Monday, December 28, 2009

Before and After

...the MBA.

I have many moments where I hear something or see something, and I say, "before the MBA this is what I would have thought. Now, this is what I think."

Today I had one of those moments. I was listening to This American Life - the Party School show, which is from last weekend. Towards the beginning of the show, I heard the stat that 75% of Penn State students drink on Friday and Saturday nights. They have a lot of students. That's a lot of alcohol.

Before the MBA, I would have had two thoughts. Wow - that's really a lot. I wonder if it's dangerous amounts, and I hope it all turns out alright. Also, I would have remembered my experiences at my state school, and I would have said, okay - they're college students. They party. No problem.

After the MBA, (and actually my first thought) I thought - what a market opportunity! Maybe we should open a liquor store in Happy Valley!!

Quite sad.

In other news, Matt and I saw Avatar, and I liked it, and Matt loved it. We recommend it, especially in 3D. I also recommend that if you're tired and a little bored (it IS two hours and forty minutes!), you just take a little break. I think mine was 20 minutes, and I don't think I missed anything important.

We also saw a monitor lizard on our hike yesterday. It was about a meter and a half or two meters. It was swimming. It looked like an alligator. I loved seeing it.

Finally, I had run by an interesting looking restaurant a few times. When I tried to go there in the past, I called, and they said they were all booked up. No one I have talked to knows anything about it. We went last night, and it was super cute. There were only two other white people - it was completely filled with Singaporeans. The food wasn't outstanding, but it had personality, and it was nice and outside, and the drinks were cheap. It's called District 10, and it's near Newton Circus. Anyone heard of it?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas in Singapore

This Christmas was extremely uneventful for us. Thank goodness, because we have been a bit overwhelmed with traveling and doing things.

In the US Christmas is super closed. Restaurants, stores, supermarkets, etc. are all closed. Walking down the street, things feel different and weird. People are all with their families.

In Singapore, it's definitely not like that. It IS like that for Chinese New Year, but for Christmas, mostly everything is open, though people do seem to have dinners and lunches with their families, Christian or not.

Yesterday I went to the market, and all was open as usual. Then I went for a (LOUSY) pedicure, went to pick up tickets for Avatar for Saturday, and went to pick up challah from the Jewish community. It was annoying that everything I walked by was open - all stores and restaurants, EXCEPT for the Kosher Shop that had my challah. Even though I had called on Monday to ask when I can pick it up and confirmed that it would be open on Christmas...it was the ONLY thing that was not open. Pretty funny that it's the one Jewy thing that I went to.

After cleaning, swimming and relaxing, we had friends over for shabbat dinner, with my first potato kugel ever, and we played some serious games of Settlers. All was super enjoyable and super relaxing.

Through the first week of January, I will have worked for six weeks. I will have had ONE full work-week. Yay for three day weekends. I love them! Merry Chrismas to my Christian readers!

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Unexpected on the MRT Platform

Last night, Matt and I took the MRT home after a nice drink at a rooftop bar and some street food in Chinatown with friends. Unfortunately, we both got off a stop too early (neither of us knows why, but we did), so after we had waited six minutes for the first train, we had to wait six minutes for the next train. While waiting at Dhoby Ghaut, I heard a bit of commotion and the sound of a crumpling plastic bag. I looked in the centre of the platform, at the bottom of the escalator, and there was a girl trying to pee into a plastic bag.

This is NOT the New York city subway platform. This is nice floors, air conditioned, fancy escalators, screens that play movie previews, NICE subway platform. The girl was about seven years old and was with her older brother and her parents. All were well dressed, and this did not look like a normal occurrence, but it was quite funny to watch.

I imagine the girl had to pee. Badly (there ARE bathrooms in the MRT stations here, by the way). She started peeing in her pink pants. Mom tried to get the plastic bag under her to catch the pee. Really? Have you ever peed with pants on? Okay - I haven't, but I would have imagined that the pee wouldn't just flow through the pants, but instead, it all went down her legs and into her shoes. When she was finished (bending over, watching herself pee in her pants while standing), they just walked away and left two puddles.

I know that when I have kids I will totally understand this, but at this point I just think it's funny and gross.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Penang






On the tail end of my mom's visit in Singapore, we spent two days in Penang. Mostly, we ate, looked at cool architecture, relaxed and kicked mom's ass in hearts. Actually just Matt kicked ass. I just didn't lose.

Some highlights of our trip include the following:

Friday night we stopped at a few stalls on the street and ordered nasi kandar. Apparently nasi kandar comes from a long time ago when Indian guys used to take Indian food to the Indian foreign workers in Penang. They would carry a stick with rice (nasi) on one end and they would balance it with curry on the other. The stick is called kandar, so stalls are still called nasi kandar, and they basically have rice and lots of different curries. Definitely a food highlight of Penang (and my mom's favorite meal in Penang, which we figured out when we played "what was your favorite meal" on the plane on the way home).

We all got our food, but we could not find cutlery. Matt went to ask the guys for "three sets of cutlery." They seemed to understand. But...no cutlery. He went to ask again. Finally a guy came around with lots of spoons and forks (they don't use knives in Asia really), and handed them out to everyone. We were not the only ones waiting. Yes! We could eat. Then...a guy put down three sets of tandoori chicken on our table. No!! Three sets CUTLERY, not three sets TANDOORI chicken!! Oops.

