29 October 2007

the india adventure - part 1

16th: we left singapore at 11 am and arrived in new delhi at about 9pm (india time is about 2.5 hours behind singapore). the plane made a quick stopover in bangkok to take in some more passengers. me and my tripmates, chilli a and miss r slept through that stop, waking up only when the flight attendants would hand out food (the goat cheese!).

you'd think we'd be cranky from that long flight. hardly. we were met at the airport by our first guide, basheer and driver (and would-be constant companion throughout the trip), santosh. with leis. now that's a warm welcome.

in the car, basheer briefed us on our itinerary. and made small talk about new delhi. my first impression: new delhi is like manila. there was traffic, major construction of flyovers and highways, street peddlers, lots of motorcycles, and crazy drivers. first stop, dinner. we expected nan bread and chapatti, chicken biryani, all those indian food, but were amused when we went into a chinese restaurant. i guess they didn't want us to go into immediate culture shock.

on the way to the hotel, we passed by several office buildings, residential areas and the india gate. this big structure consist of about 41,000 names of indian soldiers who died in the first world war. around it is a picnic area where the locals hang out. think rizal park on sundays.

we got off the car to take pictures, and went closer to the gate. curious locals, mostly children, surrounded us. it was about 11 pm when we reached the hotel. that's 1am singapore time. we were exhausted from the flight, but were excited for the next day. there was more to come...

more new delhi pictures here

04 October 2007

you know you're in singapore...

when almost all your questions end with "is it?". call it assimilation or acculturation, it's simply the result of having stayed in a foreign country for quite a while. you know the saying "when in rome, do as the romans do"? in singapore, it's "when in singapore, talk as the singaporeans do".

the way i see it, it's not a bad thing, really. it's simply finding a way to get yourself understood by the locals. forget about the grammar you've studied in english class. forget about the american twang that you've practiced for so long in school, in the call centers (if you've worked in one as i've had), you'll only get a funny look from the locals. i tried that once with the cranky auntie at the hawker center where i regularly have dinner. i said "iced coffee to go please". she just stared at me. after the third try, i resignedly said: "iced kopi, take away". the goal here is to communicate in the best possible way.

i find myself unconsciously adding "is it?" to all my questions, sometimes even when it doesn't call for it. and i overhear conversations with that phrase that makes me smile. some examples:

"you're going on vacation to india, is it?" -- indian colleague tells me

"you've been on shift since this morning, is it?" -- me, to taxi driver

"the queue on the airport is long, is it?" -- me, to taxi driver

"you're cancelling your appointment, is it?" -- attendant at the spa, to me

and let's not forget about the pronunciation of certain letters and words that in the beginning, seem so wrong to us. but after a while, we accept them because, well, it just seems normal to hear them. and i sometimes think that maybe their pronunciation is the right one, and we've been taught the wrong way.

the letter H is pronounced as "heych"

the letter Z is pronounced as "zed"

"schedule" (which most pronounce as "skedyul") is pronounced as "shejul"

"outram" (we say "awtram") is pronounced as "ootrum"

sometimes, i have to catch myself before i say anything, because i think my past english and speech teachers, my past editors and my mother (such a stickler for right grammar) will cringe when they hear me talk. i sometimes cringe when i hear myself. thankfully, it hasn't affected my writing yet.

i haven't gotten around to adding "lah!" to my sentences, though. we'll see in a few months.

so how about you? what habits, expressions have you acquired while living abroad?

02 October 2007

the mid autumn lantern festival

at this time of the year, singapore celebrates the mid autumn festival. the highlights of the celebration are mooncakes and lanterns. last saturday, my friends and i took a trip out west to see the lantern display at the chinese gardens. and though it took almost an hour by train from my place here in the east, i must say the trip was worth it.

we got there around 5:30, while the sun was still up. we took a stroll around and took some pictures..

and when night came, the place was lit up with pretty big lanterns. this year's theme was the underwater world, so there were lots of sea creatures around the gardens.more pictures here
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