The first time I stepped foot in Singapore, my eyes opened wide with all the wonder and amazement a 5-year-old could have. ‘I am finally here!’ I thought to myself. This city was the only open gate toward the untouchable West I had when I was a child. The clothes, jewelry, toys, food, and the many pretty things left me spell-bound. I wanted it all. The land was magical and the soil was sacred; my little-girl heart feasted abundantly in this city. I knew for sure it was heaven on earth.
But I grew. And I learned. And I ate the fruit from the forbidden tree, and I began to see goodness and evil. And oh, how it changes you.
Last summer, I ventured back to this strange and exotic land once more. And for the first time, I saw this land with new eyes, with old eyes.
For the first time, I noticed the muggy, smoky air that reeks of the perspiring people, delectable culture, and rampant consumerism. The trains, buses, malls, stores, and street pavements rumbled from the wee hours of the morning to the late late, oh very late hours of the night with the slow movement of the sleepless people.
These are the people who sit at the plastic tables, near the food stalls that sell noodles, fruit drinks, and too many fried delicacies. These are the people who tell time by their bellies and babies, and not by the small rusted hand of their cheap-labored watches. These are the people who pass you by, unapologetic for their mannerless demeanor, a front only broken through time and patience. These are the people who so carefully and carelessly tread across the human kind — the kind they see bound by solidarity.
Be warned, this city maybe gentle to the passerby, to the one that looks but never sees. But it is the city that roars. For it is adorned richly, with beautiful jewels and masterful tapestry of capitalistic pleasures. But it will clench its teeth with its ruthless swagger into anybody who dare try to bite. You will unmistakably hear the roar then. So proceed carefully.
I struggled to find kindness in this city, but I perhaps that’s because I didn’t look hard enough. I didn’t look past their cold faces or broken English. I didn’t search for the gold that is so far buried underneath the rude words and distant looks. ‘This is a strange world,’ I told myself and turned around, ceasing to see.
Oh, but let patience guide me. Let curiosity show me hidden paths. Let desire light my guiding torch. Let hope help me discover God’s face in strange lands. And let love reveal itself through these new eyes, with old eyes.