Monday, 28 February 2011

2 months down already...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Work was busy again, and I think it's fair to say that I didn't make any friends today. Whilst it was another great one and we definitely got a lot accomplished, I have a sinking feeling that whichever company is starting to produce "Sammy the Bull Bobble Heads and Voo-doo Dolls" is probably doing enough business to consider an IPO. Wild Card - is it too late to negotiate security into my contract? Just thought I'd ask...

That being said, there were certainly some triumphs. For starters, I logged a 10K on the treadmill. It was slower than I would have liked, but given that I didn't all asleep until about FOUR IN THE MORNING last night, any mileage was a victory. Plus I got to watch the Bourne Ultimatum whilst running, so that was cool. :-)

And in Perfect Pumpkin Fitness news, Jenny has discovered the Asian version of "Crazy Class!" So a little back story here - back during our Charlotte days, Jenny would always go to this class that was called something like "Navy Seal Body Combat American Gladiator Bloodsport We Love Jean Claude Van Damme Beefcake Conditioning..." or something like that. Anyhoo, each Monday after she came home, she would always say the SAME thing: "Babe, that class was AWESOME. It was in SO MUCH PAIN. I mean EVERYTHING hurt. We were doing these lunges with weights into push-ups and then sprints. I thought I was going to die." She always followed it up with "You HAVE to go with me this week." Jackie - I kind of think of it like me and the whole "sugar cane juice is watered down Crystal Light" - that's just not sellin' it. Needless to say when she couldn't WALK FOR THE NEXT 3 DAYS, my suspicion was confirmed.

However, tonight I arrived at the gym to find Muffin Puffin swinging away like somebody on the set of The Contender - you should have SEEN THOSE BODY BLOWS! It was like Mike Tyson's Punch-out - Little Mac, beware!!!

The highlight of the evening? The first surgical execution of a pineapple, baby! That's right -
tonight Sammy the Bull went Emeril Legasse on this poor fruit, and it was AWESOME. Seriously - I might not have it down like those cats at the floating market (which wasn't ACTUALLY a floating market - thanks again, Dingbat), but we'll DEFINITELY get this again.


Last thing - I finished Tim Allen's "Don't Stand too Close to a Naked Man" tonight. I'm not sure if the humor is just stale after 20 years or if I wasn't in the right frame of mind to read it, but I thought it was TERRIBLE. Mom - please don't tell Glen.

Hard to believe, but as of today 17% of the assignment is already over - where on earth is the time going! It's been simply AMAZING so far, and I know that the next 10 months will only bring more and more amazing experiences (and hopefully at least a few more good stories). And perhaps even a caning or two...but we can hold off on those a little while longer.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 27 February 2011

HAIRLESS - Let's see you try THIS...

Family,
And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT WEEKEND in the Lion City. Seriously - Saturday was a PERFECT day in the Sing, complete with an activity that we'll remember FOREVER. I am dedicating this blog to the one and only T-Rowe Tom "the Hairless Wonder" Price, as I have a feeling that he's gonna laugh harder than any other member of the readership at this post.
So for those of you who've never actually met T-Rowe, I'll give you a bit of background. In addition to being a master guitarist and change manager, Tom also happens to cycle competitively (which is the ONLY REASON we'll allow his legs to be as clean shaven as his wife's...just sayin'...). I don't have any pics to post on the blog of him in action, but just picture a 6 foot Lance Armstrong with shiny white legs and spandex, and you'll be about 85% there.
Does Tom race with a team? Yes. Has Tom ever won a race? Yes. Does Tom correct me everytime I mispronounce pelaton? Yes. Does Tom cycle something silly like EIGHTY MILES every Saturday morning? Yes. But there is one thing in the world of cycling that Tom has never done - TAKE A 40 YEAR OLD STEEL FRAME TANDEM BIKE INTO AN OFF-ROAD MOUNTAIN BIKING PARK IN ASIA. That's right, baby - if you're not livin' on the edge, then you're taking up too much space.
So here's how it went down - Team Taylor logged 12 hours of sack time before waking up and heading over to one of the "rustic islands" off the coast of Singapore - Pulau Ubin. Described by the locals as "old Singapore," it boasts wetlands, unspoiled rainforest, and virtually ZERO humans. To get there, you have to take a "bum boat" across the straight, which takes about 20 minutes. The funny part (stated very publically at the ferry terminal) is that there is no set departure time. You wait until there are 12 of you who want to go, and then it departs. HILARIOUS! Luckily we showed up and were numbers 11 and 12, and so we headed right over.
The weather was just SPECTACULAR - I mean we're talking a PERFECT day in paradise. And how do you celebrate great weather on a Saturday? YOU HAVE A MASSIVE LUNCH, of course! And so we settled down at a local dive and KILLED some noodles and black pepper ostrich (SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD, peppy cheekies). We even got some coconut milk - STILL IN THE COCONUT. Check out muffin puffin rockin' it out Castaway style.
We then moved onto the featured event of the day - the bike ride. Now we'd heard that this was THE SPOT to tandem bike, as you'll basically have the roads to yourself and can get accustomed to handling the bike. And whilst the "you'll be pretty alone" part is accurate, there were a few details left off, such as:
1. The roads were completed in about 1670 and haven't been touched since then.
2. There are wild boar on the island, and they WILL run in front of you.
3. The bikes were purchased during World War II and haven't really been upgraded since then. True, mine did have Shimano gears, but I noticed there was only 1 sproket...hmmmmm...
4. The island is half wetlands, which you can't cycle through, and then half terrain park, which you don't WANT to cycle through. Next time I think we'll consult the fake Lonely Planet we bought a bit more, but hey - details...
And so, $9 US bought JT and I a tandem bike for the day. I mean CHECK THIS MONSTER OUT. You don't get a map. You don't get a spare tire. You don't get any assistance. All you get is a basket to drop your backpack and a wave from the shopowner who you KNOW is thinking "Twenty bucks says they drive into the lake in the middle of the island and drown - good thing I gave them the bike from 1903."
And so the journey began. About 15 seconds in we should have known there was a problem, as I couldn't get the damn thing to EVER go to the right. However, we just assumed that this was "teething," and so we rolled to the western half of the island. Again, we should have considered our surroundings when the terrain started going STRAIGHT UP on gravel only, but not be stopped by anything (IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING), we kept going, laughing all the way until we saw a sign that read: "Pulau Ubin Mountain Terrain Skills Park - Not Recommended for Beginners." There was a brief moment of "we can do this," until we saw 2 freakin' OLYMPIC ATHLETES throttle past us at about 600 miles per hour CLAD IN BODY ARMOR (sorry, Brits - armour). Consequently, we decided to take the "leisurely downhill" that would get us back on the main road. "Leisurely" must mean something different in Singlish, as it was basically STRAIGHT DOWN THE SIDE OF A GRAVEL FILLED MOUNTAIN. And the best part? THE BIKE DIDN'T HAVE FUNCTIONING BRAKES. Seriously - we had to use our feet and drag them for traction - AWESOME.
We puttered around the island for 3 hours, and I will confess that it was BEAUTIFUL. We even saw some Wild Boar (Lost style) - I'd LOVE to have seen Locke try to take this monster down. I wonder if there were Mutant Polar Bears out there as well?

It really was a neat place, and we did get a chance rest our legs and walk through the wetlands National Park as well. There wasn't much to this (just a Mangrove boardwalk which was closed and some other trails), but there was a really neat 5 story observation tower that we climbed up, which gave us a great view of the water, with Singapore City in the distance. Oh, and the oil wells...did I mention all the near shore oil wells? Yeah, let's just say that Team Taylor is probably NEVER gonna get in the water around the Sing. The Sing might be clean, but the only word that comes to mind when I think of the water surrounding this pristine little country is RAW SEWAGE.
After grabbing a Tiger by the ferry terminal, we rolled back to the condo, showered, and then headed out to Boat Quay, where we stopped for a drink at Red Dot. This place has passted Brewerkz as my favorite microbrewery in Singapore, and the Boat Quay one was great because they offer 3/4 pints! So of course I tucked into a Green Monster (T-Rowe - it's really worth you flying over here just to experience one of these...and for me to watch you each some Chinese food with chopsticks in a Hawker Center). Another nice thing about the Boat Quay branch was the live music they had. They had a 2 person acoustic set going, and these cats were GREAT. We listened to 2 sets and were VERY impressed - we'll definitely be back for an encore!



We then headed back to the casa, where we chatted with mom before PASSING OUT. And I should say a big CONGRATS TO MY STEPDAD STEVE!!!!! VERY Proud of you, big guy! Full marks!!!

Team Taylor got up today after another TWELVE HOUR SNOOZE, and we weren't as productive today. We rolled over to Clarke Quay, where we hit up Iguana, a Mexican themed restuarant with nothing but photos and coasters of Frida Khalo everywhere - yes, honk if you too find this odd. Regardless, their nachos were OFF THE CHAIN, as was their chimichanga, with the consequence being that we both feel fat as damn BEARS right now. And the sweet tea came with sugar water - look at the master pourer in progress. Now if I'd just had one of those tea bazookas, I could have REALLY done something.

