Monday, September 25, 2006

Things and Threes

It's the first day of the mid-semester break, and like a good student, I woke up early enough just to realize that it was raining outside - hence, no running today. So I went back to sleep.

These days have been going like clockwork: wake up, run (or not), clean the room, shower, breakfast. It's a nice and slow routine that allows me to gradually reach that point where I can be coherent enough to talk in complete sentences. Sometimes I attempt to move towards doing productive things: thankfully, I'm done with my proposal, and read two of the three texts that I'm going to do a presentation on. The more difficult parts, research and writing, will perhaps take place this week - after all, the break signifies that I can take my time and not cram all of the preparations for my requirements, which is such a welcome change from the rush and hustle of my old jobs.

Sometimes I wonder where the time has gone: it's been more than two months already, but it feels like yesterday that I stepped off the plane and went through customs at Changi Airport, exhausted and apprehensive. Now, I just get on a bus and go anywhere, stepping straight into the crowds without a second thought. It's much easier to move nowadays, to finally be able to carve out a place for myself in this strange city.

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Two accomplishments: I got my library card already from the National Library Board, and I visited the Singapore Art Museum at Bras Basah Road. ^_^

The Central Lending Library at Bugis is this beautiful chrome-and-glass structure that houses the city archives, small theatre groups, the library proper, and the offices of the NLB. A large central courtyard - complete with the prerequsitie fountain - hosts library activities and book sales. A small pasta place, Han's, is also coneniently located just outside. (Haven't eaten there yet, though - perhaps when I return my books.) The membership fee is a bit steep at SGD 21, but worth it. The collection is simply beautiful. They even have an entire section for graphic novels! (No Neil Gaiman there, though - it's bad for the children) I borrowed a couple of poetry books, including Billy Collins' latest The Trouble with Poetry and other peoms, and some texts for my research. If there weren't that many kids, I would have wanted to simply sit cross-legged in that space and browse happily for a couple of hourse or more.

The Singapore Art Museum, which is just a couple of blocks down the road, is a restored Catholic girls' school that smells srongly of colonial architecture and coats of paint. A statue of St. Joseph smiles benignly at the museum guests while vying for attention against the funky swirly sculpture that graces the front lawn. There was a Southeast Asian art exhibit going on, and guess what? Most of the pieces were from the Philippines. It was just quite surreal to be walking around, correctiong the translations of some of the artworks, and actually wondering why I paid SGD 1.50 (student discount, of course, since adult fees are usually SGD 5) to look at pieces that come from my own country. The Singaporean exhibit was quite lovely though: one of the painters, an Indonesian-born Buddhist artist, did this amazing parchment piece called "Night Kites" which I could have stared at for hours on end.

And to punctuate the end of my adventures, I visited the Church of the Blessed Sacrament for a bit of a chat with God, which was suddenly ended when this old woman approached me and told me the story of her woes. I listened attentively, because she had such a beautiful voice - no hint of an accent there, just what I'd imagine a well-educated Singaporean woman would say. Of course, towards the end, she asked me for money, which I obliged, since there's no harm in giving her my stash of coins, and besides, she might just find her way in a future story. ^_^

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You, Reader
Billy Collins

I wonder how you are going to feel
when you find out
that I wrote this instead of you,

that it was I who got up early
to sit in the kitchen
and mention with a pen

the rain-soaked windows,
the ivy wallpaper,
and the goldfish circling in its bowl.

Go ahead and turn aside,
bite your lip and tear out the page,
but, listen - it was just a matter of time

before one of us happened
to notice the unlit candles
and the clock humming on the wall.

Plus, nothing happened that morning -
a song on the radio,
a car whistling along the road outside -

and I was only thinking
about the shakers of salt and pepper
that were standing side by side on a place mat.

I wondered if they had become friends
after all these years
or if they were still strangers to one another

like you and I
who manage to be known and unknown
to each other at the same time -

me at this table with a bowl of pears,
you leaning in a doorway somewhere
near the blue hydrangeas, reading this.

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