My Day is Your Tomorrow Part I
Sunday, August 25, 2013, 6:30 AM
After four weeks in Singapore, I still don’t feel completely “home.” I honestly can’t tell you why or what that means exactly. It could be because I still have boxes packed with no sure place to unfurl or that as Westernized as it is, I’m still getting slapped in the face, (or literally nudged by passersby), with the reminders that I’m not “home.” I’m told this feeling is typical and actually will come in waves over the next year. The next year?!
Nothing you read or research can fully prepare you for living outside of your home country the first time, especially if the new country is literally on the other side of the world. So, yes I’m a little green. And, I tried to read it all: blog posts, books, news reports, the omniscient Wikipedia; I got my “Living in Singapore for Dummies” book and everything. Buuuuuuut, as soon as I stepped on that plane, which was really a four-star resort where the stewardesses dressed like they were graduates of the “Miss Asia Beauty and Charm School” while serving you lobster and turning down your bed (yes, bed on the plane), I knew I was in for more than I read. This was not Kansas anymore, (see “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” blog post).
I literally time-traveled to get here and landed a day earlier than it was back home in Florida. When I called my parents upon arrival and really realized that they were still in yesterday, my whole “this isn’t really that big of a deal. People do this all the time. It’ll be just like moving within the states,” theory jumped off the roof. From there, the differences in how everything and everyone moves throughout the day continue to jolt me back to reality. On the surface, it looks very similar. It’s bright and sunny most of the time with chance thunderstorms that seem like the world is coming to an end for the ten minutes they last. Just like home. There are, surprisingly, a myriad of people (a beautiful mix of Chinese, Indian and Malaysian cultures, but LOTS of expats from everywhere) moving back and forth, coming and going in hurried or sluggish paces. Just like home. A plethora of tourists’ attractions, eateries, cultural activities, and enrichments are at your fingertips. Just – like – home.
Then, there’s everything else. They say, “the devil’s in the details.” And, if the devil is feeling like a nomad in a strange land, then the devil is in every ingredient in every dish I’ve eaten, every subway ride or walk I’ve taken, and every transaction I’ve made.
The food, that needs its own blog post (See “Fine Dining & Dirty Diving” coming soon), is anything but typical for me. The sticker shock alone will turn your stomach. But, once you’re passed the fact that you might as well leave them with your dominant hand when you pay, you have to get over the fact that you probably ate something that was alive ten minutes ago (freshness is a plus), but that you may not be certain of what that “something” is. Very few meals are completely identifiable by every ingredient. Even the rice and vegetables are typically cooked and mixed with “something.” When I ask, sometimes they just say, “meat” which I eat sparingly and selectively. Um, oooook. This is why I had some, let’s just say, issues the first two weeks. Thank God for a friend’s referral to “Yakult.”
One of the great differences about living in one of the most expensive cities in the world is that it is very clean and beautiful, in most spaces. Now, there are certainly beautiful landscapes back home, but I literally am surrounded by beauty and cleanliness, most of the time, here. I love opening our curtains every morning and just seeing litter-free greenery all around me. Even the air feels and looks cleaner, fresher. This is less about good home training and more due to the fact that the penalties for making a public mess are near unbearable. The government is less like Big Brother and more like, your crotchety older over-protective grandfather. Just see these mandates below cited from “www.hotelclub.com/blog/singapore-weird-laws,” (I told you I read the blogs):
“1. It is against the law and a public caning offense to not flush the toilet after using it. Again, that’s common sense, but in Singapore you might be getting a large fine for that, too, as the police officers randomly check on public checkrooms.
2. You Litter You Pay-Big Time. A litter law dating from 1968 is the country’s way of keeping clean. Disregard the law, drop trash on the ground in this Southeast Asian city, and you’ll pay $1,000. On top of that you’ll also be forced to do community forced labor. And if you do it three times, you’ll have to wear a “I am a litter lout” sign. Along the same lines, it looks like Singapore has a law saying that relieving yourself in an elevator is particularly forbidden.
3. Chewing gum sales forbidden. if you had some garlic and on your way to a meeting or a date, you may be out of luck if you plan on having some chewing gum to get rid of the scent. Apparently Singapore prohibited the sale of gum after authorities have noticed a prolific amount of chewed gum being stuck in subway stations and on cars. As weird as it may sound, Singapore allows you to actually chew gum. Just make sure you stick it at the trash can, otherwise great fines apply.”
Now, I’ve personally seen several just down right nasty and disgusting bathrooms where it looked like they not only forgot to flush, but also forgot to aim. And, I’m talking about the women! So, I can’t vouch for number one, but the other two have me scurrying to pick up anything my daughter mistakenly drops on the ground and sucking on mints instead of the Trident gum I used to love. (See ending in Part II).