Monday 20 January 2014

Always a celebration in Singapore

In the Northern Hemisphere today, the third Monday of January, is known as ‘Blue Monday’, the day of the year where supposedly people would be the most depressed. The holidays are over, the days still dark and cold, and spring is miles away. Myth or not, January was never my favourite. 

In Singapore, our January is much better. In Singapore, the holidays are never over. In a multicultural town like this, there is always something to celebrate. And with around three quarters of the population being of Chinese descent, the biggest celebration of the year is yet to come: Chinese New Year. Or, as it is called in politically correct Singapore: the Lunar New Year. 

Last week we managed to accidentally witness the Chinese New Year lights up, stuck in traffic on our way to dinner. At this popular event the hundreds of galloping silk horses and golden coins that decorate Chinatown are lighted to ring the start of the festive weeks leading up to the New Year. The coming year will be, can you guess, the year of the horse. 

Supermarkets are filled with red and gold, with bright pink blossoms, with heaps of oranges, red-lidded boxes of special biscuits, tinned strange seafood and many, many forms of decorative horses. Shops and houses are decorated with trees laden with oranges, colourful plants and frilly plastic pineapples. 

But that is not all Singapore has to offer in January. This week saw the celebration of Thaipusam, a Hindu festival where brave Tamil men and women honor their gods in a spectacular way by piercing themselves with metal rods and spears. We opted for the friendlier Pongal festival, another Tamil fest, which celebrates the harvest, where milk is offered to the gods. Here were saw some Friesian ladies that seemed just as happily assimilated into Singapore society as ourselves. 

So while Singaporeans fill their shopping trolleys, spring-clean their houses, buy new clothes, watch lion dances and decorate their houses, what do we expats do? We book a trip, off course. Because Chinese New Year also means a few days off. Thailand, here we come. 

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Thursday 9 January 2014

Life’s a beach

Today I went to the beach. Alone. I needed some rest, and I am not very good at resting. Sitting around the house, a quiet weekday morning usually turns into sorting out the kid’s clothes, tidying the storeroom, weeding the garden, or writing behind the computer. And that was not what the doctor prescribed.

A few weeks ago, when I watched my predecessor teach the ‘Dreams Class’ I am now teaching, I drifted away during the visualisation session. The idea was that you could see yourself in your own dreamed-for future. I closed my eyes, and took off. Dreaming, I saw myself on a beach, on a sun lounger. In the distance I could faintly hear children’s voices. Nothing but golden sand obstructed my view of a turquois sea. The sun shone brilliantly and a breeze refreshed me, as did a colourful cocktail in my hand.

So was this my dream for my future? Not me being a famous author, a successful product developer, or a great mother?
 Me being lazy on a beach. Seriously? I dismissed the thought as crazy. I like to keep busy, to be slightly overworked rather than anything else, that is just the way I like it. Isn’t it? 

Isn’t it? Slowly, the idea started ripening in my brain. Maybe it was time to start listening to my subconscious me. I am actually quite stressed most of the time. Way too busy. And with my state of health, I really do need some rest. 

Getting ready for the beach was great already. No plastic buckets and spades, no goggles, no inflatable toys, no piles of swimsuits and towels, no emergency snacks, no rash shirts. Just my bikini and a book. I was done in a jiffy.

I finished the whole book. I ate a salad. I drank some tea. I looked at the not too turquois sea full of big container ships, and stared at the refinery in the distance, realising I had come a long way from studying its chemical streams in university. I paddled a bit in the lukewarm water. In short, I had an amazing time.

And even though the sky was a Singapore rainy season grey, and nothing like the clear blue of my dream, I am now red. With my optimistic light packing I had forgotten the sunscreen. I am red, but thoroughly rested. Going to the beach alone, on a weekday, with nothing more than a book and a bikini feels just like skipping school. It feels exciting. Fun. And a little bit wrong. Now my new dream is to go again. Next time, I will bring some sunscreen. And, maybe, my husband. I think he needs this dream too.