Doctor And Nurses’ Tips On Eating In Singapore Food Courts, Radio DJs And Audiences’ Take On Love and Medals

It was food poisoning, my doctor said to me.  I was not surprised, judging at the symptoms I have since last night.  Where did you eat, he asked.  It was a food court at Sim Lim Square where I had mutton soup, I answered.  The food court is merely a block away from where the clinic is.  My doctor suddenly seemed enlightened and said, “Ah, yes.  I had a few bad experience eating there.”

According to my doctor, he gauges the hygiene factor of a local food court by the cleanliness of the toilet as well as the availability of hand soap.  If the hand soap is constantly run out, there is little hope that the hawkers would have their hands washed properly after [peeing and pooing] (he used a Chinese dialect that I am not familiar with, but I got the essence of what he was trying to say).  Next time when I visit a food court in Singapore, the first thing I shall do is to inspect the toilet.  If a doctor does it, I don’t see why I shouldn’t.

There was no one in the waiting room, so we took time to chat.  I do not have friends who is a doctor and I am not sure what ticks them.  OK, I have a distant relative who works in the emergency room.  We talked about shattered bones of the motorists and his unpredictable yet predictably long working hours.  That time, I wanted to veer the conversation away from the bones and onto, say, how do surgeons have the time to find love?  But he went on and on about bones and more bones, blood and more blood.  It is true.  Singapore is a terrible place for motorists.  I am still at awe at the courage or what not that some cyclists exhibit when they insist on wanting to share the same space with the local drivers.  It only takes one tiny mistake of a driver to potentially paralyze a cyclist.  I don’t even feel safe walking inside a car park.  I often remind Cynthia, “Never, never trust the Singaporean drivers.”

Ironically, I am one.

At the reception counter, while waiting for my medicine to be concocted, I chatted with the two ladies behind the counter.  I am not sure if they are receptionists or they are nurses.  After that bloody toe operation – bloody as in literally bloody and not in a swearing sense – I am convinced that they are capable to take on the role of a nurse too.  On the same topic of food poisoning, one said, “These days, we have increasingly more Chinese nationals working in a food court.  They are not as hygienic.  Stay away from their food.”  Another one added, “For me, I only eat boiled food like fish soup from these stores.  At least the food is cooked right in front of my eyes.”

I hate to stereotype.  But I think they both spoke wisdom because numbers do rule our world.  The challenge to me is, unlike some of my friends, I cannot tell a local man from a Chinese national.  Maybe a PRC girl to a local girl.  But that is a different story.

Before I left the consultation room, my doctor and I talked about the recent surge in flu cases.  He commented that people here do not cover our mouths when we cough.  I commented that in Japan, the sick ones wear masks when they are sick.  Do you know what he said?  He advise people to wear a mask in the office if someone near them is sick.  If we do not have the decency to refrain from spreading the virus, at least do our part to lower the chance of getting infected by others.

This doctor speaks wisdom.

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I am a big fan of the Backseat DJs Maddy Barber and Cheryl Miles.  Their chemistry works out to be better than my initial expectation.  Yesterday’s topic was on Team Singapore (athlete) and our reliance on foreigners to win medals.  One guy from Team Malaysia (the football captain I think) commented that we would not have won the first leg of the World Cup qualifying match against Malaysia if we do not have foreigners.  The debates went on.  Cheryl and Maddy were patriotically defending our foreign talent policy.  One caller dialed in and said, “Medals should only won by born and bred Singaporeans.  No foreigners should be in our national teams.”

Upon hearing that, I felt a brief moment of exclusion.  13 years I have been a Singapore Citizen.  But no matter how many years I clock, I can never be a born and bred Singaporean.  In this hot topic of foreigners versus the locals, I often find myself stuck in the middle.  Not too long ago, I was a foreigner.  Within the Singapore community, we have Citizens and Permanent Residents (Is PR considered as foreigners?)  And within the citizen category, we have born and bred Singaporeans and the immigrants.  My wife from Indonesia has been a PR here for 10 years.  My sister is a relatively new PR from Hong Kong who now has a baby (I often tease her that she is a PRC).  My niece is born in Singapore.  Her father – my buddy – is also a born and bred Singapore.  My mother-in-law who is visiting Singapore is on a 5 years long time social visit pass.  My mother too has the same pass.  The line is blurred.  Regardless where we are in this foreign-ness spectrum, we have contributed to the society just as hard, riding through SARS and a few recessions, the current inflation and yet another round of election together with the born and bred locals and the semi-foreign residents.

Hack.  We eat the same food.  And I may need to pop by my bathroom one more time before I am done writing this entry.

