Singapore Adventure

Sunday, July 31, 2005

by venitha

We're taking it easy this weekend and staying here in S'pore. Easy is a relative term in that we sort of know how things work here. We agreed last week on the four-hour bus ride home from Melaka that half the good of getting away is the relief felt at returning to Singapore. We know how to get around here. We're thinking in terms of the currency here. We've got familiar comforts here: our own bed, our oatmeal for breakfast, our computers as an easy escape.

Fat white lab rats, we're working our way through the maze of mental adjustments inherent in expat-dom. For the last week, we've been stubbornly stuck in a corner called irritation. Does everything have to take ten times as long as it should? Why does everyone walk so slow? If I have to stand in one more %&*# queue! I'm constantly just a hair's width away from snapping, bursting into tears, throwing a hissy fit, smacking someone. I've done none of these things - in public - though I'm developing an Ally McBeal-like imagination. My bad behavior in reality has been limited to punching Jim in the arm and strangling the phone, though to be fair, Agilent benefits people have driven me to this in the US, too. The strangling, not the punching. I'm sorry, Jim.

Along with lots of deep breaths, the thing that's saving me from being buried alive under constant irritation is the recognition that I'm learning. I'm the slow child who needs to touch the hot burner several times before I finally get it, but I'm learning. Of course, constant learning is also the source of the irritation, so I'm making an effort to appreciate and acknowledge how far I've come.

It now takes only twice as long as it should to do some things instead of ten times as long. I now know which bus numbers will get us quickly back home. I now know to ask for a Giro application when I pay a bill in person so in the future it will just be paid automagically through NETS. I now know that 35 cents/100 gm is kind of pricey for a guava, but 4/$5 is a steal for persimmons. And just yesterday, I learned that in a powerful downpour, buses can throw water from the street nearly 20 feet (still not thinking in metric - damn!) and that white shorts may not be my best choice.

I've been perusing the travel ads in the paper for ideas for our next weekend getaway, and there, too, like a child who recognizes first cat and now dog, I'm learning to read. Chiang Mai is in Thailand, Free and Easy means it's not a tour, bagus is Malay for fantasic, wonderful, yeah! I set up our first getaway, to Batam, through Holiday Bagus Travel. Bag? US? Huh?

The destinations that catch my eye, that I find myself yearning for, are those with highlands in the name, those that tease me with the thought of cooler temperatures at higher elevation, those that taunt me with some semblance of my beloved Colorado mountains. A harsh dose of reality dousing my vacation dreams, my new knowledge reminds me that Genting Highlands outside KL is a gambling and sex mecca, and Cameron Highlands, in central peninsular Malaysia, is a longer trip than a weekend will allow.

I'll have to content myself with hanging up my pictures of Colorado's mountains today. And I'll try not to succumb to irritation at the fact that this requires a drill, anchors, and screws here in Singapore instead of an easy hammer and nail. At least I now know this, and I even know someone from whom I can borrow a drill. Baby steps, but progress nonetheless.