Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Singapore F1, Vegetarian Day, and it really is cheaper to eat out.

This past weekend was the worlds first night race held in Formula 1 racing history, and it was in Singapore! The whole city was in a frenzy, mad with excitement, and even if you don't like cars, this event made you want to love them.

I have a new love for fast cars. It was awesome! Though I didn't fork over the thousands of dollars for tickets as some did, I did manage to steal a glimpse of the cars zooming through the tracks both at the practice rounds and at the real race. Seriously...feeling the vibrations and hearing the sounds from the cars is amazing. If I happen to find some reason to be in Singapore next year at this time, I would love to actually purchase tickets. My whole weekend was basically taken over with F1 stuff...but I also managed to squeeze in another trip to the Ramadan market and to MacRitchie Reservoir where I went for a 10K walk/hike on Saturday morning. It was a lot of hard work in the hot sun, but a very worth workout as well.

I think I may have gone down a pant size from all the sweating. =) This is very exciting. Hopefully the trend will continue.

Also, I bit of fun trivia, yesterday September 29th was Vegetarian day! Yea for vegetarians...but in a world where most people usually are not vegheads, it made for really long lines at the vegetarian stalls because everyone wanted to be a vegetarian that day.

Finally, today I bought supplies to make my own dinner and eat at home in an effort to save money...what ends up happening? I spend 22 dollars on supplies for one meal. For that money, I could have gone to a fairly nice restaurant, or had like 10 food court meals. Now at least I have tired...next time its eating out for me. ; )

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Laundry and Mama Mia

Today's activities:

Breakfast-Laundry-wax arms (yes I wax my arms)-Work-Mama Mia (I'm excited about that)!

Forgot to mention a pitstop at KM8 on the Beach on Sunday. Its a pretty nice place...for the beach party atmosphere...imagine people in Bikini's on the beach/pool/with a bar. Good to see once, but not really my normal scene. =)

I'm getting worried about not being able to make contact with Rotarians to set up talks though...boo....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More then a week of things to catch up on

So...it has been a rather crazy week...some of the highlights:

Thursday: Dinner with school friends at Paya Lebar Eid/Rammadan Festival Bazaar. It was really cool...but since I was not planning on going, I ended up being without my camera. Boo!!!! Maybe I'll make it back. It is your typical fair/bazaar/food setup, but it was just so much fun to be walking through...a baragge of colors, sounds, smells, and sight for all your senses! Reminded me of the many bazaars I have been in...kind of hard to remember that I was still in Singapore. I also got to try on a traditional Malay top that looked super pretty...but was also super expensive. I almost caved in and bought it becuase I've been invited to an Eid Party at my friends place, but then I decided not to...saving money is good.

Friday: Day: Volunteer with UNIFEM's school talks program at SMU for International Peace Day...a very moving event. Night: BBQ at friend's house at Bukit Batok. Even thought that is still just 3 MRT stops away, as usual I didn't make it home before the last MRT and the distance that those three MRT stops covers is so far that the cab was still friekishly expensive. Another reason why I have to move closer to the city...or at least southwards where Singapore city is closer then Malaysia.

Saturday: Morning-Rotary Club AMD Eye Disease Talk...I learned a lot about a subject I knew nothing about. Afternoon-Met up with friends from SEALNet Indonesia and went bowling at ECP. Evening-Dinner at Iguana watching the Riverside Festival...where all the bridges and boats near Clark Quay are lit up, followed by enjoying the general atmosphere of Clark Quay's bars and clubs...this time we hit up Attica, Le Noir, Fashion Bar. I realized once again that I am the 'wrong' kind of Asian, and believe it or not, too old. Ha ha. Apparently I am already passed my prime in this side of the world. =) Luckily my friend was gracious enough to let me crash at her place so I don't have to go all the way back to 'Malaysia' as I like to call where I live...especially because we were both working the same event for UNIFEM the next day which was right by her house.

