Exploring Singapore in a Haze of Worry

I landed in Singapore three days ago. Three days of a new city to explore. Intriguing spicy foods to try, with tongue-twister names and fragrant spices. New faces, young and old, ever hue of the color skin rainbow. A cacophony of languages, all completely different in intonation and rhythm.

Three days of writer’s block.

My heart is weary with the constant barrage of news from home, most so upsetting to my pride and integrity as an American, that I struggle to concentrate and put experiences to paper. Every story I could share about my newest journey could not possible matter in the face of the shadow that grows bigger and darker from home. The fear of the “other.” The demonization of refugees, many of whom I call friend. The surge of hate politics. The non-stop efforts to undermine the core tenets of the Constitution in the span of one week. I am so whiplashed and battered in my heart and soul, I struggle to see the purpose in this endeavor of mine to travel SE Asia for two months.

Yet I am reminded of the importance of beauty, of mindfulness in the simple joys that unite us all as human, in the power of travel to shatter stereotypes and dangerous barriers of our minds as we meet and interact with people of cultures different from our own. I have been walking around Singapore in a haze of indifference and apathy that could not possibly justify the money I spent on the plane ticket (or maybe that’s just jet lag).

Today I rode the MRT – Singapore’s sleek, modern rail transit – from one corner of the island to the other. Singapore is one of the most diverse cities I’ve ever visited. My ear caught a mix of at least 9 different languages as I read train notices posted in the four major languages. Women wore everything from Manolo Blanik heels to skinny jeans to colorful headscarves to bright sea glass nail polish – and sometimes all at once. Two elderly men squared off in a dance of courtesy – one Muslim, the other Hindi – as they each insisted the other take the empty seat. Children giggled and squirmed in brilliant red silk suits for the Chinese New Year. Women of all faiths snuggled their children on their laps. Teenagers buried in their smartphones looked up and gave their seats to women lugging groceries. A man wished everyone a happy new year as he departed the train.

It was stunningly beautiful.

I needed to think, so I took to the Southern Ridges, a series of forested hills in the midst of the city, connected by bridges and walkways lifted high into the tree canopy. I strode through the muggy heat to the cricket and bird symphony, as glimpses of the cityscape peaked out from dense foliage. Families promenaded with me, once again of every religious, ethnic, cultural, and language background. Some were tourists, but many were residents of Singapore, enjoying the holiday  and blessings of a new year with family.

On the way back to my friend’s condo, the skies opened up and I discovered another side of Singapore – the tempest. I splashed from covered space to covered space as thunder rumbled, but I cannot outrun the truth – even in the darkest moments, there is still joy and beauty and life. I have to hold on to that.


About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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