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I wrote this story some time before 30 August 2005, while staying in Singapore. Some details are exaggerated. To say the least. Any resemblance of any characters in the story is not necessarily coincidental.

We had arrived at the house, taking the LRT (Light Rail Transport), pretty much from one side of the city to the other, where the prayer meeting was. LRT is pretty much the same as the tube, (the underground), apart from the fact that it is lighter, often has only one carriage, and is above the ground most of the way. We walked along the sidewalk, two by two, Mr. and Mrs. Chong and their four children, and Si, Lyd and I. An unlikely bunch to be making its way along a fairly narrow road on that warm Singapore evening. Nevetheless, we covered the few steps from the LRT Station's stairs down to the road, and up to the appartment building which was closeby. This block would have outdated the block, (named Daisy), that we were staying in, by several years - maybe a decade. A good fourteen floors later, and we were filing out of the tired and much used elevator.

So much for how we arrived at this appartment - itself, relatively irrelative to the subject, - Durian.

The prayer meeting over, people drifted back into the dining/living/family room, and the contents of some supermarket bags were arranged on the dining table. A 1.5er of rootbeer, and the same of diet Coke, as I remember it, were also displayed next to the other things. Some homemade things, and other things on plates. I say "things", and I suppose it isn't proper; I suppose it doesn't do the so called "things" justice, but I call them this, only because I can't and don't really have any need to remember their names. The rootbeer looked good. Might try it. The sliced rock melon, also - better have a go at that too. One other thing in particular caught my eye. It wasn't the bowl of multicoloured jube-oid lollies. Rather, a log shaped sort of "cake". Probably measuring around 20cm long, it would have been say, four by five centermetres wide and tall. It looked stodgy, wet, solid, and you didn't need your eyes open to see that it was yellow. It screamed out: "I'm yellow!". And, indeed, it was. A terrible yellow, rich, dark, - wet sand. It was kind of shrink wrapped in plastic, with all the details of it's brand and nutritional value, I suppose, colourfully printed on it.

From the kitchen, came the man whose house it was. As he approached the table, his eyes sparkled as he expertly, and without any effort, it would seem, deftly twirled a short but deceptively sharp knife. It's handle was of plastic, with a fake sort of wood veniere. This guy was a pro, and you could see that he was at home with both the knife, and the sodden little plastic wrapped log that he now held in his left hand. He lay down the knife for a moment, pausing to quickly roll up his right sleeve, well past the elbow. Catching up the knife again, tossing it in a 180 degree arc to his left hand, and then back again to his right, underhand, he stood poised, - ready.

I was fully prepared for him to attack the log with the air of a master chef. Chopchopchopchopchop, and it's done, before you can blink. But no, at least, not this time. I stood, leaning somewhat apathetically against the doorpost, just one leg supporting me. A favoured stand of mine I have to add, though, never if I have nothing to lean on. The two fans in the ceiling followed their everlasting trail, the hum adding to the background noise of the people's conversation. The breeze whipped through my almost shoulder length hair.

The first slice was surprisingly quickly done, but with more of a hacking motion than a sweeping slice; Stab in the middle, then, rolling the log over, holding the knife upright, in the same position, till the full 360 was done, and the slice was seperated. In this manner, he continued until 6 or 7 slices were cut. He left the rest.

I had heard about durian, and even eaten some, the other week, fresh, in an open air market. That time, it was quite nice. Fresh, juicy, drippy and, initially with a nice taste, the after taste being "not-all-that-bad-actually". However, it was not quite lovely enough to entice itself to me again. And, this time, it wasn't presented in the same manner. At the market, the stall keeper, a young man, had deftly, and skillfully, hacked the durian into pieces, obviously with years of experience before him. He'd handed me a solid chunk, into which, with not a little ill-founded trepidation, I had sunk my teeth into. Surprisingly enough, it was nothing like what I'd heard, hardly near the shocking descriptions I'd heard of it.

And, definitely not worthy of the fine which you could have got for carrying it with you on the underground in Singapore. It wasn't all that bad!

Still, as I said, I wasn't desperate to get my hands on any more of the material in question.

After eating one or two of the "things" on offer, I poured a root beer. "Ahhh, good". I hadn't had root beer before, and this was great. Towards the end of my drink, one or two obviously hardcore Singaporean men took themselves a piece of the durian cake. Then another man, and a woman. I recieved slightly condescending glances from these people. The sort of look that said to me: "there's no way you'd like this stuff, or dare to have it.". Yes, that's what it was - an unspoken, mutually understood challenge. "These here are New Zealanders", may have been going through their minds. "They won't be able to handle this good stuff - they won't appreciate it.".

