28 January 2009

Boom Slump

Dear Readers,

The best part about having a blog is the amazing wonderful incredible (ego inflating sometimes) e mails I receive everyday. The connections I've made over the last year through my in box is well, life-force- giving really. The amount from Singapore is overwhelming. I do NOT know how I became known there, but I get a big whole bunch of hits everyday from Singapore. I'm just so happy that I've actually been there four times and I loved it each time. My last time was with mummy five years ago. We had such a blast. She even had a great time in the airport on the rooftop smoking garden.
She's VERY easy to impress my mom. She didn't want to leave. "It's like a botanical garden." she said. Our jaws were dropping when the mist machines were turned on. It was bloody heaven after the flight from London."This is the smoking garden?", my mum said to me with a shocked look on her face. I was checking out the orchids. And smoking. Not bad I thought, as I looked around the succulent garden.
"These people are so anal" I said to mum.
Everything was just so perfect.

So I'm happy, I get hits from Singapore.
I guess it's that good ol' Pinoy Express. Word of the blog traveled fast. But I'd like to think that some Singapore nationals read the blog too. Or mixed race. Hahaha. I don't care. As long as people are reading. I'm a blogger. Blogging is what I do.
Bless the Philippines, but I get a thrill when others are reading it too.
Because it's a global thing.

This first time I was in Singapore I was a teenager and very much alone. I was on my way to the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney, Australia. After three years in Europe, I was well ready for a change in scenery. I needed the beach after living in Amsterdam for so long.

My plan was to stay a year, but of course I never left because Australia is the most beautiful country in the world. Growing up there was my own little miracle.
On the way, I had a stop over in Singapore which included a tour into the beautiful city itself and an opportunity to walk around for a few hours and see the sites. You know, do some shopping. At the time I was wearing head bands because my hair was a foot long and in about 2.4 seconds I found some fake Chanel head scarves at the market and used them in a bandanna sort of fashion. Fifty cents each. I was VERY cool. Hahahaha. It was awesome. SO totally gay and gorgeous. Always making sure the interlocking C's were visible.
I was truly tragic back then. But like I said, I Thought it was uber cool with my long hair.(in my own head)
At least my Ray Bans were the genuine article.
That was big for me.
Once in Singapore I was immediately blown away by the orchids and flowers I saw everywhere. My passion for orchids began right then and there because it's the first time I'd ever seen them in such massive abundance and so close up. I had seen some in the flower market where I had been working on a the canal in Amsterdam, but they were packaged and commercial looking. These orchids were IN SOIL.
They were draping over highway bridges and cascading all over the airport. And even on our tour bus. Orchids.
Completely over the top I thought at the time. But strangely appropriate for this new strange sticky hot place I was passing through.

Needless to say, many years later, I went on to grow and cultivate hundreds upon hundreds of my own orchids on my flower farm in Australia. I'd often cry when some bloomed. Mother and I would just stand there, in the creek looking up at the orchids growing in the tree fern husk. Always amazed that we grew them. Never were we jaded, even at seasons end. We would watch them wilt and explore the different shades as they slowly disappeared. I had orchids that bloomed once a year and others that bloomed whenever the heck they felt like it. So every single morning, we would catch our breath before our walk, hoping to see something new.
Mummy and I are very emotional when it comes to flowers. And dogs. And Baily's Irish Cream.

Back to the post.

Yesterday I received some mail from a very special someone who has been reading the blog since the start. Her finger is on the pulse, and for that I'm most pleased. Pleased because she sent me one of the best things I've ever had the pleasure of reading. So simple, but it falls straight into line with pretty much everything I feel as an advocate. To say that I was impressed would be well, you know.
My dear reader introduced me to
Lee Wei Ling who is the daughter of Lee Kuan Yew who was the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. Her essay is very fast forward with no hint of malcontent.
You only have to read his daughters symphony of words to see for yourself, that what I've been saying is in fact very true.
The fruit
never falls far from the tree.
Please read and see for yourself, that there really are two ways of looking at things. I much prefer hers, because she actually taught me some things.
Now pay attention Ala. You may learn something about humility AND humanity.

