Thursday, January 26, 2006

Australia Day

It's Australia Day today. I shall therefore relate a few stories where kindness had been shown to me by Aussies.

I had just landed in the Sydney airport. Mid-April 2003. My family had collectively insisted that I call home the moment I get out of customs. Actually, they insisted on a lot of things, e.g. carry half a bottle of Singaporean water to Sydney, top it off with Sydney water and then drink it so that my body can get used to it (where did that come from?!), but I refused to partake in most of them. Calling home from the airport was one of the few I acceded to.

The smallest note in my wallet was AU$20. I looked up the nearest phone booth and found out I needed 40 cents to make a call. I approached a sprightly old couple seated nearby to change my big note with. The elderly man fished out some coins and placed two 20 cents coins on my palm. I had thought they did not understand my Singaporean accented English, so I repeated my request for an exchange.

"It's ok, son. Take it."

He added a toothy grin to underline his point. I gave my profuse thanks, made my call and went off in search of a cab.

Given my bewilderment at entering a new environment, that little piece of kindness went some way in soothing my apprehension. I know many Singaporeans would probably do the same thing (well I would like to think so!) for foreigners in the same situation at our airport. But that's besides the point.

This happened in the Spring of 2003. I had just moved into Jim's apartment and was still getting used to the idea of staying in the same place with strangers and having to lock my room door whenever I went out.

I suppose it was bound to happen one day. I inadvertently locked myself out of my room whilst coming out for my bath. To top things off, the phone and Jim's phone number were both in my room.

Weighing up my options, I realised my only way out was to borrow a phone book and use the phone of a neighbour. My next door neighbour wasn't in. So I had to try the floors above. That made me uncomfortable, for I had to keep my gate and main door open.

Finally on my 5th try, someone answered. It was a middle-aged balding guy staying two floors above me. We had not met before. I introduced myself (his name is James) and explained my predicament. I then proposed borrowing his phonebook and then coming back up to his apartment to make the phonecall when I found Jim's phone number.

He went one better. He passed me his handphone and phonebook, insisted instead that I took them with me downstairs, then told me to take my time with them. I was quite taken aback. Again, more profuse thanks and I scrambled back downstairs quickly in case of intruders getting into my wide-open apartment.

I had a little difficulty locating Jim's number for his real name and surname was quite common but I managed in the end. And he made a trip down from his workplace (nearby) to rescue his beached tenant.

Since that experience, I've bumped into James from time to time in the corridors. We would stop for the occasional chat and 慰問. I found out he is a divorcee and has a daughter.

On hindsight, I still don't understand why James did what he did. He had believed me on face value. I am not even sure if he knew for sure I was his real neighbour then. And trusting me with his handphone?! I could have accessed some really private information if I wanted to (but not like I know how to lah). What if I was just someone masquerading as a locked out tenant?

That is be a piece of kindness I will always remember.

Then of course, there are all those little pieces of kindness Jim has shown me, and indeed to all my housemates, since I've moved in with him. They're all well-documented in my blog somewhere, so I won't repeat them here.

Interestingly, an Australian acquaintance once told me that the ANZAC Day means more to the average Australian than the Australia Day. ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corp) Day represented the first time in their history that both Australia and New Zealand displayed their national identity in battle. I believe during World War One.

Anyway, Happy Australia Day, Aussies!

64 days to go.


Blogger ChroniclesofChaos said...

This is the perfect opportunity for me to extol on the overt caution that Singaporeans take(I will not go one political step further and start placing blame on whose fault it is that we are conditioned to think the way we do).

Generally though, most other countries I've been, have shown the same human kindness that wouldav shocked a local Singaporean, right down to their coloured and highlighted hair roots.

I would like to think that most of the world is as such, trusting and always believing the good inherent in all human, instead of being guarded all the time.

I find it tiring to be so guarded in Singapore all the time. Yes, I do agree that we have to exercise a fair amount of cautiousness so as not to appear like the village idiot, BUT I am tired of how everyone here is always so suspicious and always reciting the mantra: "There is no such thing in this world, so don't be stupid and start evaluating the real motives behind the kind act"

Thu Jan 26, 10:32:00 am 2006  
Blogger Acey Deucey said...

I get what you mean.

But, I've seen two extremes in the scale here. E.g. my office here got broken into whilst I was still in it. That scared the hell out of me. Can't help but feel cautious about it.

That's another story for another day.

Lastly, I actually feel I am more trusting of the average Singaporean than the average non-Singaporean.

Thu Jan 26, 10:40:00 am 2006  
Blogger ChroniclesofChaos said...

With regards to the being more trusting than the average Singaporean bit, I guess you are.

I somehow always overlook this basic aspect in the average Singaporean for I operate on a different standard I guess.

Hmmm... well anyways... GOOD FOR YOU!

Thu Jan 26, 11:38:00 am 2006  
Blogger Acey Deucey said...

AHA! You got what I "meant". Hee hee...

Thu Jan 26, 11:38:00 am 2006  

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