Friday, November 30, 2007

singapore fling

One year ago today, I was on a flight to Singapore. At this exact time, three hours in the air, I was probably still trying to impress upon my friendly seatmate Mike that I was finished chatting. I had started flipping through magazines, engaged headphones, opened my laptop. In each instance, friendly Mike would make a friendly comment - "Oh, you like that magazine?" You mean this one, in my hands, that cost nearly an hour of substitute teacher pay? "What kind of music do you listen to?" You mean when I actually get to listen to it? "So, is that your husband there?" My screen background picture of Gael?? Um, actually, yes it is. Please let me be, Friendly Mike.

I loved my time in Singapore. It's hard to even explain how much, because lots of people travel and it's nice to get away, visit new places, see amazing sights, try exotic foods. There was something about flying alone - 21 hours of aloneness (except for you-know-who) - and even wandering around the city state by myself while Stu was working that made me feel more alive than anything else I've done. I suppose giving birth was an eye-opening, hyper-alive feeling, but it was also relatively quick and affected by various drugs. Being in a foreign country for a week, really getting into a rhythm with the people who lived there, was extraordinary. I strolled through parks and shops, toured a 200-year old church, took a cooking class and walked through a spice garden. I hopped on and off their mass transit system, finding my way around the island.

I'm realizing that I am truly passionate about traveling. I adore teaching and find great satisfaction most of the time, but there are also significant moments of despair (or less dramatically, dejection). When I go places, even the weird stuff, the mistakes, the minor irritations are satisfying. For example, when in Shanghai a few years ago I got enmeshed in a strange situation (that I still haven't quite unraveled) that ended up with a very angry Chinese man not allowing me and some students from Beijing leave his sight until he was paid cash for a tea ceremony that I thought was free. Rather unnerving, but at the same time exhilirating.

Same with the older Italian guy who followed me around the Singapore Art Museum last fall until I told him I had to meet my husband for lunch. In our hotel room. (And even then I wasn't sure he didn't want to be invited...). I had to make a cryptic phone call to Stu at work explaining I was going to be a bit late but was on my way; he was rather confused, and then concerned, but it was a great story in the end.

I want to enjoy my present, but I can't let go of those pieces of the past. I guess that's why I keep the receipt from Washy Washy (the laundromat we used) and tags from my Raffles Hotel tea bags along with the hundreds of photos. Sigh.