Friday, October 31, 2008

the betel leaf

the betel plant is a slender, aromatic creeper, rooting at the nodes. the branches of the plant are swollen at the nodes. the plant has alternate, heart-shaped, smooth, shining and long-stalked leaves, with pointed apex. it has five to seven ribs arising from the base; minute flowers and one-seeded spherical small berries.

i came upon this betel plant during my walk at the diary farm nature reserve. i have also seen similar plants at the bukit batok nature park and at the macritchie reservoir park. the betel leaf (known as daun sirih in malay) is traditionally used to wrap the thinly-sliced areca nut and slaked lime. the whole stuff is chewed between the cheek and the jaw. spice like clove or cinnamon is sometimes added for flavour.

at bangkit road in bukit panjang, there is a small stall manned by a chinese man who sells all the ingredients needed for betel chewing. i am sure you can also get all the stuff you need for betel chewing from serangoon road.

i used to think that only indians chew the betel leaf until i visited taiwan. i was surprised to see the locals, especially the workers at the train stations, chewing the betel leaf. my friend, who has visited vietnam and cambodia, tells me that this habit used to be quite widespread in these two countries.

actually, there is no such thing as a betel nut. the nut comes from the areca tree, which is a palm. the areca nut is itself a stimulant, like the betel leaf, and it is this nut, together with the lime, that promotes salivation. the saliva is stained red. (the palm trees that you see in this picture of tan teng niah villa are areca palms)

because of the high incidence of oral cavity cancer among chewers of betel morsel (known as paan in india), this practice is becoming less and less popular in these modern days.

this website tells you more about betel chewing.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

doves sparring and cocks fighting

while walking home, i stopped by the side of a canal to watch two young spotted doves sparring. it was quite interesting to watch. the two birds would first perform a ritual - each of them would dip its head and raised its tail and make some sounds - did not sound like a 'war-cry'.

next, they would approach each other cautiously and when they were near enough, one of them would leap up to strike at the other combatant. i would not consider it a fierce fight. it was not even a tussle; more like two puppies having a romp but in a less vigorous manner.

when i moved closer to catch them in action, the two shy birds decided to go their separate ways.

watching the two doves sparring brought me back to those cock fighting kampong days. when i was a young boy i used to watch cock fights on the field of the jewish cemetery which was on the hilly ground next to my house. the fights were usually held on weekends and gambling/betting was always involved.

most of the prized cocks were brought there from elsewhere. i suppose, from other villages in different parts of singapore. most of the cock owners were javanese malay.

a cock fight is like a boxing match. the cocks are meticulously prepared for the match. the owner or trainer will massage the cock, clean its beak and sharpen its spurs. a wet cloth is used to clean the feathers of the bird.

the arena for the fight is the enclosure formed by the spectators. the birds flap their wings and leap quite high during the fight. they use their beaks and the sharp spurs on their legs to inflict injuries on their opponents. it can become quite bloody, with some birds getting their eyes pierced and losing their sight.

when they are exhausted or weak, the birds will seek refuge under the wings of their opponent. the referee makes no attempt to break them up. the fight ends when the loser runs away from the scene and makes no attempt for a come-back. this may take a few minutes or may go on for more than an hour.

the owner will each have a pail of water beside him. at the end of each round, he will use the water to clean and wet the feathers of the bird. he uses a plume to clear the throat of the bird of sputum. he kisses and sucks off the blood on the comb of the bird.

as a boy, i did find it violent and cruel but i continued to watch those fights. in some fights, the vanquished actually ended up losing its life.

twinkle twinkle indian desi styles

from nah chuan wee

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

some old buildings in changi

we went with mdm ow - my guest blogger - on a nostalgic tour of the area around changi village. our first stop was the quarters where she stayed when her late father was working for the royal air force (raf) as a fitter. we found out that the buildings were 70 years old; they were built in 1938. according to her, the front of the house has been extended, otherwise everything has remained much the same.

the house had one bedroom and a kitchen. so, with four siblings and her parents sharing the limited space, she had to sleep on a foldable canvas bed in the space between the kitchen and the living room.

