On Singapore

Singapore and I have had a bit of a rocky relationship. A little over 3,000 days ago,  I first landed in Singapore. I was 24 years old, had never been on a plane and was en route to a completely new life in Indonesia. I had a lot going on.

I remember landing in the middle of the night, somehow being taken to a fancy hotel near Orchard Road and handing over my passport to some man named Abdul. I was then taken to my room, my bags were dropped off and the door closed, leaving me in a very high tech hotel room. I went to use the bathroom and found that I couldn’t figure out how to turn the bathroom light on.

And that’s when it happened: I totally freaked out.

We are talking complete breakdown, hysterical sobs. I tend to refrain from using the word epic as a descriptor but in my life, this was one of the few epic breakdowns I have ever had. I am pretty sure I wasn’t actually all that upset about the hotel bathroom, rather the fact that I was aware of that I was suddenly so very far away from everything and everyone familiar.

Somehow I figured out the bathroom light and I’m guessing I had a shower and went to bed but I still remember talking to myself in the dark hotel room that smelled faintly like foreign spices, muttering something about how I should have signed up for a two week mission trip, not a two year international teaching experience.

After that Singapore remained under a bit of a dark cloud in my mind. Hated the place. Bad associations. It was too sterile. It was boring. It was whatever I felt like accusing it of being. It stayed that way for quite a long time. For the rest of the time I lived in Indonesia, for my time in Germany and into my time in Japan, Singapore was not my happy place.

When I moved to Japan I got involved with directing a club that had a yearly conference in Singapore. I had to return at some point. And so reluctantly I packed my bags and headed back to that equatoresque-complicated-to-define-city/country. When I landed I was shocked. Everything I missed about living in South East Asia hit me, reminding me what I had given up in leaving yet the tricky thing is that the cleanliness and order I had learned to appreciate from life in Germany and Japan, was also somewhat present. It was safe Asia.. or as other people have referred to it: Asia Light. And I loved it.

I have returned three times with work and once for a holiday and I must admit that this city has changed in my mind. I appreciate the things I didn’t before and am at a place where I can appreciate the quirkiness and some of the irritating things about South East Asia all the while enjoying the food and the shopping and the friendly people and the English speaking and the palm trees and cool buildings and the water and the cleanliness and the wearing of flip flops and the access to western food and the very best asian cuisine. It’s all very good.

I do like it here. Could I picture living and working here? Maybe. Do I want to return? Definitely. Should I stop asking myself questions in this irritating manner? Yes! Yes! Yes!

So there you have it. Singapore. I like it. It hasn’t changed but I sure did!

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