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I never thought I would spend much time in Wichita, Kansas. It just wasn’t a place that was on my radar. However, in the last two years I have found myself in circumstances that have required a few extended stays there.

My first visit to Wichita was over a weekend and included a Saturday visit to a diner, an airshow, a wine bar and a club. By Sunday I felt like I had done it all and after a wander in a more than dead downtown, I gave up and spent the rest of the day watching HBO.

However, a few more visits had me scratching beneath the surface and finding a community friendly to an admittedly hippie soul like mine. Here’s what I found so that on your next visit you can skip the HBO and hit the ground running.

Food and Cafes

While a few restaurants and cafes offer vegetarian or a “healthier” option somewhere on the menu (examples Public or Anchor) I found the real standouts to come down to Lotus Leaf Cafe and The Garden Grill. Both are located downtown and have hours that vary during the day with Lotus Leaf closing early some days and Garden Grill closing for dinner completely on some days, so I suggest checking the website before heading that way. Garden Grill’s menu is strictly vegan and there’s often a buffet but I find ordering off the menu preferable. Lotus Leaf offers plentiful vegan and vegetarian options with meat options interspersed on the menu, making it easy to convince a carnivore to come with you if they are hesitant. Both have amazing smoothies and juices.

Speaking of juices and smoothies, I would be amiss to mention that Wichita now has it’s very own Whole Foods on the east side of town. I arrived in Wichita after a few days in Austin, Texas, where Whole Foods is headquartered, and I can’t say that the Whole Foods in Wichita is comparable in item selection to stores in say Austin or Denver, but it does offer a decent takeout selection and loads of other options.

If you are just looking for groceries (and perhaps you are a bit disgruntled at the Whole Foods scene), The Natural Grocer has been around a while in Wichita. Their takeout selection is not so great, but you can get all the yummy groceries and supplements your heart desires!

Yoga Studios

All that food got you geared up for a nice stretch? I hope so because holy crap, yoga classes in Wichita only cost about $10 US a session. Do you know how much they cost in Singapore? Anywhere from 25 to 55 Singapore dollars (that’s $18 to $40 US).

My previous trips to Wichita have had me spending a lot of time with Adrian and Whitney at Siva Yoga. Formerly located downtown, you can now find them in the just east of central neighborhood of College Park. While I enjoyed their flowy classes in a warmish 80 to 85 degree room in the past, this trip I was second trimester pregnant and the thought of being in a heated room, even if it wasn’t Bikram hot, made me want to gag. (Listen to your body, yo!)

This led me to the even more east of central studio, Central Yoga, which is named after it’s location on Central Avenue. First, I hit up the community acupuncture sessions which cost a mere $15. The sessions are drop in, so you don’t have to be exactly on time for Dr. Vicki Dukes, DC to align your qi with her tiny little needles. I left floating on air, came back the next day for a fantastic aligned flow class with Keriann and later that week for an awesome prenatal class with the very knowledgeable Sally Beckett. If you are more into alignment than warm flow, Central Yoga is a great option.

Shopping

If you’re looking to do some shopping, I’d skip the often bragged about Bradley Fair and check out Watermark Books, an independent book store in College Park and RELove, a shop on Woodlawn that sales repurposed furniture and also holds classes to teach you how to repurpose a great find yourself.

Outdoors

While I can’t say I spent much time in nature while in Wichita, I can say that the river area through downtown is nicely kept and good for a stroll or run.

Live music

Live music seemed to radiate from bars and restaurants downtown in the summer evenings. Try Oeno Wine Bar for a start with relaxed jams while you sip a Pinot.

That’s all I have for now on Wichita. Got a secret tip? Let me know in the comments. xx

New project alert!

pregnancy

We are expecting! ETA September.

I don’t know how normal people react when they find out their pregnant, but for me, my thoughts were along the lines of 1.) holy shit and 2.) what do I do now??

