Friday, 17 December 2010

Singapore Part 2 - Starting a life in Southeast Asia...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY back in the US. Okay, so I’m sure there will be some boo’s and general anger/revolt/mutiny here, but this will officially be the LAST POST OF 2010. Whilst I had planned to keep folks up to date on all the homecoming activities, Disney, Christmas, etc, the simple fact is that the time with my family is just too precious, and I can’t lose a second of it in front of the PC. My commitment to everyone is that I WILL commit all of it to the blog. However, the next post after this will be 7 January, 2011. Hitman, Hairless, Fizzy – don’t give up on me. The Bull just needs a break.

And so, without further a do, I give you Singapore – the REST of the story…

Monday: In search of the perfect place to call “home…”

So the day started at 9:30 when we met our “relocation consultant” to look at properties. This is a crucial activity for expats, especially when moving to a city they’ve NEVER visited before. Well, I am happy to report that our girl Olivia was a rock star, and she came through BIG TIME.

We spent the day looking at 14 different flats throughout the city, most of them focused on areas called Robertson Quay, Clarke Quay, and Orchard (you’ll hear me reference these A LOT over the next year), which are popular places for expats. As fate would have it, the first place we saw ended up being our favorite, and so we scheduled a second viewing for our first, second, and third choices the following day.

We spent the afternoon wandering the neighborhood around Robertson Quay, the site of all potential finalists and a spot that I think we’ll DEFINITELY enjoy. Then, given that it was 167,000 degree Celsius, we went back to Paula’s and jumped in the pool, where we spent about 30 minutes cooling down bfore we rolled to th feature event of the evning – dinner at the boss’ place!

So for those of you that don’t know, Sammy is moving from a Change Management role to a service delivery role. If you don’t speak “Bank,” it means that I’m going to be the head of Benefits Administration for APAC (yes, you read that correctly – the fate of benefits for associates in TWELVE COUNTRIES is my responsibility – does anyone else smell a goat rodeo?). In addition to changing jobs and continents, it means that I also have a new manager, this one taking th form of a South African Rugby fanatic and formr marathoner named Martin Appel.

Martin invited Jenny and I over to his (SUPER SWEEEEEET) pad, and so we hopped a cab around 6:30 and rolled out to meet the fam. We then spent th evning eating lik KINGS, as Martin grilled a feast that could have fed 273 people – it was SO GUUUUUUUUUUUD. We had a blast – too much fun, in fact, as we went through about 4 bottles of wine and suddenly checked our watches to realize it was AFTER 1 IN THE MORNING! YIKES! Martin – sorry about that! Thank you SO MUCH for your hospitality – it was a BLAST.

Tuesday: And the winner is…

So Tuesday was spent reviewing the “short list” of properties. After much deliberation, Team Taylor settled on Fraser Place (30 Robertson Walk, in case anyone’s curious for Google Earth). We LOVE this place, as it’s a) right by a grocery store, b) has an Indian, Japanese, and French place in the basement (all you can eat Raclette for 30 bucks, baby!!!!), and d) has a “Wine Connection” shop on the ground floor. I can feel the calories flowing through already…

After the selection we rolled down to an area called Harbourfront, which is where the office is located. This is a PERFECT spot for the office, as a) th cable cars to Sentosa (th resort island FIVE MINUTES off the coast of Singapore), b) the ferries to Indonesia, and c) the buses to K-L and Malacca all leave from the mall ATTACHED to the office. It’s funny, when Pumpkin and I popped up out of the metro station, we asked each other, “How will we ever find th building?” Then, looking to our left, we saw a HUGE sign that said: “Bank of America Merrill Lynch Harbourfront Office – this way.” Easy enough!
We wandered around the area a bit (very cool) befor heading back into town, where we made a dash for the last activity on the to-do list: finding a gym. We had actually passed a Fitness First on our walk to Boat Quay the first day, and so we popped in to see how it looked.

This place is AMAZING. There are 14 locations on the island, and 5 of thm have AT LEAST a half Olympic pool! The pool at this place is outside and overlooks the Singapore Flyer (think London Eye) and the Marina – SO NEAT. JT and I both signed up. I can’t WAIT to get back in a pool – two weeks until the fitness begins again!

Dinner that night was an institution – Da Dong by Fatty Wong (YES – that’s what she said). I mean, come on – with a name like that, you KNOW they are gonna get my business at least once. CLASSIC!

We ate the Peking Duck, which was delish with one random difference to the crispy aromatic duck from London – they cut the skin off and wrap ONLY THAT in the plum sauce pancake! And hey, who doesn’t love some fat filled skin, but JT and I had to eat the bird as well to make it truly palatable. And let me tell you – again, it was GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD. Seriously – Muffin and I have yet to find a bad meal here. If anything, since we don’t actually know what ANYTHING is on ANY menu, we’re on a journey of culinary discovery at th moment, and we are LOVING IT!!! My waist line, however, isn’t enjoying it as much. However, the meat sweats and the heat sweats are keeping the “muffin top to muffin tank” expansion project in check.

