Friday, 31 May 2013

The Midas Touch

As you already know, I like to frequent the Salvation Army, and I have found some real treasures. They were having a buy-one-get-one-free sale of some sort, and I bought a blue and white ceramic umbrella stand and received a beaten silver candle holder. However, as most things in my apartment are at the moment red, white, and gold, the silver just wouldn't do.

The silver bottom of the candle holder

Thankfully the answer was just seven dollars and ninety cents away. I bought another can of gold spray paint and went to work on the candle holder and the silver Aladdin lamp I bought in Penang ever so many months ago. I like gold so much I am going to use it on everything. Just you wait.

I thought for sure I had bought real gold. I am so disappointed. 



 This morning I left for the American Club to have brunch with my fellow teachers. Brunch sounds so terribly romantic somehow, afternoon tea even more so, and I felt the need to dress up a bit beforehand. I bought this blue kaftan in Penang for a trifle. It is such a brilliant blue colour I always feel lovely when I wear it, as if I were ready to go to my first book signing.

Because the kaftan is sewn with straight seams down one long piece of cloth, the bottom is a little tight and only allows me to take short, dainty steps, very different from my usual fast, wide paces. I forgot this as I was trying to step down from the bus today and my leg caught in the material and down I went, and I found myself suddenly bent in reverent worship of the ground. An old lady had to help me up. So much for grace and beauty.

I collect rings from the countries I visit because they are one of the few things small enough to take with me on my travels. I do not often wear jewelry, but rings are another matter completely. I have so far collected rings from Nepal, England, America, and Italy, and the one I am wearing I bought at the Kathmandu airport when I was leaving for India.

The Door

 I'd like to call this series of pictures The Door. I stood outside my classroom door on the last day of class and captured bits of middle school as it went by. ("Oh, how embarrassing!" because, you know, everything's embarrassing in middle school.)

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Flash Fiction

    Mei pushed open the door to the Salvation Army and pulled Judy into the quiet, open spaces, the grasslands of her youth. "You'll like it, Judy-tudy."
     "Oh, don't call me that." Judy frowned and crossed her arms across her chest and glared defensively at the other customers shuffling about in a dazed reverie, quietly handling the artifacts with unnecessary reverence. Great fans hummed somewhere, like some large, trapped bumblebee buzzing in the dim recesses of the shop. Judy wrinkled her nose. "It smells funny in here."
     "I like old things," was Mother's answer. "They have character."
     "And germs." Judy purposely  stepped away from the closest arrangement of old watches. "Dettol, here I come."
     "You're being dramatic. I used to love this place when I was a kid."
     "Because ah mah didn't have any money to buy you nice things, and it was all very sad. I know."
     Mother shook her head, absorbing the shocks in better humour than she showed. "Shoes. Over there."
     "But we're not poor, so I shouldn't have to be subjected to this."
     "I want you to appreciate the value of things."
     Judy sighed and trudged after her mother in the direction of the giant bumblebee. She wasn't really upset, but she had protested; she couldn't very well give up now. She hunched and made a face and dragged her feet. Mother didn't seem to notice. Despite her best efforts, Judy found herself lingering over a porcelain tea set and then a stack of Enid Blyton books. Her disinterest was regretfully slipping.
     "Find anything you like?" called Mother.
     Judy scowled and remembered she was unhappy. "No."
     "Here's the shoe section, Judy-tudy. Come and look."
     Judy made her way over to where Mother was standing. There were shelves of shoes, quite nice-looking, she had to admit--even some with new tags. A tall young woman sat on the low couch, trying on a pair of strappy wedges. She was pretty, thought Judy, with creamy skin and dark hair tied into a neat bun on her head; in her long skirt she looked sleek and stylishly out-of-place next to the rack of carpets and a basket of straw hats. She glanced up when they came.
     Mei breathed a sigh of relief and hoped Judy would notice that even elegant young ladies found shoes at the Salvation Army. Mustn't be too obvious about it though. Mustn't point too much in one direction.
     Judy, after starting and stopping, finally found something she thought, perhaps, maybe she might like. A black pair of shoes. She slipped her feet into the heels, and they squeaked. She stood up and walked past the mirror a few times--it was a bit awkward, she didn't really know how to walk, but she looked so--so grownup. She glanced back. But Mother couldn't know she was right.
     "Well, do you want them or not?" Mei said after what had seemed to her an unbearably long time for anyone to stare at a pair of shoes.
     "I don't know..." Judy gazed at her reflection in the black-flecked mirror. What would Sidney say? Or Karen? Or Hannah? Or any of the other? Would they know? Was secondhand a bad thing? "I'm not sure."
     "They look wonderful," Mei tried again.
     The young woman, who had by then decided against the wedges, stood up to leave but halted and stared hard at Judy's shoes, "Excuse me. If you're not going to buy them, could I?"
     Judy's eyes widened, then narrowed and hardened with a new resolution. "No, I'm buying them."
     And with that she picked up her old shoes in one hand and stalked off towards the cashier. Mei blinked in surprise. She felt a hand on her shoulder. The young woman was wearing a muted look of amusement as she slung her satchel over her shoulder. "Reverse psychology," she said and raised her hand to her forehead in salute and disappeared behind a shelf of books.

