Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Food is So [stress this word] Good

Starting out at nine forty five, I had just had four sausages, two slices of bread, and chicken curry shoved down my throat.

O.K. maybe that's the wrong word. Maybe in reality I loved every bite of it – but my lord, what large breakfasts. I would later learn that these breakfasts were so huge because they were made by the mother of the girl with whom I was staying. Now, said mother had travelled to Canada once, to see the Rockie Mountains. There – the meals and portions were gigantic. As is the Albertan way. But not all Canadians eat alike, especially those used to one meal a day on a travellers budget.

Still – who am I to refuse such tasty treats?

With belly full we headed out to the centre of town, or of the city, or rather of the country – it's all really the same here in Singapore (which s a concept that is still taking some getting used to by me.)

To get there we had to travel on a mystical moon car. Not all that unlike the tram from the beginning of Half-life. On a circular track this one cared tram rolls up, driverless, stops for a moment, and wait for you to get in before heading off. The next few stops may exist, but the doors do not open. Apparently not enough people live in the surrounding areas to make running these stops worthwhile.

This makes no sense to me, as it already stops, there is no driver, and no staff are required to run the station. But it's best not to question things, because this is Singapore, and I can only imagine that questioning things leads to caning. I really hope that is the spelling for hitting someone with a cane, and not what one does to tuna products before they hit the store shelves.

I had already risked enough by daring to chew a piece of gum, smuggled in unknowingly, forgotten deep within my pack.

When the space-mobile came to a stop, we hopped on the subway where I proceeded to ask all number of questions about Chinese writing. My desire to learn to read and write has only grown, the more I pick up along the way. Today I learned “please”, “do not”, and “heart,” with when combined with “little” means beware. Oh, I also learned gap. Indeed I did learn these characters from reading the “mind the gap” translation and trying to figure out what they were all about.

When we'd finished our journey, we met my host's sister and brother-in-law. They would be showing us around today. Our first order of business? Eating. Chinese spring rolls were first on the menu. The stall we went to, a man was making the wrappers in front of us. With a ball of dough in his hands, he rubbed it ever so lightly on a hot plate, causing some to slide off, and with a spin become a perfect circle. I'd never seen this done, and while it looked so easy I knew that such a thing must have taken years of work to perfect.

I learned from the sister that this was the case. Full of hubris she once attempted it. Delightful and delicious spring rolls did not follow, until the purchased wrappers from a store nearby.

After this we made our way to our next stop – chicken and rice. This is a Singaporean dish, I was told. The dish. And what a treat it was. Though serving anything with rice and ginger these days is enough to excite me. When you throw some hot chili peppers into the mix, it only gets better.

Both attempts I failed in an effort to try and pay, first being told to hold a table while food was ordered, and second – I don't recall why the second time. Normally I am quite willing to accept any and all gifts, but for some reason I have tried hard these last two days to throw money down wherever I may. And it has been tricky, as the people I'm with now, like many of those I've met up with before, are so generous. Once more it strikes me that when people start knocking on my door over the coming years, there will be plenty of karma to pass on in turn.

Now with the chicken in us, we walked the China town, which in Chinese does not read anything like China Town, but rather something to do with water. Which makes trying to translate very confusing for a novice like me.

China town offered glimpses of many colourful temples, and decorative sculptures. For some time we wandered the streets taking everything in, looking in mosques, and popping our heads in some of the old Chinese religious buildings which have been so perfectly preserved while the city has grown up around them.

I had a tinge of tourists guilt, realizing that so much of the world will never be as it once was. When I thought of Singapore I thought of traditional looking south east asian villages, and – and I don't know. And for a moment I thought, maybe there are more remote villages where this still exists. But there are no remote villages. The city is the country (still – hard to wrap my mind around that concept.) The world changes and never goes back. Still – so much kept as it once was is a welcomed sight.

As if to juxtapose my thoughts on the past we headed into the Urban Planning building where 1:400 models of the country are displayed, showing concepts of the new buildings ready to be constructed, and offering a glimpse of how the land reclamation is scheduled to progress. With so many thoughts of expansion, and so little land, Singapore is taking back from the ocean. Never mind that with so many countries in this area, any expanse into the water cuts into other peoples water claims. They'll always be the underdog. Look how small they are. Let them do their thing.

And remember, every many aged 22 and over is on active recall alert for the military. Sure there may only be four million people living here, but that's still a military of over one million in a small staging area. Don't make them do to you what they do to drug traffickers. “Death to Drug Traffickers!” It really should be their motto.

After the planning building we walked little India, where shops sold everything you could think of for S.E.A. prices, which is strange where everything else here is closer to western prices.

Stopping in at a mall, looking around a comic shop there, we then made our way for cake. I also enjoyed a root beer float. Just like if I was in the nineteen fifties – or a human on starbase deep space nine. “It's so – happy.”

This time i was able to make my way to the cash first and pay for our cakes and drinks! Success. I would fail at opening my wallet at every other junction. It's hard to know when to make the offer, when to force the offer, and when it seems disrespectful of the people trying to do something for you. I'm quite bad at this game.

From the mall we attempted to make our way to the rooftop garden. No one knew what we were talking about, but as we were leaving in defeat, I found a touch screen information centre that at least proved its existence, though we still failed to actually set eyes upon it outside of these digitalized images. I first learned of it, as the bathroom told me of it. The bathroom told me many things. Like how this was the first eco mall, and how extra coils in the cooling system cut down on humidity.

From there we went to dinner at an Indian place. The Banana Leaf where all your food was on a banana leaf. It looked like so little when it was first brought out to us – but then it was an insurmountable portion. Try as we all did (except the girls whom I feel could have tried a bit harder – though they still gave it a good show) we failed in our mission. Well, in my mission – they seemed fine with being unable to finish it. Crazy, I know.

Delicious, it was. And with bellies full, we made our way back to the train, then the moon car, and then to the air conditioned home.

Ten cans of Singapore only soda may have followed me. But more on them later, I”m sure.

As I got off the moon car I saw a sign reading “No Durian!” And I couldn't agree more. But that too is a story for another day.

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