Thursday, 25 October 2012

Honesty is the best policy

It is often said that honesty is the best policy and I try to live by that rule, but when it comes to your spouse, a little white lie is frequently better. "Yes, Corazon, your singing voice is as good as Bocelli, yes, mi Amor, you've got the moves like Jagger, yes Darling, I liked your fried bean, cucaracha salad better than Jamie Oliver’s."  For the sake of harmony in the marriage, keeping the peace can be more cathartic than being truthful.

Signs are everywhere for massage
This was the case in Phuket, Thailand, at a massage "spa". We had frequented many massage centres for Thai Massage and most of the times, the services were decent, if not exceptional. Before we made our final trek to the northern tip of the island, away from the tourists traps, noise, ladyboys, and partying, we thought we would grab one last quickie, cheap-o massage. We went to an establishment close to our hotel because the sun was blazing at 12:00 p.m. I knew we were in trouble from the minute we entered the run-down shop front called Pimpsia. There was no way I was laying on those flea-infested beds. They screamed of bedbugs, cockroaches and towels that hadn't seen a wash machine since the last monsoon.  R2 was oblivious to this, or at least pretended he was. I went for a foot massage, and he roamed off with some masseuse to a curtained room.

My "lady," and let's just call her a lady for simplicity sake, couldn't take her eyes off of me. I tried to desperately ignore her while she rubbed and caressed my gnarly, beach callused feet. Thank the lord, I had my phone with me and I played a game while the caressing continued. Finally toward the end of the foot massage she informed me that I had a wonderful nose. I know I am no spring chicken anymore, and I have received a few compliments in my day for various attributes, but my nose? It turns out, Thai people enjoy the bridge of the noses on Western people. It is one of the top requests at the Plastic Surgeons, well that is, after they change from a man to a woman. 
Not a place for a "family" massage

As in most foot massages, they escalate to arms, shoulders and head. This tiny Madam continued to tell me I was sexy, hot and gorgeous while she stroked my curls. Oh dear lord, keep massaging and quit looking at me like a giant, sunburnt, ATM machine. I am not going down that road with you.

I was never so happy to have one hour drag by, but poor R2.  While I was being shaken down by a toothless, who-the-heck-knows-what, he was being propositioned only two meters from me. Being propositioned in Thailand is the same as breathing, but what has shaken him to the core is whether it was a man or woman. It seems he was in an awkward position, sans typical Thai massage comfy wear, when the Rubber asked if he was interested in an "off-the-menu-massage."  Not wanting to offend and being in a vulnerable position, he politely declined and said, "I gave my money to my wife that is sitting outside this curtain."  The look on the face of the masseur  was either disgust or calculation on how to get the money from the wifey. He assured her/him, "Next time," which seemed to calm her down.

When he got off the mat, with his dignity, almost intact, he bellowed, "Layna, pay the, uuummm, lady." As in all Latino cultures, a lady paying is foreign so I wondered what the heck was going on. I whipped out his wallet he gave me for safe keeping so we could get the heck outta there and have a much needed, cleansing shower before heading off to a Five Star hotel on Mai Khao beach.

"Please tell me that was a lady," he begged of me.  "Of course Corazonito, it was a lady.  Did you see her hands, that had to be a lady.  No way it was a man, and no, I didn't notice her huge Adam's Apple and slight moustache." Some things I will take with me to the grave, so if you see R2, don't ask him about his final massage in Thailand. Too many painful memories.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

I'm not in love

Thank you to R2 for contributing to this week's blog about life in Singapore from a man's my editor, he was on the other side of the screen and realized how difficult and long the task of writing a blog really is. It was fun for me to be the editor and critique the work before it went live. This blog had several revamps before it was LaynainAsia ready, but somehow, I know you will enjoy.

I'm not in love
So don't forget it
It's just a silly phase I'm going through
And just because, I call you up
10 cc in their "Hey Day"
Don't get me wrong, don't think you've got it made

It was the mid-70s when Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman from the group 10cc were singing they were not in love. What is unbeknownst to most people is the name 10cc refers to the average amount of sperm a healthy male produces in one, well, let’s just say, “Happy Ending.”  “So this is important because?” It relates to just another day in lovestruck Singapore.
Remember these figures: 10cc = 10 ml AND 1 pint = 473 ml MEANING 473 ml = beeeeerrr

In Singapore, a questionable budget hotel with 81 rooms has its busiest day on Sunday, and during peak hours, there is about an hour wait for room inspection. Rack rate is $50 for two hours meaning that every Sunday there is a solid performance of chuga chuga for eight hours. In 10 hours, assuming the wait list is active and people are willing to bide their time, there are 81 rooms producing an average of 10 ml per hour, per room for a total of 8100 ml or 17 pints of semen a day. Only counting this hotel chain with 24 locations around the city with an 80 per cent occupancy on Sunday can be calculated at approximately 326 pints of semen. I fear to do the math on a rainy day because let’s face it, there isn’t anything else to do in Singapore when the rainy season hits.
"Special" hotels all over Singapore
LaynainAsia and I live near a budget hotel and we notice on hot days, which is about 363 of them, there is a particularly large amount of sheets waiting to be laundered outside the hotel. The stench is pungent, I mean, right in your face, pungent. Asia has a gamey smell at the best of times, but this is particularly ripe. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Who's da Man?

