Skip to content

A Comma, Not Yet a Period

July 26, 2011

I reached a milestone in my project today, and it felt amazing! If you have been following my blogs and/emails, you might recall that I have encountered a few changes in my project this summer. I came into the project thinking I would help the World Toilet Organization re-design a feminine hygiene product, distribute it to women in rural and lesser developed areas of Asia, and include a menstrual hygiene awareness educational component to accompany the product. If you know much about me and my idealistic “fairy tale” life perspective, you will know that all sounded very realistic and easy to accomplish in 3 months. Of course, it did not help to be working for a visionary that is just as idealistic and “big picture” oriented as me. I set about my work for the summer… I was going to “get ‘er done!”
Well… I didn’t get ‘er done… at least not what I expected. I ended up with a 35 page “Period Campaign Handbook.” What a drastic change, huh? Maybe I should explain. However, my explanation might be a bit “round-a-bout” in nature. Bear with me.
The purpose of the Period Campaign Handbook is to do what visionary/”big picture” leaders sometimes struggle to do: it provides a detailed framework with phases to follow throughout the process of conducting the campaign. What I now understand is that big changes like the change I set out to make this summer take a lot of time and planning, and I had to back up and realize this planning had not yet been done within my organization. I also had to accept the fact that I would not have time to do the planning and complete the actual work for the campaign. I had to face a fact I have always denied: I am a limited resource with a limited time frame. Tomorrow I can change the world, but I just didn’t have time today :- )
According to yours truly, there are 10 phases recommended to complete in order to ensure the Period Campaign is successfully implemented. In the handbook, I have also included handy worksheets to follow along with the phases of the project. On a completely unrelated note, while I was creating the worksheet, I realized I truly missed my time working as an elementary school teacher (although, at the time, I could not WAIT to leave the classroom). This thought returned to me a few times during my project. I wonder if I will look back on these blog years from now as I find myself again in some instructing capacity. That would be very interesting!
So the handbook details each of the 10 phases of the campaign and includes all of the research I have done this summer from published academic journals to interviewing expert stakeholders. Interesting enough, I jumped right into requesting interviews with people and conducting my research without truly having a grasp on what work for the Period Campaign would mean. What a lesson learned!
My boss said something to me early in the summer that will forever stick with me. After he found out that I ultimately desire to do social service work related to the health field, he cautioned me that I would always deal with the “ego.” He said his experience with me was that I am a very easy-going, calm-tempered, passionate woman with an ego in check. However, he said that when people enter not-for-profit or social service work, of course the motivation is not a salary; people want to feel good about the difference they are making. The compensatory return does not feed the pocket book; it feeds the ego.
I have to disagree with my boss. I do not think my ego was in check at the onset of this project, and it took until the final weeks of my work here for me to realize it. A healthy ego is necessary. In fact, if you consider the original Freudian definition, the ego’s job was to reconcile the innate and unconscious desires of the id with reality. However, reality was far from my concern this summer. My healthy ego did not kick it until two weeks before my official project work was to be completed. Better late than never…
So I am proud of what I have accomplished this summer.  Per his most recent email, apparently my boss is also proud of my “professional approach to my internship.”  Before the end of this week, I will submit the document to my boss for him to review for a week. While he is reviewing my work, I will be taking my final full week in Singapore to enjoy the parts of my summer home I have not yet seen. After I make the final suggested corrections, I will be ready to pack and return home.
I cannot believe my time here is almost complete! This has been an amazing, yet challenging journey and I am excited to see the end result coming together!

Sized Up

July 1, 2011

Singapore is such a fusion of Asian culture!  In this small island, although over 75% of
the residents are from Chinese descendants, Singapore is also home to other
Asian groups such as the Malay, Indian, and Vietnamese people.  This makes room for A LOT of diversity in
culture.

A lot of the culture in Singapore revolves around
shopping.  There are so many types of
places to go and with at least one major mall in every neighborhood, a girl
could lose herself (as I often do) in the sales.  One would think I would come home with tons
of clothes from Singapore as much as I shop.

