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August 2016: A Most Eventful Month for Singapore

A Chun Cui He bottle that I managed to get by some stroke of luck
A Chun Cui He bottle that I managed to get by some stroke of luck

What were we doing at the start of August this year? Well, obsessing over 纯粹。喝 (Chun Cui He) milk tea bottles. Because we Singaporeans are savvy hoarders and flippers (just look at the number of opportunists on Carousell), 7-Eleven had to limit each person to just six bottles.

I managed to get my hands on it only after the craze died down somewhat–and the milk tea tasted almost exactly like Mineshine as I remember it. Nothing too special, and certainly not up to the standards of Gong Cha or Koi. The latte was slightly better, but nothing worth queueing for.

Of course, within the same month itself, the AVA discovered that the milk tea version contained a food additive that was banned in Singapore. The latte version is still being sold sporadically, though the demand has mostly subsided.

You could probably say that Chun Cui He burst onto the scene at the wrong time, because any free publicity they were hoping to achieve in the media was soon drowned out by the arrival of

Pokemon GO!
Pokemon GO!

Pokemon GO! on the first weekend of August. It’s been more than a month since Pokemon GO! was released, and certain places are still teeming with crowds camping for Dragonite and the like. A recent update that allows you to choose a buddy Pokemon to farm eggs with is currently making its way to Singapore as I write this, so perhaps you’ll suddenly see more people jogging or walking down the streets again.

August also marked the the return of the National Day Parade to the National Stadium. It was the first time the NDP was held at the newly minted stadium, and probably the last time in the foreseeable future due to the restrictions imposed by the venue (no heavy armoury and no parachuting amongst others) and the heavy cost. Much was said about the indoor fireworks, but the combined display of both outdoor and indoor pyrotechnics was only decent at best. And of course, as par for the course for an event held at the National Stadium, there was a minor snafu when the national flag failed to be projected over the roof of the stadium.

The next week, the spotlight was focused on Joseph Schooling, who brought home our first ever Olympic Gold medal and the second time the Singapore national anthem played at an Olympic stadium (the first time was Yip Pin Xiu’s Gold medal in the Paralympic Games in Beijing). A victory tour was held for him, and he obtained an extended National Service deferment in double quick time, probably the fastest in Singapore’s short history.

After the Schooling-mania died down, it was time for serious business as PM Lee held his 13th National Day Rally. It was business as usual, until he suddenly ‘took ill’ (read: almost fainted) in the middle of his English speech. Thankfully, nothing serious happened to him, especially since former President S R Nathan passed away the very next day.

Deeply saddened by the passing of Mr SR Nathan today. He passed away peacefully at the Singapore General Hospital, surrounded by family and loved ones, three weeks after suffering a stroke. Mr Nathan’s life is an inspiration to us all. His was a story of how a young boy strove to triumph over his circumstances and make a contribution to society. He held many public service posts, and occupied the highest office in the land. Mr Nathan was our longest serving President. He was a warm and approachable President who endeared himself to Singaporeans. He impressed visitors with his knowledge of world affairs, and served with dignity and distinction. I have known Mr Nathan for 40 years, since I was a young officer in SAF. I remember him as a man guided by a deep sense of duty to the nation. He stepped up each time duty called. He was a true son of Singapore. My condolences to Mrs Nathan and the family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you in this time of grief. – LHL (Photo © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission)

A photo posted by Lee Hsien Loong (@leehsienloong) on

Much can be said about the legacy he left (or lack thereof?), but all in all I believe he was a decent man. Say what you want about him being a Japanese translator, but at the point in time, I think survival was paramount on everyone’s minds, and with the prospect of continued Japanese rule, I don’t think that simply working for them after they have occupied Singapore would constitute treachery, much in the same way we don’t consider people who worked for the British government traitors.

His wake and funeral was not as high profile as LKY’s one the year before (as to be expected), but on the day of the funeral, the winds changed directions suddenly and blew smoke from Indonesia over here, bringing back memories of last September. Yes, our eleven months of clean air was up. Thankfully, the haze subsided almost as quickly as it came.

And just when we thought we could call August a day, we reported our first locally-transmitted Zika case. And then there were forty-plus, and today, the authorities seem all but resigned to the fate that Zika would become another dengue fever–a chronic pain in the ass that we have to deal with every year.

To top it off, SMRT engineers were befuddled during the last few days of August because of a weird signalling issue arising from some interference. They even resorted to turning off cellphone reception in certain stations to troubleshoot the issue. Mysteriously enough, the problem went away by itself by the end of the week. Maybe it’s just an August thing. But still, it’s enough to keep us questioning as to the robustness of our train system. Maybe driverless and wireless trains aren’t necessarily a good idea.

So, here’s to September. We’re already almost two weeks in, and we have a Gold and Bronze medal in the Paralympics so far, so let’s see what else’s in store for us.

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