Part 12 – Fireworks, Durian and a T-Rex

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Greetings Earthlings from Singapore!

So I’ve managed to survive almost 2 weeks now without being caned or having melted into an orange puddle of Irn Bru in the ferocious heat. Though with such a plethora of tasty, cheap food available coronary disease will surely succeed as the new favourite for the mechanism of my demise. 

Singapore lives up to its reputation as a culinary paradise. Hawker centres (think an Asian food court) are amazing, affordable and such an incredible range of cultural cuisines. Everything from chicken’s feet to crab to frog to fish that look like a Chernobyl speciality. All delicious. I’d still quite like to try dog. Just to create that awkward moment.

“Awww your dog is so cute. Dog tastes great y’know?”.

In the same way I’d love a picture painted by Hitler so guests would ask:

“That’s a lovely painting, who’s it by”

“Oh it’s a genuine first edition Hitler piece, gorgeous no?”

One culinary object that is rarer in Singapore than a dancing, golden unicorn with four heads are knives. You can get spoons, you can get forks, but finding a knife in Singapore will probably be the focus of Indiana Jones’ next mission (after the plot of the last one, doesn’t seem so ridiculous…). I’ve also tried chopsticks and my prowess wielding these weapons for my assaults on Asian cuisine is improving. My original attempts were as graceful and co-ordinated as a one legged Tyrannosaurus Rex in a tutu trying to perform ballet.

N.B. In Singapore, in culinary terms, “not too hot” translates as “will still give you third degree burns”. “Hot/spicy” translates as ” a degree of burns that scientists have been unable to classify because they’re still too petrified by the horror of witnessing its effects”.

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Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Where I will be studying for the next 9 months.

One thing that I almost immediately bought as a necessity was a guitar. Everyone has certain things that keep them sane. Things they don’t feel complete without. Like a Glaswegian jakey without a bottle of Buckfast.

Mine is a guitar.

Whenever some frustration, happiness, sadness needs expressed there is no better way for myself. Completely amazing how much you can express yourself with only 12 notes. It’s why I think John Frusciante is my favourite guitarist. He improvises so much live. It’s not a matter of playing a song back that he’s written, but expressing what he feels then. It’s personal. It’s pure expression. Though, admittedly, his face expressions when he plays do look somewhere between trying to pass a kidney stone and an orgasm…

Case in point.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gG7YDCJ8Ad8

I was present at the Singapore National Day where I witnessed the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen. My description at the time was that it “was like a declaration of war on epileptics”. Was amazing to see all the Singaporeans outside watching messages about how great their country is, all dressed in red. (A friend here, Joey, made the mistake of wearing a red t-shirt this day, making it almost impossible to locate him at times!)

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L-R: Ann, Armanda, Kush, Me, Joey and Eva

In Singapore you can be fined for anything. I’m going to assume this is why the Asians have such a prowess for mathematics and that their textbooks go something like this

“If Qing Bo smokes twice on the train, £1000 fine, while eating a big mac, £500 fine, while smearing durian all over his face, £500 fine, how much does he owe the government?”

It is quite intimidating seeing these signs everywhere reminding you of the penalties. Singapore has so many fines for things that could be considered petty that you’re often never sure which side of the line of legality you inhabit. One I am totally in favour of, however, is that of durians on the subway. Durian is an extremely smelly fruit they have here. The effect they have on your breath is similar to that of a small rodent crawling into your mouth and dying there.

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Finally I think I’ve unearthed my first signs of homesickness.

Over the past few days I’ve been desperately craving a burger. Not a McDonalds “burger” where the main meat is most likely from some sort of arachnid but a proper one, basically a cow enshrined in a roll. Something like the one Graham and I made before I left Scotland…

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Go on. Take a bite. Y’know you want to.

[DAS ENDE]

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Part 9 – Gay Pride, Berlin & Homer Simpson

Since my last entry I’ve travelled to 5 more cities in Germany: Bonn, Köln (Cologne), Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and, most recently, Berlin.

I’ve noticed recently a large improvement in my German and this was exhibited in Berlin. While in Berlin it was the annual gay pride march and I found it fun to translate all the slogans. Ended up covered in stickers of these too, when Jeff (an American from Rhode Island that I was with) and I had to cross the street through the parade.

Fick? – Want a fuck?

Nimm mich! – Take me!

Du willst es doch auch – You want it really

Rauchst du nach dem Sex? – Do you smoke after sex?

So if you need advice on how to chat up men in German, it seems I have acquired sufficient expertise.

What I found interesting was that it passed by the old Nazi headquarters. 70 years after Hitler’s regime murdered homosexuals there’s a parade in his capital, his “World Capital Germania”, filled with gay men and the slogan “DildoKing.de” on the side of the bus. What a fantastic image, Hitler turning in his grave* at the mere thought of that. Shows just how much Germany has changed since then.

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*I’ve since been corrected, through the medium of a meme (welcome to the 21st century), that Hitler doesn’t have a grave, by my friend Alex.

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Above is a picture of the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin.

The problem with designing something for such a grisly event in history would be that a grand, gaudily artistic monument would be just be wrong. Conversely it still needs to  be powerful, to do justice the suffering of the subject. And this monument is perfect. A sober, but effective, design with very little abject symbolism, leaving it up to the visitor to decide. I loved how all the blocks are all different shapes and sizes but have no discernible markings. Leaving them to just be an anonymous number. I took this to be showing how people of all ages, sizes and paths of life suffered and how the people lost their humanity by just being a number. When numbers become big they lose their impact, because our understanding wanes as numbers rise above our everyday experience and comprehension.

6 million dead people. It’s unimaginable. Literally.

It’s the same reason economies will always fail and these financial machinations will never be understand properly. When numbers enter cohorts of billions we cannot comprehend what we’re dealing with. And for the same reason we’ll never be able to understand the scale of the universe. When 100 countries in the world seem like a large number, when our holiday flights of a few thousand miles seem gargantuan, monolithic, how can we really understand the scale of a universe in light-years? We are limited by what it is to be human, a cage of proportion.

In the accompanying museum the following display truly touched me. It is a letter from a child, in the concentration camps, to his father explaining that he will soon be dead. The candid nature of the letter is what I found powerful. When I was a child the closest I came to death is when my PokeMon fainted on my GameBoy. Yet here, a child, someone so young, has already their fate. A departure from life through the mechanism of brutality.

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 “Dear Dad! Before I die I want to say farewell to you. We would really like to live, nevertheless they won’t let us, we will be killed. I’m so worried about this death, the small children are thrown into the pit while they’re still alive. Goodbye forever. I kiss you tenderly.”

Now here’s just a miscellaneous mix of photos

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The Reichstag

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Brandenburger Tor

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Checkpoint Charlie, note how German is the last language shown.

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I enjoyed this poster. It refers to the Germany Greece game in ongoing European Football Championship, which Germany won 4-2

Back to Karlsruhe. I’ve almost managed to fuck up a couple of experiments so far at work. A cultural German note of seemingly insignificant interest: Germans use commas for decimal points in numbers, not full stops. Yes, this is incredibly inconsequential for 99,9% of applications in life… Until you try to programme flowrates for a reactor…using full stops…hence 5.00 l/min turns, not so inconsequentially, into 500l/min…woops. Yep, this is the guy who wants to, potentially, work with nuclear energy later in my calamitous life. My parents reaction when I told them that?

This was it

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Apologies to all those who won’t sleep soundly tonight…

[DAS ENDE]