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I ran my first half-marathon in Singapore this weekend.  I  also ran my last half-marathon in Singapore this weekend.  Let me explain.

For the past several months, I’ve been training in the steamy, sticky Singaporean heat for the Adidas Sundown half-marathon, which was last Saturday night.   Runners were advised to make it to the race site by 8pm before start-time at 9pm.  So I called a taxi around 7:30 and he took me to the Expo by about 7:50.  I promptly realized that it was the wrong expo, as I was the only person wearing running clothes.  (Who knew there were multiple expos?).  So I hopped in another taxi, who took me to the Changi expo.  Turns out the road he wanted to take was closed and we had to take a much longer route to Changi Village.  Also turns out that every other car in Singapore was doing the same thing, and by the time I got to the taxi drop off site it was 8:50.  We couldn’t get to the actual start line because of another road closure.

Worried I wouldn’t make the start, I started jogging with hoards of other marathoners to the start line.  By chance I met a girl whose sister was working at the race and she told me that they were going to have a second start at 10pm, so I could walk to the start.  A lot of people were stuck at the race shuttle point, where the bus supply couldn’t meet the demand and was causing a serious bottleneck.  So together with hundreds of other “latecomers” I walked 5km for 40 minutes to the start line!  Before a half-marathon!   I couldn’t believe there was  such poor organization!

So the second half-marathon gun went off at 10pm, and after the first kilometer, I knew it was going to be a long night!  Thirsty, hot, sweaty and generally miserable, I dragged through the course downing water and isotonic drinks at every opportunity.  To make matters worse, the course marking was off.  The 7km marker came after the 11km marker which was proceeded by the 14km marker.  Then, shortly after I estimated I had passed the 17km mark – I saw the finish line!  I knew there was no way I could have finished a half-marathon in 2:20 at the pace I was going.

I found the Boss-Man and his friend past the finish line, and they confirmed my suspicion.  The race course was only 18km and some change.  I couldn’t believe it!  Could you imagine training for a full marathon, only to find out that you ran 23 miles instead of 26?

I think what happened is they left off that first little 3km loop in the NW part of the course.  Sigh.

Getting out of the race site was not much easier than getting in.  Waited 30 minutes to get a shuttle to the middle of nowhere, and by the time I got in a cab to go home I was delirious.  This late-night, slap-happy delirium is what my Israeli friends call a Matsav Kapit, or Spoon Situation.

Remind me not to do this again.

No one believes me when I tell my crazy taxi stories anymore, so I vowed that I would capture the next Crazy with the iPhone Voice Memo app.  Behold – I give you proof that my taxi drivers are in fact bananas!  (These are .m4a files, so you can open them using iTunes).  I wasn’t able to capture the entire convo because I only thought to pull out the recorder towards the end, but this should be sufficient evidence…

Let’s exchange passports

So you’re a sportsman?

I told you so…

The following video is from my recent trip to Krabi.  The girls and I were wandering along the beach town after dinner when we stumbled into a tourist trap: Thai boxing (or Muay Thai).  The actual fight is pretty entertaining, but the real star of this video clip is the announcer.

Most of his speech is unintelligible, but here’s a transcription of the words i could make out:  “ohhh!  owwww!  ohhhhhhh owwww owww owwww ohhhhh! what happened?! what happened?! oh my buddha! oh my buddha! wery interesting tonight! werrrry interesting fighting!  come on baby! ooohhhh owwwww! owwww! ohh my buddha!!!

Make sure your volume is turned up and you’re someplace where giggling is acceptable.

For better or for worse, I’ve agreed to participate in a “Durian Lunch Excursion” mañana with a few colleagues for lunch.  I didn’t quite enjoy the taste or texture of the durian the last time I tried it, but I’m hoping that the fruit will grow on me, or at least my presence on this little excursion will put me in the good graces of my Singaporean office-mates.

In honor of this impending event, I’ve come across a little poem from Chris Mooney Singh on 13 Ways of Looking at a Durian.  Below is an excerpt:

The smell of the durian is overpowering,
The taste of the durian causes memory dysfunction.

