few eligibility conditions and legalities you should take note of beforehand. For instance, resale HDB buyers have to be Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents, or have at least one such listed occupant. In terms of regulations, there is one rule widely covered in recent news: you must sell off any private property you already own within six months of purchasing a resale flat. More information can be easily found on the HDB InfoWEB.

Unless you meet the stated criteria, your best bet is private property. In case anyone was wondering, PRs are not eligible to purchase new HDBs.

Condominiums: Are you sure?


Why not a condo, you ask? Very good question!

When we first moved to Singapore sans PR status, we did not want to do the stereotypical expat thing and move into predominantly foreign communities. After spending some time searching for the right location, we thought we couldn’t get any more ‘heartlander’ than moving to Woodlands, the northern-most part of the island.

However, we failed to realise that moving into a rental condominium still meant that we ended up surrounding ourselves with a non-local community. Additionally, security guards and boom gates ensured that we were practically locking ourselves out of the community, and the community out of our lives.

Sure, the facilities (pool, gymnasium, function rooms) and privacy that come with condominiums are attractive. But the security measures, in particular, did little to make us feel safer in a country that already boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Neither was it helpful in integrating us into the community we so desperately wanted to belong to. It felt almost like we were on an extended business trip at a resort; definitely not like a place I’d call home.

After a few years there we decided to explore our options, this time deciding not to rent. The dramatically fluctuating rental market then affirmed our decision, but it was not our main motivation. It dawned on us that to really integrate and root ourselves, boots and all, in Singapore for the long term, we needed to stop living the ‘pretend heartlands’ lifestyle. Even now, we still hold the belief that rent money is dead money when it comes to planning for our future in Singapore.

This decision then led us to the resale HDB option.

We soon realised that many five-room HDB flats (or ‘three-bedroom’ in foreigner speak) were larger than modern condominiums, and the newer HDB buildings and estates were styled similar to condominiums. New HDBs were taller, with fewer flats per floor, an elevator at every level and actual hallways within the flats!

Our current apartment has 22 floors with only four ‘point blocks’ on every level. It has a layout and style similar to our former private home, but with more area and a lovely view. Of course, the difference was the lack of private pool and security.

Sengkang West HDB flat

Sengkang West HDB flat

HDBs: a golden opportunity for integration


If not for living in an HDB estate, we never would have gotten the chance to serve the community.Joining a local grassroots organization not only satiated my passion for charity work, but also afforded us a key opportunity to know and befriend those in our community. Another step towards integration in our new country!

I am now a grassroots leader and member of the Anchorvale Community Club Management Committee, with a community network that now stretches across Sengkang West. We are proud to be part of a strongly bonded community, where it is very rare to visit neighbourhood shops and eating places without running into people we know. We now treat our neighbours like family, and vice versa!

I think such a deep integration at the grassroots level is not impossible should we have opted for yet another private property, but I am sure it would have been much more difficult.

A family carnival at the HDB heartlands makes a good opportunity to get to know neighbours

A family carnival at the HDB heartlands makes a good opportunity to get to know neighbours

Sengkang West: Who are the people in your neighbourhood?

As a young family with two ickle boys, we fit in quite well in Sengkang West, which was then (and is still considered) a relatively new and developing part of Singapore. We have seen so many new buildings sprouting up over the years, and practically grew up with this estate.

Furthermore, as we are still considered a foreign family, joining a blossoming community instead of a mature estate was in hindsight also made it a little easier for us to cultivate a sense of belonging.

Family time at the park

Family time at the park

HDB for the long haul


When it comes to deciding between HDBs and private apartments, it’s all about your personal motivations and your desired lifestyle in Singapore.

For us, we wanted our locally born children to be completely immersed in the culture of their birth country. Our elder boy now attends a kindergarten near our home, swimming classes at the public sports complex, and art classes at the local Zone E RC office. His best friends are Singaporeans too. By living in the HDB heartlands, we plan to eventually enroll him and his brother in a local school.

We would not dream of giving up our HDB lifestyle in a million years.

