Sunday, February 06, 2005

Know Thy Backyard


Against all rational thought and shedding all semblance of sanity, I visited Chinatown last night and spent the evening rubbing shoulders with fellow Singaporeans, buzzing in anticipation of Chinese New Year which is due in 3 days.

Actually the real reason was that I thought I would play the kind tour guide to a Canadian friend. Unfortunately the phrase "I'm ashamed to call myself Singaporean" was uttered or at least flashed in my mind more than once.

So there we were, 1 Canadian and 4 Singaporeans, one of whom hasn't been to Chinatown in 6 years and hasn't even been on the NEL. Granted he did spend 4 years studying in the UK but I didn't even know the street names (directing people on the phone turned out to be quite futile).

Thankfully I was able to educate with what little knowledge of Chinese customs I did have, such as the significance behind the colour red, pineapples and spirally bamboo sticks.

At times the crowd was so thick, we found ourselves stagnating in a pool of thick air and sweaty bodies, but I genuinely enjoyed the evening of endless sights, smells and sounds - all familiar and homely though I couldn't make sense of some.

After milling down two streets, I plainly declared that we had seen pretty much everything there is to see. But today's Sunday Times ran an article with the tagline "Think you've seen it all in Chinatown? Think again. Some sights will surprise you." Yes, there really are a few sights which we'd missed.

I've realized that I and many others are quick to dismiss our traditions and customs, without even trying to appreciate them first - ironically some even lament our brief history.

On a separate matter, my dear mother has taken it upon herself to make pineapple tarts. As proud as I am of her culinary escapades, I'm quite amused to report that batch #1 have turned out as pineapple cookies rather than tarts. Go figure.

Gong xi fa cai.

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