Monday, 25 November 2013

CHIJ – A Blast From the Past

I paid a nostalgic visit to my old school – The Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) on Victoria Street, Singapore. This school which I attended between 1955 and 1965 was moved to a new location in 1984. My mother had attended the same school too. The remaining old buildings which occupy a city block have been gazetted a national monument and have now been restored and turned into a tourist precinct called CHIJMES. Old classrooms are now shops and trendy restaurants. The old chapel has been renovated and is popular for weddings.
It was a particularly hot afternoon and I only managed 2 sketches, one done after taking refuge in the shade of one of the cafes and paying Sing$8 for a very dilute glass of apple juice. Perhaps this spot was where one of my old primary school friends lifted the back of a nun's cloak to see if she had any hair! (Colours added at home).
Front of chapel.
Back of chapel.
This is the side gate where unwanted babies were left (the school had an orphanage). These were female infants born out of wedlock or born in the Chinese lunar year of the tiger. In those days female "tiger babies" were considered unlucky. The orphans were put to work in the convent, cleaning or helping in the school tuckshop. I'm told that Catholic men could come and choose brides from among the grown orphans (who by then had undoubtedly been raised to make good Catholic wives).  

For more info on the school click here.

Friday, 15 November 2013

The Bodhi Tree

On my wonderings around the Nanyang Technological University campus, Singapore, I came upon this Bodhi tree on Nanyang Hill. A plaque at the base of the tree explains that it was planted in 1985. It is a shoot from the sacred Bodhi tree at Anuradhapura which is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka and a sacred place in the Buddhist world. This tree is hence a direct descendant of the Bodhi tree at Buddha Gaya in India where Siddhartha Gautama is said to have gained enlightenment (buddhahood). 

I felt I just *had* to return to sketch it. 

The Bodhi tree is a species of fig (Ficus religious) also known as Bo Tree, Peepul or Sacred Fig. Native to Southeast Asia, southwest China, India and the Himalayan foothills.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Elgin Bridge and Beyond...

Friends from Taipei were visiting last week and we went on the Singapore River Cruise together. Sketched this while waiting for our boat. Colour added at home. The trip is highly recommended! My heart swelled to see how the place of my youth has become such a beautiful city. 

Looking upriver. The boat goes under several bridges on its route upstream. Elgin Bridge and beyond...

We caught the bumboat at Raffles Landing along the Singapore River and the 40 minute cruise ended at the Fort Canning stop upstream.  

Statue of Sir Stamford Raffles considered the founder of modern Singapore. This spot (Raffles Landing) marks the spot where he first came ashore in 1819.

The old buildings along the river used to house shops and warehouses. In my childhood the river was a dirty smelly thriving hub of boats ferrying goods. The area has now been turned into a tourist area of fancy restaurants. 

The Fullerton Hotel, at one time the General Post Office. This area at the mouth of the Singapore River with it's old buildings must be my favourite area in Singapore. 

A good view of the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel. 

The Merlion Statue. The merlion is a mascot of Singapore. The fish body signifies Singapore's origin as a fishing village and the lion head represents Singapore's original name "Singapura" meaning "lion city" in Malay.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Real Estate Goldmine

In the ritzy tourist neighbourhood of Orchard Rd, Singapore, where real estate prices are sky-high, there sits an empty plot of land surrounded by expensive apartments. It has remained untouched for years. The trees have almost obliterated the view of the ramshackle hut that sits there. I'm told a family dispute has prevented sale of this real estate goldmine.

Artjam with Paul Wang

On 2nd November I went to an "Artjam" for the Singapore Urban Sketchers led by Paul Wang. It was held at The Muffinry, a quaint cafe on Telok Ayer Street. The event was sponsored by Daniel Smith Paints. The morning was filled with presentations by Paul Wang and the Singapore distributor of DS paints and demonstrations by Paul. Everyone got a sample sheet of Paul's favourite palette of DS watercolour paints and an opportunity to try them out. I used them to add wash to a sketch I did a few days ago. DS are really nice paints. Much to learn. 

No Shortage of Eating Places

There are many restaurants on the campus of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, including 16 canteens. The canteens are typically attached to Halls of Residences (10,000 students live on campus) but anyone can eat in the canteens. I have visited 5 and eaten in 4. Each has it's own ambience and selection of stalls. Prices are subsidized and a typical meal eg. the iconic Singapore Chicken Rice will set you back Sing$2.50. Albeit it's a small helping of meat by Western standards…and a big helping of rice. Disappointingly there are (in my opinion) too few Malay or Indian stalls. Most stalls sell Chinese food with some Japanese and Korean thrown in. The meals are such good value that people unconnected with the university also come to eat especially at lunch time, these include taxi drivers and tour bus drivers who irritatingly park their vehicles outside our apartment building. Find the Myna bird in the sketch above. 

We have discovered that Sunday mornings are very quiet in canteens (students are away or asleep) and staff and their families often come for breakfast. J often has a coffee and I do my sketching. 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Isetan Bazaar

Last week I went to the Isetan Bazaar at the Nanyang Auditorium on the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) campus, Singapore. Isetan is a department store selling clothes and household goods. A percentage of the sale was being given to the NTU Student Fund which gives out bursaries and grants to needy students. Had this been 3 months ago when we first arrived in Singapore and were setting up our apartment, I could have bought many household items but this time round there was nothing I needed. 

After checking out the sale I went outside to sketch the Auditorium building. It was HOT. By the time I finished half an hour later (despite standing in the shade) I was drenched with sweat.