Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Singapore and Writers

In August 2011, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo. Like November, the goal is to write 50,000 words of novel in a month. The idea had come all of a sudden, and I couldn't wait to write it. About midway through, I found another writer whose story looked interesting. I PMed her to tell her so, and as we were talking, I think I whined a bit about my word count (always an important consideration, though in 8 events I've never lost once).

"Oh, there's a writing group I help run. It's on TinyChat, if you want to join in."

And all of a sudden, I, who'd never had a support group for my writing (parents don't count… they don't understand the race to write lots of words in a month). Since November 2008, (this was the fifth writing event I was participating in), I'd been motivating myself, slowly learning about what worked for me and what didn't. Now, all of a sudden, I had a writing group. The name of it is Write, Write, and Write… and sometimes we do that. Other times we whine about what's going on with our characters, our lives, etc.

As we got to know each other, I met lectin. Lectin (whose real name is Kendrick… but we don't use that), I soon found, was from Singapore. He stayed up late for schoolwork, but would pop in nonetheless to chat.

"Wait, you're from Singapore?"


"I'm getting to Singapore in May."

"Cool! You can come visit."

We became FaceBook friends through the WWaW FB group, kept in touch, and then…

(Please note all conversations are not verbatim and that they've been shortened).

"Mino, when exactly are you reaching Singapore?"

"Well, there are two options at this point. May 23rd or June 5th."

"June 5th I have a school break, but in May I'm still studying."

"Okay, I'll make the rest of the family stay longer in Bali."


"What kind of things are you interested in seeing in Singapore? Little India, museums… do you like seafood?"

Somehow we managed to figure out what would work for us (lec was amazing and actually did all the work, and Dad made most of the final decisions, but I was the go-between).

Once we reached Singapore (one of the biggest airports I've ever seen… since it was mostly empty the bigness was annoying. If there were a couple thousand people there, though, it would be more palatable), there was a sort of scrambling to figure out how to get a hold of eachother sans FaceBook. We figured out that iMessage would work, managed to test it with Dad's iPod (me walking back and forth from room to room while Dad was trying to figure something out with the bags and Mom was ready to strangle something because she wanted me to take a shower, lec probably sitting comfortably at his laptop), and made plans to meet at the National Museum. Detailed plans. With metro directions.

The next day, after taking completely different directions and yet still amnaging to end up in the same place, I said, "Oh, no! He forgot to tell us what color shirt he's wearing."

Dad looked around the empty parking lot. "We'll never be able to find him." He said, straight-faced.

But there Kendrick was, waiting for us with a backpack over one shoulder and a bright red shirt.

After shaking hands and introducing him to the entire family, I said, "I just knew you were going to wear red!"

He smiled a bit and we went inside to get tickets. Poor Lec was very nervous. "Maybe I should go help your dad, but I don't want to be annoying."

"He's fine, Lec. He's been doing this for months."

"I've never hosted anyone before."

"I've never been hosted!" I said, trying to get him to relax.

"But I'm socially awkward."

"So am I! You're fine, you're good, we'll get through this. What've you been doing in school?"

And he started telling me about a fascinating-sounding project— making a movie that explores the idea of, "what would people do if they only had one day left?" It's going in my 'writing ideas' bank.

Dad came back with tickets for both the History of Singapore exhibit and the Ukrainian Gold exhibit. 

The History of Singapore is, like any history of a country, long, full of kings and queens and wars and soldiers and Europeans who get into everything. We browsed the entire exhibit, trying to read and listen to everything on the headphones, but it was just too much. And because I'm a visual, not an auditory person, it was hard to listen to every single 'story' on the headphones. I would have liked a 'fast forward' option, as well as less dialogue and more a summary of a specific person's life. I'm a writer. I like to make things up, not hear a conversation between Character A and B. It just feels stilted to me.

After a while of browsing, my head was exploding, my feet were thinking of starting to hurt, and I was bored. Kendrick, who's seen the exhibit multiple times, was looking around rather than examining everything, so I went up to him.

"Are you doing Camp NaNo?"

"No, I didn't have time this month. I'm thinking of doing AugNo, though."

Awkward pause (these took a while to get over).

We talked a bit about my novel, moved into superheroes (I cannot for the life of me remember what started this conversation), picked up Ioan and Ileana along the way, and went out of the exhibit completely to understand exactly what all these superhero movies are about.

We tease Ioan about not having had a proper 'education' regarding the books and movies in our household, but we've all missed out on superheroes. They were just too violent for Mom to allow us to look at. The aftermath is that none of us have the vaguest idea what the superhero movies are about. I can't understand what the interesting part is with superheroes (yes, they have interesting background stories, but don't they just fight a bad guy all the time? And get the girl?). Kendrick tried to educate us.

We went to the Gold exhibition next. It's been borrowed from the Ukraine, if I remember correctly, and had a few discrepancies which Mom took great pleasure in pointing out. Us 'kids' talked the entire time, unfortunately excluding Ileana almost completely.

Next was the cheongsam exhibit. It's a traditional Singaporean dress, and it's form-fitted. I want one.

When we'd gone through a great deal of the exhibit, Kendrick turned to me, "I don't get it. How do you fit in these?"

"Well, they're made one-by-one."

"But no woman can be that thin."

It looked like a typical hourglass shape to me, and I was pretty confident I could fit in it, despite the fact that the hips would probably be too big. "Um, yes, they can." Ileana pops in. 

"That one is made specifically for one woman, and…" we talked on and on, and then I said,

"Wait, but what don't you get?"

"I don't get how anyone can fit in that."

"That's just one woman's shape." I said.


