Singapore the Clean

Night skyline–Singapore

Welcome to ASIA

5:30 AM in Singapore. 3:30 PM in Albuquerque. And a day later here. Right? Thought my travels had made me very savvy about time zones and currency. Instead this crossing of the International Date Line has completely confused me…However, I’ve made it through my first day and night in Singapore so feel quite on track with art and walking and the very nice coffee/breakfast in the Raffles Hotel. Will have a Singapore Sling there before I leave. In honor of you, Marsha…and that long ago pretty red drink and I think you had on a blue-flowered sundress and became engulfed with giggles in the bar at Raffles. AS I remember Robert and I tried our best to share the joyful results of drinking Singapore Slings with our own special Norwegian version of effervescence. Here’s to travel then…

I am sad for the loss of Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter. And my daughter-in-law’s father is dying now as well. And although he is quite elderly and has lived a long and positive life the process of becoming an orphan is—for every child—full of regret for any missed opportunities of love, and great loneliness for someone you will never see again. Sandra is a believer, a devout Catholic, and I think that mediates the loss a little. I hope that is true for her; she’s been a very good and attentive daughter.

I’ve turned off the AC and am letting the muggy tropical dawn creep in and moisten my dry New Mexican skin. I do love that. I forget that the Africa I usually visit is not tropical so this for a humidity-lover is a rare treat.

Last night, first Singapore Festival of the Arts performance. A somewhat odd but overall quite pleasing event. Cargo Kuala Lumpur-Singapore by a Swiss-German company Rimini Protokoll. A perfect Revolutions Theater Festival piece actually, live performance/documentary/site-specific.  The audience sits in a converted cargo truck on bleachers looking out through side windows that are covered with a screen upon which a truckers’ journey from KL to Singapore is shown in live-documentary format, or open to the passing real live scene as we are driven around Singapore, especially around the port/shipping area. It is all very low-key. The two prime “drivers” are actually truck drivers of Indian origin who live and work in Malaysia. The “story” is about the lives of the workers who service Singapore in one way or the other. They tell their tales and those of other workers licensed as the workforce for the very rich and bustling city-state of Singapore. At one time we drove past the dormitories where the itinerant workers live sans family and privacy. Only different from the barracks around Johannesburg in degree of comfort (a very little more) and violence (probably a little less).

The piece is cleverly done with equal parts humor (out of nowhere—in a car park, along the roadside, in a passing car—a singer performs a popular song, or the frequent teasing of the drivers); road trip realities (availability of showers, overnight border stops, prepared lunches versus fast road food) and sobering facts about the lives of migrant laborers wherever such labor is used and abused.

The show is two hours of driving about the city, rather like one of those tourist double-decker bus tours with a little of the local dark side thrown in. The guy next to me was falling asleep so I offered him a piece of gum. He said, “Thanks so much…you know this is in short supply around here.”  I then remembered reading years ago of a ban on chewing gum in the city because of the nastiness of its chewed presence stuck on benches, shoe bottoms, etc.  Really don’t know if that still exists…am I smuggling illicit substances?

After the performance I walked back to my perfectly okay little cheap Chinese hotel through the warm soft night enjoying the lights of a big bold Asian city. Thought about how strange it would be to live in a city that has no countryside to which you can escape (without your passport in hand). It would be much like a friend described living in Hawaii—golden cage kind of feeling, I suppose.

I may meet some artists today, I will definitely find what is described as a great bookstore which focuses on the fiction and non-fiction of this region of the world. And I will find Sara a key chain. And have a Singapore Sling. All before tonight’s performance which is described as “representative of the contemporary cruel theater.” A company from Beijing.

One Comment on “Singapore the Clean

  1. Wow Marj! You are impossible to pin down! I can’t wait to see your pictures on this blog! Enjoy Asia, and I hope to see you very soon… somewhere… Much love! Antoine.

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