[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Thursday, May 31, 2007

[Soccer action]
If you wanna have four days of continuous soccer action head down to Ngee Ann City's Civic Plaza.

The adidas challenge Singapore 07 has a cool concept. They have an unconventional stage by making use of the present facilities (creativity points here).

And there's the junkyard where you can have soccer shoot outs.

The outlook is very street - if you know what I mean by that. Apart from graffiti art displays at the event, there are also two tentages of cool adidas merchandise like sunglasses, soccer balls and soccer boots.

But, most important should be the soccer action. There are two categrories for this contest - Category A (under 16) and Category B (under 19).

Two courts side by side complete with stands are smacked in the centre. Other than the sun, the rest of the conditions seem pretty fine. You can go browse for a new pair of adidas sunglasses nearby if the sun's rays are too harsh.

The adidas challenge will run all the way till Sunday - I hear that there's even a celebrity match.

[Singapore Arts Show]
The Singapore Biennale office at the Adelphi is home to the people in charge of visual arts under the National Arts Council.

They have this cool meeting room where the are loads of pictures on the walls.

The reason why I was there was because I'll be involved an event in conjunction with the launch of the Singapore Arts Show in August.

I shall keep mum about what the project is about for now. But I am sure if you keep reading the upcoming posts, there'll be subtle hints on what the event is about. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

[Mint Cafe]
The Mint Cafe serves excellent Italian food. I went there once when I did a story about the toy museum there.

Since I loved the food, I dropped by again yesterday.

Tomato Soup

Chicken Lasagne

Spaghetti Bolognese


This time, I loved the caramel infused dessert. It's like jelly pudding and is really sweet.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

[End of AMMY V]
Last night's dinner hosted by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan marked the official closing of AMMY V.

The event was held at Hacienda at Dempsey Road.

Apart from Pink Guava and Lychee, there was a special non-alcoholic concoction - the NYC cocktail (mocktail maybe since there's no alcohol) created specially for the event.

In his opening speech Dr Vivian encouraged everyone to join him up close in tentage (he probably felt too much in the spotlight as he was the only one inside). Then through the speech he joked and said that the purpose of the dinner is to thank all of us but more importantly to con us and encourage to continue to volunteer drawing laughter from the people present. I hope they did not take it as a joke.

Following the speech was a series of certificate presentations.

NYC volunteerism is different from grassroots work - there's a certain formality and way you have to behave. Grassroots volunteerism is more down to earth. Perhaps it is easier to use a metaphor - if grassroots volunteerism is beer, then NYC volunteerism is wine. But if you ask me if I prefer beer to wine, my answer is that they both have their pros and cons. I am able to do that as I have been through both such experiences.

Volunteering for grassroots has given me the platform to do more. Instead of doing constituency events, I am brought to another level. Then doing things on that level has opened even more doors. I find that I am beginning to form networks outside and even out of Singapore.

Still, one must maintain his roots unless of course one is disowned, forsaken or no longer has a moral obligation to do so.

Monday, May 28, 2007

[Navy opens its doors]
RSS Katong, RSS Bedok, RSS Kallang but no RSS Aljunied?

Those were the names of some of the vessles of the Republic of Singapore Navy.

Apart from going for dragonboat training and performing at the Singapore Arts Festival, I also took time off to be at the Navy Open House yesterday morning.

It was the first time I had visited the Changi Naval Base. And the visit was not just an ordinary one. I even had a go on one of the ships.

Unlike the last open house that I had attended at Tuas Naval Base, this time the RSS Vigilance set sail out into Singapore waters. I also managed to find out the differences between the ships - those mission ones and the newly added frigates.

After the sunny visit onboard was a short introduction of the Singapore Navy, its roles and a question and answer session with Minister of State (Defence) Koo Tsai Kee. I didn't ask any but later raised some concerns that I had privately during the reception.

There's a viewing gallery upstairs where the reception was held.

Good food, good view and good company. What more can one ask for?

A pity I didn't stay to catch Fiona Xie at 1.30pm as I had to rush to Bedok Reservoir for training.

[Food and drinks after flight]
The parties at arts events are always great. I have to say this again because it is a fact.

Last night, the performers were treated to exotic food, free flow of wine, Baileys, orange juice and fruit punch.

And the food tonight consisted of sushi platter, dim sum and lots of delicious deserts from Pan Pacific hotel.

Even the performers could not resist the temptation to try some of our local fare.

Tonight is also the last night that we performed at the Padang. The turnout was pretty good as well but the last two nights were jam packed.

I hope more Singaporeans are able to appreciate the arts scene. In fact, I wish that Singaporeans can be a cosmopolitan bunch and are willing to fork out money to support arts performances in the future.

With the emphasis on arts and the push to develop the arts scene in Singapore, not only does the Government need to play a part but businesses and the society must work in tandem to move things.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

[Visiting Relatives in Yemen]
1. When Raffles founded Singapore in 1819, he knew he had to attract an Arab community for the trading post to take off. He persuaded Syed Omar Aljunied from Palembang to relocate to Singapore. From his days in Bencoolen and Java, Raffles knew that in every major city of the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), there was a vibrant Arab community. They were shrewd traders who did business along the shores of the Indian Ocean in an arc from East Africa to the Middle East and India to Southeast Asia. Omar Aljunied established the first mosque in Singapore which is still preserved today. He also gave the name to Madrasah Aljunied and our GRC.

