How much I agree with this post - let me count the ways… Oh wait, all 50 points are pretty true. Pinch of salt, of course, but for the most part, right on the mark. Not sure if I’d consider all of them reasons why we’re awesome, but hey, to each his/her own opinion - some excerpts:
6. Water technology so good, we drink our own pee
Time magazine called Singapore the global paragon of water conservation. Through sheer effort, and more than a little desperation (Singapore imports less than half the population’s water from neighboring Malaysia with agreements set to expire in 2011 and 2061), the island turned to desalination technologies to provide for thirsty citizens. The result is NeWater, which is non-potable wastewater filtered into high-purity H2O that can be used for industrial development and even drinking
8. English that no one else understands
It’s the unofficial ‘first language’ of most Singaporeans and one that would bewilder the remaining English-speaking world. Singlish is the creole of choice for citizens, cobbled together from various influences including Queen’s English, Bahasa Melayu, Tamil, dialects such as Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Bengali, Punjabi and even a smattering of various other European, Indic and Sinitic languages. Word of warning — if you don’t know it, don’t try it. It’ll make you sound sillier than we already do. Eh, dun pray pray ah…
10. Campaign-craziest place on earth
There’s a Singapore-wide campaign for everything — Be Courteous, Speak English, Speak Mandarin, Stop Dengue, Save Water, Stop Littering, Be Kind, Don’t Spit, and Stop At Two are just a warm-up. We’d go on, but that would violate the current Stop Prattling campaign.
11. Natural disaster-free … for the most part
Owing to our geographic location, Singapore is sheltered from most of the natural disasters that afflict neighboring countries and the rest of the world. Still, people get a kick each time a strong wind blows down from the north or our houses rumble from the aftershocks of Indonesian earthquakes.
12. Most crooked-backed kids
Small children toting oversized backpacks crammed with books are common to our neighborhood streets. That would be due to our educational system, with streaming programs that start as early as primary four. This goes all the way up past secondary school, until you are able to choose your preferred subjects.
Everyday, in kopitiams (local coffee shops) all over Singapore, coffee stall attendants with bellows for lungs yell out drink orders in the most perplexing code this side of the Causeway. “Kopi-o peng gao jit puay” means one iced thick coffee without milk and less sugar, while “teh-si siew dai sua neng puay” means two cups of tea with condensed milk and less sugar. Don’t bother, most Singaporeans just place their drink orders in plain ol’ indecipherable Singlish.
49. Everyone’s apparently related
It’s strangely comforting when everyone (and we mean everyone) is accorded a familial term, including the Ice Cream Uncle on Orchard Road, or that Toilet Auntie at Far East Plaza. If your taxi driver’s younger than you, then it’s ‘brudder’ or ‘sistah’, or just ‘boss,’ if you want to score some brownie points.
"Have a five-star day. Don't let anything get you down."
Heard on the T in Boston, over the announcement system, at about 7.20am in the morning, as I was making my way to South Station to catch the bus to NYC on Thursday.
Recently, I was unfortunately reminded that human relationships aren’t transactions - that you can put a lot into a friendship that you don’t get back; one mistake you make can negate hours of effort spent on talking, asking questions, listening, giving advice, being there. You can be forgiven, but what you did won’t be forgotten, and your association will bear the cost of that for an unspecified amount of time, at the very least. You can never earn enough “brownie points” to cushion the impact of a mistake you make on a friend. Apologies are helpful, but they’re not cosmic erasers - fact of life.
So what do you do about it?
Ok, with my skills from logic class, let me try and construct a logical argument here.
So here’s what we know about life - our premises, as they are, all with the truth-value of “true”:
We all make mistakes in life, at some point or another - it’s unavoidable.
Relationships are part of life.
Mistakes have consequences.
Taking these first three statements into consideration, it follows that this fourth statement must also be true:
People make mistakes in relationships - it’s unavoidable.
There’s a couple more premises I should add to the mix:
The consequences of mistakes in relationships are people getting hurt/relationships being damaged.
People includes you.
