I recently had the pleasure of a 4-day long holiday to Taiwan with my family and my grandparents. It has been a decade since we’ve gone on a family holiday and in this time, I have often dissuaded myself from venturing to long for an overseas family holiday by focusing on the environmental detriment that traveling on the plane causes. In the documentary titled “The Age of Stupid”, the narrator explains how taking a plane is the single, greatest environmental sin an individual can commit. (My going on this Taiwan trip, honestly, has surfaced dilemmas for me about the strength of my conviction in environmental protection.) This one’s an excerpt from a reflection piece I wrote on my way back from Taiwan days ago, in an attempt to maximize the purpose of my trip:
Lesson 1 – Be grateful for clean air
As our plane took off, the air we entered was full of smog. Within seconds of taking off, we had entered a region of zero visibility. I noticed that (unknowingly) throughout this trip we had been inhaling the air of Taipei that was possibly less fresh and clean than I thought It had been. This leads me to strive to practice mindfulness towards the clean, fresh air we are blessed to enjoy most of the time back in Singapore. I read somewhere that for a small city-state, Singapore’s carbon emissions have vast room of improvement so never, ever shall we take this clean, fresh air we enjoy as an entitlement more than a privilege.
Lesson 2 – Be thankful for predictability
Two nights ago, 小舅 and 大舅’s apartment had caught fire. They went through a harrowing experience, a close shave from death that involved climbing through the windows of their apartment on the ninth floor. I held my breath as I listened to their recount, made with shaky voices, still fresh with trauma. The cause of fire was likely to have been a short circuit that took place in a block due to the illegal modifications made to the building. The relative inefficiency of the defense forces compared to what I imagine it would have been like in Singapore got me thinking about how much predictability is an asset to our country. The efficiency we can be sure about and the security we enjoy from strict governance (so breaching of safety regulations can be safely unheard of) both contribute to this sense of certainty that we benefit from. Months ago, I learned of the value of predictability to Singapore’s economy as investors felt ‘safe’ investing in Singapore through the School of Thought “Post LKY Lecture Series”. The lecturer, then, also warned of how this predictability was increasingly threatened by the evolution of the external geopolitical climate. So there, I think appreciating the predictability we enjoy is yet another lesson I have taken away.
Lesson 3 – To strive to achieve an oscillating narrative
Comparing Taiwan and Singapore, something I admire about the former is the presence of a long, illustrious narrative embedded in the fashion, architecture, landscape and cultural attitudes. 4 days was far from enough to fully experience these elements through which their narrative shone. My strong thirst for learning the country’s culture and history was quenched from our visits to various memorials characteristic of a certain phase in the history of Taiwan (from their democratic reforms, to preceding ‘White Terror’) and it is from these visits that barely cover a fraction of their national monuments that leads me to conclude that Taiwan is definitely a country with a story to tell. That is something I definitely aspire for Singapore one day – to have an oscillating narrative we will be able to take pride in.
Lesson 4 – To become a city of less cars
Into the busy areas of Taipei, the “velo-city” program allows an effective bike sharing system that is complemented by a sense of empathy amongst locals. The locals would give away graciously in the bicycle track that cuts into the pavement meant for pedestrians. My read on this trip is Can Singapore Survive by Kishore Mahbubani, in which he describes his dream of a “Less-car Singapore” that I am increasingly inclined to echo. I suppose our Park Connectors and car pooling applications (GrabTaxi, for example) are steps in the right direction. Time will tell.
We are landing soon and the sky is an incredible shade of blue, the day is lovely.