My friends from overseas: Oh, so what’s it’s like in Singapore?
Me: Well. It’s really safe. And clean. And the epitome of a concrete jungle. …
Behold, my incredibly pathetic description of Singapore. Being abroad made me realise how little I know or am able to say about my own country. And I’m quite ashamed of that. But it isn’t that I dislike living here. However, I do think that we live in an environment that causes us to take things for granted, without questioning the process, the hows and whys of Singapore’s evolution to the place we know today. I’ve come to learn how there is so much value in understanding our country, its insides and outs.
Singapore is developing at such a tremendous speed that things aren’t the same as it used to be ten, five or even one year ago. Maybe it’s just that bout of nostalgia, but I hate to see things go so suddenly. Is there nothing on this island worth preserving? As I witness the rapidly changing landscape, I can’t help but lose a little bit of faith, and question what gives this country its identity, what makes us Singaporeans.
I haven’t always been the most patriotic, or the biggest advocate of heritage preservation. But I know that an appreciation for life, to find meaning and a sense of belonging , comes from seeing the value in the things around us. Singapore, as our island home, is the physical embodiment of history, collective memories and shared ideas. What then, becomes of our “rootedness” to this land when everything changes into something unfamiliar?
I want to hold on to the past as tightly as I can. Even if I can’t stop them from its demolition, I want to remember them, because there is value in knowing the role they played in making Singapore. On a night out with my friends a week back, one of them who moved here a few years back brought us around the Tiong Bahru area. He seemed to know the place inside out, and it wasn’t because he lived there. I listened in quiet admiration as he talked about extensively exploring places in Singapore in his free time, simply walking around to find the little old gems in the city, and gathering ideas for a day out with friends. In Singapore, going out shouldn’t be limited to the usual, boring cafe hopping. I mean… The food usually isn’t even that good for the price, and I’d choose a good $3 plate of Carrot Cake anytime.
Appreciation, I believe, is always something deeply personal. The values we associate with something varies from one person to the next, and that is perfectly fine. To me, it’s only a problem when we can’t seem the see the inherent value of a thing. Something that has provided us with so much. Why does this knowledge evade our attention though? For me, I guess it took a semester abroad to realise what my home meant to me. Of course, my first thought was missing the presence of my friends and family, the people who give me everything, and show me what it was like to be loved. The memories I share with them, though, aren’t separate from the places we visited together. From weekend family trips to Fort Canning Park, to shoe shopping at Queensway Shopping Centre with the trackers, or those torturous runs at Macritchie, these were unique activities that made these experiences more impressionable. Perhaps this is why I find it rather pointless to focus on building mall after mall, and catering to the indulgent, mindless nature of consumerism. Because what meaning can we associate with that? How fondly will we remember it?
Coming back from my Exchange, I guess I’ve discovered a new goal. I want Singaporeans to see the country for all its beauty, to recognise its unique traditions and realise just how much this home has to offer that no other place can provide. I know it isn’t an easy endeavour, but I feel as though it is a cause I want to contribute to, even if it is just impacting a person or two. Meanwhile, this also means it is time for me to learn more about my own country, from its history, to the hidden places that I’ve yet to discover.