Thursday, August 27, 2015

With Gotong Royong, from CA

Someone recently remarked to me, "You haven't written on your blog for a long time."

To which I replied, "Whatever I want to say, has already been written (either by myself or others)."

I have been here in Canada for almost 5 years now. Given the pace at which Singapore changes, it would be fair to say that the Singapore that I've left isn't the same one today -- for better or for worse. 

[25-Aug-2015 My life is now in Canada;
 e.g. Dinner En Blanc Vancouver]

In any case, (as I have mentioned before) my life is now in Canada -- revolving around my own little family, and for now mainly centred around my baby while I am on Parental Leave. As anyone who has been the primary caregiver of an infant will know, how much time/energy that takes, and how little of those are left for anything else.


Last weekend, I attended a party of mainly (ex-)Singaporeans hosted by a wonderful couple. It was an awesome afternoon of good food (mostly home-cooked authentic Singaporean dishes) and even "gooder" (better) company. The host even put up a Singapore flag for the occasion -- a nice touch to commemorate SG50 while overseas.

[22-Aug-2015 Singapore flag flying high in Metro Vancouver]

Of course, there followed a flood of "thank you" emails to the host for a wonderful gathering. What makes this gathering special/memorable? To borrow the words from the host's reply (to the thank-you emails), it is a sense of "Gotong Royong at its best."


"Gotong Royong" or "kampung spirit" is a priceless find indeed.

I have just met a fellow Singaporean (NG from this other blog post's comments) who is an experienced migrant -- having lived more years overseas than me (as an adult) and in more than one of Singaporeans' preferred migration-destination countries. Yet, NG (not currently based in Metro Vancouver) is contemplating relocating again, in search of that elusive gotong royong. 

As per my comments to NG, 
  1. My 2-cents theory is that the more crowded a city, the harder it is for each individual to have his/her own personal space. As such, it is rarer for individuals (in general) to reach out to strangers in crowded/buzzling cities like Singapore. 
  2. In any case, IMHO, the odds of finding close friends in any location (from Singapore to the Canada in the north and NZ in the south), is a case of "heng-sway" [literary "lucky-unlucky", i.e. dependent on luck]. All that one can do is to send out one's feelers and offer of friendship, and then see/filter what comes back. I have been lucky in that aspect -- as I recounted to NG how I encountered my core group of close friends in Canada.
As for a community of “自己人” [literary, "our own people"], I did not make a serious effort to specifically seek out fellow (ex-)Singaporeans in Metro Vancouver. As luck would have it, other than a brief brush with a group (ex-)Singaporeans/Malaysians who were then church-going friends with (my friend) PN, I did not join any (ex-)Singaporean community for the first couple of years in Metro Vancouver. It was only in early-2013 that I was introduced to the above community of (ex-)Singaporeans via the late uncle Weng, whom in-turn I met indirectly via an introduction from an online (ex?-)Singaporean contact with whom I have yet to meet face-to-face.

And so to put a long story short, IMHO a lot depends on Fate, 随缘.  Or to borrow an ancient Chinese military reference, “万事俱备,只欠东风” -- i.e. one can do all the preparations needed, but in the end success or failure lies in the whim of luck.


One can see the effect of the whim of Lady Luck in the life stories of another category of Singaporean emigrants -- the Singaporean political exiles. Many of whom felt threatened by and/or underwent detention without trial based on the Internal Security Act (Singapore). [Note: Unfortunately, Canada under PM Harper also introduced similar laws recently.] 

I received and watched Tan Pin Pin's "To Singapore, With Love" DVD. Other than the (obviously) alternative narratives of Singapore's political history, what I gathered from the stories of the interviewees are their different approaches to adapting to an adopted country. And also their different philosophies/perspective of what it means to be a Singaporean.

[22-Aug-2015 "To Singapore, With Love" DVD]

Fortunately for most modern day Singapore emigrants, return to Singapore is an option. In fact, ASingaporeanSon who openly blogs his opinions of Singapore policies has made several trips between Singapore and Australia. [Note: IMHO, I guess it boils down to who some folks think/feel might be enough of a threat to Singapore's security that the ISA needs to be applied.]

As such, I agree with NG that for many (recent) Singaporean emigrants, the decision to leave/stay/return is a calculated balance of what one seeks. IMHO, there is no correct answer, afterall “一种米养百种人” [literary "a single strain of rice feeds hundreds of different kinds of people; i.e. each individual has his/her own values, personality, and perspectives]. Thus, there isn't a single answer to the question of "Should I emigrate?" because the reality is the migration experience is as individual as the emigrants themselves.