So it has been more than over a week since I returned back to Norway from Singapore. I had been in Singapore for around 12 days, not too long, in fact, actually, it was just nice.
For Marianne and myself, this time our itinerary was less packed, we met up with our relatives and some friends that we knew, friends that we’ve not met for a long time, and made some new friends over friends we have never seen before. 🙂 Culture wise it has been a bit of a shock at first, but fortunately (or not so fortunately) we had some “warm up” of what to expect when we flew to Singapore with Singapore Airlines. Thus, by the time we arrived, we had already been acclimatised a bit.
We left Oslo on the evening of 19th of Dec 2016 en route to Singapore via Frankfurt. Then, I had just finished my weekend standby duties so I had to pop in to my office and hand in the standby phone (and wish everyone merry Christmas etc)… Then comes the hard part that I had to go back to Gardermoen to send Kohi off to a pet hotel to look after him while we were gone. Yeah, parting was hard, but travelling with us would be even more stressful for him. So, in a way, I try to see this as a holiday for him too, to get to know other dogs, to run around freely. At the airport, I changed into my “airplane travel wear” which was a jumpsuit with a hoodie (in case it rains/have to disembark outdoors), loose jeans without a belt (yeah, because silly scanners), flight socks and track shoes. Then, Oslo’s Gardemoen airport was having a big makeover which looks promising, but it also meant that there were detours which were unexpected.
Marianne and myself had dinner at O’Learys, which was quite nice actually in spite of my sweatshirt that smelled a bit because of the not very ideal ventilation there… oh well, I’d know better next time.
And we left for Frankfurt thereafter without much of a fuss. Except when we were just about to land, there was some excitement when the descending Lufthansa plane in Frankfurt suddenly pulled up sharply again after nearly touching the ground! Turned out there was a stray plane that wandered off into the runway! What drama!
And then we arrived to the hot and humid after the cold. On the left was Norway, just before leaving, and on the right, Singapore when we arrived.
The last time when I stepped into Singapore was about 11 months ago, not a long time by anyone standards. However, that time felt more like a working trip and I was travelling to Malaysia quite a bit as well. This time, in Singapore, we stayed at a hotel somewhere in MacPherson, and it was a bit nostalgic as I used to frequent that area often when I was a kid.
But 11 months felt like 11 years… so much had changed.
To be frank, after a long time of mindfully speaking proper English and half-standard Norwegian so as to appear more understood, it was quite a bit of a cultural awakening to revert back into Singapore English mode. It was especially cringe-worthy to hear that spoken on the SIA flight from Frankfurt to Singapore between airline staff, but after resigning to the fact that yes, I was going back to Singapore after all, so what should I expect?
Still, familiarity is a bittersweet pill. On one hand, you don’t have to go through a proxy before you speak or think. Think of it like you are surfing the internet via a firewall and you just removed all the rules! Or rather after surfing without a firewall for a long time and suddenly, when the firewall is re-activated, hey, this experience feels familiar…. :).
So yes, the familiarity was quite comfortable, I must say. At least I know that I could speak all the Pidgin English without being misunderstood. And yes, I could order things without fucking up my orders because of communication issues. And I could take a break from cooking my own meals. And I did not need to dress like a kuih lapis just to run a small errand unlike in Norway. After all, it was summertime all year round in Singapore. Christmas? What Christmas? Stores were still open and almost everything still functioned as normal. Shopping was a convenience rather than a inconvenient luxury.
These were familiar, yes, this was the life I used to live.
However, familiarity also means, bearing with rude people. I guess rudeness in Singapore got upgraded since I last witnessed it.
And the noise level OMG….
And yes, the privacy and independence which I took so long for granted in Norway that I had forgotten that in Singapore – We have become so accustomed to having our privacy and our independence to think taken away, that we have looked at this as something not unexpected nor unusual.
Well, before I come across as a potty bitch, there were nice things that I found while in Singapore as well.
I got to meet my ex-colleague and we had a nice time catching up over dinner at Jurong East.