Taking the fourth, fifth and sixth statements together bears the seventh true statement:
You will get hurt/your relationships will be damaged in life - it’s unavoidable.
Now, let me consider a couple of approaches towards life and friendship, after having made a mistake:
Beat yourself up. Withdraw from the world. Don’t invest in people because you don’t want to get hurt, and you don’t always get back what you put in.
Learn something. Pick yourself up. Try again. Accept that you will get hurt sometimes, and you don’t always get back what you put in.
In light of the seventh statement, which approach seems more productive?
Let’s try this:
I stop investing in people and relationships, I don’t get hurt, but it also means that I stop living life - wait.What?! (Clearly, this is a no-go.)
I keep investing in people and relationships, I get hurt/hurt other people, but I get wiser, I keep the faith/courage/positivity, life goes on.
How’s that for a clear choice?
Here’s another version: If (A) people are always worth investing in, and (B) someone’s always going to make mistakes/get hurt along the way, anyway, then in balance, the truth of the matter is (C) we should always invest in people, and (D) we should come to terms with the unavoidability of hurt. Simple as that.
So here’s to accepting myself for the flawed person I am, and to not living life guided by senseless “is it possible that this will hurt me/I will hurt somebody?” dichotomies.
Have a five-star day. Don’t let anything, or anyone, get you down.
Singing Joni Mitchell’s “River” with one of Nando Michelin’s Fall 2010 small jazz ensembles (based off of Herbie Hancock’s take with Corinne Bailey Rae). The Players: Nando Michelin on keys, Alex Goodhouse on saxophone, Stevie B. Wolf on guitar, Max Feit on bass and Andrew Meleney on drums. (Yes, I was the sole female of the ensemble!) Cal Shapiro isn’t on this track, but he was the other vocalist for the ensemble, and people need to check him and his band Timeflies out because he is good.
It was the frustration I experienced from listening to this track and the recording for the other song I performed with the ensemble - “Double Rainbow” - that inspired my recent facebook status:
hates that when she listens to live recordings of her performances, she has this weird wobble to her voice that makes it sound like… overblown milk. (People with coffee barista training will understand what I mean…)
I’ve a few things that I really need to work on:
Enunciation: I see why I’ve been told I just sound like slur my way through a song. There’s definitely truth in that!
Breathing/Supporting, especially when it comes to high notes: there’s a point when I shy away from a high note and don’t quite hit it right; I also have quite a few flat points throughout, singing just under the right notes. Bad habits.
Ends of phrases: when I get nervous and stop using my brain, I don’t cut off phrases. At all. Seriously. I drag them all out until I run out of breath, which is hardly artistic.
Energizing long notes: I have lots of white notes in this recording - notes that I’m singing like they’re devoid of purpose and not really going anywhere.
(of course) Wierd wobble: I get nervous, I don’t breath/support, I get weird fake pseudo-vibrato that makes me sound like I’m wailing/trembling/crying. I hate it. It’s ugly. Arrrgghhhh.
Really, really need voice lessons. And to perform more, so I don’t get so nervous all the time…
To reclaim their “honor,” families in Syria have been known to kill raped female members. Even if families allow such women to live, they are not eligible to marry.
“We sat and discussed that we want to change this. We don’t want to change just the regime in Syria, but also this kind of stuff. So we will marry them in front of everyone,” said Ibrahim Kayyis, a 32-year-old baker from Jisr al-Shugour.
“One of the guys would randomly shout “SHIRTLESS O’CLOCK!” and all the guys would take off their shirts and take a picture. The girls would just stand there, not really knowing what to do with ourselves…”—
Elaine, on her high school male buddies.
Anisha/Kai’s (?) response: “I bet whichever guy shouts ‘shirtless o’clock’ is the one that just worked out the day before and wanted to show off…”
I’m really tempted to draw a link between this phenomenon and the fact that Elaine’s from SoCal… correlation, causation, or simply spurious? ;)
Today, Elaine, Anisha, Kai and I had the perfect summer Saturday in Boston. A day of wandering, completely spontaneous activity, for the most part drenched in sunshine and warmth that is so precious for Bostonian residents. Definitely a day worth recording.
