The Great Wall Musical – A review


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I am George Chan’s fan and I was one of the early birds to buy tickets for this musical. I figure any musicals with him in it should be good. I was not disappointed with his performance, or that of other cast members, for that matter. They all acted and sung well.

The story of young widow Meng Jiang Nu, upon finding out the news that her husband had been buried alive in the great wall of China, cried so hard that the Great Wall toppled in the process. She was arrested and made to marry First Emperor Qin Si Huang, but committed suicide after she tricked the emperor to proclaim her husband a hero. This is a famous Chinese folktale, found in Liu Xiang‘s (刘向)Biographies of Exemplary Women (烈女传) and I am most surprised my companions are not familiar with it.

George Chan plays the Emperor with gusto, with kohled eyes that are so expressive they convey fear, anger, and apprehension more eloquently than the songs. His singing is powerful except the songs are unimpressive, but more about that later.

Korean actress Na Young Jeon, whose flawless skin impresses us as much as her sweet soprano voice. Really, her complexion is the only one among the female cast which literally glowed in the stage light – which says a lot about Korean skin care. With so many sponsors for all kinds of official stuff – hotel, airlines etc, I was most disappointed to not see an official Korean cosmetic brand. She would have been the best spokesperson.

I have watched Nathan Hartono‘s other stage performance and his earnest singing did not disappoint. We just find it peculiar that even with his hair and costume dressed up, he still looks too modern and funky for the role of scholar Fan Qi Liang, Meng Jiang Nu‘s husband. One scene particularly jarring is when he is handcuffed to face the Emperor, and while he crouches there on the floor, I only notice the glaring white soles of his Keds (or Converse or similar brands). Shouldn’t prisoners be bare-footed? That’s when I started to observe the rest of the casts for their shoes – the rest were more appropriately shoe-ed.

Speaking of costumes, I am all praised for them. The most well -dressed is the Emperor whose costume and headgear look authentic for that period. Ditto for the soldiers. The females wear plain cotton smocks and long ponytails. The men, either acting as soldiers or prisoners, other than Fan Qi Liang, are also dressed in plain cotton similar to the female cast.

The stage is simple – there is the wall, the throne, and a large table which I thought is an eye-sore, especially since I am seated in the front close to the stage. Props are spare. There is one scene where Na-Young has to climb over moving logs held by the cast to symbolize crossing the flooded river. The scene feels agonizingly awkward and long to us.

I must say I am quite disappointed with the music and songs. Most are rather forgettable and do not leave any impression, which is rather unfortunate, for I feel the songs play the most important part of a musical, more so than the script. (Eg: I enjoyed the music of local musical Chang and Eng so much I bought the CD.) The lyrics are luckily simple and articulated well by the singers, as the Chinese subtitles, written poetically,  were even harder to understand when I tried to read it.

This musical took six years from conception to stage. For that, we should just go and support it. Who knows, you may enjoy it.

 

 

Posted in Entertainment, Singapore | 1 Comment

English, Singlish and Broken English


On Saturday, I went to the Speak Good English Movement Symposium just because I wanted to listen to speakers such as Gwee Li Siu and Adrain Tan, who were at last year’s Singapore Writers Festival closing debate and were so entertaining.

At the end of the symposium, I felt a tinge of sympathy for Goh Eck Kheng, the advocator for the good English campaign, as he seems to be fighting a losing battle against our seemingly beloved Singlish.

I was never a Singlish speaker until quite recently. I studied at Nanyang Girls High School, with Chinese as first language and English as a second language. Although I came from an English speaking home, we didn’t speak any Singlish at home. In school, the language of communication was Chinese. I don’t remember hearing much Singlish in RJC or NUS. Singlish is not to be confused with Singapore accented English, which may include some lah, meh or leh. While I don’t speak Singlish, I might have spoken some broken English. When I started work, the plastic molders I served spoke Hokkien or Chinese, and my principals at Dupont and later ICI all spoke proper English. I have never used words like cheem, arrow (as in : You very clever to arrow people ah, ownself never do.) or for that matter ownself,  although I seem to be compensating now as I peppered my conversation and texts in Singlish. Mr Goh would be disappointed.

Dr Gwee Li Siu gave an example of Singlish during the forum:

Proper English: Where are you going?

Singlish : Go where? (and not where go, which is ‘grammatically wrong Singlish.)

