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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy Summer in the Nation's Capital

The relaxing days of summer have begun in the Washington, D.C. area, which is abuzz with many activities. There will be a grand celebration this long weekend for the July 4th Independence Day. Americans will be watching parades, going to BBQs (usually called cookouts here), enjoying fireworks and having parties with the red, white and blue themes.

I have watched the main parade in the Capital several times and it is a stupendous experience. However, I will not braving the crowds this time around. Sometimes I sniff out smaller town parades where I can find a comfortable place to perch and enjoy the parade. One of my favorite parades is in the Palisades neighborhood in the D.C. area. This year, I am planning to head out to Frederick, a charming and historic town in Maryland where I will watch a bathtub race among other celebrations, it will be first for me!
Americans love parties and we just went through a season of graduation with some grand celebration parties. Colleges scramble for famous persons to make commencement speeches at graduation. In this area, Vice-President Joe Biden has been in the news and made a notable commencement speech at Yale University. His speech was touching and personal, and the public later found that he was weathering yet another family tragedy as his son Beau was seriously ill then and passed away from brain cancer shortly after his speech. It was fitting that he spoke much about Beau and also about compassion:
            "It’s not that all that difficult, folks, to be compassionate when you’ve been the beneficiary of compassion in your lowest moments not only from your family, but from your friends and total strangers.  Because when you know how much it meant to you, you know how much it mattered.  It’s not hard to be compassionate.
I was raised by a tough, compassionate Irish lady named Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden.  And she taught all of her children that, but for the grace of God, there go you — but for the grace of God, there go you."

Graduation from high school and from college is a huge milestone, and parents go through a massive effort to plan parties or even sponsor graduation trips as rewards. These include cruises and beach trips. For many new college graduates, after the euphoria of graduation, they now face the arduous task of job applications. Job prospects has been tough for Millennials as some studies show that more than half of college grads are unemployed or underemployed six months after graduation. However the class of 2015 is more fortunate than many other graduating classes as employers are apparently hiring more than they did last year.
Lydia Sin
Author of “Going to America? Get INSIDE Information”
Ebook and paperback available at:

Saturday, April 18, 2015


Many in the Washington, D.C. area are waiting with abated breath! The barren winter landscape is being transformed as spring blossoms are emerging everywhere. The most prized blossoms are cherry blossoms that are coming to full bloom over the next few days.  Way back in 1912, Japan gave more than 3,000 cherry trees to the USA as a gesture of friendship and these were planted at the Tidal Basin. This event is still being celebrated with the Cherry Blossom festival. About one million tourists and locals will be swarming the D.C. area to peek at this spectacular scene.  Being an avid photographer, my daughter is planning to brave the crowds to soak in the sights and sounds of the festival. Public transportation is the way to go – take the metro or the new express bus that plies between places of attraction such as Union Station and the memorials. On previous years, we have driven downtown and managed to find a parking lot at Hains Point which is also lined with the magical blossoms. Other fun stuff to do is to watch the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade and browse around the Sakura Matsuri – Japanese Street festival.
This year, I am planning to take a water taxi from Washington Harbor in Georgetown to the Tidal basin and view the blossoms from the water along the trip. Besides the Washington Mall area, many neighborhoods will morph into magical places as, over the years, thousands of trees have been planted over the entire metropolitan area. My favorite suburb is Kenwood in Bethesda where I can enjoy a long walk, and picnic under the delicate blossoms. I am also heading out to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna to enjoy the spring scene.
Besides the Cherry Blossom Festival, spring heralds the start of outdoor activities. There are spring flings such as outdoor picnics and cookouts in backyards – I am planning to go to one next Saturday. Some good friends of mine are preparing for spring marathons, and the Boston marathon is probably the most famous of them all. The wedding season begins and my son will be flying in from San Francisco for a friend’s wedding. Baseball season has started and many will head for the ballparks to route for their favorite teams. The Potomac River will be dotted with kayaks and regattas and a big event is the annual Dragon Boat Festival that promotes Chinese culture in the D.C. area through the sport of dragon boat racing. It is quite a sight!
Spring is one of the best seasons to visit Washington, D.C.!

Lydia Sin
Author of “Going to America? Get INSIDE Information”
Ebook and paperback available at:

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Heart of Winter

We are in the heart of winter here in the Washington, D.C. area. We have had several snow days and that has delighted the school kids with school closings and delays. My kids used to wear their pajamas inside out as they were told that will bring on snow! Somehow, winter seems to prod along slowly unlike spring, summer and fall. I have this unexplainable feeling of wanting to hibernate till the weather turns sunny and pleasant. But life goes on with all its schedules and responsibilities. Winter is a season for indoor activities. Recently, I attended a Games Night hosted by my friend in Virginia. It was a casual evening that started with a simple dinner of chili served in crockpots. Typical American desserts were served namely cookies, brownies and gingerbread. In the U.S., chili has no resemblance to our chilli -- right now, I am dreaming of sambal chilli and especially miss stingray with sambal chilli wrapped in banana leaf, that would really be a great winter warm-up! The American chili dish is tomato-based and usually made with minced beef or turkey. I made a turkey chili for this function and it was well-received. Actually I had won first prize in a chili competition with this particular recipe. Check out my earlier blog post for the recipe and try it! I learnt to play Pounce and Apples to Apples at the party. My husband and I started at the Apples to Apples game table. It is an award-winning game that is family friendly, hilarious and allows one to be frivolous and imaginative. You match cards and make comparisons and explain the reasons behind your choices. It is a nice ice-breaker as you get an idea of the thought patterns and preferences of the respective players. We went on to the Pounce table which is a challenging fast-paced card game that requires great hand-eye coordination as several things are happening all at once and you need to move quickly. You get to see the competitive edge of your friends. However, I found that too challenging and stressful for a relaxed evening that ended at 9 pm. I like it that American parties usually start and end on time unlike Singapore get-togethers. It was altogether an enjoyable evening with a great balance of stimulating conversations and fun games. This wonderful group of American friends included mainly Caucasian Americans, as well as some who were originally from the UK, Korea, Mexico, China and Taiwan. That is the charm of the Washington, D.C. area!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Goodbye Summer, Hello School and Fall

Right now in America, many are lamenting the end of summer and preparing for a new school year. For Montgomery County in Maryland, school starts next Monday on August 24. There are probably mixed feelings for both parents and kids as summer in America can be both exciting and boring. There is great enthusiasm in the planning of summer trips and then exploring new and wonderful places but boredom also sets in for many kids when they are done with adventurous trips and summer camps. Summer days are long here in the USA, stretching for about 3 months. Sometimes kids long for the routine of school and being surrounded by friends. Probably the beginning of the school year is good time to reflect on the role of school in the lives of kids, highlighting the positives and being aware of the possible negatives. Recently I came across an email from my daughter’s high school about a film ‘Race to Nowhere.’ It resonates with me and I suspect it probably will strike a chord with many Asian parents as well. The film highlights over-stressed and depressed kids who feel that they are defined by grades and academic success. In Chapter 4 of my book, I talked about Creative Education in America. I think this still holds true compared to the stifling, rote-learning culture of many Asian societies. However I also highlighted that it gets tougher in America as you move up the grades, especially during the high school years. The pressure mounts to build a resume that will get you into choice colleges. High school kids try to balance it all – good grades, high SAT scores, community hours, sports, social life, popularity, looks and a myriad of other issues that contribute to teenage angst. This thought-provoking documentary tries to open channels of communication between parents and kids, and also educators and policy-makers about the prevailing school culture and the impact on the lives of kids. All parents would embrace the idea of having kids who are thriving and developing holistically instead of kids who are just academically successful. While kids need to work diligently in school, they also need time for family and friends and some unscheduled down time to smell the roses and enjoy the crisp autumn air that is just around the corner.

Now available as ebook on Amazon Kindle

Big milestone for my book! I recently converted my book into an ebook and it is available on kindle for Amazon, search for Lydia Sin

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Going to the doctor in America

I read in The Washington Post today that the US is No. 1 in healthcare, not in a good way but in terms of leading the world in healthcare expenditure.
An American friend asked me about how advanced is the medical care in Singapore. Being partial to Singapore’s healthcare, I highlighted what I wrote in my book “Going to America? Get Inside Information” that I get to see a doctor in Singapore for a common ailment for just US$15 and that would include the medicine as well. Over here in the US, I would probably pay about US$100 to see a doctor and then pay extra to get medication from the pharmacy. Once, when my daughter (then 6 years old) was down with flu, I brought her to a pediatric clinic and was surprised that she was given a urine test and strep throat test. The bill came up to US$120. There are some flaws in the US medical system. There is a litigation system in place to protect patients from medical malpractice; however this system is now working against patients. Doctors fear being sued for negligence and hence they practice defensive medicine. This translates to unnecessary medical tests for patients and higher health costs. The litigation system that allows for doctors to be sued and for patients to be given huge compensation for malpractice has the unintended effect of benefiting lawyers who reap the biggest share of jury awards for medical incompetence. Both the doctors and their patients suffer from this.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Driving in the USA

Recently I had a fender bender accident (meaning a minor accident). Another driver hit my car when I had stopped at a traffic light junction. We came out of our cars to survey the damage and there were minor dents on my car. I took the opportunity to take photos of my car and also his car. When I tried to exchange insurance information with this man, he flatly refused, alleging that some of the dents were not made by his car. In response, I dialed 911 and to my surprise, the man jumped into his car and drove off at full speed. Thankfully I had a photo of his license plate and the police managed to track him down. He was reprimanded by a big burly police officer who told him that he should not leave the scene of an accident and that he could have been charged for “hit and run.”
When driving in the US, it is wise to report any accident (including minor ones) to your insurance company. Be sure to exchange information with the other driver, namely, details of his driver’s license and his car insurance. If possible, get names of witnesses at the scene. If you do not take these steps, you may find that the other driver will report the incident and submit a story that may cost you a lot in claims or even result in a lawsuit. My takeaway from this incident is that it is extremely important to take photos when you are involved in any car accident.
Remember the number 911 as it is the emergency number to call whether you need the police or the ambulance.