to supplement their household income, her enterprising parents used to operate a drink stall at the changi golf course. part of the golf course could be seen from the back of the 70-year old house.

we tried to locate the other house, the one they had stayed in prior to moving to the 70-year old quarters, but could not really identify the building at hendon road. we came across some other buildings that would have been used to house the non-commissioned officers in the royal air force.

two other buildings which we could not locate and which could have been demolished are the changi grammar school, which was featured in chun see's blog, and a small church. she said it was not the marantha church.

we also drove past the naafi shop along netheravon road. she took us to see the big field where they used to screen movies on a friday or saturday night when the british forces were still in singapore. that is where we came across a 1934 building which has been converted into a seafood restaurant. the building next to it, which appeared to have been a clubhouse, seems to have been abandoned.

we also went to have a look, from the outside, at the old changi hospital located at halton road. the land transport authority has plans to lease the property for commercial uses. there is also a meteorological station along hendon road.

the area where these old buildings are located is unusually quiet and deserted. no wonder this is a favourite haunt of the paranormal investigators.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

smallest roundabout in singapore

i was exploring the changi village area when i came across this cute roundabout. actually it is not a roundabout because you do not have three or more roads converging; there is this small island in the middle where you make a u-turn.

in melbourne, which i visit quite often because both my daughters are there, i have come across roads in the suburban areas which are punctuated by traffic islands from one end to the other. i thought they were done for aesthetic reasons but my friend, who migrated to australia, explained to me that it is a measure to discourage speeding along the quiet road within a residential area.

wonder why the british call it a circus while the americans refer to it as a traffic circle.

chun see posted a quiz based on 10 roundabouts in singapore here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

happy deepavali

this year, they extended the light-up area, right up to boon keng road. some of the side roads, like race course road and buffalo road are also decorated. the picture above shows the decorations along race course road.

the night pictures are even more beautiful. here, at this website, you can see some very nice pictures of the light-up.

working almost ant-like

this morning i visited a food factory in bedok north avenue 4. as i watched the two women at work, folding the chee cheong fun, they reminded me of the ants that had fascinated me the other day.

they were working non-stop, without much communication between the two of them. they could not afford to stop or slow down because the conveyor belt was moving continuously. if anyone of them stops or slows down, the thin sheet of chee cheong fun on her side will have to be 'written off', discarded. the machine cannot be switched off in the middle of the operation.

i asked the boss how long they would have to be at their station. his reply: between six and seven hours. what about toilet break? another worker or the boss himself will have to step in to carry on the folding.

the boss himself had to wake up at 4.00 a.m. to grind the rice grains for making the chee cheong fun dough. it is not exactly a dough as it is in a semi-liquid state before it goes into the machine. he does not believe in using the ready-made rice flour, which would have saved him much time and allow him to get up later.

the machine is able to produce two types of chee cheong fun - the plain type and the one with small bits of vegetables and minced hae bee (dried shrimps). the rolled or folded chee cheong fun are packed in 10s before being placed in a metal box for delivery to the retailers or to some hotels.

the factory also makes chwee kueh but they use plastic receptacles rather than the aluminium ones. long ago, i remember the the chwee kueh maker who lived in the same kampong used the clay dishes. clay dishes would get broken while the aluminium ones would get stolen, especially now when metal is in demand. also the aluminium dishes cost about 22 cents each whereas the disposable plastic dish costs 2 cents only.

the other kuehs made in the factory include normal soon kueh, mini soon kueh, yam cake and carrot cake.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

mary hopkin - those were the days-68

one of my favourite oldies

as industrious as an ant

we have all heard the story about the ant and the grasshopper. the story is used to teach the virtues of hard work and saving, and the perils of improvidence.

the other day i stopped by the roadside to watch an army of ants at work. now i understand better the sayings, 'as busy as an ant' and 'as hardworking as an ant'.

the ants were in the process of building a subterranean nest. i watched as they went about their work. each ant would carry a grain of the earth from inside the nest and drop it near the top of the mound. no one ant stopped to ogle at a young female ant (maybe there wasn't any around); no one ant stopped after dropping the load to malinger; no one slowed down his pace to reduce the number of trips; no one stopped for a toilet break; and no ant stopped to talk or exchange information.

