The past week has been one of low temperatures1low, for Singapore and a lot of wetness as the monsoon season kicked in full gear. One day last week was a quite comfortable 23 degrees Celsius273 degrees Fahrenheit and windy, weather in which Beverly and I decided to wear long pants, enjoying the feeling of denim once again. Rain was non-stop on my usual “writing” day, discombobulating me enough to stay in and hit a large writer’s block at high speed. This Thursday, I met with a friend for a “working lunch”, the downpour outside so loud, we could barely hear ourselves think, let alone each other speak.
Friday was the start of a four-day weekend; it came down in figurative3not literal buckets, canceling an afternoon trip to the Botanic Gardens near our house. The crowds gathering under the MRT station for dry land were testament to the weekend, and to the crowds we’d have faced in the Gardens.
Singapore was turning 50.
This is a big deal, not only for those within the “Little Red Dot”, but a story that many can take heed towards. Singapore is an unlikely success story, and a well-documented one at that, but unlikely all the same. Even one of the country’s nicknames, the “Little Red Dot” belies the improbability of a city-state’s economic success4The term apparently comes from a former president of Indonesia, disparagingly describing their tiny neighbor. Now, Singaporeans love the term; not only does it tie into their national colors, but there is a certain smugness in using the term.. It’s a big deal because the story of Singapore is one that could have gone sideways quickly, as so many other single-party states have gone in their post-colonial periods, and yet, through whatever grace one wishes to prescribe, the country has remained not only stable – “stable” implies a certain stagnancy – but prosperous, a true capital of the region, with few local competitors.
So, it rained. For a week, the heavens opened up, dumping inches on a dry and under-watered city experiencing what many suspected might be the changing weather patterns of a world in flux5climate change, mother fuckers. On Monday, the afore-mentioned friend, Haley, texted me the low-down. Apparently the local scuttlebutt, spread in this city by the ubiquitous taxi uncles and aunties6taxi drivers in this town can give the gabbiest cabbie in NYC a run for their money, make no mistake, was that the government, adept already in the means of cloud seeding, were prepping for a clear and dry Sunday by ensuring the rain systems moving through dumped their payload early in the week. Beverly scoffed at the idea initially. By the end of this weekend, she was a believer; though the ground was damp Sunday morning, and clouds gathered overhead in the afternoon, Sunday evening was clear and glorious, as Singaporean fighters and helicopters performed aerial stunts in the clear blue sky.
Sunday’s parade and jubilee was a strange mixture; part Olympic-level pageantry, as the Lion City showed off its ability to stage an artistic and engaging celebration, and part military parade, as tradition, security and perhaps a bit too much of jingoistic showmanship collided. The military parade was impressive, indeed, they’re meant to be, but the members of the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) were dressed sharp, and in a nod to the mix of both national and municipal duties of the government, were joined by members of public utility departments, civic defenders (police, fire, etc) and interestingly enough, Singapore Airlines.
Perhaps less “parade of nations” and more “parade of people that make shit work ’round here.”
Still, it was impressive, which was the point. The little red dot still has a bit of a chip on its shoulder, as it aims to show that in the game of nations, it belongs in the Premier League. The location of the jubilee, in the Padang, an open public area in front of City Hall was well chosen – again, kowtowing towards the mix of municipal and federal, and commanding an amazing view of the city skyline, including what can be regarded as a new symbol of Singapore’s growth, the gaudy Marina Bay Sands.
For foreigners such as ourselves7expats, not members of the band, the whole spectacle was both exhilarating and exhausting. It was true joy to watch our host country celebrate 50 years of amazing growth and success, but the sheer numbers of crowds at any venue were daunting. We’d decided to watch the whole event on television rather than brave the crowds downtown – a wise decision indeed. In fact, we were rewarded well by being able to see the aerial stunts on television first, and then seconds later, see the planes8and feel the roar of the jets up close as they buzzed overhead. We were far from the only gawkers – folks on their penthouse patios in the building across from us were our guides to when we were about to see some planes, with their south-facing views.
The rest of the weekend was no less a jumble of people. Singapore celebrated their independence well by participating in the national “sport” – shopping. Everything was on sale for the four day weekend, and we took advantage by going to Orchard Road, taking in both the crowds and the sales. Bev replaced her ancient Mac Mini with a truly shiny iMac, opting for the Retina display9the only way to roll with a Mac, in this authors’ opinion. Monday afternoon we decided to drive to VivoCity, to stock up at the Giant there, only to be nearly suffocated by the sheer crowds found in Singapore’s largest mall. People shopping, eating, queueing up to take the train to Sentosa, it was madness, glorious madness, and by the time we escaped with our purchases and our lives, we needed a second stop somewhere quiet for a coffee and some pastry.
We’re bit of caffeine and a plant away from having High Tea over here. Send help, we might be turning British.
Just to recap, I’ve mentioned Premier League as well, so yeah. I need some football, goddamnit. Forget money, send NFL Season Ticket.