martes, septiembre 05, 2006

Singapore - Part 2

Note: I’ve removed my ex’s name from Part 1. I don’t plan to mention anyone else by name, so it only seems fair. From here on out, people are colors. He will be Blue.

It’s been nearly 4 years since I waited for Blue in Changi, sitting in a pink chair between American Express Foreign Exchange and Delifrance but I doubt I’ll ever forget the day. Blue rented a car for us to drive to the apartment we’d rent in Sembawang, a town in the northern part of the island. He was still operating under the illusion that he was as comfortably-off as he was in America, living off generally well-paid part time jobs together with the government stipend included in his scholarship. It took a while for him to admit to himself (and to me) he couldn’t afford certain things while earning a pittance salary completing the compulsory national service requirements he’d left behind by accepting his scholarship to study in the US. And these certain things he couldn’t afford – sadly enough, they included his sanity and happiness. Money can’t buy those? Oh, you haven’t met Blue. And renting a car? Really… he shouldn’t have.

My next memory involves a piece of red tissue paper sitting on a freshly-laid cement base of a floor on the 17th story of a Punggol apartment. We didn’t drive straight to Sembawang that day. Blue’s parents were in the process of purchasing a Punggol HDB and had asked him to drop by to check on the place. For many people, I realize, two words in previous sentence require explanation. Punggol is a town in the northeast of Singapore. It’s a former fishing village/sleepyville type area. A few years ago they decided to make use of this space, constructing high-rises as far as the eye can see. They’ve got to accommodate the island’s ludicrously large population somehow. HDB’s? You can Google for more detail but basically this is government subsidized housing for Singaporeans. No, it’s nothing like The Projects in the US. These are way nicer. And they’re not somewhere you live if and only if you are below poverty line. You don’t have to be poor to qualify for an HDB. But the best thing – you don’t have to be rich either. Even people like Blue’s parents, who, combined, made less than half of the money I was making in my very first job out of college were able to afford a nice new one.

So Blue’s parents bought an HDB, in Punggol. It was a new construction. They were still in the process of renovating when I arrived. Blue stopped by the apartment with me that day to check on some tiling recently done in the kitchen or the bathroom. But let’s not forget about the red tissue paper. Inside the red tissue paper was a load of food – bananas, oranges, a pineapple, and some rice. I’d never seen anything quite like it. Blue explained that his parents put it there as an offering, something for the spirits so they’d bless the house. But let me tell you – if I knew then what I know now, I’d have piled 10 roast pigs and 20 lamb chops on top of that fruit because, clearly, the spirits did not think very highly of the offering as it stood.

The rest of the day is a blur of new and exciting. I’ll bet I can list at least 10 events under said category. And here they are! In no particular order:
  1. The jungle landscape around Serangoon River on the drive to Sembawang giving me the impression I’d landed myself in Jurassic Park.
  2. The Malay woman who was renting us her HDB in Sembawang insisting, last-minute, that her eldest daughter room with us (seemingly, to keep an eye on the suspicious, mixed couple). Thankfully, we talked her out of the idea.
  3. The crazy real estate broker, coming into apartment while we’re talking with Malay owner, shouting at Blue in Chinese because his girlfriend is clearly not Singaporean (she demanded to know my ethnicity/nationality and proceeded to take a long, uncomfortable browse through my passport). Lucky for us, she eventually calmed down and all was cool.
  4. Checking out all the nutty Mashi-Maro, Pucca, Hello Kitty junk they sell in Sun Plaza (a nearby mall).
  5. Checking out the food court in Sun Plaza and finding a stall that does Penang Laksa (a very spicy, sour, fishy, noodle soup – one of my faaaaaaavorites).
  6. Buying green bread – bread made with pandan leaf. It’s good!
  7. Learning how to use the water heater in the shower. Then turning the knob the wrong way and accidentally breaking the water heater for the shower. We’d be taking cold showers for the next 2 months straight - we knew our landlord wouldn’t chip in to help us repair it, Blue had blown too much money renting the car to get me from the airport to do it himself, and my money was limited because I didn’t know how long it would take for me to find a job. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Singapore is boiling hot. And lucky us, the owner didn’t think to check the showers when we moved out.
  8. Jumping 10 feet in the air when the newspaper guy on his bike yelled in Chinese to announce he had the evening paper. He was loud! And for all I knew, he could’ve been yelling “FIRE! FIRE!”
  9. Discovering those horrible small brown ants that somehow worm their way into every Singapore apartment and pinch you from time to time as they crawl up and down your arms and legs.
  10. Watching a sheet of tropical rain drop down from the sky. I’d never seen the likes of it.

    What a long day that was!
    I’ll have to start making these entries shorter.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anónimo said...

I'm really enjoying this. Can't wait for the next installment. It all leads to...

Papa Lazarou!

10:43 a. m.  
Anonymous Anónimo said...

blue is da name of a character from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends guy on da vright dis is vat dis name make me stink of.

p.s. - hello0o0o daaaaaaaaave?!

8:24 p. m.  

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