Tuesday, 13 February 2007

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Poem - I've been assaulted by food

I've been assaulted by food
from health once decidely rude
all thanks due to pisang
and kueh keuh and like
my stomach's distended
and I'd fall off a bike
I've been assaulted by food

I've been seduced by good food
from morning to night it's the mood
with promise of bau that just won't go away
and a nagging suspicion that one day I'll pay
I've been seduced by good food

I have been poisoned by food
laid low to a bug tough and crude
Was it the curry or chillie or spice?
or coconut left in the sun just a thrice?
to be able to rise from my bed would be nice
I have been poisoned by food

I will rise from my sick bed again
stride forth through the food stalls and then
probably settle for pure juice, yoghurt and fruit
with lashing of chocolate and thick cream to boot
I've been assaulted by food

Monday, 12 February 2007

An Antibiotic Episode

This is a short entry after having been laid low by a bout of acute food poisoning in the middle of last week, contacted in our very own university canteen no less.

It is many years since I have have sunk so low so quickly and it reminded me of the other fact of relocating to a new climate and country - the bugs pick out the newcomer and react more virulently on the unsuspecting stomach! This realisation usually happens within the first six months of arrival and I just managed to squeeze my bout in within this timeframe.

At least today my course of antibiotics have been completed (or should that be 'curse' of antibiotics as they too affect the stomach) and I am easing my body back to the realisation that it needs to to eat food.

For my part I have resolved to give the malay food (and chillie in particular) a miss. My second resolution is to write a short ditty on the subject which I shall do when the moods take.

To more edifying matters. We are packing our suitcase in preparation for four days in Genting. This means an early morning start on Thursday as the bus departs at 6:30 am from Singapore and allowing for comfort stops does not reach its destination until about 2pm in the afternoon.

The advertising for Chinese New Year continues unabated, the price of Bak Kwa mentioned in an early blog entry has reached $48 per kilo and poor old "Valentines Day" (which is this week) very much plays second fiddle as a festival in these parts.

As this will be my final posting until after New Year can I wish you Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Friday, 2 February 2007

Springing into New Year

The build up to Chinese New Year is neither quiet nor subtle. One minute it is Christmas and the next the golden doves of peace and glowing baubles have been replaced by red paper pineapples, canned music and assorted prosperity symbols.

Shops are hawking the sweetmeats (my favourite is bak kwa- pictured left) that are a speciality of the season and every hawker centre appears to have a temporary trestle or two with seasonal merchandise and special items such as fruit-bearing mandarin bushes.

Chinese households have live plants in bloom to symbolize rebirth. Flowers are symbols of wealth and elevated career positions. There are a lot of pussy willow and plum blossom brnaches for sale in the markets at the moment. According to some sources plum blossom reliability and perseverance.

Chinese believe that flowers are fundemental to the formation of fruit. Therefore, it is very important to have flowers and floral decorations.

If you want to know more about the Chinese New Year festival I would suggest a visit to Wikipedia

So how are we celebrating the New Year - by escaping from it, that's how!
We have booked a few days up in the Genting Highlands which promises cool airs and the ability to lose money quickly in the local casinos if one feels so inclined.

It is a seven hour coach trip from Singapore to Genting so here's hoping the bus is of the highest quality, especially as we need to board said vehicle at 6:30 in the morning.

I have alluded to the frenzy of buying that accompanies Chinese New Year with the concept of new clothes "inside and out". This includes footwear but as with most things in town, if you know where to look there are bargains to be had.

Ten minutes walk from us is the Queensway Shopping Centre, one of the older malls. Its claim to fame is that it is full of sporting and sportwear shops. You can buy a good pair of branded sandshoes much cheaper than in the main shopping districts and it is the same location where I get my large format prints produced - the upper levels are reserved for print shops.

Today we walked up past Anchorpoint to Queensway and bought two lightweight windbreakers at less than $25 a piece. These are for our forthcoming sorte to the Genting Highlands. The night airs there range from 13 to 17 degrees and we of course have become acclimatised to much higher tempertaures in recent months.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Queens Gallery

Celebrating Chinese New Year at the House of Windsor!

Friday, 26 January 2007

Coy About Carp

Yes I know, it's a terrible pun!

Koi Carp are very popular in Chinese and Japanese cultures infact the word "koi" actually means "carp". So the name "koi carp" is in fact "carp carp", which is carping on a bit.

On a walk around our new condominium we came across the "Koi Carp Pool" referred in the apartment's promotional literature.

The fish in question are quite beautiful as they swim lazely in the direction of the currents produced by the pond's aeration system.