Boom Slump
by Lee Wei Ling

'Whilst boom time in the public sector is never as booming as in the private sector, let us not forget that boom time is eventually followed by slump time. Slump time in the public sector is always less painful compared to the private sector.'
Slump time has arrived with a bang.

While I worry about the poorer Singaporeans who will be hit hard, perhaps this recession has come at an opportune time for many of us. It will give us an incentive to reconsider our priorities in life. Decades of the good life have made us soft. The wealthy especially, but also the middle class in Singapore, have had it so good for so long, what they once considered luxuries, they now think of as necessities.
A mobile phone, for instance, is now a statement about who you are, not just a piece of equipment for communication. Hence many people buy the latest model though their existing mobile phones are still in perfect working order.

A Mercedes-Benz is no longer adequate as a status symbol. For millionaires who wish to show the world they have taste, a Ferrari or a Porsche is deemed more appropriate. The same attitude influences the choice of attire and accessories.
I still find it hard to believe that there are people carrying handbags that cost more than thrice the monthly income of a bus driver, and many more times that of the foreign worker labouring in the hot sun, risking his life to construct luxury condominiums he will never have a chance to live in.
The media encourages and amplifies this ostentatious consumption.
Perhaps it is good to encourage people to spend more because this will prevent the recession from getting worse. I am not an economist, but
wasn't that the root cause of the current crisis - Americans spending more than they could afford to?

I am not a particularly spiritual person. I don't believe in the supernatural and I don't think I have a soul that will survive my death. But as I view the crass materialism around me, I am reminded of what my mother once told me: 'Suffering and deprivation is good for the soul.'

My family is not poor, but we have been brought up to be frugal. My parents and I live in the same house that my paternal grandparents and their children moved into after World War II in 1945. It is a big house by today's standards, but it is simple - in fact, almost to the point of being shabby.

Those who see it for the first time are astonished that Minister Mentor Lee
Kuan Yew's home is so humble. But it is a comfortable house, a home we have got used to. Though it does look shabby compared to the new mansions on our street, we are not bothered by the comparison.

Most of the world and much of Singapore will lament the economic downturn. We have been told to tighten our belts. There will undoubtedly be suffering, which we must try our best to ameliorate.

But I personally think the hard times will hold a timely lesson for many Singaporeans, especially those born after 1970 who have never lived through difficult times. No matter how poor you are in Singapore, the authorities and social groups do try to ensure you have shelter and food. Nobody starves in Singapore.

Many of those who are currently living in mansions and enjoying a luxurious lifestyle will probably still be able to do so, even if they might have to downgrade from wines costing $20,000 a bottle to $10,000 a bottle. They would hardly notice the difference.

Being wealthy is not a sin. It cannot be in a capitalist market economy. Enjoying the fruits of one's own labour is one's prerogative and I have no right to chastise those who choose to live luxuriously. But if one is blinded by materialism, there would be no end to wanting and hankering. After the Ferrari, what next?
An Aston Martin? After the Hermes
Birkin handbag, what can one upgrade to?

Neither an Aston Martin nor an Hermes
Birkin can make us truly happy or contented. They are like dust, a fog obscuring the true meaning of life, and can be blown away in the twinkling of an eye. When the end approaches and we look back on our lives, will we regret the latest mobile phone or luxury car that we did not acquire? Or would we prefer to die at peace with ourselves, knowing that we have lived lives filled with love, friendship and goodwill, that we have helped some of our fellow voyagers along the way and that we have tried our best to leave this world a slightly better place than how we found it? We know which is the correct choice - and it is within our power to make that choice. In this new year, burdened as it is with the problems of the year that has just ended, let us again try to choose wisely. To a considerable degree, our happiness is within our own control, and we should not follow the herd blindly.

Read about Lee's father, Lee Kuan Yew, a truly fascinating man who I'm now researching for a story.
wiki Lee Kuan Yew
please click to read

The orchid is Singapore's national flower

blog comments powered by Disqus