* Singapore is only 682 Sq Km or 423 Sq Miles
* Every 10 years Singaporeans usually buy new cars because of the uber strict pollution laws
* Rainy season - when it rains it seems to rain from the ground up for about one hour every other day about the same time of day.
* Singapore T.V. - 15 different News channels, 2 Movie channels, 2 Indian, 6 Chinese, 1 Australian, E-T.V. (Entertainment T.V.) and MTV. It's funny to watch 'Oprah' at 8am and the Academy Awards at 4am. Snoop Dog's 'Fatherhood' program is on heavy rotation here.
* The exchange rate for U.S. $ to Singapore $ is 2 to 3. AKA U.S. $200 is Singapore $300.
Want more fun facts? Visit this cool website: Uniquely Singapore .
* I am officially addicted to room service! My favorite meals are the king salmon, the lamb and late night caesar salad with chicken!
* I don't think I'll ever want to do my laundry again! All my clothes are returned perfectly folded and/or pressed. Thank God for the pressing, as my one attempt to iron my own blouse proved a failure. I believe it's the higher voltage that makes the iron extra HOT. There's actually a note on the iron stand that says "this hotel offers a pressing service; iron your personal articles at your own risk." LOL
* Club Brix (where I perform with Xpress Band) is also a high class pickup spot for working girls. They are not allowed to be bluntly open about their work and cannot go on the dance floor unless asked to by a client. Most of the girls are from Thailand although there are a few from Russia and Africa. Apparently their rates are relative to their numbers with Africans being the most costly of the three. They are all gorgeous and dress very classy for the environment. Many are simply doing what they think they must do to feed their families back home. I've had many conversations with my bandmates about the idea. It seems that working this way would be their one chance to meet a wealthy man and hopefully get out of their poor homeland situation permanently.
* The patrons/clients at Club Brix are mostly middle-aged men staying over for business.
* The world is excited to have Obama on board. Everyone has a watchful eye on the next moves we will make to reverse our economic crisis. Singapore news talks about its own economic downturn and new plans on how to 'ride it out'.
* I find that certain days I feel all I can do is get out of bed, rehearse and get ready for the show because of the physically demanding nature of the show. Other days, I wake up with pep and want to workout, explore and email/call friends and family back home. It's a 180° turn of life...going from the daily hustle of making the next $100 and keeping up with bills to being totally taken care of. My hope is that I continuously find motivation to be creative and grow in my spiritual practice. One thing is non-refutable: I am eternally grateful for this gig and all of the blessings it has brought me. And, I am also grateful for how much imporvement I have felt in my voice, performance and physical shape.
* Funny - I went for a massage at the Far East Plaza after an injury during the show to my neck (I must have been dancing wildly LOL). I went to a Foot Reflexology center where they offered body massage as well. They took me in the back space where there were three tables about 12inches apart from each other. I motioned that i would take my shirt off and the massage therapist hastened to say "No!". "OK..." I thought, "This is interesting..." I laid face down on the table, fully-clothed. A towel was laid on my back (over my shirt) as well as a separate towel over my neck. The masseur began to knead intensley. I think I got a rug-burn from the friction of the massage through my towel on my neck LOL. I have never had a deeper 'deep tissue' massage. I think part of the reason it worked so well was because it displaced the pain to include my entire back instead of being so concentrated in my neck LOL.
*A friend of mine (ex-patriot) told me a story...she said you really never feel that you're living in a country with so many regulations. But, once in awhile you'll hear a story...
She told me of a couple that she knew who got an unexpected knock on the door one evening from the Singapore Police. The police were there to do an 'at-random' search of their property for pirated videos. And, of course like many Singaporean households, they did. They were then promptly served a fine of S$50,000 (around U.S. $33,000).
The Grand Hyatt Singapore...
Xpress band shared a lovely formal meal with Azim, the Prince of
Brunei, and his sister...
My bandmates are from the U.S. and French Canada. We have a great vibe between
us and we start AND finish the party at Club Brix!
Xpress and friends...
Want to see more pics? Click Here
My journey began in the SEATAC Airport, Seattle. My friend, Camella, was so kind as to drop me off the morning of with my huge suitcases that we weighed on her scale just moments before we packed her car.
Sadly, both suitcases that had weighed '50lbs' at her house, somehow managed to gain 5lbs on the ride to aiport. I had my unmentionables spread out across the floor in front of the counter to decide which of which would have to stay in Seattle in order to save me a $150 charge for the extra weight. I found myself having shameful thoughts in my head about the obese and how they are not charged extra for their weight...even I can be crude when I'm frustrated with corporate B.S. : (
I walked leisurely to gate D-9 and had 1.75 hrs to chill until my 1pm flight. I began to text my friends and make phone calls while I still had my precious phone activated. @ 12:40pm I got a little anxious when I hadn't heard my flight being called for boarding.
