Sunday, June 28, 2015

How to Get a Driving License in Singapore

i have just passed my Driving Exam a few days ago and i am feeling ecstatic! just thought i'd share my experiences, advice, thoughts and opinions about getting a driving license in Singapore (via SSDC) here in my blog.

first off, here are the steps on how to get a new Driving License in Singapore:

- first of all, you have to book for a Basic Theory Test (BTT) schedule. you will usually get a schedule that will be a month or so from the date you have decided to look for a schedule.

- after passing BTT, you can start to book for Practical Driving Lessons. and also should book the Final Theory Test (FTT). you will need to take around 25 to 30 sessions of Practical Driving Lessons, depending on how well you do on the lessons. a single session lasts for two hours at SSDC. and if you don't manage to pass the requirements of the session, you're going to have to retake it.

- and finally, you have to pass the Driving Exam after having finished all the required sessions of Practical Lessons. to pass the Driving Exam, you need to get less than 20 demerit points. and you must avoid the errors that will cause Instant Failure, such as not stopping on the stop line, crossing a double line, and not being able to do the parallel/vertical parking in time.

now, unlike the Theory Exams, which i have both aced without difficulty, the practical lessons have been really challenging for me. and here is a list of the things that made learning how to drive a complete nightmare for me:

- first of all, almost all the instructors are grumpy and impatient. and they really don't care so much at all whether you learn or not because they get paid anyway.
- it takes forever to travel from the city center where i live to the Driving Center, which is in Woodlands (the countryside). so it's always an effort for me to motivate myself to attend the lesson because i'm not really a masochistic person and i have a low tolerance for the rudeness of the instructors (and i pay 77 - 85 SGD per session booking for all this!)
- i was trying to learn to drive a manual car, which is not really as easy as an automatic one. even though most of the cars in Singapore are automatic, including the one that we have, i still need to learn to drive manual for when we go outside Singapore, particularly when we travel to, or if we ever need to go back to live in Europe
- driving a car was not a natural thing for me because i have very bad peripheral vision and i have very poor hand-eye coordination
- i am a little bit short. which makes reaching for the foot pedals not very easy. and also, when i do the parallel parking, i had to stand a bit to see through the passenger window while trying to do the clutch control... thankfully, i managed to find an instructor (towards the end of my classes) who gave me good instructions by looking at the side mirror instead of looking through the passenger window.

what advice could i give to people living in Singapore who are trying to obtain a new Driving License? below is my list:

- never make the mistake of putting up with grumpy instructors. find one that you go along with well because it's not only going to make the learning part difficult but it could also agitate and stress you while on the road, which could lead to accidents. i think it's best to be zen while driving. i have made this very expensive and regretful mistake of putting up with all the grumpy instructors who were randomly assigned to me each time i would book a practical lesson. i only realized this mistake after quite some time because i thought at first that this should be part of the training on how to be a good driver. totally not! and also, you need to pay extra cash to book an instructor. but it's totally worth it.

- wear comfortable clothes that don't restrict leg movement and best of all, wear comfortable shoes. i am so thankful i purchased a pair of foldable flat shoes that are super comfortable, it made controlling the foot pedals a lot easier. especially when you're doing two hours of parallel and vertical driving practice! it made a lot of difference.

- try to schedule your lesson dates close to each other. finish all your lessons as soon as possible. i think it goes without saying that the sooner you get it over with, the better. as for me, i had the misfortune of getting lazy halfway through my lessons. and also, there were circumstances beyond my control that made it impossible for me to have the time to take the lessons. and so, it dragged for more than a year. this is also because you have to book lessons a month in advance because the schedules get taken so fast.

- also, never give up (i know i almost did). even if you fail the Driving Exam on the first try. it just means that you're not good enough yet and you have to try harder. everything can be learned. and eventually, you will learn to drive properly. and i'm actually glad they are strict here when it comes to passing people at Driving Exams. it means they are seriously concerned for the safety of the people. because driving is no joke.

special thanks:

- to Mr. Chong Meng Leong of SSDC who managed to teach me properly how to do parallel parking when you are too short to look through the passenger window.

