Well, I got through my talks, and most of the conference; I ducked out a little early because jet lag was catching up with me, and would have fallen asleep during the networking session (an insult to one and all). So I went back to the hotel, had a nap, then took the subway up to Orchard Road, and walked back to the hotel.

The long evening walk is a long habit. In Rio, Pop and I would go walking around the city in the evening (after work, now that I think about it– yet another example of how we end up unconsciously reproducing the habits of our parents), and it’s something I like to do after I’ve taken care of my duties when I’m on the road.

After doing a little shopping for the kids, and getting accosted by about fifty people outside tailors’ shops (man, those guys just don’t quit), I stopped for dinner at an open-air place, and had what in China would have been chow fun. However, it’s spiced a bit more curry-like here; not unpleasant, but a bit unexpected.

via flickr

A few things jump out at me about Singapore.

I’m really surprised at how many white people there are here. I suppose I shouldn’t be. Its status as a regional center of services, high-tech industry, and trade make a substantial expatriate community perfectly logical, and a safe, English-speaking city in the tropics is a natural magnet for all kinds of tourists. My reaction is a bit like someone from an ethnically homogeneous part of the U.S. visiting San Francisco for the first time: it might still be a majority white city, but man, there are a LOT of other kinds of people there!

The architecture is pretty stunning. I’ve not seem much colonial architecture, but there’s a vibrant high-tech modernism that rivals anything I’ve seen anywhere else.

The National Library, via flickr

In lots of little ways– architectural details like the abundance of little gardens in front of apartment buildings and hotels; the broad streets; the underground shopping arcades; the amazingly luxuriant tropical foliage– Singapore reminds me of the Rio of my youth. Of course, it’s also quite different; but the similarities are strong enough to make me think that this is what Brazil could have been like, had the generals who ruled the country through the Cold War been better managers.

Okay, I’m falling asleep. Time to go back to bed.

[To the tune of Procol Harum, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” from the album “Greatest Hits”.]

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