Saturday, September 26, 2015

Part 1: Autumn in Singapore: Of Haze and Mooncakes

The view of trees & buildings from office window. #nofilter
Autumn has come to Singapore, and the change of "seasons" brings pluses and minuses.

One of the things I miss terribly about Buffalo are the very distinct seasons. This time of year, you can feel a crispness growing in the air; this time of year in Buffalo, you can smell winter approaching in the dying leaves and sweet apple cider.

In equatorial Singapore, summer is eternal, but there are nuanced changes that one can note.

This is the time of year that Indonesia burns off the old fields to ready them for new crops. The smoke from the fires blows over Singapore and Malaysia, where it settles in like a blanket. 

An early afternoon at the Bayfront. Within two hours the skyline was a ghostly silhouette.

It's labeled "haze," which can cause a misconception, especially in countries removed from the situation, that it is simply urban smog caused by over population of cars and factories. But the truth is that it's smoke. The fine particles that get in the air can only be blocked out by special respirators (N95 masks), and Singapore tracks the haze like we Buffalonians might track snowfall - in fact, they have a unit of measurement called the PSI, or Pollutant Standards Index, which is tracked in 1-hour, 3-hour and 24-hour increments. When it reaches an "unhealthy" level, school may be cancelled for children.

The entire situation, as you might imagine, is a touchy geopolitical issue among these nations. It's as much a question of economics as anything else: slash-and-burn methods are the fastest, cheapest, and most effective. This article from the BBC is concise yet informative.

The interesting thing about the haze is that it's very comparative, to me, to Buffalo's sudden snowfalls. Just as you can set out in the morning to clear skies and roads only to be hit by a sudden storm in the afternoon, so the haze can also seem to creep in without notice. 

Sunrise and sunset present a pink marble of a sun. 
Taken at neighboring Ngee Ann Poly university.
On Tuesday morning, the haze was only faintly visible, with just a slight smokey smell to the air. By the afternoon, as I walked to my 3:30 class, I could not clearly see the end of the long, open-air corridor. My eyes burned, and I held my breath, and was relieved to get into the air conditioned class room. Now, I keep a mask in my bag like one keeps an umbrella. The mask is extremely efficient in filtering out those fine particles - I can't even smell the smoke when I'm wearing it - but it also makes breathing more difficult as every breath your lungs pull in is being filtered through layers of mesh. 

Suffice it to say, I've stayed indoors a lot this fall! ...But, as they say, the sun will come out tomorrow... Until then...

Stay tuned for a brighter sign of autumn in Singapore: MOONCAKES!


Unknown said...

lovely post amidst the haze!

Amanda Lohiser said...

Thanks, Cheah! I promise, the mooncake post will be much lovelier! =)

Amber said...

This is so true and definitely representative of the problems we face every year when the air quality gets poor~ But we complain (like Singaporeans) and get by anyway! Missing your class and your morning coffee driven lectures!

See you around school Amanda!

Amanda Lohiser said...

Thanks, Amber! Yeah, it's an adventure, isn't it?! Feel free to crash my classes any time - just come up front before class starts to say hey and let me know you're hanging out - any time! =)

Post a Comment

How many visits?