Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New York Invasion Pt 5

They call it the greatest city in the world, but it’s becoming increasingly clear over the coming three weeks that I’ve been in New York, that New Yorkers don’t really know about anything outside their island.

They say America is the home of the brave, but it’s also home of the ignorant, or does the entire modern world just assume that English is a language permitted only to those with blonde hair, hairy chest, 8 inches of meat hung below the waist and have potatoes as a staple diet.

So what language do people in Singapore speak?”

I’ve been asked this almost everyday on the first week I was here. And when I tell them that English is actually the first language, they are in such disbelief, it’s like telling them orgies were invented by a gay Mormon.

Is it that hard to believe that people on the other side of the Pacific is capable of stringing a sentence longer than “Hello’, “Can I helpch chew” and “noodles or rice”? And yes, we also English names and no, Chinese characters are not drawings, although it is so tedious just to write something, I’m glad they invented talking.

Just the other day, this old Irish lady at a restaurant started a random conversation with me. She was this chatty old lady that seemed like she was possibly a passenger on the Titanic and she had so many facial expressions going on for each word that was coming out her mouth, it was like her facial muscles were on Red Bull.

She: “What did yer say yer name was youn’ man.”
Me: “Shaun.”
She: “And where are yer from?”
Me: “Singapore.”
She: “And how do yer say yer name in yer con-tree.”

Like what the fuck? Am I being punked? Or it this some trick question? Or was there supposed to be a native way to say my name that my parents forgot to tell me about?

Me: “Err… Shaun?”
She: “But how do yer say it in yer native language?”
Me: “’s still Shaun.”
She: “Fascinating.”

I think I might have given her, her first orgasm from that conversation because she looked so satisfyingly confused to know that an Asian was capable of having an Irish name, it’s was like inventing the iPod and seeing a polar bear using it.

You see, in the US, anything out of the country, well, is out of the country and needs less attention. They have the geographical aptitude of a bat in a disco. All they know is that they have noisy neighbours to the North and neighbours from the South that come in useful as gardeners.

To them Asia is a conglomerate mass that centres around China, which makes Singapore and many other countries like Japan and Korea a dot within the greater domain of China. I don’t blame them, because locally we use the word ‘Americans’ frivolously to describe US citizens when in actuality it is an umbrella term that would include Canada.

Me:Singapore used to be a part of the British colony.”
C:Oh yea, almost every country is. Look where that turned out. They come in, they mess around with you and they leave and now you have to drive on the wrong side of the road.”

And because New York is such a mosaic community of ethnicity, even in Chinatown when I eat at a café called Singapore Café, the people there don’t take in assumption that because I am Chinese, I will know what every dish on the menu is.

Me: “I’ll have a Penang laksa.”
Waiter: “This is not curry based soup. It is a litte sour…”
Me: “Don’t worry I know.”
Waiter: “It’s a little spicy..”

Com’on, we invented Katong laksa, we eat pig’s inlets like it’s a daily staple and I have my Singaporean slang spewing out my mouth. Do you think I won’t know what Penang laksa is? Our lives are revolved around gourmet pleasantries even if it means not wasting any part of poultry.

Then the food came and I took a spoonful and nearly choked on the gratuitous use of lime. I was wrong. Apparently I don’t know anything about Singaporean food made in the New York..


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