Our New Home

I took these pictures on my first day in Singapore (Jul 20). The first picture below is the entrance and dining area. The open door on the right leads to the kitchen. The second picture is the living room. You are looking at my recliner and coffee table.

These next few pictures are the bedrooms, den and kitchen. Now you can understand why I felt overwhelmed.

An Assessment in Numbers

Days spent in Singapore: 9

Thoughts of doom and disaster (I can’t live here! I hate it! etc. etc.): None

Thoughts of hope and optimism (I can live here! etc. etc.): Enough to put husband and mother at ease

Boxes unpacked: 33

Trips to Ikea, Home Fix (Home Depot-type chain), etc.: 6

Days spent without phone, TV and Internet: 5

Malls visited: 11

Shoe shops visited: Too many to disclose

Furniture shops visited: More than the number of shoe shops

Bars/Clubs visited: Too few to disclose

Spa treatments enjoyed: 3
Going by the abundance of spas, salons and slimming centers and the newspaper ads for spas, salons and slimming centers, it seems like a fairly narcissistic society. I have to admit I got a little influenced and wore make-up everyday!

Italian restaurants visited: 3
The quality of Italian food was a complete surprise. The fettuccini with fresh porcini mushrooms at Il Lido and the tagliatelle with taleggio and radicchio at da Paolo put all my worries to rest.

Desi joints visited: 4
We enjoyed a variety of desi fare from the S$2.80 dosas at Sarvannas to the kick-ass kadai paneer at the dhabaish Haldi to the sublime saag at the sophisticated Rang Mahal. And then there was Tiffin. The phrase ‘Angrez chale gaye par ise chhod gaye’ (without the negative connotation) would be an appropriate description for this Indian restaurant at the Raffles Hotel (comparable in stature and beauty to the Taj Bbay before glitzy makeover.) The ambience and service made me feel like a memsahib from the days of the Raj.

Times we got lost driving: As many as the number of furniture shops. A trip that should take about 10 minutes (home to Orchard Road) took us an hour. Poor Vikram first had to wait forever and then witness Milind and me lose our tempers. Apologies!

S’pore Pros: Niraj & Sheila, small city (pretty much everything is 10-15 minutes by car), more space than NYC, friendly locals, lovely tropical vegetation, great food, good mix of east and west, close to Bbay.

S’pore Cons: It is not New York!

First Impressions (July 20, 2007)

Our thank-God-he-is-in-Singapore friend Niraj said ‘welcome to the unreal world’. I thought he was exaggerating. Boy was I wrong!

It started with Singapore Airlines. WOW! Everyone from the check-in clerk to the gate staff to the flight attendants was polite, courteous and actually happy to serve the passengers. Changi was a little gaudy but it is CARPETED! Immigration took five minutes. And the officer actually said “Happy Birthday in advance”! I had to ask him to repeat it because my ears couldn’t believe it! After the ‘warm and welcoming’ folks at JFK this was UNREAL indeed!

And what about Milind? Oh, he was there with a big smile and huge bouquet of orchids. Really? Nah! Just like the other time he was supposed to pick me up at JFK (when I moved to NYC) he was late.

At 7am the city looked lovely. All man-made but lovely. Multi-colored bougainvillea and lush green trees lined the roads into the city.

The apartment now is a slightly different story. When I moved to NYC, Milind had been staying in 14C for more than a year so it was a fully functional place and I only had to enhance it. Now the place here is beautiful no doubt (the bedrooms have hardwood floors!!!) but we have only four walls and 33 boxes of stuff we shipped from NYC. Right now I’m overwhelmed with the amount of work it needs. And I have 9 days. Is there a Bed Bath & Beyond-equivalent here? What about Home Depot? Where do I buy furniture? Thank God I brought a Crate & Barrel catalogue for ideas. Should have brought all the 20,000 I have been saving for the day I would have a place like this!

The grocery store was a little demoralizing. In a new place you try to find familiar names and faces (in this case brand names and labels). Early in my NYC days I would go to buy crackers and come back empty-handed because I was overwhelmed with the variety of crackers available. Now I’ve gotten so used to the variety and words like Organic, All Natural, Whole Grain, Vegetarian, Low Fat, Lite, etc. that I was quite disappointed to find only Low Sugar and Low Cholesterol not to mention the new set of products – several types of tofu, interesting looking fruits, etc. (This sounds so shallow now that I’m reading it but first impressions are first impressions!) Well, I started with the basics today (Jul 20) – eggs, cheese, bread, OJ, a little cilantro, an onion, a small bell pepper, ketchup. All the fixings for a hearty breakfast tomorrow.

Oh yeah, before I forget, it is HOT!

