First Trip to the Bronx and Meeting Extended Family Again After 25 Years

Outside the Dyer Avenue station in the Bronx.

 

Yesterday I went to a part of New York City that I’ve never seen before to see family members that I’d never met before (that I remember anyway).  I imagine most people in the US are in the same situation.  They know they have relatives in another part of the city, state or country, but they’ve never met them and may not ever meet them.  For me, these relatives are living in the Bronx.  Well, most of them anyway.  Some actually live just a few blocks from where I live in Manhattan, but I don’t know who they are.  For all I know, I’ve passed them in the street.  It’s weird to think about it that way right?

Outside the Dyer Avenue station in the Bronx.

A neighborhood in the Bronx.

The whole trip to the Bronx was a really interesting experience.  Like I said, I’d never been there.  I saw a side of the city I didn’t know existed.  It was sort of city and sort of not.  It’s more like suburbs, but not quite.  I can’t quite reconcile it to the impression I have of suburbs from cities like Atlanta.  It did remind me of some of the old, run down towns I’ve passed through in the South though.

Photos of a Southern town I drove through in 2008:

A small town in Alabama somewhere.

A small town in Alabama somewhere.

The overall impression I got of the area is that it’s mostly run down and dangerous, though I only saw a small part of the Bronx so that’s a generalization.  I’ve stricken it off my list of potential boroughs to live in.  Besides the fact that the area looks dangerous, it also requires a personal vehicle and all the expenses that come with one.  Who the hell would want to deal with the train problems between the Bronx and Manhattan if they had a choice?

Yeah, I have to just take a moment here to complain about the train problem.  There’s ongoing construction on the train lines heading into the Bronx.  When we went up there yesterday, we had to get off the train at 149th street, Grand Concourse (which isn’t very grand), and take a shuttle bus to 180th street, where we could get back on the train.  I’ve never taken a train straight to the Bronx, so I have no way of calculating exactly how much time we lost by having to take a shuttle bus, but let me just say that to get from 14th street and Avenue B to our relatives’ house in the Bronx took 2 hours and 45 minutes.  That’s absurd.  It wasn’t quite as bad on the way back, because there wasn’t as much traffic, but it still took just under 2 hours.  I’m sure it won’t be as bad when they finish the construction, but after having lived here for 9 months, I can reasonably assume that the construction will never stop.  There are always reroutes and delays.  It makes me long for the fast, safe and reliable train system in Singapore.

So, meeting extended and previously unknown family wasn’t as strange as I’d thought it would be.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the barbecue wound up having the same atmosphere as some I’ve attended in the Philippines.  I suppose that shouldn’t have been surprising, since my relatives on that side are all of Filipino descent.  Some of them remember seeing me as a kid, when I was about 5, but that was 25 years ago, so all of them were unfamiliar to me.  I couldn’t tell relative from friend of the family, so I did the best I could and mostly kept to myself, with the exception of a little socializing with my 2nd (or 3rd?) cousins to try to determine how exactly we were related.  The food was awesome and everyone was having a pretty good time, despite the heat and mosquitos.  In a way, it’s kind of nice to know that the family I have in the city extends beyond just the few relatives I previously knew about.  It gave me more of a sense of belonging and security.  I’m looking forward to going to future barbecues, with my wife in tow.  I have a feeling she’ll have a good time there.  Oh, I just remembered, there was no karaoke, so it wasn’t quite a Filipino barbecue!

The Truth About The McDonald’s Prosperity Burger

When we went to the airport over the weekend we left the house kinda late, but our flight was delayed so we had time to get something to eat.  There’s a McDonald’s in the Budget Terminal, so we took a look at the menu and decided to try the Prosperity Burger.  I’ve never seen it anywhere else and it’s only put on the menu around Chinese New Year.  This will be our last CNY in Singapore so it made sense to try it at least once.

Well, it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped but it had a nice taste to it.  I think I enjoyed the curly fries more than the burger though.