It was then over to Orchard, where 2 hours of shopping led to the purchase of a) some power gel, b) a hydration belt (don't worry - you'll see Sam "you can't hide sexy" Taylor sporting this new accessory soon enough), c) some salt tablets (Miller - I didn't get to thank you for the email. I'm trying 30 "vegetarian" supplements, all to be consumed during distance training at regular intervals. If you never hear from me again, don't buy the same brand...), and d) the best purchase of all...wait for it...wait for it...shinguards for Muffin Puffin!!!! That's right folks, in anticipation of the Kandy Kickers United Football Club 2012 calendar rollout, I present to you, Mrs. March (or is it Miss?) - Deadly Striker Jenny! Seriously - could she BE any cuter?
It's a quiet night in, whilst we iron, finish taxes, and hopefully chat with a few folks via Skype. Other than that, not a whole lot else to report, save to say that it's been a GREAT weekend, and I'm refreshed and ready for the week ahead.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Love,
Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 26 February 2011

YOU...CAN...FIND...ME...DOWN BY THE KKUFC...

Family,

And a good Saturday evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Fret not, as the normal Saturday recap will happen on schedule on Sunday morning. However, enough happened on Friday that I feel it was certainly deserving of its own blog.

So first off, in the event that none of the readership actually goes back to see the tea man pics posted, I thought I'd just drop 'em here. As you can see, the guy's walking around with a hybrid water spicket - BAZOOKA, and I'm just the jackass ang mo along for the ride. I mean, as we've always said, I'm here to show just how tolerant and sophisticated Americans are, one offended Asian at a time...

It should be noted that, whilst talking with one of my teammates (the "lovely and talented" Adeline Choo), I mentioned how excited I was that I finally got to see this EPIC tea pouring, so synonomous with Singaporean culture. The conversation went something like this:

Sammy the Ambassador (StA): "So I FINALLY got a chance to see the tea pouring. It was so neat. Do you see it a lot?"

Less than Impressed Adeline (LtIA): "Um, I've never seen that before in my life."

StA: "Really? I thought it happened all the time here."

LtIA: "Nope. Never once. Ever."

StA: "I read that it was a very big Singaporean tradition."

LtIA: "Singapore HAS NO TRADITIONS." CLASSIC...Dinger - tell me this wasn't another good "Four Leaf" moment...

Evelyn - I'm on to your broader "saboh" plan now - you bought me that book filled with lies about Singapore so that I'll make a fool of myself at each turn. This ang mo's onto you, young lady...I bet the whole "hotel below the Merlion story" was a lie as well...


Either way, here's the jellyfish photo as well (thanks again, Nancy!). Like I said, it's a colenerate (I'm sure I misspelled the hell out of that, but Mrs. Chance has simply GOTTA be proud that I even knew what it was), but it really has NOTHING ELSE IN COMMON with squid. Glad that one's checked off the list.

As to the week itself - Life is GREAT. This week was one of the busiest work weeks I've had in a long time, but selfishly I will confess that I'm REALLY proud of what we accomplished. We've got new members on the team who are rockstars, things are starting to stabilize, and I honestly feel like we're turning a corner. For the first time since coming here, I actually think (knock on wood) we're on the verge of getting "ahead" of stuff vs. reacting to it, and that's a good feeling. Plus, when you add in the best 5K time I've had in a long time and the fact that, for a chance, I got to hand out some good news (normally I'm just an executioner), I can safely say that the Bull couldn't have asked for anything more this week.

As for this next segment, I have no lie to tell - unless you are Hitman, Big Cat, Wild Card, MattPa, Shogun, the VFF, or Old School Cool, you probably won't find this a damn bit amusing. I, however, am STILL laughing. So at the bank, we've got this process where the laptops receive a technology package called a "T-band." Now I won't say any more - you either find this insanely funny or you don't (for example, I hope my parents are TOTALLY LOST RIGHT NOW). For those of you who appreciate, the conversation I had in the office:

Person #1: "Well, I gotta go home. It's time to get T-banded."

Mind in Gutter Sammy (MiGS): "I'm sorry, what?"

Person #1: "It's time for my T-band! I can't work when the T-band is scheduled."

Person #2: "I'm getting T-banded tonight as well!"

MiGS: (straight faced, to my credit) "So there's a lot of T-banding going on right now."

Person #3: "Oh yeah, the whole office is getting T-banded tonight. Didn't you get an email?"

MiGS: (thinking WHERE IS MATT MILLER WHEN YOU NEED HIM) "I've already been T-banded. It happened a long time ago. I'll just have to sit here and work."

It was just CLASSIC. Yazz and Sam (Stone, Private Eye) - PLEASE tell me you guys appreciate.

In the evening, after walking through THE HARDEST DOWNPOUR I'VE EVER SEEN, Jenny and I met up with some members of her soccer/football club. They rented space at a place called Le Carillon, and Jenny and I walked ALL of Robertson Quay (which is where we live, for the record), only to discover that the bar is ATTACHED TO OUR BUILDING. Seriously - we've simply GOT to invest in a map (but I can't part with that $3!!!).

I know we've mentioned the team, but you probably don't know much more. For example - the "club name?" The KANDY KICKERS UNITED FOOTBALL CLUB. OH YES, that's right - if that's not something out of a Blue Movie, then tell me what is...

And for the records, I had what I thought was a VERY funny line (even though it didn't draw a single giggle from the crowd...some people lack vision). So we're all sitting around, and I say to one of the other guys there, "So I guess we're the HABS, huh?" He looks at me as though I've just said, "Would you mind if I ripped out your right eyeball and used it as an olive in this martini?" So I explained further (the dude WAS BRITISH, for the record): "You know, instead of WAGS (American readers - this is a well known term in Britain for the "wives and girlfriends"), we're the HABs - husbands and boyfriends." STILL NOTHING. I inspect the crowd - SILENCE. Sammy then does what any sensible failed comic would do - goes to the bar and orders a $12 Heineken.

The only other story of the night was when Kathy (the Chinese gal beside Jenny in the photo) said, "Of all the places I want to visit in the states, I think New Orleans is #1." After I scolded her and told her why this was a bad idea she said, "Well, there is one place I want to see more. The DREAM city is (wait for it...wait for it...let me take a Prozac whilst I wait for it...) MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE." Honestly, I almost wet my pants.
So I explained why she'd most likely get stabbed, shot, or at the very least mugged in the worst city in Tennesee, but she just wasn't done. And when I mentioned that I liked Vegas, she said, "Oh, I see why you don't like Memphis. You're just superficial and shallow. You don't have any depth to
experience the emotion and culture of a place like Memphis." SOMEONE PLEASE SHOOT ME IN THE FACE WITH AN ELEPHANT GUN. TWICE.
By the end of the night, I was more than superficial - I was a superficial, shallow, gay redneck. And they STILL didn't laugh at any of my jokes. Yes - I would call it a successful evening.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Love,
Sam and Jenny (Master Striker for the KKUFC)

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Is that a ballistic missile or green tea?

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Today was a busy one through and through, but no complaints, as Sammy got a chance to experience a Chinese tradition few have read about and even fewer have seen - the mystical rocket lauching Chinese tea pouring! Yes, yes, I know - SERIOUSLY RANDOM. However, this needs to make your life's "to-do" list. Stay with me here...

So the background - I had an AMAZING lunch today on the SIXTIETH FLOOR of a building in CBD. The view was EXTRA AWESOME -images of the harbor (sorry, John Davies - HARBOUR), the skyline, and the wilderness areas in the distance. The food was SPECTACULAR. We rocked it Chinatown in London style - lazy susan's and TONS of food. I don't have the photos with me (thanks to Nancy for having the foresight to buy an i-Phone a year ago), but I will get them up soon, as there's a CLASSIC photo of Four Leaf trying his first ever bite of Jellyfish. I have no lie to tell - it wasn't donkey trash, but it was NOT stellar. Everything else, however (2 kinds of fish, 2 kinds of chicken, mushrooms, soup, pork ribs, and fruit for desert) was JUST STELLAR.

The highlight, however, was neither the view nor the food. You see, I've read about these cats who wander around restaurants (don't worry - they are actually EMPLOYED by the restaurant) and somehow pour SCALDING WATER past your head and hit the glass exactly, pouring the water at such a velocity that you truly do have a "storm in a teacup" (Kat - that was for you). Personally, I didn't believe it. But then I saw the magician in action. In a word - WOW.

Picture a dude with a bazooka standing about 4 feet away from you. Then, like a scene from Terminator 2 (Yep - I just said that), picture liquid metal shooting out of this little spicket. And then, just when you think it's going to burn a hole in your chest, it magically finds its way into the tea cup right in front of you. I didn't do a good job selling it, did I...

Anyhoo, that was GREAT, and I got out of the office around 8 PM to hit the gym. I was expecting a bad workout, but I actually ended up logging a 5K in 22:06, my best time in YEARS (and years...and years...). Now that I'm 14 pounds lighter than December (SCARY thought), it's amazing how much easier it is to run. Details...

