Sunday, July 08, 2007

Glimpsing the world with fresh eyes

View of Singapore city skyline from Ann Siang Hill Park

What a week it's been - visitors from New Zealand (en route to a new life in Adelaide), overdue catch-up with friends, a wedding and a wake, throw in multiple deadlines and dramas at work PLUS a fevered completion of Season1 of Prison Break, and it feels like I've just packed in a month's living in seven days. Phew!

At lunch on Monday, D and I take a walk to Ann Siang Hill park, just 2 minutes round the corner from my work. It's a tiny slice of secluded calm in the Singapore CBD.

A clear concrete line marks where urban jungle ends and green oasis begins.

It's lunchtime and no one is around, most people preferring for some strange reason to stand in queues in stifling hawker centres with their colleagues, talking over the din (or are they just adding to it?). I make a note to self that this is the perfect spot on a cloudy day to come with a sandwich and a book.

Foliage, foliage, foliage

Mid-week, and M and R, old friends from our Wellington days stop by Singapore for a few days. Can't describe how wonderful it is to see them again after more than two and a half years. Their joie de vie is contagious and I find my mood really lifted after spending two nights with them. We have dinner at Chinatown then coffee at Clarke Quay by the Singapore River. Experiencing Singapore through their eyes makes me remember again all the nice things about this city.

M, R and I at Clarke Quay, minutes before we see Singapore's saddest belly dancer outside Shiraz.

The next night, we meet them at New Asia Bar (yes, it's touristy but the views... astounding) on the 70th floor of Swissotel the Stamford. M and R are originally from Israel, but they now call themselves citizens of the Pacific. They're en route to Australia, leaving windy Wellington behind to start life anew. They add to the economy by buying up loads at the Great Singapore Sale. It's sad when we bid them farewell at the MRT station but I know the next time we meet, we'll still have great conversations and laughs.

Watching the sunset from New Asia Bar.

R tells us an amazing story about Masada, an ancient Jewish fortress overlooking the Dead Sea. The story goes that instead of surrendering to the invading Romans, a group of zealous rebels - comprising almost a thousand men, women and children - resisted for over a year in this impregnable fortress, until the Romans "constructed a rampart of thousands of tons of stones and beaten earth against the western approaches of the fortress and, in the spring of the year 74 CE, moved a battering ram up the ramp and breached the wall of the fortress" (ref: www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org).

Masada, Dead Sea, Israel (source: www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org)

Finally, with the Roman army's approach looming inevitable, the "Zealots cast lots to choose 10 men to kill the remainder. They then chose among themselves the one man who would kill the survivors. That last Jew then killed himself."

I'm strangely affected by the story, maybe because ancient though it is, I can't help but think of the backdrop of violence that we live our daily lives against. Be it Islamabad, Kabul, Basra, Hatyai, Glasgow or London, are we doomed to repetition?

That said, I was also moved by the rather kitsch Live Earth Concert. So maybe there is a yin to this yang. Crowded House played their set in darkness. And the Dhol Foundation rocked the stage in London.

Ok maybe my rambling is getting simplistic (and lacks proper analysis, but hey, I'm writing this blog for fun). Anyway, I wonder what stories will hold a thousand years from now. In the meantime, I'll carry on adding my tiny blog whispers to the meta narrative.

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