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Friday, December 24, 2004


At the courtesy of Niken's DVD library, I decided to screen Dogville on my office laptop. Indeed the movie was splendid. The pace was just for me... except for the glitches on the physical DVD itself during the last half of the show; which forced me to skip some parts of the scenes.

All in all, Nicole Kidman is truly an actress, not an entertainer, but a thought provoking actress with her ability to convey emotion and aura... not wicked aura, of course.

If you have not seen it already, go get it and watch it. It is intended to evoke social awareness; the ghettos, the small run down towns, as urbanists would call it "the rural".

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Singaporean Courtesy

I am very happy and grateful today since I have experienced touching gestures by Singaporeans! I will put what happened in this blog so that I would never forget the kindness of those special people.

But let me start with what I've been through this morning, when I was doing my routine morning reading in my computer.
This morning I read a new entry in Mela's weblog about her disappointment in the unfriendliness of many Singaporeans. I have to admit that I'd have to agree with her in many respects to what I have experienced before. Mela's posting reminded me to what happened two years ago, when Indi and I had just moved to Singapore.

When we were just married, we lived in HDB flat near Ikea. As a newly-wed couple who had just moved into the neighbourhood, we thought that we should introduce ourselves to the neighbours. In Indonesian culture, this is the courtesy, to pay respect to the people who had resided in the neighbourhood longer than us and to establish new friends there.

So we decided to buy small marble cakes from Bengawan Solo for the neighbours in our floors. We plan to go to the neighbours and give the cakes as a token of courtesy and friendship. Hopefully, from there, we can start a conversation and become friends. We think that it's important to establish good relationship with the neighbours, so that you can help and be helped by the people within the close distance from where you live.

We knocked at the first door. The owner peeped from behind the door, and then open the inner door, but keeping the outer steel gate intact (for those of you who don't know, usually doors in Singapore public housing is two-layered, steel gate at the outside and the main door at the inside, and I assume this is done for security reason).

Well, perhaps they're still suspicious with us, that's why they do not open their gate.

Then we explained to them the purpose of our visit as their new next-door neighbour, and that we just want to introduce ourselves (and hopefully be friends).

The gate still did not open. The neighbour just blankly stared at us from behind the gate.

Then we handed the cake as a gift of our friendship initiatives. But do you know what is my neighbour's answer?

"No need, no need" waving her hands. It was as if we were salesmen selling vibrators.

Puzzled, we clarified that the cake is a gift, that she did not need to pay anything for it. We explained that we were not selling cakes. We explained that it is OK to receive cakes.

She still said, "No need". And the gate was still not opened.

We tried to explained our intention. But she just closed the door in front of our nose. We were baffled. What did we do wrong? Then we just put the cake between the metal frame and leave...

The next door neighbour we visit did not open the door at all. We know that the parents are inside the house, because they always passed by our flat window when they go home. We knock and knock and knock to no avail. Again, we just leave the cake at the gate.

The last neighbour opened their door to us but not their gate. We just continued to explain the purpose of our visit, again, etc, etc. And when it came to the cake part, this neighbour is a bit more polite, instead of saying "No need", he said, "No thank you". But behind the father, we saw the two little kids (primary school age) peeping from behind. So we decided to ask them whether they want the cake from us. Shyfully, the two kids nodded their head. Then we said to the father, "This cake is for your kids!". No more reason for him to say No Thank You. So we gave the cake through the metal gate, because the father still did not open their gate to us, regardless the children's reaction and that the ice has been broken. Again, we emphasise, the gate was still not opened to us. But at least, it was a better ending than the starting point.

Anyway, we don't know why, in Singapore, people live closer to each other in High Density HDB Flats, but less friendy to one another. It's different from where we live now, in Kampung Jalan Hang Jebat. In our current neighbourhood, people now one another and help each other. And this has got nothing to do with whether they're singaporean or not, since there are also singaporeans in Hang Jebat neighbourhood, and they are very friendly and helpful. So, perhaps it's the result of high-density neighbourhood? or the social engineering within the HDB allocation system? or the social mobility within the HDB estates? Better ask Chua Beng Huat...

Anywayzzz.z. back to the topic of today, let me present to you the touching gesture by Singaporeans that I experienced today!

This morning, we headed to office in a rush hour train. As usual, at this hour, the train is going to be full of people. We'd expect that pregnant women like me will not be getting seats, as usual, because a lot of people will just pretend to be asleep on their seat, or busy reading newspaper, or doing anything to conveniently ignore the presence of pregnant women in front of them. Well, I have quite used to it.

However, something amazing happened to me today. When I boarded the train, a young man gave his seat to me! I was so surprised and touched (and moreover, this young man fulfilled all the criteria of people who won't give their seats - young teenager with Ipod, reading books/magazines). Later this guy got off the train in Singapore Poly Dover station. Wow, I guess Singapore Poly did a great job in making their students polite and courteous. Thanks, whoever your name is, for such touching gesture!

Later the night, I experienced more touching courtesy by Singaporean. We stopped a cab from City Hall to go to Leonie Hill (to get some stuff at mas Gita's house) then drive to our house. The taxi driver then told us that he won't be able to take us to our house, because he had to change shift by midnight in Pasir Ris (one hour drive from the city). But unlike other taxi drivers who would usually ask us to get off the taxi and get another taxi, this taxi driver offers us a free ride to Leonie Hill, which is on his way to Pasir Ris. Wow! We're so touched!

On his way to Leonie Hill, the taxi driver told us a sad story of his life. He told us that he has to work almost 24 hours a day - work in the office in the morning, and as taxi driver at night, because his father has been suffering with colon cancer these past four years. The medication cost is very expensive, and all CPF savings has been depleted to cover this cost, which reached 450 Dollars per day - and no help from the government.

We were really touched by his suffering, and we though we did not deserve this free ride. When we got to Leonie Hill, we insisted to pay more than we should pay, because we wanted to help him. But he insisted that he gave free ride because he wanted to help us, and he felt guilty not being able to drive us to our house, and anyway, the free ride was on his way to Pasir Ris. We insisted and give him the money, but he then throw the money out of the window, said sorry, and rushed back driving to his destination. He really drove fast and we did not get a chance to help him.

Well, Comfort Cab taxi driver number 7888J, hope we'll meet again and please give us a chance to lighten your burden! You are a great person!

This is the story that I wanted to share with you. But why do I need to also tell the story of my past experience in HDB? Because our past experience has made us think that it's not common for singaporeans to be open or courteous with strangers. But perhaps, the two things that we experienced this morning has proven that singaporean people do have windows in their heart to share their kindness and courtesy to strangers too.

We hope we will experience this more often, and have the chance to share kindness to other people too.

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