Singapore is a land famous for its culinary excellence, seemingly infinite cuisine options and relatively budget-friendly pricing. So far, I have been more than impressed by both the availability of food, on and off the NUS campus, and the quality of the cooking and ingredients used, not to mention the 3 dollar lunches which rival any 10 dollar meal in NYC.

Other than eating, I've done some preliminary sight-seeing and exploring - I've been to Clarke Quay (the nightlife area of Singapore), Chinatown, Little India, and some shopping malls too, to buy the necessities of life here too.

Anyway, here are some shaky snapshots of what I've been eating, doing, and seeing thus far! I'm still getting my 'real' camera ready-for-action, so these were all unfortunately taken via iPhone. But I promise, the photo quality (and writing quality!) will soon improve!

Char siu fan - A lunchtime favorite I fell in love with back in Hong Kong. The Singaporeans do it just as well, for about the same price too (about 2 USD!)

An unfortunate name, spied on an advertisement in the MRT (train).

I bought some instant coffee at the Cheapest Store in Singapore. It was, in fact, quite cheap - 1 Singapore dollar for 8 sachets of premixed Kopi Kosong (Coffee Zero - sugary black coffee).

A beautiful mosque in Little India, which I entered, and was subsequently given a lesson on Islamic history and why Islam is the One True Religion. I was also told how "The Jewish System" is controlling the world and destroying everything... anti-semitism is a live and well, my friends!

The financial buildings at night are pretty sexy.

The Quayside is a popular place to sit, drink beer, and admire the view, all the while sweating puddles.

Another fantastic lunch - pork, peanuts, an egg, chili peppers, and some other unidentifiable delights over a healthy bed of white rice.

On the National University's free shuttle system, some buses have this wonderful feature. A door cock. I have no idea what it does, but the 13 year old boy inside of me had to take a picture of it...

Lastly, something called "Pataya Fried Rice", which was basically chicken and vegetable fried rice, covered in a thinly stretched fried egg, topped with a generous amount of chili sauce. Deelish.

All is well in the land of the Merlion.


Since I last posted on this blog, much has changed. I am now a junior at Columbia University, majoring in Linguistics. I am also currently spending an exchange semester in Singapore, studying at the National University of Singapore! Accordingly, I have been convinced to get this blog going again, this time with my thoughts and experiences from Singapore! Also, there will be a special focus on food, since I love eating and Singapore is a Mecca for culinary delights ;)

I have only been here for 3 days, so it is still too early to summarize my first impressions of this city-state. I can only say that I am boiling hot all the time (27+ C day and night, no A/C), but really enjoying the change of pace from the cold wet New York winter I left behind in December, and the cool dry Italian winter I left behind last week (I spent my winter holidays in Italy, an awesome trip with my awesome lady!).

To anybody who follows this blog, I hope you'll enjoy the updates as they come! My goal is to post at least once per week, so check back in a few days for the first real update, complete with photos, and hopefully not too much moronic rambling.


Being home is weird. Not much has really changed during my 10 months away except me. But even I haven't changed THAT much. I can speak Cantonese now, know a lot about Hong Kong/China, and have tons of new friends, but really I'm still the same 'Ben' I was before I left.

Of course it will take a few more weeks to really see how I've changed (I've been home 2 days now actually). And when school starts I'll get back into a normal daily schedule where everything will become even clearer. For now though, I'm just happy to see my lovely family, specifically Bok my dog, and unpolluted blue skies and corn fields again. I had a teensy bit of culture shock during my 4-flight trek home from HK. Hearing Spanish spoken by the airport staff was weird and seeing Asian-Americans speaking normal English was offputting too since I'm used to all Chinese-looking people speaking Chinese. The prices, specifically of food and restaurants, suddenly seem monstrously high to me, as they are generally about double to triple the HK norm. Also I've noticed that Americans are BIG. In all dimensions. Their girth, width, and height all grossly exceed the Hong Kong average, and thus I feel decidedly short being just 5ft 9ish. In Hong Kong I was considered above average, but now I'm below average.... oh well, not a big deal.

I'm a bit busy doing things now that I'm back, so I'll have to keep this short. If I have any more epiphanies I'll be sure to post them on this blog, and I do hope to continue it even though I'm back home now. I like blogging!

7 Days left in Hong Kong. Now that's scary. The past 10 months have flown by faster than a speeding minibus, and the time for me to get on a plane back to little old Iowa is nearly here.

In the past few weeks I have done several unforgettable awesome things including Dragon Boat racing and going to Guangzhou for a final look-see around mainland. Great.

Guangzhou has something like 11 million residents. Its huge. Seriously, compared to Guangzhou, Hong Kong is a small city, in land area and population. Guangzhou is the major city of southern China, but it seems to almost form a continuum going from Guangzhou to Shenzhen and then to Hong Kong. Without the political boundary around HK, the 3 would kind of form a neverending megalopolis of tens of millions of people. The total time from my house in HK to downtown Guangzhou was just over 2 hours, taking the MTR to Shenzhen, then the train to Guangzhou East Station. Basically the city can be divided into 2 major areas; the new and the old. The old area feels like something out of a storybook. Cobblestone paths and alleyways winding around brick houses, shops, stalls, and tea houses, with stray dogs and pirate DVD vendors everywhere. The feeling is something I haven't found anywhere else, and there is a certain buzz of energy present. The local foods there are great authentic Cantonese cuisine. I had the best Wonton soup of my life, some special fried pig skin, red bean homemade ice cream, and many other delicacies. The new part of the city is totally opposite. Multilane streets full of trucks and luxury cars are everywhere, and skycrapers dominate the skyline. Guangzhou has kind of been made into an architectural museum, so almost every building is a landmark in some way, with a unique modern-style architectural design. The drawback of this is that the air has lots of trouble moving out of this area, so pollution is unbelievably serious. I doubt there are many days of blue sky in that area; when I was there the air was a hazy grey-brown that severely limited visibility. Nevertheless, Guangzhou is my favorite city I have visited in Mainland China, maybe just because it is so bustling and huge, but I really think it has a special atmosphere especially in the old parts.

