Monday, December 31, 2007

New Years Celebration 2008

Yesterday evening at about 9:00, Rohaizad and I walked down Marina Promenade. A few local families were out there fishing and walking, but most of the people were Thai and Bangladeshi workers enjoying the cool, breezy evening and preparing to ring in the New Year.

Along the Promenade we strolled underneath the Benjamin Sheares Bridge which carries the East Coast Parkway over the river.

When we reached the end of the trail, we sat at a picnic table and ate the sandwiches we had brought along. Behind us was the Singapore Flyer and the river was in front of us.

At around 11:30, the Singapore Ducks came cruising down Kallang River like evil, yellow-eyed demons. What's the deal with these Ducks; they're everywhere! I thought that I had escaped their quackiness when I left Baltimore. But, lo and behold, they are bringing their low-class tourist offerings to Singapore, too!

And a few photos of the fireworks behind the Singapore Flyer.

I Was Here

The most amazing thing about this sculpture is that it's TRUE!

(Wait! "Subtle urges of vanity"?!?! ME?!?!)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bras Basah

One thing I like about Singapore is the "specialized" malls, although I only know of two of them.

Sim Lim is a mall that focuses on electronics and it freaks me out a bit.

But Bras Basah is a mall with four floors of book stores: used books, new books, text books, you name it!

There are other sorts of stores as well mixed in with the books. They're all pretty cool, such as music stores, arts & craft supply stores, stationery and the like.

This afternoon I took an excursion there. Here I am preparing to enter paradise:

"Basah" is a Malay word meaning "wet", so Bras Basah means "wet bras".

Just kidding! "Bras" means "uncooked rice". The mall is named after the Bras Basah Street where rice was laid out to dry in the olden days.

This warning sign is by the entrance to the mall.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

An Evening Walk through the Neighborhood

After an afternoon of eating home cooked food at some friends' house, Rohaizad and I needed to work off some of the food with a walk around our neighborhood in Little India.

We passed a row of old shop houses.

Our neighborhood temple was lit up and crowded for some worship celebration.

The gate was ajar on this antique store, so we peeked in.

A closer look into the antique store.

In the window of a Chinese medicine shop were all these horns from some sort of animal, ready to be ground up and turned into medicine.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Where My Hat Is Hung

Here is a photo of our apartment building. As you can see, we are right next to the MRT station.

It is a colorful little neighborhood. With a mosque on one side and a temple on the other, there are many religious folk passing through. They mingle with the shadier characters who frequent the area. When we came home from Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve there was a transvestite standing outside the MRT station, just like a lonely holiday cliche.

Our bedroom window is the window on the far right, second floor from the top.

And this photo is looking out of the bedroom window. You can see the Park Royal Hotel on the right and directly across the street they are building two high rise condominiums. We've been told that we are going to have to leave this apartment next December so they can be torn down and turned into something more worthy of the rising property values.

While out this afternoon I saw these interesting buildings near Chinatown.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Pulau Ubin

This morning, Rohaizad and I hopped on a bus for an hour ride to Changi Point Ferry Terminal. From there we hopped on a bumboat to Pulau Ubin. Here is a bumboat with an airplane flying above it!

Pulau Ubin means "Granite Island" because they used to quarry granite here. Only about 100 people live there and it is the only place in Singapore that you can still see what kampong (village) life was like a hundred years ago.

After getting off the boat at the jetty, we entered the bustling Jalan Ubin, or "Granite Street." It has about a dozen bicycle rental shops and hawkers stalls.

We rented two bikes and set out to explore the paths around the island.

This photo makes me look pretty brave as I ride over the teeter-totter, but I actually freaked out and fell off when I was half way across. I'm not as young and brave as I once was, but I came out of it unharmed.

In addition to more traditional houses, there were several collections of floating houses near the shore.

We bicycled throught the jungle, through old rubber tree plantations and past former granite quarries.

