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Showing posts from 2007

All I want for Christmas

I love Christmas, but I have much reservation about the notion that, to celebrate Christmas means that you will have to buy something for someone, and subordinate completely to commodity without much thought. Every time I feel like buying something for my friends, I tend to think that I might be adding to: Their clutter - excessive wrapper and trimmings on top of gifts that my friends may have no idea what to do with. Do they throw them away? I may feel unappreciated. Do they reuse or recycle them? That may be too much work for them. They may just throw the wrapping paper away, but it’s still an unnecessary contribution to the landfill.Their chores - things like flowers, nice. But they would have to get the water changed everyday, and I will worry about what they would do when the flowers are dead. I normally bury them, but I can’t possibly expect all of my friends to do that too.Their extreme hassle and guilt as they may have no idea what to say to me - if they totally do not like wh…

Uniquely Singapore Enbloc Fever (Part 2)

If this is the first time you're seeing this title, please refer to the prequel: Uniquely Singapore Enbloc Fever Part 1.

Here is what happened after that (I could probably make a movie out of it). If you have seen The Worst Week Of My Life (British TV comedy series), you will understand what I’m talking about, because this IS the worst week of MY life, till date.


******************
5 July 2007, Thursday

So I tried to reason with that agent of mine that, since the contract has stated that either party has to provide a written 30-day notice in the event of early termination of the contract, she can't possibly fault me for this because it was HER who has neglected her responsibility as a real estate agent. And who is the one breaching the contract now? It's her who is not giving a 1-month notice! She can well keep my deposit as the rental of my final month, and shove her gangster attitude up where the sun doesn't shine.

I texted her. No reply. And I thought no news was good ne…

The Right to Consume, or Plain Ignorance?

One crazy woman was spotted in Ikea restaurant this evening, whilst taking her tray to the tray trolley after her dinner, picked up several packets of unused salt and pepper from the table next to hers, and placed them back where they came from.

These individually packed salt and pepper, was believed to be left behind by a very trendy looking couple, who obviously have the right to take whatever amount of salt and pepper they wish even though it is much more than what they needed and can consume. Afterall, it is free, and the cost has probably been worked into the price of the food; so what's wrong with that? And what damage would ditching a few packets of salt and pepper possibly do?

The damage is astronomical.

And that crazy woman was me.

Harmony in Cultural Differences

This looks like a very normal photograph of four beautiful young oriental girls.

But they aren't just any beautiful young oriental girls. They come from four different oriental ethnics: China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan (according to alphabetical order). And they are the best of friends.

Surely we have all heard about the long-term conflict amongst the four Oriental countries: China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Everyone of the countries has one thing or another against the rest, whether secretly or out in the open.

The worldwide debates of recognition on "who came from who", "which culture is mine and not yours", "whose land belongs to whom", etc, etc. What's so important about the national rights to a certain festival or food? Sounded like a few 5-year olds fighting over whose dad is the biggest. How embarrassing.

If only these country leaders could stop for 1 second and take a look at these four young ladies. There may still be a little communication ob…

Hygiene Notions

Out of desperation, I had to join the Sunday crowd at Ikea for my dinner.

Such a trendy place to hang out for families from a highly developed country, to show off that the wives do not have to do the cooking at home because they can afford to eat out.

After much struggle, I finally managed to snatch an empty seat at a table shared with a family. They had a stack of serviettes (paper napkins) on the table. When I said stack, I really meant stack. A 1-inch thick stack! How can a family of 2 adults and 2 toddlers need so many of that?

It is such a common scene that these humans will take much more than they should, when they can, even when they have absolutely no need for it. "Well, it's free", someone will tell you that.

