Sunday, July 25, 2010

Our stuff is here

In 2006, Erin and I went to Thailand for the second time. We visited the Northern part of the country with Skip. We rode an elephant, we stayed at the nicest hotel I have ever seen. Then we took a trip to a place called Pai (pronounced By, I am told). We chose Pai because the son of one of Skip's friend's lived there. He played in a band at a club called the Bee Bop. The town was full of young people... lots of Europeans and Israelis. Daniel, Skip's friend's son, lived in a hut, with no air conditioning, and maybe no running water. There may or may not have been electricity. This was an American guy, from a nice family, college educated, and, as best as I can tell, not on the run from anything. He lived there, in the manner I have just described, by choice. I admired him. Not enough to rent the hut next door, but still, I knew that if and when he chose to move back to the States, the comforts of modern western society would feel like... I can't even think of an appropriate metaphor. It reminded me of an experience I had years before, when I was in college (my experience seems weak in comparison, but this was where I learned that feeling). I took a camping trip in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the spring (1999, I think). It was just one night, but that was enough. I have never liked camping. I have several camping memories from childhood, none of them great (some of them funny, though, like a cub scout trip with my big brother, which ended with both of us very sick with the flu). Anyway, so this trip as a college student, sounded good in theory, but in practice came off badly. Most of the people on the trip were not really my crowd. They were very nice people, but they did not drink, smoke, and swear, which were my three favorite past times at that time in my life, and the only things that I thought make camping a worthwhile endeavor. So it was decided that rather than just go to a campground where we could park our cars and set up our tents, we would hike someplace, with all of our gear, and there was a lot of it for one night of sleeping in the woods, and then hike back out the next day. I had voted for the campground idea. The location that they decided on was up a very steep path, off of a very narrow road, with no sign indicating what the path led to. We had very vague directions. About a half hour or 45 minutes into the hike, it started raining. We walked a ways further, and decided that the rain was probably not going to stop, and we were probably not going to make it to the top of the mountain to the clearing and scenic view that we thought we were heading to (though I still do not know to this day if we were even on the correct trail for said clearing and scenic panorama). We found a rocky clearing, pitched our tents, and tried to start a fire (remember, it was raining). We had brought a bunch of food thinking that we would merrily warm it over a crackling fire. No fire, and not much food that could be eaten uncooked. I went to bed that night having eaten only a bowl of half cooked ramen noodles. It poured rain all night. The tent that I was sleeping in had been in someone's basement for decades, and began leaking almost immediately upon entering it that night. I woke up freezing cold and soaking wet before sunrise the next morning. We packed up, and headed off that mountain. The group stopped at the first restaurant we could find, a McDonalds, and had breakfast. It was the best meal of my life. One night of discomfort and depravation made that Egg McMuffin taste better than anything else I have eaten in my entire life (and this is only mild hyperbole). I think I went back to the counter twice for more hash browns.
We got our furniture a few days ago. Sleeping in our own bed after a month on an air mattress was kind of like that.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Life During Wartime

This blog is not a tribute to the Talking Heads. But I tend to contextualize my thoughts with the songs that I love. I have a hard time staying on a normal schedule. Its not so bad when I have a real job, and I have to wake up at a regular time, work all day, and generally act like a responsible human being. Unfettered by such constraints, I revert to my natural instincts, which brings me back to the title of this post... "sleep in the daytime, I work in the night time." My habits always remind me of this song. I don't want my family back in the States to worry, though. I am fine. Let me repeat... I am fine. I am relatively happy and healthy. I just happen to get up at 6:45am, do a few things, have some coffee, and usually sleep from 11am to 2 or 3pm, and then get back up for the second shift from 3ish to around 2am. A little odd, perhaps, but I get things done. Benson seems to enjoy this schedule. He is never more than a couple of hours from a walk. If and when I get a job, he will not be pleased.
Last night I went to sleep around 11pm, and then woke up at 2am, unable to get back to sleep for a couple of hours. I went to the kitchen, and on the way there, I found this scene in the living room:

Strange things happen at that hour of the night.

Today I decided I needed a haircut. I have had my hair cut once since arriving here, but that shop is in another part of town, and, to be honest, the neck and shoulder massage that accompanies the haircut just weirds me out a little (probably wouldn't weird me out AS much if the lady cutting my hair wasn't 55 years old, 5'1" and a solid 185 lbs). So I had passed a bunch of these $10 fast haircut places, all of them located in MRT stations. So I gave one a try, and I have to say, it didn't turn out too badly. I mean, I wasn't as lucky as Benson, who got his best haircut ever here in S'pore, but for $10, at a subway station, I'm not complaining.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Benson Gets a Haircut

Today Benson had his first grooming appointment in Singapore. While there are many ways in which not having a car has had little impact on our lives, this is one area in which our own car would be very helpful. Dogs are not welcome in cabs, buses or trains, so we would either have to hire a pet taxi service, or rely on the kindness of someone with a car to help with arrangements. Luckily, Skip, Erin's dad, was willing to help out. So we took the boy over to the groomer, and they talked about how handsome he is, which is always a good way to put me at ease, and I left. A few hours later, we picked him up and he looks fantastic.

