Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Procrastination

Yes, I still haven't done it yet. I'm doing it, I promise. I will have my application in by this evening. I have to have my application in by this evening, or tomorrow morning at the latest because tomorrow we are moving into our new flat (yay!) which is no internet land (boo!), until 23rd August, (double boo) so you can expect these thrilling posts to be slightly less frequent. Or perhaps I'll just take up residence in a coffee shop along with all those ladies from all over south east Asia and we can write our blogs together.

On the subject of which... all this malleable time. I'm quite unused to it. I've had no time for ages now and suddenly, tah-dah! time, and I find one of the things that I am procrastinating with instead of finishing my application to the swanky arts college is catching up on blogs I've been meaning to read in ages, including my friend Jim's one
http://mrjimsweeney.blogspot.com
which is beautifully written, funny and humbling. And another not by a friend but a teddybear
http://alanmeasles.posterous.com/
which is just funny. Well not just. We have a great appreciation for funny here at ex-patwife.blogspot.com.

Jim's makes me feel cross with myself that I didn't see him more while I was still in London. I went round at Xmas time and we had a good old natter, but then... I refer you to busy again. Rubbish though. A lot of the pull of coming here was that I felt that I'd lost a sense of objective and priorities in my life. You loose so much free time when you're in a relationship, defacto or otherwise. It's difficult to both work hard, be in a relationship and have creative own time. And then if you have children as well. Phew. Bye bye me time. I'm not planning on children and until I have a job I have temporarily have a bit more blog reading time. And writing time. Ah yes. One of the purposes, or appeals to coming here. Time, finally to get around to all that writing I've been 'too busy' to write. No excuses now. Just procrastination, you see what I'm driving at now, eh?

On which note....

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Classifieds

"moving soon- call Pang 92236234
We undertake small n big moves.If u are moving house,or buying items online,we can help u to transport.
Pls call Pang-9223 6234 for discussion or assessment
pls give ample notice "

Well, we should be moving soon but if the wicked (I say wicked, incredibly incompetent is actually a more correct assessment) HR department of IBM have their way will be living in the post-modern, swimming pool capped stone henge forever.

Initially they gave us 10 funded days in a hotel to find somewhere to live. When the DFP argued they increased it to 14, telling him as they did that anyone 'of reasonable inteligence' would be able to find somewhere to live within 3 days in Singapore. We are clearly completely thundering idiots as it took us 5 days to find somewhere, a couple of days in negotiation and then a week for our equally foolish agent to do the paperwork necessary. However, all going well we were due to exchange tomorrow and then, hurrah! another fuck up from the incompetent dunderheads in the IBM HR department. (Believe me if I knew names and email addresses I'd be posting them here so anyone who wanted to could send their own abusive messages).

We had already decided to stay on at the hotel beyond the allowed days and charge it to IBM and argue the toss if necessary. This I think is fairly fair given that the DFP's first pay, or repayment of expenses he's already paid, and the 'moving allowance' they give to cover the costs of moving from one country to another was not due to go into his bank account until a few days after we were supposed to have moved out of the hotel.

We would have been all right to exchange contracts tomorrow and move in on Thursday. I had arranged for a van to drive around Singapore on Thursday collecting the various bits of furniture I've been buying and bidding for on places like singaporeexpat.com and craigslist. So far I've put down a deposit on a large, red velvet sofa (yes, I did buy the sofa) and a double bed. I had, and then lost a sofa bed (they decided it would fit in their new place after all), but am after another, and perhaps a dining table and chairs.

All these things had been carefully planned so that I could do them without the DFP being taken away from his important work. But now, because the HR department of IBM have so royally f****ed up he will have to  run around collecting cheques, going to banks and meeting estate agents instead of regenerating the fortunes of IBM in Asia Pacific.

All my careful planning was completely unnecessary. Somehow his pay, which was due to go into his bank account yesterday bounced out. I'm not quite sure why this has happened, but it seems the only thing they are able to do is send him a cheque which will be available tomorrow morning and therefore won't clear until Thursday 2pm, clearly far too late to exchange tomorrow.

In fact we've just shifted everything until Friday, annoying but there you go. Not the end of the world. Happily K**** the removals man is okay for Friday, and so are R**** and J**** the bed and sofa seller respectively. And we're just going to stay on here and IBM will have to foot the bill. Is it just me? Surely it didn't need to be this way? Anyhow, it will all be fine in the end.

