Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Out of the comfort zone

On Sunday I went on the treetop walk at MacRitchie reservoir. The portion of the walk in the trees is pretty short (although quite picturesque) and the rest of the walk is uphill on the way there and downhill on the way back. Needless to say, my calves are killing me. It's a good hurt, though.

There is so much to hear in the forest. I wanted to just stand still and listen at times (and rest!) but then a group would come along behind me being so loud, one even carrying a radio. I can't understand why you'd want to bring your own soundtrack to a tropical forest.

At one point I had paused beside a freshwater stream and two British women came along. One saw a bug and screamed and then the other screamed. Instantly the noise in the trees around me picked up to a much more intense shriek. It was like all the insects and frogs and whatever else were complaining about the ruckus. After the women passed by, the wildlife quieted back down.

When walking around Singapore there is a little moment every time I spot another white person and I know it's not just me because I have noticed many whites looking right at me, almost quizzically. I know they are thinking the same thing I am: where are you from and how did you wind up here? This gaze is held even longer when the encounter occurs outside of touristy areas.

Note: this is not the case if the whites are carrying maps in their hands. It's only when each white person clearly knows where she's headed and is wearing business attire (ie, not a tourist, although I have caught tourists looking at me with the gaze). It's not like there are so few whites, but we're definitely in the minority. And it's not even as if the others are American!

It's a strange thing. It's one of those things that's difficult to describe and you won't entirely believe me until you are in a similar situation.

It's the same way you can tell someone that it takes living in another country for at least a couple months to really appreciate that you are really and truly an American. So many of us believe that we don't belong in the US, that we're European, especially, at heart. But if you ask most anyone who has lived abroad for some time they will tell you that it was a wonderful experience and it was a bit of reverse culture shock to come back but they did realize they are American through and through. Try it. Ask around. There will be exceptions, of course.

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