Of the million things in this country that I could possibly think of to explain my affection for Singapore, the searing hot weather is certainly not one of them. Yes, you can cite the half dozen deserts strewn across the equatorial belt as places that doubtlessly record much higher temperature, but the high relative humidity of our sunny island allows us to trump them effortlessly to win the ‘country-that’s-so-hot-that-even-the-natives-find-it-unbearable’ award. Unsurprisingly, last Saturday’s weather was scorching. Despite the air-conditioned network of shopping centers and public transport that connects my home to Bugis, I briefly had an idea of what it must have been like for the luckless villain who was left for dead in a desert after offending an eminent Caliph.
I had taken the train to meet Carolyn and Benny at Rochor Center to buy the gifts and prizes for the Chinese New Celebration at All Saints Home. The moment I left the sanctuary of the air-conditioned train station, I knew all was lost. Almost instantaneously, I was ‘head-butted’ by the rush of hot, humid afternoon air as I left the train station and huge beads of perspiration wasted no time in trickling down my forehead. In spite of the terrible weather, Carolyn beamed with energy, outpacing Benny and I to rummage through the various shops selling Chinese New Year decorations and gifts. I made a mental note to myself never to register in any competitive event that involves Carolyn, shopping or tight alleys flanked by a caravan of pushcarts.
To add fire (figuratively and literally speaking) to the situation, Benny recommended us to try the herbal mutton soup at Jalan Basar hawker center during lunch after shopping for the gifts and prizes. The mutton soup was predictably yummy, but the situation after the meal? Dicey! For the entire length of journey back to All Saints Home, I felt as if I had a nuclear reactor that underwent a meltdown within me even though the air-conditioner was already operating at full blast in Benny’s car. Thus, when we arrived at All Saints Home, I was already coming dangerously close to dehydration, with every bit of strength fleeing from my body.
By a tremendous stroke of luck, the activity at All Saints Home for that Saturday was a handicraft session, which involved folding the edges of ang pow (red packets) into triangles and assembling them into an oriental styled lantern. If that Saturday’s activity had been mass games, I would probably have fled from the home. Due to the intermission of service at SN home, we were very fortunate to have Meng Kwee, Ben and Xia Xi to join us at this handicraft session, which aimed to bring the festive spirit of the lunar new year to the residents at All Saints Home.
In perfect tandem, the residents folded the edges of the red packets, while the volunteers did the assembling of the red packets by stapling the edges of the red packets together. It was very encouraging to see the residents participate in this activity with as much vigor as the volunteers, despite being afflicted with physical ailments such as arthritis, which severely restrict the dexterity of their fingers. After all the red packets were prepared with their edges duly folded, the volunteers broke up into small groups to get the red packets assembled into lanterns. Standing beside Linh and Anitha with a small pile of red packets, the three of us proceeded to work busily to get the lantern assembled. Anitha provided her meticulous plans to get the lantern assembled, I did the stapling, while Linh pretty much nit picked at everything I was doing (which really tempted me to staple her lips instead of the red packets). Miraculously, our unlikely alliance had produced the most magnificent (if unusual) looking lantern.
Scorching weather aside, judging from the din the volunteers and the residents were making (which made me wonder if anyone was as dehydrated as I was), the handicraft session was highly enjoyable and served the purpose of decorating the corridors of All Saints Home. As I scurried away hurriedly from All Saints Home after the service, I couldn’t help but wonder if this dry spell would persist on our sunny little island. Chinese new year celebrates the dawn of spring, but judging from the unbearably hot weather, which conjured the image of standing next to a boiling cauldron of oil, it seemed like we're celebrating an eternal summer instead. Oh rainy days, cloudy nights, where art thou?