It’s All Gravy: Let’s Eat Filipino Junk Food, or Meeting Up With Friends from the Before Times

One of my favorite parts of going abroad is the chance to meet people from all over the world. Most of the friends I made in Japan I will likely never see again in person, but it’s always a lovely surprise when we do cross paths once more. Living abroad is a pretty remarkable experience already, and meeting awesome people makes it even better. Just like gravy!

Ladies’ Ski Weekend in Niigata Prefecture, Japan in January 2018. Cheryl is the blonde between the purple and pink jackets.

So far in Singapore I have had the luck to dine with several friends from Yokohama who moved here before me. Aussie Cheryl and I spent many fun times together in Japan: on a ladies’ ski weekend, learning how to assemble gingerbread houses under Cheryl’s expert guidance, and listening to live tunes together. Cheryl moved to Singapore straight from Japan, and she and I managed lunch together right after I was sprung from quarantine jail in October.

Lunch with Cheryl in Singapore’s Chinatown in October 2021, just weeks before she returned home to Oz

She and her husband were due to move home to Australia for good some time in the coming months, and during our lunch she mentioned waiting until January. A few days ago I saw her post with her house full of moving boxes and she and her husband on the plane home–in November! Plans change constantly because Unprecedented Times and all, so I’m delighted that we had the chance to catch up in person before she left on short notice.

That time that eleven Yokohama families descended on Club Med on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa in October 2018. Carrie is the second from the left, third row from the top. I’m in blue on the right end of the same row.

My next lunch with a friend from The Before Times was with fellow American Carrie. She and I met poolside at Yokohama Country and Athletic Club in Japan, quickly realizing that we had the DC area and dogs in common. Carrie’s Doyle and our Ruby became fast friends, spending chunks of the summer together at the dog sitter’s house. Our families also ended up on a giant, several-family vacation to Club Med Ishigaki in 2018. Carrie and I enjoyed lunch together and she filled me in on her experiences in Singapore so far, and covid, and what’s going on with her family. Her sons attend the same school as our kids, so Carrie’s experience there was invaluable.

Our Ruby and Carrie’s Doyle snuggle up at the dog sitters’ place in Japan
Lunch with Carrie in Singapore, October 2021

And yesterday I got to see Karol! Karol and I arrived in Yokohama at the same time in 2015, and our friends and activities overlapped a lot over our four years there since our kids were in the same school–and because, well, we’re both pretty awesome. Karol and I swung wooden swords at each other during aikido. I worked under her valiant leadership in the Filipino booth at the school’s International Food Fair. We went on excursions together like visits to a tea house while dressing up in yukata, the lighter-weight, summer version of kimono. And we said our farewells together to departing friends at sayonara parties.

Karol (second from left) and my fellow aikido warriors in Yokohama in 2016
Karol (first on left) and I join friends at a sayonara party in Yokohama, where apparently the dress code was black top and blue jeans

Karol was one of the first friends I told once we knew Singapore was a go. We were chatting via Messenger when I told her, and she immediately called me and we laughed and cried half a world apart.

Karol (left front) and I enjoying a tea ceremony after donning yukata, May 2016
Under Karol’s expert leadership, I was a Filipina for a day at St. Maur’s International Food Fair in April 2019

So after months of texting it was absolutely lovely to finally see Karol in person. Karol invited me down to her side of Singapore, on the east side of the island. She asked if I had any requests on where to eat, and I immediately responded: Jollibee’s.

Earlier Karol mentioned Jollibee’s, a fast food chain from the Philippines with branches in Singapore; she was probably joking when she recommended that I try it. But since I’m always game to try other countries’ junk food–and maybe, just maybe a little bit of a smart ass–that was my pick. In our planning texts she thought I was joking.

K: You serious with the Jollibee’s?
M: I mean. You have met me, after all.

So Jollibee’s!

I glanced over the offerings of fried chicken, fries, and burgers, some with some modifications for local tastes and flavors. I opted for the fried chicken and learned that the cool kids dip their chicken and fries in gravy–so always order extra gravy!

After lunch we did some Japanese ingredient shopping at Singapore’s version of the Japanese everything store Don Qijote, called Don Don Donki in Singapore. After annoying the salesmen with repeated questions about products that they didn’t stock–“Do you have kuromitsu? No? How about wakame?”–we hugged one more time, and snapped one final, totally contraband, no-mask wefie. And said a quick goodbye, until our next lunch.

Covid restrictions limit gatherings to only two people, and we all keep hoping that the dining limit goes up soon so Carrie, Karol, and I can meet together, the three of us. And that will mean a lot of laughing and crying in person indeed.

Carrie, Karol, and I spent the six months before our arrival in Singapore texting about pretty much everything. Some logistics, some tips, and some utter nonsense. I really enjoyed their calm advice, and perspective, and absolute sympathy and lack of judgment over my meltdowns as our arrival in Singapore kept getting pushed back.

All smiles! We were like this all afternoon

Karol said something during lunch that really summed up the friendships that we make living around the world. While Carrie and Karol knew each other only casually in Yokohama, the first time they saw each other in Singapore they greeted each other like the close friends that we are all already growing into. Even though we all live on different corners of the island and we may not see each other in person very often, there’s a bond and unconditional support and friendship that none of us could manage without.

I can’t wait to see what Yokohama friends are moving to Singapore next. We’re ready for you! And we will order *lots* of extra gravy.

One thought on “It’s All Gravy: Let’s Eat Filipino Junk Food, or Meeting Up With Friends from the Before Times

  1. Janek

    Marta, we have a Jolliebee down the road from us. It opened about 4 years ago and you could not get in due to the traffic. It has improved. I like the spaghetti! Re: specialty foods. Carleen and I flew from Rio to Brasilia by local jet. Got the airline specialty for lunch, something I did not expect, but did enjoy – toasted grill cheese sandwiches!


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