Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Settling in to Singapore

Strange plant at the Botanic Garden
Street in Chinatown

We have been in Singapore for 5 days now. I feel like we just got here, but perhaps 5 days is a while and I should have been more productive. It's hard to say.

We arrived at our hotel at about 3 am on July 7th. Once we woke up for the day (at about 9 am, since the best way to cure jetlag is to be strict with following the new time zone schedule), we went out to Singapore's main shopping district Orchard Road. B bought himself a smart phone (Samsung) as a present to celebrate his new job (I think he might get some electronics or computers too). It took hours to do and was excessively complicated: B had to show his passport and work permit to get it, for instance. Finally we finished and ate a very late lunch at Din Tai Fung (Taiwanese dumpling restaurant, with chains in Japan, China and the US as well as here). It was so so good, especially the xiaolongbao: I hadn't eaten dumplings so delicious in a really long time (since we were last in Asia). Apparently they have 5 or 6 restaurants just in Singapore, which is very exciting.

Then we stumbled home and into bed.

Little R did not sleep well, however, since now it was daytime in the US, and whined for several hours at the strangeness and injustice of being stuck in a dark room at the wrong time. I could not sleep as a result, but finally we both dropped off to sleep for a little while out of exhaustion.

The next day was Friday the 8th. B went into work on this day (which I got off to a good start by picking a fight with him over nothing: we were both on edge due to lack of sleep and stress). I stayed at the hotel with little R and called various rental agents to schedule appointments to see apartments. We are both very eager to get an apartment since the university only pays for 2 weeks in the hotel (and the cost is over $200/day), and because it will be much more comfortable to have more space. I scheduled several, but then B called me in the late afternoon and told me that we had to use a particular agent approved by the university, meaning we couldn't use any of the people that I had contacted.

I didn't get a chance to eat breakfast because I was sulking, and then little R was napping, so the two of us went out to find a lunch place once I woke up. I walked to Tiong Bahru MRT station: a hot and unpleasant (busy street) walk, and then tried to find somewhere to eat. However, none of the restaurants looked appealing. Finally I chose a Hong Kong-style restaurant, where they basically refused to serve me, first telling me multiple times that they had no Western food, and then when I ordered fried rice, telling me that it would take 25 min to prepare. WTF!! It's only fried rice, one of the simplest dishes ever (takes about 5 min to cook). So I left and returned to the hotel, where I ordered food at their restaurant. It cost nearly $30 and was bad. Also I didn't get a chance to eat more than a few bites, because just as the food came (it was rather slow), little R had a meltdown and I had to leave.Then it took her another hour to go to sleep, as she was so exhausted and grumpy and miserable. Ugh.

When B got home, we went out to tour Chinatown, which is a very cool neighborhood, full of old shophouses and temples, and of course all the food you could ever possibly want. We weren't hungry unfortunately. After our walk, and a stop at a little beer garden for a drink, we returned home. Later on, we left again to find a restaurant, which was very unpleasant at first since I was so tired. Finally we went to the nearby hawker center Tiong Bahru Market, which was actually very good (and cheap).

Saturday the 9th B, R and I went to the Botanic Gardens, which were the best I have ever seen and absolutely beautiful. We all had a good time, and saw a 1.5 foot long blue and green lizard in the shrubbery in addition to many birds and squirrels. Little R enjoyed playing in the grass, and admiring all the trees (she looked at them all with an expression of wonder). We returned home for a break and air conditioning, and went out again in the late afternoon to Little India. Little India seems very authentic (although I haven't been to the actual country), and is certainly most atmospheric, smelling of incense and spices, packed with Indians, many in traditional dress, dirty and disorderly (very unusual for Singapore), and full of henna stores, Indian groceries, and stores blaring Indian women melodiously caterwauling.

We ate dinner there (good but terrible service), and then stayed too long wandering around. I became extremely exhausted and grumpy, especially as my back was hurting, and felt like I was in hell. Finally we made it home and all fell into bed. Little R slept better, only waking up once (and then for good at 5:30), which was exciting as she was beginning to adjust.

To be continued...

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