Saturday, December 31, 2016

Singapore

By Rob Watson

Back in 1977 Big Electronics Inc. sent me to teach computer repair to their customers in Southeast Asia. Recently a friend from Denmark went to Singapore and her Facebook pictures and comments reminded me of my own experiences there.

When I was told of my assignment, I began to think of one of my life's goals: to circumnavigate the globe. Singapore, as you may know, is exactly half way around the world from Texas, where I was working at the time. So I went to my boss and ask if he would mind if I went one way and came back the other. He replied that he would give me money for the fare for a normal flight and I could make my own reservations  to go where I wished, with me paying any difference. DEAL says I!

When I was making the reservations, the cost was somewhat more than $1,000 over what I had to spend. (that was back when $1,000 was a lot of money) When I asked the lady for my itinerary, I noticed I landed in New York an hour after I left London.

 "Say", says I, "that plane from London to New York  is moving right along."

"Yes," She replies, " I booked you First class on the SST." (The SST flew at just under 1,000 miles per hour)

"Well, what would it cost if I took a regular airplane?"

" Oh, About a thousand dollars less."

As I look back, I regret that I did not take the SST.

The flight over took 24 hours. I landed just after dark. A company guy was waiting for me and drove me to my hotel. The first thing I noticed was the cars there drive, at night, with their lights off. The street lights provided limited illumination... but we made it without mishap.

I arrived on Saturday. Sunday morning I found a church near the hotel and went to the service. I knew Catholic services were the same world wide, except these were in Chinese. Despite the differences in language, I realized I was not really that far from home... The alter boys all wore tennis shoes and blue jeans under their robes.

 I was introduced to my guide, and the plant manager, the next morning. The plant manager was a good old Texas boy and my guide was a young Chinese woman. She had been educated in England and had a degree in engineering. My class was made of 28 people from Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and one guy from Australia. I later learned that 6 of these spoke no English at all. I was disturbed by this but my guide said not to worry... so I didn't.

At this time I had made only one trip outside The US of A and decided I would only eat local foods. The cafateria had two areas, I ate Chinese food on that side... American food was served on the other side. The class thought I was strange, but they weren't the first. For breakfast the Aussi and I ate together at the hotel. In the evening, my guide, at my insistence took me to local, non tourest, resturants around town. The food was always great and different. We also ate at a "Food Court"... way before they were invented here. It was in a park and there were dozens of food booths. I loved it. I ate way too much. That experience has caused me to be disappointed by the ones in the malls here. The night before our last class, the manager took us all to an outdoor, all you can eat, seafood establishment. The 32 of us, 28 classmates, me, my guide, the manager and his wife, ate all we wanted, drank all the beer we wanted, and when the final bill came it was for $120 American. Whenever I remember these things, I want to go back, just for the food.

On the weekend I was on my own and went to see some of the sights around town. One was Fortress Singapore where they detailed the Japanese takeover of the area during World War II.

Over there, and I suppose in most foreign countries, there was an American enclave. Many Americans lived in this one huge, and very nice, building. The plant manager invited me over to his apartment for dinner on Halloween night. American kids were running around the place having a ball, all dressed in their costumes. As I was leaving, the manager pointed out that the Chinese were not into the celebration. They had placed little ...whatever... all around the building to ward off the "evil spirits."

I cannot say how much my students learned, but I had a blast. I was invited to stay another two weeks... and would have except I had scheduled my first Texas deer hunt for the week I returned.

On my flight back to the US we stopped over in Bahrain. when the plane came to a stop ti was immediately surrounded by heavily armed soldiers... to protect us from... well, I don't want to know.

I had planned my itenerary such that I would have a day to spend in London and go back to the Tower of London to take pictures. But, London was fogged in and we landed in Manchester instead. The airline put us on a train to London. On the train I went directly to the dinning car and ordered a meal. Because of this I was one of the few who got to eat. The train ran out of food. I got to the Tower about 4:30. The it closed at 5, so I ran around madly taking pictures and did not get to hear the Beefeaters talks.

The rest of my trip home was uneventful.

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