Today we had the RSIS driver, Karim, take us to the Ministry of Manpower Office (MMO) to get our Employment Cards issued. It was an exciting day because it will open up a lot of doors for us in Singapore, including the privilege to open a bank account and finally set up our mobile phones in Singapore.
We headed out to the MMO around 9:20am, sitting in the back of Karim’s white Hyundai minivan, getting used to the not-so-specious interior compared to minivans in the States. I still get amused at how small everything is compared to what we’re used to in the United States but, for some reason, it doesn’t bother me a bit! In fact, I actually like it. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Middle Eastern where everything is also pretty much the same size.
The visit to the MMO took less than 10 minutes, which was a refreshing change from the many weeks it took to get my employment authorization card from the U.S immigration office a few years back. The friendly staff at the MMO took our photos, scanned fingerprints, had us sign a form and, before we knew it, we were in Karim’s white minivan again heading back to NTU campus.
On our way back, Karim looked at us in the rearview mirror and asked if we would like some ginger tea. Well, I thought to myself, I’ve had ginger tea in the States many times and I seem to remember it was good. I smiled back at Karim and told him that I would very much like to try ginger tea here. He smiled at me and, in his heavy Malay accent, turned around and told me that he knows a place that makes the best ginger tea in Singapore! Ah, I thought to myself, I see a culinary adventure coming on.
Before I could complete my thought, Karim stopped the white minivan next to a local hawker. He stepped out of the minivan and left us wondering where we were. I could see Karim talking to one of the merchants, while holding three plastic bags in his right hand. I imagined that the tea would be in a cup, so I thought that maybe he’s just ordering some food to go. He walked back to the car, turned around and said: “Here, the best ginger tea in Singapore!”
The tea was boiling hot in the bag, but I was eager to try it. It didn’t look like anything I’ve ever tried before, and the thought of drinking a tea with a straw made me a bit hesitant.
Before I could explore my tea in the plastic bag, Karim made it a point to tell us that this tea is a homemade tea, Pakistani style, with all of the ingredients imported from Pakistan. The mere aroma of the spices in the tea made me salivate. My senses were on fire! My mind was trying to keep track of all the different flavors that were running through my tastebuds, failing to categorize them over and over again. It was sweet and milky, with a strong taste of ginger and a dozen of other spices I couldn’t recognize. Every sip brought a different experience to my tastebuds, leaving me baffled and entertained.
At the end of the trip, I realized that I’d never had a real ginger tea in my life and, in fact, judging by this experience, I’ve never really had a real tea before!