So I did what I think most people would do. I asked a few friends. While I had no idea what the normal process at this point was, I quickly found out that everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) has an opinion, often a very strong one, often clashing with my strong opinion.

There was the friend that insisted I spend (or waste, in my strong opinion) money on 3 at home pregnancy test just to “make sure,” even though I already KNEW the moment the first test showed it’s little two lines that it wasn’t lying. Afterall, my period was late, I was feeling super feminine, I had a violent aversion to questionable food, and I got severely loopy from a mere 2 glasses of wine.I didn’t need multiple tests to tell me my system had been highjacked.

I did some research on the most natural friendly doctors in Singapore, and made an appointment for my chosen doctor’s earliest availability. Some friends were appauled that I wouldn’t see the doctor until week 11/12. Others insisted it wasn’t necessary to seek early care.

The opinions did not let up there. One friend insisted I go vegan, another insisted I start eating meat. A coworker lectured me on the importance of finding out the sex ASAP because it was important in case it was a girl so I would know how to wipe, nevermind that I have the equipment myself. There were those that insisted I stop riding a motorcycle immediately regardless that my office is 1.5 hours commute by public transport. Others didn’t see why I should have to give it up, afterall people in Thailand, Vietnam and India ride at 9 months pregnant and even while wearing a sling. I won’t go into the riffs, eyerolls and exasperation when I shared my birth plan of minimal intervention and no epidural. I got called everything from naive to judgmental, until I got super selective in my sharing.

Among my American friends the opinions vary greatly, but add to that the even more diverse population of Singapore, its local and expat communities, and you get an even bigger range of customs, styles and traditions to wade through. For example, in the UK it’s so normal to have a midwife attended birth that Kate Middleton did it, meanwhile in Singapore it’s illegal to birth without a doctor present. C section rates in Brazil are 80 to 90 percent in private hospitals, about 30 percent overall in the US and only about 17 percent overall in Sweden.  In some countries doctors ultrasound frequently, some ultrasound hardly at all. While many in Asia insist upon the benefits of confinement practices, many of those from Western countries often perceive not leaving the house, not washing your hair, hanging out 24/7 with your in-laws and eating pig trotters as a quick way to achieve postpartum depression. Although rumor has it that the papaya fish soup is quite tasty.

So what DO you do when you find out you are pregnant as an expat in Singapore? Well, if you are asking my opinion as someone who is not a medical professional and you are not choosing to terminate, carry on reading. (If you are considering termination, it’s beyond the scope of my discussion here and you may find this post from AWARE more helpful.)

1.) Relax. Pregnancy is a marathon, not a sprint. You are going to be at this for approximately 40 weeks. Assuming you found out early on, you have several months to rearrange your life, your home, your mentality and schedule all the little fun to do items (like maternity/baby portraits and babymoons) and not fun activities (like discussions with your work HR).

2.) Brace yourself for the opinions of others. Learn how to smile and nod while singing rock ballads in your head, say “thank you, interesting idea” as you let their words go in one ear and out the other, or stand tall with a hearty “Thanks for your unsolicited opinion” accompanied by a 30 yard stare. Your choice. I personally like to mix it up.

3.) Evaluate your insurance situation. My insurance is not very comprehensive (meaning it’s actually utter crap) so that limits my doctor choices. Here are the costs of typical vaginal delivery by hospital in Singapore and here are the costs of typical C section delivery by hospital in Singapore. It’s probably too late to buy insurance on your own now if you don’t have it, so relax because there’s nothing you can do anyway. Most policies require minimum 10 month waiting period before covering maternity costs and/or birth. You can still get insurance going from day 1 for your little one, although it likely won’t be cheap. Try contacting Expat Insurance for quotes if you aren’t sure where else to turn.

