I was really looking forward to Singapore, not only because it was going to be one of our first ports of call, but also because I would finally get to see the country that Edna and Kristen once called home, and where Susan ate. It’s interesting going to a place that you’ve read/heard so much about before. You create this image in your head, and then find that the world that you imagined is nothing like what you see. This was not a new epiphany, but more of a renewal of one.
This may have also been a result of my having to work at this port of call. Since I had been able to see (kind of) how tours are run, Singapore was to be training to see what kind of information and language guides use.
Many tours were too big for all participants to fit into one bus so the letters represent the tour, and the number on these signs are the bus number. Each bus gets a tour leader and a guide, and if they are not a Japanese speaking guide, one of us. Here we are inside the port terminal, getting ready to go on tour. While I’m explaining things, we, the communication coördinators (also known as CCs) are in red, and tour leaders are in orange polos.
The tour guide I worked with on this tour was amazing. She knew an incredible amount of information, how to get Japanese people to laugh (this can be hard), and even made sure that we, the staff, were enjoying ourselves.
It was a hot day, and I was once again in said red polo and jeans. It was not easy to keep myself from just jumping into the water, or to pretend that the merlion was a cool shower. The staff often have to stay in one place so that the passengers can find us. The guide had drifted away with some passengers, but we soon saw her motioning for us to come over. “This is the coolest spot.” She said as she motioned for us to sit. “I’m going to go get some coffee.” I thought it was kind of strange that the guide would go on a coffee run in the middle of a tour, but it was free time so we shrugged it off. The tour leader and I sat down and chatted while we watched the passengers all file into the closest souvenir shop. A couple minutes later, the guide returned with two iced coffees- for us! It was such a nice gesture, and helped me go from complaining about the heat to other, far more interesting and less whiny subjects.
Most of the tour was pretty repetitive on my part. Get off the bus, make sure participants know where and when to meet after free time, take a thousand photos of the participants with their cameras, count participants, reload onto buses. Now that you have the really exciting scoop of what I did, here’s where we went. In pictures. So you can get your mouse away from the red ‘x’ in the top right hand corner of your screen.
As this was our last stop in Chinatown, may participants were eager to spend the coins that they had left. Most of them came back with the same dessert that had the texture you would get if you mixed mochi and jello. They then came rushing over to where we were waiting, declarations of how cheap it was and how colorful preceding their offers to eat more- it turns out the logic here was “we don’t really like it, so let’s feed it to our tour leader and interpreter.” I hope that during later tours, that the decide that they hate ice cream.
One thing that I was really looking forward to in Singapore was visiting the Hawker Centers that I’d heard so much about. I’d even e-mailed Susan about what I should get just in case I found myself in one. But alas, though I did get a glimpse of one from the window of our tour bus, we were on a tight schedule and that chance did not present itself.
Instead, we had lunch in a hotel restaurant: Si Chuan Dou Hua.
There was no time for pictures, as we had to make sure all the passengers were settled into their seats and were able to get the welcome drink of their choice, which left little time for us to sit down and shovel food. I’ll leave it up to your imagination to picture: prawn salad with fruit and mayo, seafood and beancurd soup, steamed seasonal fish in soy sauce, gong bao (the spiciest diced chicken you’ve ever had in your life), sweet and sour prawns, ma po tofu, french beans with minced meat, yangzhou fried rice and a fresh fruit platter from that picture of what was left over (aka nothing but a little sauce).
Yes, that was a lot of food, yes, I had at least two servings of each dish. Except for the prawns with fruit and mayo. That was mildly disturbing. Aside from that, the food was excellent and in epic portions, so I suppose I’ll let go of not being able to go to a Hawker center.
*Photos that I am pictured in are courtesy of Keiko Uehara and Hirofumi Arai, unsure of who actually took them, though.