If there was anything our first week in Singapore had shown me it was that we needed a double stroller. Since Harper’s birth, I had been mostly wearing her and pushing Penny around in our trusty Britain B*Agile. We had gotten a kickstand for the stroller that made it kind of like a double, but this only worked for short jaunts around Glen Rock.
Singapore required a different approach. Infants don’t regulate their own temperature well and I felt like I spent my first week here perpetually dripping. I had given up on Penny being ready to walk because the closest anything gets is a 20 minute, hilly trek. While the thought of careening it on to the city bus made me shudder, I conceded that it was necessary. After the gym on first Saturday morning, I headed out determined to purchase a double stroller.
Determination wasn’t enough. I found only one overpriced option and was pretty tempted to pull the trigger just so that I could feel like I accomplished something. Then the sky high sticker price was revealed to not even include the second seat that was clearly installed on the floor sample with aforementioned sticker on it and I bolted, frustrated that I’d be walking home with Harper still attached to my body. I was given the name of a few other stores that “might” have more inventory, but the promise of next day delivery from an online retailer had me motivated enough to create a new e-commerce account.
I had caught wind of something called the Big Book Giveaway that was happening at one of the dozens of malls a stones throw away from our apartment. We had about a dozen books from our luggage, but I could feel our collective enthusiasm for them waning. It would still be days before I got my library card, and free books sounded too good to pass up.
Part of our cultural immersion training had included that Singaporeans love to queue. The length of a line alone seems to indicate that there is something happening that is worth waiting for. As an American, standing in line is usually the bane of my existence. Plus it can be logistically taxing with two small children. Yet, the promise of free books had Penny pretty compliant and Harper was settled into a deep sleep. so we joined the end of an epic line for a chance to sort through boxes of the library’s discarded picture books and take five home with us.
They did immediately give Penny a balloon, which was a brilliant diversion. I chatted with the European couple in line behind us and rocked side to side hoping that this all wouldn’t be a colossal waste of time. We probably stood in line for 45 minutes and upon gaining entry we were told that it was permissible to queue again for the chance to get another five books. No thanks. Penny had spotted an obstacle course set up in the mall and she insisted that she get the chance to test it out before we headed home.
Our afternoon included a taxi ride to IKEA where we were eager to leave Harper behind with Jonna. Penny had impressive stamina for the endlessly winding showrooms. It was identical to every IKEA experience I’ve ever had in that I left exhausted and wishing to never again return.
Sunday we got both girls in the pool and I set out for what I believed would be my last solo outing without a double stroller. Seb went to his weekly soccer meetup and I had a mostly successful time with both girls at the park, ordered some incredible Thai food for dinner, and even managed to detangle Penny’s hair without having the Singaporean equivalent of child services called on me.
I went to bed fully expecting the double stroller to be delivered that evening, but I had another lesson to learn about the different between the US and Singapore. Twenty four hour delivery here means “twenty four hours after we get the chance to process your order, which is something that does not happen on Sundays”. So, alas, I would be without a double stroller for at least two more days.
Our mission for Monday was to head to a photo printing kiosk where Penny could print out some of the pictures she had taken during her final days in Glen Rock. It was located in yet another mall that was walking distance from our home, but the walk was yet again anything but straightforward. Construction had shut down one side of the street and the only way to access the other side was by trekking up an overpass. I had a moment of gratitude that I only had a single stroller to collapse while trying not to wake the baby sleeping on me. Penny was a trooper about all the stairs.
These overpasses are all over the city and while they certainly work for a pedestrian, they are a nightmare for anyone with a stroller, and would be absolutely useless to someone in a wheelchair. Often there will only be an escalator option leading to an essential destination and I’m stuck backtracking and rerouting until a lift or inclined plane appears.
Pictures printed, we stuck to our condo for the rest of the afternoon as I researched tomorrow’s adventure. I was feeling bizarrely optimistic and intended to take both girls to our farthest destination yet – the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden. It promised much to explore, and was only 25 minutes on a single bus line. I showed Penny some pictures and she was quickly on board.
Everything started off smoothly enough. I found the right bus stop. We boarded in the right direction. Despite ongoing construction, I could see the gates when we got off and felt confident we were in the right place. Until I walked up to a signpost and didn’t see the Children’s Garden listed. What was going on? I checked the address. It matched my location. Except, I wasn’t at the Children’s Garden.
My trusty “Moovit” app had let me down. Yes, I was in the Botanic Gardens, but I was at the Tanglin Gate. The Children’s Garden was next to the Bukit Timah Gate, 2.3km away.
I had one pretty disappointed kid and one overtired one, so I just started walking. I defaulted to Apple Maps and discovered that the quickest way to get there would actually require me to leave the park and walk through the city a bit. So be it. I forged ahead, constantly checking my dot on the maps app, trying to settle Harper for her nap. It looked like I could exit the park through the “Rainforest” path, and so I headed in that direction, marveling in the dense tree cover and the tropical bird cacophony, trying to focus on anything other than Penny’s persistent questions on how much longer it would take and Harper’s intensifying screams. But then the exit wasn’t where it was supposed to be. I was lost in the rainforest with two upset kids and the whole experience felt so ludicrous my looming tears of self-pity were trumped by my need to laugh at odds of all this. Past me had never thought to imagine this present reality, and I’m certainly not short on imagination.
Harper finally drifted off. Penny found a butterfly and began to babble about that. We eventually exited the rainforest only to find that despite 20 minutes of apparently circular walking, we were still 2.1km from our destination. Oh well. I’d stick to the main park pathway from here. We passed some truly beautiful flora and fauna. I didn’t pause to take a single picture because I had one overarching goal: get us to our destination before Harper woke up.
The layout of that Botanic Gardens here feels so much to me like that of NYC’s Central Park; meandering pathways with several offshoots ensure that you’re never entirely certain where exactly you are, and certainly not on your maiden voyage. I lit up like a Christmas tree when I saw the sign to the Children’s Garden and immediately convinced myself I could totally handle the reverse walk home.
We played in a treehouse, smelled various herbs, got “lost” in a maze, climbed trees, dug in sand, and stuck Harper on a seesaw for the first time. It was all delightful and there was ample shade and I had the perfect kid-bait to get us back out the gates without tears. I had spotted an adjacent open air restaurant that had a TOY AREA.
Harper had recently gotten really attached to crawling and this looked like a safe place to let her go for it. Penny was asking hourly when our boxes from home would arrive and in their absence any toys took on a larger than life appeal. This restaurant served yogurt and French fries and mango smoothies and fruit cups and god, this was beginning to feel like a mirage. It seemed too darn good to be true.
Food for Tots is exceptionally good at being what it is – a pit stop for families on a day out. We ate. They gave me an iced beverage. They had a bookshelf so I could indulge my daughter and read to her between bites. And the play area was simple but it did not disappoint. We lingered until Harper would need her next nap.
With her sleeping soundly, I ordered a to-go ice cream scoop for Penny, and set out to walk the 2.3km back to our bus stop. Yes, I could have taken the subway from the entrance we were at, but this required a transfer and felt like pushing my luck. I hadn’t yet braved the subway with them on my own. The devil you know, and all that.
All in all, I returned home feeling like the circumstances of the whole day certainly one-upped my prior 5k personal record in terms of stamina required. I was drenched. Harper was glistening, but revived after an epic nap. Penny was even pretending to sleep in the stroller in hopes of conning me into a later bedtime. And best of all? Later that evening, the double stroller was actually going to arrive.