Bringing Rusty Home to Singapore – The Preparation

I wrote about preparing and bringing Rusty to the US almost 4 years ago. We have just come full circle, having just experienced the process of bringing him home to Singapore a few weeks back.

While it was seemingly more complicated this round,  the experience felt a little bit more manageable. Perhaps it’s because we have gone through it before and can sort of anticipate the things to come. Nevertheless, clearing each stage was always a relief and felt like a great weight off the shoulders.

Not surprisingly, the most paperwork we had to do was for the Singapore side, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). Singapore has been rabies free since 1953! I am certain that we want to keep it that way! For the American side, the United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) basically required us to adhere to whatever the destination country needed. There was no additional work for that end. Here, I shall mention that the USDA-APHIS website seems to have changed and is now more informative and easier to navigate compared to 4 years ago. I really appreciated that the site had a dropdown box of all the countries that one could possibly export your pet to, that then led you to the official documents and circulars of that country for pet owners to download. While it was not difficult for me to get information from AVA myself, I appreciated the fact that the USDA-APHIS were helpful enough to link me to the required information. Good to know too that they had the very latest information as well! (I counterchecked the circulars!)

IMG_9241Kudos also go to AVA for improving how information was communicated. I really liked this step by step chart, which gave me a high level view of all the tasks I needed to complete over the months and weeks leading up to Rusty’s journey home.

6, 5, 4 Months To Go

AVA has different importing rules for pets coming in from different countries, hence it is important for pet owners to check which of the 4 categories your pet belongs too. Animals coming in from the US (except Guam & Hawaii) come under Category C which typically has pets being quarantined for 30 days (Category C2). However, with additional vaccinations and blood work done, that can be reduced to just 10 days (Category C1). It was a no-brainer for us to gun for the 10 day quarantine period. However, it did mean more precision planning on our part to make sure that we hit the key milestones and requirements. Hence our planning started 6 months ago in December 2016 where Rusty went for his first rabies shot. A month later (January 2017), he went for a blood test to test his rabies antibody levels and then a month after (February 2017), he took his second rabies shot when he passed his antibody test.

3 Months To Go

We booked a quarantine space for Rusty at the Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station (SAQS) right at about the time we booked our plane tickets home. I remember H & J (Otto’s pawrents) telling me many years ago that the SAQS could run out of space, so it was important to book a space for Rusty once we knew our flight itinerary. Each pet has their own room though pets from the same family can share the same room. The SAQS offered air-conditioned and fan-only rooms for us to choose from, with the air-conditioned rooms costing about $10 more each day. We ended up choosing the air-conditioned room because we thought Rusty might not be able to adjust to the tropical heat of Singapore so quickly. Thank goodness we did because it turned out to be a great idea not just for him but for us too! Pawrents are allowed to visit their pets during quarantine. Since pets cannot interact with each other at SAQS, we spent almost all of the time sitting in the tiny room that Rusty was in during our visits. Imagine if there was no air-conditioning, we would have melted!

1 Month To Go

This was the time where we had to get a Singapore pet license for Rusty as well as an import license to formally register his arrival to Singapore as a Singapore pet! Note that the import license is only valid for 30 days upon application. So no point doing it too early. We just needed to make sure also that our arrival date to Singapore was within the validity period. The import license is one of many key documents to pass to the authorities.

We also informed AVA’s border control that we were arriving so that someone was around to inspect Rusty when we landed. Important thing to note here is that the border control only opens till 10.30pm each day and is closed on Sundays and Public Holidays! This affected how we planned and booked our travel itinerary, kiasu us took into account  plane delays, possible strikes (we traveled near Labor Day, May 1st) etc to make sure we arrived on an appropriate day and time.

7 Days To Go

Rusty Vet Check
As part of the requirement, we brought Rusty to the vet a week before we flew. The vet verified his microchip number, checked his overall health and administered oral and topical medications to prevent ticks and other parasites.

