It was food poisoning, my doctor said to me. I was not surprised, judging at the symptoms I have since last night. Where did you eat, he asked. It was a food court at Sim Lim Square where I had mutton soup, I answered. The food court is merely a block away from where the clinic is. My doctor suddenly seemed enlightened and said, “Ah, yes. I had a few bad experience eating there.”
According to my doctor, he gauges the hygiene factor of a local food court by the cleanliness of the toilet as well as the availability of hand soap. If the hand soap is constantly run out, there is little hope that the hawkers would have their hands washed properly after [peeing and pooing] (he used a Chinese dialect that I am not familiar with, but I got the essence of what he was trying to say). Next time when I visit a food court in Singapore, the first thing I shall do is to inspect the toilet. If a doctor does it, I don’t see why I shouldn’t.
There was no one in the waiting room, so we took time to chat. I do not have friends who is a doctor and I am not sure what ticks them. OK, I have a distant relative who works in the emergency room. We talked about shattered bones of the motorists and his unpredictable yet predictably long working hours. That time, I wanted to veer the conversation away from the bones and onto, say, how do surgeons have the time to find love? But he went on and on about bones and more bones, blood and more blood. It is true. Singapore is a terrible place for motorists. I am still at awe at the courage or what not that some cyclists exhibit when they insist on wanting to share the same space with the local drivers. It only takes one tiny mistake of a driver to potentially paralyze a cyclist. I don’t even feel safe walking inside a car park. I often remind Cynthia, “Never, never trust the Singaporean drivers.”
Ironically, I am one.
At the reception counter, while waiting for my medicine to be concocted, I chatted with the two ladies behind the counter. I am not sure if they are receptionists or they are nurses. After that bloody toe operation – bloody as in literally bloody and not in a swearing sense – I am convinced that they are capable to take on the role of a nurse too. On the same topic of food poisoning, one said, “These days, we have increasingly more Chinese nationals working in a food court. They are not as hygienic. Stay away from their food.” Another one added, “For me, I only eat boiled food like fish soup from these stores. At least the food is cooked right in front of my eyes.”
I hate to stereotype. But I think they both spoke wisdom because numbers do rule our world. The challenge to me is, unlike some of my friends, I cannot tell a local man from a Chinese national. Maybe a PRC girl to a local girl. But that is a different story.
Before I left the consultation room, my doctor and I talked about the recent surge in flu cases. He commented that people here do not cover our mouths when we cough. I commented that in Japan, the sick ones wear masks when they are sick. Do you know what he said? He advise people to wear a mask in the office if someone near them is sick. If we do not have the decency to refrain from spreading the virus, at least do our part to lower the chance of getting infected by others.
This doctor speaks wisdom.
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I am a big fan of the Backseat DJs Maddy Barber and Cheryl Miles. Their chemistry works out to be better than my initial expectation. Yesterday’s topic was on Team Singapore (athlete) and our reliance on foreigners to win medals. One guy from Team Malaysia (the football captain I think) commented that we would not have won the first leg of the World Cup qualifying match against Malaysia if we do not have foreigners. The debates went on. Cheryl and Maddy were patriotically defending our foreign talent policy. One caller dialed in and said, “Medals should only won by born and bred Singaporeans. No foreigners should be in our national teams.”
Upon hearing that, I felt a brief moment of exclusion. 13 years I have been a Singapore Citizen. But no matter how many years I clock, I can never be a born and bred Singaporean. In this hot topic of foreigners versus the locals, I often find myself stuck in the middle. Not too long ago, I was a foreigner. Within the Singapore community, we have Citizens and Permanent Residents (Is PR considered as foreigners?) And within the citizen category, we have born and bred Singaporeans and the immigrants. My wife from Indonesia has been a PR here for 10 years. My sister is a relatively new PR from Hong Kong who now has a baby (I often tease her that she is a PRC). My niece is born in Singapore. Her father – my buddy – is also a born and bred Singapore. My mother-in-law who is visiting Singapore is on a 5 years long time social visit pass. My mother too has the same pass. The line is blurred. Regardless where we are in this foreign-ness spectrum, we have contributed to the society just as hard, riding through SARS and a few recessions, the current inflation and yet another round of election together with the born and bred locals and the semi-foreign residents.
Hack. We eat the same food. And I may need to pop by my bathroom one more time before I am done writing this entry.
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A few days ago, there was love in the air. One caller dialed into Maddy and Cheryl’s radio show and shared with them and the audience her dilemma in love. 6 years she has worked and now she is 26. 6 years she has dated this guy and it is only recently when she discovered that he has been married all along. This sounds so wrong How did she not know, how did this guy’s wife not know, and how could he love two at the same time – all these years? Personally I feel that it is cruel for a guy to rob a girl 6 years of her prime dating life with a lie. Personally I also feel that Maddy and Cheryl are too cheerful as Aunties Agony. I, on the other hand, can be a good candidate for Brother Agony. Because I have a soothing voice, because I am a patient man with a pair of good listening ears, and because I am morally flexible.
One caller quickly dialed in and shared her friend’s story in air. It was on her friend’s wedding date when the groom did not turn up. Instead, the groom’s wife called and told her friend that the groom has already been married. This blows in so many different dimensions. I could not even fathom on what the groom was thinking, or trying to do. Imagine the disappointment and humiliation the bride had to bear. Fortunately, this sad, sad story has a good ending. Her friend is now happily married with kids. Her advice to the first caller was: move on and there are better things in life await.
That is not the end of the story. A third caller dialed in and shared his story on air. One day, his friend called and asked to meet up and have a cup of coffee, 2 in the morning and in Geylang (note to overseas readers: Geylang is a residential area, and inside, there is a tiny red light district). I am glad that I do not have friends who call me 2 in the morning for a cup of coffee in Geylang. My wife would not be happy about it. So, the third caller did meet up his friend. They chatted from two to four in the morning and across the street, at the entrance of a love motel, he has spotted his girlfriend (now ex-girlfriend) emerged from the motel with his best friend! Woah. That sucks even to think about it. Again, the sad, sad story also has a good ending. He is now happily married to a different girl and they have kids. Same advice he gave to the first caller.
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Looking back, fair or not fair, I think it is good to have experienced what it is like to be a dumpee. Because we dumpees get to relate to some movies that dumpers just don’t get it.