Another highlight was going to the market with my mom on Sunday morning. Matt was sleeping. We walked all around the veggie and fruit area. We then waltzed into the meat area and the fish area. At one point there was an entire carcass hanging on one of those butcher hooks, right next to the aisle of the market. This guy pulled it over towards him, wacked off a piece of meat, and then he let the carcass swing. We were trying to walk down the aisle. We were talking jump rope moves - how do we cross without letting the carcass hit us? Some smart guy grabbed the hook at the top of the carcass. Much better idea.

We walked to the back, and we found the chicken area of the market. Live chicken area of the market. We saw live chickens on a scale. The guy who kills the chickens was so excited to get us to watch him kill the chicken. He had bright big eyes, and he kept gesturing that we should come on the other side of the wall. No thanks. We did walk down the assembly line, though, and we saw the guy who tears the feathers off the chicken (click here for our full photos, you can see it on the left), and the dead chickens ready to be sold - with no heads. Ewww.

Another highlight of the market was a cow's head on the table. Picture included.

Overall, I don't need to go back to Penang, but we really enjoyed the architecture, the food, the general feeling, and the food massages.

In other news, my mom has left Singapore - back to the cold United States. We also said goodbye to Koen and Clementine, INSEAD friends who are leaving to travel in Australia and New Zealand for three months. Awesome. We will miss them. We've enjoyed them for the last year or so.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Visit from Afar

After a long week of working and visiting, dinnering, etc with friends...and after a kids program for Hanukkah at UHC on Friday night, dinner with the community, the bar to hang with an INSEAD visitor...at 1:30 am, my mom arrived in Singapore.

This is the most lazy visit ever. The last few times she and my dad ran around visiting places, areas, restaurants...this time we have done nothing. Saturday we went to markets and relaxed and had dinner in Little India. Sunday my mom didn't leave our house. We did have a few people over for Hanukkah, but still. Matt and I have been working this week, and mom has simply transferred her life here. She wakes up, reads her email, the paper, etc., goes to work out, showers, goes for a walk...and once we're done with work, we eat some good food. Thai on Monday, satay on Tuesday, chili crab today, Laksa tomorrow. What would we do or eat if either/both of us still kept kosher? We would be starving!

She thought she would not be able to live with Kitty, but the good news is that she loves Kitty, and she isn't even allergic - or at least the claritin is working. She hasn't had any problems with her eyes, lips, or anything. The Kitty loves her too. She talks to her, hangs out with her, and she even hugs her. (Kitty hugs are when she walks by you and stops next to your leg and sort of wraps her tail around your calf).

My mom flew across the entire world - a 24 hour journey - to literally hang in our house. Sounds a bit boring to me, but she seems perfectly content.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bali...again



We just got back from a great weekend in Bali. We had dinner a few months ago with our friends, Holly, Jeff, Rich, and Gloria, and we all decided that we wanted to try surfing. I was unemployed. That meant that I had time to follow up. We got tickets, and this past weekend was the time. I am on the "every-six-months" Bali plan. It's my fourth time in a year and a half. I should really stop, but I'm addicted. I absolutely love Bali.

We arrived on Friday night, late, and after a small incident where we lost an ATM card, we went to Kuta - like Kuta Kuta. I actually went out after midnight in Kuta. Totally not me. We found a great chill place on the beach, though.

We met up with one of Matt's friends, Dan, from SAIS, for lunch on Saturday. Turned out that our hotel was right next to the surf school - quite handy. And, Dan also is taking surf lessons there. We met up with Rich and Jess, and we prepped for our surf lesson. Lots of sun screen, rash guards (shirts), and shorts...We ran, stretched, and we learned about the parts to the surf board. We learned how to pull ourselves up onto the board, on our bellies, and ride it into the beach. Then we came back to learn how to get up on the board - went back out into the waves, and we got up. Some impressions - it's quite similar to windsurfing and water skiing - i.e. it didn't feel that weird to me to get up on the board. It's very fast - you FLY! The hardest part is getting out in the waves and waiting for THE wave. I pulled tons of muscles on my upper body just trying to control that board. The waves were HUGE. It was totally exhausting. We absolutely loved it.

We spent the rest of the weekend in Ubud. We found a place that had great bbq - and we closed the place down. We sat through a huge rainstorm, a lot of drinks, desserts, and the lights turning off...until we realized that we had to pay. We put all of our money together and realized that we had a total of 20,000 rupiah left (US$2). Lucky. We went for a super long walk on Saturday - and then we went straight to the spa. Holly, Jeff, and I all got great massages. It was in a salon that was in a Balinese kampung, and we each had our own little room with a massage table and a tub. It had an open ceiling, so we could watch birds and pomello trees. It was amazing. Two hours including a massage, a scrub, and a bath in flowers (which felt like bathing in loose tea).

One last story. Holly is allergic to peanuts. If she eats peanuts or has too much of them around her, she could die. On the plane this afternoon, the people in front of us were eating peanuts. Lots of peanuts - in the shell and out. Lots and lots of peanuts. We called the steward over to ask him to request that they stop eating peanuts. He said, "we can't guarantee a peanut free flight, ma'am." She said, "well, I could die." He said, "well, we don't guarantee a peanut free flight." I just asked the people in front of us to stop eating peanuts. The steward came back and said, "I want you to know that we also sell peanuts on this flight. It is not peanut free." Do you THINK that MAYBE you could just BEND the rules so she doesn't DIE? No! We go only by the rules!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Yogya

I forgot how much time it takes to work! Luckily, I am still enjoying my job, but I just haven’t found time in the last week to blog. Not like me at all.

