After months of scrimping and saving my holiday allowance, trudging to work under steel grey skies, alighting tubes as tightly packed as tins of sardines, I am here – and delighted about it. My smog-weary soul, my aching spine, my deskbound slump dissipated within days, if not hours, and I feel immensely grateful to be back here, reunited with my parents, soaking in the fragrant air, under these sapphire skies.
Life here, for the city’s local residents, I’m sure, has its fair share of everyday frustrations. For them, life is likely not without the mundane. Wherever we are, daily errands and the mind-boggling minutiae of adult life are surely inescapable. But for me, an outsider, confined to the northern hemisphere for the first quarter-century of my existence, daily life here is imbued with a shade of magic. There’s a storybook quality to the warm clotted air, to the omnipresent greenery, mangoes ripening on the bough, to the nightly rainstorms and the coy geckos who like to bathe in full sun, but leap out of view as soon as they sense footsteps. It is a world I knew for years only in books: jasmine blooms and rain trees, bent over highways, their branches spread like folded limb over folded limb.
On the taxi ride from Changi airport to my father’s office, and then on to the apartment, I sat mesmerised in the back seat as if seeing it all again for the very first time, willing my jetlagged lids to stay open, to soak it all in. I’ve never seen a country where the motorways, even, are so intoxicating and so intentional, where even overpasses are built altruistically, with shade for residents in mind, where posies of bougainvillea in every magenta shade overhang the streets, where an umbrella-like canopy of green spreads above the sidewalk to provide respite from the tropical sun.
Back in (little) England, the best memories dawdle. The air crisp and clean, like freshly cut grass, after a storm. The smell of satay. The peculiar feeling of boarding a red double decker bus, 6,000 miles from home, and swaying up the stairs as the vehicle swung into motion – just as I do in London. I had to blink to remind myself; we’re not in Kansas anymore. In the moments when this city, this trying work, feel too much, I close my eyes and let the images flash before my eyes – the kissing branches overhead as the taxi speeds beneath the jasmine, the prickle of a jellyfish against my leg as we bathed in crystal-clear waters on Lazarus Island, the burning beating sun on my neck, the first fiery bite of laksa. The way the dawn light paints the sky, peach orange, caramelised, not burnt but simmering.
(photos) on digital | Singapore | March 2017