I met Jesus today and I had a cigarette and a cup of coffee with him. Seriously. I had a smoke and a coffee with Jesus in the Starbucks café that is near my house. I stopped by there for a beverage on my way home from work. I had just ordered my normal double shot vanilla latte when a mother of all storms rolled in. Clouds like massive purple bruises darkened the sky and lightning crackled and sparked and blazed in bright sheets. Thunder boomed like cannons being fired and the smell of ozone was in the air. It was magnificent and glorious and spectacular.
I love the storms in Singapore. They clear and electrify the sticky air and are a sight to behold. When the storm struck Starbucks I grabbed my coffee and walked outside to a little covered area to smoke a cigarette and take it all in. A little guy with a coffee of his own also wandered out and stood next to me. He pulled out a packet of his own cigarettes and took one out and then he asked me for a light. I willingly obliged and commented to him that I thought that the storm was beautiful.
He looked a little nervous and told me, "Si but it ees a leetle dangerous no?"
I have written what he said phonetically rather than with the correct spelling. The dude was Hispanic. He was Mexican in fact. He was a tourist. Later in our conversation when I introduced myself to him he told me that his name was Jesus. He pronounced it "Yaysoos" - which I assume is the correct way of pronouncing it in Mexico. I only realized it was Jesus when I asked him to spell it for me.
I have never met a Jesus before.
I told Jesus that the lightning in Singapore was in fact quite dangerous and that the Island has one of the highest rates of lightning strikes in the world. This is true. I wouldn't lie to Jesus. Singapore has an average of one hundred and seventy thunderstorm days a year. The island is located very close to the equator and the humidity and warm air are conducive to producing storm activity. I am not a meteorologist so I can't explain or understand why this is so.
I have heard quite a few stories of people being struck and killed by lightning bolts here. Many are struck on golf courses but there was one guy last year who was sitting near the window in his high rise apartment when he was struck. He was working away on his computer when a lightning bolt hit him through the open window and it frazzled him dead. What a way to go.
It was a shocker.
On the 28th February 2009 lightning struck the iconic Merlion statue that stands on the mouth of the Singapore River and it blew a hole in its head. The Merlion statue is erected in front of the One Fullarton building. The Merlion is a mythical creature referred to as the Singa-Laut in Malay. It has the head of a lion and the body of a fish and it is considered to be the mascot of Singapore. The fish body represents Singapore's origin as a fishing village when the island was named "Temasek”. Temasek translates to "sea town" in Javanese. The lion head represents Singapore's original name 'Singapura' - which in Malay means "kota singa" or the "lion city".
The Merlion statue on the mouth of the river is quite a big structure and it has water running out of its mouth - like a stream of clear vomit.
Here is a picture of it:
Here is a picture of the hole made by the lightning strike in 2009:
Here is a picture of lightning over the Singapore Central Business district.
It is beautiful.
All of these lightning facts that I was reeling off to Jesus made him quite nervous and jumpy. I tried to reassure him that there wasn't really too much to worry about because virtually all buildings in Singapore are now fitted with lightning conductors. I pointed to a few that were visible on the buildings that surrounded us and I explained to Jesus that these conductors are designed to attract lightning and absorb their energy so that they wouldn't hit people.
Despite this explanation he still seemed very edgy.
I asked Jesus if his mother happened to be named Mary and he told me that as a matter of fact she was. He told me straight way though that his father's name wasn't Joseph and that he was born in a hospital in Mexico City and not in a stable. When I suggested that his other father - the big boy upstairs - was possibly responsible for the lightning he gave me an anxious laugh and then he went back inside the Starbucks café.
I quite like the idea of some deity up in the sky hurling lightning and thunderbolts down on Singapore - trying to wake Singaporeans up and blowing holes in the Merlion and setting the odd local on fire.
The rain stopped after a short while as it usually does in Singapore. The storms here are savage but they pass quickly. Lightning still flashed on the horizon as I strolled back home and it was wet underfoot.
It was quite pleasant chatting away to a bloke named Jesus in a Singaporean thunderstorm. I enjoyed sharing a cigarette and a coffee with him and having a little banter.
It is not something that I have ever done before and I thought that it was well worth writing down.