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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 last three in England. But, it was cold and breezy, and nice (and yes, I love the cool weather. I’m not a ‘trendy’ person and have never bought into the “sun, sea, and sand are paradise” notion sold by magazines and bikini designers. And yes, I’m boring - whatever). All businesses were open as usual besides Chinese takeaways, but who cares? I do my own cooking anyway. And it was university term time so one of my favourite spots, the library, was open. Plus, I was with my earth boyfriend D (not sure if he is one of us - we never talked about it), minus the hassles from my own family (hehehe).

SO. My first Chinese New Year in Singapore. It is a totally new experience. It is a Chinese dominated country so hardly anything is open for business on the first day of Chinese New Year, except for a handful of western food outlets and caf├ęs. But it is quiet for once.

Still, I would rather stay in if I had a choice. That way I don’t have to put up with the expensive but choking perfume from the woman sitting at the next table, or the lame music (or worse, Celine Dion or Modern Talking) they play at the outlet, and the hot sun while walking from one place to another. But the fact that I am only renting an extremely expensive room in an apartment shared with five other [rather messy] people, I can’t bear to do any cooking in that filthy and less than equipped kitchen so I have to eat out.

Out of no choice, I was out again on the second day. When I walked in to Cold Storage supermarket, it was surprisingly peaceful with some mellow sounding French ballads playing in the air. Absolutely refreshing (not a common scene in Singapore, must be some French product promotion going on) compared to those days prior to the Chinese New Year. It was then blasted with horrible sounding, cheesy Chinese-New-Year-theme songs. I had to have my MP3 plugged in on full blast, constantly. When I say Chinese-New-Year-theme songs, I meant nothing like the traditional Chinese classical music, but the highly commodified modern songs written for Chinese New Year, sung by commercial singers who can’t sing to save their lives, or worse, by some Singapore MediaCorp “artistes” (so-called actors and actresses from Singapore TV broadcast company).

They say, you have to have these songs to project the Chinese-New-Year-mood, I heard a man saying that on the news, when interviewed. The tradition is in me. I do not need some so-called Chinese-New-Year-music to get me in the mood. When one’s siblings come home to reunite, he or she should feel that mood automatically. Moderate festive decoration is nice, but do we need to fill the whole house with everything red? An exceptionally better-than-usual meal is great, when you can enjoy them with the whole family. But do we need to absolutely have that “latest must-have reunion set meal designed just for 2007, the year of the boar”, which comes with abalone, scallops, oysters and whatsoever unnecessarily expensive ingredients that will boost nothing but our poor egos, as advertised in the media?

Oh yes, we MUST. And the merchants win again.

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