Saturday, November 26, 2005

Scab to Scar.



"Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy."
-
Richard Linklater
I first came across a variant of this quote reading Grace Chow's book - almost a full year ago now. And I have come to appreciate the usefulness of this quote in recent times.

During a lull moment in the day job, the office chitchat turned to the convicted drug smuggler from Melbourne that the "
Chinese rogue port city" (Whitlam's words, not mine) will execute by hanging in a few days time. There were a couple Australians of Vietnamese ethnicity (second-generation immigrants) in the group and the discussion heated up rapidly. Naturally I was being solicited for an opinion on the matter as a citizen of the country that will execute him.

I had and have nothing valuable to say on the matter.

The best response I could come up to my colleagues with after a long deliberation was,

"I am not a good representative sample of the typical citizen there. If I had fitted into the mainstream, I would not have left in the first place."

And you know something.. I like that reply. It is truthful and more importantly, it cuts to the crux of the matter. Sometimes on this blog and over email, I get backhanded compliments barbed with accusations of Singapore-bashing, implying a bias (a blindspot?) when it comes to evaluating Singapore fairly in the overall scheme of choosing a home.

Singapore.

There. You made me say it on the blog. (The last time I named it was in the October 5 entry.)

Names and labels have great power over us. I have consciously tried to avoid even thinking about certain aspects of that place I grew up in. As I said in an earlier entry (and in
a comment on another blog), what is the point of migrating and lugging all that poison that you should have left behind?


***


So for those of you who accuse me
(usually anonymously) of a bias against Singapore, and of Singapore-bashing and of painting a (misleading) rose-tinted picture of Australia as an emigration destination..

Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.

Of course I am biased in the rejection of Singapore as a long-term home. Even though my personal history is tied up in that place. Even though I had to walk away from a stable life and support system there. Even though staying would have been the easiest thing to do by default.


Ask yourself why a person like myself who grew up there, who studied there, who served National Service in compliance with the conscription law, who went to university there would just walk away from everything that is comfortingly familar. Ask yourself why somebody who would be running his own regional technical team a few years down the career track would rather choose to end up shuffling purchasing invoice paperwork and delivering pizza to make ends meet in a foreign place instead. Ask yourself why a mostly-rational person would go in the face of conventional wisdom and choose to be a "second-class" minority resident risking discrimination in a land dismissed in the national media by the elite political leaders as "a very boring place" for "those who cannot make it" and the "land of white trash". (And when you figure it out, feel free to remind me too - because sometimes I still get the lost feeling of "what the hell am I doing here?")

If you want to hear about how great Singapore is to make a
long-term home, to have a family, to raise kids, to make a life, and to grow old and retire in.. if you want to hear about how clean and green it is, about how safe and secure it is, about how socially and racially-tolerant it is.. if you want to hear about how national economics trumps civil liberties, about how being "number one" in the indices that count, and about how it is a great place to vist.. you are reading the wrong damn blog!


***


And if you are here because you have an axe to grind, to dispute my
personal musings about emigration from Singapore, or because you feel that you are a loyal citizen who needs to defend the motherland against a "quitter"..

Take a chill pill, myte.

The last thing I want is to contribute to
a stampede into WA. Perth is getting crowded enough as it is, with all the folks moving in from the eastern states. Another decade or so, I would probably have to move to Kalgoorie or Fitzroy Crossing to keep the peace and quiet and to enjoy the space. And being a city-person, Perth metro is about as much a a hick town as I am prepared to accept for the moment.

And the 200-odd visitors per day - most arriving via totally irrelevant keyword searches - is not going to make a difference to the
small dent made by emigration numbers, which is easily replaced by immigration numbers from China anyway. And besides, as well taught by the Acidflask incident, all the authorities need to do to shut down this blog is to ask.


***


It is about time this blog project starts winding down to a close. Over a year ago, I started this blog to document the emigration journey. The mental journey, more than the geographical journey has been the difficult one.

From a
wit (and the moderator) of the sammyboy forums, in emigration folder:
Question: "how to emigrate to NZ?"

