Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Doesn't it all just really come down to finding your new comfort food?

My first two days of teaching have gone by in a blur!  I'm planning to write a post specifically about this in a few days, once I have some pictures to do the descriptions of the SIM campus justice.  For now, let me just say that teaching at SIM is going to be a lot of fun!

But while that post is in the works, I thought I'd tell you about my newly acquired habit: Kaya toast.  I had this treat on my first morning in Singapore, when I enjoyed breakfast at Killeny Kopitiam, a local breakfast chain (which, being a dyed-in-the-wool Buffalonian, I refer to unapologetically as "Killeny's").  Since then, I've been sampling this delicacy in order to scope out the best places to have it.  

Today, my bus route ended at a shopping mall on Orchard Road, where I found myself with a half hour to kill while I waited for a shuttle to take me the rest of the way to the apartment building.  Following my nose to the source of a delicious baked-bread aroma led me to the Toast Box.  It happened to be right next to the taxi stand I'd be waiting at, so I figured this was kismet, and placed my order.

Kaya toast is made by toasting a very light and airy bread and spreading it with kaya and a slab (yes, a slab) of salted butter.  Kaya is a jam made from egg yolk and sweetened coconut.  It's one of those things that sounds strange but tastes unbelievably delicious.  The coffee is served with a traditional dollop of sweetened condensed milk.  The coffee looks black when you get it, but once you stir the spoon around to blend the condensed milk into it, it turns the exact color of a melted Hershey's bar, and quite honestly, tastes just as rich and wonderful.

So that is how I spent my time waiting for the shuttle that would take me from there to Fraser Suites.  More on the buses in a later post, as well - they deserve a highlight of their own!

Friday, August 24, 2012

If a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step...

Bon Voyage!  My vim and vigor after 25 hours of air travel
was slightly diminished from what you see in this photo...
...Then I should expect a journey of 9383 miles to take a few steps in order to get into the swing of things!

I cannot tell you how much the well-wishes I've received have meant to me! This is a huge leap, and having support from friends makes it exciting rather than scary. And exciting it has been! Let me fill you in with some highlights.

Tuesday: Left Buffalo, NY at noon for a quick flight to Chicago. Grabbed a neck pillow and some munchies for the next leg. This turned out to be a wise investment.

Tuesday/Wednesday: Chicago to Hong Kong... What a journey! In the future, I'll definitely plan to take a route from San Francisco or some other west-coast destination that would allow me to spend a day in between the US flights and the trans-Pacific one. This was a 15-hour flight and was entirely different from my 2007 experience going from London to NYC (in which the shades were only drawn part of the time, and we were served food every time I turned around). On this flight with United, we were served a hot meal within the first hour, and then the lights were turned off and the shades drawn until Hour #14. As I slept part of the time and woke up mentally telling myself it was morning (in order to acclimate myself to Singapore time, which is 12 hours ahead of Buffalo), the constant darkness is actually what I found a bit unnerving. Thankfully, my tablet was well-stocked with light and fun movies as well as the Hunger Games trilogy, out of which I happily devoured most of Book 1.

Wednesday: Spent a three hour layover in Hong Kong making new friends - an American girl about my age who was travelling to Singapore to visit her boyfriend and a Singaporean man travelling home for a visit after living in the States for several years. We created a "technology camp" around a single outlet on the floor where we all sat and took turns charging our various devices and sharing stories. 

Now imagine it from the air...

Flying into Hong Kong was a beautiful sight - islands rose out of the water in such a way that evoked images in my mind of Chinese art. I couldn't take pictures as everything was stowed at that point, but in all reality it truly looked like artwork, such as that shown to the left.

Wednesday/Thursday early AM: Hong Kong to Singapore! Given that I expected I would be loopy with exhaustion at this point, I opted to book a room at a hotel right within the airport in Singapore so I could immediately get a few solid hours of sleep prior to going through immigration and customs (for which I might just want to have my full faculties about me - or at least most of them). 
Yes, this picture is real.  It's really that
huge - and there was REALLY no line!

The Changi Airport is HUGE. It's beautiful and warrants spending a little time in for two reasons: 1.) It's beautiful and full of cool stuff to see, like shops, restaurants, museums and a KOI POND. Yes, a koi pond.  2.) You can get a lot of useful stuff accomplished right within the airport, such as setting up your cell phone with a Singapore SIM card to make and receive calls.

