Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I blew it :-(

I went shopping yesterday. I bought things I didn't need and frankly really didn't want. I had to get a new fan for the office. Living in Singapore is great, but it is hot. I try to spend the bulk of the day in my office without Aircon. But, I do need a fan. The old one (which was super cheap) lasted about 1.5 years longer than the 6 month warranty so I feel ok with that-but it wouldn't even turn on anymore. I also needed to get Declan a bigger backpack for school. That kinda ticked me off cause we got him a backpack just this summer that is still in great condition, but it is too small for his school books. Anyway, so I went to the store, and I got those.

Then, I went to my friend's store, the local scrapbook store in town. They have just opened up in thier new space, and it is all bright and shiney and flashy and I walked out with stuff I don't need. I have a scrapbook room filled with stuff I need to use, but when I see new stuff, I feel the need to buy it. Generally I just don't go down to the store very often, just to avoid tempation, but it was the grand opening you know-

Finally, I got a gelato. I spent 3 dollars on it and I took 2 bites. I realized I really didn't want it, it really wasn't that good and my butt is too big... so I trashed it. Bad waste of $ good health choice I think. So, I guess it is all about challenge eh?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sustainable Tourism in Beijing

Ok, first off. I did go shopping at Panjianyuan (The dirt market) in Beijing. I was pretty happy because I didn't feel the need to buy lots of stuff, I found a few items that I liked, were within my "budget" and would be great additions to the house for decor (as I plan on finally decorating my house soon after 7 years of living with "rented" furnishings. Anyway, I spent less than 50 US, ended up with 5 handbound silk cover photo albums with rice paper that will be Christmas gifts (ok family so you already know what it is... but what tell you see what I do with them!)

Plus, I got a leather covered box with a tray inside. This will eventually become a TV remote/TV guide box on my coffee table. Finally I got the most awesome Chairman Mao metal placard that will match my antique cultural revolution posters that I have been waiting to frame. I feel that was a pretty good score for $50.

But, let me tell you about this great thing happening at the great wall. Mr. James Spear, his wife Liang and their partner Fred He are doing good things. I really am very impressed. Jim, Fred and Liang have opened up an abandoned school house, turned it into a retreat/restaurant and will also have a glass blowing facility with a gift shop included. You can see some pictures of the facility here. It is the goal to provide work for the villagers of Mutianyu-other than selling trinkets and crap on the wall. The glass blowing facility (coupled with other plans that the group has for new facilities) will also be staff (waiters, groundskeeper, kitchen staff, Gift shop staff) all with village residents. I applaud the work of these great innovators. They want to spread by word of mouth and I will really try to tell all of the people I know about them.

So, if you are in Beijing and you want to visit the Great Wall of China, why not go to Mutianyu. Stop off at the Schoolhouse after your wall climb, grab a snack, visit the glass blowing facility and know that the money you spend will go towards a better more sustainable future for the residents of Mutianyu Village.

kudos Jim, Liang and Fred

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Needs Vs. Wants- Travel spending

I love travel. It is one of the things that really floats my boat. The ability to go to places and visit with people. The ability to see new things, meet new people, explore my world.

What I can't stand is the desire that I feel everytime to spend. When I was a backpack traveler, the desire to spend was not even there. If I bought a dress, it was handmade of batik fabric and cost 4 dollars. I wore the dress the rest of the trip. When I travel now for work, I find that the trinkets, the crap, the junk seems to be more attractive. I buy magazines at the newstand, I buy books (and while they are great reads) I don't need them.

I am traveling with the rest of the my co-workers and the shopping has been relentless. Every spare minute, they are off in the markets-shopping for stuff they don't need or really even want if they sat down and thought about it.

Declan and Kiera wanted a gift, so rather than more junk, I bought Declan and Chinese Kite and Kiera a wooden puzzle. I am going to the Dirt Market today, a famous Beijing Antique market- I am actually excited about this because I don't need anything. I want to see the antiques, dig through the stacks of stuff, all sold as a second hand flea market. And, should I buy something it is because I recognize that I want it.

More on Monday about a great sustainable tourist site I was at here in Beijing.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Singapore History in Blogs

I must be getting old. Yep, it is a fact, history now interests me. Why is it that history only tends to be something that us "old" people are fascinated with? Anyway, I should get on with the story. (Old people tend to ramble too)

I have long been a reader of Good Morning Yesterday, a great blog about growing up in Singapore when the island nation was developing into a first world power. Now, I have found a great site, thanks to a new paper article, that features even more information about the Singapore that was.

