Recently, I’ve chanced upon some articles / blog posts stating a variety of negative observations about Singapore and Singaporeans. Observations which I flatly disagree and infuriated me. Amongst the negative voices, I want to write my opinions on why most observations are inaccurate and untrue. So I’m gonna list out some of the most disagreeable points and refute it from the stand point of a true blue Singaporean, born, bred and educated in Singapore.
Singaporeans are emotionless beings. Now, this might be an ‘old’ statement but it just keeps popping out! Ugh.. To start off, I’ll tell you an experience I had on an early morning after a countdown party last year. I was on a bus and behind me was a group of western girls in their late teens. Everyone on the bus had just partied away the entire night and was extremely exhausted. This group of girls started singing some country folk songs at the top of their lungs! It was highly irritating. No one on the bus told them to shut up and because of that, again at the top of their voice, they proclaimed that Singapore is truly an emotionless country. I have no respect for them. Why didn’t we make any noise even though we were so tired and irritable? It is because Singaporeans are well-mannered and too cool for these unruly behavior. It was just not worth my last ounce of energy to give any attention to a bunch of attention seeking kids. We give people their own personal space, and when someone is acting unusual, we give the benefit of the doubt that perhaps they are just crazy. We are kind, sympathetic and forgiving.
Singapore has no culture and heritage. The person who make this observation must most definitely have wasted his time in Singapore. I will address this statement in 2 parts. Firstly, the heritage part. Singapore, even though is probably the strongest Asian Tiger, has a rich history and heritage. We started off as a fishing village as part of Malaya, was colonized by the British and immigrants mainly from east Asia started coming into Malaya to seek greener pastures. Our heritage is a mishmash of original nationalities and cross-cultural breeding resulted in an even more unique heritage. This is PRESENT around Singapore. Open your eyes and most importantly, your mind. Observe and learn! There are heritage buildings, cultural sites and Singapore unique hawker fare e.t.c. Talk to the people, get to know their way of life. (I read somewhere that conversations in Singapore are polite but frequently shallow. This is just retarded.. would you bare your soul to someone you just met? I am almost 99% sure this is applicable to most countries)
Secondly, to the term ‘culture’. How do we define culture? Culture is something that evolves with time. If I ask, what is the culture of say, France? US? Egypt? What will be the response? I have been to a number of countries and there is not a single place that I would say does not have a culture. The buildings of the city, the people, the food, the places of interest, the history contributes to this ‘culture’. The air you breathe in, the vibes that you get from being at a particular place that’s the city’s culture. And don’t tell me Singapore has none. Just stand in the middle of Chinatown, Little India, Orchard Road, Sentosa or even a dingy cafe in Arab Street. Don’t tell me you don’t feel something.. If you don’t, you must truly be the emotionless one.
There must be a reason why there are more foreigners than Singaporeans right? Because people from all over the world value Singapore! There are bountiful opportunities, it’s safe, it’s everything a lot of places are not. Granted, Singaporeans are leaving the country. But in this day and age, we are living in a globalized cosmopolitan world. People are travelling all over the place! Also, the base of Singaporeans are not large to begin with. As a Singaporean, I welcome all foreigners into my country because this is progress. There are gaps and the right people are needed to fill them. Do unto others what you want done unto you.
Now, don’t give me nonsense on Singapore’s government. I feel blessed for having such a sound government. You can call Singapore’s government whatever political term available, but I look at all my Asia neighbours and I see what the forefathers and current leaders of Singapore had to grapple with and I am thankful. In such a short span of time, from a fishing village to a modernized city. Every government is not perfect, but I say, we have one of the best. At any point of time, I would rather be facing with the problem of low birth rate than low employment rate. This might sound like a shallow example but this entry is not meant to be overly political. We do not have to pay high level of taxes but we are still well taken care off, without being too dependent on the government.
Yes, Singapore’s education system has been criticized as a “dream-killer” with its high stress levels. Everyone wants to be either a banker, lawyer, doctor e.t.c. Progress don’t simply fall from the sky (I had to type it here in case it is not obvious enough). Most of our origins stem from poverty. Our grandparents or great-grandparents had to lead a life of hardship and the only way out was through education. The logic is simple: you study, get a job as a professional and you have a stable income. Poverty-free. It is not a stereotype that Asians are hardworking. It is true. In the past, there weren’t much choices. But now, I as a Singaporean, I have a freedom of choice. I could choose what I what and where I want to work and study. I could even fly overseas to pursue my dreams if I want to. These freedom of choices would not have been possible without progress and foresight from our leaders.
