Blog To Express

A blogosphere learning experience to express with blog

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Location: Singapore, Singapore

A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Mar 27, 2014

Never Too Old To Blog

"Friends of Yesterday" (FOYers) Philip Chew, Victor Yue, Lam Chun See and myself were featured in The Straits Times (LIFE! People Section)  written by Kezia Toh and published on March 24, 2014.

The special feature is reproduced here with the courtesy of The Straits Times to share with our blog friends and fans.

Senior blogging about yesteryears

[Folks 60 and above are blogging about their childhood, ancestors, history and traditions.

To plumb the mysteries behind his great-grandfather Chew Joo Chiat's life, 70-year-old Philip Chew started blogging in 2008.

The creator of the MyChewJooChiat blog hopes that by posting online, he will gain more information about his famous ancestor, who made his fortune as a trader before becoming an owner of gambier, nutmeg and coconut plantations.  The Joo Chiat area in Singapore is named after him.

Mr Chew's blog has since garnered more than 72,000 page views.

Says the retired public health officer:  "People might say blogging is only for young people, but I feel proud that at my age, I am blogging and on Facebook, interacting with readers about my ancestor."

He is among a group of senior bloggers aged 60 and above who are making their presence felt on the Web.

Besides his blog, there are other blogs by sexagenarians recounting their childhood memories, as well as one looking for a long-lost nanny.

A request to find a long-lost amah turned Mr Lam Chun See's nostalgia blog, GoodMorningYesterday , into a lost-and-found notice.  A British woman sent him an e-mail last year seeking help to find her Chinese nanny from the 1960s.  When he blogged about the search, comments from readers hit the jackpot - one had a link to the nanny's husband.

"People interact and form a community and it is very exciting when you find something you thought was lost," says Mr Lam, 61, a freelance management consultant who started the blog in 2005.  It has garnered more than 1.4 million page views.

The blog, which records memories and places of days past, also spun off a book in 2012.

Mr Lam's documenting of memories also inspired retiree James Seah, 65, who started writing his BlogToExpress in 2007.

In it, he records his childhood memories of being displaced during the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961 and his late mother's plucky preparedness - she had packed important documents such as the family's birth certificates in a sarong, which she immediately grabbed and ran off with.

Victor Yue of the BullockCartWater blog

Engineer Victor Yue, 61, also records childhood memories on his BullockCartWater blog, where he blogs about growing up in Chinatown.  He also writes another blog that tells the stories of deities and the history of Chinese temples in Singapore.

The BullockCartWater site has garnered about 66,000 page views, while the one on temples has more than 200,000 views.  Both were started in 2005 as a storekeeper of the days of yore, says Mr Yue.  For example, the blog on temples shows how they evolved as a place of worship to becoming a community centre that held residents together.

Memories of old days may disappear with older folks since most of them speak mainly dialect, so Mr Yue, who is fluent in Teochew, Hokkien and Cantonese, records their stories for online posterity.

He says: "Blogging is my modern version of the old uncle sitting in a corner during Chinese New Year or birthday celebrations, telling grandmother stories and attempting to make sense of history."

As for genealogy-keen Mr Chew, he is interested in finding out the name and life of his great-grandmother, the first of his great-grandfather's two wives, whose grave has not been found.

He documents his findings online genealogical software Family Tree Builder.

"I am building my family tree, but if no one takes over, it will probably die with me," says Mr Chew, who is married with four children aged between 48 and 51.

Combing the backlogs of history also debunks some myths:  He is particularly riled by reports describing his ancestor as a Peranakan.

For the record, Chew Joo Chiat arrived in Singapore from China in 1877, then married his second wife, who was a Peranakan.  That is possibly how the misunderstanding occurred.

He explains:  "If I do not put these facts right, other people might follow the inaccuracies."

Setting truths to light has earned him a reward.  A reader e-mailed him a list of members of Tongmenhui, the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance started by Dr Sun Yat Sen, who founded the Republic of China.  Mr Chew found his great-grandfather's name on the list.

