death by paper cut

{July 28, 2014}   Beyond the Sunny Island

Proverbially, Singapore is the sunny island set in the sea. However the sea and other islands of heritage beyond the shores of the sunny island are often neglected. Sentosa doesn’t really count in this context.

Singapore initially had more than 70 islands that are part of our sovereign nation. The number has changed over the years because of reclamation and the merging of islands to form larger land masses, and the creation of other artificial ones. Check out Wikipedia for the current list of islands.

I managed to have a closer look at two such land masses and learn a lot more about the past and present islands of Singapore through three ways. Firstly, by visiting the Pulau Balik exhibition – presently at the National Museum of Singapore to 10 August 2014 (it should be part of our Permanent Exhibits if you ask me). Secondly, by being the lucky few to have successfully registered for the Lighthouse Tour organised as a signature programme of Singapore Heritage Festival 2014. And thirdly, by kayaking to the southern islands with Kayakasia.

The housing estate where I have lived for nearly thirty years is situated very closely to the western coast of Singapore. So close that the three prominent smokestacks form the landmarks of the horizon from the apartment. When they burn at night, the orange fumes and gases emitted from the smokestacks look like the Eye of Sauron, just that there are three of them instead of one. Ruefully, they are called joss sticks in my family.

Blue Pandan Reservoir 1

Because Jurong Island is always in my periphery vision and sometimes, line of sight, coming along side it in a ferry enroute Sultan Shoal was highly interesting. Although to most others, this area must appear like a desolate industrial wasteland, which it is, it feels to me like an extension of my neighbourhood and a hop, skip and jump away from home, which it also is. Fascinating.

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 16

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 17 Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 20

Jurong Island was officially opened in 2000 after the merging of 7 islands to serve as a base for more than 90 petroleum, petrochemical, and specialty petrol companies. The largest island among the 7 was Pulau Ayer Chawan. The three smokestack are standing on what was Pulau Seraya. In fact, the road the running near the smokestacks is Seraya Avenue.

Cluster of islands that formed Jurong Island, and Jurong Island now.

NMS - Balik Pulau 23 Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 14

Just to the south-west of Jurong Island lies Sultan Shoal Lighthouse. Built in 1895, the Lighthouse is now unmanned and powered by solar energy.

Sultan Shoal Lighthouse

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 23

The highlight of the Lighthouse Tour was visiting Raffles Lighthouse on Pulau Satumu which is 23 km south-west of Singapore. It it also Singapore’s southernmost island. At 10 days at a stretch, two people are stationed at Raffles Lighthouse to supervise its operations. Except for the lack of internet connection, Raffles Lighthouse is self-sufficient with electricity, running water and basic amenities.

Normally closed off to the public, access to Raffles Lighthouse is highly restricted. It was therefore a very rare opportunity made possible in this collaboration between NHB and MPA to allow people to set foot on Pulau Satumu and ascend the 90 steps to the beacon.

Raffles Lighthouse on Pulau Satumu

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 31

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 36

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 54 Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 50

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 58 Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 59

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 52

It took only 10 to 15 minutes for a leisurely stroll along the circumference of the 1.3 hectare large Pulau Satumu. The waters were clean and clear. At the jetty, I spotted a parrotfish and a baby shark.

After spending one hour exploring Raffles Lighthouse and Pulau Satumu, we boarded the ferry that took us back to the mainland. In total, the Lighthouse Tour took about more than 5 hours because traveling to Pulau Satumu from Pasir Panjang Terminal took 2 hours including a detour to Sultan Shoal, and another 1.5 hours from Pulau Satumu to Marina South Pier.

The Lighthouse Tour ballooned for me an expanded perspective of Singapore’s reach. While we go about our busy lives on the mainland, it is humbling to cast an eye in the far distance and know that out there, unsung heroes are keeping watch of our waters and safely leading approaching vessels to our habours as they have done for almost 160 years. Being a seafaring merchant, I wonder if my grandfather’s vessel depended on the flashes from these lighthouses from time to time.