The land of the Durian Eaters
Is the land of the Lotos Eaters
There is a problem with time.
There is a problem with credit cards.

Some love durians,
Others can’t stand durians.
The government, fearing public calamity
Won’t allow them near the MRT.

In reality, lovers of the durian
Are seed-souls from another star.
The plain-thinking earth-born
Cannot stomach durians.

Hello, paradise. Meet my camera.

I had a mini-reunion with Chloe and the ladies in Krabi this past weekend.  In between all the giggles, gossip and silliness, we did some pretty exciting things like:

1. Take a little boat tour to Ko Phi Phi island (below), Monkey beach, and Bamboo island.

2. Scale a cliff to see a lagoon.  Turns out we couldn’t see the lagoon, but we did get really muddy and sweaty.

3. Get stuck in quick-ssand.  Correction, J got stuck in the mud while the rest of us looked on and decided how muddy we wanted to get in order to save her.  When the tide pulls out from the east beach in Railey, it leaves a big mess of mud and sand.  (Don’t worry, we finally saved her and her shoes).

4. Enjoy fruity drinks on the sand.

5. Watch the sunset.  Actually, this was the only evening it was sunny enough to get a good shot of the sky.

6. Take a dip in that beautiful blue water.

7. Pretend to be monkeys.

8. Dodge jellyfish-infested waters in a quest for a good shot.

9. Get a little sunbathing and R&R!

Q: What’s the price you pay for living in a jungle on the equator?

A: Hot and steamy, year-round.

In the ongoing series, Conversations with Singaporeans, I relay some of my more entertaining exchanges with the locals.

It seems as though every week I have a taxi story to top my last taxi story.  Those avid readers of my blog (yes Mom and Dad, I’m talking to you) may recall the Indian holiday expert.  Or perhaps you’ll remember the taxi driver who aspired to have my hand in marriage.  Well, they all pale in comparison to my most recent taxi experience.  Read on, dear friends!

Wednesday night, Raffles hotel taxi stand.

Uncle Taxi Driver: Hello good evening!

Me: Hello, Upper Serangoon road please.

UTD: Ok ok upper serangoon lah.  Uppah serangooon.  You having drinks at Raffles Hotel? You staying at Raffles hotel?  Veryy expenseeve lah.

Me: No no, just meeting friends.  So how expensive is it anyway?

UTD: Ohhhh very expenseeve.  One room costing 600 dollars!  If you want to stay in the presidential suite, must pay 25,000!

Me: You’re kidding!?  Per night?

UTD: Yessss 25,000!  Michael Jackson is staying in presidential suite.  Ronald Regan, Queen of England.  Very expenseeeve lah!

Me: My God I don’t even make that in a month!

UTD: Chuckling.  You know me neither.  But you know what we have?  We have our health.  This is all we can ask for.  You know if you have all the money in the world and you don’t have health – nothing you can do with money.

Me: Rather impressed. Yes, you know you’re right.  That’s a very lovely observation.

UTD: Haa, haa [interjection: this is the nasally Singlish way of saying “yeah”]. All we can ask for is our health and our family.  You know I tell you – I have 5 sons. You know if the devil comes to me tomorrow and he says: ‘I give you 10 million dollars you kill one son’, I will not take the money.  Because then what can I do I’m so miserable I loose one son.  You understand?

Me: Yes I understand.

UTD:  Haaa. So where you from?

Me:  Guess.

UTD: Hmmm, I don’t know.  Definitely not the US!

Me: Wrong.

UTDShocked. No!  Really?  You know, it’s not true what they say.

Me: Oh dear, this can’t possibly be going anywhere good. Oh yeah?

UTDConfidently. No.  It’s not true what they say about blond Americans!

Me: Nope, definitely not good. And pray tell, what do they say?

UTD:  They are saying that all blond Americans are very easy, you know?  But I don’t think they are like this.  I think these are just the porn stars.  But I don’t think all the blond women are with the men for the money.

