Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Little lights twinkled orange, yellow, white, blue and red as far as I could see, getting bigger the more we fell. At first I thought they were the city lights on the waters edge but Cindy pointed out to me that they were the lights of ships. I was stunned! I started to count. When I reached 40 I stopped. I think the most ships I have ever seen out at sea at once was 24. I realized why they say that Singapore is the busiest shipping port in the world. There must've been over a hundred ships sleeping out there.
If the shipping was impressive, then so to was the airport. Modern, spacious, super clean and efficient, with many nice little touches like orchids decorating the airport. Later on I found out that there is a free gym and movie house and an orchid room surrounding a koi pond in the departure lounge. No wonder it was nominated the second best airport in the world. It was 5.30 when we touched down and the Png family, Eugene, Jenny and Ruth, were there to meet us. It was excellent to see Ruth again and so nice to finally meet Eugene and Jenny in person, especially after having had numerous telephonic conversations with Eugene.
The heat knocked the breath right out of my lungs as I stepped from the air conditioned Changi Airport onto the pavement of the basement parking. It was 6 o clock in the morning. I recalled what the Captain of our flight had said, "We'll be landing in 20 minutes. It's 27 degrees celsius and cool in Singapore." "Cool!" I thought, gasping for breath. Pretty soon my shirt was sticking to my skin. Thankfully the Png's car is air conditioned and we were able to appreciate the beauty of Singapore at first light for the quick ten minute drive home. Three lanes going the one way and three the other, separated by immaculately pruned trees, shrubs and bushes, high rise buildings to the right and green lawns and trees to the left, beyond which lay the dreaming sea. We passed beneath a few foot bridges, every one adorned with purple bougainvillea or some or other colourful flower and their support structures were all hidden by green ivy.
The Png's stay in a very cosy and functional government subsidised flat on the second floor, opposite the road from the beautiful East Coast beach front. A government house on the beach front! Surely you wont get this in any other country. But as I was to learn since then, the government places a high value on looking after their people. You should see the lengths they have gone to to protect their people from swine flu - daily issuing warnings, using the media to educate the populace regards the disease and stepping up controls at the ports of entry, including temperature measuring gadgets at the airport which detect a person with a higher than normal temperature.
We are staying in Reubens' yellow room for now until we get sorted with work and a place of our own. But it is very comfortable with air conditioning to boot (I don't know how any one could stay here without air conditioning). And the Pngs' have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome, which is amazing! We have already shared many meals and stories and we hope its a trend that will continue for years to come.
And speaking of food, Singapore is an epicureans heaven. Singaporean, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian and Indonesian recipes are all woven into the fabric of the Singaporean food culture. And food is part of the social structure here. People here eat five or six times a day, usually with family, friends or colleagues. Fresh vegetables, fruit, delicious fish and shellfish are readily available in the supermarkets and at restaurants and food courts. Food courts are these places you find all over the place where people can go and eat at relatively inexpensively. Different people own different stalls and serve different types of meals, see above, that you can take away or have at one of the communal tables. We have our own food court a couple of minutes walk away from us.
Yummy, we are loving exploring and tasting all the different food, especially at the food courts. They're a vibe, buzzing with all types of people! And some of them have quite a local following for serving either the best roast duck or won ton noodles or whatever. We drank coconut juice out of a freshly lobbed coconut two nights ago and ate "oh luak," fresh oysters fried in scrambled egg. The coconut juice wasn't milky at all, as I had imagined; but translucent and watery. It was refreshing though but to tell the truth I was much more impressed with the oysters and scrambled egg dish. We had that to start with and then we had popiah, which is Chinese turnip, lettuce, thin omelette, seafood stick, chili, sweet sauce and tofu wrapped in a cinnamon and sugar pancake. We also had barbecued chicken wings and carrot cake. But not carrot cake like most of you might be imagining. Its white Chinese turnip steamed with flour and then fried with egg. We were stuffed after that! But it was all delicious!
The people in the church we are part of are amazing people who love God. They have all gone out of their way to make us feel welcome, inviting us to their homes, taking us out for lunches(we went to the Raffles Hotel yesterday with Grace and Jean for a buffet lunch of note), and offering to help us in any way that they can. We've actually arrived at a very interesting juncture in the life of Church of Joy, with Eugene handing the reigns of the church over to Ian Mckellar and with the lease of the building they are renting about to expire. So there's a hunt on for the perfect next location and Eugene and Jenny have been set at liberty to travel to Indonesia, Philipines and Malaysia to encourage the churches there. And Ian and Nola, who previously did a lot more travelling, will stay at home to build the base church. Cindy and I are very excited about being here at this time and we are looking forward to being able to encourage the church here.
I went for a swim in the sea on the first day that we were here. The water was verging on being hot yet I was still refreshed. In the distance I could see Indonesia. The East Coast beach front is amazing. It consists of several little beaches which are immaculately tended to, no litter here(or anywhere else for that matter), verged by green lawns, palm trees, tropical bush and other massive trees. There are designated camping areas all along the beach front, and each day you'll see many tents pitched on the lawn in the shade. There are also numerous braaing facilities and cement and straw bomas too. And then there are several cement tracks which are used for various reasons. The track closest to the sea is used by walkers or runners and the two tracks beyond the braaing areas are used by roller bladers and cyclists. Its always busy down there and its one of our favourite places to go to.
At the moment Cindy is not feeling well, she has unfortunately come down with a spot of flu, so she is resting until she feels well enough to go out again, which will hopefully be real soon - we went for a cycle ride up the coast the other day and really enjoyed it and Cindy is itching to get back out there.
Anyway, there's still a whole lot more to report back on but this will have to do for now. I've also taken some pics but will have to develop the film first before I can upload them.