It is also one of the many notions of "hygiene" in Singapore, well, also in many other places where humans reside. Since the extinct of handkerchief (some may not even know what it is or how to spell it anymore), the use of paper napkins is on the r…

Hungry Ghosts, Good Money

The bus ride back to my little room rented from a human family takes about 35 minutes every evening, and passes by many HDB flats (The Singapore government built flats, HDB stands for Housing and Development Board) in Chinese housing area including the China Town. Since mid August, I have been noticing a lot of burning of candles, prayer paper that represents "hell money", joss sticks, and paper replicas of luxury items in these areas. There are also some heavily decorated stages and tents set up in various areas, completed with altars and amazingly, karaokes! It looks like something really big is going on.

Aahhhhh... it's one of the most important Chinese festivals in Singapore: The Hungry Ghost Festival! The festival which the Chinese believe that the hell gate would open and free all underworld souls to wander amongst the livings' world. All that burnings are the humans' offerings to feed these hungry and perhaps greedy ghosts, so that they shall not disturb or…

Glammed Up Animal Cruelty

TVs are so common these days. You've got one, she's got two, he's got three (except poor me who is now trapped in a humble room who does not have access to one); and now even the fish!!!!



I couldn't believe my eyes when I first saw this in Suntec City. How on earth did that big TV screen get into the aquarium?!! Well obviously some technicians and engineers helped, of course, I'm not an idiot. But why???

I know this is really 'different', and 'innovative', to humans' standard. The business owner must have thought: "Hmmm... the wall looks kinda empty here, let's build an aquarium and keep some colourful and lucky kois to boost our business."

When the big, world-class aquarium is installed:

"Hmmm... the fish look kinda lonely and bored. Oh why don't we give them some entertainment? Let's place a TV in there. Fantastic! That way the aquarium would look soooo "out of the box" (a phrase the Singaporeans use literally …

Joy To The World! The Hope Is Come!

A usual morning, a routine tea and toast breakfast down the sandwich place, with my usual half closed/half opened eyes. The lady at the counter is as grumpy as usual, Singapore is as hectic as it usually can be.

A young bloke caught my eye. A young, trendy looking bloke whom I guess works in an advertising agency or some sort of design industry (according to years of observations and experience in the industry myself) from his "smart-casual" outfit. Standing in the queue, he has a short flask in his hand. I am curious: is he planning to do what I am hoping that he is?

I have already finished my breakie, but I decided to stay for a bit due to my nosey nature.

And... YES! When it came to his turn at the counter, he handed over his flask for his takeaway coffee! YAY! Someone is doing the things that the few of us are doing! One more to the club! The hope is out there! [I nearly went up there and gave him a bear hug, but thought I'd better not scare his little effort away so I …

Uniquely Singapore Enbloc Fever

Just when I was talking about unethical agents and enbloc issues in Singapore, I got a text message from my agent yesterday, confirming that our flat in Le Chateau has been enbloc, and that all tenants will have to move out by the end of this month!

Less than 1 month notice, and not even a written notice! And she had the nerve to ask me to pay up the full rent for the month of July! In other countries that I have resided in before, including Malaysia and England, I have never experienced this kind of real estate moments. Whether it was a lapse of a contract, or in the event of my old landlord wanting to sell the place, I was always informed formally, given ample time for necessary planning with full refund of my deposit.

But the law here seems to be working in the owner's or the agent's favour. In most contracts you will only find rule after rule for the tenant to obey, and nothing for their benefit, for example: what would happen to them when the property is sold, or enbloc in …

Sustainable life in Singapore, and the world we live in

Oh what a wonderful country! The 'clean' and 'tidy' facade of the city, the heavily advertised 'high standard of living', and its 'uniquely' advance lifestyle! Oh what a wonderful world! No wonder everyone wants to come to Singapore.

Le Chateau is the low rise apartment I am residing in since last September, a 'higher end' private apartment and what the Singaporeans sometimes refer to as a 'mansion' style development. I pay extremely high rental due to the 'golden location' nearing Orchard, for just a room! Monthly cleaning was promised to tenants but you never see the dust disappears. I am sure the apartment once had its glorious time, but it is not maintained properly and everything is on its way out.

