Singapore: The Island City This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 28, 2011
Here, life is filled with the pleasure of people and the contentment of solitude. Here, life is filled with all good things and all bad things. Here, life is filled with growth and balance. My home is located off the coast of Malaysia on the island of Singapore.

I reside in a high-rise apartment with a balcony that looks out onto the array of city lights that fill the night sky and replace the stars. Just outside the door, heritage trees tower over passing citizens, reaching out with their long, twisted branches, trying to fill as much space as possible, but the city continues to grow around the plants. In the Lion City, bright orchids and helliconia flowers run along the streets, filling the city with natural color. Singapore is where the bustle of city life becomes entangled in the serenity of a tropical island. Singapore is where the fish meets the lion, where I meet you – and, in the end, where I meet myself.

On the small island of Singapore, I squish myself onto the crowded subway, rubbing against an elderly Chinese man reading the newspaper through his crooked spectacles. Across is a young Indian woman wearing a brightly color sari made of delicate fabric and embellished with gems.

Once off the subway, I roam the packed streets of Singapore. I see the latest action films with my good friend Yonghan and let tiny fish eat the dead skin off my feet at the fish spa, which the locals swear is very beneficial.

Here, I travel on my own feet, feeling the moist air that surrounds my bare skin and the warm rains that come quickly and almost never leave. Here, I feel the freedom of being on my own, but also feel the comfort of knowing that I'm never alone. Here, I travel long distances with only a few steps.

I spend most of my time in my favorite place, where on Sundays the roads are crowded with Indian men and women, and the smell of spicy curry is powerful. In Little India, I visit the Veeramakaliamman Temple, where thousands come to worship the colorful statues of the Hindu goddess Kali. There, I push through the warm, sweaty bodies of Indian men to the 24-hour emporium, Mustafa Centre, where millions of items like toothpaste, gold jewelry, and crackers fill the endless hallways. After I wander through the shop houses, a middle-aged Indian woman paints my hands with traditional henna designs and questions me about my love life. In Little India, I eat fluffy garlic naan and spicy chicken vindaloo, cooling my mouth with a fresh mango lassi. Perhaps, I even try fish head curry, like the aged Singaporean taxi driver, smiling through his yellow teeth, once advised me to do. On Orchard Street, I enjoy Singapore's favorite pastime, shopping.

On days when downpours are never-ending and my pockets are slowing emptying, I burrow myself – like a warm dog digging through the dirt in order to discover cool earth – between the rows of neat books in the library, reading page after page about Buddhism, love, and the past. Outside the library, the man on the corner sells ice cream held inside bread to little children, who run to him in their neat school uniforms, glad to be free from lessons. Exposed to the warm air, the ice cream melts quickly, making their fingers sticky.

In the heat, I notice the short Muslim woman, whose body is covered with dark fabric, and the Chinese businessman, who rides the subway, nervously checking his watch every minute. I wonder what their lives are like, and sometimes we speak, but often we understand each other without talking.

Here, I live on the tiny island, bunched together between different cultures, noticing our similarities and differences, while acknowledging my own sense of self and the ties that unite us all. The mixing of people brings out the best qualities of a population, and the mixing of cultures brings out the best qualities of a community. Like the twisted heritage trees, we as people never stop growing, no matter what stands in our way. We stand tall, branching out in all directions or losing our balance when the tree becomes lopsided.

Like Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” In the island city, we are always moving and building toward the blue sky, but our deep roots keep us on the ground, connecting us all in the soil that is life.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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ElsaMThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 7, 2013 at 11:48 pm
I love Singapore! Your story really reminded me of my adoration for it, and all of the reasons why I want to go back. The culture, diversity, weather, FOOD, knights of Columbus I want to go back. 
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