Dragon Boat racing was fantastic. A team made up of mostly AFS students and a few EF (other exchange organization) students competed against various other teams. About 20 people per boat, one of whom is the drummer to keep the rest paddling in unison. The race is a part of the traditional Chinese festival called 'Tuen Ng Festival', but most of the competing teams were actually also foreigners, presumably expats. Anyway, having practiced only once prior to the real event, our team lost miserably to the others who take the event as a serious sport. But winning isn't everything, right? It was just a great time to be on the beach absorbing the unique atmosphere of a Dragon Boat race, and being with friends.

Of course I've done many more things recently, but time is limited so I won't write about every little thing.

I'm gonna miss this place! I'm gonna make these final 7 days the very best I can!!

So recently I decided to go out of my usual element and write a poem. A haiku to be precise, about Hong Kong. It was originally just for my own personal pleasure, then I thought it turned out decent so I put it on Facebook. Well, people seemed to like it a lot and I got an unprecedented amount of positive feedback, so I figure I'll post it here as well and see what people think. Who knows, maybe there's a secret poet hiding somewhere deep inside me after all!

The sun burns my face
But I stand still and silent
Morning Assembly

Morning alarm rings
Only one thing I desire
A hot cup of tea

A mere 10 degrees
Shivering in my own room
Hong Kong winter sucks

Wind blows cold and strong
School is becoming an igloo
Don't close the windows

Geography class
Transforming into snowmen
Windows still open

Daily fever checks
Sent home for coughing just once
Swine Flu precautions

Hand Sanitizer
Thermometers and face masks
Thanks H1N1

Minibus commute
Headache from speeding alarm
Can't wait til my stop

A suicidal driver
Won't steer, brake, yield or signal
Normal minibus

Choking on thick smog
Outdoor sports a health hazard
Hong Kong pollution

PE is cancelled
IFC hidden from sight
Mainland is to blame

MTR stations
Char siu fan and mad old folks
I'll miss you Hong Kong

Chopsticks working hard
Rice and greasy meat for lunch
I'll miss you Hong Kong

Cantonese curse words
Practice Papers in UE
I'll miss you Hong Kong

Hope you like it!

I've posted very few photos on this blog, so now I guess its about time I showed you some things I do in Hong Kong.

Photo #1 is just me wearing my DelayNoMore shirt. The sound of those words in Cantonese... well I'll just say it means some pretty serious profanity! Picture was taken one day hanging out in Central.

Photo#2 is a normal MTR train. The scene you see is neither especially crowded nor noticeably empty. Just normal.

The third one is me messing around with some classmates in a free lesson. We're trying to make the library as fun as possible. That's my summer uniform by the way, I'm not a huge fan of it.

#4 is a standard lunch I get on school days. It is curry-chicken-sausage-rice. Costs 3USD with drink, tastes greaaat, and is super-filling!

School is going slowly, but otherwise life is flyyyyyying by!
So today, about 10 minutes before lunchtime, the heavens opened up. It was quite predictable actually; the two massive cumulonimbus clouds in the sky had been gradually moving closer to each other all day. At 12:20, they crashed. Stormy weather ensued.

For the last 10 minutes of English it was entertaining, since my seat was right next to the open window, and the rain was extraordinarily heavy and violent. As first it seemed to be all moving sideways, then it appeared to switch directions, going to the right instead of left, and a minute later I could have sworn I saw some rain moving upwards. This was some serious rain. All was going fine, until the lunch bell rang. Then came the announcement: (translated to English) "It is highly suggested that students stay in the school during lunchtime. Thank you. ^click^'

But nobody really knew what that meant. Did the principal really expect the entire school to fit into the tiny canteen inside the covered playground? Were we going to be forced to eat the nasty tuck-shop fare which everybody reviles? Or was the announcement exactly what it claimed to be, just a suggestion?

Well, me and my classmates weren't planning on staying. So, we went down to the main door to leave the school and go to our favorite local restaurant 'Mei Ho' (about 3USD per person for a big good meal including a soft drink and unlimited tea), but we discovered two teachers patrolling the exit. The requirement : have an umbrella, and you can have lunch outside the school. Damnit. I forgot my umbrella, as I do everyday (I don't actually have one). So had all of the other members of my usual lunch group. I tried to reason with one of the teachers that we weren't scared of the rain (many people here seem to think they will melt if touched by it), and we were going to run as fast as we could to the restaurant. His reply: 'I don't want your uniform getting soaked.' My reply: 'My only remaining lessons for the day are P.E., so I will be changing clothes immediately after eating!' I thought I had him there! But no. He simply said, "Rain is bad for your health. You can't leave without an umbrella. Go ask one of your teachers if you can borrow theirs.'

And that was that. We were defeated. We trudged upstairs and asked around the staff rooms for any umbrellas we could borrow, got enough, and finally were allowed out. Yippee!

Lunch was great, and by the time we needed to walk back to the school, the rain had subsided, so no more issues.

And that's the most exciting thing that happened today.