Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Who gets sick during summer?

It is constantly summer here, ranging from 80-90 degrees. I never need to listen to the weather.  I do need to take an umbrella occasionally, but even if I don't, I can usually stay dry under all the covered walkways. 

So I've always found it odd that anyone could get sick in Singapore.  I mean how many of us get a cold or the flu during summer, right?  Well Monday last week I had something in my throat.  By Tuesday it moved into my head/nose and I was quite tired.  Came home early and took a 2.5 hr nap.  I figured some sleep would work things out.  Wednesday started not too bad, but by the end of the day (and it was a long one), I felt not so good.  I came home, couldn't sleep. Finally took my temp and had a slight fever, 99.5.  My air conditioners, which are suppose to be checked/cleaned every 3 months, had not been and it was going past 6 months.  So it wasn't very cooling.  I found an ice pack to keep on my head to try and cool off and get some sleep.  Called my mom since we're 13 hours different and my early morning is her afternoon.  Finally fell asleep at 6:30am until about 10:30.  Needless to say I was calling in sick to work and needed to visit the doctor. 

I wondered if the Singapore health care system would give me an indication of what our new U.S. system would bring. Hah! Let me explain what happens....

Each month I pay S$0 to enroll in our employer provided insurance scheme.  Yep zero - I had to re-edit this because I thought I actually paid for it.  Turns out I guess I don't.  There's a big list of doctor offices I can go to.  Luckily my secretary (shared by all the managers in my group) lives very near me and when she heard I was out sick recommended one nearby.  Very thankful for that. Probably saved me an hour and a half of searching addresses on the map.  Turns out it's almost directly across from my building.  Maybe a 10 minute walk.  Problem: I have a fever and it's about 90 with high humidity.  Miserable walk.

I get to the building and immediately see the sign but no door - maybe it's further in the building.  So I walk around the corner (the cirle of glass windows below) and find the office is this square chunk of building.  The light pinkish exterior to the left and right, yep that's it.  Draw a square with those borders. 

So I pop around the corner to find the entrance.

Inside are two rows of blue folder chairs you can barely make out in the picture above.  Maybe 4-5 chairs in each row.  That is the waiting room.  There is a tv, a door to the left with one doctor's name, the reception counter and drug store straight ahead and another doctor's door to the right along with door to the toilet.  Small, humble, interesting.

Sorry for the blurred pictures.  I got a new blackberry - with a camera! So now I can try to take 'stealth' pictures.  Haven't mastered the focus though. :)  All the meds are right there on the back counter.  Good thing there is low crime.  Easy hold-up for a drug addict.

When they figure out I'm covered under one of their insurance schemes, the doctor comes out shortly asking for "Lena Marie".  Here! I go in the door, which is pretty much the equivalent of the back room and is actually attached to the reception area.  Lady doctor is at a desk (think office desk) and I sit in another folding chair.  She asks what's wrong and I explain what has happened and that I now have a fever, stuffed nose and head along with sore muscles.  She looks at the throat - OK.  Takes my temp in the ear - Yes, a fever.  Diagnoses a sinus infection. Yep, that was it.  Five minutes or less.  She told me the meds I would get. Wrote it all on a large index card and said I need two days rest from work.  She will give me a doctor's note :).  And I wanted the doctor's note.  Can't take sick leave from work unless I have a doctor's note.

I head back to the waiting room.  Another 5-10 minutes.  Lena - your drugs are ready.  Here's what you need to take:

I feel like a senior citizen (no offense to any readers).  One sinus infection requires SIX different meds.  From the top (clockwise): Big anti-biotic pills for the actual infection.  Two per day, before food, until gone. Next are the yellow ones to help my tummy (funny I didn't know I had any tummy issues).  One, up to three times per day as required, before food.  For the fever, big round white ones (the hardest to swallow actually). Essentially Tylenol, two, up to three times per day as required, after food.  Little white ones are for my nose. Is decongestive the right word? Half to one, up to three times per day as required.  Only take a half when I go back to work since they cause drowsiness. Number five is effervescents, dissolve in water twice daily for my throat.  To date, I have opted not to take these.  Last - the Advil equivalent for my muscle soreness.  One, up to three times as required, after food.