I won’t.  In fact, it
took me 5 ½ hours to find the dress  I will
to wear for my birthday on Tuesday.  I
did not have anything specific in mind; I just wanted to look fabulous.  The dress itself, while it is quite nice, is
nothing spectacular.  In fact, if I am
honest with myself, one of the main reasons I purchased the dress is because it
was LITERALLY all I could find to fit me.

You might think I am exaggerating.  In the United States, I would be.  I used to always say “nothing fits me!”  Sure, I might not find the jeans to fit my
rear or my hips (and have the length I need) in Gap, but I can find them in New
York & Company.  I might not find a bra
discounted in Target to fit my size, but I can find a good Cabernet during a
sale in Dillard’s.  A smart American
shopper, no matter what size, has options.
I can truthfully say those options do not exist in Singapore.

Don’t believe me?  In
2008, Coltrin & Associates for Alvanon released a study that reported the
average weight for a Chinese female is 125 pounds while the average weight for
an American female is 155 pounds.  I
mention Chinese because this is the largest ethnicity (three quarters of the
population) in Singapore.  No doubt this
figure has changed in the past three years, but relatively speaking, for the
purposes of this blog, I think this statistic serves its utility

Although I was not a business major, I do understand a bit
about marketing.  The supply should match
the demand (and sometimes, to create a demand, you decrease the supply).  So, if the idea that over 75% of this population
is at least 30 pounds lighter than American sizes is coupled with the idea of
creating even more demand, you have a market that is not built for American
girls.

Wait… that was too general.
More specifically, the market in Singapore is not built for American girls
who have a little more…well… to keep it PC, let’s just say “curves.”  I will never again say “nothing fits me” in
the U.S., because I have now truly had the experience of going into every store
in an entire mall and not being able to find one dress or pair of jeans my
size.

To be absolutely honest, I have never been self-conscious
about my body size.  I have recently been
more proactive in working to lose the weight I have gained over the past few
years, but I have always loved my shape.
Since I have been in Asia, this has not changed, but for the first time
ever, I was called “fat.”

The absurdity of the comment made me laugh about it.  I was showing the older man who cleans our
office, we will call him Liso, a picture of my mom, my little cousin, and me
from about two years ago, when he pointed to the image of me in the photograph
and asked me who it was.  When I told him
it was me, he said “no… you fat.  She
skinny.”  I laughed and explained to him
I had gained weight.  He motioned with
his arms held wide, and he, my classmate, and I laughed about it and moved on
with our lives.

However, in a conversation on Skype later that evening, I
cried.  I was re-telling the story
because I thought was funny, but when it came out, I realized I was hurt.  I had never before been the object of a “fat”
joke.  I had gone into all the stores of
Singapore and been turned away and it didn’t seem to bother me, but for some
reason, I was now affected.

I sleep on a simple bed reminiscent of my days in a college
dormitory (but much simpler).  It is the
essence of a boxed frame with about 10-15 wooden boards horizontally laid down
the length of the frame (to support the mattress).  Because I sleep wildly and the boards are not
secured in place, several times I have fallen to the floor because the boards
have shifted.  Can you imagine the most hilarious
thing ever?  Now, imagine something a
little funnier than that… yeah, that’s me in the middle of the night once a
week.  LOL!  I talked to Liso and asked him to work on
hammering the boards down with nails.
After one of the office workers overheard my request and announced that
I “needed to lose weight” like he did so the bed wouldn’t break, Liso began to
work on my bed.  I realized everyone
thought the bed was breaking due to the pressure of my weight and not the
shifting of the boards, but it did not matter to me as long as my requests were
granted.

After Liso finished, he came to show me what he had
done.  For whatever reason, this became a
spectacle in my room, and my classmate and another coworker came to look at the
bed.  Liso then made the comment that
inspired this blog, “It might break again… you fat.”  What was the response- laughter from my
coworker, my classmate, and Liso.