- to some of my thoughtful friends who kept encouraging me. and those who congratulated me. :)

- and lastly, i'm just glad i have a wonderful husband who kept on motivating me.

best of luck to those who have stumbled upon my blog and are persevering to get a Driving License! :)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Climber's Life

reunited with the wall after more than ten years

more than ten years back, i was regularly climbing walls with colleagues back in the Philippines. and i was enjoying it very much. and now, here in Singapore, i was lucky enough to have found a nice bunch of fellow wall lovers (or huggers) to go climbing with regularly.

i find this activity more physically challenging and a hundred times more fun than just plain running or swimming. also, going to the gym was never an option for me, even though we conveniently have our own one at home. i find it really boring. i hate being stuck in a crowded, air-conditioned (meaning cold) room, which is more often than not, reeking of human effluvia. no thanks!

what i love best about wall climbing is that it reminds me so much of the time when i was a kid back in the province climbing trees with my friends as a favorite pastime. i never really lost this love for tree climbing. that's why, the last time i was in Sydney, i found myself perched on one of the gorgeous old trees at Hyde Park. they were perfect for climbing!

perched on one of the huge old trees at Hyde Park, Sydney... my mini skirt did not prevent me from going at it :D

this love of trees and nature would eventually motivate me to climb mountains. and i managed to climb quite a few back in the days. my best climb ever was Mt Pulag, the tallest mountain in Luzon.

a neophyte climber finding herself on the Killer Akiki Trail on the way to the summit of Mt. Pulag

and the super best thing about climbing: the view from the top. just look at these gorgeous photos below taken from my previous travels that required climbing a certain height:

the surreal Game of Thrones-like feel of the surrounding mountains, with the whole village jutting out of the cliffs at Rocamadour, France

the rolling vineyard hills of Tuscany on the way to San Gimignano from Lucca

the view of the Hudson River from atop the Empire State Building in New York

and as Ferris Bueller would put it, everything just looks so peaceful from way up there. :)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Three Years at Being a (Not-So-Smug) Mom

my little kitten and moi
i'm not really in the habit of talking about being a mom so much as i think it bores and annoys most people. i remember back when i was single, i thought about parents, especially new parents as smug, self-righteous and overbearingly annoying especially when they are bragging about their kids and offering you unsolicited advice on how to become a good parent even when you're not even a parent yet, or have no plans of being one.

and so when i became a parent, i promised myself i wouldn't be this type of annoying person who would post plenty of their kid's pictures all over the internet and post updates about the teeniest developments on their kid's mundane existence. or swoon over the proud moments when their kids get some sort of achievement in school, etc. i promised myself i shall never become a stage mother. ever. my kid's achievements will be hers and hers alone. not mine... and definitely not to make up for my lack thereof.

but i like to be a smug parent once a year, at least on my blog, where people have a choice to be subjected to such smugness or not. :D so, here goes my annoying once-a-year blog about my not-so-smug parenting experience that i hope could be useful.

if i have any good piece of advice to share to all moms out there, it's to STOP overdoing it! there is this one famous celebrity in the Philippines who keeps saying, "benign neglect is better than malignant concern" and i'm kinda like that as a mom. i don't live my whole life for my daughter. i try to keep a balance in between caring for myself and and my family. i really don't want to lose my individuality and freedom in the process. come to think of it, this rule applies to all relationships.

parenting is one of the toughest things to do. at every stage of your child's development, you'd think that the next stage will be a lot easier than the one you are dealing with right now... but no. each stage has its own unique difficulties. but you learn a lot in the process. not just about your kid but about yourself and also about life.

also, not smothering your child and not being all over the place will let the child have some independence. letting your child do certain activities by themselves -- eating, dressing/undressing, tidying up her toys, etc -- helps to build confidence at an early age.

right now, the most challenging part for me is instilling discipline. especially since she is quite a stubborn person totally not unlike myself and my husband. stubbornness runs in the family. especially among women.

one very important thing i have learned about this special experience is to be more patient. it's really good for me because it has helped me to deal with adult people also who have the propensity to be juvenile and childish.

despite the hardships, i find parenting to be so much more rewarding than i ever would have thought or imagined. it is not really for everybody. back then, i did not even know that it is something to which my very limited faculties and capabilities could actually even hope to endeavor someday... but here we are. and we make the most and the best out of it.

