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4
Sep 05
Sun

My England no good

My time in Singapore coincidentally coincided with this year’s Comex Computer Expo in Suntec City. It’s big, busy, and much better than the Sydney conventions, but I was disappointed because there wasn’t really anything new there. Apple is making one of its big announcements on September 7, so I’m waiting for that. The “special deals” on at the expo weren’t that cheap either as my annual pilgrimage to Sim Lim Square revealed. Didn’t buy anything this time except a polarising filter for the camera.

Anyway, on the way back from Sim Lim, this girl stopped me as I was walking on the footpath. “Uh, do you speak Chinese?” she said in English. I said no and then she asked if I spoke English. When I said yes, she moved in closer and in a quiet tone of voice said something along the lines of: “I’m from JB in Malaysia and I was wondering if you could help me. My grandmother is sick, and I’m here with my small brother and we need porridge but I don’t have a job. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

She was clearly fluent in English so she was pretty easy to understand. I said yes and waited for her to continue. But she didn’t, she waited, looking at me expectantly. I stood there waiting for an actual question or request.

“Look, my grandmother is sick and I’m alone with her and my kid brother here. I can’t find a job and I need some porridge.”
“Uh, ok…”
“Do you understand me?”

At this point I was getting seriously confused. Perhaps my English skills had irretrievably deteriorated over the last six weeks from all the bargaining I had done in Vietnam using bad grammar and incomplete sentences.

“Yeah, uh… sorta. What do you want?”

She just looked at me again. Ok, think fast, think fast. She either (a) wants some money; (b) wants a job; or (c) wants to know where she can buy cheap porridge. Quite frankly, I had no earthly idea what she wanted. It could have been any of those things. Or none of them. I decided to play the safe card.

“Look, I’m not from around here. I’m from Australia.”

Now that should have covered possibilities (b) and (c), but she just said again, “No you don’t understand me.”

So I tried, “Sorry, I don’t have any cash on me.” (Which wasn’t exactly true, but I wasn’t about to give her the only thing in my wallet which was a $20 note.)

She looked increasingly exasperated. “No, you don’t understand.”

I was out of ideas. What was I missing? A faint thought crossed my mind that she may have been offering some… Special Services – you know, of the Bangkok kind – but I wasn’t about to venture into that line of inquiry. So I just apologised and walked off. I still have no clue what she was on about.

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