Saturday, October 22, 2005

10/6: asian education

On the plane: So far in my guidebook I’ve read about Malaysia’s history and culture. I could tell you that the early Chinese settlers were generally wealthier than the ones who came at the turn of the century. I could tell you that Malaysia is now roughly 65% Malay, 25% Chinese and 9% Indian. I could tell you that Singapore was forced to be its own country mainly because it had a lot of Chinese people, which made Malaysia nervous. But I couldn’t tell you where we should eat dinner. Oh well, 13 hours to go. A toddler is screaming on one side of me, and, on the other, B is talking about how when we have kids, we’ll be able to keep them quiet.

The official mascot of Singapore is the merlion—half lion, half fish. What’s not to love about that? But the guidebook is kind of dismissive, like, “Merlions—whatever, Singapore.”

At Ryan’s flat: Ryan, B’s former roommate-turned-professional-nomad, calls it a flat. He’s teaching here for a couple of years and will be our host and travel buddy for the next two weeks. He totally speaks Singlish now. On our cab ride from the airport, he would say things to the driver like, “You take elevator, not?” He sounds a little like someone imitating someone who can’t speak English well, but it seems to work. The dropped articles are just part of the dialect, I guess. I can feel my ears working to adapt. I love it.

I’m still trying to learn the rules of this whole dictatorship thing. Ryan had no problem talking about the government in the cab, so I guess Big Brother is not listening, just watching to make sure we don’t litter or jaywalk. Ryan has been visiting a local gay website, but he can’t put his picture on it because he’s a teacher, and there are (even stricter) rules about what teachers can and can’t do. And at any minute inspectors might visit the flat in search of standing water, because there’s an outbreak of dengue fever.

My favorite Singaporean item so far is a government-issued pamphlet titled “You Can’t Hurry Love: Choose Your Moment With The Ultimate 36 Hour Date Guide.” It has info about erectile dysfunction and menopause, but mostly just lots of Singapore-specific tips for romance, including all the lyrics to the title song, which they attribute to Phil Collins.

Some love lessons, courtesy of Singapore:
  • “In the 1970s, Paul Simon sang about 50 ways to leave your lover. Today, try 36 ways to leave your lover—gasping for more.”
  • “Book the in-laws into a hotel in Sentosa.”
  • “Think slow boil. Simmering. Think naughty.”
  • “Music, they say, can soothe the savage beast. In this case, what you want to do is bring out the savage beast in him—in the nicest primal way possible.”
  • “Get someone to take a picture of the two of you hamming it up in front of the merlion like two young lovers.”
  • “No one can see you if you let the curtains down before you play spin the banana (you need a big firm one—like a Pisang Rajah).”

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