Answer:
1. Apply for NZ PR.
2. Wait for approval.
3. Once approval is obtained, buy a one way plane ticket to Auckland or Christchurch.
4. Take a taxi to Changi Airport.
5. Get on the plane
6. Get off the plane at the other end.
7. Emigration complete.


Over the last couple months, my interest in ongoing documention of this journey has declined significantly with other responsibilities (two jobs, stabilizing the finances, setting up comforts in the house, exploring possible new hobbies, etc.) Not the journey is done. Nothing is over till you are dead and buried (or cremated). However the most part of the mental journey of emigration has been travelled.

As for commentary and thinking about events and developments in that place I have left behind.. I will just say that I need time away from that place. Time away to heal, for the damage to scab and scar, for the pain to fade. Hopefully with the passage of time, I can look back with a bit more perspective.

I now understand why I had such difficulty finding emigration resources from past emigrants when I was starting the journey over two years ago. The personal circumstances are so different from each emigrant, and because of the chasms in the mindsets of those who would stay and those who would go, and because it is a such an emotionally loaded issue - it is just near impossible to draw a generalised case, or even to have a reasonable discussion without emotions flaring.

I will probably be posting updates (monthly? quarterly? erratically?) once in a while to track the integration process, but for the bulk of it - this archive will most likely sink into the great oblivion of the Internet over time.

As for myself in real life..

Well.. I have things to do, places to see, a whole life to rebuild..

And so Onwards!

.. to infinity.. and beyond..



27 Comments:

Blogger Mr. Winston Smith said...

Will this be your final post?

Thanks for sharing your journey, I'm sure it will serve to change quite a few lifes with the insight you shared.

November 26, 2005 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Sacrelicious said...

Dude, some peeps must have wrote nasty stuff to you. Why spoil your day because of that.

If this is the last post that you are going to write, it is really sad to see it go. I personally read every single post of yours.

You rocks man.

November 26, 2005 2:19 PM  
Blogger Amazonian said...

To you, the Singapore Serf blog may merely be a means to record your experience during a transitional period of your life.

And to sometimes address certain issues and people point blank.

To me, the Singapore Serf online journal began as someone else's journey that is parallel to mine, from which I could poach or compare information.

Though I have since returned to the 'old place', I certainly have not given up the desire to leave again (though probably not back to W.Australia - my Hick Town Tolerance Level is much lower than yours).

I don't really need to compare notes with you, dude, anymore but as long as the SS still stands, you're linked. It's, like, the only blog around that features grammatically correct sentences!

November 26, 2005 5:01 PM  
Blogger miss jurisfiction said...

Keep writing, pls.
I wish I could write like you one day. =)

November 26, 2005 6:33 PM  
Blogger WK said...

dude, damn the naysayers. theyre juz extremely jealous. they really dont know what theyre missing out on, hey.

all power to you.

cheers.
wei.

November 26, 2005 7:09 PM  
Blogger m2cr said...

I've only journeyed with you for a short while, but your words strike such a chord with me, being in Perth and all, you will be sorely missed.

November 26, 2005 7:55 PM  
Blogger takchek said...

It is sad if this is your final entry. Lots of good blogs are closing down!!! Only to be replaced by infantile ones.

Good luck for your new life in Aussieland. Hope to hear success stories coming from you soon. :)

November 27, 2005 5:20 AM  
Blogger Southern Sky said...

Start a new blog, it's cleansing.

November 27, 2005 8:04 AM  
Blogger Mr. Winston Smith said...

>>Keep writing, pls.

Yeah... I second miss jurisfiction's opinion, if I can write half as well as KoP I will start a AirstripOne.blogspot.com :)

Nevermind the 1984 reference

November 27, 2005 9:44 AM  
Blogger Venitha said...

Best wishes to you on the road ahead.

November 27, 2005 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Truth be told, you are pretty much a typical Singaporean, or Asian. Who doesn't dream of living in a place with sprawling lands and abundant nature? Look at the Chinese communities in Vancouver, Perth, Melbourne. It's not as if you're the only one who has decided to leave your country, know? You're courageous in the sense that you left without a huge bank account, and I respect you for that.