We started out the day with brunch at the Clear Conscience Cafe, then took a nice long walk down from Central Square towards the Charles river, stopping at Flour Bakery on the way, where Kai got some really yummy bread ends for really, really cheap (!) while I got some of their refreshing homemade raspberry spritzer.
While admiring the view of the city from the Cambridge side of the river, we saw some kayakers and asked them where they had rented their kayaks - they pointed us in the direction of the paddle boat rental service at Kendall Square, and we got a 4-person kayak and kayaked for an hour! On the Charles! The whole experience was so relaxing - the magnificent views, the natural quiet and calm that comes with being surrounded by water, the good company… amazing. :)
We were on a roll, with perfect timing, all through the day, getting out of the kayak just when the one brief and intense thunderstorm burst of the day happened. We ducked into Za, where we had a 10% discount from being kayak customers, and shared a beet salad and a lemon tart, both of which were surprisingly interesting and tasty, finishing just when the rain stopped and the sunshine returned. We then sat on a bench in Kendall Square for a bit, feeding the birds and properly drying off from being on the Charles - and then headed over to Mixx in Allston for some fro-yo (frozen yoghurt), weigh-and-pay style. The taro, red bean and lychee flavours were to die for - and made me wonder if the founders were Singaporean (or at least Asian)…
And then we went to Greater Boston Vineyard with Serena and Leo, to attend a showing of The Dark Side of Chocolate, a documentary investigating and presenting the child trafficking that takes place in the cocoa business. The showing was organized by a few organizations involved with the Boston Faith and Justice Network, and had a question-and-answer session after the showing, as well as some tables set up, where organizations such as Not for Sale and Equal Exchange were present to give their insights, and let us know how we can contribute towards efforts to stop child trafficking and support more equitable trade policies and practices, all with the larger perspective of combating poverty and promoting justice worldwide. Just for fun/education, there was also a chocolate-tasting!
It was so important and reinvigorating for me, personally, to be at the event, as I’d definitely been going deeper and deeper into my self-centred, I-need-to-get-a-job-and-take-care-of-myself, don’t-talk-to-me-about-other-people zone over the past few months. It just reminded me again how important all of these social justice issues are to me - and more specifically, through my conversation with Kai afterwards, how much I want to see Singapore use its political, educational, economic and spiritual resources to bring about development and change in Southeast Asia. There’s so much we can and should be doing, being such a nexus for the elite and financial capital of the region, with our locally-customized institutions/political model, and - most significantly - with our sheer abundance of thriving congregations and Christians, most of whom should be determined and activated to see justice done in our own society, and just beyond our island’s shores, if not the rest of the world, because that’s what Christ championed. The existing volunteer programs and organisations like World Vision Singapore are awesome; I’d like to see much, much more, at much higher levels of national and industry leadership, and on a much wider/more normalised scale in public society.
Yes, I’ve let my “don’t go to/don’t find out about/don’t get involved with __________ country/___________ people; they’re so dangerous and messy” attitude linger for too long. No, I shouldn’t live in my “I’m just here to take care of myself/my family/my friends/my country” cubicle; I reject the notion of it being “endemic to the local culture” as an excuse. Faith should not exist independent of action, faith should lead to action.
Which is more constructive: letting my belief in a God of justice lead me to whining when I’m suffering injustice (or at least think I am), or letting it lead me to be an agent of justice in the world?
(A bunch of us are hanging out at Will's house, after a very filling Italian pizza dinner in Cowley, in honour of Solomon's birthday. By some miracle, most of us manage to get down some cake as well. When Will is asked if he'd like seconds, he declines, unsurprisingly.)
The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy “shadow” Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.
