From the Equator

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Faithful Correspondents,

This morning we are preparing to embark on our voyage which will take us away from Singapore.

This has truly been an eye opening experience, not least due to the fact that we are a scant 85 miles north of the Equator. The Tropics, of course, are defined by the area between the Tropic of Cancer (to the North of the Equator), and the Tropic of Capricorn on the South.

The Tropic of Cancer to the Equator marks out the zone where the sun will be directly overhead at its zenith on the June Solstice. The Tropic of Capricorn is the corresponding southern zone where the sun stands directly overhead at its zenith on the December Solstice.

The tropics are essentially in perpetual summer, and I can vouch for that here in Singapore!

And by the way, the term “tropic” comes from Latin and Greek, as Wiktionary shows:

“From Late Latin tropicus (“of or pertaining to the solstice, as a noun, one of the tropics”), from τροπικός (tropikós, “of or pertaining to a turn or change, or the solstice, or a trope or figure, tropic, tropical; etc.”), from τροπή (tropē, “a turn, turning, solstice, trope”); see trope.”

It ultimately derives from τρέπω (trépō), to turn. I will leave you to find out about the related forms tropic (in science) and trope (in literature). Please add these in the comments to this posting!

So virtually all of our journey this time is in the Tropics. Wow!

Now, to return to our Singapore narrative where we left off in mid-meal.

On Friday evening I had the great pleasure and honor, as you recall, to be dining on sumptuous local fare with the Grand Councilor, the Pronaos Master and many of the members. Unfortunately, Frater Chris had a previous engagement, but sent his best.

At the meal, the Fratres and Sorores brought dish after dish from the well-stocked serving lines. The hotel gathers these local ingredients and brings them to present with style and great flavor.

As I am learning, Singaporean cuisine is a evolution of its constituent sources, primarily (but not exclusively) Chinese, South Indian, Malay, Tamil, Portuguese, and Peranakan (an early Chinese-Malay fusion). Today, other Western influences may also be felt.

The essential experience I take from this addictive cuisine is the harmonious blending and fusion of cultures. In the ubiquitous Hawker stalls, Indian chefs may use Chinese ingredients, while Chinese chefs could use Indian or Malay spices.

We had soups, curries, raw Octopus, Oyster Omelette, and an amazing fruit drink made from Roses. It was like drinking our incense!

There were so many more dishes, each with a unique flavor (and a lot of heat!) that I cannot describe them all. I just say: come to Singapore!

During dinner, our conversation naturally followed the development of The Rosicrucian Order here in Singapore, the unique nature of Singaporean society, and of course, the upcoming World Convention in San Jose, July 29-Aug 2, 2015. One of the Fratres is already registered, and another is planning on doing so soon, to celebrate the centennial of the re-emergence of The Order in 1915.

We also discussed the amazing diversity and relative harmony of all of the elements that make up Singapore, and its relations with the world. They really are working on building the City of Tomorrow, cherishing its traditions, and moving toward sustainability.

It was amazing to sit with a group from the opposite side of the globe and feel as natural as with Rosicrucians here at home. I had met two of the Fratres at the Library at Rosicrucian Park, and they were surprised to see my pony-tail gone. Ah well, All Things Change–Panta Rhei–Πάντα ῥεῖ. (This is used by Simplicius to summarize the philosophy of Heraclitus, and literally means, “All things Flow.”) Get with the Flow, Dude!

We bid our farewells, and one of the Fratres most kindly returned me to the hotel.

Fr. Chris and I then rendezvoused in the city with some friends of his, and the evening continued.

On Saturday, we headed out to one of Singapore’s newest marvels, The Gardens by the Bay. This spectacular project opened in 2012, and is not yet fully completed. It is a fully sustainable set of indoor and outdoor gardens. It has to be seen to be understood: Google and Wikipedia it!

We took the 20-minute tram tour of the grounds (the first of three garden complexes to be completed, the others are in process). These grounds demonstrate the importance of the native flora to each of Singapore’s constituent peoples.

We then entered the Cloud Forest, a huge climate controlled structure that encloses a 35 m waterfall and a mountain trees, flowers, carnivorous plants and much much more, in a blissfully cool, misty environment which recreates the tropical mountainous eco-systems. I overcame my fear of heights to walk the cloud bridge (and Chris has pictures to prove it!). We spend more than an hour in the magnificent garden. You could spend more. The journey up and down the mountain completes with a film about what is going to happen to all of this in the wild, if the temperature rises 5-degrees C over the years to come (it isn’t good).

I was pretty much walked out by that time, so we did not get to visit the Flower Dome, and even larger eco-system with trees and plants from around the world, including 1000-year old olive trees from the Mediterranean and (just like at Rosicrucian Park) a Monkey Puzzle Tree! We are coming back, and there will be more to see each time, as the sustainable construction continues.

Singapore intends to transform itself from the Garden City to the City in a Garden, and to show the world that we can halt our precipitous ecological disaster sustainably and economically.

As far as I am concerned, when completed, these three huge gardens will be one of the modern wonders of the world!

The rest of the day was spent in what Singaporeans like to do most: eating! I’ll save that, and my reflections on my Singapore experience for tomorrow at Sea!

To all those who celebrate the Western Christian Easter today, and any other celebrations, may all the blessings of the Feast be with you!

… Sorry for the brevity and typos: Sent from remote on the phone.

Thank you!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant, Member and Customer Services

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