Our vets from Bramer Animal Hospital were super professional, efficient and helpful! They must have done so many pet exports before that they knew exactly how to help and advice us. The very detailed health form/certificate that we had to provide to AVA was also impeccably filled and printed out when we arrived for our appointment. We just had to check that all was in order, get it signed by the vet and we were ready to go in a few short moments. It was also thanks to Bramer Animal Hospital that we found out that we didn’t have to drive to Wisconsin (I thought that was the nearest one) to get our forms authenticated by USDA-APHIS! There was an office in Des Plaines, Illinois, only a 30min drive away! The authentication was a requirement by AVA. There was no need to bring along the dog for this step.

Love to AVA

By now, you must think I have a super human brain for being able to remember all these deadlines and intricate processes to bring Rusty home. While the husband and I did go through a whiteboard process to visualize everything :D, we did have a lot of help from the AVA site. AVA provided a very very handy pet calculator that helps pets owners track every step and requirement according to timelines, as long as you know the date that your pet will land in Singapore. How cool is that?! The only bad thing I have to say is that I had to go to several different sites to apply for different licenses, book quarantine space and appointments. If there was an integrated system where everything could be seen at a glance, it would be perfect.

We spent probably $1,000, including airfare, different fees, vet visits, blood tests, vaccinations, quarantine costs to bring Rusty back to Singapore. But having him home safe and sound with us is priceless!

Planning to write more about the plane journey as well as the quarantine experience! Stay tuned if interested. 😀




Memories of 2016?


Guess this blog has truly been gathering cobwebs 😀 It is at this moment at the start of 2017 that I wished I wrote a bit more for 2016 so that I could remember the little moments that have happened. My memory is like Swiss Cheese sometimes. Luckily, I do take copious amount of photos, so that certainly helps to recall the memories of 2016.

Jan – Feb: Winter was superbly kind to us this year and was no where near the polar vortex double digit negative C temps we experienced when we first moved here. I think I can count on one hand how many times it snowed. And no slipping or falling this year! So that was awesome.

I remember feeling rather lonely this time of year. The husband was traveling every week for work and I was on an internship as well on top of 3 classes. It was hard to juggle both work, school and home on my own. I remember having to walk Rusty in the wee hours of the morning and then rushing right home after work to walk him again. Rusty never saw daylight much during that period because it would be still dark when we did our morning walks and already dark when I reached home at around 6pm each day. The husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary over FaceTime #consultantlife, both of us eating our respective dinners as we chatted. He was away during my birthday as well, but thankfully I was showered with lots of love by eveeleva and family. ❤

March: March was a month of friendships. We had 2 sets of visitors from Singapore and had such a good time bringing them around Chicago and Evanston. I did have to take the Chicago River Cruise twice, go to the Bean twice, eat frozen custard twice, eat deep dish twice, eat fried chicken twice (the one opposite our house is the yummiest!) within the span of 1 week.

After finishing up my final thesis, I also went on a trip to LA to meet up with K, M and A for a short weekend vacay to celebrate. It was really a treasured trip since 3 of us flew in from different cities (Chicago, Seattle & Houston) just to spend time together. We went to Disneyland for free (K works there!), drove along the coast to Santa Monica and Malibu, went to see the Hollywood sign at the Griffith Observatory and ate hipster vegan food. 😀

April: Celebrated the husband’s birthday this month. We ate lots of pancakes on the actual day. The husband was traveling a lot less by this time (yay!) and started working a lot from home. We  hung out quite a bit at the library together, he with his work-work, me with my school-work. We also went to the Lincoln Park Zoo for the first time and the weather was nice enough to picnic with Rusty by the lake. Fun times!

May: Spring was in full bloom here in Chicago/Evanston. We went to the Botanic Gardens multiple times to see all the flowers that were popping up. Love the poppies and explosion of apple blossoms (like cherry blossoms). Also hosted another group of friends from Singapore who came in from California and a Mee Pok party for our Singapore friends living here.

