I’m sitting at FIKA, a lovely cafe tucked along Broadway somewhere between 78th and 79th street. Instead of writing my essay due in two days, I decided I would blog to remember this afternoon. I just had an amazing 40 minutes conversation with these amazing gentlemen, Michael and Ken, who reminded me of why I love being in NYC, why I love film, and why I’m doing what I’m doing.
It began with a simple request to share the table, because there were no other seats available in the cafe. I was doing my work, and they were talking. And then Ken said, “I don’t watch TV anymore.” And I must’ve looked up with a not-so-subtle look of disbelief because I found myself needing to explain why I looked up the way I did – i.e. I wanna make TV shows and films. So he explained why he doesn’t watch TV – he is a programmer so he tries not to look at a screen when he’s not working. Then we got around to talking a little bit, and their passion for movies was so inspiring it made me remember why I wanted to pursue a career in film in the first place. We spoke about watching TV with antennas, Ang Lee’s films, American cinema, the beauty of NYC, & of Singapore; they taught me about Federico Fellini, and introduced me to the best films ever – i.e. Pulp Fiction & Nights of Cabiria; they showed me a forever friendship is possible (they’ve known each other since the 8th grade?!) It was such a lovely afternoon.
Earlier today I was feeling a tad bit miserable because (1) spring break is over but it didn’t feel like spring break ’cause it was cold all the time so I was slothing at home most of the time, (2) i’ve got a whole lot of assignments due this week, (3) my time in NYC is coming to an end in 3 months, & (4) i was just so unmotivated. A part of me wanted to go home.
These men, who I may never meet again, made my day & I don’t think they realise how much that conversation mattered to me. At that point of time, I needed some sort of inspiration and they happened to be at the cafe. Now that I’m motivated again, I’m gonna be working on my assignments in full force after I’m done writing this.
So I’ve been thinking about home a lot these days, and I thought I’d write about the things I used to take for granted back home. These were things I didn’t usually notice back home, and I promise I’ll
never complain a lot less about these things when I return home. Here are 7 things I really miss about Singapore:
This is probably influenced by the fact that I’m very tired of the cold, and the snow storm Stella made spring break not ‘springy’. I’ll probably miss the cold when it gets too hot in Singapore because the grass is always greener on the other side but I am not enjoying the cold as of now. When I came here, I was really excited to experience the winter, ’cause that meant I could change up my outfits everyday and play with layering my clothes. It was all very fun in the beginning.
But I very often underdress, in the name of fashion, so I am cold most days. Now all I really wanna do is to walk out of the apartment in shorts and a t-shirt without freezing my ass off. I love it when the sun ray shines down on my face. I miss the warmth outdoors. I even miss sweating. (I obviously haven’t exercised in a while)
2. The people
I miss my family, I miss my friends, and I miss not-so-angry people on the subway. It seems like a lot of people in NYC have some pent up frustrations towards life or being in the crowded subway (if you think Singapore’s MRT crowded, wait until you take line 1 every morning; it’s packed like s a r d i n e s. I couldn’t take a picture though.)
I do, however, appreciate that I get to have a conversation with anyone at anytime here in NYC. E.g. Meeting Michael and Ken. And I know I will miss this when I go back to Singapore, because people don’t really talk to people they don’t know in random places. Oh yes, and I appreciate that people here ask in consideration of others. The other day I was on the subway and there happened to be an empty seat, so this other lady asked me if I wanted the seat and I said no it’s okay, so she went ahead and took the seat. Back in SG, people chiong for the seats. People here also ask if they can share tables, which I find is a very polite thing to do.
So just yesterday, I got home late, past midnight and I was alone on the subway. There was an old man two seats away from me, a can of beer in hand. He looked kinda stoned. Then another man came along. He sat across us and started rolling weed. In my head I was already like WTH. In the middle of the night, in the subway, some guy was rolling weed.So the old man was like, “is that weed, son?” And the younger man with the weed said yes, and gave him 2 joints before he alighted. This brings me to my next point.
Even though the old man in the subway wasn’t a dangerous person, I felt uncomfortable in that situation, because this was something that would never happen back in Singapore. And you never know what drugs can do to people. Safety was never something I took for granted back in Singapore, but I still felt somewhat safe when I was walking home at 3am. I never dared to wander the streets of NYC beyond midnight if I was alone. Just the other day I was walking back to my apartment, it was 6pm, and some guy said to me, “hey, i think we should fuck.” I just sort of ran home after that. These sort of things just don’t happen in Singapore. Or maybe I just haven’t witnessed this back home la but I was honestly freaked out.
Laksa. This is the first thing I wanna have once I’m back home in Singapore. Then egg tarts, chicken rice, kaya toast, black pepper crab, bak kut teh, and yuan yang, and bandung. Before coming here, I thought I wouldn’t miss food from home that much because I was never really into food. I’d eat anywhere my friends wanted to, or if I had the occasional cravings for laksa or chicken rice I’d be able to get them anywhere. NYC honestly has pretty good Chinese food – the dim sum & fried rice I’ve had were actually yummy, Indian food (naan and curry yas), even Japanese & Korean food. But I haven’t found a place with laksa. I really miss hawker food.
[So I just googled, and apparently there’s a place called laut in downtown Manhattan, and they have chicken rice for 16 bucks. I might check it out.]
The NYC subway is comparable to Singapore’s MRT in terms of connectivity, but Singapore’s MRT is a lot more reliable and a lot cleaner. Back in Singapore, I was one of those people who would avoid taking the train during peak hours and walk or take a bus, for fear of MRT breakdown. Coming here, I had to take the subway everyday to get to school and there were days when the subway would just skip stations (if they’re running behind schedule or if there was a construction happening), or the line wouldn’t be in service entirely. I became very thankful for Singapore’s MRT because there would never be a day when the MRT announcer will say, “attention ladies & gentlemen, this train will be an express train from Jurong East to Bugis. If you’re alighting at any stops in between, please alight and board the next train.” Sure, there’s the occasional breakdown, but there would never be a day when we have no train service at all.
Also, the lifts in the subway stations always smell like pee.
6. Clean & Green SG
I’m not the tidiest or the cleanest person, but the filth in the streets of NYC & in the subway is disgusting. There’s a whole lot of trash on the streets. And every time I walk past this pile of trash near my apartment to get home, a rat decides to stop me in my path. I also haven’t seen trees with leaves in a very long time. I know it’s winter, but I miss the view of Chinese Garden with green trees and grass.
I was just walking from the subway station to the cafe, and there was a shelter built but it serves little function because water was dripping through the invisible holes and I got hit by several drops of water. Maybe the volume of water from the melting snow was too much to handle, but I’ve now learnt to appreciate shelters.
Back in Singapore, I remember whining a bit when the government decided to build a shelter over the walkway from the MRT station to my house because the shelter blocked my view of the sky. I enjoyed looking up at the sky when I was walking home from the station. I was, of course, understandably thankful when it rained ’cause I hated taking an umbrella with me and the shelter was perfect for me to get to the train station. In NYC, there are barely any shelter along the streets, which I find really beautiful but especially annoying when it rains. And if there were strong winds, umbrellas were difficult to operate. We Singaporeans really quite sheltered hor?