Music and Movement with Chowk

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I’m always on the hunt for developmentally appropriate arts education opportunities for The Preschooler, especially those which can serve as a window to and mirror of her rich, diverse ethnic heritage. (Professional-quality Mandarin-lanaguage early childhood opportunities [theatre, for example] are abundant in Singapore, as are the Western arts [ballet, violin, etc.]. Far less so for other art forms.)

This weekend, we attended a session of an ongoing Odissi-inspired music and movement class with the inimitable Raka Maitra of CHOWK and, OH MY GOODNESS, it was good. Raka was cognizant of her very young student’s physical (gross motor and fine motor) limits, attention spans, and creative capabilities. She introduced  hasta mudras to the children in playful ways and encouraged them to “choreograph” as well. And, most of all, I was impressed with Raka’s respect for her students’ sense of self and sense of play.

We hope to return next week despite the fact that The Preschooler was a little shy today and hesitant to participate in the activities. If you are keen on bringing a young person in your care to the next class, contact Raka via Facebook.

Butterflies and Birds

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80280203.xi0hpdH8.DSC_524201 We recently added two more entries in our nature journal!

We spotted a male Sumatran sunbeam butterfly (Curetis saronis sumatrans) in Pasir Ris Park in May. From afar, it looked like a silvery-white moth, but as we got closer and it fluttered away, we marveled at its distinctive orange and black markings. This species is quite common in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Kranji Nature Trail, Pasir Ris Park, and Pulau Ubin, and has a habit of hanging off the underside of leaves.

Also in May, a square-tailed drongo-cuckoo (Surniculus lugubris) flew past our noses on Bukit Timah Road, not far from Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and perched on a streetside tree, where we got a better look. This species is migratory, and its black glossy plumage is truly spectacular.

BoxGreen Singapore

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A friend in the United States recently gave birth and I sent her my go-to parent/caregiver gift—a five-month gift subscription to NatureBox, an online subscription service for healthy snack food  “It’s always difficult for me to keep up with enough healthy food while I’m nursing,” she writes. “I think my biggest worry will be having to share with K and L [her two older children]!”

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I recently stumbled upon BoxGreen Singapore, a nearly identical service*, while searching for a gift for a first-time parent friend here. For SG$19.90 per month, subscribers receive four natural and wholesome snacks delivered to home or office, and boxes can be customized with items from a selection of 20+ wholesome options. BoxGreen also sells individual snack packs.

While Boxgreen’s offerings include ordinary and overpriced almonds and pistachios, the company’s in-house line of products—”MacRitchie Midnight” (dark chocolate nibs, hazelnuts, dried cranberries, and pumpkin seeds, “best eaten while stranded in the dark depths of Macritchie at midnight”) and “Cheng Tng” (dried longans, wolf berries, and lotus seeds)—sound rather tasty! I haven’t actually tasted BoxGreen’s in-house line, however, so I can’t vouch for its quality.

Founders Walter Oh and Andrew Lim launched the company with the aim to help office drones beat the 3pm crash. But I think it is the perfect gift for breastfeeding mothers and stressed-out students (both equally as busy and working). BoxGreen currently does not sell gift certificates for their subscription service, but does sell gift boxes, such as this one which retails for SG$25.00 and contains four full-sized packs (80 grams) of their top-selling sweet and savory snacks.

Connect with BoxGreen on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

* Even its brand’s capitalization is the same!

(UPDATE: Aiyah, someone accused me of not revealing “advertorial” content. I don’t do “content.” This is a personal blog, and BoxGreen was a random find. I suspect that they haven’t been reading me for very long!)

#SG50ReadingChallenge: Squatters into Citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and the Making of Modern Singapore by Loh Kah Seng and Constructing Singapore: Elitism, Ethnicity and the Nation-Building Project by Michael D. Barr and Ziatko Skrbis

ori5dp8obikyflwt10it(On January 1, 2015, I challenged myself to read twelve history books this Jubilee year to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, and blog about them.)

May’s read was Squatters into Citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and the Making of Modern Singapore by Loh Kah Seng and June’s read was Constructing Singapore: Elitism, Ethnicity and the Nation-Building Project by Michael D. Barr and Ziatko Skrbis.

In Squatters into Citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and the Making of Modern Singapore, Loh, Assistant Professor at the the Institute for East Asian Studies and Sogang University, tells the history of the Bukit Hoo Swee fire, a national emergency that led to the creation of Singapore’s first public housing project, with incredible vividness and sensitivity. Squatters into Citizens attempts to counter the State’s official narrative of the fire as “a blessing in disguise” and set the country on “the right path to progress and modernity” and is a truly excellent account of the stories at the margins of the Singapore’s public housing “success” story.  The book relies heavily on oral history (over 100 interviews conducted in 2006 and 2007) and, to a lesser extent, archival and official documents. In the book’s preface, Loh writes that his greatest challenge was in accessing archival materials; he was deemed “the wrong candidate” and was not allowed access materials deemed to be “politically sensitive.” But because of this, some important questions about the fire go unanswered, such as its causes.