This was my try at flash fiction. I took me about an hour or so to write. Perhaps I'll write more one day, depending on its popularity. Let me know what you think.

The Difference of a Day

Yesterday started out wet and cool. I woke to torrential rain smattering on my aircon with a tinny sound. The courtyard outside my flat magnifies all sound in it, and even a lighter rain sounds like a waterfall outside my window. I don't mind at all, of course; I have always loved rain here in the tropics.

It isn't the rainy season, and the freshness soon wore off, leading into a thick and close evening.

This morning I woke to something quite different. The sun streamed in through every window, and the skies were as blue as a robin's egg. I opened wide the back door and let the sunshine fall in long, warm slats across my floor. It feels like summer, and I say that meaningfully here in this land of eternal sunshine. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Skirt Intentions

I really like long skirts, and I have been meaning since the beginning of the year to take what cloth I bought on Arab Street to a tailor and have them make me a few high-waisted skirts according to the above pattern. The cut is so flattering, and I know what works on my frame, and I have every intention looking like I wish and wearing what I want, whatever stares may come my way. Isn't the skirt just darling?

Half Poem

I found this half-finished poem among my documents.

When will we walk the mountains,
stride the plains in brisk and steady rhythm,
hum as we cross borders, break the trails,

And what? I will never know! My train of thought has no end station; it is a frustrating, ghostly ride, a neverending journey that simply passes station after station after station. I am a rusting machine, grinding slowly to a stop, and I have a hard time completing my


I watched Othello in the park the other night. It is that great annual production by the Singapore Repertory Theatre, and I took the eighth graders to it, and they enjoyed it to varying degrees, mostly divided along lines of understanding. As for the experience itself, I could say that Iago was fantastic (he was) and Desdemona was less than convincing (she was) and that the staging was magnificent (a very well thought-out martial theme with infrared goggles and helicopters and satellites), but the most important thing of all was that I met Lim Yu Beng!

Who, you ask? Was he in the production? No, but that's not important. I saw him once before, months ago at Serene Centre in Bukit Timah. He was walking past and I had buillt up courage to shake his hand. He came closer, I stood up, and...he passed me by.

Rejected! Like the miserable wretch I am!

Little did I know my disappointment would be reversed. During Othello, I needed to find a restroom, and I was climbing the dark stairs  up to Fort Canning when a man pulls out a penlight and clicks it on, shining a light unto my path and a lamp unto my feet. "It's up the stairs to the right."
I stare at him for what must have been an uncomfortable amount of time. It's hard to tell in the dark, but could it be? I finally take a step forward and hold out my hand. "Are you Lim Yu Beng?"
"Yes?" He takes my hand tentatively, unsure.
"I grew up in Singapore," I gush. "I used to watch you on Triple Nine!"
I forget what he did, but in my mind I'd like to think he laughed.
"And you did that pen thing!" I try to recover smoothly and nod at the stairs. "Up the stairs to the right, right?" (Man, I'm good.)
"Thank you!"

