The appalling and the ludicrous

The appalling
Some people might be aware of the humanitarian crisis going on in the Southeast Asian region. We have a  boat migrant disaster at our doorsteps which was about to turn into a tragedy of massive scale. For those in the dark, I’m referring to the Rohinya and Bangladeshi  migrants who are leaving Myanmar in the thousands by boats, hoping to go to Malaysia or Indonesia for work and a new life. The Rohinyas  are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world because they are stateless, deprived of education, legal rights and have very limited or no job opportunities and even no access to adequate healthcare in Myanmar. For the Bangladeshis, they are economic migrants because of the shitty economy in their country, which is basically a basket case.

We know how the Myanmese junta treats it’s citizen, which is bad enough. So you can imagine how it treats the minorities. And worse, for a Buddhist country, some people including monks even resorted to violence against the Rohinyas, partly because these minorities are Muslims. These buddhist nationalists claimed that the Muslims breed like rabbits and will take over the country, killing the Buddhists and imposing shariah laws. So to prevent that, the Buddhists took violent action first, burning the Rohinyas’ villages and chasing them away. Out of desperation, the rohingyas sold off their valuables to pay traffickers to take them to neighboring Malaysia. The hypocrisy of the so-called religious people is nauseating.

The same applies to another predominantly buddhist country, Thailand, where government officials are suspected of involving in trafficking of Rohinyas and Bangladeshis into the country on the promise of sending them to Malaysia for jobs. The migrants were treated no better than aninals during the journey. Recent discoveries of mass graves point to terrible endings for many migrants.

Human right groups pointed to the recent crack down on land trafficking in Thailand that forced the traffickers to send the Rohinyas and Bangladeshi out into the sea. It is terrible enough on land, It was hell in the sea, as the refugees were robbed of anything they had, deprived of food and water, and were abandoned in the boats by the traffickers. It is a bleak sight seeing not just men, but women, children, some very young, and old folks cramped inside the boat in appalling conditions. A NYT journalist reported that when his team approached a refugee boat, the people cried for help and water. They alerted a nearby Thai navy ship of the refugees’ plight, and all the Thais did was to throw packets of instant noodles into the water for the refugees.

The Thais refused to take in the migrants. The Malaysian government (which by the way is a predominantly Muslim country) had initially closed an eye to the initial trickle influx of migrants looking for jobs, but when that turned into boatloads of them, they refused to allow the boats to reach shore. The Indonesians (the biggest Muslim country in the world) also refused to take in the refugees unless the boat managed to reach shore. But after a couple of days, they were considering even sending away those who succeeded.

We know that those junta and nationalist thugs of Myanmar, as well as the useless Bangladeshi government, are wholly responsible for this exodus. But the other Southeast Asian countries should have shown compassion to fellow humans. The act of forcing the refugees to stay in the boats out at sea is condemning them to die. Just because the navy ships gave them food, water and medicine do not assuage the guilt of abandonment.

Thank God the UN and outrage from international community has forced a change of heart, and now both Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to settle the refugees in camps within the country on the condition that they are resettled within a year. The US have also agreed to help to resettle the refugees. I had wondered where was the voice of Aung San Suu Kyi in this tragedy, and even the western media also questioned her silence. It looks like the sad reality is principles can be thrown aside for other interests.

Ironically, the western countries, often criticized for discrimination against Muslims, are also the ones bringing the plight of the Muslim Rohinyas to the limelight. I don’t see any Muslim countries or organizations fighting for their cause. This goes to show all those talks of fighting for Muslim rights are in reality are for purposes that serve their own interests.

The ludicrous
A few days ago, I was watching the local news on TV when there was a segment featuring a musical depicting one tumultuous event of Singapore history: the Hock Lee Bus strike that turned into a deadly riot, and how it affected one family. The musical is called Singapura. (Singapura is the Malay name of Singapore.) When I first heard the name of the musical, I presumed it was to commemorate SG 50 (the 50th anniversary of our independence which is this year). The news segment showed interviews with the composer, the director and a cast member, and it started to get more and more ludicrous.
The reason? A musical about Singapore history with the country’s name as its title, but written and directed by foreigners and it looks like more than half the cast are foreigners. I think the interviewed cast member realized how ridiculous it sounds and so tried defending the situation by comparing the musical to Miss Saigon which was played by Filipinos. My dear, there is a significant difference between that and this Singapura musical. Miss Saigon is a tragi- love story which happens to set during the Vietnam War period, it’s not about the war.

For this musical, the members had to visit the library to do research on this particular history, learn how a Chinese man would speak and learn to speak the local colloquial English, Singlish. All because they are mostly foreigners. Now, would the French engaged an Indian composer to write a musical about the French Revolution, and a Chinese director to direct it, and bring on board a mostly American cast? Do we not have theatre talent in Singapore? Or is it a case of hiring cheaper foreigners?