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

It's a long road out of Eden...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. I am pleased to report that the work daily wasn't nearly as long today (although it WILL burn in my mind a long time), as Sammy the Bull finally had an activity. What was it, you ask? Tonight Four Leaf got to experience some good ole' American culture at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, where he saw...wait for it...wait for it...THE EAGLES, BABY!!!!! WELCOME TO THE HOTEL CALIFORNIA!!!!

I must confess that the ride over to the stadium was SO DIFFERENT from ALL OTHER CONCERTS I've ever been to. In the spirit of the "Embassy comparison" from last night, let's examine the last 2 concerts I've been to: The Eagles vs. Linkin Park.

LP Venue: O2 Center in London

Eagles Venue: SIS in Singapore

Journey to LP concert: 348 BILLION OF MY CLOSEST, SWEATIEST, SMELLIEST, DRUNKEST friends all crammed into a Tube car built for 8 people

Journey to Eagles concert: Walked straight onto the metro and got a seat. At no point were all the seats full ALL THE WAY TO THE STADIUM

Arrival at LP concert: Scanning. Pat downs. Metal detectors.

Arrival at Eagles concert: "Welcome to the show! Everyone enjoy!"

Crowd participation at LP: MOSH PIT. If you sit down, you die.

Crowd participation at Eagles: Active cheering - NO ONE standing (except for this drunk American who stood up EVERY TIME and acted shocked when no one else stood despite his incoherent ramblings that doubled as encouragement)

So here's the kicker - in the Sing there is NO OPENING BAND EVER. You paid for a show that starts at 8, and that puppy STARTS AT 8. The Eagles were right on time, and they actually took an intermission halfway through. I was surprised but this, but I understood later when they PLAYED 3 AND A QUARTER HOURS. Seriously - if you EVER get the chance to see these cats, GO.

The vocals were STUNNING. All 4 of those cats can sing, as well as play the guitar, drums, and keyboard. It was truly AMAZING to watch them go at it, and they were really, REALLY good. I couldn't believe how strong all of them were vocally - talk about a treat!

Dad I TOTALLY thought of you during the encore when they played "Take It Easy." You'll be happy to know that I screamed "I was standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona (site of the Sunset Motel for $22, for the record), such a fine sight to see." CLASSIC!

They performed "Hotel California" early in the set, and it was PHENOMENAL. Don Henley's still got it folks - that dude can sing. I actually think that "Boys of Summer" (let's keep the comments to a minimum, please) was my favorite, but let's face it - I will remember that I saw the Eagles rock "Hotel California" in the Sing for as long as I live. And lest we forget, they closed with the other big one: Desperado. In a word - WOW.

And btw - Mom - since you think I'm the luckiest cat on earth, just WAIT until I tell you my story from this evening.

On the journey home I actually ran into my boss, who was also at the concert. We caught the train back, got locked in a mall, and then finally managed to break out, at which point I said farewell and made the walk home. I'm now back at the flat, where it's time to pass out.

KJ - breathe a sigh of relief - it's FINALLY OVER!!!!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Girls, they wanna have fun...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Once again, Sammy the Bull logged a 12 hour day, with Muffin Puffin logging 11.5 on her own. Hitman - tell the Baron that he is DEFINITELY getting his money's worth out of me...but still don't pass him the link to the blog.

Today Four Leaf went to the US Embassy because he had to renew his passport. The US Embassy in Singapore is, simply put, A CATHEDRAL. I mean, this place is HUGE. The only other time I've been to a US Embassy was in Madrid. Let's see if I can just sum up the differences between that experience an now...

Madrid: 13,000 drunk college students who lost their passports in Ibiza are standing outside, as well as 27,999 sweaty Spanish dudes, at least 4,000 of which are just there to steal your backpack.

The Sing: I'm the only guy in line except for this Chinese dude who KNOCKS ME OVER to redeem his ticket and get his phone back. It was AWESOME when the lady saw my US passport and immediately dismissed him.

Madrid: Marines. With Guns. EVERYWHERE.

The Sing: Wackenhut security (I am NOT joking). I mean, I know the odds of danger in the Sing equal the odds of being eaten by a Polar Bear in Gautemala, but still...come on.

Madrid: 3 hour wait.

The Sing: 7 minute wait (including the 3 minutes for security).

All in all it was SUPER easy, and my passport should be back by 8 March (knock on wood). That means Typhoon Taylor is confined to the island for the next 2-3 weekends, and to quote the Shogun..."the Sing will never be clean again..."

The evening was a blur, but I did get 45 minutes on the bike before coming home for an 11:30 PM dinner. That beats Muffin's calorie intake, however, as she didn't even EAT dinner! You see, Muffin is now in training for the 2014 World Cup, and tonight was another step toward that goal. :-)

Seriously, P Dawg introduced JT to a girl's soccer league, and so far Jenny's LOVED it and met some cool peeps. Personally, I love to play the "Identify the Norwegian and Swede in this picture" game when I look at this photo. Nice backdrop, pumpkin!


Other than that, not a whole lot else to report. 2 AFD's in a row, and I'd REALLY love a Green Monster Cream Ale ri
ght about now. Oh, and it should be noted that TOM "THE HAIRLESS WONDER T-ROWE FASHIONISTA" PRICE BOUGHT A PLAID SHIRT YESTERDAY FROM BANANA. That's right, sports fans - not only did Tom emulate the fashion styles of the one and only Sam Taylor - he also paid SERIOUS MONEY FOR IT. To quote Price: "I'm pretty sure this is the same shirt you bought in the 7th grade from Wal-mart." Please...don't be hatin'...

And Wild Card - can you show a brother how to put captions on his photos? Enquiring minds want to know!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Monday, 21 February 2011

After a GREAT run, Team Taylor is boring for an evening...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. I know that Big Cat isn't gonna believe this, but today was Sammy the Bull's LONGEST DAY IN THE OFFICE SINCE TRANSITION. That's right, sports fans, fresh off a SUPER relaxing weekend in Paradise, I logged my first 13.5 hour day since that famous moment of "I don't think overtime's working in Canada." However, I can't complain, as my Muffin Puffin is STILL working as I type this. And based on the speed at which Excel is saving, she might be at it until about 4 in the morning. Translation - Team Taylor is LESS than exciting tonight.

The funniest part of the day was this morning, when I went to check the opening times of the US Embassy in Singapore. You see, Four Leaf needs a new passport, and I was going to drop my old one off today and get the ball rolling. But in an irony that ONLY the work boys, would appreciate, the Embassy was CLOSED DUE TO PRESIDENT'S DAY. THAT'S RIGHT - the Embassy celebrates both local AND US public holidays (insert the joke about, "Sam, how is that any different than you?"). Oh well, there's always tomorrow (unless they also celebrate Japanese holidays here).

Regardless, I do take solace in the fact that:

1. I logged 7.6 miles this morning at an 8:35 pace. Given how hot it was and how I still had some gas left at the end (and didn't even bring Gatorade along), I'm feeling really good about the race in May (Miller - next week I'm going to cover myself in palm fronds and rabid monkeys so that I can have the true "MattPa" experience). Also, whilst it was HELL to get out of bed (I didn't fall asleep until after 2, and when I did sleep I had dreams of this possessed child tripping my down the stairs in a haunted house - good times...), I am liking the Monday morning ritual of getting up for the long run. That means I don't have to do it over the weekend!

2. I completed the travel tracker today! So, as some of you know, Team Taylor owes taxes in, well, pretty much every country on earth. To keep it all sorted, my dear friends at KPMG have this tax organizer that helps keep a lot of the data consolidated (I must agree with Shogun - it is AMAZING how much work goes into an expat's tax returns...you honestly have no idea until you see it). One of the features is the "travel tracker," whereby I have to account for every single day of the year, noting them as working, vacation, public holiday, or non-work. And NO, all you DONKEYS making the joke - IT DOES NOT READ 85% VACATION. It reads 84%...

3. We are making progress booking some vacation! After failing to make it on the previous two attempts, Team Taylor is FINALLY heading to...wait for it...wait for it...THAILAND, BABY!!!!! Granted, it's a little ways out, but no complaints - we're SO EXCITED!!!!

Not a whole lot else to report other than to apologize to P-Dawg for not making the leaving drinks. Sorry gal - it was one HELL of a day.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Happy President's Day!!!! Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 20 February 2011

A pleasant Sunday in paradise...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Team Taylor comes to you VERY relaxed this evening, as it was a TERRIFIC day, and just one more reminder of why we're so glad we moved to the Sing.

We woke up around noon(ish!) and were out the door by 12:30. We'd contemplated lots of food options, but in the end we decided to go back to the Chijmes complex to find a nice brunch. And whilst, like Communism, this idea was GREAT on paper, it was less than stellar in practice when we arrived to find ALL RESTAURANTS AND SHOPS CLOSED ON SUNDAYS. Consequently, we began a wander, intent on finding some guuuuuuud grub.

