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Archive for May, 2012

“Is that all you’re taking?” My friend Sultana said in astonishment when she looked at my wheeled backpack waiting by the door.

Yes, one of the benefits of living in a country where there is no winter, means that you leave all your winter clothes back in your native land and travel light on home visits.

The heaviest items in my backpack are my laptop and an extra pair of shoes.

After two months of creating a new home in Singapore, I am going back to Melbourne to visit family and to attend to my show and Greta’s.

I expect to be delighted to be back among family and friends, and shocked at the vastness of Australia and its more chaotic nature – at least compared to Singapore, where efficiency reigns.

In fact, it is so efficient here that there are even instructions on how to have fun. At least that’s how it seemed when we visited the East Coast last weekend.

I had been itching to see the ocean, to convince myself that I actually lived on an island and not in a shopping mall.

Not knowing where to start, we took our Lonely Planet pocket guide and on its advice chose East Coast Park Lagoon Village, where we planned to sample some chili crab.

It was early, so very quiet, as we wanted through the entrance, to the right of which was a large sign headed I’m ok, you’re ok, together Singapore’s okay.

Featuring charming cartoon characters, the poster instructed us not to litter, to bag our rubbish, to avoid crowded places (like the Lagoon Village?) and see our family doctor if we were unwell, to wash hands with soap frequently, to keep places clean and free of pests, to use a serving spoon when sharing food, to keep public toilets clean and “to spit, cough and sneeze into tissue”.

Later, another sign warned us to report any suspicious activities and yet another told us to “Be considerate. Stay on the right track” when walking along a shared bike/pedestrian path.

Around the lagoon, two water skiers did leisurely circuits, hauled by an overhead wire that ensured their safety, as the pace never changed.

Many large ships were visible from the beach, which featured a thin stretch of sand, some swimmers and some children playing in the sand.

A fenced off area featured an impressive display of beautifully architectured sand castles.

Further on, there was a skate park, strangely free of graffiti, and a place where you could hire charming tandem bike units, in the form of little red-and-white carts.

The sky was blue, the trees were green, the sea was calm, the food was great and ridiculously cheap.

A bit like St Kilda beach, but without the prostitutes and drug addicts.

How will I feel when I step out of this picture postcard and back to reality, I wondered? 

But there’s one thing I know I won’t miss about Singapore – the music.

 “All I need is the air that I breathe and to love you! All I need is the air that I breeeeeeeethe!!!”

That’s all I hear when I take taxis these days.

Syrupy songs from the 70s and 80s are popular on radio stations favored by taxi drivers, especially this song.

 This is especially ironic here, where with a rising inflation rate of 5.4 per cent and incredible rents, you need a lot more than the air that you breathe to survive.

Not only that, the air that you breathe is hot and humid. 

“It’s freezing here,” my friends warn when I tell them I’m coming back.

But warm hearts and cool breezes are what I’m most looking forward to.

 

 

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Cute, isn’t he

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But don’t be deceived!

Things aren’t always what they seem.

Find out why when Hartwell Players, Melbourne’s oldest community theatre group, presents Four Slices of Funcake, its 2012 One Act Play Festival, including Supernsout, by none other than Jane Cafarella.

Supersnout is directed by Joanne Watt and features the talents of Andrew Jacobs, Xavier Lee, Jocelyn Cowley and Nina McLean.

Come along for a great night of theatre and support local writers, actors and directors who are keeping the craft alive, affordable and accessible.

For more information about the festival, check this link:

http://hartwellplayers.org.au/Plays/OneActs2012

Photo by Nicole Kent: This is Bugsy, the Chihuahua we owned when we lived in Bangkok. Bugsy has been living the high life with Nicole in NYC, but is moving to Long Island this weekend. He’s come along way since we picked him up from Bangkok’s Chatachuk Market. These days, he even has his own Facebook page (Butters Kent). Stay tuned for more on the adventures of Bugsy later.

