Saturday, August 26, 2006

A rally for Utopia

I have yet to speak to my mother after the National Day Rally this year. This is an annual address by the Singapore's PM to provide his strategic vision and spell out the directions necessary to achieve a certain desired utopian state.

I knew my mother would not be too pleased with the PM. She hasn't been for a long time. I made a reminder somewhere to lighten her mood by pointing her to Mr Brown's harmless podcast.

I am glad Howard is not one for long speeches and there isn't an annual Australia Day Rally here. I don't relish having PMs who upset us unnecessarily as we go about making an honest living.

Singapore is open to more immigrants as it tackles its population woes. As an ex-Singaporean, I have very strange feelings about this. Attracting foreigners (especially the useful ones) as an avenue to expand economic well-being is not privy to Singapore. Politicians everywhere know what to do.

This quick fix has its limitations. I am not a/an demographic scientist, sociologist nor economist. I am just human. I know it is not nice to live in crowded places. It is not nice to have to compete with everyone else for resources. In Singapore, even using the public toilet can be a hell of a long wait.

If the PM intends to attract high calibre immigrants ( if even to romance the idea that they are like my family; highly educated, cosmopolitan and skilled), perhaps he should also have a Plan B stashed safely in another drawer for use when these immigrants leave.I am glad that he is confident of retaining them as against someone like me, born, bred and shared similar memories of Singapore with him.

To be fair, it is always a gamble when it comes to attracting global citizens. You'll need to put more on the table. Beyond monetary rewards, for a start.

However, I don't see that happening in Singapore as yet. Singapore will continue to attract more of what it already has in abundance. Birds of a feather flock together.

Rallies will come and go. So will immigrants of past, present and future who did not find what they want in Singapore.

It is a trading port, afterall.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

My little corner in Adelaide

Munno Para Shopping City (a small section of it)

My little corner in Adelaide measures 3.12km2 and has a population of about 5200 residents. Very few of them are Asians.

It is one of the many suburbs in the City of Playford which is about half the size of Singapore.

This is the dome-shaped ceiling over the mall's food court. Read here if you want to confirm that Australians are badly deprived of world-class shopping. It reminds me of Jurong Point in Singapore, with its natural light streaming in from the top.

a section of the food court

This is the food court in the shopping mall where you get the usual local and asian treats. Surprisingly, the mall enjoys a good level of human traffic any time of the day. Shopper volume is evenly spread over the opening hours. The food court is small compared to those in Singapore but the bonus is you don't need to 'chope' seats with your tissue paper. In the mornings, the customers are usually elderly couples or small families having their leisure coffee and doughnuts.

games and entertainment zone -XBox games are available

This is my favourite haunt in the mall, the local library. It is opened 7 days a week, with opening hours from 9am-5pm. On Thursdays, the hours extend to 8pm while the weekend hours are shorter (Sat is 10-4 and Sun is 1-4). In addition to the usual library services, I am particularly happy with the following:

1 Free internet access (over 20 terminals and there is always one available anytime!)

2 Large LCD screens featuring Foxtel, Channel V and Life Style

My son had enjoyed many hours at the 3 XBox stations (above), playing games and making new friends.

I have not encountered any 'ugly' situations of 'hoarding' library resources for the many months I was here. The children shared willingly and hardly stayed very long hours. They usually leave when their parents came to pick them up after the shopping. Read more about the Playford Library here.

While I hardly had time to read in Singapore, I find myself reading much more here. Probably because I have exchanged watching TV programmes for reading or that I am spending less time tutoring my son in his studies. Or a summation outcome of both.

My short term plan is to explore beyond this little corner once the family is comfortably settled. We are looking forward to the spring and summer holidays to taste a little of the famous Aussie outback life. And to compete with my neighbours in hosting a mean barbie! We'll definitely introduce them to some Singaporean BBQ favourites as well. Aussies are an adventurous lot when it comes to food, like us. (However, some don't quite take to seafood as much as we do).


Thursday, August 10, 2006

A corrupted mind ....

It started with a question from my son on our way to school. He asked why the truck went round watering the grass along the streets. I told him it was hired by the government to do so (to keep matters simple for him). So he asked me why did the government do it?

My reply? It is the social compact between the government and the people who elected it. An understanding that, in areas where the individual has a lesser ability to perform efficiently, the government is expected to assist and provide. This social compact varies country to country. We, as citizens, contribute in the form of taxes to uphold this social compact. Unexpectedly, he said this: "Singapore is corrupted; they only want money".

