Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Money Laundering

It's 11:12 am Thursday in Singapore. My plane to Taipei leaves at 2:40pm. Since the Anchorage flight leaves Taipei at 4:15pm, I have to overnight in Taipei - courtesy of China Air. So even though I could make it through the next 48 hours with the clean stuff still in my suitcase, I decided to do some laundry. There is a washer and dryer in the apartment here.

It would have been better had I taken my wallet out of my pants first.

The New Peranakan Museum

One of the profs at J's program told me about this museum which just opened. Peranakan is the name for people of mixed ethnicities in the southeast Asia area if I understand it right. The descendants of foreign fathers marrying local women. Often this means Chinese fathers.

Given that the US is finally recognizing, officially in its census categories, the concept of mixed ethnicities, I thought it would be interesting to go to this museum.

The pictures of various Peranakan people were spectacular and each had a quote below it. There were also some excellent videos, beautifully placed on the walls, in frames as though they were pictures on the wall discussing the common connections that Peranakan felt with other Peranakan. But there weren't enough of these encounters with real people. Most of the displays are thiings - dishes, clothing, furniture. But there are also diaries, books, letters.

But I'd say the museum has a way to go in terms of the depth it goes into. And the museum recognizes this in the narratives written on the walls. But this point it makes things seem all so rosy and wonderful. I didn't see anything that even hinted at the problems people probably faced in the past because they were of 'mixed blood.'

I also thought having an Anglo sounding narrator in the intro video talking about the Peranakan as "They" having a lot to teach "Us" to be a terrible choice. Even in their own museum they are not "us," but "them." The narrator should have been a Peranakan welcoming guests into their house.

Kona's Better

Here's Kona back home this morning lying up against my hip as I type, enjoying being back home. She's not 100%, but she's much better than we found her last night when we got home. She was barely moving and her gums were white. The vet said bring her in. We got a cab easily - well the first one apparently didn't want a dog, but another showed up right away - and she had blood taken, an iv, and got stuck in a cage for the night. When the vet called a couple hours later she said the test showed nothing - blood was normal, though there was something that indicated the liver wasn't right.

Since it was after hours, she was at the emergency night clinic and J had to go back at 8:30am this morning to either take her home or transfer to the hospital. So I was glad to see her come running in when he got back. Oh yeah, almost S$500 or about US$400.

Little India, The Arab Quarter, and Peranakan

J went to take his exams. I eventually got myself ready, took Kona for a walk, then came back and walked to Little India. I'll give you a glimpse of my day. I can offer things only for your senses of sight and sound. You can't, unfortunately, smell the garlic or incence, or taste the cardamon tea, or the dosa. Or feel the near 100% humidity that turns the Singapore into a giant sauna.

A park bench. Two men talking. A great trea. Lillies in the pond.

Walking to Little India.

Through the wet market. They called them wet markets in Hong Kong too. It just means the local market, usually in a covered market area. More like things have always been done than a supermarket.

Western Union, even in the age of internet, is still alive. Indian workers in Singapore use it to send money home to their families.

There were lots of jewelery stores in Little India.

A Hindu temple.

There were also lots of restaurants. This one was Veg Only, and looked air conditioned, so I went in. They had idli on the menu. This is a southern Indian dish we discovered in Kerala. I couldn't resist. It wasn't as good as I remembered.

And dosas too. The idly by themselves would have been enough, but flooded with happy memories, I ordered a dosa too. And some cardamamon tea. (Checking the spelling, I learned that the preferred spelling is with an 'm' at the end, but with an 'n' is an alternative. How come I never noticed before?) I couldn't finish the whole dosa, but it was good.

I was going to go into the mall, just to see what was in there, and hoping it might be air conditioned, but you had to check your bags and I didn't feel like doing that.

I've been struggling to find some remnants of the Singapore I saw 40 years ago. The laundry is one. They don't do this in the fancy areas of private housing where J lives.

The Alsacoff Arab School. The building in the background shows up later.

Sultan Mosque

This is the building that is in the background in the picture above of the Alsacoff Arab School.

This just seemed an interesting culinary juxtaposition.

