Singapore Adventure

Sunday, September 11, 2005

One Week Down
by venitha

One atop another, the stresses of this past week have stacked up into a child's tower of brightly colored wooden blocks, teetering precariously: a new job, a terrible cold, raging insomnia, and plans every night of the week that left me with no time at home other than frustrating hours spent tossing and turning in bed. My wobbly psyche has not, or at least not yet, been sent scattering across the floor by Godzilla in the form of a hot and humid Singaporean afternoon: I spent exactly no time holed up in a bathroom stall sobbing hysterically and feeling sorry for myself. No small accomplishment, let me tell you.

More cheerful successes I can boast of include mastering my commute to work and wading through close to 10000 e-mail messages, of which only about twenty were worthwhile. Somehow the word must have gotten out that I won the UK Lotto because I'm now getting lots of mail with suggestions for how to spend my hard-earned jackpot. And thanks to all of you who sent wonderful, chatty, supportive e-mail to my work address where I couldn't get it for the last three months. While I could undoubtedly have used these kind thoughts when they were originally sent, there is no time I could have used them more than this past week.

Easily the best part of work so far was something completely unexpected: the commute. I kiss Jim good-bye and sashay down to the MRT, where a wonderful man hands me a free newspaper, which I read on the 19-minute ride to Yishun. Just outside the train station, I join the crowd being herded onto the free Agilent bus, resist the tempation to moo, as Sinaporeans share neither my rural Wisconsin upbringing nor my sense of humor, and within minutes I am at my desk, rummaging for a packet of hot chocolate - Yeah! to air-conditioned goodness - and lamenting the fact that yet another pair of my shoes squeaks on the lab's tile floor. Carpeting is apparently anathema in Singapore, though I suppose I should be thankful that we're allowed to wear our shoes inside.

All this for S$1.31, not including the hot chocolate. That's less than US$1, which may even make it cheaper than my 5-minute Colorado commute, given current gas prices. Perhaps I'll spend my savings on squeak-free shoes.

A good goal for next week, I've decided, is to master at least one new name each day. This is harder than it sounds. Chinese names go right in and out of my head, everyone's hair is exactly the same color, and even with name badges, it's difficult to discern which of the names I am to employ. The last two of the three? The first one of the two? Some seemingly unrelated nickname? And then there is the woman with just one name. Perhaps she's a Singaporean pop-star in her spare time, and I'm just ignorant because I don't have a tv.

Is Cher (not her real name - must protect the innocent from my hordes of readers) famous? Do I own squeak-free shoes? Will making animal sounds on the MRT get me arrested? Will I survive week number two? Stay tuned.