2. After visiting the Yemeni capital of Saa'na, I flew with members of the Arab Association and a group of our grassroots leaders to the Hadhramaut. Most of the Arabs in Southeast Asia came from the Hadhramaut. Till today, their descendants distinguish themselves in business, in religious work and in other fields. Both Malaysia's Foreign Minister Syed Hamid and former Indonesian Foreign Minister Syed Ali are Hadhramis. So too our Mufti, Syed Isa Semait and Habib Hassan of Ba'Alwi Mosque. Our MP, Dr Ahmad Magad, who accompanied me is also of Hadhrami descent.

3. Conditions in the Hadhramaut are harsh. It is a wadi (valley) which links the Arabian Sea inland to the part of Arabia which connects northwards to the Hejaz (Mecca, Medina) and the Levant. The wadi looks like a rift valley about one hundred and sixty km long. Its width varies from one km to a few km. Its historical importance was as a conduit for the frankincense trade (remember the Three Wise Men bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh?) from the Arabian Sea to the Mediterranean. Because of the hard life there, many Hadhramis emigrated to try their luck in the Dutch and British empires. Their tribal sense and strong values helped them establish a remarkable international network. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Hadramis were probably the wealthies community in Singapore, owning much of the land.

4. We visited the historical towns of Seiyun, Tarim and Shibam. Over the years, the Hadrami diaspora repatriated much wealth to these and other towns. Everywhere we went, we were greeted by friends and relatives. The Southeast Asian influence was very evident. Many had Malay faces. A few could converse in Bahasa. The sarong was standard attire. Belachan was served at meals.The Deputy Governor, Syed Ahmed Juneid Aljunied, who played host to our delegation, is the grandson of Omar Aljunied.

5. We bought and were given lots of honey. The honey from the Hadhramaut is reputed to be the best in the world.

6. With globalisation, we should establish our links to Yemen. This was a key objective of my visit. The Arab Association will spearhead this effort. Deputy Governor Aljunied said he would soon visit Singapore with a business delegation. We look forward to it.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

[Behind the scenes of Dreams in Flight]
It ain't easy to be a performer because there's a lot of waiting and rehearsals involved.

Apart from spending two days on training, there's still the three other days of performing.

And each time we perform, we have to be there some two hours before showtime. So while waiting, there's lots of time to take behind the scenes shots.

This is the changing room for the Spanish artistes and the wardrobe area where all our performing attires and equipment are stored.

Two special toilets are set aside for artistes only.

Lights - they play an important role in illuminating the performers in the air.

One of the many holding areas for performers.

VIP only. Special toilets for the VIP. Think of the movie Just Follow Law.

The pyrotechnics area. Do not enter. Don't play play.

Dreams in Flight.

The area set aside for important people, media and invited guests.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

1. Yemen is a poor country. With a population of 22 million, it is as populous as Saudi Arabia but occupying a much smaller area and producing much less oil. For many years, it was divided by civil war and revolution. The south, Aden and the Hadhramaut, was British and connected by the trade network to Singapore. The north was an arena of contest for influence by Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Finally, seventeen years ago, the country was reunited. However, many problems remain and there is still a rebellion in the north. Last year, the elections were judged to be free and fair by international observers. With peace now and friendly relations with all its neighbours, Yemen is concentrating on economic development.

Photo credit: "The Graves of Tarim - Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean" Prof Ho Eng Seng/Harvard University

2. Unlike Libya, the purpose of my visit to Yemen is principally cultural. The great majority of Arabs living in Southeast Asia are of Yemeni origin, mostly Hadrami. With our renewed interest in the Middle East, this is a good time to revive our cultural links to Yemen. Like Libya, I am the first Singapore minister to visit Yemen. I brought along a delegation from Singapore's Arab Association and a group of grassroots leaders from Aljunied GRC. Why Aljunied? Because Omar Aljunied was a Yemeni who gave our GRC its name. On the day of my arrival at the capital, Sana'a, the Arab Association signed two Memorandum of Intents, one with the Immigrants Ministry, the other with the Culture Ministry. The Yemeni Government is happy to help us revitalise the Arab heritage in Singapore.

3. Sana'a is one of the world oldest cities. Legend has it that it was the city of Sem, the son of Noah. This was also the land of the Queen of Sheba. Because of its rich heritage, UNESCO has designated the entire old city of Sana'a as a world heritiage site. It is also the home of an early branch of Shiite Islam, the Zaydis. The Foreign Minister, Al-Qirbi, is a fine man whom I first met at the UN in New York last year. He is a medical doctor. He told me that his ministry would soon be moving to a beautiful new building donated by Beijing. The Chinese had offered to do a project which the Yemeni Government decided should be the Foreign Ministry.

Leptis Magna

Friday, May 25, 2007

[Art in the city]
Minister blogged about the arts scene in Singapore recently.

And my encounter with art began last year when I volunteered for a National Arts Council event - the Singapore Biennale.

This March, the URA and Sing Post had initiated a competition called STAMP. It encouraged participants to decorate our white dull (not that white is always dull, don't get me wrong) looking postboxes in the city.

Each postbox has a little writeup and is related to the vicinity where the mailbox is placed.

From Orchard Road to Chinatown and Raffles Place and even the Singapore Management University. I did submit an entry but it did not make the cut. Another time perhaps.

Another interesting form of art is chalk art (think graffiti art using chalk). Chalk is used to create anamorphic illusions that create a three-dimensional picture when viewed from a particular angle.

Julian Beever is an artist who uses chalk to draw on pavements. He has since created works of art in United Kingdom, Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Germany, US and Australia for over ten years. He was invited by Nokia to draw on the pavement outside Raffles City to promote the latest range of Nokia's Nseries phones.

The piece titled "Souls of Asia" combines the elements of technology (handphones) with tradition (Chinese junk). It looks a little like the Singapore River. Same same but different.