In every personality test, which usually consists of predictable multiple choice questions, I answer that I seek change. I like disturbing the status quo. This claim was put to test recently.
Living in a different culture/country/society was a dream for me from a long long time. I wasn’t sure if the experience would be good or bad, but I was always sure that it would teach me a lot. Various trips to different countries have taught me a lot, have influenced my priorities quite a bit. Hence, shifting to Singapore was a welcomed change, if nothing else, then for the adventure it would be!
We packed two suitcases each and moved here. The status quo changed. In every possible sense. Except for a very important aspect that it happened for two of us together. Every change brings with it a progression of crossroads, plenty of chances to make decisions – both wrong and right, plenty of opportunities to try new bold things and plenty of escape routes to quickly find comfort in old familiar things. Every change takes you away from the loved ones who once knew the way you were before and at the same time closer to those who understand the changes that happened to you.
Now that I am in midst of being both overwhelmed by the new opportunities this country has to offer me and at the same time having created a tiny space of comfort around myself, I begin to write this post.
Let me start with describing an experience which was truly great in every aspect. The Swan Lake by Bolshoi Ballet.
(Photo courtsey: http://www.dansfestival.com/series/2013/swan-lake-by-bolshoi-ballet/)
Watching a Russian ballet was a dream since I was a little girl and had watched a lot of movies including Nutcracker on TV. The grace, the beauty, the defiance of physics laws, and above all the captivating music. It was all magical. I always searched for such a performance on our trips to Europe. Never could see one. And my first week in Singapore, I found this event was coming up!! Imagine my joy when I realized I could finally watch a performance of life time, and imagine my disappointment when I realized all the shows are completely booked. However, it was our anniversary luck and the universe conspired for us to be able to watch the most amazing show ever!
This was probably the best the city could have offered me. There were many experiences which left me enriched. From figuring out where to eat, where to buy groceries from, how to travel around the city, getting sim card for phone, finding agents for house hunting, getting prepaid internet access on laptop to finding out groups and like minded people to hike with, dance with, spend time with. When you are new in a city, you tend to seek suggestions from the more experienced ones. That is what we find ourselves doing most of the times. And then end up not following them!
The excitement of figuring out new things and getting things done kind of compensates the uneasiness a new place gives you. For me, its not the architecture or the cleanliness which makes a city great or bad. Its the people and their friendliness. In the initial few days here I felt a strong sense of unfriendliness in the city. Like a taxi driver shooing you off from his taxi. People in the food court hurrying you to decide your order. Not a person on the road to ask the directions from. Maybe it was the language or something else, but there was coldness in the attitude of people. It stuck me most when everyone in public transport would be glued to their smartphones and tablets, busy watching videos. This was so opposite to Europe where people acknowledge each other on road and definitely in the public transport. Where saying “hello” to strangers is the norm. I was highly disappointed when I realized that this city treats both strangers and neighbors as strangers. This is a challenge which I still haven’t figured out yet. However, I realize this city consists of self-pitying locals for whom expats are a threat, and expats for whom the city is a temporary transit station. Tough combo to create great culture!
But this is just a beginning and I still have a lot to learn. In these last 30 days I am reminded of this very true proverb: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”!