National Geographic : 1966 Aug
than living where many of them do now." He gestured toward a map on the wall. "You're familiar with our old Chinese quar ters. Most of the buildings are no longer fit to live in. Their tenants have leased out space to other tenants until people are sleeping on stair landings-sometimes in shifts. The own ers never see that sublease money, so they won't spend anything to maintain the build ings. The original tenants won't either; they don't own them. It's a mess, and it's got to be cleaned up." I could only wish him luck. Yet I had grown to love the back streets for their touching con trasts of sweetness and squalor, gaiety and despair. Though they represented a municipal sickness, I felt grateful for having seen Singa pore before she took the cure. "By the way," said Mr. Lim, "the Perma nent Secretary has invited you to lunch. Shall we go?" Affluent Diner Chooses the Head Mr. Howe Yoon Chong, Permanent Secre tary of National Development, is a career civil servant and an outspoken man. He was pleased to hear that my stay in Singapore would last more than a month. "When you leave," he said, "you will have been here long enough to know that there is a great deal you don't know. And that is as it should be. It is the one-week visitor we fear. When he leaves, he knows the answers to all our problems." Mr. Howe collected five of his associates and led the way to a nearby restaurant. At each place was a bowl, a porcelain spoon, and chopsticks. No napkin. No silver. Six pairs of impenetrable eyes watched my adequate if inelegant chopstick handling with (I thought) a trace of disappointment. The Chinese love a good laugh. When soup was served, my self-respect seemed secure. Any one can manage a spoon. Then my neighbor fished out of the soup tureen a well-manicured chicken foot and deposited it in my bowl. "Perhaps our guest does not like chicken feet," said the P.S. with wicked solicitude. "Possibly in America they are thrown away?" "No, no!" I reassured him. "It looks deli cious. And how thoughtful of the cook to have removed the toenails-uh, claws." Next came a whole pomfret, or pompano, steaming in its broth. No incision marred its silver side. "Please..." said my host, gestur ing toward the creature. I picked up my chop sticks, but without much conviction. How to go up against a fully assembled, five-pound 295 t aln~n V mt> rC2 N.G .S. Youthful and dynamic, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew dedicates a housing project. Mr. Lee, of Chinese ancestry, strives to make Singapore an example of racial harmony. Old and decrepit, shop-houses line teeming Hock Lam Street. Whole families live in single rooms above musty stores. Laundry dries on "flagpoles."