Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Long Time Coming

After a great deal of anticipation, we eagerly greeted my parents, Doug and Sheila Little, on their arrival in Singapore in November, 2012.  Their trip had been a long time in the making, having been postponed by a year following the illness of my mother following her hip replacement surgery.  We were so excited to have them come and stay with us for 2 months and loved showing them around Singapore and beyond.

We spent the first few weeks they were here showing them around Singapore and visited a variety of places including Sentosa, the Marina Bay district, the Orchard Rd. shopping district, Arab Street, the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari.   They also got a chance to see a variety of school events that included some of Haylee's basketball games (she scored 18 points in one game out of a ttl. of 25 that her team scored), and her Christmas concert, where she played the trumpet.

After a few weeks exploring Singapore, they were ready to explore beyond the shores of the "Little Red Dot" and with Haylee in tow, they set sail on a high seas cruise to Langkawi and Penang, Malaysia.  During their absence they would Skype with us each night and they couldn't stop talking about what a great time they had.  It was their first cruise and they couldn't contain their excitement, so much so that I'm sure they look forward to taking another cruise some time soon.

Shortly after their return from Malaysia, we headed off for our Christmas adventure to Bali, Indonesia.  We spent 3 incredible weeks together as a family.  We spent our first week at a resort called the Grand Mirage and spent the final two weeks of our holiday in a villa.  The two places couldn't have been any different from one another with our first week spent in a popular resort area that was full of hustle and bustle while our second stay was in a place of beautiful, quiet isolation.   The combination of experiences gave us a true sense of the beauty and intrigue of Bali and had us looking forward to our return their some day.  We did a lot of great things like surfing, golfing, biking, swimming etc. and didn't want our time together to end.

But, all good things must come to an end and we eventually had to leave Bali behind. Shortly after our return to Singapore, we then had to say goodbye to Mom and Dad as they set off on the next leg of their adventure: Mexico.  In their time here I think they may have discovered that a trip to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Mexico can make the harsh Canadian winter a little more bearable and we think this may make their decision to return to Singapore some time in the future a little easier to make.  Their trip had been a long time coming, but it was well worth the wait.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Deja Vu All Over Again

In April, 2012 we returned to two of our favorite destinations. Our first trip was to Cambodia, where we had a working holiday completing our second housebuilding trip. Thanks to the generous donations of family and friends, we reached our fundraising goal of $15 000 U.S. and built 12 "houses" for some of the marginalized people of Cambodia in the remote region of Pursat province.


Travelling through rural Cambodia in April was like travelling through a dust bowl. Daytime temperatures hovered in the area of 35 degrees Celsius and rainfall had not been seen in months.

 Hard to believe that when the monsoon season begins in June, the area is regularly flooded, as the Tonle Sap Lake expands in size and its massive floodplains are covered in water. The weather phenomenon is part of the reason we are here. Many of the current dwellings are no more than huts that are only a foot or two off the ground. The houses we are building for the residents are 2 metres in the air, safely above the flood waters (although not by much). Of course, the history of the people of Cambodia and the complete destruction of their society under Pol Pot in the 1970s is the real reason why we came to help. Over 30 years later, the rebuilding of the nation continues and every little bit of effort helps.

We also returned to the PIO school, founded by CNN hero Phymean Noun and painted the newly  completed second and third stories of the school.  It's hard to believe the change that has occurred at the school in such a short time.  Just a year before, we painted the first floor of the building and thought our work was done.  What a pleasant surprise to find the size of the school has now tripled thanks to the donations of people from around the world.  Making a difference was rewarding but seeing progress over time was especially rewarding to say the least.  We definitely could see progress and it was a great thing to be apart of.

After completing our volunteer work, we spent a couple of days around Phnom Penh and checked out the sights.  A visit to the Royal Palace and shopping at the Central Market were a couple of historical highlights and we enjoyed the shopping and the restaurants.  We stayed at a beautiful villa in the heart of the city called Villa Langka and lazed by the pool each afternoon.

We returned to Singapore for 24 hours and enjoyed Easter at home.  After completing an Easter egg hunt, we enjoyed brunch, packed our bags, headed off to the airport and took off for Bali.

Bali Ha'i

We were greeted at the Grand Mirage hotel in Bali by Haylee's friend Estelle and her family who joined us for the week. As we were checking into the hotel, we looked around the lobby and both Lisa and myself recognized that the place looked strangely familiar.  And then it dawned on us.  Back in 1997-98, when we were living in Japan, we had gone on a vacation to Bali and had stayed at this very hotel.  We had long ago forgotten the name of the place and weren't entirely familiar with the location, so we were more than a little shocked to discover we had been there before.  The good news was we had fond memories of the place based on our first visit and our second stay did not disappoint.

