Thursday, 20 November 2014

It's a Dog's Life

The Sentosa Fairy
Online forums can provide an amazingly amount of help for cruisers and expats alike. The Grenada Cruisers Facebook page, the similar ones for other areas of the Caribbean proved invaluable when trying to source a spare part or an odd foodie item. During my initial weeks in Dubai I found the help and support from the ladies of the Expat Woman forum invaluable for locating items and services in a new and very big city.  And here in Singapore there are several such forums mostly aimed at expat mums some open some not but all usually a cornucopia of local knowledge.

However sometimes the casual browser whiling away a few idle moments (Who am I kidding? I can waste a whole couple of hours before breakfast unless I keep my FB habit in check) I find the responses to someone else's odd problem serves mostly to entertain or worse annoy. I now studiously avoid threads on "helpers" as few expats seem to realise they are employers and their paid servant is not supposed to dictate the terms of the relationship or it will end in tears usually those of the sad momma with a sweet baby who can't say no to her wilful maid. My sympathy lies actually with the employees, women who leave their young family many miles away to earn a little extra to put their children through school but find themselves in debt to the agent who arranged their flights, work passes and employment. They work six days a week, cleaning, cooking and childminding and are expected to sleep in the tiny bombshelter or on the wet kitchen floor. Keeping in the background, unseen by visitors yet blamed for the slightest sign that the hostess may have fallen short in terms of dust, plumped up cushions or supplies of coffee and biscuits. Rant over and anyway I have digressed.

Some threads however have me laughing out loud - the original question may be serious enough, though sometimes I wonder if the poster is really pulling the forum members' collective leg. However the responses even allowing for the fact that for many expats English is a foreign language, set me giggling - do people actually ever read back what they've typed before pressing "post" or realise they can edit their faux pas?  So for your delictation and delight here are the highlights from a recent doggy tale... I have removed names protect the innocent but the texts are the contributors' own and I've refrained from any (scarky) comments until almost the end:

"Good morning ladies, my golden retriever has been visiting the vet for her skin problems for the last few weeks. Whenever she finished her medication, she starts to scratch herself again and her skin seems red. We have stopped chicken in her diet, only salmon dry food for breakfast and fresh apples, fresh minced beef with sweet potatoes for dinner. Is there something I must avoid? Any advise? Many thanks."

A: Don't wash her, there has been a lot of discussion about this before I'll try and find the link.
A: Sorry can't get link to go in here, likely a yeast infection and sweat, if wash too often dogs own oils don't work, if going to wash use tea tree oil based product rather than oatmeal stuff, if you do a search on the forum for dog and yeast the thread will come up with everyone's advice

B:  Try getting her to eat raw papaya, it helped my boxer a bit. Agree re the washing. Keeping her cool is another good thing. Good luck. X

C:  Our lab eats only fish & salmon based food. Try one with less ingredients maybe. Maybe skip the beef for a few days and see if that helps.

D: Yes too much washing will further deplete the natural oils and contribute to discomfort and infection in dry patches.

 E: Hi there our darling weimanara got to the stage where he started getting bald patches and was bleeding. It broke my heart.We did everything vets told us including diet of frogs and yam and steroids and nation prices and shampoos etc. nothing helped!!!He went to my friends for 3 weeks and came back cured including hair grew back. We stopped all medication except for Zyrtec when gardeners . My friend used Johnson's baby shampoo so we have continued that and continued to feed same as she did ie chicken and rice with carrots onions and garlic and purina dry food.

F: It seems a lot of dogs have this issue here. Look into "Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Natural Health for Cats and Dogs". Your dogs immune system is down due to steroids or antibiotics. His book includes recipes and suggestion for vitamins including vitamin C which helps with skin issues

G:  We changed our dogs to a vegan food and the difference has been amazing.

H: It must be the food. There is something you give her that she does react on. My sister had it and she is just giving her dog now a special food. If you want me to ask her I can do it later in the day.
I: Countless dog owners have developed the same problem since moving here. It's really odd to think that every dog all of a sudden became allergic to dog food after they arrived?... Living in the states my dog ate everything!! Having said that, we do feed my dog a fish based dog food now and give her fish oil and it does seems to help. I think the humidity really takes a toll on the dogs skin. Best of luck to you.... Been there!!

J: Avoid anything sweet...

K: I've read a lot that beef is also a well known pet allergy food...I would try eliminating that..and either choose a limited ingredient kibble or start home cooking to see what works......

L:  My dog suffered for a long time with skin allergies here so I had him blood tested at the vet for what not to feed him. They sent the blood to the US for testing. So are years of feeding him chicken turns out he was allergic to it and lamb. But I do believe the climate here has a lot to do with it also as he never had a problem until moving here.

OP:  No [K], no grains, no meat or poultry content, no artificial ingredients.

[ED: so just what are you feeding your poor dog on then - cabbage? Ah no I seem to recall you listed apples, salmon, minced beef and sweet potatoes...]

M: My cat(!) has the same issues and apparently she is allergic to protein. You can buy special food for them but very expensive as well... Of course...

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Moving In

The Alexandra Canal alongside our complex -
muddy cos its been partly drained
for work downstream
 Friday 31 October 2014, hard to believe that almost a year since our eventful voyage from Morocco to the Canaries Temptress’ crew is the other side of the planet signing for the keys to our new home for the next couple of years. Some things however don’t change; some of you may recall during our time in Dubai the hot rain in the master bathroom in the middle of the night due to a burst water heater and the massive laundry cupboard flood. True to form, here the kitchen water heater unused for several months and turned on to test it worked, sprung a leak whilst the paperwork was being completed! Over the next couple of days we realised that the previous tenants had also not reported a leak from a loo cistern, another from under the washing machine and yet more from both kitchen sink wastes. Our snagging list grew rapidly longer as it also included the AC which quite patently had not been serviced as per our request, three electric sockets that have no power (not a great loss as they are in abundance) together with several blown light bulbs out of reach of a 5 ft 8 in human standing on the tallest thing available a dining chair!

