The second, somewhat anticlimactic installment of my journey from Miami to Singapore. The first part can be found here.
No, I don’t have Swine Flu
A few minutes after settling into an uncomfortable seat outside my gate in San Francisco, I sneezed. A minute later I sneezed again. And again thirty seconds later. Soon I was firing off sneezes as fast as a machine gun fires bullets. There had been plenty of signs around the airport about H1N1 and how you should not travel if you had any of its symptoms – one of which, according to the signs, is a runny nose. I was quickly working my way through an entire pack of tissues. In a rare pause between sneezing bouts, I looked around at the other passengers and could tell they wanted to brand me with a scarlet “SF.” Or at least have someone in a back room “take my temperature” and forbid me from getting on the plane. Was it suddenly hot in the airport or was it just me? I decided to take a walk around the terminal before anyone started moving towards me with a pitchfork.
I’m not sure how, but I managed to stop sneezing before boarding the plane. However, when I got to Hong Kong, I noticed they had designated temperature-checking areas. Thankfully this turned out to be only for people who were staying in Hong Kong. (I’m sure it would have been fine – I had long since stopped sneezing and didn’t feel feverish – but the last thing I needed was a malfunctioning thermometer or a power-hungry temperature-checker placing me in quarantine.) So now I only had one more flight – and Singaporean immigration/customs – to go.
Gum-Sniffing Dogs (or sad lack thereof)
My journey through Singapore’s Changi airport was much easier than I expected. US citizens are allowed to stay in the country for 90 days without a visa and I’m going home for Christmas before those 90 days expire. (This fact escaped me at the Miami check-in desk and was later pointed out to me by a friend.) So, I reported that I would be in Singapore for 42 days and didn’t have any trouble with immigration.
I collected my bags quickly and looked around for customs. I expected long lines, hand searches of every piece of luggage, and gum-sniffing dogs. Sadly, the dogs must have been out for a walk, as all I saw was a door with “nothing to declare” written in green above it. Surprised at the perceived ease with which I would pass through customs, I headed for the door, ready to step out into the fresh Singaporean air. And I got pulled over.
“Do you have anything to declare?” asked the man in uniform. “I don’t think so…” I replied, as I stared behind him at the long list of controlled and prohibited items. As my luggage went through the X-ray machine, I hoped that no one had attempted to use me as a gum-smuggler. And that the crevices of my bags did not contain any stowaways, an admittedly more likely scenario. But the suspense turned out to be rather anticlimactic and I was free to go.
I had too much luggage to take the MRT (subway) – not because I’m lazy, but because large bags aren’t allowed – so I hopped in a cab and stared out the window on the way to my new, albeit temporary, home – a room in a downtown condo building.
Tomorrow I am moving to my permanent home, so shortly I will have content for a post on Singaporean housing, specifically my own experiences. (While my current building is predominately expat-owned, my new building is HDB – public housing.)
In the meantime, my next post will be about food. I’m already getting hungry thinking about it.