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 3

My grandfather’s recent resurfacing of his travel documents is as far back as family archives go. I would like to have these translated sometime soon. He also had a travel document in Dutch when Batam was a Dutch colony.

1939 Certificate of Registration, China 2

1941 Dutch Identification for Batam 2

On another occasion this June, I explored on kayak the cluster of islands just to the south of Sentosa. Starting from Siloso Beach on Sentosa, we kayaked south-east to St John’s Island, continued along the south shores of Lazarus Island, headed northwards to Kusu Island and Pulau Seringat before returning to Sentosa along the beach fronts.

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 1 (Annotated by Kenneth Pinto)

The cluster of islands then and now.

NMS - Balik Pulau 7 Southern Islands with Kayakasia 31 - Pink Lagoon at Seringat Island

St John’s Island, Lazarus Island and Pulau Seringat have been linked up by overland bridges and expanded in size. Singapore Island Cruise operates ferry services from Marina South Pier to St John’s Island daily. Lazarus Island, Seringat Island and the man-made pristine cove are accessible via the link bridges.

I was told that the man-made pristine cove is called Pink Lagoon, however, I have yet to find any official name of this cove. The infographic at the Balik Pulau exhibit calls it the “800-metre long swimming lagoon” with no specific name either.

You need to bring your own supplies because there are no vendors selling food or beverages. There is a toilet at the reception area which is a short walk from the beach that looks to be in booking-ready conditions, outfitted with air-conditioning too.

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 25 - Pink Lagoon at Seringat Island Southern Islands with Kayakasia 27 - Pink Lagoon at Seringat Island

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 30 - Pink Lagoon at Seringat Island Southern Islands with Kayakasia 29 - Pink Lagoon at Seringat Island

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 19 - Pink Lagoon at Seringat Island

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 32 Southern Islands with Kayakasia 23 - Pink Lagoon at Seringat Island

The clear waters and fine sand makes for a picturesque island getaway comparable with an exotic resort destination, which is the intended effect. A webpage on Pulau Seringat posted by Wild Singapore has consolidated news clippings about developments on this expanded island.

Some key highlights I extracted from the webpage:

2000 –  The plan was to offer visitors a Mediterranean resort-like setting only 17 minutes away by ferry, patterned after Italy’s renowned vacation spot, Capri.

2004 – Details later revealed included plans for a five-star 290-room hilltop hotel, a three-star 170-room beachfront hotel, 70 waterfront homes and 1,700 units of housing. There was even talk of a road from Sentosa to the islands, or a causeway, like the one linking the mainland and Jurong Island.

2006 – Thousands of cubic metres of sand were imported from Indonesia to make the beach. Another $120 million was spent to bring water, electricity, gas and telecommunication infrastructure from Sentosa to the islands. 5,000 lorry-loads of soil were brought in by barges, an entire coconut plantation in Malaysia was bought, about 1, 000 trees was trucked and shipped to the island. This was part of the $60 million worth of reclamation and infrastructure work on the southern islands of Pulau Seringat, Kias, St John’s, Lazarus, Kusu and Sisters’ islands. One idea is to develop the islands into a ‘premium resort’, a getaway for the rich.

2008 – A third integrated resort was being considered. It will be on a smaller and more luxurious scale than either of the two resorts. Most of the development will likely be on 30 ha of reclaimed land at Lazarus, Renget and Kias Islands. The total development site, comprising all seven Southern Islands, adds up to 115.6 ha – almost a quarter the size of Sentosa Island.

All this means is that in the pipeline, there will be more pollution and waste generated alongside the destruction of biodiversity and increase exclusivity for the rich. If further development takes place, I doubt the zero carbon-footprint means of visiting these islands via kayak will be allowed in the future.

Embarking on Kusu Island on a quiet Saturday

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 17 Southern Islands with Kayakasia 10 - Kusu Island

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 15 - Kusu Island Southern Islands with Kayakasia 12 - Kusu Island

Link Bridges

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 8

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 5

Looking back – Singapore’s city skyline from St John’s Island

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 6 - St John's Island


{March 23, 2014}   enbloc

enbloc: in a lump or block; as a body or whole; all together.

