#6 Reminiscing PB88: Singapore (Port 2)

Here’s an excerpt from a journal entry about my day in Singapore:

I think the last time I was in Singapore (besides transit) was when I was 7. It was my first time being overseas and I was with papa and mama. Docking so near Sentosa Island brought back some memories from those days because I vividly remember looking up at the Merlion from directly in front of it at night when it was lighted up when I was a kid. The whole Sentosa Island also looked like Jurassic World Theme Park from the movie. The colors were unnatural looking but just natural enough so it was a nice kind of weird.

I met up with Stephanie and Rachel (Rachel for only one rushed hour while wolfing down chicken rice). It was nice to finally see someone I know after about 2 weeks of spending time with the PB people. Everything seems normal on land. It’s strange to think that I’ve been to so many different places and did so many firsts in such a short amount of time but everything else on land just runs as normal. It makes me feel special but insignificant at the same time.

Hello! 你好! Apa khabar?

  • Date: 2015/8/31
  • Port Name: Singapore
  • Country: Singapore
  • First time there?: I’ve been to the airport for layovers a few times, but this was my first time exploring the city as an adult. My last trip was when I was 7 on a family trip.
  • What did I do?: Free day, thanks to the abundance of local Japanese-speaking tour guides!

What I learned about Singapore onboard:

Shonan Island
Singapore, just like Malaya, was attacked and conquered by the Japanese from British rule during WWII in 1942 ~ 1945. The Japanese military were said to have ignored international conventions and acted cruelly to the common people, especially the Chinese because of the ongoing Sino-Japanese War at that time.

An interesting trivia that I didn’t know or have forgotten from my History lessons in high school: During the Japanese occupation, Singapore was given a new name ‘Shonan Island’, 昭南島 which means ‘Light of the South’. This piece of trivia is amongst one of the few, limited pieces of information about the Japanese occupation in Asia during the war that is taught through the heavily censored Japanese high school history syllabus.

Peace Boat docks at Singapore at every voyage and the passengers are able to participate in an optional educational tour to learn more about the tragic history of the Japanese occupation in Singapore. More information in a PB official article here about the educational tour during one of the previous voyages in 2014. It’s short and worth a read. Here’s a quote: One participant explained that she joined the programme “because we learn very little about this period of Japan’s history at school – I didn’t even know Japan occupied Singapore before coming on Peace Boat.”

‘Shiok’
Wendy, my Singaporean friend from PB, shared this word at an event introducing Singapore to the onboard passengers. It is a Manglish / Singlish word used to express satisfaction and pleasure, kinda like ‘Awesome!’. I had completely forgotten about this word until I heard it again this time and it was a rather comical scene to watch when Wendy made the elderly Japanese passengers repeat after her several times to practise pronouncing the word.

Wendy: Shiok!
Elderly Japanese: Shee-oh-ku!
Wendy: Shiok!
Elderly Japanese: Shee-okku!

According to the Wikipedia article which has a hilarious and comprehensive list of Manglish vocabulary, ‘shiok’ or ‘syok’ originates from a Hokkien word for pleasure but other sources say it is derived from the Malay word ‘seronok’ which means fun. Either way, this word brought back a lot of childhood memories and also the funny phrase ‘Syok sendiri’ which means ‘a smug sense of self satisfaction that nobody else understands or agrees with’.

Picture time!:

IMG_8547Here’s me and the most famous Merlion of Singapore in front of Marina Bay Sands! For one of the onboard 時差企画 (time travel event*) they gathered and rated the funny photos passengers took in front of this Merlion statue. Most of them were as you’d expect, posing like they were drinking from the fountain, but there were also some creative ones like pretending to be shooting the water from their mouths, or peeing, or just selfies / wefies  which deservedly received some harsh criticism from the hilarious MCs because ‘the main focus was on themselves instead of the Merlion’.

*Time travel event, i.e., an event to commemorate changing of the time as we enter a different time zone on the boat. We changed time zones 24 or 25 times in total and each time they would have a very funny event planned in the wee hours of the night so they felt all the more surreal.

  • Expenses: ¥5,000, about RM188.00. I don’t remember buying anything expensive, though. The money was mostly spent on snacks and transport and meals and Starbucks stuff in order to use the Wifi.
  • Post Card sent to family: Another Merlion!DSCF3788
  • Post Card sent to bf: More Merlion! This time with local looking houses and orchids, and the boat from the River Cruise.IMG_0349
  • Wifi Facilities: Free Wifi at some cafes if you order something. I say some because the first cafe we went to for kaya toasts with Izzy only gave us the Wifi password because we told them we weren’t locals and were desperate. Starbucks had a stable enough wifi to do some much needed Skype calls.