Sunday: Morning-Quick breakfast then off to the Village to try and get my eyebrows and nails done. I must have gotten the worst manicure ever becuase it is now Wednesday and the polish is already flaking off. In huge chunks. So that blew my manicure budget and I can't get another one for like ever. At least my eyebrows were done well...becuase if that was messed up, that would be horrific. Afternoon-Start volunteering at International Peace Day celebration at Cassis Restaurant Rochester Park/Place. A very nice event...but we didn't really have dinner even though it was at a peak dining time, so then I was graciously invited to eat with some of the Schools for Life staff where I will hopefully be working later this year...followed by drinks at the Hyatt.

Monday: Volunteer at UNIFEM, finally get back to my apartment for a little R&R post a very busy weekend. I felt jetlagged without even having traveled.

Tuesday: Tried to be constructive but that didn't quite work out...spent a quite day windowshopping and having dinner with a friend and her family then watching Love is a Many Splendoured Thing. First time for me watching this...but a very good movie about a Eurasian (Half English Half Chinese) and the identity and racial struggles faced by this demographic during Hong Kong's British Colonial Rule. Although kinda depressing...I won't ruin the end for you, but it is not a happy one. A great way to end the night.

Wednesday: And that brings me to today which I hope will be a quite day at school...a little hanging out with the Team, and hopefully finding renters for my room.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A day of Housework

So I finally came back to my apartment after what seemed like forever, but it was only one night...it was great to laze around in front of the TV and paint my nails etc.

I feel like my 'life of leisure' is slowly coming to an end as I have so many commitments here now. It is crazy how quickly you can loose all your time...now I'm always just running from one place to another.

I have started working more closely with UNIFEM and a have a million things to do to keep on track both for my dissertation and the projects I have picked up through UNIFEM and my community service for Rotary.

I even have to plan in when I can do my laundry...because if I don't come home, I can't do laundry and some day's I am barely home long enough to shower.

Speaking of which yesterday as I was meeting a friend of mine on the MRT platform to trade keys, a old man walked by us and started speaking loudly to us and making odd gestures waving his hand in front of his nose as if we stunk. I friend and I looked at each other and then decided that was our cue to leave the area...how very odd.

I am still sick...tomorrow I will spend the morning at the doctor's again before class. I am really sick of being ill.

Well...thats about it for now...should probably get things in order for the rest of the week.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pulau Ubin and New Asia Bar

Many people don't realize that Singapore is not just a city, but a tropical archipelago with much more to offer then just the shopping and eating. =)

So today my roomate and I decided to explore Palau Ubin, about 15 minutes by bumboat from mainland Singapore. Most of the island is also conserved as a nature preserve so there is really lush greenery and tropical feel. You can see banana trees, bamboo, and rock quarries with blue water pools. But what most people go for is to rent bycycles to ride around the island and eat seafood in a rustic atmosphere. Less then 100 actaully live on the island, and looking at their houses is a real throwback in time. A time where life was a lot slower and simpler. Many of the residents have taken to selling tourist bottles of water around the island. It is a nice place to go to get a little exersize and lots of mosquito bites! A friendly reminder that you are indeed in tropical South East Asia not just another urban metropolis. Another small reminder that I am indeed getting old, I could barely manage bicycling! My quads were so sore post island adventure...and are currently still so sore...might actaully have to stretch tonight.

Now to backtrack to yesterday...so after having a relaxing day at home just doing housework, a couple friends and I decided to get dressed up and go to dinner and then check out one of the nicer bar's in town, the New Asia Bar located on the 72 floor of the Suisshotel so you get a really nice view of Singapore at night. Anyway, dinner was really good at Chijmes at Insomnia, then we continued our night at the New Asia Bar.

