Sunday, March 27, 2005

Travelling Light.


When are you moving your stuff in? You only have that bottle of vodka. And everything else you have here can be put into one box. Makes me look a slob.
- university hostel roommate to me (halfway into the school term)

Not everybody can live out of two suitcases. Your life is too sterile.
- D. commenting on my lifestyle

Wah piang! How can you live like this? There is nothing here. For goodness sake you need to make the place more comfortable. Everything also dun have.
- the previous boss commenting on my apartment setup in Sydney

One fork. One spoon. One knife. How can you live like that?
- D. when she visited me in Sydney
A point of clarification is required here. I may live a spartan lifestyle in terms of material possessions by choice but in no way am I deprived of the essentials. Like most people I know, I tend to accumulate stuff over time. Have to regularly give away stuff - especially books - to the point of having friends joke about me using their place as storage. I just personally find that having too much material stuff around me weighs me down too much. Having more stuff just means more stuff to clean, to maintain, and to store. It is often much easier to improvise with the material I have on hand. Or just cheaper to buy what I need (compared to the cost of maintaining a ton of "just-in-case" stuff around me).

Aren't you even going to pack a spare toothbrush?
- D. in response to my travelling light on one of my extended trips

The city has a population of a few million. I think I should be able to buy a toothbrush.
- my response

When I was growing up I had pretty much everything I needed. Never had to go hungry or anything. But the luxuries beyond what was needed for survival did not come by often and were greatly valued. I guess that has shaped my pragmatic attitudes to resource allocation with respect to material possessions. I would prefer to have a fungible dollar as security in the bank ready to be deployed at a moment's notice, than some doodad in the corner gathering dust and taking up space.

Having said that, one nice side effect of having less stuff is that you build a great emotional attachment to the few bits of junk that survive the regular declutter events.

Like the Snoopy toy doll (originally made for McDonalds) that has become my mascot for roadtrips. A constant perched on the dashboard of the rental car of the moment, like those figureheads that ancient sailers would put on the prow of their wooden vessels.

Or the small multicoloured cloth stuffed lizard that used to live on the strap of my travelling bag (secured on the underside by velco) looking like it was perched on my shoulder, never failing to get a second look and sometimes a smile as I cross immigration checkpoints. Given the damage taken by heavy travelling, it unfortunately has to retire as a paperweight on my work desk if it is to survive many more years.

Or the Box. Slightly smaller than a Fedex 10kg shipping box, it sits snugly under the computer table. It is filled with invaluable (or valueless, depending on your reference) stuff like old photographs, cards from lost friends, love letters and cards, posters and that kind of stuff. When I was a kid many many moons ago, I would keep all my childhood treasures in a salvaged shoebox. As a teenager, the amount of stuff grew to occupy two shoeboxes. And then finally this recycled box - reinforced with tape around the failing seams and corners - that used to hold Castrol heavy-vehicle lubricants. [ If I plan to live another decade, I may need a progressively larger box! ]

But as my old friend JRTKK points out, I cannot reasonably expect to live the rest of my life in this way. Disconnected and disparate from the immediate environment I am in. And I agree with him. Given that I have already consumed around half my expected lifespan, it is long overdue to set down some roots and ground myself. Or to paraphrase his words, you cannot really feel at home until you can sprawl your stuff all over your place.

But. Not. Here.

So far in this blog, I have focused primarily on the economic imperatives for migration. Because for me they are the primary motivators.
I don't think that our forefathers bothered to check up on what sort of values that the Raffles had it going on in Singapura then.
- ted commenting on Oikono, blog entry Migrating on Values
But there are other push factors as well. I will need to document them when I can get around to it. This post is getting too long as it is. But for the moment until I can put my thoughts together on how I feel about this land, Adrianna says it best for me. The specific context may be different, but the sentiments are shared.
i’m unwilling to be any more content with “what we have here” simply because of that. [...] rather than have silence disguised as tolerance, and absolutely no chance at a shot at.. anything, really. there’s a sense of disenfranchisement that makes it impossible to give serious thought to building a family here. it’s easy to say i can stay and try to effect a change. but if that’s going to come at the expense of my happiness.. i’m really not benevolent enough for that.
- comments to Popagandhi, blog entry One More Thing


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