the world at home

only one
my fellow commuter who is past heeding the Prime Minister's call to procreate - click for larger flickr view

On a bus, a younger colleague who had just gotten back from studies in America last year glanced outside at the new entrance to the Orchard MRT station and remarked, "sometimes I feel like a tourist in Singapore. Like when I come to this part of town, there's always something new and I think - wow, I've never seen this before...".

She said this casually, without any angst about "a sense of belonging" or any pointed reference to the pace of change on this island. Her sentiment is not unique, though the shades are as many as the folks who express it.

A few are captured in Troy Chin The Resident Tourist, a 3-part (so far) graphic novel about his move back to Singapore after 9 years in NY and Philadelphia.

The Resident Tourist is no different from other graphic novels with an autobiographical slant in having these elements: a somewhat depressive and nerdy narrator, a self-absorption that alternates between charming and annoying, references to childhood traumas and dreams, the close-yet-so-faraway girl/guy friend etc. Of course, what makes The Resident Tourist particularly enjoyable is the familiar Singaporean context. The indulgent Teochew grandmother, the reunion of Secondary School buddies, geo-caching (which I recall some friends being strangely fond of), the fact that most of the characters are bespectacled, the re- and dis-locations of Singaporeans who had spent some time away from the small island, the quirks and desires of Singaporeans who want to have it all on this small island, or the experience of finding a baby bat in your shoe are things many can relate to (OK, maybe not a baby bat, but perhaps a house lizard?).

Troy Chin's drawing is somewhat raw and uneven in Part 1, but by Part 3, the frames are a lot more layered and the perspectives more varied. All in all, with the weather turning rainy this time of the year, us amps recommend The Resident Tourist for a stay-home read on lazy, cool sheets. Plus Troy Chin knows how to tease the reader with some curious bits in the narrative.

Besides, if like J and I, you also have a soft spot for video arcades, you'll want to like the narrator.

And as a kind of afterword on the desire to see/have the world, playing in the background as I'm typing is Bjork's wonderful "I've Seen It All"... What about China? Have you seen the Great Wall? All walls are great, if the roof doesn't fall... The Eiffel Tower, the Empire State?/My pulse was as high on my very first date!

p/s Parts 1 and 2 of The Resident Tourist are available as palm-sized paperbacks from Ani-Play at Sunshine Plaza for $10 each, and Part 3 can be read online.


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