10 January 2012


Friends and family members had many questions when we returned to the States for Christmas. While there are many – and I mean MANY – really random questions, I thought I would highlight just a few of the most common questions and misconceptions about our new home.

1.      How is life in Bangladesh / Shanghai / China? 

Answer: We don’t live in China. No friends, Singapore is not in China. We are about 1,500 miles from the southernmost Chinese border – roughly the distance between Columbus, Ohio, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Life in Singapore is great. We love it so much that we want to apply for permanent residency, the closest thing to becoming a citizen without giving up our American passports.

2.      Where exactly is Singapore?

Answer: Singapore is a tiny, tiny city-state located between Indonesia and Malaysia. The city-state is 25 miles east to west and 16 miles north to south if we count Sentosa. Here:

3.      So it’s winter there, right? How cold does it get?

Answer: Well, technically it is “winter,” but since we live roughly 80 miles from the imaginary equator, it does not really get cold in Singapore. The current season is “wet,” which means it rains for several hours at a time once or several times a day. In the dry season, we still experience a bit of rain, but not to the extent that we do now.

December is considered the coolest month of the year, mostly due to the drop in humidity. Right now it is 25 degrees Celsius, which is about 77 degrees Fahrenheit. To me, standing outside, it feels like a cool 70. The humidity is at 88 percent as the afternoon rains approach the East Coast.

Yesterday I watched the rain approach me from down the street. I stopped at the bank on my way to another errand and as I was sitting on a bus stop bench when I felt the winds kick up a bit. I felt a little prick of water and Jiminy Cricket told me to get out my umbrella but I did not feel like messing with it.

I heard the rush of rain in the distance and I felt the winds blow again, this time more constant. Then I saw the pouring rain a block away. I smiled and just watched the rains rush in. There aren’t many times in my life that I have watched storms actually approach me so I savored the moment. The smell of rain. The feeling of the mighty rush. I laughed as the people around me squirmed like prey as a predator approaches, running to shelter underneath a near shopping area, behind the bus stop, wherever they could. How did they not see this coming, I wondered.

4.      Is it safe in Singapore?

Answer: Yes, Singapore is incredibly safe. Now, I won’t say that there is zero crime but crime is lower here than most big cities, I believe due to the strict and harsh consequences. Singapore does not have a drug problem because they kill people who bring drugs into the country. The buses, taxis and subways are clean because they will fine people S$500 for bringing food or beverages into public transportation vehicles.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that this is Singapore. For instance, I went for a run in the park one morning. Paul and I had only been in our condo about a month. It was 6:30 a.m. so the sun was not up yet – I thought the early morning would mean less humidity but I was mistaken. As I approached an underpass that allows people to cross under roads instead of risk being hit by racing cars, I mentally prepared myself for an attack by a homeless man living inside the tunnel. I took the earbuds out of my ear and turned off the music so that I could hear the slightest movement. I cautiously peaked around the corner to check my surroundings and then, there it was – nothing. No one was there. No homeless people were there to attack me.

I relaxed a bit and then, after a month in the U.S., my fear came back. Paul found a guy selling a phone on a technology message board. The guy had a newer product for a good price, so Paul told me to meet the guy this week while he is off flying. I texted the man and advised that I had interest and cash, so I could meet him that afternoon. He agreed and we set a time and place.

While I was getting ready, I again mentally prepared myself. I was wishing I had an unemployed man friend who could accompany me to the disclosed location in case I got attacked. I made sure to take only the cash I needed. I wore my backup wedding band – three modest gold bands – instead of my diamond wedding set so that I did not appear to have money. I went over the Krav Maga moves that I had learned in my introductory class and convinced myself that I just might make it out of an attack situation. I gave Paul the address and turned on my GPS so that he could track me in case I was taken or harmed. Then, I went.

The man I met was just another super nice Singaporean with a smile and fluent in Singlish. Though it is good to be prepared, I obviously overreacted. I mean, here in Singapore, they put alerts out for missing bicycles:

So, yes, Singapore is safe.

5.      What is the housing like?

Answer: There is a bit of variety but the housing choices are all very similar. Condos are the most numerous residence, with the majority of Singaporeans living in condos provided by the government. In the 1960s, the Housing and Development Board saw a need for more housing on the island, so they constructed condo communities and sold the units to Singaporeans at a low cost. These HDBs, as they are now  called, are found all over the island. They consist of rooms just like any other condo; there are no community pools or gym facilities.

Private condos typically have pools and workout facilities, along with an array of other amenities like common rooms, party rooms and even a private 7-11 for residents. Some communities can be compared to Vegas hotels; others, like ours, are small and quiet.

We have a three-bedroom condo.

Living room
Dining room with the giant mirror and the popcorn machine in the window

Above: Guest bath, left, and master bath
Below: Kitchen with the always-broken EasyBake Oven and, on the right,
our bomb shelter, which I sometimes call Williams Sonoma


Our tiny Asia bedroom that would fit our giant American bed but
not our dresser. Our two nightstands have less than an inch
between the wall on the left and the door on the right.
This could be your room...with the dresser that wouldn't fit in our room!
The third bedroom, a.k.a. Paul's office
Since we live in the closest thing to suburbia one can find on the island, there are fewer HDBs and more houses, called bungalows, in our neighborhood. Here are two examples of typical Singaporean bungalows:

This building is actually two houses. The silver gate is the entrance to the right half; the white gate is the entrance to the left half.
Like I said, we had some great questions while we were home, but at least I was able to cover the basics.

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