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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