Coma Sweet Coma
By Dave Fox
Continued from previous post….
When we last left off, Kattina and I had just gotten married, flown to Singapore, and checked into our hotel where we’d had time for a four-hour nap before having to attend an important breakfast meeting. Nap over, it was time to be awake again.
We weren’t awake.
Still snoring, we groped our way to the hotel elevator, and down to a private breakfast buffet where 44 other snoring teachers, spouses, and children, many of whom had also just flown in from America the night before, were also in stupors. Most of the other teachers had arrived in Singapore together on a different flight from Kattina and me, so they had already met each other. They grunted hellos as they elbowed their way toward the coffee pot.
The breakfast was probably very nice. I don’t remember. After a short informational meeting, which I also do not remember, we were bussed to a nearby bank to set up accounts, and then to the Singapore American School, where Kattina will begin teaching in a couple of weeks. At the school, we were given important information about how to find an apartment, which I also do not remember. I think they also fed us lunch. Then, we all went back to the hotel to take naps.
For the next couple of days, we were bussed to other jet-lag-foggy events – a hospital visit, a mall to set up mobile phone plans, and Singapore’s “Ministry of Manpower” (MOM for short – they really like acronyms here) to get fingerprinted and apply for Singaporean “green cards.” On our third afternoon, realtors the school had set us up with were scheduled to come to our hotel to chat about where we wanted to live.
Where we wanted to live was in the 238th floor penthouse of a luxury high-rise with an on-call masseuse, a butler named Chauncey, a private helicopter, and a sprawling view of Indonesia from the jacuzzi. Frustratingly, such a place was outside our housing budget. So at 4 p.m., we took off with our new realtor, Pearly, and her driver Leslie, in search of more humble residences.
Kattina had goals for where she wanted to live. I had goals too. Our goals were not compatible.
I should divulge here that Kattina and I have never officially lived together. We dated five years before getting married last week, but we had never managed to move in together – not due to some 1950s morality issue, but simply because we had never found the time. Now, our divergent housing priorities were poking to the surface – halfway around the planet at a moment in life when we needed to make a fast decision. We agreed on some things. Maybe our Indonesia-view hot-tub was out, but a place with a view would be nice. So would a pool and a gym in the building. And a patio of some sort. But from there, contrasts emerged. Somebody would have to compromise.
Kattina wanted parks and nature, tropical gardens in which to go walking, jogging, and cycling. I needed people around me – a local hood without a lot of expats, with hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and scruffy pubs where I could become a regular and extract people’s life stories from them over a few rounds of Tiger Beer. I’d been forewarned, scruffy dive bars were scarce in Singapore. Most of the watering holes – all of the non-scruffy variety – were down around Orchard Road, the overstimulating, urban jungle neighborhood that was packed with shops like Gucci and Cartier.
As we drove away from the familiar downtown area, into neighborhoods we had not yet visited, we explained our dichotomy to Pearly. It seemed most places could fulfill either my desires or Kattina’s. But parks and pubs together would be tricky. In the more traditional Singaporean neighborhoods, Pearly told us, what scant nightlife there was shut down around 9 p.m. People tended to socialize in groups, around impenetrable tables. Chatting up strangers at the bar was not an option.
But I needed such activity – not only because I aspired to be a drunkard in my new international living adventure, but because when you work alone all day as a freelance writer, you crave people at the end of the day. I’m a night person. Kattina crashes early because she has to wake up early. For me, more than anything, when I travel, my goal is to meet the people who live there. In Singapore, I wanted to become one of them.
Pearly had a perplexed expression. Kattina and I were going to be one of those difficult couples. We only had a week or so to find a place. And we would have to make a quick decision in a jet-lagged coma.