The three of us were a very diverse group, me looking like I'm Indian, my friend who looks ethnically Chinese, and my Caucasian American friend. The interesting thing here is that we were all American...however, even at a bar, my Caucasian friend was the only one that was considered 'western'. A Chinese man who was from Hong Kong came up to talk to my friend because he was dared by his Caucasian friends from London that he couldn't talk to a 'Western' women. Surprise surprise I thought to myself...we are all Western...but of course we don't look it. Scince when did going to a bar become a sociological experiment? My race and ethnic studies friends would have a field day with this.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rejected by Malaysia or The Beauty or an American Passpport

Need to right this just didn't want to forget...coming soon. =)

As promised...so Tuesday my roomate and I decided to go to Malaysia for lunch because we actually live closer to Malaysia then the Singapore city center (something I will hopefully have fixed soon). Everything was going great, we managed to catch all the right buses get through all the checkpoints, and then when we were on our last check, I walked through, got a stamp and was in Malaysia! Success! My roomate however, was not so lucky...although she is more or less American, she never managed to bother getting her American Passport. So, it turned out that she needed a Visa to enter Malaysia and was not going to be allowed in. So I spent about two minutes in Malaysia and had to walk back...that was probably the shortest trip I have ever had 'abroad'...then to make up for our rather dejected day, we ended up goign to Holland Village for tea at Foster's...the best scones I've ever had in my life!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Uptil Sept. 7

Today being Sept. 7. Hike through Wetland Nature Reserve.

This morning it was actually sunny and pleasant so I got up and decided to check out Sungei Buloh Wetland Nature Reserve. Yesterday it poured like no other...but will get into that later.

It was one metro stop and a short cab ride away. I never realized just how close to Malyasia I was...however, from the next MRT, it is less then an hour to cross into Johor Baru...so definitely will have to do that. From the Wetland Reserve you can see over the Johor Straight. I walked through Route 1 and the Mangrove Walk. It was really nice...saw lots of birds, plants, fish, Mangroves, and the highlight....giant lizards! One of them totally startled me. Not just little lizards that us city folks would get a kick out of...from head to tail this one must have been 2.5 feet. Other observations, The place is located just as far outside the city as you can possible get. Aside from all the natural places out in the 'countryside' this area is also where most of the day laborers from surrounding less developed countries come to work. The way there I took a cab so I did not get quite so up close and personal with the labor class, but on the way back from the reserve there was no cab to the MRT so I took a local bus and with every stop we picked up more and more Bangladeshi's etc, who were working at all the industrial facilitites also in this area. Probably a part of Singapore no one ever thinks about. Also made me feel slightly uncomfortable...I was the only lone female on the bus with the exception of one other woman there with her significant other. The cab driver had also told me to be 'careful' in this area...and I didn't think I would have anything to worry about since I was cabbbing it to a popular tourist destination, but, I understood what he meant on the public bus back.

Other high light of the day was eating a local veggie supreme pizza *the chefs specialty from a local chain: The ingredient-tomato, cheese, pineapple, mushroom, bell peppers, ovlive, corn, and the special ingredient, a drizzle of thousand island dressing. Interesting...

Yesterday I had to spend the morning waiting for the maid becuase my other roomates were not home or in bed...and can not keep the place clean. After the maid left, I had my first typical breakfast set (although by now it was afternoon) which consists of 2 Soft Boiled Eggs, Two slices of toast with butter and Kaya, and Coffee. You are supposed to crack the eggs, add sweet soy sauce, mix it all up (so you get a kind of egg soup) and then dip in your Kaya Toast. Soft boiled eggs at the consistency they are here are not my cup of tea...kaya toast however is quite good.