I went to check the departure monitor for the 4th time to make sure my flight was on time; It was. But, to my shock the gate # had changed to N-9! (Ok...so, apparently it was always N-9.) Oh $#%&!!! I began to run, hauling my 40lb overstuffed computer bag over my shoulder. Oh man...I have to take the rail system to get the 'N' gates! My heart is pounding and my lungs are on fire. I step inside the tram and pray to God,
"I allow courage, faith and perserverance." And thought, "I am aiming for Victory."
I waited at the door of th tram as if I was about to run a 500 meter sprint...and I was. When I arrived...pardon...when I turned the final lap into the gate toward the finish line I was met with lovely Japanese ladies shouting,
"Rachel! There you are! Where have you been? Where did you run from?!"
As much as I wanted to share my idiot airport experience...I couldn't; my lungs were at full capacity and I was gearing to pass out.
When I finally sat down in seat 21A (after the flight attendant announced in all directions that I was the 'last passenger to board!') I looked up and prayed,
"Thank you God. Thank you God. Thank you God; Thank you for my victory."
*Thought: Why do I always have close calls, but things still work out? I think it is so that I am more grateful when I arrive at my desire.
When I finally caught my breath I took out my brand new journal from my purse (thank you Erin) and opened up to the small bookmark I had placed inside that I had recieved weeks earlier from my friend, Mayumi. It read:
'No matter what circumstances, you should never concede defeat. Never concede that you've reached a dead end, that everything is finished. You posess a glorious future. And precisely because of that, you must persevere and study. Life is eternal. We need to focus on the two existances of the present and the future and not get caught up in the past. We must always have the spirit to begin anew 'from this moment', to initiate a new struggle each day. ' - Daisaku Ikeda, from 'For Today and Tomorrow' Daily Encouragement.
I love my life and I am grateful for it.
I came out on my own today. There was a fire at the hotel in one of the kitchens when I left so I knew it was the right thing. The owner of the farm, Ivy Singh-Lim, asked me if I had a boyfriend and quickly introduced me to one of her employees, Badral, a Mongolian man who she assured me would be my Singaporean host and would possibly take me to Mongolia.
The farm is a grand version of anyone's backyard garden...but, with a charm that only matches that of my grandmother's. It is in the Kranji Countryside of Singapore and it is one of very few that have been allowed on Singapore's precious land (566 sq km or 351 sq miles).
Bananas (about 20 or more varietals)
Mangostines (Pictured below)
Breadfruit (Pictured Below)
On the way to the farm the Taxi driver pointed out to me that there really isn't space for farms on Singapore and this one was mostlikely built for educational purposes. he look at me like I was crazy when I jumped in and sounded my destination, actually...LOL.
And...a full section of herbs and spices...
" You know how you get home?"
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"No taxi to bring you back. It's far."
"I'm not worried about it," I said.
I'm sitting now at an old picnic table under a tree in the middle of hte farm. There are rows and rows of veggies and trees surrounding me and I reminisce about sitting at a similar table near my Grandma's garden when I was a girl. I can hear the birds chirp and the faint breeze that relieves my body from the humidity.
There is also a small bird conservatory with beautiful cranes and what I thought was a hedghog poking it's head up out of the marsh brush...and found out later was a water hen; I'll be seeing the eye doctor when I get home.
The contrast between my hotel life and it's five-star amenities and this special organic space are undeniably feeding my soul and its need for nature's energy (nevermind the tour busses parked in the lot).
This is my world.
At the same time, I may go crazy without the excitement and hype of the club life. It's all a pristine balance and luckily I am blessed to have both.
Oh, I should mention that I'm wearing my favorite T-Shirt for the occasion 'Tree Huggers' Wanted' (thank you Erin). I'm planning a trip into nature every Sunday so I can rejuvenate and realine my body, mind and spirit. When you have one day off a week you cherish every minute of it. Although...getting up at 2pm was hard as I didn't fall asleep until 8am. I watched Oprah's Valentine's Day special LIVE this morning before I turned out the lights to sleep while I I enjoyed my room service French Toast.
Speaking of food I ate at the farm's reknowned cafe - 'Poison Ivy'. I had
Fig Iced Tea
Lemon Grass Chicken curry
and Sweet potato leave with Garlic
*Lyric - 'We can say we're looking up at the same sky, but not really because my night is your day and your day is my night.'
