Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Singapore Swing Part XII

The last night I was in Singapore I decided to get lost. No, really--I intentionally got lost.

Singapore is a relatively small island and I felt safe there, so I decided to get away from the hotels and shops. One can take the subway/elevated train to almost anyplace on the island. I had spent the past several days dealing with our customer, eating in the hotel, walking near the hotel, and saw very little of the island itself. So off I went.

I had no plan other than literally to get lost. Oh, I knew I would be fine as long as I stayed within walking distance of the subway/elevated train. I say "subway/elevated train" because the station next to my hotel starts as a subway. Then the train climbs out of the ground and becomes an elevated train where one can view the countryside.

The point is, I had spent all my time around the business district, and saw nothing of the country at large. The hotel, restaurant, and shop personnel in the business district are unfailingly kind to visitors such as myself. But they all knew I was there to spend money. Not to impugn them in any way--that is what they are supposed to do. But I had not rubbed elbows with anyone outside of that bubble. All the pictures in my previous posts, with the exception of Sentosa Island, were all taken within a mile or so of my hotel; places I could get to on foot.

So I jumped on the subway and just let my whims take me to places and off of the subway/train. I achieved my goal, something that I had never experienced before that time, and have never experienced since: for four whole hours, I was the only Caucasian within range of my own eyesight.

Here is a shot of the subway station (click for larger):

The subway stations are kept immaculate. Like, eat off the floor immaculate. The green tint in the photo is caused by the fluorescent lighting in the station.

As I traveled on the train, I was the recipient of many, many stares. Two reasons:

1) Singapore is not America. In America, kids are taught that it is rude to stare at people. Not so in Singapore, apparently. Not that there is any moral absolute governing that particular behavior; it just took me a while to get used to it. As an American, when people stare at me, I wonder what is wrong. Check the front of the shirt and fly; and think, what are they looking at?

2) What they are looking at is a white man out and about where they do not normally see any. I was an oddity. What is he doing here? I had a related experience in Michigan many years ago. I moved to California in 1988, and had spent very little time with people outside my own race. A few years later while visiting my family in my hometown of Battle Creek, Michigan, I made a trip to Meijer Thrifty Acres. I was standing in the dairy section of the store, when I had a sudden strange feeling: something is wrong.

I stopped, looked about, and realized what I was sensing. I was surrounded by people and everyone was Caucasian. After spending a few years in multicultural Los Angeles, I was used to being surrounded by Hispanic people, Asian people, and people of many other different races and cultures. Being in that store surrounded only by Caucasian people felt strange.

But I digress. Here is a picture of the interior of the train on which I made my excursion (click for larger):

I had been traveling for about an hour, just drinking in the sights. The train arrived at one of the main hubs of the subway/train system, and I disembarked there, at a large substation. I had decided to get off the train and follow the crowd to wherever they wandered.

The crowd led me to a bazaar, about a quarter-mile away. The physical arrangement of the bazaar was unlike anything I had seen in America. One walks down a paved sidewalk and then between buildings. On the other side of the buildings is an open courtyard. There were two rows of buildings, with roll-up doors. I would liken it to a self-storage facility in America. Picture two buildings facing each other, with a row of roll-up doors along each building, with a courtyard in between the buildings. The doors were all open, and each "storage space" had a small shop plying various wares.

One shop was selling incense; some selling food; about everything one could think of was available. On my way out of the bazaar, I stopped at a booth near the entrance. There were three teenage kids manning the booth, which was selling good luck charms for the upcoming Chinese New Year. They got quite a kick out of me being there. They were amazed, as were the people on the train, that a Caucasian man was in their neighborhood. The kids spoke perfect English, so communication was not a problem.

I purchased about twenty small trinkets, and they are in the bag that the girl in the photo below is holding. They were inexpensive; I think they were less than twenty-five cents (US) each. I am holding a larger charm, which cost about eight dollars (US). I love the look on the girl's face, with the thumb pointing towards me. You can see the laughter on the faces of her brothers in the background.

The photo:



(I had to host that last picture outside of Blogger. The first two I uploaded to Blogger directly and I apparently exceeded some limit).

Anyway, click here to see a larger version of the picture with the kids at their booth.

The charm that I am holding is below. Click for larger version.

After I made off with my goodies, I returned to the hotel via the train. I slept my last night in Singapore, grateful for the experience. The next morning, I packed, boarded a taxi to the airport, and flew home to Los Angeles by way of Taiwan. I was glad to be home, but the memories of that trip bring a smile to my face to this very day.

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All photos Copyright 2005 by Impacted Wisdom Truth

Updated 1/15/06 to embed charm photo.

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