Room 788, Grand Hyatt Hotel, Singapore
I slept on and off during the flight, and felt remarkably not-hazy when we wandered into the airport.
The Singapore airport felt like one big resort hotel lobby. Nothing fancy or especially artistic, but decidedly elegant and, most notably, quiet. Even the baggage claim area was peaceful, compared to the steel-mill cacophony you normally get at other airports.
I happily collected my Singapore passport stamp, we piled up our huge supply chests, and piled into the van we'd arranged for the 30 minute drive into the heart of Singapore.
Our driver was friendly and chatty and pointed out things here or there, even though Sharon had been here before. He pointed out with pride that the road we were driving on was eventually to become a runway for yet another expansion of the airport.
The buildings got bigger and brighter as we made our way into the city. The sky flashed with lightning, and there were a few grumbles of thunder, but there wasn't a drop of rain.
Singapore or at least as much as one can see out the window of a moving van was exactly what I expected. Clean. Meticulously laid out. Green. Everything was shiny or smooth or sculpted.
It immediately struck me that it was like driving through one of those impossibly perfect scale models of developments that architects put together to display in their office lobbies.
We got to the hotel 30 minutes later, and hurriedly checked in. My room seemed small, but I happily discovered that it had a couch and that the bathroom was enormous (with both a huge tub and a separate shower). The room also had a weird little enclosed patio with a table in it, but the windows wouldn't open and I wasn't curious enough to poke around to figure out what it was for.
I let out a small cheer when I noticed the Ethernet jack and the words "broadband" on the desk... then cursed when I realized that it wasn't hooked up.
I tried to go to bed at 2 p.m., but couldn't sleep, so I watched some BBC until I finally drifted off.
I woke up at 6 a.m. this morning, and after turning on the television and flipping around, got ready for the day while the most bizzare movie unfolded on channel four. Something about chemical fertilizers with mutant talking cows and worms and armed Rastafarian eyeballs. Bobcat Goldwaith was a five-foot-tall sock puppet.
Sharon and I had omlettes, pancakes, and fruit for breakfast at the hotel cafe, took a deep breath, and go to work.
We met with the hotel and the various equipment vendors. We started setting up the office. After setting up the copiers and computers (six 700Mhz Pentium IIIs, spoiled because each gets on the net with a 56k modem and a proxy-routed ISP) and cellular phones, I caught up on the 151 work e-mails that had accumulated during our trip.
Not surprisingly, Sharon and I had to help put out various fires that had developed while we were en route and while our coworkers in Honolulu were frantically getting ready to join us.
Lunch was again at the cafe. Leg of lamb and sushi for me. I already started to feel like the hotel restaurant was becoming too familiar.
In the afternoon, we took a cab to the nearby hotel where one of our larger functions is taking place. (Our own hotel didn't have anything that big available.) It was pouring hard, big heavy juicy drops, so we decided that instant that our delegates would not walk but rather take a bus.
Leaving the matter of finding and securing bus service for 140 corporate leaders in the next 48 hours.
By the time our meeting at the other hotel started wrapping up, our lack of sleep started catching up with us, and we could barely speak coherently and even got a little grumpy with each other.
Of course we just shrugged. Each of us expects and is entitled to a few panic attacks and snaps at our meetings. Things will only get more colorful as the weekend draws near.
We went back to our office to work some more. And some more. Sharon began to get restless, so we decided to talk a walk. We weren't sure if we'd ever get another chance to leave the building again.
Apart from "clean" and "beautiful," the other single word I'd use to describe this city is "humid." Very very humid. Apparently the humidity can hover above 90 percent for weeks without end. It was really bad tonight... I closed my eyes and could easily imagine it was the middle of the day.
"Crowded" is another good word. Although we were in the heart of the city, where just about everyone hangs out in the evening. The sidewalks were packed, at some points almost as packed as sidewalks in Hong Kong.
And while Singapore loves its pedestrians, building bridges and tunnels and usually keeping people and busy streets separated as much as possible, the automobile is alive and well.
Cars making turns would basically have to enter battles of will with people crossing the street, inching forward and sometimes bumping legs until finally getting through. And on the major streets, traffic sped along narrow curving lanes so fast and with such agility, it was like watching a six-lane slot-car set.
One thing that will take getting used to? Taxis are identified by the large blue lights on the roof.
We walked mostly along Orchard Road, the definitive shopping and entertainment corridor in Singapore. It was as if there were three full shopping centers on each corner. There were stores for everything... including "Yam Pie," "Goodie Foodie" and "House of Condom."
Sharon stopped to buy a weird, lumpy milk-like drink, and I wandered into a dark storefront that said "LAN Gaming" on the window.
Stepping into the dark room, I was suddenly deafened by what sounded like two freight trains racing to the death. I could feel my shirt shaking with the decibels. I was looking at over a dozen networked computers, each manned by someone playing what looked like a Doom-esque first-person shoot-em up, and each outfitted with huge speakers and an impressively large air-moving woofer.
Sheer heaven for some, I'm sure.
After stopping to check out a tarot/reiki/crystal shop, and wandering through a MRT subway terminal, we headed back.
While everyone was certainly busy stacking paper and drafting policy statements, none of us could avoid being thoroughly obsessed with the amazing, incredible turns of events unfolding in the race for the White House.
In the office, while we worked, we constantly visited news websites and frantically clicked "refresh" to get the latest from our nation's equally excitable media. We and particularly the staff from our D.C. office were literally tracking and deconstructing every "decided" state, every electoral college vote. We plotted out the same scenarios CNN's analysts were, figuring which states would fall where and how it would all add up.
And thanks to the time difference, all the truly bizzare Florida stuff that developed in the dead of night on the East Coast from the multiple reversals of winner predictions to Gore's aborted concession speech filled prime time for us.
I wish I'd saved the six or so meticulously composed graphics that popped up in the course of 90 minutes on CNN's site, from their estimation of Gore's likely win to an outright declaration of Bush's win (when I read "Bush elected president," I cursed and slumped in my chair), to the retraction and coverage of the close race, to the whole recount debacle.
Above all else, I most appreciated watching and reading about our election from the international, non-U.S. media. From the BBC to the International Herald Tribune, it was enlightening, entertaining, and educational to see how the rest of the world sees our election, and the mess currently leaving our nation without a clear successor to Clinton.
I mean, I was so accustomed to election coverage focusing on campaign strategy, claims and counter claims, spending on advertising and "battleground states," it was a true epiphany to watch a newscast where the reporters and commentators cover issues of true substance. Specifically, foreign policy, and the ways a change in the White House (Bush) might affect the way the U.S. performs on the world stage.
Lots of good questions are already being asked in many venues, from the failings of the American electoral system to the responsibilities of the media in its coverage. I feel weird going to bed tonight without still having the final result (although I'm resigned to the likelihood that it'll still be Bush), but one thing is certain: folks will be still talking about this when I get back home, and hopefully, we'll all be all the more educated for it.