Recently, Matt and I went to Yogyakarta (pronounced Jokjakarta), which is on central Java in Indonesia. Matt had been there before, and it was my first time. We went to check out Borobudor, which is a super old temple, similar to the ones in Cambodia. It’s Buddhist with 505 Buddhas total. Quite a lot. The structure was so big and overwhelming. Other than the sunburn I got at the temple, I loved it. My favorite part of it is that Sir Stamford Raffles discovered the temple in the 1820s or something close to that. It was apparently buried, which means that there was a HUGE hill over it. I can’t quite imagine how a structure that big gets buried (though I am sure a lot of it had fallen down, but STILL!). I just picture someone walking in a village or in the woods and coming across a huge Buddha head. Pretty cool.

We also went to a temple called Prambadan, which is nearby. It is actually a Hindu temple with a similar style, but built even higher. There is another temple on the same site, called Sewu – and this one is Buddhist also. Such multi-faith co-existence. I love it.

One of my favorite parts of Yogya, as the call it, was our hotel – the Phoenix Hotel, which was an old colonial building that is so beautifully and perfectly kept up. Quite a treat. We also had lots of good food.

One weird experience was my second time in a man-powered (only) vehicle, since I was a child in a buggy, obviously. We rode on a bicycle powered two seater - where you sit in front of the biking dude. It was really uncomfortable for me. I felt horrible the whole time. US$2, and we were supposed to get biked home. The guy went to the wrong place, and we felt bad enough that we paid him 150% the agreed price, AND we still had a half an hour walk home. Not for me.

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend AND the bonus was that I got to see Matt. During my first week of work, he came home really late, and I hadn’t even told him how everything was going (sympathy, please), but we got to catch up on the weekend.

Another interesting story to relate:
I had two shirts that go under a suit. One shirt has lost its shape, it has stains in three places, including the front bottom. It’s a light blue sweater tanktop, and the stains are brown. I took it to be dry cleaned, and when I was giving it to the lady on Monday, I realized it was too gross to survive. I came back to the office and threw it out. It’s not even a nice thing to give away. Just gross.

That’s what I thought.

Today I was going to the bathroom, and I saw my shirt sitting on a chair in one of the pantries! Someone thought they should rescue it. I can’t believe it. I will donate everything from now on. Maybe someone will want it. Actually I was thinking that I will just take everything I don’t want at home to work and put it next to the trash can.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My First Week...Again

This was my first week...again. I have a much better feeling about this one, though, so that's a good deal. Beginnings are always a bit tough, but generally, I'm really excited about the job, the team...there is a lot of potential here.

A few interesting impressions:
The colors of Standard Chartered have always been really attractive to me. I love the exact blue and green they have together. It's nice to be attracted to the logo of your company/workplace.

This is the first place I have ever worked that plays Christmas music. It's very understated and quiet, but it's in the elevator areas, and it's definitely playing all day. I rather like it. It's not at all what I'm used to - given my four years experience in the Jewish community.

I love that I am getting a new laptop, monitor, keyboard, there are clean bathrooms - with fresh flowers - I have stationery, a comfortable desk, air conditioning, a fifteen minute commute...this is just a much more comfortable scenario for me - even though it's normal for most people!

I am shocked about the quantity of STUFF - I remember being surprised at Moody's as well. It's just crazy to be part of a company that employs 70,000 people worldwide - that's a lot of systems, processes, matrices and STUFF!

All in all, though, I'm working for something I really believe in - to have a diverse workplace and promote people feeling good about themselves in their job, included in the bank's culture, and making lives (or at least jobs...) better. I really like that.

In other news, I went to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra tonight. They played Beethoven's 9th. It was a great performance. There was a bass soloist singer who happened to be singing right in front of me (I was in the front row). He was so super hot. When I met someone after the show, he said, I saw you in the front row looking up at him, and I wondered if you were his girlfriend. It was the first time I was meeting this guy (the other audience member). Oops. I told Matt - full disclosure.

Finally, Matt and I are "watching" the Detroit Thanksgiving Parade on Slingbox. I was thinking that the parade should have a group of workers from a plant that was closed, a group of lawyers laid off, a group of teachers in fear of their jobs, small business owners who have closed their businesses in the last year. I have to say that I'm a bit shocked that companies are spending so much money on their balloons/floats when there are just no jobs there. Then again, even when things suck, you still need fun and niceties, so maybe it's not so bad.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Small Country

Singapore is super small. It's physically small, but it's also "it's a small world" small.

Saturday night we went with a bunch of friends to see Victor/Victoria which was playing at our big theater. My friend, Julie - a member of the Jewish community here, a fellow UMich alumna (same year as me), AND her husband also works at JPMorgan - was IN it. She had a few different parts, including a solo song! She was spectacular. I think it has been since high school since I knew someone IN the play. What a small country!

This Thursday we're headed to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. By the way - "we" does not include Matt. He's not super interested. My friend, Rachel, whom I met through Lisa, who just left Singapore (boo!) is the principal oboe. (I think I might accidentally be sitting in the front row, but that's another story!) What a small country!

In other news, yesterday I learned the difference between spring roll wrapping and filo dough. I tried to make samosas, but I made wontons. I threw them out. Matt said it was a sign that we weren't supposed to eat fried (SUPER fried!) food.