We spent the evening at home, as Sammy the Bull had a call (lovin’ that Analyze Tollgate, baby!), and then I stayed up until 1:30 watching tv. WHY, you ask? Well, only because YOU CAN GET CSI: VEGAS AND THE AMAZING RACE IN THE SING!!!! WOO-HOO!!!! They even have “Amazing Race – Asia!” Can’t WAIT! I am ALL ABOUT the AXN Network.

Wednesday: Team – Meet Sammy. Sammy – don’t scare the team…

So Wednesday was a big day, as it was my inaugural meeting with my new team. I was definitely excited to see the gang, and in true Sam Taylor fashion, I had NO KHAKIS TO WEAR (K-Rack – those would be chinos to you…). That’s right, after having FINALLY tossed the Duckheads I have owned since 1991, Sammy the Bull had NOTHING but a pair of dark jeans (Gap at least) and a shirt that I sweat through about 38 seconds after walking through my door. Seriously – when I got back from the office and dropped the backpack, you could have run a slip ‘n slide down my back. I know what sexy is…
The last bit of the day was roaming around the Marina, where we noticed about 610 TRILLION white balls in the water. Honestly, they looked like crab traps, but apparently they were actually little floating balls called "wishing spheres." The idea is that you write a wish for 2011 and then chuck the ball into the harbour, where it sits until New Year's. It should be noted that they are quick to mention "All spheres are non-toxic and 100% recyclable. The Singaporean Government will ensure that none of the 20,000 spheres enter the open ocean or cause any damage to our environment." After all - the Sing is cleeeeeeeean.

Dinner that night was in Little India (the tube stop for which is – oddly enough – Little India – isn’t that just supposed to be the nickname?), where we hit this AMAZING PLACE called Spice Junction. These dishes (South Indian – Puma, you would have been proud) were DELISH, and we’d never heard of most of them. Thanks for the recommendation, Biju!

We then rolled back the flat, where we spent the evening chillin’ with Paula and packing up. I actually tried to go to sleep at 11, but after 15 trips to the bathroom, I can confirm I hadn’t slept a WINK when the alarm went off at 3:15. Muffin actually stayed up all night, so she looked in MUCH better shape than me…

Thursday: We have HOW MANY hours of transit time?
THIRTY HOURS. That's right, sports fans. That's how many hours you'll spend in transit to get from the Sing to the Queen City? The most direct route? Well, that would be Singapore to Hong Kong, at which point you have to:
1. Get off the plane in HK
2. Pass through security...TWICE (all the while with cats yelling at you in Cantonese)
3. Go up 1 escalator (with reminders everywhere to protect the elderly and children - my question is: from what? Dim sum?)
4. Go to gate 50 and board THE EXACT PLANE YOU JUST DEPARTED
The most painful part of it all was that, try as I might, I simply COULD NOT sleep on the 14 hour flight from HK to the Windy City. And since the entertainment was donkey trash, I cut through my latest book: "Let the Right One In." Between this and the Millennium Trilogy, I have now concluded that cats in Sweden are REALLY messed up - just sayin'...
We arrived an hour late into Chicago, where the temperature was SIXTY DEGREES COLDER THAN IN SINGAPORE. All this was fine, but the part that bothered us was MISSING OUR CONNECTION. That being said, we had access to the lounge and got on board the next flight to Charlotte, so no complaints at the end of the day.
And then, finally, after 30 hours of transit and 50 of being awake, Team Taylor set foot in the QC. As I've said all day today, this first day back has been crazy, as I honestly feel like a nomad at the moment (well said by C-Web). To quote Bill Bryson when thinking about the states after being away for awhile: "I'm a stranger here myself." A few things in particular:
1. Food portion sizes - HOLY MOLY
2. Driving a car - Jenny did that today for the first time IN A YEAR

3. Watching out for traffic that drives on the RIGHT side of the road
4. Half and half creamer...who knew it was THIS HARD TO MIX?
But hey, I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, as these observations (as well as the homecoming) are the subject of a different blog, but that will have to keep until the New Year.
And so, it is with heavy eyelids, a full belly, and a light heart that I sign off for 2010. No one delete this link, and I PROMISE Team Taylor will be back in full swing to kick off the new year.
Seriously - thanks to all of you guys for reading. See you in 2011, when the bets on how many weeks I last before my first caning will start flying in fast and furious. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Festivus, and everything in between!!!
Sam and Jenny

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