For the trip to the groomer, Skip had gotten directions online. He assumed, as most rational people would, that if you are going back the same way that you came, then you would not necessarily need to look up directions for the reverse route, if you have an IQ higher than that of the common gourd. Well, he, I, and most rational people would be wrong. So the ride back took about three times longer than the ride over there, but Benson was so exhausted from the grooming experience, he remained unconscious for the entire ride. And I don't just mean asleep. I mean, lift a paw, and it fell limply to his side, and he did not even open his eyes. But he has gotten some rest now, and seems genuinely happy to not have hair covering his eyes and not to have mats all over his underside.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Land of Shopping Malls

Tonight for dinner, Erin and I decided to head to a food court at a mall in the downtown area. Since we don't have pots, pans, plates, or utensils yet, this is a frequent and cost effective solution for meals. There are a couple of malls that we have been to several times now that have great food courts, and they are both only three train stops away. We got off the train, heading to one of these, and discovered yet another mall, and this one, like the other two, is also attached by a series of underground tunnels to that single train station. Shopping does seem to be the national sport here. I am not judging, mind you, just stating an observation. What is so unusual is that all of these malls have essentially the same stores. In fact, the one that we went to this evening (the newly discovered one) had two Starbucks, at least, no more than a few hundred yards from one another. One was on the second floor, and one was on the third floor. Again, I am not judging, or complaining. I like not having to move more than a few feet to find my next cup of coffee. I just wonder how all of these businesses can stay open when they are competing with other outlets of the same store that are just a few paces away. And this is just one train stop. Orchard Road, the shopping Mecca here in the city is the same but magnified to an exponential level.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, America!

I do miss the celebrating the 4th of July. Its probably my second favorite holiday of the year. Today, sort of in honor of the holiday, at least, thats how I feel about it, we did a little patriotic sightseeing. Thats right, her in Southeast Asia. A new friend of mine is retired from the Navy, and staying here in Singapore for a short time on between merchant marine trips. This friend had captained a hospital ship for the U.S. Navy (the USNS Mercy), during the tsunami relief effort. He invited a number of people to take a tour of the ship while it is stopped here in Singapore between missions. I had heard it was pretty impressive, and I have to say, I was not disappointed. It has the capacity to house 1000 patients. Its big. And they do some really great work. In addition to disaster relief, they also do humanitarian missions, which is what they are doing right now. They are doing work with Operation Smile, operating on children with cleft palates. The ship has operating rooms, and even an interventional radiology suite. Pretty impressive.
Getting to the ship reminded me once again reminded me how far one can travel on such a tiny island. Two trains and a cab, and it took us about an hour to get there. I don't know how thats possible. But seeing new parts of the island is always interesting.
Tonight we had dinner with an acquaintance of Erin's from high school ( a good friend of her brother) and his fiance. They are a lovely couple and great company. I knew the guy was smart, but when he told us that he had taken the MCATs because he had some free time after he finished college, I knew he was on a whole other level. We had dinner at a "gourmet British pub" and watched the Argentina/Germany World Cup game. Everyone in the place was rooting for Germany, even though no one was from Germany.
I hope that everyone has a great Independence Day, and eats a hot dog and a hamburger in my honor.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Where is that large automobile?

The other day I woke up from a dream... I don't remember what about, but the first thought I had when I woke up was, "do I really live in Singapore, or was it a dream?" I really do live in Singapore. It is still hard to believe sometimes. I was interested in the land area and population size of Singapore, so I did a little research. Singapore is not a huge city, but big. About five million people. Thats a little bigger than San Francisco, Santiago, Chile, or Baghdad. No where near the size of New York, Tokyo, or Mexico City. I have to say I was a little disappointed. I was thinking that I had moved to a giant metropolis, and here I find out I am no where near the top ten.
On the the other hand, while it may not be the biggest of cities, its still pretty far from home, and its big enough, and there is a lot going on. I look around at the huge buildings, I realize its not Richmond Virginia. In the process of doing my informal research I also realized that Singapore is in the Indian Ocean. I never imagined that I would see the Indian Ocean... in my life. And now I live on a city state island IN the Indian Ocean. I don't know if I ever even imagined leaving Richmond, to live any way. I couldn't imagine moving to the Northeastern U.S. and now I live literally on the other side of the world, twelve (depending on the time of year) time zones from where I was born and raised.
I take public transportation. I don't own a car. I don't have a back yard, so I have to pick up my dog's poop in a plastic bag. I live in a high rise apartment building. I take my dog outside with the aid of an elevator. I have to buy groceries in small quantities because I can't put them in the trunk of the car, but instead have to carry them home by hand.
Not to mention the fact that I am not working. The thing that I have most feared for the last 7 years, since I started working after grad school: unemployment. And I chose this. I left my job with no job to go to, and move to the other side of the world.
None of this is bad, mind you. I have my Erin, my cats and dog. I have what I need, and I am making some new friends. I just find myself asking, "Well, how did I get here?"