they were just so purposefully driven. i did not see any ant that was playing the role of a supervisor. no one was there to oversee the task that had to be done. every ant knew his place and he went about his work without having to take instruction, without having to ask any question and without having to stop to decide whether the load was too big for him or not.

if we humans could work as cooperatively as ants, we would be able to achieve a lot more. but then, we would be working endlessly (antlessly) and mindlessly.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

deepavali - time for murukku making

it is time to make murukku because deepavali is just round the corner. no, i do not celebrate deepavali but my hindu friends do. yes, some of my indian friends have made the unusual request of asking me to make some murukku for them so that they can offer 'chinese made murukku' to their visitors.

i learnt to make murukku from the mother of my indian friend but they do not celebrate deepavali because they are catholics.

the ingredients and the equipment are quite basic. i use the metal murukku maker which comes with a number of templates to give you a choice of shape and thickness of the strands of murukku. you can actually use the murukku flour by itself, without the need to add anything else. however, i normally add butter and sesame seeds to the ready-made flour.

in preparing the dough, the most important ingredient is the water. if you add too much water, the dough will turn out gluey and sticky and the murukku will break into small strands even before it hits the hot oil.

very often while watching me cook the murukku, some of my colleagues and friends will request to have a go at it. that is when they discover that handling the murukku maker requires a bit of practice. i know two indian ladies who gave up after their failed attempts at making a decent looking murukku.

i have a preference for the lingam brand of flour. alternatively, i will made do with the baba's brand.

instructions for making murukku can be found here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

workers of my time and today's - medical leave

my friend, who worked in the government service for more than 35 years, before he called it a day, took only one day of medical leave. i think the young people of today's workforce will find this hard to believe. he did take other leaves, like for urgent private affairs but even that he did not make use of the full quota that he was entitled to. when his father passed away, he took two days of upa leave.

most of my contemporaries - who joined the service at around the same time - took medical leave only when it was absolutely necessary. maybe we have been blessed with a better constitution or we are made of sterner stuff, so we seldom fell ill while we were working. maybe, we really wanted to do things then and truly enjoyed our work.

it was a rare thing for us to be away from work on sick leave, such that when we did take leave, our colleagues would call to enquire about our absence. in certain cases, some colleagues even paid us home visit when we did not turn up for work.

of course, there were the black sheep who seemed to have to take leave every now and then. but these were in the minority, at the most, two in each work place. i also remember a case of a woman colleague who seemed to be on maternity leave every other year.

i once jokingly told a young ex-colleague of mine that the number of medical leave days that he had taken in that month was about the same number as my total medical leave for my whole teaching career up to then, which was about 35 years of service.

these days, quite a number of young people feel that it is their right to take the medical leave due to them. if they are entitled to fourteen days of leave in a year, they feel that they should take advantage of it and make full use of it - that is, use up all the fourteen days.

our time, even when we were indisposed, we still turned up for work, wishing that the little inconvenience would pass. today's workers are different. they will stay away from work at the slightest hint of an impending sickness, like a sore throat or an aching shoulder.

i do not know the situation in other work places but where i used to work, it was not uncommon to find nearly 10% of the staff reporting sick, especially on a monday or on the day after a long break or the day prior to a long break.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

malay name in chinese characters?

i was along cranwell road in changi when i came across these words or characters on the front passenger door of a red honda car.

it is a malay name written supposedly in chinese characters. my 'mandolin' is as good as peter's but i know that some of the characters are not chinese. could they be japanese or korean?

can you make out the name?

bus commuters in melbourne and singapore

when i came back from my last australian trip in april this year, i decided to find out how different singapore bus commuters were from those i met on the buses in melbourne's suburbs. each time i boarded a bus here, i opted to sit near the front door so that i could study closely the behaviour and attitude of the passengers.

i was especially keen to observe the actions of those who would have missed the bus if the bus captain had not stopped to wait for them. this was not something difficult to catch because it seemed to be a common occurence. more often than not, it would be a young man or woman in a hurry.