Enbloc is a household name in Singaporean heartland living characterised by HDB housing where more than 80% of residents call home. The contraction for Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS), Enbloc signifies for many, a herculean and collective move of a sizable portion of an estate to a newly built one. Although the new location is usually not too far from the original site, it is in effect an exodus because of the sheer numbers moving at the same time.

According to HDB, Enbloc is part of the Government’s Estate Renewal Strategy for the older public housing estates. Under SERS, the residents involved are given an opportunity to move from their old flats to new and better flats with fresh 99-year leases, served by modern facilities and set in a familiar neighbourhood.

This also means that from generation to generation all residents are constantly on the move, scrambled like mahjong tiles, without physical structures as memory landmarks. That being said, the scheduled Enbloc for the place I’ve lived for 30 years was literally falling apart and was not a place I’ll be nostalgic about. Somehow because for three decades I mentally compartmentalised living in my former apartment separate from the surrounding neighbourhood – as if suspended in a non-address – I am unable to relate my growing up experience to a fond memory of a particular hawker uncle or provision shop aunty downstairs. Perhaps also because I did not attend school near where I lived, my residential address was mostly a place to rest at night. Childhood friendships were formed along school project deadlines and proximity of classrooms rather than along HDB corridors or around playgrounds.

Still, the process of moving out is worth observing because it is a unifying experience in the national discourse and for the family/HDB unit, it means a period of 4 to 5 years of anticipation from the point of Enbloc notice that incrementally leads up to the stock-taking of the personal inventories, speculation of flat selection (based on order of ballot) and pouring over copious amount of paperwork involving CPF, HDB, mortgage loans in addition to interior designing. Although the new allocated apartment will be in a better condition, it is always smaller in size so re-thinking how the limited space is used is a constant source of contention. Multiply this experience with the hundreds of households grappling with the same issues at the same time, the units estate never felt more familiar with each other. In the meantime, construction work for the new place trudged on.


The process started in 2007 when the affected portion of the neighbourhood were informed that their blocks have been selected for Enbloc. Two years later, we received a letter from HDB to select the flat of choice, depending on what is left by the time it came to our turn.

Enbloc Notice 2007

Documents (1) Waiting in Line

There are two things to look at while waiting for our turn with the HDB officer. Firstly, the listing of available units and secondly the architectural model on display. You can keep an eye out on the flat you want on the screen, but if it the listing changes from blue to yellow then it means it has been taken and you are left with the next viable option, not unlike booking seats for a movie.

Waiting in Line (1)

Teban Vista Model (5) Teban Vista 25 Teban Vista Model (7)

Although the new apartment was selected in 2009, it would not be until mid 2012 that the building was ready for occupancy. In the meantime, people started vacating in droves. By the start of 2012, the efforts to chuck stuff indiscriminately ramped up and everyday I would return home to a new array of pre-own kitsch splayed across the floors that would even obstruct passage ways. Ghetto-like conditions would continue till unit by unit was inspected, locked up and re-possessed by the government.

En Bloc - Moving Out of Old Block 26

En Bloc - Moving Out of Old Block 33 En Bloc - Moving Out of Old Block 21 En Bloc - Moving Out of Old Block 23

En Bloc - Old Block's Trash 11

En Bloc - Old Block's Trash 34 En Bloc - Old Block's Trash 36 En Bloc - Old Block's Trash 18

En Bloc - Old Block's Trash 1

En Bloc - Old Block's Trash 35 En Bloc - Old Block's Trash 2

En Bloc - Old Block's Trash 32 En Bloc - Old Block's Trash 23

En Bloc - Old Block's Trash 9 En Bloc - Old Block's Trash 3 En Bloc - Old Block's Trash 10

Fewer and fewer flats would light up at night that year and eventually, after all units were turned inside out, the blocks were first cordoned by gates and then fenced up all around. Perhaps it was a security measure to prevent unsavoury characters from loitering around, because truth be told, toppled over bottles of beer would be found near the ground floors not belonging to the residents or former residents of the block together with the smell of pee. Soon barbed wires, like the new creepers in town, would curl themselves snugly around these fences.