The “truth” I mentioned about this burger is that they do in fact sell it in the US.  Well, they sell the patty anyway.  The Prosperity Burger is nothing but a McRib sandwich with black pepper sauce instead of barbecue sauce.  So… good job at marketing, but bad job at creating a unique product.

The other “truth” about this burger meal is that it’s a serious gut bomb.  It felt like I had a lead weight in my stomach for the rest of the day.  Maybe we just weren’t prepared for the amount of grease involved in that kind of meal anymore.

I’ve heard some of my family and friends say they wouldn’t mind seeing those curly fries at McDonald’s in the US.  They make me miss Arby’s.

Singapore’s National Day

So, Sunday is August 9th, Singapore’s National Day. The country will be celebrating it’s 44th birthday, it’s 44th year of nationhood, supposedly. I say supposedly because I remember reading recently that the Prime Minister said that Singapore is not yet a nation. I know he was speaking figuratively, but it still can’t be a fun thing to hear if you’re a Singaporean. I’ve seen that same sentiment echoed quite a few times on forums and in blog posts, though. There are plenty of Singaporeans that feel as though Singapore doesn’t belong to the Singaporeans anymore.

Somehow, I can’t blame them. A full third of the population isn’t native. About 68% of the country’s jobs are given to foreigners. The country has been built up quite nicely for just 44 years of self-government, but somehow it has failed to produce people who feel like they belong.

Here are some quotes I pulled from a blog post’s comment section:

This is just a small sampling. You can visit the blog post itself for more, but this is just to show that there’s a lot of dissatisfaction with the current situation in Singapore. There were even comments from Singaporeans stating that they planned to wear black on National Day, rather than the national colors, to represent the fact that they’re mourning rather than celebrating.

Still, not everyone was full of doom and gloom. My wife and I walked through Pasir Ris Park tonight and it was packed full of people barbecuing and camping out for the night. There were tents everywhere! It sort of reminded me of parks and neighborhoods in the US on July 4th, with groups of family and friends getting together to celebrate.

From what I’ve read, and I’ll admit it isn’t too much since I try to steer clear of much involving Singapore politics, people have come to believe that National Day in Singapore is more of a celebration of the PAP (People’s Action Party?) than a celebration of the people, and so a large portion of Singaporeans aren’t as enthusiastic about the day as they used to be. It’s pretty sad that many people in Singapore are opposed to celebrating their own national holiday.

Singapore is a young country. It has a lot of maturing and learning to do yet, and I’m sure that in time it will become a place that all Singaporeans are proud to call home. So, here’s hoping for that day. Happy 44th Singapore.

BBQ Chicken

The first time my wife and I took a walk through the E-Hub mall at Downtown East in Pasir Ris, we saw a very nice looking restaurant on the entry level floor.  The name of the place is simply “BBQ Chicken”. I’ve been thinking about it ever since and we finally had the opportunity to go back.

The place is very clean and very comfortable.  We were seated in a nice booth in the corner.  We took a look through the menu.  It’s packed with a lot of great choices.  You can get everything from salads to sandwiches to stuff off the grill.  Looking at the posters on the wall, I think their “main attraction” dishes are made with chicken quarters that are cooked over charcoal, possibly using some sort of light olive oil.  They did look tasty, but we were in the mood for something a bit lighter than that, so my wife got a chicken salad and I got the chicken tortilla meal.  We also ordered an appetizer called koshi.

My chicken tortilla sandwich was pretty good.  It was nothing spectacular, but it was very satisfying.  The fries were a big greasy, but that’s ok.  The coleslaw was surprisingly good.  My wife’s salad was fantastic.  The vegetables were fresh and the chicken in it was surprisingly tasty.  I think it must be prepared the same way as the grilled chicken.  The koshi dish can be seen in the picture above.  It is 3 shish kebabs of chicken mixed with onion and red bell pepper.  They were very good.  My wife liked them a lot and said she could make a whole meal of them.

I can’t say much about the place.  The food wasn’t extraordinary or unique.  It was just good.  We’ll be going back though, and next I plan on trying one of the grilled chicken meals.