Climate Change Is A Matter Of National Security

Children under shelter

A super cyclone lashes the low lying Padma delta region, wiping out scores of villages and rendering millions of people homeless. The refugees who are able to start streaming onto higher ground, into already clogged and crowded cities like Chittagong and Kolkatta. And since we’re talking about millions of people – it becomes a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.

Over here in Singapore, we’re still only just complaining about 2 months without rain, and the haze compelling us to spend the rest of our time indoors. We empathise and send aid in the form of cash, food and clothing. Burma and India start to ask for aid because they can’t cope with the influx of millions. Bangladesh is on its knees as disease begins to take hold of everything that isn’t in the massive exodus.

Then it happens – the tens of thousands of low wage workers from Bangladesh and the Kolkatta region refuse to repatriated after their contracts expire, because they have no homes to return to. The UN bars Singapore from repatriating anyone newly classed as Climate Refugees. And that, is how climate change will become a matter of national security. Read more and start to do something.

Things I Will Cherish Forever #10forkeeps

Update: Giveaway extended to 2 April 2014, 2359hrs

I count myself one of the lucky people in this constantly changing country. I had a mother who was a relentless hoarder of things. She kept everything.

I discovered a tonne of things she kept that I thought she would’ve thrown away. After all, she did throw away my ACSOBA (ACS Old Boys’ Association) rugby jersey that had been retired and given to me when I played a game back in the late 80s. That the school and its Old Boys’ Association retired their jerseys only once every five years did not move her. She had disapproved of my playing rugby, even after I had left school, because rugby boys were a bad bunch.

When she passed away three years ago, my sister went through her belongings and passed me a box of things which turned out to be a treasure trove. In the box was a plastic folder she had neatly kept her own “Leaving School Certificate” from ACS Seremban (Malaya) in 1955, her driving licence from Melbourne, her first pay slip from the same city, and a rejection letter from the PUB in Singapore in 1965 when she applied for a job upon settling in the newly independent republic of our country.

That same year, my mother and father had returned to the newly federated union of Malaysia and Singapore by ship from Melbourne, planning to marry in Malaysia and settle in the city of Singapore to live and work. It seems it wasn’t long after they disembarked at Clifford Pier that that whole episode known as The Separation happened.

She made an amazing effort to keep my stuff too. There are about 10 copies of my birth certificate, my citizenship certificate (I had not been a citizen at birth even though I was born in Singapore – constitutional lawyers would know why), my first IC, passport photos through the years, Army mugshots, old bankbooks, cleared and returned cheques and dozens of other paraphernalia worthy of a museum display.

I am forever grateful that she kept these things in such great condition, given that everything else in our country seems to be getting erased and built over so relentlessly and rapidly. I can hardly remember what Marina Bay looked like when it was a real bay.

Where I lived from birth till I was about 6 is also almost a mere memory. I remember my first address: 412 Pasir Panjang Road, Singapore 5. Yes, a single digit postcode.

Across the road there used to be a police station (not an NPP), where policemen in their shorts used to be summoned across by my mother to scare the crap out of me when I misbehaved. Behind the police station was the beach, and a jetty where fishing boats docked, unloading their catch to be sold at the fishmonger’s (Ah Heng’s) on the corner of Pasir Panjang and Clementi Roads.

I must be one of the lucky, lucky few who can still find his house of birth after 45 years. The original stones that make up the gate’s pillars are still there in its 70s kitschy glory. I drove past it last year and reminded myself to go and take a picture of the gate. Or maybe chip off a piece for keepsake. After all, the police station is no longer across the road.

From this magical box my mother left with me, there are four items I want to share with you:

From the magical box of belongings
From the magical box of belongings

My First Pink IC
My first Pink IC: This was essentially a piece of pink paper with printed fields and a handwritten signature of a civil servant authorised to issue IC on behalf of the Commissioner of National Registration. We always wondered who this person was. Every one had the same signature, and it always looked like it read “Mdm Sam”. So, Madam Sam, if you’re still around, reveal yourself and let the world know who you are.

OCBC Cheque, 1970:
OCBC Cheque, 1970: In the age of paper, non digitised currency, a cheque would take 3-5 working days to clear. Once cleared, it was returned to the drawer, because it had served it’s purpose as an instruction to the bank to pay the payee whatever amounts of money was written on it. 45 years later, a cheque still takes about 2-3 working days to clear, and it was only this week that interbank electronic transfers were sped up to 1 working day.
Diphteria Vaccination Certificate, 1969:
Diphteria Vaccination Certificate, 1969: I don’t even know what diphtheria is now. But what about that fancy penmanship of the clerk huh?
Army ROD Clearance Form
Army ROD Clearance Form: Does anyone even know what a cyclostyled sheet is or how poor Army clerks used to get ink on their hands making cyclostyle copies of Routine Orders?