We didn't have to wait long, as a brief wander around Raffles Blvd allowed us to locate this CUTE street (Purvis), where we found "The best Thai in town for the lightest hit on your wallet." I couldn't even tell you the name of this joint, but I can confirm two things: a) it was cheeeeeeeeeap, and b) it was SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy peanut filled cheekies). Throw in some iced coffee (we're rapidly becoming HUGE fans of this) and some lime juice, and you've got a recipe for success and full tummy jackets.

We then walked around the area, stopping at the famous Raffles Hotel to walk through their arcade and see the outer facade. This hotel, once THE DESTINATION for opulence and luxury in the Far East, is still VERY iconic, and you can tell that it would be a pretty EXTRA AWESOME spot to spend a few days. We didn't hit the Long Bar (site of the Singapore Sling's creation), but fret not - it's on the long term plan.

On a side note, we walked down by the Merlion, which is still under renovation (SINGAPORE GOVERNMENT - WHEN WILL YOU BRING BACK MY MERLION!?!?!? I'M DYING HERE! COME ON, MAN!!!!), where I had a simply FASCINATING conversation. Now as I always say, this blog is not a political platform. However, one of the questions I hear most often is "how can American kids compete with other nations?" I won't pretend to answer that here (although I do have my own ideas, obviously), but I will say that, whilst we were staring at the BOX surrounding the Merlion, a little kid came up to me who could NOT HAVE BEEN A DAY OLDER THAN 10. Jenny was present for this, and this is the conversation:

BLOODY BRILLIANT CHINESE PRODIGY (BBCP): "Hello, are you German?"

Four Leaf Taylor (FLT): "Nope, we're American."

BBCP: "Ah, American. Traveling the world or working here now?" (Seriously? He understands my accent?"

FLT: "We're working here now. Are you here on vacation?" (smug grin on Sammy's face)

BBCP: "No, I am studying here." (STUDYING HERE? You're like 5 years old! Shouldn't you be doing finger painting or something?)

FLT: "Ah, did you just arrive?"

BBCP: "No, I've been here 4 years actually."

FLT: "Oh, wow. You like it."

BBCP: (without missing a beat) "Oh, I love it. I get a chance to interact with people from all over the world. It helps with my hobby of collecting currencies. I have over 70 currencies."

FLT: "Um, really? Wow. We just got back from Vietnam. If I had any left, I could have given you some of theirs. They use..."

BBCP: "The Dong, yes, I know. ("they use the Dong" - huh, huh...). I have the 20,000. I have American money as well. The $1, $5, and $20. $20 is my favorite - Andrew Jackson on the bill."

FLT: "That's right." (because seriously, WTF ELSE DO YOU SAY TO THIS? I mean, I sure as HELL don't know who the dude is on the Sing money, which is pretty pathetic when you consider IT'S THE SAME DUDE ON ALL THE BILLS!") "What's your favorite design?"

BBCP: "I would say Ethiopia, but Chile's currency is very neat. I would really like to visit Santiago. Have you been to Santiago?"

FLT: "Nope, never been. (HE'S 10 YEARS OLD!!! HOW THE @#$# DOES HE KNOW THE CAPITAL OF CHILE! Shouldn't he be playing Hungry Hippo or something?)

The conversation went on for another 5 minutes, and I was flat AMAZED. Let's just say that they should NEVER allow this kid onto the set of "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?", as he would kick EVERYONE'S ass.

After that, we rolled over to Fort Canning Park, where we soaked up the greenery whilst wandering around the old ruins of the fort. It was a steep walk, but the scenery was pleasant.

We made it home in time for a quick dip in the pool (and a trip to the steam room, for the record) before wandering back up to Skype with the Aussies. Unfortunately it didn't work out, but we did have a GREAT turn of events in that we got to Skype with YAZZ!!!!!! It was SO GREAT catching up, bashing Elvis, contemplating ways to firebomb Memphis, and cackling for just over an hour before signing off and heading up to Dempsey Hill for din din. The featured spot was Red Dot, a microbrewery that has officially passed Brewerkz as the best Brewpub in the Sing.

This place was GREAT, complete with 6 different kinds of brews and GREAT food. The feature beer was (T-Rowe, OSC - you'll love this): "The Green Monster Lager." And no, it wasn't a tribute to Fenway - it was instead a cream lager infused with garden veggies. Granted, I know it sounds DISGUSTING (Ladies Man style), but it was actually REALLY good (but not as good as the English Ale I tried later, for the record). All in all, it was a GREAT spot, and we'll DEFINITELY be back.

We're now back at the flat, where Muffin Puffin's looking up travel options and I'm about to Skype with Mom. It was a GREAT ending to a PERFECT weekend in the tropics, and all is right with the world.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Sentosa - discovering Singapore's playground...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Today Team Taylor crossed off another to-do on the Singapore visitor's list - a visit to Sentosa.

Sitting 710 meters off Singapore's southern shore (and literally RIGHT OUTSIDE my office - the view I have every evening is sunset over Sentosa, which is quite cool), Sentosa is nicknamed "Asia's favorite playground." Whilst that's no doubt in some debate with folks who love places like Haikou or Macau, it really is a neat spot and DEFINITELY worth a visit.

We arrived about 2 PM STARVING. And in true Typhoon Taylor fashion, we did what Wife Muffin and Husband Bear do VERY well - EAT LIKE RABID BANSHEES. The venue of choice, you ask? Why, none other than the pride of Lisbon, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen. That's right, sports fans, we ROCKED the HARD ROCK CAFE, BABY!!!!! BRING ON THE GLUTTONY!!!!

We killed some burgers and wings (SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUD...peppy cheekies), all whilst listening to the sounds of Korn, the Doors, Linkin Park, Whitesnake (you're my boy, Blue! You're my boy!), and even POISON! And YES - this is the part where I yell "KISSAGE!!!!!" Quality.

After a GREAT meal, we then rolled through Sentosa island, seeing all of the many "thrilling and exhilarating yet family friendly" activities the place had to offer.

The first one that popped into our line of sight was the Merlion tower. Now don't be tricked, my faithful readership, as this is not THE Merlion. Oh no, this is a 37 meter high reproduction, offering "stunning views of the island, the Pacific, and Singapore" - all of a nominal fee of $8, of course.

We passed on going up the Merlion, but we did go through the (FREE) Merlion walk, which reminded us very much of Park Guell in Barcelona - very neat, with lots of multi-colored tiles and a cute little stream running through it (no children allowed, however - or they will CANE YOU).


After that, we walked along the beach for a bit. This is really the only place IN Singapore where you can actually swim (you can in East Coast Parkway, but the water is, well, less than desirable). The odd part was that, despite the FOUR BILLION SHIPS DOCKED A QUARTER MILE OFF THE BEACH, the water was this beautiful cobal blue. Hmm....can someone say additional chemicals in the water? I mean, I'm not judging, just questioning how nature can maintain such a color when TEN TRILLION TONS OF WASTE AND DIESEL ARE BEING DUMPED INTO THE WATER DAILY RIGHT OFF THE COAST. But hey, what do I know...

After that, we rolled to another "highlight" of the island - "The Southernmost point in Continental Southeast Asia." Now this is probably where you ask the question: "How exactly can an ISLAND be the southernmost point on continental Southeast Asia?" I will go a step further and ask "How the hell can we even be talking about how ANY PART of the ISLAND of Singapore can hold this distinction?" The answer, my friends, lies in the Guinness Book of World Records.

You see, apparently Malaysia and Singapore currently have this pissing match going on where they are competing for which country can hold the most world records. And whilst i'm ALL for competition, some of it has gotten downright RIDICULOUS. Case in point - what records does Sentosa island host by itself?

1. The Southernmost point of Continental Southeast Asia (this is accomplished by stringing together a) the CAUSEWAY connecting Malaysia and Singapore, b) The BRIDGE connecting Singapore and Sentosa, and c) the 30 foot "suspension bridge" from Sentosa island to this little chip of shit in the middle of the water. I mean seriously? SERIOUSLY?)

2. The world's first permanent show situated completely water (it's seriously TEN FEET OFF THE BEACH - I mean COME ON - that's just flaunting the rules)

3. Asia's first 4-D attraction (this is accomplished by supplying a single smell during the ride - is smell really a Dimension? What exactly would Madeline L'Engle say about that? Well, at least I know what some Tennessee parents say about it - WITCHCRAFT! Sorry - couldn't help myself)

I'm sure there are others, but you get my point. All the same, I got this GREAT photo of me chillin' on the "southernmost point" - and YES, I did try to stand up on it twice and almost KILLED myself. For that matter, I almost fell twice just SITTING on that damn tree.

After checking out the view and enjoying the breeze, we then rolled to the other "must do" on the island - THE STREET LUGE, BABY!!!! This was actually a GREAT little activity, as $17 a person bought you 2 rides on the cable car and 2 rides down on the street luge (which actually moved pretty fast!). The view from the cable car was really cool, especially the second time when suddenly in the middle of a BLISTERINGLY SUNNY DAY it started POURING and gave us a rainbow off the right side. The storm was something out of the movies, and for 20 minutes it could have shattered asphalt (it didn't stop us from rolling down the luge again, but it DID keep us from trying the second, faster track. Oh well - haffa go back!). After that, however, it was again blistering sunshine. I was so proud of this photo - I honestly felt like Super Dave Osborne. Good times...

