Singapore

the consolation of philosophy

Title of the English audiobook next in time, a reading of Boethius.

Right now I’m listening to Le tour du monde en quatre-vingt jours, par Jules Verne. I can’t believe I didn’t hit upon this method of immersion before. What a moron.

Things that were easier than expected about leaving Pearson:

– not swearing. I know I was worried about it slipping out for emphasis or in the heat of conversation, but I’ve either not been excited enough or I’m just self-possessed enough to realize when I’m about to say it and slip in a less offending word of the same ilk. These days, when I use it, it’s around people who say it first, and only sparingly.

– adjusting to Singapore’s heat. I complain incessantly about it, but under cover, it’s really not too bad, and even walking around in the heat has a humid intimacy about it. The pervasiveness of air-conditioning helps, too, of course. The one thing I can’t abide is wearing office wear or anything vaguely non-casual in the searing heat outside. Summer shorts and tanks are all very well, but it’s almost impossible for me to wear pants out. Or anything with sleeves.

– falling asleep alone. being alone, actually. In fact, if anything, I seek out relative solitude. Yesterday at work, I sat in the corner of the expanse of carpeted floor in the art gallery, away from my supervisor in the office and the gallery seater at the counter. I am thankful for small mercies, at least. I hate not being able to fall asleep.

– rejecting the temptations of consumerism. Shops have become mostly white noise for me. Even in restaurants, appreciation of the food is mostly marred an automatic consideration of the cost price of each ingredient required as well as the usually normal techniques involved in assembly. My palate is as yet insufficiently refined to appreciate and hence, to merit gourmet cooking, in any case.

Things that were harder than expected about leaving Pearson:

– nature. If there is one tangible ubiquitous aspect about Pearson/Victoria I miss, it’s the gorgeous landscape stretching out for miles around. Singapore’s concrete complexity saddens me, a little; faced with her architectural posturings, I am at turns bemused, impressed and appalled.

I walked around the Marina Bay Sands area (that’s the trio of tall buildings with the giant ship and the infinity pool perched on top) at the mouth of the Singapore River, the waterfront stadium, the stylized, lit bridge arches, the vibrant light shows. It was awe-inspiring, quite honestly. Downtown Vancouver can never compare. In the mall itself (and MBS may not be as big as Metrotown but it is an order of magnitude grander, I think – LV’s flagship store is on a pod in the water, connected to land by a boardwalk) there was a Venetian canal with rentable gondolas, and a fountain that defies the boundaries of its name (the water floods from a giant glass bowl set in the ceiling, with taps pouring water into a whirlpool that gushes out of an opening set in the centre of the bowl and down into the catchment area). There are bridges with novelty teashops across the canal. There is an open skating rink next to the food court. I am flabbergasted. I really, really am.

But right now I feel no sympathy for these structures, and I see only the opportunity cost, and maybe more greenery would help. And then I think, god, I’ve become one of those people. The tree huggers. There are people running all along the bridges, sweating, and I don’t know how to see that in any light except pretension, as unfair as that is. Singapore is still pretty, to me. Especially in the soft orange light of street lights, the safe, empty streets at night. The neat, geometric structures. But for me it seems impermeable, an untouchable sort of beauty. It is at once horrible and liberating. But mostly – I don’t know.

– the unavoidable ubiquity of different languages. Self-explanatory – it was odd when I overheard a French family at Botanical Gardens last week and it was a familiar sound. 

I realize my quarrel with Singlish, even the standardized form most people here adopt, is how inelegant it is. It may all very well be a creole with its own structures and a legitimate grammar, but as long as there is no literature in it, it will always be simplistic and efficient to me, rather than graceful and profound. Then again, as long as there is this attitude towards Singlish, there will never be Singlish literature. At the same time, I grew up reading – devouring – English, and so English, my mongrel accent notwithstanding, will always be my native domain, as much as any other Western native speaker, I dare say. My issue with it is more prosaic than one of elitism, I hope.

– is that all? I have been whining a lot about wanting to leave, about feeling out of place here. Even I shouldn’t take myself that seriously, of course. Two more weeks till D-day! (In this case, D = Decision.)

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