NEXT PORT: MUMBAI!

 

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#5 Reminiscing PB88: Cebu (Port 1)

This post will be the start of a series entitled ‘Reminiscing PB88’; PB88 being short for Peace Boat 88th Voyage, a life-changing global trip that I think is worth documenting and sharing. I visited 23 ports in 20 countries with PB88 and I ambitiously hope to write a post for each port over the next couple of months while my my memories are still fresh!

First, a short introduction to Peace Boat in an easy-to-understand Q&A format. Please bear in mind that I don’t officially represent Peace Boat and this is strictly my personal experience as a volunteer staff onboard.

★★★

What is Peace Boat (PB)?
PB is first, as the name suggests, a boat. But it isn’t just any ordinary boat, read on to find out more.

What does the boat do?
It is a cruise ship that literally circles the world 3 times a year on average, carrying almost 1,000 passengers on each global voyage which stops at about 20~25 countries each time.

Who are the passengers on PB?
The passengers are mostly Japanese people who want to travel around the world by cruise ship. Most of them are Japanese because the organisation is based in Japan but efforts are being put into the internationalisation of passengers as well as staff.

Why ‘Peace’ Boat?
Because PB is run by an NGO by the same name which advocates for peace, human rights, sustainable development, and environmental issues. Educational and international or regional exchange programs are held onboard the boat or at the places the boat visits in order to foster cultural understanding.

What was your position onboard PB?
I was an English ⇔ Japanese volunteer communication coordinator (CC), aka an interpreter / translator.

Who do you translate for?
PB invites both Japanese and non-Japanese experts in fields related to PB’s mission in promoting peace to come onto the boat to have lectures for passengers so we interpret an English speaker’s lecture into Japanese and vice versa. Besides these lectures, as there are non-Japanese people onboard at any given time, there are thousands of other onboard activities that require interpreting, no matter big or small. We also translate the newspaper and onboard news TV programme daily and interpret for local tour guides at ports. Of course, facilitating communication in informal settings, e.g., a conversation over lunch between an international passenger and a Japanese passenger, is also a common task.

Did you get paid?
Nope! As the name suggests, I was a volunteer, hence I didn’t get paid a salary. However, I got to stay on the boat for free and got a free trip around the world while learning about things that broadened my horizon in ways beyond what I had imagined. It was definitely an eye-opening and fulfilling experience that I would recommend to anyone!

★★★

MAGANDANG HAPON! (Hello in Tagalog)

  • Date: 2015/8/26~ 8/27
  • Port Name: Cebu
  • Country: Philippines
  • First time there?: Yeap!
  • What did I do?: Free day on Day 1, ‘Country Life Experience’ tour Day 2

What I learned about the Philippines onboard:

Poverty
Poverty in the Philippines is a really serious issue that the country has been struggling with for a long time. I don’t remember the statistics but after a Google search I found out that a little less than 25 million people i.e., a quarter of the whole population are living under the poverty line. According to this source, a family of five needs to earn at least RM750 a month to be considered ‘not living in poverty’.

To put it into perspective, 25,000,000 people is roughly 80% of Malaysia’s population. These 25,000,000 people in the Philippines are living in poverty because they do not have RM150 a month.

DSCF3231

Lots of ‘kampung’ (village) houses on the way to the Hadsan Cove beach, where I snorkelled with my CC friends on the first day.

Japanese Filipino Children (JFC)
One of the first guest lecturers onboard was Ms. Carmelita Nuqui, Executive Director of an NGO called Development Action for Women Network (DAWN). Through her lectures, I learned about the problems faced by the Japanese Filipino Children (JFC), children born out of wedlock between Japanese men and Filipino women. The number of JFCs is estimated between 100,000 ~ 200,000, most of them conceived in the 70s when Japanese salarymen went on organised ‘sex trips’ to the Philippines, or between Japanese men in Japan and Filipina women working in Japan as entertainers from the 80s till present day. Most of these children have been abandoned by their Japanese fathers because the fathers are usually already married and have their own families. DAWN advocates for the protection of the civil rights of the JFC as well as immigrant Filipino workers in Japan. They also work to help JFCs find their fathers in Japan and to promote economic independence of women through a fair trade fashion and handicraft project. Check out my shameless modelling of one of their products below:

IMG_0042

Here’s me (2nd from the left) wearing the beautiful fair-trade batik dress I bought from the NGO DAWN booth set up onboard. One thing that I remember from the lecture was that these women are metaphorically ‘sewing’ their lives back again by sewing these clothes and making other merchandises like pencil holders and pouches. Note: This picture was taken after I came back to Malaysia a few weeks after PB.