Located on Tanjong Benoa beach in an area of Bali known as Nusa Dua, we had a wonderful time enjoying everything the resort had to offer: kayaking, windsurfing, para-sailing, jet-skis, tubing, massages, etc.

Once again, we did a bike tour through the villages near the Mt. Batur and Mt. Agung and finished up in Ubud, which is an area featured in the novel Eat, Pray, Love.

An action packed two weeks eventually came to an end and we returned to Singapore satisfied with what we had accomplished in Cambodia and well rested after our week in Bali.

Aw Kuhn Cambodia!

Terima Kasih Bali!

Thank You!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Return to Paradise

One year ago, our first trip beyond the shores of Singapore took us to Phuket, Thailand.  We enjoyed our trip so much, we knew we wanted to return for more.   So, during our recent October break, we once again visited the turquoise waters and white sandy beaches of Phuket and had an incredible time.

Phuket - The Movie Trailer

Highlights of this year's trip were numerous.  We went for a day long snorkelling trip to the world famous islands Phi Phi Islands and a day long sea kayaking adventure in Phang Nga Bay, which included trips to "James Bond" Island and Koh Panyee or "Sea Gypsy" Island.  Both of these places were featured on a recent episode of the Amazing Race.

Here's a slideshow of our trip:

Friday, October 28, 2011

A World Away

Just a short ferry ride from Singapore lie the Riau Islands of Indonesia. Two islands in particular are a favorite weekend getaway for Singaporeans. In the past month I had the opportunity to visit both.


I recently went away for a boys weekend and played some golf with a group of 9 guys from work.  We took the short 20 minute ferry to Batam where we were met by a rep from the golf course at the ferry terminal.  He took care of our golf clubs for us and quickly ushered us through security. Next thing I knew, we were on the bus and 5 minutes later we arrived at the resort.

We stayed and played at the Palm Springs Golf and Beach Resort and had our own private residence which had a games room and 12 sleeping rooms.  We spent the evening shooting cards and having a good time.

We awoke the following morning and feasted our eyes on a thing of beauty: the resort had 36 holes and was both visually stunning and challenging!

We played our first round of golf in the morning.  After lunch, we played a second round of golf and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves the whole time.

After enjoying some cold beverages on the 19th hole, we boarded the ferry and returned to Singapore.

We did a weekend worth of living in 24 hours and had a great time doing it.  Looking forward to the next trip!


The following weekend, Haylee, Lisa and myself headed to Bintan  for our annual staff getaway.  35 of us headed out for a weekend of partying, relaxing and good times. 

We stayed at the Nirwana Gardens Resort and loved the place.  The resort was a sprawling property with 4-5 different hotels, villas, beach resorts spread across the property.

The first night we met everyone poolside for dinner and enjoyed watching some Indonesian dancers while we ate.  After our meal,  the dancers brought a number of guests up to perform with them, including Haylee who did a great job of dancing.

The next day, we relaxed poolside, explored the white, sandy beaches and did a bunch of activities at the recreation centre including archery, target shooting and bungee trampoline gymnastics.

After enjoying a buffet dinner with the group, we went bowling and had a great time.

The following day we hit the beach and the pool and went back for more shooting at the range.  On top of that, Haylee went on a zip-line.   Lisa also had a nice, relaxing massage.

We crammed a lot into our weekend and enjoyed doing it and left Bintan happy, but tired. 

Both Bintan and Batam were great trips.  The islands are quite different from the hustle and bustle of Singapore and while only a short ferry trip from Singapore, they are literally a world away.

Can't wait to go back! 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

O Canada!

After a year living abroad, it was great to get back home to Canada.  Our first stop was at Mom and Dad's place in Toronto where we were greeted by Mark, Paige, Dad and Mom.  It was a tearful reunion for a number of reasons, most notably we were able to see Mom for the first time after her long and difficult stay in the hospital following her hip replacement surgery.  Mom looked great and we couldn't have been happier to see her.

After spending a couple of days in Toronto, we headed down to St. Thomas.  Haylee was excited to see her friends after a year away from home.  She wasn't disappointed in the least as she was greeted by a welcome party of her friends who had congregated at the park on Lake Margaret, near our house.

We we then headed to the Chapmans, where we stayed for about a week.  It was great to see Michelle, Doug, Brett and Abby and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with them.  We were made to feel right at home and had a great time swimming in their pool and spending time socializing with them.  What a great family.

