Keep the Homefires BurningWhen I stepped outside today the smell of smoke was strong. But even inside I can smell it now. It seeps through under the doors and between the window seals.
I like the smell. It reminds me of autumn and burning leaves. It reminds me of a time when there were seasons. September was always such a wistful month. Returning to school meant getting older... and even when I didn't have school to return to any more, the smell of smoke and the first cool winds of impending winter triggered the same emotional tape playback.
That was when there used to be snow. That was when shorts had to go into hibernation. My shorts are now perennial.
The smell of smoke here starts in June - not September.
I first smelled it about 11 years ago. I woke up because I thought my apartment was on fire. It was two in the morning and I ran around like a dog sniffing in every corner. Finally I opened a window and realised it that it wasn't my flat that was on fire: it was Indonesia. They were clearing brush for plantations. They were burning out what was left of forests that had been stripped of trees for pulp and paper mills. I was stunned by my realisation. Where was the World Wildlife Fund?
The smoke (aka "haze") can travel a thousand kilometres and still smell like they're burning brush just down the block. It's illegal, of course, but the law in Indonesia goes to the highest bidder. We may be spared if the winds turn and blow the smoke over Jakarta. Otherwise this will be with us until the monsoon douses the flames in October.
In '97 when the haze got so bad they had to evacuate towns on the Malaysian peninsula and Borneo, I used to joke that they were burning Indonesian Rupiah. The Rupiah had gone from 2350 per USD to 17,500 that year. The haze set the perfect setting for the economic crisis. The smoke turned the sun a blood red. The end of the world was nigh...
They put more controls into place after that. But I guess with the current president on the verge of losing power in an upcoming election, everyone who is banking on that connection will eke the last bit of value they can before a decent president comes in. IE - last chance to rape the land. Megawati is literally going out in a ball of flames.
So in Singapore I'm getting older and it's only June.