The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Tag: Singapore

We danced, we laughed, we skipped around. And then we were twenty-six.

 

 

I wish you good luck.

I wish you good luck.

Captain

We became friends, and we were friends, and then one day, friends no more.

What does one do when a friendship, whose tethers are time-worn and frayed, comes loose and slips away? Time ebbs, and the vessel departs, do I fling myself to reel it back?

Or do I set it alight and let it go, in a Viking’s funeral, remembering that it once burned, with the last memory of its light in sight?

And now that I find myself aware of all the ropes around me in varying stages of decay, do I darn them, mend them, let them be?

Lines

“Let it go,” it says. “Let it go. It is the way of life. Two parallel lines may never meet, but if they differ enough, will remain close enough that they merge for a really long time. But eventually, they will depart, and then it is time to go.”

“But why does it have to be that way?” I ask. “Our lives are not simple straight lines. We meet by circumstance, but it is by virtue of entanglement that we remain hurtling through space bound; entwined.”

“All things tend towards chaos,” it says. “And in chaos squared, tangled lines come unwound, and come free of each other. That is the very essence of life. A static line is a dead line.”

Inexorable

We must grow up, but must we grow apart? Perhaps part of growing up is learning to let go, perhaps part of letting go is to know — when to say hello; when to say good morrow; when to say good bye, and say no more.

Perhaps one day, I will hear from you again. Until then, fare thee well, I’ll keep these memories.

shaf

Unicorns on a unicycle at UNICON 17 (Part 1)

unicorn

I went up to witness UNICON for the first time. For those who do not know what UNICON is, it is a unicycle convention, kind of like the equivalent of the Olympics for unicycling. For the first time, UNICON is held in a location that is financially accessible to me, and it would be remiss of me to miss it again.

And so it was a trek to Montreal to attend UNICON 17, where some other Singaporeans would also be attending. Going up would also mean that the Masticating Bunnies From Hell from Ride the Lobster would be reunited for the first time in six years.

However that reunion would be tardy because Jiahui, one of the team members, would be so exhaustively busy traipsing all around Montreal visiting friends while we friendless people huddle around and twiddle thumbs.

mtl1

I’m surprised my well-worn and falling apart bicycle bag has held it together for so long after all these years. It last saw use on my trip back to Singapore in January, and with each subsequent use, it falls apart bit by bit. A zipper pull fell out previously (the zipper itself was still intact) and I wonder what else would break on this trip to Montreal.

And of course, it had to rain on my way to Penn Station. I brought an umbrella along with me, and holding on to one bag of two unicycles, a plastic bag with some food to last the 11-hour train journey, an overstuffed backpack, and an umbrella should probably be a Cirque du Soleil act of its own.

I got to the train station an hour early and I was like “Great! Maybe I’ll get a chance to snag an early seat.” I totally forgot one had to check in luggage from States-side, and because I didn’t do so, when the train opened for boarding, I had to go check in, and ended up being the last to board.

mtl2

Thankfully there was a backward-facing wheelchair-reserved seat available. I was feeling pretty much handicapped by that point, and I had the right number of wheels (big ones, at least), and there were no real wheelchair people in need, so I took it. It wasn’t too bad, I got stretch out, as I hurtled backwards all the way towards Montreal.

So, I was supposed to meet some of the Singaporeans at the college, where some of the events are held. Interestingly, no one bothered to tell me the instructions on getting there, only providing me with a street address. Well, I don’t have wireless internet on my phone, but thank goodness for being old-fashioned, and I had to ask three people how to get there. The first older station attendant didn’t speak much English (why is he working at the information kiosk at the main train station then?) but I understood enough to get to Berri-Uqam. There, I asked a younger English-speaking lad who told me to get to Pie-IX (pronounced “pea-neuf”), which I retrospectively probably remember the older station attendant mentioning something like that, but “pea-neuf” and “Pie-IX” didn’t connect as being the same thing in my mind because je ne parle pas français. Anyway at Pie-IX some teenager told me to just go down a road, at which point I took out my 20″ unicycle, shouldered my 29″ uni, my backpack, and my umbrella, and finally made it to the college.

