Going West by Mark Powers

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lose those unwanted love handles the Singapore way!

Singapore Style Trim & Fit Plan
Annoyed by fatty flabs that just won't go away around your mid-section? Now you can sweat them off - Singapore style! Forget about the Atkins diet, South Beach diet. Forget about exercise and eating right, pills and other weight loss gimmicks. You can lose those unwanted pounds even while you're sleeping in Singapore, the heat and humidity will melt those unwanted love handles right off your body.

Singapore's unique location in the world, near the equator and surrounded by water allow for the ideal weight loss environment. With year round heat and humidity, you'll be sweating away excess fat in no time! For maximum weight loss potential be sure to turn off your air conditioner. Better yet, just go outside and walk around the block. Once you see and feel your sweat soaked clothes, you'll know just how effective the Singapore Style Trim & Fit Plan really is!

Mark Powers, originally from the US, arrived in Singapore just recently. What does he have to say?

Mark: I used to be a health nut, watching what I eat and doing exercise, but it required a lot of work and discipline. Now, I can just walk to the store and sweat off at least a pound on the way, and another two pounds back carrying the bags! Sometimes I can just sweat standing around waiting for the train or bus! Thanks Singapore!

We're so sure you'll be satisfied with your new Singapore Style Trim & Fit Plan, we will give you a new convenient Travel Towel! Take it with you wherever you go, to wipe away the pounds as they come off your body!


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Musings from Singapore....

Bollywood is the nickname for India's movie industry. Singapore's Indian TV stations play many Bollywood movies throughout the day. Since I only get a few channels on my TV, I can often catch a Bollywood show.

In Indian movies, the pace is fast, and no holds barred. No one dimensional leading men in these movies. The leading man might be telling jokes and charming a lady in one scene, then avenging a relative's death using acrobatic Indian style kong-fu on the bad guys, then start singing and dancing with 50 extras like right out of a Broadway musical. During a fight scene a wild cow is seen walking in the background. Its like what the heck is that cow doing in the picture. Totally hilarious and unique. Most of the movies are in Tamil, the common language of southern India.

I also find Singaporeans of Malaysian heritage to be very interesting. I often see young students who go to private schools, the young Muslim students (people of Malaysian heritage are commonly Muslim) wear white beanies or headdresses and light-colored uniforms. But its funny, these young cosmopolitan Singaporeans still wear bright pink Swatch watches with a giant watch faces, Channel pins to hold the headdress in place, and eat at McDonald's, which offers Halal (Arabic term meaning "permissible) hamburgers, which is food that is permissible according to Islamic law.

I was invited out by some new Singaporean friends recently to go rock climbing. We went to a practice facility near Little India (next to Farrer Park MRT station). I was ready to go a couple trips up the wall. The first problem was the largest climbing shoes the place had was a size 12, and I am easily a size 13. So I had to try climbing in my sneakers or socks.

My new friends were very friendly and showed me how to climb, use the equipment and how to be safe. After a few slow and exhaustive climbs up the wall, I found myself sore and tired. You can imagine I was already sweating buckets with only big fans to keep the place cool. But my new friends kept encouraging me, "Now its your turn". "You wanna try this one?"... And how could I refuse, I kept going and going. I think I made at least 10 or more climbs.

How would you like your Crocodile burger?After the climbing and the showers, everyone went out for dinner. We walked over to a outdoor dinning place in Little India. Actually there are many outdoor dinning places in Singapore, its cooler outside. There are lots of little food shops and you pick one or more and buy what you like. Just tell the staff where you will sit and they will bring your food to you, no tips. The food here is not like what you would find in a US mall. No pizza, hamburgers, or Panda Express. You can buy fried chicken wings on a stick, stir-fry seafood and noodles, Roti Prata Indian bread and curry, and you can even try Crocodile meat!

