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Magical Mongolia

Normally, I don’t travel in organised groups, preferring to plan my own trips, but when my friend Johanna, an adventure guide for YMCA Singapore, invited me along on a tour of Mongolia I jumped at the opportunity. I became a part of a group of Singaporeans keen to discover more about this captivating adventure destination, bordered by China and Russia.

Photography by Tatyana Kildisheva, kildi.com

Arrival in Ulaanbaatar
We arrived in the capital Ulaanbaatar’s tiny airport and made our way into the city. The urban planning in the city immediately threw me back to my 1980s childhood in the Soviet Union. The resemblance to the Soviet urban planning and architecture was very eerie – with ugly grey building blocks screaming of cookie cut construction done on the cheap over 30 years ago. To top it off, Mongolians adopted Cyrillic script (also used in Russia) for their language, so for me at least, all the signs were easily readable. Sadly, the gorgeous curvy, ancient Mongolian lettering can rarely be seen.
Mongolia’s landscapes are vast but the population is sparse – a little over three million people are spread across the whole country, with roughly half residing in Ulaanbaatar. Tibetan Buddhism is the predominant religion and there are still many beautiful temples and monasteries that thankfully weren’t destroyed during the Soviet times, when religion was widely suppressed by the communist regime.

Photography by Tatyana Kildisheva, kildi.com

Home stays
Our two-week tour included city sights, national parks and home stays with nomads and camel herders. For the first home stay with nomadic Mongolian families, our large group was divided into smaller units and we were taken from the city to the vast steppes. The isolation was astounding – there’s nothing around, not even a single tree. Five of us were assigned to a completely empty traditional yurt or ger: a portable, round tent covered with felt and canvas, with a sturdy roof supported by interior wooden posts. Yurts have been used as a dwelling by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia for thousands of years.
As there’s literally nothing on the ground of the tent, our sleeping pads and warm sleeping bags came in handy! The nights proved chilly, but during the day it was a comfortable 20-25°C. Since there’s not much available wood in the flat, unforested grassland steppes, all cooking is done by fire on the outdoor stove, using dried animal dung that we collected. Since most nomads’ own horses, cows, goats and sheep, the stove fuel is plentiful. The hosting family appeared and spent a couple of hours with us, taking care of the animals and herding them for the night using dogs and motorbikes.
With the help of our guide, we made our own dinner – soup with vegetables and lamb. The Mongolian culinary choices were underwhelming for our group, spoiled by Singapore multicultural cuisines and wide variety of choices. Mongolians consume a lot of meat, while vegetables are quite hard to come by, since most of the land is dry and not suitable for farming. Most vegetables, if you can find any, are imported from China, while packaged snacks, candy, chocolate, cookies and dry goods usually come from Russia.

Photography by Tatyana Kildisheva, kildi.com

Gorkhi-Terelj National Park
Our next stop was a few days in Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, a breathtakingly scenic region. We climbed the beautiful Bodgkhan Mountain and spent two days horse riding. None of us had any riding experience, but to our surprise we quickly learnt to guide our horses through the wild terrain, including river crossings! It was a highlight of the trip. We also spent a night in a large ger that we built ourselves with felt and wooden sticks using ancient techniques. I’m not sure I’ll use this skill in the future, but it was certainly entertaining!

Photography by Tatyana Kildisheva, kildi.com

Gobi Desert
It took us five days to travel to the Gobi Desert – along the way we visited the famous Flaming Cliffs: red sand formations that glowed and reflected the sunset. They also contain dinosaur bones within their hard-packed structures. When it comes to dinosaur fossils, the Gobi Desert is one of the world’s top sites – three of the most famous dinosaur species have been found here. Dino fans should head to the Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs in Ulaanbaatar, a palaeontology museum offering exhibits of dinosaur fossils, artefacts and educational programs. Travel in the desert was a breeze as there were very few tourists. We were far outnumbered by wild camels – easy to spot from a distance in the sparse terrain. We climbed to the top of Khongoryn Sand Dune, the largest sand dune in the desert. The hike was exhausting and the sand was treacherous – two steps up, one slide down. Up to 12 kilometres wide and 180 kilometres long, the dune rose to a height of around 80 metres. We also saw a very unusual place – Yolyn Am Ice Gorge, where the mountain gorge is so deep the sun never reaches the bottom and even in the hottest part of the summer people can see, touch and walk on ice!

Photography by Tatyana Kildisheva, kildi.com

Life as a Camel Herder
We spent some time with a multi-generation family of camel herders in the Gobi, learning their way of life. Their ger had some furniture and decorations, however it was still small and basic. Their proud possessions included an old Soviet radio set from the 1970s (my granny had the exact same one!) and a National Geographic photo book from the 1990s, where the family was featured with stunning photography and stories about their life.
When we arrived, the men were out herding the camels, while the eldest daughter and her younger brother welcomed tourists to the settlement and tended to a few camels. The daughter informed us that women in Mongolia are very important in the family and independent in decision making. We helped her make dinner and learnt how to make dumplings with camel, goat and mutton fillings.
There was no electricity and running water in this settlement, so everything needed to be purchased in a village and transported out to the desert. The way of life is basic, but the people seem content and happy to be free and roam the desert the way they’ve done for thousands of years.