i have yet to come across one of these passengers thanking the bus captain for having waited for him so that he would not have to wait for the next bus. people here seem to think that because they are paying passengers, bus drivers must stop for them no matter what; it is, therefore, their right to keep the whole bus waiting.

most times these passengers did not even make eye contact with the bus captain; not a word of thanks or a gesture acknowledging the bus driver's action. i also think that our bus drivers are not used to passengers thanking them, so they also do not expect such a gesture.

in australia, in the suburbs where i travelled, it was heart-warming to see how the commuters treated the bus driver. most of them, who tended to alight by the door nearest to the driver, would express their appreciation for the ride. is it because the australians have been taught and brought up differently? they respect a person regardless of his occupation? here, we accord more respect to those who work in certain professions?

i like to think that the situation is like this because we asians tend to be more reticient when it comes to expressing our feelings openly.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

the 'pek kong kuay'

this morning my walk at bukit batok nature park was aborted because the police had sealed off a section of lorong sesuai. this is the second time i encountered a number of policemen and police patrol cars at the park. the first time was in may last year when an unfortunate incident resulted in the death of a woman at the park.

so, i drove to chestnut avenue where i left my car and walked to dairy farm road to make a visit to the still-to-be-completed dairy farm nature reserve. soon to be ready will be a car-park that can accommodate about 60 vehicles and they are still in the process of installing lamp-posts on the one side of the road, which is going to be paved soon.

that was where i came across this chameleon sitting on the branch of a small bougainvillea plant. this is one common creature that i often meet on my nature walks. along this stretch, i have met a snake, skinks, squirrels and the long-tailed macaques. squirrels tend to be loners but the macaques always move in a troop. if you meet one macaque, you can be sure that there are a few others around.

when i was young, i was quite terrified of the chameleon which we called 'pek kong kuay' in hokkien. i had the feeling that it possessed some supernatural powers, otherwise why would it revered by the older folks as a creature of the god. whenever i saw one during my spider catching days, i would hastily move away from it. i was told by my mother that at mid-day, the lizard could transform itself.

when i came to know more about the chameleon, i understood why this creature was held in awe by people of my mother's generation. all chameleon species are able to change their skin colour.

when i was teaching in a secondary school, one day, after the examinations, one of my students brought two pets in an elongated card-board box to school. when he let them out to crawl on his desk, some of his friends screamed. they were his pet chameleons.

talking about encounters with animals, i think, the other day i chanced upon four or five wild boars along a deserted stretch of road in the lim chu kang area. when the headlights of my car shone on them, they scampered away and disappeared into the bushes. so, there are still fairly large wild animals in singapore.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

from post office to 5-star hotel

who could have imagined that fullerton building which used to house among others, the general post office, would one day became a five-star hotel with much of its facade intact. the general post office occupied two levels of the building. it vacated the place in 1996. i vaguely remember going to the general post office to collect a parcel during the 70s.

i also remember going to fullerton building to submit my income tax returns. between 1970 and 1995, the inland revenue authority of singapore used the building as its headquarters.

the general post office was the largest post office in singapore then and provided the whole range of postal services. today, there is no longer a general post office or a central post office; all post offices are about the same. if i am not mistaken, there was a sorting centre somewhere in kaki bukit. is the sorting centre at jalan eunos today, where the singapore post centre is located?

the site of the present iras building at the junction of newton road and thomson road used to be a petrol station and a row of shop-houses. there was a roti prata stall where i used to eat plain prata for 10 cents a piece.

Monday, October 20, 2008

what is this building?

this 60-year old building seems to stick out like a sore thumb with all the new buildings surrounding it. it has seen glory in its younger days.

what is housed within this building?

where is this building located?

there is a gymnasium with a boxing ring inside this building which is located at rutland road. the tennis courts are still around. there is a small office within this building where you can make booking to use the tennis courts.
dr angeline goh's wedding

ivy and ida,

last night we were at the pan pacific hotel's ballroom for the wedding dinner of your cousin, angeline goh. her husband is a research scientist. she will be leaving for the united states next week for her post-graduate studies. she will be away for more than a year and her husband will visit her once every three months.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

lim bo seng's memorial & tomb

when i was a student, i used to wonder who lim bo seng was whenever i walked past the memorial at the old esplanade at queen elizabeth walk. then when i took up cross-country running, i was set wondering again because at the top of this small hill at macritchie reservoir, there is a tomb with the same name inscribed on it. (at one time, the finish point for cross-country races at macritchie reservoir used to be at the top of the hill.)

at the time, i did not know the difference between a memorial and a tomb, so i was kept wondering: how could the same person be buried at two places.

indeed, lim bo seng was actually buried in two places. he was first buried at an unmarked plot in batu gajah, perak and after the war, his remains were brought back to singapore and buried at the hill top in macritchie reservoir park. the memorial at the esplanade was built ten years later.

