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Pre Styling

 

During Styling

Post Styling

The Hair Stylist

In order to save time, I’ve been cutting my own hair. It works for a period but over time, it becomes a right mess as bad hair days turn to bad hair weeks and months.

I nipped out yesterday to get a haircut at my regular S$7 barbershop at Ayer Rajah but it was closed.

A few doors away, a hairdressing saloon was open. There were no customers in there and a stylist was available.

I decided to try her out.

I had SUCH a DELIGHTFUL hair cut (I should call it a hair styling now) bantering with the stylist. Lovely lady, a Malaysian Cantonese from KL, she’s been in Singapore for 20 years. She has one daughter studying Engineering at ITE.

After I paid her the S$10 for the haircut, she said “Thank you”, while shaking her head from side-to-side, Indian style. When I pointed that out to her in good nature, she burst out laughing! She realised she inadvertently did that because I am Indian.

We had a great laugh over that.

So lovely when a routine errand becomes a delightful experience.

Love it.

#mysingapore

This gentleman is a cleaner at Pasir Panjang Food Centre. I live very nearby so I go there often and know most of the stall-owners and the cleaning staff.

I have a habit of greeting the cleaners and bringing my finished dishes to them instead of them having to come to me. So over time, I’ve developed a relationship with them.

This guy is really cool. He’s from Shandong, China. When I see him, I smile and say, “ni hao” (hello in Mandarin) and he in turn says “Hello Uncle” (yes, I’ve evolved into a heartland uncle). He speaks virtually no English. I speak virtually no Mandarin apart from “hello”, “have you eaten?”, “thank you” and “good bye.”

During our earlier interactions, he was quite shy but he’s now comfortable with me.

Today, I needed a kopi-o gau. So I went there for my caffeine fix. I took the book I’m reading with me.

As I sat down with my kopi-o gau, I saw this gentleman and said hi. As usual, he replied, “Hello Uncle.”

It wasn’t a busy period so he came by and sat opposite me.  Although, I had intended to read, since he sat down, I proceeded to make “conversation” with him.

After “It’s hot” (in English) and “nǐ chīfàn le ma?” (have you eaten?), the conversation predictably stalled.  He picked up the book I had put down on the table. The scene was so endearing. He looked like he was engrossed in the book and studying it deeply. Of course, he didn’t understand a word (it was not even a picture book). I didn’t have the heart to tell him he was holding it upside down.

As usual, I asked him if I could buy him a drink. He always says “no.” But this time, I asked the kopi uncle to bring him a liang teh on my account. He accepted gratefully but a little pai seh. I said it’s ok. We sat together for a while. He motioned to me if I’ve eaten. I said yes.

Soon, a family eating on a nearby table left. He smiled at me, said “xie, xie” (thank you) and went to do his job.

I sat alone reading and drinking my coffee. After I was done, I walked up to him (he was seated on another table with another colleague – a cleaning lady), thumped him in the shoulder and said bye. Both of them beamed in return. I felt great.

For all the ranting about foreigners who live here, there are many many more absolutely stellar individuals. It’s just that these usually don’t make it to social media.

I tell you what. This is Singapore. And I love it. #sg50

Update on 9 October 2015

I went back there again for a late lunch. It was about 3pm. That is about the time the cleaning staff get to eat their own meals as the lunch crowd has cleared and the evening rush has not yet begun. This gentleman was sitting on his own eating. I brought my plate of nasi padang and sat down with him.

This time, we made some “conversation.” I whipped out my OnePlus One and fired up Google translate. First thing I wanted to know was his name. So I “asked”.

In this manner, we were able to get to know each other a little bit – when he came to Singapore, where I was from, my profession, his family, etc.

He offered me a swig of water and I bought him and some of his colleagues a beverage from the drinks stall.
Then, he obliged to taking a picture with me.

Unlikely friendships. Gotta love Singapore.

Sorry. Couldn’t resist the pun. It was there for the taking.

I think it’s ace. Even if you don’t agree, love all.

It was great watching her play. She was really enjoying her game.

More at Scenes from Singapore.

Canon 5D MK II with Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

Edited with Apple Photos

I went to Bukit Merah View Food Centre for brunch this Saturday morning. I love heartland life. While Marina Bay Sands, Gardens By The Bay, etc. have more social airspace, the silent majority and real Singapore resides in the heartlands.

Beautiful incidences that don’t make it to social media play out in the heartlands on a daily basis. Well, unless I’m part of it.

Today, I was part of another one.

After brunch, as I headed home, I caught the eye of a gentleman.