Cheongsam news (updated)

Let’s  start with sales.

Vourgeois (4th level One Raffles Place) is having a massive sale of at least 70% off. I didn’t get any as I either couldn’t find my size or that I didn’t  like the designs.

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Sissae is having an exclusive preview of its new collection in Singapore for the first time at the Blue Print trade show, and the collection is open to the public this Saturday and Sunday(16 & 17 May) from 10am to 6pm. If you are interested in the cheongsams, do check them out at Suntec convention hall 401 & 402, booth E-02.

Here are a couple of the more recent designs from Sissae.
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There is currently a sale of its current and older collections.

By the way, Miz Apparels is also having a clearance sale of its cheongsam dresses and little girl cheongsams at 20% discount.

Next, we check out the online boutiques. There had been a hiatus among them after the Chinese New Year. They only started launching new collections from March. I haven’t  been featuring them for some time and that is because I was hoping to write about something different instead of just reviewing the clothes. Unfortunately, due to various reasons, the plan had to be shelved.

Anyway, both Joli Pretty and Our Bitsy Prints have launched two collections since March, while Lark & Peony has launched one featuring cheongsam tops. The Happy Cheongsam has been quiet so far, and The Lady General is on an indefinite break.
(Update;) Ming from THC just had a baby and so she is taking a few months off.

JP’s latest collection has only one new design: a shift dress with lace appliqué. It may be that the dress doesn’t fit the model very well, but it doesn’t seem to drape well on the lower half bodice.
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As for OBP, it’s latest collection (launched last night) is vintage inspired and featured a lot of floral or psychedelic prints. Some of them might make your head spin even without having a taste of weed.

Here’s a wrap skirt cheongsam dress with a lace covered cape design. I find the pairing rather strange, and I am not sure I like the cape.
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A shift cheongsam dress with jarring prints that can make you go crossed-eyes.
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Another shift design, perhaps for the chubby ladies?
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OBP’s previous collection also featured some new designs. One of them is a dress with butterfly sleeves, which admittedly that seems to be the only difference from the usual flare skirt cheongsam.
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Then there is this short-sleeved front buttons cheongsam, which I seriously don’t find interesting.
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Another shift cheongsam dress. I wonder what’s with the deluge of shift designs? Are we going back to the days of the early 20th century when women did not show their waist?
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L&P showcased cheongsam tops this time, a first for the brand, but there is nothing new to the peplum design though.
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That’s it. These are the updates I have so far.

Laichan cheongsams: something new, something regular

I went to check out Laichan boutique last week, hoping to see new cheongsam designs in denim. But, unfortunately, there has been a delay.  Eddie told me that maybe there would be a few new ones coming in this week but most  would only hit the store later. Still there are some new interesting designs as well as the usual ones in pretty prints.

Let’s take a look at the regular ones first. Here is the usual floral print with the signature jade buttons.
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Another regular cheongsam in a pretty cotton kimono fabric which I really like. It also comes in another similar print with lighter colors. (The latter goes better for ladies with the tan look after seeing a regular customer with a sun-kissed appearance trying it on.)
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The underside seams are always beautifully sewn.
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When I first saw the below dress, where the fabric is a cotton linen mix, it didn’t appeal much to me. But the more I look at it, I start to appreciate it’s simplicity and contemporary look. I like the interesting juxtaposition of the color panels.
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An elegant and classic cheongsam in crepe fabric with floral appliqué pasted on it, and it comes with a white camisole.
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A close-up of the fabric.
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The underside seam.
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Now, let’s talk about the new designs. The cheongsam below has an interesting woven mesh covering the top bodice. Very modern but I must say a little avant garde for me.
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Look at how well made the mesh is and the amazing sewing skill that attached the mesh to the dress.
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I guess you can say that this maroon cheongsam is inspired by the flamenco dress. Though it is not something I would get, but I am very impressed by the excellent workmanship and quality.
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For those chubby ladies who don’t have proportionate figures, you can consider this loose fit cheongsam with a zip along the front panel.

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Here is a cheongsam top with ethic print that reminds me of the Ikat fabric.
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Laichan is now experimenting with an unisex mandarin jacket design. It has stone buttons that runs along the side, much like the Chinese blouse of the past.
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The embroidery of the jacket also reflects the same high quality workmanship. Check out the interesting details, like the button holder is made from a different fabric. Like some of his cheongsams, Laichan had piping sewn along the inner seam.

