I met a new friend a few days ago while Ellie was in school. We had a wonderful conversation, and I look forward to hanging out with her again. But she asked a question that threw me…”What do you love most about Singapore that has nothing to do with your children?”
I had to stop and really think.
When I’m asked what I love most about Singapore, almost everything that comes to mind are things that relate to my children–the zoo, the water play areas, the education my daughter is getting, the warmth of the country toward children, and so forth.
My immediate reaction was…and this surprised me a bit…the weather. More to the point, I love wearing shorts and flip flops year round. I love having the option to swim almost every day (although I will confess it’s been a while since I’ve been in the pool). I love never having to shovel snow or chip ice off of my windshield. Yes, I bitch about the humidity and yes, the non-stop heat does wear on me such that I look forward to visiting cooler climates with unreserved glee (Australia in May–18 degrees C sounds delightful…for the week we’ll be there). Yes, I miss the beauty of a New England Fall and the slight nip to the breeze. But I don’t miss winter and I don’t miss spring.
However, we could move to Southern California and get perpetual summer. So I feel as though I need to dig deeper. So, here we go…a complete stream of consciousness, in no way organized list of reasons I love Singapore.
1-Learning about a new culture.
Apart from Michael Fay and a few pop culture references, I knew nothing about Singapore before December 2009, when Ravi applied to GNB and they suggested the SG office, as opposed to the London office we were hoping for. Living in Singapore for almost 2 years has begun an education in what is truly a remarkable country. No other country has accomplished the move from third world to first in such a short time (and we can debate the pros and cons of how that happened, and I’m happy to, but no one can deny that it is impressive).
Singapore is a mish-mash of cultures, and unlike the US, which is all about integration and submission to the dominant culture, Singapore acknowledges those cultures through public holidays that relate to Muslim and Christian holidays, Indian festivals and Chinese New Year. I can attend distinct cultural events.
When I am confounded by Singapore, I have wonderful friends who help explain and give context. I am deeply grateful to have Singapore Actually and Kirsten (among others) who are willing to answer and explain things from the mundane to the deeply complex. Learning about Singapore has enriched me because it makes me re-examine so many assumptions I never realized I had.
2-I appreciate the United States (and Boston) more
We all take what we have for granted far too frequently. In the US, I took everything from Target to Cape Cod for granted. I am a Massachusetts native and I have never made it to Cape Cod…because I always assumed I could get around to it eventually.
It is so easy for me to get wrapped up in those things that annoy me about the US, such as the ongoing concerted effort to restrict women’s access to contraception, that I forget those things I love about the US.
Living in Singapore has made me appreciate my rights, especially my right (obligation, really) to criticize my government and to vocally advocate for change.
I also appreciate American “stuff” more. Getting a package from my mom or in-laws with my favorite brand of BBQ chips (Wachusett Chips-made and only available locally to home) is cause for celebration. Watching the Daily Show with Ravi is a ritual. I’m happy that Ellie and Rhi have access to Sesame Street.
3-I’ve become a more serious photographer here
I had been getting more and more into photography after getting a digital camera. Moving from Singapore turned me from casual vacation (and baby) photographer to amateur photographer. I have been motivated to take a class and read up on how to make my pictures better, and long after our kids (or we) break or lose whatever souvenirs we leave Singapore with, my photographs will remain my favorite way to look back upon our time here.
Kirsten and I took the girls to Marina Barrage last Friday so that Kirsten could do a photoshoot of them (which turned into E after Rhi decided to sleep through most of it). While we were there, I took this picture looking back at the city…and I can’t wait to go back there and do some more photography. I also love shooting in the Botanic Garden, Sentosa, and around the city.
4-The chance to travel to places I wouldn’t otherwise
I really enjoyed visiting Phuket…but let’s be real; I would never have gone there if we didn’t live regionally. Australia, sure. Japan, probably. But much of the region would just not have made my “traveled to” list because it was just too damn far away for places I only want to visit for 3-4 days (when it would take that long to shake off the jet lag).
As the girls age, I’m hoping to do more regional travel, like Angkor Wat, Vietnam, and so forth. One of the negatives of not having a helper is that I don’t have the support person to do travel with the girls and Ravi only has so much vacation per year (although his allotment is generous, there is a limit).
By far my most shallow reason for loving Singapore, but no less valid.
For close to two years, taxis were my primary mode of transportation. I love that they are plentiful (usually). I love that I can SMS for one, and it will come get me, usually in 5-7 minutes. I love that they are cheap. I am deeply amused by taxi uncle wisdom (usually).
Cabs in New York and Boston just aren’t even in the same galaxy as SG cabs and I would have lost my mind trying to get around SG without them.
Thanks, W, for inspiring this post! Readers, what do you love best about Singapore?