We wandered down the beach toward the eastern end of the island, where we checked out the Wavehouse. This place was CRAZY, as they had multiple flow-riders going (some for kids, others for the big boys), and one of them was putting out MAD CRAZY WAVES. Seriously, we must have watched these cats do tricks and fly all over the place for about 20 minutes ("I caught my first tube this morning...sir) before calling it a day and heading home.

We're now looking at booking travel and taking it easy, in for the night after another TERRIFIC day.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Friday, 18 February 2011

First impressions of Hong Kong...

Family,

And a good Saturday morning to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. So today's blog comes to you in 2 parts, the first being my initial impressions of HK, the second being some of the better quotes of the week.

So first off, Hong Kong - Asia's "World City," and an icon in the mind of so many James Bond fans (or Dark Knight, for that matter). Truly, it is something AMAZING to behold. The speed, the pace, the sheer VOLUME of Skyscrapers - WOW. I will say that, in 2.5 days of visiting, you really don't get to see much (especially since I was working, no matter what Big Cat says), but here are my first impressions.

1. I DEFINITELY want to go back. Like Singapore, Beijing, and other Southeast Asian capitals, business is BOOMING, and it's AMAZING to be part of that.

2. To quote Alicia Keyes: "Concrete jungles, what dreams are made of..." - Seriously -I have NEVER SEEN that much concrete, steel, and metal all concentrated in 1 place.

3. There are virtually NO sidewalks. If you want to go somewhere, you take a taxi - period. You honestly can't walk ANYWHERE, as this place just isn't set up that way.

4. The pace is truly frenetic. I was constantly mowed down by people half my size for the 3 days I was there (nope - joke's still not gettin' old). It's the mantra of "kill or be killed" when that elevator door opens, and LBRC - there are NOT gonna hold it open for you.

5. The food is utterly AMAZING. Dim Sum to DIE FOR (Yazz, you weren't kidding - I think you should have Dani or MKD fly you there for lunch). I even got to try Shark Fin soup, which was SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies). It was NOT AT ALL what I thought it would taste like - much thicker and saltier (don't say it...don't say it...THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID - sorry, I couldn't help myself). The portions, however, are TINY. My Western ass as pretty much starving the entire time I was there.

6. It definitely has much more of a gritty, big city feel than Singapore.

7. The ferry and travel options to islands resorts, mainland China, and other North Asia destinations is SPECTACULAR.

8. The pollution is OUT OF CONTROL. Seriously - the mountains are only about 2 miles away from the city, and I didn't even SEE the mountains until my last day. Some days I couldn't even see the water. When I did see it, however, the view was PHENOMENAL - such an amazing mix of nature and architecture.

9. You have never seen, and WILL NEVER SEE, so many buildings packed so closely together and rising SO HIGH. Hong Kong just replaced Moscow as THE MOST EXPENSIVE CITY ON EARTH (Bob - I know you're curious - brewski's were about 55-85 Hong Kong Dollars for a bottle - that's about $7-10 USD). The reason for the expense is housing. You see, in HK, the square footage you're quoted is NOT the square footage you actually have in your apartment. They can take all the shared living space and add that in, so you get some RIDICULOUSLY inflated number. Case in point, one guy I spoke with was quoted 1000 square feet, only to find that his actual apartment was ONLY FOUR HUNDRED SQUARE FEET. Someone else said it's anywhere from 500-3000 BRITISH POUNDS PER SQUARE FOOT RIGHT NOW. I mean, that's just INSANE.

10. Simply put, I definitely want to go back to Hong Kong and visit. There is TONS to see, and I've met some great people who will definitely be fun to hang out with. That being said, my first impression is that I personally wouldn't want to live there, and I'm SO glad I'm in the Sing.

As to the other bit, we went out with P-Dawg last night. She brought along two mates, Luic and Oli, and we had an absolute BLAST. First up was Chinatown (CRUB STREET!), where we ate...Italian. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight...but seriously, it was SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD. Can someone say Black Fettucine? OH YEAH, BABY!!!!!!

We then went to the Highlander for pints, where a great band was playing. Consequently, both Muffin and I are quite hoarse today. But Sam (Stone, Private Eye) - we did scream again to "Sex on Fire!" We recorded it (AGAIN), but I just can't seem to get the video to post. Oh well, next time!

The most classic moment was the story about how Luic and Oli went to Little India for lunch, and the newest member of their team said, "I will order you special drink." They both tried it, and apparently it was TRIPLE DONKEY TRASH. When Luic (he's on the left) asked what was in there, the new guy responded: "Ah, the drink is human seed." Um.....WHAT THE @#$#@$@#$@#$@#$@#$@#$? Luic tried to get a further explanation, but that was truly all he got. For both their sakes, I really, REALLY hope it was just the BIGGEST "lost in translation" moment to date.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print! Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Reunions don't come any better - back with the Prime Minister...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in HK. Today was, simply put, a BLUR of activity. Sammy the Bull logged about 14 30 minute meetings, and by the end of it he was totally knackered. When you add in the fact that he a) got lost twice on the walk to work (HK Park is bigger than you think - don't be hatin'...) and b) didn't get away for lunch, you have a recipe for someone who's so hungry that he's just ordered room service even though he had dinner.

And speaking of not getting away, let me tell you how JACKED UP the elevator system is in HK. You see, when you arrive as a visitor here, they give you a "one time pass" for entry, which means that you literally can just get into the elevator bank. Once you arrive at the floor you need, you don't have access, and so you need someone to collect you. And even if you roll like me and can follow someone in, you are 100% TRAPPED IN THIS LITTLE 3 FOOT BY 3 FOOT BUBBLE WITH A LONE CHAIR TO SIT IN. Seriously, I waited 30 minutes for someone to claim me today (and got croissant crumbs ALL OVER THE BLOODY FLOOR, for the record - that'll teach them to keep me waiting). Oh, and did I mention that, once the meeting is over, you can't actually GET OUT OF THE DAMN OFFICE, but instead you need someone to escort you out with their badge. And Heaven forbid you try to change floors, as you only get 1 descent, at which point the system EATS your badge and you have to go to security for a new one. All in all - LESS than ideal.

That being said, I did get...wait for it...wait for it...PRET A MANGER TODAY!!!! Terrier, I know that you can just hear me saying "I'm going to Pre"t", does anyone want anything?" When I think about it, the look on your face is STILL priceless.

What was NOT priceless, however, was the cost of what I wanted. I ordered a filter coffee (99p in London) and a croissant (1.85 GBP in London). What was the bill? TWENTY-EIGHT HONG KONG DOLLARS. Granted, that's actually CHEAPER than in London (with the prevailing exchange rate), but the number almost gave me a heart attack. And when you factor in that I forgot to ask for a receipt, well...you know how that sat with Sammy "cheap bastard 5000" Taylor.

But enough griping, as tonight was a GREAT evening. Why, you ask? Because I had dinner with the Prime Minister and his missus!!! That's right, sports fans, Team Taylor (the male half, at least) was reunited with the Carter Clan this evening. We hit up Roka in Pacific Place (a shopping center near my hotel), where we killed some GREAT food and had some (FINALLY) delicious red wine.

That being said, I was still STARVING when I arrived back at the hotel, and I just finished another pizza. I mean, I did log 4 miles this morning, for crying out loud, so I had some calories that simply needed to get back on my tummy jacket ASAP. That's right, you can say it - CHUUUUUUUBBBY BUUUUUUUNNY!!!!!!!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and (asleep post salad and dragon fruit, no doubt) Jenny

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Taxi Cab Confessions...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after a BUSY travel day in Southeast Asia. Sammy the Bull officially crossed off another travel destination tonight, as I'm currently typing this from the Island Shangri-la in...wait for it...wait for it...HONG KONG, BABY!!!! I know that Hitman calls me a "flavor of the month" kind of guy about favorites, but I simply must say it - this is THE NICEST hotel that I've EVER stayed in. In a word - WOW...I just keep waiting for Batman to jump off the Conrad Hilton beside me and kidnap the dude who stole all the mafia money.

So today has been a busy one, as I've been in taxis, planes, and trains. And let me tell you, it's also been an interesting one. Let's start with the cab ride...

So I get into this cab, and it's just the normal, slightly beat up, Hyundai (like Sunday) Sonata that you see all over town. The driver, however, WAS SOMETHING OUT OF A MOVIE. Seriously, this cat was a TRIP, and the second he found out I was American and not English, he could NOT stop talking. I realize that I'm summarizing a bit, but this is 95% verbatim for the conversation:

CRAZY ASS TAXI DRIVER (CATR): "American - you vote for Obama?"

Sammy the Statesman (SS): "Yes, I did."

CATR: "And what you think of his budget?"

SS: "Honestly, I was a little disappointed. I felt we didn't touch on some fairly fundamental elements of national spending that we must discuss if we want to trim the deficit."

