Friday, June 8, 2012

Singapore 2012: Ready, Set, Go!

I am alive and so is my blog. Maybe not kicking and screaming, but alive and breathing, nonetheless. I’m still hanging on. But please do excuse the prolonged absence, and bear with me, as the back to school fever has left me for dead. I swear, there hasn’t been a single moment that I haven’t been on my feet, or on the go, from takeoff to landing, from Manila, to Singapore and back again. I was just so…busy, for lack of a better word! Simply put, everything I put on hold, school or otherwise, before leaving, tried to follow me all the way to Singapore, hot on my tail like a vicious attack dog, only I managed to shake it off, but then it demanded my immediate attention when I came back. I was gone for all of four days and in those four days, while I was cavorting around Singapore, all my duties just added up, then caught up to me and bit me in the ass. June always arrives true to form, with a rude awakening: It’s June bitches, march your sorry butt to school!

Sorry for rambling, going back to the point, like my series of entries on Ilocos, I will be breaking up my Singapore posts over the days to make it more systematic. And besides, I can only turn it out in chunks, anyway, given how predisposed I am to nonsensical prattle in between bouts of lucid thought. Like now. Oh dear, I’ve done it again. Without further ado, let’s get the ball rolling on the tale of Singapore 2012!

The road to Singapore was one filled with obstacles—from the time that the tickets, accommodation and tour package were booked and paid for, which was back in February, until we boarded our flight just last week. I spent the months in between contending with two school terms (the latter part of the second semester and Summer classes), with nothing but the thought of Singapore as the light at the end of the tunnel, a bright shining beacon, prodding me onwards. Singapore steeled my resolve as I grappled with schoolwork, it kept me going. No matter how out of reach it seemed at times, with the fear of failure plaguing me, Singapore was a constant glimmer of hope. If you’ve kept up with my blog from the start, you would be familiar with how I barely kept my head above the water during my junior year, and I only made it by the skin of my teeth, which is why I promised myself to make my last summer vacation before senior year memorable and epic. There are undoubtedly more trials to come, and I don’t want to have any regrets.

Anyway, we did go to Ilocos for Holy Week, but Singapore was the dream destination, and I looked forward to it the most. When we went to Hong Kong two summers ago, it was so much fun, and I knew Singapore would not disappoint. As the trip grew closer, my longing and eagerness increased; ever since all our travel arrangements were confirmed, I had everything marked down on my calendar, deadlines be damned.

Our trip to Hong Kong was also around this time, late May up to early June, and I ended up missing the first two days of enrollment, if I remember correctly, and I had to grovel for leftover slots in classes since CRS didn’t grant me enough units. I wouldn’t have missed Hong Kong for the world, so I braved the remainder of enrollment and came out of it with a full load, even if my schedule left much to be desired. Whatever, beggars can’t be choosers, and four days in Hong Kong were worth two days of queuing at UP Diliman, and talking professors into accepting me in their classes. Fortunately, this time wasn’t such a close call. Mama and Papa consulted our academic calendar and made sure our trip wouldn’t fall on any important dates. Summer classes would be over, and we would be back in time for our enrollment. My youngest sister though, whose enrollment was earlier than ours, missed hers as well as an orientation, but there was still a late enrollment option, so she had to grin and bear it. And besides, she’s still in high school, so enrollment isn’t like a one in a thousand lottery, unlike in college. During the pre-enlistment period, before we left for Singapore, there were all these Facebook posts and Hunger Games memes dedicated to it. I’m not kidding, in the really extreme cases, MST GE subjects can have a demand of up to a thousand students, with a hundred or so slots at best, for large classes. I wasn’t too worried about my chances because I have Graduating status priority and the classes I have left are majors or electives, but still, at the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but be a little bit apprehensive all the same.