mtl3

I think UNICON 17 already kicked off two days ago. But on my first night, it was apparently Naked Bike Ride day, and the unicyclist were planning on crashing it. So many unicyclists went, it was a pleasant surprise. I believe the number of unicyclists matched the bicyclists head for head. Males also outnumbered females maybe four to one. And there were definitely more naked unicyclists than there were naked bicyclists, as a lot more bicyclists kept more pieces of clothing on. Perhaps as the UNICON attenders were from another country, they didn’t have to worry about maintaining some sort of professional credibility in Montreal as many of the bikers did. Or maybe Europeans just like getting naked a lot more.

mtl4

As I was not registered to participate competitively, there was very little I could actually do at UNICON. I felt like making friends was an uphill endeavour, when many already had their circles of friends either from having attended UNICON before, got to know each other by virtue of participating in the same event, or were basically from the same country.

One morning, I sat myself down at a random table, and introduced myself to the table. It comprised Americans, a Canadian, and some Germans. I eventually got to see them over the next couple days and even got to hang out with them once or twice.

mtl6

Some of them (the Canadian and the Germans) went up to Mont Royal, and I joined them. One of them played the piano while I unicycle-danced in the background. It was all fun and games, until the experts showed up. Then they proceeded to defy gravity and jumped all over the place, and us mere mortals of lesser skill just stopped.

I got to see the UNICON events, of course. I was mostly there for the freestyle, and it met my expectations of what I thought it to be. Slightly dismaying was to see six to nine year olds completely outclassing me with freestyle, as the leapt onto their unis with a stand-up leg-up glide like physics was optional.

Freestyle expert solo was OK, and the first place winner went to USA Matt Sindelar, who did a Western cowboy themed routine using that very well-known tune from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, gun sounds and all.

Japan’s freestyle male expert solo entry Kaito Shoji was slightly less than what I expected, compared to last year’s winner. But he was still pretty good, and had great synchronicity with the music at the beginning.

Thomas Tiercy from Switzerland had one of the more interesting routines, though he didn’t place in top three. Perhaps it was because his routine was less about unicycling and more about object manipulation, but I felt it deserved a place on the pedestal because it was so different from the rest. It was also more show-sy than the others, which I appreciated a lot.

Shoji’s pair entry with Natsume Yamamoto was definitely much better, and the performance was more enjoyable. It featured great chemistry between the unicyclists, and felt less like a run-through of tricks, and more like a performance.

Here are some of the photos from Freestyle Solo and Pair.

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This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While Street really isn’t my thing, here are also pictures from the competition. I have no idea who these people are, but the UNICON list says these people are: Christian Huriwai (New Zealand), Maxwell Schulze (USA), Raphael Pöham (Austria), Josef Sjönneby (Sweden), Jack Sebben (Canada), and Casper van Tielraden (Netherlands).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m breaking up this post because it’s getting too long. More to come in part 2!

Adding South-east Asian pizzazz to pizzas

SEAsianpizza2When you think about pizzas, there are really three essential components to every pizza: the crunch (the crust), the goop (the saucy base), and the bite (toppings). If one is able to recreate these three mouthfeels, one would get a decent pizza.

By distilling the essence of pizzas down to these components, I started thinking, “Does pizza always have to have cheese or tomato sauce as a base? What if I have something else that’s also goopy, would that then make for a good pizza?”

And then I started thinking, “Has anyone ever tried to make a south-east Asian pizza that isn’t simply dumping south-east Asian ingredients on top of what is still essentially an Italian pizza, with cheese et al?” I know that people have experimented with all sorts of toppings, but invariably the goopy base always boils down to tomato sauce or cheese.

So perhaps, if I could make goop from south-east Asian cuisine, I could substitute cheese and tomato sauce for the base and make a pizza that is actually truthful to the original taste of the dish!

So on my train commute to work, I sat down and went through all the Singaporean/Malaysian dishes I knew of, and started thinking about their textures. I eventually came up with a first round of dishes a few months ago that I thought could viably be transformed to recreate the three mouthfeels that go into a pizza.