CATR: "Your presidents! They spend all this money to get elected! If they no spend, there no poor people in America!"

SS: "Well, the average Convention winner will end up spending about $55 million US on his campaign, but that's really just a drop in the bucket. When you look at..."

CATR: "And TROOPS! You have troops EVERYWHERE! If no troops, no poor people!"

SS: "Well, I don't feel that's a fair statement. For starters, a lot of money is justifiably spent on National Defense. For the offensive portion, I would agree there are areas to trim..."

CATR: "And THE JEW!"

SS: (STUNNED) "Um, I'm sorry. What?"

CATR: "THE JEW! HE have all the money!" (side note - I didn't realize there was just ONE JEW in America and that he ran all the banks. Remind me to look that up tomorrow on Flagscape.)

SS: "Um, not really, no. I mean, yes, there are a lot of Jewish folks who have done very well in America, but to say that Jews have all of America's wealth is..."

CATR: "They have ALL the money. And they no listen! You been to Middle East?"

SS: "Yes."

CATR: "How many times?"

SS: "Four, if you count Egypt."

CATR: "If they had listened to Jimmy Carter, no fighting! But now Jews no let peace happen!"

SS: "First off - Jimmy Carter was a HORRIBLE President. He is NOT who you should be listening to. Secondly, there is no easy route to peace in the Middle East..."

CATR: "But why the Jew have all the money!?!"

SS: (getting slightly agitated as I pass East Coast Parkway) "Folks of Jewish descent don't HAVE all the money."

CATR: "I read Chinese newspaper EVERY DAY. They tell me this."

SS: "Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight."

This continued for ANOTHER 20 MINUTES. In fact, homeboy was SO excited that he actually SLOWED DOWN TO KEEP TALKING TO ME. Seriously -we were doing FORTY MPH on the interstate. I actually think I saw Grandma Moses pass me in a tuk-tuk...twice.

Finally he dropped me off saying, "My English not so good." I wanted to say, "Neither is your half -functioning brain, but thanks for playing." Good times at the goat rodeo...

The flight was good, but I must comment on the airport bathroom. So I walk in, do my thing, and on the way out there's a touchscreen that says, "Please rate our toilet." There are all these smiley faces, and I simply had to risk the germs - I selected "Excellent," because it was, well, among the best toilet experiences of my life. Okay, glad that paragraph's out of the way...

The ride from the airport in HK was super easy, and I'm now settled in at the hotel, watching ESPN (SportsCenter!) and getting ready to call it a night. Tomorrow's a FULL DAY of meetings, and Sammy the Bull's even breaking out the coat and tie. Yep, you can't hide sexy.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and (fresh off soccer practice in preparation for the next World Cup) Jenny

Monday, 14 February 2011

Ang Mos and their Hung Bao - A love story...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Okay, so first off - NOTICE: tomorrow Sammy the Bull is leaving the Sing (even though it is clean) and heading to Hong Kong for work. Now, in theory, I should be able to continue blogging despite being on yet ANOTHER island in the Pacific. However, between MAS and everything else - no promises. And regardless, as my company PC is LOCKED DOWN with security, there will be NO pictures of Sammy eating spiced donkey meat and getting arrested by Chinese authorities until at least Friday night (when I return home from the land of former British occupation).

Okay, with that out of the way, let's do a recap of the previous 3 days, all of which were FANTABULOUS.

Saturday: East Coast Parkway - gem of the island

So first off, I simply MUST thank Muffin Puffin. While my lazy ass has been content to sit around in the air conditioning, drinking mountain dew and watching AXN all day (after all, they do have CSI: VEGAS, BABY!), Muffin Puffin has been a real motivator, always finding new spots for us to get into and new things to do. She had a truly SHINING MOMENT (not Jack Nicholson style) on Saturday, when she said, "I think we should go to East Coast Parkway." Let me tell you - this place did NOT disappoint.

The journey out was, well, interesting. Basically you take the MRT (subway) to the place called Eunos station (I couldn't help but think of a cross between a Eunoch and Enis from "Dukes of Hazzard - QUALITY image, that one...), and then you catch Bus #13. However, as the website was less than polished, it neglected to mention WHERE you get off along the route. We were content to ride it to the end of the line (Translation - MALAYSIA), but luckily I'd mentioned where we were going to the driver, and he flagged us down to tell us where to get out. However, when he let us off in a series of apartment blocks, I was less than convinced he knew what I'd originally asked him. That being said, sure enough we could see the ocean, and just a scant 5 minutes later we were on the beach. In a word - SPECTACULAR.

So here's the thing - swimming off the coast of Singapore is a tricky proposition. It's not that there are sharks. It's not that there are stingrays. It's that Singapore is THE BUSIEST HARBOR (Sorry my British family - HARBOUR) IN THE WORLD, and the water is pretty nasty with oil and dirt. It was AMAZING to see all the ships just off the beach waiting for their turn to load or unload cargo - Jenny and I'd never witnessed anything like it.

The park itself is just AMAZING. GREAT trails, wide paths, and TONS to look at. We rented bikes ($8 SGD a bike for TWO HOURS - you can't BEAT THAT!) and cruised along the parkway, and it was just PERFECT. The weather couldn't have been nicer, and we had lush greenery in front of us, the sea (and the ships) to one side, and these gorgeous, new age skyscrapers on the other. I'll say it again - I LOVE THIS CITY.

We rode for 2 hours solid, including traveling some of the East Coast Connector and riding over by the airport. Next time we'll DEFINITELY take the bikes longer, as it was just SO MUCH FUN! But I must confess - those seats BROKE MY ASSBONE. Jenny and I looked like we'd just driven 14,000 cattle the length of the Sante Fe Trail. Hairless - you seriously do that for FUN for like 80 miles on Saturdays? I mean, the whole "leg shaving-disturb the man force-lycra is the new Egpytian cotton" look is one thing, but the ASS PAIN is just unbearable. But enough of that...

To celebrate our exercise for the day, Team Taylor did what they do best - EAT ENOUGH FOOD FOR THE RED ARMY. Tonight's selection was Jumbo Seafood, a TERRIFIC chain that serves AMAZING scallops. We got the table RIGHT ON THE WATER (I wanted to be away from folks since we were in our workout gear), and then we spent the next 90 minutes eating, drinking, and watching the world go by (and the restaurant fill up, for the record - it got INSANE busy in no time!)

After that we hopped a cab and headed home, where we cracked open the Amarula (Lovely Lynda - tell me that you're not proud? Now send me some springbok biltong!) and talked to several folks. All in all, it was a GREAT night.

Sunday: New friends via old friends!

Sunday was great as well, as we rolled over to Dempsey Hill for brunch. The location was P.S. Cafe, where we were meeting a friend of Lovely Lisa Watkinson. True to her description of "5'4" with brown hair, Sgt. Sarah Smith rocked up right at 12:30, and within 2 minutes we were chatting away. Lisa - you have NO EXCUSE not to come and visit! Just sayin'...

Sarah's friend Lily joined us as well, and we settled down for a FOUR HOUR brunch. Seriously - it was just SO wonderful to chat with folks (at full speed and in my normal accent) about travel, running, life in Britain - it was just perfect. And best of all, we're making travel plans with them! And we're meeting some other friends soon who happen to know Lady Catherine from her time Down Under! It's all comin' together!

I didn't get a photo (because I'm a DONKEY), but rest assured that we WILL be seeing them again, so fret not - new characters to be introduced soon.

We got home just before 5 to Sykpe with the Aussies, but to quote Dean, "between a lost dog, a hungover wife, and an American arrival, it's just not going to happen." No worries, however, as we fully expect to make it happen next weekend.

Instead we rolled over to Orchard, the "Oxford Street" of London. The noticeable differences between Orchard Road and Oxford Street:

1. I was the tallest person on the street (how many times do you think I'll make that joke - just nod and move on...)

2. It was 45 THOUSAND degrees warmer

3. The sidewalks were about 80 feet wider (not kidding about that)

4. THEY HAD DQ, BABY!!!! Heeeeeeelllllo Oreo Blizzard (T-Rowe - I can confirm they do NOT serve Dilly Bars in the Sing. I know, I know...Dickles will never visit me now...)

It was neat - kind of like Dubai only a) not covered in Sand, b) blessed with a breeze, c) sans dirty old dudes staring at my (smokin' hot) wife, and d) TGIFriday's on the corner.

We wandered around for a bit (including stepping into Ion, the newest - and slickest - mall on the road) before heading back to Emerald Hill, a spot that P-Dawg had shown us. We stopped in the Alley Bar for a pint, but we ended up having 2 pints and getting food (I went with the Pulled Pork Sandwich - SOOOOOOOO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD - peppy cheekies).

We then walked home (I had no idea Orchard was so close! 10 minutes walking!), passing out about 10:30 PM (no joke). For the 5th night in a row I was in the spare, as my evenings have been wracked by a terribly dry coughing fit. However, last night was better, and I'm hoping tonight it will be donezo (knock on wood).