Me: Oh my God how did this conversation take such a quick turn to the South?  What do I say now? Well uhhh, ok yes I guess this is not true.

UTD:  Yes not all the prostitutes in America.

MeSarcastically. Have you been to Thailand?

UTDLaughing. Yes!  My wife is from Thailand!

Me: Oh no!  Way to go K… way to call the man’s wife a prostitute!

UTD: Every month I’m working very hard to send her sisters money.  Her sisters own a pub, you know one of these pubs for men, in Thailand.  Every month I’m sending money so her sisters not having to sleep with these men.  I don’t think it’s working!  I think they just love the money so much they still go down and talk to the men and then men buy them drinks and I’m still sending them money for nothing!  I ask my mother – how to do?  My mother say to me – if the women want the money you can’t stop them sleeping with the men.

Me: Oy.  We’ve reached a point of no return. Ohh. Well, uhh.  I suppose some people will do odd things for money.

UTD:  Yes!  You know, maybe even I do strange things for money!  For example I’m no gay.  I have a wife and 5 sons, you understand?  But if the devil comes to me tomorrow and he says, ‘I give you 10 million dollars you spend one month with Elton John’, I do it!  Actually, first I check no AIDS, but then I do it!

MeIs this really happening to me right now? Oh well, I suppose 10 million dollars is a lot of money.

UTD:  Yes 10 million a lot of money lah!  10 million I won’t kill my son, but I spend one month with Elton John.  First I check no AIDS though, you understand lah?

Me:  Oh look this is my road!  Can you drop me off here please?

UTD:  You don’t want I take you to your apartment?

Me: Oh no this is fine!  Just going to run to the convenience store.  But you have a GREAT night!

UTD:  Ok ok lah!  You have a great night!  It is nice talking with you!

Me: Yeah, pleasure…

It’s a miracle!  After filling out stacks of paperwork, running around the city to have photos taken, and preparing to shell out big bucks for an emergency temp passport – I have found my passport!!

Figures that I even make it to the US embassy, sit down with the consular agent, cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s, and right before I go to pay, the cashier asks if I had called earlier about a last passport.  I tell her yes as I pull my wallet out of my purse and she says to me, “oh yeah, your passport was turned in on April 22.”

Hooray!  Jubilation!

First thought: thank goodness I didn’t pay for it!  Once the cashier processes your application, your passport is officially considered a gonner and even if it turns up it’s too late.

Second thought: how did we manage this colossal miscommunication? My passport was found and at the US embassy?  One would think that when you call and email your embassy, they tell you they have your passport.  Or perhaps when someone turns it in they call you to tell you they have it?  No?

Lesson learned: register with your embassy and provide as many contact numbers and emergency contact numbers as possible.

Seriously – for all of you living abroad (or planning on traveling abroad) go enter your details at this website:

Leave it to me to lose my passport the day I’m supposed to travel abroad. I had plans to go to Penang for the weekend so you can imagine my panic when I discovered my passport wasn’t in its normal spot in my desk drawer. After several hours spent turning my room inside-out and scrambling through my office desk, I had to surrender to the fact that I wouldn’t be going anywhere this weekend. A call to the embassy was fruitless – they were closed for the holiday weekend.

So what do you do when you’ve lost your passport, your embassy is closed, and you’ve booked non-refundable plane tickets to a foreign country where you’ve made non-refundable hotel reservations? Well, the answer is nothing. There’s nothing you can do – trust me, I looked into it! Be zen or accept fate or something deep like that.

On the upside I was able to reschedule my flight for June, and my room has never looked so clean! I was also able to spend some time with friends this weekend at a Sentosa beach party and knock-out a 7 mi. run in preparation for the Sundown Half Marathon at the end of this month. (Plus purchase one lovely linen boyfriend jacket…adorable!) Additionally, the officer who helped me file a police report was very good-looking!

The trip may have been a wash, but I tried to make the most of it! Fingers crossed that I’ll be able to get a replacement or temporary passport in time to go see CoCo in Thailand. (Or perhaps I’ll cross my fingers that Uncle Sam doesn’t break the bank…)

May 2010