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Singapore daily life

Things are settling into daily life.

University classes started this past Monday, so suddenly the campus is busy and there's lineups at the food places at lunch. We've never had a problem finding somewhere to sit, though. Sometimes it's the whole group going together (including the professor); other times it's just three or four people.

I continue to try different foods. This evening I had a Chinese pancake-cheese-peanut creation. The picture looked vaguely like pizza, but it turned out to be more of a snack/desert-type thing. I think the chopped-peanut topping had sugar in it.

Of course, if I want pizza imitation without paying eight times the normal price for a meal, I get Indian cheese naan bread with some kind of hot red sauce. That was unexpectedly good, although I had to wait for a while for them to cook it. I'm not certain if I'll go back there... maybe when I'm on my own. I feel awkward joining the meal table when everybody else is halfway finished.

Breakfast today -- at noon -- was Thai fried rice. I was told that it was vegetarian, but it came with a few shrimps or prawns on the top. I scraped those off onto another person's plate.

I'm not really certain what to do about breakfast. I like arriving at the lab before other people, but that means that I skip breakfast to get there. I'm also not starving in the mornings. Now, I could leave at 10am or so when I start to get really hungry... but then I'm leaving for food just when other people are arriving.

I also discovered that the Engineering canteen is much better than the Arts or Business canteens. Spaghetti, with meat, for S$1.80, and a coke from the drink fountain is S$0.50. In the Thai place, for example, a coke was S$1.20. My "comfort" meals are mostly spaghetti. I sometimes have a chicken burger at the local (to my apartment) food court -- this was the one that I avoided on the second day, but upon later investigation I found there *was* a "Western" place. Again, it was filled with fried chicken stuff, but the chicken burger looked safe.

I have yet to make eye contact with any Caucasians in Singapore. I haven't gone out of my way to stare at people, but whenever there's another Caucasian, I'm aware of them and get ready to meet their eyes and smile. But they all studiously ignore me -- even when I sit next to them on the bus.

The reason I mention this is because a famous blogger (a black guy teaching English in Japan) recounted a story where he met another black guy in Japan and gave him the Black Guy Nod (tm). The Japanese person he was walking with was amazed and asked how he knew the other guy. The exchange-teacher explained that he'd never met the other guy before in his life, but that all black men had a special Black Guy Nod (tm). He mused on whether other minorities had similar greetings.

Well, it appears that there's no White Guy Smile (tm). At least, not in Singapore. On one hand I'm disappointed, since I love having secret handshakes and whatnot, but on the other hand it reinforces the multicultural native of Singapore. I have to say, although Canada prides itself on being multicultural and stuff, Singapore beats the pants off Canada.

Simple example: all the food courts here have color-coded trays. Muslim places give green trays, Chinese places give red trays, and Western places have black/brown trays. When you return the tray to the tray return area, there's a separate rack for Muslim and Western only. Cultures that use pork and whatnot (forbidden by Muslim Halal) can't put their trays on those racks. Oh yeah; most Western places here are certified as Halal -- they don't offer any pork or use lard or whatever.

This really impressed me. I mean, sure, in Canada there's strict laws against discrimination on religious grounds... but there's no such thing as separate utensils for faiths that want to avoid certain foods. To put it in philosophical jargon, in Canada one has a negative right to multiculturalism, while in Singapore they have a positive right.

Still no rain here. Some locals are now talking about how surprising it is that it hasn't rained in so long.

I finally washed my clothes, but I was surprised at how long it takes clothes to dry in the air. I shouldn't have been surprised, of course, but I just never thought about it. There don't appear to be any electronic dryers in the country.

Another random tidbit: my hair seems to be changing to a lighter colour. Is that normal for sunny places? Or is this an effect of the small bottle of shampoo I got upon checking in? Or am I probably imagining things?

I'm really playing a leadership role in the group, and keep on having to give impromtu lectures about Karplus-Strong physical string modeling or Gamelan ensembles. I'd be lying if I claimed that it wasn't going to my head, but in some ways I wish they didn't realize how great I am -- for the past few days I've spent about half my time mentoring PhD students.

Now, my first thought is that I can catch up on my own work on Saturday, but this coming Sat there's a research group meeting and I'm giving my thesis defense again (expanded to fill an hour). And Friday has lots of meetings about the various research projects.

Oh well. I'll see if it settles down next week; if not, I'll ask the professor about what he wants me to do.