Meeting Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Meeting Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong

So if you’re looking to truly make Singapore your home, I think the answer is a no-brainer: move out of the expat comfort zones and into the HDB heartlands. It’s a decision that has fulfilled my life; I am certain yours will be too.

Key Learnings – SG Immigration No U-Turn Policy – Travellers Take Note!

By , March 31, 2012 8:42 pm

Source: Aussie Pete Legacy Blog

icalogo01As a partner to MICA (ministry of communications and the arts) to promote Singapore to foreigners and locals alike, as a great place to work, live, study and play, I find it unfortunate and disappointing to write the following article.

As the saying goes – “We are never too old to learn”… after 7-years living in Singapore, I learned something new a few weekends ago… the policy that is known as a ‘U-turn’ within the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority. Boy oh boy, did this cause my family and I some grief. 🙁

nouturn01Firstly, I want to make it completely clear that I have no qualms or complaints about the policies, rules, regulations or laws with respect to Singapore Immigration. In fact, I have always been (and continue to be) a proponent of the laws set forth… the last thing we would ever do as a PR family, would be to try and break or bend any regulations (this doesn’t mean I fully understand the reasoning behind certain policies).

Here’s the background… my wife’s ageing, retired parents have come to Singapore to spend time with their grandchildren, who were both born here in Singapore. Prior to departure from Shanghai a few weeks ago, they applied through the appropriate channels and received a multiple entry tourist visa to Singapore, valid for 12-months – at time of application and as a part of the process, they were required to submit a copy of their flight details and itinerary indicating the time and date of their return flight to China.

We were obviously aware before their vacation, that the social visit pass that would be endorsed in their passports upon arrival should allow them to stay for 30-days. Given that it was also their desire to visit surrounding areas (Malaysia and Indonesia), they ensured that they also attained any necessary further visas for travel (eg. single entry visa to Malaysia). Taking into consideration all of the above, I contacted ICA to determine whether or not an application for extension of social visit pass (short term) or an application for long-term social visit pass would be required – to date, I have still not had a response to this query.

batamferrymapSo here’s what happened… my in-laws decided that for their first trip to surrounding areas, they would like to visit the Indonesian island of Batam (just around 40-minute ferry ride from the terminal at Tanah Merah and to the south of Singapore). We booked in for a 2D/1N stay at the Turi Beach Resort, packed up the kids and all six of us checked in at the ferry terminal early on Saturday morning.

Knowing full well that my in-laws had a valid multiple entry visa to Singapore and Indonesia would issue a visa upon arrival, I made sure that we carried all associated paperwork (including air tickets back to China that they used when applying for their SG visas) with us to avoid any unnecessary delays or concerns over the travel plans and my in-laws’ intentions around their stay in Singapore.

Given that we would be leaving the shores of Singapore through immigration and returning again later the following day, my assumption was that my in-laws would be ‘stamped out’ and then a new social visit pass would be chopped in their passport when we arrived back on shore.

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Herein lies the lesson!! I know, I know… ASSUME = ASS, U and ME… for any person travelling out of Singapore and returning within 5-days, it is considered by immigration officers as a ‘U-Turn’ and is not the appropriate process to follow when renewing or extending the social visit pass.

As mentioned in my opening comments, I have absolutely no problems with the rules. My main issue is that we had never been made aware of this ‘U-Turn’ policy. Even after reaching out to ICA and receiving no response, we had been completely transparent with our intentions and had no underlying motives or hidden agendas around the grandparents of my children visiting and staying with us for vacation. We carried with us all original documentation – visas, itineraries, airline tickets, etc, etc.

My secondary issue – and my biggest concern – was the treatment that my ageing mother-in-law received at the hands of a particular angry lady at the border when we were exiting Singapore. I still have no idea who she was or what her position is (although I am assuming some kind of supervisory role), as I had asked for her name and designation, which she refused to provide me.

bully01The incident left my mother-in-law short of breath, shaking uncontrollably and on the verge of fainting. This ICA officer threatened that there was a chance that she could be sent back to China within 24-hours upon her return to Singapore. This, regardless of the fact that she was in possession of a valid multiple-entry visa and supporting documents, and the more personal and sensitive situation, that she was travelling with her family – her husband, also travelling under the exact same circumstances who had been cleared by the same officer just minutes before with no concern, her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren (all Singapore permanent residents). The bullying tactics should never have occurred in this situation, in my opinion.

