10 April 2011


Paul and I watched church in a movie theatre today. True story. I should first explain that we started attending a church in a shopping mall. The church is an actual church that rents space in the mall because there are apparently no other venues that can hold the amount of people attending the four services each Sunday. The Pastor, Joseph Prince, is one of the great ministers who is privileged to have the opportunity to broadcast his services across the globe each week, so he has quite a following. People are in a line that spans across the sixth-floor atrium an hour before each service hoping to obtain seats in the main auditorium, and today we did not make the cut. We were in the part of the line that was asked to view the service in one of the overflow rooms - in the adjacent cinema. We literally watched a church service on a big screen in a movie theatre. 

I was asking Paul before the service started if we were just supposed to sit and watch the screen like watching a movie or if people would be singing along with the praise team on the screen. He voted for sitting, but the people shot right up when the woman leading today's worship told everyone to rise and they sang at the top of their lungs. The people in the room even spoke to the screen when asked to repeat phrases. It was almost like we were in the main auditorium. Even though we were in a movie theatre, we were asked to dispose of our bottled water and coffee drink (that was two-thirds full) before entering. A man told us that the cinema is "rented space. No food or drink allowed." We laughed at the irony but, of course, complied. Bye bye, coffee drink. 

After church we viewed a back-up apartment near Little India. The apartment itself is pretty nice and there are no realtors involved, which makes dealing with the landlord much easier. The apartment is right in the middle of shops and food centres, making the area appealing. Sadly, though, it is not near the beach.

Singapore is known for its food, which is good because anyone who knows me knows that my entire life revolves around food. The smell, the taste, the visual appeal - visual appeal is very important as I will likely not eat anything that I do not deem visually appealing. More importantly, some of my best memories and outings with friends occur with food in the centre of our conversations. When I visit my friends in Massachusetts, it seems all we talk about anymore is coffee and cannolis. Visiting friends in DC always brings delectable desserts like cupcakes. And everyone in Columbus knows they can find me any day of the week downtown eating at The Rossi or Latitude 41. Yummy. Beyond yummy.

We have not seen more than two stand-alone restaurants in Singapore to date. Most places are tied to a shopping mall, I suppose since malls are so popular. Others are found in a line of stores and restaurants much like those in Columbus would see in the Short North. In addition to the mall restaurants and food courts, Singapore hosts outdoor food centres or hawker centres. Imagine fair food vendors pressed end to end and back to back in three or four lines. These vendors are housed in an open-air pavilion with dirt floors and picnic tables between the rows of vendors. Hawker centres are known for authentic Chinese, Indian and Malaysian food for about S$3 or S$4. Mall food courts typically charge about S$7 per person and restaurants we have seen are typically anywhere from S$18 to S$40 per person.

Hawker centres are also great for people watching, another thing I love to do. We ate at a hawker centre this afternoon and while reviewing this centre's fare, we passed a group of old Asian men. There were six of them around a picnic table. They did not have any food in front of them; they just sat there talking as if that was what they did every day. One man in the middle laid his head against a stone pillar. Though not one of the hottest days on the island by far, I admit it was rather warm. The man had his shirt pulled up over his belly, which popped out like a pregnant woman. His eyes were closed and his mouth hung open just a little. He looked so peaceful until the old man sitting next to him backhanded the sleeping man on the forehead. The sleeping man stopped sleeping at that point, looked around dazed and confused, and the other five men at the table began laughing, as did I. The man who did the hitting saw me laughing, and so he began to laugh even harder. 

Paul and I selected the standard chicken rice from two different vendors and met in the middle to eat near a fan. I paired my meal with my new favorite drink, watermelon apple juice blended with ice, and talked with Paul about my new business idea - a popcorn shop in the hawker centre. These food centres have main dishes and drinks but no snacks. I could rent a stall and sell all kinds of popcorn flavors for super cheap. I could make the standard - butter, more butter, cheesy and caramel. I could make interesting combinations like cinnamon sugar and garlic and rosemary. I could even make soon-to-be local favorites like peanut popcorn and curry popcorn. This could work. Paul thought the idea was genius and even checked into stall rental prices. He wants to add cotton candy to the list. We will have to wait for the arrival of the popcorn maker as it is on a boat in the Atlantic at this time. I am not sure where we will find a cotton candy maker. 

Paul just found out that there are ladies of the night in that neighborhood, so I guess we will not be signing a lease. I will not let my popcorn dream die just yet, though. There are other hawker centres in this state. Back to the hunt, as he says....

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