Singapore Adventure

Thursday, September 01, 2005

by venitha

Across the aisle of the MRT, the woman with sandy blonde hair nervously meets my eyes as she sinks into a seat and pulls her shopping bags onto her lap. She smiles, and I smile back. Her sunburned husband standing next to her struggles to keep his balance as the train starts to move.

Tourists bravely voyaging out on the MRT? Maybe.

Newly-arrived expats still in that giddy delighted Whee! Look at me on the MRT! phase? Maybe.

An intrepid Nancy Drew I am not, yet there is still one thing I know for certain. If this woman lives here in Singapore, she hasn't lived here as long as I have. How do I know this? She looked at me, and she smiled, acknowledging that we are united here... as outsiders.

Jim and I have pondered how long this will last, this racist-feeling desire to connect with anyone who does not look Asian. We know it must wear off because far more often than not, our gazes and ready smiles land unnoticed at their pale destinations.

I hardly expect, though, that our eventual graduation from this Caucasian comradery will launch us, shy and smiling debutantes, into Singaporean society. I fear instead that it may leave us abandoned and alone, treading water in some expat no-man's limbo sea, where we connect with no one and don't care or even notice.

I'm thrown a life preserver, however, by the fact that several times now I've exchanged glances and smiles with real actual living breathing Singaporeans. And, too, it's not as if relinquishing my smiling neophyte status doesn't have its perks: unlike the sunburned man, I know to wear loads of sunscreen every day, and I can also keep my balance on the MRT.