The Cats of Foca (2013)

For the season of love, some beautiful Turkish cats, from the equally beautiful seaside town of Foca. The local shop-owners, restauranteurs and fishermen all collectively look out for the cats (at least the ones who aren’t in a long-term living relationship with a  household), and the vets do pro bono work if one of them is sick or injured.

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Beijing, 2006: A Photoessay

I’ve made multiple visits to Japan and Singapore, and had a visiting fellowship in Taipei for a while, but only ever visited Beijing once. This was in 2006, when the city was clearly well on its way towards becoming a glass-and-chrome metropolis, but really wasn’t all the way there. Looking back, it occurs to me that it’s changed a lot, and people might like to see some of what it looked like at that complicated time:

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Many rickshaws:

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(seconds before the photo below was taken, the chain came off the gears, and the driver literally hooked it back on with his foot)SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERASAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

A blacksmith fixing a wheelchair:

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Old buildings and mosaics, probably gone now:

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The old site of the Pan Asia Games:

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A Christian wedding at a church:
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Dong An Market…

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and a state “Friendship Store”.

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Man selling rabbits in the subways under the road:
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Man selling books off the back of, yes, a rickshaw, above the subway:
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Gas masks in the closet in my hotel, a little bit scary:

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Finally, fish. Every shop had its lucky goldfish, this jade retailer was making them do marketing work too:

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Haw Par Villa, Singapore: A Photoessay

I go to Singapore to teach at least once a year, which is good, because I like Singapore. And one of the most amazing things in Singapore is Haw Par Villa. Which, because it largely defies description, I’m going to show you in pictures rather than telling a funny story.

What most people know about Haw Par Villa, if they know anything at all about it, is its famous set of dioramas depicting the Seven Hells of Buddhist folklore. And yes, you certainly can see the damned facing horrible forms of punishment:

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Which, apparently, their victims can watch before going on to their own judgment, which seems rather schadenfreude-heavy to me:
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But that’s, if anything, the most conventional part of the park. For one thing, the park was set up by the people who invented (or packaged and marketed, anyway) Tiger Balm, and one can occasionally run into the ghosts of Tiger Balm mascots past:
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Or a pitched battle between the rats and the rabbits, no, I don’t know either.

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Or scenes from Chinese legends, some recognisable, some less so (even to people in the relevant culture; Malay Chinese friends I’ve asked have struggled to explain some of these).IMG_0552IMG_0567

(this one’s from Journey to the West: Pigsy at his most terrifying)IMG_0639

(According to the plaque, this one depicts the Seven Lucky Gods doing battle with Neptune, who must have wandered in from some other mythological canon)IMG_0667

Then there’s the anthropomorphic animals, similarly ranging from the cute to the disturbing:

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OK, mostly the disturbing.IMG_0610

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There are also more conventionally represented animals, albeit, one suspects, rendered by a sculptor who’s never actually seen one:
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Along with some really quite beautiful gods and heroes

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And, finally, you can take a trip round the monuments of the world!IMG_0668

If you’re in Singapore and want to visit for yourself, here’s a map. There’s way more than I could put in a single blog post, so do go see it.