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Can I just let out one big WTF?  Surely I’m hallucinating.  Or living in the Truman Show.

This new little jingle plays every time the MRT train approaches.  It may be amusing to you now, but at 8am I want to pull. my. hair. out.

“Train is coming, train is coming, train is comiiiiiiiing (please start queuing!) love your ride!”

and if you’re lucky enough to be in the station for more than 3 minutes, you can catch the longer version on the tv screens:

“How Like Dat? It’s rush hour and your face so sour!” That’s right.  It’s rush hour, it’s been a long day at the office, I’m in no mood to be coddled, and your screeching is not making it easy for me to love my ride.

Incidentally, my taxi bill has increased substantially this month.

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

You might need to have some previous exposure to the concept of Chinese superstitions to understand while the following interaction is hilarious, but I will relate the conversation to you regardless:


Tuesday evening, at the apartment. S and I are sitting down with the landlord and the agent to sign a new lease. They’re both friendly Singaporean men. [Disclaimer: we may have flirted a little bit in an effort to convince them to give us a TV].

Landlord: (to me) So, I just need to see your passport or your work permit to verify your personal details are correct, and then we can finish oreddy.

Me: (fishing for my passport) Oh yeah, of course. No problem. Let me just…pull it out…okay here you go (handing over the passport).

Landlord: (opens my passport and takes a look) Ok great thanks…oh… oh …woww!!

[The landlord and agent look at my passport in awe. The agent whispers something to the landlord, looks at me and smiles].

Me: (turning to S in a whisper) I know we were a little flirtatious, but really??

[The men continue to admire my passport]

Me: (with a beaming smile) Yeah, it’s a pretty good photo, right?

Agent: Wahlau! You have a great passport number!!

Me: Thank y-…wait, what?…I have a great passport number?

Landlord:  Got passport so lucky lah! In our dialect, this is a really lucky number!

Me: (totally dejected) oh. uhh thanks, I think…


later in the day

S: (to me) Hey baby, wanna check out my passport number?


So after my ego was totally crushed, I decided to look up my passport number online. It turns out that it is indeed a very lucky number!

Obviously I can’t share the actual number with you, but you can read up on superstitions about Chinese numbers here.

My friend was visiting Singapore for the evening, so I took him down to Boat Quay to enjoy some dinner al fresco.  Turns out we couldn’t stay long because the F1 was sooooo loud!  They’ve turned the entire city into a race track and you can hear the engines all the way into Geylang.

On a separate note: why are all the F1 racers so good-looking?  Come on, Nascar – get in gear! (yes, bad pun intended)

Here is a 20 second video just to give you a little taste…sorry I couldn’t get closer!

Time again for the blog confessional:

I don’t cook in Singapore.  Ever.

Second confession:

I didn’t cook that either.

No really.  I always eat out: hawker centers, nice restaurants, fruit stalls..even Subway – anywhere but the kitchen.  Eating out is cheap, convenient and practically a national pastime.  Just ask the Top Chef contestants.  Or my friend Elizabeth.

I’ve lived in S’pore for 11 months and have only ventured into the kitchen to make pasta (3 times) and bake challah (twice). And I’ve eaten more sandwiches and bowls of cereal in the past year than in my entire 4 years of university combined.

So you can imagine what a treat it was to come home and find that S‘s friend A, who is visiting us from Spain, had cooked us a tomato/cheese/mustard tart with a lovely cucumber & tomato salad.  I feel so spoiled!

En la cocina

I’ve moved to Geylang!

That’s the red light district, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Little Red Dot.  Yes, prostitution is legal in Singapore.  No mom, I haven’t made a career switch. In any case, I’m hoping that living here will produce some blog-worthy stories…

I’ve officially moved in with S – one half of my favorite french duo in s’pore! Unpacking, well, that’s a chore to tackle for another weekend.

The new apartment is great – I’m much closer to the subway, there is great food everywhere, and there is life on the streets. Moreover, it’s quieter here and I don’t hear the buses and crazy motorcyclists revving their engines on Serangoon at 3am.

Already I feel at home (and so do all my plants!)

I’ve snapped some quick picks for your viewing pleasure.  Please excuse the dust on the window shades!

Between writing a million manuscripts and abstracts and preparing presentations and studying for the GREs and packing for the move and generally running around like a chicken with my head cut off (whew) – life has been a little busy lately.  I gave up maintaining any semblance (GRE word) of a social life weeks ago…

So late last night, after my brain decided it was replete (GRE word) with knowledge for the day, A and I decided to relax a little bit and savor the view from the top of our humble abode.