SEAsian Pizzas Round 1

southeast asian pizzasThe first round of pizzas I made for my friends were: (from left to right) Mee Rebus, Char Siew, Baingan Bharta, and Daging Rendang. These pizzas had an additional tweak in that they represented all the major ethnic groups in Singapore, but also covered all the major proteins including a vegetarian option. I’m going to list each pizza and their components.

Mee Rebus Pizza

A dish which in Malay simply means “boiled noodles.” Very unassuming sounding, but is a sweet and spicy curry that’s thickened with mashed potatoes and topped with a hard-boiled egg. I discovered that by increasing the amount of mashed potatoes in the curry gravy, one could achieve the consistency of cheese. I used the gravy as a base. There are, funnily enough, no noodles of course in this pizza, so maybe it should really be called Tak Mee Rebus Pizza, but then that just means “No boiled noodles pizza.”

I don’t really speak Malay.

I topped it with hard-boiled eggs, but also fritters. A recipe I found suggested cucur udang bawang (prawn and chive fritters) but I had a friend at the pizza dinner who is allergic to shellfish so I replaced it with chicken, making it cucur ayam bawang.

Char Siew Pizza

A Chinese barbecued pork dish, glazed with honey, maltose, garlic, and spices. I learnt to make char siew from scratch, and I discovered that the sauce is already kind of thick, perfect for setting as the base for the pizza. This one was a no-brainer, and not much alteration was necessary to make char siew into pizza. Garnished with garlic and cilantro.

Baigan Bharta Pizza

A spicy Punjab dish made from eggplants. Granted, Singapore major Indian ethnic group is Tamil, but I found baingan bharta the easiest to work with. By mashing up the eggplants, they became very goopy, which I used for the base. I then topped it with mushrooms and tomatoes, because why not? This dish is vegetarian.

Rendang Daging Pizza

A Malay dish of spicy caramelised coconut beef, where the beef is original stewed in broth and left to slow cook until the broth evaporates and is absorbed by the beef. The cooking process then turns from stewing to stir-frying.

I took a portion of the stew and thickened it, and used it as the base. I topped it with rendang, and garnished it with chilli and cilantro.

The crust for the pizza, because I’m not really an accomplished Italian chef, was some simple pizza crust recipe I took from the internet using olive oil, flour, and salt.

Since a lot of south-east Asian pizzas are usually eaten with a staple, such as rice or noodles, it made sense to replace the staples with the crust, successfully blending what is traditionally a rice or noodle dish into something completely new, while preserving all of its original flavours (sans the flavours of the rice and noodles themselves).

After the success I had for the first round of pizzas, I proceeded to make more a couple months later (which was a few days ago).

SEAsian Pizzas Round 2

SEAsianpizza2From top left clockwise: Thosai Aloo Masala, Otak-otak, Lor Mee, Singapore Chilli Crab

I decided to go further this time, and represent Singapore’s ethnicities better, while keeping the custom of varying the proteins. I also had the sense to take pictures of the making process this time. Once again, I’ll describe the pizzas.

Thosai Aloo Masala with coconut chutney

In Singapore, the food most people think of when Indian food comes to mind is immediately roti prata or thosai. I decided to go with thosai, because I’m an abysmal prata maker (I’ve tried).

Known in New York as dosa, and thosai in Singapore, it’s a vegetarian Tamil rice-and-lentil crepe dish, topped with any variety of things, from eggs to potatoes to magic. The batter is thinly poured over a flat tawa, just as crepes are. I’m very proud to say I made my own batter, fermenting idli and dal, but there was a necessity to make my own batter.

thosai

Regular thosai/dosa is too thin to turn into pizza, and I had to thicken it somehow. Simply pouring more on the tawa isn’t sufficient, because it’s quite liquidy and wouldn’t stay in place. Thus, I had to alter the proportions of rice to lentils, to achieve the consistency I needed to make a sturdy enough crust to hold the toppings, while still retaining the taste of the thosai.

aloosabzi coconutchutney

I made coconut chutney, and thickened it by reducing the water in it. That formed the base. It’s also one of my favourite chutneys to use for thosai. I topped it with aloo sabzi, a potato filling with curry leaves and turmeric. I had a baking tray that I greased, put it in the oven until it got really hot, and thickly but evenly poured the batter over it, and put it back in the oven for a couple of minutes. I then took it back out when it is lightly cooked, poured the chutney and topped it with the potato masala, and put it back in the oven. It came out as a flatbread sorta pizza, and I was pleasantly surprised how well it turned out.

