In Australia the first week of the new university year is called Orientation week, which for as long as I can recall has been shortened to “O Week”. It was originally designed – as its name suggests – to help new students to find their way around, but has evolved into a drunken celebration of freedom as 18 year olds experience their first taste of life outside of the school system.
Being our first week in Singapore we are in a serviced apartment while the rental house we picked is having a few things fixed (and why the vagaries of the Singapore leasing system work themselves out), and we are using the time to orient ourselves to this new country. Sadly (or happily), there will be no drunken scavenger hunt through the streets dressed as a superhero as the universities do in O Week.
Yesterday (Sunday), was our first full day as Singapore residents, although we were all still on Melbourne time which is 2 hours ahead. The kids got up at 7am and we muttered at them to find something quiet to do while we got more sleep. They reappeared just under an hour later and my mobile phone was telling me it was 8am so I offered to take the kids to breakfast while hub slept. I had a quick shower, dressed and when I made it out to the lounge room I noticed through the window it was pitch dark.
It was 8am in Melbourne, not Singapore.
Our missions for the day was to test out the train system. Despite having been in Singapore quite a few times between us we had never used public transport, but for the first few weeks until we sought out the school bus I need to use public transport to get the girls to and from school. Hub will also catch the train to work everyday.
Our first stop was to buy an EZ Link card, which is kind of like a debit card which you load up with credit. The card can be used for all manner of things – trains, buses, taxis, parking, shopping. When entering and exiting an MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) station all you do is wave the card over the scanner and the cost of the trip is deducted from the card.
Not sure why the Victorian State Government didn’t adopt this system over the woeful Myki ticketing system they chose.
The stations are clean and there is no danger of people falling on the tracks as there is a glass wall to stop that. The longest we waited for a train was 4 minutes. There aren’t an abundance of seats on the trains but there are lots of poles and straps to hang onto. The Little Missy took to sitting on the floor, which in many countries could put at risk of all manner of diseases, but not in Singapore! At 3 different times people offered their seats to her. You don’t get that in Melbourne (or insert most other places), even if you’re visibly pregnant.
The next job was to take a trip to a Singaporean supermarket. We are staying within spitting distance of Orchard Road (not that we would spit, mind) so we went to the nearest Cold Storage which probably is not the most authentic Singaporean shopping experience but our feet were sore and we just needed food. Quickly.
Cold Storage is similar to Australian supermarkets, a lot smaller but the ‘vibe of the thing’ was the same. The biggest difference that I noticed is that the price of fruit/vegies/meat/anything was given per 100 grams. Luckily I was pretty darn terrific at my 10 Times Tables back in the day!
And – gratuitous brag alert – we bought a bunch of bananas for $1.90 kilo. It’s been months since I had a banana. In Australia, thanks to the wrath Mother Nature meted out to Queensland, bananas have been hovering around the $13 a kilo mark for months making the humble narna something of a status symbol in school lunch boxes.
OK, it was pretty much the only thing that was cheaper in the whole produce section, but still……
(Day 2 of O Week sees us trying to open a bank account and visiting the Ministry of Manpower where I will try not to think of Jamie Durie……)