Little yellow temples were scattered all over the island. Inside them were sticks of incense. Mingled with the jungle smells of the island, it made a really pleasant aroma.

A cute old kampong house. Most of the houses looked just like Micronesian houses: wooden walls and tin roofs. This was a particularly cute house.

After our bike ride, we rewarded ourselves with ice cold coconuts in the little "city" part of the island. Then we hopped onto another bumboat for the ride back to mainland Singapore.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Stroll up Serangoon

This morning Rohaizad and I went for a walk up our street, Serangoon Road.

This temple is a few blocks from our apartment.

We did our obligatory Christmas shopping. Rohaizad purchased the Benign Girl.

I purchased the Drop Pant Pirate.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

36 Hours: It just FEELS like a lifetime

Hey, our little nation of Singapore is featured in the New York Times today! The article is called "36 Hours in Singapore". It says that my neighborhood, Little India, "resembles a movie set". Starring me, of course.

Yesterday morning Rohaizad and I went out and ate Roti Prata for breakfast at the hawker's stalls at Tekka Market. We splurged after the meal and had some chendal to drink.

Chendal tastes like ice cream and it has green, gelatinous wormy things inside that squiggle down your throat when you are drinking. Deeeelish!

In the evening I went down to a choir concert at the Singapore Art Museum.

After the concert I baffled a woman who was surveying shoppers. There I was walking down Orchard Road: Southeast Asia's shopping Mecca, and I told her that the only thing I had purchased was a cup of chai at the kopitiam (coffee shop). She repeated her question several times to make sure I understood it and she even explained to me that Christmas was just a few days away. Take that, consumer culture!

Here's a photo of the holiday lights on Orchard Road. It's just like Hamden, huh?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Singapore Flyer

No city is complete without a giant Ferris Wheel. Here's the one that's being built in Singapore.

Of course, since this is Singapore, our Ferris Wheel will be the biggest one in the world. Below is an artists rendering.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Selamat Hari Raya Haji

Today is the Muslim holiday of Hari Raya Haji, where they celebrate the folks who have completed the Haj.

On Hari Raya Haji Eve we went to a concert of six Malay guys who played guitar, mandolin and some hand drums and sang with wonderful harmonies. It was very middle eastern sounding. The strange thing was that they looked like Micronesians, but they were playing instruments!

On the way home we watched sheep and goats being loaded off a truck and into a holding pen next to the mosque which is a block from our apartment. This morning we went out and took pictures of them.

An hour or so after these pictures were taken, all of these animals were sacrificed.

Then we hopped on the subway, which is known as the MRT here in Singapore. I call it Mr. T. Below is a photo of me at the MRT stop right outside of my apartment door: Farrer Park.

Our first stop was Rohaizad's parents' home in Ang Mo Kio. Below is the view when you look out the front door of their house. They are a remarkable family in that they own a house instead of living in an apartment (which is known as an HDB flat).

We left Rohaizad's parents' home after a few hours and went over to his grandmother's HDB flat up in Yishun. To take a little break between family stuff, we stopped by Sembawang Park in the far north of Singapore and took a walk.

In this photo of Sembawang Park you can see Malaysia across the water.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Miracle on 34th Street

This is my first attempt to post photos onto my blog from Singapore.

Sorry that this isn't a photo of Singapore, but it was my experimental picture.

Amy and I went to Miracle on 34th Street in Baltimore the night before I left for Singapore.

If you look closely, you can see our reflection in this tree ornament with a few of the decorated houses in the background.

Monday, December 17, 2007


After 40 years, my mind has pretty much set like cement. I know what $50 is, what 50 miles means and how to speak to people. Suddenly, $50 means somethings new; miles have turned into kilometers and I don't know what people are saying.

This must be why the USA has never switched to metric: it takes time and brain-power to readjust your mindset. I'm sure I'll get used to things eventually.

