Cafe Hopper Reflecting on our Founding Father

I thought as a fellow Singaporean, a son of the roaring lion and a son of Singapore, its time for me to say a few things regarding the recent passing away of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. I received the news of his passing away shortly after the official hour of 3:18am on 23 March 2015. My own brother, the Gun Carriage Commander (GCC), messaged us and informing us that he was activated for his duty. This is his fifth time being the GCC. He was the GCC for Mrs Lee Kuan Yew, Dr Goh Kheng Swee, Mr Toh Chin Chye and some of the other founding pioneers. As a family, we are very proud of him and we are so thankful that he can represent us to send Mr Lee off for the very last time.

Well, that is not my point for this blog entry, lest my proudness overtakes my mind. I have never met Mr Lee personally in my entire life and I am very sure that he doesn’t know me at all as a Singaporean. For a man who is so far away from me, upon hearing his passing away, suddenly I felt a sense of closeness and attachment to him. I couldn’t help but shed a few tears of sadness. It felt as though someone dear to me has just passed away. To a man who I have never met or spoken to, and yet, like an invisible pair of hands, he guided and led me to where I am today. Without him, I wouldn’t be who I am today. He gave me a decent education and an equal opportunity to fight for a living for myself. Through his education policies and beliefs, like many sons and daughters of Singapore, we are able to stand tall on international platforms, speaking duo languages and well-respected by international counterparts. We are certainly no small figure when we stand on this global stage. Through his housing policies, I have seen my parents and eventually myself staying in a better house that we can call Home. I grew up in a one room flat (one living room, one bedroom, one kitchen and one toilet) first in Kallang Bahru and then in Ang Mio Kio. I remember then, my mum, my sister, my brother and myself had to squeeze in one small bedroom. My father would sleep in the living room. We had lots of fun squeezing together and we had very little concept of personal space or privacy for that matter. Some years later, my parents managed to shift us from this one room flat to a four room flat in Yishun. For the first time in our lives, we had a room to ourselves although I was still having to share room with my brother. We had a bigger space and yes, we began to have the concept of personal space and privacy.

Soon my brother and sister got married and they each have their own unit. My mum and I bought a new unit in Woodlands ourselves.  All these didn’t come easy for me or for my family. We worked hard and we always seek to make living better for the family. But, all these are made possible because of what Mr Lee has done as a Prime Minister then. Although we didn’t come from a rich and famous family, we never felt under-privileged throughout our growing up years. We enjoyed the same opportunity like any other sons and daughters of Singapore and worked our way up the social ladder. As a leader and father of the nation, Mr Lee had kept his promises to the people. He promised equal opportunity for all and we had it. He promised a roof above our heads and we had it. He promised a world-class education system and a good job opportunity for all and we had it.  He promised to make us a metropolis and we did it. He promised to make every Singaporean proud and we are indeed.

To this man, this man of greatness, I am full of gratitude and still gratitude. Mr Lee Kuan Yew is more than just a political leader to us. He is a mentor, a greater elder of the nation and a father. To steal from Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s eulogy yesterday, we share the same father, father of this nation. Thank you for sharing your Papa with us…thank you for making him our father too. I cannot imagine what our history would be like without Papa Lee turning himself to PM Lee. Singaporeans would be orphans…fatherless…hopeless. He is certainly not a perfect man, not without fault. However, as a political leader and as our founding father, he has done all that he could to give us a successful Singapore.

Thank you Mr Lee Kuan Yew for making us proud! Thank you for giving us Singapore.

Farewell!

#leekuanyew #rememberingleekuanyew #tributetoleekuanyew thankyouleekuanyew

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Cafe Hopper @ New Majestic Hotel (Bukit Pasoh)

This is a long-awaited staycation I have planned for myself. I first heard about the hotel beginning of the year. I walked pass it a couple of times while cafe hopping and often I am attracted by the unique character of the hotel. This time round I was very impressed by the unique design of the hotel. I was told all the 30 rooms in the hotel is uniquely designed and I got the A Big Goldfish room for the stay. I love this room. And I must say the courtyard style bathtub was awesome! I visited nearby spa and it was super rejuvenating. The staycation was partly my writer’s residence as well. I hope to be able to publish a poetry collection by the end of this year. Have been working hard on it.

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Cafe Hopper @ 老舍 [茶馆]

The stage craft of this play was simply excellent. When the curtain was drawn, the buzzing and hustle of the teahouse was felt and we could even smell the breathe in the smell of old teahouse in Beijing. Simply loving the stage. Ok, back to what I feel about the play or my reflection after watching it. I always think that if at the core of art is not human, then art is not art at all. To me all forms of art have to be about people. We cannot move away from this anthropological mission. To me, 老舍 Teahouse is all about people, common people to be specific.

