Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Stranger in Singapore

Sirach tells us that travels to foreign countries open up minds and add to learning. It's not that going to Singapore is something new to me but I have gained new and interesting experiences each time. First, I was in Singapore for Sec 2 at a Katong Secondary School and spent 6 years teaching at a local Seminary here before returning to Sabah in 2014. It's not even the first Chinese New Year I had spent here; probably the third in Singapore. I remember clearly in my first year here I visited a colleague during the 2009's Lunar New Year. I thought I should put in some efforts to make the connection and be friendly. Two other colleagues at the TTC apartments invited me and my wife for Lunar New Year meals and gatherings and for that we are thankful. But for the first time I felt I was a stranger in Singapore.
I was stopped at the Immigration because I could not recall my friend's address where I would be staying. I wrote in my immigration card that I would be staying until end of the month and the officer insisted I disclosed the actual address where I would be during my stay. The officer was professional and firm and she told me to call my friend from a free phone booth just around the corner. It was an experience in itself as my friend was waiting for me at the airport but for 30 minutes I could not get through. I was about to give up and return to the immigration officer and said "you either accept my general whereabouts or I am taking the next flight home". Just as I was collecting my phone, I accidentally pressed the what app call function and finally my friend knew I was trying to get hold of him. I went through another immigration officer who did not ask me a single question and let my wife through without her filling in her address. But through it all, I realised I was in a foreign country and I am a stranger in Singapore.

Frankly, I had no plans to make another visit in Singapore so soon after my last October's trip. But my wife wanted to go for a medical appointment and I thought since I was ending my tenure at my College just a few days before, it might be a good time to take a break. Furthermore, much earlier my friend had offered to let us stay at his place if I ever wanted to take a break. It seems everything fell into place but having been on earth for almost 55 years and faced with much uncertainty throughout my adult life, I was certainly ready for a sudden change of plans and deal with it calmly. Circumstances may change and people may change but only one thing is constant - loving Jesus and obeying Him for even as the Psalmist says, "I am a stranger in the earth O Lord; do not hide Your commandments from me" (Psalm 119:19).

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