On Wednesday, the eve of the Lunar New Year (除夕, chu xi), my reading for class was a chapter by Arjun Appadurai, in which he discusses what he calls "the global production of locality", i.e. how through technology, the media and diasporic flows, the identity of a locality or particular place is communicated, shaped and shared on a global scale, and some of its resonant implications for nation-states and modern society.
Earlier in the week, I'd just seen Civic Life: Tiong Bahru, a fictional short film by UK filmmakers Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy, set in and inspired by the people they met in that neighbourhood in Singapore. In other words: a non-Singaporean take on Tiong Bahru residents' take on their neighbourhood and place in Singapore.
And then it was the Lunar/Chinese New Year. In lieu of reunion dinner on 除夕, I met some friends for a very British-style celebration: drinks at a pub, followed by a late dinner of Lebanese food (and more wine). On the first day of the New Year, for dinner I made a big pot of soya sauce chicken, which isn't remotely a traditional Chinese New Year food, but has been one of my favourite foods from my mother's repertoire since I was a child (also one of the easiest to make). On the second day of the New Year, I had to go to school, so I threw on a red cardigan over the greys and blacks that populate my winter wardrobe (wearing red is for luck, traditional during the New Year; sombre colours are for funerals and unlucky days).
Aspects of Chinese-New-Year-in-Singapore which I have not "reproduced":
- dong-dong-chang music that can drive you batty (although I might get a dose of it, if I drop in at the Trafalgar Square/Shaftesbury Avenue festivities tomorrow)
- mahjong sessions
- kibitzing for hours while snacking on bak kwa, pineapple tarts and mandarin oranges
- getting a sore throat by the third day from eating too much "heaty" food
(Not that I've been party to any arguments recently.)
Tomorrow I'm going to 拜年 (bai nian, pay a New Year visit) to a close friend, with oranges and red wine. Bringing oranges is traditional. Bringing red wine is not.