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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Looking for something fun and exciting to do this weekend? Look no further.

Trinity College Music Theatre Society presents The 25th Annual Spelling Bee at the Guild Theatre tonight, Friday and Saturday night.

I’ll be there on Friday and Saturday.

The Gala Night was a huge hit and the cast is now pumped for the weekend shows.

Look out for Greta Williams as Marcy Park, the over-achieving perfectionist – proudly wearing her Box Hill High School uniform, which is still too big.

Read the review here:

http://union.unimelb.edu.au/theatre/review-the-25th-annual-putnam-county-spelling-bee

See you there!

Herewith, below, the official blurb from Trinity:

  • Guild Theatre, Union House, University of Melbourne
  • T, R, I, N, I, T……. EE? Trinitee?…..Yeah you’d better work on that.Because the time has come. After months, for some even years, of trying to write our names in mirror writing, get our pen licenses and thus become top dog of the library… it is time for Trinity College Music Theatre Society to present…

    THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE

    If you know how to spell words like “cat”, “tree”, and “antidisestablishmentarianism”…
    If you play Words With Friends more often than you speak to your parents (or Scramble with Friends, or Hanging with Friends – not Draw Something though sheesh)…
    If you can sing ABC better than the Jackson Five, and if you can dance the YMCA…
    Sound familiar? Then you will love The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

    Wed 23rd May: 7.30pm – COLLEGE GALA NIGHT
    Thurs 24th May: 7.30pm
    Fri 25th May: 12.30pm
    Fri 25th May: 7.30pm
    Sat 26th May: 7.30pm

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Around 3pm, I start to get edgy. I should be getting home.

Even though I know there is no reason to get home, I feel edgy.

I blame 27 years of mothering.

As a mother, you need to start getting home around 3pm to make sure you are there when the kids get home from school, or to pick them up and take them to the dentist, or to a singing lesson, or a piano lesson, or rehearsal, or to a play-date.

But now the kids have grown up and at 3pm they are probably at work, or at uni, or still in bed recovering from that 3am party and hangover.

I have been absolved, yet still, like a well-trained rat, I keep returning to that damned wheel.

At 5pm I start to feel like I should be making dinner – even when I know Rob is not going to be home until 8pm and we will probably have dinner in town.

At the supermarket, I feel the need to buy several hundred dollars worth of groceries, including biscuits and treats for lunch boxes, even though I know there is no lunch box and that if I buy any treats, the only person I will be treating is myself.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad I’m not cutting lunches anymore, or doing the after-school run.

I’m glad my kids have grown up and are enjoying their lives.

I just wish I could de-program myself and enjoy mine.

That’s why I decide that the best antidote to being an auto-mum is to go touristing, starting at 3pm in Little India

Touristing alone is a guilty pleasure. There are no compromises.

You don’t have to reach consensus on where and when to go, or where and when to eat; and there is no one to tell you not to buy that gorgeous piece of jewelry as a Mother’s Day present to yourself.

You can do what you bloody-well like. Finally.  (Just don’t tell Rob about the jewelry).  

On this particular day, doing what I liked meant eating my way from Buffalo St to Mustafa and back.

For the uninitiated, Mustafa is a huge 24-hour department store which has everything you Mustafa and more.

It was here in Little India that I discovered that I am probably a reincarnation of a northern Indian. Why else would I love Punjabi suits, jewelry and samosas so much?

“That’s so sweet,” my Indian friend Sultana says when I tell her that I bought a Punjabi suit (for 35!). “You could pass for Northern Indian,” she adds.

But it’s not just their beauty that has endeared me to Punjabi suits. Punjabi suits not only cover a multitude of sins, they turn them into virtues.

You can eat as many samosas as you like, and still fit into a Punjabi suit (albeit extra large), as even the most generous of figures look slender and elegant in the long-line tunic, light billowy pants, and matching scarf.

