I know we’re not Chinese, but I like the fact that we somehow get to celebrate two New Year’s in a year. And it’s even better because Chinese New Year usually falls on the last week of January. Perfect time to see where you are with the goals and resolutions you set out at the start of the year. So, how did your January go?
Not a lot of people know that Singapore is made up of more than one or two islands (Sentosa). In fact, there are about 63 more islands in Singapore, most of them uninhabited. Last Sunday, we got to see two more outlying islands. Since most of our friends also did not have any out-of-town plans for Chinese New Year, someone came up with the idea of chartering a yacht for a couple of hours.
Happy Friday! Today, I’m honored to feature an honest-to-goodness world traveller and empowered, independent lady. She’s also the sister of one of my good friends, Nina. I got the chance to travel with Ate Prime when we went to that eventful Myanmar trip, which was a good thing. Aside from going with my friends, I also had a travel-experienced older sister, which was a reassuring thought, given what we encountered over there.
I seriously believe each city in the world has it’s own personality. Ate Prime describes some of the places she’s visited in her article below, including, of course, Singapore.
By Prime Sarmiento
When Ays asked me to write a guest post comparing Singapore with the more than 20 cities (and counting…) that I have visited all over the world, I was actually a bit apprehensive of writing it. The questions that she sent me didn’t really help. Like the proverbial apples and oranges, I really can’t compare any city with another. My experiences know no parameters.
But here’s what I know. A journey to a foreign country, according to writer and author Pico Iyer, is like getting into a love affair “where you can’t quite speak the language, and you don’t know where you’re going, and you’re pulled ever deeper into the inviting darkness, every trip to a foreign country can be a love affair, where you’re left puzzling over who you are and whom you’ve fallen in love with.”
So yes, to me, a new city, a new place, outside of my own home (which will forever be Manila, my Manila) is like getting involved with a new lover – the insanity of lust, the fluffiness of romance, the serious depth of loving. And while it’s too slutty to talk about my lovelife (not to mention I have an embarrassingly short list of male admirers), I am free to talk about my (wander)lust for the many places that I’ve been to, and how I fall in and out of love, in and out of lust, always searching for “the one” as I craft my own journeys as a true blue gypsygal.
I was 26 when I fell in love with Singapore. Now this is one lover that my ever pragmatic and careerist and competitive self has been seeking for so long, that I frankly find it orgasmic that I get a rare chance to be with this lover for about five years. Singapore is stable, safe and ambitious – para kang nakasandal sa pader (like you’re leaning on a wall). He is the type of lover that I won’t mind bringing to my mom, and flaunt in my highschool reunions, shoving him in the faces of those popular mean girls who got pregnant in college and married losers (take that, bitch!). Of course in the end, as I went through a lot of inner work, I realized that Singapore is not “the one”.
Ubud in the magical island of Bali is my first love. Before you jump to conclusions, Ubud was “mine” years before Elizabeth Gilbert went on her Eat Pray Love journey and published the book. Artistic, bohemian, romantic and temperamental, I was in an on-and-off romance with Ubud for several years and even once thought of settling down with him. But like most first loves, it didn’t really work out because I had to grow up and become pragmatic. Like most first loves, it was unforgettable, and there was this longing to revisit that romance again even if I haven’t see this lover for more than eight years.
There are the “couldabeens”, lovers who I thought I can seriously have a relationship with, but there are always deal breakers. This is what I felt for Toronto, Melbourne, Perth, Baguio and Bangkok. I love them for being cosmopolitan, dynamic, open and independent. But somehow, something got in the way so I had to leave and continue my journey, the search for another lover(s).
There are the bad boys – Delhi is the man that you’re mother often warn you about but still pursued. How can I resist this lover’s craziness and interesting history? Kathmandu is his not-so-bad-boy little bro, interesting but still dangerous and DEFINITELY not a keeper.
Some like Rio de Janeiro and Cancun are good for a few laughs but not really worth all the trouble (Latino guys are soooo overrated). Bhutan, meanwhile, is a mysterious lover that I am so proud of but only the ‘chosen’ few can understand him. Ho Chi Minh city is brash and aggressive and might, just might, be put in the ‘couldabeen’ list. Beijing was the lover I almost dumped when I met him for the first time because he’s too rude and crude. But learning more about him and getting lost in the language of Mandarin make me think of him with more affection. And then there’s Hanoi, interesting and classic and mystical – which I’m giving a serious second glance.
In the end, I found myself, still traveling alone. Still searching. Still seeking for “the one”. I know that at this stage, I’m ready to settle down but in the end, have to be happy with the fact that some love affairs will always be an endless journey within and without.
Prime Sarmiento is a Southeast Asia-based journalist and traveler. She is one of the co-founders The Gypsygals: Solo Female travel Network (www.thegypsygals.com) – a multimedia site that offers inspiring stories and practical advice to solo female travelers.