In addition to that...I am starting work TOMORROW! I can't believe it. I am quite excited to see what this is going to be like. I'm about to be a manager in diversity and inclusion at Standard Chartered Bank. This is a bank that is quite big in Asia and Africa, but most people in the states don't seem to know it. I had met with the head of the group back in May, and it sounded so interesting, and I basically asked what I had to do to be her. She said they're not hiring. Luckily, after my disaster of a job, they WERE hiring, and they hired me! Yay! I am excited to be proud of where I work and what I do. The INSEAD peeps freaked out - MELANIE IS GOING TO BE A BANKER!? Whoa! I will NOT be a banker (not that there's anything wrong with that), so you don't have to worry. I will be there making sure that the bankers are diverse and that they (and everyone else in the bank) are supported properly, promoted, and have good work-life balance. This group makes sure that policies support working moms, people of different religions and cultures, women, etc. I am sure I will know a lot more soon, but in the meantime, I'm excited.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Trip to the Market

This morning, I'm taking you on a trip to our new market, Tekka Market, which is across the main street from our house. I can't control where photos go on this blog, so it's not so neat looking...sorry!

First we go out of our condo, and go to the right, and then to the left, then to the right, the left, and finally we cross the street to reach the market.

The first picture is the street (the first left) near our house - it's all filled with shophouses, which I secretly want to live in one day.

The second picture is of the building on the next corner - for some reason it has a Jewish star. There is a sign near it that says this was indeed the Jewish meets Indian area, but they said that the guy who built this building in 1924 was not Jewish. Quite weird.

The next photo is inside the market already (the outside is quite uninteresting).

First we see my vegetable guy. I bought things for about five different big dishes today, and it came to a whopping $10 US. I love his vegetables - and he has EVERYTHING including herbs and even spinach and lettuce (quite rare out here!).

The next photo is the coconut couple. You can get fresh dessicated coconut. First she uses some sort of axe and takes the outside off the coconut, and then they put it in that machine, and the guy puts it in bags. There is usually a huge wait for their coconut. They also sell coconut milk and other coconut products.

Next we see my tofu and sprouts guy. I didn't buy from him today, but I usually buy some of that yummy tofu sitting in front of him.

Next is the spice guys, but today there was a woman who made my green masala paste (that's what she's doing in this photo). They put together amazing mixtures from these huge tubs. The next photo is the other side of their stall - all of the spices that are packaged.

Next is the mutton guy across the way. I don't buy mutton, because we're vegetarian at home, but if I did, I would buy it from them. They're just nice. He posed for me. Right after the photo he chopped that piece in two.

The next photo shows why we call this a "wet market" there is water all over the place, and because there is so much raw meet and fish, they need to constantly wash the floors, so they're wet also. This is the seafood/fish guy. I am intimidated by fish, so I haven't bought it before, but I will one day. I asked if I could take a photo, and he said, "squid one dollar. Photo five dollars!" There are about five each of these mutton, seafood and also chicken stalls. It goes on for a while!

The next photo is my fruit people. Their fruit is soo yummy. Today I got three free apples for some reason. Thanks! I heard the guy complaining to a supplier on the phone that the fruit he delivered wasn't sweet enough. (Hopefully not the fruit I bought!)

Next is the making of my ABC juice - the purple yumminess I referenced a few weeks ago.

Finally, we walk back to our condo, and the next photo is the colonial building that was built by a not Jew in 1924.

You can also see Rex Cinemas, which is a south Indian movie theater that just reopened a month or so ago. Apparently it was a cinema from the 1920s, and it's going through crazy Indian revival.

Then we have two photos on the inside of our condo complex on the way home...The big kids pool, and then the structure is in the kids' pool, and the building is the gym. Tennis court to the left.

Happy cooking Melanie!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dena and Juan left today, after three excellent days in Singapore. They saw the central business district, Little India, Chinatown, Clarke Quay, Orchard Road...They shleped, they ate (who knew there are so many vegetarian restaurants in Singapore!?), and I think they enjoyed. They (Dena) were surprised that it was so not Asian looking here. Apparently I focus in my blog on Asian looking and tasting things. I guess I do that on purpose. As Dena said, "it wouldn't be interesting to write about sky scrapers."

This was three visits with Dena and Juan in three months, after never meeting Juan before August, and not seeing Dena since early 2007...it has been quite a treat, and it's sad that we don't know when the next time will be. They were also my first friends to visit us in Singapore. Quite exciting to show people around. Sarah and Ben are next. Who's after that?

(photo from weekend in Phuket, Thailand)

Other than our fun, yummy visit, we have been pretty busy. I am waiting for my employment pass to be approved for my new job, and after it is, I will start working immediately, most likely. I'm looking forward to that. I think Matt is looking forward to that as well!

In news from earlier this week/weekend...I went to the weekend market in Bangkok on Saturday. I absolutely love that market. They have everything you would ever want, but prettier, and cheaper. You can get everything. Seriously. I was negotiating for lower prices for everything, and I had a funny experience. I was trying to buy these fake flower things (they don't look like fake flowers, though, they look more like styrofoam balls?), and they wanted me to pay $3, and I wanted to pay less. I was "talking" to a woman who spoke no English. Usually when you negotiate with people who don't speak English, you use a calculator. There was no calculator in sight, so my brain thought, "I have a calculator in my bag!" I started to take it out, but then I realized that my calculator was also an ipod touch. To try to negotiate to save $1 with an ipod touch is just obnoxious. I didn't. I paid $3.

(photo is from the cooking class on Friday)

Our other excitement in Bangkok was a HUGE flood. We went to go for lunch to a mall (Matt wanted to see a Thai mall - it was his first), and it had been pouring for an hour or so. The streets were so flooded that people were wading through it - up to their knees. The water covered the tires of people's cars - it was really nutty amounts of water. Singapore has such good drainage so when there are the same monsoons, they all drain. I guess I take that for granted.

When we arrived at the Singapore airport on the way back, we had a funny experience. They made an announcement that they were so sorry, but the luggage from our flight was delayed. I was thinking DTW delayed - like more than 45 minutes. I think it usually takes 30 minutes to get our luggage in Detroit. In Singapore, a delay meant that it took about 8 minutes. Poor us.