I believe this is one of those many properties in Singapore: luxuriously built, but high maintenance. The owner or ex-owner has either migrated to somewhere better, or simply gave up maintaining it, and sold it off or let an agent t…

Bring Your Own Bag Day in Singapore!

A few days after the routine-disturbing, too-much-to-handle-for-Singaporeans, Bring Your Own Bag Day; I went to do my shopping again, and as usual I had to shout 3 times at the cashier so I can use my own shopping bag. And guess what she said to me: 'But today is not "Bring Your Own Bag Day".'

I was speechless.

Bring Your Own Bag Day in Singapore!

To my biggest surprise, when I approached the check-out counter in a supermarket and the cashier asked me, "would you need a bag?" It is definitely not a norm for that to happen in Singapore! Even when some major supermarkets do sell reusable cloth bags, they have never once asked me if I prefer to purchase one of them! And to actually ask me if I need a bag? In your dreams!

Oh but that is finally happening now, so it's God's gift! Of course my answer is "no, I don't need a bag, thank you" - with a big smile, which they don't usually get when they tried to shove me plastic bags.

Then when the next customer said he would like a bag, there was a 10-cent extra charge to his purchase (he then quickly changed his mind ahahaha).

Then I noticed a sticker on the cashier counter top, advertising about some "Bring Your Own Bag Day" campaign.

So I see... Singapore is FINALLY "doing something" like a few other countries. Of course, for a start, …

But It’s Gonna Dirty The Box

After those near-violence experiences with the cashier, on instructing them not to provide a plastic bag, I now bring my own container for any food purchases. I came to this very famous and popular Southeast Asian-style bakery in the heart of Singapore, with my little reusable food container. I just felt like having some Cassava cake tonight.

Guess what? When I revealed my little box and said that I want my pastries placed in it, both the shopkeepers looked at me, puzzled. Yes, please, I said, I want my purchase to be placed in the box, and no extra plastic bag please.

Guess what? When I wasn’t looking, the elder shopkeeper stuffed two pastries into a plastic bag before placing them into the box! Arrrrrrgh! This time, I made sure I told her repeatedly that I want the other items placed straight into the box, without any bag.

Guess what? She looked at me, “huh? Straight into the box?” I said yes again. She then said, with that where-the-hell-did-you-weirdo-come-from look, “what? No bag? I…

Joe Le Taxi De Singapore

If you ever come to Singapore, you would be impressed with their efficient public transport such as the trains and the buses. They are not short of taxis either, however, these taxis may not be of your service at all time.

After a human-bashing (verbally) dinner with my sister (may or may not be another Erisian) who came for a training trip, we headed for the taxi stand to get her back to her hotel. The moderately long queue didn’t put us off. We thought: this is a highly ‘developed’ country equipped with such efficient public transport system, how difficult is it to get a cab? Moreover, I see taxis on the road all the time, loads of them!

5 minutes. 10 minutes. 20 minutes. The person at the start of the queue stayed unchanged, and the queue got longer. Yes, there were taxis driving into the stand, but they either had the “On Call” sign on, or were just dropping off some passengers. Those with no “On Call” sign on, would come in and pick a random passenger whose destination appealed to …

Are These All That We Can Recycle?

Recycling, in many human’s mind, is a process or action whereby you dump something used or unused into something called the recycling bins. These bins are often painted in different colours according to each designated category of recyclables. Of course, human being human, they need to be educated n terms of what goes into which coloured bin. Despite that, you can still find them shoving the wrong stuff into the wrong bin, or worse – treating them like a normal rubbish bin!

Obviously, human need a hell a lot of programming in recycling. After all, this is such a new thing to them. They have been taking greedily and thoughtlessly from their mother earth for millions of years!

