Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Singapore

"Why are you going to Singapore?"

This was the typical response when I told people I was studying abroad in Southeast Asia. Once these people googled Singapore, they read about its tropical weather, upscale shopping and strict government. While these qualities are certainly a core component of Singaporean culture, they haven't been the defining elements of my Singapore experience.

My Singapore isn't the expensive shops and restaurants on Orchard Road or the beaches lining Sentosa Island. My Singapore is the daily $2.30 lemon chicken rice and $1.40 iced green tea from Canteen 16. My Singapore is the sweat that trickled down my back after walking a mere five minutes in the extreme heat and humidity. It's the lizards that crawl all over my dorm room walls and the bouncers at Attica who give me too many free drinks. It's staying up till 2 in the morning every Tuesday on the computer watching Glee and skyping with family and friends. It's the weekly four-hour-long group meetings followed by two-hour-long dinner meetings. It's the constant stares from Asian men on MRT rides, the local food from hawker stands and the numerous Sunday afternoons spent at the campus pool with fellow exchange students.

I expected to have amazing experiences while studying abroad. The snorkeling in Thailand, sandsurfing in Vietnam, shopping in Hong Kong and temple exploring in Bali were all part of my plan. Regardless of the fact that I've lived abroad and travelled quite a bit before, I knew this experience be life-changing. But I didn't expect to discover my passions. I'd always been so jealous of musical theatre majors because they seem so madly in love with their careers. Being here has made me realize that traveling has been my passion all along.

I've never lived in the same place for more than five years and I like it that way. There are (arguably) 195 countries in the world and I've got approximately another 70 years to see them. Whoever said ignorance is bliss obviously didn't read any Lonely Planet travel guides. Living abroad again has reignited my love for meeting new people and exploring new places. Especially those with nice weather.

Being here has made me realize how precious life is and that it is meant to be enjoyed. I have been so simply HAPPY these past five months. I have a few wonderful friends, beautiful weather and delicious food. I'm eternally grateful for my parents who encourage and support me in everything I do. I couldn't be more blessed.

Initially, the idea of going back home made me depressed. But I realized that I only have two precious years left of college and they are something I will never get back. Asia will always be here waiting for me. So Asia, you have two years to recover from Hurricane KaraKona before I come back in full force for good. Consider yourself warned.

My view every day at 6:30 PM

Daily dim sum meal
My fellow Hall 3-ers - Hall Olympic Champions!
Typical 20-minute thunderstorm. Oh, Singapore.
NTU, home of the Fighting Dumplings
Addicted to green tea. The first of many adjustment-back-to-USA problems.


  1. :) Nice to read

    singaporean LOL

  2. All the good times come to an end. The memories will stay for ever. And we seen a lot of a the places you went, in Asia. And now very soon we will see you.

  3. Hello (Lai Ho), Kara.

    You don't know me.. but I felt compelled to leave you this message as your Asian Kara blog of 2011 was simply too amazing and has touched me deeply.

    Please let me explain...

    I was born in Hong Kong and moved to Canada when I was fifteen. After graduation from university and getting married in Winnipeg, my wife and I moved to Vancouver and have now been living here for over 20 years. Yes, Vancouver is a gorgeous city but in some ways, I still miss Hong Kong in the most profound sense.

    Due to career obligation, I have returned there only twice to visit since I left my birthplace. As I was growing up there, I often thought that it would be a perfect fusion of eastern and western cultures for someone foreign to experience the diversity, vibrancy and the cultural mystique of this unforgettable city. You did just that!

    I came across your blog when I had one of those Hong Kong moments this morning which urged me to "Google" Lion Rock and Repulse Bay images. Your well-composed blog has reached the deepest childhood memories in my heart of Hong Kong and allowed me to emotionally re-capture the magic of this jewel and its surroundings, its people. THANK YOU.

    The dim sum (tsar siu boi), shopping, strange foods, beaches, chopsticks, red envelops, nightclubbing (yes, did some of that too) different from North was like being there again myself in your documentation of your incredibly fun journey. Reading your blog had brought dampness in my eyes.

    What has also moved me is the fact that you had found the courage and curiosity to explore the different cities of Asia and managed to come out with great life fulfillment. So I just want you to know that your blog has made an extremely uplifting impact on someone. I will re-visit it from time to time whenever I miss Hong Kong.

    Thank you for making my day. I am sure those fond memories will stay with you forever like how my childhood memories have in me.

    Please take care (bo jon) and keep on traveling!

    Victor Wei

    1. Hi Victor! Thank you so much for your kind words. I am really honored that this little blog had such a positive impact on you. You made my week! Thank you very much for sharing your story with me. It touched me, as well.

      I hope you get the opportunity to travel back East sometime soon. It is a magical place. When you do, have some char siu bao for me - 3 years later, that is what I miss the most!

      Best wishes,

    2. Thanks for the reply, Kara.

      If you can't find them in Chinatown, you can always find them in your own kitchen. But of course, the deafening people chattering would be missing. :D

      Bon appétit,