When we came back - after being away for two days, back for three, and away for three, Kitty was so happy to see us. She wouldn't leave me alone. She jumped up on the side of the couch and sat with me, and when I laid on the couch, she went to sleep on my tummy. She hasn't done that in about a year and a half. So sweet.

We also saw a weird play called Sofaman. Not recommended. Also saw Amelia. Also not recommended. Could have been much better. Exploring my Indian cooking further - made another curry tonight (won't make it again, I think), and bought a new mortar and pestle for my spices. Quite exciting. Quite heavy to carry home.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Back to BKK

I am not working. Matt is working. Matt's job has sent him to Bangkok as it does every few months. Matt's job puts Matt up in the Sukhothai Hotel. Melanie loves Bangkok. Melanie loves fancy hotels. Melanie joined Matt for his business trip to Bangkok.

Last night we arrived to the hotel to find that they had upgraded us (why?) to the executive suite. The bathroom is probably bigger than our living room at home. We have two toilets, two sinks, two closet areas, a sitting area, an office, a huge, comfy bed...

There is a guy that Matt works with who said that he liked traveling for work until his home was nicer than his hotels. Last weekend in Phuket, I thought, yes, our apartment is much nicer than this hotel. This weekend in Bangkok, I think, I could stay here and never go back to our apartment. Ever. (Other than to get the Kitty to bring her here with us, obviously).

This morning, after Matt got up for his 7:30 meeting...I went back to sleep, and due to the total lack of light, I woke up again at 10:00, which is 11:00 in Singapore. Whoa! Cool! (I don't usually do that). I filled out my new employment pass application, figured out how to get it to the people who need it in Singapore (they had emailed me RIGHT before we left yesterday - super handy, huh?), and then I was off for my first day of touring on my third (fourth?) trip to Bangkok. This time, I decided I would check out shopping.

I headed off to Siam BTS Skytrain stop. There are about a hundred malls there. After eating some flat rice noodles with fish and vegetables for breakfast and lunch, I set off to find Platinum Fashion Mall. This was on recommendation from two friends. This is one of the craziest places I have ever seen. It is small shop after small shop...for six stories...with every kind of clothes or accessory you would ever want. It's all really cheap, but the catch is that you can't try anything on. I had come looking for clothes for work, but since I couldn't try anything on, I didn't end up getting too much I could wear to work (they were more expensive - like about US$15, and I just wasn't able to make that commitment without checking first). I did, however, get a ton of jewelry, hair bands (19 baht each! which is about US$0.60), a super cute bag, some shirts...I don't even remember what else. Mom - you can share the head bands with me. Then I found a mall with nice stores, but better sales than Singapore, so I got a couple of things at a store that has beautiful clothes - British India. Their sale in Singapore was pathetic. Here it was incredible. I walked around to see some of the house decorating ideas, so we can get the same stuff but cheaper on Saturday at the big market, and then I made my way back to this hotel. Now I can't wait to work out - I bet the gym is even fancy - and take a bath before Matt comes back and we head off to dinner with friends.

I should do this everytime he travels for work!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dead or Sleeping?

I have noticed that near our new place, people sleep all over. I can't tell if they're sleeping or dead. Yesterday I was walking down the path in the park next door, and there were four bodies lying across the path. I had to weave around them. All lying on their backs, with their necks supported by water bottles. Kind of like shivasena. This was not a first - there are often bodies laying in this park. On benches, on the grass, and all over the path.

Last evening I went to pick up some veggies at the wet market, and there was another dude lying on the floor of the table part of the market. Dead? Sleeping? Bizarre place to sleep - dirty floor of a food court. I did want to go up and see if he was alive. It felt irresponsible to just let it go, but I didn't. Hopefully he was sleeping.

In other news, we met Dena and Juan in Phuket for a super relaxing weekend of doing nothing. We basically talked and relaxed the whole time, with a nice view. They're enjoying their honeymoon, and they have actually changed plans to swing by Singapore next week. This will be my first friend visitor experience since we moved here two and a half years ago. Pretty hard to believe that no one else has come to visit! Doesn't feel that way for some reason...

One more unrelated point - I was listening to one of the gabfests from slate.com. They have great podcasts. One of the hosts talked about her love for Boggle - 5 x 5 and not 4 x 4, and she said she realized that 5 x 5 had been discontinued, so she went onto ebay and bought and old 5 x 5. Made me think of Michigania, and how Mark and Paula bought Cristine and Greg one of the last 5 x 5s for their wedding...over EIGHT years ago!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Planning

I don't like having nothing to do...so I usually arrange it so that I always have something to do. Since Matt was gone for two weeks, I had lunch plans daily, dinner plans, coffees, errands to run, etc. I was out and busy everyday. I also realized that I needed things to look forward to, so I started planning. From between a week before Matt left until he came back, we got tickets to: Bali, Yogyakarta, Bangkok, Surabaya, and we're heading to Phuket tomorrow.

I have realized that we have run out of normal three day weekend places to go. We have been to the obvious ones, so now we're heading into the obscure. You will find out later what each of those unknown places has to offer...but now I'm busy finding hotels, airport transfers, and other exciting elements.

Yes - I am heading to Bangkok for the fourth time, and Bali for the fourth time. This is unacceptable, but it's also unavoidable. Matt is going to Bangkok for work, which means that I get to stay in a 5-star hotel for free, and I get free airport transfers. After we went to Thailand four times in our first six months here, we had to cut ourselves off, so this weekend will be my first time in almost two years. And next week will be my second.

