There are three things I've learned in the week I've been in Singapore: 1) The universe is kinder when the chips are down, 2) help will come from unexpected places, and 3) a queue is a queue wherever one goes, no matter how organized a country's system is.
I'm currently staying at Anne Lim's place. She's a friend of my parents, and has kindly put me up in her spare room in her flat at Serangoon North while I start my hunt for accomodations. This is the first time I've actually had a room of my own, and I must admit that it's quite lovely. Anne is an artist, and her watercolors are all over the place - either works-in-progress sitting on easels around the living room, or framed alongside other local artists. Her flat is cozy and filled with little bric-a-bracs that she picked up from her travels in Australia and England, and while she lives alone (she's unmarried), it seems that she's had quite a rich life as a teacher and social worker.
The neighborhood is a lot like most other housing communities in Singapore. The HDB (Housing Development Board) flats are everywhere, particularly when you travel northwards, towards the suburbs. The MRT lines criss-cross across the city, spreading around like orderly nerve endings, and the buses travel in some slightly haphazard notion of where you want to go. I'm thankful for the bus guide and the TransitLink booklet that explains which bus number stops where, and the routes that it takes. If Singaporeans can still get lost, I'm almost afraid about my ability to commute. Still, as long as there's an MRT station nearby, I'm all good. There's also a wonderful system called the ez-Link card, which basically pays for your train and bus fares via a cashless system. It's reloadable (you "top up" your card, as they say around here), and all you have to do is maintain a SGD 5.00 deposit, and you're good.
Everything here is expensive, needless to say. I have to mentally compute how much I'm spending in pesos, which makes things a bit slower. Still, having the discipline to work out a budget is something I really must keep at. I'm proud that save for today, I have yet to reach spending more that 60 dollers a day, and that's just because I bought a book at Kinokuniya and a pretty little red lacquer hairpiece at Chinatown. The only reason I spend so much today was because I had to get a CashCard for cashless payments, and then go back tomorrow to the Immigrations and Checkpoints Authority to pay for my Student's Pass. O_o Stupid cashless system.
Still, hopefully by tomorrow everything will be settled, and then I can finally get into the groove of preparing for school. I already have the (rather threatening) syllabus, and am hoping that I'm up to the challenge of actually pursuing a higher education. It's no joke, and more than once I've found myself thinking aloud at night whether or not I've made a good decision in doing this. But then, the time for consideration is long past, and now all I can do is go through with it as far as I can.
The NUS campus is quite intimidating, and my faculty (that's what they call colleges around here) is on top of a stupid hill, which means that the bus stops at the foot of the hill and you're left to climb up a gazillion steps in the heat of the noontime sun in order to reach it. And the building itself, Arts Link, is a maze of hallways that cut across one another, like a particularly frustration block puzzle that has winding staircases and secret hallways that cut across the buildings. It's insane. But the internal NUS shuttle is free - just hop aboard and it takes you around the school. Haha. Bad news: no, NUS is not smaller than UP. I can walk around UP - I refuse to walk around NUS. It's HUGE.
Today, I explored Orchard Road with Gail, a friend of Ginny's. She's a wonderful companion, and for once I managed to express myself properly, without inhibitions. Strange what language can do to you when you haven't used it for days. I'm almost afraid to see what will happen to my English once classes start. So far, I have yet to acquire that particular Singlish expression, but it frustrates me to no end that the accents are so different that even in English, I have a hard time understanding a number of people - especially cab drivers.
Still, I miss my friends. Hopefully, I'll get to move out by early next week - I'm being offered a couple of flats that other Filipinos are also staying in over at Normanton Park (yes, can you imagine the name? Haha.) which is just a bus ride away from the campus. Right now, it takes me roughly two hours to go from here at Serangoon to the school, which is not a good idea at all. And besides, Anne can't take me in forever - we'd end up killing each other. >_<
At any rate, things are moving slowly but surely. Just taking one day at a time.
Oh, and by the by, I'm using my hobbitmistress email most of the time. My number is currently shot. @_@ I intend to get a handphone here soon - maybe this weekend, God willing.