Singapore Palestinian Film Festival 2017: Adela Foo

Doyenne.Sg
The Singapore Palestinian Film Festival 2017: Adela Foo
Lee Ying Ying

Organiser of the Singapore Palestinian Film Festival 2017, Adela Foo, sheds some light on war-torn Palestine and what drew her towards the region.

More than two years after the war, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict left its citizens displaced and unable to resume their daily lives. Citizens of both war-torn states have experienced immense grief and loss, and Israelis living in border towns have lived their days fleeing from rockets fired from Gaza into Israel. It is a fact that the average Singaporean cannot possibly imagine life on either side.

This is why Adela Foo intends to open our eyes on life in Palestine.

Adela Foo is the organiser of the Singapore Palestinian Film Festival 2017, which aims to dispel common stereotypes surrounding Palestinians living in Palestinian territories in the Middle East. The media often depicts Palestine as an unsafe and unstable state, but the truth is far more nuanced than that.

You might wonder why Adela is so drawn towards Palestine and the Middle East, but spend a little time with this Arabic and Classics major at Bard College, a private New York liberal arts college, and you’ll understand why. Admitting that she’s the only one in her class majoring in both Arabic and Classics, the zealous girl lets on: “because really, who wants to learn Arabic and then Ancient Greek on top of that?”

Adela turns serious: “However, I have always been in love with Classics and knew that I wanted to major in it, especially after taking Daniel Mendelsohn’s class on the ‘Odyssey’. As for Arabic, I was particularly interested in learning more about the region after studying about the Arab-Israeli conflict in junior college.”

Arabic is an extremely intricate language and difficult to master. Yet, Adela dismissed thoughts of giving up learning Arabic after “running away” to Egypt last summer, and her parents had since set aside their disgruntlement about her majors. “To clarify, I didn’t actually run away, but simply did not tell my parents that I would be attending the Arabic Summer Intensive Program at Al-quds Bard (AUB). After my father found out, I actually think he was slightly impressed by my commitment to pursuing my studies,” says Adela.

“After running away to Egypt, I realised what a rich and incredible history this region has from times of antiquity to our present day and age. How could I ever give up studying either subject?”

Even though Adela grew up post-911 and witnessed how the image of the Arab world became associated with hostility, she never believed that people could be born as terrorists: “Perhaps that seems idealistic and naive, but it’s just something that I never really bought.” Let’s hear more from the dedicated 21-year-old.

Doyenne: Tell us about the complexity and diversity of Palestinian culture.

Adela: This is what Palestine is to me: babies with the bluest eyes, girls with curly, red hair and liquid brown eyes; when we’re roaring across the highway, there’s a 50% chance that you’ll see the craziest kinds of rock formations and there will always be a flock of goats or donkeys under the flyover.

The worst thing that someone can do is to invite you into their homes for tea, cooking an entire meal for you, and then giving you a bed to sleep in for the night without even knowing your last name.

D: Do you think that the media often portrays Palestine in a bad light?

A: Well, that really depends on what media you subscribe to, doesn’t it? I think in general, the media tends to cover stories in Palestine that are either about rising tensions between both parties in the conflict, or the inability of either side to come to an agreement about resolving the conflict. Either way, I think people’s takeaway from the media’s portrayal about Palestine is that the entire country is unsafe, unstable, and inherently dangerous.

When I was living in the village of Beit Sahour in the West Bank in Palestine, I felt very safe. The atmosphere of the neighborhood was calm and the only ruckus was when children were playing football in the streets and neighbours placed their chairs at the gates of their homes to chat.

However, I am also very aware of the fact that this is one aspect of Palestine that I had the privilege of experiencing. What I experienced in Beit Sahour cannot be taken to echo all of Palestine.

D: Are your classmates also passionate and outspoken about this topic?

A: My classmates are even more passionate and outspoken about this particular topic. Because of the Palestinian diaspora and the fact that my college has an exchange program with a Palestinian university, there are always Bard students who are Palestinian. Perhaps this human factor allows the community at Bard to see the conflict in a more humane light, that these are people too whom we should care about.

Additionally, there are student-run clubs such as Students for Justice in Palestine, which constantly invites speakers to come and speak out against the conflict. Another interesting club is the Bard Palestinian Youth Initiative, which is committed to sending a group of Bard students to Mas’ha, a small village in the West Bank to teach high school students through our “Language and Thinking” program. It is an introduction to the liberal arts and sciences with a strong focus on writing.

D: You’ve gained quite a bit of traction online in a short span of time. How do you feel?

A: I feel incredibly grateful for the amount of support shown by Singaporeans towards supporting the first ever Singapore Palestinian Film Festival! My greatest hope is that even after this festival ends, Singapore’s society will become more permeable with regards to being more informed about the Palestinian conflict and hopefully, taking a stand with it.

