Looks Like A Flower But She Stings Like A Bee

Friday night in the Raffles City carpark, on the way to Cityspace. A phone call from Alec at the precise moment M and B spotted an object of desire in a backless top.

Me, in M’s car: Oh, hello dear, I’ve just been judging debates and I’m headed out for drinks with some of the old debating guys.
M and B, going wild in the background: Oh MAN, check out that fucking hot chick! Oh my GOD she’s not wearing anything under that skimpy top! Yeah, baby! (etc.)
Alec: Riiiiiiiigght.
Me: Er, they’re normally very intellectual. Really. They’re just tired.
Alec: Go have some fun, dear. We can talk later.

Friday had range. Evidence seminar in the morning. Meeting with my future boss in the afternoon, in which I was pleasantly reminded of her extreme coolness. Judging secondary school debates at breakneck speed for four hours at night. Reeling out of the debates with fellow judges. Dancing to Milkshake, Baby Boy and Hey Ya (also She Bangs, where the DJ exhorted us all to “Do it like William“) 70 storeys above the Singapore nightscape, and retiring soon after that to Cityspace, where I fell madly in love with the lighting.

All great fun except for the mild frivolous downer that I felt somewhat dowdy in such a gorgeous place with my sober Meeting Future Boss attire and big bag o’ law notes from the morning lectures. Am currently considering whether judging the next round of debates in an orange halter-neck top would detract from my gravitas.

Non-Grouchy Moments

I meant to write about the Friday night before Chinese New Year: the prosperity god in a Suntec City atrium with enormous breasts that turned out to be unfortunately placed oranges, the first yu sheng of the season on the outdoor balcony of NUSS bar, $6 cocktails, filthy conversations which were hopefully not overheard by too many people due to their extreme offensiveness, the astonishing ability of Mundian To Bach Ke to collectively transform Fay, Yen and me from house-music-induced sleepyheads into dancefloor divas in the Boom Boom Room, the astonishing ability of Yish to climb large sculptures in Raffles Place and get dragged on stage by drag queen cabaret comedians, the astonishing discovery by me that I was thoroughly enjoying myself in Singapore.

I meant to write about judging a debating tournament the next day at Serangoon JC, and being told by a particular teacher that he would never forget how, two years ago, I had rebuilt his team’s shattered confidence after their day of losses and harsh criticism.

I meant to write about last Saturday’s excursion to the mindboggling Mitre Hotel on Killiney Road (Directions: Walk down Killiney Road, away from Orchard Road and past all the food joints. You will see “145” spray-painted on a pillar, and a scary-ass pitch dark driveway on your left, which every intuitive bone in your body tells you not to walk up. Walk up it. Round the bend there will appear a quiet, dimly lighted building vaguely reminiscent of the Bates Motel. You’ve arrived.), where we swigged cheap beer, sat gingerly on ancient dusty mismatched furniture, tiptoed up unlighted staircases to gawk at the unbelievable dilapidation of the first storey, and somehow loved it so much we’re adamant on going back and becoming regulars at the bar.

I meant to write about beginning to find some shreds of meaning in my life in Singapore, but I was too busy living it.

Dramafest/Debate Finals/Scholarship Gathering/May

I’m really losing the battle to keep up with writing about everything I want to write about.

Raffles Junior College (I keep wanting to refer to this as RJ the way most of my peers do, but am aware that the world outside Singapore doesn’t converse in acronyms) Dramafest finals last Friday, the now annual pilgrimage (written about last year, and fundamentally the same in terms of group composition and general good feeling) to good food in Ghim Moh hawker centre, bad plays in LT1 and debauched supper in Holland Village. Tragically, the Hainanese chicken rice stall manned by the skinny balding moustachioed man seems to have closed down, but at least there was still Luan Qi Ba Zao (scroll down to NoBlogLove post#2). We suppered in Coffee Club, which was altogether too civilized a place for D’s (names initialized to protect the filthy) very excited shouts about Natalie Portman’s nipples. (Most quotes from the evening are unprintable at best, and potentially libellous at worst.)

