Although I’m not in a megacity like Beijing or Shanghai, the smog that hangs over the city is still there. There are good days and bad days. Somedays I look out and am surprised to see clear skies. And other days it’s so polluted I can barely make out the next building. This is despite the fact that I live in an area that’s full of trees and is pretty far away from any factories.
Pinch me. Seriously just pinch me. Am I really here? Am I really living here?
I love Japan – always have, always will. But it is a love that is born of duty and familiarity. Beijing – on the other hand – set my heart on fire. I didn’t expect it. But once I started to feel that way – I couldn’t control it. My passion had been reignited – and now that it has been awakened – there’s no putting it back to sleep.
In my heart of hearts, I believe that our Singaporean national identity is one of multiculturalism – one that is embracive and strengthened by its ability to adapt. As a culture, we cannot afford to build great walls because our economy is intertwined with the world economy. Singapore was founded on the premise of international trade. Even till today, we have one of the busiest ports in the world.
I sink my teeth into the first wrap. The flavours are far stronger than what I’m used to. The duck is electrifyingly crispy and fatty, the sauce is tangy and sweet and the condiments are confusing. Midway through my first Peking Duck burrito, my waiter magically shows up with a plastic glove and a pair of chopsticks. He looks both mildly concerned and thoroughly amused.
As a born-and-bred Singaporean, I am no stranger to Chinese culture. But it really is something else to be here and see the vastness of this and to see where Chinese culture was, where it is now – and perhaps where it will one day be.
It’s been years since a place disoriented me so much; since a place truly felt out of this world. Every place I’ve visited in the past three years has had something about it that reminded me of someplace else. But not Beijing. It just feels so… foreign. And I’m someone who hates the use of the word foreign, but I can’t think of any other word just yet. Beijing kinda feels like a stubborn pleasure-loving Taurean. There’s something hard and harsh about it; and yet there’s something incredibly Venusian.