Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Beginning to Settle In....

G'day, G'Day from Singapore, where chewing gum and jaywalking are illegal. Apparently. Except for the fact that in the past three days, I've chewed chewing gum and jaywalked... on numerous occasions.

Much of the talk about Singapore's crazy rules are just that - crazy. Sure, they say you can't jaywalk or chew chewing gum but I haven't heard any stories about anyone being fined for doing it. I also have a packet of chewing gum on the dining room table - which was brought across from Malaysia. Its not that the actual CHEWING of chewing gum isnt allowed, its the importation or selling of chewing gum in Singapore isnt allowed.

It creates a mess. Fair enough. Singapore people really don't like mess. For example, I was eating my sandwich at the local swimming pool (waiting for Bart to start teaching us diving) and the lifeguard nearby nearly went into absolute meltdown because of the three bits of lettuce that had tumbled from my sandwich onto the ground beneath me. Instead of risking him going into cardiac arrest, I exclaimed "sorry, sorry!!!" and swiftly picked the bits up, putting them into my pocket for appropriate disposal at the nearest bin.

On the train on the way back from the zoo the other day, I was just finishing the last delicious crisp from the packet i'd purchase prior to getting on the train, when over the loudspeaker came a warning that no food and drink were allowed to be eaten on the train or at train stations. I would have ignored the message, except for the fact that the entire train carriage was staring at me licking my fingers. I then swiftly folded up the crisp packet neatly and in a very obvious way, placed it nicely into my hangbag with a smile to the audience.

All the rules mean that Singapore really is a lovely place to live. Birds sing, the sun shines (except for the 1 hour of thunderstorm that happens both at about 7am in the morning and about 2pm in the afternoon), laughter is all around. Yes, Singapore really is "the Stepford Country." To open up a bank account today, I didn't get shuffled down to a cue by an auto machine. Instead, I was ushered upstairs into the "new customer area" and into an office where I was greeted by my own personal banking customer service attendant.

Upon completion of the transaction, I was then asked to turn to the little machine at the edge of the desk, which read "Please indicate how happy you were with the service, with a big smily face for "very satisfied", expressionless face for "satisfied" and then a big frown for "not satisfied". I was almost tempted to press "not satisfied" and watch the eloquent, fragile Singaporean young lady break down into tears, except for the fact that she was SO helpful, I couldn't NOT press "very satisfied". The funny thing was that when I did press "very satisfed", she was quite overwhelmed by the result and looked like she was about to cry tears of joy.

Singapore. I love it.

In Australia, I would have walked into the Commonwealth Bank and pressed the "you morons have posted another $1 billion profit and you are still overcharging me for ATM transactions, screwing me over on credit card fees, failing to pass on interest rate cuts and keeping me on hold on the phone for too long" button. Ha! I wonder how CBA would have liked them apples...

Anyhoo, all is fine now in Singapore. For the last couple of days, I've been reassessing a lot of the issues that were upsetting me, and decided that it is all being sent to me to teach me more about myself and more about others. When i left Australia, I thought I had the world all sussed out, but until you get to Asia and see how it really works, you know nothing!

I don't think I will ever get bored here in Asia. There is too much to learn.

More good news - I have signed up for the Bintan Triathlon, which is being held in Indonesia on the 22nd May. Yes, that is less than four weeks away. It will be a 700m swim, 20km bike and 5km run. So this will be the longest triathlon i have done and will certainly be the toughest, due to the climate. I am just trying to train hard in the climate here in Singapore so that my body is prepared for the event. The good news is that my body is responding quite well to the climate change so far, except for the fact that my body is getting stripped of every bit of moisture every time i do the slightest bit of activity (sweat due to high humidity and heat). If you are not afraid to get a little sweaty, then Singapore is for you!

I am back on the road tomorrow night, so stay tuned for some more stories.... this time it is.... (drumroll)....


When things are crappy, and I am missing home, I think about the fact that I have been given the opportunity to travel to these exotic places on a WEEKLY basis.... I really am the luckiest person alive.

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