Debate finals were on Saturday, where for the second year running I was the youngest and strangest-haired judge on the panel. I don’t think this adversely affected my ability to judge, given that I ended up comfortably in the middle of a majority decision, but it was something I was more than passingly aware of nonetheless. Having to travel to the other side of the island (stop laughing, people from big countries, it’s at least one and a half hours’ journey!) for a scholarship gathering afterwards was a bit of a bitch, but worth the trip in the end – I’m always pleasantly shocked by just how much I actually enjoy the company of these people. Working with them, if it happens, might actually be fun.

Monday’s romantic candlelight dinner with May at Chijmes started auspiciously with our agreed meeting point in the Mango store at Raffles City. Practical given that she was parking there, and also for the fact that if either of us was late, the other wouldn’t have to be bored while waiting. Impractical given that we ended up eating about two hours later than we’d originally planned on due to grappling with important shopping decisions, such as whether the unique colour of trousers was an acceptable tradeoff for their ass-ballooning potential.

Debating Nostalgia

On Saturday I felt old and retrospectively stupid.

The semi-final debates were on the motion This House Believes That The IMF and World Bank Have Done More Harm Than Good. If I had had to take this on, when I was 17, with an hour to prepare, I would have curled up in a fetal position in the corner and cried for my mother. The teams I judged took it on bravely and far more competently than I would have done 5 years ago, and while I was able, in judge mode, to make many criticisms of their efforts, that really doesn’t detract from the fact that they’d have kicked my 17-year-old ass to Washington (is that where the IMF and WB headquarters are?) and back.

The seven-generational Raffles Debaters party (affectionately christened the Gangbang by Jolene) afterwards had the magnificent cacophony you would expect from an event where you put a lot of debaters in a room but don’t actually have rules of debating in place to control all of them. Party games included obscene charades where people had to act out stuff like Octopussy and Dr Strangelove (the guy doing this mimed wanking a very big dick, and someone guessed it just from that. Go figure), Polar Bear (too complicated to explain, but I am told all the young people play it these days) and Dance Dance Revolution.

As I said, old and retrospectively stupid. But in a good way.

Being With Debaters

Off the Ayer Rajah Expressway, through Ghim Moh housing estate (slowing down for jaywalking students), round that voluptuous curve in the road and Raffles Junior College peers out at you from behind a rather strangely landscaped and mildly overgrown island thingy in the driveway.

Homecomings thrive on immediate connections, the sort that are still relevant and apparent enough that they don’t have to be explained. So this is never quite a homecoming. It’s an amateur movie of me walking around a place I spent two years of my life, with ghostly commentators drawing arrows and circles on the screen. Here’s where Michelle and her friends would stagger after classes were over for the day. They sat in the tuckshop and drank 30-cent mugs of cool lemon tea, but they called it their “beer garden” for some reason. Sad kids. Here’s where Michelle’s class used to go to pretend to productively use the free period before PE on Fridays, but where they’d inevitably end up giggling helplessly, overcome by what they came to call the Friday madness, until the one-trick-pony librarian would come round and threaten “You can do your talking OUT-SIDE.”

I was there to judge the preliminary rounds of the national debating championships. We counted six “generations” of Rafflesian debaters among the judges alone. There was that wonderfully refreshing feeling that however outspoken or blunt I let myself be, it wasn’t going to intimidate my companions, or discourage them from being equally outspoken and blunt right back. A rare feeling for me in Singapore. My other prime conversational flaw, of assuming I know what someone else is saying before they finish the sentence, and interrupting them because I’m so eager to respond, was equally replicated in most of my companions. And again, the feeling that only here can we do this.

Here, in this smug little circle of articulate, confident, smart arses, we can cautiously lower the self-censorship screens we (or at least I) erect the rest of the time. I forget myself and interrupt you, because I know if I’ve got you wrong, you’ll correct me with the verve and wit that makes these conversations sparkle, not just keep quiet and think dark thoughts about loudmouth Michelle imposing her opinions on the world. We can all talk at each other simultaneously, but we’re all listening too. The faults that everyone else hates in us are the lifeblood of our times together, and it is nice, even if I acknowledge they’re faults to be corrected the rest of the time, to let my guard down every now and then.