I’ve been in New Haven less than 48 hours and already there’s been an earthquake, an imminent hurricane to be accompanied by flash flooding, and the announcement of Steve Job’s resignation.

Grand Entrance or End-of-the-World? You decide.

This summer has been a whirlwind of wonderful, and the perfect way to transition from my life in Asia back to my life in America – this time in lovely New England. I’ve spent the past couple of months in charming London, sunny Madrid, with my family in the ever-humid North Carolina, at a beautiful wedding in Virginia, on a road trip to Connecticut (my father is a living saint), and a final stint in London with zeBF.

But alas, I’ve committed myself to putting down some roots for the next few years and to putting on the scholar hat. For my friends and family who are still following along with me out there in cyberspace, I plan on continuing to blog, this time under a new heading: Suddenly in New England.

I can’t promise I’ll meet any hilariously entertaining taxi drivers or wow you with photographs from paradisaical islands, but at the very least we might be amused together and I can share with you some tid-bits of life as a PhD student.

Who needs to make long-distance phone calls when you can stuff all your former Singapore colleagues in a phone booth?

Yes, we’re clearly tourists.

Chloe and I spent a couple of days in Madrid, essentially eating our way through the city: tapas, paella, churros con chocolate, sangria, manchego… mmm! Madrid also happens to have 3 world-class art museums all on one street (hola Picasso, hola Goya, hola Velasquez!) and beautiful gardens where one can basque in the sol and the calor. Viva Espana!

I’m experiencing culture shock. Also, my teeth are cold.

Those are just 2 of many rather astute observations I’ve made so far in London, others including: “Hey! I’m not the tallest woman on this train,” and “Woah! All the jeans in this store fit over my hips,” and “You mean, the sandwiches here taste good?”

Otherwise my first 2 days in the UK can be explained by my favorite SE Asian saying: same same, but different. Allow me to present some photographic evidence to support this claim.

My Neighborhood: same same… but different:

The Local Park: same same… but different:

Shrines: same same… but different:

And breakfast: same same… but different:

None of this feels normal yet.

Well Singapore, I guess this is goodbye for now.

I meant to write a really thoughtful post to sum up my experience in these last 2 years, but in typical kiki-style I saved all my packing until the last minute and now I’m pressed for time!

In summation: this has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll already know that I’ve met some of the most amazing people, had loads of adventures, and traveled to corners of the world I never dreamed I’d ever see (let alone be able to find on a map).

Now it’s on to a new chapter of my life as a nerdy, impoverished grad student, and I’m quite excited about it. In the meantime I’ll be traveling a bit over the next few weeks, visiting ze bf in London, visiting chlochlo in Madrid, going home to my family in the States, and popping around the east coast for some weddings before heading off to grad school.

My dear friends and family: I miss you so much and I can’t wait to squeeze you!!!!! I’ll try to post pictures and update the blog as much as possible over the next few weeks.

For now, I’m Suddenly on a New Adventure ;-)

Love, Kiersten

Recipe for a great weekend in Bintan

Ingredients:

  • 7 girlfriends (preferably 3 parts American, 3 parts French, 1 part English)
  • 1 super-sized villa 50 meters from the ocean
  • 1 stretch golf cart
  • sun, sand, surf
  • fruity drinks to taste

Directions:

Have 1 lovely friend arrive in Singapore from Paris at 4pm. Board boat to Bintan from Tanamera Ferry Terminal at 8pm. Arrive 8:30pm. Clear immigration 9pm. Combine all remaining ingredients. Yields: 1 serving of weekend full of fun!

***

I’ll take a crappuccino please.  No no, actually make that a caffe laxte. And an iced crappe for the gentleman.

No scratch that. I’ll order the civet poop coffee.

taking a whiff

For real. I drank the civet poop coffee.

I’ll repeat: I drank coffee made from the beans that wild cat pooped.

Don’t judge. It was a damn good cup of coffee! The official beverage is called kopi luwak. You might have already heard of it if you watched The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.  It is the rarest, most expensive cup of coffee in the world.

Essentially a civet eats a coffee cherry, the coffee cherry spends a day and a half in the civet’s digestive track, and then the civet defecates a string of coffee beans. Some poor farmer then sorts through the poop (can you imagine that Monday morning back at work??), cleans the coffee beans, dries them in the sun, and then gives them a light roast.

At a whopping $27 SGD, this particular cup of kopi luwak was amazing.  It’s served black, and is actually the least bitter cup of black coffee I’ve ever tasted. I bet with a little cream and a hot, buttery croissant… yummm

***

You can find Kopi Luwak in Singapore at:

Blue Mountain Cafe.
313 Orchard Road,
#03-23/24
313 @ Somerset, Singapore

I’ve had my fair share of whose-life-is-this? moments in Singapore, but this weekend was particularly bougie.

Saturday night S and I went to the Ford Supermodel of the World competition at the Ritz to support a Brazilian girlfriend of ours (2nd photo below in stripes) who fitted all the models for the swimsuit competition.  All week, S and I had been affectionately referring to the event as the “skinny bitches” party, but it turns out it didn’t feel much different from my daily life in Asia, except the girls were taller.

On Sunday a British girlfriend of mine (above in red) chartered a yacht for her 30th birthday party. Actually, I was shocked by how ridiculously affordable it was relative for what one would pay to do the same in the States.

It was all a ton of fun! We sailed out to some small islands, swam to the beach, and had a BBQ on board to celebrate A’s 30th.

It’s all a bit surreal for this nerdy research assistant from the South, who spends most of her days wearing heavy reading glasses in front of spreadsheets of obesity data.

Somebody remind me again why I decided it was a good idea to leave all this and become an impoverished graduate student…

While in Malaysia last week, I decided to try Ipoh White Coffee.

I know what you’re probably thinking as you look at the picture, and I will tell you that I too was  surprised (and slightly bummed) that the coffee was not actually white.

According to my source of knowledge for all things in the world everywhere (wikipedia), “white coffee” is a literal translation from its Chinese name, 怡保白咖啡. I have NO idea what that means.

Essentially the beans are roasted with palm-oil margarine (don’t tell Green Peace) and the resulting coffee is mixed with condensed milk.

Verdict: Way too sweet for my taste buds, although the kaya toast I ate with it was dee-licious!

Also known as the day when I was dragged on stage to shoot blowdarts with half-naked “indigenous men” [read: actors]. I blame the blonde hair.

Embarrassing video footage is forthcoming.

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