Except for the effervescents, I was good about taking them all twice a day.  Now I'm just finishing up the antibiotics and I'm almost back to normal.  Along with the meds, the doc said lots of water, no spicy food, no nuts (including peanut butter) and no alcohol.  My water intake has probably been equivalent to the amount of water I would normally drink in a six-month time period. I've become a crazy ice-maker.  My fridge doesn't automaticay make ice and my kitchen faucet only has room temp water.  I've never made so much ice.

Anyway, I got my meds right there at the doctor's office, didn't pay anyone and left.  I think I was there and back home within 45 minutes.  It was very efficient.  I highly doubt that our new system in the U.S. will be anything similar.  I didn't fill out ANY paperwork!!  Unheard of.  The doctor didn't ask for a health history - just are you allergic to any meds.  I'm guessing the risk of a malpractice lawsuit must be pretty low.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Place your bets

There is something very new and somewhat controversial going on in Singapore.  Two casinos are opening up!  Actually one already opened in February and the other one is on its way.  They have been building and working on these since I first came to Singapore back in early 2008, so it's interesting to have seen the progress. 

The interior of Resorts World Sentosa's casino in Singapore. Photo: AP

I'm not sure exactly how controversial it has been, but from what I heard it was a very big decision for the government to make - to allow gambling in Singapore. I think they are very concerned with the negative aspects gambling can bring to a community.  But in the end, the economic benefit from tourists outweighed the costs, with some mitigating factors.  The competition comes from Macau, the Vegas of the East.

I wondered how many dollars could be at stake, but now I see.  First the mitigating factors:
  1. All Singapore citizens and permanent residents have to pay S$100 upon entry to the casino (like a ticket to an amusement park). 
  2. The S$100 is only valid for one entry and only 24 hours.  You leave to get more cash at an ATM, you pay another S$100. 
  3. Instead of the S$100, you can also buy an annual pass for only S$2,000 :). 
  4. If you or someone in your family has a gambling problem, you can add them to a list of people 'banned' from the casino. 
So ultimately - it's the tourists they want to lose their money, and lose I did. You can't take pictures in the casino, but I did get one outside of the complex.  The casino is part of Resorts World on Sentosa Island. A Universal Studios theme park just opened up there recently as well along with a few different hotels, restaurants, shops, etc.  It's not 100% operating yet, but getting there.  Here's a pic of one of the open, common areas, above the casino.

I'm no experienced gambler (only been twice) but this was no Riverboat.  It was a huge expanse, maybe a third was blocked off for smokers and the rest smoke free.  Tons of tables, maybe only half of the open.  But the open ones were full - seats taken with people 2-3 deep watching.  A lot of roulette, baccarat and pontoon, mixed in with a little black jack and various poker games.  Did I play? No.  The table minimum bets started at S$50 and I swear I even saw one roulette table with a S$400 minimum.  I have never seen so much money on the tables.  Cashing in stacks of S$50 bills.  I went with a U.S. coworker who was here on a business trip and he's more of a gambler than myself.   He estimated a S$1,000 bet going on one hand at a table.  Too rich for my cheap blood :). 

Head to the slots, which there were also a lot of, but the tables out numbered them.  These also were full, at capacity.  They were 5 and 2 cents - a big change from S$50.  But, a lot of people placed 20 bets or more at a time to raise the stakes. We waited 10-15 minutes and one machine opened up.  I took it and tried to see how long my S$50 would last.  I think 20 minutes or so.  I didn't do very good and gave up.  The lady who took my place lost it all even sooner, so I didn't feel so bad.  After each of us lost our S$50, we decided to head out for the night.

Another odd thing - no one was drinking.  I'm use to seeing alcohol in hands while gambling (at least it's that way in the movies).  Either they are quite serious here or the etiquette is a bit different.  I was told that this casino is marketed towards the Chinese population (I didn't see many white faces out there). The other casino, which is yet to open, is part of The Sands, and I'm guessing that this will be targeted to Westerners.  Perhaps they will sneak a S$5/10 table in there ;).

All in all, it was a fun evening and experience!

