I woke up for the first time in our new apartment with the sense of confusion one gets when waking up somewhere for the first time. I had dreamt about a cool, rainy day in Portland, about driving over the Ross Island Bridge on my way home, so it was not unexpected that I would balk slightly at the new normal. Exotic birds for which I have no learned names chirped outside. Unfamiliar sounds coming from the lift as my neighbors went to work. This is the new normal.
This is not the new normal – not yet. I am barely moved in. Beverly is on a business trip, taking off not long after touching down. Hers is one of necessity – a visit to all the places she will be accounting for, Vietnam, China, Indonesia. She could no more have said no to that than she could to this relocation. But it did leave me alone in a city which I am unfamiliar, with no car to get around, and only my two weeks living out of hotels for guidance. I think I’ve done okay – I was able to move our endless bags and boxes of stuff into the place without issue, and set about getting organized.
So began the unpacking. Three heavy boxes, three checked bags, one carry on, and a few loose bags of supplies.
The first thing I noticed is that said “endless bags of stuff” did not do the trick at all. We brought over a lot of clothes, and shipped our kitchenware – so what am I going to cook on for the next month? We brought blankets and fitted sheets for our king size bed, but no pillows, no cooling quilt1cooling is going to be a major theme for the next month plus, I tell you.. Fortunately, I know how to get to IKEA, so I did so, buying some basic furniture and linens, a few handy items like a step stool, and got them all delivered. I got some basic food items from the market down in Holland Village, ate some food, and tucked in early, exhausted from the stress and the heat.
And so I woke with things like so. Two appointments in the morning/early afternoon – our cable & internet hookup and my IKEA delivery. I walked down to Holland, the temperature seeming cool and refreshing as I walked down the hill. It’s deceptive, though, the temps here. It can be a relatively cool 27281 F degrees with a breeze, pleasant weather for a tropical island, but the humidity is insidious, hidden. Within a half of a kilometer, I began to sweat, even at my easy pace. When I made it to the wet market to buy some fruit, I unconsciously wiped my brow, even as I stopped to talk to another fellow expatriate.
Her name she said was Fabien (I’m sure I misheard & misspelled that), and if she hadn’t told me outright that she was Swiss, her voice and blonde hair signaled which part of Europe she was from. Her and her husband had just moved here as well, Sunday, as she told it. It was a pleasant conversation, two people from opposite ends of the earth but with something vital in common, strangers in a somewhat strange land. We talked of experiences moving, of our respective locations on Holland Hill, and mostly, of the heat. As we talked, I began to sweat profusely – there was no fan near where we stood and the humidity, even standing still, was draining me. I apologized, imagining myself to be this ungainly, overweight American, until my new friend wiped her brow and smiled and joked that her husband had it worse – he had worn his suit as they walked down to the MRT.
This is not the new normal, not yet. I can’t feel comfortable enough to claim that. After the cable, and the IKEA delivery, I set about putting together some of the furniture I bought. Sweat rolled off me – yesterday was abysmally hot, 34 degrees before the afternoon thunderstorms rolled in. My head pounded, even as I drank my fill of water. I tried to book at cab to pick me up to take me to see Mini, but none were available – I’ve heard that happens when it rains here. Defeated, tired, sorely missing Bev, I went to sleep early.
This is not the new normal, not yet.
The new normal does involve a lot of walking down to Holland Village, which was why we selected Parvis. Holland Village is a popular expatriate location, and for good reason – it has sort of a European town vibe, lots of storefronts offering a variety of services and goods, bars, restaurants and an MRT stop, for vital access to the subway system.
The walk down Taman Warna is tree-lined and pleasant, as most Singaporean streets are.
And it’s a very pleasant walk – skirting an open-grass area that is used as a make-shift dog park after the afternoon rains have passed, along rows of bungalows where some of the city’s better off no doubt live. Tree-lined streets offer shade and cooling as you walk down the gentle hill towards Holland Ave.
Holland Avenue is a bustling place in the morning – professionals on their way to work via the MRT, housewives3or, househusbands and helpers making their way through the markets. People taking coffee and breakfast in the food centre (hawker stands) or in a few of the cafes open in the morning. In the afternoon, the hawker stands will be full of people eating, chatting, sweating as the temperature rises. Umbrellas are key (I still need to buy one) as the afternoon rains settle in. The last two days the rains have been vicious thunderstorms with pounding rain. That rain, however, cools everything down almost immediately. Yesterday, temps dropped from 34 to 27 in a heartbeat – a welcome relief from over 90-degree weather with 90% humidity.
In the early evening, I can see the dog owners out in the park with their pooches. Jealousy and sorrow fill my heart, as I long for the day Mini gets released from quarantine. I haven’t seen her in three days now, not since Tuesday. The quarantine station is so far out of the way it requires taking a cab there, and yesterday’s attempt to hail a cab via an app were unsuccessful. I’m not sure if that’s a function of location or timing, but at least one of those factors I can fix today by trying to hail a cab from Holland.