Upon hearing that, I realised that the example he gave was what my English teachers at Nanyang would classify as broken English, as it is a direct-Chinese translated English sentence, which is 去哪里 (go where),and which they had spent much effort correcting my classmates. When I now write dialogues in my stories, the feedback I get from my peers is that my dialogues are often too formal. I then realise this is how I normally speak, which translates into my work.

Looking at the examples of Singlish found here: http://www.nus.edu.sg/prose/box-singlish.htm and if you translate many of the examples into Chinese, they translate into perfectly proper Chinese, if you translate these Singlish words into Chinese:

can – 可以,

one, when used at the end of a sentence – 的 (as in Who say one? 谁说的?)

also – 也

ownself – 自己 (You very clever to arrow people ah, ownself never do. )

So, in effect, Singlish is broken English, as defined by my English teachers in the 70s when Singlish is not yet a term. And I agree with Mr Goh that we should correct broken English when we hear it. If we are to correct grammatically wrong written English, why not spoken too? (Except I failed to do that a day after the forum when I heard someone who was confused between lend/borrow. I just didn’t know how to correct her tactfully. )

Just the other day, my son noticed that my 8yo nephew speaks Singlish, which sounded so jarring to everyone in the family. (We correct him often.) I know then my family members are still speaking English at home and not Singlish. Phew!

 

 

 

Posted in Me!, Singapore | 2 Comments

Death of A Perm Sec by Wong Souk Yee


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I didn’t know what this book was about, except that it was an Epigram Fiction Prize finalist until I borrowed it from the library. After reading the first few chapters, I realised it was inspired by the story of the HDB minister Teh Cheang Wan, who committed suicide after a corruption investigation. As Epigram’s boss Edmund Wee often says, inspirations for writers are abound – just read local news.

What’s interesting to me is how the author chooses to name her characters in the book. PM of Singapore is Mr Edward Wee, (Edmund Wee,  publisher,  *wink wink*) and who should be the children of the perm sec Chow who committed suicide – there is a Hoong, Ling and a Yang…and a Ming just to soften whatever link there is. (It’s not just me who is imagining things right?) 

I had some problems with the omniscient POV in the first chapter but this is quickly rectified as I progressed as we follow the four adult children of Chow through their POVs. Set in the 80s, there is this tinge of anti-government, criticism of policies or just the distaste for the money-mindedness of the government and Singaporeans as a whole, which prompted me to read the back page about the author and the blurbs. Not surprising, Wong was a detainee of ISA and the blurbs are contributed by some well-known critics of the government, other than Philip Jeyaretnam, brother of another opposition leader but not known as a critic himself. I wish she would leave the info about being a detainee of ISA out so that I can read this book without any bias.

I enjoyed the story, although I generally did not give too much focus on the political plots and the chapter of Edward Wee’s diary, which I found redundant. The portrayal of her characters is very realistic, especially Ling, and how she survived the detention was poignant in the book, especially after what I learned about the author.

I read many books and what I discover about Asian writers is their fondness for bombastic vocabulary, in this case: comeuppance, epicanthus fold (I like this word), cornucopia, etc – a tad irritating when I was reading the book during a long journey in Sri Lanka with no wifi to check the dictionary.

After reading the book, I say kudos to NLB for having it on the shelf, which speaks more than Epigram publishing it or whatever fear the author had harboured before the book was published.

 

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Crush 


That warm fuzzy feeling upon waking up
With you swirling in my mind

The memory of our last meet up 

Playing like a GIF image

Did your touch linger a little longer

Perhaps you felt my vibe

That tingling sensation of the contact

Did it affect you too

I search in vain for your face

Amidst the crowd in the mall

Hoping for a glimpse of that familiar smile

The paths I hope we might cross

Alas …

The warm fuzzy feeling fades

You appear less frequently in my mind

Though I try to conjure that same emotion

Alas… 

I miss that yearning of the crush

Which I once had frequently in my youth 

The hope that it might connect both our hearts

Of falling head and heel in love 

Alas it’s gone now

The giddy dream and the silly smile

Along with the reality 

That it’s all but just a crush

As beautiful as a rainbow while it lasted

And just as brief a moment. 

Posted in Poem | 2 Comments

Ayurveda Sri Lanka – spa experience in Trincomalee 


Ayurveda is a holistic health treatment practised by Hindus for centuries.  Much like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it uses herbs for various treatments of illness and maintaining general well-being through medicines, massages,  steamed baths and many others I am not aware of. 