Peranakan is just going to have to wait for the next post. It's turned from April 29 to May 1 while I was doing this.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sold Out, Anthony's Arm, Moving Conversation

J and Kona walked me down to the Alliance Francias where the movie was going to be. J stayed outside with the dog and pointed out Anthony, a classmate, to me. I introduced myself. And he pointed to the sign on the counter.

that said that Persepolis was sold out. When Judith came we decided to go to Orchard Road to get something to eat and to chat.

J and I were good with gelato. But Judith hadn't eaten so she and Anthony went upstairs to find some food while we waited downstairs. Kona does tend to attract attention. I wish I could just video the looks on people's faces as they see her.

This lady has a Maltese and couldn't resist stopping, stroking Kona, and talking about her dog.

Then we ate and talked. People were waiting for seats.
So we moved and continued to talk. But people were smoking near us so we moved our convesation once again.

And then we decided it was time to head home.

I want to say that while Anthony's tattoo is striking, I'm afraid the picture above makes too much of it. It's part of him, but as we talked, it's not who he is, and I'm afraid my picture makes the tattoo dominate who he is. So I'm adding this little extra note.

More Singapore Bird Park

I went to the bird park because they have a Southeast Asian Aviary. I really wanted to find out what some of the birds we saw were. I started off in the wrong direction and didn't get to the SE Asian birds till the way back.

First I saw birds that really shouldn't be here - snowy owls.

They were in cages in dark, air conditioned corridors. The picture is awful, but I want to stress how small the cages were and how bizarre it is to have these birds in tropical Singapore. You can see about 1/4 of the whole cage here. Maybe in a much larger cage, if there was some good reason to have live birds. They also had two bald eagles. It was pitiful in that cage. They sit on top of trees higher than their cage here.

While it was wonderful to see the kingfishers, you can see how small the cages are. And they weren't over any water.

The ibises and the cormorants were in larger cages, but still, these are birds that use lots of room in the wild.

The birds of paradise were in much better cages. They were full of lush green plants and spotting them was like spotting birds in the wild.

There were maybe 4 birds in this cage. It's much better than the kingfishers, but much less space than they would have in nature.

I stuck this picture in just because it was such an interesting bird. The aviary for the SE Asia birds was quite big, but it also had smaller cages all around the outer edge of the aviary. This peacock pheasant was loose in the big aviary.

I saw a number of birds we saw frequently in Chiang Mai - magpie robins, coucals (well, I didn't see it, but I was at it's cage and saw the picture), koels, bulbuls, white crowned laughing thrush, and this black naped oriole, that I only saw once in the distance. Here it was loose in the aviary.

The waterfall aviary was enormous. They say this is the highest manmade waterfall in the world - 30 meters, about 100 feet. But I thought it a little odd that they would have it full of African birds. Why take a chance on accidently releasing African birds into the tropical Singaporean environment?

Again, it's possible that one could justify this sort of show where people buy S$1 for a plastic cup full of worms to feed the birds. These are a type of starling Dianne. Not all starlings are bad.

Before leaving I sat in on the 3pm show in the amphiteater. I have to say it was breathtaking to have a great hornbill fly from near the stage to the top of the seats, just barely a foot over the heads of the audience. And back down. The back up again. Then toucans did the same, only here they stopped on an audience member's arms. There was some pro-environmental propaganda in the patter. But nothing that was terribly persuasive. Is that enough to justify doing shows like this? On the other hand, who knows if these birds are happy or not?

On another note, the park had great bathrooms. There's actually a small waterfall coming down from the eaves of the roof. Great way to pee.

Cranes For Zaki

Dennis Zaki has some sandhill cranes he photographed on the Alaska Report. I'm jealous, but hoping they'll stick around a week or two so I can go out to the Matsu Valley and see them for myself. In the meantime, I indulged at the Singapore Bird Park today.

I'm ambivalent about putting birds in cages. Not really. I don't think we should put birds in cages, though I accept that if it's done very well, the educational value and the survival value of some endangered species may balance the evil done by capturing and locking up birds. The Singapore Bird Park, in it's large aviaries, does it reasonably well, though the smaller cages, while nicely landscaped, are still small cages. And pictures you take of caged birds certainly don't count as wild bird pictures. The first one is a black necked crane. I couldn't find the name of the second one. Here are the cranes and I'll do another post later, but now I have to go off with J to meet some of his friends and see Persepolis.

Singapore Graffiti

For Independent Alaskan who thought the pictures of Singapore looked 'so neat': Here's some graffiti I saw this morning on the way to the bird park