Otak-otak Pizza

Otak-otak is a Peranakan dish, making it the first time I’m representing this ethnic group in Singapore with pizzas. It’s a spicy fish custard with coconut and eggs. Unfortunately, my otak-otak had the right smell and taste, but wrong consistency, as it failed to custardise properly. I think in my zeal, I put in too much coconut milk, causing there to be too much liquid for the custard to form. I’ll need to try again.

otak sataysauce

But anyway, I still had the fish soaked in the otak custard dip, and at least the flavours stayed. I used a satay peanut sauce as the base, and topped it with the fish

Lor Mee Pizza

A Chinese braised pork noodle dish, usually topped with a braised hard-boiled egg and a variety of other toppings, in a soy-vinegar broth thickened with starch and egg. Once again, lor mee means “braised noodles,” and the lack of noodles in this pizza (replaced instead with a pizza crust) should really name this dish “Lor Ang Mor Peng,” or braised Caucasian pastry, which doesn’t make it sound any more appetising.

lor mee sm

(I forgot to take pictures of the lor bak, lor neng (egg), and lor tsap (sauce), but I did make lor mee the night before so here it is a picture of it)

I lor’d (braised) the lor bak (braised meat) for two days, the egg for one day, and extra thickened the braising sauce with starch, flour, and egg, to form the base. The pizza was then topped with the pork and egg, and garnished with cilantro and fried shallots.

Singapore Chilli Crab

I learnt that whole live crab is cheaper to buy than fish fillets in New York. Maybe it’s because I’m paying for all that shell and whatnot.

Did you know that if you buy live crabs and put them in the fridge, they’re still alive 12 hours later? I put them in the sink to wash them, and they came back to life, like daisies!

So, I guess the Singapore Chilli Crab is a Chinese spicy crab dish, with tomato puree and egg and a bunch of other stuff that unequivocally makes it Singapore’s signature dish. Just google “Singapore signature dish,” and chilli crab usually comes up tops.

And because I wasn’t going put a whole crab onto the pizzas, I had extract all the crab meat manually. I also didn’t have a shell cracker tool. All I had were knives, chopsticks, and a pair of needle-nose pliers.

crabThis small unassuming bowl, containing over a pound of mud crab meat, took TWO HOURS and many an injured finger.

I then prepared the sauce and stirred the crab meat into the sauce, making a thick chilli crab goopy thing which was perfect as a base, no topping needed. I guess ideally I would have preferred the meat to be more in chunks and as shredded as they turned out to be, but hey try removing crab meat manually with chopsticks and needle-nose pliers and we’ll see if you can do it without destroying the meat.

But it turned out well enough and tasted great, so that’s that.

I altered some of the ingredients in the pizzas to account for allergies within my testing group. I took out the belecan (shrimp paste) from the otak, because someone was allergic to shellfish, but kept it in the chilli crab because he wouldn’t have been able to eat it anyway. The good thing about south-east Asian dishes as pizzas is that, not only is it novel, they’re all lactose-free, because we don’t use milk very often in our cooking. So my lact-arded friends get to eat what passes as pizza, I suppose.

Makes me wonder why I’m not pursuing culinary as a profession sometimes.

 

 

 

 

Where are Singaporeans living in America?

SingaporeBorn[1]

Image credit Daryl Sng’s blog

Former political counsellor to the Singapore Embassy Daryl Sng created a post on his blog about where Singaporeans are residing in the United States, using ArcGIS, a geographic information system software. He uses county-level data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 2005-2009, which shows some 26,754 people who claim Singapore as their place of birth. Of course, that includes children of expatriates born in Singapore and Singaporeans who have given up their citizenship. Sng also states that the new 2008-2012 census data was recently released, showing some 29,173 people who indicate Singapore as their place of birth living in the United States.

