Going West by Mark Powers

Monday, September 8, 2008

Skating through Singapore

One pleasant thing about Singapore is that the local beach park is very nice. It runs all along the east coast of the island, and stretches from the shore to the freeway, at least a football field in length full of grass and trees. There are smooth walking and bike paths, BBQ pits and exercise equipment, and places to wade into the water, with life-saving emergency equipment set up next to the beaches. There are several park custodians who trim bushes, pick up trash, and take care of the park. Its very clean despite all the visitors, a hallmark of Singapore.

Crazy Diamond Shaped Bounce ShoesI visited on a Sunday, and the bike and foottrails where full of people of all ages on roller-blades, bikes, and some funny new shoes that have springs on them. Actually, I saw people walk and run around on these things, but they seemed more uncomfortable and unstable then if they were just walking. The people didn't seem like they were moving around any faster, rather they looked like they would fall down in a second if they bumped into anything.

A longboardI went there with my long-skateboard (which looks exactly like the picture on the left). Its about double the size of typical skateboard and used for going long distances rather than tricks. I rode along the bike path, weaving around, people watching and being watched. Of course, I was the only person in the whole park with such a skateboard, and as I flew by, I stood out from the crowd.

I can do one trick, a kind-of skateboard pop-a-wheelie. I kick the back of the board and let the front rise up and roll along on just the back wheels. Its always fun to hear little kids yell out as I go along "Woooow! A Skateboard!"

Of course, I see mostly Asians in Singapore. I can't really tell their nationality by their looks. Most people look anything like from Indian to Chinese to Indonesian and everywhere in between. I hear alot of people speak Chinese dialects.

Singapore Languages:
Mandarin (35%), English (23%), Malay (14.1%), Hokkien (11.4%), Cantonese (5.7%) and other Chinese dialects (source: Worldatlas.com). Hokkien is spoken in Fujian province of China. Its like a different language, hardly resembling Mandarin at all. Cantonese is spoken throughout Southern China, particularly Guangdong Province and Hong Kong. Like Hokkien, its sounds like a different language from Mandarin, though they use traditional Chinese characters in writing.

I visited the Chinese Cultural Center in Singapore a week back and saw that many Chinese immigrated to Singapore over the past 100 years, under threat of death, (illegal immigration meant execution 100 years ago) to escape poverty and hardship in their native country.

I have to remember that many of these people maybe of Chinese, Malay, or Indian ancestry, but they are Singaporean. Just like in the states, we have people immigrate from all over, but they become Americans. I think many Singaporeans take pride in their citizenship like we do in the states. They owe their allegiances to Singapore, not the country of their ancestors. Just like I owe my allegiance to the US, not any European country where my ancestors came from.

As I skate along at the park, I turn into a sweaty mess. I'm a little embarrassed, but I take off my shirt and show my white untanned skin to this world of Asians. I'm sure the reflection of intense sunlight temporarily blinds many of them.

Besides a few pot bellies on the men, most Asians are slim. Even the overweight people look slim. Yet, among the younger generation there are a few kids who could use some exercise and reduce their McDonalds intake. At 6 feet tall, though about average in the states, I'm taller and wider than most people here. I have not done any clothes shopping yet, but typically I cannot find shirts with shoulder lengths long enough for me in Asia.

Do Asians use deodorant? I have not attempted any serious smell tests on people, but I hardly have ever seen Speed-Stick or Arrid Extra-Dry sold in stores like we have in the US. Matter of fact, Asian stores usually have some wet oily deodorants, that seem to me, would make things worse under your arms rather than better. And the package is so small you'd have to wipe with that thing several times to make sure you were covered. Maybe in Asia, a little dab will do ya'.

As I skate home, I cross the bridge over the freeway. The sign reads "Do not ride on the overpass, Penalty $1000" Another hallmark of Singapore, signs and fines. It seems to work though, every person who gets to the overpass steps off their bike and walks their bike across.



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