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Being tough on poor Buddy

I didn’t  think I would have done it when Buddy was a baby, but I have since sent him to enrichment classes even before he turns 3. Actually this is on the advice of his daycare teacher. When he was in toddler class last year, he was quite risk averse (might have gotten that from me, and even my husband is not the sort who goes bungy jumping). At the playground Buddy wouldn’t  climb up the steps on his own to get on the slide, and he didn’t try anything that seemed risky. Though I must say there are positive sides to it. Unlike other kids, he doesn’t put stuff on the floor into his mouth, nor does he play with electrical wiring or takes out the wash detergents and chemicals kept inside the kitchen and toilet cabinets. We told him “danger”, “no touch”, “dirty”, and he understood. He has quite a bit of self awareness for a young kid. Still, we realize he must learn that not everything is scary and that he can have more fun by trying out new things that are not reckless.

One of his teachers suggested sending him for gym class to build up self confidence and to get out of his comfort zone.  We checked out a couple of them and eventually decided on My Gym. Buddy had a lot of fun as he tried somersaults, climbing, balancing on the beam, as well as the games and puppet show. The young bubbly teachers are pretty amazing at getting the kids interested.

After two terms, Buddy developed a more adventurous spirit, and he now goes for the tall slides and crawls through tunnels in the playground. He really enjoys the physical activities, which is great since we want him to be an active kid (he definitely got this from my husband). Anyway we felt that since he has shown much improvement, the gym lessons have done the job and we could move on to something else.

During the parent-teacher season in December last year, the same teacher suggested that we sent Buddy for speech and drama class because he would only speak to the toddler teachers whom he was comfortable with. In fact he didn’t want other teachers to bathe him. He also didn’t join his play mates to sing in front of other kids and teachers, basically he was rather reserved. (Unfortunately this trait is inherited from both my husband and me. The positive side is he is wary of strangers.)

So again, we looked around. We went for trial classes at Julia Gabriels and British Council, and finally decided on Lorna Whiston. We only joined the first term mid-way but that was alright. Buddy was initially curious, and he observed intently during the singing, story telling and drama segments. My husband, who sat in with Buddy during the first class, warned me not to sit near to two rowdy boys because they were pretty disruptive. When I took Buddy in during my turn, I noticed one particular boy as being rather hyperactive, whereas the rest were actually better behaved.

As the classes progressed over the term, the same boy was as rowdy as ever, he would not sit still, but moved around the room as and when he pleased. He would jump and shout, and basically distract everyone. His mother couldn’t control him at all, and all she did was to apologize after him when he shoved other kids. The teacher tried to get him to sit down when he bounced around, but after a while he would be at it again. Still I guess it was not too intolerable and the rest of us put up with his behaviors.

Anyway when the term ended, Buddy had started to be more participative and learning to speak up, and as always, very eager during story telling. So we thought we should continue with the second term to reinforce the improvements. My husband and I were hoping the rowdy boy would not be back, but no such luck. He not only returns, but there are even more kids joining the class this time. In fact, with 10 kids and 10 parents, one teacher and an assistant, the room gets pretty cramp.

The second term got off to a good start, and Buddy seemed to enjoy going for the program. The strange thing is he doesn’t join in the singing in class, but he will happily sing the songs at home. Anyway I took him in for the first three classes. During the second and third one, he started to be more assertive, in fact he was getting a little rowdy by the third class. He would play act as a dinosaur and roar at a couple of other kids next to him. I was alright with it since this was speech and drama after all. But he also started to behave like the rowdy boy, hitting the mystery box and the flash cards that the teacher holds up. The thing is the kids are not supposed to hit the box. They are allowed to look for it and help carry it.

In fact it wasn’t just Buddy but other kids also got into the act. Aftter the rowdy boy started the ball rolling by hitting the box like it was a drum, it was a case of monkeys see, monkeys do, particularly since there was no consequence. Buddy also decided to continue with the dinosaur act, and only wanted to roar. I put a stop to him interrupting the teacher with his antics, and gave him a pep talk, and he wasn’t very happy.

My husband took over from me for the next two classes. When I met up with him and Buddy at the end of the fifth class last week, my husband had a grim look on his face. I asked Buddy how was it and he smiled and said, “so much fun!” My husband shook his head and remarked he didn’t even participate in the class.

We put Buddy through the third degree and grilled him for keeping quiet. He didn’t say anything. I told him to look at me in the eyes and I asked him again.The poor boy just looked at me with a helpless look on his face. When we asked him if he liked drama class, he nodded his head. But he remained silent when I again asked him why he didn’t participate in class that day. I then changed tact and asked if he was scared and he nodded again.

My husband related how Buddy refused to say anything to the teacher, and how he cried when my husband had a time-out with him, and he had to make Buddy sit with the other kids in front of the teacher during story telling. It also turned out the rowdy kid’s behavior had gotten from bad to worse during these two weeks. My husband said it was so difficult to focus on the teacher when the boy was shouting, and he even pushed a couple of kids around including Buddy, during story telling and caused one boy to cry.

I asked Buddy whether he liked gym or drama class, and without hesitation he said “gym”. Later when we asked him if he wanted to return to drama class, he said no.

