In the past year, I've received about 4 or 5 private messages from people asking me about my internship experience in Myanmar - people...

Sometimes, we tend to forget...


In the past year, I've received about 4 or 5 private messages from people asking me about my internship experience in Myanmar - people from Canada, Vietnam, Singapore... they want to get a sense of how my internship went and whether it'd be a good idea to take the plunge and go to Myanmar to work for the same company.

I'd give them my two cents' worth and a few tips here and there.

I'd also hear out their reasons for wanting to head over to Myanmar - most of them the same reasons that I had. Myanmar is an exciting place to be in, teeming with opportunities and business, the place-to-be basically. Very thrilling stuff.

I remember having all of those thoughts and feelings as well - excited to explore a new place, a place that I'd always dreamed of visiting. The only thing that differentiated myself from them was the fact that I practically just followed my heart and instinct without really making any effort to reach out and find out more about the place/country/company hahahah. When I think back, that could've helped set my expectations better.

Anyway, there was this man, originally from Italy and residing in Germany, who approached me via facebook and asked if I'd recommend taking up the internship and if I'd any advice to share. What intrigued me was his cover photo.... it was Singapore's skyline (with Marina Bay and stuff, stuff we're so used to). What set him apart from the rest who approached me was the fact that he'd come to Singapore before and stayed here a few months - the experience left a huge impact on him. He said his experience in Singapore was so good, no wait, in his exact words he said ".... I wanted to come back to Asia after Singapore (which I so passionately loved!)"

I was moved and proud that it was Singapore that made him decide to come back to Asia. I asked him, why? Because healthy skepticism is always good haha. Plus, so many Singaporeans love to hate on the country so I'm wondering why THIS person thinks this way, and more so, so STRONGLY about it.

And he told me this:

my mobile phone interface is in Chinese now, if you're wondering haw haw 

Mix of cultures, kindness, patriotism and pride.
I almost wanted to ask him, WHO WERE YOU HANGIN OUT WITH!?!?!? You sure they my people?? I'd never imagine people thought of us as kind and patriotic. Really??

And I suppose it takes an outsider like him to remind me of what I often take for granted. He's not even the first foreigner to tell me this. And I'm always quite surprised to know that they. really. like. our country. Hard to believe, but it's true! There was once, a colleague from Britain said she loves Macritchie Reservoir and how much she loves our rainforest trees and the denseness of it all. That it's not cold. I also remember another Brit whom I met while I was in Hastings, UK, who told me how much her daughter loveeedddd Singapore. As always, cynical as can be, you'd say really???! Naw no way. But it is true... there are people who love us, love our country, loved their experience here.

Then again, I suppose it's the whole, "you wish you have what you don't have."

And so we tend to forget what amazing things we already have.

I'm so happy there actually ARE Singaporeans who are proud to be here. And I wish more of my own people see it the way they do. There's so much to hate, but there's much to love and appreciate too. A lot of flaws still exist - the issue of race has and will always be an issue of contention, the cost of living is always rising and there's a problem of simply having enough space to breathe in an overcrowded city. To wish them all away is too simplistic, and the idea of migrating to another country is tempting but a very narrow-minded one. To me, they're forms of escapism~ It's not as if your problems will go *poof* when you're out of here.

It's also the mindset of a lot of people in my generation. I love to travel, but I won't ever treat travel as a form of escapism. I think you're not really getting what travel's meant to do if you're travelling to leave your country. Yes, it's a great way to escape monotony and experience the highs that travel provides. But I've always believed that the decision to travel and get away should also come from a place of calm and a deeper sense of want and need to explore, learn and discover. Not run. You're never gonna run away enough and every trip is going to be unfulfilling. You know? That feeling of dread when you're returning home.

Things are never going to be fun forever.

But look harder, seek the goodness, and I believe what you've always been looking for has always been here.

Of course, I've met people and friends who have left this country for another place they call home. I met two Singaporean couples who decided to go and leave this place for New Zealand. I see, experience and I understood where they were coming from. There was time over there. Loads of time for family, friends, relationships. The very essence of being a human being, with priorities set on people. I was invited to their homes, I had dinner with them. I understood. I very well understood why they enjoyed the life they were living in New Zealand. In the search for growth, modernism and advancement, us Singaporeans let time with people and loved ones slip by. Being "busy" became the ideal. And for many, it isn't a choice either. We never stop to breathe.

Singaporeans have become educated and more affluent, but we've forgotten what it's like to be human.

Maybe it isn't just Singapore... For my young Malaysian friend - he is a gay, 20 plus year old boy who connected with no one in his country. He went to New Zealand, the first country on earth to legalise gay marriage (in fact, I was there at the time when they legalised it) and he had found a place where he was happy, where he felt he truly belonged and where he could simply be him. Again, I understood. I probed, and questioned, but I never tried to change him or the rest. Neither did they try to change me.

And that is fine. We all have our reasons. For myself, I realised that after all my travels, yes, I know the flaws of my society and the things I hope to change. And precisely because of that, I stay. I don't stay because I'm fighting. I'm staying because I truly love this place, with all its flaws. I know it sounds incredibly corny, but it is very true. And more so, I love it for its strengths. Also because of my travels... I know that what we've got is soooo precious. A very globalised city, affordable public transport, security, nature in the form of parks and reservoirs - there are places that don't even have these things. Do you know that?? Even in America, I'm told, people are not educated about what the WORLD is like. Someone who lived there once said, "It's North Korea in America". Hell, I believe that, after last year's presidential election.

Above all, we are all in the search of what it means to be human. That kampong spirit we all long to return to. And I believe in my people - that we have it deep within us - the want and need to connect across different races, ages and abilities.

Perhaps my generation is a bit confused. Because we know a lot of what's happening, we're well-travelled and we see things that we want in other countries. But we've forgotten what we already have. And we want change. But change happens slowly. I see change happening in very little ways - our arts scene, it's evolving. We're starting to have conversations - important ones. All of them, in very small stages and we must be patient.

It's not easy, and it never will be. But we must keep the conversation going. And I'm here to stay, for the long run... :-)

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