Stories from Singapore and Passages from Penang

Whoo! It’s been a little while since I’ve blogged and my memory is a little hazy around all the things that have happened. I’ll try and be brief, but concision is not my forté so I apologise in advance!

After my last entry, we had another late start, and decided to breakfast at an organic vegetarian cafe I had found on a blog, partially because it was nearby, but mainly because it sounded like it served Western breakfasts (an important grounding ritual for Beth in such a foreign culture). We found our way there and had our minds exploded by the quality of the food, so healthy, so pure, made with love and effort… It was quite a foodgasmic experience.

Elated by our success, we headed to Gardens By the Bay, a widescoping outdoor gardens with two gigantic indoor domes. The outdoor gardens contained flora from various countries in Asia (as far as I could tell, that was what grew most successfully in the humid heat), and amazing as they were, we were visiting at the hottest time of day and had other priorities. We headed swiftly for the air-conditioned Cloud Forest dome, containing within it what appeared to be an entire rainforest, set upon an artificial mountain, with a spectacularly cascading waterfall several dozen metres high. Beth looked incredibly radiant with the mist in her hair and her flowing top and loose shorts, and she very bravely stepped out onto the tree-top walk to survey the ecosystem from the railing above. We stopped for a sneaky agli olio and chocolate cake dessert, with an accompanying sparkling elderflower juice, before hitting up the Flower dome. We spent a few minutes admiring the furry succulents and pebble-like stone plants, before hastily returning to the hotel for some immediate R&R.

Ivy had invited us for drinks at Clarke/Robertson Quay (respectively the clubbing and cafe districts by the waterside), but Beth wasn’t feeling too up to a night out. Instead, I journeyed into the surprisingly deep cultural centre of Little India to find a recommended vegetarian eaterie. It felt great wandering the streets independently, going wherever I pleased and almost looking like I fit in. Perhaps a little too much so, for an elderly Chinese man approached me and asked me something in Mandarin. Did I politely respond that I couldn’t help him? Did I apologise and explain I didn’t understand Chinese? Nope. I startled like a deer in the headlights, then hurriedly pushed past him rather than trying to formulate a response. The food, as it so happened, was deliciously spicy, and if given the chance I’d eat there a hundred times over. Beth and I ate it out of the takeaway containers while watching (a very stressful) Poseidon. And speaking of TV, have I mentioned anything about the censorship? We were watching the first Sex and the City movie, and they edited out all of the sex scenes so half of the jokes/transitions didn’t make any sense. They showed Charlotte and her husband about to get it on, but censored out a gay kiss. And in How I Met Your Mother, they just silenced the word “penis” whenever it was used. Ahh Singapore, you crazy conservative cat you.

Ivy joined us for breakfast the next day. We returned to that amazing organic vegetarian place, but unfortunately a number of different websites conflicted about the opening time and we ended up arriving half an hour before it opened. That, coupled with their fifteen minute late start nearly caused me to miss my flight. We ended up catching a taxi instead of taking the train, so it turned out okay in the end! But let’s return to the food: gluten-free pancakes, pineapple fried rice and some kind of eggy-bread magic. Incredible. I know it’s silly, but I’m really hoping to go back to Singapore to eat there again! It was such a wonderful experience. Plus the company was rare and excellent, making it a lovely way to end the trip. Once at the airport I shot straight off to the departure gate, while Beth had the misfortune (or perhaps the pleasure?) of spending a few hours in Changi airport until her flight departed.

Thence I found myself in Penang, Malaysia, and I can cease my writing and revert to the time-honoured tradition of the copy and paste.

***

Anyway, the gist of the message that I wrote out last night was thus: I didn’t realise how instantly and painfully I would miss you as soon as we left. It was like part of me had been torn away, and I miss you so much. I feel so isolated and separate. I hope that your flight wasn’t too uncomfortable and that you enjoy a rejuvenating few days. I’m confronted with an overwhelming sense of panic as I’m not sure what to do with myself over the next few days- my anxiety is definitely getting worse. Lines help, but only a little. I guess I’ll keep at it and try not to get stuck up in my head.

