A Travellerspoint blog

A day in the life of...

7:15am – Wake up call, turn on the water heater (it’s not continuous hot water, you need to flip a switch), turn on kettle for tea, skim emails
7: 15 – Shower, talk to Rich while I get ready
8:00 – Go down to the cafe by the pool for breakfast and wolf down breakfast (Usually something Asian like miso and rice and muffins, cereal, fruit, etc. No soy milk!)
8:20 – Catch the shuttle to work, listen to music or read
8:37 – Ride the lift up to the 24th storey
9:00 –Superheat milk in the espresso machine (how decadent!) for a proper cup of chai
12.30 – go down for lunch. Taiwanese, Japanese (I had the prettiest bento box today), Starbucks, and really bad Asian-Italian (they even ask how much heat you want in your pasta!)
1:30 – Back to work
4:30 – Tea break for 5 minutes or so (Twinings tea bag)
6:05 – leave work
6:17 – Catch shuttle
6:45 – Arrive home
7:30 – Leave for dinner (this is usually a community activity, groups of teams meet up. Surprisingly, I don’t mind it. It’s been years since I socialized, since all I did was home and work for 3 years of school).
8:30 – Dinner (most people do drinks around 8)
10:00 – Get on the train to come home
10:45 or 11 – answer emails, prep for next day
Midnight – read and fall asleep
The late nights are really taking some getting used to.

Today's special: Manila clams. And the way the locals eat them is to pick up the shell with chop sticks, pop the whole thing in your mouth, shell and all - and then deftly use your tongue to pull the meat off the shell and then use chop sticks to pick out the shell from your mouth. Me, not so deft!

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Posted by Goofy9 06:22 Comments (6)

The many sounds of diversity

A few months ago I stumbled upon a deep description of what constitutes diversity (Diversity can be defined as all the ways in which people are different. It affects how people see the world, how they behave, and what values they hold, among others.) It’s not just about color, race, gender, but a combination and permutations of more factors like geography, accent, education, work, sexual orientation. And this concept has hit home with me here in Singapore on more than one dimension.

The people I work with are from the Netherlands, there’s a Swiss-German, a few French, a young woman from China, more than many Australians, obviously Muslim women wearing headscarves, tons of Indians (with tiny statues of gods on their tables), and the interesting Eastern Europeans. After the first two days I have become immune to the various accents. I am able to “hear” past it and focus on the words.

Here’s a sampling of lifestyles: F works here and her husband is in Australia, Z’s 2 kids and 5 grandkids are back in Australia, B’s husband is in the UK, A’s partner is on the project working on the same floor, C has a 6 month old daughter and her husband is a stay at home dad, D has two kids under the age of 4 and has a full time helper, G has teenage kids in the US, etc. This is diversity undiluted!

The office has some interesting rules (these are not gentle guidelines, these are seriously enforced rules) – absolutely no food outside of the kitchen. There is not even a microwave – to discourage people bringing lunch. That would not fly in the US or in India! I think it’s based on smell. They don’t want to offend any group of people by the smells of ethnic foods. Gosh knows who will find the smell of what offensive. There’s also an obsession with safety and ergonomics. I was told that I better use my desktop (not my laptop) or I’ll be reported to HR for bad posture! Talk about living in a regulated state.

And now on to the mandatory food report: Salted Egg Crab. It’s crab steamed/cooked in a sauce made from egg yolks. That’s what gives it the yellow color. And it has chopped egg boiled egg whites. Fantastic! It’s salty, vinegar-y, and brilliant.

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Side note – Rich gave me this super cool umbrella that has two layers, wind proof, ballistic nylon, could fly like Mary Poppins umbrella. I have carried it in my bag for two weeks now and y’day I got tired of hauling it around and took it out of my bag, and it’s pouring cats and dogs today!

Posted by Goofy9 04:55 Comments (6)

Cubans in China Town, Singapore

Highlight of my weekend --> walked through China Town and stumbled upon a Cuban cigar lounge. How odd is that! Cuba-China Town-Singapore. None of it fits. Am going to check it out tonight.

