A Singapore Thanksgiving – Should we be content with small blessings?

Floods in Singapore, Trinh Cong Son, Vietnamese in Singapore. Monique TruongThis is a city of small blessings

Some say this with disdain.

But what’s not to love about buses and train systems that more or less work, even if they’re  stuffed to the gills; water that comes out of the faucet drinkable; drains that drain 360 out of 365 days a year.

In November the rains begin

In Los Angeles, it came in dribbles. Here 1o 15’  from the equator it falls in torrents.

I’m grateful for the sound of the rain waking me, the cool of the rainy mornings. Selfishly, I’m also grateful I no longer have to make the morning commute, that I can sit at my kitchen table and drink a cup of something hot and watch the deluge for as long as I want.

I think about places where women and children must walk for kilometers to fill up buckets, where rivers disguise themselves as dry gulches for years on end.   I’m grateful we don’t have those problems.

Drought isn’t a big issue here

Sure it get’s dry in May.  Sure the newspapers sometimes talk about drought … by which they mean it hasn’t rained for maybe two months, or even three.

This isn’t quite on the same scale as desert countries where there’s no rain for years… or where it never rains and water has to be piped in from snow melt in mountains far away or pumped up from thousand year old water tables deep below the ground.

Yes water security is an issue, but less of an issue than before. Our “new” water plants which recycle used water and pump them back into our reservoirs have been working since 2002. 2007.  A second reverse osmosis plant will be ready in 2013.  When the water agreement with our neighbor expires in 2016, we’ll have been worrying about how we use water for more than 50 years! Hopefully we’ll have got it right.

As for flooding…

Totally unacceptable! And I agree.

What’s great is the fact we take it for granted that floodwaters should be efficiently drained away. What’s great is that after the floods, the folks in charge immediately went into overdrive to find out what went wrong and to implement new drainage iniatitives.

The thing we’re complaining about now is the constant construction on the main thoroughfares. Why? Because their digging up the roads to put in new underground drainage. Trivialities…

BUT … Perhaps we could be a greater country if we weren’t so ensconced in our comforts, if we had more to worry about than just the over-crowding on the trains and buses, the stress in the schools

They say, you don’t get greatness without pain.  By pain they man having lived through through bad times, in bad places; countries torn by war and famine, wracked by poverty, infected by corruption. Places where the inhabitants have to spend all day queuing for food because the distribution systems are dysfunction; where most of the population doesn’t have the basics of food, shelter,clothing and education.

A country I’m intimately associated with, Vietnam, was once such a place.  And indeed it’s diaspora of less than 2 million has produced greatness3 MacArthur Genius Award Winners, a Kiriyama Pacific Book Prize Winner, another National Book Award Winner. At home, the wars produced the legendary general Giap who beat the French and the Americans and Trinh Cong Son, a songwriter whose funeral procession numbered hundreds of thousands.

Singapore has one National Book Award Winner – Shirley Lim. Despite our wonderful education system, no one’s given us any Genius Awards. We don’t even have a book on the Man Booker Longlist and our neighbour Malaysia have two!

On November 3, at Singapore writer’s festival, an Asian American born in Vietnam, a PEN award winner came to read for us.  The audience was captivated by her words, the American voice coming out of that Asian body describing the experiences of a migrant child.

After attending her panel, I went to a concert at SOTA organized by Vietnamese students country studying in Singapore. They were singing the half century old songs o Trinh Cong Son. The 708 person hall was filled. The singers were truly talented. There was not a dry eye when the final song song was sung, the title appropriately – If (Tears to lull you to sleep) .

For such clarity of creative expression, for those moments of transcendent belonging, for the possibility of truly magnificent creative expression PERHAPS, I’m almost tempted to think, pain might be worth bearing

I don’t know. I do like my small blessings. I’m counting them tonight.  Maybe I should just be glad with that. Maybe I should just be grateful taht in this little red dot I was witness to two such wonderful displays of talent from that other war-torn country still recovering from pain.


2 Responses to “A Singapore Thanksgiving – Should we be content with small blessings?”
  1. christhy77 says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I am now in Mauritius. ..and everyday when I speak to the people here, I never fail to tell them how proud I am of my country. I am thankful for being born here. I didn’t choose it. It was by God’s grace. Most people I talk to anywhere round the world tell me how good Singapore is. People always feel the grass is always greener on the other side. I believe that the grass is greener where you water it.

  2. oddznns says:

    Thanks for this Chris. My question is though, how do we go from good to great? You loaned me a book once on this. Does it take pain before we get to wonderful!

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