I didn’t know what to expect from this landlocked country, sandwiched between two empires: China in the south and Russia in the north, but our trip was fantastic, and I learnt so much about Mongolia and its people.

Easter Garden Party!

Nature notes: Keep flower arrangements unstructured and opt for edible greens where you can, like fresh parsley, herbs and ornamental cabbages. Make it even more enchanting with whimsical quail feathers, little birds’ nests and bursts of colour.
Emerald and jade green shines among the metallic and neutrals of this setting. Decorate with pots of narcissi bulbs, moss covered eggs tied in twine and bunches of fresh herbs. A simple striped tablecloth provides the canvas, and we also propped up a retro bike to add to the laidback mood.
Let seasonal produce steer your colour palate from there. Although citrus accents pop our picnic, deep purple makes a striking statement, along with dashes of radish red and rich orange, reminiscent of an informal cottage garden.
Yellow notes are continued across the table using fruit, tableware, ribbon and other accessories. Green glasses and assorted plates complement the overall look.

Where to shop:
– Spotlight for paper straws, napkins, artificial moss and Peter Rabbit spotlightstores.com/sg
– Terracotta or plastic garden pots from Hawaii Landscape, 559 Thomson Road
Melamine tableware from Binlin, 17 Temple Street Chinatown binlin.com.sg
– Teacups by Royal Doulton
– Fresh hormone and antibiotic free poultry supplied by The Fishwives, Cluny Court thefishwives.com

The menu:
An icy cold ginger and turmeric lemonade is refreshingly exotic on a hot spring day, plus it has wonderful anti-inflammatory properties. A touch of The Source gin with its lemon, orange and coriander notes is a great combination, for those wanting a little more zing! For the kids, you can never go wrong with fresh strawberry lemonade.
If you’re hosting a crowd, rather than a formal table setting, allow guests to move around and mingle. Keep the menu simple with homemade sandwiches, enchanting cupcakes and healthy crudités. Here I’ve made chicken rolls with a hint of mint and lemon zest, and tried and true egg and chive sandwiches. Lamington fairy cakes and lemon coconut muffins are an excellent end to the day.

Lamington Fairy Cakes

180g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
115g butter, room temperature
200g castor sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
120g milk

Whip butter until fluffy, then add sugar until creamy. Add eggs, then baking powder. Alternate flour and milk and mix for about 45 seconds. Fill cupcake pans and bake for 18 minutes at 180 degrees.

150g icing sugar
15g cocoa
17g butter
60g milk
100g desiccated coconut

Warm milk and butter until butter is melted, then add sugar and cocoa and mix well. Place in a flat bowl and add coconut to another. One at a time, dip the cupcake in the icing and then the coconut. Top with whipped cream rosette.

Ginger Tumeric Lemonade: Bring to the boil 2 cups of water with 1cm piece yellow ginger and turmeric, plus 3 x 8cm stalks of lemongrass. When cool, add 1 ½ tablespoons of raw honey, 2 more cups of water and 1 cup of lemon juice. Add a sprinkle of black pepper or chilli flakes. Serve over large ice cubes with a lemongrass stalk.

Choosing your pathways

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By Jonathan Cox, Secondary Years Deputy Principal at GEMS World Academy (Singapore)

Choosing the right pathway for your son or daughter’s move from High School to University and beyond can be a nerve-racking affair. But it needn’t be.

One of the great things about education nowadays is that there are so many different routes and very few dead ends.

The most common concern that parents have, is that (at the grand old age of 15!) their son or daughter doesn’t know what they want to do. Actually, this makes choices relatively straight forward.

Start with what they are good at, look at what they enjoy and pick those subjects. It has become a cliché that most of our children will be doing jobs that don’t even exist yet, but like all clichés, it is based on a large degree of truth. Flexibility, emotional intelligence, a sharp intellect and communication skills are some of the most employable skills and any good degree programme will develop these.

If your child does know what degree/career they want to pursue, you should still start with the same two questions:

  1. What are they good at?
  2. What do they enjoy?

Once you have answered these, then go to question 3:

  1. What do they need?

I have worked with countless students who have nursed a ‘lifelong ‘ambition to be an engineer or doctor – only to find that their science and math’s grades are terrible! There may still be a pathway to their career of choice, but it may not be a direct line. Or it might just be that the ‘lifelong’ ambition needs some readjustment. After all, we all want our doctors to be great scientists and our engineers to be outstanding at math’s for very obvious reasons!

I remember very clearly sitting opposite a family. Mum and Dad were both doctors. They told me with great confidence that their daughter also wanted to be a doctor. I noticed the daughter’s eyes drop slightly and asked her if that was true. She looked up and said, ’No, I want to study design.’ Mum looked aghast. ‘You never told me that.’ she said. The daughter looked at her and replied very simply, ‘You never asked.’

And this leads me to my final point. Above all else, LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD.

