Friday, July 31, 2009

We have KEYS!

It's official! we have a beautiful apartment in a a fantastic, traditional neighborhood. We fell in love with the first one we saw. It was featured in the local paper, The Straits Times, after renovation a few years ago. Moh Guan Terrace is a distinctive and historic building just a few minutes from the subway to work--and a few minutes in the other direction to the best fresh market I've seen. Did I mention the patisserie? the seafood joint? the Chinese garden? the French grocery store? the parks?

The previous tenant lived a few blocks from us in Brooklyn, believe it or not! Our landlord is a published poet. And our agent, Alvin, has been accommodating, knowledgeable, and generous. We've been blessed throughout this whole transition so far -- moving to Singapore has been surprisingly smooth and easy. Warm as the weather.

Click through to link to the story on the apartment, posted on Alvin's blog, which is a good source on the neighborhood if you want to tool around.

We'll be following up with photos of our own in the coming days. (It's a little freaky living in the kind of place we usually would be assigned to photograph!) In the meantime, we're in the horse shoe shaped building... the market is in the triangular one. Our place faces the park, from the bottom of the "U."

Whoo hoo!

PS: at almost the same moment it seems my cousin Laura posted pictures of her new place near Berkeley!

"What a Woman Can Do With a Camera"

My title comes from an article published in the September 1897 issue of Ladies Home Journal written by Francis Benjamin Johnston, one of the first women to have a successful career as a commercial and editorial photographer. She supported her self with her camera for nearly seven decades, from the 1880s when she began photographing, until her death in 1952. Her advice, ladies:
“The woman who makes photography profitable must have, as to personal qualities, good common sense, unlimited patience to carry her though endless failures, equally unlimited tact, good taste, a quick eye, a talent for detail, and a genius for hard work. In addition, she needs training, experience, some capital, and a field to exploit.
When she wrote this article, she was the age I am now. She had a studio in Washington DC, where she photographed the political and upper classes. (And where she also threw great parties complete with a photo booth. That's her in a self-portrait)

I submitted a little article on FBJ today for an encyclopedia on American Women.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jessie Cookies

Extra high fiber!

Another quick note: The Peruvian pan-flute players that used to play the plaza at 43rd street at 6th avenue are here, and they draw a huge crowd at the mall ! And they are dressed in full regalia -- feather head-dresses and moccasins, the whole thing. Same songs too. Familiar faces!

Apartment update coming soon... we meet with the agent to finalize tomorrow...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pictures from around NTU

We're staying in an on-campus hotel until we get an apartment. We've been running around town though, checking out apartments and studios, checking in at quarantine on Simon and Maybe, getting our S Passes (like a green card) at the Ministry of Manpower (total wait time: 3 minutes), and eating eating eating. I will admit we've even visited a few of Singapore's mighty malls. And even liked the experience.

Here's some snapshots from our first 72 hours. First, "Breakfast Set A" at the nearest student canteen: strong coffee with condensed milk and sugar, two half-boiled eggs seasoned with soy sauce and pepper, and three mini-sandwiches of wheat toast with butter and kaya (the word means "rich" in Malay) a sticky sweet local jam made from eggs, sugar, coconut cream and pandan essence. According to Wikipedia, pandan essence is extracted from the local screwpine tree. I can't get enough of it. My second night here I bought a bag of ten croissants slathered in the stuff, then thought better of it and shared the rest around the office. This breakfast, a perfect blend of savory and sweet, costs S$1.50, but probably 1500 calories.

The new Humanities and Social Sciences Building, still in the late stages of getting ready for the semester. My office is on the third floor overlooking an atrium that opens up in the center of the building. I don't get a lot of natural light, but I imagine once the courtyard fills with students and a coffeeshop, I'll have a good view of the local social life. My mailing address is Asst. Prof. Jessie Morgan-Owens, HSS-03-71, 14 Nanyang Drive, Singapore 637332.

The residential area of campus, over by Canteen 2. The covered walkways are lovely when it rains -- besides keeping us dry as we walked around, they sound like rain on tin roof. This shot was taken from the bus stop, a vital piece of campus real estate. Six buses loop around campus, making stops at other residence halls, the library, the administration buildings, and the academic buildings. Two public buses, 179 and 199, and one NTU shuttle leave campus and drop passengers at the MRT (subway) station, passing through the neighboring apartment buildings on Pioneer Road. We've caught buses here several times a day since we arrived. You touch a metrocard to a reader as you board and come off the bus. For the most part they seem reliable, but I'm building 20-25 minutes into my commute any time I need to catch the subway into city center.

We take the 179 to Boon Lay MRT station, which features an adjacent megamall, Jurong Point, which my colleagues tell me recently doubled in size, which is considerable. Check out the food court on level one. This is one of five food courts in this mall (that I've seen, there may be more). We saw Harry Potter last night, which was fun, but made me a touch homesick, especially when I left Hogwarts to wander this busy, bright, extrasensory experience in search of a late night snack. That said, James did catch me gushing about the mall before the movie, and did not hesitate to point out that he never thought I would get excited about a mall.

When in Rome, shop like the locals do!

I can't believe this was just two weeks ago!

Here's Uncle James and Uncle Greg and the nephews in the community pool -- Friday night in Kansas City!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"We Sail Tonight for Singapore"

Here I am waking up on my first morning in Singapore, our new home for a few years.

WOW. As I told my mom on the phone from the gate at JFK: This may be the craziest thing we've done yet. Or not. It could also be one of the smartest of our good decisions -- like the one to move to New York in 2000 or to marry James at a wee 23 years of age. Only time will tell!

Now because our dearest friends and fun-loving families put together the most delicious three weeks of memories of you all for us to savor, I don't feel all that homesick yet. I probably won't until I a) get through these mix-cds and b) lose these extra five pounds of po-boys and BBQ and watermelon mojitos and c) this feeling that "we're just away on a long shoot" for a few months wears off. Since we have plans to return to the states in December and again next June, I hope we can keep up this cycle, at least for the first year or two. Or until you all get yourselves over here for a visit.

Yesterday I made it through the first half of my orientation at the University; they thankfully postponed the complicated bits about health insurance and all that for today at 3:00pm. I got the keys to my office, and an email address and faculty id card.

We discovered the grocery store about 20 minutes walk off campus-- we explored this map's worth-- and bought a month's worth of kopi (strong coffee with sugar) in single serving tea-bags for the hotel room, and six Australian oranges. Our total = S$ 5.80 or US$4.00. They had the most beautiful live "flower crabs" for sale. At the bakery near by, we bought four buns -- one cheese, one red bean, one sweet potato, and one coffee for S$2.00 or $1.30. Two hawker centers were there too, with the usual menu items. More on that later. There was a GIANT and architecturally gorgeous (water falls, Gehry-esque curves) Protestant church across the street that had a box office line up of teens for evening services. We passed big groups of people on our way home, getting off buses and pouring into the church.

Today, I could barely make myself stay in bed until 6 am. I woke up in the middle of the night, thinking of my office, whether getting a MAC is a battle I'm up for, how to organize it, who to keep my research going in two places at once. Then I'd nod off, and get back up, and so forth until morning, which broke rainy. Made some instant coffee, read a little, and headed to the gym at ....7 AM! Now James has finished his workout too, and we're off to one of the student canteens to get breakfast, then to the bank to open accounts.

Heard on the radio at the gym, that there's a solar eclipse in this part of the world this afternoon. Quite a strong omen for one's first day, don't you think?

More soon, Jessie