And not from the box my mother left me, this is a picture of the gate’s pillars at 412 Pasir Panjang Road:

The gate pillar of my first home

I played within these gates, on the driveway, on my toy cars and bicycles. I hope my son will remember his playgrounds and other places he spends with his Mama and Papa the same way I try to remember mine. It is important to have that sense of belonging and continuity.

I strongly urge everyone to take stock of the things around you, record them and the stories attached to them, for posterity, and for the prosperity of our collective memories.

As part of the Singapore Memory Project’s “10 for Keeps” campaign, a fabulous memory kit worth over $100 will be given away to 2 of you, and it comes complete with an Instax camera, a guide book on how to record your favourite memories, two packs of film and a pamphlet to submit some of the photos to SMP.

Some of your photos may be selected for a Memory Showcase exhibition at the lobby of the National Library Building from 11 Apr – 26 May. Come and check out if yours have been chosen.

Details on the project can be found on www.iremember.sg or on FB at facebook.com/iremembersg

Before you leave this page, leave a comment below to share what items you cherish the most, and the memory that comes with it by 31 March 2014. Best two entries (I choose) will win this Memory Kit.

The fabulous Singapore Memory Kit
The fabulous Singapore Memory Kit

1 Million kg Challenge: Update

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OK the fortnight is almost up, and I think I’ve lost the Blogger Challenge component (to get as many people to sign up for the 1 Million kg challenge) of the campaign.

That means a forfeit. Of me wearing spandex and doing yoga or some other exercise designed to make me look more ridiculous than I already do. So please, if you want to save your eyes and those of the nation, do your part and let me not be last if there’s still time.

Being a part of this campaign has been interesting. Not least because I got my friends thinking about what they’re eating and what they’re doing about their health. I get lunch reports from friends telling me what they’ve had and what they’ve cut out. A fried chicken meal is now had apologetically.

Last week, a friend brought Naomi and I a box of delicious nonya kuehs sprinkled with coconut and guilt.

Personally I don’t believe in putting even more stress on myself when it comes to my own health. I count myself lucky I’m able to enjoy tasty and unhealthy goodies once in a while, and in moderation. But to be able to do that requires a little bit of thought into what I’m eating.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with having pre-diabetes and I’m quite sure if I hadn’t modified my diet then, I’d have upsized it to full diabetes by now. I’m now so used to not having soft drinks or any drinks with added sugar that the last time I had a gingerale, I had a stomach ache for a whole night. Most days now, the drink accompanying my meal is a glass of water or a cup of unsweetened tea.

It pays to be mindful, and I’m glad we eat healthily in our household. I know it’s hard to change our mindsets – but like the proliferation of soup stalls shows, once we create the demand for healthier food, the supply will follow.

If the 1 million kg challenge is new to you, or your friends, sign up, and sign them up. Oh lordy save me.

Good Things Must Share: Lim’s Soup (The Art Of Soup)

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There’s been a surge in soup shops across the CBD in the past two years, catering to workers’ increasing preference for healthier options. I’ve tried some of these places, and I’ve never gone back to any. Soups dished out from boiling vats are simply depressing, and most of them don’t taste good.

It is difficult finding cheap, healthy, and tasty lunch options, but I think this trinity might have finally arrived in the form of this nondescript food stall in a coffee shop in Bukit Merah Central. Thanks are due to Dr Leslie Tay and the HPB’s 1 Million kg Challenge for bringing us to this place.

Called Lim’s Soup (The Art of Soup), the food stall is lovingly owned and operated by Eric Lim in the day. By night, Eric does something in finance. He didn’t elaborate and I didn’t ask what it is that requires you to work at night in finance, because when you make soup as awesome as his shop does, why would you want to talk about anything in finance?

Soups are different at Lim’s, as Eric explains – there is a science (and and art) to “double-boiling” soup. The indirect heat extracts the flavour of the soup’s ingredients without overcooking (yes you can overcook soup) them. The results are clear broths and subtle flavours that dispense with the need for further seasoning, or god forbid, MSG.

Apart from the soups, Lim’s offer three grained steamed rice with a topping of cabbage as accompaniment, as well as menu items such as steamed minced meats with various toppings like salted egg yolk.

 
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There’s also a dish of baked rice with salted fish which is probably the best I’ve ever tasted. At other places, you’d probably dig into the dish and bite into chunks of salted fish which kill your tastebuds. Not so with Lim’s version because the salted fish is so finely minced that it infuses the entire dish.
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The thing that’ll probably make me lim a lot more of Lim’s Soup is that they deliver (if you order a day in advance). They’ll double boil your order and put them in vacuum flasks that will keep your dishes warm for two hours. This is because Eric thinks microwaving your soup to reheat them is an insult to every ingredient in your soup. He’s such a double-boiled soup nazi about it that he’ll let you keep the vacuum flask and only collect them the day after you’ve finished your meal. Now, that’s dedication.

Lim’s Soup (The Art of Soup)
Block 161, Bukit Merah Central
Singapore 150161.
11:30am to 8pm
Closed Sundays and PH
Tel: 83837687