Conserving Singapore’s Natural Assets

Pulau Hantu
A few kilometres south-west of Sentosa Island, Pulau Hantu comprises two islets with a surrounding reef. The area has an abundance of hard and soft corals, and local marine life including clown anemone fish, anemone shrimps, giant clams and a wide variety of nudibranchs. Bamboo sharks are also spotted and divers are encouraged to report sightings to the Coastal Marine Ecology and Sustainability Laboratory (cmesl.org/sharks), where a team from Singapore’s James Cook University is studying the biology and ecology of this species.
Debby Ng started an online blog, The Hantu Bloggers (pulauhantu.sg) in 2003, to showcase the diversity of marine life. This developed into a non-profit volunteer dive organisation, raising awareness and inspiring action to protect Singapore’s biologically diverse reefs.Funds are raised through public guided dives of the reef. Group members also undertake educational talks and assist researchers and local authorities such as the Maritime Port Authority.
An important part of the Hantu Blog’s work is education. “Part of our work is to help people realise why it’s meaningful for an urban country like Singapore to understand and develop our coastal areas in a sustainable way,” says Debby.
The Hantu reef also hosts a vulnerable population of tigertail seahorses, who play a significant role in the marine ecosystem. Divers and snorkellers can report sightings through the global initiative Project Seahorse at iseahorse.org.
Hantu Blog members’ frequent visits to the reef mean they can monitor changes in the area. Divers noticed a significant amount of construction debris around the reef and reported this to the Maritime Port Authority, who sent out a surveyor team. A salvage operation was planned, and members of the dive group took the engineers out to the reef to help crane out the debris, which included paint cans, paint rollers, and boxes of nails. “Because we’re at the reef regularly, we could narrow down the time window to when the debris likely appeared,” says Debby. “This helped the Maritime Port Authority track down the responsible party.”

Sisters’ Islands
The waters around the Sisters’ Islands, south of Sentosa, were designated Singapore’s first ever marine park in 2015.
“This was a very important step for marine conservation in Singapore,” says Debby. “National Parks engaged all marine users in the process, to provide them with reef awareness. People were used to going wherever they wanted, but these new laws now govern how they interact with the reef.”
The Marine Park protects coral reefs, inhabited by rare and endangered species of seahorses, clams, fish and other marine life. It’s also home to Singapore’s first turtle hatchery, providing a favourable environment for baby turtles to incubate, hatch safely and make it out to sea. Despite the busy waterways around Singapore, the coast is home to several species of turtles, including Hawksbill and Green turtles. The hatchery aims to increase the survival rate of turtle babies through technology, research and community involvement.
Late in 2018, as part of the National Park Board’s ‘Grow a Reef Garden’ project, an artificial reef structure was sunk within the Marine Park. The project will add additional reefs to the area, to support and enhance the existing habitat.
For visitors to the Sisters’ Islands, National Parks provides regular guided coastal walks, and an underwater self-guided dive trail for divers and snorkellers. (nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/sisters-islands-marine-park).

Pulau Ubin
Ria Tan, founder of the website Wild Singapore (wildsingapore.com), and co-author of a book of the same name, has been working in conservation in Singapore for nearly 20 years. She was one of the founding members of the Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M) initiative, formed by a group of people passionate about restoring the mangrove habitat on Pulau Ubin. “These mangroves provide a vital habitat for wildlife and aquatic life,” says Ria.
The project involved monitoring the mangroves of Pulau Ubin, regular site clean-ups, undertaking biodiversity surveys and mapping surveys with researchers, and holding guided mangrove walks to educate Pulau Ubin visitors about this important habitat.
Pulau Ubin hosts one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems, the Chek Jawa intertidal flat. The area also has mangroves, a seagrass lagoon, rock pools, and a sandbar, providing homes for rare plants and animals. Local conservation group the Naked Hermit Crabs (nakedhermitcrabs.blogspot.sg) conducts guided tours of the Chek Jawa area, raising awareness of the importance of the ecosystem and the hermit crabs that call it home. Chek Jawa’s seagrass beds, home to Hawksbill turtles, seahorses and other species, are the subject of ongoing monitoring by Team Seagrass (teamseagrass.blogspot.com). This volunteer group has been monitoring the seagrasses on Singapore’s shores since 2007. Changes in seagrass health can impact marine biodiversity, and often act as an early warning of impacts from coastal development, pollution and climate change. Team Seagrass submits their data to National Parks, and to Seagrass-Watch, a global seagrass monitoring project. Volunteers from Team Seagrass conduct guided tours of some of Singapore’s seagrass beds and the group is always looking for more volunteers. “It’s a great opportunity for ordinary people to experience some of our best seagrass meadows and contribute to scientific monitoring of them,” says Ria.

Green Shopping

Photo: Kasia Pasierbiewicz

When did you realise you wanted to make a difference?
I found myself becoming a bit jaded with the seasonal repetition of international brands, and irritated at the poor quality of mass market fashion. Through my work and travels I was also discovering smaller local designers and sustainable businesses whose designs I found creative, exciting and thoughtfully made. Watching films like Andrew Morgan’s The True Cost was a rude awakening. The documentary spotlights the social and environmental effects of the fashion industry supply chain, particularly in developing countries where most of our clothes are made. It should go without saying that no-one should have to suffer to make the clothes on our backs but they are, every single day.