I am a very sensitive person, but as I explained before, my
weight has never been an issue before now.
I have gained it and I made a personal decision to choose to work toward
losing it.  As a child, I was always
affirmed by my father, grandfather, and uncles, so the men who came later in
life were just icing on the affirmation cake.
J  However, for the first time in my life, I
could sympathize with feeling completely un-pretty.  I cannot say I got to the point I felt that
way, but I was able to understand how it happens.

There are women in Singapore who are larger and
curvier.  They wear stretchable spandex,
saris, or what I call “moo moo” dresses.
I say this in all honesty (and without cultural insensitivity):
attractive clothing for women who are not small literally DOES NOT EXIST.  They literally DO NOT MAKE my size bra.  They literally DO NOT MAKE the male size shoes
I needed to buy for souvenirs.  I
understand the issue of supply and demand, but I did not realize it would
impact me in this way.  If I ever have
the opportunity to return to Asia, I will bring one of my fashion designer
friends to make clothes for the curvaceous women.  Providing suitable attire for women does not
encourage obesity- it enhances the joys of a woman’s femininity.

How am I?  Thank you
for asking!  My conclusion is that I am
well.  I am fearfully and wonderfully
made.  I am made in His image, and I am
the apple of His eye!

My Countdown is now Looking Up

July 1, 2011

When Aesop said, “slow and steady
wins the race,” he obviously did not have a 10 week deadline and a Smartphone
reminding him of the next project he was due to complete.  I understand the necessity of taking time to plan.  Planning is such a necessary part of any
significant project with a desired end result.
You have to determine what your vision, goals, and objectives are to
ensure you have counted the costs and are prepared for the journey that lies
ahead.  However, although I am very good
with planning, sometimes I ignore the part about it being, perhaps, a “slow and
steady” process.  I have a schedule.  It is very clearly detailed in my
iPhone.  Each hour of every day is
designated on my calendar, so whatever time I have scheduled is my plan.  Period.

Life does not always work that
way.  I should have expected my project
in Singapore would be no different.  I
have had experience with plans changing and having to be flexible, so I was
surprised the changes in my project surprised me- but they did.

First, I had to completely revise my
schedule for the ten weeks I was scheduled to be in Singapore.  I revised the schedule during the third,
fourth, fifth, and sixth weeks.  In fact,
by the time I got to the sixth week, I had completely re-defined what my final
deliverable for the organization would be.
This was partly due to the dynamics of my organization changing.  In the first two weeks I was in Singapore,
the director hired a new COO and almost 100% of the original staff changed to a
completely new set of workers.  The goals
and priorities of the organization shifted, and I was forced to allow my plans
for my project to evolve with the evolution of the organization.

While my project was evolving, I had
the opportunity to dive into some of the best research I have found on the
cultural implications of menstrual hygiene and the regulatory codes that
control what products are marketed.  I
learned so many things like the fact that the Food and Drug Administration
heavily regulates obstetrical and gynecological devices (such as menstrual
hygiene products) but that menstrual tampons dispensed by vending machines are
exempt by the FDA’s requirements, there is a very intricate and involved
biocompatibility flow chart for toxicity tests of menstrual hygiene products,
and the absorbency of these products are tested with non-lubricated condoms.  All of these facts are so interesting to me
but I honestly wished I could be learning all of these things while my project
was progressing as planned on my timeline.

I am a pretty easy-going
person.  It takes a lot to stress me,
especially when I am in an environment such as Singapore where there is so much
to enjoy and keep frustration low.  In
fact, the director of my organization called me “probably the most agreeable
person [he has] ever met.”  So, even with
me being a flexible person, I was ready to stop trying so hard to make the
project work and go with the flow for the remaining time.  Just as I was about to get frustrated (isn’t
it funny how God comes in what we think is the 9th hour?), I had the
most amazing breakthrough meeting with the COO, a staff member, and a
volunteer.  In this meeting, I was
informed my progress and efforts had been noticed, and I had clear steps for
moving forward with the Period Campaign.
It made me feel good to know that while I could not provide menstrual
hygiene products to the entire population of the women in the globe like I
planned (lol), I could plan to have more obtainable deliverables that promoted
menstrual hygiene awareness and gave attention to the issues through exciting
and fun events to break the taboo.