I took the challenge.

My hand reached out towards the plate, ominously twitching compulsively. My brain hadn't authorised this action?! What did my hand think it was doing? Too late now, I couldn't withdraw. There was nothing I could say to hide my fear if I did pull my hand back. Composing myself, with a reckless carelessness, I nocholantly selected the largest of the pieces. As I put the piece on my plate and began carefully unwrapping the plastic, I heard gasps from over my shoulder.

Yes! This was it! An audience. Excellent. And I was playing to a packed house. Stifled groans issued forth out of the shocked peoples throats. "No, he was crazy". "What was this foolhardy Kiwi thinking of?". "Nohoho...", someone began, doubtfully, slowly, uncertainly. I looked into their face, searchingly, devoid of understanding. "What?" I asked innocently. After all, here I was - simply eating something that had been set out for the consumption of all present.

The man beside me with whom I had been in conversation leant over, closer, wonderment showing through his face. Two children reached unnoticed through the throng, taking a small fistful of the prized "jube-oid" lollies. "Not for me", I thought, with a bravery that was only on the surface.

After one more questioningly innocent look, I put my head down and set to my task. Without any fiddling round, I took the unwrapped piece of durian cake. It looked damp, but felt quite powdery - dry, but still stodgy feeling. I took a whopping big bite out of the slice.

It hit me then. What was I doing? This was bad - worse than I'd imagined. I'm afraid that I simply don't have the adjectives in my vocabulary. No. Adequate adjectives do not exist. Obviously Mr. Oxford and Mr. Collins never visited Singapore, or who ever it is that "invents" the more interesting, colourful adjectives. If I attempted to describe how the durian cake tasted, I would probably say something like:

The aftertaste was the worst. It left you with this utterly gutting, heavy, stolid odour coming back up your throat, finding it's way into your nose, pervading all the incoming air to your body. It's been a while now since I actually tasted the durian. Around four and a half months, so there's no way I can describe the flavour. But yes, definitely, the aftertaste if anything (apart from the durian itself) would be the thing to avoid.

Quickly, chewing the mass in my mouth as little as possible, attempting to keep it away from my tongue, I got the chewed up piece of cake to the back of my mouth. After a time that would be comparable to the length of the supposed ice age, I swallowed. Oh, heck. this was shocking. I needed some liquid. Something to wash out the taste in my mouth. Water wouldn't do it. It had to be something with kick. No rootbeer left. Right, then there's nothing left for it but to make the ultimate compromise. diet Coke was the only other option open, available to me. I'll let the reader know, here, that diet Coke is just an absolute no for me. The health issue would be one factor, though only small. The fact that it has all this aspartamine, fake sugar, sweetner in it. Secondly, the taste issue. The taste is nothing like Coke - it tastes of sweetners. Third, the image issue. It's a bad image, drinking diet Coke. I won't go any further into the issue anyway.

Standing up, I slowly, with a painfully long and careless look round the room, I sloshed my large orange, slightly see through tumbler full of the black stuff that's bad for you. There was no way I was going to give away the agony I was going through, and so it was with a cheerful grin that I set the glass on the table, that I sat back down, taking another bite of the cake before taking a controlled but large gulp of the heavenly durian-killer. I say killer, but it was not, After a total of approximately 6 bites of the cake, after which there was none left, all the coke was gone too, but not the aftertaste. The dreaded aftertaste stayed with me. The durian-killer was not a killer, but more a duller, temporarily blocking out the repugnant stench from my nose.

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Blogger The Verbose Philosopher said...

ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS!!! It's been a whilst since I've laughed so hard! I spend a lot of time with Malaysians and Singaporeans, and the legend of the durian has been told many times. Kudos for biting the, um, bullet! :o)

Incidentally - and quite funny how 'coincidences' go - I was also in Singapore in August and September 2005, on a ministry-related trip.

Oh - and just in case you haven't made the connection yet - I stumbled upon your blog via The Rebelution.

God bless! :o)

2:23 am, May 29, 2007 
Blogger Andy Moore said...

Thanks Jonathan.
I did write this some time ago now.

What church did you attend while in Singapore?

Our family went to Providence (Reformed Presbyterian), Shalom & Shalom Dover (both Reformed Baptist). Great churches.

8:38 am, May 29, 2007 

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