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.