Singaporean Generosity

[Edit: I’ve made some changes to the wording of the entry, as it’s been suggested that it may have come across to some people as slanted and mean-spirited. I disagree, personally, but it’s no loss to me to change the words since my conscience is clear anyway. If the amended version changes your view of the events, feel free to say so.]

When I heard a colleague of mine had got a good bargain on a premium brand sale item which is usually quite expensive, I mentioned that Alec had been thinking of buying something similar, and asked if the sale was good. She said it was, and also that she’d gotten a $10 voucher with her purchase which had to be used on the same brand within the next week or so. Her mum had it at the moment, but if her mum didn’t use it she could pass it to me.

The following Monday, this colleague emailed me saying she’d brought the voucher, and could sell it to me for $5. She added that I could take it first, and only pay her if Alec ended up using it.

I have subsequently learned that we were operating under a misunderstanding – she thought we were going to share the cost-savings from the voucher, whereas it would never have entered my head to perform such calculations in the first place. But that doesn’t leave me any less bemused by the mindset.

I don’t mean to look gift horses in mouths, but surely I can’t be the only one who would just give a voucher like this away without a second thought? If it’s something I don’t intend to use and it didn’t cost me anything, I’d be ashamed even to charge a complete stranger for it (I’d have given it to the next person in the queue for the cashier quite happily, for example), let alone someone I know, and I’m not even a particularly generous person! (In case anyone’s wondering, this person is no worse off than me, so while not rich, she is hardly short of cash either.)

Your views? Was I unfair to have burst out laughing the moment I read her email?

Overheard On Orchard Road

[A quick note for non-Singaporean readers: On Orchard Road, our main shopping strip, banks often set up big tents on the pavements and attempt to lure people into them to sign up for credit cards. Such tents also often feature greatly amplified music and obnoxious commentary by the various promoters present, with which it is presumably hoped that innocent passers-by will be bludgeoned into submission.]

“…and that was a really great song by Suzanne Vega! Luka, a song about child abuse! You’re here with us outside Wisma Atria shopping centre this Saturday afternoon, and we’re offering a waiver of annual fees for…”

Death Of A Party

So I decided I felt like throwing a party, and because I love dumb innuendo, I used my upcoming call to the Bar as an excuse for calling my party “Barely Legal”.

I wrote up an invite and emailed it to my friends. So far, a nice number of positive responses have been coming in, you know, the usual “Sounds cool, I’ll see you Sat then” type of email. And then my friend’s Italian boyfriend sent this:

“Uhm, still have some trouble with the law in italy over some public drunkness and indecent behaviour charges….how about consultation in exchange for some excellent duty-free smirnoff?”

And then Kelly replied with this:

“funny. pat’s in some legal trouble with the fashion police in US for his hair too. no wonder you guys are stuck over here.

alec, so what’s your true story? why are you here? what are you running away from? it’s truth time.”

And my weirdo boyfriend replied, to all my friends, some of whom have never met him, with this:

Kelly, I returned to Ireland in 93′ and found only deprivation and poverty awaiting me. The blight had returned to haunt the land and all around was the smell of marsh mellows rotting in the diseased ground. Without marsh mellows there’d be no lucky charms to feed the young ones. The leprechauns had packed up their pots of gold and forsaken us all. A great sorrow engulfed the land, made all the worse by the awful lamentations of Sinead O’Connor’s latest album “I was genitally mutilated for old Ireland”.

After just a fortnight at home, I’d already sold the clothes on my back for a few precious bowls of luck charms. I wandered around the house, buck naked and freezing, worrying day and night what I could do to feed the family. It was my mother who pointed out the only feasible solution.

“A young fellow like you, with a big lad on you, should be a gay porn star. ‘Twould be putting your willy to some good use, not like your father who does nothing but annoy me with his.”

I moved to Ballynabollix, home of Ireland’s burgeoning, alternative porn industry and became an overnight sensation. Using only what God gave me, I landed my first major role in “Jesus, Mary and Joeseph!!”. A spate of other movies followed, including such ground breaking works as “Jaysus, you could plough drills for potatoes with that thing!”, “Orgy in Ballingory” and “Feck off Bono, Larry Mullen is mine.”

My ego inflated faster than my money maker and decadence set in. I started to listen to Enya, taking Bob Geldof seriously and eating only the pink marsh mallow bits in my lucky charms. I was drinking and doing drugs and then one morning,…..Oh Jesus, it hurts just thinking back on it,….one morning I woke up and there was Michael Flatley in the bed beside me. I’ve been impotent as a Catholic Cardinal ever since.

Living with my condition has been hard. To save myself from further shame, I decided to emigrate. I looked at international birth rate statistics and surveys of sexual activity. I reasoned that if my condition could not be cured I could at least live amongst similarly afflicted individuals. Singapore has been a God send.”

If I start getting “Um…actually, I’m not free any more, I have to, uh, wash my laundry’s hair” responses, someone’s head will roll. And I don’t mean the one on top of his neck.

Not Reading Literature Is The New Reading Literature

If I hadn’t seen it on the front page of the Straits Times, I’d have dismissed the article (headline “Literature winner read only 3 novels in 2 years”) about the Singaporean winner of the Angus Ross prize as a satire on the Singaporean education system. I was about to go into a rant about the unfuckingbelievableness of it all, and then found out that Nicholas had already done it for me, complete with characteristic acerbity and extracts of the article’s most offending statements.

All I will add is that I dearly hope Ms Candice Wan Shu Ting was misquoted several times by the journalist who interviewed her. If she was, she has all my sympathies for being portrayed as an astoundingly arrogant teenager who deserves to be spanked hard with every book of the Western literary canon (just to start with). If she wasn’t, if I ever meet her I don’t think I’ll be able to resist asking, ever so casually, “Read any good books lately?”

Representative Democracy In Singapore

Two or three weeks ago, I explored Potong Pasir for the hell of it, with some of the very few people I know here who would do things like go exploring Potong Pasir for the hell of it. It was a fabulous day, and I’ve been meaning to do a writeup with photos for ages. (Coming soonish.)

When the usual “So, what have you been up to lately?” question gets asked in conversations, I’ve been telling other people about Potong Pasir Day. This is how the conversation goes in the vast majority of cases:

Me: Well, a couple of friends and me went exploring Potong Pasir one Sunday afternoon and had a fantastic time.
X, looking absolutely perplexed: Oh…okay…why?
Me: We wanted to see what an opposition constituency was like.
X, still looking confused: Oh…you mean Potong Pasir is an opposition constituency?

[There are only 2 constituencies in the whole of Singapore which are not in the hands of the ruling party. Potong Pasir has been an opposition constituency with opposition politician Mr Chiam See Tong as its MP for at least the past 15 years, if not longer. Chiam See Tong is Singapore’s most prominent, respected and successful opposition politician. All these facts are given ample press coverage at election time.]

Now, let’s continue with the conversation. With about a quarter of the people I have talked to, the second half of the conversation goes like this: (Please note that the people I talk to all have university degrees)

Me: Er, yes. Chiam See Tong is its MP.
X: Oh…you mean Chiam See Tong is an opposition MP?
Me: (speechless)