On Saturday morning, I suddenly recalled it was David’s birthday as the familiar date popped out from the laptop calendar I was looking at. Garren and I decided to celebrate for him that evening.
Garren, David and I are fellow Singaporeans ~ no matter that David was from Ipoh, Malaysia but now his family lives in Singapore. David has been in States for last 4 years, having completed his University education at Michigan State last year, and now working in Houston. Garren just arrived into Houston end June this year, on a 6 month stint with a corporate company in the Energy sector. Both of them met virtually via Overseas Singaporean forum. Garren found me through my blog and linked me with David and a couple others from Singapore. It is so amazing that we formed a trusting friendship quickly away from home, while we may never know each other back home. I had met both of them for the first time post Ike.
When I first came to Houston, I had not thought of meeting anyone from home. I did not make any effort to find people, except to locate Cafe Singapore for Singapore National Day. I prepped myself that since I am only here for 20 weeks or slightly more, I would focus only on school and anything pastry. Even now, very much so. They knew that I don’t go out on weekdays as I reserve my energy only for school. So that I have no form of excuse, whatsoever. Most of the time during weekdays, I am comfortable spending time reading, surfing, writing, dreaming and napping. It is so unreal, a luxury. On weekends, I enjoy reading and drinking coffee at a bakery cafe … these are the times my mind will be working most actively ~ ideating. Sunday is very much my recovery day – wake up late and do whatever I wish.
We did not decide on a place to go – Garren picked me about 7 and we were on our way to pick David from his apartment along beltway 8. Garren suggested Nonya Grill at Sugarland as he recalled David loved the food there the last time a group of Singaporeans met there 2 weeks ago. I did not join then as I was hibernating… ha. The drive to Sugarland felt like a short one, though it looked further on the map. Nonya Grill serves Malaysia and Singapore cuisine, the dishes from the 2 neighbouring countries are pretty close but vary in taste. Nonya means Peranakan or Straits Chinese ~ forming a unique and colourful culture of its own from inter-racial marriages of the past.
The food at Nonya Grill was yummy indeed. Very flavourful. My fav were Oyster Egg Omelette and Hot Plate Tou-fu. I love egg in all forms, it adds a sweet flavour to the food, as well as a thickened consistency. Eating out with these 2 guys means no vegetable dishes. The business was brisk at the restaurant, the servers were mostly from Malaysia, I think. During our dinner, we were entertained by an African-American who sang Chinese pop songs, he was just helping out as a resident singer for the time-being, he told us he can sing about 50 Chinese songs… and he sounded pretty good indeed. We had a hearty celebration dinner with close-to-home-hawker-fare indeed. On the way out, we met Keetha at another table, with her husband Brett and 3 other Singaporean friends and another friend. It was my first time meeting her. Garren was introduced to Keetha by Linda and George, the Singaporean couple I had met 3 weekends ago at the Hawker Fare organised by Malaysian Singapore Association. In fact, we found out that Linda and George were supposed to be at Nonya Grill last night if George had not fallen ill. Keetha pointed to another table, a big group of all ladies – she said they were a Singaporean party too. There is a sizable community of Malaysians and Singaporeans in Houston, most are energy industry related, I believe.
We dropped by Hong Kong Market along Bellaire, my first time there. I do not miss any Asian food or ingredients as I could get the basic stuff easily at H.E.B., Kroger, or Central Market, and I don’t really need to visit an Asian supermarket in particular, so I seldom visit Bellaire. But I was zooming in on a bunch of leaves, and I read that these can only be found at Hong Kong Market. Mission accomplished.
Next we let David choose the next destination since it was his birthday. I suggested a place to drink, David was quick to direct us to The British Pub for a beer … I really meant a cafe to drink coffee, hee. It was a cool evening to sit outside, not chilly. There was a live band. We were entertained by a post-wedding party, the group has a couple of pretty strong vocals. The groom offered us 4 large pieces of his wedding cake … much appreciated but we were too full to eat, I tasted – the cake was soaked with syrup which made the cake moist.
What was interesting ~ for the first time, I knew non-alcoholic beer exists. I had asked for something non-alcoholic, and the server went “which non-alcoholic beer …?” … Huh? Non-alcoholic beer!!?? It is okay, just choose one for me. It wouldn’t have made any difference to my taste bud. I was served O’Doul’s, the label read “Now richer and smoother”, manufactured in Missouri, St Louis … contains 0.5% alcohol. Anyway, the beer tasted like water with some gas in it, the verdict of a non-alcohol drinker.
As we sat chatting, we decided to meet a year from now, 25 October 2009, and most likely we would all be back in Singapore … to review our dreams we spoke about and to celebrate a friendship we forged in Houston … and of course to celebrate David’s next birthday. Shortly after me, Garren will be returning to Singapore by end of Dec and David by January next year when his visa expires.
As we made our way back, David was happy and was singing his lung out. I am happy he is so happy … that we made it a point to celebrate his birthday away from home. I was reviewing a video clip I took of his singing, it was hilarious and cheerful.
Last evening I found out – David is 24, a cycle younger than me. Many happy returns.