So my next steps are to work very
hard in this final stretch of my project.
I have a little over one month to accomplish what the organization needs
from me and what I feel I am called to do here.
I am excited about what God will do through me in these next few
weeks.  One plants the seed, one waters,
and God gives the increase…

On another note, I am officially one
of the happiest girls in the world because the countdown to my birthday (July 5th)
is getting smaller!  Those of you who
know me will attest to the fact I make a HUGE deal of birthdays.  I don’t know if it is because I am an only
child and my family always made a big deal “just for me” or if I think… no, I
KNOW…I’m a princess (lol), but this is my favorite time of the year.  I celebrate all month!  I am so excited!  Saturday my job is taking us to Malaysia (http://www.kampungtemasek.org/ ), so I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to visit
another country in Asia.

When I return, my birthday
celebration will begin when July 5th comes to Singapore and end when
it leaves the US.  Yes, I am celebrating
my birthday from 13 hours before the US July 5th until 13 hours
after the Singapore July 5th.
How many times will I get to do this?
I am taking FULL advantage.
LOL!  My coworkers, classmate, and
I will spend my birthday evening at the highest point in Singapore on the 62nd
floor at a place called Altitude (http://www.diningcity.com/restaurants/en/singapore/singapore/stellarat1altitude/index.html;jsessionid=A569F1D947860E352CB46B245DCEC94B ).  Also, you all
know I am serious about all the birthday freebies, so I have found the list of
the places in Singapore and I plan on taking FULL advantage.

To top off my birthday, I have the
opportunity to take a one week vacation from work to visit Vietnam!  I will be staying in the middle of Ho Chi
Minh city (http://www.agoda.com/asia/vietnam/ho_chi_minh_city/hoang_hai_long.html) and I hope to visit the war museum, cathedrals, and enjoy
all of the culture that is Vietnam!  The
massage parlor at the hotel is icing on the cake.  J  My mom pointed out
that July 5th has special significance this year.  This year July has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and
5 Sundays…this happens once every 823 years! Also, the number “5” is symbolic
for favor and grace, so I feel my July 5th birthday is EXTRA special this year!

With all that is going on, I am most
thankful for the opportunity to be here and meet such wonderful people.  I do not always feel qualified to do the work
I am doing, but the fact that everything is falling into place better than it
has the whole time I have been here makes me confident the sincerity of my
efforts will produce returns for women I will never meet.  I am learning so much (especially how
flexible I can be when I am TRULY stretched).
No limits…no boundaries.

Singaporean Angels

June 14, 2011

  “You never know till you try to reach them how accessible men are; but you must approach each man by the right door.”

~Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, 1887

One of the biggest culture shocks I have experienced here is just that… the culture. Whenever I travel, I definitely make it a point to keep an open mind and allow experiences to come as they will. However, it is only the purest of hearts that can have absolutely NO pre-conceived notions when entering a new place. I thought:
1) working for an Asian NGO would mean utmost progressiveness and productivity. While I do not argue this has not been the case, I am very surprised at how my project has shifted from me being very productive in my work day to me waiting on email responses and meetings with people who are not as invested in the work as I once thought they were. At this point in my project, I am becoming increasingly knowledgeable about the issues of menstrual hygiene in parts of Asia and how it relates to the culture of modesty and privacy here. It has changed my ideas about how I view my own menstruation. I’m not saying my Facebook status will always be updated each month with a “Guess who started her cycle today?!?” post, but I will be more conscious of the euphemisms I use to dilute the very natural occurrence about ½ of the population experiences. Being exposed to cultures that don’t get to talk about it makes me want to talk about it even more…. Education is empowering. Anyway, despite significant gains on my knowledge of the issue, I am now behind schedule on the tangible deliverables I wanted to present to my organization. I do not want to jump ahead of the leaders and the experts, but I am very surprised that there is not more urgency to produce something.

