Living abroad for a couple of years had made me more versatile and being able to accept change in a better way. When I left, I thought that living away from Singapore was great - No more stress from the hustle and bustle of the morning crowd, those rushing angsty morning people going to work, no more noisy markets and people talking loudly to each other on the trains and buses. There were so many things to complain about because we are all amongst people who love to complain. Leaving was liberating, it was a breath of fresh air and I secretly wish I did not have to return. I settled in a tiny room for a couple of years and that 'home' was great to me. I guess its true when they say home can be wherever you make it to be.
Then time crept up, and I returned home eventually. I was different. Living abroad broadened my experiences and my thoughts have since changed. I did not have a hard time in a foreign land because of amazing friends who helped settle me in well and tide me through those years, international and local friends alike. But there were stints of discrimination and waves of sarcasm by some mates and random strangers on the streets (of course not everyone is like that!), because I am second class there, I am not a local.
Despite all the great things I've appreciated in my time away - All that carefreeness of a laid back little town, the small knit community, the nice cool weather, the bug free winters, the freedom of living alone, appreciating the virtue of patience, enjoying those quiet days where there is nothing to do but huddle around with friends around a bon fire - I also learnt to appreciate the things I did not have. When the nights were so cold I would literally hug my hot water bottle to sleep and still the warmth was not enough, I was reminded of how nice it was to sweat in Singapore. When all I had all month to eat was just the same thing over and over because I made a big batch of the same food to be heated up later to save time, I wished so much to have freshly cooked home-cooked meals. It was the little things that made me cherish every summer when I step foot back into this sunny little island. I no longer complain about the heat or having to wait for the buses, or that IRIS plays a trick on me and says 'no prediction', and made me wait for another 30 minutes for a single bus. It did not bother me. I was happy to wait.
It seems that the grass is always greener on the other side. That place where I spent 3 years of my life will always have a piece of me. However, Singapore is somewhere I know I can always come back to - It is safe and welcoming and I don't stick out like a sore thumb. I can use free flow of leh lah lor and everybody would still understand and not judge me. I can speak as quick as I want and everyone could still comprehend.
Surely, there are many people who are unhappy with many things about Singapore - the government, the heat, the skyrocketing prices of flats and cars. But which country does not have unhappy citizens or problems that are unsolved? We don't have to like any ruling party to like Singapore. There is so much more than that, like the traditions and cultures that we have cultivated throughout the years. We should continue shaping our Singaporean identity - the sounds we make, the food we eat, the language we speak, and the common experiences we went through growing up - power rangers, eraser games and what not.
I am not speaking in a patriotic Singaporean fashion. I think of this place as home as it is a comfort zone and everything is familiar. I like it because of the things it contains and the people whom I love are here. This year is Singapore's 50th birthday and I am so thrilled to be back to join in the celebration of our nation's jubilee. We've come quite a long way, not just 50 years, to mould ourselves to be who we are. There are those 20-30 years before independence that set the foundation right to bring us to our current place. Thank you Singapore for everything. I am pleased to be home.