It was a surprising revolutionary find after years of searching, he says.

"Perhaps it was more like joining a golf club in those days - not because you liked to play golf, but because you needed to  rub business shoulders ... Who knows?"]

Bloggers Lam Chun See and James Seah will speak on topics such as using technology to bridge the generation gap at 50plus Expo, an annual event to promote active ageing by the Council For Third Age, from Friday to Sunday at Suntec Singapore Halls 401 to 404.


Mar 16, 2014

The People's Collection - A Special Exhibition

It was a sunny, sultry afternoon when I went to the National Museum of Singapore on Friday, 14 March, 2014.

Incidentally, I had passed by the museum a few days ago and posted on my personal blog .

Thanks to the National Museum of Singapore and MediaCorp for their cordial invitation to "The People's Collection - A Special Exhibition" at the National Museum of Singapore on 14 March, 2014.

I appreciate the courtesy of MediaCorp's e-invite: "Our Treasure Hunters searched the nation to uncover and curate treasures that could form the intricate links to our nation's past and this exhibition is the climax of more than 6 months of effort from inception to completion.

The People's Collection - A Special Exhibition is a collaboration between the National Museum of Singapore and MediaCorp Pte Ltd (Channel NewsAsia) following the telecast of the documentary series titled "Treasure Hunt".  The documentary, produced by Channel NewsAsia, centres on the idea that "there is a little bit of history in all our homes", and involves a call to Singaporeans to bring out the objects that they hold dear.  The items showcased in the documentary, ranging from intricate memorabilia to the cherished heirlooms of individuals, families, collectors and institutions across the country, will be presented at the National Museum of Singapore as part of a special exhibition highlighting our collective heritage.  Featuring the personal stories behind each of these objects and their collectors, this exhibition is a testament to how everyday items, which may otherwise be left unappreciated, could be significant to understanding one's heritage".

It was my pleasure and honor to meet at the exhibition, Ms Debra Soon, Managing Director of Channel NewsAsia, the brain snd creativity behind this meaningful Singapore memory project as tribute to our Pioneer Generations; curator Ms Tan Teng Teng and the charismatic and friendly presenters of the "Treasure Hunt" series, international television host and travel presenter, Anita Kapoor and resident archaeologist Chen Sian.  Credit and thanks to the wonderful teams to everyone in the project to help the  young and old, Singaporeans and foreign visitors at the exhibition to share the collective memories for many us to learn about "a little bit of history in all our homes" in Singapore over the decades.  Thanks to all the contributors for their precious treasures to exhibit and share.

  Anita Kapoor and  Chen Sian were the Mistress and Master of Ceremony respectively

I was undecided whether this photo of me with a funny look with Chen Sian to be posted on the blog,  but thought it doesn't matter.  Sometimes I could have some fun ... haha.

Please watch the Treasure Hunt video with the courtesy of Tan Teng Teng.

When I arrived punctually at Level 2, Glass Atrium of the National Musuem Singapore, I met many blogger and nostalgia friends.  A few of them I have not met in person but familiar faces whom I have seen them on TV in the recent MediaCorp "Treasure Hunt" serial. 

Photo with my curator friend, Tan Teng Teng

This photo with my former HDB colleague, Mr Khor Ean Ghee.  It was a pleasant surprise because it was almost 40 years since we last met at the former HDB Cash Office in Maxwell Road.  After I introduced myself, Ean Ghee remembered that I was the former cashier who served him every month in the past to cash his pay cheque.  This special service for HDB staff has since ceased with payment of salary was banked in to the individual staff's bank accounts.

Ean Ghee, a former Interior Designer at the HDB, designed the "Dragon Playground" in Toa Payoh in the 1970s.  The unique playground designs reflected aspects of Singapore’s culture and identity.   He was happy when I mentioned him the news that the iconic dragon playground in Toa Payoh escapes demolition.