Hey, it’s Friday! Today, my guest post is courtesy of Liana. I met her several years ago through one of those eating sessions over at Nina‘s house. We’ve gone out a few times with our small circle of friends, though sadly, not as often as I would have liked. I am impressed by her wit, and the way she speaks and writes. I’m a grammar police on other people, but I find myself second guessing my words when I talk to her. Haha. She writes her thoughts so eloquently over on her blog.
Let’s read about her move to Indonesia and what she remembers most about Singapore.
Out of Singapore and off to Indonesia
The universe, in a manner of speaking, booted me out of Singapore. On hindsight, it was one of my silently mumbled prayers in my mind that was answered. My world was collapsing – my resignation from my job, the work environment was completely untenable, coincided with the collapse of my relationship. It was one of the hardest moments in my life because I felt completely alone; the people I considered friends were nowhere in sight and the man I was in a relationship with, I learnt, was never suppose to be with me. Professionally, my scruples and work ethics were completely opposed to the company’s. This was in 2009. There really was no reason for me to stay in Singapore, my second home for more than a decade.
The path that opened up to me was a posting in Indonesia, in a school that the school I was affiliated with in Singapore that had a partnership with. I accepted the job and I found myself back in teaching after eight years of hiatus. I remember talking aloud to the universe one day when the pain from the failure of my relationship was asphyxiating. I said out loud that I needed to get away, to leave and pick up the pieces of my life. Life in Bekasi, a city located in West Java that is about 30 minutes (without the popular traffic) from Jakarta, proved to be therapeutic although, admittedly, there was a long period of adjustment in terms of lifestyle, work ethics, culture and language.
I am not, despite, reaching level 4 in university, fluent in Bahasa Indonesia but this was the least of my worries because I was hired to handle the English classes. The pace at work, I discovered, is much slower vis-à-vis Singapore; Indonesians have a more laidback approach to handling problems and issues. They believe in not being agitated, in praying for the solution, and leaving it to tomorrow if today is not possible. They also don’t believe in playing the blaming game, of “saving your arse first”, which was something that I learned and played when I was in Singapore (one of my quondam bosses gave me that tip and encouraged me to apply it constantly in the workplace). Through the months, I realised that part of my adjustment problem was me. I still struggle with the language,but I’m slowly working on being a little fluent with each passing day.
The similarities of Indonesian culture to Philippine culture are not that vast unlike Singapore culture. The warmth and sense of hospitality are present in my culture and my new boss’ and colleagues’. Interestingly, race differences are not taken against a person but are welcome, but there are moments when it becomes a bone of contention. It is a difference that is celebrated not disparaged.
Memories of Singapore
I still visit Singapore every now and then, relishing every moment as a tourist, but I don’t fly in alone. The fact is I can’t fly in alone. The very thought paralyses me in my tracks. I am still haunted by the ghosts of my past. Walking around Singapore is easy on the heart and mind when I’m with friends or family. But good memories also sashay in my mind especially those of friends: movie marathons, food tripping, endless conversations and laughter, bowling games, trips to Geylang during Ramadan and Chinatown during Chinese New Year etc.
Someone once said I was very jaded about Singapore. It is a good place to live in but it depends on the time you entered the Garden City. I came at the height of the Flor Contemplacion saga that left a shadow over Filipinos entering the city. It put me on defence mode until I left. Everything about my being was questioned – personality, religion, beliefs, family background etc. But, in a way, this galvanised me and made me stronger as a person, as a Filipino. This is why I won’t forget my residency in Singapore. Painful as my experiences have been, I shed my callowness and, thankfully, didn’t come out bitter. Living away from home isn’t easy. Although Singapore is just a short flight from Manila, the cultural dislocation and homesickness are given variables. It helps if you have true close friends whom you can turn to when the world becomes too much to handle.
Speaking in more general terms, Singapore is a good springboard to those who want to travel into Asia given its First World facilities ranging from airport, hotels to restaurants. Language is not a problem either because English is widely spoken. Also, signage and maps are everywhere so you will never get lost in Singapore. I do miss the supermarkets because they are well-stocked with local and international goods, wet and dry produce. I miss the myriad cuisine choices; Singapore is like San Francisco in a way with the cornucopia of cuisine to enjoy. Dim sum is a top miss-Singapore item for me; Crystal Jade at Holland Village is my favourite place for dim sum lunch and dinner. Singapore is so easy to navigate by taxi, train or bus. Bekasi isn’t. Hampered by language and the long distances, my mobility has been diminished greatly. Trips to Coffeebean or Starbucks, for instance, are no longer commonplace, but a special treat every now and then.
I was asked once if I’d ever return to Singapore. I’ve returned to Singapore as a tourist and will continue to do so. The question now, for me, is if I can fly alone to the city and not feel as if my world is caving in again. Returning as a resident? It’s a very good question.