D: Doesn’t tackling a complex issue scare you?

A: Not particularly. I constantly remind myself of the bravery of a lovely feisty old grandmother whom I lived with last summer in Palestine. If she could live through it all, what do I have to fear?

SG-palestinian-film-festival-doyenne.sg_
Date: 19 – 22 Jan, 2017

Venue: The Projector

Films that will be screened: Speed Sisters, Sling-Shot Hip-Hop, The Wanted 18, The Time That Remains, Broken Cameras.

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Singapore Palestinian Film Festival 2017: Adela Foo

Singaporean English is Almost Impossible to Pick Up

Atlas Obscura
Singaporean English is Almost Impossible to Pick Up
Urvija Banerji
2 May 2016

Wah lao! Why can’t I speak Singlish?


The Merlion is a famous statue and symbol of Singapore. “To merlion” in Singlish means to puke everywhere. (Photo: WolfgangSladkowski/CC BY 3.0)

“Two dollar onny, dis one,” a street vendor might say to you in Singapore. A local might reply, “Wah! So espensive one, cannot leh.”

While this might sound like broken English, it is an example of Singlish, the highly complicated English creole spoken in Singapore. Its staccato, off-grammar patois is the subject of much bemusement for visitors to the country, and it’s almost impossible for outsiders to imitate.

“Singlish is easy to learn, but hard to execute,” says Sai Pogaru, who moved to Singapore in 2001 and is now a citizen. “There is a certain flair to the language/accent. It actually requires lots of practice to sound authentic.”

Singlish is not just one creole: it’s an amalgamation of many different Southeast Asian dialects and pidgins all rolled up into one.

Singlish comes from the mixing of Singapore’s four official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. English, now the lingua franca, was brought over by the British during Singapore’s period of colonization, which lasted from 1819 to 1963. Following its introduction into Singaporean schools, English began to permeate the streets outside them, and was picked up by the Malay, Chinese and Indian populations. After independence, the newly formed Singaporean government made the decision to continue teaching in English after identifying that there was a need for a common language in the country.

Many British expatriates moved back to England after Singapore’s independence. In the unregulated environment following their departure, the English spoken in Singapore became substantially influenced by Malay—the native language—and the other languages brought over by immigrants: Tamil and the Chinese Mandarin and Hokkien dialects.

The grammar of Singaporean English began to mirror the grammar of these languages. For example, a modern-day Singaporean could say “I go bus-stop wait for you,” to mean that he will wait for you at the bus stop. This phrase could be translated into either Malay or Chinese without having to change the grammatical structure of the sentence. Those unfamiliar with the grammatical structure of these languages, as a result, have a hard time picking up Singlish.

Words from the other languages became appropriated into the creole as well, creating an entire Singlish lexicon that is used today. The word “ang moh,” for example, is a Hokkien word which literally translates to “red hair,” but is used in Singlish to describe people of Caucasian descent. The Malay word “makan” is commonly used to mean food, or the act of eating. The Tamil word “goondu,” which means “fat” in its original language, is used in Singlish to describe a person who is not very smart.


An advertisement written in Singlish on the Singaporean island of Pulau Ubin. (Photo: Michael Elleray/CC BY 2.0)

Perhaps the most famous Singlish word is the ubiquitous “lah,” an example of the language’s more playful sensibilities. It is essentially a filler word with no meaning. “Lah” can be placed anywhere in a sentence, but is often used as a form of audible punctuation at the end. Another popular exclamation is “wah lao,” or the even more flamboyant “wah lao eh,” used to express surprise or wonder.

One of the many barriers to picking up Singlish is its complicated intonation. English is a stress-timed language, which means that some syllables are longer, and others are shorter. Singlish, however, is syllable-timed, which means that each syllable is pronounced for an equal amount of time, making Singlish far more staccato in nature.

Where it gets even more complicated is in the tones. English is a non-tonal language, which means that words do not have particular tones associated with them. Chinese, on the other hand, is a tonal language, in which words change their meaning depending on the tone used to speak them. Singlish retains all the tones of the Chinese words that it borrows, but maintains no tones in its English, Malay and Tamil words, making it a semi-tonal language.

There’s more. Though Singlish is prevalent all over Singapore, it operates on a spectrum dependent upon the circumstances, making it even harder to trace down. In formal settings, for example, Singlish tends to be toned down to its acrolectal form: Singlish words and grammatical structures are eliminated, and only the accent remains. In the day-to-day, however, a more colloquial form of Singlish is used.


A warning sign in Singapore written in the country’s four official languages: English, Chinese, Tamil and Malay. (Photo: Gabbe/Public Domain)

Pogaru, who moved to Singapore with his family at the age of eight, explains that his ability to speak Singlish only came when he joined the Singapore Armed Forces at the age of 18. “Singlish to me was just an accent with a “lah” thrown in at the end of a sentence,” he says of his opinion of the creole before joining the army. “I didn’t think much of it.”