Back to that Friday morning…the building management team arrived with a stepladder and turned off the water supply, just as in the Middle East each bathroom and kitchen has its own water heater tucked away in the ceiling space. Our kitchen heater is above the laundry area which is a sort of balcony beyond the kitchen door giving access to most of the apartments AC units. I mopped up the mess with an old towel. The recently painted ceiling didn’t look too bad but the light fitting was full of rusty water. In the afternoon Sam the local plumber came to review the problem, he’d order a new heater on Monday and turned up smiling the following Thursday with his assistant to install the replacement and seal around the leaking toilet. He plans to come again to replace both a cracked loo seat and the kitchen sink unit once he has sourced similar sized ones.
You won't get lost on this canal path
(properly called a PCN route - Park Connector Network)

Triangular flats
I suppose this was the best shape they could squeeze in!

The upper canal is covered

Monday was pretty busy with various tradesmen coming and going; City Gas to turn on and check the supply to our amazing 5 burner hob. Apparently Singaporeans prefer gas as it is much easier to control when stir frying; most of the local cooking is in the Malay or Chinese style ie rapidly fried or steamed. The central burner is a long oblong one - I have yet to work out its purpose but we have one large burner with supports designed to securely hold a large wok and three others of a more European style. The gas is fierce I’ve mostly been using it turned down low. As the gas man left Garry arrived to install our Starhub boxes for TV, landline and wifi – he is a 3rd party contractor who makes a living from the fact that Starhub themselves cannot cope with the number of connection requests they have each week. Before he’d finished, the AC guy turned up and then disappeared – I eventually realised that this apartment has another AC ledge outside one of the master ensuite windows accessible only via a step ladder! The AC service was only partly completed. The units that were cleaned and re-gased now work perfectly but the main living room unit needs a “chemical clean ma’am” for which building management have to provide permission so it is still on the to do list a week later! Not a problem as during the day we mostly have all the doors and windows open like the majority of our neighbours to induce a cool breeze through the place. The only issue is in the evenings when the breeze drops away and the humidity rises or when a thunderstorm comes through with its gusty winds requiring us to shut every utside door and window as it drives the heavy rain hard against the building.

The covered area is a wetland that
forms a filter system - eventually we drink this
water from Marina Bay Reservoir by the coast

Spot the turtles

A pretty and quiet garden
Tuesday morning the new bed arrived so we now have a double bed as requested in our guest bedroom. The LOI process seems to work! The flat itself is sparsely furnished. Our spacious entrance hall cum dining cum living room contains the essential shoe cupboard as it is etiquette here to remove ones footwear before entering an apartment (most of our neighbour have shoes littered across their front step in the evenings), a dining table with 6 chairs, one huge white leather L-shaped sofa, a coffee table and a TV unit; all except the sofa well used dark stained IKEA offerings. In the bedrooms apart from the beds there is a single office swivel chair, a desk cum dressing table, a narrow book shelf a chest of drawers and a single wardrobe again all IKEA but this time in a beech type finish! Both bedrooms also have a range of fitted wardrobes. Until our other two suitcases arrive in Singapore later this month (as of this morning the ship carrying them was entering the Straits of Gibraltar) we have only the few clothes we could squeeze into two sailing bags and a suitcase!

One of our first purchases will be some rugs in attempt to deaden some of the echo-iness of the place as well as add some colour to our black and white existence. With high ceilings and marble flooring in the living areas any conversation or TV noise seems to reverberate around the place. Both bedrooms have gorgeous honey coloured solid hard wood floors referred to as parquet but closer in appearance to the engineered wood flooring popular in the UK rather than the herring bone pattern most Brits think of as parquet. All easy to clean but not good acoustically!

The Blue Mosque
- not as big as the Istanbul one but very pretty

Queenstown School

Lots of explanatory signs along the route
Queenstown had the first social housing (HDB flats),
the first public library and more
The tiny ghost ants which seemed to swarm around the place as we moved in, have mostly taken themselves off elsewhere though a few occasionally appear if we leave any crumbs around. We’ve a plethora of tiny grey ant traps at doors and on window sills which should discourage them. One cockroach was discovered under the kitchen cupboard bin and was rapidly dispatched on day 2, we renewed the roach traps just in case but have not seen any evidence of it having “friends”. And more welcome I caught a brief glimpse of a pale tiny geeko on the tiled wall below the upper kitchen cupboards early last week, I presume he is still in residence despite the dearth of ants and all the disturbances.

The heat and humidity are much as per the Caribbean’s wet season. The year round tropical temperatures and rain mean the green jungle seems only just to be held at bay, the gardens around our block are a riot of exotic greenery. Trees have huge flowers that carpet the ground beneath in pink or white after the daily rain. Stephanotis perfumes the air along the canal side walkways. Turtles, terrapins and carp populate the local ponds. Tall ferns and broad leafed plants take root wherever there is a patch of open ground even on the way out of the Plaza Singapura shopping centre car park in the centre of town! This must be one of the few cities in the world where it is permanently Autumn and Spring combined – leaf sweeping seems a daily occupation as is pruning roadside trees to prevent rain storms bringing the heavy new leaf laden boughs tumbling down on pedestrians and traffic.

So there we have it – we’ve moved in and are settling down, missing our floating home like crazy but enjoying exploring our temporary land-based one for now. Hope you like the accompanying piccies - they are from Saturday's walk along the canal that runs past our home...
Waters meet - the upper end of Alexandra canal