June: Finally graduated! Though the feeling was a lot more bittersweet. Couldn’t believe how 2 years just flew by like that. While we celebrated the accomplishment, it also felt sad knowing that I may never see some of my friends again.

The parents and brother were here to attend graduation and vacation in the US. We did a short road trip to Michigan. And I did the cruise, bean, frozen custard, deep dish and fried chicken circuit again. lol. It was great to connect as a family. I think the last time we were all together traveling in a foreign country was almost 10 years ago. The apartment felt a bit crowded at times but it was also an unforgettable and precious experience.

July: The husband had to go home to Singapore to settle visa issues for the first 2 weeks of July. We missed watching the 4th of July fireworks together this year. 😦 The house wasn’t empty though as we hosted our Singapore friends with their 3 kids during their transition period of moving to New Haven.

The 2nd half was July was a lot more fun. The husband had to travel to Orange County for a work meeting and we planned an impromptu vacation around that. It was crazy going to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree at the height of Summer (40+C weather every day!!) but it was loads of fun. I loved how the desert landscape was so different from what I have ever seen. Most memorable trip for me for sure. And all that yummy Asian food in California, wow.

August – September: Took advantage of the great weather and went out a lot! Ate the rainbow cone at Navy Pier, went for sunset walks by the lake, scored last minute reservations at a hot new restaurant, went to watch a performance at Second City, hiked at the Morton Arboretum, went to a Renaissance Faire (so weird), outdoor movie at Ravinia Park and watched our first and last night time Northwestern Football game.

October: The colors of the trees were changing beautifully by now and I snapped so many fall color photos. We were transfixed by election news and watched CNN every night plus all the Presidential debates. Our obsession was a bit cray-cray.

When we weren’t glued to the TV, we went out quite a bit too. We went to an outdoor Fall festival with our friends and had super yummy food cooked by some of the best restaurants in Chicago. Attended the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House event for the first time and toured several historical properties in Evanston. The husband ran the Chicago marathon and came in with his 2nd worst timing because he didn’t have time to train #consultantlife. We had kind friends who let us and Rusty bunk over in their home the night before the marathon. They stayed much nearer to downtown and it was a super kind gesture. Was also super fun to hang out with them.

Highlight of October has got to be the impromptu trip to Door County with eveeleva and family. First time driving in the dark but it felt safe with another family with us. Having a hot McDonald’s filet o fish supper on the way up during the 5 hour drive was one of the highlights. 😀 We went trigger happy exploring the parks and crazy gorgeous colors in Door County. My newly acquired iPhone 7 Plus was the best investment ever because it turned out so many beautiful family photos. And who can forget the scrumptious Swedish pancakes we had on the last day. The husband would like to forget the lunch we had at the Goat Creamery on the first day. 😀 lol

November: Month of crazy devastating news because of the election results. We felt so lost and depressed, and everyone around us was so sombre. Basically sealed our decision to head home to Singapore sooner than later.

December: Swung by Boston for a week long trip for the husband to attend a workshop and for us to visit good friends. Ate too much good food, especially seafood. First snow in Evanston when we landed, which didn’t stop for a day and a half. Freezing cold for about a week just before Christmas. Took it easy during Christmas and New Year’s, no big parties or anything, just quiet and cosy.

….and 2017 is here.

Summer of 2015

What an awesome and full Summer it has been! But like all good things, they come to an end way too fast. I can definitely understand why Summer is such a huge deal over here. After all the cold, you really want to get out to feel the sunshine and embrace all the activities Summer has to offer.

This Summer has been a fulfilling one, it was not just play but a good balance of everything – fun, school, work, couple time, family and friends. Although perhaps I needed just a bit more “me” time and down time, paying for it now nursing a nasty flu bug.

The highlight at the start of the Summer has got to be the husband’s graduation. I love that he is well loved by his classmates and instructors. As expected, he received really good praise and a special mention for his final capstone paper. He’s really the super hardworking one and even continue to give himself homework to read and write AFTER his graduation.

