Living in SIN
by Larry Colen

17 Jan 99

It's hard to believe that it was only six or seven weeks ago when shortly after landing in Singapore I realized "Wow! I'm on another continent". Shortly after I landed this trip, I had a similar realization: "Holy shit! I live in Asia!".

Yes, after about half as much time as I needed to get my life in order so that I could leave for six months, I'm back in Singapore. I meant to do one more chapter before I left but things got busy and when I got home I barely had time to sleep, much less write. One side benefit of leaving home for six months is that it forces you finish all those projects that you've been meaning to get around to.

Over the holidays, the names of several people that wanted to be added to this list came up, several of them were. If you know someone that would be interested in receiving these stories, have them drop me some email. Speaking of email, I now have my own domain: The mailserver hasn't been ironed out yet, and I'll keep the netcom account for a while after that too, but I will soon be

On my last trip I finally connected with the local swing dance community on the night before I went home. This trip I was able to hook up with them the day after I arrived and have already been to a couple of classes. In some ways it is frustrating that it is such a small comuunity, there aren't even any "swing" bands in Singapore, though there is a jazz/swing/lounge dance band that plays at the Raffles hotel on Thursday nights.

I haven't made any outrageous food discoveries yet on this trip. I've found a couple of bars that have good selections of single malts. There is a food court that is about halfway between my apartment and work that is open very late (likely 24 hours). My commute is darn near ideal. According to a map program it is about 300 meters from my job to my apartment, er, flat. It is about another 1300 to the MRT (train/subway) station.

I am finding that there is a definite aesthetic to the minimalist lifestyle from leaving most of ones possesions behind. However, there have been several things that I wished that I had with me, and I expect that list to continue growing.

One thing that I discovered this weekend is the expatriate community. Friday night, after leaving a party sponsored by HP at one of the local nightclubs, I was wandering around Orchard road (a shopping area that caters to foreigners) and found an Irish pub which had band playing pretty danceable music. While I don't do well in disco environments, when the band is playing a mixture of rock and irish, I can usually find someone to dance with, or if not may dance anyways. I got to chatting with the drummer, who introduced me to a couple of other expats and I soon had, if not new friends, at least some people to dance, chat and hang out with.

By the way, the band is caled "The Clares". They are from Melbourne, and if you happen to be in Melbourne (next September at Worldcon?), you should definitely try to catch one of their shows. They play a very danceable set, mostly rock from my high school days (oh my god 20 years ago!) with a few Irish pieces thrown in.

On my last trip, when a friend suggested that I connect up with the expats, I honestly didn't understand why I would want to travel 8,500 miles to hang out with other americans. Over the past few days I've realized that expats are different, and in many ways expats from different countries have more in common with each other than with most of the people from their own country. There is a certain mindset that is necessary for someone to be willing to pack up and go live on an entirely different continent. I'm surprised that I never noticed this at home with so many people in the Beigh Arya being from different parts of the world. I suspect that the Silicon Valley attracts a different breed of foreigner than does Singapore (Techie rather than Marketing, nice weather versus oppressive ...). It also might have something to do with meeting people in a bar versus meeting them at work. On the other hand, I suspect that I'll spend a lot more time in bars here than I would back home because I no longer have the comfy social network that I've built up over the last 20-30 years.

The other night I took a cab home after the MRT had stopped running. All of a sudden I realized that I didn't know my address. I knew how to get to the apartment and had to describe how to get there to the cab driver. When we got there I commented to myself out loud that it was on the corner of Bedok Resevoir and Jalan Eunos. The cab driver told me that all I had to do was tell the cab driver to take me to Eunos Mansion. It seems odd to me that cab drivers would know the building that I live in by name. It probably has more to do with my semi-rural upbringing than my being American though.

Last modified 01/23/98

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