I find it totally refreshing to be sweating and porking in hot tropic Asia. The muggy haze and the confusing streets and lively markets and endless eating feels familiar to me even if I am perceived as a transgender-sandal wearing, truck-built outsider. My last day in Australia, I felt like an autumn leaf being blown this way and that in an unpredictable wind. After a very long and very productive video chat with my dear sweet bun, I set off to wander around Sydney. Stores were shut because it was already late on a Sunday night, so I walked into one place that was open - a convenience store, to buy some souvenir license plates with friends' names on them - and ended up having a forty-five minute conversation with the cashier, a Jordanian man named Abraham, about how poorly he felt white Australians ("Uzis," he called them) treated people of color. He called the Uzis "close-minded, like villagers," because they were so isolated from the rest of the world, and mocked their "three television stations and four newspapers" that only report "woman eaten by crocodile, kangaroo car crash, the weather is so hot." I felt sympathy for gregarious, gesticulating Abraham and stayed chatting with him even as Uzis lined up to slap down their funny money in exchange for bottled water, and tried to disabuse him of his fantasy of America as a promised land of racial harmony where white people actually perceive people of color as fellows rather than as imported labor, as apparently white Aussies do. Abraham sucked a pint of milk through a straw as we drank. Then, after a scary night walk on the Sydney Harbour Bridge pedestrian walkway, I found myself at McDonald's at midnight, siphoning free wifi, and getting chingchong'd and slanty-eyed by a group of German 18-22 year olds. I said, "Are you talking to me?" when they did this, and then muttered a "Stupid!" in their direction, but otherwise I just felt helpless and foreign in even 40% immigrant Sydney, and then I knew it was time to leave.
Thanks to the international date line, celebrations for my 29th birthday started at 11 a.m. EST on September 28, and have continued for two days. This is the closet to the equator I have been and I have prickly heat rash at my elbow and on my thighs, so I have taken to wearing (around Cynthia's house, at least) the sarong that Connie mocked me for buying in Cairns and smearing Tiger Balm on the bumpy itchy parts of me. I'm broader of shoulder than every woman here; yesterday, when I ordered my roast duck with noodles, the man at the register repeated a sentence several times to me. It took me a few seconds to decipher to the Singlish. He was saying, "You like a-sport, ah?" which then put me in the position of repeating a sentence in return: "Oh, no sport, the muscles are natural, the muscles are natural." Since sodomy is illegal here, or so Cynthia says, I decided it was time to switch my sports sandals into something more Asia-appropriate, and then I made it my mission yesterday to buy a passably feminine Asian woman outfit during my circular wanderings around four square blocks of the Raffles Place region. (It took me two hours to locate Cynthia's office building because I was unable to cross the street.) But lesbian habits are hard to break, and instead of buying girly things I bought 1) a white necktie, 2) a USB cable, and 3) a cargo shoulder bag that prompted Cynthia to say, "Oh, that looks...comfortable."
Cynthia rates bonds for a very large credit risk researching organization, so she lives and works in the western parts of Singapore. Of the country, she says, "Nothing out of the ordinary ever happens here." I think this means that she prefers her cities a little riskier than Singapore, where people are more obedient and similarly-dressed than in a messy froth like New York. I have liked so far that Singapore is very diverse, at least for Asian faces, and the subway announcements are in English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. Cynthia also says that Singapore is nearly a mature economy, which I guess means there are less squat toilets here than one would expect, and also that there are giant air-conditioned shopping complexes where one can buy a very expensive Louis Vuitton purse and then descend five steps on an unnecessary escalator and then buy a very expensive Salvatore Ferragamo - oh, whatever it is that that store sells.
This evening we took a whirl on the Singapore Flyer. It is the world's largest Ferris wheel at 540 feet high. It is built like a bicycle wheel, with cable spokes coming off a central hub to a wide rim; this way the spokes disappear at night and the rim, which is lit up like a Christmas tree, floats in the sky as a standalone ring. Viewed from a distance from this glowing, gigantic circle looks like some sort of signal to other life forms that humans are peaceful, beauty-seeking, and technologically advanced beyond your wildest alien fantasies. You sit in pods that hold about 20 each for a slow half hour churn around the circumference. Constance, how awful that after our hunt for Ferris wheels in three cities, I should find it here! I wish you were here.