Meanwhile I am constructing my application to a swanky performing arts college here. Keep your fingers crossed for me that I get it.

And to end with, one of my favourite ads....

"MOVING OUT SALE - tv stand, computer desk, chest, dining table, etc. - SGD100 (Near Serangoon MRT)
I am selling a TV stand, computer desk with shelving, small chest of drawers, big chest of drawers, and a dining table with 4 chairs - all together for $100. You need to take them all. I am not selling only some of them. Please see pictures. If interested, please call at 9338 0506. "

Get that everyone? You need to take all of them. Not just some of the stuff he wants to get rid of. All of it. And he'd like $100 for that please. Oh yes siree.

Tonight I have organised for three of the five people we know to come to a pub quiz. My plan ladies and gentlemen, my plan. I am almost dizzy with the social excitement promised. At the moment my socialization includes sellers on ebay and the (very lovely) man who comes to make tidy the room. (He really is very nice but speaks very little English, so we just beam at each other).

In a moment of crazed loneliness I though I'd follow through on someone's suggestion to take a look at the classifieds section on craigslist where a couple of people had suggested friends were to be had. I thought, I'm not to proud to put myself out there. Other people must be in the same situation. So I followed through the link choosing the 'strictly platonic' choices as I went along and clicking on the disclaimer stating that I was definitely after nothing more than friendship. And this is what I found...


"Cuddle? :) - m4w - 17 (Singapore)

Who's up for a nice night in at home on a weekend with just some cuddling, along with maybe a drink or two, and a nice movie?

I'm a younger Canadian-Mixed guy, and yes, I am 17. I go out partying just about with friends often, but sometimes I'm in the mood to just chill somewhere instead - so I guess there isn't much harm in finding somebody new.

Your age/race/etc. really doesn't matter - just hit me up with a reply and we'll see how things go from there. :) "

"Exploring... - m4w - 32 (Nowhere but Singapore)

Having a random whimsical moment so thought i would try this... looking for a date this week friday....wine and dine, conversations, etc, etc...the possibilties are endless.... if you think that you might be up for it, do drop me a line. I am going to sound a little selfish but i would like to do this random date without any pic exchange...so it will just be a literally blind date for both...So of you think you are up for such an adventure, drop me a note.. One thing i can assure you is my head is definitely covered with a large amount of real hair, a great set of pearly whites to go with the smile and definitely no ugly duckling to summarise.. :)

So if you think that your curiosity has been pricked, do drop me a note.....and do not worry, no cats are going to be sacrificed.... =P"

"Brieffreunde? - m4mw - 32 (Singapore)

Hallo,
wie geht's? Ich bin seit 2007 in Singapur und hab eigentlich keine Change deutsch zusprechen oder zu schreiben. Es wäre schön jemanden in Singapur zu haben zum schreiben und reden.

LG "

Okay to be fair I have absolutely no idea what that last one said, but I'm guessing it wasn't 'strictly platonic'. Answers on a postcard.

I do rather enjoy the writing style.  'Having a random whimisical moment'. Bless him. On a dirty ad. A 'random whimsical moment'. There's the same light touch about the adverts on Groupon which in the UK are very much 'Get a massage worth £150 for £35'.  This is what you get from Groupon Singapore...

"Aside from knocking out potential mates with large clubs, burdened cavemen hunted for relaxation and hid their scent with perfumed oils, warm stones and shoulder rolls when their mates regained consciousness. Embrace timeless techniques with today's Groupon: for $38, you get a 60 minute Scentsational Aromatherapy Full Body Massage at Spa Esprit (worth $110)."

Good, eh? And Finally....


Outdoor air conditioning


As seen in a lift. Watch out. Be careful where you choose to urinate!


And clearly what I aspire too....

That's all folks.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Slug time

This week has felt a bit difficult at times. I remember feeling exhausted after doing the simplest of things at the beginning of my time in Paris. I'd talk with my fellow anglophone friends about how it couldn't be right to feel quite so tired after doing so relatively little.