2) I could find SOMETHING to wear. This might not be a shock to most people when considering my curves and the smaller and less curvy body form of Asian women. Please note, I do understand this is a generalization, but please also understand, it is a generalization that I would venture to say is confirmed in at least 90% of the women here. Anyway, I cannot find anything to wear unless I choose to travel to places here like Orchard Road (http://www.orchardroad.sg/ ) also known as Singapore’s Rodeo Drive. Singapore is notorious for its copious shopping malls and food establishments, but please note, I don’t have Prada or Gucci money in the U.S. (and when I do, I probably still will not regularly patronize these places), and I don’t have it here in Singapore. Most of the European/American sizing is found here in the American stores for very high prices. I have found a few shops here that carry my size, but I literally wear a 5X or greater (according to the sizes here). Wow.

3) some manners are universal. This is NOT true. I regularly travel on the crowded MRT (train system) and the shopping centers and restaurants here, and it is literally a dog eat dog world. The doors to the train open and close when the nice British woman on the intercom says they are due to open and close, and if someone has jumped in front of you to get on the train, you risk a limb to jump in behind them or you wait for the next train. Often, in the more local canteens and cafeterias, you place your order for them to cook it before you pay. If you missed your order being called and someone who was waiting in line after you had the same order or didn’t have the same order but might like your food as well, consider it sold to them (and you can re-order if you’d like). Also, I can count on 3 fingers the times someone excused themselves for bumping into me when passing, but I can count on 1,000,000 fingers the number of times it happens. I even took it upon myself to learn the phrase “qǐng wèn” (pronounced “ching whin”) which is “Excuse Me” in Mandarin. I wanted to do the people here like I do people at home who forget their home training. LOL! It doesn’t matter… the culture here is just different. I wait in line for the money changers to finish texting on their iPhone 4 to offer service, and don’t think of it as a big deal because they treat the locals here worse than that. I’m learning to get over it.
Based on that last culture shock, I had developed the assumption that many people around here are just unhelpful and to themselves. I was proven wrong today. First, let me share with you the good news: I’M TAKING A WEEK VACATION TO VIETNAM FOR MY BIRTHDAY!!!! Yay! I’m so excited! Asia, particularly Singapore, is such a hub for the transient travellers; you can travel around Asia very cheaply. I booked a round trip flight for less than $150 USD, which is considered “expensive” here (because I booked it less than one month before I am taking my trip). You can go to places like Thailand or Malaysia for less than $100 if you plan it right.
I woke up this morning on a mission to go to the Vietnamese Embassy to apply for the Visa that is required for American citizens to travel to Vietnam (just FYI- there is no Visa requirement for me to be in Singapore). Anyone who has done any type of business knows that “in person” service often gets better results than mail offs and electronic assistance. Plus, it is very important to be conscious of separation from your passport for extended periods of times while you are overseas. Anyway, the only times the Embassy agrees to do Visa applications is from 9 a.m. to noon. That might seem as very realistic with American “I’ll do it during my lunch hour” goggles on, but if you put on international goggles (and more specifically SINGAPOREAN goggles), you will remember that it is important to be the first in line to get service before the cut off time, and you have to factor in train transfer times and walking time. The process took me a total of 3 ½ hours. Of course I overslept 3 alarms and did not leave my room until 9:00 a.m. Great. I prayed that the Lord grant me favor with the weather (that it not rain or be too hot). I believe God answers the prayers we don’t even know to ask. Wouldn’t you know that not only did God give me cool weather and noticeably less humidity, but God put 4 angels in my path that helped me when I needed help.