"lim bo seng was born in china in 1909. he and his family migrated to malaya when he was a boy and he came to singapore when he was 16. here he continued his studies at raffles institution. he then furthered his studies at the university of hong kong.

like many overseas chinese , lim was a chinese patriot. in the 1930s, when japan's actions in china became increasingly hostile , lim then back in singapore became active in raising funds for the anti-japanese activities.

when the japanese push to take singapore, lim fled to india where he met john davis and richard broome, who were recruiting men for the anti-japanese resistance force in the jungles of malaya. lim slipped back to malaya by submarine in 1943.

lim was then captured and tortured by the japanese military police for not revealing the names of mpaja leaders who work with him. he died in batu gajah prison on 29 June 1944, and was buried there at the age of 35.

in 1952, a memorial was erected over his grave. when sufficient funds were raised, a bigger memorial was erected at the esplanade."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

the 'crocodiles' of sungei buloh wetland reserve

if you think you have been to the sungei buloh wetland reserve and you have not come across a single malaysian monitor lizard, you have probably been to the wrong place. you may not see the birds that you are there to see or you may not see the otters but you will definitely see one of these water lizards. sometimes i wonder if the sightings of 'crocodiles' in the reserve could be a mistake. from a distance, a huge monitor lizard can be mistaken for a baby crocodile.

you will see these creatures everywhere: along the trail, on the boardwalk, by the bank of the river, in the pond, on the grass, in the swamp, swimming in the river or swimming in the pond. i have even seen one up on a tree, having a nap. at one time i counted up to eight monitor lizards in the same pond.

most monitor lizards, even the very big ones, will shy away from human beings. they can move quite fast, both on land and in water. they are quite graceful swimmers; they keep their limbs close to their body and seem to propel themselves by swinging their powerful tail from side to side. these lizards can also stay submerged in water for quite some time, up to half an hour.

my friend has seen foreign workers setting up traps by the sides of a canal in the bendemeer area to catch these monitor lizards. they would place a loop at the round openings on the sides of the canal and when the creature crawled out, they would be caught as the loop closed onto it. according to him, many were caught in this way. the meat of the monitor lizard can be eaten and one large lizard can provide quite a lot of meat.

i have not tasted the meat of the monitor lizard but i have been told it is delicious and that it tastes like chicken meat.

the chinese call it 'the four-legged snake'. indeed, the monitor lizard, with its forked tongue, does look like a snake. it flicks its tongue to scent for its prey.

Friday, October 17, 2008

lee kuo chuan school - new and old, both gone

i think lee kuo chuan school was started in the 50s. its first location was along 450 thomson road. it was housed in three or four rows of single-storey buildings. today, though the buildings are still around, the place has been converted into an old folk home. it is called the lee ah mooi old age home and the address is given as 1 thomson lane.

around the mid 80s, lee kuo chuan moved to new premises at ah hood road. it did not exist for very long. not long after that, it was used as a holding school for a number of schools undergoing prime (programme for rebuilding and improving existing schools). one of these schools was st andrew's junior school, which squatted there from 2003 to 2005. anglo chinese primary and chij also used the premises when their schools were undergoing rebuilding and renovation. today, it has been leased to some private school, so it is known as the queen margaret university, asia campus.

although i did not study at lee kuo chuan school, i know the old site quite well because i had visited it before. a few of my kampong (chia heng) neighbours attended the school and i remember accompanying one of them to the school one day. it had to be during one of the school holidays. that must have been in the early 60s.

