Indian Wolves, Mata Puteh, and Lime Juice in Singapore by Janine Donoho

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. – John Steinbeck

Jurong Bird Park

Jurong Bird Park

Tiger enclosure

White tiger enclosure

Travel to Singapore coincided with Intrepid Guy’s work. While waiting for his ship, we explored the numerous historical sites including Raffle’s writers’ bar once frequented by Somerset Maugham, Alfred Hitchcock, Ernest Hemingway, and my personal favorite, Rudyard Kipling. There we imbibed overpriced and watery Singapore Slings.

While squeaky clean Singapore has much to recommend it, this trip came shortly after taking my conservation biology degree at University of Washington. Some of my favorite memories include close interactions with pythons, orangutans, and elephants. The lingering tartness of lime juice, imbibed by the pint, recalls traipsing through Singapore Botanical Gardens where their National Orchid Gardens nestles between scenic Tyersall Avenue, Symphony Lake, and the ginger garden, where high humidity and heat released spicy aromatics from the rhizomes.

Tiger by night

Tiger by night

Baboon enclosure

Baboon enclosure

We lingered through the mind-boggling greens of rainforested afternoon into dusk, then full night at the Zoological Gardens, where natural features like water moats and growing barriers separate human predators from rainforest natives. During daylight we ogled diurnal inhabitants, and then scanned twilight for nocturnal activities. The cannonball fruit clustered along hanging walkways called to mind the supersized gonads of male bighorn sheep. And no, zoologists don’t blush when making these admittedly odd associations.

Cannonball fruit

Cannonball fruit

The delights of Jurong Bird Park paved my path to a coffee shop in the triangle where Tiong Bahru and Seng Poh roads meet. There I lingered on my last Sunday morning with a Japanese ornithologist whose English surpassed my Japanese. On a lattice above us dangled ornate cages holding single birds clustered together in breed specific groupings. Mostly eyes and voices, white-eyed mata putehs, black crested jambuls, and sharmas—whose showy tail feathers exceed their body length—congregated weekly to practice their songs while their owners boasted. As the songbirds trained for future competitions, their complex singing washed over us. I found myself overcome by both their resilient and yet fragile beauty along with my unexpected grief—how else could a confined bird learn her song? The birds’ courtship and territorial songs haunt me still. An exquisite cage is still a cage.

Why the caged bird sings

Why the caged bird sings

Now enjoy this recipe for my favorite lime drink

Lime drink - yum!

Lime drink – yum!


  • 3-4 limes
  • 840 ml / 4 c cold water
  • 90 g / 3 tbsp sugar
  • 140 ml / 1 c boiling water

How to make Lime Drink:

  1. Wash and wipe dry limes. Roll each lime on table with palm to soften it.
  2. Cut lime skin as thinly as possible. Do not cut the white part as it will make the drink bitter.
  3. Pour freshly boiled water over lime skin and sugar.
  4. Stir till sugar dissolves. Cover for 10-15 minutes. Cool.
  5. Cut limes crosswise and squeeze juice.
  6. Strain lime juice and syrup into a glass jug.
  7. Add cold water and mix well.
  8. Cool in refrigerator before serving.

    Nocturnal Indian wolf

    Nocturnal Indian wolf

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Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27, 2015
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