We may or may not have been allowed up there.  It’s still unclear to me.

Anyways, the evening went something like this:

K: Hey A, do you wanna go up to the top floor with me and see if we can see downtown?

A: Yeah definitely, let me put on my black socks and sandals and look as Scandinavian as possible. [ok, he didn’t say that last part]

K: [arriving at the top floor].  Hmm, looks like the door won’t open.

A: [already scaling the door].

K: What are you doing??!!??

A: Come on!  I didn’t come all the way up here to peek through the bars.

K: Shit, are you really going to make me do this? I’m a rule-follower, A!  I live inside the box! [drawing a square with my fingers] See this?  I’m in the middle!

A: Just throw your foot over please.

K: [precariously landing on the other side]

A: You see? You did it.  What are they going to do? Kick us out of the building?

K: [sirens sounding in the distance] Oh no!  They’re coming for us!!  We’ve still got 2 days left on the lease!

A: [just shakes head] Americans…

So in the end I was coaxed (GRE word) onto the rooftop by my intrepid (GRE word) Swedish flatmate, and yes, it was worth it.  Take THAT, Sail building! I think I’m going to miss this apartment. And my super adventurous flatmates, of course.

How can something so beautiful, and with a name that sounds so right, be so wrong?

I mean, I like the moon.  It’s all white and shiny and mysterious.  La luna, la lune…it sounds great in a lot of languages.  And cake – who doesn’t like cake?

But mooncake?  BLECH.

Mooncakes – traditional Chinese pastries for the Mid-Autumn festival – are everywhere in Singapore right now and it’s basically the nastiest dessert I’ve ever had in my life.  Imagine a delicate pastry, filled with an incredibly dense lotus seed paste (very bland, very sugary, and very fattening), and inside the paste there is an egg yolk.

Yes, an egg yolk.

Are you gagging yet?

There are a variety of fillings:

  • red bean paste
  • green tea
  • durian (this is the worst)
  • black sesame

and even some more unusual options like

  • beetroot with red wine
  • mung bean
  • champagne
  • pumpkin paste with melon seeds.

The price of just one of these handmade babies? Anywhere from $10 to $50 a pop.  Moreover, a single mooncake can pack 1000 calories!

Yes, you read correctly – that’s more than half your daily recommended calorie intake, friends.

I think I will have to admire these little beauties from behind the pastry case – rather than with the taste buds.  And perhaps with some dramatic Chinese music in the background… (check out lovely video from Szechuan Court below – they make it look so tasty!)

[photo credits: ulterior epicure and lifestyleasia]

Well, at least J seems to know what’s up.  I was a little lost in translation.

Check out that view!  Some Brazilian friends of mine hosted a seder for Rosh Hashana from their apartment at the the Sail.

Do you have balcony-envy right now?  I totally have balcony-envy right now.

Anyways a lot of folks have been asking me about the symbolism of the New Year foods, and to be honest, I didn’t really know much beyond the pomegranate!

So, for the sake of my own education (and yours) I’ll show you the rockin’ seder plates that S & R put together to symbolize a sweet, prolific and successful new year:

1. Apples and Honey (not pictured): symbolizes a sweet new year.

2. Dates: An end to your enemies and those who wish evil upon you.

3. White beans: That your merits should increase and you should be heartened.

4. Carrots: Also that your merits should increase.

5. Leek: Again, that your enemies should be cut down.

6. Beet: That your enemies and those who wish evil upon you shall depart (are you sensing a theme here?).

7. Pumpkin: That the evil of your verdicts be ripped, and that your merits be announced.

8. Pomegranate: the seeds symbolize the 613 miztvot (commandments).

9. Gifilte fish (not pictured): That we should be fruitful and multiply like fish.

10. Fish head (not pictured): May you be a head and not a tail (i.e. a leader, not a follower).

So are you feeling enlightened?  I am.  How bout we ’round this evening out Singaporean style with a Tiger Beer.

Alright, who’s New Year is next?

Chapter 2 of my brilliant book? “If you hear a fire alarm, wait for someone to tell you what to do.”

Forget intuition.  If you hear a really loud bell accompanied by flashing lights and smoke, please,  stay where you are and wait for a mysterious lady with a British accent to give you further instructions.

So what if you’re working on the 25th floor.  You don’t need a head-start, right?  It’s all downhill…

Whatever you do, don’t stop working unless there’s an emergency, like I don’t know, a FIRE or something.

September 2010