Thursday, December 20, 2007

And the winner is. . .

Actually, I took GeeGee's advice and went back to Tay Guan Heng and bought another ornament so we have 2 winners. . .

Congratulations, Christianne, (who will be passing them to Abby's family)! You are the proud owner of the original prize: Hope, Joy and Peace ornaments. Hopefully I can give these to you in person while we're both in CA. =)

And, congratulations, Kirsten!
You were the random-draw winner of the bonus prize. I need you to email me your address so I can get this sent off to you ASAP.

An Evening Out

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

You know you're in Singapore when. . .

. . . your can of evaporated milk has a recipe for deep fried squids on the back.

I guess, if you're Singaporean, you might eat your squids whilst talking about stuffs or studying your maths.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Toilet Etiquette 101

I saw this sign inside the women's restroom at a mall in Chinatown* and thought my readers might find the content helpful (as well as the depiction of improper toilet etiquette as shown by the diagram toward the bottom of the sign)

Five Easy Steps to Better Toilet Etiquette:
1. Wipe the seat.
2. Flush.
3. Wash your hands.
4. Dry your hands.
5. Toss your rubbish into the bin.

With these helpful hints, you will be on your way to becoming the kind of patron any janitor would love to have using his restroom!

* I thought it was quite humorous that this sign appeared in Chinatown since squatty-potties are all you can find in that district, effectively making item #1 of the 5-step program an impossible task.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Visit to Tay Guan Heng and a Christmas Giveaway

Upon the referral of a friend here in Singapore, Caleb and I took a trek over to the opposite side of the island today to visit the Tay Guan Heng Workshop. In this quintessential hole-in-the-wall art studio, Mr. Tay (a 3rd generation artisan) sits at his workbench all day long creating art. His medium, a pliable dough created from ground wild cinnamon bark; his utensils, an empty wine bottle (to pound out the dough), a little knife, a pair of scissors, and a few other simple items (like straw and small sticks). The result-- unique and intricate figurines. Mr. Tay is especially fascinated with creating one-of-a-kind Nativity Sets (which were out of my price range) and traditional Chinese figures (like The Slave pictured below).

Mr. Tay

Mr. Tay's Workbench

The Slave

I chatted with Mr. Tay for a bit. He demonstrated how he fashions the figures and how he sets them out to dry for several days before he coats them with a clear varnish. Unfortunately, it's a slow process and rather unprofitable. This ancient art form is dying out and Mr. Tay's shop is one of the last.

So I did my part to support Mr. Tay and that's where the Christmas Giveaway comes in. I bought three Christmas Ornaments (the only items I could afford) with the Chinese characters, Peace, Hope and Joy, inscribed on them. On the back is the authentic Tay Guan Heng Stamp. I thought I'd join the Christmas Giveaway Frenzy (here, here, here and here) and give these little Singaporean souvenirs to one lucky winner. Here are the rules, you must leave a comment on this blog by midnight (Pacific Standard Time) December 20th. In your comment, give me a compelling reason why YOU should be the winner. Depending on the creativeness of the entries, I may or may not resort to pulling a name out of a hat, but it will be fun to hear your reasons nonetheless.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Stroller Friendly

Singapore isn't exactly a stroller friendly city. Elevators are few and far between (and usually packed to the gills with people). Escalators are everywhere, which is fine since I can maneuver the stroller up the escalator without too much trouble, but often there are anywhere from 5-10 stairs leading up to the escalator platform (why wouldn't they just build a slightly longer escalator??) so that puts me back at square one. Instead of crosswalks, most streets have pedestrian overpasses (a safer, albeit more difficult way to cross the street). And, since we are dependent upon public transit, I am obligated to mention the difficulty of getting a stroller (especially one sporting dangling grocery bags from its handles) on and off the bus (which boasts a few stairs at the entrance and exit) in a timely, much less graceful, manner.

So, although the engineers who are responsible for the infrastructure and transportation here in Singapore do not seem to have much compassion on mothers with prams, the citizens of Singapore make up for it. I cannot begin to count the number of times I have been struggling to get the stroller on the bus only to have a hand swoop in and lift the front for me. Or, the bus driver kindly tell me, "Don't worry. Take your time." Or, two young teens offer to carry the stroller to the top of an overpass for me.