As we reflected over what happened and our actions, my husband and I felt we might have unrealistic expectations that Buddy would enjoy the speech and drama class and show significant improvement, like the experience at My Gym,. He, being a perceptive kid, sensed it and gave us the answer that we wanted to hear. But Buddy doesn’t like the rowdy environment, and doesn’t like playing with kids who push their ways around. Of course he has to learn how to deal with them in future, but right now he’s still too young to handle them on his own. Besides as parents, we should be guiding him on how to manage such behaviors instead of expecting him to figure out himself.

We also realize that we told Buddy off for naughty behavior in class, but he must have observed that other kids got away with it and probably felt it was unfair to him. Perhaps he became stressed in situations like this, and coupled with the rowdy kids, he refused to join in. To make things worse we thought he was being naughty again.

Yes, we admit we have been too harsh on Buddy, even to the extend of threatening punishment whenever we felt he didn’t behave to our expectations. My husband told me that our actions put too much stress on Buddy and were detrimental to his development. So we have decided to change our hardline tactics and instead use persuasion with Buddy. Punishment should be used as a last resort.

Looking back, we realized that the differences in both gym and speech and drama classes make for different results. Gym class has the space to accommodate rowdy kids, allowing them to do their own things. Many times some kids didn’t want to participate, and the parents then took them away from the group to play at a corner without disruption to the rest. Gym class also has the equipment and lots of toy balls to engage the kids, making the class really fun for them. But it is not the case at the speech & drama class which is held in a small room. Any screaming or shouting can drive you up the wall. What we should have done was to find out if that rowdy kid is returning for second term, and we should not have signed up then. Anyway we will not return for the rest of the classes, and we will be taking Buddy back to gym class. We feel we had stopped it prematurely, and should have given Buddy a longer time to develop his self confidence. Besides it may be too early for him to benefit much from speech and drama. My husband believes that when Buddy gets more confident from the gym classes, he will become less reserved.

(Buddy enjoying himself at the gym.)
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The random cheongsams

This post, I’m afraid, is a filler on the cheongsam void that the blog is facing since mid March. I was planning for a series of cheongsam posts on specific topics, but I have difficulty getting buy-in from the designers.  So for the time being, I’m providing images of dresses spotted over the past few months.

Hana

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Blum

For those of you eying Blum cheongsams, the boutique is having a rare store-wide sale nowp. For walk-in customers, it’s 40% off and for members, they get additional 10% off. For selected designs, the dresses go for a flat S$169, and expectedly they aren’t as pretty as those not under this category.

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Miz Apparels

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Utopia
A boutique located at Parkway Parade 2nd level.
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Cotton Amour
Another boutique also at Parkway Parade 2nd level.
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Where is James?

Last Sunday, I took Buddy to Kiddy Palace to get another water bottle for him, among other things. But we got distracted by the themed cutleries; there were those with images of Thomas and Friends, Frozen, and Dora The Explorer etc. While I was checking out the bowls and spoons, Buddy, was attracked by something placed lower down the shelves. They were training chopsticks, and of course he couldn’t  resist the Thomas and Friends series, where the chopsticks have front images of the main train characters on them. He said, “I want these” and took one set of Percy, then “I want these” again, and he took one set of James.
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So there he was, holding one pack of the chopsticks in each hand. I didn’t  think much of it. In fact I was prepared to get them for him, but only one set. I told him that he could only choose one. He was struggling to decide and finally he chose James.

When Buddy got home, he excitedly showed papa, who opened the package for him. I wanted to show Buddy how to use the chopsticks but he refused to let me take over. Unfortunately he saw them as his toy. My husband told me he wasn’t ready to learn using them yet, and they weren’t age appropriate for him; he might poke himself with them. Yes, in a moment of over indulgence, I agree I wasn’t thinking straight when I bought the set for Buddy. Worse, later that night, Buddy wanted to have the chopsticks with him in bed. But we insisted that he couldn’t have any toy in bed, and he looked woefully at us as we took it away. I kept it inside Buddy’s cutlery bin so that he wouldn’t be able to find it.

The next morning, Buddy asked, “where is James?”, and my husband turned to me and echoed the question. I was stumped for a couple of seconds and said, “James is missing. We have to look for him.”

That evening, when Buddy came back from daycare, he again asked for James. I blurted out, “he’s not around. Maybe he went for a vacation.” And the question was asked the following morning, “where is James? Where is chopstick?” My husband reassured him, “papa and mama will look for James. You can also help find him.”

My husband told me I had to find a replacement soon. So, for the past few days, I had been searching for a James die-cast train, but bloody hell, it’s been a difficult search! I’ve been to a few department stores and toy shops and couldn’t find a Take n Play James train. (There was a Trackmaster James but that seems a little too much of a replacement.)

The moral of the story: think carefully before getting anything for a kid. You might live to regret it.

