Saturday, August 29, 2009

Moving to Singapore is like building Ikea furniture

Moving to Singapore is kind of like building Ikea furniture. It comes with very little direction, is frustrating at times, often has a lot of pieces and parts to be figured out and put together, but comes with huge relief and great satisfaction when something fits. I know this, because I just spent the last hour trying to put together a chair and a desk from Ikea, and I’ve spent the last week trying to put together my life in Singapore.

Those of you who know me may be quite surprised to find out that I’m not all too apt at building furniture…I know, shocking right?! Those of you who don’t know me should know that I can be a bit sarcastic at times and am not exactly the type of person who goes around building furniture on a regular basis. However, that is exactly what I set out to do one hour ago. And that is exactly what I sent Jayme, a fellow PiAer, a text about exactly five minutes ago. The text was not exactly to tell him how successful I was in building my chair and desk. In fact, it was a text pleading for help before I hurt myself trying to force one more screw into a hole in which I’m not exactly positive it is suppose to go.

A few words of wisdom: helpful friends, who happen to be helpful male friends who just built their own desk and chair who live a few floors below you, are a great kind of friends to send texts to about building your Ikea furniture.

Anyway, enough about the furniture as just writing about it has me about as riled up as when I was actually building it. Instead, here is a rundown of the past few wonderful days.

I last wrote on Thursday morning when my intention was to go to the Botanic Gardens. Nature, however, had other plans as it started to rain almost the minute I stepped outside. So instead I had to give up my walk in the beautiful gardens for a full on mani-pedi…we’re talking calf and arm massage and nail trimming and painting here...instead. Rough trade huh!? After relaxing and treating myself a bit, I met Shannon (the women I met a few days prior in the Botanic Gardens) and her daughter, ten month old Grace, at her home for lunch.

It was an amazing afternoon. Shannon gave me a tour of their flat, which sits on the ninth story of a beautiful building with a breathtaking view of Singapore. They also have an infinity pool that overlooks the city, and Shannon invited me to come over and use the pool someday soon with friends! I cannot believe how kind and generous she has been. We then enjoyed a lunch complete with salad, vegetable pasta, and bread and berries and banana muffins for dessert. Heidi, Shannon and Patrik’s domestic helper (a PC term here for maid, butler, chef, nanny and whatever else she does) prepared the meal. I guess it is really common to have a domestic helper in Singapore, and most homes and condos come with a separate room and bathroom area for them to live. Heidi seems like very much a part of the family. She is this adorable young Indian woman who is so small I could lift her with one arm I’m sure. Lunch was soooooo good…one of the best meals I’ve eaten yet. It was also nice to have a home-cooked meal, and I thanked Heidi profusely for it. Heidi asked me what my favorite meal is. When I told her I love salmon, she clapped and told me salmon was her specialty, and she would love to have me over when she makes it for Patrik and Shannon sometime. Again, how wonderful and how rare to come across such kindness and generosity. I was so lucky to have such a perfect afternoon.

When I returned to my apartment, I showered and got ready for the PiA pizza party. The party was in one of the other apartment buildings, and it was so wonderful to see everyone again, to meet the fellows who have been here for a year already, and to see Leslie (the PiA director who is establishing an overseas office in Singapore) for the first time. We enjoyed good food, good drinks, and good conversation until everyone was too tired and jet lagged that we had to go to bed.

As a random side note, some people were drawing henna tattoos, and Neil, a PiA fellow who spent this past year in India, wrote Big Sister in Tamal on my arm….just because I miss you Elizabeth, and I took a picture too so you can see it! (Don’t worry Dad, it’s washable ink that comes off in about two weeks.)

On Friday, I woke up at my usual time…around 7:30 a.m., went for a walk, and went to Ikea to browse for some decorative items. I made lunch plans to go to Little India with Will, Neil, Lisa, and Jayme, who are all other PiA people and we also met Marcus, who is a foreign teacher but not PiA. Because Neil spent the last year in India, he knew exactly what to order and he ordered for all of us. I had cheese Dohsa, which is like a flat bread with cheese in it and comes with a bunch of different curries and chutneys in which to dip it. It was really great, and I plan to eat a lot more Indian food while I’m here. It has been my favorite cultural cuisine yet.

While we were eating, I noticed we were the only Westerners in the restaurant, and we were also the only one’s to have spoons and forks on our table. HAHAHA…these people obviously had a lot of confidence in us. I think the waiters were impressed though that, in true Indian style, we all used our hands to eat our food. Traditionally in India, only the right hand is used to eat with (I do find this skill a bit difficult and will have to practice…I’m sure Mom will be impressed when I come back to the states and am eating all my meals with my right hand only). The reason only the right hand is used is because in the past, the left hand was used to clean yourself, by splashing water, after you used the restroom. Still today, the left hand is considered dirty in Indian cultures, and it is offensive to try to shake someone’s hand using your left hand. The waiters were also impressed, because Neil was able to speak a little Tamal and he ordered our food like a pro. I think they found us quite entertaining for Westerners, and I’m quite proud to have such talented, worldly, smart, and wonderful friends here in Singapore.

After lunch, we went to Clark Quay (pronounced Key) for happy hour margaritas. Clark Quay is a very European area of Singapore with outdoor cafes lining the riverfront and colorful pastel restaurants and bars boasting good beef, espresso, gelato and sushi. Singapore is such an interesting city in that way. I can feel like I am in India, California, and Paris all in one day! So just another plug to convince you to visit me…instead of traveling to all those wonderful places, just come and stay with me…I’ll show you the U.S., Asia, and Europe all in one week.

And if traveling to India, Cali, and Paris wasn’t enough yesterday, I also re-lived my college days in Wyoming. Last night a group of us played beer pong at the apartment of a couple other PiA fellows…hahahah…it was like hanging out at the fraternities all over again…in a really good way!

This morning I slept in for the first time and then went to lunch with Jayme and his roommate Greisha, who has been a foreign teacher in Singapore for just over a year and is from California, We had food from one of the food stales nearby, and then went to Ikea. And from there, you know the rest!

Tonight, we have an informal training with some of the older PiA fellows. They are going to tell us what to expect in our first weeks at work. Tomorrow?…maybe the Indonesian beaches…who knows!

It really has been a wonderful couple days, but like the furniture, I have been frustrated a bit. I do get lonely, especially at night because Stephanie isn’t here yet. And I do miss all my family and friends back home. I love you all so very much, and am thankful for your strong support as I continue my journey in Singapore. Keep writing, I love to hear from you!

Cheers and TIA,

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