Susan had mentioned the Mughal jewels exhibit even before I had left, so I knew to look out for it. It's housed in the Asian History Musuem. And it was spectacular! 28 carat diamonds, rubies in hunks, emeralds as large as an eyeball. and to think that many of these jewels and a part of history has been lost to India after the British left. The exhibit truly showcased the best of India and it's artisans handiwork.

Labour must be relatively cheap here – the gas station (yes, I have only seen 1 gas station so far) has attendants, when you finish eating at the food court you don’t have to clear your table because someone else buses it, I have daily housekeeping at my flat (in Seattle it was once in 2 weeks). People with families have “helpers” – to walk the kids to day care, to grocery shop, etc. There is a definite hierarchy of who does what kind of work. I just haven’t figured out the nitty gritties, but there is a class system in play and I can’t quite read it as yet.

I was sitting at a coffee shop here as I was early to a meeting and I noticed that there is a large number of expats working in Singapore. Lots and lots of white people!! And they adventurous folk too – these are the people I see eating at the local joints and even using their fingers to eat pepper crab. Immersion is a wonderful thing!

And no report is complete without a food report! So here it is: Singapore's famous Pepper Crab and Chilly Crab. Walked along East Coast Road, by the beach, watching all the ships in the lanes and met a colleague for dinner.

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Rich had shown me a 2 minute video about the Stop and Yield signs and how just changing those or making them fewer might save the country money. After seeing the video I started thinking about how many signs there are in the US. There is a sign for everything - bathrooms, handicap, deaf child zone, no cell phone, etc. After a point, I realized that we are inundated with signage. Someone is making money creating signs! In India, you hardly see signs for anything - even street signs. Everything is intuitive and by chance and you sorta kinda figure it out and you rely on your fellow person to find out how to get anywhere, find food, etc. So, here in Singapore, I noticed that it's sort of hit or miss. There are signs for things that I didnt expect (like which side of the road to walk on) and few signs for things that I did expect (like street/House #s).

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Posted by Goofy9 02:37 Comments (0)

Good Friday

I love the Lonely Planet - it's a great way to get some sense of what to do, and then I like to wander. Today was a national holiday for Good Friday so I had the day off. I walked by the University of Chicago, which is nestled, as usual, among a bunch of high rises. It's a beautiful (and I believe only) example of Chinese architecture left in the city. Singapore seems to be not even trying to hold on to its past. Everything seems to be swallowed up by modernity. There are a few pockets of old-world but just raise your head and a condo complex is towering down on you. I wonder what a city and a people lose when they let go of history.

Anyway, walked past the President's quarters. Cannot really see the house from all the lush greenery but it's said to be colonial in style built in the 1800s to impress a visiting Earl. And then I stumbled on to what I am sure will remain my favorite street.

Emerald Street, Cuppage Hill
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It's narrow and cobbled and the homes are long and have plantation shutters and beautiful antique chandeliers outside, and small dragon statues (I guess it's to ward of evil). and these are multi-million US $$ homes! I picked up a For Sale flyer and about choked on the price. Well, ,many of the houses had Alfa Romeos and Mercedes parked in the narrow courtyard so that should have been a price giveaway.

After all that walking in the heat, I needed a drink, so I got me a chendol. It's shaved ice on top of red bean (they seem to have bland red bean in everything), floating in some liquid (soy-based, perhaps?) and a scoop of homemade icecream in a flavor that I did not recognize.