4.) Start thinking about what type of medical care you would like or need to have in your pregnancy. In Singapore, decisions tend to be deferred to doctors and OBGYNs often explain little and err on the side of intervention. If you are OK with deferring but like to be informed, you will likely have to lead the discussions, so come in with questions. If you prefer a less medicalized experience than the norm on this small island then you are not completely out of luck. It just means you may have to research more, select providers more carefully and be prepared to be treated like an anomaly.You will still have some restrictions, for instance I already mentioned that home birth with a midwife is illegal (ie, birth by anything but a doctor). Don’t worry, I’m here for you. I’ll guide you through this in a later post.

5.) Book an appointment with a doctor that you feel best suites your needs, whether that be degree of planned intervention, location, cost or simply availability. Many expecting mothers have their first appointments at 8 weeks or so, but it’s also likely ok waiting until your 12th week as in my case. You can treat this first appointment like an interview. If you do not connect with this doctor, you still have time to change to another one. You don’t have to stay with a doctor you don’t like.

6.) Celebrate. Because you are a freaking life carrying goddess. Enough said. :)

Oh yeah, and congratulations! xx

Oliver and company at Eyes to the Front threw a pretty badass (and free) party at Sofitel So Singapore last Saturday. The boutique hotel pool setting with DJ tables and skyscrapers  made for good ambience and great eye candy.

DJ Victoria

DJ Victoria

As the crowd got rowdier and drunker, my sober self was ready to move on. I even texted a friend to meet up at a different location for some grub, despite the Sofitel having delicous looking bbq available for purchase.

Then Jeck Hyde came on the decks, and well I had to text my friend “Sorry, music got really good. Can’t leave.” All of a sudden the crowd seemed friendlier.

Jeck Hyde

Jeck Hyde

Sober as I was (and I may have been the only one), I was on my feet and dancing. The icing on the cake was the National Day practice going on overhead featuring formation flying and then this lovely scene:

eyes to the front fireworksMore things are on the schedule for Eyes to the Front and it’s collection of artists. Check out their Facebook page to see what’s next.

One thing about having interior designer friends is you get a totally different perspective on building design and public spaces.

For instance, I had long ago succumbed to the fact that establishments in Singapore don’t always have their own bathroom. You have to leave the premises to find a shared bathroom used by the building. While I find it a little off putting but just one of those quirks about living in Singapore, my interior designer friend was highly annoyed.

“How can an establishment this big NOT have a toilet?” moaned Lee.

“I don’t know, but speaking of, can you tell me where the toilet is?” I answered.

She pointed me out the building and around the corner. While there, I snapped a photo of this.

Clean Bathroom CampaignI sent the photo to my friend in the US who has spent some time in Singapore and also finds these campaigns fascinating. As I have mentioned before, the number of campaigns in this country is staggering.

“Hrm… is that really a problem?” she asked.

“I guess so,” I answered. “Otherwise there wouldn’t be a campaign for it.”

I shared the conversation with Lee and the other folks at the table and received back a unified “Yes, yes, YES. It is DEFINITELY a problem.”

“There you go,” I answered.

Here in Singapore, sometimes the loos are completely spotless, like at Changi Airport or the Zoo. At other times, not so much. It really shows you what an effort is put into keeping the clean ones clean. The next time I use the facilities at Changi Airport and am asked to rate my experience, I am giving the attendant full marks. It’s not an easy job, and often a thankless one.

xenu_scientology

Back in March I watched HBO’s much talked about documentary, Going Clear, which had me thinking about my own run in with Scientology over 15 years ago.

In 1999, my high school best friend and I packed up her car and drove off for the dorm rooms of the University of Texas. After unloading her car with the meager two boxes of possessions each that since then have morphed into full houses, we decided to take a stroll down The Drag.

The Drag is an Austin, Texas institution – a segment of Guadalupe Street that lines the edge of campus. It is home to MSG laden cafes, book stores, coffee houses, gimmicky shops and an eclectic mix of homeless kids, many with similarly eclectic dogs.

This is when we stumbled on the exact thing my mother feared we would find, well one of the many exact things my mother feared we would find. The Church of Scientology.

