Sunday, October 31, 2010

Silk strands

On the last day of the only eight day retreat I've made with Patient Spiritual Director, he suggested an exercise to "gather up the crumbs" and see what baskets they might fill. As I hunch here in my window seat, 39,000 feet above the Atlantic, the seat in front of me less than 8 inches away (on occasion perilously closer as the hulking young man in the seat in front of me throws his weight around), it seems like a good time to gather the last few strands from this trip.

Singapore is a city of flats, mostly high-rise flats. I loved the flag poles that bristled from the buildings, festooned with drying laundry. Some flats sported as many as five. I wondered what would happen if (when?) the laundry blew off.

Taxis. They and the MRT train line were my magic carpets to Singapore Island. They could be summoned with a click of the computer at the front desk, or an SMS. I loved the little slips that the desk would give me, with the time to arrival and the taxi number on them. A ticket to my next adventure. The biggest adventure was often coming back, trying to direct the taxi driver to the hotel on the large campus I was staying at, usually in the dark, and at speed (and on the "wrong" side of the road).

Despite the heat and humidity, Singapore is not locked up tight in air conditioned bunkers like Houston. Windows are open in the high-rises, shops open into the air, corridors in buildings on campus likewise often open into the out of doors. My hotel alas did not have windows that opened (a concession to overseas guests less adjusted to the heat?), and the A/C in my room had no off switch, just cold and colder. I finally resorted to sleeping in my hoody.

Bargaining in the shops in Little India. I've not lost my touch since the Oaxaca markets.

Immigration and border control at Changi. A whole bowlful of hard candies on the counter. "Lolly?" offered the official. I decorously took one, only to be encouraged to take a handful. (A traveling mercy later when I had a tickle in my throat and nothing to drink!)

The pastel colored shophouses in Little India. The Deepavali market on Seragoon Road, so packed you could hardly move, and the attempts the young woman at one stall and I made to try to fish down a lantern in the jostling crowd.

The fabric stores on Arab Street. I could have stayed all day, just going from shop to shop. When I got on the MRT to go back to the hotel, I noticed my bright purple bag had strands of silk along the side, undoubtedly caught as I wove my way between the bolts that littered the sidewalk, advertising the wares within. The little perfume shop, tucked into a corner of one of the old shophouses in Kampong Glam.

The shopkeeper who showed me how to wear a sari, and the cheerful Indian woman, a fellow shopper urging me to "do check it out in the mirror, dear, you look very nice!". I bought the sari, yards and yards of midnight blue silk chiffon, edged in gold. What will I do with it???

The beautiful Tamil script. Maybe we could borrow some for quantum mechanical symbols?

The public service announcements on the MRT, "Love your ride!" sung by Singapore's equivalent of the Dixie Chicks. Give up your seat to the old and infirm (someone gave me a seat!), don't block the exits while waiting to board at the station.


  1. Welcome home - enjoyed traveling vicariously through your travel updates! Thank you!

  2. I am enjoying my basketful of crumbs!

    Enjoy your homecoming!