Saturday, December 25, 2010

Storming Singapore



Things really went to hell in Little India.

“This is useless!” I hissed while standing in the middle of the street and turning in circles.

“This is not useless,” corrected Sean, once again consulting the map from our battered Lonely Planet guide book.

“Useless: hopeless, futile, a waste of time, ineffective, inadequate,” I rattled off, closing my eyes and trying to calm down. “You choose the synonym…. I really don‘t care because this activity is most certainly useless!”

“Just chill out.”

“Chill out? You want me to chill out? Okay, sure, I’ll chill out. It’s fine that it’s 4:55 in the morning, we’re standing in the middle of god knows where in Singapore and our bus leaves at 5a.m. for non-refundable boat tickets to Indo-freakin‘-nesia and I’m pretty sure a man was stabbed outside our hotel just five minutes ago and there are two Market Streets right beside each other going completely opposite directions and our bus station is down one of them, which one who knows but it’s certainly not us!”

Sean looked up from the map, smiling.

“Feel better?”

I wanted to slap him but instead I nodded my head.

“Good. Now, I’m pretty sure we go down this Market Street past the Chinese hawker stalls.”

Taking a deep breath, I followed Sean down the middle of the dark road; homeless men slept on the sidewalks, and we discovered they were none to pleased when you accidentally tripped over them and woke them from their drunken stupors.

As I walked behind Sean, my heavy backpack permanently disabling me, I cursed the day I ever considered visiting Singapore.

“What’re you going to do in Singapore?” Tuan, a 30 year old vagabond, asked us while we talked over beers in the Cameron Highlands.

“Eat.”

Tuan smiled then, nodding his head.

“You’re going to the right place then because there’s nothing else to do in that city.”

Sure, we ate. And the food was good. Like, really good. Plates teaming with chicken and rice and vegetables satiated our hunger. But, it was not good enough to warrant this early morning jaunt in search for a bus that would connect with another bus and then another that would drop us off at the ferry so we could take the boat and end up on the Riau Islands.

“At least it’s not raining,” Sean called over his shoulder, forbidding my dour mood from rubbing off on him. I wanted to take off my Teva sandals and chuck them at his head. How did he do it, I wondered. I knew he was tired. Of course he was tired. Last night, at 2a.m., two Germans decided to watch the Chainsaw Massacre in our dorm. I wanted nothing more than to give them wedgies as they walked around in their tighty -whitey underpants.

“I mean, wasn’t that rain something else? It was like standing under a waterfall.”

As Sean babbled, I fantasized about all the things I could do to him to make him feel the way I did; I could trip him, I could push him over, I could scream out that Allah sucks and make him deal with the consequences, I could litter in front of a police officer and get a ticket…

“Yo, Jackie, where you at?”

“Huh?” I asked, my vindictive thoughts interrupted.

“I said: there it is.”

And sure enough, there it was: the bus station.

“Yeah, the rain was pretty cool,” I admitted, my blood pressure suddenly under control now that I knew we were not doomed.

And you know what? The rain was incredible. It was a deluge in the middle of an urban jungle, quite different from the Malaysian downpour we experienced in an actual jungle. We spent most the night cowered under walkways and running through the streets. Like all the locals, we took two plastic bags from a bin a kind store owner put out and moved like bats out of hell through the rain, weaving through the city until we reached Little India where our hostel was located.

As we waited at the bus stop, I prayed the plastic bag I used to wrap my wet clothes in wouldn’t burst and soak everything in my backpack. We had done our laundry for the first time in one month and I refused to have all my clothes smell like a wet dog because chances were we wouldn’t do our laundry again for another month.

As our bus pulled away from the terminal, I catalogued the pilgrimage we were about to undertake: three busses, two taxis, and a ferry all within six hours to end up on a beautiful Indonesian island. Part of me hoped it would be worth it, but another part of me knew it would.

As we drove over the Causeway, headed toward Malaysia, all I could think was: Singapore, you’re alright. 

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