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 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 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


I don't like having nothing to 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 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 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 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.