Little IndiaChatting with my new friends, which included Singaporeans of Chinese and Malay heritage, I was impressed by how accommodating they are for each others customs and religion. Its obvious they understand they have to be in order to live and play together in this cultural melting pot. I even caught my Malay friend use a "Ai-yo" a Chinese word for "Oh man" or "Oh no". I said, "Hey that's Chinese, why did you say that?" He said, "No, that's Singlish!" Singlish referring to the mix of English, Chinese, Indian, and Malay that is used by Singaporeans.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Skiing - Singapore Style

First, to get around Singapore, I needed some transportation. The MRT trains and subways are convenient, but I can't easily get down to the beach from the station. Skateboarding is nice, but my knee acts up if I go a long distance, so I bought a new bicycle yesterday. I had to ask around where is a good place to buy a bicycle in Singapore and was recommended to go to the Parkway Parade Shopping Centre. Notice that "Center" is spelled "Centre" here, must be British English. Anyway, on the top floor is a store called Giant, kind of like Singapore's version, albeit smaller, of Walmart. I found the bike section and tested out several bikes in the store. No one gave me any crap around riding in the store, and even a cute girl smiled at me.

Anyway, I chose the best and cheapest (call it a value?) bike I could find. A red framed S$98 off-road econo-bike. I rode it through check-out and took it home, not without getting lost on the way in Singapore's crazy street system.

I must mention for a moment here, some cities like Beijing and Phoenix have great street systems, well thought out, with all the roads running north-south, east-west, very easy to understand. Tokyo and Singapore on the other hand, with their constantly curving and diagonal streets, confuse the heck out of me. Especially when I pop out of a train station, I usually am totally lost. Even having a map in hand is not always enough to prevent me from getting lost. Come to Singapore and see what I mean.

Anyway, I took my new bike and camera to Singapore's lovely beach park today. With its clean, wide bike and walking paths, lush trees and flowers, and plenty of recreation equipment, I think I will be heading over there quite a bit. Today, I even discovered a small lake for doing water-skiing and wakeboarding! There is no boat involved, simply a cable system erected around the lake and people hold onto the cable and are pulled around as if behind a boat. I took this video because it looked so fun.

The bike path never seems to end. I wonder if it goes around the island. Unfortunately, I wasn't using any sunscreen and could feel my skin turning beat red and decided to head home.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Skating through Singapore

One pleasant thing about Singapore is that the local beach park is very nice. It runs all along the east coast of the island, and stretches from the shore to the freeway, at least a football field in length full of grass and trees. There are smooth walking and bike paths, BBQ pits and exercise equipment, and places to wade into the water, with life-saving emergency equipment set up next to the beaches. There are several park custodians who trim bushes, pick up trash, and take care of the park. Its very clean despite all the visitors, a hallmark of Singapore.

Crazy Diamond Shaped Bounce ShoesI visited on a Sunday, and the bike and foottrails where full of people of all ages on roller-blades, bikes, and some funny new shoes that have springs on them. Actually, I saw people walk and run around on these things, but they seemed more uncomfortable and unstable then if they were just walking. The people didn't seem like they were moving around any faster, rather they looked like they would fall down in a second if they bumped into anything.

A longboardI went there with my long-skateboard (which looks exactly like the picture on the left). Its about double the size of typical skateboard and used for going long distances rather than tricks. I rode along the bike path, weaving around, people watching and being watched. Of course, I was the only person in the whole park with such a skateboard, and as I flew by, I stood out from the crowd.

I can do one trick, a kind-of skateboard pop-a-wheelie. I kick the back of the board and let the front rise up and roll along on just the back wheels. Its always fun to hear little kids yell out as I go along "Woooow! A Skateboard!"

Of course, I see mostly Asians in Singapore. I can't really tell their nationality by their looks. Most people look anything like from Indian to Chinese to Indonesian and everywhere in between. I hear alot of people speak Chinese dialects.

Singapore Languages:
Mandarin (35%), English (23%), Malay (14.1%), Hokkien (11.4%), Cantonese (5.7%) and other Chinese dialects (source: Worldatlas.com). Hokkien is spoken in Fujian province of China. Its like a different language, hardly resembling Mandarin at all. Cantonese is spoken throughout Southern China, particularly Guangdong Province and Hong Kong. Like Hokkien, its sounds like a different language from Mandarin, though they use traditional Chinese characters in writing.