Constructing Singapore: Elitism, Ethnicity and the Nation-Building Project was the first Barr-authored book I’ve read. Barr, an Associate Professor of International Relations at Flinders University, has written widely about crucial institutions of power and shifts in Singapore’s political system. Following the death of Lee Kuan Yew, in March, his piece, “The Son of the Father,” was widely circulated on Facebook. Constructing Singapore largely examines Chinese ethnocentrism as played out in Singapore’s educational system, and is the first book I’ve read as part of this challenge that addresses “a Chinese ethno-nationalism [that] has overwhelmed the discourse on national and Singaporean identity.” This work has roundly been criticized by Singapore academics (see this scathing review by Dr. Daniel P.S. Goh in which he claims, “[The] book has already caught the eye of the dissident fringe, claiming academic validation of their conspiracy theories.”) Still, I found it an informative read, and I’ve put Barr’s latest, The Ruling Elite of Singapore: Networks of Power and Influence, on my reading list. 

[UPDATED] Giveaway: da:ns festival 2015 Footwork Tickets

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I’m giving away three pairs of tickets to various Footwork (Twinkle Toes) workshops, introductory dance classes conducted by professional instructors. The Twinkle Toes workshops are designed for children 3 to 6 and their caregivers.

I have a set of tickets each to Bhangra Baby on Sunday, August 2, 2015 at 10:30AM (1 adult and 1 child), Bollywood Baby on Saturday, August 29, 2015 at 10:30AM (1 adult and 1 child), and Ballet Baby on Sunday, August 30, 2015 at 10:30AM (1 adult and 1 child). All workshops will be held in Esplanade Rehearsal Studio.

To win, leave ONE comment below with your preferred set of tickets. (Entries without an email address will be disqualified. Multiple entires will be disqualified.)

This giveaway is open to my readers in Singapore only and will close on July 16, 2015 at 12:00AM UTC/GMT +8 hours. Three winners will be chosen by random.org and be announced on July 18, 2015. Good luck!

UPDATE: Many thanks to all who entered!

The lucky winners are Gail (Ballet Baby) and Yann (Bollywood Baby). Congratulations, Gail and Yann! I’ll be emailing you shortly for your mailing address.

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

 

Last week, a kerfuffle exploded on Twitter over Roxane Gay’s review of Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians on NPR’s “Code Switch” blog. Gay called Crazy Rich Asians “refreshing” as it featured an entirely “people of color” cast. Singaporean literary types rightly pointed out that her review conveniently ignored Singapore literary history, a canon that has often rendered non-Chinese narratives invisible (as I’ve alluded to here). Gay then responded defensively and even blocked her critics!

In Gay’s defense, I “get” her perspective as a USian POC and would likely have seen Kwan’s book in the same light just a few years ago. I, too, have imposed my own narrative onto other parts of the world; this, too, is a privilege. But living internationally has shifted my disturbingly provincial, U.S.-centric point of view. It’s hard work to throw off the hegemonic/neo-imperialistic/exceptionalist claptrap that we USians have been indoctrinated with, even for feminist and progressive POCs like me. 

Kwan’s second novel, China Rich Girlfriend, a sequel to Crazy Rich Asians, also features only Chinese protagonists and minority characters for “color”—a driver named Ahmed, two nameless Thai ladies-in waiting (?), Gayatri Singh, the daughter of a maharaja (??), who warns that her gem-encrusted dagger is “an ancient Hindu relic” in which a “evil spirit is being held captive” and will cast great misfortune onto the firstborn of the person who unleashes it. (Magical Brown Person™ much?) And over half of Kwan’s novel is set in “new China” where “people attend church in a penthouse above the clouds” and “private jets are decorated to looks like Balinese resorts.” There exists a subtle Orientalism in the way the exploits of rich Chinese people are reported for the consumption of Western readers; China Rich Girlfriend is guilty of this as well. 

China Rich Girlfriend‘s thinnest of plots that is as predictable as any of the beach reads that have come before it. And Kwan’s prose is weighed down by earnest and unnecessary footnotes—do today’s readers really need translations for “xiaolongbao” and “xie xie”?—and ponderous and awkward expository dialogue. China Rich Girlfriend was a bit of a slog, tbh, and not as “glittery,” in Gay’s words, as its predecessor. 

(Many thanks to Doubleday [Random House] for sending this book my way.)

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