I clearly understand that the Immigration officers have a very important job to do, and they are doing an excellent job of protecting our borders. However, when it comes to dealing with law-abiding people who are doing nothing but enjoying time with their families and have clearly done everything possible to offer transparency and follow all the rules and laws, there should definitely be some form of decorum, respect, or even downright good-nature. I was trying to discuss the situation with the officer (supervisor?) to explain what we were doing and that we had already reached out to ICA. She was clearly not listening to me and was intent on being arrogant and wielding her authority – to the point that it made this elderly traveler (my wife’s mother) extremely distressed… it’s important to note that the dialog and threats of 24-hour return to China (not sure if it’s considered ‘deportation’?) was not immediately understood as the entire discussion was in English language, of which my mother-in-law has very little understanding… this just added to her distress.

This all occurred before we even boarded the ferry to Batam – not an ideal way to begin a vacation right?

Determined not to let the departure incident ruin our vacation, we still did our best to enjoy the fun in the sun

Determined not to let the departure incident ruin our vacation, we still did our best to enjoy the fun in the sun

So the question remains, dear readers…. What happened when we returned to Singapore?? I‘m glad you asked!! 🙂

Thankfully, we were served by a much more considerate and understanding young guy in immigration who was pleasant and explained clearly the U-Turn policy.

When we approached the counter, another immigration officer who had witnessed the incident the day before, advised the guy that served us to check for this ‘U-Turn’ for my wife’s parents. Our counter was very quickly attended by another ‘supervisor’ to oversee the interaction. Once again, this lady was extremely professional and courteous in her manner… she supported the officer’s explanation that in and out of Singapore within 24-hours is not considered appropriate process to extend a short term social visit (minimum of 3-days out of the country is required – which I’ve later discovered is incorrect… the required length of time out of SG is 5 days), and if my in-laws wished to extend in the future, it should be done through the ICA head office (the same office which previously – seemingly – ignored my enquiry on this matter).

I am extremely grateful to the officer and his supervisor who attended to us upon our return. They were very approachable and understanding and resolved the situation kindly and amicably… the rude, arrogant lady from the previous day could take some lessons from their attitude and demeanor. Like I said, I know that she was doing her job and I am thankful for ICA keeping Singapore safe, but scaring the hell out of elderly people visiting their grandchildren who were born and living in Singapore using intimidation tactics is unacceptable in my books.

So there you go – after much searching, I have not found any information on the ICA website about this U-Turn policy, nor can I find any documentation to state that such practice is unacceptable (even though we were clearly completely transparent about our intentions, up to and including trying to seek information directly from ICA in advance). I did however, learn that by applying through the X-tend online short-term social visit portal, it does state that five days is required out of the country for ICA not to consider the departure as an extension to the current visit.

questionmarkIn conclusion, I have a few ‘rhetorical’ questions (not actually looking for answers – just wondering, really):

1 – Should ICA make it clear to all visitors (on their visitors section of their website) about the U-Turn policy?

2 – Why would a multiple-entry visa to Singapore be issued to travelers in the above situation?

3 – Why is there a separate process outside of visa issuance for short-term social visit pass (that is, when I receive a multiple entry visa for travel to China, the rules are very simple and clear – it is a condition of the visa that I can stay for a maximum of 30-days at any one time – regardless of how often I travel in and out of China on this visa – no separate visit pass is required)?

4 – Given that it is at the discretion of the officer serving you at the border how long he or she should endorse your passport for the social visit visa, should there be some kind of transparency to the public around how such determination would be made (as opposed to intimidating departing travelers just because maybe the officer in question might be having a bad day)?

5 – I am aware of travel packages to Singapore out of China, which include 1 or 2 day visits to surrounding areas. How do these travel agents get around the U-Turn policy, I wonder?

6 – Should the determination on extension of visit visas include some assessment of the family status and intentions of the visitors – that is, some kind of case-by-case compassion analysis?

