It’s the little things that count.
Coming back from Pullman to Singapore via Seattle and Taipei is generally a jarring if not pleasant experience. One thing that always struck me about the Palouse was its openness with the rolling plains and blue skies. While it’s not Big Sky Country like Montana, it couldn’t be any more different than what I was used to.
Singapore packs in a population of 5.3 million in 272 square miles. You’re talking nearly 19,500 folks, or almost 9,500 more people, per square mile compared to Seattle and its entire metro area. Looking out of my window on the eighth floor, I see 17 buildings that go up to 20 stories at least, if not 40.
So yeah, it’s a little more crowded here than I’m used to back in Cougar town.
Aside from the sudden lack of space, other things tell me I’m home.
There’s no Wally World—this means I can’t stock up on Adderall and Cinnamon Toast Crunch or swing by the garden section for potting soil (not that I have space for a garden).
Talk about first world problems.
On the edibles, it’s generally the minor things that you miss.
Soy milk actually tastes like soy, not that vanilla or chocolate nonsense you call soy milk over there. If I had to grow up drinking American soy milk, I would hate it too. The stuff here is made fresh daily and tastes clean and pure without unnecessary thickening agents.
Alcohol is expensive. If there’s one thing I miss about the U.S. of A, it’s the much more forgiving price of intoxicating beverages. An equivalent six pack of Pullman water (Tiger beer) will cost you $13. Don’t even get me started on the price of wine—a jug of Carlo will bleed you dry at $30, and that stuff gives paint thinner a run for its money.
Coffee is a little more reasonable; if you want to go full local, a coffee will cost $1, possibly less.
This ain’t your vanilla latte or soy skinny chai tea mocha with whipped cream, it’s local coffee brewed in a giant mesh cloth we fondly refer to as a sock. This sock is made strong and sweetened with condensed milk; it reminds me of my time in the army.
Breakfast is just a vague word for lunch as it can comprise of noodles, full on meals of rice with fried chicken, Indian flat breads over curry, little dumplings and so on.
There is no such thing as Singapore noodles.
Chicken rice, arguably our national dish, is the extreme distant cousin of arroz con pollo. Instead of Spanish rice, Thai Jasmine rice is used. Replacing sofrito, there is a holy trinity of garlic, shallots and ginger, with the addition of pandan leaf, an aromatic, grass-like leaf that smell of a cross between coconut and vanilla.
Condiments refer to pickled green chilies, soy sauce and chili paste made with fermented shrimp (belachan).
Fruits here are a little more intense, due to the tropical weather giving us some pretty exotic things.
Durian, labeled the king of fruits, looks like an angry pineapple. It's also the most pungent, or even putrid for those not used to it, thing you will ever smell in your life.
Mangosteens are smaller and orb-like with a dark purple, thick leathery skin yielding a supple soft white flesh that is extremely sweet and sour. It’s a taste I can’t articulate well enough to do it justice—Queen Victoria was said to have knighted anyone that brought her back a mangosteen.
Rambutans look like a vulgar incarnation of the privates of primates. It’s a round fruit with hairy, soft strand-like spines, encasing a translucent and super sweet fruit that tastes like nothing else in the world.
You greet people by saying, "Makan already?" meaning, "Have you eaten?" If that’s not an indicator of our obsession into food, I don’t know what is.