An Italian lunch

A couple of months ago, my colleagues and I had a thank you lunch at Forlino restaurant at One Fullerton, #02-06. I didn’t  put up the review earlier because it was close to Chinese New Year and I was focused on cheongsam posts. Anyway, I guess that was a good thing because I am running dry on materials for my blog.

Forlino is an Italian restaurant and has been around for many years. But I never got to trying the food until colleague C suggested it for an expensive lunch venue. Well, since someone was willing to pay for it, why not?

Forlino interior has a bright and airy feel to it because of the surrounding windows. As befitting the restaurant, the decor is distinctive Italian with the chic chandelier and candle holder, the wall mural, and the ornate side table.
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There are two types of set lunches available, and the four of us had the business lunch course.
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At S$38++, it consists of appetizer, main and dessert with coffee or tea. So it wasn’t  really as expensive as it turned on to be, we did help colleague J saved some money. ;).

I chose the foie gras which cost additional S $10 (yes I know about the poor goose but it’s a weakness for me), pan fried sea bream, and passion fruit panna cotta for dessert.

There was warm bread and butter served prior to the appetizer, which was very nice.
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On the foie gras appetizer, though it was tasty, it was nothing memorable. There was nothing to make it stand out unlike what I had at Bistro DB a few years ago, where the liver was paired with sweet apricots.
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As for the other appetizers, those who had the Buffalo Mozzarella salad with Prosciutto like it.
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Our vegetarian colleague, S, had the sweet corn soup which she enjoyed very much.
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However we were disappointed with our mains. I felt the pan-fried sea bream was a tad dry for me, probably from being over-cooked. I didn’t even finish it.
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Colleague J had the pork loin “saltimbucco” didn’t enjoy it either because he is the sort who likes his pork with the meaty flavor. I guess he felt the dish didn’t taste like pork, but this is more of a personal preference.
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Colleague S had the spaghetti ‘Mancini, and she thought it was rather bland. But she’s an Indian who is used to spices and in-your-face flavors. She joked that when the Indians go holidaying in Italy, they questioned what was wrong with the pasta. (“Why is it so bland? Where’s the curry sauce?”)
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Dessert is usually the highlight of any meal, but unfortunately I chose the wrong one. The passion fruit panna cotta was a little tart for me. The sweet white chocolate ganache didn’t help.
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Whereas the Taleggio that my colleagues selected was much better. This is a bread stick with three different interesting dips: truffle honey, onion marmalade and a parmesan cheese grissini.
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So what do I think of Forlino? The food is really a mix bag. But for the price of S $38++, I guess I can’t complain too much. Besides the ambience was rather nice, the restaurant was not noisy, and service was quite good. But the best part was the totally enjoyable conversation, thanks to J.

(I like to give readers a heads up that my posts will not be as regular as before because I’m bogged down with work and at the same time, trying to get ideas for next posts. Apologies for this.)

An emotional farewell

When Mr Lee Kuan Yew was in hospital for severe pneumonia, many suspected he wouldn’t have very long to live. When my husband told me he would go to the funeral at his passing, my first reaction was “you gotta be kidding!”. Not because I didn’t  believe in his imminent death, but, as mentioned in my previous post, I was  a detractor, who have never supported the incumbent PAP, co-founded by Mr Lee. Yes, I had read about his contributions to Singapore, but I would rather focus on his draconian leadership and unpopular policies.  I guess I was subconsciously influenced by my mother, who supported the Barisan Socialist party in the 1960’s.

So, I surprised myself and my friends when I actually contemplated paying my respect when Mr Lee was laid in state at Parliament House.

During the past week, there were lots of information shown on TV on Mr Lee: past speeches, his life, his devoted  relationship with his late wife, interviews he gave, and interviews with people close to him, etc, which made me review my opinions. At the same time there were some dissenting voices pointing out that only the positive aspects of Mr Lee were portrayed, and he should be judged by the totality of his leadership which was regarded as dictatorial. The playwright, Alfian Sa’at, was non-apologetic and called him a racist. The WP leader, Low Thia Khiang, said in his condolence speech that though Mr Lee had contributed much to the nation, he also sacrificed a number of people as a result of his policies and the one-party rule.

These opinions were in stark contrast to the massive outpouring of emotions from the common people at the 18 tribute sites and at Parliament House. I even found myself to be very emotional over Mr Lee’s death, and wondered what had taken over me and many friends who were opposition supporters in the previous election. And it then dawned on me.

During the last election in 2011, there were much vitriol hurled at the PAP, and even Mr Lee was not spared the negative emotions, though to a little less extend. Even when his contributions were mentioned, they were largely dismissed. However, at his passing, when we had the chance to look at the archive, of what Singapore was like in the 1960’s and subsequently, we finally realized we had taken much for granted. So, we are not white washing history, as some detractors called it, but re-balancing our views.