How do you programme the recycling act into human? First and foremost, the authority (Yes, it’s got to be an authority. Anyone without a title can never convince a human being) has to let these people know what can be recycled. Hence, the different coloured bins for different types of recyclable materials.

HOWEVER, i…

Ban Fast Food… err, We Meant Fast Food Advertisements

“KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Malaysia's health ministry is considering a ban on fast food advertisements because the meals they promote are considered "silent killers", the Star newspaper reported on Saturday.”

The health ministry said they want to send a strong signal to the consumers. They do not allow advertising for cigarettes and liquor, and in their opinion, fast food should be treated in the same way as alcohol.

Wow.

That -- is BIG news. Are they finally awakening from the fast food dreamland and realising its evilness, or are they simply jumping on the bandwagon – since the US and the UK are already moving towards that direction – thinking that this is the way to fight against evil?

Whether fast food is equally evil as cigarettes, what good would it do by banning the adverts, while these fast food outlets are still out there? Are you going to chain these consumers and not let them get in there?

Because that’s the easiest way out. If they don’t see it being advert…

Great Country, Great Architecture

You would think that this is a highly developed country, with everything so modern and advanced; then its building must have very well planned structures abode by the most basic health and safety regulations. Yeah right.

I just had a big slip last night, on the top of the really steep driveway right outside my apartment, thanks to the slippery road – as it has been raining cats and dogs in Singapore for the last couple of days. But rain isn’t at all the main culprit.

And that was not the first time I’ve slipped! The first time brought me a bleeding knee, this time a sprained lower back.

You see; this apartment block has a weird landscape structure that is not exactly ergonomic. The driveway is way too steep to walk down safely, never mind, as it wasn’t built for pedestrians anyway. But the steps and stairway leading down to the entrance of my apartments are too steep too. Take a look at the photographs below: instead of making the platform at a 180-degree horizontal level (see the red li…

Nicer Human Beings

Another hard-to-decide-where-to-dine lunch time.

I came to a café, and was looking for a table. Here comes the problem: almost all tables are 4-seaters. I have this impression that Singapore in a way is trying to promote "unity", "community", "togetherness" or whatever they call it; that is why, every food place I go, most tables are meant for at least 4 diners (except on Valentine's Day, some restaurants would rearrange the tables for couples). But the ironic truth is, most people -- as I observed -- come out for lunch alone! So what you would normally see in a restaurant or café is, most of these 4-seater tables are occupied by just 1 person. What a clever scheme to campaign for so-called "togetherness". Huh!

However, I still have to eat. So I have no choice but to sit at a 4-seater table. I look and feel really inconsiderate, but what choice do I have, being in a country like this, on a planet like this?

While I was eating, a girl came to sp…

Smokers can quit being so generous

Here is the most miraculous moment I have ever encountered this morning. I was looking out from a local coffee place, and saw smoke coming out from the top of the hedges.

Oh no, it’s on fire!

However, pedestrians kept walking pass it but no one noticed it or paid any attention to it. I walked to the hedge and took a look. It was a cigarette lying on the top of the hedge, burning and releasing smoke. And it is not quite done yet.

I had to take a snapshot – priceless! But I did not put it off because some very fierce gangsters may have left it there for later, or may be, some very generous smokers have decided to share his joy!

And funnily enough, as I turned away from the cigarette, these 3 Chinese men sitting next to the hedge were staring and glaring at me as if I was some kind of an alien. And they were right.

Note the pictures below: The first being the mysteriously unattended, burning cigarette; the second shows that the cigarette was on the top of a hedge (red arrow) right next to a &…

Sorry, No Outside Books Allowed In The Library

When I was in England, whenever I wanted to have a quiet afternoon to have a little reading, or do some writing; I’d go to the library. Be it the City Council Library or the library at the university I was both teaching and studying at, I never had a problem getting in and have something done. No one checks my bag, or the books or notes I was bringing in with me. If you steal, the door will scream at you.

