Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Thoughts On Singapore

It's been over a month since arriving in Singapore so I guess I can start giving my 2-cents worth of the place. Three things leap to mind: the humidity, the efficiency and great food to be had for very cheap.

It's The Humidity!!!
Let me tell ya, it is hot here. But it's not the temperature, it's the humidity! The temperature is usually around 30 Celsius which is no big deal having lived in Nassau for 4 years but with humidity hovering around 85%, 30 degrees starts to feel like 40. I don't think there's been a day yet where my shirt stayed completely dry. I walk Oliver to school around 8:30am and within 100m from the house I'm starting to drip. Of course, Oliver insisting on being carried doesn't help. Or, perhaps this is a sign I should start losing some weight. Anyways, I haven't felt this hot since entering a male bikini contest back in college...

What Do You Mean It's Ready?
"Things work really well here especially the government." Well, that felt weird to say. You Bahamians and Canadians will know what I mean. But it's true, things do work well here. Take taxis for example. When I called a cab for the first time, they registered my telephone number and my pickup location. The next time I called, I'm routed to an automated system, punched "1" for my last pickup spot and received a vehicle confirmation number. The whole process took 30 seconds and a taxi was at my door in under 8 minutes.

I called the city's utility department to get hooked up for electricity and gas. They showed up within the hour and a half they said they would, it took all of 2 business days to process and they SMS'ed me a reminder the night before. Same thing with over half a dozen furniture deliveries and service calls we've had. They gave me a fairly narrow window of time (ie. 2hrs) and they showed up just like they promised. I don't know, maybe we lived in The Bahamas too long but is this common practice elsewhere in the world?

Every car here is outfitted with a CashCard reader. You buy a CashCard at any gas station, transfer some funds into it from your local ATM and stick it into this reader before driving off. When you enter a parking lot, there is a system that automatically tracks your arrival and departure and debit the parking charges from your CashCard. It's brilliant. No more waiting for moronic drivers ahead of you counting $5 worth of pennies. Now, there are just moronic drivers who forget to top off their CashCard before driving up to the barrier. These CashCards are also used to charge motorists driving into the core business district during peak hours. If you have insufficient funds in your CashCard, a fine is automatically issued to the owner of the car. Talk about efficient. Sure it's a bit big-brother'ish but if you're not doing anything wrong....

OK, one more efficiency story than on to the next topic. We're hiring a live-in "domestic help" because they're cheap and because I'm a lazy s.o.b. The government enforces a number of rules to help protect the welfare and safety of these ladies which is a good thing considering the horror stories you read about in the papers sometimes. They have an excellent website detailing the whole hiring process and they have an online course(!) on how to treat your domestic helper that you have to register for and complete before you can hire someone. Wow, what government give that much care to a lowly-paid foreign worker?

Brother, can you spare a dime....
Food is so cheap (and good) in Singapore, you don't need to go begging. $3.50 SGD (which is about $2.25 USD) will get me a bowl of rice with roast duck, some Chinese greens and a bowl of soup. And that's not just one place, that's everywhere. Every mall has a food court representing at least half a dozen different Asian cuisines. Food is so cheap here that most people eat out rather than cook at home. We haven't caught on to that custom yet since Oliver's not that keen on sitting in a different high chair every night. We have, however, started a little family tradition on Fridays where we go to this food court next to a construction site and Oliver gets to watch all the heavy machines at work while Jill and I get to enjoy a meal in peace.

That's it for now. Stay tuned for my future blog titled "Singapore - The Honeymoon Is Over".

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