I'm feeling the same thing here. I think it's because you can't do anything on autopilot. Everything takes that extra thought and effort: taking clothes to the laundry to be washed; buying food; changing money, getting something to eat. Everything needs thought and attention and as the supersonic hotel we're staying in is quite a walk from the MRT it also takes a good 20 minute walk before normality. (I am excluding the shopping centre across the road with it's useful selection of shops like Prada, Chanel and Ferrari for me to browse in).

The DFP is working very hard with conference calls at all kinds of anti social hours of the day. I am sorry to say that occasionally we are not being as nice to each other as we ought which increases both our stress levels instead of decreasing them as we should be. Though he's not really telling me very much about what is going on it's very clear he's in an avalanche of newness and work. Of course I am too. Mine feels less legitimate somehow. But in the same way he has to order his time and work out what his job is, so do I. Except, and I know I joke about this, my job is exactly being an ex-pat wife: finding a flat, finding furniture and removals for it and trying to help him feel a bit less stressed too. As someone who has always considered herself a feminist with my own work as part of my raison d'etre its a very weird, disconcerting position to be in.

I'm doing things I've never done before. Measuring rooms and lifts. Working out if the sofa I want to buy will fit through the front door. Getting quotes on removals. This is also of course because I have so effectively managed to avoid most kinds of house related responsibility up until now.

I have to go. Today's agenda for me includes the highlights of (da da dah dah!!) taking the washing to the laundrette, collecting my 'long term visitors pass' (I don't get the more desirable 'dependent's pass' because we're not married) and going to view a large, red velvet sofa. Enjoy your day as I'm sure I will enjoy mine.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Hurrah! We're moving to the sunny red light district

So ladies and gentlemen from the sublime, (which I suppose I should call the 5* hotel we're staying in at the moment with the world's highest infinity pool) to the riddiculous.... to the red light district of Singapore!!! But Singapore being Singapore it's about as spicy as East Sheen. Well, perhaps not East Sheen, but having lived in Brixton and Peckham Geylang is not going to offer me anything I can't take.

The sublime (just to brag a little)




To the ridiculous (except to me this is the sublime)



Now if you squint a bit you'll notice that in that second picture the date on the building in 1929. And that's just around the corner from where we're going to live. That's practically Roman in Singaporean terms where the 8 year old condo we're going to move into is considered old.

When I first arrived I had shopping centre whiplash and skyscraper sickness. I worried how I would cope in a place that seemed to have no character. Or to me no character after the curves of Paris and the rugged old/new richness of London.

The estate agent we'd been recommended showed me two places on the first afternoon we went out together, which was a little disappointing when what we'd been told was that I'd be shown a head whirling amount, at the very least 6, possibly more that 10. But I'd only called her the day before (Monday) so I thought, fair enough. When she only showed me another two on Thursday morning I started to get really worried.

In Singapore the etiquette is that you work with one agent who shows you lots of properties and then earns a commission when the flat is let from the owner's agent. Unlike in England where you see lots of properties through different agents. So when  the estate agent had only managed to show me 4 properties in nearly a week and two of them not in the area that I'd said we'd like to live I started to get worried and the DFP got really worried and so I contacted a couple of other agents and sounded them out.

However after I made it clear that I was very worried and needed to be shown a lot more properties Friday's outing was a lot more successful. On Thursday I sent her a shortlist of selected properties and named specific areas I was interested in. I got this email back from her:

" If you don't mind me sharing this info, Geylang area is our local red light district area where lots of "activities" in that area. I have not once recommend any of my clients to that location at all as we consider not a safe place. They're ladies from all over South East asia staying at that location.


Let me know if you're still keen in seeing Geylang area."


To which I replied that I was and that neither of us had any problem in sharing the area with ladies from all over South East Asia.

Though the area might be a little spicy the flat, or condo as they call them here, is very much in the usual line of things. The rooms are a good size for places here, there's a pool, barbeque pits and to the DFP's delight a sort of outdoor gym with bars he can pull himself up on and encourage me to do the same.

And within five minutes of the pool are beautiful old buildings and amazing restaurants including the beautifully named 'no sign seafood' restaurant. Which oddly does have a big neon sign. We also saw the equally well named 'Lucky Thai Massage'. I can only imagine what kind of luck is in store for it's clients.

All going well we should be in by next Wednesday. Now I just have to find a bed.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Have I eaten? Oh yes!