*I kept everything in Singapore dollars (S$) because the relationship of that amount to their own incomes is probably comparable to $50 in the U.S.  Since I am paid on a local Singapore salary, in S$, I no longer do the conversion.  I'll do a post on money in the future.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I had a co-worker visit me last week on a business trip.  It was great to have a dinner buddy :).  So we tried some new restaurants.  But more to come on that post.  I got a new phone, with a camera and I can't figure out yet how to get my pictures off.  In the meantime...

Some quick randomness

Signing up for something online in Singapore, I got to pick out the necessary "security question".  It was funny to see what my choices were:
1) what is your pet's name (normal)
2) what is your favorite hawker centre dish (i.e. food court dish)
3) what is your street name (normal)
4) what is your favourite local drama in Mandarin (anyone have a fav foreign language tv show? Does Dora count??)
5) what is the name of your school (normal)
6) what is your girlfriend's dialect name (what's her accent...it is pop? or soda?)

It is written into my apartment lease that I must have my airconditioners (4 total) serviced for normal maintenance every 3 months.

I don't drive in Singapore. But I did manage to drive on the wrong side of the road once when I was back home in Feb.

One of my co-wokers recently had a baby.  Just like in the U.S. we took a collection for a baby gift.  However, as a thank you, I received in return a gift certificate for a cake at a local store.  Give a gift, receive a gift I suppose. 

None of the streets in Singapore are straight and the road name changes every 4 blocks or so.

No one really holds the door for you, but they'll push the "open doors" button in the elevator until you've safely exited.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Return to Singapore

I am back home from the States and have been delaying any posts because I'm just not so sure how I feel about it. Everyone said the first 4 to 6 months would be the hardest...wrong. I actually got through those fairly well and without too much homesickness. (Yes - I'm through 6 months already!)

Going back home in Feb was wonderful to see everyone, feel the same old routine, know what was going on, etc. I really enjoyed my time. Hence the hardship of travelling back by myself.  I try to be positive in my posts because while it can feel good to vent my frustrations, I know it's much more exciting to hear good news.  So I don't want to take any rants to my readers :). 

But I must say that I did underestimate the difficulty of living abroad on my own.  I have pretty much recovered from the pangs of homesickness at this point - the jet lag last week didn't help.  I'm back into my day to day routine and when work slows, I need to make more of an effort to get myself out and about making friends.  I am happy to report that I had to request 14 days of leave (i.e. vacation) before 30 June or lose it.  I've planned a few 3- and 4-day weekends in the coming months and hope I can take advantage of them to do some quick trips in SE Asia (Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, etc.).

Observations from my trip home:
  • LOVE the fact that I went 1.5 weeks with absolutely no cash (I could have made it the whole 2 weeks if I wanted, but it was just easier to get some).  You need cash in Singapore.
  • The cold weather on a sunny, windless day is still great.  But it gets old real quick once the clouds roll in.
  • You really cannot sleep in United economy.
  • I quickly forgot the level of humidity in Singapore.
  • No matter how well planned - you always forget to pack everything.
  • In the grand scheme of things, not much changes (but I manage to still feel a little left out).
  • Only 5 lbs gained - seen as a great success as I figured it could be as high as 10.  Sausage and milk for breakfast every morning?? Also LOVED it :).
  • I'm getting old, fast.
  • Snow removal in Peoria has not improved.
  • I miss warm comfy sweaters and blankets.
I think I went the whole trip without taking any pictures!!  Unbelievable I know.  Well here are some older pics of family and friends.  No one was intentionally snubbed - I only had so many pics to work with.  Miss you all!!
My crazy sister Katie at Disney - I did not get to see her :(.  She moved away to SC. 
*Tom, her boyfriend, is not pictured.  He must have been willing to sacrifice her to the zombie hippos.

The cows - we had new baby calves and they all got out one Sunday morning.  Like old times.

My brother Curtis and his girlfriend Emily - he hates taking pics.  We did dinner in Bloomington one night.

Gotta love Mom!

Dad's always working outside.  Don't worry our house is OSHA approved ;).

Some of my great Peoria co-workers...there are more than just these two clowns ;).

Who can live without best friends??  Miss Shaun.

And last but not least, the little cutie pies - Blake and Avery (these are a bit dated - Avery now has a little brother and Blake's got one on the way). I forgot to take current pictures. 
My friends from home, Kristin and Brenna, have wonderful families of their own.  I'm jealous girls :).