1) Angel 1: My coworker stopped me as he was coming into work and asked me if I knew my route. “Yes, of course,” I said. “I mapped out the train route last night.” Of course one of the trains I used was currently under construction and I had planned a wrong transfer. He fixed that for me.
2) Angel 2: The walk from the last train to the Embassy was probably about 3 miles. I got to the end of my directions and realized I had ended up in a place that was not the Vietnamese Embassy. I was in a wealthy neighborhood in front of a highly secured mansion. Just when I was about to walk in the wrong direction, someone walked up to me and asked me if I was headed to the Vietnamese Embassy. How did he know?!? He said he would take me there, but that I should wait for him to get his car. Yes, I got in the car with a stranger. It might not make sense to you, but I felt at peace that he was a God-send and would not harm me.
3) Angel 3: I arrived at the Embassy without the two required things for processing: $85 and 2 pictures. The website was not clear about this price and I completely forgot the pictures. Normally, my Visa would not be processed, but he gave me my receipt of payment and told me to bring the things I needed next Tuesday when I picked up my Visa. He said he would approve it for me. I didn’t have to beg.
4) Angel 4: Of course I did not pay attention while Angel 2 was driving me to the Embassy so I was lost on the first leg of the journey back to the MRT. I walked about 1 mile in the wrong direction when another angel with the cutest dog came up to me and asked if I was lost. Her approaching me was even more amazing than Angel 2 because I was now making an effort to not appear lost and to walk with confidence. LOL!

In addition to all of this, on Sunday, I met numerous angels at New Creation Church (http://www.newcreation.org.sg/ ), and I am excited to make this my church of choice while I am here. It reminds me of Fellowship Bible and New Life Church in Little Rock and Conway, and the music is nothing short of my favorite K-Love radio station. The greeters gave us packets of information and set us up with a Young Adult small group meeting. The sermon was powerful and completely Biblical, and I am very excited about going back!
So anyway, I cherish my experiences, because I believe it was necessary for me to have a broader perspective of the spirit of the Singaporean hospitality. I want to extend southern American hospitality to them when my project moves more slowly than I would like or when I am confronted with another culture shock. I want to be like the angels they have been to me.

A New Way to Look at “No Child Left Behind”

June 2, 2011

Young ladies in the US have an option (by default of American citizenship) that young girls in other parts of the world never have. I believe this image, created by one of my colleagues, captures this reality.

Let the work begin…. (Singaporean Edition)

May 31, 2011

I would like to offer a disclaimer.  If you are not comfortable with topics
relating to menstruation and women’s gynecological concerns or if you are not particularly
interested in women’s health, you might want to skip the next 4 paragraphs
after this one (begin again at the paragraph beginning with “Welcome back”).

If you are a woman, or if you have a close relationship with
a woman, have you ever known her to have to miss school or work each month
because she fears the embarrassment of not having a facility to change her
feminine hygiene product or to wash up in case she has an accident?  Can you imagine having to forego religious
ceremonies and avoid touching flowering plants or stored food items for fear
your contact would make the items unclean?
As a married woman, can you imagine being forced to abstain from
physical intimacy with your husband because of a urinary or reproductive tract
infection you gained from either washing your feminine hygiene products in
dirty flood waters in humid areas that permit complete drying of the cloths or
from having to share used cloths with your mother or your sister?

I can’t.  I remember
exactly where I was the day I began menstruating, and I remember feeling absolutely
ecstatic (although it is now never as exciting as it was that first time (lol!).  I was physically an early bloomer but I did
not start menstruating until much later in junior high, and I was afraid I
would NEVER become a woman, but it finally came!  My mother and my grandmother had talked to me
about it, I heard about it at school, and I remember it being in my Girl Scout
books.  I was ready!  Sadly, that is not the case for so many young
girls in some parts of Asia.

In fact,  a study done
in India revealed that almost 76% of the women participating in this particular
study were ignorant to the purpose and physiology of a menstrual cycle or the
hazards that could occur from not having access to proper sanitation
(especially during this time of the month).
So what must we as good Americans do?!?
Send them sanitary napkins and teach them how to handle menstruation the
right way!

