Friday, June 5, 2009

Yes, It's the Other Side of the World But People are the Same Everywhere

Geographically, Singapore is the other side of the planet. In terms of humanity, however, my travels have taught me that at our cores, people are the same.

By way of a story...

This evening after checking into my hotel--the Furama Riverside--I wanted to go for a walk to find a restaurant but also to get my bearings. In my travels I've always found it helpful to recognize the neighborhood in which I'm temporarily residing.

You don't see many people walking around in Singapore and I understand why. It is brutally hot and humid, even at 7 in the evening. I walked around the block, bypassing the sidewalk restaurants offering various frog-related delicacies (solving the mystery of why the world's supply of frogs is diminishing) and ended up where I started, near my hotel.

Rather than give up and eat at the hotel restaurant, I saw in the distance one of those touristy-type restaurants that are common in Asia--you know, the ones with the buses in front and the goofy shrines to Buddha at the entranceways--so I walked up the stairs and straight into a scene from out of a Chinese version of a Western flick: The movies when the bad guy walks into a bar, the music stops and everyone turns to look at him like he's totally out of place...

The place was full of Chinese tourists (no matter where I go I cannot get away from Chinese tourists but that's because there are so DAMN MANY OF THEM) and they looked at me like, uh-oh, if a gaijin is here it must not be good food. Anyway, I nodded to them all and sat myself down at a table and proceeded to eat the best Chinese food I have had since, well, since I left China. In fact, it was probably better than the food I ate in China.

I recall eating a spicy and sour (not hot and sour) chicken soup with some sort of tofu and vegetables, followed by a fish dish cooked in ginger and onions. I know I saw some squid in there. I was particularly proud when the server handed me a fork and a spoon and I said, "no, I prefer to use chopsticks." I enjoyed my meal while the Chinese tourists snatched curious stares at me.

The whole experience of traveling is great because it really reinforces my belief that at heart, we're all alike. We have to eat; we have errands to run and chores to do; we smile at happy things and scowl at unhappy things; we ride bikes; we drive cars; we're curious. We want to live in peace. We want good Chinese food. We look different but we're all the same at heart.

In light of President Obama's speech the other day--of which I caught snippets--I think that sentiment is particularly apt. Perhaps I'll mull that over in my dreams tonight, as I try to catch up on the sleep I did not get during my 20-hour journey to the other side of the world.

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