More fun in the sun on Batam Island

More fun in the sun on Batam Island

A serious thank you again to the Immigration and Checkpoints of Authority of Singapore (ICA). Ultimately and overall, they are doing a fantastic job and deserve the full respect of all Singaporeans, PRs and Visitors.

Update: after application via ICA’s online X-tend website, extension of the short term visit passes has been rejected (with no right to reply or appeals process) and my in-laws have paid the financial and emotional penalty of changing their flights and will be departing Singapore next week.

To view all of the Batam photos in this series, click here!

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An Active Lifestyle – Fun For The Whole Family!

By , August 8, 2011 12:51 am

In Singapore where a very high work ethic is essential, having a couple of young boys can ensure that my whole family always stays active.

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Whether it’s the extended office hours, making sure I keep up my work-out time at the gym, running around for various engagements as a celebrity blogger, keeping on top of blogs, freelance article writing and other online projects, taking the kids for exercise in the park, or just generally chasing after a (sometimes ‘hyper’?) active 4-year old, it’s no wonder I don’t usually get to sleep before 4am on weeknights.

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This means I usually average just 3 or 4 hours sleep every night of the week (except Friday nights when I am rewarded with a sleep-in on Saturday mornings).

Many of my friends and colleagues ask me how I keep up with such an active lifestyle, and I’d love to say that it’s all as a result of constant motivation – but that would really be a lie… although I do get a buzz out of a lot of things that I take part in and am very passionate about most of them, I do actually often feel a sense of obligation to many people which can sometimes become overwhelming. I have high expectations of myself and my outputs, and I personally feel down if I don’t meet commitments that I’ve made to others. This is both a good and a bad thing, I suspect.

So here’s a tip for all of my readers – forget the high doses of caffeine or so-called ‘energy drinks’ packing large taurine kicks. I grew up drinking a simple but effective energy-booster known the world over, and I still stand by this today – a beverage well-known to all Singaporeans… none other than MILO!!

When I decided to write this article, I did a little research and found out the secret behind the ingredients and why it’s been packing punch with so many generations in so many countries for so many years.

Did you know for example, that the key ingredient, barley, has more nutritional value than other simple and common carbohydrate sources such as rice or wheat? Hulled barley, for instance, is a particularly rich source of dietary fibre and vitamin B.

I have also learned that the marketers of this product got the name right all those years ago – The name MILO was based on a Greek mythical character MILON, who was known for his STRENGTH!!

Mythological Milon:

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Modern Day Milon:

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Recently, a friend put me on to some Milo products that I was not aware of… of course, I always have the good ol’ tin waiting for me in my pantry, but did you know that there are other ways of boosting the daily energy with this product?

miloeasycool

For example, if you haven’t tried them yet, check out the Milo power bar or (now this is really ‘cool’ – pardon the pun) Milo Easy Cool… you can make it using cold water instead of hot! I downed a couple of glasses of this just before I ran up the stairs of Millenia Tower in Singapore’s financial district last week as part of the ‘Vertical Challenge’ to raise money for charity.

verticalchallenge01

All of my family enjoys staying active and healthy together – I strongly recommend that you do the same… turning an exercise commitment into family fun will ensure that it never feels like an obligation, rather quality time that can never be replaced! 🙂

activefamily

2011 CNY – Another Year of the Pig?

By , February 3, 2011 9:35 pm

CNY Portrait

Of course, everybody knows that we are now in the Year of the Rabbit… but if you take note of what I’ve been eating over the last week in Shanghai, you would be forgiven for thinking that I should be back in 2007… the Year of the Pig (because I’ve been gorging myself like an absolute swine)!!