When did you get the idea for ZERRIN?
I decided to consciously cut my spending and only support brands that valued ethics and sustainability. People started asking where they could find the products I was wearing, which told me there was a demand for products with a story and positive impact. That gradually sparked the idea behind ZERRIN, we source unique, well-made and planet friendly fashion and beauty brands – making it easier for women to discover responsible brands in one place. Ultimately, we believe in style without compromise: you shouldn’t have to choose between enjoying your lifestyle and doing good in the world; we can learn how to do both, seamlessly.

What’s been the most challenging part of starting a small business in Singapore?
It’s a great place to set up a small business, once you figure out all the fine details. I think the hardest thing for me is being a solopreneur. Working on your business alone can be challenging at times. I’ve learnt that it’s so important to reach out to other business owners for support and to share ideas. Collaboration over competition, always.

What is an environmentally conscious brand?
Simply put, an eco-conscious brand cares about its impact on the environment and takes steps to minimise its impact in the supply chain, from sourcing materials or ingredients, to how they produce. For example, they could use sustainable, natural fabrics like organic cotton, linen or hemp, rather than plastic-based synthetics like polyester. A company could also be doing things like offsetting their carbon footprint, or creating garments from recycled plastic instead of new. There’s a difference between sustainable and ethical fashion. Sustainable brands can be classified as working on environmental impact, whereas ethical is social impact (fair wages for workers etc).

Talee Hati earrings, zerrin.com

What about the higher cost of these brands?
Sustainable brands do get a lot of flak because they tend to cost a bit more, but there are many factors involved in the price tag. In our minds the price benchmark has been set by fast retail brands who produce trend-led pieces at cheap prices. Once you do a bit of research, you soon realise that if workers are paid at least a living wage, and the brand has used non-toxic chemical dyes and/or has produced with quality or sustainable materials, it would be impossible for a dress to cost $20!

How do you choose the brands you work with?
Anything that makes it onto our platform has been worn, tried or tested by our team and adheres to a strict set of green guidelines. All are made by independent and local businesses who care about making a difference.

Do you have a brand you’re loving right now?
Locally, I love Esse and Baliza for their unwavering commitment to both sustainable fabrics, like linen and organic cotton, and fair production.

What is your personal ethos when buying clothes and beauty products?
I try to shop as sustainably as I can. That means I shop a lot less than I did five years ago. If I buy new, I look to support brands that are transparent and responsible, but I also swap, rent or buy second hand, too. When it comes to beauty, I ditched chemicals a while ago – I now have a very simple routine of only natural and organic.

What’s next?
At the end of April, we’re launching a series of talks in partnership with TaFF in Singapore (Textile and Fashion Federation) held at Design Orchard. These will bring together local and international designers, industry and opinion leaders. Covering topics like our relationship with our clothing, green beauty, female empowerment in the fashion industry, and more. It’s an opportunity to learn and get inspired to make more conscious choices, while meeting like-minded individuals.

For more: zerrin.com, @shopzerrin and facebook.com/shopzerrin

3 tips for shopping sustainable shopping

  1. Buy items you really love
    This is a good way to avoid impulse purchases and is a more conscious and considered way of shopping. If I see something I like, I’ll wait and give it a good think first. If it’s still on my mind after a week then I’m sure it’s the right choice. This has now naturally extended to all areas of my life.

2. Learn to value what you already have
When it comes to considering something new, think about how the item will work with your current wardrobe as it’s bound to have more longevity that way.

3. Do your research
Google the company before purchasing. More and more brands are waking up to our demand for transparency on where things come from and how they’re made.

Sustainable Schools

Photo: GEMS (Singapore)

GEMS World Academy (Singapore)

“Our school has implemented a series of initiatives that aim to reduce its environmental footprint and encourage our students to be more aware of the environment and make a difference in our local and overseas communities, so that we have a sustainable planet to share,” says Sebastien Barnard, Head of Admissions and Marketing.

How green is your school?
We are an environmentally responsible campus. A great significance has also been placed on the reduction of energy consumption through campus design measures – such as reducing the amount of air conditioned spaces with natural ventilation and shade and providing more natural light to cut back on artificial lighting.

What are your students doing?
Our students are really pushing the environmental and recycling projects at GEMS. They’re tracking their plastic consumption at home and at school and trying to come up with innovative solutions on reducing single-use plastic and using water wisely. Our students also organise monthly environmental events, such as beach clean-ups.

How do you recycle?
Recycling bins have been placed throughout the campus and GEMS educators always look for new innovative ideas to reduce our negative impact on the environment. They recycle, re-purpose and sometimes even create art and design pieces from waste. We’ve turned carton boxes into stage backdrops, pop tabs into bags, wooden cable holders into tables, and old magazines into art. Our new Design Centre has been equipped with smart recycling facilities to raise awareness of plastic pollution, resource management and our responsibility to recycle and protect our environment.

What yearly environmental programs do you have?
Each year at GEMS students are invited to participate in a ‘Week-Without-Walls’ experience, designed to offer opportunities outside of the classroom. Last year, our students travelled to South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. They worked alongside the local community in a range of sustainability activities and had the opportunity to participate in other local service projects and cultural activities. We also teach valuable lessons about pollution in the ocean by using our Olympic-size swimming pool as a plastic dump before a big swim-a-thon. This provocation activity helps our students to think about how we share finite resources with other people and living things.

