23 August 2006

Notes from a small island

I'm not talking about Britain (Bill Bryson has already done written that book), but Singapore where I had to make a short day-trip yesterday. It was a long day, involving a 4am wake-up and a midnight return home but was very enjoyable.

1) I thought speaking English would get me around the place just fine and it did until I encountered the funniest cabbie I have ever met on my way back to the airport. He was a complete chatterbox who couldn’t stop talking about how good Singapore was and then giving a no-holds barred criticism of Jakarta. He was speaking really excitedly and loudly and making big hand-gestures as well so I had to try hard to stifle my laughter.

If that wasn’t enough, he did it all in the strongest Singlish I have ever heard. Everything was “la!” Normally you can just insert a few missing verbs and adjectives in to a Singlish sentence to understand what’s being said but with this guy I didn’t have a clue. I think he knew it as well because he told me it was his birthday and the following exchange ensued:

Me: “Oh, happy birthday!”
Him: “Eh, you don’t believe one! Today my birthday ah! It is la!”
Me: “Yeah, I know. Happy Birthday!”
Him: “Eh, I no joking. I fifty-four today.”
Me: “Yeah, happy birthday”
Etc etc etc until I gave him a bigger than normal tip at the airport so that he knew I really did believe it was his birthday.

It’s really easy to slip in to that language when someone’s speaking it to you but, as I was already laughing anyway, I had to try really hard not to move in to Singlish in case he thought I was taking this piss. I was still laughing on the plane.

2) Women in Singapore seem to be obsessed with being skinny. I passed a few pharmacists and couldn’t help but notice that the biggest adverts by them were all for slimming products and that inside they all had entire sections of shelves dedicated to weight-loss. I started to understand why even very slim Singaporean girls I know think they are fat.

3) The purpose of going to Singapore was to meet someone and sort a few things out with them for Dad. I got to the office at 2pm, when I thought the meeting was supposed to be but the receptionist was surprised to see me as I didn’t seem to have an appointment. Eventually the person turned up but I spent the 15 minutes I waited for them going over all the different ways that Dad could kill me if I’d got the day or time wrong but gone all the way to Singapore anyway. I came to the conclusion that he wouldn’t kill me but give me a telling-off so big that it would seem as if I had died but come back. I don’t think I’ve ever sweated so much while sitting down in an air-conditioned room.

4) Most of all, it was great seeing some old friends again. Shiling was the perfect host. She took time out from her workday to see my sister and I, show us around a bit and took us to lunch. I am indebted to you Shiling. You are too kind to us. Met Jean and Eugenia at Orchard Road, and those two are always a good laugh so had a great time there too. Many apologies to everyone I couldn’t see because you were at work or at college. I’m gutted not to have seen everyone. Hopefully I can come again for a longer time and on a non-workday so there’ll be more time to see you all.


Post a Comment

<< Home