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The view from seat 66E

Or, the Joys of International Travel

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This was, literally, the view from my seat on the Atlanta-Tokyo flight. I didn't even unpack my headphones. Couldn't see the movies anyway!!

Here's a list of things encountered on the travel between St. Louis and Singapore. It's just the facts - I'm neither bragging nor complaining!
-Top handle of my largest suitcase broke as it was being unloaded from the car at the airport.
-Unable to get seat assignments/boarding passes at check-in in St. Louis.
-Some fool brought a Thermos of liquid through TSA screening at Concourse A and left it in there. It caused the concourse to be evacuated to just past my gate. (This may have worked in my favor as I heard there was a back-up of about 250 people in the screening area. I may have gotten on my flight because of this.)
-Had 1 hour to change planes in Atlanta and go from Concourse D to Concourse E. Problem - train between concourses not operating between those 2. Had to hustle it on my own (not something I do well!).
-The infamous seat 66E - a middle seat in the 2nd to last row of the plane. Too bad I couldn't capture audio on the above picture. I could have shared the experience of the toddler exercising a very powerful set of lungs for about 11 of the 13.5 hour flight (he slept the other 2.5 hours or so).
-Felt like the robot on 'Lost in Space' when trying to eat. Could only move my arms from the elbows down. (Danger Will Robinson! Danger!)
-Met on the jetway in Tokyo by a Delta rep holding a sign with 4 names on it (one of which was mine). The Tokyo-Singapore flight was oversold. Would I be willing to be re-protected on a United flight leaving about the same time? Sure, no problem!
-No seat assignment on the UA flight until about 15 minutes before boarding. Assignment received - seat 38D. Back of the plane, middle seat! Individual video screen made it slightly more tolerable. Slept most of the way.
-One of the last to clear immigration in Singapore. Bags were already off the carousel. Airport shops and services still open - even after midnight.
-Nice taxi ride to the apartment building (50% after midnight surcharge on the fare!!)
-In the apartment by about 0045. Unpacked and in bed by 0200.

Posted by uktvlr 16:54 Archived in USA Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Home Sweet Home

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There are 5 of us from North American offices in Singapore to assist with an account here. We've been put up in Serviced Apartments. I'm sharing my 2-bedroom apartment with Cathy from the London, Ontario office.

When I got in just after midnight Saturday morning it was to find that the ladies from the Singpore office had done some grocery shopping and stocked the kitchen with necessities (milk, juice, bread, peanut butter, etc.) and goodies (Cadbury chococolates, Pringles, Tim Tam chocolate cookies).

I took a short video just after my arrival (the apartment may not look this good again for 8 weeks!). It's uploaded on YouTube. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvHnzG03vZc)

Saturday morning I set the alarm for 0830 so I could attempt to battle the jet lag. Kinda blew it when I took a couple of naps late in the afternoon.

Posted by uktvlr 18:36 Archived in Singapore Tagged lodging Comments (0)

The only fork on the table

I'm trying Mom, I'm trying

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The 5 of us met up Sunday afternoon with Donna (Singapore office Director) and Joyce (Human Resources AsiaPac) in the lobby of the hotel. We got some questions asked and answered, received calling cards, our EZ Link passes (for the train/bus network) and per diem money for meals and expenses.

Once the details were taken care of it was off to lunch. A pair of taxis dropped us off at the Paragon shopping center on Orchard Road. We headed there for 2 reasons - Orchard Road and, according to Donna and Joyce, the best pork dumplings in the city.

I was on sensory overload, so don't remember the name of the restaurant; however, it was pretty popular place as we had a 10-15 minute wait to get in (it helped that is was after 2P when we got there or the wait would have been longer). Our group was seated at a huge round table in an area that was semi-walled off from the rest of the place. The table had one of the biggest Lazy Susans I'd ever seen (and when it came time to turn it, one of the heaviest).

My family is well aware that I don't have an affinity for Asian food. So, this was going to be something of an experience for me. I let those that knew what they were doing place the order. I only added one request - braised beef soup with noodle (no beef).

When the food came it was all piled on that massive Lazy Susan and the feeding frenzy began. My co-horts tried to show me how to use chopsticks - without luck. I have the holding down fine. The problem comes when I try to actually use them. I thought for a bit I was going to starve. The solution - would you like a fork? My answer was a rather heartfelt "Yes, please."

Once the utensil issue was solved I proceeded to experiment and try some of the selections (don't faint, family). I tried pork dumplings, pork and crabmeat dumplings, the soup I'd ordered (winding the noodle around my fork like spaghetti) and a couple of other things I don't remember. All were very good. Doesn't mean I'm a fan yet; however, I'm willing to try!

