Dream Poem

I was digging through some old files that I’ve been meaning to throw out since we moved from Walpole. Some of the material in the files dates back to my first year at Curtin Uni in 1993. I came upon this poem – attached to a story I wrote about my Russian grandmother in the first or second year of my PhD (1998-1999). I haven’t changed punctuation or anything else. Here goes –

Dream Poem
I have a Russian cousin I didn’t know I had
Until I dreamed about her last night.
My Grandmother introduced us on the way to her death
She died in 1967.
I was wearing my grandmother’s slacks,
I found them in an old, battered brown suitcase.
Nobody knew she was going to die although she was ninety-two.
Grandmother was a secretive woman.
She recognised her slacks though, and laughed to see me wearing them.
that’s when she introduced me to my cousin Maria.
Maria is young, well, younger than me
and a migrant to Australia.
Maria was married twice in Russia.
The first time very young and for five years.
she tells me
“This husband liked entertainment too much”.
Second time, to Sergio, for twelve years.
“Same mistakes”
she tells me.
“No children”.
she tells me.
We sit together watching the lights beam down.
Dipping into the Swan.
She still flies in his private aircraft
she tells me
(but he doesn’t know).
There are documents I can’t read, written in Cyrillic.
Mysterious dream.

Dream Poem


March has long gone and here I am finishing off the travel blog at last.

Disembarking from the ship was fraught. As I came through the turnstile my identity card was refused! Bells rang and security stepped forward. I was sent (like a naughty schoolchild) to what we used to call the Pursers Office but on VoS is known as Guest Services. The security officer phoned Guest Services and I was told that there was ‘a message’. Of course, all sorts of calamities rushed through my mind. Leaving Roland to carry on down to the terminal, I had to rush up to Deck 5 (from Deck 4) and wait in the queue until there was a spot. The young Chinese officer swiped my card and asked me if I was me. Naturally, I replied, “Yes” at which point she told me I was free to go!  I asked her what was the problem? She replied, “A message!” End of conversation. No apology, no explanation. I have to say, I don’t think I will ever travel on Royal Caribbean again. Apart from this episode, sometime on the ship (or in Singapore) my credit card was skimmed.

There were more than 3,000 passengers leaving the ship at Singapore and I now had to find Roland! He was still waiting on the deck but I was sent to the terminal via another gate. Luckily I saw him standing there looking so forlorn. I waved and shouted until he spotted me and came tearing down the gangway. It only took about 5 minutes to clear Customs but then we (and 3,000 others) had to wait for our transport to the hotel. Eventually I remembered to look at our itinerary and found the name of the man waiting for us (Mr Hoon). Our car to the Swissotel Merchant Court was a very smart Mercedes and our driver was Josef.

Swissotel Merchant Court

There was another long wait to check in at the hotel and then, success! We were given an upgrade to an executive suite with free WiFi and a few other perks. Breakfast was included but for other meals we ate at one of the many food-halls.

Singapore is amazing. We went for a walk to China Town. My goodness, it was like being inside a washing machine on spin cycle. Mind you, everything clean and tidy as expected. We took time to go on a Singapore River cruise. This turned out to be a great way to see many of the sights that we may otherwise have missed. I was particularly taken with some of the sculptures along the banks of the river such as the one pictured here.

sculpture on the Singapore River

On our visit to the Botanic Gardens we saw some other whimsical sculptures, often slightly hidden so you come upon them unexpectedly. The Orchid Garden in the Botanical Gardens were splendid. I am not a big fan of orchids but the colours and variety in the Gardens nearly converted me (but not quite). There was one area where the orchids were backed by mirror walls thus intensifying the display.

Walking around the area near our hotel we found this Seafood
Market! We didn’t go in but it was a funny (peculiar) place to find in Singapore.

I was impressed by the sunshades over many of the Malls – also acting as umbrellas. Singapore is almost on the Equator and it rains a lot; maybe every day. There were storms when we were there but nobody seemed to miss a beat.

There is so much to see in Singapore, it is quite overwhelming. I would like to have visited the Lotus shaped Arts Science Museum, the Cultural Centre that looks like a hedgehog and the Singapore Flyer (you can just see it to the left of the Arts Science Museum below). Apparently it takes 45 minutes to go all the way round and the views are spectacular. Next time … Another place I will visit next time are the Gardens on the Bay. Two days in Singapore are not enough.