The site, Yesterday.sg has personal stories, information and Vignettes about Singapore, as it was yesterday. Great site. Worth a read!

Also a fascinating look at pictures from the 1950-60's can be found on this website. some of the pictures are from Sussex Estate, which used to be down the road from here at the corner of Clementi and Dover. I can assure you, this doesn't exist anymore and it is all HDB flats.

Another bit of Singapore history that I indulged in recently was a viewing of the movie Saint Jack. Filmed by Peter Bogdonovich in Singapore in 1978, it captured a bunch of fast disappearing images of Singapore including the Old Bugis street and the Billie boys that frequented the street as well as images of a fast moving exotic Singapore that well, simply, doesn't exist anymore. A great book about the movie (and the original book by Paul Theroux) is called "Kinda Hot". Seeing the movie was great, reading the book and getting the back story about how a movie was filmed in Singapore in just over 2 months on a budget of around 2 million dollars was fascinating. I suggest, read the book Kinda Hot first and then the movie is even better.

Friday, September 15, 2006

What is important?

So post 9-11 a bit, there are lots of things going on in my life right now. I am working full time and work is very busy. I'm trying to get some new product off the ground for Far Flung Craft, trying to work on a book deal, spending time with the kids and Jeff and getting enough of that always elusive sleep.

Yesterday Kiera had a bit of an "asthma" attack. Not super bad, but her breath was labored and she had an elevated heart rate. We had been weaning her off her daily dose of medicine with the doctors advice, but ran out of one of her two puffers. So I ran to the doctor and got a refill. She spent the day on the couch pretty punky and a bit wheezy but while she is not 100% better today, she is much better. I spent a bit of time yesterday just loving her up and recognizing how very much these kids mean to me. I guess it is not a surprise the biology takes control and you become much more attentive to the kids when they are sick. You feel the need to care for them. but, my actions yesterday always come into play when I think of the normal day and how I interact with the kids.

I am blessed I work from home, but I still have to work normal work hours. I end up on the computer from around 7:30 until 6:30 or so everyday. Some of it is like now, posting on blogs/boards, but most is work. It is better than doing the same hours out of the office, but I still wonder... what is important? The family or the work?

I love my family-but you know I really do like my job. It is what I dreamed of my whole life. Living and working overseas. Practicing international law. Cool. I get to spend a couple of minutes of almost every hour with my daughter (excepting the few hours she is in preschool) and I got to share the same with my son before he started attending school full time. That is better than a lot of working moms get, I know, but am I selfish then when Jeff comes home to send the kids out with Nancy to play so that Jeff and I can eat dinner together and watch 35 minutes of TV before they come back in and go to bed? Sometimes I think so. Should I postpone that TV/dinner time until they go to bed at 8:30? Am I rambling? Do I make sense?

Anyway, in a post 9-11 world where gunmen kill students in Canada, where Singapore has disallowed the entry of 27 delegates to the IMF/World Bank seminar, where the US war on terror has created more of a mess than it has solved, what is important in my life? Should I continue to work my ass off to make those student loan payments or should I spend more time with the kids? Should I try to pay for Declan's tuition at the American School, or let him develop in Singapore schools (albeit more slowly). Nothing but rhetorical questions here. Nothing but random thoughts.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Struggles with frugality

I struggle every day with being frugal. I have the impulse shoppers disease. Which living in place like Singapore SUCKS. If I go out, I am bombarded with shopping options. Hells Bells, the library is even located in a shopping mall. I can't get to the door of the library to borrow a book without passing through a number of stores. For the most part I try to go to my local library at Bukit Panjang, so the shopping options are reduced due to the schlock at BPP, but the fact remains that Singapore is a consumer culture.

I am currently reading about a group calling themselves the Compact. The idea is no new spending (exceptions for work, food, toiletries and the like) for one year. Interesting principle. So, holidays are homemade (purchase of craft supplies are allowed, which for me is a big NONO as I spend but don't use). The compact says no travel for pleasure (ie vacations) but the idea won't really work for us at least not yet. BUT, what reading these posts do give me is inspiration as to how to fight the shopping beast. Travel more lightly on the world, buy used rather than new, buy quality products that will last, even if the cost is a bit more.

so, I got out my Tightwad gazette and I am enjoying reading it again. Lots of great ideas, some practical, some not...I will try to post here more often with what I am doing to fight this beast.
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