Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

While Thinking About National Day

About a month after we started our trip, one of my friends on Facebook updated his status to "ZW wants all Singaporeans to take a good look and explore their own backyard before venturing overseas for greener pastures and new experiences."

Well, I sorta took offense at that, because even though it was not directed specifically at me, I was thinking who is he to tell all Singaporeans what he wants them to do? I commented back and said that he could stay in Singapore and explore it inside-out before going overseas. I would prefer to mix a bit of traveling with my life. After all, there are tons of things you can't do in Singapore - skydiving, mountain climbing, skiiing (on a real slope!), driving a RV...

Traveling does not mean that we are searching for greener pastures. It is merely a way to gain knowledge to see and understand how other cultures and society works. It gives us an alternative view of what is possible, rather than just blindly sticking to doing whatever has always been done.

In line with the many nations celebrating their National Days or Independence Days during the months of July and August, Colombia celebrated its Independence Day on 24 July.

Street hawkers selling the Colombian flag on their Independence Day

Unlike the NDPs in Singapore, where months of rehearsals take place before the big day, when tickets are given out free to members of the public to enjoy the parade, when the grand finale is always a fantastically choreographed fireworks display, the Independence Day celebrations here are really a low-key affair.

We were expecting big parades, street parties and the like but we were sorely disappointed. There was a parade going on in the main plaza, but it seemed really like an internal thing. Just the guards marching and presenting arms to someone (presumably the President, because there were no emcees or any form of running commentary)

A private parade

This all happened in an enclosed area, so you would really have to stand all day outside the gates to be able to get a good view. Otherwise, like us, you stand in a pile of human beings 4-5 deep, and can only settle for occasional glimpses.

The view when you are behind bars

Military presence on the streets to keep the peace

And that's it. The parade ends when it gets dark and it's over. No fireworks, nothing.

Not to say that the Colombians are doing this celebratory thing all wrong, but this ho-hum non-event really brings us to the realisation that we have so many things to be proud of.

Despite our small size, we have done really well, and this is evident when we tell our fellow hostellites that we're from Singapore.

"Singapore? Oh, I heard it's beautiful! I always wanted to go."
"Singapore? I've been there 3 times. Love it."
"Singapore? I've only been to your airport, but it's impressive as hell!"

Then there are these other things that we are thankful for in Singapore:

1) Safety, which is so often taken for granted. In all my life as a Singaporean, I have personally never known anyone who was an outright victim of a crime (if you are getting drunk in a disco and happily leave your phone on the table for someone else to take it, I would say that's your own stupidity), and yet one week into South America, and we already knew 2 other people who were victims, and yeah, we got mugged too.

2) Mosquitoes breeding problems are actively being looked into, both by the Government and citizens. In Florida, the attitude was 'You're in tropical weather now, you have to expect mosquitoes!' No one talks about the diseases they might spread. And so we got stung, and stung, and stung.

3) Corruption is genuinely frowned upon, and not just looked upon as a way of life. A simple thing like taking a cab should not be a battle of wits. It should be a pleasurable (or at least acceptable) willingness to pay for a service performed. Case closed.

These are things you really wouldn't even think of appreciating until you are out of the country. So, at the risk of sounding like a PAP candidate, we wish to urge more Singaporeans to travel, and open their eyes and minds to other countries. Some countries do well in some things, and can be emulated. Believe it or not, the wife and I have already identified one thing that Singapore can emulate Bogota in! But that's related to her work - sorta - and I won't mention it here.

So, even though we are overseas this National Day, even though we are not spending our money in Singapore to help the economy, our hearts and minds still belong to our homeland, and we appreciate it so much more now that we're here.

Happy Birthday, Singapore. Happy Birthday, everyone!


WeLoveRoy said...

Kiss ass!!~ haha just kidding...

But as much as I hate to admit it, I do agree with you. We Singaporeans are a strange bunch. We whine about everything under the weather when in Singapore, but bunch together and are proud the the point of being snobbish when we travel... "Singapore is so much better than... " You can always recognize Singaporeans when you are traveling by their telling others how great Singapore is.

I guess my point is the same as you guys. Go travel and have an open mind. Appreciate what you have in Singapore that you don't.. and adapt those that we see and want to bring back to Sg.

PS - Any prizes for being the top poster boy? :p

Lint said...

I totally agree, that's why I roll eyes at people who complain about singapore and bitch them to death about how it's like in other countries. And I use my classes to nag ppl to death about the things they take for granted incl. SG. Haha, and i've been sharing your newspaper & mugged story too!

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