What other student-led initiatives do you have?
Recently our students organised an art installation, Way to the Water, to raise awareness and funds for those in need of clean water. All the funds have been donated to organisations such as UNICEF and Water for South Sudan.

Photo: AIS

Australian International School (AIS)

“Green is a very popular colour at the Australian International School,” says Jennifer Burgess – Senior Communications Manager. “Not only does it feature on the logo and uniform, but increasingly it is being referenced in the classrooms, playgrounds and boardrooms, as the school focuses on how it can become greener or environmentally focused.”

tudent-led straw ban
Zoey, a Year 5 AIS Student, was inspired by her teacher’s messages about the harmful impact of plastic on the environment. Her goal was to convince the school canteen to stop providing plastic straws with drink purchases. After researching the detrimental impact of straws online, she shared this information with her friends, who joined the quest. Together they spoke at school assemblies and collaborated with the canteen providers for AIS – Chartwells – to eliminate straws. The initiative was successfully introduced and implemented at the school. Zoey and her friends, Abbey and Jasmine are now continuing their campaign by focusing on alternatives to boxed drinks with attached straws.

Photo: AIS

Solar stars
In 2018, AIS installed 330 rooftop solar panels at its campus in Lorong Chuan, with an additional 1385 panels to be installed later this year. When complete, the panels will generate about 704 MWh of solar electricity yearly, which will be fully available on the open energy market. The project is estimated to offset about 303 metric tons of carbon.
AIS also intend to develop a new program to educate students about green energy. As part of this program, the school hopes to display a live-feed dashboard that tracks the energy produced by the solar panels, which will support its continued commitment to raising awareness about clean energy. “We are extremely happy to be making these efforts towards developing a green and sustainable campus, while empowering students to play an active role in tackling real-world environmental issues”, says Mr Andre Casson, Head of School.
Green building initiatives were used at The Early Learning Village, including a rainwater harvesting system which is used for irrigation. Water conservation was a focus when selecting water taps and toilets and there are motion light sensors in all the rooms, so lights turn off when the rooms aren’t in use. The building management system also automatically manages the temperature within the rooms, based on usage.
Combined with the green walls on the exterior of the building, which cool the building down naturally, the Early Learning Village is a masterclass in green design which is why it also holds a Greenmark certification.

Photo: CIS

Canadian International School (CIS)

“We are a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Silver Flag Eco School and have prioritised sustainability in our newest strategic plan,” says Michael Broadhead, CIS teacher and Lakeside campus sustainability lead. “We now have a carbon neutral electricity supplier and we’re working on encouraging more zero waste, plant-based, carbon positive initiatives. These living habits are key to a sustainable future.”

What recycling do you have?
We have paper recycling in every classroom, and plastics and metal collection points in different areas of the school. Our design department is constantly finding ways to reuse materials for student projects.

What green spaces do you have?
Our Outdoor Discovery Garden is a beautiful green space for our primary students to interact with nature. We also have a rooftop garden for secondary students to develop their green thumbs.

How do you educate students?
The environment and sustainability is incorporated and taught in many parts of our curriculum. In the IB Diploma Programme (DP) we offer Environmental Systems and Societies (ESS) as a course.

Photo: CIS

What yearly environmental programs do you have?
Each year our secondary school students participate in Excursion Week, taking part in environmental projects around Asia. We’ve helped with mangrove planting, building safe water gardens, coral planting and more. Our Biology and ESS diploma program students also do a week of on-site learning in Malaysia, collecting scientific data for their coursework. In our primary school, we have Open Minds, hands on outdoor learning experiences in settings such as Fort Canning, Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve and the Eco Garden at the Science Centre.

How does the school deal with food waste?
Our canteen and plate food waste is collected for a co-digestion energy project with the NEA. Volunteer students have set up composting bins in certain areas of the school to collect waste from snacks.

How do you reduce plastic and waste?
Our food has always been served on reusables. Straws and sandwich boxes were phased out in January and we’ll be phasing out disposable cups by April. Our goal as a school is to be zero waste in the future.

Note: Questions relate to CIS Lakeside campus only

Local schools are also making strides in green initiatives, check out the
School Green Awards run by the Singapore Environment Council for more info. sec.org.sg/sga/

Check Out: Jalan Besar

1.Chye Seng Huat Hardware
150 Tyrwhitt Road, 207563
Caffeine addicts, local hipsters and backpackers are drawn to this landmark coffee house, with its cool industrial vibes. Grab a table in the breezy courtyard or main café and fuel up on their excellent brews. Meals range from small bites to shared plates – try pandan gula melaka pancakes, teriyaki salmon donburi or charred cauliflower salad. There’s also an onsite roastery, craft beer bar and small store, which sells coffee machines and paraphernalia.

