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The chronicles of two Portlanders in Singapore

acclimation n. ac·cli·ma·tion \ˌa-klə-ˈmā-shən, -ˌklī-\
1: the process or result of acclimating
physiological adjustment by an organism to environmental change
3: to accustom or become accustomed to a new environment or situation; adapt

“Are you a tourist?” he asked, a gentle smile added to let me know that he didn’t or wouldn’t think of less of me had I answered in the affirmative.

“I’m trying not to be,” I responded, my tone matching his smile, my own smile my trademark, one corner of my mouth sharply rising, my teeth barely visible.  He laughed.  “I moved here three weeks ago.”  He nodded and went back to his nasi lemak1literally, “coconut rice”.

The food was actually the point.  I have already become a major fan of “hainanese chicken rice”, or just “chicken rice” as it’s known here2Full disclosure, I’ve already been a fan of the Thai version back in Portland, known as “khao man gai”, due to a fantastic version we have there due to a woman named Nong Poonsukwattana.  Her khao man gai is amazing.  If you live in Portland, eat it., but I haven’t been as adventurous as I thought I might.  The amount of variation you’ll find in a hawker centre is intimidating, with unfamiliar combinations and names.  However, his dish, the aforementioned rice, came with what looked to be a sausage patty and a fried egg, looking like a perfect breakfast.  Indeed, it’s considered a traditional breakfast in Malaysia, where the dish is apparently one of their national foods.  Of course, I would learn this afterwords, as I filed the dish in my mind for “Things I need to Google”.

The food wasn’t actually the point.  The point is, I didn’t sweat once while we talked.  I went back to my chicken rice, liberally applying the chili sauce to my rice and took another swig of water.  I actually didn’t care if I looked the part of the tourist, I live here, damnit, and I’ll work my in, one way or another.  The process of acclimation is slow, but it’s a process that’s in… well, process.

There are good days and bad days, as to be expected, but the object of this exercise, where we drop a couple of roses 13 thousand kilometers from home38,000 miles, true believers! and expect them to flourish in 80% humidity, is to work on getting that number of bad days lower, and to make those good days count for something remarkable.

It was a good couple of days.  A full week of work for Beverly, a beginning to the rhythm that we’ll find ourselves following for the next 17 months and change, they came with challenges, beyond a doubt, but with rewards as well.  We explored the local markets together, found commonality in linguistic challenges4the West coast “accent”, which many of my friends and family will be confused by as was I until I started reading about the way we pronounce our vowels – cot and caught, y’all – is not very compatible with an accented version of the Queen’s English.  Most people’s accent here almost reminds me of a Caribbean English accent, not a lot of ‘r’s. and, most significantly, we gained new freedom in getting a car.

We drove – well, full disclosure again, I drove – for the first time today on city streets, a quick jaunt to MacRitchie Reservoir, a local hiking area that is supremely popular with islanders.  Too popular, as we found, the carpark5quick linguistic variation, local, “cahrpahk”, say it aloud as you would – I would say it enunciated as two words, car park, pronouncing both r’s. as completely full with a queue of cars vulturing for every spot.  I was non-plussed, Beverly was pissed.  However, we found something up the road, working in tandem to discover Lower Pierce Reservoir, a smaller hike but one winding through an impressive nature reserve, with signs illustrating the shy inhabitants of the reserve – we saw no monkeys, nor snakes6praise Satan but we did see a few wild chicken, two roosters, one with a family of chicks in tow.  I gave no odds on their survival rate if snakes were present.

Driving was not nearly as stressful as I imagined, however, it’s not the flow of traffic that’s an issue, that honestly wasn’t an issue at all.  It was the configuration of the car, with the driver’s console on the right hand side of the car.  That presented me with all sorts of challenges – small things, from the turn signal and wiper control being switched on the steering column, to the gear shift (automatic, thankfully) being operated with the left hand instead of the right.  The later proved to be a bit of stress as I mistakenly took a service road as a legitimate turn, only to find a gated entrance.  I had to then back up on to the busy major street and quickly get moving forward.  I found a large enough break in traffic to do so, and laughed about it with Bev for the rest of the day.  The best part I think were the passing runners who stared at me with incredulous looks and perhaps in their minds wondered, “Is he a tourist.”

Well, I’m trying not to be.  That’s the process.

Categories: The New Normal

Comments (2)

  • Meg . April 19, 2015 . Reply

    wow! Singapore still drives on the left?! And you had a stick?

    Good for you.

    When we moved to the U.S. My wife made me sit in the back seat of the car because. Got so panic stricken

    • (Author) Joshua . April 19, 2015 . Reply

      Yeah they drive on the left, they’ve really embraced their British heritage in a lot of ways. I think I used the wrong word, we have an automatic, not a stick-shift, but still when backing up, it’s a challenge to remember that I have to put in reverse on the left hand, not the right. 🙂

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