It blows my mind to think how 2 years passed in a flash. If I didn’t also start school, we probably would have packed up and left for home already. As much as home is on my mine, this life we have here is really hard to beat and would be terribly missed.

We received our first visitors this Summer in the form of the inlaws, who flew all the way from Singapore to watch the husband graduate. They were obviously terribly proud and happy. It was also their first visit to the States so everything was exciting and new to them. They stayed with us for a whole month! (Yikes!) Looking back, I wondered how I survived. lol. As much as we loved having them around, I’m super grateful that I was never made to live together with them. Let’s just say that everyone has their little quirks in how they choose to live.

It was our hope that we can bring the inlaws to experience different sides of the US while they were here. We also wanted them to experience traveling with Rusty, whom they loved and pampered so much. So, a road trip to nearby Michigan was planned.

We booked a cute cottage in Union Pier, MI through AirBnb again and it didn’t disappoint. It was well decorated, well stocked and I especially loved the outdoor patio which was screened in, Rusty had a super fun time running about. The weather was great albeit with a few short showers. Come night time, it was magical with fireflies everywhere.

The trip also included a day trip to lovely Saugatuck, where we found the lost city of Singapore, Michigan! Thrilled to bits. We also took time to walk about the little streets, sip great coffee and do some cherry picking. Unfortunately, it was not convenient for me to walk into the shops and galleries as freely as I wanted to. Hope we can go back one day. Definitely a quaint little pretty town that was very worth the visit.

When the inlaws left, we also crossed off an item on my bucket list with a cruise to Alaska! Details of which would deserve a separate post. 🙂

By and large, Summer was pretty Chicago centric as well. I took up a part time internship this Summer and spend 2 days a week traveling to the Loop for work. It has been an interesting experience working in an American environment. It’s definitely less social and more work focused compared to back home. Everyone gets in early and goes off pretty much on the dot. And everyone eats at their desk during lunchtime so that they can power through the work. It has been a shock to the system considering how I’ve always worked in places where having friends at work is the norm and eating together and socializing after work is the norm. I’ve not been treated badly but the feeling is just a tad bit cold. The consolation is that I have a gorgeous view of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan from where I sit. 😀 And I do feel that I have contributed my experiences and talents in what I have been assigned to do.

Decided to take Summer class as well since this subject is only offered in the Summer quarter. Even though we had virtual classes most of the time, there was still readings and homework to catch up on every week. It was an amazing class on Cognitive Design and one of the best classes I’ve taken so far. It helped that we had great instructors and I had a really good project team that churned out a good piece of work which we think will be implemented in real life.

Outside of work, we manage to fill up our time with trips to various attractions and events around Chicago – the Ba’hai temple, Adler Planetarium, Taste of Chicago (so so so hot!), Shakespeare in the Park. We also found a great great spot this year on campus to catch the 4th of July fireworks. Not sure if we will still be here to see them again next year. They rank highly on my most memorable experiences living in Evanston.

Summer came to an exciting end with more visitors to our household. We had a good friend visiting from New York and friends who have moved from Singapore to do the same program as us in Northwestern. It’s been a noisy few weeks with extra people in the house, but I loved the fun and energy that surrounded us. Rusty especially enjoyed the extra treats given to him. Though I’m quite sure he was overwhelmed most days as well and appreciated the quiet moments when everyone is out of the house.

First Taste of American Football

Just finished a super duper-ly dense reading for one of my classes and have decided to just quit and call it a night. It was tough and a very very academic piece and I  wasn’t getting closer to better understanding it! School has been pretty draining these 2 weeks. When you think you have gotten all your homework done, the cycle starts all over again!

In the midst of the crazy brain sapping activity called readings and assignments, I have thankfully met a bunch of great classmates who are truly some of the nicest people around. When you work/study in the human development area, I suppose it is kind of a prerequisite to be of a certain sociable and people loving (or at least not people hating) mould.