I’m also feeling super vulnerable… I didn’t recognise that’s what the source of my anxiety was, but it makes a lot of sense now. I’m in an unknown place with unknown people, feeling largely alone and lost and helpless. What comfort and entertainment I brought with me (my 3DS and AFFC) is about removing myself from this uncomfortable reality and getting lost in a happier one. I don’t want to keep doing that- I want to be able to be happy here and now, but I just feel so… vulnerable.

I’m missing you so much baby. I’m feeling pretty insecure, and I know a little of how rude it is to just whip out my book when there’s conversation abound. But I’m just so uncomfortable. I hoped it was cultureshock, but I think it’s just me feeling uncomfortable because most of my usual comforts have been stripped away.

***

I finished A Feast For Crows last night. It ended on such a major cliffhanger that I promptly went out and bought A Dance With Dragons, rather than waiting another week until I could borrow it off your Mum. It was a real pleasure to read, which surprised me. [Someone], you’ll be pleased to know, is [spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoilered]. I can’t wait to find out what happens next! Well, I can, seeing as I’m writing this instead… But I’ll resume reading soon!

This morning Wu Shu took us back to his place and we did a “Hard” level Sodoku together. I had given up many times but he, apparently a numerical genius, gave me hints and numbers here and there until we solved it after perhaps an hour. It was more satisfying than I knew it could be. Thereafter we earned a very late lunch (3pm) and went to the bookstore. I bought Sin Ler “Tomorrow When the War Began” because I assume she’ll enjoy it (having learned she devoured The Hunger Games). She has a stack of other books to read (including “Young Samurai”, “Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus”, “Warrior” (kitty cats) and other really cool young adult series) so it might be a while before she gets round to it.

Gotta go now, get ready for Badminton at 5:30. Tomorrow we’re going for a walk to the Botanical Gardens, and maybe to climb/hike up Penang Hill afterwards. I love Penang a great deal more than KL, though they’re both pretty good once I get out of my head. I love you. Talk to you again soon!

***

Heya gorgeous. I’m feeling a lot better since I sent that email. I did spend a lot of time stuck in my head, and I puzzled out a few reasons why I was feeling so uncomfortable. Foremost is because I’m in a foreign culture and I don’t know how to do anything like get food or go out to have a good time – I rely on everyone else to provide sustenance and entertainment for me. I didn’t have this problem in England because I was familiar with the culture and was more or less independent. It’s quite uncomfortable being so dependent and vulnerable in an unknown place. Furthermore, there actually *is* no one to talk to. It’s not just my imagining it, but I really am quite isolated here, even by my mother (who will often be talking about me with the people around us in Hokkien, and won’t explain what she said unless I ask her for a translation). But for lunch, Wu Shu took us out to a fancy restaurant on the top floor of his Aquatic Club. The view was beautiful, the food was great and Sin Ler (the 12yo who came to Australia) speaks excellent English. I had a great time and it allowed me to get out of my increasingly panicked head. Afterwards we had tea and biscuits (Chinese-style!) and I watched Sin Ler play Insaniquarium. It was so good to play a video game and not feel judged for not being present (or for being the loner in the corner on his gameboy). 3DS’, by the way, are 1000 ringgit here. That’s about $320AU. I sincerely doubt I’ll get any StreetPass hits while I’m here! [As it so happened, I got three. Two of them were from the US, and one of them was from Western Australia. No wonder nobody has any consoles when they’re all thousands of ringit to buy.]

More stories to come!

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One thought on “Stories from Singapore and Passages from Penang

  1. […] my recent adventures in London, York, Yorkshire, the Peak District, Singapore (parts 1 and 2), Penang and Ipoh. The formatting isn’t great, and captions make it worse, so you’ll just have to […]

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