Other pictures taken on my free day:

DSCF3218

Here’s Meg and me when we first docked at our first port!

IMG_8495

Crossing the truss bridge to Mactan Island on the way to Hadsan Cove Resort!

IMG_8507

I feel like this is an important picture to upload despite its bad quality because it shows something that happens at each port for about 20 mins to 1 hour — everyone (in this pic, everyone except Jason, hello Jason!) going online using the free wifis at cafes to catch up on things as there was only slow and expensive wifi on the boat. I also was on my phone for about 20 mins before lifting my head and turning my attention to the beautiful view that was ↓

DSCF3225

Beach at Hadsan Cove Resort. It was quite quiet despite all the small boats you see in the picture. We were the only group there swimming and snorkelling.

IMG_9231

BBQ dinner at Larsian. Very tasty and good value for money. The pusos (rice wrapped in coconut leaves) reminded me of ketupats in Malay cooking and were a nice balance to the sweet BBQ meat. Photo taken by my friend Kahoru!

 

  • Expenses (only Day 1, as I worked on Day 2): US$20, about RM87.00
  • Post Card sent to family/bf: None. There weren’t any pretty ones on sale.
  • Wifi Facilities: Free Wifi at the cafe near the Hadsan Cove beach and at McDs in Cebu city.

SALAMAT PO! (Thank you in Tagalog)

NEXT PORT: SINGAPORE!

 

#2 カジノでは読書しちゃいけない

クリスマスの週末に、家族4人でと4日間シンガポールに行きました。しかし、イルミネーションを見に行ったり、カウントダウンしに行ったりするようなクリスマスならではのことをしていなかった。なぜならば、母は毎日カジノに行きたがっていたからだ。そして、母一人で行かせるのが不安なので、結局毎回みんなで行くようにしてた。

最初の二日間は、母がルーレット機に夢中していた間に、姉2人と時間をカジノ周辺で時間をつぶしていた。

一日目、母がセントサ島内のカジノで遊んでいたので、近くのハーバーフフロントエリアでぶらぶらした。実は、4ヶ月ぐらい前に、ピースボートは丁度同じところに寄港していた!

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見て、同じ港でスタークルーズGemini(双子座)が停まっているよ。同じく赤い煙突を持っていて、まるでピースボートのふりをしていたようだ。

二日目、今度はマリナベイサンズのカジノに来てた。実はカジノのwi-fiでブログをアップしている。

さっき、カジノ内、母が遊んでいたところの近くで持ってきた本を読もうと思って出したら、姉に注意された。「ここで読書するつもりなの??お母さん怒っちゃうよ。」って。どうしてって聞いたら「”本”は中国語で”書”といって、発音は”負ける”の中国語”輸”と同じなので幸先が良くない。」と姉が説明してくれた。中国系の人の大儲けに邪魔したら本当に大変なことになりそうなのですぐに本を鞄にしまっておいた。

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せめてシンガポールのカジノの周辺はとても歩きやすく見所もたくさんあったからなかなか面白かった。ガーデンズ・バイ・ザ・ベイはとても込んでいたのは残念だったが。次回ぜひ行きたいな!

#2 No Reading at the Casino

I’m in Singapore for four days with my mum and 2 sisters over a long Christmas weekend but my trip so far hasn’t been all happy and Christmassy with twinkly lights and countdowns like you would imagine. Why? Because mum wants to go to the casino all day err-day!! And she doesn’t feel comfortable being alone there so we end up having to mumsit her.

So much of the past two days have been spent killing time while my mum inserts bills after bills into the electronic roulette machine.

Yesterday evening we walked around the harbor front area because my mum was at the casino near Sentosa Island, which was incidentally where the Peace Boat docked on 8/31, not even four months ago!

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Look, there’s even a Star Cruise Gemini ship docked there, pretending to be Peace Boat.

Today we are at the casino at the Marina Bay Sands hotel. I am literally typing and uploading this from the casino wifi.

I wanted to read my book at a corner near my mum and my sister told me not to do that because mum would flip out. I’m like why? Because 書 (‘book’ in Chinese) has the same pronunciation ‘shu’ as 輸 (‘to lose’ in Chinese) so it isn’t auspicious. I laughed so hard but then I realised she was serious. If I were to read a book there inside the casino, I think not just my mum, other aunties and uncles will most probably chase me away.

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At least the surrounding areas of these casinos are nice and walkable. Too bad the Gardens by the Bay was so crowded though. Hopefully Monday!

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