Just back from a week-long stay at Pulau Ubin. Still feeling a little surprised with myself, for having even gone in the first place. I'm not used to being away from my family. Also, my typical idea of an island getaway is more along the lines of a 5-star resort in Bali, Bintan or Phuket. Not Pulau Ubin, a quiet island with a population of only about 100 villagers.
Then again, I had not gone to Pulau Ubin for a "holiday". I had gone for a writing retreat. There were two instructors and twelve participants. The retreat was intended for experienced writers only.
Nearly all of us had previously written at least one book each, and some of us had written several. A few were professional writers (i.e their full-time job was to edit or write for newspapers, magazines or other publications). The members of the Ubin 12 (as we jokingly called ourselves) included past and present winners of various literary awards, including the Young Artist of the Year Award for Literature; the Singapore Literature Prize, and the Golden Point Award.
The retreat was very, very interesting for me. I would love to blog a lot about it. However, I have to somewhat restrain myself. That's because all the writers agreed, on day one, to a concept of "shared privacy".
Over the next five days, as we collectively explored new writing ideas, styles and techniques, we would go on to hold workshops and discussions. Topics that came up included race, religion, politics, sexuality, history, society, family relationships, censorship, crime, violence and more. The individual writers shared their own experiences, some quite personal. Hence the need for shared privacy - "What happens on Ubin, stays on Ubin", as one participant put it.
I did take the chance to bike around and explore Pulau Ubin. It is actually quite an interesting island, and I'm a little embarrassed, as a Singaporean, that until this week, I knew so little about it. I visited places like Chek Jawa, which was fascinating for its bio-diversity; and the little German Girl Shrine, which has an interesting story as to its origin. Pulau Ubin also has a mountain bike park, with trails of varying difficulty, to challenge dirt bikers with different levels of skill and courage.
I also had two mini-Discovery Channel moments - the first was watching two dogs gang up to chase a wild pig; and the second was watching a monitor lizard munch on a pigeon.