To Alfian Sa’at, if you want to know what a racist is, try being a Chinese in Malaysia, who are treated as second class citizens in their own country. To Low Thia Khiang, the 1960’s was a tumultuous period in Singapore and the world when communism was in ascendancy. At the birth of a nation, power struggle is expected; more so when there is a battle of ideologies. At that time it was socialism/communism versus capitalism/democracy. If Mr Lee hadn’t cracked down on the Barisan Socialist, regarded with much suspicions by the then Malaysia PM and the British, we would have Malaysian troops marching into Singapore. What would we be now? A satellite city of Malaysia, with poor economic activity and serious brain drain problem.

My husband posed me an interesting question. If the Barisan Socialist party was so popular with the people, when the leaders were arrested, the public should have been up in arms and continued their ideology, like what happened to Nelson Mandela. Mr Mandela’s call against apartheid didn’t disappear after his arrest and in fact he became more popular because of wide spread support. But this didn’t happen in Singapore, because Mr Lee delivered what the people wanted.

With this acknowledgement, I decided to pay respect at the Parliament House, and even a group of my friends were encouraging each other to go. JS told us last Wednesday night at 11.30pm that she was joining a friend who was queuing in line. She was able to do it in an hour, and we were impressed. Then the next morning, CL had it even better when she went at 8am and left the viewing hall after 35 minutes. Later she even showed us a drawing of the hall interior on the best position to view the casket and bow to it .

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I guess CL was so excited by the short timing she achieved that she agreed to accompany a colleague to the Parliament House after work. But this time it took them 4.5 hours and by the time they left, CL moaned her feet were killing her. Another friend, JG, went on Thursday night and was struck by the huge crowd at the train station. She and her friend joined the queue undeterred, but they were then herded into a tent inside the padang field. It was pitch dark and stuffy, and there were no volunteers around to provide snacks and drinks. The tent was crowded with so many people that no one could sit down. Everybody were using their cellphones to generate light. At 3am, after nearly 4 hours standing and waiting, JG and her friend were feeling giddy and tottering on their feet. She lamented that she couldn’t continue to wait, and both of them left the line. JG asked a duty soldier the direction of the Parliament House, and both she and her friend proceeded to bow three times in its direction. AW was luckier when she starting queuing at 5.50am on Friday morning, she managed to pay her respect after 2.5 hours wait.

As for me, I was wondering whether my husband and I should bring Buddy along on Saturday early morning, but decided against it. At Friday lunch-time, I checked the advisory on the Remember LKY website, and the public was told not to join the queue because wait time was 8 hours. But I decided to try my luck and was pleasantly surprised to find that I could proceed straight to the padang. Inside the tent, we were told to wait around before moving on. There were lots of volunteers around offering water and ice-cold canned drinks, snacks, umbrellas, tissue packs, and even plastic fans and disposable ponchos. Unlike JG’s  terrible experience the night before, the wait got on a postivie start for me. A group even offered me a piece of newspaper to sit down on the field, and for those without papers, the solders standing around provided cardboard. After 30 minutes, we were told to proceed and people cheered.  But it turned out we were not moving in the direction of the Parliament  House, but towards the Esplanade.

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The maze inside the padang


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Was told to wait under the tentage

It was a long detour for us to enter the viewing hall; a long walk past Esplanade, a convoluted maze further down, and a U-turn back to Victoria Memorial Hall. All the while I was chatting with friends in Whatsapp, and some of us kept egging JG to join me in the line. She finally did at the Asian Civilization Museum point, and was so relieved she didn’t  have to wait for another 4 hours. (For the record, my wait time was nearly 4 hours.)
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I must admit that inside the viewing hall, I didn’t  feel much emotions. The big turnout of people crowding around trying to view the casket didn’t  help. Both JG and I had to quickly take our bow and hurried out. But we were glad we did it. For me, what lifted my spirit was the dedicated volunteers and service personnel. Their considerations for the waiting crowd were really touching, and I have much respect for them. I saw for myself how the passing of Mr Lee brought everyone closer, and it was even more heartening than what I experienced at the election rally in 2011.

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Waiting to enter Parliament House

Mr Lee’s funeral procession took place last Sunday under heavy rain. I will not deny that I cried watching it and the eulogies delivered later. The emotions among those lining the street and watching at home were spontaneous, not coerced ala North Korea. And to those who sneered at us being zombies, we don’t  agree with all of Mr Lee’s polices but we are touched  by a man who dedicated his life for the country and for this we are deeply appreciative.

Finally I like to share the video of 2 young Singapore girls who played a duet of the beautiful National Day song “Home” as a tribute to Mr Lee and the old guards.

