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Hot and Wet and Singlish, with a Chance of Monkey

12 January 2011
by

Having finally somewhat overcome the lingering effects of jet-lag (no naps today! Whoo!), we feel adequately prepared to update all you dedicated readers on our current state of affairs.

Quick Summary

– flew out after work on Friday, January 7
– sat in the middle / window seats for what totaled 24 hours
– sustained debilitating leg / ass cramps
– watched several bad movies including “The Expendables” (if you have the chance, go ahead and pass)
– arrived in Singapore Sunday, January 9 via San Francisco & Hong Kong
– were picked up at the airport by our ever-gracious hosts, Mark & Wen
– still trying to figure out what happened to Saturday, January 8. Do we get that back on the return flight?
– spent Monday, Tuesday & part of Wednesday recovering (naps, beers, Advil PM, etc), while Al muscled through a full day of classes on Monday (her fault for being in grad school)
– have made a few quick sojourns into town for local fare (which is all fantastic and cheap!), intending to go deeper this weekend
– we find ourselves hosing off quite often, as 85° and 100% humidity is about the last place a cold-conditioned Midwesterner should be in January
– we are desperately trying to catch on to the nuanced patois that is Singlish, a mashup of English, Cantonese, Malay, Tamil and others, all spoken with the sing-song nature and sentence structure of southern Chinese dialects, with snippets of repurposed American and Australian TV slang thrown in for good measure. We are such Ang Mor, lah.

Overall, we’re settling in nicely and Singapore is an easily approachable—if at times surreal—place to be. The people are incredibly friendly, the food is fantastic, and I suppose it’s better to be warm than freezing cold, so I’ll take it. The general culture is truly the product of a cross-roads, with major Chinese overtones, but guided very strongly by English / Western conventions. The downtown area feels very Western, while the back alleys and neighborhoods are definitely more Asian. Add to it a smattering of American-style traffic signage and it seems like a not-quite-right Chicago.

The surreality continues when you see the very distinct social and cultural groups all getting along while speaking some version of English. A classic example happened the other day at lunch, when we were eating Teriyaki chicken at a Western-style food stall in the Chinese section of town listening to a very Indian guy speaking perfect English to the very Chinese girl sitting with him. It’s like a live-action Small World, but backed by mid-90s Janet Jackson instead of that stupid Disney song.

And that brings us to the monkey incident.

Our posh digs (I mean that with all sincerity: Mark & Wen live in a great condo with a big-ass pool and guard-house with actual guards in it, and a koi pond with actual koi in it and everything! It’s dope.)…anyway, our posh digs sit betwixt two big rainforest nature preserves in the central highland of the island. As one would expect in a tropical rainforest, there are monkeys. And as one would expect, when you build human domiciles in said monkey territory, and then stock them with food that monkeys—as fellow members of the simian bloodline—would probably like to eat, said monkeys will probably figure out a way to get at said food. This is what happened a few weeks ago when Mark & Wen went out for a few hours and came home to find the eggs that they had left on the counter shattered all over the kitchen floor, counter and air intake for the microwave. Apparently a little monkey bastard had scampered his way up the drain pipe to the sixth floor and discovered the window cracked open just enough to squeeze through. Which he did. And then went berserk on the eggs.

Ok, lesson learned: don’t leave the windows open when you leave. Done.

Didn’t think the little bugger would repeat the move if people were around.

And we were wrong.

He came back yesterday and went right back for the eggs, despite the fact that there were four of us in the apartment. Al happened to be walking by the kitchen and saw him resting on his haunches on the counter, wrist deep into the egg crate, two or three eggs already smashed on the floor. Al, of course goes ecstatic, gleefully running around apartment clucking about how great it is that there’s a disease-ridden, danger-to-humans primate eating eggs off the kitchen counter. Finally composing herself, Al asserts herself to said monkey, who passively looks at her with a “you’ve-got-me-yeah-I-should-probably-go” look on his face, then grabs an egg for the road before casually slipping back through the laundry room and back down the downspout. Crafty little bastard.

Could have been worse. We could have had to throw out the microwave again.

So, never a dull moment. More to come, but I think I’ve exhausted this story. Once Al gets back from class, we can talk about the challenge of flagging down city busses and our attempts to book flights to the rest of Southeast Asia while we’re here.

But that, as they say in the Poconos, is for another post.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Beth permalink
    13 January 2011 9:39 am

    Am loving, loving reading about your adventures. May your misadventures be few…or at least make for an interesting blog.

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