Brother in Town | 23-290718

Morning Swims at the Highline. One of the things I will think back on with deep fondness and gratitude when – at some so far unknown point in the future – we leave Singapore is waking up, putting on my swimsuit and slippers and wrapping a towel around me, walking up through the alleys of Tiong Bahru and jumping into the giant palm-framed swimming pool at my friend Lou’s house… on some mornings, she’ll join, while on others, I have the vast expanse of cool, clean water all to myself. With each lap, the sun rises a little, painting the sky pink and eventually leaving it blue, and tiredness gradually leaves my body in favour of stretchy energy. Ahh

Shotgun. Listening to this on loop when running, cycling, walking, doing life admin.

My Brother Is in Town. When a few weeks ago I announced that my brother would swing by Singapore on his trip to Vietnam with a group of friends this summer and Sanoop asked, ‘will you be able to have 1:1 chats with him?,’ a few vital things sprung to mind. With my brother, more than deep talk, what really matters is simply to spend time in each other’s company; with no other person on the planet am I able to enjoy as comfortable and meaningful silence as with my brother. Besides, even though I haven’t met his friends, I am sure they are lovely and we’ll be having great group conversations. It was supposed to be four of them coming, but when I walk over to meet them for lunch at their lodgings, Marina Bay Sands, an hour after their arrival on Thursday this week, I see only my brother (towering 30-40cm above everyone else around the check-in counter) and one other guy. They lost the two others in Saigon – the day before, one of them tripped, fell and hurt his leg so badly that he needed ten stitches and; the other guy was denied permission to fly to Singapore because his passport was about to expire. Poor fellas… I’m so relieved that my brother made it! I have a half day off, so after our delightful lunch at swanky Spago in the 57th floor sky park, I join them for an Orchard shopping spree followed by a lovely golden hour pool session back at the boat-shaped icon. We drink coconuts and catch up in the shade of lush palm trees, smiling broadly as we gaze across the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool and the silvery city skyline. I have some work to do later that evening, but once that’s done, Sanoop and I join my brother and his friend for a cocktail at the Japanese gentlemen’s club, D Bespoke, where a family friend of ours works as a bartender and talks us through their remarkable selection of spirits and fresh Japanese fruits we get to pick for our night caps. When we cycle back home a bit past midnight, we both feel slightly intoxicated, even if he went for a mocktail and I only had light dashes of whiskey and champagne in my sophisticated concoction. Spending Friday at the pool and in the Gardens by the Bay, the boys then pick me up from work at 5:30pm, and it’s such a pleasure to take them out for a drink (freshly squeezed orange juice at Merci Marcel, Club Street) and evening wander. I ask if they wanna do the quick or the scenic route, and they pick the latter… they are so appreciate of everything they see as we zigzag through the CBD, Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Rob Quay… soak in the various impressions, ask questions and express their joy of being in such a clean, calm, cosy place – quite a contrast to the brutal buzz and busyness of Saigon, haha. We meet Sanoop for dinner at 1880, and finish off the night with a 1-hour foot massage at OD Wellness. Everyone having an effortlessly good time… 

FLOWY SATURDAY. After a beautiful spontaneous day of 🚲 around from TIONG BAHRU (Sanoop and I got up at 3:30am to watch and meditate under the blood red lunar eclipse from a spot in the local park – the sky was clear, the air was kind of cool, and the silence of the night was cheerfully broken by a couple smooching in a corner across from us and some guys drinking and listening to hiphop music on a balcony above us) to MARINA BAY (blissful sunrise yoga (definitely the most remarkable yoga session of my life, an hour of simple asanas, led by a great teacher, with a glorious view of the sun rising above the East Coast far below), swimming and coffee drinking on the rooftop of MBS before the boys go back to Saigon at 11am) to quaint HOLLAND VILLAGE (purple bowls at Project Acai; chilling with FT Weekend and a bunch of German magazines from a well-assorted magazine kiosk by the MRT and amazing coffee at one of my favourite local clothing stores, Our Second Nature – not only do these guys carry artfully elegant locally designed natural garments, brew heavenly coffee served in pretty ceramics mugs and display a delightful taste in airy, minimalist decor… they also recognise the most important criteria when shopping for attire: written in elegant white types across the fitting room mirrors is the statement, Mom Would Approveto lush DEMPSEY (stopping by my favourite gallery, which never seizes to impress with its stunning, exciting exhibitions, Red Sea Gallery, and rehydrating with cold drinks at Jones, the Grocer) to LITTLE INDIA (munching on delicious roast paper masala dosa Saravanaa Bhavan and stocking up on ripe custard apples from a booming fruit stall), we wander over to BUGIS to catch a film (Disobedience, pretty good!) at The Projector, admiring the beautiful multitude of architectural features and street art on the way. After the film, we cycle all the way back home through the dark, breezy, lively downtown areas. Very easy, very stimulating Singapore day… 