Thursday: So I started my day off with a traditional Singaporean breakfast of kaya toast and coffee. This was definitely a great way to start off - I won't say more now, because I'd rather feature this delicacy as a post of its own with pictures! I then got my phone taken care of and got some directions on other tasks I needed to accomplish once outside of the airport. I 
A total of 85lbs of possessions
for one year in Singapore!
had lunch, browsed in some shops, pondered the koi, and then right around 1, I went through immigration (see photo above), claimed my luggage, went through customs ("Anything to declare?" "Nope." "Okay, please go on through." "Um... so... we're done?" "Yes. Welcome to Singapore.") and hailed a cab. I timed it all out so that I would arrive at my apartment building just at check in time: 2:00PM. Given that the airport was fun and large and I was meandering about in a jet-lag induced fog, having the extra time made this a nice morning.

I walked outside for the first time to find a cab and my first impression of Singapore was that it was akin to walking into the bathroom after someone has taken a very long, hot shower. No, not after. During. It is hot and humid like nowhere I've ever been, although not in a unpleasant way.  It feels rather like a sauna. I like saunas... With highs in the eighties and nineties every day of the year, the weather had been something I was concerned about.  But Singapore climate is so far so good. The only time I really felt it was when I was in the direct sun when I walked to a 7-11 to buy a bus pass, which was a five minute walk, during which time I felt exactly like an ant must feel when it's under a nasty little kid's magnifying glass. So, as long as you stay in the shade, it's not bad.

Fraser Suites, my home-away from home, is absolutely beautiful. It is luxury in a compact setting. Everyone is tremendously friendly and helpful. 

I spent yesterday unpacking and resting, and today I ventured out to explore the shopping mall within the building (mall! within building!) and bought some odds and ends I had left home without. I had groceries delivered and getting food into the kitchen really made the place feel more like home. I cooked my first meal tonight, and somehow the act of preparing food, cooking, eating at the table and washing the dishes after just made me feel like I had really settled in. While jet lag has given me a few ups and downs physically, emotionally and mentally, I definitely feel like things are falling into place.

Tomorrow: Orientation at the Singapore Institute of Management! And many more adventures to come!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

On a countdown now...

Singaporean currency - A different
dimension and texture than American bills!
Well, the summer has positively flown.  I've got my classes entirely prepped, paperwork filed, flight booked, money exchanged, and gotten crucial things like wardrobe figured out.

I'll be teaching three sessions of an introductory communication course, COM101.  It covers basic communication theories (drawing from fields like sociology and psychology) and will be the required first course that intended majors will take.  I designed the course according to my philosophy of creating a teaching environment that incorporates sight, sound, interaction and application.  See my website for more information on my teaching philosophy!  It's going to be an exciting, action-filled semester!

In keeping with the equatorial heat, I've purchased a wardrobe of sleeveless cotton dresses in classic cuts that will look professional and keep me cool at the same time!  I fell in love with Yosi Samra's ballet flats, so got a few of those with respect to the Singaporean custom of avoiding open-toed shoes in the workplace.  Lands' End and Kohl's were my go-to stores for dresses!  Sales, coupons and Kohl's Cash made the new wardrobe reasonable - in my opinion, a good bargain is always in style!  It's exciting seeing them hanging in the closet and ready to go!

In addition to these and many, many other preparations (wheeled tote! suitcases! tablet! Keurig cups!) I also got a new wallet to fit my Singaporean currency, purchased ahead from AAA.  Singaporean banknotes, pictured above, are made of a polymer that, unlike American notes, make them difficult to fold.  In addition, they're different sizes, the size increasing as the dollar amount increases (as opposed to the oddity that is the American nickel - worth so much less, but oh, so much heavier!).  I found, to my glee, that a older style Fossil Keyper wallet wristlet, you might say, "fit the bill."  Er, bills.  A girl's gotta splurge on a few things.

In between all the preparations, I've been helping my mom prepare for the fall season for her business, the American Doll Boutique.  The craft show season and all the families who I've gotten to know over the years has been part of the rhythm of my life since she set my bassinet up behind her displays at shows back in 1983.  I'll miss my "crafter family," but know that we'll be chatting via Skype this fall!

I've also been getting my fill of home cooked dinners and Buffalo cuisine!   Fish fries, chicken wings, hot dogs, beef on weck...  We even made a "Thanksgiving Dinner" - yes, we cooked a turkey on one of the hottest weekends we had here in Buffalo!  But don't worry, dear readers - yours truly will surely have plenty of Singaporean dishes to blog about very soon!

Buffalo >> Chicago >> Hong Kong >> Singapore!
So, I leave on Tuesday at noon, fly from Buffalo to Chicago, then to Hong Kong, and finally, from Hong Kong to Singapore.  The trip will take 25 hours.  Next stop, Singapore!  I'll be filling you in along the way!

How many visits?