Several of us ditched our homework today to head down for a Northwestern football game. Was pretty amazing how everything came together for this class outing. Someone settled all the tickets for us and another hosted a fantabulous tailgate just before the game.

What is a tailgate you ask? It’s basically a party you have from the back of your car in the parking lot near the  stadium where the game is played. Americans take their tailgating seriously, so it is not just a mini sit behind the boot and eat snacks kind of thing but a full blown BBQ pit with hot dogs, burgers and lots of alcohol. As you can see from the photos above, fancy tents are even set up to shield revelers from the elements. Btw, some people don’t even make it to the game, they just tailgate the whole way and have a good time.

Our classmate D’s tent was simply amazing. She’s a super Northwestern fan, so she does this every time there is a home game on. We were so so well fed and the set up was totally Pinterest worthy. Everything that could be purple was! Purple pretzels, M&Ms, cookies, pasta, napkins, cutlery, table cloth etc… We had so much fun JUST at the tailgate alone.

Had absolutely no clue what was going on during the game though. American football is just TOO technical. It’s not just about getting the ball from one end to the other. Too many rules…. Luckily the husband could explain it a little along the way and I could also depend on my American classmates. I just cheered when everyone else did. 😀 The good news is that NU won the game today, so it was a good day to be out at the games. We even ran on to the field in the end to take photos and high 5 the players. The crazy undergrads were swarming the players like mad. After all, college football stars are quite the celebrities.

The only thing that marred the experience today was the bitter cold. Chicago actually saw snow flurries this morning!!! Today’s temperature apparently set some kind of record since it was so unseasonably cold. We stood outdoors in 5C weather for most of the day but thankfully we were quite prepared with hats, several layers, gloves, tights and boots! I even scored a free T-shirt that was meant for undergrads to add more layers on. I guess I still look quite young. haha.

Enjoying my ginger tea with honey now to make sure my body stays nourished and warm. Looking forward to a hot bath to warm up cold muscles later.

The Pig

Before I go on, I must first warn and apologize to my vegetarian friends because the photos below could be quite disturbing…

Summer has been super tiring and we’ve been quite packed with activities almost every weekend. Chicagoians really go all out to enjoy the warm weather. What with the crazy winter we had, everyone just wants to make most of the sunshine. We’ve been having lots of fun too.

Interestingly, the weather has been quite unbearable for me on some days. Coming from the tropics, you would think that the heat and humidity would be no sweat. But I seriously think I’m going to suffer when I head home for a short break next month. I definitely prefer the cold. Temperatures around 15C-18C is actually my favorite range. And I’ve grown a thick enough skin here to head out in shorts and t-shirts on those days!

One of the husband’s friends in his internship programme invited us to a party over the weekend. We went to a new neighborhood that we had never explored before, Wicker Park. It was suppose to be one of the happening neighborhoods in Chicago, lots of young people and hipster shops and restaurants. The party was held in a gorgeous house with an awesome rooftop view of the Chicago skyline. Unfortunately it was a little hazy this day to get a really clear shot.

The highlight of the party was most definitely the roast pig. We had expected a pig on a spit roast provided by a caterer or something. But no… the host built a wooden box from scratch, brined the whole pig, shoveled sand and charcoal and roasted the whole thing herself for 3 whole hours! All guests including us were in disbelief when we heard and admired her effort tremendously. The guys at the party pretty much felt quite ashamed of themselves.

I did feel quite sorry for the pig when it was laid on the table though. Kinda looked like it was still alive somehow. *shudder* It tasted incredible and the meat was so so tender. The skin was also all crackly and yummy. Unfortunately, we didn’t stay till the end of the party to pick up the leftovers because I think whatever bony bits, or even the trotters leftover would make a kick ass stock for porridge. I hope they weren’t thrown away.

It’s such a Chinese thing to save all the leftover bits isn’t it? I have fond memories of my mom lugging home suckling pig leftovers that we’ve had at banquet dinners and having porridge cooked in its stock for days after. Yummers.