Singapore : Jan 8 - 12

8. January


We're in Singapore. This is a place of intoxicating aromas, mixed cultures and endless shopping possibilities. It is really clean, because it is against the law to litter, spit and probably do all kinds of other things. I did see an Indian woman who just walked out of 7-eleven drop her unneeded ice cream wrapper on the sidewalk – maybe she has special privileges. Local bus stops have signs reminding pedestrians about graciousness – I should try that on Muni. Wonder how long it would take before it was spit, peed or graffitied on.


The air is hot and the rain showers remind us that we are indeed in the rainy season. Our travels through Malaysia to Thailand will begin in a day or two.


Singapore is known for its shopping, primarily gadgetry. Without trying, I had booked us into the Inn Crowd, a boisterous youth hostel in Little India that happens to be a 5 minute walk from Sim Lim Tower, the multi story technology super store. Each level is packed with stalls selling everything from cameras, computers, IPODS, printers, blank DVDs, etc. Patrick was like a kid in a candy store and it was a delight to watch his excite – the goods, the bartering for price, the abundance. I think Patrick has landed in heaven, and I must say that I have found a new gadget or two for myself. I joined him in his first adventure there, though the subsequent days he went alone.

9. January

{Written in retrospect on day 4 of the silent retreat at Suan Monk International Monastery, Thailand}


He calls himself Callan. Perhaps even Mr. Callan in some situations. We had the fortunate experience of entering his world for just a few short hours, though the journey feels more like a trip to Mars. We had started the arduous task of sorting, labeling and organizing 5 months of photographs from two different cameras. Though this might sound tedious to some, for an organizational diva like me, it was dream work. But it also served two other purposes: first, it started for us the process of making sense of the many experiences and memories of the last several months and secondly it gave my mind something to concentrate on, while my bowels were doing acrobatics from some unknown bacteria. (I know people don’t really want to read about this topic, but when you travel it is amazing how this becomes acceptable and even normal.)  I had made it through South America with little trouble and now it was my turn to deal with the nuisance and stomach cramps.


The hostel was bustling with backpackers excited about their new techie purchases, disgruntled about the price of Singapore and sharing “battle stories” of roads less (or more) travelled. Having only one computer means an alternate source of entertainment is required for the person not using the small contraption, so since Patrick had already spent hours on the photos, I volunteered. My body was happy to stay put and close to a toilet. So, Patrick filled his tummy next door while I organized. Without noticing the passage of time, he re-emerged an hour or so later saying he had met two English girls who were giving him great tips about Cambodia and Laos. I should like to thank all the delightful young women travelling in pairs throughout South East Asia – you seem to be planning our next adventures for us. Cheers…so far the recommendations have been right on! Somehow the computer was still more appealing to me than socializing, so I persevered.


Another hour passed and a rosy checked Patrick returned with news that a few elements had been added to his part of the afternoon; a bottle of wine and a fellow named Callan. To this he only smiled and added: “I think he’s a Hard Rock island”, making reference to the harmless and yet total pathological liar who runs the Hard Rock Island in Vavua, Tonga – where according to him Pink and her best pal Britney had just left via private jet.


Okay, that sparked my interest, but still not enough to stop what I was doing since I could see the finish line. So I gave it another 30-40 minutes. Again, Patrick appeared, each time more convinced and enthralled by the cast of characters next door, to tell me that the party had moved upstairs and that everyone wanted to meet me. Again I stalled but did promise to arrive soon. I’d missed out on an afternoon of consumption, so I knew I was walking into one of those situations of glassy eyes and inside jokes, made tolerable only by consuming an alcoholic beverage oneself as fast as possible.


It indeed was awkward at first, the glassy eyed darling nineteen year olds wanted to appear sober and kind (which they did and were), Patrick was concerned that I would judge the whole situation and be way too serious (which I was) and Mr. Callan had no idea what to with me, so he just kept calling me “mam’. It was like the school principal who just walked in on 4 students  in the broom closet smoking weed – all you can really do is join them.


My skepticism of Callan hung in the air like a big air bubble around me, so I instead focused my attention on the two girls until the alcohol numbed by skepticism and I was able to engage in conversation with him. The girls were sweet and intelligent – with a big dollop of youthful naïveté plopped on top. Wide eyed and willing to experience anything, including the too good to be true generosity of strangers. Mr. Callan seemed nervous in my presence – I am not sure if it was simply me, my Americanness or something else, but as the champagne soother my nerves, my courage to engage him grew.


To be continued….

10. January

A little TV for entertainment


We moved to a hotel around the corner called Mayo Hotel. The single bunk beds and shared bathrooms of the hostel were somehow too much to take after two days and with two more days in Singapore, the extra $15 per day made sense. It couldn’t have been better timing: today was miserable for me. I will not share the details nor ask for sympathy, since it in no fault but my own. Regardless, I spent the day indulging in episodes of Chicago Hope and Ellen DeGeneres on TV, while Patrick indulged several hours in Sim Lim again. I think he really likes it there.

11. January

Harmony in Singapore


Unless you shop, the rest of Singapore highlights can easily be experienced in a day or two. Remnants of colonial architecture and therefore European occupation are present in restored establishments like the Raffles Hotel, one of the grand hotels of the day. It is still so grand it requires a dress code for gentlemen in the lobby…Patrick’s cargos and sandals did not make the cut. The distinctive areas like Little India and Chinatown are certainly worth experiencing and what it most noteworthy is the presence of the Mosque in Little India and the largest Hindu temple in Chinatown. The Arabic call to prayer that infuses the neighborhood mixes with the aromas of masala and Indian curries. There is harmony, in prayer, in life. Imagine that.



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