En Bloc - Moving Out of Old Block 30 En Bloc - Moving Out of Old Block 22 En Bloc - Moving Out of Old Block 31

En Bloc - Moving Out of Old Block 29 Teban Fenced Up 5

Teban Fenced Up 16 Teban Fenced Up 10 Teban Fenced Up 4

I am not quite sure what will happen to these flats. There is a theory that these units will be rented out for a period of time before demolition. And then there are also rumours that a condominium will be built over this site. Either way, the bus that takes me to the new relocated blocks will wind its way around these fences as a constant reminder of urban decay.

Teban Fenced Up 19

Spring Cleaning.

Since I pack and reorganise my stuff more than every once in a while, I don’t normally have to wait till the proverbial spring to do a cleaning. Just so happens that (1) it is also spring this time of the year in places that have the seasons, (2) the Chinese take this time before the new lunar new year to flex their consumerist muscles to replace not so new things with newer things, (3) I’m preparing for a move.

And because I’ve quite recently moved into my current premises just over a year ago, my sorting and packing now mostly consist of reviewing my stuff and evaluating if they pass the new litmus test to warrant the logistical effort for another move.

Some defunct technology that made it from the old place did not pass this litmus test. Before I chuck them out however, I preserved them digitally to mark their once existence and the passing of time.

TDK DVD Burner

TDK DVD Burner 2 TDK DVD Burner 1

Laptops and desktops that had DVD drives could not always have the capability to burn DVDs. These days, slimmer laptops have gotten rid of DVD drives altogether in favour of light-weightness and mobility. Back then however, when storage in thumb-drives and external hard disks were not the common practice, organising and burning data in DVD was the more convenient alternative to floppy disks. Like most devices of its day, the TDK DVD Burner is bulky and heavy.

CompactDrive PD70X

Compact Drive PD70X 2 Compact Drive PD70X 4

Digital photography was not as trigger happy as it is now when storage in memory cards were expensive and limited in capacity. When traveling, it is easy to max out the memory space which created the need to review the images, prioritise what you want and delete the rest. On my 11 day road trip to Central Australia, the CompactDrive was the common storage platform for the memory cards of me and my friends. Being battery operated, the CompactDrive was independent of needing a power source; this was a very important feature on a road trip. If memory serves me well, this CompactDrive costs $300 in the mid 2000s. Someone did a very thorough review of this device which you can look up if you are so inclined.

Nintendo GAME BOY

Nintendo GAME BOY 1

Nintendo GAME BOY 2

Nintendo GAME BOY 3 Nintendo GAME BOY 4

The Nintendo GAME BOY was the game-changer in the time of handheld games. I got my first one in upper Primary and added a secondhand GAME BOY in lower secondary so that I could make use of the two-player functions in some games like Tetris. There were original game cartridges and pirated ones that had 16-in-1 or even 50-in-1. The most advance end-user interface of the mid 1990s was monochrome Dot Matrix. In storage, my GAME BOY units rusted to the core and the batteries leaked, then rusted. Trivia: Watch out for the GAME BOY’s appearance in 1998 Will Smith film – Enemy of the State.

Game Arcade Tokens

Arcade Tokens 2

Arcade Tokens 1

With the use of metal tokens, Game Arcades felt like a casino for kids. There were many different Game Arcades in the 1990s and each fashioned their own tokens. I was never really good at any game. I most enjoyed the multi-player Daytona, that as a group of 6 to 10 friends, was played out more as a virtual bumper car. Wreak-it-Ralph did an excellent job in translating the old school vibe of these places. The last time I played at an arcade, which is more than a decade ago, I found to my bewilderment that the metal tokens have been replaced by stored value cash cards. This signaled the end of an era.

