Humour: Mad about Singapore

Humour: Mad about Singapore

By the time you read this column, I would have been in Brazil for more than a month and, hopefully, still not dead.

As I mentioned before, my mother is adamant that I'm going to leave the World Cup in a box and seems a little disappointed that her premonition hasn't come to pass.

But Changi Airport beckons. So I thought I'd offer a timely reminder of what we take for a granted in the sunny island.

Food for thought

I always thought it was a bit insular and cliche to obsess over Singapore food - until I came to Brazil. There are generally three culinary options in the South American country: Half a cow with chips; half a cow with salad if you're health-conscious; or a buffet, where you can have half a cow with chips and salad.

This vegetarian is desperately craving some hawker centre variety again.

In the back streets of Rio, I discovered a small Chinese eatery where I eat noodles, get misty-eyed and find myself singing: "This is home truly, where I know I must be."

My homesickness isn't helped by my lack of Portuguese. No matter what I say, write down or point at, my gestures are always translated as: "Hold the salad, give me extra cow."

Mind your language

The Brazil trip has underscored two universal truths.

Monolingualism encourages ignorance, which makes me more determined than ever to learn another language.

And second, when you don't know the Portuguese word for "toilet", you make a mess of your underwear.

I struggled with strangers along the Copacabana promenade, trying to ask for directions to the nearest toilet. Miming was a possibility but I didn't want to scare small children.

Singapore's a bit too hard on itself with the whole Singlish thing. For the most part, we get by. Still, take my advice and learn the local word for toilet before your next holiday.

P.S. I went with the miming routine in the end. Terrified Brazilians thought I was going to pee on their kids.

On the buses

Singaporean bus services are not perfect. But they do not take corners on two wheels.

In Brazil, drivers think they are riding mopeds. They take the roundabout in top gear and the screaming passengers cling to the windows and get on with it.

They've even changed the lyrics to the popular kindergarten song in Brazil. Here the kids sing: "Half the wheels on the bus go round and round. The rest of the wheels on the bus are suspended in the air as flying passengers are thrown into their neighbour's crotch. All day long."

Efficiency rules

At the Chinese eatery, a Brazilian told me how much he loved Singapore.

"Oh, I just love it, that airport is amazing, the best ever," he said eagerly.

"It had movies, all kinds of food, loads of things to do. Singapore is the best, man."

I was sceptical. "When you say you love Singapore, what you really mean is you love Changi Airport," I replied.

He admitted: "That's true. I've only been to the airport. But I loved it! Everything worked."

He's right - not everything works in Brazil.

I walked through the wrong door at Rio Airport and stumbled into a building site. Unfinished roads give Brazilian bus drivers a chance to work on their two-wheel swerve.

In Brazil, red lights are observed only if drivers have the time. No one has the time.

I miss things that work. For my next holiday, I'll spend two weeks at Changi Airport.

Give me my balls back

On the plus side, Brazilians do not discuss betting odds and obsess over gambling predictions. But that also means no one asks for my so-called "expertise". I'm feeling a bit left out.

In Brazil, they say: "You are a football writer? Must be great to be paid to watch all the games." In Singapore, they say: "You are a football writer? Hey, this weekend, how ah?"

No taxi drivers in Brazil have waved betting slips at me while speeding through the fast lane.

No one has asked about half-balls. I never thought I'd say this, but I kind of miss the uncles asking me if they should eat their own balls at the weekend.


This article was first published on July 13, 2014.
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