"Which one do you like in here?"

We went around the semi-circular room, pointing out all the colors we liked, and the patterns. The cheongsam on the cover, a black material with red tulips, was stunning. Ileana and Kendrick disagreed.

"It's messy." Kendrick said.

"It is not messy. It's beautiful. Is my skirt messy?"

He changed the subject. I asked Mom about the cheongsam later, "Oh, it was beautiful!" she exclaimed, "And I took a picture."

You can always count on your mother to be right.

While the parents were still looking at the cheongsams, us kids were getting really, really hungry. Kendrick, who'd come from school, (hence the backpack), was starving. We went to the museum café, but the simple cost of a cookie, the cheapest thing on the menu, was 4.

"4 what?" Ileana and Ioan began, and we were treated to "4 children! 4 cents! 4 chairs!" etc.

"Let's find a 7-11." Kendrick said, and we went to tell the parents we were going to find a 7-11.

Despite the fact that Kendrick didn't want to ask for directions (I did instead), and crazy stoplights (he ran over between the red light and the green light for the cars coming straight toward us, but I stopped the kids from moving… we waited 2 minutes with him laughing at us from the other side.)

"WHAT WERE YOU DOING!" I exploded jokingly when I got to the other side, still holding Ileana and Ioan's hands.

"There's always a pause and I took advantage of it."

I just shook my head. I've got a healthy fear of cars coming toward me, even though I'd been through Tibet, Nepal, India, and a few other 'crazy-driver' countries. It's fine when everyone in the country knows that you're more careful when a pedestrian is crossing the street. But in a rule-based society like Singapore, Japan, or the US, no one is quite sure what to do when a pedestrian is crossing the street while cars are moving. So I stayed put.

We got to 7-11 and bought the cheapest possible things (Kendrick got a drink), like red bean buns and possibly pandan (I can't remember). We crossed the street again, got to the museum, and started eating.

"If you give me fifty cents I'll let you have half the red bean bun." I said, certain I wouldn't be able to finish it and that this way he wouldn't feel like it was charity. 


We exchanged money/food, shared some of the red bean bun with Mom and Dad, and then went outside to wait for Kendrick's father. 

You see, his parents had invited us to dinner!

They live in a huge house with high ceilings (always a bonus), We were shown around by his Mom. We kids stopped at Kendrick's bedroom because he has a lot of interesting books. After 'hanging out,' the parents called us to eat.

And it was a feast. I'm not sure if this is an everyday sort of meal, but we had crab, chicken, rice, beef, vegetables, and a huge fish that melted in our mouths. We ate until we couldn't eat any more, and then there was dessert— honeydew melon (the sort without sugar injected into it) and pastries.

We played tic-tac-toe with ceramic pigs until one of the pig's ears broke off, then went upstairs and played Wii action games.

This was interesting. Both Kendrick and Ben were quite good. Ioan managed to hold his own. So did Ileana.

"Mino, you're killing it!" Kendrick groaned.

"Gaming is not my forté." I said, trying to figure out how to jump and move at the same time. "What's this button do?"

He told me. 

"Now, if this was real life," I said, deciding to stay out of everyone else's way and let them kill each other off first, "I would be winning."

Eventually I gave up and Kendrick and I started arm-wrestling. Quite quickly, we were at a stand-off, Kendrick semi-winning but unable to lower my arm the last few inches, me unable to push him over. We were both laughing, Kendrick because he was sweating profusely with the effort, me because this is what happened last time I arm-wrestled with a guy. He almost won, but he couldn't get the last few inches. In the end, of course, both guys won. My arm doesn't hold out that long.

Interpersed with laughing at each other, we were telling the other three to be quieter, since all you could hear was shouting and cursing.

"Let's go do something else." I suggested. 

We went into his room and started drawing, then I said,

"Wait, we need to take a picture for the group."

He gave me a look.

"Lec," I said, "We are at the same computer. We have to take a picture and put it up."

Of course, he'd never used Photo Booth on his Mac before, so we accidentally filmed ourselves and decided to post that up instead. We were laughing uproariously at ourselves by the end of the evening— we looked quite silly and that only made us laugh harder.

Eventually, though, we had to leave, and so we said our goodbyes to his family and made quick plans to meet the next day with Kendrick.

Phew! That's only the first day. Please bear with me for the next day, which I'll make shorter since… well… my brain is dead.

Day 2. We went to the subway, but couldn't find Kendrick. Though we'd figured out which exit to meet at, one of us must've taken the wrong direction somewhere. We tried sending a message, but there was no signal. Dad went off in search of Kendrick, exercised some magical mental GPS, and we all said 'good afternoon!' and started toward the Helix. Kendrick brought his camera, so now there were three people taking pictures/filming all the time.

We talked a bit more, walked around, got an ice cream sandwich (while philosophizing about the cleanest way to eat one), took pictures of ourselves with the sights and a coffee shop— both Kendrick and me pointed up to a Coffee Bean shop sign. One of our group member's screen name is Coffee Beans, (better known as Fee), so, according to me, we had to. (Fee later said, "It's like I'm there with you!")

We also took a boat, while trying to make each other laugh by staring— Kendrick won every single contest… the rest of us couldn't stop ourselves from bursting out into crazed laughter.

After a few more pictures (his camera eventually ran out of batteries because he'd forgotten to charge it), we walked around a bit more, until we realized it was getting later and there was no museum to visit. We said goodbye and each headed our separate ways.

Thanks, Kendrick, for a great stay in Singapore!

(And please forgive the somewhat-lameness of this last part… if I didn't get it all out this way, it would still be unwritten!)

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