The Singaporean view on capital punishment is split. You can have your own opinion and state it.

November 27, 2005 1:39 PM  
Anonymous popagandhi said...

i'm not sure what point the last comment was trying to make and am puzzled by it.

but nevertheless, your documentary is a valuable resource for us. i've sent you an email.

November 27, 2005 4:48 PM  
Blogger Calamity Man said...

youve definitely left a BIG impression on some of us and really, you should just carry on writing.

but if you still decide not to carry on, i'd respect that.

we have so many things in common. one day, i'll join you in westralia and we can bitch about the Chinese rogue port city till we die... NAH!

now all my system are geared towards my move to perth. unlike you, i dont qualify for a visa on many counts but i'll think of something.

it was a pleasure meeting you while in perth some weeks ago and thank you for the ride in your beat up car.

November 27, 2005 9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sincerely hope you will continue to share your experience.

I am in a similar situation now planning to leave Singapore by the middle of next year.

While the logic is overwhelming towards leaving this country, the real decision can be quite difficult and it is mostly emotional.

Contrary to what other people think, it is a place with plenty of opportunity to make money for me. Overall, I have a very comfortable life now.

However, I have to pluck myself out this environment for the longer term future. What I am enjoying now is not sustainable for me and my family. I need to face the challenge and make the change.

Your blog has helped me to think through many of the issues with a clear mind.

I sincerely hope you will continue to share your thots after landing.

November 27, 2005 10:19 PM  
Blogger Beach-yi said...

Well, just hang around the internet for a while, hope to see you pop up once in a while.

Been a blast reading your posts, I have referred your experience to more than a couple of people hoping they will find it useful.

Meanwhile keep on living.

November 28, 2005 1:08 AM  
Blogger Mr Moron said...

Honestly, I may not read every single post on your blog, but whenever I pop by I never fail to gain some new insight - mini gems of wisdom.

And thank God for the solace that reading your blog has given to me. I can't even begin to articulate in coherent words why this is so - but ultimately, your zest for life and courage are by themselves inspiring enough.

November 28, 2005 1:47 AM  
Blogger -ben said...

'Love your posts. It's a shame you are taking a hiatus from writing, but you probably have other priorities.

Yes, you are right in saying that you are probably not a typical sample representative of Singapore. The typical Singaporean resides within his comfort zone. Comfortably residing within the majority, exercising or being the beneficery of pro-Chinese policies without being aware of it. That, I suspect, is why the spectre of racism is such a huge obstacle to those who contemplate leaving. It must be a huge shock to go from a place where one belongs to the ethnic majority, to a community where one is a minority.

A substantial number of Singaporeans are also unaware of how nationalistic they are (a result of propaganda instilled throughout the education system as well as the media?). This, coupled with racism / cultural chauvinism makes for a potent mix. To defend the virtues of one's new homeland to such a patriots is to be subjected to charges of "attempting to turn white" or "he is ONLY an Asian." I don't know whether to laugh at their provinciality or weep at their self-denigrating ignorance. One thing I learnt though, is never to argue with idiots: they drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience. [Yeah, I picked that up from somewhere]. One bright outcome of such insular notions is that it keeps them back there, I suppose.

All the best in your journey. Remember the cyclist's adage: what goes down, must eventually come up. Enjoy the ride :)

November 28, 2005 7:42 AM  
Anonymous Raymond Andrew said...

Thanks for everything. I've been very inspired by your blog. It gave voice to a lot of feelings that I've had for sometime now.

