Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Labour Day!

Those poor Americans ... they have to wait until September for Labor Day, but for the rest of the world: MAY DAY! So today is a holiday.

It got me thinking of holiday trips I've taken in the past.

I never blogged much about my holiday to Ailuk Atoll last August. At the time it was a tad stressful (to say the least). The plane that was supposed to pick me up was seven days late, forcing me to spend two weeks on the most isolated place in the world!

But now that I am living in one of the world's busiest and most crowded cities, two weeks on Ailuk doesn't seem so bad.

Look at this Main Street: no traffic whatsoever! I was mystified by the telephone pole that you can see on the right. Without phones, street lights and electricity, what do you need ONE telephone pole for?

When I lived in the USA, I always thought that Duluth must be about the most isolated place in the world. After my time in the Marshall Islands, I now know that Duluth is the SECOND most isolated place in the world.

Although Ailuk is very relaxed and laid-back, the palm trees give the impression of a perpetual fireworks display. And this pandanus tree looks just like a frizzy-haired cheerleader, doesn't it?

I feel fortunate to get to experience an atoll. With sea levels rising due to global warming, they might not be with us much longer. Even if some of the land manages to stay above water, the fresh-water wells will be contaminated by salt-water, making life extremely difficult, if not impossible, in places like Ailuk.

I slept on the veranda of a house and this is what the sunset looked from my "bedroom".

I wonder where this driftwood came from? No trees of this size and shape grow on Ailuk. It must have floated a long distance to reach this beach. A lot of stuff washes up on the beach, most of it is trash. But the people generally pay it no attention. Sorta like me: I was just a white guy who washed up for a while from who-knows-where, and they knew that eventually I'd drift off again. And so I did, back to this stressful world of mine.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fun & Games

Here's some more stuff we did while Helen was here visiting.

On Friday night we went to see Peti Kayu Ibu (My Mother's Wooden Chest), the play that Rohaizad directed at Marine Parade CC.

It starred Mastura Ahmad - a well-known and amazing Malay actress. The combination of her acting, Rohaizad's directing and a gut-wrenching script made for an incredibly moving evening. So many unexpected twists and turns to the evening, laughter, tears and shock. We ended up going again on Sunday night. Here is Mastura on stage...

We also visited Sentosa resort island, although I prefer to call it by it's original name: Pulau Blakang Mati (Island with Death in the Back, I wonder why they got rid of that name?)

While there, we became the southern-most people of all the billions and billions of Asians. So there!

Yesterday we had our final farewell breakfast at Tekka Market. They are closing tomorrow for renovations which will probally take years and years to complete. Boo hoo.

We also went out to the movies to see Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanimo Bay. That movie was so wrong ... and yet it was so right.

Anyways, we were at the Cathay Movie Theater. Talk about bringing advertising to the extreme, they show movie trailers on the hand dryers in the restrooms!

This morning Helen left and returned to Pohnpei. If you can hear us, WE MISS YOU, HELEN!!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Stuff We've Done with Helen

We went to the Night Safari. Awesome! Lions, tapirs, giraffes, leopards, bats, etc!

We saw one unhappy fish!

We did lunch-time karaoke ... so decadent!

We did lots of shopping. This is Tekka Market where we buy fruits and veggies. They are closing next week ... boo hoo!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Helen's Here!

Our friend Helen from Pohnpei is visiting us for a week!

Yesterday we went for a spin with her on the Singapore Flyer.

The promotional materials go to great pains to emphesize that this is an OBSERVATION WHEEL, not a FERRIS WHEEL. I say, potato/potahto. I'll call it an observeriss wheel.

Here is one view of lovely Singapore from the wheel...

One little-known fact: not only is this the world's tallest observation wheel, it is also the world's widest!

Looking out at the ships anchored off Singapore...

We were given a private "pod" for our revolution, and our pod was the ParTAY pod! They piped in this George Benson-ish music that played on a loop for the entire 1/2 hour trip. We created our own lyrics and belted it out throughout the journey:


Rohaizad relaxin' with the view...

Rohaizad and I doing our '80's album cover pose...

Here we are approaching the top of the ride. This ride was a real kick-in-the-pants. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Small Minaret

Or should I call it a "mini-ret"?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Rohaizad went to Woodlands early this morning to do a workshop at Republic Polytechnic, so I rode the train up there with him, but went on further. I got off at Kranji and took the bus to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

It was almost exactly like the mangrove swamps of Micronesia! The only differences were that this area was much smaller and had boardwalks and observation decks. Here's the swamp from one of the observation decks.

In Micronesia it was a pretty rare experience to look down a mangrove channel and see another country. In Singapore, however, I looked down this channel and saw Malaysia.

Flowers and things were growing in the water!

I ate lunch at a little cafeteria on a deck over the water. In the water were about six ginormous lizards like this one. While I was eating, one of these dinosaurs attacked another one. I almost choked in fear on my nasi goring!!!

I didn't see this sign until after I ate lunch. Bummer, all I had was chicken.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Wildlife in Singapore

Ooo ... a giant lizard!

Hey look! That monkey is sitting on a fence eating bread!

This guy fell asleep at the hawkers center across the street from my apartment!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Giant Black Monstrosity!!!

Look at this blight on the Singapore landscape! This is LASALLE School for the Arts. Rohaizad teaches here part-time.

Not only is the building weird, the traffic patterns beside the building are a bit mysterious. If you look at the arrows on the pavement, apparently you are supposed to tear yourself in two and move in different directions down the same lane. Hmmm...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

More Elbow Friction

Yo there! Last night I met the Indonesian movie star Nicholas Saputra. Here we are together and on the right is my friend Mayee.

On another totally unrelated note, check out this youtube link that the Singapore Civil Servants made. It is about the funniest thing in the solar system, if not the galaxy!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Rubbing Elbows

I've volunteered to help out with the Singapore International Film Festivals in my oodles and oodles of free time.

I was assigned to escort guests to MediaCorp for their television and radio interviews.

My first guest was Wayne Wang, who directed the movies "Maid in Manhattan" (starring J. Lo), "The Joy Luck Club" and "Because of Winn-Dixie".

I had a mug of teh terek with Ron Morales who directed the movie "Santa Mesa".

Yesterday I went to MediaCorp with the actor Dustin Nguyen. This is him.

So there.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Here & There in Singapore

I'm not sure if the name of this cafeteria is an Australian greeting or part of the government's scheme to increase population. Either way, I totally disagree with what the umbrellas have to say. When I work up a thirst, I want to quench it, not refresh it.

When I go out running in the mornings along the Kalong River, I always pass this funny-looking skyscraper.

I took this photo while standing beneath the world's largest ferris wheel.

While most other colleges are distracted by researching disease cures and publishing detailed studies, Republic Polytechnic in Singapore tackles the life's real challenges: setting the world record for leap-frog.

A view of the causeway linking Singapore to the Malaysian city of Johor Bahru.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

National Language Class

Tonight Rohaizad and I went to see the play "National Language Class."

It is the story of the time when when Malaya gained independence from England and for a decade or so, Singapore was a state of Malaysia. Since Malay was the national language of Malaysia, many Singaporeans, especially Chinese, studied Bahasa Malaysia.

The artist Chua Mia Tee painted a picture of a National Language Class. This painting inspired the play.

It was a bittersweet play and I was quite moved, even though I couldn't understand much of what was said. Singapore has an amazing and moving history over the past fifty years!

On top of it all, I had to stand up in front of the audience and say in Malay, "I am from America; I am an American." Mortifying, but a GREAT performance!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Rohaizad & I on the Bus