The above map shows the distribution of these people across the country. Not surprisingly, the highest concentrations are on the East and West coasts, where there are “10,000 living within the Boston-New York-Philadelphia-Washington DC corridor, about 5000 living within 250 miles of L.A., and just under 5000 living within 250 miles of the Bay Area. The next highest concentrations are in Texas and then in Chicago/Ann Arbor.”

I think the most interesting parts of the data are: who are the random specks living in Montana and South Dakota (only dot in the entire state)?

Three lunar years later

Three lunar years ago, I shot myself into the air, through space, and landed on the other side of the planet. There, three Lunar New Years missed. Will I miss the next one too? With an adventuring spirit, I thrust myself into the unknown.

Having left home, it seems I have cut myself adrift, with very little means to go back. I am still floating, rotating, and have yet to gain enough gravitas and inertia to propel myself anywhere. How can I go back home in this state?

There will be no triumphant return, only stony silence and static white noise.

I have been dreaming dreams of various places back home, it seems almost uncanny; unnerving. I don’t know what to do.

In the mean time, I remain in stasis, as my life support slowly flickers lower.

Space.

So many questions asked, no answer provided

Singapore bus death triggers riot

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Photo credit AFP, taken from BBC News

Most people who have a connection to Singapore would probably have known that on the 9th December, 2013, a riot broke out. Initial reporting from Singapore media Channel News Asia reported on the incidence plus with an advisory to stay away from the scene, stating the number of participants (about 400) and whether there were casualties or not.

That is all very well, but I think as with any credible news medium, not only is reporting what happened sufficient, but some sort of investigative journalism as to why the riot happened is required, isn’t it? Even as things have died down, there is scarcely any definitive work as to the cause of the unrest. Soon, alternative news sources began filling in the gaps where state media had failed to furnish what the people wanted to know.

People on Reddit provided a time breakdown of the chain of events, as did some blogs, although their sources referenced each other. Of course, vitriol against the prevailing ruling party started pouring in on these threads, drowning out possible discussion as to why the riot started.

The Real Singapore, another alternative news source, started editorialising, which in itself isn’t too bad, but TRS having a streak of being anti-PAP, their contribution was a rehash of a populist anti-immigrant stance that disenfranchised Singaporeans had with the PAP’s lax immigration policies. I quote:

On the surface, this could easily be put down to the foreign workers being more rowdy and less law-abiding than Singaporeans but in reality everyone has a boiling point and people are not naturally very violent or blood-thirsty.

The big difference might be that we are taught from young to be fearful of the government and listen to authority.
When foreign workers come to Singapore, they do not have the same “training” and can become more rowdy more easily.
This is particularly a problem when the government brings these FTs (FT: “Foreign Talent”/i.e. immigrant workers) here in large numbers and they bring with them their values and cultures and do not learn from Singaporeans how they should act here.
Last night, this was clearly a problem with a large, rowdy riot breaking out.
Many netizens commented that the photos and videos looked like they were not taken in Singapore and further raised concerns that if this is happening, it is not a far stretch to say that other problems such as higher crime rates and more occurrences of rape might be happening soon too.

Effectively turning the discussion into a “These foreigners are not as well-trained/subservient (double jab at 0our over-policing AND at lacking discipline standards of those overseas?) us, and hence are prone to violence and lustful acts.” The author further adds:

These people must have been stressed out and otherwise frustrated with their lives to so eagerly break out in a huge riot.
This could be due to work-related factors such as long work hours, low pay, no welfare and other forms of exploitation from their bosses. Singapore has many reported cases of foreign worker exploitation so this is really not an unrealistic possibility.
Singapore has no effective workers’ unions and so workers’ complaints and concerns are very rarely heard.
When people are oppressed in such a way with no way to vent their frustration or get recourse, they will eventually boil over. All their frustration and stress is like fuel awaiting a spark to ignite the flame. Perhaps this is what happened yesterday evening.