His experience with Singlish drastically changed in his first year of National Service, the two-year period of compulsory service required of all male citizens of Singapore. “I vividly remember an incident in Basic Military Training where my sergeant told my platoon, ‘You all have 15 minutes. Go up and lepak [relax],’” says Pogaru. He spent the next 15 minutes trying to figure out what “lepak” meant and what exactly the sergeant wanted. “Singlish was the language of communication in NS, and I realized that I would have to learn some new vocabulary to truly understand what was happening.”

Though Pogaru has worked hard to increase his understanding of Singlish over the years since his time in the army, he’s not quite sure he has it down yet. “Despite knowing Singlish, I still have not been able to impress my Singaporean friends with my attempts to sound local,” he says. “Guess I just have to keep practicing.”

Singaporean English is Almost Impossible to Pick Up

Countless Rape & Death Threats

Her World
Nicole Seah: ‘I got countless rape and death threats’
9 June 2014

In Her World’s May issue opposition party member Nicole Seah spoke to writer Ankita Varma about her year of self-doubt, physical exhaustion and death threats.

Nicole Seah story from her world magazine may 2014

“A friend once told me that your 20s are like walking in the wilderness. You have enough idealism for ambition but not enough experience to know right from wrong. That statement couldn’t be more true of the last four years of my life. My walk in the wilderness is more poignant only because, for years, everyone around me assumed I had my life all figured out.

Perhaps it’s because I got into politics at 24. You would assume I have stellar academic records and a successful career, right? In fact, I have none of these things. I was a mediocre B-average student throughout my school years. When I graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS), I got a job at a public relations consultancy only after a six-month internship, during which I bought office supplies and made coffee runs.

Most surprisingly, I was apathetic about local politics until I enrolled at NUS. Politics wasn’t actively discussed in my household. I only knew that my parents had always supported the opposition. My mother had been against the government’s Graduate Mother Scheme in the 1980s, having raised three well-educated children despite being a non-graduate herself. (Editor’s note: This scheme provided financial benefits for mothers who were university graduates and school enrolment privileges for their children.)

The seeds of my political awakening were planted when I edited an independent online newspaper in NUS called The Campus Observer. I wrote about controversial topics like student complaints about private dormitory housing and the xenophobia foreign students faced. I was struck by how students remained apathetic to such issues and did not rally for change. It sparked a new consciousness in me. Shortly after graduating, I joined the Reform Party, where I stayed for two years before leaving to join the National Solidarity Party (NSP).

“You look like a mei-mei”

I worked largely behind the scenes at the NSP. Having studied communications at NUS, I advised the party on how to deal with the media. But when the party heads offered me the opportunity to run in the 2011 general elections, I gave it serious thought. My family was concerned about how it would impact my life and career. Still, I decided to go for it.

Somehow, the idea of campaigning in Marine Parade – a constituency that hadn’t been contested since 1992 – appealed to me. The nine days of campaigning were a firestorm. We didn’t have the time or resources to prep or train. The days before the election were a mad dash to raise money, print flyers and get campaign materials ready.

I was forced to go from a wallflower to addressing hundreds of thousands at political rallies. I remember rewriting the speech of my inaugural address over and over again, and practising to make sure it was clear and impactful. I felt intense pressure to keep my guard up. One slip could cost me my reputation or lead others to brush me off as naive and inexperienced. I didn’t want my youth to be thought of as a handicap.

But I was affected when people left nasty comments on my Facebook page attacking my age (“She looks like a mei-mei!”), appearance (“Her forehead looks like a horse’s!”) and intellect (“She’s probably a bimbo”). Having strangers bash you is something you never get used to. Friends and family encouraged me, but I became a harsher critic of myself in a bid to prove the naysayers wrong.

“I saw my future in five-year blocks”

2011 was a watershed year for Singapore politics. Many Gen-Yers were voting for the first time and there was a presidential election the same year. I was fired up to see people interested in politics. But I also knew how much more had to be done. Campaigning had exposed me to those who were falling through the cracks in society and this made me determined to run again for the 2016 elections.

Politics is all about staying relevant, so I jumped at every opportunity given to me post-election. I spoke at events, sat on panels, went on walkabouts and discussed policy at the grassroots level. I clocked 16-hour days on average. Days were spent at my advertising job. Evenings I filled with talks, forums or walkabouts. Afterwards, I’d head back to the office to finish up work.

By 2012, I was pulling all-nighters, sometimes working until 6am. I had a never-ending to-do list. Even cab rides were spent furiously thinking up talking points or planning speeches. If I had time for lunch, it would be a 10-minute affair at my desk.