(Lyrics of Home)
Whenever I am feeling low
I look around me and I know
There’s a place that will stay within me
Wherever I may choose to go
I will always recall the city
Know every street and shore
Sail down the river which brings us life
Winding through my Singapore

Chorus:
This is home truly, where I know I must be
Where my dreams wait for me, where the river always flows
This is home surely, as my senses tell me
This is where I won’t be alone, for this is where I know it’s home

When there are troubles to go through
We’ll find a way to start anew
There is comfort in the knowledge
That home’s about its people too
So we’ll build our dreams together
Just like we’ve done before
Just like the river which brings us life
There’ll always be Singapore

Repeat Chorus x2

For this is where I know it’s home
For this is where I know I’m home

Written by
Dick Lee

Mixed emotions at the passing of a great leader

On Monday (23 March), at 5.30AM, my husband woke me up and said that Lee Kuan Yew had passed away. Though bleary eyes, I checked FB for further information and found out that he died a couple of hours earlier at the age of 91. Even before his death, we all knew it would be imminent when he was hospitalized for severe pneumonia in February and had been in critical care since.

To be honest, my feelings toward Mr Lee are mixed. I was a long time critic of him and the party he co-founded (PAP) as I felt he was unscrupulous in persecuting the rival Barisan Socialist party in the 1960’s (Operation Coldstore), and cracking down equally hard on political opponents in the later years as well as on the so-called Marxist conspiracy (Operation Spectrum) in 1987. I disliked his draconian rule which instilled fear among the people, and felt he was given too much credits when the other first generation team members should have been equally lauded.  I was also pissed by his comments in his memoir “Hard Truths”, that Singaporeans were from the peasant stock and didn’t  have the capabilities like the Taiwanese or Hong Kongers.  And who can forget his remark about Singaporeans needed spikes in our arses  to spur ourselves forward because we had become soft and not hungry like the Chinese.

But I realized recently, even though this country was no fishing village when the British left in 1963, the systems put in by the latter were not enough to guarantee any form of success. Mr Lee arranged a merger between Singapore and Malaysia, after the British granted independence to the Malaya Peninsula in 1963, to ensure our survival. But the leaders in both countries had very different ideologies, and when we were kicked out of the merger in 1965, the future of the country was very uncertain.

Perhaps we under-estimated the difficulty of governing a small country, thinking that it’s actually easier to control. The truth is small countries usually don’t do well and unlikely to survive, especially if there is no natural resources or the protection of a bigger country, and governance is not just about controlling the people. So it is actually pretty amazing that this country not only survived those initial tough years without a hinterland nor a protector, but thrived and became a global metropolis. I know that credits should be given to the entire first generation team, however I realize that there had to be a leader to take charge, and Mr Lee was that leader who moved everyone forward.

It’s true that Mr Lee ruled Singapore with an iron grip. Though I am ambivalent about it, I understand it actually provided a stable platform that enabled huge foreign investments to pour into the country, generating tremendous economic growth. You can say that Singaporeans gave up civil liberties for prosperity, which I felt we also gave up our political power, but I think that was what majority of the people at that time wanted: a better life. After all, majority of the population were living in squalid and cramped conditions. The PAP government had to quickly decide on the policies to lift the people out of poverty, they took big risks and executed successfully.

My husband told me that a leader has to be a little machiavellian, and even great leaders were not perfect and might have to resort to unsavory tactics. But these leaders did it for the interests of their nations. Mr Lee had used high-handed methods to put down opposition to create a stable environment for business, and he had said to the western press that he didn’t think western-style democracy can be imposed on other societies. I guess, from the various examples in the world, he is right. But I thought he could have done it better, instead of using a hammer to solve every problems.

Not all policies enacted were the right ones (the “Stop at 2 children” policy that started in the 1960’s is one example), but on the whole, there was more good than bad. I admit I am still not a fan of Mr Lee, but I respect him for what he did for this country and for making us proud to be Singaporeans. Though I gripe about the political stranglehold of the PAP, I can’t help but feel pride when I receive accolades from foreigners on Singapore. This is the result of what Lee and his team did for the country.

In death, Mr Lee unites all of us. We are seeing a historic outpouring of emotions and respect for him during this week of national mourning. Even after 6.30pm this evening, there is still a long line of people waiting to pay respect to him at the wake in Parliament House. The wait time was up to 8 hours from lunch time today!
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I am also amazed by the simple acts of kindness shown to people paying respects at the wake.

No matter which political party we support or how political apathetic we are, the people do recognize the tremendous contributions Mr Lee made to this country and we thank him for it.

Majulah Singapura!
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My take on the online cheongsams

Some time ago, Ann from Joli Pretty  suggested that I provide reviews on the dresses from JP. I realized then that I had never provided any feedback in my blog on these cheongsams from the online retailers. So I thought I would put up a post after the Chinese New Year.