That still does not shed any more light as to how whatever transpired that night, merely speculation that unfair work conditions and pent-up frustration formed the powder; how, then, was the accident the spark that ignited the riot?

Rather than we all just sit here twiddling thumbs, throwing blind guess, why isn’t anyone interviewing the rioters? Surely the rioters would know best why they were rioting? Without any actual word from those involved, all these theories require a leap of logic from “overworked, unpaid, labourers” to “bus accident killing a fellow national leads to a riot.”

Someone should be asking these questions, to the rioters and by-standers:

  • Did you witness the accident?
  • If yes, what did you witness? How did the accident happen?
  • Did the deceased seem intoxicated? Was the bus driver driving recklessly?
  • Who was the first person who discovered the accident?
  • How did the crowd of Indian nationals gather at scene? Did someone call upon them?
  • Did anyone else other than the Indian nationals gather at the scene?
  • If he called upon the others to gather, why did he do that?
  • Who called for the ambulance/police?
  • What happened while people were waiting for the ambulance/police? Was there a crowd by the time they arrived?
  • How did the police handle the situation? What words were exchanged? Did they physically move people around?
  • Who started the fire? Why did he start it? At what juncture did the smashing and torching start?
  • What were being yelled during the riot?

I’m sure there are a lot more questions that can be asked, all of which would answer a lot more questions than the “coverage” we’ve received so far.

BOJIO

bojioAnother in Singapore would be familiar with the vernacular “Bojio,” derived from the Hokkien dialect word 没招. It’s used to signify when one does something and fails to invite his or her friend along, whereby the friend goes, “Eh! Bojio!”

The above character is completely fictional, of course. Chinese orthography cannot represent two words with a single character, but it quite funny. Taken from somewhere on Twitter.

 

Sunny-side up

I left a land of forests evergreen
for leaves that die ruby.
I jumped out of a balmy heat
and into winter’s vindictive freeze.
As roiling skies tumble a dismal grey,
painting our emotions flat,
I sit by my window sill
looking to the distant heavens
hoping to catch a glimpse of that same sun
that must be shining brightly down upon
that tropical paradise of unchanging seasons
from whence I came.

But I remember
sitting by a window sill,
boiling in a tropical heat,
looking out of the frying pan, at that same sun
that must be shining warmly down upon
that continental paradise of changing seasons
where I now sit.

Go to jail in Singapore, do not pass GO, toothpaste turns your teeth green

Singapore has long had a squeaky-clean image: no litter on the streets, certainly no gum problem, etc. But what lies beneath this veneer of sterile spotlessness? A Singaporean blurgtheamoeba shares with us what it was like to have gone through the Singapore jail system.

Thank you for you kind wishes. When i was younger, 90s, weed was very easy to get. I still think it is, but for obvious reasons, i stay away. Most of the people i know who i could get some from are, funnily enough, expats. In the 90s it was dirt cheap. I could get 10 grams for 50 bucks. I don’t know the prices now. I moved from sg in 2000.

Jail was terrible. In remand, our water source was the toilet bowl. The shavers are blunt and used, unless you have gang connections to get fresh ones. The tooth paste turns your teeth green. The soap is not soap, you can find piece of cardboard/plastic in it. We used our fingernails to clean ourselves. (Of course once you start a job in there ((pays like three bucks a week)) you can pool money to by normal soap and paste.) Everything can lead to a fight, from where you sleep, to how you stand/sit. I’d never been in a fight in my life and come from an educated family. It was a massive cultureshock. Racial segregation was weird too. Lottsa violence. You keep quiet and keep your head down and serve your time, basically.

I got lucky at the end. I didn’t have any family here so i couldnt get out on tagging. But the principal of the prison school overheard my story when i was being interviewed to be moved to a halfway house and he got me transferred to KBC where i taught English to the O/A level students till my release. But even there, a week before my release, some inmate lied and told them i received smuggled drugs ( you cant get anything in there. not even a toothpick), and they threw me into Personal Confinement while the investigations were carried out. 6 days in the dark, alone, with 15 mins outside every morning to wash yourself and the bucket you shit/piss in. Fuck that place.