The evening continued with meeting a friend who I met last summer while in Palembang Indonesia and then a trip to the East Coast Park which is actually a man made beach where you can ride bikes, rent skates, etc. We rented roller blades and then had dinner at a place called the Beach Hut which had a very tropical feel. Our meal was complete with fresh coconut juice still in the coconut...and monsoon rain. In the middle of the meal, we had to shift inwards (as it was an open air restaurants with an awning) becuase it started to rain. And not just a light tropical drizzle, but serious pouring. Luckily places like this are well equiped and in a matter of minutes, the awning magically extended and extra rain mats were hung so that we did not get completely drenched. Still, we sat around waiting for the rain to subside for some time. Although we didn't mind becuase the restaurant had great live music, we had good company, and we had warm Milo to keep us going. =)

Friday I went to UNIFEM to talk about a potential project and then visit the Asian Civilizations Museum at Boat Quay followed by the Bugis Street market. I am really excited about my potential project and am looking forward to things becoming official.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent at school, the usual routine...however on Wednesday it also felt like it monsooned so much so that I had to wait an extra 1.5 hours for a bus home. And parts of the campus were flooded. Thursday after school I went to Arab street to celebrate breaking the fast with my friends who are observing Ramadan and see the place lit up for the event. It was a very nice evening. And I had my first Asian Peanuts...the kind that are dry roasted and salted even though the outside looks oily. So good....

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Chinese Gardens Lantern Festival

So for the Mid Autumn festival, there is a showing of large lanterns in one of the parks in Singapore. This year's theme...Hello Kitty and F1 racing (becuase Singapore will host the worlds first F1 night race in history on September 28...no I can't get tickets, but I do plan to watch it at a viewing party at one of the cooler bars. Its easy to get caught up in the hype. This is a really big deal here.) So there we were walking through a really pretty park in the rain most of the time until the very end watching giant Hello Kitty Lanterns. I will have pictures on facebook in a bit. I thought it was super cute. Some say cheesy...I say cute.

Shoes, Weather, and Sweet Corn

A collection of Random thoughts....

Shoes: No matter how comfortable you thought your shoes from home are, they are not quite as comfortable once you get here. The amount of walking that is done makes just about any shoe pretty uncomfortable after about 14 hours of wearing them...which is what I do when I set out from my house (I need the perfect outfit and shoes that will take me the whole day through school/meetings/drinks engagements/bars etc). However, the most perfect pair of shoes is the flip flop! Yet even within the flip flop genre, there are varying levels of comforts and practicality. The most perfect one thus far: A squishy sole that cradles tired feet, at least a half inch of the squishyness so if you have to walk in puddles you don' t get wet, and a heavy rubber lining on the bottem so that you don't hydroplane through these puddles. Tracktion is key. Also popular here is having your nice shoes to change into before you enter an event and then bringing your flip flops for when you are walking.

Weather: The importance of the perfect pair of flip flops is also noted when the weather like today goes from being a beautiful bright sunny day to a torential downpour. When I left home this morning it was clear warm and sunny...then by the time I got out of the computer lab, it was pouring. Thank goodness I had my Singapore Flip Flops as I like to call them....not my little beach slippers that could could cause massive accidents. =) This drastic change in weather can also ruin shoes if you are not careful.

Sweet Corn: Eating warm fresh sweet corn kernals is a popular snack in Singapore. Monday night I was walking around town in the evening around the Esplanade, and I didn't really have much of an appetite although I knew I should eat. So, I decided I'll be 'healthy' and just have a cup of corn. Little did I know that my corn cup would come slathered in butter and salt, so while I had made an attempt to be healthy, my efforts were to no avail. But it sure was tasty! Hmmm...do I sense a bad habit coming on? Luckily there is no corn vender near my house.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Time just flies

It has been quite a few days since my last post, but many times I think of something I want to write and find myself far far away from my computer (which is the downside to e-journals). I am currently waiting for the handyman to come over because now our fridge does not cool and stuff has started to spoil...not that I cook much here, but things were getting funky. And for some reason, dishes in our apartment tend to stay in the sink unwashed....which is really bad because there are campaigns in Singapore to avoid the spread of Dengue fever which is a disease carried by mosquitoes for which there is no cure...and the mosquitoes like hanging around stagnant water, like the kind that is found in dirty dishes. But anyway...my living situation is much better than some of my friends from school. So that is a plus. I am however still planning to move out for financial reasons. And I'd like to live in a place where the kitchen does not disgust me to the point where I'd rather just not ever step foot in it.