Monday: The Ang Mo gives (and receives!) Hung Bao

So D-Day arrived today. Yes, yes, I know there has been MYRIAD speculation, but today I can confirm that Sammy the Bull FINALLY started handing out those DAMN RED ENVELOPES. :-) However, I must confess that it was quite fun, and I've still got a few more to go. And best of all, Muffin got a red envelope! WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER! I am LOVING it when Hung Bao (as they call it - I simply call it HIGHWAY FREAKIN' ROBBERY...details...) works the other way. Way to go, Pumpkin!

Dinner tonight was a Mongolian BBQ joint called, appropriately enough, "The Tent." It was EXTRA AWESOME. Andi Erwin (oops, I meant Lewis) - it was BJ's quality from the time I met you in Chicago after my Accenture St. Charles weekend. TOP NOTCH!

The only thing sad about it was the fact that I was officially saying goodbye to Jackie, as she's heading back to Portland in, well, 3.5 hours. Jackie - it's been GREAT getting to know you, I wish you ALL the best, safe travels, and hopefully we'll be chatting again soon! After all, I KNOW that Cooper wants to meet me. Oh, and did I mention that we're gonna sleep on your floor for 6 months whilst we get fat on $2 pints at Pyramid? I might have neglected that teeny weensy detail...

We're now back at the flat, where it's time to start packing for the land of Dim Sum and capitalism turned communism. Hitman - it's going to KILL me, but I am planning on a coat and tie (perhaps even ironed) EVERY SINGLE DAY. I feel like such a sellout...

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow (hopefully)!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Recapping a week of CNY Festivities...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City! So I owe everyone a recap of the week's festivities (which have been QUALITY, for the record). And so, without further ado, I present the week in review, better known as "All the raw fish tossing you can handle..."

Tuesday: Taking the Nottingham Pitcher and Piano to a new level - raw burgers in an abandoned church...

So as you probably guessed, Tuesday was ROUGH for Team Taylor. Between arriving at midnight, going to sleep at 2, and fighting off the 49 tons of mucus filling my throat as I slept (gotta love those 3rd world parasites), Sammy the Bull woke up EXHAUSTED (as did Muffin Puffin). And when you add in lunch at a Hawker Center (chicken rice - nothin' like some greasy Muslim cuisine to settle an upset tummy), you have a recipe for Sammy feeling like he'd been SHOT OUT OF A CANON. However, we did rally, and we even hit a new area for dinner.

The featured spot was Bobby's Grill, an "American" diner serving steak and ribs. The interesting aspect was that this restaurant was just one of many restaurants nestled in the remains of an old cloister from a closed Catholic church (the church is still there, but it's now just a storage facility). The area is known as "Chijmes," and it was very cool.

The directions to the place were, well, DONKEY TRASH, and had we followed the instructions on the website, we'd probably be in jail, deported, or caned by now, as we almost ended up breaking into a REAL Catholic Church thinking that was the spot. Luckily an old lady noticed that we looked like the type who spent their Tuesdays at the pub vs. confession, and she headed us off before we trespassed. In our defense, the directions said "look for the church steeple just outside of Raffles City." Well, there is ONLY ONE STEEPLE visible from there - it just happened to belong to a working church. Details...

The place was called Chimes, and it was REALLY cool. I definitely think that we'll go back and check out some different spots, as the layout is really neat. However, I'm not sure if we'll hit up Bobby's again, as the American fare champ remains Brewerkz. That being said, it was tasty.

We met Jackie for din din, and we KILLED some burgers. I asked for medium rare, and it came out, well, MOOING. Now don't get me wrong - I ate it and LOVED it, but it was probably THE WORST thing to eat on an upset stomach. The only difference between that burger and tare tare was the bun. All the same, it was SOOOOOOOOO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies). We then went home and PASSED out, sacking out around midnight (which was a trend for the entire week.

Wednesday: SABOH!!!!

So Wednesday was CLASSIC, as we had the annual "Ye Sheng Prosperity Raw Fish tossing" ceremony. It took place at 4 PM, and THE ENTIRE FLOOR was gathered around all these tables of Ye Sheng. Martin (my boss) said the first bit, welcoming everyone and saying Happy Birthday (remember - it was "everyone's birthday" on Wednesday). He then said, "Who would like to explain what the Ye Sheng tradition is?" And THAT, dear readers, is when Evelyn Kang "saboh'ed" Samwise.
"Saboh," as they say in Singlish, means "to put one on the spot." In this case, the lovely Evelyn yelled out, "Oh, Sam knows all about Chinese New Year. He can explain it!" Of course, I don't know the FIRST DAMN THING about Ye Sheng. All I know is that you throw salmon at the ceiling and scream out how much you want a Maseratti. So, in the spirit of "Meet the Parents," I spoke in much the same way Gaylord M. Focker did the prayer when he first met the parents:

"Um, so yeah, Ye Sheng is sort of...a meal of...prosperity...where you take chopsticks and sort of...well, throw lots of food coated in ginger and honey at the ceiling...and scream out...in Cantonese...what you want for the new year...loudly...screaming...with food...and Chinese people...for prosperity. CHEERS!"

Yeah - it was pretty painful. That being said, 30 seconds later I was screaming "HUAT AH!!!!" at the top of my lungs, begging for mad cash and chucking food about 40 feet into the air. I haven't seen those cars delivered to my doorstep yet, but then again I suppose I'm in line behind Hitman getting his lawn mowed and Old School Cool getting his fence painted. But hey, I'm not concerned about it happening. After all - "YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!" Maybe...

I logged 4 miles at an 8:27 pace that night at the gym, which felt REALLY good. It had been a week since I'd exercised, and it felt really good to get back and get after it. Honestly, being able to log 4 miles and still have some fuel left was a great sign, as I honestly feel as though I've turned a corner and have now established a baseline level of fitness. Granted, I've got a long way to go before I'll consider myself ready for the Sundown 1/2, but I'm certainly feeling better about things than I did back in December and early January. Oh, and I did manage to get a really cool shot of the laser show coming off the Marina Bay Sands. I can't WAIT to check out the Skypark and the infinity tower up there!
Thursday was honestly silent like the grave. Work was busy, and I logged 50 minutes on the bike. I will say that I started "State of Fear" by Michael Crichton, and it is AWESOME so far. That guy was a rare talent, and he will sure be missed. So many GREAT stories, and this is just another solid effort.
I know, I know - no funny stories or jokes on this day. WEAK.
Friday - Gong Xi Fa Cai!!!!! Bring on the Lion!!!!
So Friday really was EXTRA AWESOME. For starters, the work day was interrupted at 11 AM with an announcement that EVERYONE WAS REQUIRED TO GO DOWNSTAIRS for the CNY celebrations. I mean, can you imagine making this announcement in the states? We can't even get people to go to the breezeway at Gateway Village for free lunch, let along leave their seats for a celebration!
So we get down there to the sounds of cymbols, gongs, and drums erupting FURIOUSLY. What was happenin videog, you ask? The lion dance! That's right - a professional troop had been hired, and we were treated to an EXTRA AWESOME Lion Dance peformance. Granted, I made the mistake of saying, "That Dragon is cool," only to be looked at as though I'd just requested to eat someone's left arm for breakfast. "Oh no, Sam - the dragon is different. The dragon is much bigger." Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight...and I should have known that how? Better question, what PART OF THIS COSTUME LOOKS REMOTELY MORE LIKE A LION THAN A DRAGON? Where's Falcor when you need him...(VA - that was for you).

The dance really is awesome, as the lead cat (with the head) jumps onto the back guy's shoudlers, blinks the dragon's eyes, and even throws things with his mouth - it's pretty sweet.

After that, Muffin made some new friends and got in on the act of raw fish tossing - check out perfect pumpkin in action!
video
Incidentally, the lion then proceeds to come through EVERY floor and dance at every cube. I actually have a GREAT polaroid that Evelyn took of me being consumed by the lion, but I can't get it to load. Rest assured that when I figure out the problem, I WILL be posting that puppy.
The lion actually goes into every office as well (I presume for good luck), and the noise from the drumming is DEAFENING. Seriously - my ears are still ringing - I don't know how the performers deal with this day in and day out over these 2 weeks.
In the evening we (FINALLY) rolled into Chinatown, where we checked out the lights and the festivities before having a great meal near pagoda street. I stuck with normal seafood, but Shogun and Hairless - FRET NOT - Q2 is going to start the "Sammy eats things that should only appear on Man vs. Food" portion of the blog. Bring on the spiced donkey meat!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. I'll recap the weekend in tonight's blog. Chat later today!
Love,
Sam and Jenny

Friday, 11 February 2011

From Dingbat to Delays - wrapping Vietnam...

Family,

And a good Saturday morning to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. This morning I'll wrap Vietnam, and then tomorrow morning I'll recap the week. Honestly, so much happened this week that it feels as if I'll be writing another novella then. But hey, no complaints! Okay, let's pick up with Dingbat and our misadventures in the Delta. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you - Vietnam Part IV.

