Report from Tomorrow - Vol 34
1USD =S$1.66 (S$1 = 0.580USD)
When we first accepted the contract to come here, we knew it was only for one year, with the expected possibility of it extending for a second year. As we come into the last few weeks of our first year (my, how the time has flown!), the Asian economic situation is making the decisions harder for the bank.
Whether we'd extend or for how long has flip-flopped several times in the past few months. The proposal is now on the Chairman's desk. I believe the contract will be renewed, but we're not exactly sure for how long. Our best guess is that the contract will be extended for a full year. That'll put us back in the USA in 2000. I can imagine we might leave a little early and arrive before Christmas, but nothing is decided yet. Details in 1-9 months when we know for sure.
Asian Year End Holidays
This isn't about how the locals celebrate Christmas, but more about how out-of-touch we feel regaring holidays. With summer every day here, any sense of spring (aka Easter), Summer (Memorial Day, July 4th), or fall (Labor Day) is lost. We didn't particularly miss those, as they are largely just excuses to go somewhere (or not). Thanksgiving and Christmas, however, are tougher to gloss over, as these days are loaded with lots of family time and traditions for us.
We were in Bali for Thanksgiving, so there was no pretense of anything like T-day for us - no TV, no football, no turkey. The restaurants didn't even pretend by offering "Balinese Turkey" or some other such concoction. The closest we came was when we saw pumpkin pie in a window. That was just as well - I think I'd have felt more of a loss if we'd been here and pretended it was T-day.
We'll not be able to gloss over Christmas though. We are trying to make it seem more like Christmas. Mary's got a few decorations up (most would think it enough for several apartments. If you've ever been to our place at Christmas time, you know what I mean.) But I LOVE them :-) No really, I do!
Anyway, while the apartment has something of a Christmas look, we have no tree - our first treeless Christmas in some twenty years. Yes, we can get a skimpy balsam for S$200, but we chose to skip that particular experience. We did buy some lights and put them out on the balcony, but we're almost the only place with lights in our complex of hundreds of apartments. I did not realized how much my sense of the season comes from the decorations in people's houses.
Somehow 90 degree days just don't get me in the Christmas Spirit. Many of the stores have decorations out, but nothing as overwhelming as in the US, which I don't mind actually. Most stores have lights, but due to the economy, the decorations are less elaborate we're told. But this just is not a Christmas-place. No, "Merry Christmas" from the clerks. A very few business Christmas cards and almost none are exchanged by the locals. Muzak in some stores sometimes has Christmas songs - but it's just not even close to being the same.
We will have two of our three children with us. Micah will be here from Africa, after something like 35 hours on planes and airports and Gretchen will be here for break from ISU. Kim, still with the Navy in Texas (soon to be Virginia and Hawaii), won't make it here this Christmas.
So while some aspects will be Christmas-like, family and a small turkey at S$7/kg, we'll probably spend Christmas morning doing something completely different -- like swimming at the pool.
I asked a few Chinese Christians here about their traditions and was met with head shaking and negative responses. The churches will have a late night Christmas eve service and there will be some carol singing - but nothing earlier. A bigger service will be a "Watch Service", at midnight on New Year's Eve.
In any case, regardless of your temperature, we want to extend our wishes for a Merry Christmas to you and your family. As we enter this last year of the millenium, may 1999, the Year of the Rabbit, be especially auspicious for you.