Chendol
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I was told that Kinokuniya is the largest bookstore around. And I thought, nobody does BIG as well as the US, so let's see how this compares, and boy, does it compare! Take Barnes and Nobles in Bloomington, add it to the one in Denver, and then some. It's huge. I spent a couple of hours wandering. They have a Japanese section with a bunch of comics and anime stuff. Lots of travel books by publishers not in the US (like Thomas Cooke). Books in German! You know, I did not notice if they had books in Hindi. The bookstore really gave one a feel of how international Singapore is - Chinese language books, Tamil, French. And all the popular magazines have Caucasians on the cover but written in the native language.
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I then decided to tackle the malls - it's exhausting. It's a mecca to materialism. People shop with vigor, and this is ordinary folk. Not just your super Rich in Bentleys. There isnt just 1 Chanel store, but 6. Mont Blanc has a store in two malls adjacent to each other. There seemed to be no logic and just excess. The only good part was that I got to try on shoes of every possible designer that I have always wanted to - Jimmy Choo and Christian Loubatain. I was done shopping pretty quickly, too expensive.

The best part of my day was my dinner (no, surprise!). I walked over to an area called Lau Pa Sat, which is large, airy, circular. Reminded me of a large, ornate merry-go-round. It's full of stalls and great smells and fresh grilled satay. Rich, when you visit, this is a must-do-see-eat!

Lau Pa Sat
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Writing like this everyday is turning out to be fun and it makes me feel like I am still connected to the world back home. I feel loved!

Posted by Goofy9 16:27 Comments (3)

Fashion, food, shoes, and all things good

It's been a week since I started work. I must say the offices are really swanky. I take the train from my hotel to the office, just 2 stops, under 10 min. You get out from the subway into Raffle City Tower. You walk past shoe shops (dangerous!) and Starbucks and Kate Spade and up 33 floors.

The office has two whole walls of glass that provide a distractingly great view of the city. Most men wear suits, and take off their jackets when they get to their desks. Women are uber fashionable - heels, perfect straight hair, short skirts, and Louis Vuitton is their most beloved accessory. In fact, Loius Vuitton's south Asia office is on the 30th floor of the same building. The first couple of days I was really warm in my suit coat - anything synthetic (or even jeans for that matter) is just too hot to wear.

People watching is a lot of fun - they are really high-fashion. and they look good! I am finding it interesting that I feel fat here. People are slim and fit, and I look Amazonian in comparison. Most folks I have talked to play badminton or belong to a league for dragon boat-ing, or take classes on ceramics. They seem well rounded. Funny - one the girls here told me that she's not into sports but she considers shopping a competitive sport!

Every train station has a mall built above it. Every where there are super brands and luxury malls. I found a reasonably priced shoe shop (no surprise!) that's practically in every mall. They even have Bata, which are the black shoes and keds I wore to school.

The Lonely Planet had made a comment that service is really bad here, but that has not been my experience so far. People have been really nice and have gone out of their way to help an "expat."

Every where you use your credit card, when they return your card, they use both their hands, smile, and do a teeny head nod. It's all very deliberate and respectful. I am trying to make it a point to keep both hands free to take back change, credit card, etc.

Food report:

1. Tomorrow is a national holiday for Good Friday - 3 day weekend! I plan on doing a bunch of walking, to burn off all the sushi I had today: We went to a place that had a conveyor belt, loaded with sushi on little colored plates, and you pick out what you want, and at the end they come total the # of plates. A pink plate is $2, blue plate $3, etc. Check out the video (Rich found me this cool app that allows me to take video):

2. One of the most popular dishes is fish soup or fish head soup. When I was jetlagged, I had it, and the heat and spices woke me up!
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3. The historic Raffles hotel is right outside the office. It's a beautiful collonial complex and the Singapore Sling originated here. Horridly sweet drink, but lovely architecture. If you visit, I will not be taking you to drink this even though it's the touristy thing to do.

4. Went to dinner at a German restaurant, with a Swiss-German colleague who loves the place. Who would have thunk German in Singapore! But, I guess, why not! I hear that there's a really good Italian place called Pasta Brava.

5. Random note: Elvis has made it to Singapore.
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6. There's a great Indian place called Muthu's and Kingfisher is a must with curry.
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Posted by Goofy9 00:03 Comments (3)

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