Ladies and gentlemen, I--Sanna "the Almighty" Gabriel, first-year teacher--have shaken the hand of Lim Yu Beng, Singaporean television and stage actor of my childhood years. My life's purpose is fulfilled. Consequently, my faith in chance encounters has also been restored. I completely expect to run into Tom Hiddleston on the train in London (we'll discuss Shakespeare), and why not Kenneth Branagh while I'm at it.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

See ya!

Here I am, in high form, shrugging off the world off with my devil-may-care attitude; I flick my hand back as if to say I'm-outta-here. And so I am, very soon, provided school ends or I lose my mind completely. Either one should  get me off campus.
"You use a lot of sticky notes," Kelly tells me today as she shows me her late homework.
I look at my desk, and she is right. I have no brain anymore. I keep losing track, forgetting things I shouldn't, and the only thought that keeps me upright is that this will all soon be over. I am not alone in this.

Saturday, 18 May 2013


My brother and his wife were featured on the front page of a newspaper. I do not know what they are doing or wherefore they are doing it, but that someone should take a picture of them whilst they did does not surprise me in the least. Perhaps when I have investigated the matter further I can give you more details.

Done and Seen

I took a walk down one of the abandoned railroads in Singapore. It runs by my house, and though it is but a relic, a small piece of its former glory, I find its physical presence a comfort and a reminder of days long gone. 

Walked to the stone quarry 

Jana slept over on my couch after we had met up for a writing day, and because my living room is excessively bright in the mornings, she kept the sun at bay by putting a pillow on her head. I think. As to how effective such measures are, I cannot say. 

Birthday Ice Cream

I have been writing, ladies and gentlemen, but not here. I have neglected the upkeep of my blog for school work and a novel and even a short story (I'm terrible at writing those, and I quite surprised myself). Therefore, I will be catching you up on all I have seen and done, and if any of you are thus offended by old news, it would be in your best interest to look away.

No birthday is complete without a birthday turban.

For my birthday, the the Rebel Shang and her demurely-named sister Judith went out for a birthday lunch, which first included a burger meal at The Burger Shack, which is an extension of the Island Creamery shop in Bukit Timah. Their burgers were delicious and non-greasy, and if you are on the hunt for a good burger, I would highly recommend it. It is located in the building (the name escapes me) to the left of Coronation Plaza, should you stand facing Coronation.

After this we traipsed over to the Island Creamery, a snug shop in Serene Center, next to the Bukit Timah entrance of the Botanical Gardens. If it's your birthday, you get a free scoop of ice cream (I didn't know this at the time and was only happily surprised at the fortunate coincidence). I remember when the Island Creamery first opened its doors, back when we still lived in a charmingly dilapidated College Green with a roof that leaked in the stairwell during heavy rains.  The Island Creamery is based off an excellent winning concept--they make their own ice cream fresh every day and in a variety of local flavours, which include Kahlua Latte, Teh Tarik, Durian, Coconut Swirl, Pineapple Tart, Horlicks, Cookies and Cream, Soursop Pomegranat Sorbet, etc. European ice cream shops are a dime a dozen (to borrow the American colloquialism), and I am not much impressed with their flavours, but here the creators embraced Singaporean favorites and turned them into something perfectly, naturally Singaporean.

By the counter there is a photo printing station, where you can print a picture of yourself enjoying the bounties of the Island Creamery, and it is, of course, expected that you stick your picture to the wall with all the others. So we did.

Shanghai putting up the picture.

Immortalized forever.

Monday, 6 May 2013


This is all that is left of my bouquet of flowers that Marlene so sweetly delivered to me on my birthday. She was going to drop off her children at the school, and she went out of her way to give me flowers! I was one of the best surprises, and they are still standing on my dining table. It's a pity I don't spend more time at home to admire them.