Saturday, 1 August 2015

The HDB

Hahi Mai Munah


Ghin was quite happy



Soto ayam in Hougang, with tissue paper

My mom had lontong

The boys had McDonalds

We wait for a Korean meal


Ooo gorgeous

Also gorgeous


I can safely say that over the least three weeks and a bit we have spent the most amount of time in what people here call The Heartlands. Or the HDB estates. I take the MRT several times a day, often from one housing estate to another - like yesterday from Ang Mo Kio to Jurong West - to go to the science centre, and for the sheer need to do something which does not involve too much travel or fighting in traffic, i have also spent loads of time just wandering around HDB estates - often with the boys.

HDB estates really are some wonder of the history of housing. There is nowhere in the known world which so many people have been so successfully housed in such high density housing for such a long period of time. They are small - yes they are small - some larger than others, but for the smallness, of the flat, you also have a lot of shared space. So parks, shops, shopping centres and sports facilities. There is some attempt at making these spaces look interesting. Like this park in Jurong we walked through yesterday. It was small, yes, but it was filled with some very interesting play sculptures.

There are all kinds of people who wander about HDB estates. The entire variety of human life fills them. Children, old people, young people, Singaporeans, non-Singaporeans. The overriding feel you get from these places is of people walking very briskly too and fro - like they know where they are going to and what they are doing - people just sitting about waiting for a sale - there are hundreds of shops, if not thousands all in a stone throw from each other, people just sitting about, retirees or people pausing in between places. They are often dressed very informally with T-shirts and shorts and flip-flops. It is busy and relaxed and very very well used. In fact the amount of usage these places get must be mind boggling. There is a overwhelming sense of law and order. I never saw children loitering, nor in any sense did i ever feel under threat, or in danger.

All the void desks are clean and breezy. The walls all painted nicely and in general there was little litter. Sometimes there was a lot of litter. Most cigarette butts and plastic packaging. Often in drains or in areas where they seemed to collect of their own accord. So there is still low-level littering, but by and large, considering the number of people and the amount of use each area gets, it is ok.

Some estates, like the Geylang estate, i did think well, maybe they could have made a better effort at the clean up. I won't even call it clean up, i'd call it general maintenance. But by and large, it is the feel you'd get if you went to someone's house - that someone being very busy, but trying to keep on top of the mess, and doing a fairly good job.

There is something real about HDB estates. The mix of life which is there. By and large people have accepted that this is what life is about. The flat, the school, the shopping centre, the family. Hobbies, sport. I think that hobbies and sport are really important in Singapore because there isn't an awful lot of places to visit or go to. Not without crossing borders and experiencing a whole different culture. So people love their cycling and their shopping and their eating and their running and their video games and their films. They love taking the MRT to another shopping centre and then walking around that shopping centre. They maybe go to the reservoir. Or maybe they head to Sisters' Island. If they are feeling particularly energetic. Maybe they walk around Serangoon Road. In the end, and i have experience this so keenly for the first time in years because i now spend almost two months a year here now, there is a limit to what you can do here.

I have literally run out of things to do in Singapore. I have seen all the sights, been to all the places, done all the things...

It is a truly odd feeling. The feeling that there is nowhere worth taking the trouble to go to. And it doesn't even stop at me. Today when i said to the boys, hey, let's go to the Central Business District to look at the huge skyscrapers which are truly a wonder of Singapore, they said to me. Nah. We'd rather stay at home.

OK, admittedly we had a big day yesterday, traipsing around the science centre and then hanging out at J Cube, but staying home all day today?

It would seem though my sons, have also reached the end of doing stuff in Singapore.

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