I've waited until now to post this post because I've wanted to be sure that these acts of kindness were actually a cultural phenomenon and not just flukes. But, it has happened enough times now that I feel confident in saying that even though Singapore itself is not stroller friendly, Singaporeans are!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Joyful, All Ye Nations Rise

Today was The International Baptist Church ESL Christmas Program. Our class sung Hark!, The Herald Angels Sing. I got tears in my eyes as I sang with the students, "Joyful, all ye nations rise!" Though our class only represents 5 of about 200 nations, I couldn't help but think of the day when heaven will be filled with the voices of men and women from every nation on earth. Hopefully, when that day comes, I will hear the familiar voices of my students in that choir!

Because my students are in Level 1, most of the words to this beautiful song were new to them. We spent the last 6 weeks practicing the song and talking about the meaning of each line. We could have mastered the singing with just one or two practice sessions, but it takes a long time for English sounds to form into distinct words, and then for those words to carry meaning. Because the lyrics are essentially poetry, it was difficult to "translate" (can you translate from English into English?) word by word, so I tried to take the meaning of each phrase and convey it in words that they could understand. As I translated, this already-favorite Christmas Hymn became even more precious. Perhaps next year, we'll get to do more than just the first verse.

Hark! The herald angels sing, Look! Listen! The angels with a message are singing. . .
"Glory to the newborn King! Worship the baby--Jesus-- who is the King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild, The King will bring peace and kindness to the world.
God and sinners reconciled." The King will make God and people friends again.
Joyful, all ye nations rise, Happy because of the good news, people from all over the world should stand up and. . .
Join the triumph of the skies. Sing with the angels who are cheering in the sky.
Hark! The herald angels sing, Look! Listen! The angels with a message are singing. . .
"Glory to the newborn King!" Worship the baby--Jesus-- who is the King!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Pancake Recipes

From Rebecca (America)
Easy Breakfast Pancakes
1. Mix together: 1 cup Better Crocker Pancake Mix, 3/4 cup water, 1 tsp Vanilla, 2 tsps sugar. Mix until batter is no longer lumpy. Do not over mix.
2. Coat pan with a small amount of oil.

3. Pour pancake mix into small circles in the hot pan (about 1/8 cup each circle). When the edges become firm and the center bubbles, turn cake over. Cook until golden brown.
4. Serve immediately with butter and maple syrup.
From Emiko (Japan)

Pancake Ingredients: 100g flour, 100cc water, 2 eggs, Cabbage
Optional Ingredients: Green Onion, Pork, Octopus/Squid, Prawn
Toppings: Katsuobushi (dried, shredded tuna), Aonori (seaweed), Okonomiyaki sauce, Mayonnaise

1. Chop the cabbage into fine strings.
2. Mix the flour, eggs, water and cabbage strings together. Add *optional* ingredients.
3. Fry the dough like a pancake in a small frying pan. Cover as it cooks.
4. Turn the Okonomiyaki so that both sides are golden brown.
5. When fried well, serve the okonomiyaki, top with toppings and serve.

From Jin Ju (Korea)
Vegetable Pancake
1. Chop into thin strips: 6 Spring Onion, 1 Onion, 1 Carrot, 1 Squash,
2. Chop into small peices: Mushrooms, Cuttlefish, Prawn, 2 Jalepeno Peppers.
3. Make a paste out of egg, wheat flour, salt and water. Add vegetables.
4. Fry in hot oil.
5. Serve with Spicy Soy Sauce (soy sauce, jalepeno pepper, spring onion, sesame oil and sesame seeds)

From Yan Shi (Tibet)
Sugared Pancake
1. Cook frozen Roti Paratha (easier than making your own!)
2. Sprinkle pancakes with course white sugar and serve while still warm.

From Shu Hsien (Taiwan)
Scallion Pancake
1. Combine ingredient:2cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup boiling water,1/2 Cup cold water,1/2 t salt, well and knead into a smooth dough.
2. Rinse scallions well and mince. Knead the dough more smoothly and roll out into a long strips. Then divide the strips into 5 equal portions.
Roll each portion out wide and flat and grease with a layer of cooking oil evenly, then spread with a layer of minced scallion. Roll up into a strip, then roll up from both sides into a cylinder.
3. Press the stuffed dough flat and roll into a flat cake.
Fry in frying pan with a little oil added until golden on both sides.
Remove and cut into sections. Serve.
(If desired, fry an egg and then place the pancake on top of the fried egg and finish cooking them together.)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Pancake Day

During last week's class session, my ESL students and I took over the church kitchen and made pancakes. The students brought all the ingredients necessary to make their country's traditional pancake. We had a wonderful time doing mini-cooking demonstrations and taste testing each other's pancakes. We were able to sample traditional pancakes from Taiwan, Tibet, Korean, Japan, and America. The students wrote up their recipes for me (in English) and I will post them as I have a chance.