I realise now after the event, cialis generic sovaldi 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, prescription 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.”
I hadn’t expected that. Not that I was expecting him to announce he was doing random pyjama checks or anything—although he would have been in luck if he had.
“Oh,” I said. Any words that might have explained my bedraggled appearance to him failed to materialise. My eyes moved in a shifty fashion. Probably just enough to make him think I was harbouring mosquitoes. I opened the door far enough to let him in and indicated safe passage by waving my hand in a manner that suggested, ‘Come in, dear stranger. Mi casa, su casa’.
He was wearing a policeman-like uniform—black pants, white shirt, tabs on the shoulder—and had some kind of clipboard. Though as I remember it now, it seemed like one of those hand-held parking ticket machines you see the inspectors walking around with. But I think that’s just my brain trying to inject some creative licence in there to keep your interest gripped firmly to the Subterranean steering wheel.
He walked straight over to my kitchen sink—the horror! Unwashed dishes! I felt ashamed. But he wasn’t looking at them anyway; he was looking out the window to see if I had any mini-mosquito nurseries on my ledge. I passed that test.
Then he had a wander around my living area. He poked around looking for pools of mosquito infested water. Looked at my cactus. My cactus looked back and seemed to be echoing his thoughts “Yeah, where is the damn water? I know we’re desert plants, but I wouldn’t mind a sniff of H2O here!”
“Are these all your plants?” he asked.
“Yep, that’s all.” I stood near the door. My arms crossed defensively. Leave me to my discomfort, I thought. But he was in the mood for a chat. And that script runs the same for Ang Mor* expats all over Singapore.
Mistaken assumption No. 2:
When you’re out, you’re out.
We all know that just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in. Godfather III taught us that.
This is how conversations in Singapore with strangers go. They can be taxi drivers, real estate agents, prospective employers, and well, mosquito inspectors. It’ll start rather innocently and logically with:
“Where are you from?”
A variation is “Are you English?”, but I have (to my horror) been asked “Are you American?” I don’t know why that offended me so. I know my Aussie accent is not exactly Steve ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Irwin, but it sure as hell ain’t no George bloody Bush!
The next question may or may not occur, depending on where you are. It is “How much do you pay?” Anyone who visits me in my condo will ask this question. It’s a point of interest for Singaporeans.
Then you’ll get “How long have you been here?” which leads to “Do you like Singapore?” (HINT: always say yes). This, for some reason, always leads to a discussion about the virtues of Perth.
I’ve never spoken about Perth so much in my life. In truth, up until these last two years I’ve never given Perth much thought beyond a) It’s a long way away from the east coast, and b) That’s where the Fremantle Doctor blows in. And I wouldn’t even know about the Fremantle Doctor if it wasn’t for the America’s Cup.
Anyway, I’d managed to coax the mozzie inspector to the door with a series of subtle movements and was holding it open for him when the questions started.
I answered the first by saying I was Australian. He skipped question two entirely and went straight on to tell me about how he’s been to Perth several times (it’s the cheapest flight to Aus from here), but he really loves the Gold Coast. Another place I’ve never visited. He wants to retire there.
“How long have you lived in Singapore?” he asked. I told him. “Wah!” he said, even though two years is not very long. Then he spun me a flipper—or it might have been a googly*—but either way it was the kind of question designed to trip me up.
It was “Do you like Singapore?” with a twist.
“Which do you like better, Australia or Singapore? Where would you rather live?” he asked.
I hesitated. Hmmm, he’s nearly out the door. Would it be dirty pool to just push him all the way out into the hallway and shut the door without answering? Yes, probably. I took a deep breath.
Ponder time. Needed some wiggle room to give me time to wake my dormant diplomat gene.
“Well,” I said. “I really like Singapore. I love the weather, don’t miss winter at all.” Nervous laugh from me. Dammit, I’ll have to answer this question. “But, I think I will always love Australia. Long term, I’d rather live there.”
“Oh,” he said. “Really? You don’t like Singapore?” He’d stepped out the door backwards to maintain eye contact with me. I sighed.
“No, no. I like Singapore. Just, you know, Australia is my home country.” I pulled that face. The raised eyebrow, wrinkled forehead apologetic face. He feigned understanding as I said goodbye and started to shut the door.
Realising his time with me was at an end, he gave a little wave. “Bye.”
“Gong Xi Fa Cai,” I said. After all, I’m a culture vulture, not a total pig and have sucked up this piece of language.
“Yes, happy New Year to you too,” he said. But I could tell he was disappointed.
And that, dear reader, is why you always say you love Singapore above all others.
Point of interest: The mosquito inspection drama has answered something else I’d been wondering about. Every now and then, there’s a certain ‘flavour’ in the air. A mist, an unpleasant fragrance. Clouds that rise up from behind buildings as I look out at the street. Wafts of whitish apparition-like forms.
Crazy Val explained it to me. “It’s fogging,” she said. “They do it to kill the mosquitoes.” Well, there you go. No Dengue for me.
Toodle-Noo. Here endeth the missive
** Cricket talk.
©Janeen McCrae 2003