Practitioner #1: Veggie Rescue at Potong Pasir Wholesale Centre (PPWC)
I participated in the SG Veggie Rescue conducted at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre. Each Thursday (occasionally Saturday), the entire team of SG Food Rescue volunteers meet at PPWC.
PPWC is a large wholesale centre that is split up into different blocks that focus on specific produce. There are blocks focusing on vegetables, fruits, dried foods and so on. It was an eye-opening sight, bustling with activity in the early morning as vendors sorted and sold their goods. Especially in the large auction hall, forklifts were constantly moving heavy boxes and people were shouting left and right. There were many container trucks, transporting and delivering goods. Within their own stores, each vendor had a team of staff that was working relentlessly to sort and pack produce.
- SGFR lanyard
- Mobile phone
- Push trolley
- Reusable bags/trolley (for volunteers to bring food home)
- Delivery truck
The food rescue commences with a briefing to all volunteers, conducted by the team leader. The briefing informs volunteers about SGFR, what to do, how to approach vendors, how to persuade them and most importantly, the dos and don’ts. For instance, don’t take photographs of the vendors themselves without their permission. Always ask for permission before taking, even if you’re certain it looks like trash. The ground rules were established before we split up into our separate groups: fruit and vegetable. Each group would focus on rescuing produce from the respective blocks. A few people were also stationed at Block 17 (the gathering point) to be ready to receive, sort and look after the goods collected throughout the food rescue. Team leaders and volunteers would keep in contact via mobile phones and WhatsApp chat groups set up ahead of time.
After splitting up to our respective blocks (I was in vegetables!), team leaders (and experienced volunteers) would approach vendors and ask for produce that could not be sold for whatever reason. Some cited the produce as ugly, or not up to standard, even if they were perfectly edible. The rest of the volunteers would then load up the trolley with boxes of whatever the vendors gave, and then push it back to the gathering point. Some vendors recognized the SGFR lanyards and had already set aside items to give, and most of them were super friendly! There was also a time limit to the collection process, and after an hour and a half, we made our way back to Block 17.
We were then debriefed and were allowed to bring home as much produce as we could carry. During the debrief, the SGFR team gathered feedback from participants to find out why vendors threw away the produce. Some volunteers also gave vendor details to SGFR, so the team could contact them to participate in the future PPWC Veggie Rescues. Subsequently, volunteers packed their bags with the rescued food and helped to load up the delivery truck, which would transport the food to communities in need.
Pain Points + Thoughts
Every time the trolley was full, volunteers would have to make the trip back to deposit the collected goods. This often resulted in many trips (and PPWC is quite big!) back and forth vendors and the gathering point. In my opinion, it wasted energy and time – as compared to being able to collect all the goods before making one trip back. Additionally, some times people are slow to check/pick up their phones, so there may be a lapse in communication.
Overall, I thought the veggie rescue was a great initiative started by Daniel (the freegan dude!) and some volunteers. Not only does it teach volunteers how to help with rescuing produce, but also opens their eyes to the food waste prevalent around us. Plus, you get rewarded by helping out with free food! What’s not to like?
Practitioner #2: Film making
I participated in filming a fictional short film with some experienced film makers.
The worksite changes often, depending on the day of the shoot and what scenes we’re shooting. For instance, we can shoot scenes in a flat, at a wet market, and at a car park all in one day.Due to this, there was a lot of shifting about and the team had to pack up all the equipment quickly and move to the next filming location. On top of that, since the ‘worksite’ changes, this means that we either plan things out before hand (location scouting/recee) or be able to adapt on the spot.
- Handheld stabilizer
- Fresnel lights
- LED lightbox
- Boom microphone
- Lapel microphone
- Zoom microphone
We arrived a few hours before the cast to begin setting things up. We had scouted the place before, so we knew what to do upon arriving (e.g. where to place the tripods for which scenes, what areas to block out for certain shots, where to put props). The tripods were set up, then put into position (one main camera, one secondary camera) and other team mates would prep the set. This involved putting props into specific positions (following a photograph snapped on a phone) to ensure there was continuity in the film.
When the cast arrived, the director would talk to them to settle them down, before briefing them on what was to be shot for the day. After which, the cast would run through their lines and the director would advise them on what to change, or what emotions to convey.