2. The Tiramisu Hero
121 Tyrwhitt Road, 207548
As their name would suggest this cute dessert spot is famous for their twists on the smooth Italian dessert, traditionally made from mascarpone, coffee and sponge. Treat your sweet tooth to flavours like milo, speculoos, Oreo, matcha, kaya, lemon-lavender, or the more grown up white Russian, Baileys or durian iterations. The café also has an extensive savoury menu.

3. Floral Magic
334 King George’s Avenue 208571 floralmagic.com.sg
Pick up a bouquet from this lovely, family-run florist, who have a great eye for lush, modern floral and botanical styling. Order ahead for a wedding, party or special event, or look out for their masterclasses and workshops, so you can learn how to create your own floral magic.

4. Druggists
119 Tyrwhitt Road, Singapore 207547
Just next door to Tiramisu Hero lies the old school Druggists bar, housed in the Singapore Chinese Druggists Association building. Choose from 23 craft beers on tap, grab a burger, shoestring fries or sambal wings, and let the night roll on.

5. The Refinery
115 King George’s Avenue, 208561
This sprawling three-in-one establishment houses a yakatori grill, a bespoke cocktail bar and creative work space. Bring friends and tuck into signature bowls like the teriyaki chicken don or spicy mee, or share tempura, cheesy poutine or wagyu salad. Finish with a workshop session or a cocktail. Eat, drink or create. Your choice!

6. Yoga in Common
22 Petain Road 208095
With entry via a back laneway, YIC is a boutique studio that holds yoga and meditation classes in Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kundalini, Hatha and Yin. Beginners are welcome and the welcoming space is fully equipped with mats and props. Shower facilities, water and tea are also available.

7. Antoinette
30 Penhas Road, Singapore 208188
Treat day? Head to this chic Parisian patisserie. Named after the last queen of France (who liked the finer things in life) the store is famed for its beautiful, glossy pastries, desserts, and classic regional French fare. Nibble on a perfect macaron, slide a spoon into smooth chocolate mousse or conquer a Mont Blanc almond tart.

8. Alittle Tashi
39 Tyrwhitt Rd, 207538
Alittle Tashi (meaning: “blessings”) offers Mod-Asian comfort food in a cosy communal space. Head to the more formal Dining Room or hang out in The Laundry, where you can sit on the staircase or mezzanine imbibing bar bites and drinks. The menu features diverse influences – think harissa chicken skewers, miso brussels sprouts or cured kingfish salad.

29 Jalan Besar, 208847
Don’t miss this statement homeware collection, inspired by local Singaporean heritage, architecture, and flora and fauna. Pick up the ultimate keepsake with quirky wallpapers, gifts, cushion covers, fabrics and floor tiles. Onlewo also offers re-upholstery for that tired chair or couch, with vibrant, colourful fabrics taking cues from Peranakan, Indian and Chinese cultures and communities.

10. Xiang Yuan Ji Shanghai Pan Fried Dumpling
405 Jln Besar 209011
The décor might not be much to shout about, but the dumplings are. Don’t miss these delicious, authentic Shanghainese dumplings, cooked in a cast iron pan and overflowing with soup. The noodles, crumbed pork cutlet with dipping sauce and crunchy spring rolls are pretty good too. Affordable and tasty.

Moving Made Easy for Smaller Shipments to Australia

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If you are a single professional, a newly married couple or have a young family you probably won’t have enough items to fill up a full container. You may have decided to leave your furniture behind in the house you plan to rent while relocating overseas for a few years. Nevertheless, you will still have stuff. How do you ship these items that don’t fill up a container?

One option is to ask the International Moving Companies to give you a moving quote for Groupage and LCL (Less Than a Container Load)

  • Groupage implies that you share the container with others but because you have to wait for it to be filled up, sometimes this can take several months before the moving company can ship it. So, if you are pressed for time and need your essentials to arrive at a specific time, this might not be a good option. However, if you plan ahead, the groupage option is very budget friendly.
  • If time is a constraint, you can look into LCL shipments where the volume is calculated based on what you have, and it can be shipped at your convenience. Sometimes LCL shipments can be more expensive due to minimum requirements so plan ahead and consider reducing your volume with your preferred relocation company.

For shipments to Australia, transit time will differ based on Port of Entry, Quarantine and Clearance. With the Australian government being very stringent on imports, delay at Quarantine can be expected during peak periods and when your shipment does not meet inspection standards. Should items need to be treated or destroyed, this cost will be transferred to you.

Another viable option for your small shipment is Air Express, it can arrive quickly if your move is last minute or if you need your belongings urgently.

While traditional air express companies are limited by weight, with SIR Move’s MMB service you can send bulkier items. SIR Move also goes one step further by providing professional packing services. All you need to do is to book MMB service when your items are ready and our team will pack and collect the items for air express delivery. Unless there are unforeseen delays your shipment will arrive within 3-5 working days.

For more information, a consultation or a quotation contact amy@sirmove.com , ring 65 6534 7345 or visit www.sirmove.com/moving-to-australia

SIR Move also offers Air Delivery for Small Shipments. Visit https://www.sirmove.com/moove-my-box




Down to Earth

What is EarthFest?
EarthFest (earthfestsingapore.com) was first held in 2015. It was started by a passionate Canadian teacher called Michael Broadhead to celebrate and promote all forms of sustainability in Singapore. It’s now a yearly festival. The festival spans food, waste, energy and other aspects of sustainability, and brings together a diverse group of small businesses, documentary filmmakers, international schools, environmental groups, large companies, Singapore government agencies, public educators, musicians, and others. The festival has grown dramatically over the years, with the 2019 instalment in January drawing thousands of visitors to Marina Barrage.