Since R2 and I have known each other, we have bantered around the idea of an international student coming to live with us, preferably a Spanish speaker. My Spanish speaking husband lacks patience listening and correcting my Spanglish, so he thought he could foist me on some unsuspecting foreign kid from Colombia, Mexico or Uruguay. I, in turn would corrupt any Latino with my slang, cliches and colloquialisms while they listen to me blathering on about nada.

This idea never developed in Canada, unless you count the 17-year-old German kid that almost burned down my house by putting an entire pizza, box and all, into my oven and jacking up the oven to a roaring 400F. The blood vessels in my temple still throb when I think of that less-than-brilliant darling.

Whilst in Singapore, it seems I have more time on my hands because social lunches, cycling, Zumba, Krav Maga, hiking, writing for a Singaporean website and a Canadian newspaper and who can forget, schlepping groceries, takes such little time. R2 thought getting a student would be my new project to keep me occupied; my new pet, if you will. After 17 years of working, to suddenly not...well it plays on some hidden corner within your psyche.

First Hawker Center for dumpling and noodles
We envisioned a young, demure, quiet girl from Latin American, but what we got was a hotshot, corporate lawyer from EspaƱa. All I can say ladies, if you are on the hunt for a handsome man, grab the nearest flight to Barcelona, or if your daughter is slagging on the couch with a wanna-be rap star, with his pants down around his knees, kick him to the curb and get your girl on "the rain in Spain, stays mainly on the" plane.

What? Never eaten Corn On The Cob?
Man arrived from Spain, toting two huge suitcases filled with his worldly possession that will keep him occupied for the next nine months in Singapore while he learns extensive English. Like a true Singaporean, I wanted to show him some of the beauty this city boasts before he started school. Within the first few days of arriving, we played tour guide and attended a concert in the Botanic Gardens, clued him in to Hawker food, bought live fish at the Wet Market watching as the head was hacked off, and this was only the beginning. I introduced him to his first taste of Corn On The Cob and almost burned his lips off with Bird's Eye Chili. I gave him VIP tickets to attend Zouk nightclub, one of the premier discos in Singapore, thanks to my writing. When he became throughly tired of the big city, we raced bicycles up and down the beach. I showed him the reflexology paths you see in various locations scattered throughout Singapore, so his feet could experience the sharp rocks that Asians adore.

A friend from the UK trying the foot paths
When I thought Man was down and out for the count, he rose like a phoenix from the ashes when R2 staggered in from the Formula 1 racing event and said, "Tengo un boleto gratis a Katy Perry si quieres ir," which translates to, "Dude, get your 25-year-old rear outta the chair and hit this Katy concert." Man jumped up like his calzones were on fire and sprinted out the door. I think he forgot his first day of school was at 9:00 a.m. but that is the life of the young.

So far, the arrangement has worked out well. He will water my plants when we travel, I am speaking more Spanish than anyone thought possible, and Man, well, he will do well in the corporate world with my flawless command of the English language. You never know when "Get outta my face," will come in handy.

There are days I think I have died and gone to heaven with two handsome Latinos in the kitchen whipping up Spanish Paella and Mexican Sopes. I sit like a lady of leisure as they wash the dishes, take out the trash and all I have to do is make a sweet pitcher of Sangria. Often my mind will daydream that I am in the middle of a Harlequin romance novel. Fabio and his trusty sidekick are in the kitchen, luxurious, flowing locks in a hairnet, sweating over a wok, while the damsel in distress lays on the couch with the remote control all to herself.  Well, a girl can fantasize can’t she?

Our newly adopted "Sun", as I call him, is making headway to becoming my favorite child. I told Number One daughter in God's Country, Alberta, Number Two son in Bring Cash, B.C. and Number Two Point Five stepson in the Great State of Texas they might have to rock, paper, scissors to see which one of them can remain in the family unit because four is too many for me to manage unless they all take up cooking and dishwashing.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Every step - a Kodak moment

How can I describe India except for insane chaos as you try to dodge around traffic and bewildered-looking animals in poverty stricken, foul cities? You will witness children playing in pool of filthy water and walk barefoot where farm animals defecate and men urinate at free will in the streets.  You will be scammed, you will be ripped off and yet amongst this frenzy, you will find a colourful, Kodak moment at every corner. As much as I hated India my first trip, on the second trip, I learned to embrace the madness and enjoy my time; maybe I am used to Asia.  These are some of the photos we took as I was hounded, followed and asked to pose around Bangalore and Kovalam. For larger images, click on the photos.

