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The chronicles of two Portlanders in Singapore

The famed Singapore haze has arrived.

Maybe “Singapore haze” is disingenuous.  Indonesian haze or Malaysian haze would be more accurate, as the summer fires and clear burns create a smokey film over the skies here, carried by the trade winds.  The end result is the same, an “overcast” day when the only prescription is to close all your windows, turn on the ol’ air con and watch football.

Wait, what?

Football is back – American rules football, that is, for those readers from places other than North America, where it’s football or fútbol, and sometimes “footy”.  College football opened this weekend, and for us here in Singapore, Saturday night’s games were Sunday morning fare, a parody of congruity.  The game shown on FOX this weekend was actually a NBC broadcast, Norte Dame vs. Texas, in what turned out to be a terribly one-sided affair for the home team in South Bend.  Regardless of the outcome, it stirred something within to see the good ol’ game of gridiron being played once again, and to hear the iconic Norte Dame “Victory March” in the background of the broadcast.

Some things just take you back home in a heartbeat.

Still, life adapts.  House-bound by terrible haze and heat, Bev and I engaged in a lot of video gaming, the erstwhile Peppie scoring achievements and mounts; my virtual alter ego was that of the mayor and city planner of “Portland”, playing Cities: Skylines.  For those that have set their home regions that feature driving on the left hand side, you can enable that setting within your virtual town, which I did to help reinforce the mirrored driving perspective.  My version of Portland, built on a lowlands delta, had flyovers and underpasses sweeping around intersections, tunneled expressways and roundabouts.  In short, the type of roadways you’d see here, and with the unlimited money mod turned on.

Why didn’t I call the city Singapore?

The week was one of recovery.  I developed a bit of a cough and a cold, no doubt related in some way to the sore throat and two hours of Saigon exhaust.  Beverly was finally back in her office after two weeks of travel.  I made chicken tortilla soup, pleased that five months away from the Americas hasn’t dulled my sense of American spice.  I wrote, a lot, having homework from a writer friend1who has requested that she be referred to by alias, so say hello to Emma Poutine, because I cannot resist teasing Canadians to create 10 plot treatments for the fantasy novel I’ve ben struggling over.  We even ordered pizza delivery to try it out; the new normal of the daily routine.

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It wasn’t all new normal, though.  Beverly had planned a night out with two of her coworkers, who wanted to take us to try some more of the local flavor.  This time it was bak kut teh, literally, “meat bone tea”, a Chinese soup traditionally served with pork ribs cooked in the soup.  Our meal consisted of many different pig parts, ribs, spare ribs, trotters, even liver and kidney.  We skipped on the tripe, but it should be said there are few parts of the pig that aren’t tasty.  Rice noodles and steamed leafy veggies2I didn’t catch what it was, it was a bit bitter? also came served in the soup, fried dough was served on the side for dipping.

The pork was divine.  Spare ribs that fell off the bone with the amazing free-flow soup constantly marinating the meat.  The trotters were roasted before cooked in the soup, giving a dark, rich broth within in the bowl they were served in.  The meat was perfectly cooked, even Beverly got into the act, though I told her they were pig’s feet after she ate them.  I had never had pork kidney or liver before, but both were good, a tough, springy quality that you would expect from liver or kidney.

There are few parts of the pig that aren’t tasty.

We talked about durian after for desert, but Beverly was a strong no for the king of fruits, and we had discussed ice cream enough that on that hot night, ice cream was the clear winner.  Joanna did offer me a taste of durian ice cream, which I had tasted before, and this rendering was perhaps even more fresh3read: pungent and the durian flavor came through strong.  I’m not sure if I cared for it, but I do want to try it again, which is what I’ve heard hooks you in.  Its inability to be pinpointed as a single flavor is what confounds you and compels you to continue trying the food.  In some ways, it’s like wine, also an acquired taste.

It does leave quite the strong aftertaste, which I’m not sure I’m keen on.

All told, our night out with Pey Ling and Joanna was an excellent continuation of Joanna’s quest to introduce us to the amazing wonders of Singaporean food.  A worthy quest.

Elections are happening soon, an unexpected boon to the expats of the island as Polling Day is a national holiday.  Emboldened by the sudden windfall, we made a spur of the moment decision to spend a weekend relaxing in Phuket, meeting another couple there on Naka Island, a resort out in the bay.  This is the first of three trips we’re taking – the following weekend, we’re due to play golf in Batam, an Indonesian island across the Straits from us.  The weekend after that, a four-day weekend, we’ll be making a trip that I’ve been looking forward to for quite a long time; Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor.

Elections have had another interesting effect, the overnight appearance of posters touting each party’s candidates and on Sunday, a truck loaded with loudspeakers broadcasting the message of the People’s Action Party.  Images of old timey elections in the US came to mind, of Homer Stokes and his “little man” from Oh, Brother… or Eddie Murphy’s ridiculous name recognition scheme in The Distinguished Gentleman4“Listen, do you like chicken rice?  I sure like chicken rice.  You know who else loves chicken rice?  Your PAP ministers, the names you know, and the chicken rice you love.”. It’s a welcome break from the insanity of elections in the US, especially the manipulative and 5.6% truthful commercials5Seriously, I’m still in shock over the anti-88 radio spots in Oregon, “Do you want to die in a plane?  88 will allow terrorists to get on planes and blow up Mt. Hood.”  Seriously.  Okay, I made up the Mt. Hood part..

Donald Trump would not get far here.  Thankfully.


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