Having a collector’s streak, I was very conscious of not using my last token and collected it instead for keepsake. Into a pouch the tokens went and over the years my collection amassed. It is not exactly a treasure chest now but it can count towards making up part of my Happy Thoughts. The bulkier defunct technology I’ve tossed, this pouch I’m keeping and bringing into our current millennium. Because WyWy Wonderspace had the most extensive network of arcades, I also have with me a number of WyWy tokens as witness to the last vestiges of growing up in the 1990s.

Nothing much recreational or idyllic happens in the heavily industrial west as compared to all the hype developing in the waterfront of Punggol or the iconic East Coast. However, the park connector network has not entirely left the west in the dust.

This is especially so when the Ministry of National Development, under which NParks is parked, will “continue to plan parks based on our present norm of around 0.8ha of parks per 1,000 residents. These parks will be distributed across housing areas so that at least 85% of our residents and their families can live within 400m of a park by 2030. To be a City in a Garden, we will continue to pursue innovative ways to connect our green and blue spaces, so that our people can seamlessly move from one park to another via our park connector network. The proposed Round-Island-Route, stretching 150km, will provide an uninterrupted leisure route around the island, linking major cultural, natural and historical attractions with our parks, park connectors and intra-town cycling networks. By 2020, we will have 360km of park connectors compared to 200km .”

So that’s the grand scheme of things.

In the meantime, I was pretty glad to see works coming along at a bridge spanning the AYE and bridging Pandan Gardens PCN with Ulu Pandan PCN. In fact, it looks so much larger than a regular pedestrian path that I wasn’t sure if it was mean for traffic or people.

The chance came for me to find out at the PCN Networking Ride organised by NParks. Led by NPark staff, members of the public got to explore several PCN in the west by riding from West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Park.

Of course since we were riding in a large group at a leisurely pace with photo opportunities, the 20km or so return journey took a lot longer than a regular ride.

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 11

On the map, the GPS tracking along the elevated bridge looks like this.

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 22

Although ascending and descending the bridge will take less than 5 minutes, the planning and resources allocated to this project is massive, especially in a place like Singapore where the cycling culture is just beginning to take root together with a whole host of teething problems not unique to an urban environment.

What the elevated bridge looks like from the ground.

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 26

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 23

Ascending the bridge

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 34 PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 31 PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 29

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 36 PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 33

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 27

The rest of the ride is also very pleasant. The lush greenery became increasingly visible as we pulled towards Jurong Lake Park. Although Jurong Lake Park was the midpoint of our guided ride, it is by no means the end of the PCN. Jurong PCN links to the Western Adventure Loop and then further north or central depending on where you are inclined to go.

Bike and park connectivity can only get better from here.

Other pictures of the guided ride.

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 17 PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 16

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 44 PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 39

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 21 PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 43

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 12

{June 22, 2013}   Haze over Singapore 2013

This is the view (of Jurong Island) from my apartment on a normal day.

En Bloc - Views from Teban Vista 20

The view on 18 June 2013
8.30am – PSI 108

Haze over Singapore 21 June 2013 10am PSI 367

The view on 22 June 2013
9.30am – PSI 323

Haze over Singapore 22 June 2013 9.30am PSI 323

Haze over Singapore 22 June 2013 9.30am PSI 323 Outdoor

National Environment Agency updates:

Southwest Monsoon conditions have onset over the region since the beginning of the week, with low level winds blowing predominantly from the southeast or southwest. The Southwest Monsoon season typically last from June to September and is the traditional dry season for the southern ASEAN region.

In the coming months, occasional extended periods of drier weather can be expected in the region. During the season, increased hotspot activities may be expected in Sumatra and Borneo. In addition, transboundary smoke haze could affect the region during periods of persistent dry weather conditions.

Weather conditions in the region have become drier and an increase in hotspot activities has been observed mainly over central Sumatra.  101 and 138 hotspots were detected over Sumatra on 15th  and 16th June 2013 respectively.  The smoke haze from the fires in Sumatra was brought over by prevailing winds blowing from the southwest or west, and has affected Singapore since 13 June 2013.  The hazy conditions are expected to persist for the next few days.