I do not know why Singapore is being frowned upon for not having enough natural environment. I am a nature person. I love mountains and the sea but I don’t feel like I am deprived of them. The weather in South East Asia just does not warrant a picnic out in the midday sun and Singapore is SMALL. Whatever space we have, its being utilized. (True, Singapore could do with less shopping malls.) Then, I go back to my previous point of choices. Singapore has established itself well as a hub in S.E. Asia. We have numerous budget flights to places that are over-flowing with nature. Closer to home, I love the Botanical Gardens. There is also Pulau Ubin, Bukit Timah, Mount Faber, Punggol e.t.c.
If there is one flaw to name, it is that the meaning of “contentment” that is lost in most. Having the world at your feet, we no longer see what’s in front of us. And that’s saddening.. Having choices is a luxury. But I do see a shift in paradigm in my generation. As Singaporeans broaden their minds with overseas exposure, perspectives are set right.
I make my points above on the basis that the negative observations are made by a mere visitor. If the locals feel the same way as them, I hope that they will be able to appreciate how far we have come and how very fortunate we are. Open your eyes and mind.. Singapore has lots to offer. Are you missing it?
Never under-estimate a mountain. Or maybe, I was being over-confident. I’ve been exercising quite religiously this year and I DID NEPAL! And that was a 8D7N trek, surely a 2D1N trek would be easy peasy..
HOW VERY WRONG WAS I.
Conquering Mount Kinabalu was like compacting Nepal’s 8D7N into a 2D1N journey. It was extremely strenuous! Running religiously DOES NOT EQUATE TO fit for mountain climbing and being complacent, we climbed Bukit Timah Hill for a glorious one time. Bukit Timah’s summit is 163m versus Mount K’s 4095.2m. For training, think you got to run up and down 20 flights of stairs per day. So obviously what we did wasn’t even minimally sufficient..
That said, THANK GOD I MANAGED TO SCALE THE TALLEST MOUNTAIN IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA! Wooooohooooo :D
What attributed to my success in conquering the tallest mountain in SE-Asia.
- Good weather
We were extremely extremely blessed with super good weather. The base of Mount K is shrouded with rain forests, and as it suggests, it typically rains quite often. Besides, the monsoon season was fast approaching Asia and somehow for the 2 days that we were there, IT DID NOT RAIN. There were no leeches, no slipper muddy path, no gushing “waterfalls”. Hallelujah.
- A super sturdy walking stick
Walking stick was an absolute NECESSITY. We walked almost continuously for 2 whole days. Day 1, was all ascending. We started trekking from the park’s HQ at 9am and finished at 5pm (8 hours). Day 2, woke up at 1.30am to scale the summit at 2.30am. Reached the summit at 6.20am to catch the sunrise and descended back to the lodge at 9.30am (7 hours in the morning) for a quick breakfast before heading all the way back down from 11am to 6.15pm (Another 7 hours back down). For 2 days, we climbed a grand total of 22 hours!!
Descending was the hardest of all as my legs were all strained from all the ascending. My knees were giving way and I most of my weight was heavily supported by my walking stick! Felt like a 60 year old woman climbing down the mountain. It was NO JOKE.
- Proper trekking shoes and windbreaker
The trekking path was either rocky with uneven rocks, or steeped roughly-cut steps. The journey up to the summit was granite – smooth granite, and sooooo very steep. There were parts when we had to hurl ourselves up with ropes (and semi-abseil down when descending). I was so thankful I had a good trekking shoes that I bought for my previous Nepal trek. Columbia, for the win!
The wind up in the mountains was ferocious, especially on Day 2 when we scaling the summit. It was dark (we were using headlights) and windy! There were no trees to block off the wind and we were fully exposed to all natural elements. It was the toughest walk I ever walked in my life so far. I was just slowly trudging forward, battling against the strong wind. You really need a good windbreaker to help you in the fight against the wind!
- Encouraging companions
MOST DEFINITELY. YES – I almost gave up climbing to the summit….. It was the classic case of so near, yet so far.
Kinabalu Park is very very beautiful with all the flora and fauna. As we ascended, the view was stunning when we gazed down from above the clouds. Put lots of things into perspective as we witnessed how tiny our existence really is.. Right now, I have absolutely no desire of scaling another mountain as the pain is still freshly etched in my mind (I couldn’t walk normally for 4 days!). But I do miss the peace that comes along with being thoroughly immersed in nature..
And there’s always something about nature that draws us back in.. won’t be surprise if I find myself right smack in another forest soon :)
Between a stimulus and a reaction is a SPACE.
