Scenes from a menu

30 03 2003

With less than ten days until I jump on a pneumonia-free (hopefully), tin can aeroplane and jet off to New York, I now have time to explain the lateness of this Noos. See, I’ve been traipsing around Singapore the last few weeks on a bit of a culinary adventure. A Makan (food) Pilgrimage, if you like. It has left me no time for writing. Until now.

See, I thought you might enjoy some Singapore chow—albeit sampled through the World Wide Web. And despite having just had a wisdom tooth rather unceremoniously extracted, I still managed to haul my gauzy grin and sore jaw along to many food courts, restaurants and hawker centres, just for you.

What follows is a list of ten things you must eat at least once when coming to Singapore. Yes, dear reader, even, no, ESPECIALLY the Durian. And every great odyssey starts with a first, tentative, opened-toed-sandal step. So here we go.

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The gentle art of fogging

22 01 2003

Mistaken assumption No. 1:
If Kurt Cobain can get married in pajamas, I can answer the door in mine.

I realise now after the event, that there are certain times in your life when you need to decide what type of flag you wave in terms of decorum. After my latest social fumbling, it’s pretty obvious I’m waving a ‘total-lack-of’ flag.

Official statement: Noodle, January, 2003
Well, I was just sitting at my desk, minding my own business at 9.00 am Singapore time, writing some crap-or-other (pure gold really), when there came a polite knock at the door. The excitement bubbled as I looked toward the door, even though it’s not transparent. So the act of looking is a little pointless.

But I can’t help it—I have a delivery fetish. I think every knock at the door might be an important delivery of some sort. I check my mail several times a day, just in case I missed an urgent missive from Bono, whom I sometimes imagine to be my long-term pen pal. Though admittedly, he does all the talking.

So, when this knock came it took me only a nanosecond to decide that it was perfectly acceptable to answer the door in my pyjamas, jam stains and all. With ‘pre-delivery adrenaline’ surging through my veins, I bounded to the door and jerked it open.

My hair had that kind of ‘hedge-backwards’ look about it. But my teeth were clean, so I wore a jaunty smile.

My face, smile, and spirit fell. There was a little man in uniform waiting in the corridor. He didn’t have a parcel.

“Hello,” he said. I looked him up and down as he, with what I took to be a smirk, checked out my daggy pjs. He kind of hesitated for a moment, but then ploughed on.

“Mosquito inspector,” he said. “I’m here to check your mosquitoes.” Read the rest of this entry »

Cultural oddities and other probing questions

28 12 2002

Question 1:
When driving from Singapore to Malaysia you must:
a) Get a Gurkha to take your photo at the border
b) Have at least 3/4 of a tank of petrol
c) Crack jokes to the immigration officer about the terrorists hiding in the boot
d) Be at least this tall (indicates roughly 1.2m) to enter

Ok, before anyone gets all narky about the discrimination against vertically challenged people; there are no height restrictions when entering Johor Bahru. So, if you answered d) you may not be smart enough to participate in today’s Noos. Click away now!

But on with the story…

I scored an invite to Crazy Val’s mum’s house for lunch on Christmas day. This entailed a skip across the Causeway into Johor Bahru, Malaysia. It seems so weird to skip to another country on Christmas day, get the passport stamped and then come back, but hey, that’s the kind of exotic life I’m leading now. My exotic life. Oh, how the exotic Noodle lives!

Two years here and I’d still never done the trip into Malaysia, so this jaunt was an attempt to rectify this grave oversight AND score a family-type Christmas gig. Even if that family was not my own.

Singapore and Malaysia are only separated at JB by a bridge. There are lots of signs before the checkpoint. One of particular note is a rather puzzling image of a fuel gauge with the needle at 3/4 full. Meaning? Well, there is a $500 fine if you get caught with less petrol than that. Can’t have those bargain-hunting Singaporeans ducking into Malaysia for cheap petrol!

So, if you listed b) as your answer in the quiz, you may collect 1,000 ringgits. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s a dangerous land

17 12 2002

The TV is trying to tell me…something. I’m sitting here, the countdown for departure to the new world has begun, and for some reason the TV has taken it upon itself to let me know all about the dangerous territory I’m heading for. If I am to believe everything that I see on the tube—which of course I do since it is the supreme educator of educators—this is what I know.

According to the National Geographic channel, if I want to get eaten by a bear, I need to pack my rucksack for, well, Montana or some such place. Bear county. To fit in with other Americans in this instance, I must wear inadequate clothing for a hike, leave food scattered around my campsite, get way too close with my Nikon, then stupidly run like the clappers screaming and such when the lumbering beast decides I look pretty damn tasty. I can do that. I can make myself look pretty tasty.

The Discovery Channel informs me, in its own way, that if I want to roll the dice with the Richter scale I should go to LA. Yes, I should go to this City of Angels, this ‘Hollywood’ I’ve heard so much about, and rent an apartment in a building with what is known as ’soft foundations’. Then, should my number come up, I might get crushed in my sleep when the whole lot pancakes down on me in The Big One. Ah, I didn’t want to go there anyway. Read the rest of this entry »

Immigration interview

1 11 2002

Man at Embassy: Do you have any relatives in the United States?
Noodle: No.
Man at Embassy: Do you know anyone in the United States?
Noodle: No.
Man at Embassy: Do you have anywhere to stay in the United States?
Noodle (sheepishly): Ah, no. Not yet.
Man at Embassy: Have you arranged employment in the United States?
Noodle: No. No, I haven’t.

Suddenly, I’m aware. As this part is actually verbalized, I’m aware of how silly and mad it all sounds. Noodle living in the US. Stupid teenage dream. Might as well go back to reading romance novels with windswept Fabios and quivering girlie bosoms on the cover.

I’ve already shed the US$435 to be asked these questions, but the cash outlay doesn’t really bother me. It is a lottery after all. I’ve opened my life for inspection. I’ve shown my bank account, been jabbed with multiple vaccinations—three for good luck—and had radiation shot through my chest to see if my heart is bigger than Phar Lap’s. Just between you, me, and the x-ray machine, I reckon it is. But now, standing in front of this guy, I don’t feel too confident about the application. Realise I sound like a dreamer. But, I think to myself, at least I took some happy snaps of some Benjamin Franklins while I had them.

US Green Card. It was a nice dream. Better than that one about my teeth falling out and the black blood in my mouth.

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15 10 2002

I’m sitting here drinking ‘No Worries’ Tea from a Starbucks mug. Not as much of a culture clash as you might think. Good old Aussie sentiment working hand-in-hand with a franchise plague to help ensure I feel nice and calm. If calm is the word. It might just be indifference.

I watched this thing about the evil Starbucks the other night on the Beeb. About how they force smaller coffee shops out of business by becoming a sort of pleasant-smelling caffeine rash on a neighbourhood, setting up not one but two Starbucks right near your quaint and traditional shrine to correctly foamed lattes. To do this is not economically viable of course, but they have the dough so it’s with a hearty ‘chocks away’ that they do.

And then, well, people who live and work near your coffee shop just get lazy. ‘Ah, let’s just get it from Starbucks, there’s one here or across the street’. Mission accomplished. I should be incensed by this company’s corporate greed. But I’m lazy. Half of me almost works into a frenzy, but the other can’t raise itself from the banana lounge long enough to give two hoots. I should give at least one hoot about the state of things. This causes me to worry about myself. About the way I think. Or can’t seem to anymore. Damn tea’s not working!

I worry because I can’t seem to express…I don’t even know what to call it. My spoken words keep abandoning me.

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