It’s our last day in Singapore, and to say we have loved it here would be a misunderestimate (hat tip to President Bush!)
As we sat having our last teh and kaya toast at the corner cafe this morning, I reflected on all the wonderful people whose paths we have crossed that made this such a memorable journey.
I was going to include pictures of many of the people noted below, but I wasn’t sure if they would want their faces beamed to the
millions, thousands, hundreds, tens of people that read this blog.
So here are just a few of the people I want to recognize and thank for making us feel welcome in Singapore over the past 10 weeks:
- the people who work at the apartment where we stayed. from our first correspondence back in October through our checkout today, the people here have been wonderful. They answered all my questions promptly and accurately when we were looking for a place to stay; they greeted us every morning when we walked past the front desk; they kept the entire building spotless, and that as before the coronavirus came on the scene. One maintenance guy had the most pleasant sing-song voice you could imagine when he said “Good morning” to us. When we had a problem with the air conditioner, it was promptly taken care of by the friendly and effective manager, who also supplied us with some of his personal face masks when he heard we were heading to Bangkok a few weeks ago. It was right in the midst of the shortage of face masks, so it was quite a kind gesture. While the place we are staying at it fabulous, the people are what really made it special.
- the people who run the corner cafe. after just a couple of days, the guy at the counter knew our order, and when he saw us coming he would ask “Usual?” and I would nod my head. He would then issue some commands in Chinese to his staff, who also seemed to know what our order was. They waved to us each morning when we came by and made us feel like the rest of the locals who populated the tables. In this case, while the food was fantastic, it was once again the people who made it special.
- the woman at the front desk of the building where I taught. Every time she saw me come into the building she had a big wave for me from behind her desk.I have mentioned her before, as she also had been willing to share some of her private face masks when she heard we were going to Bangkok. She also made recommendations as to where we could visit, and then even warned us off of one of those places when she heard there had been a covid-19 case there. One of the nice things about going to work is seeing the same friendly people each day, and this woman made me feel a little bit like I was back at Villanova.
- the young woman at the bread shop where I stopped on an almost daily basis to get either a quick lunch or late-night snack. She always had a friendly smile and hello when I saw her, even if I was just passing by without making a purchase. She initially seemed amused by my decision to not put my roll on a tray and bring it to her at the register; I found it much more efficient to just carry the roll in my hand to the checkout. Unfortunately, nobody else seemed interested in following my lead…
- the woman at Auntie Anne’s pretzels. My son was thrilled to discover that there was an Aunti Anne’s less than a three-minute walk from our apartment. It’s no surprise that she got to know my son and his order, and by extension, my wife and I.
- the same could be said for the people at the local ice-cream store. It only took a couple of visits to know that my son liked cookies and cream milkshakes and would start making his order when they saw us approaching. Again, the pretzels and shakes were great, but the people made them even better.
- the woman who served as the coordinator for the Villanova study abroad program was fantastic. She planned a couple of great outings for the students and us to expose us to Singapore culture. She was ahead of the curve in purchasing masks so that she could supply students with them in case they need them on their travels. She would answer any question students or I had about Singapore, about travel, about the program and she was was always friendly and efficient. I am sure it was a difficult time for her because of the covid-19 crisis, to have responsibility for 13 young people who were halfway around the world from their families, but she handled it all with grace and a calming manner.
- the transit workers. one word perfectly describes Singapore’s public transit system – WOW! It is incredibly efficient, cost-effective, and clean. And somehow they ramped up the cleanliness even more because of covid-19.
- the government workers. they have done an amazing job here handling the covid-19 crisis. From being transparent and proactive to reassuring, they were the model of how such a crisis should be handled. In many ways, we all wish we could stay here until the crisis abates somewhat in the U.S.
- the cleaners. I’ve written about my gratitude for these workers before, but they are worth another shout out. They do an unbelievable job making Singapore stay clean and beautiful.
- the woman at the grocery store who got to know my order of a waffle with peanut butter. It became a regular habit to stop off and pick one up when I finished teaching.
- the woman who offered to pay for our Auntie Anne’s pretzel our first day here when I mistakenly assumed that U.S. currency was good anywhere in the world
- the family who owned one of our favorite local restaurants. The husband, wife, and young son were always quite helpful and gracious every time we came for dinner. The husband would always take his time and suggest different menu item for us, and then translate the order to the waiters in their native tongue. When we went one time when he was not there, his young son, ten years old, served as the interpreter to tell his mom and the waiters what we wanted. An incredibly nice family, and a great place to eat.
We have had many wonderful experiences during our time in Singapore, but at the heart of all of them are people like those mentioned above.
My wife, son, and I all hope that we can return to Singapore, sooner rather than later. I know that if and when we do, we will be welcomed with open arms.
*image from the Straits Times