Playing Host: When Exchange Truly Happens

When my international pal from UCSC visited Singapore, it really loops back the student exchange programme, since now I am sharing my culture with her.
She was exchange in Thailand, and hence it was convenient for her to pop by over the weekend with her Argentinian boyfriend, who happens to be able to disguise well as a Malay if no one asks. I let them try a durian puff near the Chinatown MRT, and also the mooncake i brought. Then I brought them to Maxwell Food Centre on their first day for a wonderful breakfast: carrot cake (which doesn’t contain carrots), bak chor mee (minced meat noodles), hainanese chicken rice, you tiao (dough fritters) and sugar cane drink. It was a sumptuous meal and I described each dish to them before eating. It was interesting as the Argentinian friend said they also had such fried bread and it’s called dougha frittas! Haha. Before I left, I gave them a quick introduction on the various places they could visit over the next few days, such as Sentosa, Singapore River, Clarke Quay nightlife and Night Safari.
And on their third and last day, today, I brought them to Little India Tekka Market for another breakfast: roti prata, nasi briyani, Indian rojak, Ya Kun Kaya toast and Milo! I probably bought too food this time, they liked the nasi briyani as the rice is very tasty. I described the Milo as Hot Chocolate and she said it does taste like Hot chocolate.
I told them it was better to come Little India on a weekday as there are less people. After that we took a walk along Serangoon Road, and coincidentally there was a Chinese funeral possession, in Little India of all places. It was the (Taoist?) kind with a huge band playing and huge lorry hearse. My guests were quite fascinated. I brought them to a Hindu temple before I had to go to school. She wanted to go Ubin for the nature but I told her it’s probably too far away for her to finish in half a day. Mount Faber or Botanic Gardens is probably a better choice.
Some of the interesting comments from them was that they were quite amazed by the Singapore Flyer and the architecture of the Marina Bay Sands as they arrived in a taxi in the ECP at night. Looks like the plans of developing Marina Bay has paid off well. They also commented that Singapore is so close to Thailand yet so very different. After a few days, they are quite amazed at the cleanliness of the streets and subways. She asked how do we keep it so clean? And I talked about faithful janitors who sweep the roads and how we are taught not to litter since young, and how there’s a govt department to plant trees. The guy also asked me how’s the ethnic distribution of Singapore like, and I described to them the mandatory policies of bilingualism and of the race-proportion rule in terms of housing. They were also amused at the friendliness of Singaporean taxi drivers, with one offering her a packet of tissue when she was sneezing. Lol. She also said that Singapore is cooler than Bangkok, and I said probably our air is less polluted as well. Over the meal conversations, I also talked a bit about Singapore’s history, our culture, our relations with Malaysia. The guy also mentioned he noticed a lot of security cameras, but they have not spotted any policemen. My response was Big Brother is watching you and the fines are enough to deter crime. Haha. They mentioned that Night Safari was a fun attraction with its halloween theme this month.
Walking through a little of Little India (pun not intended) makes me think that most normal non-Indian Singaporeans probably never bothered to walk this stretch of roads in their life, and how ironic is that the tourists do so. And that most of us probably never stepped into a Hindu temple, and never knew there’s a old Chinese villa there, including me. I was somewhat a tourist too. Hmm, we should start organising tours for Singaporeans to queer places which people don’t normally go! Fancy a “road trip” around our island? Who’s on?
As always, I am pretty proud of Singapore and to tell people more and give people directions. I should print a t-shirt that says “ask me for directions” and work as a tour guide!

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