I knew that even if I were in the country at the time of the batch run, it was out of my hands, and it wasn’t as if being physically present could or would change anything, or affect the outcome, but being away feels like having diminished control, somehow. But even that control is an illusion, a false sense of security in your home turf. Well, Singapore is, after all, only the second country outside of the Philippines I’ve been to with family, and I guess frantic energy can’t be avoided right before a big trip, even if all the necessary precautions are taken. There is always anxiety over leaving everything behind, and trusting it will all be alright when you come back. At least in domestic trips, we could call home to check in from time to time and keep tabs on the house-help. In my case, I was anxious not just about the CRS batch run but more about my pending internship applications, that I might miss important calls, for interviews, and such, but that was a concession I had to make. I did my best to inform people that I would be away for a few days and I took care of what I could, and just hoped everything could wait until my return. Singapore could not.

And besides who wants to go on vacation and take work along? Not me, certainly. That would have been such a party pooper! So with that, I set aside the rest, and I got ready for our Singapore adventure! I was raring to go and not even my CRS and internship worries could dim my excitement No sirree! It was finally within reach, my reward, my prize, that had been dangling over me for months, teasing me, testing me! And there it was, so close! It was right there, before my very eyes! For so long I had waited and day by day, I inched towards it, Singapore! Nothing was going to stop me from flying away.

But of course before we got there, drama reared its head. Although everything was settled in advance, we still had a lot of last minute preparations, packing for one. And packing can be so stressful and frustrating. What to bring? How to avoid excess baggage and save space for souvenirs? How to secure luggage? Remember, we all bought new luggage for Singapore, and it was time to put it to the ultimate test: NAIA Terminal 1! I don’t think luggage gets jolted in the plane as much as in the airport. Oh well. There was also the matter of who would take us to the airport and pick us up again, since Mama didn’t want to spend on overnight parking or pay for a taxi. Even though it was on such short notice, Mama managed to ask a favor of one of our cousins to drive us to the airport. That’s not all. Actually, a few days before our trip, Mama forgot where she put all our passports. Our passports were supposedly in her safekeeping, but she misplaced them. We turned the master bedroom inside out before we found our passports stashed in a dark corner of Mama’s closet, and when we were done combing through Mama’s messy and cluttered drawers, all her storage spaces, and the passports turned up, the room looked like it had been ransacked. Really Mama can be such a scatterbrain, always misplacing things, or forgetting where she put them. Our boarding passes would have been useless if we couldn’t get past Immigration without passports. Good money down the drain. Thankfully that wasn’t the case.

But overall, Mama had done everything in her power, despite Papa’s absence to organize and plan out a smooth trip and to maximize our stay and really get our money’s worth. She did her research, like a good girl scout. I’m so proud of her for logging on and browsing the internet for Singapore travel websites all by herself and finding out details about the places we could visit in our free time, as well as the modes of transportation accessible from our hotel. Mama is normally quite technologically challenged, and can’t be made to lift a finger when it comes to computers. Until recently she still needed our help and supervision to access her e-mail and to use the printer, so it’s a huge accomplishment that she managed on her own while we were occupied with Summer classes. I know how tough it was on her, without Papa around, shouldering the success of the entire trip, being the lone parent accompanying three children. Two of us are over eighteen and the youngest is fourteen, but being all girls, travelling is quite the challenge. If anything, Mama was the most tense, having a whole litany of reminders for the house-help, fearing burglary, a house fire, etc. And Mama too had to make a professional sacrifice, because she had a patient due to give birth any day, so she entrusted her patient’s care to a reliever. It was give and take all around, for us to have a fun family vacation.

