Sunday, 20 May 2012

Miss Manners, Where Are You?

I will never miss this
Often weeks go by without missing Canada but I surmise with my son visiting, missing what is familiar is front and centre. Without stating the obvious, there are many things I miss about Canada, and of course, there are things I hope to never experience again. Who can forget the never-ending winter of 2011?

I am going to start with what all expats miss. It is not talked about much for fear of sounding like a raging alcoholic, but I miss Canadian prices on booze. Hard to believe, but I will never complain about paying all the taxes imposed on Canucks at the liquor outlets as long as I live. The price for alcohol in Singapore is astronomical and can land you in the poor house faster than a cockroach can invade your drawers.  

I vaguely remember a glass of wine at dinner
Some will say you can get a huge bottle of Tiger Beer at the Hawker station for $6 but I don't drink beer and I can't sit in a steam bath to indulge in a beverage I detest. Slugging a brew and sitting in a puddle of sweat just isn't on my Top 10 Things to Do in Singapore list.


A glass of wine in any establishment will run you about $18 plus for the dodgiest of grapes.  That is the going rate for most cocktails, and if you buy your own, be prepared to shell out major change. So like all expats, we fly out on the weekend and come back through the airport grabbing cheaper hootch at the Duty Free stores. I know this sounds strange but you can often get a $0 flight and save $50 on a tequila so makes perfect sense to us.

I miss courtesy and my personal space. In Singapore, it can be so congested that people lack manners and common sense when it comes to offering a seat on the MRT to one who needs it more than you.  God forbid you miss playing Draw Something for your twenty minute journey. Why would you possibly give up your seat to the 90 year old one-eyed man when you have to text your bud two seats down?  Be warned, when I come back, if I am in Costco at Christmas with a huge order of groceries, I am ramming you with my cart to get the best chocolates and cutting in the queue, pretending I don't see you.  

My parents had the good sense to instil courtesty and manners, but I fear I have lost all sense of right and wrong since you fight for every inch of breathing room in this sweltering over-populated country. Yesterday I took a tumble in a famous hotel. I managed to cut my leg in a few places and had blood gushing from surface cuts.  Not one eyebrow was raised as I limped to the MRT and not one person stood to offer me a seat.  I know they saw because I had a few noses turned up at the sight of my blood dirtying the train.

I was never one to watch television but there are rare times you want to numb your brain with a reality show. Unless you love Bollywood or Malay soap operas, you are out of luck with regular cable. I have tried to pick up online tv but no luck with IP addresses blocked in Asia. Oh well, I wonder if Ramadeep and Jalaja will marry without their parents' consent?


What is all this strange fruit anyway?
One day I will be able to open a package of cookies without them becoming soggy in five minutes and I know that at some point of my life, I will be able to buy ice cream and bring it home without it turning into a chocolate chip puddle before I find the subway station. There will be a way to have a shower and not sweat the moment I begin to towel dry.

South East Asia is a cultural wonderland and every day is a new challenge.  Some days are positive, some days not so much. Even the simplest task from Canada becomes an episode of Survivor, whether it involves manoeuvring your way to the subway during rush hour, procuring groceries in 35C heat with no car or deciphering alien fodder at a Hawker Centre. To keep my humour when times seem tough I remember to celebrate my small accomplishments. I just wish I could celebrate with an unaffordable glass of champange instead of a wine glass full of no-name grape juice.

(Follow Layna in Asia on Mexico on My Mind site for her perspective of travels in Mexico)

16 comments:

  1. Aww Layna you do sound homesick. It does get easier with time and you do become a bit more numb to the more annoying parts of living here. The good definitely outweighs the bad but I know some days it doesn't feel like that. Hang in there m'dear or if things get bad pop over some day for a So You Think You Can Dance, America's Next Top Model, American Idol, Got to Dance etc etc marathon!

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  2. Hey now, We got the ice cream home, just took lots of running and rushing :)


    -Sam

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  3. and of course you miss the 23852358 hour daily wait in a tim hortons line up!!


    -luc

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    1. That is one thing I will never miss....Tim Hortons...the Copi Ice here is wonderful at the Hawkers Station down the street.

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  4. Awww Layna...sending you hugs! Keep on exploring and enjoying everything...even the annoying stuff. Well written article...made me laugh out loud as I can picture it all.

    Jody

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    1. Thank you Jody - I will be fine tomorrow. Once I know the boy is back safe and sound in Canada and I start to get on with my daily business of life in my new home.

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  5. before you know it ,it will be time to come home to canada.the year is half over
    rs

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    1. And then on to the next adventure!

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  6. you need to make some side trips to HK, where their wine prices are approaching those of California's! now we're going to have to think about how long we should plan on being in Singapore when we visit!

    Cheers
    Douglas

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    1. Now you are talking my language Douglas...Hong Kong - that sounds like a great side trip.

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  7. Layna, (from Alberta Kim) I love that we get to experience both sides of this adventure with you. The vastness of space and the availability of almost anything we need, that we can easily get in Canada - I imagine, has made you aware of how we really live. I remember one of my brother in laws, moving from a wet heat area, back to our dry heat region, sitting on the lawn chair outside, drinking a beer, inhaling the dry air, commenting, that out of everything he missed, he missed the dry air the most.

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    1. The humidity makes our skin so soft but you always have that "glow" about you. Many people carry a "sweat" rag and constantly wipe their faces. Wearing Makeup is almost non-existant here because it tends to roll off your face. I do everything to get the humidity out of the house, but I am losing that battle. I do enjoy the occasional stink inside the ice box though!

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  8. Looking forward to a little humidity and heat since we are looking at a possible snowfall and frost this evening - happy planting to all Canadians - who says plant after Victoria Day weekend - ha! I'll be happy for strange fruit and veggies cause mine are probably frozen! The great White North vs. the great escape to Singy! Hugs, sista - see you in 2 months!

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    1. Snow in May is never a good thing! The heat in Singapore and Thailand will make up for the snow in May and then some!

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  9. I remember the winter of 2011! Lucas it overseeint my every move so I hope I can do this without him. Waiting to see what your Times Herald story of the week will be.
    Love Mom,

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    1. Sounds good. Glad Luc is good for something!

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