Singapore, May 19,1988
I saw some more things in Singapore that are worth relating.
One of those things was the zoo.
Once within its gates I was presented with a high concentration of life in many different forms. Some of the animals I looked at, and who looked back at me,
posessed natures I had never encountered before.
For instance, the Tapir. I also stopped at the Haw Paw Chinese
mythology gardens, packed with multicolor statues depicting Chinese
myths and stories--as well as those from different cultures.
The most interesting, I thought, was a vivid portrayal of the 16 layers of hell
in popular Buddhist mythology. Plenty of graphic tortures to be seen.
The Ng family met me right at the station in Segamat.
They seemed immediately friendly.
We piled into their orange Mercedes Benz and headed for their house.
I had been expecting less lavish surroundings, but the marble floors and air conditioning
are a welcome comfort! Kok-Lieu, Kar-ling and I
went out to Ayer Panas, a park with a waterfall.
To get there we drove through what seemed to be endless rubber-tree plantations.
I was dismayed by the great amount of trash over everything.
Molly, my hostess, has taken a lot of effort to introduce me
to the many aspects of this complex Mayaysian life,
full as it is of three different cultures: Buddhist, Moslem and Hindu,
with a sprinkle of Christianity thrown in.
Today, after seeing the local wet market, which was lively and smelly,
I tried acupuncture with Molly's husband, Ah-Choo, who is an acupuncturist.
I had my muscles pulsed with electrified needles.
The other evening we celebrated Hari Raya
(the end of the Moslem month-long fast of Ramadan)
with a Moslem family. The food here included compressed rice cooked in bamboo,
compressed rice cubes, spicy peanut sauce, dried beef curry, vegetable soup,
and a green gelatanous dessert. It was wonderful.
Another day, I say. By jove
What shall I say? Shall I comment on the progression of material events
since I last wrote? Or shall I focus on my inner state of mind
as it has been manifesting itself since I came to this asian place?
Externally I have done some normal and expected things.
The best of those included an early morning breakfast of pigs intestines
and drawing in a Buddhist temple in Malacca,
with the monks methodically chanting to the sound of drums and cymbals,
all infused with incense curling out of the numerous brass bowls
selectively placed around the interior--
in addition to the Buddhist temple, we saw the Hindu and Moslem temples,
all in close proximity. In fact, during the buddhist chants
the regular amplification of the islamic prayers occurred--
thus I saw clearly the relativity of all these so-called great religions.
Here there must be a lot of tolerance--
Religion, race, politics and economics all mix in close proximity.
The journey by train to Kuala Lipis was an experience-- Boarding at 1:00 a.m. in an overly crowded third class car-- Standing room only amidst people of other races waiting three hours for a seat to vacate. I was picked up by Kok-Moi's husband in a blue volvo. First impression--a christian music tape. Nice apartment lots of relatives a short nap Conversations with Kok-Moi's brother-in-law about an alternate viw of Malaysian politics: he is more tolerant of the inequalities between races compared to Ah-Choo, Kok-Moi's brother. He feels the Chinese in Malaysia (being Chinese himself) don't need laws to preserve their heritage, as they are more the immigrants and exploiters over the Indians and Malays. I protested in the name of equal rights. He dismissed this as unrealistic. We went out to a Malay campong in the afternoon--saw the rural village life-- ate a small meal at the house of the head man--a moslem house. Interesting! and I feel honored to have experienced this.
Feeling a bit unhappy--how shall I describe it? I was just hating exploring Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Traffic jams--heavy smog--uncertainties of where to go-- I tried to visit the mosque at the confluence of two rivers but I couldn't get in because I was wearing shorts. Went to the railway station feeling hot. Irritated. Uninterested. Went to the National Art Gallery, which was a mistake-- sitting amidst an exhibit of gold jewelry I realized how sick I was of traveling. Kok-Moi's friend, Angela Goh, can't understand why I'm not being touristy and that I have had my fill. Today I thought about this a lot as she accompanied me out to the Batu caves, to make sure I got there. I contemplated cancelling my trip to Egypt. I felt rotten. I only felt better because she left and I enjoyed the cave, which is more like a giant limestone cathedrial with scads of monkeys running around. I did feel more positive after sketching.
Recently I had a dream which found me expounding in a quite lucid way the nature of my objections to organized religion. Last night we went out to dinner with Angela Goh, another rich woman, and a three-year old. A Malay chaffeur, Ali, was driving Kok-Ying's blue Volvo. After about three seconds of his driving I began to feel uncomfortable. Five minutes down the road, Kok-Ying blurted out, "We have to go back home! I forgot my beeper!" Upon hearing this instruction, Ali nearly killed us all by abruptly turning into a service station right in front of an oncoming car, who screeched to a stop just before us.
Last night I had a strange dream, projecting myself to be in Egypt. Susanna was still Susanna, except she looked like another woman. After a few things had happened, like meeting a group of people in an interesting apartment and smoking a fantastic and most unusual looking joint, we went walking. One of the first things that she mentioned was that she was intent on just being friends, which I meekly assented to--while a whorl of emotions was taking place in my head. Also, some Egyptian guy came up to her and slapped her on her bottom. She responded by slapping back and verbally assaulting him in Arabic. I just completed my Blue Mountains drawing which I am pleased with. I finished the inking all in one go, listening to Dire Straits Brothers in Arms about five times, the only tape worth listening to here, except for a Beatles tape that I can't find. Also this morning after a hearty breakfast of beef soup, including bits of stomach, I drew Molly's Papaya tree.
Very weird dream last night, after the rooster crowed and woke me up--to be concise: watching a woman erotically give birth to an egg, then myself giving birth to an egg, and afterwards eating this egg. Driving back into Singapore-- hundreds of slow moving, darkly polluting trucks. We crawled on at a snail's pace for 30 minutes to get through customs. The delays were due to the Buddha's birthday, now a popular time to travel and visit relatives. I was with Ah-Choo's wife, Molly. We picked up her boys, Kar-Woh and Kar-Ping and went to her sister's new apartment on the north-west corner of Singapore island. the apartment building--painted pink, stood severely compressed among many similar buildings. Since they were new and most stood unoccupied, it was darkly surreal. It was a'housewarming' party--but instead, I felt chilled all over.
Wow. Eternities have passed, eternities to go. I walked out to Selangor road and did two patient drawings. Feeling quite bizarre in general-- not sleeping too well. Undergoing complexion problems Refusing to eat the eggs they serve here Wondering if its just my ego that frustrates my perceptions of future events. Went to see Fatal Attraction but walked out halfway--it bothered me to see the whole slew of consequences stemming from the husband's sexual activity. Along Orchard road the hundreds of jam-packed shops have hundreds of taxis waiting to rush everybody away with their full shopping bags.
I last wrote in Singapore. The main mental event which has characterized my life since then has been the anxiety of waiting, continual cross-examination of my plans, and stress and adaptation to new and confusing environments. On a minor key, I became friends with a bloke from England named Nigel. He's a disgruntled 22-year old looking for something in life other than a job at an electronics store. He's already been on the road for a year, stopping over in Israel at a kubbutz for 6 months, going through Southeast Asia, and coming here. We decided to visit a place near Serangoon Road to witness a "breakfast with the birds" Caged birds are brought to a certain location and displayed in rows while their owners drink tea and philosophize. Apart from the Malay janitor who cooked the eggy breakfasts and snuck nips of wine every so often, I didn't have too many other people contacts.