Singapore Day in New York

It was my third time in NY, and being here always feels so special. I’ve heard a New Yorker tell me that even after living there all his life, there are still new things to learn about the city everyday. It’s such an amazing feeling to be there in that dynamic city – it makes you feel so alive. NY ranks after Paris in my favorite city list.


An Episcopal church along Park Avenue


Spring in New York. Red tulips.


White blossoms.


Grand Central Terminal.

Times Square Church


Entrance to Central Park


Jazz @ Lincoln Center


NYPD


Regular police cars


Mini versions


MOMA

On my way to Central Park for the Singapore Day event, I walked along Fifth Ave, which is home to the biggest fashion brands in the world. (think Orchard Paragon, almost the same stores and many others, but twice as big). I didn’t go to Oxford Street when I was in London, but Fifth Ave is more impressive than Champs Elysées (to me, at least). New York City is made up of five boroughs – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island. I’ve only been to Manhattan, and Brooklyn on the subway, but I can tell you Manhattan is the most diverse place you can ever be in. All kinds of people, from the very richest to the homeless, different languages at every street corner. “New York is truly amazing” – there’s no other way I can describe being here.


Apple Store @ Fifth Ave


Horse-drawn carriages @ Central Park


Beautiful spring Saturday at Central Park


Famous building skyline beside Central Park


A father watching his son climb up the rock

Approaching the Wollman Rink where the event was held, a live band’s music was ringing through the Park and it was the first time in a long time that I saw many fellow Singaporeans at a single place, queuing up to get into the area. It was a mix of emotions I guess – amusing to be hearing Singlish in Central Park thousands of miles away from home. The moment I walked through the registration area, I was handed a goodie bag and a few steps later, I looked up and right in front of me was Joshua – an ex-Central Band NSF whom I had met when I was still in the army. He was a percussionist and had moved on to playing the guitar professionally. It was quite a surprise meeting him there, once again because you never know who you might run into thousands of miles from home. Last time I met him was late last year at Little Shop of Horrors at Victoria Theatre (he was playing in the band). Small world indeed. I also met a senior from NJC Band who plays the trumpet. She didn’t remember me until I reminded her I was the oboist, Wanru’s junior – which is a good thing because I forgot her name.


Jane, me and Rishi at Singapore Day!


Hossan Leong, Robin Goh, Jonathan Lim were some of the performers.


Rani Singam, who performed with Central Band in a jazz concert

I found Rishi queuing up at the sambal seafood queue, where the cook was whipping up barbecued sambal stingray, sotong and prawns. To my surprise, Jane was there queuing with him and I had no idea she was going to be there! By the way, Jane is also from NTU and is an exchange student at the University of Maryland. We were in the same group for the orientation camp, so it was a very nice surprise indeed. We queued for the sambal seafood for two whole hours before we actually got any food.


It was worth the wait.

The uncle hard at work cooking fried hokkien mee. We also queued up for chicken rice, but before we reached the front, they ran out of chicken, so we had to settle for rice and dark soy sauce. Well, four months without hawker food – we would have been satisfied with chicken rice without the chicken. While queuing up for the various food, it was so interesting to observe other Singaporeans gathered here in NY to remember local food and meet up with fellow countrymen. Some people I observed can be categorized and they are definitely worth remembering: American-born/raised people with Singaporean roots/parentage; Singaporean people with Caucasian boyfriends/girlfriends, Singaporeans studying or working abroad. Each specimen had traits that amused me so much. But one thing connected them – they were all trying in their own ways to find the Singaporean in them (to varying degrees of success, but who am I to judge anyway.)

Of course they rolled out their most prized possession – Kit Chan. She looked ridiculous in her green suit. But then again, after watching Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress last year, I am still very much impressed by her so she has earned my respect. Definitely Singapore’s best export in the entertainment industry.

There was a technical glitch during her segment but I thought she handled it very well other than the fact that she kept asking New York-based Singaporeans to “come home”, that “Singapore needs talents like you to return”. It got quite annoying after repeated attempts to drive that message through. She even said that no one forced her to pass those messages. I’m sure she knows no one believes her.


Beautyworld and Fried Rice Paradise comes to New York


Forbidden City, too bad they only did one song from the musical.


Ridiculous Japanese segment


Finale.

All in all, I think the event went pretty well. It felt sincere that they wanted to reach out to overseas Singaporeans and the turnout was better than they expected. The cynic in me really wants to think that the government has motives other than purely connecting with overseas Singaporeans, but like I said, there was sincerity. There were a few very emotional people during the finale when they belted out national day songs. That really tugged at their heartstrings I suppose. I think it’s a great event and they really should make it an annual affair in many other cities with a relatively large Singaporean population, like San Francisco or Perth, as they did in London and New York.


I love it how even McDonald’s looks like its a Broadway show. 

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