The well-known "Dragon Playground in Toa Payoh" is featured in the National Heritage Board here .

My young friend from the National Museum of Singapore
I met my blogger friend Andy Lim of  "Singapore 60s: Andy's Pop Music Influence" and he was at the exhibition with his 7-year-old grandson.  Andy is a contributor to the People's Collection with vinyl records of Singapore pop groups from the 1960s which has been hailed as the "Golden Age of Singapore Music".  He blogs here .

I did not meet Xiang Yun (向云), the veteran and household name of MediaCorp actress and director among Chinese drama TV for over a decade.  However, at the special preview of "The People's Collection", a specially designed vintage TV set was screening Xiang Yun in episode of "Treasure Hunt" video for the visitors to enjoy.  A few screenshots are shown in the above photos.

How nice to have Mr Lee Woon Chiang, Director "Uncle Ringo" to remember me when he saw me from a distance and waved at me.  A warm handshake and wonderful to meet again after so many years.
We worked together for a short period on the "Great Great World" movie project to create a retro-mini Great World Amusement Park in Sengkang with many kiddie ride machines.  "Uncle Ringo" website here .

Uncle Ringo sitting beside a treasure horse kiddy ride exhibit which he mentioned in an episode of "Treasure Hunt".  Since this is the "Year of the Horse", touching the exhibit would bring everyone luck.  "Huat Ah"!

Uncle Ringo wanted to look at my "treasure exhibit" as my humble contribution for the "People's Collection" at the exhibition booth. There is "a little bit of history in my home" as collective memories of pioneer generations to share with everyone.

For those who are interested to find out more about the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961, please watch the Suria Channel Terbit 03 - Bukit Ho Swee and Tiong Bahru Area fires (in Malay with English Subtitles) video. Thanks to the courtesy of the Tiong Bahru Secondary School as uploaded on YouTube for sharing.


Mar 15, 2014

The End of An Era - Bucket System in Singapore

"Kampong Toilet"

Jerome Lim, the "Wondering Wanderer' of "The Long and Winding Road" blog for "people, places, events, words and images that have left an impression on me along the long and winding road ...".  He is my young blogger friend who blogs with passion and love of Singapore memories prolifically with great photos and the creator of the ever-popular Facebook group, "On a little street in Singapore" .  There are now about 6,000 Facebook members in this group and increasing in this interesting topics by Singaporeans and everywhere.

In the archived NAS photo of an old "kampong toilet", Jerome asked: "Anyone with memories of using such outhouses to share?"

Kamal Abu Serah posted a photo with the caption "Same person, same place, different timings" and another one by Philip Chew.

Jerome Lim posted a similar photo: "Tong Tahi" (night-soil carrier in Malay).

All humans smell with their noses politely and good smell in the air with a smile, while bad smell dislike with disgust and growl.  No wonders many people, especially the ladies, use perfume these days. However, all creatures sniff with nostrils to test their food without perfume ...

In my previous blogs, "Memories of Smell - Sewerage here and a related blog topic "Ways Done in the Past - Public Toilets" here .

[ On 24 January 1987, Singapore said goodbye to a primitive way of life and entered a modern era.  "Modern sanitation has arrived at every home in Singapore, sounding a death knell to the century  - old night soil bucket system," said news report on that day.

From that day, the 78 night soil workers who served families in rural areas would no longer go on their daily rounds to empty and clean the buckets of human waste.  The system - introduced in Singapore in the 1890s - had been phased out by ENV in a bid to provide modern sanitation for the whole of Singapore.  Night soil workers had either been deployed as cleaners or retrenched.  Altogether, 15,369 buckets were phased out from 1982 till 1987.  It was the result of a $1.6 million effort by ENV to develop an island-wide sewerage system that was accelerated in the 1970s.