What makes the event so special?
EarthFest is entirely waste-free. Food and drink stalls encourage visitors to bring their own reusable cutlery or they are given biodegradable cutlery which can be composted after use. All food served is entirely plant-based, including ice-cream, cakes, pasta, burgers, satay and a lot more – though you wouldn’t know they were plant-based if simply presented with a plateful.

Taferine Huang, Creatives for Causes

How important is plant-based food?
Plant-based food is a core underpinning of environmental strategies the world over now, with respected institutions highlighting the dramatic impact that the livestock industry has on the environment. Recent research shows plant-based diets could reduce emissions by 73% and that we would require 76% less farmland – land that could be used for other purposes or to reverse wild habitat loss. A piece published in the Financial Times states: “about a quarter of greenhouse gases attributable to human activity come from intensive farming” – which is even more than industry and transportation! This was all a surprise to me. I felt it would be irresponsible for me to not do my bit. It was then easy for me to support an event like EarthFest and other initiatives, helping to contribute to a change in our environmental impact in every way from our food choices, energy use and waste.

Taferine Huang, Creatives for Causes

What is your current role with EarthFest?
After volunteering with EarthFest for a couple of years I agreed to join the board of the organisation, Centre for a Responsible Future (CRF), which oversees the festival and many other programs. The CRF professional staff and volunteers are truly dedicated to the cause of long-term sustainability and are well-informed and fact-based in their work. They’ve created real impact in a relatively short few years and relying on a tiny budget. For my part, CRF asked me to consider joining their governing board because they recognised the need to further professionalise and systematise their operations, which is something that I may be able to help with given my involvement with several corporate boards and fast-growing companies.

Why is working in an environmental area important to you personally?
Our stewardship of the environment is our legacy to future generations; anything we do now will reflect squarely on us in future history books.

What is your day job and other passions?
I’m also passionate about cycling and I run Tin Men Capital (tinmen.asia) a South-East Asian venture capital firm I co-founded with two partners.

What other programmes does CRF run?
Another programme is called the Alliance for a Responsible Future, (arf.org.sg) which engages businesses and policy-makers towards a plant-based future. The ARF is the organiser of the Disruption in Food & Sustainability Summit which brings together government policymakers, large businesses, researchers, hotels, start-ups, hospitals and many other industry participants to raise awareness and foster growth in the plant-based, clean meat and sustainable space.

What events do have planned?
EarthFest is expanding to run several smaller events throughout the year, in addition to the big annual festival. We now have staff working full-time on this. In addition, CRF organises several other events, ranging from small talks at schools to beach clean-ups and many more. Keep an eye on our website!

How can people get involved?
We always welcome more volunteers and donors. Details on how people and companies can contact CRF are available at crf.org.sg/donate

How can people strive for Zero Waste in Singapore?
It is almost a cliché now but the best advice I have to offer is “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. Most people who hear this only internalise the recycle bit of that advice, whereas reduction of one’s consumption habits and reusing things we already have can have much higher benefits towards waste reduction.

Murli’s Easy Green Tips
– Consume less animal products. Even as little as a day or two every week makes a difference. You’ll see health benefits too!
– Cut down aircon usage or turn up the thermostat by a couple of degrees. I’ve found that using a ceiling fan instead of the aircon in my bedroom has helped me wake up much more easily in the morning and I almost never have a stuffy nose.
– Use dimmers for your light bulbs and lower the brightness of your TV, laptop and cell phone screens at night. This also wonderfully improves sleep quality.

Measles – Should You Be Concerned?

Measles Vaccine

With measles cases on the rise, Dr Charu from IMC gives advice on preventing the spread of the disease.

What is the difference between measles, mumps and rubella?

Measles, mumps and rubella are all caused by viruses.  They are vaccine preventable and a combined vaccine for the three illnesses is used for prevention. Measles usually presents with a high fever and upper respiratory symptoms after which a rash appears. It is an illness associated with some potentially serious complications.

Mumps presents as a one or both sided swelling of the salivary glands (parotid glands) located below the ears and around the jaw area. A mild fever, headache and muscle pains may occur beforehand. Complications include inflammation of the testicles (orchitis), deafness, swelling of the brain (encephalitis) or meningitis.

Rubella is also termed ‘German measles’. It starts with a mild fever, along with swollen neck glands and a facial rash that spreads to the rest of the body. Pregnant women who contract the illness are at high risk of congenital birth defects and miscarriage. Other complications include arthritis.

How is the virus spread?

Measles is highly contagious. It is spread through airborne droplets that are released into the air when coughing, breathing and sneezing and through contact with secretions of the nose or eyes. The virus can stay active for about two hours after being released into a room.

What are the first signs of measles? What are the symptoms?

