I get a lot of visitors here in Singapore. Friends and family often pass through on their way to other places and sometimes they come just to visit me. The Island - as we residents refer to Singapore - is a major hub or stopping point for people travelling from Europe and America and Australia to places like China and India and many of the south East Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
A lot of people pass through.
I like having visitors although I live in a tiny one-bedroom apartment so if they stay with me they have to sleep on one of my couches. Most visitors though choose to stay in hotels and I regularly assist them in booking them rooms – and using the corporate rates that are available to me.
My brother just departed today after four days in Singapore. He stayed with me and slept on the bigger of my two couches and I enjoyed his company very much. Richard is my younger brother but he is also one of my best mates.
I love him dearly.
Richard was returning to Australia – where he lives - after a great and wonderful adventure in Nepal. I was with him in Nepal for two weeks but I had to return to work and he stayed on for a further three weeks. I will not elaborate much about his tale here - as it is a story unto itself. Suffice to say it was an escapade that was full of jaunts with holy men and walking up and down incredible mountains. It was a beautiful and emotional journey accompanying some astonishing children who were returning to their very distant and remote homes very high in the Himalaya – up near the Tibetan border. These children had been away from their families for a long time. They had been studying in Kathmandu since they were six years old and had not returned home for more than ten years.
I will write about it another time.
How can I not?
I miss you already Richard. I miss Nepal as well.
I really do.
So in this very long and difficult alphabet challenge that requires that a write an apologue each day - I am up to the letter “V”. After I have posted this there are only four more posts to go. “W”, “X”, “Y” and “Z”
I love to write but doing it to order and by the alphabet is no easy feat.
So my tale today is about some visitors
I am a bit vague about the details as they visited quite some time ago but I do recall feeling a little vexed. The visitors were not villains or vampires or varmints but they were American. I find that quite a few Americans – not all mind you – are quite vulgar and they have a different set of values to mine.
There is often a vast void in behaviour between them and I.
So this particular lot a visitors voyaged to Singapore from New York - from Manhattan to be precise. They visited early last year. They were Chuck, his wife Rebecca and their 12-year-old son Chuck Junior.
Yes Chuck and Chuck Junior.
I kid you not.
I had met Chuck - senior that is - a couple of years previously in New York. I was there on business. Chuck is an investment banker. Despite his occupation he seems like a nice guy although admittedly I do not know him very well.
It was one of those things that we all do. I said, "If you are ever in Singapore do look me up". Not really expecting that he would.
Look me up.
But he did.
Look me up.
He rang me out of the blue.
My phone rang on a Saturday morning and I said, “Hello this is Peter”
I said that because I am Peter.
The voice replied, “Hey Peter this is Chuck. I am here in Singapore”
I paused for a few seconds as my mind whirled in a vortex trying to think who Chuck was.
You will note that I am cleverly inserting “V” words whenever I can.
This is after all a “V” challenge.
I would like to say that I was eating some toast with vegemite on it whilst seated on my verandah at the time Chuck rang but I wasn’t really. I was inside sitting on my couch drinking a cup of tea. I do often eat toast with vegemite on it though – and sometimes on my verandah – and both ‘vegemite’ and ‘verandah’ are both good ‘V’ words.
“Chuck from New York” the voice on the phone added whilst I was still pausing and wondering – and I then remembered who he was.
I returned Chuck’s greeting
We verbally jousted for a few minutes on the phone and Chuck informed me that he was here on business. He told me that he had bought his wife and his son with him. Chuck told me that it was their first time in Singapore. He announced to me that it was in fact the first time that his wife Rebecca and his son Chuck Junior had been overseas. Chuck Senior told me too that he had only ever left the United States once before and that was a brief business trip to London.
This is not really all that uncommon for Americans. A very large proportion of their population has never travelled abroad. Of the ones that have travelled – a significant number have done so to fight and kill and bomb other countries.
America has a viscous and violent history. Their invasion of North Vietnam is an example. They call the soldiers that return from warmongering in foreign countries ‘veterans’.
I don’t get wars and I abhor violence.
It is nasty.
So after exchanging pleasantries on the phone Chuck asked me if I was free to catch up.
I replied that I was.
I suggested that I come by their hotel the next day - which was a Sunday – sometime around mid morning. I told Chuck that we could have some brunch and then I would show them around the Island a bit.
Chuck proposed that we meet later in the day. He told me that they wanted to go to church first. I told Chuck that this was no problem for me and I accordingly arranged to meet them about noon.
I have no religious beliefs although I lean towards the teachings of Buddha. Being nice to people and following a sense of morality is my faith.
I also believe in myself.
I understand the concept of people wanting to believe in something - and having a purpose - but going to a building and praying to some invisible deity does not make any sense to me.
I am entitled to this opinion and I am most vehemently entitled to believe that there is no ‘God’.
If I am wrong – and I could well be – he or she is not very merciful.
There is simply too much wickedness and despair and injustice in the world.
I told Chuck that I would take them out for lunch somewhere nice.
Chuck told me that they were staying at the Fullarton hotel and I replied that this was a very good choice of accommodation. I told him that the Fullarton hotel was not only well situated but it was a beautiful and historic building.
So on that Sunday I arrived at the Fullarton Hotel about a quarter past the hour.
I was fashionably late.