It is great to be in the land of the food stall. I don't know why anyone would go to a restaurant in Singapore when you can eat such good food so cheaply. Okay, it is hot, smelly and I usually have to share a table with a few strangers, but its a worthwhile trade-off. Food is to Singapore what freedom is (was?) to America: the foundation upon which the nation stands.

I got my hair cut on Saturday and I am seeing more of my scalp than I am accustomed to seeing. I'm not sure the barber understood what I tried to explain to him, so I just closed my eyes and went along for the ride. I was a little nervous when the neighboring barber starting hitting the back of the person next to me. But when my barber shockingly did the same to me some time later, it felt pretty good!

I learned that Singapore has a gay/lesbian church! So I went on Sunday morning. Free Community Church is the name. Free? Okay, we were free to sit for 2 hours without standing. The congregation felt free to ignore us. The worship leaders felt free not to introduce themselves. I have a theory that the Singapore government allows this church to exist as a way of boring gays and lesbians into heterosexuality.

Sorry that I haven't been able to post pictures yet. Hopefully soon!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Apa Khabar!

I feel like I'm a million miles away from my little ocean-side home in Micronesia. But here I am in Singapore: hot, humid, crowded, noisy... I might as well be on another planet!

I left Baltimore early on Monday morning. Saturday I reserved a taxi and Sunday I confirmed the reservation, but at 4:00 am on Monday morning, no taxi was waiting. I called the taxi company and they said it was on the way. I called again after waiting 15 minutes and the dispatcher said, "It is hard to get a driver to take someone to the airport." "So no one is coming?!" said I. He replied, "I'm working on it."

AAARGH!!! I called two more taxi companies and waited another 20 minutes. When no taxi arrived, I called back and one of them told me, "We cancel a reservation if you don't call back after 15 minutes." That's insane!

Well, eventually a taxi came and drove me through the freezing rain to the airport and I got to my gate just in time.

Except for some brief nausia while flying over Russia's Kamchatka peninsula, it was an uneventful trip and I had nice, brief stops in Cincinatti, Portland and Tokyo.

I'm living in a great little walk-up on Serangoon Street in little India. Its an old, old building which looks down on an eating stall, some old houses and lots of high rise apartments and hotels. The bedroom is five sided; who ever heard of such a thing?

The apartment is about 20 feet from a subway station which is amazingly convenient. So far I've had some wonderful Indian and Malay meals. What a life.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Spice of Life

On Friday Susan and I drove to Frederick to perform at Maryland Ensemble Theatre. She was performing as Roxi Starr for whom I wrote music and play piano.

Frederick is a city an hour west of Baltimore. It has a quaint, old main street covered with towering trees which have been filled with white Christmas lights.

On Friday night when we arrived, they were having a holiday parade with little children marching and dancing down main street dressed as angels, elves and other holiday characters.

Susan and I were thinking we would probably get about three people to the show, so we were shocked when the doors opened and the theater filled up! Frederick audiences are great and we had a blast. Saturday night we filled up the place again!

I'm going to miss performing with Susan, but hopefully I will be able to arrange a performance for her in Sinagpore.

After church on Sunday I went to the airport to fly out to California. When I tried to check in, the lady told me that my name is on a list of criminals who may not fly! But she made a phone call and learned that the criminal is someone with the same name.

She wondered to me what she would do if I did turn out to be the criminal. "Tackle me?" I suggested. "Probably run out the door," she replied.

Once I got to the gate, the flight was delayed (is United Airlines EVER on time?) and extremely overbooked. So I volunteered to get bumped and recieved a flight voucher - whew, one less Christmas present to buy.

Instead of flying on Sunday, I went to the movie Beowulf with a friend. It had no wulfs, beo or otherwise, but it did have a lot of gore and quite a bit of computer-generated nudity.

Monday morning I managed to get on a flight and made it to Modesto to help my brother (who recently had a stroke) and his family. So here I am. This morning I took him to a doctor appointment and soon I'm taking the car for a tune-up.

Nothing like a vacation ... ahhh.