"What's worse than Chinatown? A wet Chinatown." That expression of mild rage popped up while I was walking very carefully among lanterns, raindrops, and pools of water few years ago. I was on my way to my noisy, cluttered, overcrowded (and now wet) workplace.
I thought about me as a child.
I imagine what if she's given a chance to see a glimpse of the future, 'where will I work when I grow up'. And she sees this panorama. I bet she would be horrified and probably would be afraid of what the future would bring. She dislikes Chinatown, nobody taught her to (or not to), but it just doesn't come across to her as beautiful. And it stayed that way for a long, long time.
When I turned 18 I went to Singapore to study. Back then when I had not realized how small the island is, Singapore was like a new playground asking to be explored. Chinatown remained one of the places I had no interest of (and even avoided). I met new friends (named Grandma and Her Majesty, respectively) and discovered that they had the same sentiment toward that noisy, cluttered, overcrowded area. We entered the working world. We liked our office. One day, Grandma's office moved to Chinatown. I laughed. Her majesty got a job in Chinatown. I laughed. Until one day, the bosses told me our studio was moving to Chinatown. I thought they were just teasing me, they knew how I felt about Chinatown. They were just teasing me, someone please tell me they were just kidding.
Well, they were not. The studio really moved to Chinatown. Everyone laughed. And although this will sound extremely first-worldly, it felt like a slap in the face.
By then I had realized that I have developed some kind of mental survival-mechanism: whenever I encounter something that is not like expected, I will try very hard to trick my mind to think it is actually a good thing (or at least, not too bad). I started by making a list of a good thing about Chinatown:
1. This place has a newly-renovated mall. The mall has Yoshinoya. Not bad.
2. This place has a newly-renovated mall. The mall has Uniglo. Not bad.
3. It's just one station away from Clarke Quay.
4. Okay, the list went on, but even with these items on the list, making the RED-GOLD-LOUD, cluttered, overcrowded Chinatown acceptable, was proven to be a challenge. Especially during CNY period where even walking to MRT station needs anger management.
Not only that, it's confusing. They seem no name everything with "People's Park (Something)".
But then weeks passed, months passed, years passed. Walking among lanterns and red-gold-loudness has become an emotionless routine, and slowly I became an expert (or the empress) of this small kingdom. I remember being lost inside People's Park Complex and out of desperation almost called the Grandma asking for the way out. Now I can easily navigate through its infamous narrow alleys. I no longer see Chinatown as a scary oriental jungle, but just a place I go to Mon to Fri, to work and to have good lunch. And you know what, through these years, the list went on and on.
And there came the day I had to bid Chinatown goodbye. Great. I am finally free. I no longer have to worry about Chinatown or wet Chinatown. No more walking among lanterns, raindrops, and funny-coloured pools of water.
It has been two months. Two months of tranquility.
I am at home, sipping a cup of green tea, away from the noise, the crowd, and the lanterns thinking how I miss them all very much.