We were greeted by two employees of the center offering us stress tests on the sidewalk outside. Sure, we were game. We didn’t know what Scientology or stress tests were but we had 20 minutes to kill. We gripped onto the e-meters and prepared ourselves for a wild ride.

The questions ranged from the benign (name and age) to invasive (any past drug use and general fears). The two test administrators shared knowing glances at our answers. I sat in wonder as to whether anyone was ever going to explain to me what the heck Scientology was.

“If you could change something or improve something what would that be?” asked my test administrator.

I thought for a few seconds before coming up with something that I felt was an acceptable answer. “I wish that I was better at interacting with strangers. I wish I could talk and really connect easily with people,” I said.

The two administrators invited us inside for more info. BFF and I exchanged looks and shrugged. I still didn’t know what Scientology was and there didn’t seem any harm in going inside the building.

Once inside, my administrator began his sales pitch. “Hey. Hey. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could just…. talk to anybody?”

“Yes,” I answered. “That’s what I told you outside.”

“But… but… wouldn’t it be cool if you could.. you know. Talk to ANYONE?”

I looked over at BFF to see if her test administrator was any sharper than the one I was paired up with. My guy had one sales tactic and he was going for it.

He then showed me some basic printed information on courses that I could sign up and take through the organization, all of which would devour the $200 of waitressing cash I had in my pocket. The $200 needed to last me a few weeks, minimum. That is, if I wanted to eat.

“Um,” I said. “Isn’t there a cheaper way to just find out what Scientology is? Or maybe you could just tell me.”

Defeated, he pointed at a collection of Dianetic books written by L Ron Hubbard on display. “Oh cool,” I responded. “I can have one of those?”

“Those are actually for sell,” he answered.

“Hrm,” I said. “Maybe I’ll check one out from the library. Do they have them there?”

The man shrugged as he stood up and tucked in his chair.

I turned to BFF who was already collecting her things.

“So did you ever figure out what Scientology is?” I asked once we were outside the building.

“Nope,” she replied.

“Me neither,” I answered.

I’m not sure where we went from there. If I had to guess, I would say it was somewhere with a 99 cent menu so that we could spend 1/200th of my hard earned cash on a burrito or hamburger and ponder what it meant to be rejected by the Church of Scientology.

Obviously they were much less interested in recruiting BFF and I than Cruise or Travolta. I don’t know whether to be grateful or offended! I’ll say neither and go with amused.

A post-dinner cruise through Chinatown had myself and a few friends stumble on this site.

20150208_193749

“Huh,” we thought. “Is this legit?” Stephanie immediately chucked the boxes out of the way and sat down for a try.

20150208_193818

Unfortunately, the massage chair didn’t work. Massage chair uncle in his most stylish tee came out to troubleshoot the situation.

20150208_193855

Ahhhhhhhh. There we go.

20150208_193906

A few minutes later we were on our way having made a few new friends in this ambiguous shopfront.

20150208_194121

You know, just everyday life in Singapore Chinatown.

Ever wonder why a slew of bloggers will write about a website or service at once?

You probably know this already but I will state it anyway- it usually starts with a marketing campaign. A PR specialist will contact targeted bloggers and offer them an incentive, usually in the way of free product to write about their client. It’s typically a win-win as the blogger is happy to have something to write about and the PR person is happy to have some publicity. Plus, it’s hard for a blogger to write something negative when they are being comped. I mean who is unhappy about something they got for free?

This is how the relationship between myself and FoodPanda was initiated. A few months ago I got an email from one of their representatives offering me $40 worth of vouchers to write about FoodPanda, a service that delivers food from all sorts of restaurants around town. The only catch was that she didn’t want me to state that I had received any sponsorship from them in the post.

foodpanda

“Sure,” I replied, assuming she meant that she simply didn’t want the post labeled as sponsored.  I explained that the post wouldn’t be sponsored per se, but that I would have to mention the vouchers.

She replied along the lines of sorry, but you can’t mention the vouchers.

