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First day in Singapore

I'm now competent at getting around in Singapore, have a grown-up email address (percival@location -- previously only my father has one of those!), and have my employment pass.

Getting the MRT (their version of skytrain, which is Vancouver's mostly-above-ground subway) was ok. I made trips to a few electronic ticket booths before finding out that I was to buy the EZ pass (prepaid debit card system for transit) at the counter.

I then might have committed my first cultural blunder. There was an escalator that was crowded, and stairs that were unused. I assumed that everybody was being lazy and went up the stairs, but when I was almost at the top I noticed an "exit" sign. There wasn't a "do not enter" sign at the bottom (I think -- I'll have to check on my way home). And I haven't noticed any distinction (other than running escalators) in other stations. I felt a bit conspicuous, though.

Got to NUS, but couldn't reach my supervisor's office -- it was behind a keycarded area. I hung out in front of the door for a few minutes, trying to see if I could send him an email (I couldn't), and a girl (or woman) came along. I asked her to knock on his door, but she just let me into the area and I made my way to his office and met him.

He was suprised to see me so early; he'd told me that I should be well-rested for my first day in Singapore and we didn't have to meet until 11 or so, but since I woke up early I figured there was no point not going. We then chatted a bit and then saw the HR person for advice on which formalities should be done next. Unfortunately the answer was "get the employment pass", so I headed off downtown to visit the Ministry Of Manpower. And yes, they do actually abbreviate it as MOM.

When I arrived and got my ticket, they were processing number 265. I was 404. That's not quite as bad as it sounds, though -- in the first 10 minutes, they handled 25 numbers. Later on I estimated that they'd done 60-70 in half an hour.

What is as bad as it sounds is that after receiving my documents, they took them off to be processed. Come back in 3 hours. I wondered whether to transit back to NUS, but it was two MRT lines and a bus ride, so I opted to wander around in downtown Singapore.

Ravenous for food, I started looking for some. I ended up in the food court in the main mall in Chinatown, whereupon I... well, I'm sure you can all guess. I left as soon as possible and wandered in the direction that seemed most likely to get me Western food.

Yes, I know that I'll be unable to survive in Singapore if I don't try other foods, and yes, I should have done more preparing. I was actually intending to suggest Asian take-out whenever my friends got together to watch anime, but that hasn't happened sinnce... I don't know. September? July?

Anyway, there's a time to try new food, and a time to stick with what you know. On a day like today, you stick with what you know.

After about 30 minutes of walking in the insane heat and sun, I saw a 7-11. I considered going there and getting whatever they had (warmed-up hot dog, maybe? I don't know what they have in 7-11s here), but it was on the other side of a major street and there weren't any cross-walks around. So I kept on walking, and saw a KFC in the distance.

Just as I was about to enter the KFC, I noticed a sign for Subway on a bus stop. It was pointing towards the building, and I then noticed a mall entrance beside the KFC. Inside the "electric town" mall, I found the subway. Which was good, because I had been seriously considering asking somebody for directions. Now, that might not sound so terrible, but I'd have asked for "Western food", not just "food". I don't know quite where that ranks in the list of stupid American tricks, but it's got to be in there somewhere.

On way back from that mall, I noticed other Subway store and Western food that I'd missed -- mere meters away from the MRT station I left. I spent a good deal of time walking through that mall ("Central mall"), which seemed to be aimed at tourists.

At MOM again, I was 470 and they were processing 380. I waited for another 60 minutes in the queue. I don't know why we couldn't pay when we drop off our passports and whatnot. The pickup would take a minute! Come to think of it, even though we had to pay, I still don't know why it took some people longer than a minute. I mean, I handed over my ticket number, my old ticket number, and S$100 in cash. The clerk gave me back S$50 and told me it was only S$30, fetched my bundle, and gave me another S$20. Literally over in 60 seconds!

It was 4:40pm at that time, and I'm still jetlagged, so I went straight home. I've got the wireless working now (the magic words were "wep_key0", which do not appear anywhere in the man page for wpa_supplicant. Looking up help online for how to connect to the internet is one of the most frustrating things. Especially in this case, where I knew it would take at most 3 minutes... oh well. Got it working now.

What I don't have working is email. After trying to send email a few times from both NUS and my apartment, I realized that my computer was still set up to use shaw's smtp server. No wonder it was dying! However, I haven't found any info about smtp servers here yet.