The theme that I keep seeing from the play is that of time. The theme move from the late Qing dynasty when people were concern about the coming of the westerners asked the reformation and modernization that were taking place. Then in Act 2, the play move from the late Qing period to the warlords period or 军阀混战的时代 . The post Japanese occupation period sets Act 3. In all of these three acts, we see the movements and sentiments of common people, people like you and,me. We struggle, we fight to meet ends needs, we change and constantly make changes to fit ourselves to this society. More still, we constantly hope for a better world to come.

The same characters, the same teahouse, from one period in history to another, they hope for a better future, a world with less poverty, less turmoil, less suffering. Sadly, it didn’t happen to the main three characters in this play write. In Act 1, there was the hope of a better future when the westerners came in and everyone was talking about reforms and changes. The reforms did not take place, churches were burnt down and huge sum of money meant for reforms ended up in somebody’s pockets. In Act 2, no more Qing emperor, no more corrupted officials but came the warlords. They hurled bombs and bullets all over just to have a greater share of whatever that was left. The people continued to hope, hope to be better. However, the better things didn’t happen and the poor remained poor. In Act 3, the same people and the same teahouse, the people continued to hope. However, this period of China was only left with the internal strife between the KMT and CCP. At the last scene, we saw the three main casts philosophizing about the society they were living in. 

I was struck by one statement that 老掌柜 said in Act 3, “这茶馆是我的。活也在这里,死也在这里.” This is the sentiment of many in today’s society I believe. This coffeeshop, this town center, this public housing, this community… we live and we die here. It’s these places that connect lives together…It’s these places that chain and bind us together. In the show, it’s the teahouse that connects all the characters together…They talked here, they sell their daughter here, they do their dirty things here, they see changes here and etc. 小小的茶馆带出了人的喜怒哀乐,爱恨情仇。它也带初了人生百态,社会的起落!Another statement that struck me was this, “我们这么爱国家,国家有爱我们吗?” This was said by 常四爷 who used to be a rich man but was imprisoned by the Qing government for spreading messages on the fall of the dynasty which eventually did happened.

The story ended with all three main characters, namely, 秦二爷, 老掌柜 and 常四爷, lamenting over the despair and failures of the country’s development all these years. Eventually 老掌柜 decided to end his life and this coincide with the entrance of the Red Liberation Army led by the Chinese Communist Party.

The Gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper @ Rice (稲禾)by 云门舞集 (Cloud Gate)

I was contemplating whether to use Mandarin for this post or English. Eventually I decided to use English for the post. I set out this year to watch at least one art performance per month for the year 2015. Why? I needed to find inspiration for my poetry writing and hopefully I will be able to publish a poetry collection by the end of the year. Ok, yes, I am working very slowly but I hope I will be able to accomplish this by this year. Let’s keep my finger cross. Rice is my third show for the year and contrary to the general impression of abstractness of this dance group, I find it easier to comprehend than the previous show I watched. The dance piece began with a beautifully crafted and coordinated earth colours from the dancers’ attire. I personally have a soft spot for earth colours. Unlike most dance pieces which has to dance alongside with music, this one began in the absence of musical piece. It began with the rhythm of earth or 大地的心跳. Each thump on the dancers’ feet awakens the heart of our soul…it awakens our senses and invoke our spirit to listen and to feel the life of this earth or 大地的生命. I quietly listened…I silently pondered.

I love the section on Pollen 1 and 2 the most. In these two sections, the dancers wished to express the pollination of crops, birthing forth life in the rice field. The dance portray a couple, from the surface, they seem like they are making love in the paid field…but I seriously think that’s what the choreographer wishes to portray. Making love or having sex is our human way of pollination. Similarly, crops pollinate and birth forth life…birth forth new hope and dreams in the process. However, this life is not complete without the nurturing of the sunlight and the nutrients from the ground or from nature. 生命是要用大自然的灌溉才能萌芽的! So very often, we are caught up with the modern and post-modern crisis of human existence that we forgot that at the most basic, we are mere sons and daughters of nature or 大自然之子女。I love this portrayal of pollination and the birthing of life.

After the great harvest, the land needs renewal. However, often, renewal comes only after a baptism of fire. The farmers would burn down the harvested land and the land will go through a period of purging and cleansing by fire. Thus, don’t despise the fire and don’t shun away from the burning. It is often necessary and essential for the land of our heart or 心田 to be renewed and revived. The dance piece ended with the return of water to the land and once more the cycle of life wheeling and re-wheeling.

I am not a dancer and thus I will not be able to say too much about the technicality of the dance piece but I do feel that the dancers have successfully brought out the essence of what the choreographer wishes to convey to the audience and its easy to know where the dance piece is leading us to.

Oh…just in case you thought that the blog has evolved into an art blog…no…no…no…its still a cafe blog…Art and Coffee are another pair of perfect partners…..

The Gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper @ 红楼梦 What is Sex? directed by 林奕华 Edward Lam

I would like to quote from the programme booklet, “This is not a theatre that gives you an account of the plot of Dream of the Red Chamber or 红楼梦. It consists of dreams by the characters in the story, as well as the dreams of modern man. These dreams date from Cao Xueqin’s time to 2015, perhaps even into the foreseeable future.” What Edward Lam attempts to portrait are the dreams that were dreamed about by the characters of Dream of the Red Chamber and he continue to see these dreams being dreamed about by modern man today. The dream to be loved and to love, the dream of materialism and secularism, the dream of what is real and what is unreal. What do we all have dream? We have dreams because there is always that deep void within us and this void longs to to be and be. There is this existential twist in Edward Lam’s interpretation of the Chinese classic. When we see the Others, we very often see our dreams fulfilled in them. Thus, in this case in Scene 2, we have a clash between Wang Xifeng and Ping-er. However, what Edward Lam wants to express is the lack in both characters and how they see each of their lack being fulfilled in each other. So is it Ping-er who dreams of Wanf Xifeng or Wang Xifeng who dreams of Ping-er?

There is also a scene, Scene 3 (Mayhem in School), that talks about our dream of an ideal education system. In the story, the Jia family set up their own school to educate the people whom they deemed suit for education. Eventually, in the drama, the whole education system crumbled into pieces and resulting in an education system that produces people who are materialistic and extremely pragmatic. Such is a tragic of our modern society. Our education is doing more harm to our mind than to build it up. We have developed a system of education that centers so much about self and we have lost touch of communal values.

So throughout the show, Edwards Lam uses the various key scenes from the Red Chamber to depict various aspects of human issues and crisis. The 大观园 is certainly not a place to find solution. It is a place where we see a reflection of ourselves and what is real. Very often, we what deem as real is unreal and simply a visage. Thus, through the interaction between the various characters, the subconscious mind of each individuals emerged and surfaced as a cruel reality they have to face. For instant, Scene 15, where You Sanjie fell in love with Liu Xianglian despite the improbability of a requited love. “In the end, Liu Xianglian is nothing but a mirage, and Sanjie’s suicide after the return of the betrothal gifts becomes a rude awakening.”

The fact of the matter is that there are many of such characters similar to those in the story in our lives. They are real and they exist among us…they stand helpless, confused, despaired, lost and certainly living in bad faith. They are so filled with angst of the reality of living. Thus, to many, their dreams remained unfulfilled and their dreams remain as dreams. There’s so much to say about Edward Lam’s depiction of the Chinese classics and and his attempt to answer the question of what is sex or to be precise what life is? Sex to Edward is not sexual. Sex is an integral part of life and thus to relook at sex is to relook at our life. The modern men and those in the characters of Red Chamber, focus too much on sexual rather than sex. Sexual is passive passion with no love. However, sex is the genuine demands for love.

If you have missed this interesting interpretation of  Red Chamber, I am sure you will have the chance to do it. To me, the depiction of each character has become a reflection of apart of myself. As an audience, I can see a little part of my dream and aspiration in each of the characters depicted. Its reflective and meditative.

Oh yah…I got a prosperity bag watching the show! Happy Chinese New Year to all my readers!

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The Gatekeeper

Cafe Hopper Review: Doi Chaang Coffee @ Rochester Park

Was at a lost of which cafe to hop to for my off day and decided to consult some of my friends for suggestion. One of my friends reminded me of this thai origin cafe at Rochester Park. I have heard people talked about it but haven’t been there. For Doi Chaang Coffee please do me a favour to Google on your own.

I was really feeling very tired this week and was really hoping that I can find a good resting place for my tired soul. It wasn’t that difficult to find the cafe after all. It wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be but reasonably simple decor…more minimalist style. They are suppose to be famous for their layered cheese cake, especially the matcha flavoured. Sadly it was out of stock this morning. I guess the only reason why it’s out of stock could be that its really damn bloody good. Haha. I ordered the Hokkaido milk layered cake and their iced lemongrass americano. I was quite impressed by the lemongrass americano. The Thai people can make anything out of lemongrass and I guess this time is coffee. The lemongrass favour really made me miss Thailand and I was reminiscing Bangkok and Korat as I savour the coffee. The layered cake was refreshing and very pleasant to my taste. The textual is soft but not looking it’s feel.

I spent a good one hour plus there and started writing my next piece of poem. I had inspiration then. I think this is a good attempt to bring a piece of Thailand to our Singaporean cafe enthusiasts here. Worth the visit guys!

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The Gatekeeper

Cafe Hopper at Chinatown, Singapore

I decided to take a walk down the old lanes and corners of Chinatown in Singapore yesterday. I love walking through the stalls and shophouses along all the avenues, Smith Street, Pagoda Street, Kreta Ayer Street and more! Took lots of photos as I walked through the many people and the braving the hot sun. But I think it’s worth the effort as I captured some interesting angles and corners of the area. Here are some of my works from yesterday….of course I didn’t forget to hop into some cafes along the way. I have written about The Lokal…next on line will be Roosevelt Diner and Bar.

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