As I arrived at Trincomalee, only to learn that my blue whale watching trip had been cancelled due to strong waves,  we decided to spend some time at an Ayurveda spa as I see many around my beach front hotel. 

There is a Ayurveda doctor at the spa who oversees the treatment. The Lotus Ayurveda Spa was selected by my guide after he went around and said this spa had the best hygiene condition. The spa wasn’t what I had expected at all with the price quoted, which was probably jacked up by both parties.  I get better ambience and hygiene at the same price in Singapore. 

There was no air-con and the therapists were not in uniforms.  In fact,  I thought I had arrived at somebody’s house, as women lounged in sofas watching TV as we entered. 

Resident doctor, Dr Mithu, told me that Ayurveda doctors are trained for six years and do internship for another before receiving a licence to practice. 

We had booked a massage followed by steam bath. They showed me the steamed casket  – I know of no better word to describe the wooden box laid with leaves, with its curved cover, which would soon encased me. I was told the steamer w


One of the herbal leaves on the steamer.

There were two treatment rooms and my husband and I went into one with twin massage beds, separated by a thin partition and curtains. The fan whirled furiously above, as I undressed,  wary of the open window overlooking the backyard. 

I lay on the small bath towel on the PVC upholstered bed,  vulnerably clad only in panties with nothing to protect my modesty. 

My therapist drizzled a generous amount of oil on my thigh and proceeded to rub. She reached for the flash of my buttocks and gave it a few hard wriggles after every few minutes of leg rub. I imagine the cellulite dislodging with the wriggles and erased by the rubs. 

After the legs, I feel the spread of oil she poured on my back.  There was no fixed pattern or strokes,  unlike the massages I received elsewhere, whether they’re Thai, Javanese or aromatic.  I began to wonder if she was a trained masseur,  who usually knead along large muscle groups. 

I turned around after the back massage,   hoping she would at least cover me with a towel but alas,  I lay exposed to everyone who happened to pop in or walked by the backyard. The rub on the front was also randomly done, including my breasts and abdomen. 

Next,  she doused my day clean hair liberally in oil and proceeded to wash it. I imagined the sensual head massage my hairstylist back home indulges me with was disappointed at this rub and hair pulling I was subjecting myself at this spa. 

I was then instructed to wrap myself in the towel for the steam bath. The doctor and male owner were at hand to help me – clad in towel – onto the leafy bed.  There was quite a bit of maneuvering to ensure the cover didn’t strangle me as they lowered it.  I was told to open my towel internally and rest,  while the therapist continued the rub and pull on my head. 

My husband having his steam.

At the end of the 15 minute steam bath,  I changed and was served a cup of sweetened coriander tea. I was advised to only bathe after two hours. 

And so,  I proceeded to lunch at a restaurant in my state of oiliness,  from head to toe. 

(Photos below of the oils that were blended and used for the massage.) 

Posted in Health and wellness, Travel | Leave a comment

Ayurveda Sri Lanka – spa experience in Trincomalee 


Ayurveda is a holistic health treatment practised by Hindus for centuries.  Much like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it uses herbs for various treatments of illness and maintaining general well-being through medicines, massages,  steamed baths and many others I am not aware of. 

As I arrived at Trincomalee, only to learn that my blue whale watching trip had been cancelled due to strong waves,  we decided to spend some time at an Ayurveda spa as I see many around my beach front hotel. 

There is a Ayurveda doctor at the spa who oversees the treatment. The Lotus Ayurveda Spa was selected by my guide after he went around and said this spa had the best hygiene condition. The spa wasn’t what I had expected at all with the price quoted, which was probably jacked up by both parties.  I get better ambience and hygiene at the same price in Singapore. 

There was no air-con and the therapists were not in uniforms.  In fact,  I thought I had arrived at somebody’s house, as women lounged in sofas watching TV as we entered. 

Resident doctor, Dr Mithu, told me that Ayurveda doctors are trained for six years and do internship for another before receiving a licence to practice. 

We had booked a massage followed by steam bath. They showed me the steamed casket  – I know of no better word to describe the wooden box laid with leaves, with its curved cover, which would soon encased me. I was told the herbal steamer would melt away my fats.  


One of the herbal leaves on the steamer.

There were two treatment rooms and my husband and I went into one with twin massage beds, separated by a thin partition and curtains. The fan whirled furiously above, as I undressed,  wary of the open window overlooking the backyard. 

