Rose-Tinted Goggles (Singapore Day 9)

Friday, Jun 03 2022 (Day 9)

My main event today was a meetup with Debbie again, as I guess we had hit it off quite well when we chatted a couple days ago and she had some spare time this week. I had mentioned that I was going to take an evening stroll around the Marina Bay Promenade due to the I Light Singapore light art exhibition going on down there, and she said she would come along an bring her daughter, Beano, along for the walk as well! And on top of that, I could meet them at her house to start and she’d let me look at what a current HDB flat looks like!

I’m not going to share those pictures as that would violate privacy, however I was very happy upon hearing that offer and it was definitely one of the top highlights of my trip. One of the travel books I read just before my trip, Why Travel Matters by Craig Storti, said that the ultimate goal of a vacation is to get invited into someone’s house, and although I technically achieved that with my homestay thing,, Debbie unwittingly (as I think she only heard of/visited my blog after this event) helped me *properly* fulfil this goal for this trip, and for that I thank her (and her husband)!

That meeting wasn’t happening until 4;30 pm or so, and I expected it to go late into the night, so I spent the morning resting and writing in my room. I did go out to that nearby Eunos Crescent Food Centre again for brunch though, and saw a house with chickens and a henhouse inside the yard along the way.

Suddenly I wonder about those neighbourhood cats.

Brunch

Brunch, as mentioned, took place at the Eunos Crescent Food Centre because it was near and because it was drizzling, and I didn’t want to get too dirty before my visit to Debbie‘s place (the Debbiehaus, as she calls it).

The store itself is simply named Chwee Kueh, which is also the name of the food item, a steamed rice cake with chai po, or diced preserved radish. It’s very tasty and this one was no exception. 8 pieces for $2.90.

It was ultimately still just a nap though, so I also ordered a plate of Nasi Lemak with Fish and Egg from a nearby stall called Epok Epok Central. This one just cost $2.50 but wasn’t particularly good. Besides looking aesthetically displeasing, it felt like the various tastes were fighting each other to be king, rather than working together to bring out the best in each other.

I then went back to my house for a couple more hours, though not before wondering what they were burning in the rain, as I had seen the smoke rising from the pot all through my brunch meal.

I never did find out the answer, though. It was right next to the wet market, which was closing up shop by then as morning turned into early afternoon, and there were a pile of ashes in it when I passed by it.

Anyway, I went back to the house as mentioned, and then later on left the house again at about 3 pm or so. I made my way down to Mustafa Centre again, as Debbiehaus was relatively near that place, and Kynji had wanted some Merlion figurine pictures for her phone wallpaper. I grabbed a few of those, noting how much emptier Mustafa really was on a non-weekend, and then headed over to Debbie‘s place, passing some interesting shops along the way. I arrived a bit early, so I wandered around the block taking pictures of the surrounding view.

i then met Debbie, and got brought into her flat, where she fed me some juice and showed me around her cozy home! I also met her husband, George, who hailed from England but was staying in Singapore with her now, and whom she had met when she was over there for four or five years doing a residency and then a degree program. We reminisced over how it felt to be away from “home” for many years. Like Debbie, he also seemed exceedingly nice, and like a worried mother I’m glad she seemed to be in good hands? But anyway. He soon left to pick up Beano from her daycare, while Debbie serenaded me with funny stories and personal anecdotes and pointed out how their home had way too many lights installed and the house’s colours were all wrong. She also had a few printed copies of her book lying around the house, and she signed a copy of her book and bubble wrapped it for me! Yay! It’s kind of interesting that I didn’t have recordable dreams for the first week and a half or so after coming here to Singapore, but they’re now beginning to start again just as it approaches time for me to leave.

Once Beano returned with George in tow, she changed her clothes, offered me her last round lollipop candy (she’s very sweet), and we took a bus to the Promenade area. George came along for this initial part as well, and we spent some time strolling around an area very close to but not quite where my solo wanderings had ended a couple days ago.

Debbie had work that was featured in a second art exhibition nearby — I was aware she had a second one currently on display but had not looked up where yet — and we swung by that as well. It was super cool seeing her name printed on things.