Being a cold water fish they prefer a deep pool and we seem to have a predominance of the Kohaku variety which has a white body with red patterns.

An adult Koi grows to about a metre in length and ours are probably three quarters of that length and must be very valuable.

The Japanese have become fantical breeders of Koi and have named many colour variations. They are symbols of prosperity in Japanese culture, so judging from the stocking ratio of our pool I should be a wealthy man in the very near future, unless of course I have to share my good fortune with the other 721 residents of the apartment complex.

Not that I am tempted to breed Koi myself, as investing in a Cyprinus carpio is similar to investing in a marriage - the average lifespan of koi can reach over 50 years, with the longest lifespans over 100 years.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

First Night and Bonus Offers

First night in the new "condo" and the body is aching from the unaccustomed physical exertion.

Fortuitously there is a gym in our Queens complex so I think it’s about time I got back to an exercise regime.

The last time I ventured into such a place the exercise machines were far less complex than they are now. Modern machines have so many dials, gauges and knobs that a pilot's license is needed before setting foot on a treadmill or exercycle.

The other disturbing thing about modern gym equipment is the plethora of health signage and lights that appear when one's body fat index reaches critical mass. Signs that your blood pressure could explode like an over-ripe durian (if you overdo it) are everywhere and none too comforting.

The view of Singapore in the evening is very pleasant, with the commercial and HDB building twinkling in the distance.

The new shower has been tested and found to be satisfactory while the computerised washing machine has automatically weighed the washing, suggested the amount of soap powder to be used and started of its own accord.

Singapore has some wonderful electronics and appliances available for purchase, many of which are models that have yet to reach the Antipodes. The competition is fierce and so sales are often sweetened with "offers".
For example our purchase of a 32 inch Samsung LCD television resulted in a bonus home theatre system plus vouchers worth several hundred dollars to spend at the local Robinsons department store.

I suspect we will literally be dining out on free supermarket vouchers for the next month.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

On Being Green

It's a Saturday and this particular day of the week in particular is a rather special one for two reasons.

Firstly I am back at work. Not an unusual occurrence in Singapore but a first for me for many years. We are about to stage the university's first public Open Day and the official opening of the institution in Singapore. Most of the official formalities are being held in the library and so our team are supporting wherever necessary.

The officiating dignitary is the Minister of Education, Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam. He also happens to be the second Minister of Finance so is important on two counts.

Some of today's highlights will include a traditional Lion Dance and an "Ozzie Barbeque" for lunch. Questioning reveals that this will not be the traditional "Ozzie BBQ" as most of us know it, as there is to be no beer and no cricket blaring from a television.

Staff are resplendent in their bright green sweat shirts (see photo left) and visitors will receive a "goody bag" of similar hue. One is reminded of an invasion of 'Kermits' as they scurry around in preparation.

The second reason that this is an important day is that we are currently in transition between our current rented apartment and our new condominium. The renovations are and the first lot of new furnishing and appliance arrive tomorrow. It is needless to say a very tiring time, neither living in one place or another and it will be good to have this shift out of the way by Wednesday evening.

One final note on 'being green'. The price of greens and other vegetables has risen sharply in recent weeks as a direct result of the severe flooding in Malaysia. Singapore sources most of its vegetable from its immediate neighbour and has now been forced to buy from China and other countries.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Smouldering Credit Cards and Biking Follies

There is a certain solemnity about traffic accidents. It reminds one of the frailty of the human body and how one life experience can be so quickly changed to another. I mention this because as I was travelling home in a cab Thursday evening we came across a scene of personal tragedy involving a motor cyclist and a car that had hit him while trying to run an intersection. This event had happened only a few moments before we arrived on the scene and already several passers-by had rushed to the prone man's aid as he lay, clad in cycling leathers, near the middle of the road.

If ever I needed a reminder just how dangerous riding a motorbike can be, this was it. This is very much the case in the torrential downpours that are experienced here where the road can get very slippery in a thrice.

It is not uncommon to see huddles of cyclists under overbridges on the expressways as they don their wet weather gear, in the face of an advancing storm.

In a far more cheerful vein, we spent much of yesterday visiting our apartment, which is being renovated. The good news is that it will be ready for us by next Thursday.

On the strength of this information we swung into action and with credit cards flashing, descended upon 'Bests' which is the local chain of stores that sell electrical and households goods. Several thousands of dollars later we staggered out and then set about alerting removal men, the local Telco's and everyone else who needs to be notified of our impending shift.

One quick visit to the local Police station with our identity cards meant that our new address was recorded. They in turn will alert all government departments on our behalf.

If only Singtel could emulate the local constabulary's efficiency!