I have four dresses from Our Bitsy Prints. The first one came from the first collection, a white lace top with batik flare skirt. It was also the first time I had a cheongsam with flare skirt.
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The dress has a front flap on the right with functional fabric buttons, studs and a side zip. As it was OBP’s initial attempt at modern cheongsam, there were no side pockets sewn in. But I like the batik print and the 4cm collar.

On the website, the dress is described as light pink eyelet on blue batik. But for the life of me, I don’t see any pink on the top. It looks white to me. Maybe it’s like the case of that famous blue/black or white/gold dress on the Internet.

I had altered the dress a few times. The first time it was done, the top was a snug fit, but I thought I should loosen it slightly to make it comfortable. So now the top is not entirely fitting, and I wonder if I should alter it back. Anyway, because of the plain top, albeit of a lace fabric, I accessorize it with a vintage brooch on the collarbone.
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At other times, I wore a plum flower brooch from Tong Tong Friendship Store on the left chest instead.
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I have another OBP flare dress, Red Ruby Finch, from the 15th collection, and this comes with pockets.
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The original has a turquoise colored hem (same color as the piping).
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I had a discussion with the seamstress when I took it for alteration, and we decided to have the hem removed because it made the dress looked kiddy. The design looks better without it, and my colleagues had complimented it for the rich colors and print.

Another OBP cheongsam is this Abstract Art Berries A-line dress which is not apparent as a qipao. I regard it as a casual wear for Fridays or weekends. (Even the ruby finch dress can also be considered as casual.) One thing I wish this dress has is pockets.
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Finally, there is this interesting wrap skirt design for a cheongsam, Paisley Field.
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I really like the pretty and vibrant color combo for this dress, but I have a grouse with the zip length along the right side. It ends at the waist and makes putting on and removing the dress a little difficult because it gets tight on the hip. Also, I find that the zip doesn’t pull up easily. I have to tug it gently to pull it up. Another thing is the left collar which is a little out of shape. If you look at the picture on the website, it is also the same with the model’s dress. I wonder if it is a problem with the fabric. On a separate note, in one of the website pictures, the dress is wore with a thin belt which I think is redundant.
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Instead I matched the dress with a purple beetle brooch.
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This paisley dress comes with side pockets, but because I have to alter it, the seamstress could only do so on the left seam to avoid messing with the zipper. So I had to sacrifice the left pocket. One thing about the dress is that, because of the thick fabric, it is rather heavy thoigh I don’t feel the weight when I have it on. Still, this means that you shouldn’t walk too much in it because you will end up sweating like a pig.

Next, there is Joli Pretty from whom I have three dresses, and they all come with box pleats. This cheongsam, with a netted petticoat, was from the first collection. I like that the petticoat adds volume to the skirt, much like the 1950’s style. The whimpsical print has also received much compliments. By the way it doesn’t come with pockets. Since the top is black, I accessorize it with a pearl brooch.
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A more recent dress is this green colored pleated cheongsam without petticoat. Ann from JP initially thought I got it because green is the lucky color for this Chinese New Year. It was really for more practical reasons: its simplicity and the side pockets. I find that the collar does start to go out of shape.
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To brighten up the dress, which does look somewhat like a school uniform, I wore a bird brooch.
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Below is another dress with netted petticoat. But the material is different from that in the whimsical mustache dress, and I find the skirt doesn’t pouf as much. Compared to the website picture, the mustard color is richer (see below).
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When I took this yellow dress for alteration, I found out from the seamstress that the sleeves holes are not cut in proportion. See picture I took below. The right sleeve hole is a little too high, compared to the left. It’s not very obvious and it took a professional eye to spot it. Anyway the seamstress had to adjust the other sleeve hole higher to balance the look.
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One thing I find about the metal studs on both the JP dresses with front open flaps is that they don’t clasp tightly, and tend to come loose. I have to resort to changing them.

The Happy Cheongsam has more interesting designs but they are also priced higher than those from OBP and JP. This pastel blue tulip cheongsam, made from shantung silk, is also from the first collection. I like the design which comes with side pockets and the whimpsical faux buttons with cupcake inage, but don’t like the short collar (slightly more than 3cm).
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I wore another brooch from Tong Tong with this dress which is not obvious in the picture above.
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The collar height of the dresses in subsequent collections is raised to 4cm, like this A-line dress which is inspired by Mt Fuji. It’s a whimsical design, but I feel a thicker or stiffer fabric would have been better to give it structure.
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The dresses from these online retailers are rather comfortable and despite the imperfections mentioned above, the workmanship is generally rather decent. I might sound like nitpicking because inevitably there is a comparison with the store brands.

OBP is the most popular among the three and so the products sold out within minutes of launch. Unlike both JP and THC, there is no online shopping on its website. I guess that is not necessary since you literally have to be fastest fingers first to get a dress. Anyway THC is the only one who provides a preview of the collection before launch. All three of them have come a long way since they first started not too long ago. (OBP in 2013, and both JP and THC in 2014.)