Singapore Adventure

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Good Stuff
by venitha

It's hard. As I sob uncontrollably over the unexpected discovery of Maggie's ashes... as I fill out endless tax forms and realize that our January 31st move means the accountants get to embezzle from us for a third straight year... as I face the overwhelming mountain of effort that will be required to restore our chaotic house to a comfortable home...

It's hard not to view the last two years as a horrible, colossal, nighmarish mistake.

"But surely there were good things, too," prompted Ellen when I'd said, "Uh, no!" when she'd asked if we'd liked Singapore.

Head bobbing at the loan desk of our credit union, I'd swiveled in my chair, and in a happy and awaking surprise come face to face with Ellen, a kind and old friend, the kind of old friend that when you're less than 24 hours recovered from a 27-hour trip around the world, when you're as big as a house, when you're borrowing money, and when you're hoping to see no one you know but really expecting no less than a self-assured, tanned and fit ex-boyfriend, or the gorgeous young blonde thing who stole him away, or a satanic old boss, or all three at once, convinces you that in spite of war and poverty and the indescribable evil of health insurance providers, God is truly benevolent.

"Yes, there were good things, too," I echoed, blinking dumbly into her patient smile, and I rifled frantically through my jetlag-addled brain to think of some.
    We loved not having a car. Singapore's busses and trains and taxis combine to form a mass transit system that's affordable, efficient, and the envy of the rest of the world.

    We've been everywhere. We gasped upon a first glimpse of Angkor Wat and lingered over a last look at the Taj Mahal. We soared over Kakadu in Australia, sailed through Halong Bay in Vietnam, trekked through Taroko Gorge in Taiwan. We gorged ourselves on pineapples in Thailand and lassis in India and black ride pudding in Bali and xiao long bao in China. And, oh, yeah! Did I mention Singapore?

    Our apartment was fabulous. A luxury 19th-floor penthouse with a private rooftop terrace boasting a sweeping skyline view frequently adorned with fireworks? It sounds like something out of a fairytale, and it was.

    We made wonderful friends. Friends from all over the world, but mostly and unexpectedly, from the US and from Colorado. Friends I'd never have met or taken the time get to know in my previous life, but friends I'll now treasure for the rest of it.

    Then, too, there are the happy glimpses of daily life in Singapore: Dawood's ready grin and cackling laugh, the shy nod of recognition from my favorite popiah vendor, the vase of orchids gracing my sideboard, the handy dandy rubbish chute, our frequent rooftop parties.

    Of course, there's also Jim and our relationship that's weathered two years of tropical storms and is stronger and closer and better because of it. And, last of all, there's the baby conceived in Singapore, who now leads us onward to our next adventure.

Yes, there were good things, too, and that's what I want to remember and will try hard to talk about when I reminisce about our Singapore Adventure. Perhaps I should write this list in permanent marker, down one forearm and up the other. But no, when my memory starts to fade, I'll read this blog, with both its rants and its raves (surely there were some raves), to remind me of it all.

Thanks to all of you for reading, and thanks especially to the complete strangers who sent kind words of encouragement during the darkest days of the last two years. This blog has been a lifeline, a catharsis, and an escape, and it definitely belongs on this list of the good stuff.


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Not Gonna Miss That
by venitha

"Will you miss it?" Jenn asked as we started down the stairs.

"No," I told her without a thought, and it was only later that I realized how true that is. It didn't even occur to me to cast one last glance over my shoulder at the majestic Singapore skyline and our gorgeous rooftop view.

Not gonna miss that.

It's become a mantra these last weeks, when a car pulls forward with no purpose other than to obstruct my path, when the guy sitting next to me at the bus stop lights up a cigarette, when the woman at the hair salon cuts my bangs crooked one last time.

Not gonna miss that.

When people rush to board the MRT without allowing anyone first to get off.

Not gonna miss that.

When my cellphone crackles in and out of reception.

Not gonna miss that.

When I buy grapes and a yogurt at the grocery store and have to intervene to leave with only one plastic bag.

Not gonna miss that.

Stuffed with The Last Supper from First Thai, we nonetheless lingered over four shared sinful desserts, reluctant in the face of one last inevitable good-bye. Finally, Bailey's soufflé demolished, profiterole plate cleaned, overpriced Evian drunk, we tearfully hugged dear friends outside Raffles City, then headed on our separate way for one last ride on the MRT.

Jim's arm 'round my waist, I leaned my head on his shoulder. "Saying good-bye to people I love... Definitely not gonna miss that."

