I slept peacefully that Monday night in Singapore, and when I awoke the next morning I decided to sample some local fare since I hadn’t yet had any local food. Honestly, I’m pretty tired of rice, which is a staple in the Southeast Asian diet (morning, noon and night, people!), so I purposely wasn’t seeking out local cuisine. As I strolled away from my hotel to a nearby cafe rumoured to have to the best kaya butter toast (a Singaporean must-have, apparently), I delighted in the freshness of the morning.
I let out a laugh of pleasure as I spotted Mohamed Ali Lane, I pondered a Hindu temple with what looked like hundreds of sculptures of people making up the roof (maybe they were Hindu gods, I don’t know), and I stopped to appreciate the wonderful blend of old and new that’s Singapore.
I enjoyed my breakfast and afterwards, I slowly wandered back to my hotel, where I collected my luggage and headed to the train station. As I approached Chinatown Point, I found myself sad to leave Singapore so soon.
On the train to the airport, my eyes hungrily consumed all the sights out the window, including an unexpected line of breadfruit trees. As I stood observing the scenery outside the train and the people inside, I thought about my impressions of this island city. Singapore struck me as being all about shopping; it’s a materialistic person’s paradise. Every subway station I had entered or exited through had a mall or shopping centre above it or in it. And when I exited those stations, there were always more malls nearby.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not judging. I almost got caught up in the Singapore shopping frenzy myself. The previous day as I had wandered a small section of the city covered in shopping malls, I had wanted so badly to pick up a few things here and there. Dresses, skirts, tops – they whispered my name from racks and shelves, inviting me to come closer, to touch, to feel, to see how good they would look on me. I succumbed a couple of times, trying things on, but I resisted buying anything other than what I absolutely needed. I didn’t feel good about leaving all those things that clearly needed me to rescue them from lonely store shelves, but I had to be practical. I didn’t need to weigh myself down on this trip, or once I got back to Jakarta, where I wouldn’t even be able to use most of the things I wanted to buy.
When I got to the airport, I redeemed my subway pass for the value still left on it, checked in, and was impressed by the sweets on offer at the immigration counter (I snagged 1, of course). As I waited at the gate, immersed in my book, I vaguely thought about taking a couple of hours to absorb some more of the city during my transit stop on the way back to Jakarta in just under 2 weeks. The immigration officer had said it may be possible. I would have to look into it.
Eventually, our crew for the flight from Singapore to Phnom Penh, Cambodia arrived, and I observed that the pilot was a Black dude. The pilot’s ethnicity didn’t matter to me but it struck me because I had just realised that I hadn’t seen another Black person in my 48 hours in the city. So I amused myself for a few minutes by trying to guess where in Africa he might be from. Then I dismissed the crew from my mind and went back to my book.
Just before we boarded, I looked out the terminal window at the light rain that was falling and felt like I hadn’t really given Singapore a chance while I was planning my vacation. But I was sure glad that I had gotten to experience even just a little bit of it.
Then I got on the plane and realised that the pilot was Jamaican. Squeeeeeeeee!!!!!
Guys, I was totally cool getting on the plane, and I was totally cool settling into my seat. Then the captain’s voice came over the intercom and I turned into a raging idiot. At first, his voice didn’t even register to me but after a few seconds, I said to myself, “Hold on, that’s a Jamaican talking!” So I stopped a passing flight attendant and asked him if the captain was Jamaican and he said he wasn’t sure. I was sure, so I had to go say hi.
Other passengers were still boarding and my seat was halfway down the plane but I didn’t let that stop me. With a lot of, “Excuse me, pardon me, I’m sorry,” I slowly made my way to the cockpit because I had to get to him before they shut that door for the duration of the 2 hour flight. Eventually, I made it just as the last few passengers were coming aboard and before the cockpit door was closed.
“Excuse me, captain, are you from Jamaica by any chance?”
He turned around in his seat, looked at me and said he was.
“I’m Jamaican too and I just had to come say hi when I heard your voice!” Seriously, I was speaking in exclamation points.
In a 30 second conversation, I found out that he had previously worked for Air Jamaica and that my sister’s name was vaguely familiar to him (she had worked for the airline for decades) then I had to go back to my seat because the man had an airplane full of people to get to Phnom Penh.
Halfway through the flight, the flight attendants started trying to push drinks on me because the captain had kindly offered that I should have anything to eat and drink and he’d pay for it (you know these budget airlines charge for everything). I politely refused because I really didn’t need anything, having already eaten a Subway sandwich I bought for lunch on my way to the airport. Eventually, 1 of them stopped asking and simply put a cup of apple juice in my hand as he walked past.
After the flight, I took a picture with the captain (bad hair day so the picture will not appear in this blog), thanked him for the apple juice, gave him my Whatsapp number so we could keep in touch, and exited the plane to start my Cambodian adventure.