Cheesy as it sounds, my relationship with Oxford - and perhaps England, or the British Isles (to include Ireland here) more generally - really is best characterized as a romance. Yes, I lived there in the flesh for a good nine months, “suffering” through the most work-intensive period of my life up till that point, so I should have no illusions of its idyllic-ness, should be acquainted with its flaws, should at minimum have come to know and accept that it is a real place with real-place-imperfections and challenges. But there is no denying the rosy tint that my mind’s eye sees it in, still, no denying the truth that even when I’m actually there, soaked to the skin in its erratic rain, feet soiled from trudging through its mud, tripping over its uneven ancient cobblestones, I am happy.
Before I arrived this time around, I did wonder if I would have a different response to it, did wonder if it was just a one-time experience, did wonder if I would find that the spell had dissipated, passed its one-year expiry date. On the flight(s) over, I felt so distant from it, felt like the year before was a complete other life that I’d stepped out of. I felt like I was fighting my way back to the UK, that I had all this crud from the past year that I needed to shed off, that I was shedding off, in flight. Like I was reuniting with someone that I’d fancied and had fancied me back in the past, and finding out if we would hit it off again, if we could work something out. All I can say now is meeting met, romance rekindled, there is nothing I can do about it, I don’t quite understand it myself, it completely defeats my no-nonsense-minimal-drama sensibilities, bring on the rain and British clouds, I am helplessly in love.
Even more telling: I am completely unable to give a satisfactory response to the simple question, “How was your trip/Oxford/the UK?” I just start gushing stupidly, entirely incomprehensible as I ramble on and on in stock phrases like “it was amazing/awesome,” that don’t actually help the listener to picture what Oxford is like at all, nor what my friends there are like.
So here’s my attempt to be somewhat coherent.
I’ll start with Port Meadow, one of my favorite places in the world. I don’t think I’ll soon forget picnicking there with Tom and Daisy on one of my last days in Oxford last year, watching the horses and cows and sheep and geese across the river from us. Walking there with Daisy and Tom again this time, after a good meal and catch-up at the Royal Oak, was such a blessing.
There was the garden play we caught, Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Ernest,” so typically Oxfordian in its setting and character. I remember sitting there and just marveling at the fact that we most definitely are back, watching a play in a courtyard just off the busy St. Giles road that’s magically quiet just by virtue of being within college walls, with the college Master sitting by his window, snapping photos. We also saw the improv group the Oxford Imps at the Wheatsheaf pub, and the press preview of the production that a bunch of our friends are involved with, Tamburlane - student performances, student-run, all incredibly professional. Always so much to see and do in Oxford.
There was the adventure to Churchill’s grave and Blenheim Palace that Sam spontaneously took us on, with music and a picnic feast in his boot! We sang Taverner’s “If Ye Love Me” to Churchill, jumped on the little train, conquered the second largest hedge maze in the world, visited the Palace’s state rooms, walked through the rose gardens - brilliant on all counts.
Of course, there was dear old Pembroke College. We attend and sang with the Chapel Choir for CU Chapel Service, we cheered for W1 in the Summer Eights rowing competition and watched them bump Wadham RIGHT IN FRONT OF US as we stood in the gut of the river, we chatted with the porters, we had formal hall in the newly renovated Forte Room, we ate ourselves silly with sandwiches and summer berries at the Garden Party - Pembroke pride, alive and well.
But most importantly, we hung out with these guys (and many others not pictured, of course!):
We talked, we watched youtube videos (or watched the boys play Tony Hawk’s…), we giggled and laughed till odd hours, our hosts had a barbecue and nearly all the Pembroke second years came out, we had lunch with Maria in Christ Church meadows (and then lay out in the sun on the grass for 3 hours), we sat for hours on a bench chatting with Ed in Lincoln, I had long meals and walks and talks with Singaporean buddies… It was magnificent. The kind of magnificent that leaves you in grateful disbelief, at the wonderful people you’ve gotten to know, at the strength and depth of your friendships. People whom you enjoy and trust, who feel the same towards you, and with whom it seems so easy to pick up again with, no matter the time you’ve spent apart or the different places you’ve been in.
So friends, and Oxford - again, I will see you later. How much later, I don’t know - might be a year or two, may be much, much more (especially given current finances) - but I don’t think I can stay away forever!