terse & at large

GRRRRR. Arrrgh. And sometimes a travel log.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Ah, that enterprising spirit...

Does anyone know if it's legal for kids to be selling ice cream door-to-door? I've had several kids (ages 15-18, it looks like) over the last few months trying to sell me Wall's or King's ice cream at my door. I distinctly do not remember reading anything about this in the newspapers.

However, issues of legality aside, much as I approve of their entrepreneurship, I don't think it's a good idea to flip off a customer who said 'no' to buying your ice cream. The bird may have been raised after I'd closed the door, but it's generally not wise to do it while walking past the rather large windows that HDB had installed in every flat of my estate. Dumb-asses. I guess, they don't need to worry about returning customers - I haven't seen the same kid twice since this began.

Oh well: in my generation and this one, I guess some people are still not cut out to be in sales.


A letter to today's Forum Page of the Straits Times:

Truly Unique - For Wrong Reasons

In our outstation home in Johannesburg, South Africa, my husband was browsing the Lifestyle section of the Sunday Times when a travel column, Third World Order, caught his attention. The contributor had been hosted by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and was in Singapore during the launch of the tourism campaign, 'Uniquely Singapore'.

Much to our surprise, the article carried more gripes than praises. She ended the article thus: 'I came to the conclusion that the country of lights, lions and laws is truly unique - but for all the wrong reasons.'

After poring over the article, it was not difficult to see what disturbed our guest - everything, well, almost.

First, she was not impressed with the prosperity and progress Singapore has achieved. Much less was she thrilled over our acclaim as the Shopping Paradise when she was taken to the tho-roughfare of consumerism, Orchard Road.

Any reader could sense the writer's displeasure and frustration with the tour guide who had been insensitive to her needs. She wanted to visit the local street bazaar but her request was brushed off by the guide, who was more eager to showcase the economic miracle of Asia and took her instead to the 'grrrreat shopping centres'.

On Ngee Ann City, the 'winner of the best shopping experience award', the writer said: 'With its deities of US, French, Italian and UK department stores, this temple left me uninspired.'

Neither was the writer impressed with the people. The young girls she saw on the street were likened to Asian versions of Britney Spears; the young men were accused of having succumbed to the David Beckham cult.

Was she appalled by the lack of originality of our youth or was she agreeing with this line from the play performed at the launch of the tourism campaign, 'It is time we stop behaving like bananas - yellow on the outside and white on the inside'?

'Everyone looks as if they stepped straight off the pages of a fashion magazine... Not Cosmo though.'

Her overall verdict of the theme park 'Singaworld' was '... a nation of four million people who seem to have traded everything for money'. Then she added, perhaps to soothe her conscience and provide a little consolation: 'Well, almost everything.'

In fact, it was said at least twice in the article that Singaporeans, in their pursuit of economic progress, have turned into money-hungry, soul-trading worshippers of Mammon.

Once again, our endless and creative bans and fines became objects of ridicule - because, without understanding the rationale, these restrictions appear barbaric and inhumane, coming from the government of a modern, developed nation.

As the writer was hosted by STB, she must have felt obligated to mention a few good points about the country which have fortunately survived the money-minded culture - an antiques shop showcasing the Peranakan culture which 'made her stay worthwhile' (Well done, Katong Antique House, you saved us!), Singapore cuisine and Sentosa.

I must confess that my first reaction to the article was one of outrage. As a Singaporean, I wanted to fend off with all my might the biased accusations and conclusions. But as the initial feelings settled, I reflected on what had been written about my homeland.

Despite the article, I am still proud of the economic miracle we have achieved as a nation. I love Singapore despite its not-so-perfect, sub-civilised culture. I love Singapore because it is my HOME.

We must never stop pursuing economic progress because it's a matter of survival. Only the citizens of a city state with hardly any natural resources would understand.

However, let's not neglect our heritage, culture and social values which will, more than anything else, make us 'Uniquely Singapore'.


OK, first of all: thank you to the unnamed writer of the article. I think you've hit the nail on the head. I think most travellers in any country nowadays would rather see and experience the atmosphere of the place rather than shop. I know I would - which is why I've never enjoyed going to Hongkong; besides, the shopping malls and food, there's very little there to interest me. It's about time STB wises up to that.


[L]et's not neglect our heritage, culture and social values...

Uh, what heritage? Culture? Or social values? The heritage, culture and social values we had now come in the form of the pursuit of economic progress, becoming Britney/ David and shopping centres.

We believe in everything that is transient. Hell, we live for transience. That's why people are so bloody rude to each other: they don't figure on meeting the same person again after that one chance encounter. That's pretty much embodied in the kids who were at my door selling ice cream last night. Supremely-coiffed and dressed in their finest Street fashion, they couldn't even wait til they were out of my line of sight before flipping the bird.


I'm sorry, but I'd rather be identified with the old Singapore. When we were poor. When we weren't so goddamned needy.

At least we were human back then.


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