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A few days ago, there was love in the air.  One caller dialed into Maddy and Cheryl’s radio show and shared with them and the audience her dilemma in love.  6 years she has worked and now she is 26.  6 years she has dated this guy and it is only recently when she discovered that he has been married all along.  This sounds so wrong  How did she not know, how did this guy’s wife not know, and how could he love two at the same time – all these years?  Personally I feel that it is cruel for a guy to rob a girl 6 years of her prime dating life with a lie.  Personally I also feel that Maddy and Cheryl are too cheerful as Aunties Agony.  I, on the other hand, can be a good candidate for Brother Agony.  Because I have a soothing voice, because I am a patient man with a pair of good listening ears, and because I am morally flexible.

One caller quickly dialed in and shared her friend’s story in air.  It was on her friend’s wedding date when the groom did not turn up.  Instead, the groom’s wife called and told her friend that the groom has already been married.  This blows in so many different dimensions.  I could not even fathom on what the groom was thinking, or trying to do.  Imagine the disappointment and humiliation the bride had to bear.  Fortunately, this sad, sad story has a good ending.  Her friend is now happily married with kids.  Her advice to the first caller was: move on and there are better things in life await.

That is not the end of the story.  A third caller dialed in and shared his story on air.  One day, his friend called and asked to meet up and have a cup of coffee, 2 in the morning and in Geylang (note to overseas readers: Geylang is a residential area, and inside, there is a tiny red light district).  I am glad that I do not have friends who call me 2 in the morning for a cup of coffee in Geylang.  My wife would not be happy about it.  So, the third caller did meet up his friend.  They chatted from two to four in the morning and across the street, at the entrance of a love motel, he has spotted his girlfriend (now ex-girlfriend) emerged from the motel with his best friend!  Woah.  That sucks even to think about it.  Again, the sad, sad story also has a good ending.  He is now happily married to a different girl and they have kids.  Same advice he gave to the first caller.

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Looking back, fair or not fair, I think it is good to have experienced what it is like to be a dumpee.  Because we dumpees get to relate to some movies that dumpers just don’t get it.

Google+ > Twitter + Facebook

My Google+ invite came in a good timing.  I am seldom an early adopter when it comes to technology.  I have yet to install a webcam for my computer.  When I first signed up for Google+, I was curious, in a healthily skeptical way.  The timing was good because as CNN has recently reported, some of us just need a reboot.  Facebook has served its purpose.  I have had a fun time interacting with friends whom I know, ‘friends’ whom I do not know online.  There has been a lot of time investment in building my social network.  Despite the good time I had, there is some discomfort in using Facebook.

Top of my concern is privacy issue and the lack of control over who should see the stuffs I write and the stuffs others write about me in Facebook in a micro level.  I could set up groups and fiddle with the access control.  But in real life, that is hardly practical.  For instance, I could say, none of my acquaintances are allowed to tag me into their pictures.  What if there is this one acquaintance who has this one great photograph that I wish I could have been tagged?  Or I could say, all my good friends are able to tag me into their pictures.  What if there is this one picture that I really do not wish to be tagged in spite of the good intent?  Sure I could remove the tag.  But most of the time, it is too late.  Do I want my  friends to be aware of my recent activity in participating in some of the political debates over other Facebook pages or the walls of my friends?  Some interactions are meant to be segregated.  I could tweak the security setup in Facebook to handle the situations as mentioned and more.  However, balancing being too open and too close in Facebook is never easy.

Then comes Google+.  It took me a while to set it up and get used to the way how G+ works.  Once I got through the initial hurdle, the first thing I notice is that friends in my circles are really my friends (hence the reboot).  Friends who I know of and am interested in reading what they share online.  I have complete control over how each of my message is shared – publicly, to a set of circles, or even down to the individuals.  Do I want to disallow resharing of what I write in G+?  Do I want to disable comments?  The decision is all mine to made, at the point of sharing, based on the circumstance.

The second thing I notice is that G+ promotes a more causal networking.  Let’s say I find an interesting topic and I participate in the discussion.  And I happen to like some of the comments one person has made.  I find him interesting and wish to hear more about what he shares on a regular basis.  In Facebook, I would need to add him as a friend.  But is he really a ‘friend’?  If I was him, would I want to confirm such a request?  In G+, I can add people into my circles.  They will be aware of my action.  But it is up to them if they wish to add me into theirs and potentially see some of their more private sharing.  In most cases, it does not have to be so.  I could be interested reading more about how Jenson Button feels before and after the race.  And what sports he does when he is not racing.  But I don’t think Button would have the time to read what I share online.

Just an example.

