I’ve never felt enough of a sense of belonging to any place to care about its politics or history. I live like an expat in my own country.
I only started paying more attention when I was in London – to English politics, that is. Only because it was election year and whether I’d still have a job afterwards ultimately depended on what the government decide.
I returned to HK and realised that, maybe this time, I’d be staying put for a while. So I made an effort to not skip the local politics and China pages in the newspaper. But I never really got beyond being aware that “Oh, some people are protesting again.” It didn’t really concern me to find out why.
Towards the end of my trip in Singapore earlier this week, I met some really interesting and very intelligent people. I realised that I’ve never spoken at length to a Singaporean before.
Through our conversations, I received a crash course on how Singapore came to be and how the country is today. We touched on national identity. Censorship. Elections. Political parties. Being abroad. Languages. Sex.
It was all very relaxed, done over beers and laughter but at the same time, they were some of the most insightful conversations I’ve ever had. I knew nothing about Singapore. But in just two nights, I’ve gone from thinking Singapore as some boring city-state to thinking that Singapore has got some really brilliant minds and it’s given me renewed respect, appreciation, and curiosity about the small country.
I was there for six days of work and a weekend of hockey. Work was tiring. The hotel was great. We lost the semi-finals in hockey. Blah blah. But I’ve returned with so much more.
All of us in the group have either studied or worked in other countries and someone touched on the topic of being politically awakened when abroad. Away from home, you become more of an embodiment of your country than you could ever be at home. I smiled and listened. But little did I know, my little sojourn in Singapore has sparked something inside of me as well.
In a way, the late nights have not only given me a better feel of Singapore, it also seem to have struck a nerve in me about Hong Kong. I come back feeling an unexpected sense of….ownership? I come back feeling a need to know. A need to have a voice. A desire to care. Perhaps speaking to people passionate about their own country is infectious. Maybe it’s due to the similarities between us old-rivals.
This is all curiously new and exciting, and I still haven’t grasp what it is yet. Political or not, it certainly does feel like an awakening of sorts.