Last Friday night was one of the most interesting nights I have had so far in Singapore. Me and four other Chinese classmates from my National University of Singapore class decided that we wanted to spend some time at Arab Street together. Picture this: a group of five people, one young Chinese girl not even in her twenties yet, another girl of Indian descent who is in her mid-twenties, a tall, young, Russian man who is in his early twenties, a thirty-year old Japanese man, and a Brazilian man in his late thirties, all gathered around a table at a restaurant in Arab street, laughing together and speaking a mix of Mandarin and English while eating small appetizers that consisted of pita bread, hummus, and spicy chicken wings.
Seeing a group of people of different races is a relatively common sight here in Singapore. During my time here, I noticed that Singapore welcomes people of all ethnicities with open arms. Although there are many things that Singapore has adopted from other countries, something that I found unique here is seeing all the different cultures living together in harmony. Whenever I go out by myself or with friends, I always see groups of people of mixed races having a good time together. That night, I finally began to fathom the uniqueness of Singapore, and understood what it felt like to be a Singaporean.
In addition to the miscellaneous mix of friends I was with that night, my Russian friend suggested that we should try an authentic Russian restaurant he had heard about in Little India. We all agreed readily, for we were up to try new things that night. I had never had Russian food in my life, and I was grateful that I had a person who knew what he was talking about and helped us order the food for the night. My favorite dish must have been the soup, which is called Borsh. The consistency of the soup was in between the clear broth of Chinese soup and the thick, creamy texture of American corn chowder. It was a very flavorful taste, and I could taste the broth underneath all of the spices, potato, meat, and cabbage. I would go to a Russian restaurant again when I have the chance. The Russian dumplings were also very good. Compared to Chinese dumplings, they are very different. Chinese dumplings have soup in them, and people generally dip them in soy sauce or vinegar. Russian dumplings are dipped in sour cream, and there is no soup in the dumplings. Only meat is inside the dumpling. I found the dumplings very nice and very interesting to try.
During my time here, I have been listening to snippets of conversations while I have been on the bus or the train to try to get a better sense of Singapore culture through their language. My observations have led me to conclude that Singapore is a culture that takes pride in the different cultures that exist within the country. I see Singapore as a stained glass window: a masterpiece that cannot live without all of the differently shaped and colored pieces. Each small piece of glass plays a crucial role to the picture as a whole. If one piece is missing, then it is incomplete and is missing a part of its identity. I have noticed that Singapore, although constantly becoming more modernized and urban, is still proud of the cultural traditions of the many different races. Right now is the time of Ramadan, and there is a big festival celebrating the Hari Raya Puasa (one of the months of fasting for Muslims) around the Paya Lebar area of Singapore (it is on the east side of Singapore). Food stands come alive at this area once the sun has set. People from all of Singapore go and celebrate together: Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I have yet to spend a night at the food stalls and get a complete feel of Hari Raya. That will be an upcoming adventure for me this coming Wednesday! I will most definitely be posting something about my experience there!