I was pretty surprised. What she was asking me to do was unethical, and in some places like the US, it was illegal. I wrote her back and explained this.

She replied with an I’m sorry that’s the deal email full of smiley faces in return.

I told her no deal and she offered me a $10 voucher as a good will gesture. I went to the website and quickly learned there was nothing I could possibly order and have delivered for $10, and that most orders were going to run $40+. I sent her a thanks but no thanks letter back explaining why I would not use the voucher.

She wrote me back saying she hoped she hadn’t offended me. Spoiler alert: she had.

****************************

Fast forward to March and I have a broken leg. It’s been very challenging as someone who is usually active and independent. It’s a lesson in humility and slowing things down. Husband and friends have been kind by bringing food and helping with vital tasks, but there have been many times when left to my own crutch-filled days. It’s definitely been an eye opener to the every day challenges of disabled people.

leg

One afternoon, hungry and without groceries, I remembered the FoodPanda delivery service. If ever a time to splurge on food delivery, now was it. I downloaded the app and perused the menu. I had been eating a lot of takeout brought over by friends, so the smattering of pizzas, Thai and Indian was not appealing to me. That’s when I spotted VeganBurg on the list.

veganburg

I’ve tried VeganBurg before and have been pleased with their food, mostly veggie burgers and fries. I decided to give it a go, but first called VeganBurg as they have their own delivery service and policies.

“It’s a $50 minimum order to deliver in your area,” the woman from VeganBurg said.

Drat, I thought, and went back to FoodPanda. With Foodpanda, it was a $25 minimum, with a $10 delivery fee and a 10% service charge. I really had to stack up my order to hit the minimum. I figured I could order two sandwiches, an order of fries and two drinks to make the requirement. I could save one sandwich and one drink for lunch the next day, as I would likely find myself in a similar unable to cook or shop predicament.

Ugh, after delivery and all, my lunch was totalling over $40. What was I doing? This was ridiculous for one person for a takeout lunch. My stomach grumbled and I reminded myself I would have an extra sandwich for the next day. I also remembered the voucher. I scrambled through my email but could not find it. I concluded that I had deleted it in my annoyance.

I entered my credit card to the FoodPanda app, croseed my fingers that it wasn’t maxed out and hit the send button. I got a confirmation email and noticed that the delivery would take up to 90 minutes but that I would receive a text stating exact approximate waiting time. The text never came.

I waited and waited. Having not received the text, I called the number on the email only to be inserted into one of those automated phone customer service hell loops. I hung up and decided to wait longer. 85 minutes after ordering, my order arrived. I hobbled down my stairs from my home office to my front door while a man stood out front calling my phone and shouting “hello!… hello!…. hello!….”

“I’ve broken my leg! Hold on! I’m coming!” I replied, matching the panic in his hellos.

I opened the door and he tried to hand me a bag. I looked at him and then I looked at my crutches. He wasn’t getting the message.

“Do you mind putting it on the table for me?” I asked. He complied. I checked the contents and thanked him as he went on his way.

I spread the contents on the table. The drinks were warm and the fries were limp and cold. The lettuce on the veggie burger was still fairly OK but I could see already that it was going to be problem on tomorrow’s sandwich. I looked toward the kitchen and sighed as I realized that I was not going to be able to bring a cup of ice to the table for my drink. I resigned myself to a warm ginger ale and began to eat the mushy cold fries.

This is not how I remember my last few VeganBurg experiences.

When I was done, I bagged up the trash, hooked it on my wrist and hobbled to the trashcan. I was full, but the event didn’t seem to fully satisfy. In fact, my stomach felt a bit queasy. I put the remaining burger in the fridge and made my way up the stairs recalling all the pleasant reviews I had seen other bloggers write about FoodPanda.

I rolled my eyes and counted the days until I could walk again.

Verdict: When you have a disability and can’t get out of the house, FoodPanda will deliver you food but it won’t be cheap and it probably won’t be fresh. 

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