Posted from Narita (Tokyo, Japan)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Harper's On Packing Out
by venitha

  • Number of boxes shipped: 100 (14 by air, 86 by sea)
  • Language spoken by packers: Malay
  • Number of man-hours put in by packers: 32
  • Number of weeks before we'll see any of it again: 3-4 weeks air, 6-8 weeks sea
  • Boxes and packing paper saved from our shipment to Singapore that were reused: none
  • Estimated value of shipment: US$65000
  • Estimated value of baby gifts in shipment: Astounding. What do we say, Zoe? Thank you.
  • Most useless item shipped here, unused, and now shipped back: a coatrack
  • Contents of the under-the-sink cabinet that - whoops! - didn't get packed: 8 tubes of Crest toothpaste and 5 bars of Dial soap.
  • Number of episodes of The West Wing, Season 7, Jim and I watched while performing our taxing supervisory role during our two pack-out days: 3
  • Rank of Alan Alda, Jimmy Smits, and GW Bush in our preference for US president: We disagree. I'm glad to be returning to a country where women are allowed to vote. That's called sarcasm, and what I'm really glad for is to be returning to a country where I don't have to label it as such. Returning to a country where GW Bush is president, hmmm...
  • Number of times I claimed to be "Mr. James" on the phone in order to close accounts: 2
  • Number of bags we moved to the Marriott: 12
  • Number of bags we plan to fly home with: 9. Hmmm....
  • Number of these bags I can't lift even when I'm not pregnant: 2
  • Number of laptop computers and ipods included in these bags: 3 and 1
  • Number of Singaporeans who expressed disappointment that none of these items were included in our virtual garage sale: 2
  • Highrise city view demotion in moving from the Pasadena to the Marriott: 19 - 6 = 13 floors
  • Distance-to-the-MRT promotion: 10 - 2 = 8 minutes
  • Most popular Marriott mini-bar item: Ritter (German) chocolate, S$4.80
  • Most unexpected Marriott mini-bar item: men's dress socks, two pairs S$7.50


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dead Or Alive
by venitha

In talking with friends last weekend about skiing in Colorado, I recognized an old friend who's never visited me in Singapore: passion. Enthusiasm, from a joie de vivre to a simple smile, is absent from this country. Or at least, it is for me. And if the expressions on the faces around me are any indication, I'm not alone.

While my pre-Singapore life certainly had its share of going-through-the-motions hours days months years, it also had regular jolts of sun-kissed glee. Blazing bombs down mogul runs, Sound-of-Music twirls atop mountain peaks, waltzing spins that left me dizzy in Jim's arms: moments when there was no denying that I was alive. And while I knew that I was giving up certain specific loves in moving to Singapore, I naively hoped that I might discover something new and exciting to replace them. Alas, however, the pursuits that fill the hearts of many Singaporeans with rapture leave me cold: shopping has never been my thing, and while I do adore conveyor-belt sushi, it's hard to get too excited about food when you're just plain not hungry anymore.

I suspect that shopping and food provide insufficient elation for most locals, too, as I'm not the only one plodding through my life here without a smile on my face and without emotion in my heart. All too often, I'm surrounded by, and in tragically excellent company with, the walking dead. So I was stunned to hear my friend Sara's experience at church in Singapore.

"It's like the difference between being alive and... well... dead," she said, comparing her church here with her church back home in the US. "It's amazing."

"And the 'alive' church is in Singapore? Attended by Singaporeans?" This is simply... unfathomable.

Not that I have any argument for the dead description, as I've attended a significant number of church services for which it is only too apt. But alive can be in no one's top ten list of adjectives for anything Singapore. (My guess is that clean and green would top the list, and if the adjective-challenged Singaporeans were included in the survey, nice would be on it several times.)

My own Singapore church experience is limited to a mere three services, and I unfortunately can't honestly describe a single one of them as alive. Although my sister quite correctly pointed out after one that if I wanted people to smile at me in Singapore, I ought to attend church more often, the other two services can inarguably be described as near lethal: one because TPTB armed a crowd of bored congregants with lit candles for nearly an hour; the other because of excessive - and I mean really excessive - length.

Part of me is disappointed that our few remaining Sundays in Singapore didn't leave time to accompany Sara to her church and to witness this phenomenon, but ultimately, it doesn't matter. I didn't find my passion in Singapore, and it's not because I didn't look for it; it's because it isn't here.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Four More Days
by venitha

I realize that killing myself at this point because I hate my hair would be a bit extreme, but I don't know if I can stand four more days of this.