So finally I got the letter sent out. Whew. That was a lot of work. It turned out migrating the address book from my old mailer was a little bit more troublesome than expected. Anyways it is good to have it finished. Still have to get some errands done for the house, it seems it never finishes. oh well.

I was supposed to spend some time today looking into the course work but I think I'll leave that for later. Going to have to do some shopping instead. Was supposed to run today, maybe I can try to get that done in the evening sometime.

Well, here's hoping my bank account holds up okay. Should be okay. I do have to figure out how to wire money back to pay bills on the Amex and Discover cards. I wonder when my reimbursements for moving and airfare are going to come in. That cash would really help.


So another thing that I figured out once my A/C units were installed
last week. They have a "dry mode" which I guess means that their
primary focus is to dehumify the room. That works quite well for the
three bedrooms but the main den (which I have also installed my study
doesn't have an air conditioning unit, and it is also way too large to
efficiently cool or dry down using the air-con units. So I'm doing
with the standing fans that are provided with the flat, and it works
out quite well, actually. I usually run the A/C in the bedroom for
about an hour before sleeping, and for another two hours while I'm
trying to sleep (there's a timer on the air/con units, they all have
remote controls -- I think this is pretty common in Asia but you
rarely see this in the States as we usually have central A/C and
heating via a thermostat. Well, there's no use for a heater here, and
A/C makes more sense to do on a room by room basis, so that's that.

There was a story in the English newspaper, the Straits Times, the
other day that discussed a man who lived on 200 a month. I don't
remember the details but it was as you can imagine, quite frugal,
since it included room and board. Rent here is probably a little
cheaper than in NYC but certainly more than in MD, a 3 BR flat similar
to the one I have will run you about 3 K per month. It costs me about
600 a month so it is quite well subsidized all things considered.
That's about 2 K to 2.5 K more per month or so that I save so it can
go back towards paying off the loan in a faster time. Yes, the total
time to pay back the loan is quite fast, so I can't complain at all,
given the number of you who are probably still paying back loans and
will continue to do so for a long time. I guess the profession that I
have right now earns the money, so I will take advantage of it as much
as possible.

25 Dec (Christmas Day)

I sort of haven't figured out yet what things that I will try to put
into this blog and what things I'm going to attach to the letter. I
guess the idea was to firm up an idea of what are the daily things
that I figure out, these will go into the blog and the more regular
topics would be formalized in the letter.

Anyways, I was reading some of the entries from last time and already
in the 11 days that have intervened a couple of things became more
clear. I talked with a taxi driver the other day and it was clear
that he thought that a family needed about 3000 dollars a month to
survive. Thus the normal living arrangement of two parents earning
around 3000 a month gives you enough clearance to generate a
moderately convenient living style. That's I guess 72K per year. If
you take out the exchange difference between USD and SGD, the
difference isn't that much. I mean 1 Sing Dollar here buys more or
less what 1 US dollar buys back home in the US. And as such, those of
you who do get a chance to visit Singapore while the exchange rate is
still this similar will net quite a nice bargain in return. My salary
goes quite far here, but as I have a number of US loans to pay off,
the pay doesn't go as far in terms of paying back the loan.

By the way, the last couple of entries are actually dated 14 Dec 2002, but I didn't get blogger working before then, so lots of luck... grr. The next are from Christmas day 25 Dec 2002.
Anyways, the Gillman unit is very large; over a thousand square feet
(this is one of the few things that they measure in English units,
unfortunately; A/C power in BTUs is another) and has a nice floor
plan. I live on the sixth floor (hence the 06 as the leading number
in the address), facing south. It works out quite well as the balcony
gets some sunlight but it doesn't make it into the living room
(less direct sunlight, less heat, less A/C needed. The unit has a
sunken living room and a through counter kitchen that is very nice.
It's really a unit meant for a whole family but oh well, I will
have to make do. :)

Food here is very cheap. The canteen here is really your only option
to eat but the food is quite good by my standards. The canteen is
organized like an American food court, with several different stalls
set up and run by local families. In the canteen closest to the
department (it's really just underneath the department) there's
a Japanese food stand, two noodle stands, a Muslim food stand, bakery,
fruit juice and other beverage stand, and a bubble tea stand. Average
lunch runs about 3 Sing dollars or about 1.80 US. Food stands
(sometimes called hawker stands, as sometimes there are family members
outside trying to get you to order food) in this configuration are
pretty common and found all over the island, although at the
university the prices are about half of what you'd expect in other

This last entry points out some things which I have yet to really
understand here. There is a marked disparity between providers of
services and their consumers. I don't think a family that runs a
hawker stand at the university actually makes that much money to net
much of a living.

NUS has three different apartment complexes for faculty apartments.
The newest set of buildings is Kent Vale, which is about 15 minutes
walk from the School of Computing, where I work. I first looked at
the apartments there. They were partially furnished with sofa and
dining tables, desks, built in dressers and bedframes. On top of
that, a refrigerator, washer, stove and A/C units were already
installed. This was different than my visit to Gillman Heights, the
other option for housing, which is about 10 minutes by car (not very
walkable). Once I entered the unit for Gillman, I was sold. First,
the unit is larger; a 3 bedroom rather than a 2. Actually the number
of rooms in the KV and GH apartments are identical, as the Kent Vale
ones have a small study instead of the extra bedroom. But the
floorplan and materials in the Gillman units were much nicer. And
thus it was an easy choice to make. You can see the pictures of the
Gillman unit, and its floorplan. The Gillman unit doesn't come
with electrical appliances of any sort, which is a big problem. So I
am currently in the process of buying A/C units, water heater, oven,
washer and refrigerator. This disparity was explained to me by a
number of senior faculty who were surprised at my choice of Gillman
(given the convenience). Originally, all units came without
appliances and bedding but as visitors complained that they would have
to front these startup costs (and note that much of these things
don't often get sold secondhand here). As such, the housing office
made an adjustment recently to provide appliances, starting with the
Kent Vale units. They haven't gotten around to doing the newly
renovated Gillman units.

Drying Pins on the ceiling. Nobody buys dryers, I wonder why.
Especially because it just so darn humid here. I was chatting with
David Hsu, another new faculty member, and he mentioned that he saw a
humidifier in Best Denki (one equivalent of Circuit City here in
Singapore). We thought that was extremely hilarious. What I
couldn't find was a dehumidifier. Which I think would be much more
useful here. I wonder whether people just run their A/C units all

So it took some work to open a mobile phone account here. They're
called handphones rather than cells or mobiles. Makes sense if you
think about the Chinese characters for it. I had to go back and forth
between downtown and the conference hotel twice in my attempts to get
the necessary paperwork done. They needed proof of billing address
but I had only recently established a bank account and residential
address (about 2 days ago) so it was hard to produce proof. I ended
up going to another shopping center about 15 minutes west of the
school to do bedding shopping before seeing another mobile shop in the
mall (the IMM mall for those who may know) and getting service there.
This other store accepted some my account opening paperwork to open
the service account.


So this will be my blog on migrating to singapore. It's weird because I should have started writing this as soon as I got off the plane (or rather, on it) but better later than never. It's just so busy.

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