On the eve of our flight, our whole house was abuzz with activity, and all of us were packing, flitting from room to room grabbing this and that, busy little bees, the four of us. As usual, I had heaps upon heaps of clothes on my bed, which I narrowed down an article of clothing at a time. I was determined to pack light, so like our Ilocos trip, I brought mostly one-piece ensembles and I kept convincing myself that the likelihood of a worst case scenario like taking a dive in mud and dirtying my clothes in Singapore was next to nil, so I didn’t take anymore sets of clothes than needed for the duration of our stay. I’m really paranoid like that, and in the past I would end up taking home clean clothes, well not anymore! I didn’t even bring a swimsuit (when before, I would bring two for good measure) because there wouldn’t be an opportunity to go swimming, for good or bad. And while I was preparing outfits for each day, as per my custom, I thought to check out the weather forecast in Singapore. It had been pretty bleak here, that week, cloudy with scattered showers in the afternoon or at night and I was debating whether to bring pants and closed shoes to Singapore, and I was discouraged by a similar weather forecast over there. So in the end, I brought dresses that would be suit me rain or shine, and sandals that would hardly take up much space in my luggage, and wouldn’t get ruined if they got wet.

When I finished packing I weighed my check-in luggage and there was no cause for alarm, as my foray into the realm of packing light had proved successful, and my bag was well within the allowance. As for my hand luggage, all my valuables and electronics went into my trusty Longchamp. I brought my netbook with me to try to maintain a connection, if a tentative one with the world I would be leaving behind. My phone didn’t have roaming enabled, so I left everyone messages that if they needed me, they could reach me by e-mail and I would try to reply ASAP. But as a side-story, here we go again, while packing, it occurred to me that they might have different power outlets in Singapore and my netbook might not work there, and I had to Google it to make sure. Thank goodness my netbook came with a spare power cord that matches their outlets. The Philippines used to be a US colony, so all our power cords and outlets have two straight prongs, but Singapore being a former British colony, retained that convention, and their outlets have three prongs, perpendicular to each other, like a triangle, almost. So I had that covered. I was almost done getting ready.

But since this is me we’re talking about, there was the matter of my fitness routine. I thought it over, long and hard, then I decided I would allow myself a break, that I could afford to rest for four days. No exercise in Singapore, after all it was a vacation. But I made a deal with myself, that I would just wrap up the week’s exercise, and make up for it the following week. I follow Hip Hop Ab’s weekly calendar, you see, and from the time that I started the program I’ve never skipped a single day, and I wasn’t about to start. Meaning to say, I crammed my remaining workouts for the week, right before leaving, since our flight coincided with the second to the last set of workouts. And when we came back, I would get back on track by doing two workouts per day, bridging the four day gap. It sounded like a plan to me. Little did I know that I couldn’t have exercised in Singapore even if I tried, and you’ll find out why, soon enough.

Anyway, our flight was early Monday morning, so we went to Church on Sunday, probably for Mama’s peace of mind, more than anything else, and had lunch at Ling Nam. A Chinese restaurant, of all places, when we were about to go to Singapore. But then as it turns out, we didn’t have much Chinese food in Singapore, not much at all. Let’s save that for the upcoming posts. Right, we had lunch at Ling Nam and ordered pretty standard fare like dim sum and noodles, same old, same old. Afterwards, we did a little bit of grocery shopping. Our house-help would be left to her own devices, but Mama didn’t want her to have to eat straight out of cans, so she bought some fresh meat, vegetables, fruit, and bread, for her to choose from or prepare meals for herself, while we were gone. We also bought baon or snacks to take with us, so we wouldn’t have to spend so much on food while we were there. Before leaving, we did some research on the average cost of food in Singapore, and it was slightly more expensive, so aside from main meals, we didn’t really have a budget for snacks in between, or for those unexpected hunger pangs while on tour, so we bought cookies, biscuits, chocolate, and chips. We also bought bottled water because in our experience from Hong Kong, drinking water was really expensive, and at most restaurants, they would serve us hot tea, and it was so difficult to overcome the language barrier when we tried asking for water. One time, they did serve us water, but it was boiling water, for brewing tea. We thought since, like Hong Kong, Singapore was predominantly Chinese, that we might go thirsty again. But we learned during the course of our stay that while Singapore had a lot in common with Hong Kong, it was still vastly different, and I will go into more detail, in the posts to come! 


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