Art/Science Museum

Singapore River at night
Merlion, symbol of Singapore

On Sunday, we took a bus tour of the City and the Botanical Gardens. We saw from the land, landmarks we saw from the Singapore River the day before. The bus tour took us through the housing estates and we were given an excellent tutorial on some of the social aspects of Singapore. There is not much land in Singapore so all produce is imported from Malayasia and elsewhere. For the most part, the population live in apartment blocks and the demographic is mixed – old, young, rich, not so rich, different nationalities, commercial enterprise, worship and so on. We went past the old Colonial Sector and many of the Embassies. The United States Embassy was extremely well fortified but some of the others, barely at all. One area we passed I couldn’t quite figure out; it seemed to be fully fortified and there were signs threatening trespassers with death (images of guns shooting people). This seemed to be right near Orchard Road so it could have been the Governor’s Palace? This is about as close as I can get: The Istana

We visited Little India and I wished I had been able to sample some of the delicious looking foods available. It was at this point that the heavens opened and we had to hurry back to the bus.

When walking in Singapore I was able to get a sense of the history. There is so much development happening that the historical aspects tend to fade into the background. Next time (and there will be a next time …) I will visit the famous Raffles Hotel and have gin-sling. The time went far too quickly and after an extremely early start and an exceedingly revolting coffee at Changi Airport, we were on the plane home to Perth.

On the way home at last!

I think I must be a bit like a horse, I can hardly wait to get home again.


One Day in Ho Chi Minh City

The tour, Ho Chi Minh City Highlights, began in Phu My and a long (2+ hours) bus trip from the port to the city. The distance may not be so great but the traffic was heavy. Our guide, Tuan, kept us entertained and amused with information and some jokes – one joke pertaining to the so-called “Condom Trees” (Rubber Trees) that lined the highway from the port to the city. It was a long involved story suitable for Reader’s Digest! I could probably remember it but it was such a shaggy-dog tale that went on and on. Clearly he (Tuan) had told it before as it lasted most of the way.
Rubber Tree Plantation
All along the highway were coffee/refreshment shops. Part of the deal in these places are the hammocks; rows and rows of hammocks where, after your meal you can have a nap for as long you wish. I imagine you’d have to pay for the privilege.
The population of Saigon is estimated at 10million and there are approximately 6million scooters and motorbikes. The most popular scooter is one made in China and available for the Dong equivalent of $300 (Australian). There are approx. 20,000 Dong to the Aussie dollar. The scooters come at you from every direction and the trick, when crossing the road, is to set your course and not waver one iota! The drivers avoid you so, if you jump out of the way or something like that, you will be hit for sure.

The weather in Saigon was hot and humid. Apparently, when we were there (in March) the tourist season is coming to an end and the really hot weather is about to start. Tuan explained that once the tourist season ends so does his job. The wages are low and the population is still expanding as it has been since the end of the war. Farming is the main source of income and the fertile land produces up to three crops a year. Coffee is the major export with rice a close second. Tuan explained he came from a farming background and only started learning English as a young man in his late teens/early twenties. There is not much future for those who cannot speak English.
 Tuan taught us a few handy phrases to use – one of which was sing-a-song to be used when you need the loo! Some of the other phrases were a bit tricky for someone as language-challenged as I am but nodding and smiling seemed to be OK. 
The main Post Office was high on the list of where we absolutely had to go. The reason became clear once we got there … that’s where the authorised money changers hang out. I made my solitary purchase in the hawkers alley there – two wine holders shaped like the crescent moon and painted with a delicate pattern.
The History Museum is a fascinating place and the antiquities on show are extraordinary; many are incredibly beautiful and, to my mind, reminiscent of ancient Greek and Egyptian sculptures.
We visited the former Presidential Palace now known as Reunification Hall which became famous when a North Vietnamese tank crashed through its front gates on April 30th 1975, signalling end of the Vietnam War. We were taken through the bomb shelters under the Palace where many of the maps and some of the old telephones are on display. I found it spooky and couldn’t wait to get out into the open air again.
I believe we visited the Jade Palace but I have no recollection of it at all!
Many of the people (particularly the women) wear masks. I, along with most of the others on the tour bus, thought this was because of the pollution but … according to Tuan … it is to keep the facial skin pale! He said they take the masks off at night and there is still pollution but no sun!
Quick thoughts on Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City: Noisy, dirty, scary, fun, traffic, slums.
One Day in Ho Chi Minh City