The lovely owner, Ivy, sent me home with a bag full of bananas, apples and banana cake. In return I made sure to call the Hyatt Concierge and tell them what a lovely time I had ;). She also let her employee, Badral, off early to make sure I got home safely. He walked me to a resort about 0.5m down the road that had a free shuttle to the nearest train station. The trip home took 1.5 hours (would have taken 20min. via taxi), but the adventure was worth it and I saved $18 in cab fair.
I knew from the start that I would have a lovely day and that I would get home alright. We can trust in Spirit to guide and protect us.
"What I am actually saying is that we need to be willing to let our intuition guide us, and then be willing to follow that guidance directly and fearlessly."
- Shakti Gawain .
"If you think you can win, you can win. Faith is necessary to victory."
- William Hazlitt .
Trip to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
I had invited the whole band to take the trip with me but on our guitar player, Lorence, came through.
When we arrived in the area of the reserve i questioned the taxi driver when we passed the Bukit Timah 'Shopping Center':
"You heard me say Bukit Timah 'Nature Reserve', right?
We made a left into the entrance fro the reserve to prove the driver correct. It was hidden well alongside a commercial district. I looked out my window and saw the strangest locals scatteredt the lenght of the sidewalk simply sitting on their haunches with their hands in their mouths staring as we drove by. They had facial hair that seemed to encompass their entire heads and boney little hands that curved around food left behind by clumsy park goers.
"Monkies!" I screamed with delight, "Yay!"
I couldn't wait to start hiking in the reserve and catch them in their natural habitat. Lorence and I paid the driver and skuttle our way towards the nearest hiking trail.
Drip, drip, drip...
I tried to ignore it but the speed of the dark-grey clouds rapidly closing in our parade began to dampen my ideals. We made our way to the nearest shelter which overlooked a small lake at the bottom of a beautiful canyon.
When it rains in Singapore it rains above, below AND from the sides! The rainforest that had already smelled like a monkey cafe upon arrival now smelled like a monkey cage + add water. The lightening and thunder made for a glorious show of visual and audible delight as they reverberated around the walls of the canyoun and seemed to flash only meteres away from our shelter.
Little critters began to arrivse from below the deck seeking saftely from ehtir great flood. We saw large ants, lizrds and...
"Rachelle, look quick!"
I was busy focusing my camera lense on an ant.
"Oh man...you missed it; it was huge!" - Apparently Lorence had spotted a centipede on steroids and signaled it's size to be at least 12" long and it's body an inch across. The body was black he described with thick bright orange legs.
"Look, you can still see his legs!" Lorence pointed at the last crack in the deck near the wall and I made my way towards it cautiously...I peeked with on eye closed inot the crack and my entire body shuttered in discust.
I jumped back and shook out hte vision I had of how the REST of the body must have lookd as I had only saw it's legs.
45 minutes passed and there was a slight let in the rain (slight). Lorence announced that he didn't care if he became soaked to the bone but he would not spend another second in silly isolation.
We walked along the trails that were paved and admired the glistening forest as the water level creeped up into our shoes and socks. Lorence took his shirt off on several occasions to ring it out before he put it back on again for another go.
"OMG! What is that noise!?"
It sounded like a telephone wire had a short-circuit or...
A methodical, piercing noise persisted and grew louder as we continued along the path. More of the same joined in and we realized it must be a family of large birds. We looked up the trunks of the goliath trees surrounding us in hopes of finding a clue as to the identity of these mystery birds.
Several locals came up to us on the path and recognizing our confusion pointed up into a tree trunk that was nearest to us. They said a few words in Chinese and motioned for me to follow the tree trunk up from the ground with my eyes until I saw at what is was they were pointing. I followed the length of the trunk with great detail several times until I nearly went crossed-eyed with strain.
"I wonder if the bird is camouflage?" I thought, and tried again.
The locals were looking frustrated with me as I was apparently missing something very obvious LOL. Lorence look at me and laughed,
"Look! Up there above that knot, just to the left."
It was an insect! An insect was making that awful peircing noise...unbelievable. (I did some research after and found out that most likely it was a Cicada. Do yourself a favour and follow the link to the Wikipedia page and listen to the New Zealand sound sample...they are found in Malaysia and Singapore as well).
As Lorence and I reached the 'peak' (see below) of Bukit Timah we realized with delight that our monkey caged aroma had (over the course of our 3 hour stay) sweetly transformed into the smell of fresh ripened lichee fruit! No joke! It was a glorious scent that permiated the forest and caused one's entire being to rejuvenate along with the cleansing of the rain itself.
A lovely trip...but, I am mad to not have met myself a monkey.