Year of the RabbitI’m putting any weight gain down to the slower metabolism due to the cold weather up here north of the equator… the day we arrived it was -3C with a little snow. Although I do know that the activities we partake in during the festive season are probably large contributors to the shift in belly circumference… here in China during Lunar New Year, it’s nothing but Eat… Play… Sleep… Eat… Play… Sleep (*repeat*) 🙁

Anyway, just for a quick update on the activities so far, here are a few of the highlights:

1. Dinner with the immediate family

[Click here for the full gallery from the evening]

[And Here for Part 2]

CNY Family Dinner

CNY Family Dinner

2. Official Studio Photo Shoot for the two boys

[Click here for the full gallery from Casey’s Photo Shoot]

Casey Photo Shoot

[Click here for the full gallery from Jaime’s Photo Shoot]

Jaime Photo Shoot

3. Sammi’s (First) 2011 Birthday Dinner – Another much larger one planned tomorrow lunch and dinner with extended family

[Click here for the full gallery from Sammi’s First Birthday Dinner]

Sammi First Birthday Dinner

Sammi First Birthday Dinner

4. Bringing in the New Year and Wishing for Longevity and Prosperity through Fire Works

[Click here for the full gallery from CNY Eve Fireworks]

CNY Fireworks

CNY Fireworks

So there you go (for now)… stay tuned for more updates!!

Hidden Culinary Gem – Mimo Bar and Kitchen

By , January 26, 2011 3:01 am

rainforest-streamSome years ago, I lived on a hobby farm at Mt Tambourine in the Gold Coast Hinterland (Qld, Australia). Situated on eight acres and surrounded by natural rainforest, it was an idyllic location with awesome tranquility.

On Friday night just gone by, I had a Déjà vu moment… yes, right here in Singapore!! Heading out along Eng Neo Avenue then towards Turf City, we ventured up a side street (Fairways Drive) toward the Saddle Club. Immediately we were transported away from the hustle and bustle and found ourselves surrounded by natural forest interspersed with open paddocks… before travelling all the way to a golf range, we turned left at the horse stables to arrive at our destination.

The reason for this trek? – we were invited by a lovely lady, Ivy Woo, to dine at the newly refurbished Mimo Kitchen and Bar – talk about getting away from the hustle and bustle!! What better way to spend a Friday evening after an intense week in the office? Back to nature!

Wine Glass

The venue is designed to cater toward family and friends, and the ‘whimsical’ designs of local artist ANTz (www.antz-gks.blogspot.com) just seem to meld into the surrounding environment and help bring the work-inspired blood pressure back down to normal levels.

The western style menu offers a great international selection of simple, hearty dishes. From breads to burger patties to cakes and tarts, everything is prepared from scratch in our kitchen… including even the breadrolls which are amazingly mouth watering!

Chef Louie Moong, a pastry and dessert chef by training, heads the team with the simple philosophy – “Cook for your guests like you would cook for your loved ones. You put your heart to it.”

So without ado, get a tissue ready to wipe the drool from your lips as I share with you the delicious and wholesome dishes in which we partook – I won’t tell you who ate what, because we were so impressed we had to share each others’ dishes to get a sample of everything that was brought to our table.

Our Appetizers:

Flower Crab and Mango Salad – S$19

Flower Crab and Mango Salad

Crab Cake – S$18

Crab Cake

Pan Seared Foie Gras – $28

Pan Seared Foie Gras

Main Courses:

Mimo Beef Burger – $28

Mimo Beef Burger

Roasted Stuffed Quail – $36

Roasted Stuffed Quail

Seabass Meuniere- $28

Seabass Meuniere

Dessert Platter – $12
(Angel Food Cake, French Apple Tart, Chocolate Melt, Pina Colada)

Dessert Platter

Jaime had “Eggy and Toasty Beans” from the Kids Menu aith a side of fries – $10

Eggy and Toasty Beans

And of course, icecream – he loved the meringue bites!!

Jaime's Ice Cream

Jaime's Meringue

Oh – did I mention that one of our waiters was ‘ELVIS’??

Elvis

So, take my advice – this is a truly hidden ‘Culinary Gem’ in an almost forgotten part of Singapore – go check it out with your family and friends…

Here are some more images of the evening, along with the stunning work and design of ANTz – for the full gallery of pictures, CLICK HERE!

