look and learn

clean/unclean (清/污)
the water that we (eventually) drink - photo of lower peirce by J

The school holidays are coming to an end. Marianne Suresh* (13) and her cousins, Ignatius (11), Victor (10), Jacinta (8) and Julitta (6) have been spending most of it at their Grandmother's flat at Ang Mo Kio Ave 1, and clearly running out of things to do. Between helping grandma make dinner or her suggestion to Marianne to "bring your cousins to the reservoir and see the monkeys?", the latter won more votes.

The reservoir is not far away. Marianne can see the mass of trees from the 10th floor corridor where her Grandmother pointed out the traffic junction where she would find the road leading to the reservoir.

It was early evening last Friday when J and I bumped into their little excursion as we, too, took our bicycles to the Lower Peirce Reservoir. We cycled on the path along the periphery of the reservoir, until it ended at a little bridge that led to the golf course nearby. The famous five had also gathered there, having a mini-conference in front of a sign with a waterdrop mascot that introduced the reservoir as "millions of drops of water like me".

"Excuse me," Ignatius walked towards J. "Where is the reservoir?"

"Er - This is the reservoir - " J gestured at the large, clear jade body of water we were standing beside, the supposed source of the Kallang River.

Ignatius and, by now, Victor and Marianne looked at us silently with disbelief for some 2 seconds. Behind them was a 20 by 20 metre concrete pool, exposed and dry. Their eyes told us they thought J was trying to pull a fast one.

"This - " J pointed again at the landscape before him, "is the reservoir."

"Thank you..." Ignatius offered blankly.

They ran back to the sign and wandered closer to peer at the empty concrete pool. Two minutes later, having exhausted their interest in the mysterious "reservoir" that was empty, they would continue onto their next task.

"Excuse me uncle." We heard behind us and turned around to find Julitta. "Excuse me uncle, where are the monkeys?"

"You see those trees there?" I pointed at a spot diagonally across the water, while Uncle J was busy looking amused.

"Yah, there?"

"If you walk there, the trees over there - there's a wooden path for you to walk on - maybe you'll see monkeys."

"Thank you!"

Then off they went, hopeful that they would find the very creatures J and I would rather not bump into.

And so we learn, to recognise the things we are already looking at but do not see. And sometimes, we may need to see and experience the thing on our own before we come to recognise it.

*Their names and context are made up.


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