Saturday, June 04, 2005

What a Difference 365 Days Makes

Today is my one year anniversary since arriving in Singapore. The time has flown by at an incredible pace. In a year's time I have been fortunate enough to visit 10 different countries in Asia, many for the first time. I have also been lucky to make several acquaintances and even a handful of friendships with a collection of interesting, dynamic, and fun people.

When I look back on a year's time now spent in Asia, several things come to mind that have made this experience thus far fun, different, frustrating, and hilarious. I have made an attempt to summarize some of the situations that have personified my journey these last 365 days.

Days Away From Cholesterol Induced Comma
My good Singaporean friend and co-worker, Kevin, introduced me to Laksa my first weekend after arriving. Laksa is a shrimp and noodle soup with rich cocoanut broth that is just perfect with some chili sauce. I made the silly mistake of thinking that Laksa, since it was essentially a noodle soup, was something that was good for me. And since I had a Hawker Center not far from where I lived that served up this delectable concoction, I soon found myself eating Laksa around three times a week. When I proudly told Kevin about my tri-weekly Laksa routine, panic came across his face. He told me that I was going to kill myself at that rate and that because of Laksa's essential cocoanut milk base, that it had some of the highest cholesterol of any food imaginable. I should have known that anything that tastes this good would have to be bad for me.

"Can"... Not Necessarily What Contains Your Favorite Soft Drink
The word "can" is an affirmative agreement one gives in Singapore when asked to partake in an activity or request in the verbal short-hand language used by locals known as Singlish. Example: "Would you be able to make sure these papers are stapled together in time for today's meeting?" Reply: "Can" Translation: "Yeah, I'll get that done for you". Efficient people, efficient language.

.5 Nights
Number of nights in the last year I was able to sleep without running the air conditioner. I made it through half a night once without AC until springing from the midst of a peaceful slumber drenched with sweat. I have had the cool air flowing every single night since then.

Lanes? We Don't Need No Stinking Lanes
What is most frustrating for a car-loving driving fanatic American like myself is that in Singapore I don't drive. Singapore is the most expensive place in the world to own a car, so in the end I can't really justify the cost; especially when public transportation is so good. But I also spend a lot of time in taxis and my roadway observations could fill volumes within the Library of Congress. Most amusing is that those cute little stripes we normally see painted on the highway that designate the individual lanes on a road take on a new meaning here. In most of the world, the object is to drive between these lines so not to bump into your neighboring vehicle and crash into flames. In Singapore many drivers use these funny little lines on the road as guidelines on where to drive... meaning they drive on the stripes not in between them. Normally a trick reserved in the States for people who are way too drunk to legally be on the road, line riding appears to be a national past time here. Use of the horn is rare, you never see the Ole Bird make an appearance, and firearms are illegal so roadside shootings are out of the question. It makes it very difficult as you can see for a Type A and impatient American like me to sit back in his cab and see all this happen around him and not have any outlet. But then again, I do have a blog.

Give That Man a Microphone
Drunk, sober, business, or pleasure. Nothing quite says Asia like Karaoke. We can blame it on the Japanese who started this mess, but the act of singing along with your friends or business associates to the hits of today and yester-year is a social must. Unlike in the States where a bar might have Karaoke Night, there are stand-alone establishments dedicated to the tone deaf in Asia. Nicely appointed and private rooms await a grouping of friends who can select via a remote from thousands of hits which are then pumped over incredible sound systems with way too much reverb in order to distort your voice into actually sounding palatable. I have my favorites for sure now. Frank Sinatra is a must... Lady is a Tramp usually brings the house down. I am getting good at old Journey too. Steve Perry would cringe at my renditions of his sappy love songs. And what night would be complete without a rousing reprisal of Def Lepard's Pour Some Sugar On Me when your voice is totally shredded from straining to hit the high notes for the last two hours.