And like saris, Punjabi suits come in the most decadent colors and patterns.

This is a nice change, as in Melbourne the preferred color for most women’s apparel is black –  not because they are widows but because, like most Western women, we Melbournians are always trying to diminish ourselves. 

Indian women, it seems, feel no such compulsion. They think nothing of going food shopping wearing a Punjabi suit that is encrusted with fake diamonds or trailing metres of hot pink silk draped elegantly around their neck, and which wafts gently behind them as they walk.

How do they do it? I tried it and the scarf got caught in my crotch and strangled me. I nearly choked on my samosa.

 In Australia, summer means wearing fewer clothes, not more; so the idea of a tunic, pants and a scarf in 32 degree heat, may seem incongruous. But Punjabi suits are amazingly cool as they don’t cling like t-shirts and jeans.

However, so far I am not game to wear mine anywhere other than Little India, at a Bollywood party, or around the house – not just because I haven’t mastered the art of the scarf yet, but because I feel like I am wearing a costume rather than clothes.

I guess that’s why my Punjabi suit is pale green and cream.

It’s discreet.

And it goes fabulously with that new piece of jewelry. 

 

 

 

 

My aspiration!

My reality! (Although this is not me. It’s from Google images, and I apologise to whomever it is).

 

Check this website to see more of what I aspire to!

http://salwarkameezonline.com/punjabisalwarkameez-c-113.html?zenid=b4da6ce02fb86146db2bd8a6b2c11ea3

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The largely Indian audience was rocking with laughter, as Kanjooswamy, “a diehard skinflint”, ranted about how his children, the government and the world were out to rob him of his hard-earned wealth.

Rob and I exchanged little half smiles as the jokes about local Indian culture, the Singapore establishment and inter-racial marriage flew around us.

This is what it’s like to be an immigrant, I thought. You just don’t get the jokes – or at least not yet.

The play was The Kanjoos, which means “the miser”, and was an Indian take on the Moliere play The Miser, performed by HuM Theatre at the Singapore Repertory Theatre last Saturday night.

Subin Subaiah was perfect as the conniving and crafty kanjoos, as was Daisy Irani, as Jayalolita, “Singapore’s premiere matchmaker”.

With their over-the-top antics and slapstick comedy, it was easy to see what was going on. It was just those little moments when they delivered a subtle one-liner and the audience erupted while Rob and I sat mutely, that made me realise that while shopping is culturally transferable, humour is not.

Ironically, as Daisy Irani and producer, Sakina Dhilawala, said in the program notes, HuM is keen to explore integration issues through its plays.

The Kanjoos could quite easily have been a play enacted by homogenous cast but we deliberately decided otherwise. That is because we wanted to re-inforce the socially appealing idea of inter-racial romance and to emphasise that prejudice is often not religious or racial but economic in nature,” they wrote.

HuM’s two previous productions also explored the integration challenges facing society.

However, I’m not sure that any of these plays included the integration challenges facing expats.

This was no fault of The Kanjoos, which was perfectly pitched and delivered with some Indian spice, giving contemporary and local relevance to the age-old moral that greed is not good.

I don’t expect local culture to accommodate visitors like us, who historically have imposed our culture on Singapore and the rest of the world with blatant disregard for local sensibilities.

It just makes me more aware of what it must be like for immigrants generally, and perhaps more understanding of the City of Whittlesea’s request back in 2004 that a local theatre company my daughter was involved with drop its production of The Sound of Music for something more cultural relevant, considering that 36 per cent of Whittlesea’s population came from non-English speaking backgrounds.

At the time, we music theatre junkies scoffed mightily at this suggestion.

The Sound of Music has always been one of my favourite things, but now I understand how for immigrants, understanding local cultural and humor is yet another one of the many mountains they have to learn to climb in order to feel at home.

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The Kanjoos, cast photo from the program. Photography by Wong Xin Yi, Alistair Chew and Sujoy Sen.

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