I visited the Chinese Cultural Center in Singapore a week back and saw that many Chinese immigrated to Singapore over the past 100 years, under threat of death, (illegal immigration meant execution 100 years ago) to escape poverty and hardship in their native country.

I have to remember that many of these people maybe of Chinese, Malay, or Indian ancestry, but they are Singaporean. Just like in the states, we have people immigrate from all over, but they become Americans. I think many Singaporeans take pride in their citizenship like we do in the states. They owe their allegiances to Singapore, not the country of their ancestors. Just like I owe my allegiance to the US, not any European country where my ancestors came from.

As I skate along at the park, I turn into a sweaty mess. I'm a little embarrassed, but I take off my shirt and show my white untanned skin to this world of Asians. I'm sure the reflection of intense sunlight temporarily blinds many of them.

Besides a few pot bellies on the men, most Asians are slim. Even the overweight people look slim. Yet, among the younger generation there are a few kids who could use some exercise and reduce their McDonalds intake. At 6 feet tall, though about average in the states, I'm taller and wider than most people here. I have not done any clothes shopping yet, but typically I cannot find shirts with shoulder lengths long enough for me in Asia.

Do Asians use deodorant? I have not attempted any serious smell tests on people, but I hardly have ever seen Speed-Stick or Arrid Extra-Dry sold in stores like we have in the US. Matter of fact, Asian stores usually have some wet oily deodorants, that seem to me, would make things worse under your arms rather than better. And the package is so small you'd have to wipe with that thing several times to make sure you were covered. Maybe in Asia, a little dab will do ya'.

As I skate home, I cross the bridge over the freeway. The sign reads "Do not ride on the overpass, Penalty $1000" Another hallmark of Singapore, signs and fines. It seems to work though, every person who gets to the overpass steps off their bike and walks their bike across.


Friday, August 29, 2008

I am really here

Irfans Eating Place MenuI was sitting at Irfan's Eating Corner, not from my apartment, waiting for my Murtaba. Irfan's Eating Corner is the name of a open-air restaurant that serves various ethnic food. The sign says you can even order

Onion Thosai
Egg Thosai
Masala Thosai
Butter Thosai....

and some other Thosai varieties. But I don't even know what Thosai is. The logo for Irfan's is a big half moon, with a star next to it. Everytime I go into Irfan's, the waiter/owner wants to shake my hand.

He recommends the Murtaba, which I have no clue what that is. His English is about as good as my Hindu (if that is what he speaks), but a least he tells me I have a choice of Chicken or Mutton Murtaba. I choose Chicken.

Its about 5:30 PM, the overcast sky makes me think its later in the day. There is a good crowd of people at Irfan's. Sitting to my left is a old dark-skinned man, maybe Indian or Malay. He wears a beanie, loose fitting clothes and sandles. His skin is weathered, his nose turns downward at the end. He sips a dark orange colored drink.

Then I realize, I am in Singapore. Look at me, here I am sitting outside waiting for Chicken Murtaba, with people around me who don't share much similar culture with me, listening to music that sounds fine, but means nothing to me.

Chicken MurtabaWell, at least I see my Chicken Murtaba arrive. Wow, its delicious! Its fried bread stuffed with chicken, egg, onions, and spices, and comes with curry to dip it in! Yummy!
The waiter gives me a fork and spoon, curiously no knife. I see other guys hold the food down with the spoon and cut with the edge of the knife. I do the same. Pouring helpings of curry over my Murtaba. Wow, its really good. As I concentrate on this delicious meal, cutting away pieces and covering it with curry before stuffing myself and swigging it down with water....where am I now?


