Taken from notes on July 22:
“Singapore! What a cool place! Food stalls–braised pig trotters–long goose and other fowl necks fried with the heads and beaks still attached, looped over long rods in shop windows. Chinatown area–rows of medicinal shops, boxes and vials of pills and herbs and syrups covered in Chinese characters.
Tiger balm, ginseng tea. Fishy stink–I ask what the piles of blackened pickle-like things, arranged neatly by size, might be. Sea cucumber!
At one store, where I linger over flavored candies, an old man I can’t help but think looks like Pi Mai begins a conversation like this:
“Russian? You are Russian, yes?”
“American! Ah, you belong to Mr. Obama.”
“He is a Negro, but he is good.” He is massaging someone’s foot with a lot of oil. I have no idea how to respond to any of this. “But now Crinton, she there, she Secretary. Crinton President, now wife try. But she not the President. Now she Secretary. She do good! Everywhere she go, she very nice.”
“Very nice,” I agree. I pick up a box of “watermelon ice” candies and head for the register.
“U.S., she from U.S., you know,” the man alerts the cashier from somewhere below-ankle.
“Very long, to fly to Singapore!” says the cashier.
“Well, actually, I’m coming from India.”
“Oooooo, India!” says Pi Mai, rubbing the lower thighs vigorously. “Very dirty there!” He adds, best of all: “I saw a documentary about it once.”