Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Happy National Day!

 Unless you have tickets to the National Day Parade (distributed by lottery), the National Day celebrations here in Singapore are rather low-key compared to the United States.

My vision of what National Day would be: everyone would be in their red and white clothing, the National Day Songs playing on every corner.  Every so often, someone would shout, "Majulah!" (Onward!) and someone else would shout back, "Singapura!"  (The national anthem is Majulah Singapura, Onward Singapore.) Then everyone would high-five and wave their miniature Singapore flags. Later, at a hawker center, people would tell stories about the good old days with Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

What National Day actually is: everyone wearing their regular clothes and going about their normal business.

(Actually, I was warned about this. I asked my former student Joe, who now lives here and is married to a Singaporean, what people did on National Day.  He said that I was already doing it by planning a weekend trip to Bangkok. :)  And that usually people would watch the parade on television.)

To get more of the National Day spirit, I went to the celebrations at the National Musuem, which were pretty nice. They had free admission to all of the galleries (and it was neat to watch Lee Kuan Yew's speeches immediately after independence with a crowd of people). They also had craft stations for kids, some food stalls set up (and in true Singaporean fashion, these included Swiss raclette and Dutch mini-pancakes as well as more traditional choices like satay and prata), and an acapella group singing Singapore songs.

Your fun fact for the day: did you know that the "si" in Malaysia comes from Singapore?  Before the merger (which came before Singapore's independence), they were Malaya.

This is Singapore's 52nd birthday, by the way. The children were very amused that their dad is older than Singapore. :)

(And regarding the bottom picture -- I don't know what instrument that guy was playing, but he was doing an impressive rendition of the Beatles' song Yesterday.)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Few from the Phone

 Just a few miscellaneous pictures from my phone -- the top two are the kids at Camp Asia, the next is at the shopping center below our apartment building, and the three after that are at the Playzone at the apartment.  It has an outdoor play area (basketball court, mostly), a small video game area, and an inside play area.  The next one is Matthew trying a new dessert (which turned out to be too sweet even for him!)  The last one is also at the apartment play area with their new friend Youssef -- we sat next to his family at breakfast one morning and the boys bonded over their common love of Minecraft.  They ended up playing together a few times before they left.  (Youssef and his family have been living in Singapore for the past five years, but now they're returning to London, where his mom grew up.)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Civic Outdoor Festival

 Many years ago when I was traveling to London, my undergraduate advisor told me to get a copy of Time Out magazine to find out about all the events going on in the city.  That turned out to be good advice even now.  I checked the Time Out website and found out about the Civic Outdoor Festival.  As soon as I saw that it involved "giant inflatable rabbits", I knew I had to go!  :)  (Interestingly, it turns out that the giant rabbits had also been at the North Carolina Museum of Art, but we didn't see them there.)

It was too bad that Mike and the kids had already left, because there were also several events involving obstacle courses.  There is nothing James loves more than an obstacle course. :)  (The National Day celebrations here have a fairly strong military emphasis, so the obstacle courses are versions of the ones that soldiers use to train -- climbing walls, flipping tires, etc.)

The giant rabbits were indeed pretty cool.  They also had outdoor food stands set up, and a multimedia light show projected on the front of the National Gallery and some of the other buildings in the area. It was story about a mythical sister and brother in charge of maintaining Time in the Eternal City (then the brother accidentally eats too much and falls asleep and unleashes a monster and his sister has to save him).  The story was kind of minimal, but the light show was really fun to watch!

They also had free admission to the National Gallery, the Asian Civilizations Museum, and the House of Arts. The National Gallery had some fun hands-on exhibits.  The Obliteration Room was a completely white room, but each person got a sheet of stickers in bright colors to stick wherever they wanted.  Fun!  One woman had a black and white polka-dot outfit on -- I don't know if she planned it, but it was the perfect pattern for the room. :)  They also had one called Firewalk that you walked across on this sort of glass bridge, and they used mirrors and objects to make it look like you were very high up over towers of books, toys, and other objects (as if they were part of a lost civilization).  Finally, they had a room filled with huge inflated balls that changed colors when you tapped on them (supposed to illustrate something about technology and our connected world).  They also had more traditional exhibits with paintings through Singapore's history, but I didn't give those the attention they deserved. :)

In another outdoor area by the Asian Civilizations Museum, they had live music (Latin themed, with a band from Mexico!) and lots of booths with products from local artists (and more food, including satay in a cup!)  They also had an outdoor painting area, which Matthew would have enjoyed.

I also popped in to the Asian Civilizations museum.  They had a neat exhibition of art made from discarded fishing nets -- artists had created beautiful sea creatures out of these "ghost nets" (which can actually be quite deadly to sea life if they're left floating in the ocean).  Another exhibit was pottery recovered from a shipwreck in about 830. Kind of amazing to see that the products made over 1000 years ago weren't that different from the things we still use today.

My final stop was the House of Arts.  The main exhibit there was photographs of Hong Kong mostly from the 1950s.  It was an amazing (and somewhat sad) story -- the photographer made his living selling photos to tourists on the street for many years, then after that business dried up, he sold ice cream from a bicycle cart.  So, he basically lived his life working hard to just stay out of poverty, and his photos were almost forgotten except for a chance encounter late in his life when someone else recognized the quality of his work. So, there was somewhat of a happy ending -- although the photographer died before the book of his work was published, he knew that his photos were in good hands and would be preserved and shared. And they really were compelling photos, beautiful work.

The building also housed the original Parliament chambers.  Many people were enjoying the comfy chairs. :)

Silent Street performers


Obliteration Room

Orange and Green dots added for Matthew & James

Merlion with Stickers

Kids area of National Gallery

National Gallery Light Show

Victoria Hall