Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fruit of the Month Club X

In Singapore, something like 99 percent of produce has to be imported by truck, ship, or plane. We get strawberries from Korea, blueberries from the US, grapes from South Africa, and various fruits from Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Okay, there may be the odd package of fruit labeled “locally grown,” but Singapore being a little short on farmland, we wonder: where is it really grown?

This month’s fruit of the month is therefore unusual; this time we’re absolutely certain it’s local produce. Why? Well, after a full year of battling the bugs and the elements on behalf of our mango tree, finally we have something to show for it: two mangoes of about the same size as the ones we’d usually buy at the wet market. True, we don’t know how they taste yet, and odds are high that they’ll ripen and drop while we’re out of the country. But we still think they look good enough to qualify as January’s fruit of the month.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Respect the Chope

The other day I was enjoying my regular noodle bowl at a busy food court. I was slurping away, marveling at how wonderful it was to get noodles, ikan bilis (dried anchovies), green vegetables, ground pork, chilis, mushrooms, dried onion, slices of fish, and an egg to boot for $3.50 Sing.

Unfortunately, my reverie was interrupted by strident shouting. I (along with everyone else in the food court) turned to see one Singaporean woman squawking at another, who was an elderly “auntie.” No one else dared to intervene as the younger woman yammered away - everyone was too embarrassed.

“You are so inconsiderate!” the younger woman was shouting.

A few people near me clucked and shook their heads; the younger woman was clearly losing face, as the older woman unsuccessfully tried to deflect the tirade. But it soon became apparent that the younger had choped (reserved) a seat in the traditional, time-honored way - by leaving her stack of tissues on the table. The older woman had committed the almost unheard-of infraction of moving the other's tissues and shopping bags to make room for herself. Now, some of the clucks were directed toward the auntie.

Lesson learned: it doesn't matter if it’s a forlorn umbrella or simply a dilapidated pack of Kleenex on that empty table. You must respect the chope!

“You are rude! How can so rude . . . do you not know, lah?! You cannot see, izzit? Table choped ’ready!”

I decided to slurp the rest of my soup and quickly head back to work.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Back to “Normal”

It took a surprising amount of time to get back in the swing of things in Singapore after three weeks in the US. True, we lived in Singapore for only ten months before going on home leave, but could it really have taken only three weeks for us to forget everything?

I nearly got lost on the way to pick Joey up from work - though switching back to the right side of the car was no problem. And, horror of horrors, we had trouble remembering the ECP exit for our favorite Thai place! Plus, we found our palates had in fact changed during our somewhat blander food forays in the US; that Thai food had more kick than we’d remembered. Of course, they might have added extra spice to celebrate our return. They were so happy to see us - and you haven’t seen happiness until you’ve seen a Thai person smile - I think they might have feared their best customers had moved.

Still, things are back to normal now.

We know, because when Joey was carrying a newly purchased kitchen gadget through the mall, a nice man walked up and asked him in Chinese, with no preamble at all, “How much did you pay for that?” And when Joey told him, he tut-tutted sympathetically and said that wasn’t cheap.

We know, because we scheduled the nefarious landscapers for today, a rare sunny day at the end of rainy season, and of course they didn’t bother to show up.

We know, because my “social calendar” out East is filling up again with birthday lunches and people who threaten to drop by for tea without warning, just to say hello; apparently I was much missed by the local ladies, a fact which continues to surprise me. (And here I thought they only loved me for my bowling skills...)

We know, because we’re back to the family phone call time-zone crunch, all our quality time packed in between 9 and 10 a.m. and 9 and 10 p.m. so no one has to be awake too late or too early.

And the main reason we know things are back to normal: We’re finally, finally updating the blog.