Wrong.  The problem is
that these, albeit potentially sincere, efforts to throw western solutions at
the problem create another problem- namely, this is not the west.  Many young women in some parts of Asia do not
have the money to afford to replenish the disposable cloths, and if they did,
there are often no facilities for them to dispose of the cloths.  If there are facilities, they often have to
share them with males, and this, of course, is less than ideal.  I experienced this, to a lesser degree, while
in rural Peru on a mission trip.  With
very few trash receptacles available, you are often forced to be very conscious
of your feminine hygiene product waste.
So, in a nutshell, I am working with the World Toilet Organization this
summer to establish a production system that can be locally based and will
integrate practical education and sustainable healthier lifestyles for women
here in Asia.

Welcome back (to those rejoining my blog)!!!  For the past few weeks, I have just been
establishing a daily schedule.  My
classmate from the Clinton School recently joined me here, so we are working
the way through the summer together.  I
get up in the morning and go for a bike ride in the city.  I am motivated to get up early because the
traffic is ridiculous in the morning on the streets AND on the sidewalks after
7:00 a.m.  So when you are winding your
evening down at about 6:00 p.m., think of me just getting my day started!

After getting dressed, I begin my day at work.  One thing I love about Singapore, and
apparently all of Asia, is that their time schedule is very lax.  If you know me, I struggle with being on time
for LIFE IN GENERAL (lol), so it helps that I am working in a place that values
work ethic and productivity, but is a little less strict on the time you start
to get it done each day.  I really have
no excuse for being “late” to work because I live on site, but it helps that “late”
is relative.  We usually have lunch at
the local canteen (which for me is usually rice/noodles and fish), and I eat
dinner in the evening at Toa Payoh Hop (which is the nearby residential area
combined with a mall).  Speaking of the
Hop, according to some local residents, over 70% of the housing here is
government housing in self-contained living areas that have a mixture of indoor
and outdoor shops and malls.  These range
from the more local tastes of Toa Payoh with lots of ethnic cafeteria food,
McDonalds, KFC, Subway, and local clothing tastes to Orchard Road with the Four
Seasons, Louis Vuitton, and Dolce and Gabbana.
I LOVE the variety.  On a quite
random note: you can get delivery from almost any food or drink establishment
here.  McDelivery delivers McDonalds 24
hours a day and the coffee shop will have your latte right at your door for a
small fee.  Tipping is a “no go” here, so
you always know what your out of pocket costs will be.

We have met all types of people here.  There’s a guitar player outside the grocery
store who plays your requests of Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, and Jimi Hendrix.  There’s a woman at the canteen that loves for
me to act as if the fruit tea she sells is the best I have ever had.  There’s a coworker at my job who loves to
show me the pride of Singapore and insists on treating me to dinner every now
and then.  Singapore is a great place!  The work I am here to do is very serious, but
I would lie if I told you that is all I am here to do.  I have the opportunity to completely immerse
myself in an unfamiliar culture and learn what I like, don’t like, and where I need
to know more.  Arguably, that’s where the
true work is!

 

 

 

Saba fish and noodles

Seaweed Shaker Fries

May 23, 2011

As much as I bragged about my ability to quickly overcome
jetlag… it is currently 3:32 a.m.  in
Singapore, and the only reason I should be awake is if I were at home where it
is midafternoon.  I am awake all of the
day and get sleepy around the local time when naps are appropriate, but I still
have not slept through an entire night here.
The other truth is that I go to bed at 10:00 p.m. here, and since I
usually only get 4-6 hours of sleep a night in the US (between graduate schools
and work), maybe 3:00 a.m. IS a full night’s rest for me.  Who knows…

When I get up late I night, I usually have some quiet time
and listen to music or do some reading.
This morning was no different, however I had a very special surprise
from one of my good friends and sweethearts that really made my
day/night/whatever this is!  LOL!  So… I was inspired to get up and blog about
it…

Then, I realized it was kind of personal… so I’ll still
blog, but I’ll tell you about my incredible first day at work.