That brings up to the second part of this entry: Twitter.  I read that some start to complain having an extra social network to follow the same set of people and hear the same thing.  Yet another place to broadcast or promote their online presence.  To me, it is never an issue.  I use Twitter to follow news and gossips.  I use Facebook to keep track of what some of my friends do.  Once Google+ is open for business for the celebrities and company profiles, I suspect I would drop Twitter.  Because it is so much easier to zoom into the topics of my interest in G+ via circles.  The quality of sharing in G+ seems higher too because there is no limit in characters and we are free to edit the messages and comments after they are published.  As for Facebook, it may take longer for me to transit out of it because most of my friends are still clinging onto what may not seem broke to them.  I still occasionally drop by Facebook.  But the majority of my activity is on G+, for now.

It is still early to say if Google+ will be a success.  I certainly welcome a break from Facebook and have the opportunity to approach social networking in a fresh new way.  If you want a Google+ invite, you may drop me an email.

Circle me at http://gplus.to/wilfridwong

I Am Ready To Vote

These two weeks have been tiring, from Nomination Day to the eve of Election Day.  I have not attended a single rally.  But I have spent much time watching the recorded videos on YouTube, reading publications from both the mainstream and the alternative sources.  I feel as though my politico-meter has shot up from zero to red hot in merely days.  Almost every day, I would wake up at least once in the middle of my sleep thinking about how I shall cast my vote, with vivid dreams still pulsating refused to fade.

Voting can be emotional.  It is because deep inside, there is this love for our country and our people.  During this election period, rifts can be seen from the discussions revolving around citizens and the foreigners, the born-and-bred Singaporeans and the new citizens, and among those who vote for status quo and those who vote for change.  Rifts that I hope will be mended after tomorrow.  As an immigrant who has been a Singaporean since 1998, where do I stand?  I love this country and the people, hence the decision to settle down and contribute.  To assume that I would vote for the ruling party blindly – as all new citizens would do – may not be a valid claim as raised by the alternative voices.  Why?  I was brought up in Hong Kong where districts are drawn with defined boundary, whereby votes were cast onto an individual.  Here in Singapore, the boundary of the constituencies is redrawn by the government in every election.  Many constituencies are represented in groups and instead of picking who are best to represent us, we have to pick the team as one package.  From where I come from, freedom of speech is valued.  Here, there are guidelines to follow.  Including what the political parties can and cannot do on Cool-off Day (today).  When I compare what I read from the mainstream media, versus what I read from the alternative sources, I have started to doubt what I have been reading all these years.  To sum them up, as a voter who has not decided on which party to vote for, I am not blinded by the picture I have originally fallen in love with.  It is clear that the barrier for alternative parties to enter into Singapore political scene is unfairly high.  To that extend, my kudos to the alternative parties that stand up and challenge the status quo.  You have my deepest respect.

Singapore as a whole is not doing badly, objectively speaking.  We have come back up from a technical recession fairly quickly.  We have good growth this year, despite the global financial challenge.  Most importantly, our country is strong and our diplomatic relationship with the rest of the world seems good.  Better than those days when we have to constantly worry about the water issue, and to deal with criticisms from our neighboring countries.  Singapore is indeed more vibrant in the past five years; and the landscape has improved.  Our country draws envy from the foreigners; some eventually wish to settle down and contribute.  Foreigners like I once was.  I do not have a lot of complain about the government but a few.  I feel that the growth of our population has outpaced the expansion of our infrastructure.  That is bad planning.  I do not have much confident on our national security, despite the heavy budget we have put aside for defense.  Cost of living has outpaced the wage increment, which increasingly makes me worry about my retirement.  And I still feel that we should have kept GST low.  The members of parliament should be more visible on the ground rather than once in five years (in my case, I have not seen any MP in my life before, except during the media events).  There should also be more, much more credible alternative voices in our parliament rather than one that is dominated by one single party – a system that I doubt would be sustainable in a long run.

When I watched some of the speeches made by the alternative parties, I am surprised by the talents we have.  Some moved me to tears.  These are just words, you may say.  I beg to differ.  To be able to speak with such sincerity and conviction requires the individual to have true passion and the experience of being on the ground engaging ordinary people.  Without such, the speech would feel like a scripted speech, watching the person making that speech would feel like watching a parrot talks.  And you can tell who have been walking the ground, who have not.  Some of these speeches touch my heart.  If we have a system whereby voters can pick-and-mix candidates from different parties, I would want to see some of these talents from the alternative parties to be voted into the parliament.  As of now, we can only pray for some miracles to see some of these faces in our parliament.

Come this May 8, we may wake up to a government with no representatives from the alternative parties.  I highly doubt if there would be a political tsunami, like some may have speculated.  There may be more alternative voices getting voted into the parliament.  But anything less than a critical mass would merely be a status quo.  We would be politically dormant for five years and the awakening process would kick in again, for two weeks.  Unfortunate for me, I am not from a constituency that makes headline.  The contest is less than lukewarm.  I do not think how I vote would matter to the final picture.  The previous ruling party for my constituency will continue to rule.  Hence, it is easy for me to say that I am ready to vote wisely, and bravely.  But I am not going to say just that.  I am ready to vote with my clear conscience.