So, nearly one week in and the question on every one's lips must surely be not only 'have I eaten?' but 'what have I eaten?' Oh, what haven't I eaten.... I've had hainesse chicken rice (steamed chicken with the rice also cooked in the same stock which comes on the side like a very thin soup; char kway teow (noodles, seafood, yummy); laksa (spicy coconutty broth with noodles, crunchy beansprouts, tofu and seafood); amazing curry in little India with the most heavenly roti and paratha I've ever tasted (including curried pakora, the anti-Christ of all diet foods, surely); chili crab in China Town and xo bee hun fish head soup (the former slightly disappointing as its what people rave about when they talk about food in Singapore, the latter, well I thought it had eyeballs floating around in the soup but he reassured me they weren't); roast duck; suckling pig; roast pork; greens with oyster sauce and fried onions on top. I could go on. Oh yes. I have eaten.

In my guidebook there's a section where it talks about being careful about overheating and advises tourists to carry a bottle of water on the MRT (tube/metro). As it's on the page facing the one with all the recommendations of the best places to eat, hawker markets and so on, initially I misread it as a warning about being careful about overeating. Though in fact it would be no bad thing to give as advice to travellers. Eating here is definitely a way of life.

Every shopping centre, from the classiest to the crustiest, has a food court where there are a huge range of different outlets selling foods from all around the region. There are communities here from India, Malaysia and China each bringing with them their own rich culinary traditions. Then there seem to be foods from everywhere else as well: Japan, American, Thailand, Italy and so on.

You wander around until sometimes spikes your fancy and then take it on a tray and eat on communal tables in the middle of the space, like a huge school canteen. But oh, if only school canteens had this quality of food. If you want to slum it, though by no means necessarily take a dip in the quality of your food, you can go to a hawker market. These are like huge warehouses with little stalls selling the same range of foods. For 3-5 SD (roughly divide in half to work out how much in GBP) you can get a fantastic meal.

Those who know me are probably aware that I marry my love of eating and desire to be thinner than my diet would allow by ruthlessly cutting out carbohydrates in daily life, except on weekends and special occasions. In fact I have been trying here and gently failing to avoid the carbs. Sometimes it's possible. Sometimes it isn't. You can leave the noodles in the bottom of a bowl of laksa without much pain. Char Kway Teo is nothing but a bit bowl of tangly carbs, a massive carbohydrate road crash of a dish to the low carb acolyte. The roast meats, fine, fish head soup and chilli crab fine. With Hianesse chicken rice theoretically it should be fine just to leave the rice, but the rice is so delicious. The perfect combination of comforting carbohydrate and delicate chickeny, stocky flavour. Ahh. I didn't manage to leave too much of the rice.

The other devil tauting the low carb dieter is tiger beer. Wine here is very expensive while beer is prolific and in the heat nothing is nicer than a cold beer. My stomach is already telling it's own story. Week one though, fair enough in week one.

And so far no one has asked me whether I've eaten. There's time for that though. Plenty of time.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

View from the 57th Floor



The building on the left is the hotel from the outside, then of course and shopping centre and the flower like building is an art gallery I haven't visited yet.







And from our bedroom window...

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Arrivng, packing and departing


Arriving

One day in Singapore and already I love air conditioning more than I can say. Air conditioning is my friend. When you walk out of the (mall usually) you're hit by the archetypical wall of heat that people describe in travel books and Graham Greeney colonial type novels. I'm sure I'll get used to it but at the moment, woozy with jet lag I only want to be in chilled mall, MRT (tube/metro) or air conditioned hotel room.

Our hotel room is ace, to say the very least. The very best thing about it is that it has a kettle, mugs and a selection of teas including, ladies and gentlemen my personal tea of choice, earl grey. Ahh. In fact I'm almost surprised there isn't a radio booted up to play radio 4 they've so catered for my needs. 

As is the way in posh hotels, they explain the room to you, which I always find rather amusing... 'this is the bathroom, this is the window, this is the door... By the time our bags were brought up (ahh) I had already had a shower and was shuffling around in the complimentary robe and slippers. Edgardo,''the guest services agent - bell'' (I know this because he gave me his card and that's what it says on it) told me that ice could be delivered up to three times a day, the bottled water was complementary and that if we wanted anything sent up we just had to ring the priority services bell on the telephone. He explained the complimentary tea and helped the weight sensitive non complimentary stuff in the fridge to be removed so we could fill it instead with our duty free hall. He opened the cupboard, (when you open the cupboard a light comes on, ahh) and was about to explain the complimentary robe and slippers to me, but then realised that was unnecessary.