the love between a child and a parent, i would say, is the purest one of all. and that receiving your child's love is the ultimate rewarding experience you'll ever get in this life. i'd say you haven't really experienced true love at all until you become a parent... and that's just about the smuggest thing i could ever say about being a parent so i will end this blog right now. :D

oh wait, i have one more coming -- best of all it has unbelievably made me want to be a better person, and to be a good role model for the first time in my life! (that's really the last bit!)

happy Mother's Month to all the mothers and mother figures out there!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Dangers of the Digital Now

i am one of the very few people i know who are always reluctant about fully succumbing to the lure of digital technology despite being exposed to it a lot at work. i mean, i only got my own cell phone years after everybody else has been already addicted to texting. and every time i get one, i never get tempted to buy the latest one. i've only had four cell phones since 2001. the longest time i have owned a phone is six years. and i rarely even used it. i would leave it at home most of the time... until it has become impossible to leave cell phones at home recently (it happened to me with the advent of phone cameras). and so, i started bringing it with me everywhere, but i would always keep it on silent and limit its use to the phone cam and keeping in touch with faraway family and friends and having a few useful apps.

to be honest, i never liked cell phones. it's because you have no excuse to be unavailable. we cannot possibly be available all the time. there should be certain times when you should be logged off from everything else and take special quiet time on your own.

i have come across this video from TED about how time is being cannibalized, fragmented and warped in the digital age. what i think it is saying is that humans, unlike machines are not designed to be ubiquitous and omnipresent. we have a past, present and future. we have these timelines. but the computer does not have this. with computers, time is fluid and flows in all directions. it's making it difficult for us to set priorities and to live in the moment and make every bit of that moment count. instead, we get distracted all the time. i for one, cannot keep my attention too long on a certain piece of literature. i keep jumping in-between browser tabs on my laptop, while browsing facebook and uploading images on instagram and sending messages on viber and whatsapp... phew! and i get lost in all these distractions that i barely notice my daughter anymore or pay attention to my husband when he's trying to talk to me...

i think what's really important is that we keep in mind that everything that is important to us -- family, friends, occasions, work, goals -- deserve meaningful time and attention. not a virtual one, but a real one.

lately, a lot of people are confusing virtual space and time where you exchange likes and empty comments as real-life conversation and meaningful exchange... what a sad world it will be if more and more people will be like this. i mean, how can you connect a meaningful memory over a facebook like or comment? we don't map meaningful life experiences and exchanges in our brain this way. meaningful exchanges are supposed to be multi-sensory -- there has to be music in the background, a mood in the surrounding ambience, some touching, laughter that you can see and hear... we associate meaningful experiences with not just the sights but also the sound and the smell and the mood of the moment... and this does not, and never shall exist on cyberspace.

i feel sorry for people who cannot distinguish real life over virtual reality -- their involvement unsympathetic, their attention myopic and their capacity to give and receive real love and affection borders on fantasy and make-believe without most of them realizing it... i hope it's not too late for them to get back in touch with the real world where humanity exists... which is right here and right now.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Nepal of 2011

it was very shocking to hear the news about the recent earthquake in Nepal. especially since it is one of my well-cherished traveled places.

what makes it even more memorable is the fact that it was the last country i visited before i got married back in 2011. my soon-to-be-husband then and i went there as a last-minute resort, originally planning to go to Japan for hanami (cherry blossom season). unfortunately, tsunami struck right about the time when we were about to go there. it's a good thing that it happened before and not after or possibly even, while we would have been there.

this blog post is a tribute to the Old Nepal, with all the ancient architecture of its countless temples in all its awe-inspiring glory. let's take a time to reminisce with some of my old photographs...