Stimulus – SPACE – Reaction
When something tips my equilibrium, I often imagine myself in a vacuum. For that split micro second, everything around me is in limbo. Fully aware of my surroundings, my senses aroused and I make a decision.
The choices we make affects our behaviour and our internal emotional ecosystem.. When someone loses his/her temper, I wish that person will consider that space.
I got shouted by an irate and unreasonable old lady at work. (What’s up with old grumpy aunties?!) I could have just started a shouting war, but I didn’t.. why? Because it’s just not gonna get us anywhere. It’s not worth any energy expensed on my part. And often, I like to think of myself as being the greater person. Probably its an ego thing. But whatever floats my boat.
I might have just reached the highest level of nirvana..
How do you define a good holiday?
To me, besides doing all my usual holiday crazy in-the-moment things, what truly makes a place memorable are the locals that we meet and interact with. The new friendships and experiences that are built together, that will mould you and are enlightening. I left Bali wanting to be a better person..
Let me first describe how Bali was to me.. I felt like I have stayed there for years and that I truly belonged instead of the meager 5 days I was there. Bali was planned as a dive trip, to explore the famous Liberty Wreck at Tulamben. Tulamben is a quiet fishing village, located North-East of Bali (3 hours drive from Kuta). It is also home to many other dive sites, boosting rich marine life and coral reefs. I’ll post some pictures here once I’ve uploaded them. It was a pity I did not manage to take any underwater pictures until the last day when we decided that we should rent an underwater camera to capture this amazing experience.
Besides its famous beaches / resorts, what truly makes Bali a choice destination is the locals. Their friendliness, hospitality and smiles are infectious. I find myself learning bits and pieces of Bahasa and greeting everyone throughout the day “Selamat Pagi (Good Morning), Selamat Siang (Good Afternoon), Selamat Malam (Good Night)”. Throughout my stay at the dive resort, I learnt the names of all the local dive guides, the receptionists and the chambermaids/guys. But, not before they learnt my name! Everywhere I went, I was greeted by my first name and initially, I was embarrassed because I was struggling to remember all of theirs! But they were so nice and friendly, each time I forget, they reminded me again. They wished me good dives in the day and sweet dreams at night :) It truly is heartwarming!
How did Bali make me want to be a better person?
Just like how India was life-changing, Bali has similar influences. We do not know how blessed we are, unless we see for our own beady eyes all the luxury that we first-world people are basking in. I asked a new Balinese friend, 22 years old, born and bred in Tulemban, whether he has dreams to get out and see the world. He said yes of course, but there’s a problem because he does not have a passport. In fact, most people in the villages do not have a passport! Day in, day out, they receive guests from all around the world, names that they can’t pronounce and places that they can only dream off and yet, they are not feeling bitter about it. Guests who are obviously spilling with riches, to afford the long distance airfare to Bali, dive and have wine for dinner. They are still able to extend their hearts to make us feel at home. Either they are damn good at their job, or it’s just good old sincere hospitality warmth that is lacking in our developed world.
When my mind is not getting fried on the sun bed, or diving, I had lots of time to think and set certain “life” priorities. I am not usually a make-a-list person. But sometimes, a prioritized list really helps to put things into perspective. Pure generosity and happiness are not results of riches and fame. But it’s how you feel inside.. I think its contentment. To be at ease with the world.. It’s liberating.
I am glad that I am able to get out to see the world and open my mind. I am glad that I am not a complaining, grumpy, pesky narrow-minded mammal.. The thing is, I think what makes most people dissatisfied is because of the benchmarks that we have all internally set. But screw benchmarks! I say, live for the moment. Live for the second that you are where you are and not somewhere that you were or where you want to be. Go with the flow..
From what I have today, the experiences I have and am still gaining, there’s a glow in my heart. This little burning glow, I am going to surround it with the friends I have made and people I have met in Bali and India. I wish one day, I can stay in these places for a longer period of time and see what it will do to me..
Even in Kuta, when it was way too touristic, and the locals were aggressively touting their sun beds under shaded umbrellas and all their other linglongs, most people just got annoyed with them. Which is quite understandable.. After I profusely refused their air brush tattoo services, massage, hair braiding, trinkets e.t.c. this old lady sat down with me and talked to me about Singapore and Bali for a good 15 minutes which I enjoyed. When she gave me a big genuine smile to bid me an enjoyable time, it made the glow sparkle.
A smile and a friendly gesture goes a long way..