I lay on the small bath towel on the PVC upholstered bed,  vulnerably clad only in panties with nothing to protect my modesty. 

My therapist drizzled a generous amount of oil on my thigh and proceeded to rub. She reached for the flash of my buttocks and gave it a few hard wriggles after every few minutes of leg rub. I imagine the cellulite dislodging with the wriggles and erased by the rubs. 

After the legs, I feel the spread of oil she poured on my back.  There was no fixed pattern or strokes,  unlike the massages I received elsewhere, whether they’re Thai, Javanese or aromatic.  I began to wonder if she was a trained masseur,  who usually knead along large muscle groups. 

I turned around after the back massage,   hoping she would at least cover me with a towel but alas,  I lay exposed to everyone who happened to pop in or walked by the backyard. The rub on the front was also randomly done, including my breasts and abdomen. 

Next,  she doused my day clean hair liberally in oil and proceeded to wash it. I imagined the sensual head massage my hairstylist back home indulges me with was disappointed at this rub and hair pulling I was subjecting myself at this spa. 

I was then instructed to wrap myself in the towel for the steam bath. The doctor and male owner were at hand to help me – clad in towel – onto the leafy bed.  There was quite a bit of maneuvering to ensure the cover didn’t strangle me as they lowered it.  I was told to open my towel internally and rest,  while the therapist continued the rub and pull on my head. 

My husband having his steam.

At the end of the 15 minute steam bath,  I changed and was served a cup of sweetened coriander tea. I was advised to only bathe after two hours. 

And so,  I proceeded to lunch at a restaurant in my state of oiliness,  from head to toe. 

(Photos below of the oils that were blended and used for the massage.) 

Posted in Health and wellness, Travel | Leave a comment

The Other Corner of Sri Lanka – Resort Review 


Since my husband Michael visited in 2011 for a photography trip and told me about Sri Lanka,  I immediately wanted to come. When I was younger, visiting Sri Lanka was in the plans,  although it was with the hope of accompanying my best friend as we traverse her homeland.  We were side -tracked by motherhood and I promptly forgotten about our plans. I bet she did too. So when Michael took part in a photography contest organized by Vacay Travel in Singapore and the second prize was a trip to Sri Lanka (first prize Finland), I told him to just win the second prize. The obedient husband that he is, he did. 😃

The prize comprises of a four day stay at The Other Corner Resort in Habarana in Central Sri Lanka, and tours (excluding entrance fees and charges for amenities).

There are nine air-conditioned cottages in the sprawling resort, a restaurant, a small pool and a fish spa.  We arrived and had to cross a rickety suspension bridge to enter. I love the novelty of shaky suspension bridges, so this was a good first impression.

The restaurant serves a delicious four-course set meal for dinner, available in either western or local style. We tried both and enjoyed all the meals. Breakfast is served between 7-9am and dinner 7-9pm. We were served by Asela,  whose gentle kindness made my stay felt so hospitable. 

On the first two nights,  we stayed at a tree cottage,  a wooden lodge built around trees. I woke up to the rustling of leaves and birds’ singing. I would highly recommend booking the tree cottage if you come.  It’s not only bigger but personally,  I prefer wooden lodge than mud/concrete ones if I am staying near wildlife. 

On the third night,  we were moved to a single chalet,  built like a local mud house I had visited in a village two days before. While the village mud house,  built of mud and dung, is primitive and without electricity or running water,  my chalet has a smooth plaster for its interior walls and a jacuzzi in the toilet. (It would take forever to fill up given the low water pressure.) 

The Other Corner Resort is a paradise for bird watchers. Stationed in the resort is Dhilip,  a naturalist who took to my husband and his super zoom camera like a lonely child deprived of playmates. He wasted no time in whisking Michael away into his bird playground,  proudly showing off his knowledge and the residents flocking about. 

On a morning walk yesterday, he brought us out to a beautiful lotus pond, ubiquitous in this part of central Sri Lanka, where Michael took many photographs of lifers (first sighting of a bird for birdie.)  

As I type this in front of our chalet before we check out,  raindrops patters on the ground in staccato rhythm,  adding beats to the symphony of bird songs.  I feel the cool breeze, with a waft of faint floral scent,  from the many fruit trees planted around. Michael is nowhere to be seen, gone with his playmate Dhilip, reluctant to leave his new friends – both human and avian. 

Thank you for the fabulous hospitality. The personal touch had made our stay so enjoyable. 

Posted in Travel | 1 Comment