Did You Catch The Glee Flash Mob At Orchard Singapore?

Cynthia and I are known as “the late couple”, especially so during weekends.  There are hundred and one things to do such as not wanting to get out of bed (that is Cynthia), not able to get back to sleep after waking up ridiculously early (that is I), spending too much time reading the papers over home delivered McDonald’s breakfast  (that is Cynthia), playing too much online game while having breakfast (that is I), doing housework together, and then this, and then that.  Soon, time flies and we are late for our weekend appointments.  Hence the title – “the late couple”.

We were informed that there would be a Glee flash mob performing in front of Ion Orchard last Saturday.  Miraculously – by that I don’t mean speeding on our beloved highway – we had 10 spare minutes to dash from the car park to Ion.  I can tell you what exactly happened at 5pm.  There was heavy downpour and we thought the performance would be canceled.  Fortunately, there is an invisible shelter at the open area in front of our prestigious mall, right in front of Dior (OK, there is a huge glass shelter high up above us).  And the show was on!

Despite the heavy rain, there was a good turn out.  The Glee Flash Mob is Fox International Channels’ effort to promote Glee on Star World, which I am sure you know that Glee is now on Season 2.  As always, Cynthia and I like different things in this TV series.  She thinks that Rachael is hot, and she can sing.  I am a man.  I am in love with Quinn, the cheerleader (duh!)  Quinn is hot.  She can even convince her then boyfriend that she got pregnant while sharing a fully clothed hot tub with him.  Which one is your favorite Glee episode?  For me, that has to be – cheerleader joke aside – the one with featured guest star Barney from “How I Met Your Mother”.  The rendition of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” is my all time favorite Glee track.  That episode has won Neil Patrick Harris a well deserving Emmy, as a guest actor.  Neil, you are my hero.

Back to the flash mob, there were about 70 dancers.  A few of them are professionals while the rest are students and volunteers.  It must have been a rewarding experience for them.  Cynthia and I love the atmosphere.  It was a fun watch.  I must be amongst the first group of audiences who clapped with full conviction.  Either Singaporeans are not well trained in the displays of appreciation in public, or the audiences were waiting for more.  I think it was the latter.

To the dancers, thank you for putting so much effort in preparing this (800 man hours according to my reliable source).  For those who have missed it, fear not.  The video has arrived at my mailbox today, here for sharing.

Peranakan Museum – A Trendy And Happening Boutique Museum In Singapore

Picture this with me.  Across the road, you have found the entrance to a museum.  It is your first visit.  Outside the museum, there are stalls crowded with curious shoppers, genuine shoppers of all ages.  Stepping inside, the high ceiling hall is brightly lit filled with youngsters dressed in trendy clothing socializing with one another, all appear to be having a good time.  But that is not the first thing you notice.  In the center of the hall, at the reception area, a band is performing for the visitors.  Lively music moves your feet.  And you wonder: Is this a museum?  Some watch the band’s performance.  A line of human traffic constantly moving up and down the stairs on either side of the main hall that leads to different exhibition halls.  And if loud music raises your eyebrows, once you walk into one of the exhibition halls, such as the special exhibition “Ramayana Revisited”, the volume of the live music fades away.  Soon, the things that capture your senses are the artifacts and their descriptions.  Old people, young people, not-to-old people, families, friends, and couples – all having a good time.  And soon you conclude: What a lovely way to spend an evening at the Peranakan Museum.

Cynthia and I were invited for the museum’s open house event.  We have been to a few events organized by the Singapore museums and this must be the liveliest of all.  Before we got a chance to make our own bags (see photos below), we were greeted by Ms Barbara Fras, the Assistance Director of the Programmes Department who took the time to introduce the museum to the bloggers.  Peranakan Museum may seem small but it has attracted 200,000 visitors a year, of which majority are from within Singapore.  The museum does have an interesting cross-cultural collection of artifacts (part of the museum’s collection is now being exhibited in Paris) as well as a good line-up of fun events that prompt visitors to return.  I think the make-a-bag session is a great idea.  We get to keep the bags as souvenirs.  What a lovely to keep a piece of our memory at home in a tangible way.

Peranakan Museum’s website can be found in here.  The museum is located at 39 Armenian Street.  You can check out the upcoming events at their website.  To enjoy the discounted admission charges, you may wish to visit on Fridays between 7pm to 9pm (S$3 for adults).  Below are some of the photos we have taken during the event.