What culminated at the end of the dive trip, was when my new friend, took me on his bike to see this amazing sunrise which slowly illuminated the mountain peak on the other side. It was almost magical and a wonderful ending to the Tulemban leg.. I was so sad to leave the resort! Back in Kuta, I witnessed the same sun setting on the horizon of Kuta beach. And that fuzzy feeling inside me.. Its contentment. Pure bliss :)
I’ve read and heard things along the way about the US and Afghanistan, terrorists, Talebans and Osama.. Being far away from all the action makes it seem quite unreal, although I know somewhere, these are real pressing issues. I develop strong opinions about issues raised from the war and the Taleban regime, and am of course a strong supporter of anti-terrorism. But after the news stopped publishing, it went out of sight, out of mind and life went on..
I got to meet a Marine recently who was deployed to Afghanistan a few years back. He brought the reality of actual “war” happenings closer to me and it felt kinda surreal. I’ve watched movies like “Saving Private Ryan” and they are so heart-wrenching. But movies are vastly different from real-life accounts because you can’t dismiss them as something that is possibly fabricated. Naturally, I was curious and had a load of questions to ask. (How often do you get to meet someone who actually went to war?!)
His perspectives are different, shaped largely by experiences as a Marine. At one end of the spectrum, there was love and sympathy for the locals and the other end, was violence and death. It’s tough trying to imagine the emotional turmoil. Having lived so close to death and being the “lucky one” that survived while watching his buddies die gave him more courage to live, to enjoy, to have fun because the foundations that he’s threading on is so fragile. He claims his sense of humor got him through his darker days but I’m not so sure about that.. Not everything can be simply laughed off.
Then there’s the question of religion which created a cloud of grey. It’s really a blessing and miracle to be alive but having witnessed so much death and destruction stirs questions. Should we base faith on our own singular experience and outcome or from what we see that’s happening all around us? He admits to being agnostic which I really can understand where is he coming from.
It’s all so intriguing. Question is, do I subscribe to his beliefs?
My big boss “volunteered” my service at the recent Attraction Expo in Singapore as an Ambassador. I wasn’t a happy volunteer because I had a pile of work to clear and emails to reply. Anyway with a grudging heart, I went to report for orientation on a Sunday afternoon. My first impression was Uh-oh! Excluding the gang from my side, the rest of them were young poly students and super enthusiastic people from our island neighbour. All the squeals, giggles and enthusiasm were kind of overwhelming on the first day.
It’s the whole thing about being in the attraction business. Enthusiasm, happiness and the desire to provide good service just comes naturally to us. I got the privilege to speak to some leaders of the industry and they were all so friendly and passionate in what they do. Despite waking up everyday at 5.30am with less than 6 hours of sleep for 6 days straight, I found myself increasingly looking forward to the program day by day. I’m surprise that I managed to form such close bonds with all the “young punks” since I usually look at them in disdain when they make too much noise in public. Heehee.. When the expo ended yesterday, it was with heavy hearts that we bade each other farewell with promises to keep in touch. They are all so endearing :) And to our island neighbour, the exchange of knowledge was inspiring. Their passion and enthusiasm is what I hope to see in myself as well as in our front-line staff. I hope we will bump into each other on the island! Listening and interacting with the team and industry leaders makes me feel proud to be in the amusement and entertainment industry.
When I think back to my job on the island, there is a reason why I don’t mind going staying back late on weekdays or even heading back on weekends / public holiday to do some island operations work which are over and above my main portfolio. I will be running around all hot and sweaty but at the end of the day, its fulfilling and worthwhile. I never doubted that I am a service-oriented person, since my uni days as a waitress. Providing good service to all guests and ensuring that everything is operating smoothly feels like its part of me and when that is achieved, viola! Sense of satisfaction and pride.
I’m so new to this industry but the mentors I have met, my colleagues and team mates have been very patient and so nice. When my team mates visited me at the expo, they told me I am greatly missed! In my absence, the office was quiet and they miss my “quirkiness”. I am glad that I am able to bring my “quirkiness” to my workplace :) Not many people get to PLAY as part of their job and I’m blessed that I got it in my first job!
JOIN THE ATTRACTIONS BUSINESS! It’s great fun, almost everyday!
Big thanks for this opportunity!
I feel tired today. Those bone weary, emotionally down kind of tired. It’s the exhaustion that makes people simply throw their hands up in surrender. That no logic can comprehend. It’s a tiredness that perhaps a night’s rest can cure, that makes me feel like a fool in the morning. Cause I know, I already have it better than most.
(some battles are not meant to be fought)