Monday, November 2, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

…And speaking of Christmas in July…Santa Clause and his reindeer have officially thrown-up all over Orchard Road.

It is only the beginning of November and there are snowflake banners strung every two meters along the entire strip of the famous shopping street. Snowmen sit on top of every lamp post, smiling, probably out of pure shock that they aren’t melting. Every store front is decorated in various shades of red, green, and white with wreaths, ornaments, and garland hung in such a perfect and precise way it is as if the elves themselves flew in from the North Pole specifically for the job. Giant Christmas trees stand proudly, showing off the elves’ handy work. There is even a “ginger bread” village, and every Starbucks is only too willingly advertising the Christmas flavors: toffee nut, peppermint, and chocolate covered cherry. A massive, fat Santa Clause and his bearded reindeer sit smack dab in the middle of the main junction watching over it all, directing everyone to “smile and look like Christmas.”

All this, and the lights aren’t even up yet. . Christmas has definitely been Disneylandified as it merrily exploded in Singapore. Yesterday, one of my co-workers mentioned that Singapore’s “Christmas” tends to be even more commercialized than that of the U.S. (if that’s possible), because very few people here celebrate it has a religious or family holiday.

None-the-less, it is nice to have found yet another little piece of home here. I mean, here I am in Asia, sitting on the equator, in the 90 degree heat, far away from the snow and warm feelings of winter and the holidays that come with it, but Christmas found me anyway.

This past weekend, though, it was not visions of sugar plums but rather ghosts and ghouls dancing in my head as I celebrated Halloween. Saturday evening Stephanie and I spent a solid two hours pinning, wrapping, and tying ourselves into silky green material and brown netting and meticulously painting whiskers on our faces. What may seem like an odd combination at first, becomes perfectly logical when you realize that we went as, drum roll please, Merlions.

The Merlion was designed as an emblem for the Singapore Tourism Board in 1964. It is a creature that has a lion’s head and a fish’s/mermaid’s body. The lion head symbolises the legend of the re-discovery of Singapore. In ancient times, Singapore was known as Temasek, a Javanese word for sea. In the 11th century, Prince Sang Nila Utama rediscovered the island. When the Prince first landed on Singapore's shores, he sighted a mystical beast which he later learned was a lion. The Prince then decided to re-name the island "Singapura" which in Sanskrit means Lion (Singa) City (Pura). The fish tail of the Merlion symbolises the ancient city of Temasek and represents Singapore's humble beginnings as a fishing village.

So dressed in true Singaporean style, Stephanie and I joined our friends, The Monopoly Man, the Hamburgler, Where’s Waldo, Lady Gaga, the fortune cookie and others, for an evening of treats, conversation, and, later, some dancing at the nightclub Zouk.

Adding the evening’s dance party to the mix, I certainly had enough exercise on Saturday. The day began with my two hour dance class and was quickly followed by an outdoor spinning class (Yes, I fully admit that it is crazy to take a class that already makes one sweat profusely and add 95 degree weather to it. But before you write me off as insane, wait to see why I did it). Stephanie and I joined a crowd of bubble gum pink in the middle of a plaza on Orchard Road for Spin for Life, a fundraising event for the Singapore Breast Cancer Foundation. What a wonderful experience, doing something good for yourself while doing something good for others.

After the activity-intense Saturday, I decided Sunday would be a true day of rest. Jenny, Jacob and I spent the afternoon at a double feature of “Love Happens” and “My Sister’s Keeper” in the movie theatre. After picking up some groceries, Stephanie and I enjoyed an evening of live jazz music while sipping on a cocktail in a quaint little club with the loud, and busy hustle of Boat Quay bellow seemingly worlds away.

Monday was an uneventful day at school, spent working on a “general knowledge” PowerPoint presentation for next week, and accompanying six students to the U.S. embassy where they were picking up their passports for an upcoming trip to Chicago and D.C. The bus ride was spent answering questions like, “What does snow feel like?”; “Will we be able to make snow butterflies or angels or whatever?”; “So is it really going to be that cold?” (The last question to which I laughed and answered, “Yes!” to these 16-year-olds who have never been to anyplace outside of Southeast Asia.).

Stephanie and I had a truly enjoyable afternoon and evening shopping for DIY art supplies on Orchard Road and old picture frames and a comfy couch at the Salvation Army. The evening was spent painting, gluing, cutting and basically playing artists while, in true artist style, sipping red wine and philosophizing about life. This week we are finally putting the finishing touches on the walls in our apartment as we plan to host a “You, A Plate, and Your Favorite State” party this weekend. Just in case you want to make a weekend trip to Singapore, the invitation for the party reads as follows:

You, A Plate, And Your Favorite "State"!!!!!!!!!!
Stephanie and Rachel would like to cordially invite you to their first (but definitely not only) dinner party/potluck of the year this Saturday at their apartment at SP.

Now, for the explanation: "You" is obvious, but for those of you who need a little help here, it means we want YOU to come to the party. "A Plate" is the dish you bring to share at the potluck. And, drum roll please, "Your Favorite State" is the theme of the party, and thus should be the theme of your dish and, if you're so inclined, your outfit.

We would like everyone to bring a dish to pass that is somehow related to his/her home state, and for our non-U.S. friends, home country. For example, if you are from Texas, you might dress like a cowpoke and bring BBQ pork or crocodile or whatever they eat there.

Stephanie and Rachel will be providing exciting dishes, and most probably wearing exciting outfits, from the great states of California and South Dakota respectively. We can't wait to see what you come up with!

Please also BYOB, and maybe some extra plates and silverware to share! See you Saturday!
As for the rest of the week, I have curriculum and department meetings at school, and on Wednesday and Thursday I am giving a dance combination at the auditions for next year’s school musical. Steph and I have trips to Arab Street for fabric for curtains and to Mustafa Center for coasters and a few other kitchen supplies planned for the evenings. Tonight: waiting for the couch to be delivered, yoga, and more painting.

Happy November already and TIA,

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