i was not aware that a kampong existed behind lee kuo chuan school at thomson road. all i can remember about the place is that it was like a piece of wasteland which we, kampong kids, ventured to while on an outing one day. it had to be a warm day because the moment we saw a pond, we could not resist jumping into it in our birthday suits.

many years later - four decades or so - i was at a meeting when i thought i knew this person from somewhere but could not place him. then we started talking about the good old days. when he mentioned the 'swimming' incident behind his former primary school, i realised that he was one of the boys from the kampong at gentle road who joined us for a splashing time in the pond.

lee kuo chuan school takes its name after lee kuo chuan, the father of lee kong chian. do not get lee kuo chuan school mix up with kuo chuan presbyterian school.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

the fate of public swimming pools

not many of the older public swimming pools are still in use. mt emily, river valley and yan kit have gone the way of the dodos. jurong swimming complex which chun see remembers from his dating days is also no more. the jurong pool was closed together with paya lebar, pandan garden, boon lay and bukit merah.

one of them which was supposed to have been demolished, together with the sports stadium, has a new lease of life. it is still known as the farrer park swimming complex but it has been turned into an exclusive members' only pool managed by the aps (ang peng siong) swim school.

some modifications have been made at the entrance of the swimming complex, otherwise most of the features from the past remain. the broken, jagged glasses on the top of the concrete fence around the complex are still there. the canteen, where we satisfied our ravenous appetite after playing in the water for hours, is still there.

i remember as kids how excited we were when we visited the farrer park swimming pool for a splash. it was the public swimming pool nearest to where we lived. we could take a bus but most of the time, we walked the 2km to the swimming complex. the pool had two opening hours: one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. the afternoon slot was more popular because that was when the weather would be warmer.

imagine we had to queue up to get into the swimming complex. and the line could sometimes stretch right up to the junction of rutland road and dorset road, more than 50m. we just could not wait to get into the water; we would start stripping even before we got to the changing room. yes, we wore our swimming trunks, instead of our underwear, beneath our clothes. while we were supposed to take a shower , we would often hastily go under the tap once and headed straight for the pool.

it did not matter that most of us could not swim. we never had the chance or means to go for any formal swimming lessons. most of us were self-taught. we picked up the skill as we struggled along, by observing how those who could swim do it.

those days, there were not so many restrictions. you could take your beach ball, the tube-float and any floatation device into the pool. however, the pools were so crowded that, if you were a serious swimmer, you could hardly swim a breadth without knocking into somebody or having sombody swim into your path.

the newer swimming pools, like the one at choa chu kang and jurong east, are designed to be more than a place to swim or to learn to swim. it has also included the element of fun and thrills.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

catching prawns and pasir pasir

my walking kaki at bukit batok nature park, the 80-year old former physical education lecturer, was describing to me how they caught prawns, pasir pasir and kelong fish in the sea off pasir panjang. before 1964 he used to live in a bungalow - the house which they vacated when the japanese came - at yew siang road which is located at the 5 mile-stone pasir panjang road. the house is still standing today.

they usually went prawn catching at night and when the tide was just coming in. he would carry a carbide lamp and a net. the light from the lamp was to attract the prawn and to make it visible. they would wade in ankle deep water to search for the prawns. the two shining dots in the water were a giveaway for the prawn.

he would place the net behind the prawn, slightly above the surface of the water. then using his leg he would disturb the water in front of the two dots. the prawn would instinctively jump backwards, into the net which he held in his hand. he would collect the prawn and stuff it into the cane basket that he carried. later, he would have fresh prawns to eat when he got home.

with reclaimed land, the extension of the port and some heavy industries located along the stretch that was once the sea, the prawns would have disappeared to somewhere else.

to catch the pasir pasir, he would use a bamboo rod with a line and sinker. first, he needed to hunt for the bait. this could be found in the exposed sand along the beach of pasir panjang. he would use the water that his mother had used for washing the rice grains. this water was sprinkled over the sand. then he would placed his palm on the sand. when he felt the worm biting, he would swiftly grasp its head with his thumb and forefinger and pull the wriggly worm out of the sand.

the pasir pasir fish were commonly found along sandy stretches of the sea. long along when we camped at changi beach, we employed the same technique to catch the worms and used the same type of bamboo rod to catch the pasir fish.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

18 freehold villas
the last of the many buildings that i came across along gilstead road.
somebody blogged about it here. the land occupied by this white building and an adjacent one has been slated for the building of 18 freehold villas - 2 cluster bungalows, 10 cluster semi-detached houses and 6 cluster townhouses.

although the gate was unlocked, i did not venture into its compound, so i could not really gauge the land area.