Local artists painstakingly makes marble inlay plates

Amber (Amer) Fort and Palace in Jaipur - magnificent

It took most of the day to investigate Amber Fort

Selling nuts on the streets of Bangalore (Bengaluru)

Ganesh welcomes you to Shiv Mandir Temple in Bangalore

Planting grass by hand in Lalbagh Garden

People who asked for my photo in Kovalam

More photo takers so I asked for theirs

My trusty driver, Rafiq

Always watching

Old man outside the Masjid (Mosque) in Kovalam

Every person is photo worthy in India

Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram City

Reflection at Kovalam Beach

Colourfully dressed women leaving the temple

Selling instruments outside the temple

The dress for men in the temple

R2 with local IT girls

Cleaning their feet before entering the temple

Waiting for business

It is a carnival atmosphere outside the temple

Everyone needs a drum, don't they?

India's answer to Facebook

Strolling in the Botanic Gardens

This woman wouldn't stop watching me. Maybe my face was dirty.

R2 found a swing but it was too high for me

Many locals on the beach in Kovalam

Our resort was breathtaking with local statues

Darga Sherief Mosque, Kovalam, India

Monday, 1 October 2012

Oh, Canalah?

Don't lose your head over the small stuff

There is a variety of reasons the days fly by and I seem to get nothing accomplished. When my children were babies, it was the same, except I was waiting for a baby to wake, waiting for a baby to sleep, waiting for a baby to eat, and finally waiting while my puke-stained clothes washed. In Singapore however, I seem to be waiting for the sun, waiting for the rain, waiting to chat with my Canadian friends, waiting to tell my Singapore friends about my Canadians friends, and finally waiting while my sweat-stained clothes wash.

One in every three days I am held up by an almost identical conversation when I do manage to get to a store. The conversation almost always goes like this:

Where are you from, lah?
Me: "Do you have minced chicken?" I learned the hard way not to ask for ground meat because they invariably look down at the floor and wonder why I want chicken from underfoot.
Them: "No, lah. Where you from? Australia?"
Me: "No, guess again," to which every country is named and I shake my head back and forth until my brains start to rattle.
Them: "England, lah? Sweden, lah? Scotland, lah? New Zealand, lah? United States of America, lah? Germany, lah?" And on it goes. 

When I start to lose my patience and sweat drips from every crack, crevice, fat roll and pore onto the ground beneath me, I finally reply, "Canada, for the love of God, Canada." I really don't say the God thing, but in my mind I am screaming. 

Canada always gets a quizzical stare and when the lightbulb goes off, they repeat, "Ayio, Ka-NA-da!" because I am certain I have been saying Canada wrong for all these years. 

Are you from Russia, lah?
Then the game concludes:

Them: "Toronto, lah? Vancouver, lah?"
Me: "No, no, Sa SKAT chew wan."
Them: "Oh, never heard of it lah, and no minced chicken for you, maybe tomorrow. Next!"

Off I glow to another store and the Country-lah game begins again.

Like the game, and why they say lah at the end of most sentences, I am as curious about Singaporeans as they are about me, but Canadian manners prevent me from asking. I don't ask how much they make, if they work, how much their house cost, what the rent on their condo is, if their spouse cheats on them and if they have a sports car. These are only a handful of questions asked of me since I landed on the Little Red Dot. 

The Merlion, not my neighbor
One of the most burning questions I have is of a mysterious neighbor and his guttural sounds. Try as I may, I can't locate the source of this disturbance, but without fail, I know he is nearby every morning at 7:30.

Some people have the luxury of waking up to dreamlike music, some a buzzing alarm, and some even have a real-time rooster crowing for that back-to-nature experience.  Oh, but not Layna and definitely not R2. We are the unfortunate conferrees of waking to, well, the only way I can describe the noise, is your college roommate after 12 beers, two tequila shots, a plateful of greasy pizza and a ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl. Yes, that is the sound, every morning at 7:30. It isn't just one Tilt-a-Hurl either. It is an ongoing series of spew-induced cacophony that goes on for five minutes or more. I am not certain how he manages the noise and what his weapon of choice is. I have heard that toothbrushes make a great bulimic upchuck tool, but in this case, it is so loud, I think he is using chopsticks, or perhaps a plunger.

Something smells on this Metro, Luc, is it you?
R2 and I have run to our rooftop garden and hidden amongst the Lipstick Palms trying to locate the retching, to no avail. We have stood in our bathrooms and imitated the sounds in stereo with the hope that the "offender" would get the hint.  No such luck; so now we have just learned to live and let growl, and appreciate the wake up call. I now scoff at those softies that have the gradual light, muzik, hippy-guru alarm clock for a peaceful transition to consciousness. 

There are many mysteries of the Orient that we will never understand. I can understand the "lah" because as a Canadian, I am proud of my "eh."  I know clothes will never fit my 5’9 frame. I can handle the inquisition about where I am from and why I am here but I just can't get past the hawk tooeying, the lack of personal space, the smells on the metro and the wake up call to end all wake up calls. 

You ain't from around here, is ya?
I am married to a "self-proclaimed" White Beaner from Mexico. There are times when the frijoles run amok in our house after a bean burrito feast, but I can assure you, we don't broadcast our orchestral bodily function sounds from the rooftop as this mystery man seems to enjoy sharing. Until we can return to Canada, I must embrace Asia, for the clangor, the confusion, the never-ending traffic and the inquisitive people.  At least I am warm!