Harder still was the emotional toll. I had relatively no policymaking experience and felt out of my depth. I remember being invited to a panel session where I spoke alongside another opposition party member, a minister and an academic – all much older than I was, and more experienced. I forced myself to appear confident, but I thought I sounded superficial compared to the other panelists. I felt like a fraud.

I was so bent on proving myself that I allowed no room for mistakes. I guilt-tripped myself into working all the time. More than anything, I felt so alone. I found out that people whom I had thought were friends were gossiping about me. I didn’t know who to talk to. It came to a point when I could only see my future in five-year blocks. My only thought was: Am I doing enough to stay relevant for the next election?

“I was stalked”

And then there were the death and rape threats. They started right after the elections – every Facebook post I made was followed by vicious emails, with comments ranging from the mean (“Were you drunk when you wrote that?! You’ve just lost my vote”) to the frightening (“Are you still alive?”).

Even my personal Twitter account wasn’t spared. I lost track of the number of threats I received daily. Netizens posted my office address and contact details, along with the time I usually got off work. I was paranoid when I left the office, knowing that someone could be watching me.

The worst incident was a call the office receptionist unknowingly put through to me. I picked it up and heard breathing followed by two minutes of maniacal laughter. I should’ve hung up but I was so shocked; my arms were covered in goosebumps.

Early last year, I began noticing that a piece of pink tinsel would be tied to my gate every day. I also received illegible notes, left at my door. When I left my house in the mornings, I would see a woman in her early 30s lurking around my estate, often staring at me from behind a pillar. But I couldn’t confront her without evidence. The “gifts” at my door continued for weeks until she finally wrote her name and address in one of her notes. I went straight to the police. I still periodically receive tinsel now, but much less frequently than before.

I didn’t share all this with my family as I didn’t want them to panic. I bottled it up and maintained a brave front. But soon, it would blow up.

“My body shut down”

The day I got my first anxiety attack started innocently enough. I was at work when my family SMS-ed to say my grandmother had been diagnosed with third stage stomach cancer. Something inside me snapped – my hands shook and I had trouble breathing. I got up to walk out for fresh air but ended up blacking out for a few minutes in the hallway. When I came to, I shrugged it off as a one-off thing.

A few weeks later, I contracted dengue. I spent nearly a month in and out of the hospital for IV drips and blood tests. Even after I recovered, I felt sickly and fatigued. After a month and a half of deteriorating health, I had to quit my job.

Two months later, in April last year, a friend introduced me to an entrepreneur who worked with technology companies in India. He offered me a position where I’d help acquire business for the company. I accepted his offer as it came at a time I was desperate for a clean slate.

But I would soon realise that the job wasn’t for me. There was a cultural mismatch with the way companies over there do business. My forward personality was not taken too well either, in fact male clients often ignored me when I was speaking. In September – four months into the job – I was asked to leave.

By this time, my health and emotions had taken a real beating. Friends and family began commenting worriedly about my appearance, which had been whittled to skin and bones. On Oct 1, a family friend checked me into a hospital, where I stayed for 18 days, cut off from the world. I turned off my phone. I spent my time sleeping and reading, and saw only close friends and family.

After I was discharged, I kept my phone off for three weeks and stayed off social media. I never sought professional help, relying on my family and friends for encouragement. Only their opinions mattered – everything else was just noise. Perhaps the meltdown was for the best – for the first time in two years, I was forced to take a break.

“Starting from ground zero”

I know now that much of the pressure that resulted in my breakdown was self-imposed. I didn’t let myself enjoy the opportunities I was given, choosing instead to doubt myself. The drive to prove myself was the most destructive. I’ve realised that the public scrutiny will never go away. After I shared my story on Facebook, a picture I uploaded of my then-partner sparked speculation that I was dating a married man.

Instead of supporting me through the ordeal, he left me to deal with the aftermath alone. Concerned about his reputation, he distanced himself from me. Though I would have struggled silently in the past, this time I refused. I ended the eight-month relationship, and I’m now single and happier than before.

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt from 2013 is to be kinder to myself. I spent two years telling myself I wasn’t good enough. Now, I know it’s okay to fail. You know what’s great about starting from ground zero? There’s nowhere to go but up. I’m excited about 2014, including my move to Thailand for my new job at an advertising agency.

Will I stand for election in 2016?

Your guess is as good as mine. I’ll still be very involved in the NSP during the elections and my goal will always be to serve Singapore – but whether I do that as a politician remains to be seen.”

Taken from http://www.herworldplus.com/lifestyle/women-now/nicole-seah-‘i-got-countless-rape-and-death-threats’

#Sg #Singapore #GE2011 #NicoleSeah

Countless Rape & Death Threats