Only Place Where Being a White Guy on a Dance Floor is an Advantage
Now we White Guys take a lot of abuse for the vast majority of our ilk who couldn't carry a beat if it came with a handle. But if we haven't got rhythm, there is also another thing most of us don't have that keeps the yin and the yang in balance and that is that we have no pride either. We don't care how stupid we look on the dance floor and if given enough liquid encouragement we will attempt to show any lady in the vicinity how cool our moves are. Asian guys are too cool for that nonsense. They'd rather sip their drink and watch their girlfriends dance than risk looking dumb or out of step. The fact that White Guys try always scores big points, no matter how goofy we look. I have learned this from experience, having been anointed the best White Guy dancer in my salsa class. Now I won that honor admittedly because I was the only White Guy in the class, but still... you get the point.

Sleeping is Not a Hobby
As a single person in Singapore I have had the opportunity, dare I say the priveledge, of reviewing a few personal profiles on the local singles sites. You would be amazed how many girls list sleeping as a hobby or interest that they enjoy. Yep you guessed it, right along side shopping for shoes, coffee with girl friends, re-runs of Sex in the City, and walking hand-in-hand on the beach watching an amazing sunset is sleeping. People who list this fascinating hobby get the automatic delete from me, because the last thing I want is someone to break out into a narcoleptic attack right in the middle of delightful bowl of pasta and conversation all for the sake of pursuing their passion for snoozing.

Bicycle Riding is a Priveledge, Not a Right
In most developing countries, bicycle riding is a primary mode of transportation, but in Southeast Asia's most developed country, Singapore views bike riding as pure entertainment. I have observed it to be more of a blood sport. I am not sure if it is because most Singaporeans learn to ride bikes much later in life than in most places, but the number of bike wrecks I observe on a weekly basis at the nearby park from my apartment indicates there is something amiss. It is not uncommon to see people crash into stationary objects like trees or garbage cans, or see a couple on a tandem bike eat it on a perfectly flat and smoothly paved piece of bike path. The worst is head-on collisions that usually leave someone with a trip to the emergency room. Most of these accidents are not bestowed upon kids, but grown adults in their 20s or 30s who apparently have went their entire young lives without learning the processes of ride, crash, get up, try again while a youngster. The only problem is that they are learning in congested weekend parks and crowded bike paths. Everyone is a potential hazard. I prefer to ride in the late evenings or weekdays when it is safer.

It's All Up To You
Singapore gets the wrap around the region as being boring. I myself faced this conclusion for a brief time when I first moved here during the initial months. People say there is nothing to do but eat, shop, and watch movies here. I begged the question if those were not the core things that most people did in any other city around the world. After a certain point in my stay here I realized that Singapore was only going to become as boring as I allowed it to be. It was up to me to interject excitement and fun into this place and if I took a few others along for the ride with me, then all for the better. Singapore is definitely a place where you can carve out your own interests. Locals are willing to give it a go as well. They may not be the first to try, but if you form a small group of friends to normalize the activity, then you can find yourself enjoying a fun time and meeting and making new friends in the process. I have experienced that here in Singapore and I am so lucky to have the chance to live and work in such a place. It is a fantastic place within Asia to call home and a great hub from which to launch both business and personal travel to some of the most exotic places in the world. I have been blessed to have met some outstanding people along the way who have helped me learn and grow. I am now one year in to this new adventure and the fun does not appear to be letting up!


At 12:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, i love the "Sleeping is Not a hobby" part. Seems more and more people are turning that to a hobby or interest with no choice, otherwise they have to leave that portion of themselves empty... But... let's think about it, Sleeping does show kinda of positive personality of a persion, such as consistency, persistency, trust me on this, no matter how committed you are to any one of your hobbies/interests, you are just not able to do it everyday or/and commit as much time as you do to sleeping... ;->

At 12:29 PM, Blogger Ferg said...

happy anniversary, Fos!

At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your one year anniversary working abroad. NOW, everything is HOMEWARD BOUND. Let's have more good things happen this year before you head back to the 'ole USA.

At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey David, how about your anniversary party at New Asia bar? 4 girls and 4 bottles of Moet ;-)Happy anniversary, Im glad you re having fun!

At 8:39 PM, Blogger dindon said...

Happy Anniversary!

I really enjoy, and agree, with your "It's all up to you" part ...

At 10:21 PM, Blogger Candyfeehily said...

the dance floor part is fun.
asian guys are too reserve.

At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey hey.. amusing post especially regarding the 'can' word and sleeping as a hobby. you have definitely seen, and learnt quite a lot from your stay here (in SG). =D


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