US Embassy July 4th Celebration in Gardens by the Bay | 0207-080718

Sitting close together on the balcony late in the evening, warm and dry in our shelter, whilst the rain is pouring down heavily in front of us. We don’t feel sleepy. We won’t feel sleepy until about one hour later, when we untangle ourselves from our huddled position on the same slim wooden balcony chair, go inside, lie down on the bed, side by side on our backs, and do a long, slow, meditative body scan. But for now, we’re out here, watching, listening to, smelling, feeling the vitality of the tropical shower. Light comes on in a window opposite us, and I have an original thought, wondering who lives with that light, who lives next to it, and next to that: which demographies occupy our little enclave, Eng Watt Street? Young couples like us? Families? Single professionals or elderly? Poor? Well-to-do? What do they generally do for a living – and for fun? What do their homes look like on the inside? Cluttered or minimalist? Lots of art? Plants? Traditional Chinese style? Identikit hip Millennial style? And I wonder why I’ve never wondered about that before. In the almost two years we’ve been living here, whenever I’ve gazed out across our street from the balcony, I’ve always taken what I saw at face value, only thought about exactly what I saw, the exterior, the symmetry of the Art Deco architecture, its shapes and colours, the palm trees softening the red-and-white uniformity of it, the blue or grey or rose-tinted sky above… I’ve never thought about or met anyone who lives here. Except for our downstairs neighbour, the old lady with the rainforest spilling out from her balcony and the two hello-squeaking parrots. How can I never have wondered who my other neighbours are? Maybe I have. Maybe I just don’t remember it. What does it say about me? I’ve always enjoyed the look and feel of our street – maybe it’s a good thing: being able to enjoy something ‘for what it is’ without having to apply any layers – incl. without risking a devaluation because of any associations/connotations/depths added. Hm. Haha.

Independence Day Celebrations. As a thank you for teaching mindfulness & meditation to officials taking care of the Trump + Kim tête-à-tête, the US Embassy invited Sanoop to its 4 July Celebrations at the beautiful Flower Dome in Gardens by the Bay (on Friday, the 6th of June). I don’t (ever) really mind being his +1. Fun event: everyone seems very present, meandering around among the impressive flora from all around the globe, listening to Stephanie Syptak-Ramnath’s inspiring speech (ending in a great Kennedy quote, ‘The American, by nature, is optimistic. He is experimental, an inventor and a builder who builds best when called upon to build greatly’) and enjoying the Stars- and Stripes-sprinkled entertainment, decorations, foods and drinks.  (I’m wearing a sort of abstract interpretation of the Star-Spangled Banner created by Singaporean-based designer, Danielle Woo)

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Other Activities around Town:

  • Lunch at Aloha Poke with one of my favourite Singaporean barre teachers, who is back on holiday from Tel Aviv, where she’s training to be a certified teacher of the prestigious Gaga, which she explains as a deeply intellectual as well as demandingly physical dance movement… She is very passionate about it, and it’s lovely to see someone pursuing their dream even if it’s super tough. She talks about her experience of the stark differences between everything that Singapore represents (slightly stilted and conservative (boring) cultural life; cleanliness; order; politeness; helpfulness; home) versus Tel Aviv (deeply sensual and vibrant cultural life; chaos; conflict; drama; rudeness; home). Momentarily happy to be back in a safe haven after having led quite a hustling existence for the past three months in Israel, she loves both places for what they are. Such an inspiring story…
  • Ronin lunch with another barre teacher, after which we go to Tiong Bahru together – to buy a copy of a book written by her friend from Books Actually: Suicide Club, set in near-future New York, where human lives last 300 years and the pursuit of immortality is all-consuming (Singaporean by birth, the writer studied creative writing at Columbia)…
  • 4th of July: a dozen Washington oysters at New England-styled Humpback with a friend who grew up in Oregon.
  • Another friend of mine, who grew up here, is moving to Auckland in a month’s time. Conscious of spending as much time with her as possible before then. This week, we meet for dinner at The Butcher’s Wife, a new local joint, which is very recommendable if you’re into eating well-prepared vegetables and sipping on organic wine in quaint, leafy settings. At the weekend, I purchase one of her beautiful bamboo-fibre-based designs at a small pop-up she’s hosting with a calligrapher friend of hers… one of the best things about the wonderful Tiong Bahru neighbourhood hides behind the pretty Art Deco facades, praised eateries and neat palm/frangipani/papaya trees: the abundance of small creative studios bringing mindful art, light and joy into the world – and the sweet people inhabiting them!
  • Drinks at Black Swan, dinner at Little Elephant and various talks and creative exhibits at Campus Party with our friends visiting from Hong Kong, who are both talking at the tech conference – one is a curator of TEDx in Hong Kong and the other is a former performer at Cirque du Soleil in Macau and now a personal coach… I try to just soak in as much as I can and ignore any thoughts about what I have to offer in the conversations we have… at least, I am a good listener, haha…
  • Eating mangos and passionfruit from India every day…
  • Long weekend mornings at Plain Vanilla with Sanoop and a pile of newspapers and ample coffee to digest the week and all of its many impressions…

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