Chuck and his family were waiting for me in the lobby. To my horror Chuck and Chuck Junior were dressed identically. They were wearing very loud yellow checked shorts with stars and stripes tee shirts. Chuck Senior had on knee-high white socks with patent leather sandals. Junior was sock less and was wearing unlaced Nike Runners. He had a New York Yankees cap on his head. Backwards. He was also chewing gum.
Chuck’s wife Rebecca is a big girl. She is humungous in fact. She was adorned in a bright green sundress and had an enormous Panama type hat perched on her frizzy bright red hair. She is a ginger - a blood nut - a ranga. She is also as pale as a ghost and is fully freckled as well.
The poor girl.
The Good Lord that they believe in and pray to every Sunday obviously gave her a savage beating with the ugly stick as she entered the world.
Then he thought ‘what the fuck’, and he beat her some more.
To complete the picture both Rebecca and Chuck Senior had cameras slung around their necks and they were wearing bum-belts as well. Big ones.
Very big ones.
Upon seeing them, my first and instinctive reaction was flight.
Alas Chuck had spotted me. He called out my name very loudly.
He called me Pete.
Only Americans seem to call me Pete.
I don't know why.
I don't like it.
However I greeted Chuck warmly and he politely introduced me to the wife Rebecca and to Chuck Junior.
I shook both their sweaty hands.
I said, "Welcome to Singapore".
"Gosh" replied Rebecca.
"It's so great to be here"
"It is going to be confusing for me with two Chucks" I declared.
"Is it OK if I call the young fella Junior?"
"Sure" replied Senior.
"That's what we call him."
This did not surprise me at all.
Junior replied, "Awesome".
This did not surprise me either.
"How was church?" I asked.
“Did you find one OK?"
"Gosh" said Rebecca.
"We went this morning. We weren't sure if there were any churches here. And they spoke English too. It was awesome."
Both Chuck Senior and Junior nodded in agreement.
‘Oh fuck’ was all I could think to myself. “Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck”.
I then decided that I needed to get more positive about this so I tried to push the ‘oh fucks’ from my mind. I decided that this whole event needed to be accelerated. I thought that perhaps I could also find some entertainment in this event.
"Before we go,” I declared - looking at Chuck Junior
"I should warn you that chewing gum is illegal in Singapore"
Junior stopped chewing immediately and Mum looked panicked.
Dad did too.
"So is wearing your cap backwards,” I added.
"And having your shoelaces undone."
Junior made a gulping noise as he swallowed his gum whilst Mum whipped the cap from his head. Big Chuck knelt and tied his son's shoes. Despite these adjustments to Chuck Junior's attire the urge to set him on fire was powerful.
It was powerful indeed.
I needed to resist and I did.
"Let's go then,” I said.
"I will take you to my favorite Indian restaurant"
There were no objections and I thought I might be able to blast them with a good curry.
I love a good curry.
We jumped into a cab and I instructed the driver to take us to Muhtu's. They make the best curries on the Island. When seated I ordered a large serve of fish head curry, a spanking Bhindi Jhaipuri, some Roti - and a serve of jasmine rice.
Needless to say all three were reluctant to eat.
Out of sheer politeness Chuck Senior took all small serve of everything except the fish curry. He mostly pushed the food around his plate. The other two claimed jet lag and a big breakfast and they refused to eat anything at all - even the rice. As I was wiping up my curry sauce with a hunk of roti I asked Rebecca what she did back in New York. When she replied that she was a preacher I nearly choked.
Even though I was quite desperate to say "What the fuck Chuck" I knew now that I couldn't swear.
I had to control myself and concentrate.
After our meal - or non-meal in the case of the visitors, we headed down to the Quays. These are Boat Quay and Clarke Quay and they are one of the main tourist attractions in Singapore.
It was hot and the Americans were sweating quite a bit. They were suffering too in the humidity. It is always hot and humid in Singapore – the Island is situated very close to the equator and it is most tropical.
Rebecca and Chuck Senior were very inquisitive though and they asked me what many of the buildings were.
They took a lot of photos.
I told them that the Esplanade theatre was designed in the shape of a Durian. They had never heard of a durian before so I had to explain the fruit and it's strong but unusual smell. Junior looked horrified when I suggested I get him some durian ice-cream to try.
When we saw the new High Court building Junior remarked that it looked like a flying saucer. It does look like a flying saucer and I told him that it actually was. I told him that the Singaporean government had constructed it in the event of a hostile invasion and that the Prime Minister and all his cabinet had spent all day in it the previous month. It was the time when the Mayan calendar had predicted the end of the world.
I told Chuck Junior that they were prepared for take off.
The Ginger Rebecca said "Gosh" and Junior said "Awesome". Chuck Senior looked doubtful but he said nothing.
However they all went on a photo taking frenzy.
After an hour or so of walking around poor Rebecca had turned bright red. She looked like an over ripe tomato. She was dripping sweat and was claiming that she felt faint. Junior was eying off a McDonalds. I suggested that they should probably go back to their hotel and take a swim. When I dropped them off in the cab I stayed inside the car but I told them to ring me if they needed anything at all.
They didn’t and I have not heard from these visitors since.
They may have vaporized for all I know.
In conclusion of this “V” narration I should point out that I could well have written all about vaginas and vibrators and I considered doing this. However my Mum reads all of my work and she would have rang me up and told me that I was vulgar.
She would have been vitriolic.
I wouldn’t want that.