The Singapore National Library presents a great-looking exterior and comfortable-looking interior, and does offer some books (well I do have problem sourcing for some titles). It is tempting to spend a luxurious afternoon in there.

My first time visiting the library, I had Sandra Steingraber’s Living Downstream with me. I was stopped by the security guard on duty, and had to go in without it – there is a locker system where you can place all your bags and belongings in – securely – hmm…

Fine.

Today, I had with me a few written essays, which my human students did from plenty of research t…

A Wasteful Friday Night in Singapore

I don’t do many late nights lately, but even when I only managed to leave my human workplace at about 9.30pm tonight, it was fine. Singapore isn’t big. It doesn’t take me a long time to get home. In no time, I will be sipping camomile and reading my book.

How wrong.

Only when I got off the bus, I realised that there is a parade on orchard road. I’ve been so busy today it totally skipped my mind.

Bugger.

Now I’m standing 500m from my doorstep but I just can’t get there. They’ve blocked up the whole road for the much talked-about Chingay Parade (don’t ask me what the hell that means, I have no freaking idea!), and I am on the wrong side of the road!

Bugger.

Plan B. I had to squeeze through the sweaty, smelly, cheering crowd, and walked a big circle around the event, finally away from the blocked area, and managed to get onto the right side of the road; only then I can start walking home – from almost the starting point. It is a humid evening.

I need water.
I need food.
I need a shower.
I need the…

Smokers can quit being so generous

Scenario 1
Some countries have totally banned smoking indoors, and some countries have done it partially. So you might be free from smoke in some restaurants, malls, pubs and offices, in some countries. So did the smokers go? Try all the entrances, exits, and corridors. Getting in and out of these places almost feels like you’re in a horror movie trying to get through a bunch of monsters or zombies – stretching their claws at you – before you can get in to the safe territory. And don’t forget to hold your breath too.

Scenario 2
When you think you could have a stroll to the office in the morning, and get some fresh air, chances are, you might have to walk behind some smoker(s) enjoying their air-polluting morning ritual. What’s worse, they usually share at least half the journey with you, walk just fast enough so that you can’t overtake them and just slow enough to stay close to you.

Scenario 3
It’s never a nice thing queuing at the bus stop, whatever weather. But someone will have to come …

Chinese New Year in Singapore (3rd Day)

It’s the third day of Chinese New Year. People are coming out from their homes like ants from their hill. I have gone in to a couple of bistros and decided to leave, because they failed to serve me after 10 minutes. Can’t really blame them – it’s the crowd that has really put me off.

Although this efficiently built concrete country in the city has one of the most affordable and reliable public transport system, limited land in Singapore has also restricted the residents here in terms of places to visit especially on holidays and weekends. In fact what it has to offer, are all sorts of shopping mall. Almost every shopping mall provides the need for international labels (DKNY, Gucci, etc), international food (Starbucks, McDonald’s, etc), and international entertainment (Cineplex with large number of theatres). Culturally, in human society, it is a good thing to be able to get access to international products.

So where can the residents go on a day off like this? The shopping mall, of cour…

Chinese New Year in Singapore

This Chinese New Year, I must have been crowned the most ungrateful child in the family. Reason being, I am 397 km, 10-hour train ride, 5-hour coach ride, 45-minute air travel, away from home. It seems absolutely no reason why I’m not going home for the Lunar New Year celebration.

BUT. There are:

1. I’m in a teaching job that requires me to make up for any lecture I missed due to holidays. So taking extra days off work just isn’t worth it. I will have to go back to work facing an unnecessary load of work.

2. The Singapore-Malaysia causeway is a hell on earth during weekends, especially festive and holiday seasons.

3. The train station is highly inaccessible, and the KTM online ticketing service is forever down. After all, the train tickets are sold out eons ago.