Wine

Jaime Colouring

Mimo Kitchen and Bar

Mimo Kitchen and Bar

Mimo Kitchen and Bar

Mimo Kitchen and Bar

Mimo Kitchen and Bar

Mimo Kitchen and Bar

Mimo Kitchen and Bar

Mimo Kitchen and Bar

Mimo Kitchen and Bar

Mimo Kitchen and Bar

Mimo Kitchen and Bar

Mimo Kitchen and Bar

Mimo Kitchen and Bar is located at:

55 Fairways Drive, Singapore 286864

Opening Hours:

Tues – Sat, Dinner: 6pm to 11pm
Sat, Sun and Public Holidays, Brunch: 10am to 3pm

For Reservations, email enquiry@mimokitchen.com.sg

For more information on the restaurant, you can visit the website at www.mimokitchen.com.sg

Click Links for Menus

Dinner Menu

Brunch Menu

Kids Menu

You Can Take The Boy Out Of Queensland!!….

By , January 14, 2011 11:48 pm

Qld-FlagOK – you all know how the cliche finishes… “but you can’t take Queensland out of the boy”!

Never has this felt so true… watching from Singapore, the devestation, heartache and regrettable loss over past weeks (and culminating over recent days) in my beloved home State of Queensland in north eastern Australia, I have somehow managed to go about my business – but worry and concern for my family and friends, without having the ability to do anything has left me completely empty inside.

flood01

The Australia Network (Ch 403, Starhub) has been covering the disaster 24/7 and our TV has not changed channels for days… We’ve seen the entire spectrum from tragedy (like the family of three that were swept away in their house – although the mother was found clinging for her life to a tree many kilometres down-river, her school-teacher husband and their 7-year old child have still not been found… reports are that some of the still missing victims may never be found… in one case the body was found 80km from where the man was washed away)… to bravery (like the man who risked his life to run onto a railway bridge after hearing the screams of a lady clinging to the top of her car as it was catapulted towards the bridge… just a split second before the vehicle was demolished, the lady jumped into the arms of this very heroic young man)… and now to ‘true grit’ – the ‘Queensland spirit’ is a by-product of the good ‘ol ‘Aussie spirit’. We are all mates, and the strength that Queenslanders are showing in the aftermath of the disaster is a lesson for the world.

flood03

After the worry for my Mum, my brothers and my sisters, and their children has subsided, I am just so proud of everyone – my younger brother for opening and offering his house as refuge for those that needed it… my younger sister for assisting at the local school where hundreds of mattresses were to be delivered for the evacuees.

Today, I have received so many emails, calls and messages on the internet and social networking to tell me of the atmosphere – almost one of rebirth – the sun was shining, people were bbq-ing and everybody was going about the business of cleaning up (a chore that will require a sh*tload of money, and a long, long time). Of course, as is the spirit, people whose homes were not affected were out there toiling side by side with the direct victims… “Mates taking care of Mates”!! You Little Bloody Beauty!!

flood02

Yesterday, when I posted on Facebook that I was helpless to offer a hand from all the way over here in Singapore, an old mate from school (sorry to call you old, Tracey – I mean ‘a friend from years ago’) suggested that I use my blog and the widespread readership and subscription to send the message of how to donate and offer support to the victims – of course, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier – perhaps it’s just brain freeze from the mind-numbing images on TV. (or maybe it’s just brain freeze) 🙂

Anyway, that’s what I’m doing – this unprecedented disaster is going to cost billions of dollars… and I am therefore pleading to all of my faithful readers and friends to give as best you can. There are a number of avenues where this can be done, and I have listed them out below:

Lifeline Qld Flood Appeal

Australian Red Cross

Queensland Government Flood Relief Appeal

Here as some examples of just some of the comments on Facebook, which have gripped my heart and today have really made my day and reminded me that the saying is in fact true – “You can take the boy out of Queensland, but you can’t take Queensland out of the boy”!!

facebook01

facebook02

Like the slogan says – “Queensland – Beautiful One Day, Perfect The Next”… maybe not the weather these days, but definitely the people!!

Some unbelievable footage of the devestation – maybe much of it not seen here in Singapore:

[youtube HfCcvl3xv4k]

[youtube DTcKOSCHG1o]

[youtube aDip6a9kfB0]

[youtube xwDDK6JUljM]

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