The city shrouded in smog
20 June 2013
4.50pm – PSI 310

Haze over Singapore 20 June 2013 PSI 310, C

Haze over Singapore 20 June 2013 PSI 310, B

Haze over Singapore 20 June 2013 PSI 310, A

The most shared news coverage on mitigating the haze on BBC NEWS 20 June 2013

The pollution standards index peaked at 371 on Thursday, breaking previous records and well above hazardous levels, before falling to about 300.

The haze is the result of forest fires started by farmers clearing land on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

The issue has sparked accusations between the two neighbours.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister, wrote on his Facebook wall that he would demand “definitive action” from Jakarta.

“No country or corporation has the right to pollute the air at the expense of Singaporeans’ health and wellbeing,” he said.

However, Indonesian Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono said that Singapore was “behaving like a child”.

“This is not what the Indonesian nation wants, it is because of nature,” he said.

Environment officials from the two nations have been holding an emergency meeting in Jakarta, to discuss the issue.

Singapore’s Response on TODAY 21 June 2013

As the haze in Singapore worsens today, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has declared that “the Singapore Child is being suffocated” in a riposte to an Indonesian minister’s comments yesterday that Singaporeans are “behaving like a child” in response to the haze.

In his latest Facebook post as “MParader”, Mr Goh asked: “The Singapore Child is being suffocated. How can he not scream?

“Former Malaysian PM Abdullah Badawi used to say that Malaysians and Singaporeans are like neighbours living in a pair of semi-detached houses. What each does will affect the other. So we have to be considerate in our behavior like not putting on the TV too loudly or burning our garden refuse openly if the smoke will enter our neighbour’s house.

“Indonesia does not share a semi-detached house with Malaysia or Singapore. But its detached bungalow is in the same housing estate. So Badawi’s analogy of neighborly behavior still applies.”

But acknowledging that there is little that can be done in the short term, the former Prime Minister concluded his note: “But as of now, the Singapore Child better learn to survive the tortuous smog and haze. —gct”

Mr Goh wrote his latest post this afternoon. The National Environment Agency’s three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit a new high of 401 at 1pm.

It has even been hazy in my gmail ‘bus stop’ theme

Google Bus Stop - HAZY

Crisis brings out the best and worst in all of us. In this time, on a personal level we can either whinge about it or try our best to spread some positivity in our sunshine deprived state of affairs. As an educator, I’m relived that the  thick of the haze saw it’s onset during the school vacations and as a Singaporean, I’m glad that we do have the urban infrastructure to shield us from the haze to varying degrees. Our public transport system hasn’t come to a screeching halt and neither has our air-conditioned nation, and we shouldn’t.

I would hate to be browbeaten. I have at home a 95 year old grandmother and a 5 month old nephew. Although it is upsetting that the vulnerable are susceptible in these conditions, when the going gets though, we need to be made of sterner stuff.  There will be short comings from all aspects and rungs of society, but there can also be the closing of ranks to help those in greater need.

Lucian of shares on Medium how he chipped in to help with the distribution of the much sought after N95 masks at Dakota Crescent. That residential area was my first home in my early conscious memory. My family and I lived at Old Airport Road till I was about 5 years old. Our extended family shared a small rented apartment with us and it was bursting at the seams with people. We did not have much, but we were never needy. It was a time which my mom and aunts speak of fondly – my grandfather operated a provision shop in that neighbourhood and the kids could run amok in wild abandon but under the watchful eye of all the aunties and uncles of the coffee shop. I was too young to directly participate in the antics of my older sister and cousins, but I was told that we didn’t have to pay upfront for whatever we consumed from the coffee shop because on a basis of trust, my grandfather would foot the bill accrued at the end of the day. I never experienced such neighbourly relationships thereafter. Old Airport Road for me comes closest to the kampung spirit that is now the stuff of legends. We were the kids belonging to the Old Airport Road neighbourhood of the 80’s and everyone looked out for each other. I’m glad that in these dark days, others have stepped forward to look out for them.

et cetera