We're heading to Bali, because we have friends who haven't been and want to take a surfing lesson. How can we not show them around and check out surfing? It's just not an option.

Traveling is definitely the best part of living here, so as long as we're here, we're taking advantage.

In other news, I have a job offer to do something I am really excited about. I will publish what it is publicly when I sign the contract, but this is just to say that you shouldn't worry about my unemployment.

Additionally, Matt finally came back from London. He was cold, saw leaves change color, ate matzah ball soup, saw the cats that stayed with us for a few months earlier this year. He had a training for work, which he said wasn't super applicable to his job, but overall, he was satisfied. AND, he got to fly on the A380. I thought that was cooler than he did. He did say it felt like a small town was all being transported elsewhere - just lots of people.

Finally, I saw Julie and Julia last night, which I LOVED. I thought Meryl Streep was incredible, and I really loved the two characters. They were so cute. One thing bothered me, though. This was the talk that blogging is just selfish and self indulging. That's not to say that I completely disagree with it, just that it sat funny with me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Indian Cooking

Before I started at INSEAD, Deeksha gave me a half day lesson in Indian cooking. She showed me the spices, and we (she) made a whole bunch of veggie dishes. They were outstanding. Then I went to school and didn't have time to breathe. I barely cooked at all. Now that I'm unemployed and live across the street from Little India, I feel empowered to do better!

Last weekend I made a great chickpea dish. It was more like western Indian cooking, but it was still amazingly tasty, and I had it for breakfast the rest of the week.

This week, I decided to take it one step further. First, I went to Little India, and I bought my own masala set. I had bought a bunch of spices, but they come in bags, and it's just messy.

Then, I started two dishes, from an Asian cookbook that Shana gave me before we moved to Singapore. It has different sections for each country, and the recipes are amazing. Highly recommended...if you live in Asia and have access to very Asian ingredients. I popped my own mustard seeds and everything! I made a superb potato, onion, and pea dish, and then I made a chickpea dish that has a sauce of blended onions and tomatoes. They were both surprisingly yummy! This picture is the best I can do - Matt has our camera in London, so this is from my phone, but you can get the idea. This is the leftovers after I had packed some for a friend (I forgot to take a picture of the full dishes). I was really impressed with myself. If I had more than two burners, then I would say that they were easy and fast, but since each one used the same pan and burner...it was a bit more than an hour of cooking. Totally worth it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Singapore Slingers

This evening I went to see the Singapore Slingers play the Indonesia Satra Mudra Britama. It's South East Asian League Basketball baby!!

S$19 (US$13.50), and you can basically have courtside, half court seats. The Singapore Indoor Stadium was unimpressively unfull, but the crowd was totally into it. Unfortunately, somehow we got stuck in the Indonesia section, but it was fun anyways. A guy next to us won a tv. He made a three point shot, and he literally won a tv. He had to take it back to his seat, but it was really big and heavy. I don't know the logistics of this stuff in the US, but I'm guessing they don't take it back to their seats with them. That was a bit strange, but hell - he won a tv!!

Each team had two Americans on it. One of the Indonesia team's Americans had half their points. All in all, Americans had 43% of the total points. It was a proud day to be American in Singapore.

It seemed a bit like division 7 college basketball, but it was a super fun way to spend the afternoon/evening.

In other news, the monsoon season is finally here, so the weather is bearable. That makes me happy on a daily basis. I hate getting wet, but I love rain.

Further news...I read torah at a UHC service yesterday. The service was really nice, but the Torah was so small - it looked like one of those fake stuffed kid's torahs, and the table was so low, that I literally could barely see it. I had to take off my high heels and read barefoot. Is that bad for my relationship with God? Hopefully not, because I think it's the only pro-God thing I have done in a while. I don't want to negate that goodness.

Even further news...my groupmate from P1 and P2 at INSEAD is fancy. She wears fancy clothes, make-up, shoes, the whole bit. Her feedback to me was that I need to dress nicer (i.e. no more cargo pants), and she wouldn't mind a bit of make-up. Well, I have literally run my black shoes into the ground, and I don't own a nice bag (my Limmud NY 2006 bag TOTALLY does the job on a daily basis...for almost four years). Yesterday she helped me out at the mall - emotional support - and I got two pairs of shoes (at Nine West - the only store that has my size) and a bag. I also asked her to take me into all the fancy bag shops, just to see what all the fuss is about. We checked out Kate Spade, Coach, Bally, and whole bunch of other brands. I didn't like any of the bags except for the Kate Spade bags (mostly because they were colorful), and I don't get how people pay so much. I had never been in these shops...or even looked in them...so it was interesting. I appreciated the support. She was great.

One more story. Since I always kvell about my market - this morning I went to get two spices that I need for my anticipated Indian cooking trial tomorrow night (if you want to come eat some, let me know). I needed turmeric and garam masala. I went to the spice guys that I mentioned a few weeks ago, and they only had these HUGE bags. I don't need a huge amount (yet - obviously once I perfect my Indian cooking I WILL need it...), but I bought the smallest ones they had, which were still HUGE. Total bill? US$1.70.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Global Warming

There is a good chance that I should not write this, but I just must. Read fast - it might be removed soon!

There is an article on the second page of the paper today about Singapore's role in global warming, and how they should be a part of the decisions in Copenhagen in December. I just need to outline some of its points.

- Singapore is still a part of the developing world. I.e. it's not part of OECD, therefore it shouldn't reduce emissions.
* If this is true, then you have to be consistent. You can't claim to be the developed island surrounded by the developing world if you're NOT developed.

