Today marks the second anniversary of our departure from Singapore, returning to New Zealand on the evening SIA flight.
It's a date that fills me with some sadness as I felt blessed to have been able to work in a country I had for so long admired. Better still to be able to live and work under a local contract conditions and be domiciled in Queenstown away from the Expat hot spots.
There are some , and I am not one of them, who regard Singaporeans as being somewhat distant and remote. I never found it so, having made some good friendships with colleagues that I still maintain. As with any culture and country if you are prepared to make the effort to assimilate and learn the local customs then your experience will be the richer for it.
Use a country as a temporary halt and only mix with your own expatriate community and you will selling yourself short. If that's your approach then you will also miss out on the real friendships that can be forged. It is the same all over the world and I observed similar traits and reactions when I worked in Papua New Guinea in the late 1970's/ early '80's.
There's a 'buzz' about Asia and Singapore in particular that I really enjoy; it's vibrant, everyone is focused on making their lives better because you can't expect the government to mollycoddle you if you are not prepared to get stuck in yourself.
And then there are the tropics themselves - the luxuriant foliage, the warm and torrential rains that announce themselves with deafening thunder, the bugs, birds and flowers that are larger and more colourful than those found in temperate climes.
The diversity of cultures in a country like Singapore is a delight and in the main harmonious. I worked with Singapore nationals and PR's of different ethnicities and from many countries; a rich mix that makes life in the Little Red Dot even more interesting and rewarding. We can all learn so much from the customs of others.
My admiration for the founding fathers of Singapore, the relative safety of the streets and of course the richness of Asian cuisine were all reasons that first attracted me to Singapore on my first visit there in the early 1980's, and remain with me still.
So on this day I remember with great fondness being called "Uncle Roger" by those whose friendship I value in Singapura. I count myself very lucky to have lived and worked there and my heart remains in the Heartland with my soul (as I wrote in an earlier poem) in places such as Fort Canning.