15 years ago, on this day, I was a gangly nurse-uniform-clad student (no prizes for guessing which school I was from…if you need a hint, I had bad bad hair) performing with fellow schoolmates during the National Day Parade at the Padang. I was too tanned after 8 months of NDP practice under the hot sun, too young to appreciate the things that my home has to offer, and too narrow-minded to realise that life is a lot more than punching in birthdates of my crushes in electronic match-making devices.
Today, I am married for over a year now, I spent most of my life in Singapore, lived in London for almost three years and I come back home for holidays, always paler than when I left. Many things have changed, the skyline of Singapore is almost unrecognisable with new buildings sprouting ever so quickly, even I have changed over time. But some things remain as they are, and it is funny how perhaps, I should also add that my perception has changed.
I used to diss this and that when I lived in Singapore. I used to think life would be better elsewhere. Today, older, wiser and armed with battle scars that come with living overseas, I have learnt to appreciate everything that makes Singapore my home – the transport system, efficiency, cleanliness, familiarity, the good mix of tradition and modernism, safety, the glorious food, my family and my friends. We function to make Singapore a community, a habitable and pleasant place to live in, never mind the unforgiving heat, escalating prices of everything from public transport fares to food and the increase in number of ERP gantries. We get this in UK too, not the heat, but the bad of most things we experience in Singapore, and for some things, we get it much worse. Strikes that cripple the country? Nothing new. A minimum of S$16 for a plate of char siew rice? Hardly brow-raising. Inefficient service? All in a day’s work. High taxes? Let’s not even start on that.
Don’t get me wrong. Of course there are good things that come with living in UK. The incredibly diverse culture, the beautiful, bountiful land, the countless opportunities for work and play, I love all this, and I will always credit London with my newfound ability to live independently (and not just be a mummy’s girl) as well as eye-openers that I have been so fortunate to encounter.
But home IS home, and seriously, IMHO, we have it really good in Singapore. We are well-taken care of, yes yes I know we lack creativity and spontaneity and everything is red-taped and controlled to death, but there are pros and cons to living in any country. After experiencing life overseas, I’d very much take the cons here over that elsewhere, so I can live in a country that functions mostly very well. So there, some of you may laugh, mock and tease me for my outright patriotism, but I do love Singapore and I’m not afraid to say it.
Happy 45th Birthday, Singapore!