Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Prosperity Pizza

Everyone here in Singapore is getting in on the spirit of next week's big holiday, Chinese New Year. Even Pizza Hut!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Hover

There are three types of eating establishments here in Singapore: American-style fast food (Subway, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, and a few local spin-offs), hawkers, and sit-down restaurants. At the fast food restaurants, you order at the counter and pay immediately, just like you would in the United States. At the hawker centers, you order your food at the stall(s) of your choice, tell them your table number and then, pay when the food is delivered. At the sit-down restaurants, the hostess seats you and the waitress takes your order and brings your food. Unlike American restaurants where the waitress "kindly" brings your your bill to remind you that you've been sitting there too long, waitresses here wouldn't dare suggest you pay your bill until you ask for it. You could sit there for 4 hours and the waitress would never even hint about it. But, once you ask for your bill, a very interesting thing happens. I call it "the hover."

In the States, the waitress drops the bill off and leaves. When you're ready to pay, you flag her down and she stops by to pick it up. Here in Singapore, the waitress brings your your bill and then stands right next to you until you get your wallet out and settle the bill. She literally hovers right above your shoulder until you get the cash or card safely into her hands.

At first, the hover was unnerving, annoying. But now that we're used to it, it is kind of nice. It's nice to know that the restaurant is actually interested in meeting our wishes. If we wish to sit and enjoy our meal, they don't rush us off prematurely. If we wish to pay our bill, it's their top priority. That's what I call "good service."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jet Lag, The Zoo, and Flying Zebras

Yesterday morning, Josh and I woke up at 4:30, followed shortly thereafter by Caleb. Much to my surprise, the whole house was up and running by 6AM. If you know us, you know that this pre-dawn wakefulness could only be caused by one thing: jet lag.

As annoying as jet lag is, I decided to make the most of the early start and take Caleb to the zoo. We were headed to the bus by 7:00 and arrived at the zoo at 8:15 (15 minutes before it opens).

The zoo is beautiful first thing in the morning. The air is cool and fresh, flowers are dripping with dew and the animals are playful. It is quiet, too, except for the twittering birds and chirping cicadas. No noisy school groups to avoid and no obnoxious Americans shouting across exhibits to "hey, come look at this!"

All in all, it was the perfect time of day to enjoy the zoo. . . except for the swarms of flying zebras: the dengue-carrying, black-and-white striped mosquitoes that seemed to have come out by the thousands to welcome us to the zoo.

No more than five minutes after arriving, we were seated on a bench, watching the gorals eat their breakfast, when suddenly I realized WE were being eaten for breakfast! I looked down to see no fewer than ten mosquitoes circling about my ankles, with two already landed and partaking of the feast. I swatted and kicked and made a complete fool of myself. Thankfully, the gorals, who were looking rather amused, had the decency to refrain from laughing at me out loud.

We were already, supposedly, mosquito-proofed, but I went ahead and applied a double dose. We made a quick stop by the tiger and baboon exhibits, all the while being chased by the flying zebras, and losing confidence in our mosquito repellent. Twenty minutes and seven mosquito bites later, I realized we were fighting a losing battle.

Thankfully, the jet lag is wearing off and we are returning to a normal schedule, so I won't be tempted to take another early-morning trip to the zoo any time soon.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Our Pit-Stop in the Tokyo Airport

I've always heard the Japanese were the masters of high-tech gadgetry and utilitarian functionality. Our recent layover in the Tokyo (Narita) Airport confirmed this rumor.

In my opinion, nothing reveals a country better than its bathrooms =)

My favorite features: flushing sounds and "powerful deodorizer"

(the instruction manual for the toilet)

The perfect invention! If only every bathroom had a handy place to "store" one's kid while one is utilizing the commode.