The exhibition itself was a couple of videos displaying a VR reimagining, recreation, and representation of a small, lost piece of Singapore history, Pulau Saigon, a small island in the Singapore River that got swallowed up by urbanization and time. The actual VR experience was only available on Saturdays and Sundays, apparently, but we watched the video that was on display there, only for a horrified Debbie to text the museum director when she realized that an old version of the video had been playing all this time instead of the most current one that she had sent them, which included subtitles.

We had to pass two other works, from the other two artists in the exhibition, whose names were listed in the above pictures, to get to Debbie‘s exhibition. I quite enjoyed all three exhibitions due to their historical slant — while there was an art aspect in creating something in all three displays (cages, a documentary video, and the machine learning representations of the catalogued miscellany + the whole VR experience and video), the actual topics that they dealt with were very engaging from my amateur historian and chronicler point of view, looking at specimen cages used to transport flora and fauna on long ship journeys, the travels of a Chinese merchant/explorer to Singapore a couple centuries before the British ever got here, an Ark-like ship full of commodities and items bound for Singapore that never found its way here, and the now-lost island of Pulau Saigon. It was arguably more of a historical museum sort of display than an art one, though there was definitely an intersection between the two due to the interpretations of said historical data. At least in Debbie‘s work anyway, the other two, while interesting, looked more like straight up historical displays.

I also only just discovered, while writing this, that Debbie even has her own Wikipedia page.

Soon after this, George had to return home, but not before we took a group photo!

Debbie, Beano, and I continued walking around the Bay in a clockwise direction as it got darker, at which point the I Light Singapore exhibits got under way and we looked at a number of them that we passed by. It was interesting experiencing them with her because she had exhibited here several times before, both as a solo exhibitor (I think) and in a group with her students, and so I was treated to some behind-the-scenes stories and interpretations of the displays that we passed by. I did feel a little bad at inadvertently dragging her out to a show that she had been to many iterations of already in the past though. And with a kid in tow to boot!

Without much narration, here’s a gallery of the evening as there’s not really a good way to otherwise split up the pictures. I also took many pictures of the skyline along the way, since I have a fascination and romanticism for night city skylines, and I took a good number of pictures of people taking pictures for my ongoing collection, though I’m not displaying them here. i even had a nice shot of someone (seemingly) quietly taking a picture of someone else taking a picture that I will share sometime.

Dinner

To wrap up the evening, the three of us stopped by a nearby food court that had been modelled to basically be a hawker centre, but housed in a building with influences from European (Victorian, apparently) architecture — high sloping roofs and decorated arches and stuff and even a bell that struck nine as we were dining!

Like in our meeting with Huihan, we ordered two separate dishes and shared them between the three of us. She ordered the Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee (another iteration of my favourite Singaporean dish, yum) from a stall named Golden Shoe Hokkien Mee, and I ordered the Thunder Tea Rice from, well, the Thunder Tea Rice stall. She also brought a couple mugs of sugar cane juice back to the table.

The thunder tea rice was interesting, its apparently a Hakka dish and involves a bowl of rice and vegetables and another bowl of actual green tea that gets poured into the rice itself. I won’t say I liked it, but it was unique and interesting and not terrible either, and I did end up finishing most of it anyway. Definitely not your normal bowl of rice, even in Singapore!

After dinner, we parted ways — Debbie and Beano took a cab home while I took the MRT train. We chatted a bit that night and I linked her my blog to show her my Dunman High pictures and my seating plan scans, and she also found and commented excitedly on my scans of this Chinese Enrichment Camp as she had attended it as well, as her school at the time (Raffles Girls Primary School) was one of the four GEP schools that took part in the event and it also was a significant memory for her. We had talked quite a bit about our experiences in the GEP over the course of the day and that night, and she sent me photographs of some really interesting documents that her parents had about the Programme the next day as well. I kind of want to do a self-interest research project into the whole GEP and its government-driven aims and the history behind it now — I wonder if this is something I could do if/when I come over to study for a year.

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