Thursday, March 5, 2015

you can take the singaporean out of singapore but you can't take the singapore out of the singaporean;

whenever i am feeling low
i look around me and i know
there's a place that will stay within me
wherever i may choose to go

i just returned from my annual trip back to singapore for chinese new year and here's the perfect word to describe this year's trip - relaxing.
there wasn't a lot of rushing around and in fact, i spent a lot of time chilling in my home.
it was so perfect and i returned to work on monday well-rested and have been having a super productive week. it's been kind of amazing because usually i feel like i need a vacation to recover from each vacation haha. 
because this trip was so relaxing, i felt like it gave me time to really just take it slow and enjoy and appreciate my favorite little island. 
i've lived overseas for 8 consecutive years now (can't believe it's been so long) and that has just made me love and appreciate the country i grew up in more and more. 
i know of many singaporeans who constantly complain about singapore and are always looking for ways to get out/want to live overseas. 
and sometimes honestly i wish they would get the chance to because then they will develop a greater sense of appreciation for singapore, this perfect little gem. 

here's some things i've learned to appreciate/miss. some of them may sound silly but i think it's great when we can recognize and appreciate the simple things in life:
1. my parents and their sacrifices
singapore has been ranked #1 most expensive place to live in for a few years now and each year when i go back to visit, it never fails to surprise me how expensive everything is.
and as i'm growing up and starting to think about grown up things like marriage, housing, standard of living, etc., i developed a great sense of admiration for my parents who have made countless sacrifices to raise all three of us in this expensive little city country.
and who continue to work hard at their demanding jobs because the corporate world in singapore is extremely tough.
my mother would return home from work after 10 p.m. each night and would be busy with household chores for several more hours before she finally heads to bed. and there i was lying on the sofa watching my television show and falling asleep when i didn't even do much all day.
(i tried to be more grateful and help out when i could)

2. hanging clothes out to dry the traditional way
this sounds like the most ridiculous thing ever but hanging clothes out to dry the traditional way reminds me a lot of my childhood and is actually a distinct feature of singapore high-rise housing haha. 
i usually really hate hanging the clothes out to dry and could never understand why my mother doesn't just use the dryer to dry the clothes.
but being home this time, my mother would always ask me to hang the clothes out to dry and it actually wasn't as bad as i thought it would be haha. 
there's a distinct singapore feeling that comes with looking at those bamboo poles that we use to dry our clothes haha.
and clothes in singapore actually dry pretty quickly since it's so sunny haha. what a good way to save electricity esp since it's so expensive in singapore haha. 

3. singapore news and politics
hahahahaha. remember when you were in school and we were forced to read time magazine and newsweek as well as the newspapers so we would be more knowledgeable?
i had absolutely zero interest whatsoever then in the affairs of my country to be honest.
and now, i find myself following the news on channel news asia everyday and sharing articles with my family or having lengthy conversations with my parents about singapore's policies and politics.
everytime i would ask my family in the group chat if they had heard about this piece of news/that piece of news, my mother would always say, "no, where did you see it from? why you care so much?" and my answer is always, "i'm interested in the affairs of my country hahaha."
while i was home, my parents and i discussed everything from the financial budget for 2015 to CPF policies to how singapore's housing situation and BTO application has become a social problem.
isn't it crazy how being so far away can lead you to actually liking news and politics in order to feel close haha. 

and we also sadly received the news that minister menter lee kuan yew is in critical condition in the hospital. 
if you don't know who lee kuan yew is, he's basically the founding father of singapore. this year, singapore celebrates 50 years as an independent nation and we are where we are because of lee kuan yew's vision and wise decisions back in the day so it would definitely be sad if he were unable to attend this year's national day.

4. local humor found in local movies
one of my favorite parts of going home is watching a local movie. 
there usually is one playing during the chinese new year season and this year, it was ah boys to men III. 
if you're not singaporean, you probably would have the hardest time understanding the local humor and language in these movies (trust me, i've had friends here watch "i not stupid" with me and they didn't get a lot of the jokes haha).
you have to be born and raised in singapore to understand and relate to a lot of the things. 
the strong singlish accent and jokes really hit home.