Good gracious, is that what he learnt in Singapore schools? I certainly did not teach him such nonsense. I spent some time elaborating to him that corruption can happen in any system. A country, a company and even in a school. It is everybody's duty and to each one's benefit to provide the check and balance to stem corruption. Just like we need policemen to catch thieves. We also need to ensure the policemen don't become bigger thieves. He nodded his head but I think it would be a long while before he could really appreciate the ramifications of this conversation.

Nonetheless, he concluded that he liked Singapore. His friends over there speak singlish and that is nice.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

An experimental childhood ...

Walking towards the school gates, my son and I heard his friends calling him. A group of 5 or 6 boys were hollering at us from the school field, at a spot near the sand pits. My son turned around and told me matter-of-factly that his classmates were burying Rhys, another boy from the class.

What?! School bullies are everywhere ... you can't escape from them, it seems. I heard from my relatives back home that school bullies had also infiltrated the better schools.

Oh, hang on, my son explained further that the guys loved it. It was to be Rhys' turn this morning. Apparently, they take turns to bury their friends in the sand. The boy will only be happy when his whole body is immersed in sand.

If there was anything intellectual to be gained, it would be that they discovered it felt warmer being buried in the sand. I reminded myself to bring my family for a holiday in Coober Pedy. Check it out here.

In an earlier session, one of the boys buried his head in the sand because he wanted to know what it was like to be an emu. Most amazingly, the Principal was with them on that occasion.

As I left the school gates, I could still hear their loud laughter and bantering.

This was exactly the kind of childhood I had wanted for him. Just like the good old days when I climbed trees and romped around deserted kampongs and forests. And yes, I chided myself for worrying about that new pair of Esprit jeans that he was wearing.

I just need to buy tougher and cheaper jeans in future.

The killing fields ... where potential leaders were buried ... once.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006


澳洲国花 Golden Wattle

老妈, 想不到吧?
不用去中国看桃花, 日本赏樱花了!

我就为您在院子里种樱花和桃花, 好让您来造访的时候, 可以看看这里的花花世界!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

On the street where I live ....

Wendy introduced me to her friend. "Oh, you're from Singapore! I know Singapore, it's very, very clean".

She was not the first Aussie to comment on Singapore's cleanliness. I had come across several others. Somehow, that was the most frequent compliment I have heard about Singapore. To be fair, these perceptions may not be fully representative as most of these folks hardly travel abroad. For those who had visited Singapore, it was interesting that they only had fond memories of the Botanic Gardens and, yes, that Singapore was very clean.

Honestly, I am amused. I took a look around my neighbourhood. This is definitely not your well-to-do Wisteria Lane kind of suburb. In fact, this area, further north of metropolitan Adelaide has a 'low-income and unskilled' residential profile. The streets are not swept everyday and household waste is collected once a week only. I think the residents have done a marvelous job of keeping our streets clean with so little help? Without the foreign workers' contributions, I doubted if the HDB block (in Singapore) that I used to live in could be half as clean.

I would be sad if I have to relocate to another place when the rental lease expires. My neighbours are very friendly. They will run over to help me sort out the silliest problems I have, like which dumpster bin to use and what trash is recycleable.


A tribute to Aug 9th

I brought home a pot of orchid from my latest romp at the nearby mall. Singapore's national flower. My small tribute to August the ninth. It is a hybrid of the 'Ruby Eyes' specimen.

Australia is native to a few hundred species of wild orchids. Some are pretty rare, it seems. For example, the Rhizanthella species (underground orchids) spend most of their life cycles underground. Only 'unconfirmed' sightings have been reported in South Australia.

For those who want to learn more about Australia's wild orchids, you can check them out. By the way, 'collecting and disturbing' the wild orchids is illegal, ok?

These orchids were sold by a group of orchid lovers who formed an association to share their common love in growing orchids. Their 'labour of love' were sold during an annual orchid show held at various shopping malls. The objective, I guess, was to invite more to appreciate the orchid's beauty.

Singapore should show more than a monetary interest to promote orchids to its people. Besides generating decent revenue from exports, it is the national flower, you know. I think those purple flowers would be more uplifting than artificial banners planted everywhere on the island now.

I did not know that orchids thrive in Australia (so sua-ku!). I love orchids and I have to say this is pure joy for me to know I can still have them around my home in Adelaide.

A little bonus in life.