The Road to Singapore
Dec. 6, 2008
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On the causeway that links Malaysia to the island nation of Singapore, right
next to the big "WELCOME TO SINGAPORE" sign, is a smaller but no less bold
message: "Death to Drug Traffickers." Not really aimed at us but, still, a clear
signal that they don't suffer fools here.
So, we were a little nervous when the border agent told our driver to park off
to the side and instructed us to go inside. Did Ellie have gum in her purse? I
hoped not, as I texted to my friend Roger that we'd been detained and if he
didn't hear from me again to please make inquiries.
We sat quietly, our hands folded in our laps, while we waited our turn, and were
reassured by the brashness of the New Zealand mom waiting next to us who complained
loudly that this sort of nonsense occurred all too frequently. I gripped my McKinsey
business card in case I had to demonstrate my ability to produce legitimate connections.
The passport agent smiled at us, fingered through our well-worn passports, then
explained to us that three of our four passports were within six months of expiration
and so, regrettably, he could not give us a full three-month visa, but only ones good
for 20 days.
"We only need 20 hours," I thanked him, collected our passports and we walked -- not
too quickly -- back out to our minivan and were whisked away.
(Below: palm plantations along the road from Kuala Lumpur; a mini-mosque next to the
restrooms at a freeway gas station in Malaysia; and Sarsi, a Malaysian cola that fell
somewhere between Mr. Pibb and grape soda.)