After a few practice runs and blocking out shots (to help check the framing on the camera), we began filming. Most scenes took one to three takes to complete, and we had to work fast in order to ensure that the light did not change much from shot to shot. It was a constant race against time. Additionally, every time we were filming a scene with dialogue or specific sounds, we had to ensure there was silence on set. This proved to be difficult especially when in public areas that had influencing factors we couldn’t control (e.g. the flat was located near the MRT tracks, the microphone kept picking up the rumbling of the train).
Throughout the entire filming, team mates had to work together to back up the files on the laptop, change and charge batteries for the camera and microphones, change and empty out SD cards, shift lights, tripods and carry sound equipment. After finishing the scenes at one location, every one had to rush to pack up and shift items back to their original positions, before moving on to the next location and redoing the whole process.
Pain Points + Thoughts
The SD cards fill up fast, especially when filming for the whole day. Since we had limited SD cards, every time a card was full – the camera man had to pause filming, remove the card, pass it to a team mate and replace it with another SD card. Meanwhile, the team mate would insert the SD card into a laptop, back up the files, clear the card and then return it to the camera man. This was a cyclical process. A lot of time was spent waiting to back up the files and pausing to switch SD cards.
Another pain point is the sound equipment. The lapel and boom microphones had to have wires connected to the main zoom microphone. As we had two lapel mics and one boom, this resulted in a mess of long wires that often got tangled up. It was difficult to manage them, however, if they were color-coded, it would make things a lot easier. Additionally, similar to the SD cards, the batteries in the mics and cameras ran out quickly and had to constantly be swapped out to charge.
All in all, it was a fun and hectic experience that taught me a lot about film making. Especially with regard to the logistical process behind it (setting up, putting props in specific spots, resetting scenes, manipulating light to make it look like certain times of the day, etc).
Practitioner #3: Watercolor painting
I went to observe a friend who does commissioned watercolor paintings at her home.
She works from the desk in her room. For privacy reasons, I didn’t take any photos. But her desk is just a plain IKEA study table, white in color (she says it’s good for taking photos of her pieces against a white background). When she wants to do her watercolor painting, she makes space on the table and leaves her laptop there, and brings out her watercolor tool box.
- Paint brushes of various sizes
- Watercolor paint tubes
- Watercolor paper
- India ink (for lining the piece when it’s done)
- Rough paper (for testing out colors)
- Jar of water
- Towel (she has a paint cloth that she wipes her paint brushes on, after every session she washes it so she can reuse it!)
Before she starts, she lays out her paints and fills her jar with water. Everything is set up so she doesn’t have to get up from her seat during the painting process. After that, she begins by drawing the image onto a piece of watercolor paper. When she’s done, she uses india ink and goes over it to bring out the details. It’s not conventional to do so, as most people will go over the entire drawing with india ink after painting – but she does two coats of india ink in order to be precise and make the details pop. India ink is used as it doesn’t get diluted by the watercolor that goes over.
Once the line art is done, she begins mixing all her colors out. She measures and squeezes out the pain onto her palette, then mixes the paint and tests it out on a piece of scrap paper to see if it’s to her liking. Only after she’s mixed all the paint, does she finally start painting. She says she prefers to mix all her paints at the start so that there’s consistency in the color and the hues and shades don’t differ – as compared to if she had mixed several different batches throughout the entire process.
She works from the ‘inner’ most layer, as she described. I likened the process to photoshop, where you have different layers. She starts with the base, which in this case is inside the mouth. Then she works upwards, to paint the gums, the teeth, the plague on the teeth, then the lips. It was very therapeutic watching her work and blend the colors! My favourite part was when she added details to really make the painting pop off the paper.
After all that, she used india ink and went over all the lines once more to finish off the piece.
Pain Points + Thoughts
Throughout the process, she had to get up to make a few trips to refresh and refill her water jar. As she was using dark paints, the water got dirty quickly – and didn’t clean her brushes as effectively.
Additionally, when she going over the lines for a final time during india ink with a calligraphy pen, there was zero room for error. If the nib got caught and extra ink flowed onto the paper, especially on the lighter parts (e.g. teeth, lips), there was almost no way to salvage the piece.
The watercolor paint also took time to dry, and she had to be careful not to smudge some parts while detailing others. However, it was difficult to tell which parts were dry and which were not. It would be pretty cool if there was a sensor that could tell you so.