One of the highlights of the last few days has been attending a Wine Tasting dinner sponsored by my Rotary Club where Greek wines were pitted against Austrian wines because our club has some members who are from Greece and some from Austria as well. There was also a auction where I got to act like Vanna White and show the auction pieces to the varios tables at the eveng. It was really enjoyable and many of the other Rotary Scholars were invited as well. I also learned that the hotel where my club meets, GoodWood Park hotel is of historical importance to Singapore. The event ended and the other scholars and I stayed out for a bit longer scince we were already in the Orchard area, a very nice part of town. But much to our surprise, we ended up at a coffee shop that turned out to be a prime viewing location for the local prostitutes, hostesses, etc. I then confirmed with my local friends that that was indeed what we were seeing (becuase maybe it was just normal girls with really bad fashion sense) but they confirmed it. Apparently we had kind of wandered to the end of the really nice part of Orchard and had ended up close to where many 'night workers' like to pick up clients. Bet most people don't think of Singapore as having a vibrant red light district...well at least I didn't.

Othergood news, I will be working with UNIFEM The United Nations Development Fund for Women starting very soon. They have been generous enough to allow me to create any project I want that fits within the scope of thier mission and will give me access to their volunteer base to have help to carry out what I want to do. I am very excited about that.

I really wish I could post pics here but my internet just doesn't like uploading to this site for some reason.

Other observations: Singapore is a very multicultural and diverse place , however, similar to the United States, I find that many of the cultural groups all tend to socialize within themselves. I am often the only non Chinese when I hang out with my local Singaporean friends who are Chinese...I also haven't seen too many inter-racial couples here. Although there are many Caucasian male Asian female couples to be seen, there isn' t too much by way of Chinese-Indian etc. There are a few people who have been very mixed, but they tend to have been in Singapore for multiple generations and share a similar religious background.

My rotary scholar girlfriends and I were also talking about the varous concepts of what is beautiful here and how the dating culture can seem to be so confusing to sort out from our foreign point of view. Similar to the lack of intercultural marriages we have seen, there isn't too much intercultural dating that we have witnessed except for Caucasian male/Asian female. Most of us are Asian American rotary scholars and that puts us in a very odd place for several reasons:

1. If we look Asian, often we are misconstrued for local...this means that other foreigners don't feel the same affinity towards us as they do for people who look foreighn.
2. Then if someone local tries to date us, they are in for a big surprise, because we are not local and our mindsets are quite different.

So we find ourselves in this rather odd place where we are neither here nor there. Not just in the realm of dating but all other interpersonal interactions. But the funny thing is, that is the same position we are often in at 'home' in the US...we aren't caucasian so people want us to be Asian, but we are not quite 'Asian' either.

To this day, I think that my Rotary club expected an 'Indian' and then they got me. =) Everytime I say I'm American, people want to know why I look the way I do. While Americans come in all colors, I still find that the 'American' many people abroad are looking for is the stereotypical one who is Caucasian. From my nerdy researchers point of view this is all very interesting becuase it is exactly what my dissertaion is getting at. I am not a race and ethnic studies person by definition, but what I find is that the longer I look at these issues, the more race and ethnicity keeps coming up.

Other weekend activities included hanging out on Dempsey Road with a slew of shops and restaurants but with a foresty atmosphere, eating at Holland Village, Chijmes, and walking around in the city. Everytime I walk around I notice something new....that is one of the things that I enjoy about being somewhere new. There is always something to entertain yourself with. There is no end to good food and entertainment here.

And my final thought for today...I had my eybrows threaded by someone at my MRT station...and well....now I have two eyebrows that don't quite look the same. Hmmmm.....I think next time I'll pay the big bucks and go to the more expensive eyebrow grooming chain called Browhause.

I can't believe my second month has already started...