Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Visa travels

Wednesday, July 8
If I don't write immediately, I forget most of what's happened. We're in Singapore for a quick visa run and return to Bandung today.

Before we leave town, we sneak in a call to the grandkids
See that farthest red airplane? At 7am at the Bandung airport, we walk hundreds of meters (after a 16-step staircase to the waiting lounge) to the plane. Old and young, everyone hauls their own carry-on luggage on the walk. There are no bus shuttles, no pampering. You want to fly? Walk first!

It feels good to stretch our legs: we got up at 4:30 and hopped into the car soon after. It's a short flight (1.5 hours) to Singapore. We lose an hour on the world clock so we arrive at 10-ish.

The taxi driver bemoans the fact that kids who grow up in Singapore expect perfection in the infrastructure and management of this modern city. Singapore, which sits on the southern tip of Malaysia, celebrates its 50th birthday of independence this year.

Everything we see around us was established on poor Malaysian farmland through the will and imagination of a benevolent founder who died last year. The first generation suffered growing pains. But Lee Kuan Yu's legacy of prosperity and benefits is enormous. The government contributes a stipend with every paycheck toward housing and medical expenses. That encourages the younger generation to stay put: when they invest in a home by their late 20s, they have a tie to Singapore and an incentive to work here.

This SE Asian business and travel hub accepts many currencies. They want our business; this little machine was on the hotel reception desk.

Food and shopping are the two great sports of Singapore. Hawker stalls and restaurants line the streets and markets.

Mixing and intermarriage of Chinese, Indians, and Malays are promoted through media. TV shows talk about mixed marriages and cultural issues. Signs posted everywhere boost Singaporean values: kindness, forgiveness, courtesy. The government wants its citizens to live in harmony on this small island that has roughly the population of Bandung (+5 million people).

We join the longest lines for the best food, watching what most people order. There's a traditional morning wet-market near the hotel. On the ground floor, fish, meat, vegetables, and household goods are sold until noon. Upstairs, the action at the food stalls goes on most of the day. We are surprised again at how "Chinese" Singapore is = busy, thrifty, hard-working, and on hyper-speed.

It helps to like to walk: this is the first staircase and escalator we encounter in the morning. We often run the steps. This early in the morning, looking at the walks ahead today, we take the escalator.

Chinatown hasn't changed much: lots of souvenirs, tailors, and massage places wedge among good restaurants. The wholesaler where we bought cutlery (last year) has relocated. We call and take the subway to the new location. What they haven't told us is that they are closed for stock-taking. Thanks! We leave without the replacements we needed.

We walk at a few miles in the general direction of our hotel to Arab Street, the Malay quarter. The colonial-era houses along our walk are beautiful and lunch - mutton briyani - is delicious.

British colonial buildings
Indian fusion food: mutton briyani
The city is filled with gardens, beautiful architecture, and art, including these pop-art paintings on the wall of a hotel.

Half-trolleys fastened to the wall make it even more realistic

I'm looking for a round tablecloth. Unlike most vendors, our favorite Indian merchant is unswerving in his refusal to bargain. His fabrics, imported from India, Japan, and elsewhere, are of excellent quality and reasonably priced. (We found gifts for the last trip home here - and he remembers us.)

We reach our hotel by early afternoon and I take a nap.

A New Zealand friend, Shane, comes by our hotel room to show us a computer program. He administrates church plants across the world. Data entry is simple, done by pastors or admins on the ground. On Shane's end, he pulls up graphs and statistics to help him offer resources and encouragement back. We are blown away by thousands of house churches that have been established in the past 5 years.

We're again inspired by hearing how God is working and loving people to himself in every country. His hands extend with practical care for the helpless and hurting ... through ordinary folks like you and me.

W finds a Webber grill in the online classifieds @$50. We walk just over a mile to the apartment. It's just what he hoped for. He takes it apart and we stash it in the truck of the taxi that drives us back to the hotel. The grill is used and kind of dirty but in good condition. W has not been able to find one in Bandung for a reasonable price. I'm glad he found it because it means he intends to cook. haha

The city-state is constantly under construction.

We end the day with dinner near the hotel. W met CK years ago on a bus trip. We prayed over CK and Mimi after years of marriage, and God granted them delightful and active twins (boy and girl) - who are now 4 years old. Mom and Dad took a break from the kids and enjoyed a fantastic local pizza with us. The lemon tart dessert wasn't that bad either.

We've logged 7 or 8 miles of walking by the time we get back. It's not hard to fall asleep.

W walks to Chinatown (a mile away) while I stay and relax. He snags a big vinyl bag to schlepp the disassembled grill onto the flight home. We have to check out by noon and will hope to meet other friends for lunch before we leave town.

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