Randomness and Union Square Park

Scenes from yesterday afternoon…very random but totally entertaining

  1. Two guys practicing martial arts
  2. Group of 2 NYPD cops, 4 FDNY firemen and 2 EMTs trying to help a man who was either drunk or drugged or very sick (good to see our taxes at work)
  3. Man making speeches as his wife taped him on video (kids looked on bored and/or embarrassed)
  4. Tattooed and pierced students with interesting hair coloring just hanging around or trying to save the world
  5. Couples sun-bathing
  6. Homeless folks lying around doing nothing
  7. Tourists trying to take it all in
  8. Me – well-fed, hydrated and happy

Another NYC-Perfect Sunday

I’m getting so spoilt. Sunday was a gorgeous summer day, perhaps a bit hot but filled with joy and optimism. I started at 34th street and 8th Avenue, walked across town to the row of enticing and exciting stores between 6th and 5th avenues. Returned some clothes bought on impulse (why do I do it again and again and again?). Walked some more to Park Avenue. Stopped by at Eneslow at 32nd street. What a great business. What delightful customer service. Highly recommended. At 26th street debated whether to eat lunch at Sarvannas. Thought of the ghee in the dosas and kept walking. Walked all the way to Union Square. Stopped by at Maoz. Was flooded with memories of a similar falafel joint in Amsterdam (do you remember Nisu-bisu?). Salad box filled with yummies, walked over to Union Square park and sat myself down on a patch of grass to enjoy crunchy falafel, hummus, pickled baby eggplant, carrots, olives, cucumber with dill, tomatoes, fried eggplant, two types of slaw, and four sauces. As I sipped the freshly-squeezed OJ, I could feel waves of contentment wash over me. Had to call the husband to share the moment. (He was having a stressful moment standing in the SQ check-in line at the Bbay airport. When I get to S’pore end of this week, I’m going to pamper him like no tomorrow.)
Where can I get good falafel in S’pore? Do they allow eating in parks? Can I take a nap in the park? What about public displays of affection?

Past and Present…and Perhaps the Future

I saw my great grand parents’ pictures for the first time last week. It was unreal to see my grandfather (who celebrated his 91st birthday in March) as a boy and a teenager and a young man. It was even more unreal to hear stories about my great grand parents and grand parents. I understand myself and my decisions so much better now. I promise to tell my kids all about where they come from so they may have a better idea of where they are going and how they are going to get there.

Movie Time in Beantown

I didn’t watch Out of Africa as planned. Instead I watched three dhishoom-dhishoom movies, a movie adaptation of a Broadway musical and a smartly-written independent film.
Watching Die Hard, Blue Thunder and Banlieue 13 made me realize how CGI has completely ruined action films. Ok, maybe ruined is a harsh word. Watered down, maybe. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love what CGI can do; LOTR is one of my all-time favorites. But the thrill of watching real, unfooled-around-with action sequences (think Bruce Willis running around bare feet) is beyond the thrill of watching Orlando Bloom’s Olyphant sequence in the Return of the King. And what about Parkour? If you saw Casino Royale and loved the opening action sequence you will love Banlieue 13, a showcase for Parkour in the guise of a futuristic French movie.
Anyway, enough about action movies. Rent was very enjoyable and I might actually go watch the Broadway show and/or the opera La Boheme while I’m still in NYC. And Thank you for Smoking was delicious from start to finish. Kudos, Mr. Eckhart! I look forward to seeing you in No Reservations (which is the Hollywood remake of the lovely German film Mostly Martha).

What is the film scene in Singapore? Do they have an international film festival? Is there a Netflix-type service? Where can I get my supply of foreign films? Maybe I can start a movie club, kind of like a book club with sound and light effects!

Last Year This Time….

….I was in the Ngorongoro or were we already at Sayari Camp in the Serengetti? Such a happy place. Such a happy time.

I think I will watch Out of Africa this evening.

Hurrah! No Driving For Me! (Follow-up to Taxi Cab Post)

Thank you Joanne, Niraj and Rahul for taking the time to provide answers. These are only the first of many questions that I have about Singapore. Come to think of it, I didn’t ask Milind as many questions when he proposed marriage and a move to NYC.

Anyway, this is what you told me –

Will I be able to talk philosophy with my S’pore cabbie?
– Unlikely, but you can try 🙂 Some are extremely chatty. Most of them will complain to you about the government. When I tell them I work for the government, the complaints get louder. Many of them are more conversant in Chinese than in English, which may limit their conversation somewhat.

Will he help me with my luggage (NYC cabbies are infamous for never helping with luggage)?
– Usually, especially if you are female and look helpless beside a large suitcase(s). That’s the tactic I use.

Will he give me correct change?
– Absolutely, although of course count your change to be sure. Note: NO NEED to tip taxis (or anybody else, for that matter) when you’re in Singapore. However, I was well trained in NYC and now tip cabbies here a small amount of change – they are inordinately grateful, out of all proportion to the actual size of the tip.

Will he take the most crowded streets at rush-hour (Ever lost your temper when the taxi driver took you through Times Square at 7pm on a Friday?)?
– Perhaps. You will soon learn to direct which route to take.

Will I be able to ‘hail’ a taxi by raising my arm and pretending to be the Statue of Liberty?- Yes, but cabbies in Singapore are extremely annoying. In the main shopping and business districts (Orchard Road areas, Shenton Way), they do not respond when flagged on the street, because they prefer to wait for phone bookings. That gets them an extra $2 or so. It pisses me off mightily, but the dollar incentive is too strong. So, before you come, I can give you a list of taxi phone numbers for you to call. You need a mobile phone, not your arm, to get a cab in Singapore. Note, this does not apply to the more residential areas of Singapore, where your Statue of Liberty pose will get you the cab.

Taxi guys here will give you exact change – sometime ask u to keep change here as well as help u with luggage. Welcome to the unreal world…

If not anything else, I can ally your fears about Singapore cabbies, they are super professional and return your exact change but may not be so good at philosophy.

Milind, I don’t think I’m going to get a driver’s license. (Aah! Just uncovered material for another post!).