Go big or go home…

Archive for March 2009

Singapore life is good. It’s sunny, the food is great, my new job promises to be interesting. I can take taxis everywhere and go to the beach at weekends. But is it all soy milk and honey? Not quite.

The first month I was here I was too busy to be homesick. It was only when I started work that it hit me – the routine threw into relief the differences between life here and in the UK.

It hasn’t been awful. I’ve had no sense that I’ve made a mistake, no panic. The best way to describe it is fleeting claustrophobia. I think about someone from the UK, imagine the journey from my London flat to theirs, and suddenly I’m thinking about 12 hour flights and feeling trapped.

An existential (Daoist) version of this: even if I went back to London now, it wouldn’t be the same city I left. Life is flux; we change in step with our environment and don’t notice the process. Once we leave we fall out of step, diverge.

So the London that I remember is already gone. Thinking in those terms feels sad and final, but the flip side is that the same would be true if I’d stayed. Perhaps I would have had a kid, moved to the suburbs, who knows? But the life I was living was changing, day-by-day, imperceptibly.

When I think of it that way, it makes me glad that I took charge, insofar as I can, and left on a high.

I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying that looking backwards can make me feel trapped because I can’t return to the things I remember. But looking forwards puts that into perspective.

Next time: kittens and pink things! Promise.

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Just before last Saturday’s French fancies, J and I stopped at one of Singapore’s ubiquitous fish spas.

The concept is simple, and age-old. You stick your feet in a tank full of fish that eat dead skin, and let nature run its freaky pedicuring course.

Creepy wiki-fact:

The skin-feeding behavior fully manifests only under conditions where the food supply is somewhat scarce and unpredictable

So basically, these fish are driven to eating dead foot skin via deprivation, and they deliver pedicures in just the kind of frenzy you would expect.

Garra rufa, doctor fish

Garra rufa, doctor fish

I have had many an interesting experience, including some foot-related ones (the narration of which is best saved for another forum), and this was far and away the weirdest.

I screamed, squirmed and giggled for the full 15 minute taster. Suffice to say, it tickles.

I look happier than I was

I look happier than I was

I was helpless in my exclamations, unable to consider the spa setting (plinky-plonk music, muted hues), the shushing of the other fish-fetishists or the thankless man trying to massage my shoulders.

Stubbornness drove me to see out the full quarter hour (a normal session is twice that), but 15 minutes later my feet were all tingly and I wanted to do it again.

Would I though? I don’t think so. I can think of better ways to waste
50 bucks.

Saturday was our first approximation of normal Singapore life. Woke with a hangover, lay by the pool, went shopping, all that jazz.

Our excursion took us to Tanglin Road, to a fancy French café for pastries and iced tea, and then on to the Botanic Gardens for a nice stroll.

A thousand leaves of tastiness

A thousand leaves of tastiness

We persisted with the garden part of the plan, even though the storm clouds were gathering as we got in the cab. Gardens, I’m sure I don’t need to explain, are inherently outdoorsy.

We were only 40 million years round the evolution trail when the heavens opened. Naturally, we didn’t have umbrellas, although I’m not sure they would have helped.

We sheltered among the first ferns, then took advantage of a lull to race for the early rainforest, where the canopy made good cover. We hoped to sit it out around 300 million BC but grew fearful of getting locked in the park.

Thunder rolled and crashed around us – it was definitely the biggest storm I’ve been out in (J says he’s witnessed bigger but was unable to cite examples, which does make his claim somewhat unreliable).

We made a dash for it, tens of millions of years dripping by with each footfall. By the time we got back to the present we were drenched, and decided to forgo our early evening martinis.

Lightning over Singapore

Lightning over Singapore

Instead we went back, dried off, tarted up, and set out. Destination: Home, underground (ish) club near Clarke Quay. Music: D&B; LTJ Bukem, and several good local lads (and one less good – sounded like he was making a mix tape).

It was a great night. The music was awesome, the drinks were cheap (ish), and we met some lovely Singaporeans. Had drinks with them again last night, am building up a good repertoire of Hokkien expletives.

Have also started work, going well so far and yesterday I went out with my new colleagues for an hour and a half lunch in a sushi restaurant – it’s comforting to know that advertising behavioural patterns transcend regional boundaries.