And, while on the subject of food, I wanted to share my experiment with Western food. Saturday night at dinner I had a Waffle Burger - a hamburger with cheese between 2 fried waffles. Looked as wierd as it sounds! Once I got past the fact that I was eating waffles with my burger it was OK. They just became another bun, so to speak.

Monday has us going through orientation and getting our official work permits. The work part of this trip begins!

Posted by uktvlr 15:17 Archived in Singapore Tagged food Comments (0)

Takin' care of business

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Monday was our first day at work. The day was a combination of orientation, training and officialdom.

We met the office director, Donna, at the MRT station this AM for our first trip to the office. Had to let a couple of really packed trains go by before we could all squeeze in. It was about a 10 minute ride to the stop nearest the office. From there it's a 5-7 minute walk to the office building.

CWT Singapore currently takes up 3 floors in the building. The 16th floor is where the Sabre accounts and support staff are located; the Galileo accounts (the system we'll be learning in a 3-day crash course) are on the 17th; and the 18th is where senior management, program management (account reps), leisure and finance departments are housed, along with the training and conference rooms.

The set-up is a bit different. Everyone except senior management sits in long rows of 'desks' (no cubicle walls). Once I've been there a bit I'll take and post pictures.

We were also given an overview of the organizational set-up of CWT Singapore and how they fit in to CWT Asia Pacific and CWT as a whole. Oh, and we were given card keys to be able to get in to the office as well as security codes for the washrooms on each floor (a sign we were there to stay!).

Found out that this office had had about a 75% increase in bookings from February to March - one of the reasons we are here. They are understaffed based on the the number of phone calls/transactions.

Later in the morning it was on to the training room for training on the phone system (Avaya, but different than the US) and Talisma email set-up. My CWT co-workers will be interested to know that, not only do these counselors sign in/out of their phones at the beginning/end of the day, lunch/breaks/etc. they have to do the same with this Talisma email system. Emails are automatically pushed from Talisma to the counselors to be worked. It's how they communicate with the clients/travelers. Outlook is only used for internal communications.

Lunch for me was Black Pepper Beef and Rice (I have to keep sharing these things - it is SO not my norm!).

Around 4:00PM Irene from Regional HR came to the office to pick us up and transport us to the Ministry of Manpower to finalize our work visas. First, it was photos (At the end of a long, hot day and a night consisting of about 5 hours sleep you can imagine how the photo turned out!).

Then, it was inside to wait for your name to be posted on the overhead board. When it appeared you approached the counter and presented your paperwork and photo. Official clerical stuff took place and then it was time to be fingerprinted. Not black ink and a 10 card. This was a digital fingerprint of both thumbs. (Mine were too dry - I had to put lotion on them.) It took the clerk 3 tries to get a reading she was satisfied with.

The work cards will be ready Friday. If we leave/re-enter the country we don't have to fill out immigration forms, just scan our thumbprints.

Speaking of leaving - Good Friday is a holiday in Singapore, so we have a 3-day weekend. The group had decided to try and take advantage by taking a trip. Some really great airfares are available (150.00SGD round-trip to Phuket, Thailand); unfortunately, all the flights are sold out to Phuket and Bali, so it looks like we may be going to Kuala Lumpur via either bus or train. Details still need to be worked out.

Posted by uktvlr 14:59 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Random Thoughts 1

Things I've noticed

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Not only do they drive on the left here in Singapore (like in the UK), most of the escalators are the same way. And, just when you think you've got the hang of it, there's a set of escalators that are the reverse.

It's not an escalator - it's a catapault. I've been on a couple of escalators recently that don't adhere to the slow, steady flow of most. It moves fast - you have to hustle to get on and hustle to get off. If you don't, consequences could be catastrophic (a pile of bodies behind you).

I didn't know the word welcome was hyphenated. Saw 'Wel-Come' on a restaurant sign yesterday.

Shopping everywhere - streets, malls, shopping centers, train stations, etc.

Food courts that aren't individual restaurants serve just food. There's a separate beverage counter where you choose and pay for your drinks.

Our apartment doesn't have an electrical outlet in either bathroom (other than for shavers). Hair drying must be done in the large bedroom (the only outlet/mirror combination).

The construction work outside our apartment building starts about 0800 and lasts until about 2100 - and they work on Saturdays!

Singapore imports everything! This morning's yogurt was from France.

KFC Singapore is now featuring egg tarts.

Seeing a lot of the same brand names in the grocery stores/personal stores.

And, just to be consistent - I had chicken teriyaki for lunch Tuesday!!

Posted by uktvlr 17:12 Archived in Singapore Tagged living_abroad Comments (2)

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