I moved to Singapore last year. Moving from Jakarta, where I had been living in for about nine years. My love and hate to this city collided into something too complicated, unhealthy relationship, ugly but also beautiful.
I always complain about Jakarta; its traffic jam, its public transportation, its bureaucracy, and all of sudden I feel I am nothing to this city. I came to this city, admiring its strength and its size, I wished I was one of its darling, and I give all my love to her, and I stay. For nine years (actually it’s because I don’t have any other choice, or choices with big risks, or even worse choice that I don’t consider it as a choice). Jakarta is always like that, it’s like a beautiful girl who offers you love, live, but you have to be really patient for her weird attitude. She loves boys with big money, and she could give warm to almost everyone under her arm, but do not expect too much. She could be really angry at you for no reason, and you have to struggle very hard to make her happy.
I was always complaining, swearing for all Jakarta’s traffic jam, it’s just so horrible as my arse cannot take it anymore. Then I was thinking to move from this city. I want to live in Singapore, it looks so beautiful, modern, less stress, and feels really cool, I guess. So at that time, I don’t want anything anymore from Jakarta, it has already hurted me so bad (but I know if I stay, she is still lovely, in weird way, as usual). So I look for every single information about Singapore, it’s like, love at the first sight. I love it! It’s just as precise as my imagination depiction. It’s just very suitable, and I want to experience the feeling to be a tourist, to be a fresh lover, to this city of dream.
Singapore is a good place to forget about the world, you don’t have to think about making the world better, but you still have to pay tax (in the lower rate than Indonesia).
I passed the first month, I went to Marina, Orchard, Sentosa, almost every signature places in Singapore. That’s Singapore; clean, well ordered, on time, big, modern, amazingly engineered. This girl is like the second or third generation from an old family who struggled and succeed on the battlefield, her parents sold everything to make her decent and beautiful to be loved by the world. It’s just a cool place to live in. It’s modern, clean, healthy, no mosquito.
The second month went by, as well as the third and the seventh. I am not a tourist anymore, I am one of the residents of Singapore. I started to sit in one of hawker centers, I started to eat Malay foods (I don’t know why they call it ‘Nasi Padang’), Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice, having coffee, boiled eggs and kaya toast almost every morning for breakfast, riding a bus from near of my premise to the nearest MRT station, go to the office and complaining about the expensive cigarette-but-I-keep-buying-it (If you smoke one pack a day, you can buy 1 gram gold in one week by saving that money), talking about almost everything with my colleagues, and I often talked about Jakarta.
I have been enjoying Singapore unconditionally, but I do realize that I miss Jakarta, I miss Roti Bakar Eddy, I miss Sop Kaki Kambing Irwan, I miss the Rangkasbitung train, I miss the traffic jams, I miss the smell of my own sweat. I miss her soul. Jakarta is not dry, it’s wet with its sweat, its soul is full of curiousity, it offers me mistery, puzzles, struggles. Singapore, I know something is missing in your soul. I know I might be wrong, but in my opinion the huge and mass engineering has erased the history of your anchestor, they are remaining in an interactive projector located in somewhere in Singapore Flyer. Something is missing, it is like you are in IKEA, you would love to try the chouch but you realize that there is ‘do not try’ sign, and if you choose to do so, you will get fined.
I have been trying to get the amazement of Singapore into something big, something that always surprise me, but I failed. Instead of enjoying the Singapore living, I prefer to compare it to other cities where I had lived once, compared to Kuching, where laid-back life is a must-choice, its simple roads, its warm and humid air, its waterfront, its river and its mountains, Singapore is more crowded and alive. Living in Singapore is like living on stage, you cannot fail, and you must go on, where in Kuching, living is like watching the show, you can choose to not to and enjoying the air of the golf fields or Tebedu’s river instead.
I always tell myself to be grateful for the lack of traffic jam and stress in Singapore, but sometimes I miss the sweaty and heavy traffic Jakarta. When I think about money, Singapore dollar is definitely bigger than Indonesian rupiah. But sometimes I miss the real nasi padang, or sate ayam or nasi gila payed with thousands rupiah.
In the search of those missing parts of Singapore, I tried to change my point of interest. I went to drift in Little India, but I was disappointed, I went to Clarke Quay but I was not able to wet my soul, I went to Kampong Buangkok, but it was just an old and abandoned museum of the old Singapore. I still saw the limit line, yes, the limit; the ‘do not touch’ sign, ‘do not cross’ sign, the murals painted on the streched plastic or framed on a wall in VivoCity, or neat murals in Arab Streets. I wish I could see murals under the train track in Admiralty, or a big painting of Mickey Mouse or Ogres on HDB walls somewhere in Yishun or Bukit Batok, or copies of Banksy’s work on the walls in Ang Mo Kio or Serangoon complex.
Continuing the search, I went to Singapore Art Museum, I didn’t expect too much, especially after I met one of my best friends who studies visual design in Weimar, Germany, who just recently visited Singapore, and she gave me the same vision of Singapore; it is dry. Dry as gin. With that vision in mind, I went to SAM this evening, and I feel that the line was broken, those limits of creativity had gone, somehow they disappeared, I feel like I saw the freely painted mural on one of the biggest building in Marina Bay as in my imagination, I was blown with Singapore youth’s arts, my soul was crying out loud spectating one of the best Indonesian artist’s works, I found my lost kid, I found another beautiful face of Singapore. Yay!
I was in love and amazed by the free-form of art exhibited at SAM. I felt a bit relieved. However, I didn’t get the same satisfaction like when I went to Taman Ismail Marzuki’s galleries to enjoy their art exhibition, or my old memory in one of galleries in Magelang located across Mendut Swimming Pool. SAM put the art into something ‘rich’, ‘classy’, ‘difficult’, ‘expensive’, ‘exclusive’ which is good in one side (it might be good for the artist, the curators), but on the other side, I expect art as something that can be freely enjoyed, ‘cheap’ and ‘easy’. But at least, it felt really good.
These poor conclusion leads me to some more excitement to explore more and more Singapore’s faces. I would like to be surprised by its museums, art exhibitions, murals installations (there was one big mural competition held by The Singapore River organization that I missed because I was too busy with my office mural project, which was my first serious mural project, and it is really important for me) that I want to visit.
After proof-reading this writing, I feel I am a bit too much. But I forgive myself for this since I am deeply in love with any shape of art and its transformation.