During our stay, Haylee spent a day at Elgin Court in Robyn Walker's class.  She had a great time seeing her old friends and sharing some of her experiences with the class, like our housebuilding trip to Cambodia.

Our next adventure took us north to our cottage on Ahmic Lake.  During our first week, we were joined by Haylee's friends Jessica and Cassia and together with Haylee's cousin Paige, the girls had a great time. 

Week two was focused more on family and Haylee had a great time with Paige, Mark, G, Grampa Louchie, Aunt Frances, Uncle Tom, cousins Patrick and Sara and her cousin Frances.  After a great two week stay it was time to say goodbye to Ontario and meet up with Lisa in New Brunswick.

We were greeted at the airport in Saint John by Lisa, Kiefer, Davis and of course, Bella!  Haylee couldn't have been happier to see her cousins and her mom and was thrilled to get home to see Nanny and Grampy. 

We spent the next three weeks swimming, windsurfing, jogging, golfing and going to Zumba and boot camp.  We had a great time visiting with Robyn, Geoff and Kate Giffen and going to New River Beach.

Haylee also enjoyed the time she spent with cousins Matt, Jonathan, Calvin, Clinton  and Eilish.

Lisa's cousin Margot graciously offered to take care of Bella for the year after her brother indicated he would no longer take care of Bella.  We can't thank her enough as we were in a real jam because we couldn't take Bella to Singapore because her shots had not been kept up.

We departed Canada and returned to Singapore after a great summer and are now looking forward to our second year abroad.  The adventure continues!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

We've Been Everywhere, Man

We've had a great year abroad and have had a lot of great experiences during our time away from home.  So, here is a review of our travels in an ode to Johnny Cash.......

We've been everywhere, man.
We've been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert's bare, man.
We've breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel We've had our share, man.
We've been everywhere.

We've been to:
Saint John, Halifax, Taipei, Toronto,
Singapore, Bali, Phuket, Ontario,
Batam, Langkawi, Penang, Orlando 
St. Thomas, Tampa, Rawa, Malaysia, 
Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Bangor, Cambodia, 
Vancouver, Hong Kong, Rawa, What a thrilla.

We've been everywhere, man !

And here's what it looks like on a map......

View We've Been Everywhere, Man in a larger map

And for all the great times we've had abroad, we are now looking forward to getting home to see family and friends back in Canada.  The long journey home begins soon!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ups and Downs

Excursion Week

One of the things that separates an international school experience from a public school experience is some of the learning opportunities the students are exposed to.  Typically, in a public school students participate in occasional day trips that consolidate some form of learning that took place in the classroom.  This happens at international schools as well, but our school also has something called Excursion Week.  During the last week of April, all students from grades 4-12 participate in a week long excursion to another country to participate in unique learning opportunities.

Lisa and Haylee spent 5 days on an island in Malaysia called Pulau Besar, participating in outdoor education activities.  They participated in all kinds of activities including hiking, swimming, snorkeling, campfire building and a talent show called Da Coconut Idol.

 Haylee sang a mash-up of a bunch of different songs with her friend Estelle.  Apparently the crowd really got into their performance and was singing right along with their medley of tunes which reached reached its crescendo with Kiss' I'm Gonna Rock and Roll All Night !

I took a group of 25 grade 12 students on a 9 day community service trip to Cambodia where the students worked with a number of charities supporting some of the marginalized people in Cambodian society.

My trip to Cambodia provided so many unique experiences that I actually created an entirely separate blog to document our experiences and to communicate with parents.

View my Cambodia school blog here

Family Emergency

It's opportunities like these that made us realize what a great decision we had made in coming to live and work in Singapore.  Of course, there are pros and cons to any decision.  And as I am writing this blog. I am dealing with the downside of living a world away from family and friends.

As I was working on a housebuilding project with my students, I got a phone call from my principal, Ted Cowan, indicating my mother, Sheila had suffered some complications related to her hip replacement surgery.  After frantically calling my brother, Mark I came to learn that she suffered some heart related difficulties and has a viral heart condition known as myocarditis.  Her condition is not presently a good one and I am stuck here struggling with a sense of helplessness of being a world away and unable to help.  I will remain here for the time being supporting her through my positive thoughts and wishes and will return to Canada if necessary.

So, far all the good that has come from our overseas experience, we are now dealing with the bad.   Our only consolation is that technology has helped us to feel a little closer and we are in regular contact with family and friends at home.