I have to start this post by sharing with you that I love mountains. And I often wonder why I do. Maybe it is how small we little humans are compared to their majestic sizes and heights. Maybe it is how I find it amazing how these triangles made of stone and reaching clouds cannot be sculpted by man. Maybe it is because there are no mountains in Singapore that I find them fascinating. One question does come to mind, though, that if I were living in a place where I could see mountains everyday, would I appreciate them as much as I do now? Probably not.
This comes in relation to what I want to write about today. It has been two years that I have been away from home. Now that I am back for a short holiday, I start to see and appreciate things about my country that I would never have noticed nor felt if I didn’t study overseas. It is not that I was oblivious or ignorant, though, but more of the fact that it never came to mind because it was everyday life to me. This isn’t a tribute post to Mister Lee Kuan Yew, who has passed away on Monday morning because I do not want to seem like I have the best knowledge at all about his contributions for our country. However, this is a post about thanking my country, Singapore. That even though we don’t have mountains or many natural resources, we have the people and this will always be home. That Singapore is the reason why I can still dream.
I was talking to a cab driver in Bangkok two days ago. He loved to smile and laugh. He told me, “Singaporeans are very happy people. Thailand is number two.” Feeling confused on why he thinks we are the happiest people in the world, I asked him why. He just insisted that Thailand was second. Then I asked him if he is happy. “Uncle is always smiling. If I’m happy. I smile. If I’m not happy, I also smile. Sometimes I don’t smile because I don’t get what I want. But I think if I want many things, I won’t be happy. If I want nothing, I will be happy.”
That made an awful lot of sense to me that I felt humbled. Here I am in Thailand, shopping and indulging as much mango sticky rice as my tummy can fit (per day) because I can. Someone once said that, “Travelling is already an indulgence”, and I truly believe it. Some people are just happy to get by with a simple job and am just grateful to live another day. While someone like me, who whines if she doesn’t get to travel in a year, still gets to study overseas, and furthermore, still gets to chase after a dream? I for sure, am one lucky lucky human being to be able to do the things I want to do so far. Going back to what the cab driver said, I feel sorry that I want more out of life, and out of myself. I can’t help the hunger for my ambition, so much so that I really respect how he can live every single day in a simple manner, because I can’t do that at this moment. I can’t help but to dream.
I do not come from a family with a lot of money. But if you were to define what is rich, I think my family and friends at home are worth more than paper notes and coins. My mother raised my sister and I up almost single-handedly and even though she is at the age of retirement, she still supported my choice of studying in Tokyo. My friends, whom I thank for always keeping me close and always asks me how I am doing even if I only get to see them twice a year. Their support means a lot to me and is one of the biggest motivations for going to school everyday as one day I am definitely giving back.
That is also the reason why I am coming home one day. People always ask me, would I stay or would I go? See, Japan has millions of opportunities and possibilities, especially when it comes to the textile world. Since I know the language, I could make use of it and start something up in Japan with a possibly better response. But it would give me so much joy to make something for my own people, my own kaki lang, who asks me if I want more sambal belachan on my economical bee hoon, who would randomly come up to me and complain together when the weather is unforgivably hot. Coming from a country that does a lot of importing, there is still a lack of local brands and products. I do not want to be unfazed just because not a lot of people do it, nor be scared because it is difficult. I want to give back to the country who has given a lot to me. And make products, though small compared to the masses, special to Singaporeans and for people who come to visit us.
As for the mountains, we have our own monumental awesomeness. I come back home appreciating the things that make proud to be Singaporean. Firstly, our multi-racial society, where I am colour blind as everyone to me are basically friends and neighbours. Secondly, our bilingualism is really something not to be taken for granted, man. Learning English and my mother tongue (Mandarin Chinese) is an advantage and it makes travelling and meeting new people so easy. Thirdly, our Singlish, which is simply a really rojak kind or rojak, where I can use it anywhere back home and will feel buay paiseh about, and nobody will find me gila or siao and actually know that I am not talking cock. And lastly can I just say that once I came back it felt really heartwarming seeing people eating outside or just walking around the neighbourhood with their family, young and old? Coming from Tokyo where many people eat alone, it is really nice to see families having meals together, as I am happy to share a half white chicken with mine.
So Singapore, you are the reason why I am able to leave the country and you are the reason why I am coming back. You are the reason why I have the ability to dream. Even though we have no mountains (which is really such a pity!), we have reclaimed land. Jokes aside, at least this is where I know it’s home.