Coffee, Tea or Hot Water?

A scanned copy of the ‘New Life Weekly’ encourages people to drink boiled water, 1934, Vol. 1 (10). From National Digital Library of China

In my workplace cafeteria I remember  a large hand printed sign posted above the racks of clean water glasses: “Do NOT use for HOT WATER!”

The company had just relocated to a new site in Toronto and the food services group was getting  used to  the strange habits of a two thousand odd tech team.   One of the more perplexing issues was the amount of breakage due to people dispensing hot water  directly into cold beverage glasses.

With some curiosity, I had watched employees (all Chinese) by-pass the stoneware coffee mugs in favor of the more fragile, non-tempered water glasses. They filled them up with boiling hot water and ignoring scorched finger tips transported them back to the lunch tables.  Odd, I thought but cafeteria services being the least of my worries at the time, I forgot about it.

Years later when I was stationed in Beijing, I was charmed at the many little courtesies afforded to visitors in business meetings.  Almost always I would be seated around a meeting table where paper cups of hot water were already set in place.   My first couple sips were surprises and after the startled responses to my request for cold water, I learnt to appreciate the gesture and ignore the paper cups.

In this article from the Sixth Tone ‘The History of China’s Obsession with Hot Water’,  the mysterious habit is explained.  It’s a fascinating explanation of a custom that has followed generations of Chinese from old world to new.  It’s good reading.

Toronto, Canada. September 2017

 

 

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Torii gates of Fushimi Inari

A torii (鳥居, literally bird abode, Japanese pronunciation: [to.ɾi.i])  is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the profane to sacred – Wikipedia

I took a walk through the torii gates leading up to the Fushimi Inari shrine.

It was a long walk, on a hot and humid day,  with crowds and crowds of people.

I did not make it past the profane.

Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, Japan. August 2017

When a Kimono is not a Kimono

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Red Kimono in Kyoto

When is a kimono not a kimono? In summer, when it’s called a Yukata.  Actually, a yukata is a lighter, more casual version of the kimono, typically made with unlined cotton fabric.  Kimonos are far more formal, have more layers of clothing and are traditionally made with heavy, lined silk.

Where in Japan is the best place  to do street photography of people in kimonos?   In Kyoto and Osaka … but it probably won’t be Japanese in those kimonos.

Dressing-up in a kimono for day is a popular tourist activity. For about 3,000 yen you can be fully  outfitted in a kimono of choice complete with make-up, hair styling and wooden shoes. For an additional fee you can even ‘rent’ a photographer the day.  In Kyoto I saw many young ladies in kimono/yukatas walking about.  I admired their vigor, especially  on the hot (36F degrees) days of August when I was melting in my shorts & t-shirt.

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Yukatas at Sumiyoshi temple in Osaka

The ladies in kimonos offered good context for my holiday pictures.  Harder to find were interesting street shots.

My ‘Red Kimono’ picture was taken in Kyoto’s Shirakawa-minami Dori district. I like it because of the initial focus on the brilliant red pattern on the furi sleeve, then the elaborate obi tie in the back and finally, the girl’s incongruous blue french nails.

Kyoto & Osaka, Japan. August 2017

Tokyo Noir

Hidden away from the glittery lights of Shinjuku is a warren of  bars and pubs called Golden Gai.  Like Omoide Yokocho the bars are tiny, eclectic and cater to only  a handful of customers.  Walking through the narrow alleys, it feels like old noir Tokyo – dark, moody, a little seedy and very mysterious.

Here are a few peeks into doorways and staircases …

… and always intriguing are the glimpses of people hidden in bars.

Tokyo, Japan. July 2017

Playing with Light in Black & White

 

I don’t usually shoot in black & white but in my last photo walk I decided to set my LCD to monochrome.  What a difference.  I saw scenes I wouldn’t normally have seen. The absence of color forced me to look at the shadows and light.

Some pictures, like the play on reflections below, I would have missed.  In fact, when I loaded the RAW files in Lightroom, I was startled at the display of color.

These are the pictures that I took in monochrome:

 

These are the pictures that Lightroom showed:

 

Color or monochrome, they both have their appeal.

But without the monochrome LCD, I would never have seen the view.

 

Singapore. June 2017

Ice Cream Sandwich

Ice Cream Sandwich

The Sandy Food Chronicles

The New York Times posted an article on The Joys of a Classic Ice Cream Sandwich,  It says

“Designer ice cream sandwiches, made with amped-up cookies, fancy sprinkles and crazy flavors, can be tasty, but the classic combination of a chocolate base and vanilla ice cream pleases everyone”

Singaporeans might disagree.

This is what a Traditional Ice Cream Sandwich looks like.

I had mango flavor but I could have had red bean, corn or durian.

It’s a thick slice of ice cream wrapped up with pillowy soft, rainbow colored bread because it’s a sandwich.

Singapore. June 2017

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Bit and Pieces of Singapore

Painted Ladies in Joo Chiat

Seems like there are a  lot of Challenges in the WordPress blogosphere. 

I’m not sure that I can participate in all of them all of the time but I will try some, some of the time. 

Let’s see how I do.

Today’s challenge is from Cee Neuner’s Share Your World


What is something that people are obsessed with but you just don’t get the point of?

Mobile phones.

I’m a child of the ‘70s when portable telephones meant long extension cords. Maybe that’s why I don’t get the current day obsession with connectivity.

In my part of the world where phone plans are cheap (compared to North America) and cars are expensive (entry price is $120,000), I see lots of commuters engrossed with their phones. So engrossed that they’ll walk heads down into traffic.

Worse are the ones who play games without ear phones; as if we all want to hear their pings, dings and noise emissions.

Most distressing are toddlers held mesmerized by their parent’s phone. Mobiles become electronic pacifiers and little humans are being trained to see the world through a 7x15cm window.

What quirky things do people do where you are from?

There is no fear of color in Singapore’s buildings. Historic shop houses are painted in pretty pastels, stodgy government buildings have crayola colored shutters and ugly apartment blocks are doused in exuberant playground colors.

Shop House in Bukit Pasoh
MICA Government building. Photo credit: Erwin Soo

 

What are some things you wish you could unlearn? 

It’s too easy to pick up terms & odd wordings when living in a foreign country. Lately, I’ve been forgetting to “off the lights” when leaving a room and more often than not, I say “can” when answering with an affirmative.

It’s not a problem, so long as I’m in Singapore. My friends in Canada though, they’re starting to look at me strange.

Who is someone that you miss having in your life?

In Singapore 72% of the population is of Chinese descent with many migrating from South China in the late nineteenth & early twentieth century. As such, Singaporeans have an ethnic heritage similar to my parents and grand-parents. I see it in the faces of people on the street. My grandfather’s eyes. My mother’s nose. It’s present too in the local food and traditions. Many Singaporean dishes recall flavors from long forgotten family meals.

My family history is not Singaporean but our Chinese heritage share a common root. It would have been nice to have my mother and grand-mother (long deceased) around to ask questions and compare memories.

Did you ever make that? What was it called? Do you remember this?

Singapore. 2017

 

Focus in Yerba Buena

SAM_5784
This week’s Photo Challenge is Focus

The Daily Post says to choose a favorite photo of a moment in-focus or out. 
I have many pictures which  are blurry and out of focus but none of them are a favorite. Instead, I  choose this one.

focus  ˈfəʊkəs’
noun
  • A center of interest or activity. An act of concentrating interest or activity on something.

“He was focused on a thought, on something within himself.”

  • The state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition
“The clarity of color, grass and stone brought visual focus to his form.”

Photo taken in San Francisco, California. 2015