When we were both clean we went out into the heat and explored Singapore. So far it seems to be malls and sky scrappers linked by motorways, or rather not linked by motorways, sometimes with no pavement. From what I can see there are no city planners employed in Singapore. Or there are planners but they weren't planning for anyone to want to walk anywhere. There are very occasionally older buildings but mainly it's sky scrappers, malls with that lovely air conditioning I may have mentioned and motorways. It's really not a city set out for pedestrians or strolling. They're expecting you to drive or take the MRT and get into the malls as quickly as possible.

Coming back from dinner in Chinatown in the cooler evening we decided to walk back. We were doing fine until we reached a no man's land of pavementless road and motorway. In the end we caught a taxi back with a very cheerful Malaysian taxi driver who explained things and chuckled away at his own jokes. The Marina Bay area we're staying in is all reclaimed land. Singapore is growing while Venice is sinking. He also talked about the casino in our hotel in the basement. He was very disaproving of the Casino. He talked about collecting people and the happy and sad faces dependent on their winnings of loosings.

Packing & Departure

But before any of the fun started of course there was a whole 'nother kind of fun. We had a fairly frantic week organising and cleaning the house mainly getting it at it shiniest and best so hopefully it will get rented out quickly.

My kind friend S*** arrived on Thursday morning to help with the final clean. Unfortunately at that point there was still an awful lot of packing and clearing to be done. She was very stoic and only said 'Oh dear' and 'did you think about getting proffessional cleaners?' Then she got stuck in clearing the kitchen shelves and scouring layers of grease from around the cooker. I am eternally grateful.

We managed to leave at about 8.30pm and went to my parents house to spend our final night in the UK.

My defacto partner had to go and hand in his laptop, phone and badge back to his boss the at 8.30am on our day of departure. So off he went at 7.30am and my parents and I left the house an hour later arrivng at Heathrow at 9.30. We'd arranged to meet up at the Travelex desk. It turns out there are seven Travelex desks in Terminal 3 at Heathrow. However I narrowed it down to the one where he was collecting our Singapore dollars.

We waited and waited. My Dad went around checking the different desks. Just as I was starting to get worried I got a call from my brother at home in Wimbledon saying Mum had just called him to say J had left his wallet in Wimbledon and he'd found it. Moment's later he turned up, very sweaty and stressed. He'd managed to persuade the guard on the Heathrow express to let  him travel for free and pay on arrival and then in the end they'd just let him off paying completely. Thankfully my brother was there and able to send it in a taxi which arrived 5 minutes before we were due to board the plane. The taxi driver had been told to call me when he arrived. The conversation went something like this. Me: Where are you? I don't see you. Him, I'm nearly there. Me: Okay, tell me when you've arrived. Him: Oh, I'm here. Me: Okay, where are you? I'm standing in front of the Heathrow Terminal 3 Departures sign. Him: I'm in a blue Vauxhall Spectra, I'm flashing my lights, oh, I can see you now. Oh, you're running... hahah.

So, meantime, while all the wallet fiasco was happening I was having an entirely different kind of fun at the check-in desk. You may remember my mentioning in an earlier entry the difficulty of editing your life down into 32kg. Well, when it got to the check-in desk it turned out that although he had checked and double checked my DFP (lets call him that in a funky youf abrevisationist kind of a way, DFP as in De Facto Partner) hadn't realised that I had the wrong kind of Quantas membership which meant that I was only entitled to 23kg. Not 32. And I was a bit over anyway but she was going to let it go. And then she got really strict when she realised I wasn't allowed 32 and I had to get rid of 17kg. There I was in the middle of Terminal 3 shamelessly chucking things out of my suitcases trying to get rid on 17kg, weighing and reweighing and still too heavy. My life spread out on the floor of terminal 3. The check in clock ticking. Thank heavens my parents were there, and thank heavens they keep a useful supply of bags for life in the back of the car.

Anyhow. Alls well that ends well. I got it down, if not entirely to 23kg low enough for her to take pity on me and let me board the airplane. Just when the check-in trauma had ended the wallet arrived and we legged in through security and straight onto the plane. And now we're here. Safe and sound.