25 June 2011


Well, today I officially became an expat wife (if I haven't said that before). I attended a coffee event for the American Women’s Association. From what I can tell, there is absolutely no benefit to joining the organization other than meeting a few ladies for coffee twice a month. When I asked about the organization and what it had to offer, I heard about ladies playing Mahjong and soliciting each other for random requests via a daily blast e-mail. One woman admitted that the club was not very useful for working women as most of the activities occur during the day – except, of course, during the summer when everything except the coffee dates halt since everyone leaves the country in the summer months. Good thing I like coffee, right?

There were a lot of new expats, so many of us spent some time talking about where we were from and why we were in Singapore. Everyone moved due to their husband’s job. I have to admit, I was a little surprised. It was interesting to hear the array of jobs that these men hold and how often they travel as a result. One woman’s husband works for a non-profit organization called Save the Children and has been stationed all over Africa and Asia. Another woman’s husband works in finance….and that’s all she knows. She was quite funny trying to explain exactly what he did and admitted that she recently learned that calling him a banker was not as accurate as she originally thought. Her description made me laugh and think about how Paul used to fumble over my job responsibilities and how he would often give up and say he just didn’t know.

After the 12 of us finished our coffee, half of the group decided to grab a quick bite at a local café and, let me just say, bring on the reality TV! My former colleagues and I often joked about having cameras at work to capture the crazy moments and unbelievable drama that we faced on a daily basis. We had hilarious moments when we would just turn, look to the side and exclaim, “This is where the camera should be positioned right now!” and burst into laughter. Well, all I can say now is, “Welcome to the Real Housewives of Singapore.”

When we sat down, one woman was speaking about her mother’s state of mind and made a hilarious Golden Girls reference. I loved it. After a while, the conversation switched to travel destinations. I quickly learned that I was the only person at the table of six who had a single stamp on my passport. All of the other ladies had circled the planet more times than I could count. After travel destinations, the main topic of the conversation was the Casey Anthony trial. I learned more about that trial at lunch than I ever could have imagined.

But crazier than the Casey Anthony trial was the way we ended our lunch. When we asked for our bill, one of the waiters brought a single bill instead of individual ones. Knowing that my meal was S$16 and change, I tossed over S$20 and then sat back and watched the car wreck in slow motion. One girl took the responsibility of reviewing the items and the prices, adding in the tax and service charge, taking into account how much each person would owe. She looked at each person and estimated in dollars and cents how much each owed, including the two women who split a sandwich and then proceeded to dig out their change. When one woman advised that she did not have cash, I immediately thought that she could pay with her card and take everyone else’s cash. We did that sort of thing all the time in the States. That would be simple. No…no. The consensus was that her portion of S$18 and change would be charged to her card while the remainder would be paid in cash. Fine.

The girl handling the money received everyone’s payment and then started doing the math again. She announced after a minute that if she added up the cash, then included the amount that should have been billed to the card, we would still be 60 cents short. OH MY GOSH!!!! I think my jaw dropped a little and I know I gave a “you have got to be kidding me” look. I was ready to open my wallet and throw in another S$2. Actually, at one point, I considered paying the entire bill to make the madness stop. But wait, we’re not done. A few minutes after he collected our payment, the waiter returned to the table slightly perplexed. We confirmed that the cash should be taken toward the bill and that the remaining S$18 be placed on the card. Then the waiter advised us that bills must be a minimum of S$20 in order to run a credit card, so everyone went into issue management mode again. I grabbed my wallet and was ready to just pay for the extra meal already. Instead, a couple of the women instructed the waiter to take S$2 from the cash pile and give it to the woman with the card, then leaving S$20 for her to charge to her card. O.M.F.G. I wanted to scream.

After lunch, I walked with a friend to the Thai embassy across the street where we heard music and saw tents set up on the lawn. We walked through each of the tents and looked at all of the items on the tables for sale: tons of jewelry – some handmade, some high end – fabrics, dresses, pillows, knick knacks. One girl was hand painting little parasols while attendees stood and watched her carefully brush every color and every detail onto this unique canvas. The images were breathtaking. The weather was great and the new friends really brightened my week. Though I may not realize all of the benefits just yet, I think I may join the AWA and see where it takes me. The connections and the friends can’t be bad and, hey, it’s only a fraction of my sorority dues. 

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