- There is a quote, "it's not possible to just treat Singapore like an ordinary country."
* Do you think any country thinks of itself as an ordinary country?

- While Singapore has a very high emissions per capita, it cannot be cut, because it's manufacturing sector relies on it.
* YES! That's the POINT! You have to change your techniques and your machinery. You can't continue to do "business as usual."

- The things that are manufactured in Singapore are ultimately exported.
* SO????

- Singapore is so small, it doesn't really make a difference.
* And if everyone thought that...

- The scientific claims for causes of global warming need a "full and fair public hearing."
* REALLY???

Then he goes on to say all the reasons why emissions, etc. doesn't cause global warming and the studies are invalid.

I do think that this viewpoint is valid, but this is in the leading newspaper, on the second page. I'm just a bit shocked. Maybe it's just me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Customer Service

One of the front page stories in the local paper today is about how people are not generally satisfied with the level of service in Singapore. I fully agree. It said that retail is actually much worse than food and beverage - I do not agree with that. More often than not, I feel like I'm putting someone off when I order something. But...I have experienced totally opposite retail/service customer experiences in the past few days.

I was looking for shoes. My size is 40 or 41, and most places just don't carry that size. I want black sandals that look nice but are comfortable. I went into multiple stores looking for this the other day, and most of them either ignored me, totally laughed when I said how big my foot is, or showed me the ugliest shoes I have ever seen. They seemed to not listen to me at all, or not want to help me find what I want. I was thinking - in the good business school way that my brain works - wow - their incentives must not be set up properly. Clearly they are not rewarded for selling items, and they must be getting a flat hourly wage.

Then, I had two amazing customer experiences. I went for my healthy foot massage two days ago, and the guy asked me if I had been there before. He remembered that I had lived in Bedok. I was only there once, and it was probably about a YEAR ago (if my blog search function worked, I would search, but it's not...). I was VERY impressed. They see a lot of people. By the way - I felt like the massage was very hard, but I felt that he was probably doing it like that for a reason. Finally - 20 minutes into it - he said, "wow. You can take very hard." Well, then don't do it so hard! Now I have bruises on some parts of my knees and ankles. It was good, though. No worries.

Then, yesterday, I went to get new running shoes. I went to a store called Running Lab. The woman evaluated how I walk and run on a treadmill. She looked closely at my orthotics (ew) (sp?), and she recommended a few different kinds of shoes. I think that the whole thing took over an hour - but luckily I'm unemployed and don't have anything else to do. Ultimately she found me a great pair of shoes that were on sale for some reason - and they let you run on the treadmill with them for a week and bring them back if they don't work. That's seriously good customer service. I was impressed.

So? What's the moral? I think that companies need to give their staff incentives to sell items. I think that they need training in understanding customers' needs. I think that there should be a tipping culture here - at least in food and bev, so people WANT to do a good job (same incentive piece, but incentivized by the customers instead). I would also like to see statistics on the woman who helped me at the running store vs someone who just simply suggests shoes. Who sells more? She spent a LONG time helping me, and I thought she could have probably sold other shoes in that time, but by the time she was finished with me, there was no WAY I was NOT going to buy a pair of shoes. When someone spends that much time with you, you feel obligated. I wonder if that is better for business or worse. Instinct tells me better, but I suppose it has to be done in moderation - i.e. she can't spend THAT much time with me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kitty's New Boring Life






Kitty's life is very boring now. Rather than going outside and chasing frogs, cockroaches, lizards, crickets, dragon flies and other cats...she has to watch nature on tv. She literally watches nature shows on tv. In the second picture, you can see her batting at baby polar bears after sitting and watching them for about a half hour. This was during the credits.

She now sleeps on a window sill. She likes hiding in between the curtain and the window, or in between the two curtains.

Sometimes she has a relaxing snooze on the balcony.

She also really likes sleeping on her special pillow. Before she sleeps on it, though, she needs to...milk it? Not sure what she's doing here, but she does it for a few minutes - very intensely. She used to do it to my tummy, when she was a little kitty and she would sleep on my tummy.


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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Adventures

This morning...early...Deeksha and I met at Vivocity, a mall, and we walked outside to try to find this walk that spans three or four parks in Singapore. It's along some ridges, and it's supposed to have good views. We found it. Indeed, you could see the water, and Sentosa for a lot of the walk. The parks were a part of Singapore I haven't yet explored. There are a few things that they built in the last few years to attach the parks - one is this wavy bridge, and another is a canopy walk. It's an elevated walk in this foresty area. Was alright. We arrived at the second or third park that was FILLED with people on tours - like swarming people - and it started to rain. We decided to push on. Why not? It POURED and POURED, and we got soaked. Deeksha had it worse than me, because she had shoes and socks, and glasses. I was in keens, quick dry top and shorts, and I had contacts and a hat. We made it to the end, and some (stupid?) taxi picked us up - SOAKING and dripping all over the place. I don't think I need to go back to any of those places again. Just kind of lame. The conversation was good, though.

After this adventure, I watched Marley and Me. Since Matt is in London for two weeks, and a lot of my other friends happen to be out of Singapore right now, I borrowed five movies (I NEVER watch movies). It made me cry. Was so sweet. Then, after I got a few groceries, I had nothing to do. I never have nothing to do. I really had nothing to do...so I took a bus to the botanical gardens, and I ran there for 40 minutes. I believe I made it to most parts of the gardens. There I would go back - it's really nice and pretty. After running, I had a weird pain in my foot, so I decided to walk...all the way back to our house. I think it took over an hour, but I forgot to look. I think that it spanned all of the On the Media podcast, though, so it must have been over an hour. I felt a bit pooped when it was over. Then I made a wonderful dinner for me and watched another movie - Shlomi's Stars (a translation of the title - but I don't know if it's called something else in English), which is an Israeli movie I had heard about. It was excellent. Recommended.