Friday, August 22, 2008

Little India

I am writing from a small internet cafe in Little India, with that high pitched Indian music in the background. Why is it that Indian music always sounds like its being played from a speaker system somewhere, its got a funny echo, maybe its recorded that way and intended to sound like like its coming from outside. Little India is actually really interesting to me, everything has a spicy smell, the music blaring from the shops is so distinctly Indian but very upbeat, the shops sell lots of colorful clothes. And of course the streets are full of real people from India. Their skin has a great color, but their faces seem more western to me. The men like to get perms. Nobody dyes their hair, its all a deep black color, and some men like to wear mustaches and turbans. Much of the artwork seems related to religious themes, the people or dieties are full of color and beauty.

People really do eat with their hands, I saw it with my own eyes. I saw two ladies seated at a table with a big plate in front of them. They pick up the rice with their fingers and eat it. The rice sticks to their hand. I would be going crazy to wipe it off, but they didn't seem to mind.

In other news, I will be signing the documents shortly for the new office and can start moving in next week. The hotel I have been staying in moved me into a SMALLER room (which I thought was impossible) because of high occupancy and I had only paid up until Frriday. The new room doesn't even have a window, now I can actually imagine what solotary confinement might be like, but it is cheaper than the old room. Hotels are really expensive in Singapore, expect to pay at least S$130 a night. This new room will only be S$105. Right now, one US dollar is equal to about Singapore $1.36 dollars. I use the abbreviation S$ for Singapore dollars.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Apartment hunting

I got an agent to help. Fortunately, a friend of a friend recommended an agent in Singapore. We spent nearly a week, but finally saw something that worked for me on Sunday. The place is within walking distance of a MRT (Singapore's subway system) station, so it will be convenient to get around Singapore. It was hard to find anything that didn't have two bedrooms, and this one will also have two bedrooms. It's wasted space to me, but hopefully I can find a use for it. Its quiet, that was important to me. Its modern and will have new furniture, I like that. It's got a kitchen, the first time I've had a real kitchen in years. It was more expensive than I wanted, but prices for apartments in Singapore are all outrageous. Basically, despite a slowdown in the world economy, the competition is fierce for places in Singapore. As soon as the one I saw was available, I took it. I felt I had to move.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Variety of Singapore

Singapore's special feature is that it truly is a mix of asian cultures, languages and religions, but the people all consider themselves Singaporian. I was on the train yesterday, to my left was a Indian man, to my right a woman in a white head-dress, probably Malaysian and muslim, and to her right were a Indian woman and her daughter in colorful Indian clothes, and in front of me some Chinese speaking high school students. I thought, amazing...
On another note, as I said before the English here is not what I am used to. Rather than elevator or escalator, people say "Lift". For Exit, they just say "Way Out".....


Friday, August 15, 2008

Sweating in Singapore

Got here about 2 Am yesterday morning. I feel like a several days have past in the last 24hours. Man its hot and humid. Singapore, its exactly how you can imagine a modern international mixed bag of cultures with a colonial history in SE Asia to look like. I am house hunting, living out of a hotel room, that is really like a box, near Little India.

In one day you can hear a plethora of languages. The taxi driver speaks Malay, the salesman at the electronics store spoke Indian, the guys in the elevator speak Tamil, the agent speaks Mandarin Chinese, but speaks Fujian dialect (which is like another language) with friends and family. The signs on the shops and buildings are written in at least 3 languages. I've heard Austrialians (Ozzies) and British accents. Throw in Thai, Indonesian languages, Vietnamese, Philipines, etc etc. You could overhear 10 different languages in a day. Even every channel on the TV is in different language. The English channel just plays CNN all day.

Most people here speak English, but not the English I'm used to. For example you say "thank you", and they say "no worries" like we say "no problem" in the states. They keep saying "Top Off" or "Top Up" for renew or extend or fill up.

With all the various enthnicities, you can imagine all the varity in clothing styles as well. I even watched a fitness program with a woman wearing a head-dress. Nothing like the US and all the spandex. Because of the tropical weather, most business people don't wear ties let alone suits, except in the central business district with air conditioned high rise buidlings.

And food, I can't really say much yet. But by the looks of all the restaurants, there is a lot to discover. Anyway, its honestly a little exasperating to learn everything new again, but what else is new in my life.


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