The more time I spend in Singapore, the more I realise how some aspects of it really bother me. Indeed, it's perfect, safe, nice, all the adjectives one can find which complete the notion of 'good life'.
As I was talking a lot with Minh, I realised that living here was like living under parental tutelage, even when one is old and experienced enough to build his own life.
Not unlike the US, the fear factor is the best way to keep people under control. I was waiting for the subway and was watching the TV screen displaying advertisements as well as video about safety. In one of them, acts of terrorism around the world were mentioned. "It could happen in Singapore!!!" A sinister, dark skinned (Malaysian looking of course) young man wearing a baseball cap was pictured holding a suitcase and putting in under a chair, then leaving the train at the next station. I suppose everybody watching the video would cry out in their mind: Good Lord, NOOOO!!!! That's terrible!!!
The video ends with a big explosion.
I was at the swimming pool and spent an hour there, trying to improve my breathing and synchronicity. I was wearing a white swimling trunk. As soon as I got out of the pool to go change, the life guard stopped me.
"You have to change your swimming suit" he said, rather unpleasantly.
"What's wrong with it?" I asked.
"It's em... well one can see through. It's indecent. So you have to go change and leave. Buy a new one."
I had been in the water the whole time, no one could have 'seen' anything anyway. Beside I was done for that day. On the opposite side of the pool, two white guys were sunbathing on their beach chair, clad in tiny swimming trunks, leg spread apart.
The next day, Minh lent me pair of swimming shorts, of dark blue colour.
The life guard signaled me to come to him again.
"What do you think you're doing? You don't remember what I told yesterday? Are you messing with me? This ... is not allowed!"
"What's wrong with this one?" This man was really annoying.
He showed me a signboard depicting what was allowed and what wasn't. Swimming shorts were not.
"I see...You know, I'm only here for a few days, I don't want to buy another swimming trunk". I told him.
He remained silent for a while then said: "Ok. You can go to the pool, but you have to play it low key!"
I remembered the two white guys of the previous day, but said nothing.
Later on, he started to strike a conversation. Maybe he realised that my intention was not to show my body and sexually assault young women and innocent children.
His tone softened when he learned that I was from Paris, and a musician.
"It's good to have a purpose in one's life. Young people in Singapore just think of having fun"
I looked at him. Behind his sun glasses, he didn't really strike me as a very old man...
"I think that the young generation is lost!" he went on. "They have no respect for the elderly, for the tradition".
I came back next day in my white swimming trunk. But I had worn grey underwear underneath, so it was no longer sea through. The life guard couldn't, didn't say anything. He merely nodded at me from the distance. Anyway, I was not parading and walking around the pool... The two white guys were there again, still sunbathing, legs spread apart.
Minh was telling me about his living situation. His wife was apparently the daughter of psychologically abusive parents who never found her good or suitable enough. Actually, according to Minh, nothing was good nor suitable enough for them. Then she turned to religion and let her guilt-ridden mind be filled with tales of crucifixion, words of righteousness, fear of God's wrath...
I don't dare to imagine how that will mould Ben and Jude's mind in the future.
I also learned that it was forbidden to sell chewing gums in Singapore...
Speaking with my friends here, I find that many live in a little shell and are afraid to look outside. A friend of mine who left Singapore to start a new life in China recently told me how shocked he was when he discovered the world outside Singapore.
"We are so sheltered in Singapore" he said.
If on my first visit, I even contemplated the possibility of living here, now I see how impossible that would be for me. Minh says I could have a good job here, make good money teaching... He saw how I loved children.
For me, too much security = death.
However cool that statement may be, that's also a ticket for a rocky ride!
I was amused when I learned that selling chewing gums was banned in Singapore...