I return to the old alleys of my childhood. The meandering lanes of shophouses, eateries and hidden treasures bring back the old stories – the ones my elders told me as I sat on their knee. Growing up, I had no idea that one day Arab Street would be part of Singapore’s heritage trail. To me, it was just home.
Dick Lee is best known for his musicals that encapsulate that uniquely Singaporean soul by telling stories through music. So when I found out that Dick Lee’s Singapopera was playing at the The Esplanade (our very own local durian-looking theatres on the bay), I knew I had to go. Mr. Lee has been around for so long that I’m surprised he isn’t telling dad jokes. To think he’s only four years younger than my old man. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. He still wears his signature suits, looking as dashing as always with his silver hair and infectious smile.
“In 1991,” I tell my best friend imitating my dad’s best nostalgic old man voice, “when I was a kindergarten, I used to take a trishaw to go to school.”
How much Singapore has changed. You know you’re getting old when you start stories with the year and constantly reference back to “my time”. It didn’t help that the trishaw uncle was doing the same.
As a third culture kid, home is everywhere and nowhere in particular. For a long time now, I’ve felt like the tortoise that carries its home on its back. Home is a feeling – a place in my heart, not a physical location. And yet every time I come back to Singapore, I remember that this is where I was born. I grew up in this city. It is familiar to me. Always will be. But I’ve lived so many lifetimes in the 11 years since leaving Singapore that I feel I’ve outgrown the streets and alleys of my childhood.
I’ve always believed that British summer is a myth concocted by the Roman gods, but the summer of 2018 proved me wrong, wrong, wrong. It is ridiculously hot, hot, hot. And I didn’t bring the right clothes. I prepared for 20 degree weather; but it’s 30 degrees each day and I really wish I had packed my pretty summer floral dresses.
Paris is the city of overrated museums. There are so many that a visitor doesn’t know how to even begin doing them justice. So I’m both surprised and relieved that most people don’t know about The French Playing Cards Museum. After Day 1 in Paris where I overdosed on the usual tourist haunts with the way too many instagramers, I was desperate to get away from the crowds and do something a little more quiet and low key.
The tourists are everywhere. They seem to exist in a separate space to the locals. Paris is somewhat reminiscent of Tokyo: with the too many travellers who have no idea what they’re doing or where they’re going. Like the Japanese, the Parisians are also not fond of speaking English. In Tokyo, it’s relatively easy to differentiate a local from a foreigner. In Paris, not so much. I’ve already lost track of the number of people who’ve tried to strike up a conversation with me only to receive a raised eyebrow and an awkward smile.