Growing Pains
by Larry Colen


This trip has been an interesting voyage of exploration. Not just of a new land, and it's foods, but of myself. Sometimes all at the same time. Many of the things that I've eaten are things that I wouldn't go out of my way to eat, some of them have indeed been things that I might even go a little out of my way not to eat. I haven't always had the courage to order everything that I might, but when my dinner companions order something my intent has always been to try it, and then, maybe, ask what it is afterwards. Tonight I discovered one of my limits. We were at a restaurant in Little India called Muthus Curry. One of Singapore's most popular dishes is fishhead curry. It was quite good, really, but when I was offered an eyeball I just didn't muster up the gumption to try it.

We also had black squid, which was OK but not spectacular. The chicken Masalan (sp?) was quite good. The chicken and a couple of the side dishes served onto the banana leaf were about two notches spicier than what I have had in Indian restaurants in the states. Like many of the restaurants in Singapore, the food was served on a banana leaf. silverware was available, though Indians don't usually use it.

In such a multicultural environment the people seem to have a very casual approach to what eating utensils that they use. As often as not, especially at a food court, a table will have american silverware, chopsticks and oriental ceramic spoons. My chinese coworkers often chastise me for using chopsticks, even when they wouldn't.

One thing that peeves me about Singapore is that napkins are only supplied in more expesive restaurants and bathrooms rarely have paper towels, but instead have those godforsaken blowers. That don't dry your hands worth diddly. You can't wipe your hands at the table, and can't dry them off when you wash up in the bathroom afterwards.

You have probably noticed that a lot of this travelogue is about the food in Singapore. You might come to the conclusion that there isn't anything to do here but eat. You would nearly be right, but there is also shopping. It's been rather warm and muggy, and also overcast. While I was out at lunch today, the sun came out briefly and it quickly became downright hot. I quickly gained appreciation of the local aversion to outdoor activities, during the day anyways.

I'm sure that a lot of the apparent lack of anything to do, comes from my not being part of the local social network. Back home, there is a large degree of overlap between many social groups, so that once you become involved in one, you can quickly find out about others. Today, I decided to try using the net and asked about swing dancing locally. If I'm lucky the lead about there being classes at the local "Y" will pan out.

It has been confirmed that I will be coming back here for six months. Probably in the middle of January. While I am very excited over the opportunity to have enough time to more fully explore South East Asia, I must confess to occasional pangs of anxiety. While I expect that I will be making a few trips home during my stay the realization that I'll be spending most of the next half year, halfway around the world from my home, family and friends can be a little scary.

I've also been learning a lot about Linux. While I've been using it at home for over four years, and Xenix for about four before that, I never really got very deep into the system. Most of the CPU cycles on my home computers were spent on things like email, netnews and the web. After spending all day at work programming, and then trying to have some sort of a social life, I didn't really have a lot of my own CPU cycles to play with, as opposed to on, my own computers.

I've spent the past two weeks feeling like I'm constantly growing. And while this is a good, and an exciting thing, it isn't always comfortable. I'm frequently coming up against barriers, often cultural conditioning, or habits, and literally having to force myself to do take the opportunities that come my way. In some ways, I regret that it took me until I was nearly middle aged to embark on such an adventure, but I'm very glad that when the opportunity came about, I took it.

Last modified 01/23/98

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