The disease incubates for 8-12 days before symptoms appear. A high fever, runny nose, cough and eye inflammation (conjunctivitis) occur initially. 1 to 4 days later, spots may be noted on the cheek lining within the mouth – reddish with a white centre (Koplik’s spots). A doctor may be able to differentiate measles from other viral illnesses based on these. This is followed by a rash, which starts from around the hairline slowly spreading to the face and then the rest of the body, including the palms and soles.  The rash may appear to be flaky or peeling a few days later.

How long is a patient contagious for?

From 4 days before onset of symptoms to 4-6 days after onset of the rash.

Is measles dangerous?

Yes it is. The illness can have serious complications as the virus causes damage by itself and makes the person susceptible to other bacteria as well. Children under 5 years, those above 20 years, pregnant women and people whose immunity may be suppressed for any reason are more prone to serious complications leading to disability or death. These may include:

  • Pneumonia – viral or bacterial
  • Encephalitis (Swelling of the brain)
    (About 1-2/ 1000 children may die of the above complications).
  • SSPE – Subacute Sclerosing Pan Encephalitis is a progressive neurological condition that can set in about 7-10 years after measles. It presents with seizures, followed by behavioural and intellectual deterioration and ultimately death. There is no cure for this.
  • Ear infection, sinusitis, bronchiolitis, croup, febrile convulsions, diarrhoea and vomiting are commonly associated.
  • Inflammation of the heart muscle is a rare complication.
  • Measles in pregnancy is linked to both complications in the mother and miscarriage.

Is there treatment available for measles?

Antiviral medication is not known to be of benefit.  Hydration, rest and good nutrition will support recovery. Aspirin should be avoided, due to a risk of a serious condition called ‘Reye’s syndrome’.

Vitamin A deficiency has been linked to a greater severity of illness and supplementation has been used in malnourished children and certain subgroups to support recovery.

Are there outbreaks in Asia?  Why is this happening now?

There have been outbreaks in several countries in Asia in the past few years. In 2019 alone:

  • Phillipines has been one of the worst affected with Manila and Luzon having the majority of cases. 9000 cases were recorded by mid February, with 146 deaths reported. Vaccine fear and skepticism following the adverse effects of the dengue vaccine last year caused vaccine updates to plummet in the country.
  • Japan has had about 167 cases in Osaka and Mie. These may have been imported by travellers from abroad. There had been low uptake of the vaccine following a religious group preaching anti vaccine advice and alternative healing. The government has since dealt with the issue.
  • Vietnam – in Ho Chi Minh City over 900 cases have been reported in February with some in Hanoi and Dong Nai.
  • Myanmar – the Yangon area, along with some other parts of Myanmar, are currently suffering a measles outbreak
  • In November 2018, about 4000 children in Southern Thailand contracted measles and there were over 22 deaths.
  • Beyond Asia, some of the US states (New York, Texas and Washington) and Israel are also dealing with epidemics. Some have occurred due to poor vaccine uptake in orthodox communities; others have been imported by travellers. Europe has suffered too with the UK, France, Greece, Italy and Romania having had outbreaks.

Is measles present in Singapore?

Singapore has had more measles cases in recent years compared to the past. It has many foreigners travelling to the country. Data in Singapore suggests that uptake of the vaccine is high in children who are residents here but foreign born children may have unknown vaccine status or be unvaccinated. Low vaccine coverage leads to a fall in ‘herd immunity’. Unfounded fears of autism and gut problems due to MMR has led to a fall in immunization uptake in many parts of the world. The damage has been done even though the myth was debunked soon after the initial fear was created back in 1998.

Herd immunity protects children who are too young for vaccination or persons who cannot be immunised for medical reasons; a vaccine coverage of 95% is required for this.

When should children get the vaccination?

The Singapore schedule recommends a MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella vaccine) at 12 months, followed by a booster at 15-18 months of age. Two doses are required for complete protection.

A similar recommendation exists in Australia. The UK and US vaccine schedule advises the booster dose at the preschool age however while in Singapore, the booster dose of the vaccine should be offered at 15-18 months due to more cases of the disease in recent years.

If travelling to an area where there is an epidemic or if planning international travel, MMR vaccine can be administered to infants 6 – 11 months of age as per the CDC guidelines (Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the US). This is not routine in Singapore and should be discussed with the doctor before travelling with the infant. However 2 doses of MMR would still be required from 12 months onwards for long lasting immunity.

Teenagers or adults who are non immune should be vaccinated. It is safe to do a vaccine if no records are available of previous vaccination.

Is the vaccination mandatory in Singapore?

Yes. MMR vaccination has been mandatory since 1985.  In fact, from February 2019, all foreign born children less than 12 years old are expected to show proof of measles vaccination or immunity to obtain certain types of immigration passes (details on MOH website – www.moh.gov.sg).

Measles is an illness with no treatment available; it has serious consequences for our children and has a safe and effective vaccine available to prevent it. In addition, every child protected increases the herd immunity required to protect the vulnerable persons around us such as babies less a than a year old and the elderly. We owe it to our children and society to go ahead and vaccinate our kids!

Dr Charu Narayanan is based at IMC Katong. Please call 6342 4440 or visit www.imc-healthcare.com