Because the shower was not yet working at the office (I was
supposed to stay there), my boss opened his home to me Sunday night (even
though he was out of town).  You must
understand this is a big deal because Singaporeans are (generally speaking) very
independent people, and you are encouraged to find your own way/accommodations.  I stayed there and took a taxi to work Monday
morning.  Taxis are double their normal
rates between the peak times of 7:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on weekdays.  My 20 minute drive cost about 12 U.S. dollars
which is not a lot to me but is a rip off for Singapore rates.  Anyway, despite the crazy hectic traffic, I
paid the driver and he dropped me off at the office.

I was the first one at work for two reasons: 1) I didn’t
want to be late on my first day at work (since I am always late everywhere I
go) and 2) I didn’t realize a “work day” in Singapore NGO terms has such a
relaxed meaning.  I arrived at 9:00 a.m.
and was alone for almost 2 hours before someone came to start the day.  I love it!
:- )  When the maintenance men
came later in the morning, they spent the entire day working on my shower and
apologized profusely that it was not working before now.  I kept reassuring them it was okay, but they
insisted on going out of their way to make me feel comfortable.  By lunch time the workers and the other
employees literally argued over who would take me to the canteen for
lunch.  When I tell you I am truly
blessed to have the most accommodating hosts, I am not exaggerating.

After lunch, I finished up some of the research I was doing
online for my project.  I wanted to
solidify who the key stakeholders and partners would be to help us in the
design of the new menstrual cloths and who would actually be using the pilot
products.  There was so much to read, and
whenever I looked a bit “intense,” the other workers would check on me and
offer me assistance.  I found out an
alternate way for the weaving of the sanitary cloths, and I was again reminded
of how privileged I am by virtue of my country of birth.  These items are very precious to some rural
areas, and I think nothing of using 1 ½ full packs each month.

After work, one of my coworkers showed me how to get to a
local outdoor gym.  It is so novel to me,
and such a stark contrast from the gym we exercised in on Sunday with the fruit
juice bar and the plasma tvs, but I wanted a local experience.  We then walked to the Toa Payoh Hub, which is
the equivalent of a US outdoor shopping mall.
My coworker had to meet a friend later, and while he insisted on me
coming with him, I declined because I wanted to find my own way around for a
bit and get to know the area.  I shopped
for a while and got hungry.  My usher
ministry at my church bought me two gift cards for going away gifts, and I
promised them that although I am not a fan of US McDonalds I would take the
gift card for Mickey D’s to Singapore to try their brand of fast food (since
every overseas chain I have experienced has a local twist).  Sure enough the McDonalds differed in 3 main
ways:

1)
Customer service- I told them I had a gift card
from the US, and although they do not have those in Singapore, they found a way
to key it in as a form of payment.  Then,
because the fish filet is so much more expensive, I had $1 difference to
pay.  I mistook a riyal I had left over
from my layover in Qatar for a Singapore dollar, and they tried to figure out a
way they could use it as currency!  I
laughed at myself and assured them I had local money to make the difference.  The employees kept coming by to see if I
needed anything.

2)
Portion sizes- My meal was supersized because
they insisted.  However, supersize in
Singapore might not give you cardiac arrest as quickly as it could in the U.S.
because the supersize portion is at least one size smaller than in the U.S.

3)
Seaweed and chili sauce- In Singapore, they call
their fries “seaweed shaker fries” because they season them with seaweed.  You do not have to do this, but if you so
desire, you can ask for seaweed and they give you a small bag to dump the fries
in and shake the seasoning on them Shake n bake style.  This was a delicious addition.  The chili is offered as an alternative to
ketchup.  I was not a fan, but at least I
tried it.  I didn’t want ketchup because
the seaweed was so good.

After I left McDonalds, I went to the grocery store for
yogurt and cheese bread.  Nom nom
nom!  It started to get dark so I headed
back to my home and retired for the evening after some brutal Words with
Friends beat downs (lol!).

Later this morning, after I get some more work done, I’ll
probably email my mother and arrange a Skype date when she leaves her
office.  She couldn’t Skype last night
because she “left the Skyper at home”…LOL!
My mom is so funny!  I miss her
and I miss you all!  Maybe now I can try
to sleep for a few more hours…