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Mud Season Loses to Singapore

On getting lost, getting oriented -- and getting up to speed

Spectacular Changi Airport, Singapore. Photo by Albert Vincent Wu on Unsplash.

When I had to choose between Mud Season in New Hampshire and a few weeks in Singapore to help with childcare, I booked my ticket to Changi without thinking twice.

Any time with my grandson more than compensates for the 20-hour-plus flight to "Garden City," Singapore, where flowers and greenery abound.

Flowers festoon West Coast Highway and the Pedestrian Bridge over it.

Perhaps the wall of greenery distracted me in Changi immigration. I had passed through here on a previous trip and knew the process took less time than boiling tea water: Scan passport, stand on the yellow footprints, smile at the camera. Done.

I exited looking for "baggage claim," only to miss it entirely and exit outside where I found my son.

To retrieve my bag, I had to process through firm but friendly protocol: leave my carry-on with my son, be wanded, be patted down, surrender my passport for an ID tag, sign a ledger. Now I could retrieve my bag, a matter of 4 minutes. Then sign out, retrieve my passport -- and endure my son's bewilderment at my silly mistake.

But I redeemed myself. The very next day, he marveled at my ability to navigate the West Coast Market Square, a labyrinth of 60 food hawkers and 135 market stalls selling everything from cell phones to incense to lacy underwear and fish balls.

Market stall selling housewares.

One of many stalls in West Coast Market

While both my son and grandson were at school, I headed out to window shop in stalls that had no windows or doors. I had wandered this area last trip and felt confident I would find my way. After using an ATM and buying shorts, I kept meandering, following smells of spices, incense, woodsmoke, and durian, a fruit that, I'm told, smells like decaying corpses. Let's just say it gags you.

Buddhist Temple on West Coast Road.

After an hour of wandering in 90-degree heat with sweat running down my nose, I knew it was time to be indoors for A/C. But where was I? No problem, my phone's GPS would steer me out of this warren. Oops. No signal. I was under a roof, so I couldn't orient myself using the sun. It's directly overhead, anyway. I recognized a few landmarks like the Buddhist Temple and managed to orient myself.

By now I needed to cool off and found a small Western ice cream shop. When you're hot, lightheaded, and hungry, frugality loses to gelato. No matter that it cost $9.50 SGD ($7.10 USD). It was worth every tiny bite. I justified the extravagance when I considered that my shorts had cost only $5.00 SGD. Refreshed and reoriented, I easily found my way home.

Since I still had several hours to entertain myself before my boys returned home, (my daughter-in-law was traveling for academic research), a dip in the apartment's pool seemed ideal. Floating supine, I gazed at clouds, at ferns fluttering on the sides of the 25-story buildings, and the distant skyline of downtown Singapore. Yes, this is babysitting at its finest.

And Mud Season is half a world away. ###

Faculty housing at National University of Singapore.

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