To mark the official end of the night soil bucket system, ENV held a closing-down ceremony at its last night soil disposal station at Lorong Halus in Tampines.  Former Chief Engineer of PUB's Drainage Department Donald recalls that day of the ceremony "We wanted to keep the last bucket.  ENV officers cleaned it and kept it, as a reminder of the younger generation of a previous way of life."]

Thanks to Westly Ong for sharing the old photo of the truck for carrying the 'nightsoil buckets', one door for each bucket.  I think this is a smaller truck with fewer doors. The standard size of the truck have 32-doors, with 16 doors on each side.  Photo credit: Westly Ong to share on my blog. Much appreciated.

History of Used Water Management in Sngapore

The history of the Public Utilities Board (PUB) in Singapore over the decades.

Contribution by Mr Goy Soong Ngee to share with us on this blog. Thank you, Mr Goy.  

My Story  

Toilet was a small attap and wooden structure a short walking distance at the back of the house.

Going to the toilet in the night to do the "big business" was a problem as it was dark at night and the walk to the toilet rather eerie and quiet. If one had to go to the toilet to find relief, a small kerosene lamp or lighted candle would help. Using a torch light would not be practical and useful as it would not give a bright enough shine to cover a big area. Also the torchlight might just slipped off from your hand while you were doing the cleaning up and adjusting your pants or blouse back into position. So for those who feared going in the dark and quiet in the night to get to the toilet, they would do their big business at home using a spittoon.

This would be a better option as the next morning the contents in the spittoon could be brought to the toilet to be emptied. It is interesting to note that if you were half way through your business, and the nigh-soil carrier arrived to replace the bucket with an empty one, you would have to be fast enough to get out of the toilet before he replaced the bucket. Otherwise you would have to shout aloud to him to wait till your job was done.

Occasionally one would be faced with an awful sight of flies buzzing around the human waste, and a few days later, the thousands of crawling maggots. This would happen if the night-soil carrier, for whatever reason, did not turn up for work for a few days.

To go to the toilet, some kampong folks would smoke a cigarette or wipe some ointment to their nose to reduce the dirty smell of the human waste. There were those who would pinch their nose and hold their breath, and if they could not managed do so, would breath through their mouth while cupping it with their hands. For me, it was just finishing the business quickly and getting out of the cubicle as soon as possible.

However, I am not sure if there were those who had the habit of bringing papers or magazines to read while squatting down to empty their waste product.


Mar 13, 2014

Recycled Packaging Material Use As Artwork

The best parts of my first trip to Taiwan in January, 2014 was to discover many surprises which I have not heard, seen or read about in my lifetime.  Call me a "suaku" whom I must admit.

This shows how very little I know about Taiwan and the many tourist attractions which frequent travellers to the country would know more than me.  Please allow me to share my personal experiences and my ignorance to my Taiwan friends.

On 1 January, 2014 as we were about to return to our hotel in the evening, our tour guide Louis told us that we would be visiting a special restaurant in Taichung the next evening for dinner.  We were required to place our order for one main dish for chicken, mutton or fish.  These orders to be made in advance because our group was about 130 pax.

It was like a "mystery meal" in a "mystery place" in Taiwan to me.  Many of my friends may have been there before though.  So no surprises to them.

As night fell, I found my answers.  Let these photos taken by me and other photos shared on the Internet, acknowledged with thanks to the kind contributors.

Almost everything in Carton King (紙箱王) is made by corrugated paper, such as ceiling, tables, chairs, lanterns, plates, pen…etc. In souvenir store, it offers not only your usual paper products, but also paper hats and bags made from leather-like paper.  Awsome!

How can an ordinary, humble-looking corrugated cardboard for packaging to be used as material as a creative artwork and other practical purposes like furniture or camouflaged with electronic cookers?

As I discover and done more research on the Internet, I would like to blog here to share with those who have not been to this world's weidest restaurant as posted in the YouTube video clip.

More to learn from Huffington Post here .

The Carton King Creativity Park with more surprises at the Carton King website to explore and enjoy.  Have fun!