(reposted by request May 20, 2009)
It would seem that I got just the right amount of sleep en route to Singapore, as I managed to sleep well and wake up on local time. I also woke up to CNN and a day of sad news around the world. The Taliban has taken control of governmental offices in Pakistan. An attack in New Delhi left 15 dead (the total has since risen to at least 20). Thinking about these issues while walking around Singapore reminds me of what an amazing place Singapore is. Here in this tiny island nation Chinese, Indian, Malay, Europeans, and many others seem to live together in a harmony not often seen.
I started my walking tour of Singapore in Chinatown - a Chinatown in which one can find the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple and the Jamae Mosque. Unfortunately I didn't find the one thing I was really looking for: some Szechuan peppercorns that I promised to deliver to a high school counselor in Ecuador where I will be visiting in October. Oh well, I'm sure I'll find some somewhere. After an hour or so walking the streets of Chinatown and rejecting the many offers to have a suit made to order, I boarded the ultra-clean Singapore subway and headed for Little India.
One of the highlights of Little India for me has always been the Tekka Market, historically located just outside the subway station. However, just now the market has been moved a few blocks down Racecourse Road to a temporary home while the original site undergoes refurbishing. With nothing better to do, I headed off in search of the temporary home, passing the Foochow Methodist Church where I could have attended today's services in either English or in one of the Indian dialects common in the neighborhood. After a few blocks I entered the market and was hit with a wave of smells: the fishmongers struck first, followed by the Halal mutton vendors, then the fruit and veg, and finally the hawkers who sell every variety of food and drink known to the Indian subcontinent. As I strolled through, I noticed a cricket match in progress across an alley. I grabbed a freshly-squeezed lemonade (although I had asked for limeade!) and walked over. There on the Farrer Park Cricket Ground I discovered the 2nd Annual Street Cricket Tournament organized by a local Community Club and GOPIA (Global Organization of People of Indian Origin).
Having played a little cricket myself (wicket keeper), I was excited to watch my first Street Cricket match. Street Cricket, I learned, is played with a rubber cricket ball and allows each batsman to bat exactly one over whether or not they are out. Although it took me a while to catch on to the rules, what really stood out for me were three things. First of all, the announcer had every cricket cliché down cold AND he was only about 8 years old. Second, I wondered why Oberlin doesn't have an active cricket club. We have quite a few students from S. Asia, but cricket seems limited to the occasional pick-up game. Perhaps this admission cycle, we'll bring in someone to really invigorate cricket at Oberlin. But, most importantly, what I noticed on this day of death and destruction in New Delhi, was that the teams participating in this tournament represented a variety of Indian subcultures. Team names include Dakshina Brahmin Sabha, Maharastra Mandal, Bijhar Sangh, Teluga Samaj, and others.
I had planned to end today's blog with a statement that somehow paints Oberlin College as a place of tolerance not dissimilar to Singapore. But the comparison doesn't really translate all that well, as there are so many ways in which Oberlin and its history of leading social change doesn't well parallel the Singaporean experience. Still, Singapore is one of my favorite places to visit and I need to finish this up and get ready to entertain a small group of Oberlin alumni, students, and parents at a local Mediterranean restaurant.