Connecting with home

Today we welcomed into our guest house a family from Singapore. It was a surprise for us as they had booked online from a UK address. Spending some time with them in our lounge, I had a chance to catch up with developments back home.

At a guess, Mr and Mrs Bin are probably of the same vintage as I am. Sitting together on the couch and discussing Singapore’s progress within the global markets and the implications this has had and continues to have in terms of attracting and retaining appropriate imported manpower, we also considered the knock-on effects of how this desire for greater productivity has led to an associated population increase, thereby creating requirements for new and larger housing developments as well as amenities attractive to overseas investors and workers. As Mr Bin filled me in on the effects of new immigration to Singapore and how constant construction has affected the site map of my country, I realised that the landscape of this city state might be so changed already that I would probably not be able to find my way about should I return for a visit.

The last year I had properly lived in Singapore was 1979. I left in June of the same year, having been accepted into Grade 13 at a school in Toronto, where I proceeded to study for and achieve my Grade 13 High School Diploma in preparation for my application to and entry into university in January 1980. Although I had returned to Singapore since then for a number of visits, including an extended one of 12 months when I interrupted my postgraduate studies in order to nurse my dying father, so much construction had taken place in the time between that I found myself really rather bewildered by all the new roads and buildings and could not recognise some areas for what they used to be. Thus, as I explained to Mr Bin, my lasting memories of the Singapore landscape are therefore rooted in the landscape I knew up to the time of my late teens.

Reminiscing about what Singapore used to look like during our younger days makes me wish I could go back in time and enjoy it all over again. I remember so many landmarks – possibly only of significance to me – most of which were torn down even before I left for Canada. One of these was Cheng Cheok Street, where my paternal grandparents lived. The house was a marvel to behold: not because it was grand, but because it was ever so quirky. Aside from this, my grandparents and the one family of neighbours across the road were the only Chinese people who lived on this street; the rest were Tamils. This, of course, was very very unusual.

Great to see a building I know still standing where it should be! This is where I get my Chinese plasters, which are great for relieving sore muscles. (Photo courtesy of www.flickr.com/photos/coolinsights/5722361556/lightbox.)

Connecting with these Singaporeans has shown me how out of touch I am now with the home country. I have lived a far longer time away from my birth country than in it. I cannot say that I regret it as I would not then have met my husband and created a family together. However, I have to say that I do wish that some of the physical changes in Singapore had not taken place. These were places that were dear to me then and they continue to hold a special place in my heart.

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