I like to know how people live their everyday lives. I like to know the locations of schools, banks, post offices. When in new places, I visit grocery stores and take as many forms of public transportation as I can. In the places where I’ve lived, I’ve always really enjoyed visiting parts of time at the wrong of day – not night but day. When I lived in downtown Rochester, NY in my early twenties, it was not uncommon to visit the bar district on a Saturday morning run. Completely different place in every way – colours, lights, sounds, smells, people. Completely different place and often disarmingly so.
That’s what I really enjoyed about walking through Clarke Quay in Singapore on a recent weekday morning. Colours, lights, sounds, smells, people. Completely different place.
Because we usually see them in their glory, we sometimes forget that bars have to close up, too. Work continues after last call and begins far earlier than you or I would ever be there.
It’s eerie, in a way, ghostlike and still when it’s “supposed to” be loud and awake. Who was here last night? I wonder. Who went home laughing and who in tears? What stories were told in this spot mere hours earlier?
But at the same time, all is fresh and new. Waiting for new people, a new night, new stories.
We forget, sometimes, to look around. Out at night, immersed in all there is, we find our friends, enjoy food and drink, walk in the direction of the best music.
In the pulse of distraction, sometimes we forget to look around. But when we do, there’s vivid colour.
(Not to be confused with the famed Singapore Sling, which I have yet to try, mostly because I don’t like pineapple juice; some fruits should just stay solids.)
One of my favorite neighborhoods in Singapore is Kampong Glam, the center of Malay history and culture here and, historically, home to much of the Muslim community. Today, it’s a mix of Malay culture, upscale Middle Eastern restaurants, vintage clothing boutiques, and every variety of café with every possible gimmick (cats included). There are also vibrant murals adorning the walls of the heritage shophouses, which are a huge draw for tourists and locals alike. I took the photo below of one of my favorite murals while sitting at Juice Clinic, a very affordable café/bar with all sorts of food and drinks. The hands on the left are part of a different piece of street art, one that creeps me out a little every time. And yes, the sky opened up and a typical tropic rain ensued.
Just on the outskirts of Kampong Glam is Parkview Square, an Art Deco building designed in the style of 1920s New York City that looks unlike anything else in Singapore. Singapore is fairly well split between preserving heritage and embracing modernity, but Parkview Square doesn’t fit into either category.
In addition to embassies, offices, and a contemporary art museum with free entry!, Parkview Square also contains Atlas Bar in its elegant main lobby. They serve lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea and are known for their collection of 1,000 types of gin and 250 types of champagne. I have yet to be there when Atlas is open, but rest assured that I am looking forward to that moment.
Looking for something to do this weekend? Wander through Kampong Glam. Chances are, I’ll be there, too!
I’m taking my first ever sick day today and that seemed monumental enough in my personal life to write a blog post about it.
When I was growing up, I hated missing school. I hated the catch-up required after being out for even a day, hated copying friends’ notes, hated missing the jokes and the banter. I’m also bad at sitting around at the best of times so being stuck at home has never worked for me. Right now, I’m wearing jeans and a sweater and all the jewelry that I normally wear. The only unusual thing is that my hair is in a ponytail and I’m wearing glasses.
When my roommate got home last night, she took one look at me and said, “You need to be horizontal right now.” I finally listened to her around 9:30pm. Today, I’ve spent most of my time on the couch wrapped in a heavy shawl that I sometimes use as a blanket. I’ve been reading but also doing the school prep that needs to be done whether I’m at work or not. And because I can’t stay home all day without losing my mind, I added the library and a vegan sushi restaurant that makes delicious spicy soup to my errands for the day. The more practical errands of doctor and pharmacy, I’ll have you know, also made the list.
I think much of my disdain for staying home sick stems from my childhood experience with illness. My mother is one of the toughest people I know and I was lucky enough to have her as a stay-at-home mum for my school years; she went back to work when I was finishing high school. She never let a sick child prevent her from doing whatever needed to be done that day. And when you, the sick child, had the misfortune to have walking pneumonia in sixth or eighth grade, you were deemed too young to stay home alone and take care of yourself so you might as well rally and join mum at the grocery store. So you did. (The third time I had walking pneumonia was while traveling in Norway. When I woke up with pink eye my parents finally decided we could probably skip a tour of Oslo City Hall and visit an urgent care clinic instead.)
So that’s the backstory of why staying home from work is a big deal.
I felt myself getting sick over the weekend but one of my best friends was in town so I joined the rest of the gang and explored some pretty cool haunts around the city:
I asked the bartender about the Public Displays of Affection sign on the right. If you want to buy someone a drink, you’re welcome to do it by filling out the required information on this chalkboard. How fun! I was tempted just because I like chalk.
Next door to Harlem Public is a neat spot called At the Wallace, which has board games, arcade games, giant Connect Four, giant Jenga, shuffleboard . . . and a whiteboard wall with markers in the bathroom! Couldn’t resist taking a picture of my graffiti. The ceiling was plastered with old National Geographic covers and the walls with photobooth pictures. We meant to take one but completely forgot after taking over a table in the corner that was also a PacMan console.
I’ve never been in a bar as it opens for the day, but had a delicious Irish coffee in the silent Swift before brunch on Saturday:
Neat mural in the East Village on the way to brunch at Vic’s:
Old firehouse across the street from said mural:
It turned out to be quite the weekend for games! We played a lot of giant Jenga and giant Connect Four but I also had fun photographing the flashing lights of arcade games at Pioneer’s, a Chelsea establishment full of couches, armchairs, and coffee tables that provides free popcorn and allows food delivery:
And then there was some solitary wandering in midtown on Sunday because, though feeling poorly, I figured I might as well do the shopping that I dislike equally while healthy:
And there you have it! A recap of my first professional sick day and the really fun weekend that led up to it. I’m on steroids for a nasty rash that is (mercifully) hidden under layers of clothing and as long as I have a cup of tea practically glued to my hand and avoid talking, my throat feels okay. My students yesterday were so helpful with my inability to speak and I hope they were as good to the sub today as they usually are to me. I’m sure I’ll hear all about it tomorrow.
Photos, travels, musings, and ideas on education by someone trying to make the world a better and more peaceful place