So minus the fact that Dingbat NEVER MENTIONED BREAKFAST TO US even though we asked him 3 times if there a) was breakfast and b) why we were being told a different time to show up downstairs, this second day was actually really good. For starters, we spent a lot of time on the delta, floating past the houses and truly getting a sense for how people live in South Vietnam. Muffin took some AMAZING photos, and traveling at the speed we did gave us the chance to truly observe our surroundings, which was another real highlight of the tour and the chief reason for us selecting the "2 Days in the Delta" option.

As you can tell from the images, the poverty in the Delta is a FAR CRY from the money one sees in Saigon. The average wage for a laborer, fisherman, or farmer in Vietnam is $2 US PER DAY, and whilst that stat meant NOTHING to me in Saigon, it certainly rang of truth down here.

From a living perspective, you can tell that large groups of families live together in these dwellings, many of which are open to the water, ALL of which have cracks, holes, or openings in the walls. You will see women doing their washing in the river, as well as folks bathing. Jenny and I actually had the distinct pleasured of some FULL FRONTAL DUDE NUDITY as he walked (WAAAAY TOO SLOWLY, I might add) into the water from his dock.

All of this was fascinating, but then Dingbat got involved. Again, verbatim:

"Ladies and gentlemen. We now go to floating market. Floating market. It Tet holiday, so not as many boats. But it is floating market. Floating market.'

You will notice that we don't have A SINGLE DAMN PHOTO OF THE FAMED FLOATING MARKET. Why, you ask? Because the floating market was a) pretty much closed for Tet and b) is really just a bunch of boats swapping fruit. Seriously - I thought that we'd be stepping into a floating village, buying all of our Christmas gifts for a grand total of $10, and then having to buy another bag just to lug it all back. But oooooooh, no - that's not how the Vietnamese roll.

It was honestly just a string of boats selling pineapples. And whilst this was cool, I must confess that I was a bit disappointed. However, I did get to chill on a pineapple boat for a bit (eating a fresh, WHOLE pineapple for 50 cents), and the weather was nice, so no complaints really.

The only other hilarious moment of the trip was when Dingbat said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we now go to rice noodle factory. Rice noodle factory. It is closed for Tet, but don't worry - if it closed we find other place. Don't worry. So, we go to Rice noodle factory."

Sure enough, this place was not only closed, but there were TONS OF MOLD AND MILDEW in the bowls that hadn't been cleaned in WEEKS. You see, it's not like these cats had just SHUT DOWN the factory (which was actually an open air grass hut) - OH, NO - this puppy had been SHUT DOWN FOR A MONTH. And since no one had bothered to clean the place prior to bouncing (and since it wouldn't have mattered anyway given that we're in an open air building in the tropics), it was a FUNK FACTORY. However, this didn't stop Dingbat from explaining all the different components of rice noodle making, including telling us how super easy it was.

Being completely honest, it was still interesting. However, it was LESS interesting when we stopped A SECOND TIME, again with the purpose of visiting a rice noodle factory. We had an Aussie blog with us who was a bit a) drunk and b) already frustrated with Dingbat, and so he questioned him. Honestly, I was 5 feet away, and I can confirm the conversation went like this:

Big Obnoxious Aussie Boy (BOAB): "Ding, what are we doing now?"

Dingbat (DB - or should I say Selwyn?): "We go to rice noodle factory."

BOAB: "And is this one open?"

DB: "No. I think is closed."

BOAB: "So why are we going there?"

DB: "To see how they make rice noodles."

BOAB: "And what will we learn there that we haven't already learned from the first factory."

DB: "Maybe is something different."

BOAB: "Who is going to talk to us?"

DB: "I talk."

BOAB: "And are you going to say anything that you didn't say at the first factory?"

DB: "I just show you the things for making rice noodle."

BOAB: "So we won't see anything new."

DB: "Maybe something new at rice noodle factory. At rice noodle factory."

Sure enough, 10 minutes later we're standing on AN ABANDONED DOCK, surrounded by LOCKED DOORS, whilst Ding explains how rice is shipped (it is the world's #2 exporter, btw - just behind Thailand and in front of the US). Honestly, I couldn't help but laugh.

We then went back to the mainland for lunch, where I passed on the local delicacy (field mouse) and opted for squid instead. Jenny and I did make a fun detour and walked through the REAL market, which was AWESOME - POWERFUL smells, lots of crazy characters, and no other white people for MILES. THAT was one of the definite highlights of the day.

The LOW LIGHT was when we returned to the hotel at 2 PM for departure (as instructed), only to find out that Dingbat had already loaded our bus. Consequently, Jenny and I were AGAIN separated, but this time I got a seat with a damn STRIPPER POLE between my legs, which meant that I basically had to drape my leg over the beam (Uptown Cabaret style). Again, this wouldn't have been so bad, but Dingbat steps up just as the engine roars to life:

"Ladies and gentlemen, we now drive back to Saigon. Normally this drive 4 hour. 4 hour. But today people return from Tet. Drive will be very bad. Very bad. Take long time. No take 4 hour. No take 4 hour."

THANKS. Thanks for that.

Sure enough, the drive takes SIX AND A HALF HOURS, and by the time I get off that damn bus, I'm pretty sure that I've got Deep Vein Thrombosis and will be dead by 10 PM. Other colorful moments of the ride:

1. Reading my book was GREAT until the sun went down, at which point ALL LIGHTS IN THE BUS WORKED EXCEPT MINE. I guess they want it dark when you work that stripper pole.

2. We had to pull over every 20 minutes so the driver could OPEN HIS HAND-CUT DOOR into the engine and pour water and oil on it. SERIOUSLY - THIS IS A PROFESSIONALLY GUIDED TOUR.

3. This one drunk guy (RIGHT in front of Jenny) couldn't remember Dingbat's name AND had a bladder like mine. Consequently, every 10 minutes the whole bus heard: "Hey Hong! I need to go to the toilet before I piss myself." Classy guy...

Dinner that night was a GREAT meal in the backpacker's district, after which time we walked home, THRILLED at the prospect of a hot shower. Silly Americans - THERE IS NO HOT WATER IN VIETNAM AFTER 8 PM. Oh, yes - for the second night in a row on "vacation," Team Taylor bathed in water straight from the North Pole.

Monday was a GREAT day, as we hit tons of sights and really made it count. We rolled over to the Old Post Office first, quite the piece of colonial architecture and VERY cool (and obsessed with timezones, for the record). We then wandered over to the Notre Dame (the largest French built cathedral in the world outside of France) for a quick look around before hitting what turned out to be a true highlight - the Reunification Palace.

This spot was the HQ and Presidential Palace of the South Vietnamese Government. The room you're looking at in this photo is the cabinet room where all big decisions were made. And yes - when they first discussed "Vietnamization" and "honor without defeat," it would have happened in this room. I must admit that I was pretty spellbound here, thinking about all of the dicussions that must have taken place in this room, especially as the public opinion turned and the American troops began pulling out.

The entire place was filled with GREAT treasures, as it's largely remained untouched since 1975 when the NVA broke through the guard walls surrounding it on April 30, 1975. It was really, REALLY cool, and I'm so glad we saw it. There were 4 levels, including the rooftop, where we got a chance to see one of the helipads. This wasn't the famous one from all the pictures (that was the US Embassy), but it was still neat, and one could definitely picture the scene.

On the way out I almost missed the basement, but luckily muffin mentioned it. This place was a TREASURE TROVE of good stuff, including TONS of old equipment from the 70's (radios, typewriters, phones), as well as the presidential bed. I really can't say enough good things about the Reunification palace - it is a MUST DO for everyone that goes to Saigon.
After that, it was off to Ben Than Market, where we did some HARD CORE shopping, all on the cheap. Muffin spent a solid 10 minutes with this gal on a Prada purse, and I think we got a pretty good deal on it (the gal said, "You must buy from me and you no can walk away. Is first day of new year - customers are lucky. You no want bad luck." Really? REALLY? How often does that strategy work? I guess at least once...). NB: Since coming home, the fake leather is now stained from JT's denim skirt AND the fake leather is peeling off. $18 might have been a bit too high...
The market really was neat, and we then had a GREAT final meal before heading to the airport. We bought some $2 water (normally 25 cents), and after all was said and done, we only had 6K dong (so 30 cents) and $1 left in my wallet. I was VERY pleased. :-)
What I was NOT pleased about, however, was the fact that the flight ended up delayed for THREE @#$##$@$#@ HOURS, and we didn't get home until Midnight. That made for a ROUGH start to the week, but hey - no complaints. Plus I did get to finish Michael Palin's "Around the World in 80 Days" AND "Getting into Singapore", both of which were excellent (Evelyn - thanks again for that! Jenny finished it too!).
Well, that's Vietnam in 4 posts. I know that I've joked quite a bit, but I will say that it was an AMAZING place, and I'm so glad we went. Not only did we see amazing things, but we were reminded once again how truly blessed we are to have been born in America and to have had so many experiences that most of the world couldn't even dream of. I've always known that I was lucky, but the more I travel, the more I realize that I have NO IDEA just how truly fortunate I've been.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Love,
Sam and Jenny