1 April 2019
Arriving in Singapore is … an adjustment. It’s uncomfortable at first, which is ironic, really. Towards the end of my time in Cambodia there came a point where I began to understand the concept of traveller’s exhaustion. There came a moment where after months of moving around, months of always being significantly dirtier than you are clean, I wanted a little bit of a break. Just one moment of wearing an item of clothing that actually smells of laundry, not sweat. Just one moment of taking a shower and actually feeling that the dirt has gone. Even if just for the moment.
There is something about the human condition that always has us craving more. Has us craving “different.” Has us craving somewhere else, be that a place or a moment. Human existence is steeped in nostalgia. This is something I ponder as I wait to board my plane to Singapore and I consider the fact that I am going to a place that will be drastically different to the Southeast Asia I have known so far. All of a sudden, a surprising desperation comes over me. A desperation to stay, a desperation to be dirty for a little while longer. I look at the stains on my t-shirt, my love for the dirt, grime and grit rekindled.
I arrive in Singapore and it is practically sparkling. I board a temperature-controlled metro only to find myself wishing I was standing alongside a rural road in Cambodia, sweaty and covered in dirt. Once at my hostel, I shower and walk into my air conditioned room. My body barely gets a chance to begin to perspire before it is enveloped in coolness. This is foreign to me and you know what? I don’t really enjoy it at first. Cue the irony. I feel out of place and out of my comfort zone.
But the thing is, I have felt out of my comfort zone many times before. This entire trip has been a foray into the world outside my comfort zone, hasn’t it? This too, will become comfortable in time. Plus, I’ve got some very exciting plans to look forward to in Singapore; that helps.
I spend my first day in Singapore sick in bed with a fever. One very expensive hospital visit later, I am back in my bed with medication for a throat infection. Ah, Koh Rong Sanloem; the gift that keeps giving. Several people at our hostel were sick those last few days and it has finally caught up to me. I sleep, eat instant noodles and take my medication. Later that day I am grateful to be feeling better and I venture out to meet up with a friend from university who I haven’t seen in years. That evening, I am reunited with my friend Clay, and we sip tea whilst catching up on our latest adventures and reminiscing about our travels through Vietnam together.
Over the next few days, Clay shows me around the city and takes me to the famous Singaporean hawker stalls. We visit Pulau Ubin, an island just off the coast and spend an afternoon cycling through the nature there. Clay introduces me to his friends; we stroll through enormous shopping malls and I take in the sight of stores I haven’t seen in months. I meet with another friend from university. These reunions are sweet, and on April 4th an even sweeter one awaits. One of my best friends, Sven, has managed to time a business trip in Singapore with my time here. We will see one another for a few days in Singapore and then head to Langkawi, Malaysia for five days. I visit him at his office and as we sit and have lunch in one of Singapore’s many office buildings, it is the most wonderfully peculiar feeling to have two of my realities collide in this way.
Quite honestly, my days in Singapore pass by in a blur. I share meals and drinks with old and new friends alike. We watch the light and water show in Marina Bay and it gives me goose bumps. My initial discomfort now forgotten, these days feel somehow like a reminder of just how full my life has been and continues to be. To have friends tucked in all corners of the world; to have friends who will cover distances to see you; new friends wherever you go.
I look up at the glittering trees in Gardens by the Bay and, listening to the chatter of our mixed group, I feel a fullness.
I look down at my tattered sneakers and at the memories they carry.
We laugh at another joke and I feel the fullness even more.