Singapore and Indonesia

Assalamu Alaikum (Peace be with you).

Tonight I took a look at my site stats and found a new feature. It’s a world map which highlights where my blog posts are being read…and i was shocked to see that my blog is being read in many different countries! I’m really grateful to everyone who is keeping up, whether  following regularly or even just stumbling upon it and taking the time to read it. I hope it stays that way!

Anyway, It’s been a while since I’ve posted and, as usual, a lot has happened since I last did. I saw Borobudur, the ancient Buddhist monument in Magelang (look it up!). I went to Singapore with a Horrible Dutch Woman (my very blunt European friend from the last post) who, as it turns out, is the exact opposite of horrible, but i think the title flows very nicely so it’s staying put.

Let’s talk about Singapore for a sec. After living in a rural environment in Indonesia for two months l can’t stress enough how big of a relief it was to see sanitation systems again. To finally see a clean street was like seeing a river of pure gold. To walk on sidewalks again was like walking on clouds. To find an Indian/Pakistani restaurant and have a cup of chai was like eating at the most expensive restaurant in Paris for free. To find a bookstore with English books was like finding some sort of lost treasure. To find a Forever 21 in the same area I was in was like finding out I was going to meet Tom Cruise and become the sole heir to his fortune. To not be woken up by an army of lunatic chickens and roosters was inexplicably peaceful. To have hot showers and water available 24/7 was like…well, you get the idea.

I think I spent those three days in some kind of insanely happy dumb-founded stupor.

I know, I know. Indonesia has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’ve learned so much and  I love every gosh darn inch of it, but listen, man. I have to go to a city one hour away to find dark chocolate. I can’t take a leisurely walk without tripping over a rock or walking in the same area as high speed traffic (no sidewalks). I can’t take a hot shower. I can’t go to a movie. I have to buy water in gigantic bottles if I don’t want to dehydrate. I don’t have a garbage can because it’s permissible and customary to throw garbage any gosh darn place you feel like throwing it. I wake up every morning wanting to strangle every chicken in sight (I’ve actually burst out of my bedroom holding a broom and threatened to use it on some of them).

YES I’M COMPLAINING. I’ve earned my stripes to whine a little bit and miss my old lifestyle, even if I have found more meaning in the way I live now than I have most of my life in America. With the good comes the bad, and I want to vent a bit. Go ahead and blame me! I’m still transitioning.

So in conclusion, Singapore is an amazing city. We were lucky enough to have arrived in the middle of a free music festival at the Mosaic amphitheater. Our hostel was pretty close to perfection and 5 minutes away from a huge mall, Boat Quay, Clark Quay, and a ten minute walk away from Chinatown. We lucked out in every regard except for food. We lived on chicken rice and burgers from  fast food franchises and because of that I think I gained like 5 pounds, which is a lot considering I’m already struggling with my weight. I HATE fast food, especially when it’s the only thing I can afford because then it’s either eat or starve. I pretty much blew my money in Chinatown because my friends and family are greedy people and want souvenirs from everywhere (just kidding). Oh yeah, Singapore has the most amazing subway system (called the Mass Rapid Transit Train). Very, very clean, very simple to use, and surprisingly cheap.

One thing about Singapore that might be unpleasant is that you can be fined for a lot of things. $500 fine for littering. $500 fine for bringing Durian on the subway (I’m guessing people do this all the darn time), $500 fine for chewing gum and walking in the street at the same time, $500 fine for smoking in the subway, $500 fine for eating or drinking in the subway…and the list goes on. Of course this sparked a myriad of tourists products such as T-shirts with “Singapore is a fine city”  stamped across the chest. And of course, they’re immensely popular.

Although the fines can catch you off guard if you’re none the wiser, I actually support it. Because of these stringent rules, Singapore is kept very clean and very efficient, allowing those who live, work, and play there to enjoy their time and contribute their care to the city as well. Shouldn’t we, as citizens or residents of a city, care about the place we live? If we care about our environment, the environment takes care of us. I’m a firm believer in that.

But don’t think for a second that I blame Indonesia or its people for its problems with pollution and trash. Indonesian people, the majority, anyway, are not wealthy people. Most of them are more concerned about taking care of their families and making sure they get food and money than they are with making sure there are no gum wrappers or plastic bottles left on the ground. Most of the people I interact with daily will most likely never go outside of Java, let alone Indonesia, because they can’t afford it. A lot of the time, what we make in a day of working, they make in four months (the rupiah equivalent). The teachers that I work with every week take home a paycheck of 300,000 rupiah every month. That’s around $30 US dollars. Could I live on that? Hell, no. Although 300,000 rupiah can be a lot of money in Indonesia, it’s still not enough to last one month at a time. In some ways, it has changed the way I think about money.

In fact, I’m glad Singapore and Indonesia are so different because it allows me to appreciate every facet of life, and that mostly entails being grateful for a what I have and forgetting about what I don’t, because it can always, ALWAYS be so much worse. Also, when it’s good, it’s really good, and it’s very important to just enjoy it.

3 thoughts on “Singapore and Indonesia

  1. Thanks for your insightful reflections! I think you captured the dichotomy of the volunteer abroad experience so well and honestly. Keep learning, growing and exploring!!

  2. The big city life versus the countrytown life. When I first came to Shanghai before I moved here I remember walking around and just being shocked. Whooooaaa Birkenstock store! Burger King! Dairy Queen?? Where am I ????

    I like the Singaporean “That’s a Fine City” shirt. I’ve also heard of Singapore known as Disneyland with the Death Penalty due to strictness with several substance laws. Yikes!

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