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The chronicles of two Portlanders in Singapore

It was an almost forgotten feeling as I walked down the slope towards the food centre and wet market. The sun was just peeking out from behind the high rises1ours included on Holland Hill, but there was a gentle breeze and the kiss of spring, something a month in tropical weather had robbed me of.

I was… nearly… cold.

Of course at 89% humidity, I was still layered in a thin coat of sweat, the armor that all islanders wear, I’ve learned, but I paid it no heed. The breeze, the spring feeling, almost made me wish I had put on pants. Of course, I would do no such thing – it was a day that reminded me of those rare California spring mornings, that odd and not-often gap between the rainy season and summer. How could I hide my skin on a day like this?

It rained last night, not something to note, really, but it was the first storm that I’ve seen last over an hour since I’ve got here. Most days a sprinkle as a passing afternoon storm brushes the coasts and sprays a little water in our direction. Some days, it passes right overhead, thunder reverberating in time with the flashes of lightning that illuminate the surrounding area like a strobe light. But last night was different – it was a series of storms, or just one large one, that carried into the sunset hours, the strobe all the much brighter against the night. Purple and blue bolts were visible from our patio, and the rain never let up.

All the while, I never heard hide nor hair on news sites about the storm. This too, I suppose is part of the new normal, at least judging by the lack of reaction.  I suppose it stands to reason, but for someone whose experience with “tropical” ends with a week on Maui, or in Baja, it is a new experience, and one to both fear and behold in wonder.  After all, it’s what this experience is all about.

The morning was still wet, more than just condensed dew, but the remnants of the soaking last night still turning dirt into slushy mud, and the leaves of grass in the park studded with drops.  It was also apparently a day for maintenance, as what I presume were city workers mowing the grass with hand-held weed-whackers, buzz saws for the rough and not really well-maintained.  They would stop as foot traffic passed by, a remarkable courtesy for none of us pedestrians were wearing any protective gear.  I wondered if someone had pulled that job in the US, would they have stopped, or would they have just kept plowing on, determined to get the job done.  No doubt the mowing added to the sense of spring.  The smell of newly cut grass, a scent of memory and attraction alike for me, has long been associated with vibrant spring days, where memories of baseball diamonds and lazy Sunday mornings in San Luis Obispo drift through my mind, as if they too were scents on the air.

The chicken vendor in the wet market smiled and waved at me, no doubt I’m recognizable amongst a population significantly smaller in stature and with a darker skin tone than I.  I smiled and nodded back, but I didn’t need to visit him today – I still had wings and a breast in my fridge, a portion of my mind already turning on what I would render those into tonight.  Instead, I went upstairs, sat with some “coffee o”2“Kopi,” or “Coffee,” here implies hot water, condensed milk and sugar, sort of a sweetened cafe au lait.  “Kopi o” is without milk.  “Kopi o kosong” is plain black coffee, using the Malay term for “zero”, meaning “add nothing at all.”  You’re welcome, future coffee drinkers of Singapore. and sampled nasi lemak3literally, “coconut rice” with an egg and “sausage”4it was more of a hot dog..  The fans upstairs in the hawker centre weren’t really needed, it felt like a gale there, but it was cool, and the coffee hot and fragrant.

I walked back through the markets, picking up some red bean and kaya5coconut jam rolls and some assorted veggies and fruits for today.  As I approached the lobby and its air-conditioned confines, I could easily see the fogging of the lobby windows as the increased humidity and stale air of the carpark started to register on me and I began to sweat once again.  Spring, even if it lasts 30 minutes here, is always welcome.

Especially if it doesn’t carry the 500 tons of pollen like Oregon’s does.

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