Just a point of interest to everyone else who's reading. I notice the point on going to a country where you'll be a minority. Ever thought why so many minority Singaporeans emigrate to Australia to begin with? I would gladly go from being second-class Singaporean to second-class Aussie. I've always felt I must be the odd one amongst my peers and family for wanting to leave this so-called oasis. I'm happy to say that the more I talk about this openly, I realise that so many people, mostly minorities of Indian or Eurasian background are leaving Singapore. Is Singapore a meritocracy? A multi-cultural society for all? It is to the majority, but apparently not to us. We simply don't see a future for ourselves and our children in Singapore. I worry that they too will believe all this propoganda about Singapore being a meritocracy only to have to feel that heartbreak when their head hits that glass ceiling. When they realise that the majority will only tolerate you if you know your place. When they realise that compassion and empathy is resrved for the minority. When they realise that a minority is always marked on the negative marking scheme. When they realise the Singapore dream depends much on the colour of your skin. To me, Singapore is a morally bankcrupt, soulless country (not a nation, just a country), and I hope that someday I'll be able to follow Singapore Serf's journey.

Goodbye and God Bless

November 28, 2005 10:28 AM  
Anonymous mel said...

thank you for sharing your journey with us. the act of moving to another country is actually really simple and somemore, we diasporic chinese have a wonderful track record of moving to just about anywhere.

November 28, 2005 1:05 PM  
Anonymous teacup said...

nooooo ... u can't go!! i am planning to migrate to perth and going over in 2006, i need u for my mental health!! =P just joking, but hey, it was great to read your posts. i'll just re-read when i'm feeling .. disillusioned. =)

November 28, 2005 5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To raymond andrew: That's not the way I see it. I'm sorry you had a bad time here, but humans are guilty of selective perception and bias.

Popaghandi: I meant that Knight of Pentacles is brave for starting afresh, but he comes across as declaring to be not Singaporean in character and behaviour, when he really is typically Singaporean. Brave he may be, but unique and non-mainstream? I don't think so.

November 29, 2005 4:50 PM  
Blogger elin said...

Thanks for sharing your journey. Been a priviledge. Keep my contact and if you will, drop a line a tinkle when you are in Melb. elinwee@optusnet.com.au

November 29, 2005 5:46 PM  
Anonymous Extraneous said...

To Anonymous, if you're from the majority community in SG, then of course you can't see it. That's the whole point Raymond Andrew was trying to make. I can empathise with him because I too can relate to his experiences being a member of the minority community in Singapore. To people like us, being in Australia actually represents an upgrade. At least in Australia, even if it's true that we're second class citizens, which I don't believe, it's still better than being 2nd class citizens in the country of our birth coz there I'd expect to be a first class citizen, no less.

November 30, 2005 6:54 AM  
Anonymous duh41 said...

All the best Knight of Pentacles

carpe diem! =)

November 30, 2005 7:16 AM  
Blogger smazh said...

Hi, I'm pretty much a silent reader of your blog, but I just want to take this chance to say that your journey has been a moving and inspiring one.

As someone who is living overseas right now, the records of your trials and the way you face them have been encouraging.

Thank you for sharing.

November 30, 2005 8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, you just got started, don't close your blog so soon. We want to hear how about your first chunder, and how your raise your first ABC's (Australian Born Chinese). Your life is ahead of you, forget the crap in Singapore, and don't worry about making apologies for your roots. A first generation immigrant always has it tough - ask the Aussies in the bush, they have lots to tell. Tell your Vietnamese friends I support the call for clemency for Nguyen Tuong Van, and our office colleagues are going to wear black arm bands on Friday.

November 30, 2005 4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just chanced upon your blog.. I wish you all the best in your new surroundings. It would be great if you could continue with the blog.
I left sg 4 years ago, I always thought that I'd leave to study and come back. But, lets just say I left and knew I was never coming back. I still think of going back sometimes. Some might say Im crazy. I do have it good where I am now. But I miss the lifestyle. Perhaps Im just naive. I left when I was pretty young and hence, dont really know much abt the working environment, university lifestyle. Its great living where I am but its not the same. When Im back, I am surprised at how sheltered people in sg are. Their thoughts can be immature and the newspapers are like lifestyle magazines-no real thought provoking content. But, I just have to say that a part of me misses sg..I cant put a finger to it.

December 11, 2005 7:18 AM  

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