I have a habit. Whenever I make eye contact with a person I will smile and/or say a greeting. This gentleman was sitting on a bench in a playground. I smiled and said, “Good morning!”

He was eating a fruit from a bag at his feet. He motioned to me. I approached him. He beamed a huge smile and offered me two fruits from his bag – passion fruit, he explained. Feeling pai seh, I declined. He insisted. Having little resolve,  I easily caved.

I was so touched that I asked if I could take a picture with him. He was lavishly thrilled and happily agreed.

After the picture, he offered me two more passion fruits. It was impossible to refuse this beaming gentleman.

I smiled at a stranger. In a flash, I left with four passion fruits.

Who says Singapore lacks passion?

All it takes is eye contact and a smile.

Think about it. That’s where passion always starts – with an eye contact and a smile.

I love Singapore.

Maybe I have a “talkable” face but I have many encounters with strangers on a regular basis. I thought I’ll record the more interesting and endearing ones. I recently wrote about the Patrician from the class of 1957. This encounter falls under the endearing category.

Two days ago, I had an early dinner at 115 Bukit Merah View Market and Hawker Centre. I had mee pok dry from this gentleman from Soon Heng Minced Meat Noodles stall.

OK, but this post is not about him – just posted it coz I had a snap. After getting our bowls of noodles, we wanted to sit at the breezier side of the hawker centre (the car park side, on that day). However, most of the tables were not cleared. We found one relatively clean and empty table just next to a porridge stall called Shi Fu A1 Rou Zhou.

Soon after we took our seats, this elderly lady who runs the porridge stall with her sister sat down on the same table in front of a pile of pei dan (century eggs) presumably to peel them in preparation for the dinner crowd. Sharing the same table, I naturally looked towards her, smiled and wished her Xin Nian Kuai Le (happy lunar new year in Mandarin). She beamed, thrilled.

She could only converse in Hokkien. I can’t speak Hokkien. Through my dinner companion who interpreted for me, she readily revealed that she was in her seventies. She started selling porridge in the same location around 1975 when she was in her thirties.

Perhaps it was a simple smile or perhaps it was an Indian guy wishing her happy lunar new year in Mandarin (or a combination) that made her so happy. She claimed (unsubstantiated, I must add) that I am a “good person” because most people “ignore the elderly.” She said it’s the way I took the initiative to acknowledge her and the way I smiled at her. I was a bit pai seh when she added again that I’m a “good person”.

She was animated, smily and jovial throughout the conversation. She happily posed for a picture with me. So sweet. She wished us Jing Bu (progress) many times.

This is the funny bit. As we continued eating, she told my companion in Hokkien, “Don’t mind me, I’m an old person so it should be ok for me to say this. He is very good-looking.” She then again repeated that I’m a kind and good person.

I’d by lying if I didn’t say that it made me feel good. I wish I could speak Hokkien. We could have had a longer conversation. Maybe I should learn some conversational Mandarin this year. See how.

We promised to come back to eat.

Bottom line is that we made each other’s evenings. Lesson learned – look at people and smile. It’s almost always a win-win.

What a lovely evening. I’m still smiling as I write this.

I had lunch alone at Everton Park today. It was a lovely lunch. I had just finished a productive meeting. It was raining and had a hot bowl of fish ball tang hoon soup. But this is not just about the food.

As I was eating, I couldn’t help noticing this couple. They could be granddaughter and grandmother, mother and daughter or just friends. But whatever they case, they were talking and laughing all the time. When I say all the time, I’m not kidding. The obviously enjoyed each other’s company tremendously. And when they caught my eyes, and I smiled at them, they smiled back in spontaneous, innocent joy.

The Saturday lunch that warmed my belly and heart. Got more than my $3 worth 🙂

Oh, and for those of you who must see food, here is the lunch. Loads of crispy lard. I shouldn’t but I did 😉

Tonight a few of us gathered to raise a toast to a real man. A true person. A gentleman.

Many Mike stories were shared tonight in laughter, fond remembrance, and pensive reflection. Through the stories we came to a few common conclusions. We were all privileged to know Mike. He lived a real and true life. He was a simple and beautiful soul.

Adelina, Shan – we can only imagine what you are going through. We won’t even pretend to know. But we want to say that your husband, your father was a special, special man and we want to say thank you for sharing him with us. My prayers are with you both.

Today we mourn Mike. But we will learn to celebrate Mike. Though he lived 46 years, he lived a life fuller than most double his age.

He was Simply Beautiful.

He is Mike Boekholt.

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