The disappointment of the day was not the lameness of the parks. It was that I tried to hook up the slingbox last night to see if I could get any football excitement, and it didn't work. Unfortunately there is no one "there" to fix it, so no slingbox for me...for two weeks! No Michigan games, no Grey's Anatomy, no Daily Shows. No fun.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The NEW Market

As you know, Matt and I moved almost two months ago. There are lots of changes. Among my favorite changes is our new location and ease of getting around. Among my least favorite changes is the size of our apartment, but I don't mind it very much at all. There aren't too many unfavored changes about this move...

The market has always been a big part of my life, definitely in Singapore. My new market, Tekka Market, has some advantages over Bedok Market. I will share two.

A few weeks ago, I was making a curry, and the curry called for shrimp paste. I'm not that into using shrimp paste, so I went to one of the stalls at the market, and I asked if they have an alternative substitute for shrimp paste. They didn't really know what I was talking about, but they asked what I was making. I told them the different vegetables and other things I was putting in. They then made a little concoction for me - out of some base that looks like liquid garlic with coconut, (but I have no reason to believe that's what it is) and a whole bunch of spices. They open a plastic bag, throw it all in, and then they charge me a buck. Good deal! I have gone back twice since then, and I tell them what I'm putting in the pan, they take it all very seriously - making sure they get each vegetable - and they make me a paste. Just got one today for dinner. I don't think you can really do that in New York.

The other thing that I like is most definitely not specific to Tekka Market, but I still love it here. Let me start with an explanation. For some reason, in 2000 I developed a bad habit of getting a treat (usually a drink) for myself when I go to the supermarket. This obviously started with shoko in a bag (little bit of chocolate milk) in Israel. It was mostly chocolate milk when I lived in the states and Israel. Here it has been a couple of things. First I would get milk tea. It's just so yummy. Then I moved into ice coffee, not-so-sweet (you have to say it like that). Also sooo yummy here. When I dropped caffeine, I moved into juices. This market has a juice called ABC juice. It's Apple, Beetroot, and Carrot. Beets are not called beets here. They're called beetroot. I think that beets (or beetroots) are nature's candy. I LOVE beets. To have a cold cup of apples, beets, and carrots, is quite excellent. It's a big glass of purpleness. I love it.

In my new-found-unemployment, and with Matt being in London for two weeks, I will take you on a virtual tour of our new hood. It's a really interesting area, but I won't spoil any of the surprises by starting here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Divali




Matt and I celebrated Divali tonight. Deeksha and Rajeev had us over for a nice evening of ceremony, great food, and of course, Settlers.

We learned that Divali is really important to Deeksha's home area - in the north, and not so important to Rajeev's family, which is in Kerala. It's a holiday where they welcome Lakshmi, the god of wealth. It's new year for businesses, and there is a whole story with a king, four wives, four sons, and an evil king from Sri Lanka. Deeksha said that everyone in her family basically eats the same exact foods, and do the exact same things that evening.

First, we made a design with colored rice at the front door to welcome Lakshmi. We even made her footprints, so she would know where to walk (in case she was confused).

Then, after the beautiful idols and flowers were set out perfectly, there was a whole ceremony where Deeksha sang a bit, she sprinkled water on some things, she blessed the idols, and then she put those blessings on us. She also put red dots on the heads of the idols and all of us. She also fed the idols a nice sweet (we got some too). They sang a song together - it was a bit catchy.
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Then, we all got red strings tied around our wrists to show that we participated in a Divali ceremony. Then they lit about 12 oil lamps and 12 tea lights, and we put them ALL around the house, and we also put all the lights on. This was to make sure Lakshmi knows where to go - she could definitely see clearly. We then got to use sparklers! I don't think I have used those since I was a child - camping. After that, we got to eat some yummy dhal and aloo gobi and yogurt.

After the spectacular dinner, we had a great game of Settlers. Deeksha and Rajeev caught on quickly. They were Settler Virgins, and they're "in."

Happy Divali (or as they say in Singapore - Deepavali!!)!!!!

Istana

Matt and I live next to this huge area that is fenced in. There are lots of signs with people aiming guns at each other to tell you to stay away. It's huge - it starts on Orchard Road, and it follows all around almost until Bukit Timah Road. It's just totally curiosity provoking.

No building can have a window that faces this area. There are security guards constantly outside, even in the park near our condo - making sure NOTHING fishy is going on around here.

What's in this secret area is basically the President. There is a huge golf course, and there are a few big buildings - apparently lots of international diplomacy meetings and things like that happen in here. It's called Istana, which means "Palace" in Malay. The big building was built in the 1860s, and the whole thing was handed over to Singapore at independence and then renovated in the late 90s.

Just yesterday, I was exploring the features of my ipod touch, and I saw that Istana was visible on Google Satellite. I was shocked. I mentioned it to my friend at dinner last night, and how I'm slightly obsessed with the fact that it's so central, and it's SO secretive.

Well, after a serious ass kicking in tennis this morning, I got a text that Istana is open to the public today. Matt and I got out of the house as soon as possible, and we went to check it out. The grounds are HUGE. Matt and I just kept wondering how much money Singapore could get if they just built another five malls on that property. It's rolling greenness - with a few ponds, a cannon or two, and a few big buildings. It was really beautiful - and now the mystery isn't so mysterious.