But the best of all was I got to meet some twitter friends purely by chance as I was walking down Orchard Road and they happen to be nearby for lunch. It was quite pleasant. While it is true that since Marianne and I have left church, we do not have much “friends” – as in these friends we knew were just people that were cliched to talk about God and how their entire human existence weighed on only their imagination. But it was good to meet friends that do not have any such agenda and just wanting to chat. 🙂
And guess what, we also met our classmates from our Polytechnic days!! That was TOTALLY by accident when we were around Wisma Atria at our last day in Singapore! They were a couple together and had 2 lovely daughters. I think it was more than 10 years since I had last seen them. Familiarity in this sense was really welcome.
Yeah, we were really living as tourists in our own homeland 😛
Also managed to do some minor shopping, I got some nice clothes (sizes that I can never really find here), my favourite Japanese toiletries, as well as a zoom lens for my Sony NEX-F3 (which I was longing to buy for a very, very long time) that was on offer at Best Denki for half the price!! :).
Last but not least, food. I think Marianne was really happy because she got to try all the local favourites that she was missing here. By now, I am not really a food person, but yes, there were some that really caught my taste buds and brought back nice memories. So here’s a list of some of the food I ate while in Singapore, including the much anticipated durians 😀
Soon, it was time to leave, and by then, we were already getting jaded with things that did not work as advertised, nor tasted as advertised, or advertised with so much wrong but no one gives a hoot about it.
I guess I was a bit “homesick” so to put it that way.
I mean, Singapore is nice, and familiarity is also nice (and not so nice), but too much of familiarity breeds contempt. I think I don’t mind coming back to savour what I use to like (and what I do not like does come as a package), but it also reminds me of why I chose to leave the life that I once had.
I don’t think I am quite there yet. I admit that there is still a lot of Singapore in me (but of course), though I chose to see it a bit differently in the sense that there is good in the Singaporean ethos, but not all of it. And sadly, it has gotten worse over the years.
But I cannot deny or refute the fact that I was brought up in Singapore, inherited its culture, kiasuism, kiasi-ism or whatever “isms” it has.
I am Singaporean, but that is increasingly being described as my character trait rather than a nationality, and these are in the process of becoming separate elements.
I think the stereotypical Singaporean identity is not something I can run away from, but it is something that I find evolving as I live here longer.
Nationality has no longer a place in my heart seeing what the country has evolved in its values and how it treats its own citizens.
I would like to think I have become more independent, more capable of doing things myself, and so more than just blindly use a service provider for every damn thing like I used to. But there are things that I know that this service provider mindset is still relevant. As in the things that I am good at, the things that I can be good at, the things that I am expected to be competent are subjective. Like I don’t think I can ever change my kitchen cooking hood, or do gardening as good as the professionals would have done. True, there are instructions here in Norway to fix almost anything from sofa beds to cupboards to working chairs. But there are folks who do this as a living and are probably good with it.
Conversely speaking, looking at it the other way around, I am competent at computers, and I do not expect anyone without any proper education/experience on how to operate and maintain computers on a large scale can just sit down and “follow instructions” to make computers “just work”. They probably need specialists like those in my line with the knowledge and the experience. However, the mindset is to empower and motivate people to eventually do these things themselves. That would be awesome.
Hmm.. I would see myself being more confident now, however, that confidence can be easily misinterpret as arrogance as shown when I was in Singapore. Yeah, I was annoyed with a lot of things, but I am then reminded of why I chose this life that I wanted to live, and suddenly all that anger and irritation gave way to enlightenment.
Perhaps I am getting along with years, and maybe I am not that brash, snobbish, anarchic misfit that society once knew me as. I have also learnt to say no politely but firmly when I am pressed for other priorities and obligations that I would have otherwise obliged only to regret later.
I guess this is something I never would have done if I had continued my life in the rut.
Perhaps it took living outside of Singapore to bring out this part of me. One can also argue that you could do that too just living in Singapore, but I have tried for over 40 years and nothing seems to move, so I guess this only does. So, probably it is just me. I don’t want to die not experiencing this change of perspective which I am now. Therefore, I look to the future where I see myself more fluidly melding into someone with ideals I will not die regretting for.
So I leave with these tweets and the whole barrage of complaints, kudos and amusements when I was in Singapore from 19-31 Dec 2016.
Enjoy reading 🙂