4. Flight tickets and the Singapore airport tax are frighteningly expensive.

SO. I decided to stay and have a quiet New Year, on my own. Boohoo…

It’s not exactly my first time of spending Chinese New Year away from home. I spent the …

Valentine’s Daze

Oh no, it’s Valentine’s Day! I’m going to be so sad this Valentine’s Day because my boyfriend is not in the same country as I am, so how am I going to be seen sitting prettily in a pomsy restaurant, at the rows of tables (scattered with rose petals, mind you!) in a uniform manner, together with other [human] couples, waiting to be served the “Specially Designed, Valentine’s Romantic Meal”? *

Does this mean I won’t be able to strut my Valentine’s gifts to other girls on the street?
Does this mean I would be deemed as some pathetic, sad git no one loves?

Oh no, this is going to be a disaster!

Oh no no no, I CANNOT spend Valentine’s Day without these highly in-demand, love-symbolising things:
Red roses – that cannot be grown in hot weather, but have to be flown in from thousands of miles away, creating tonnes of carbon emission – that are the symbol of luuuurve. And don’t forget the use of pesticides.Chocolates – those individually packed in silver or gold foils, placed in a plastic tray, the…

My horoscope says… buy this ring

I was sitting at a café one day, flipping through some women’s magazine, and came across a horoscope section that gives an overview on love, life, and career, and what’s more – advice on THE jewellery each zodiac needs. To quote them:

“Earthy and grounded, yet sensual and pleasure-seeking, the Taurus woman will love the concentrated bling of diamonds and the luxury of white gold of this XYZ diamond ring, $628.”
[In a corner: picture of the ring and credits, “Brought to you by So-And-So Jeweller”]

Awww… how right they are about me! And I’ve definitely got to rush down to that particular jeweller and grab that ring, haven’t I? That’s gotta be specially made for us Taureans!

But… there is one problem. I don’t even like diamonds, and I don’t have a habit of wearing rings.

I want to laugh. And I want to cry – for those who may have really gone down to the jeweller and bought that “special jewellery that is meant for them”.

I have no problem with horoscope prediction. I do that from time to time,…

Too old-fashioned to use porcelain and glassware?

Serving food and drink in porcelain or glassware was a natural thing to do. They are durable (if you don't break them), do not release poison under high heat, and are washable - so that you can keep reusing them until you break, or chip them. But since when have we discarded that practice and opted for non-reusable tableware?

I guess I can accept someone arguing that they ‘need’ a non-reusable plastic cup for their takeaway drinks, but to serve drinks in that to a dine-in customer? Beats me.

Can someone tell me the point of that, please? Here in Singapore, I am sitting at a table in a restaurant, stationary. Yet, when my drink came, it was in a disposable plastic cup, complete with sealed cover, and a straw strike through it.

They must have heard me wrongly, and thought that I wanted it to go. So I asked them.

They said: No, it’s not a mistake. That’s how we serve drinks here.
But I am sitting down, not walking around or jumping around with the drink in my hand. Why do I need it sealed…

Best Retail Service in Singapore, and the world we live in

Character #1: Shop cashier
Character #2: Customer

Act 1
Scene 1: Present time in a bakery, somewhere in Singapore. A customer picks up some pastries and proceeds to the checkout counter.

Shop cashier: [No greetings whatsoever, but like a robot, one hand automatically grabs each piece of pastry and shoves it into a small plastic bag grabbed simultaneously by the other hand.]
Customer: [Shocked and anxiously] No! Please, can you put everything into just one bag?
Shop cashier: [Looks as if she suddenly realised that the customer is another human being, and doubtfully] How would that fit? (Note: her hands have not completely stopped grabbing and shoving yet)
Customer: [Annoyed too but tried to be calm] Yes, it will, if you were to place them all in a bigger bag.
Shop cashier: [Even more annoyed, and thinks that the customer is nuts. Picks up another bigger bag and place the rest of the pastries into it, extremely unwillingly]
Customer: [Puzzled by the cashier’s irritation] And I don’t need a carri…