CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

February 21, 2009

A Singapore Pine Tree & Kampong Buangkok, Singapore


CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

A SINGAPORE PINE TREE & KAMPONG BUANGKOK, SINGAPORE

     A pine tree grows on our property in rural Slippery Rock, PA. It’s not just any pine tree. It has a nickname. It is our “Singapore pine.”
     Lest you think that there is a species of tree called Singapore pine, let me correct you. We refer to this particular tree, sitting on the far side of the man-made pond, as a Singapore pine because it was planted there by a former Slippery Rock University student from Singapore. We were his host family—his American family away from his homeland, a family he didn’t live with, but visited regularly during his studies at the university in the first years of the 1970s.
     We took him, and one of his friends, with us when we visited New England. We slept in tents at a campground near York, Maine. It was so close to the beach that the students could arise in the morning, walk to the beach, and dig clams for their breakfast.
     He was present at our young daughter’s baptism, and he shared numerous meals at our home, cooking some of them.
     He returned to Singapore, but returned for a visit with his wife a decade later. If he thought we were wealthy living in our small cape cod house in the town of Slippery Rock, he consider that we were truly wealthy on this visit—we had since purchased a farm, built a house and dug a pond. During his visit, we hiked about the property. He dug a pine tree from the back woods, and planted it next to the pond. That tiny sapling towers over Monte and I today.
     Yes, he considered us wealthy. To own a piece of property in Singapore, one had to have wealth. It is highly urbanized. That is why the article about a miniature Singapore village called Kampong Buangkok, hidden among coconut palm trees which rustle in the breeze, caught my attention.
     Kampong Buangkok is Singapore’s secret Eden. Although few people in Singapore know about this village, hidden in trees 200 yards from a highway, but through the trees the village residents are able to glimpse government housing where almost five million people live in an area less than three hundred square miles. Singapore has one of the world’s highest population densities.
     Like the original Garden of Eden, changes will be made. The government plans to demolish and redevelop Kampong Buangkok, completing one of the world’s most extreme national makeovers. This secret Eden will soon become part of Singapore’s high-rise, high-tech city-state.
     The rural hamlet, where tropical birds whoop and whistle, consists of twenty-eight houses in an area the size of three football fields—an area less than half the size of our former farm property. Click here to view a video documentary of Kampong Buangkok: http://www.singaporedelivery.com/kampong-lorong-buangkok/  
     The urbanization began in the early 1960s, according to Rudolph de Koininck, a geography professor at the University of Montreal. In his book, “Singapore: An Atlas of Perpetual Territorial Transformation,” he charts a half-century of change, a period of time where even the redevelopment is up for redevelopment, as structures built in the 1960s and 1970s are already being torn down.
     It reminds me of the first half of the 1980s, when we lived in Atlanta, GA. My husband, Monte, started to work on construction, but after a half day he quit. He couldn’t stand the shoddy building techniques—which we dubbed “cracker-jack tinker-toy” construction. We watched as large areas of tree-covered land were clear-cut for malls that would be torn down for redevelopment in the near future. We were dismayed at what we saw.
     Kampong is a local word for village. It also defines a traditional rural way of life that Singapore has left behind. In 1956, it was a muddy village, purchased by Sng Mui Hong’s father. Currently, food plants there include tiny guavas, giant papayas, yams, tapioca plants, dill and edible bamboo shoots. There are tiny fish swimming in the tiny stream.
     Many of Sng’s neighbors are her childhood friends.
     The current landowner, Serene Tng, 55, works for the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Her tenants live in metal-roofed one-story homes, for which they pay nominal rents. The residents understand that they must not hold onto things, that if the government wants to take the land, they will. It’s the law. And with a projected population growth of two million more Singapore residents by mid-century, the country must optimize land use, doing so through reclamation, building upwards, or using subterranean space, according to Mah Bow Tan, Minister of National Development.
     When I return to our farmland, I wonder if the United States will ever reach the point where extreme land needs will overtake the property. We need our farms and woodlands, if only for ecological reasons. We also need them for their beauty and relaxation aspects.
     I look at the Singapore pine, and admire its luxurious growth. And I take an annual photograph to send to our friend in Singapore. Some day, his son may visit us, and I will take him to see it, and take his picture beside it. And he will consider us millionaires for having the land on which it is planted.

SOURCES:

The New York Times International,

THE NEW YORK TIMES International Sunday, January 4, 2009, pp 5.

URBAN SINGAPORE PREPARES TO GOBBLE UP ITS LAST VILLAGE by Seth Mydans

http://www.singaporedelivery.com/kampong-buangkok/

 

ADDITIONAL READING:

WRITER’S CALLS FOR SUBMISSIONS, COMPETITIONS & EVENTS: Feb. 20, 2009

HOW TO HARVEST & STORE ICE (Ice Harvesting)

AN OAK TREE MARKS THE PLACE

SNOW GLOBE

IN WINTERSCAPE…COMES THE SONG

STOKING THE COALS

WHAT RIGHTS DO CATS HAVE, I ASK

FERAL BIRDS: THE LATEST COMMUNITY HAZARD

ROSES ARE RED: Two Original Versions

MIDDLE AGE KNIGHT vs. MODERN DAY SOLDIER

LAUREL HIGHLANDS

PONDERING THE PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION PORTAPOTTY PROBLEM

TURKISH TOILETS IN A DARJEELING (India) TRAIN STATION

RELATED LINKS:

www.beanerywriters.wordpress.com/

www.carolyncholland.wordpress.com

www.beanerywriters.wordpress.com/

www.carolyncholland.wordpress.com

www.barbarapurbaugh.com

www.pennwriters.com

ellenspain.com

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1 Comment »

  1. Sometime before August 2009 a wire report informed us that the iconic Merlion statue, a popular Singapore tourist attraction that sits at the mouth of the Singapore River near the central business district, was damaged by lightning during a thunderstorm. Parts of the statue fell near a group of startled visitors. The 28-foot tall Merlion has the head of a lion and the body and tail of a fish. Its heat symbolizes Singapore’s founding by an Indonesian prince whonamed his new settlement after a lion he saw when he landed on the island. The fish represents Singapore’s origin as a fishing village.

    Comment by Carolyn C. Holland — September 1, 2009 @ 11:50 am | Reply


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