5. singapore snacks
singapore is a food paradise and every singaporean is a foodie so it's no surprise that there is a wide variety of snacks in singapore and at every corner.
walking around singapore, i kept spotting my favorite snacks and it made me a little sad that every singaporean's everyday snack has become a delicacy to me.
curry puff, all the different bread shops, prima deli waffles, pandan cake, kaya toast, tutu kueh, muah chee, chwee kueh, etc. 
and not to mention all the different biscuits and crackers. U.S. may be potato chips land (according to my cousin) but it's not the type of chips i like hahaha.
U.S. also is not home to the different types of UK chocolates that i love like time out, maltesers, etc. 

6. hawker centres/singapore food in general
food courts here in the U.S. mostly consist of junk food like pizza, fast food joints, non-authentic asian food, etc.
totally doesn't help my longing for singapore's hawker centres/food courts and their variety of food choices.
if you've never been to singapore and ever get the chance to visit, i won't recommend restaurants to you, i will recommend hawker centres to you.
they may be hot without aircon (food courts have aircon la) but everything you want is there and that's the only way you'll experience real singapore food.
if you ask a singaporean living overseas what we miss the most, we'll almost always answer "the food." not sure why but there's something about the food. 
you can always cool down with a cup of sugar cane juice
chicken rice with chili // laksa
i don't know why but i really love tori-q and always eat it when i'm home // duck rice!!!
i didn't take a lot of photos of my food this time so as not to be cruel to my singaporeans here in the states so yeah. 
some other singapore food i love - japanese restaurants everywhere with quality sushi! // xiaolongbaos! (the thin skin types and not the super thick skin ones you find here)

 7. lemon barley drink
okay this is just a weird me thing but i love lemon barley and i can only find it in singapore so it's a uniquely singapore thing to me hahaha
i always overdose on this when i go home.
also, yakult and sugar cane and iced milo and a bunch of things that are very singapore. 

8. GST included in all prices
you know how you go shopping here and you wait for the cashier to tell you your total amount before you take out your money (because taxes are not included in prices stated and so if you buy something that's $25, it's not really $25 because you still have to pay for taxes).
in singapore, the price stated includes the sales tax already and so if i get a $25 shirt, the final bill is $25.
what a simple thing but what a difference it makes. 
also, in singapore, you don't have to pay tips!!! haha

9. luxuries of my home i grew up in and quality family time
one of the things i really miss after returning from my trip is the massage chair in my house hahaha.
i felt my back aching on monday and all i could think of was the massage chair hahaha.
also, the 800 over channels on tv that i could watch and pick from.
i can watch anything from a korean drama to a hk drama to american shows to local television shows.
i watched a hk drama while i was back in singapore and it reminded me so much of my younger days in singapore because we watched so many hk dramas.
also, a mostly empty gym to work out in and a swimming pool to cool down in haha. 

this trip, i actually didn't meet up with a lot of my friends (so those of you i met up with should be super grateful hahaha) because all i wanted to do was be around my family 24/7.
i talked about this last year but the shift has really gone from friends being #1 priority to family.
my family and i would have meals together and some days we just lazed around inside the house in the afternoon (because it was so hot) and watched tv together.
we also went to watch movies together, ran errands together, etc.
sounds super boring but i sincerely cherished every minute of it. 
quality daddy-daughter time over indian food 
i made it a point to take more family photos this year

10. singapore's uniqueness and its rich culture
this year chinese new year was on thursday and friday so it was a 4-day weekend and a lot of people took the opportunity to travel overseas and it actually made me very sad because i'm a person who loves traditions.
one of my chinese new year traditions is to go to chinatown to squeeze with the crowd and bask in the festive spirit while shopping for new year foods. 
i'm glad that little places of culture and tradition are still around so i can always remember my culture and heritage.
buying chinese new year decorations and goodies

till next time, stay the same my little island.
lo hei all day every day haha. huat ah.  
 with the help of my trusty tripod, we were able to take a lot of full family photos this year
never forget 


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