So, there I was on the MRT, feeling kind of faint, with my water bottle in my lap, when I noticed that people were giving me looks. Then, it dawned on me that if I drank on the MRT I would be breaking the law in Singapore. Ouch! I put the water bottle away. I listened to the conversations of the nearby neatly dressed students. They were speaking in English, with very little accent about what colleges they would attend in the fall and what careers their majors would lead to. That seemed a bit different from what their counterparts in the US would be discussing at this point in their lives: prom, girls, boys, drugs, music, sports, bitch about school, etc.
We arrived at my station and I walked on to Little India. Once again, I could smell the spices before I got there. I went into the Gold Smiths of Little India and asked to see some of their 22 carat gold post earrings (the earrings pictured are very common). I focused in on the ones that were about 15 millimeters in diameter and tried to decide which I liked best. While I was doing that I was served some fruit juice. I asked the young clerk why the gold prices were higher here than in Chinatown and he replied that all of the pieces were hand made. So, I sat there trying to decide and sipping my drink and suddenly he lowered the price. I was thinking, but I am not waiting in order to bargain, so why did he lower it? But, then I thought I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, so I didn’t look up. The price kept getting lower, until he was jumping up and down saying that he wouldn’t make any money if he went lower, so I bought the pair for US$62. The way I see it, right now in the US they would go for about a grand.
I had some very nice dim sum at a Chinese restaurant on my way to the Singapore Art Museum. At the museum there was a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit, but the drawings were very tiny. Also, there were modern paintings, some of which were very nice, tantric art, and very colorful and restful pieces by a Chinese artist inspired by his trips to Bali some 87 years ago.
The following day, I finished up my shopping. I walked back to CK Tangs with my calves cramping the whole way and bought batik shirts for my sibling in-laws. I also looked over the ceramics closely and there was nothing I couldn’t live without.
Back to the Ana hotel; it’s only noon and the monsoon was starting. It didn’t seem that it was going to let up, so I rested my weary bod and flipped on the tube. I watched some Singaporean soaps. The plots advanced so much more quickly than in the US soaps. For example in one half hour: Boy rapes girl, girl agrees to marry boy that raped her, girl tries to murder boy at wedding, boy lives, girl goes to jail, ex-boyfriend fights kick boxing match with boy to free girl and get revenge, ex-boyfriend wins match, everybody happy, story over. The violence was amazing. The whole story could have taken a season in the US.
The next day it was time to bid a fond farewell to Singapore. Back at Changi Airport I found the absolutely best koi pond in all of Singapore ever! There were huge, colorful, bright and fantastic koi swimming lazily about in crystal clear water. I must have been dreaming.
So, I boarded the jet, first class, and the passenger next to me was this gorgeous guy who was deathly ill. He was pale, waxy, sweating profusely, and shaking. There was some sort of Asian flu bug around and he was returning from Hong Kong and I thought, shit, that’s all I need is to bring home this crap. But, he stayed wrapped in his blanket by the window, and I never got sick.
The flight was longer than the one going there and took 22 hours because of head winds. I went through US customs and declared everything since I had heard that people coming from Asia were regularly searched for drugs and I just didn’t want to fool with that on this trip. The customs officer read my declaration looked at all the stuff I had bought and asked the purpose of my trip. I told him that I worked on pharmaceuticals for cancer and AIDS and he looked right up at me. He said, “That is very important work. Do you also work on heart medicines?”
I replied that my company did have some cardiac medications although I myself did not work on any. He muttered something about very important work on drugs, drew a line through what I owed and wrote down half the amount! What a deal.
I was quite popular that Christmas at home and really enjoyed seeing everyone’s faces as they saw the trinkets brought from the Orient especially for each of them. The biggest treasure by far are the memories, which I have now shared with all of you.
I would like to thank Gretchen, the wife of an ex-pat, who helped me plan what to do, where to go, how to shop, what to wear, what to eat, etc. Thanks Gretchen; great job!