In a nutshell, things are safe on the streets, because all the violent people are in there. And a lot of kids. Mostly malay kids for minor drug cases, who turn into gangsters. It’s a viscous viscious cycle.

I will never touch drugs here because i dont ever want to end up there again. The next time my sentence will be doubled, and I know i wouldnt be able to survive that.

Originally posted here.

Continuing further, he comments on forced sexual encounters in prision:

Yes there are, on the second night i woke up to find a guy masrtubating while looking at me. I pretended to not notice and go back to sleep and, thankfully he was transferred out. Three days later, he was raped in a cell . I guess he did the same to some other guy. The only other one i personally witnessed was when a tranny joined my cell at AWP. !st day in the shower guys approached him aggressively, but he turned straight to the “big gangster” and performed “services” for him on the spot. After that. He was the gangster’s property and noone else touched him. I slept on the other side of them in a big cell with about 20 of sleeping side by side on the floor and made it my business to not get involved with things that were beyond my ability to handle.

How many Singaporeans, living a life where they walk free, know of what it’s like for those incarcerated? Some of the Singaporean commenters expressed having their eyes opened at this facet of Singapore often ignored or not talked about.

He adds that this was a long time ago, and that prison facilities have changed very much since then.

Changi is a modern facility. I can’t imagine people drinking water from the toilet bowl there, for example.

I think what’s scariest is that for many of these guys, they can survive inside but not in the outside world. So its easy to reoffend. Who wants to hire an ex con? not many people, especially if said excon has spent most of his life in an out of jail. Viscious cycle.

I am lucky i have specialized skills (writer/musician). I am a freelancer who can make ends meet. Most ex-cons dont.

Singapore is notorious for its caning corporal punishments. For those who are curious as to who gets caned, blurgtheamoeba adds:

Nah. For vandalism yes. For domestic violence too. For drug cases, only traffickers. For a few others as well, though im not sure of them all. Not for possession/consumption. Because it’s a minority thing, it actually becomes counter productive. Guys who come back from being caned, to them it’s a badge of honor. Like a rite of passage.

Brutal though. they can’t sit down for days. The flesh has been flayed off and the wounds are very deep.

I do remember when we were in fourth or fifth grade, we got to go on a school trip to our prisons, where they showed us the facilities (concrete, bleak, grimy), the caning apparatus (an A-frame, assortment of giant canes), and had a ‘model’ inmate telling us what crimes he committed and how we, impressionable fourth/fifth graders should never commit crimes and stay out of jail.

I think that “National Education” trip was probably sufficient to traumatise many a child away from the path of law-breaking, given our harsh laws and seeing our low crime rate.

For those curious as to how long blurgtheamoeba’s sentence was:

18mths, possession + consumption + paraphernalia (a friggin cigarette roller). Physically a year. You get a third off automatically and they can add days within that period for fighting/etc.

A kueh/kuih by any other name

When people ask, “What food is uniquely Singaporean/Malaysian?” the usual dishes of kway teow, rice dishes, curries, and so on usually come to mind. But a lot of those dishes do originate from elsewhere — curry from India, many rice and noodle dishes are from China — it is the adaptation of these foreign influences and transformation into what it is today that make them uniquely Singaporean/Malaysian.

One of the ultimate amalgamation of cultures would be the Peranakan; descendants of Chinese immigrants in Indonesia and the British Malaya in the 15th or 16th century. They’ve retained the ancestor worship of the Chinese, but mostly assimilated the language and culture of the Malays. Their language, Baba Malay, is a creole of Malay with many Hokkien words in it. Given that many Peranakans are of mixed heritage of Chinese and Malay, many look like a cross in-between — darker skinned than most Chinese, but slightly paler than many Malays.

But one thing that’s absolutely amazing about the Peranakan culture is their food. Using many typical Malay spices and traditional methods of cooking, such as crushing flower petals to obtain natural food dyes, Peranakan food is something as much to look at as it is to eat. “Kueh” (sometimes spelled “Kuih”) are various cake-like confections that range from savoury to sweet. The below, taken from Lee Xin Li’s post, demonstrate the mind-boggling variety of Peranakan kueh that exists.

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