Monday, October 13, 2008

this school has a rather long name

the name is not only long, it even has a conjunction in its name.

the sign should read: greenridge and west view pri schools because they are two separate schools.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

canoeing days off pasir ris

pasir ris park has grown over the years; the trees have matured and the park has expanded in size. all of us who were at the walk today (11 oct) agreed that it has turned out to be a more pleasant place with a rustic feel about it. for some of us, the last visit to the park was made some thirty-five years ago, when our canoeing expedition took us from pulau ubin to pasir ris beach.

these days, to organise such an overnight activity and outing will entail a lot of logistic support and administrative procedures, so much so that it hardly happens. those days, all it needed was a standard consent form which was used for an excursion, a hike or a visit to a park. of course, we took all the safety precautions like having a safety boat to escort the party and ensuring that everyone put on the bulky life-jackets.

we first canoed around pulau ubin before heading for pasir ris where we would beach the canoes and spend the night camped on the grassy patch, just outside the people's association compound. today, as we walked past that stretch, it brought back memories of the cold that we had to endure while camped near the beach. to ward off the cold, we would wrap our feet in plastic bags.

we did not made things easy for the student canoeists. they had to carry the food that they would be cooking at the campsite with them in the canoes. the canned food, rice and other stuff had to be properly packed and kept in securely wrapped polythene bags. these were stored in the tight space at the bow of each canoe.

of the nine of us at the walk today, five of us - three formers students and two teachers - could recall those canoeing days.

as usual, at 8.00 a.m. we were all at the pre-arranged car-park d along jalan pasir ris. we walked towards area d where the people's association bungalows are located before making an about- turn and moving towards the boardwalk between sungei api api and sungei tampines. from there we made our way to the food court at downtown east for our 're-charge'.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

working at a real kelong

this is a model of a kelong along the changi board walk

my friend, who is also a retiree, used to help out at a kelong in tuas and, at times, at another kelong off katong when he was still a 16-year old student. he would stand in for a married friend who wanted to have the saturday off so that he could spend time with his young bride.

on saturday evenings, he would take a bus to tuas and from there a boat would take him to the kelong. initially, he had looked forward to this weekend job but after working for a few months, he found little excitement in it. it was really back-breaking work and during the monsoon period, at the end of the year, he had to endure the biting rain and the cold.

it was a working kelong where visitors were not welcomed. there would usually be four workers to raise the nets, sort the fish, cook the fish and re-set the nets. the nets were so heavy that it needed at least two adult persons to work the axles to bring up the nets.

after that they had to sort out the fish according to types and sizes. some catch, like the octopuses, were discarded and thrown back into the sea. some, like ikan bilis, had to be cooked in salt water immediately so that they would be ready to be sold at the market in the morning.

they would boil a huge pot of water and then thrown in the rock salt. when the water started to boil, they would throw in the freshly caught ikan bilis, blanch them and scoop them up. the ikan bilis were put into shallow cane trays. one time, when the catch was really good, he counted 54 trays of ikan bilis caught in the early hours of that sunday.

they would start raising the nets between 11.30 p.m. and midnight and after that every two hours or so until dawn. in between, they would try and catch some sleep. however, in november and december, sleep did not come easy because the cold wind seemed to come from below the kelong.

early in the morning, a boat would come to the kelong to take the day's catch to the market.

for his overnight work, he would receive $3.00.

these days, the new kelongs are more like fish farms. the fish are reared in the net and you may get to watch them feeding the hungry fish or you can try your hand at line fishing or rod fishing from the kelong. quite a number of singaporeans go to the one off penggerang. in this modern time, all they need to raise the nets is to flick a switch, not like the old days when it was really required a lot of muscle power.