The Boudnath stupa in Swayambunath temple of Kathmandu

Durbar Square

the unforgettable experience of paragliding off the cliff of Mt Sarangkot in Pokhara, with the view of the Annapurna's peaks and the lovely lake below

the placid lake of Phewa in Pokhara

marveling at the magnificence of the frozen tips of the Annapurna... it was my first time to take a glimpse of ice-capped mountains, having lived in the tropics most of my life

this trip was definitely one of my wishes coming true. interestingly enough, i made a lot of wishes on countless temple bells during this trip, as evidenced in this video:

right now, i am making another wish. i wish that this country will be able to step out of the rubbles from the recent disaster that struck them, and rebuild their city back into what it once was -- a marvel of old world architecture amid the rugged beauty of nature.

meanwhile, we can also do more than just wishing, in order to help. for those who are interested, here is a link to the Red Cross Earthquake Relief for Nepal.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Festive Lemon Pound Cake

for my daughter's birthday this year, i decided to make a lemon cake. i'm very partial to lemon. i just love its clean sweet smell and tangy acid taste. in french, they would call any sweet stuff with a citrusy flavor, acidulé. i really like this term. it makes the flavor sound even nicer and tempting to taste.

i found this very simple, fuss-free recipe on the internet that i just watched a few hours before the party itself. how very convenient it is nowadays to learn anything at the tip of your fingers and at the convenience of your own home. the internet is really good for this.

my daughter, all excited to watch and mess with the ingredients (very simple ones, mind you) on the kitchen counter

doing a recap on the internet tutorial for the lemon cake, just to be sure i followed the exact measurements (this is very important in baking) and exact batter consistency

twenty or so minutes later, i have this perfection!.. it smelled and looked delicious! :)

i decided to make my own personal touch with these candy sprinkles to make the cake look more festive and tempting enough to eat for the kids and kids at heart! :) and of course, i spilled it all over the place. :D

et voila!.. all gone (almost!) in a few minutes after the candles were lit and blown.

there was a tiny morsel left over the next day. i had it for breakfast and it was even more delicious than when it was just off the oven. it was perfectly moist and not very sweet at all. and it was such a hit with tea or coffee. it was a lovely and simple cake. so easy to make yet unbelievably delicious. :)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Weekend in Maldives

this year, i decided to do a series of trips to some of the low-lying lands on the planet that most environmentalists claim to be in danger of being submerged in the not-so-distant future. i really do hope these people are wrong, but either way, these places are truly worth visiting. I won't be revealing all the places in my list, but i will definitely write about them after my visit. and it just so happened that i have recently visited one a few days ago.

first on my list is The Maldives. i must say that this place has been one of the top ten places i've always wanted to visit in my life for the longest time.

here are some of the highlights of our trip:

The gorgeous view of the islands from up above:

The Maldives look like a beautiful abstract painting from above. can't wait to land on one of those lovely blue dots! :)

about to land in Male

my last view of Maldives on the way back to SG

The perfect hotel for the family:

happy to be on  holiday

i love our ocean facing villa with this hammock to relax in

nice clean room with soothing colors

One of the most perfect beaches I have ever seen:

i've never seen pink reflections on water before, with the most varied shades of blue

tropical garden

is this a crane? i thought at first it wasn't real because it was not moving so much :D

model-modelan with my Victoria's Secret swim top and sarong from Bohol which is more than ten years old (would you believe?)

Lots of fun activities at the resort's Kids Club:

fun activities at the kids club

weekend party for the kids

at the fishing boat

Some of the most gorgeous sunsets and surises ever:

the view from the bar

moonlit cocktail

beautiful, unfiltered, unphotoshopped early morning light

And my most favorite part: enjoying the view of the baby sharks wading along the shallow waters first thing in the morning (i edited the video to make it a bit slow-mo because it was actually swimming very fast):

although, we chose to go to a resort, Holiday Inn, Kandooma Island (read my reviews here) that offers a lot of activities for the kids, hubby and i also managed to have some time to ourselves. the Kids Club at the resort was a convenient place to care for kids. and she was happy to play and paint and run around with the other kids there, which was good for us.

i for one, tried the yoga, which was really good. and hubby and i did some snorkeling to see the turtles. and on our second to the last day, we did some fishing with the little one.

the only disappointing part about the trip was that the corals were not as colorful as the ones in Palawan. maybe if you go diving or go to the other parts of Maldives, the corals wouldn't be as bleached as the ones in the South Atoll. and also, be prepared to spend lots of $$$ for this trip because this is The Maldives!

hope you enjoyed reading my little travel update. cheers and have a good week! :)