Singapore Adventure

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Please Tell Me Why
by venitha

An Australian comedian we saw last month joked that Singapore is a land of extremes. Outside, it's always 10 degrees too hot; inside, it's always 10 degrees too cold. Walk down the street, and one minute it smells like flowers; the next minute, it smells like poo. This is, sadly, quite true.

In general, though, I'm finding Singapore to be a land of paradoxes. After six weeks, I still have no answers...

  • Eating and shopping are the national pastimes... yet Singaporeans are extraordinarily thin and live in very small apartments. In both cases, where do they put it?

  • They do an incredible amount of walking... yet the Singaporean women wear the most non-sensible shoes you can imagine. I'm choosing to view this as modern day , which we learned about in excrutiating detail at the Enduring Beauty exhibit at a museum in Melaka this weekend. Also featured: lip and earlobe plates, scarification, and neck stretching.

  • The weather is always always hot... yet every food stall serves many varieties of soup. And it's not just the arctically air-conditioned indoor food stalls, either, though I admit that soup has its appeal in an 18 degree room when I'm wearing shorts and a tank top.

  • The mass transit system is great... yet there are no bike lanes. Given the insane way that people drive here, this one isn't all that difficult to figure out. Clearly, it's natural selection at work. Anyone biking down the street long enough to have the thought, "Hey, it sure would be nice to have a bi-" Wham! Flattened by a lorry.

  • Singaporean engineers earn a fraction of what US engineers earn... yet the cost of living in Singapore is higher. My theory is that over-supply has left engineers selling for a dime a dozen, and we're all in big trouble now that China's joined the game.

  • Singapore is a small island with no natural resources... yet recycling is not prevalent, and there is no movement for conservation of water or energy. I blame the garbage chute. It somehow feels very irresponsible that you can just toss anything into it and away it goes. Growing up with such a cavalier attitude toward trash can't possibly result in a conservationist mindset. Me, I'm terrified that I'm accidentally going to put something valuable down the chute, though I suppose it's really Jim who should be terrified because, well, some jobs are just really for men, you know?

  • Meals are commonly very messy and are eaten with your hands... yet no napkins are provided. I've given up on understanding this one and am just always carrying a handkerchief and a pack of kleenex in my bag. So, see! I'm not sexist. Here I am happily doing one of those jobs that's just really for women. You know?

  • Food is almost always spicy... yet gum is not available for sale. I was quite tempted to indulge this weekend in Malaysia, noisily chewing big fat wads of gum, blowing enormous bubbles, and putting on a whiny Brooklyn accent. Unfortunately, in spite of the humidity, my hair just isn't big enough to pull it off.

* The best line of the evening: The thing about free speech is... Oh, wait! I can't say that. Click here to return.