Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I just came back to Indonesia from Singapore a few days ago.  Before I arrived in Singapore I thought I would finally have a chance to act like any other tourist...but my first day there made me realize that wasn't exactly possible.

What I mean is that I'm a missionary.  I live in a poor rural community in Indonesia where $5 for a T-shirt is considered crazy expensive and anything over $10 for pants is considered ridiculous.  Needless to say that coming from this environment and going to Singapore, a shopper's paradise, was overwhelming and strange.  I felt so out of place in Singapore my first day, like I didn't belong there.  It seemed I was looking at a familiar sight but from a greater distance.  I don't know if that makes sense.

I wanted to buy a few clothes and nice shoes in Singapore because it's virtually impossible for me to find any clothes that fit me properly in Indonesia because most stores there sell clothes made for the typical Indonesian woman who is tiny.  At first I was looking at items and looking at the price from Indonesian eyes.  Thinking that a shirt over $10 was outrageous.  Don't get me wrong, I could afford to spend more but I also felt a bit guilty being able to afford things that were considered expensive where I normally live in Indonesia.  I initially tried to find shirts for $5 but soon I began to realize that I could not apply Indonesia pricing to items found in Singapore or else I would never find anything.  Slowly I began to spend more and more money for certain items and I will not lie, at first it was a bit painful, but soon, like a true American, I got into the swing of shopping and, although, I still checked myself with regard to several items I no longer looked at clothing items though Indonesian eyes but started to use my American vision.  Even by my American eyes certain items were still too expensive (did I mention my eyes are those of a cheap American?) but other things were not so bad.  I didn't go wild in spending but I did indulge in a few things like a Starbucks hot chocolate which I felt guilty about as soon as I paid for it, but it was delicious despite my guilt.  Anyway spending became easier as I was in Singapore longer and as I told a friend its easier to spend money when the people around you have money and have no problem spending it. 

Did I mention that shopping is not really an option but a must in Singapore? You can't not shop there because the government makes it impossible by building over 250 malls in the space of what the CIA Worldfact book says is a country about 3.5 times the size of Washington D.C.  It's no joke that they have a mall like on over block and my guide must have said at least 5 times "That mall just opened..." or "A new mall is opening up there soon."

Anyway enough about shopping.  While in Singapore I went to the Botanical Gardens, which I will admit was kind of boring and hot.  December is not flower blooming season in Singapore, and although, there were some nice orchids and others it wasn't a feast for the eyes.  I still got some decent pics of orchids, though.  Although at the Botanical Gardens I did go into a place called the Cool House and I promise you that get what you're promised.  The Cool House was incredibly cool!  It was made to duplicate mountainous climates where certain wild orchids grow.  The Cool House was an incredible refuge in the Singaporean heat.  My guide will tell you that I was extremely reluctant to exit that glorious place.  Better than AC building, I'll tell you that.

Later in the week I went to Chinatown which was really cool.  I bought 30 mooncakes to bring back to the girls at the Women's Training Center where I teach English.  Those mooncakes were freshly made with red bean past filling-that's right red bean filling.  Sounds gross to one who has never eaten beans in a dessert but in reality it is quite delicious.  There were many shops there with Chinese products and decent prices.  One of my exciting finds was 12 sets of redwoodish kind of chopsticks in beautiful Chinese fabric holders for $10.  Gifts or oleh-oleh as they're called in Indonesia for the Sisters in my community.  Lots of shopping in Chinatown and I also managed to find a nice blouse for $20ish which I was told by my guide was a "very reasonable" price.

In Chinatown I entered a Hindu temple and I observed as Hindus gathered to pray.  It was really interesting because I had never seen people pray like that.  There was a person playing this long thin horn and another beating on a drum and there was the smell of incense in the air and there was a man barechested wearing ankle length fabric holding a metal tree full of small candles in his hands.  He moved it around a statue in a circular motion and the people gathered there either put their hands together in prayer pose over there heads and raised their hands up slowly or simply bowed down on the floor.  It was really quite interesting.  I enjoyed seeing it.

I also went to Little India while I was in Singapore which had a lot of shopping also.  I entered another temple there but no prayer was going on at the time which kind of disappointed me.  Oh well.

Another thing worth mentioning about Singapore is that one of it's main shopping mall roads called Orchard Road was beautifully lit up for Christmas.  The main colors for Christmas this year being purple and blue.  There were many beautiful trees and it was wonderful to finally see Christmas.  Sure Christmas lights are not the true meaning of the season but twinkling lights are something that I have always associated with the holiday and I missed them because in my part of Indonesia they don't commonly have Christmas lights.  I was like a child going down that Road 'wow-ing' as I passed this beautiful Christmas tree and that amazing Christmas light display.  It was special for me.

There's more to tell about my visit but that will have to wait for some other day.  Anyway Merry Christmas to all!  I hope it's a fantastic day for all and I hope we all remember why we celebrate this day.