Almost two weeks ago now, I was surprised to find myself REALLY on a plane to Singapore. For work. In the past two months or so, it had looked more and more like it wasn’t going to happen. Client delays, questions about resourcing in Germany, the usual blah blah…all contributed. But then there I was. Looking at a monitor that showed the 12 hour flight was almost over and we would be landing soon.
Travel for work is usually a weekly affair. You take off Monday morning and head home Friday evening – worst case scenario. In this case, I have an 8 week deal. It will/would be hard to be away from home for 8 weeks, but it was a great chance to work with a new client, a new team, and a new challenge (ok, so that sounds so cliche and insincere to even my ears, but it’s true. Oh, and it would be a deluge of great food…yeah, there is that). Only thing not really new was the PLACE. 🙂 But I had never worked in Singapore, only studied, so that was also new.
So here I am. The usual efficiency at Changi Airport greated me and within 25 minutes or so I was through immigration and in a taxi on my way to the apartment that the Singapore office had rented for me to meet the real estate agent and sign some papers saying the apartment looked, well, yes – JUST FINE: 🙂
Nothing to complain about there – and an easy 5 minute walk to work, no exaggeration. I am on the 27th floor of this huge high rise, and if I poke my head outside the window and look down to the 7th floor, here’s what I see:
The View From Above
Yes, massive construction just outside the window (and on Sunday morning, there is no pause…the work goes on, so the windows are open right now, and the not-so-nice sound of metal clanging on metal jars a bit), but also the most massive pool…which ironically I have not yet been in. Maybe today.
I managed to stay awake the whole first day, which was a blessing because then by day 2 the jetlag was gone gone gone.
We wouldn’t be really kicking off the project for about a week – the team was assembling from around the world and everyone needed a few days to get here. So meanwhile, I dealt with moving in and picking up things like towels and a toaster, etc. not provided with the apartment as well as working on some preliminary planning and documentation.
Here’s the team. I’m not sure Jussi (Art Director from Sweden) would want me to publish this photo, and Brandon (Content Strategist from Singapore) got his face removed by the application that lets me do these panoramas, but here they are anyway. This was during our kickoff meeting.
The Singapore Team
There are about 15 of us working on the project and during the last week we’ve spent considerable time getting to know each other and learning how we can work together effectively. (Sorry, more buzz phrases, I need to think a little longer about how to make things sound less biz-speak or I might hate myself by the end of this post.)
One easy topic here that keeps conversation light and amusing is of course my favorite one: Food.
Yes, I am back in foodie paradise, and am really reveling in the fact that I can be at the Maxwell Food Centre in around 3 minutes when I walk out the door from work.
Some highlights from the past two weeks of lunches and dinners:
Ok, so are you dying with envy yet? No? Well, let’s see if I can change that over the next six weeks.
So of course with all this good stuff, there is the other side of the equation (pesky calories), but I am happy to say that there has been no pause in my sports regimen. I am in the gym or running outside every day. I joined a gym for the rest of the time I will be here last week. It’s a 1 kilometer walk away from the apartment, about 10 minutes at a decent walking pace. And it opens at 6 in the morning, so really there is no excuse not to get in a workout before I start the day. The gym in the condo here is ok, but half the machines don’t work properly and even in the morning at 6:30 there are other people waiting to use the machines that do work. And running outside, while not so bad, is a really wet and sweaty affair that is ok once in awhile, but not every day. The walk to the gym takes me just pass chinatown – where there are a whole range of temples and mosques. I pass this Hindu temple every day and have to stop and stare.
We kicked off the project with the client last week after a week of prep and planning. Seems almost impossible to believe that I have only been here just short of two weeks. Somehow it feels like 2 months already. But at least that is an indicator that I feel quite at home.
Just as we were about to kick off the first meeting, I glanced out the window and saw this:
Thunderstorm on its way
Singapore is great for its wonderful thunderstorms. So even though I didn’t have my umbrella on me (wrong decision that day), I wasn’t too worried. And I was amused by the fact that it would likely crash and boom outside while we were introducing ourselves. (It didn’t though.)
We spent a few minutes checking out products in the store downstairs and looking at the digital interfaces…and then headed back to the office.
Checking out the Singtel Store
Friday night number two finally rolled around and I decided to take a break from computer screens and go walk around LIttle India.
I jumped on the MRT and was there in 20 minutes. Nice. Public transport that is just as good if not better than Munich’s.
After eating dinner at a little stall on the street, I decided to slowly walk to the temple of all temples in Little India: the Mustafa superstore. This place…I don’t even know how to describe this place. Look:
What you can’t see, is the fact that this place stretches down the street for like…a half a kilometer. No joke. They sell…everything in this place. I needed a few things: some cleaning supplies, a couple decent knives, a little kitchen mat. I almost cried walking through the place – you walk and walk and walk and walk and it doesn’t let up. The inventory goes on and on and on. It’s overwhelming. And it’s not just Mustafa, of course. It is everywhere. This is something I will never get used to, but anyway, I don’t have to. Here is Plaza Singapura – just one of the thousands of malls….makes you want to go running and screaming away from it all.
But despite the usual frustrations I always had with Singapore, there are the images and moments that delight – maybe just because they can be so amusing. This little truck rounded the corner as I was crossing the street a few days back. And you see these things and just crack up.
And then if it weren’t for the craziness of variety offered here, I wouldn’t get to enjoy all the amazing variety that *is* here: straight from Japan come the delicious Takoyaki which I ate last weekend for lunch one day. They are little ball-shaped crepes in a way – filled with chunks of octopus. Squirted with mayo and sprinked with bonito flakes, these guys are the equivalent of french fries for me. (Reminder: gym every single day).
Octopus Balls (Takoyaki)
Sometimes the tourism here can be a bit overwhelming as well. But even in the most touristy places on the weekends, like in Chinatown here, the lights and the smells and the sounds can romance you into looking past the gaudiness and commercialism that can be Singapore and just enjoy.
Chinatown at dusk
Two weeks in, I *do* miss my German bread in the morning. But no worries. In Chinatown last night, I came across an Austrian man with a stall of his own set up there in between the satay and char kway teo stalls – selling sausages and breads! I bought a half a loaf of a nice dense rye bread.
So this morning I get to enjoy the best of both worlds: Chunks of fresh cold papaya squirted with these sour and intense Malaysian limes and slices of dark rye toast (spread with avocado). A cup of french-press coffee and I am good to go.
Best of Both Worlds