Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Celebrating Our Home, Away From Home

One of my friend's updated his Facebook status today to: "XXX: people were dancing to Stand Up For Singapore at Zouk!"

The image of Singaporeans (and friends from overseas in town for Singapore's 44th birthday party) bobbing around to the wonderfully cheesy tune in the dark bowels of Singapore's hippest and most famous disco actually invoked a twinge of homesickness in me.

We have been away from home for approximately 130 days. Until now, I've never felt homesick. Yeah, sure, pictures of food from home on my friends' Facebook albums and food blogs send Dan and me into bouts of sad laments about missing chwee kueh, mee siam, durian, etc. But I've never actually missed home (only our bed and our bathroom) and have never wished ourselves back to our normal lives in Singapore. Instead, I'm actually terrified of being sent home before our scheduled return date should our trip finances run dry.

Well, there is nothing more homesick-inducing than the thought of everybody back home celebrating National Day together - and you not bobbing with them to the tune of Stand Up For Singapore.

I don't know any other country who has a new song written for National Day each year. Cheesy as they are, National Day songs are such a huge part of the celebrations that I can't imagine not having them. I remember the numerous sing-along sessions during my primary school days where the music teacher would flash the lyrics of the newest National Day song, typed or neatly written on a piece of 'transparency', on the OHP (overhead projector) in the school hall and groom the pupils into singing it to perfection. We were given sheets with the musical score and accompanying lyrics to take home, and I would try to commit the new lyrics to memory while banging the tune out on our piano.

Sure, the two of us could belt out the home-grown hits that we grew up with in the 1980s - Stand Up For Singapore, Count On Me Singapore, We Are Singapore and One People, One Nation, One Singapore (I still know all the lyrics by heart) - but really, squeaking together in a miserable duet in the middle of Colombia simply cannot compare to singing in unison with a 30,000-strong crowd on the Singapore city waterfront. Listening to this year's cool National Day masterpiece by Electrico on YouTube does not have the same 'warms-the-cockles-of-my-heart' effect as being bombarded by the music video (featuring an equal distribution of Singaporeans of every race, age and walk of life) every 30-minutes on Channel 5.

It's nice that even though we're not in Singapore during these patriotic times, we don't feel as if we've been forgetten and that nobody cares if we've fallen off the face of the Earth. We received an invitation from the Singapore Embassy in Washington D.C. to a National Day event. And because my Singapore mobile phone number is still in operation, my phone beeped with SMSes from the NDP'09 Organising Committee to recite the pledge at 8.22pm on 9 August, and from my MP, Mr Wong Kan Seng wishing me Happy National Day. Sweet!

For the past 2 years, we've been fortunate enough to watch the National Day Parade (albeit only the preview) from the grandstand along the city waterfront. We throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the celebrations - plastering everything we can find in the goodie bag onto our faces and bodies and waving our plastic flags until they break. And I cherish the moment when the giant Singapore flag sweeps majestically across the skies against the city skyline as everyone rises to attention, singing Majulah Singapura as one - I choke on emotion every time. It's a pity that as adults, we hardly sing our national anthem nowadays.

This was us at the NDP Preview last year:

Wearing my country's stars and a botched-up flag with pride

Gifts galore at NDP - twinkling caps, flags and giant gloves

Donning red or white tees. Last year, Dan took up the dare to wear the couple tees I bought in Bangkok in front of 30,000 people. He's a cool dude alright and not any less macho for doing such a cheesy thing for his wife.

Despite our constant complaints about life in Singapore, Singaporeans really love wearing their patriotism proudly on their sleeves

This year, we celebrated by treating ourselves to dishes close to our heart - the closest that we could find in the hills of Colombia, in a town called Bucaramanga. We stumbled upon a Chinese restaurant while tripping through the neighbourhood. We were magnetically drawn to the giant xuang xi (Double Happiness) character at the entrance and walked, hypnotised, right into the restaurant, all the while praying fervantly that the prices would not be exorbitant.

Thankfully, while not as cheap as the standard Colombian set lunch (but definitely cheaper than the so-so pizza we had last night), the prices were okay. We kicked off our National Day celebrations with a huge serving of chau mein especial - stir-fried yellow noodles with oodles of green vegetables (ohhh, morsels of heavenly cabbage, brocoli and bean sprouts), chicken, ham and beef, and a giant crispy springroll.

It was SO incredibly wonderfully satisfying.

Chinese people NEED Chinese food. Period.

We returned for dinner and without needing to look at the menu again, ordered chau fan with chicken. Dan spoke to the lau ban (boss) in Cantonese and we were rewarded with a mountain of fried rice, with huge pieces of tender chicken breast and shrimp! Amazingly, it tasted just like the chau fan served up at the zhi char stall at the coffee shop near our flat in Bishan. Okay, it was missing the pieces of char siew, but we can't be picky yah!

The serving was so huge that we contemplated saving one third of it for lunch the next day.... NAH!!!! The mind was willing to dapao (pack the remainder to go), the stomach was willing to dapao but the tastebuds were not!

Both the rice and noodles came to COP 14,000 (US$7) each, for a portion large enough for 2. In our humble opinion - damned worth the money.

Speak in their language and thou shalt be rewarded

Tummies filled and cravings satisfied, we've set our alarm for 5.45am (Colombian time) on 9 August, so that we can catch the 'live' Webcast of the parade together with everybody back at home! Let's hope that we wake up on time!


Happy National Day to all Singaporeans! Majulah Singapura!

Hugs & Kisses from Colombia,

Yi Lin & Dannie


WeLoveRoy said...

BTW.. this years theme is "Come together.." heh heh heh..

LM said...

Marina Bay Sands is almost all up except for the roof deck! You would be proud : )

Yi Lin said...

Roy: yeah, Dan mentioned that in a previous post - along with all the suggestive connotations.

LM: haha, the waterfront would have changed so much by the time I get back. We met 2 travellers who will be in Spore in Apr next year, and I found myself thinking that I could bring them for a walk around the new waterfront promenade at MB!

Megan the Plumber said...

I love Singapore

Yi Lin said...

Yups, we do too. And we realise it more now that we're away from home.

Er, why Megan "the plumber"?

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