Hosting Sunday Dinner. After a quiet day of reading, writing, swimming and running on my own, I join Sanoop in the kitchen to fix dinner for a couple of friends visiting… big salad with everything from the veggie box – kale, carrots, beets, green peas, broccoli, avocado – plus some cashews and a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, a tiny little bit of Danish honey, sea salt and pepper… wild salmon and veggie patties sautéed with Indian spices…. freshly baked Danish rye bread with dips – hummus, cashew ‘cream cheese,’ kimchi and turmeric sauerkraut… dessert: strawberry baobab ice-cream from Zebra Dream and fresh fruit salad – blood orange, grapefruit, kiwi, nectarine… drinks: ginger kombucha. Mmm. Flowers on the table, Hawaiian tunes in the background, nice conversation, lovely end to the week. Maybe we’ll start doing this every Sunday!

The Need to Read.

Aloha! We’ve typed in ‘Hawaii music’ on youtube at home and been swaying around to happy sunshiny tunes all week, haha. As such, this week’s word is ‘Aloha,’ which, according to the etymological dictionary, has many more meanings than I ever knew, expressing good wishes when greeting or parting from someone:

  • Noun: love, compassion, affection, mercy, sympathy, pity, kindness, sentiment, grace, charity; greeting, salutation, regards; sweetheart, lover, loved one…
  • Verb: to love, be fond of; to remember with affection; to greet, hail…
  • Adjective: beloved, loving, compassionate, lovable…

Where Are You From? I am curious about the initial questions people ask each other when they first meet. Whether or not they ask on autopilot and/or genuinely are interested in getting to know one another; their sense of what’s appropriate for any given situation and mood, and whether they even consider this; any gists of originality – and whether these are painfully forced or spontaneously genuine. Which questions say what – about the questioner and the one questioned? What’s the best way to get a conversation started – depending on the setting and engagement? Something situational, relating directly to whatever moment you find yourself in while prompting, or something general, whether it’s personal or not? In Singapore, if you clearly grew up somewhere beyond this tropical red dot, locals and other expats alike (be it Grab drivers, massage therapists, waitresses/waiters, yoga teachers, friends of friends or people you meet through work or at social events) will invariably greet you with: where are you from? Why do people ask this? Because they are genuinely interested – and, if so, is that because our birth place defines or reveals something central about our character? Do they ask simply because they feel comfortable putting people in national boxes? To see if they’re familiar with the given geographical location and as such share common ground with you – or are able to learn something new? To collect data points in terms of how many nationalities they meet or something similar? You’re clearly not from here, so…! Or, is it just to say something, an empty stock phrase, an ice-breaker, the simplest, least burdensome alternative to silence? To some people it might be the single most polite thing to ask – showing interest without coming too close. (I am from Scandinavia; I am perfectly okay with silence.) 9.9 out of 10 times, it will be followed by: what do you do here? I politely reciprocate. Very rarely does this exchange lead to an actual conversation. If it’s a taxi / Grab driver asking, they’ll, without exception, express their love of Schmeichel, the older and the younger, and the Laudrup brothers – and if they’re Liverpool fans, which most of them are, Daniel Agger. I’ll then routinely ask, if they grew up here, and they’ll say yes, and maybe offer that Singapore is clean and safe and has a low income tax. That’s it. After much consideration, and based on my general personal sense of meaningful exchanges, I have come to the conclusion that I think that the following slight variations of the initial questions would yield responses that are so much more interesting: ‘where did you grow up?’ or ‘what brought you here?’ and ‘what excites you most (and, perhaps, least) at the moment – what are you passionate about?’ As for ‘what do you do here?,’ I’ve taken to replying, quite neutrally: ‘living life,’ at which most people will start laughing; very few inquire beyond that. As for the former question, Sanoop will go for, ‘Heaven,’ primarily to see people’s reaction, at least in those situations (Grabs) where the really good question is why it matters. So far, this response has been met with:

  1. An attitude of extreme resentful displeasure; the seemingly deeply offended Grab driver burst out, ‘There’s no reason to have an attitude!’ We take it he wasn’t genuinely interested…
  2. Laughter. The second Grab driver merely accepted it; didn’t insist on a broader definition and continued the drive in silence… We take it he wasn’t genuinely interested either, or that Sanoop managed to dispel any hint of interest he might have nurtured…

Curious to hear the future 8…

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