You know, I like America, it’s a nice country to live in, especially if you’re white. I’m not white. After a year and half of living in Japan, I’ve decided that I really enjoy being treated well and treating others well. It’s called the golden rule, and ‘Murica could really use a double-dose, what-goes-around-comes-around portion of golden rule ethos. Call me cray, but I like countries where everyone gets a fair shot at success and happiness. Common respect is the low bar for Japan, being Japanese is like a ticket into the VIP section of a club where everyone is VIP anyway.
Being black in America? That’s the anti-VIP, unless you’re Jay-Z, or Beyoncé, and you’re the king and queen of blackness. Bow down bitches.
I’m not complaining, I’ve had my fair share of privilege. Went to the best private high school in the South, and a top-ten graduate program. I’m lucky and grateful for it. Any successful black person in their late twenties or thirties will realize that it’s not good enough to be one of a few. It just isn’t healthy to have this barrier between us and our brothers and sisters who are suffering at the hands of forces we can’t control and are so often hidden from “reality”.
I went back to the states a few weeks ago and was reminded that what I think of myself, is not what others, specifically white racist cops, think of me. Yeah, a cop tried to come into the house I was staying without having a warrant because as he put it, “I have to make sure you don’t have any guns.”
I told him, “I don’t have guns dude.” And spent the next few minutes trying get him away from my door because I was sure that he had a gun, and a taser, and an unnecessarily belligerent attitude. With the wrong move on his part, not mine because I’m smart enough to know how his psyche works, I could have been joining Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown on the other side.
Like I said I like America, but I’ll take it in doses.
For black Americans traveling is a form of therapy. Who needs a psychologist when you can just reset your neurons in a place like Japan, Singapore, Thailand or anywhere that doesn’t have a history of codified racism.
I’ve spent a week in Singapore and I can tell you that this place is a great place to live. I am into cultural exchange, but after a year in Japan it’s nice to speak English in an Asian country. I get a better sense of what Asia is about by speaking with Singaporeans about the Asia Pacific region. And even though Tokyo is the largest city in Asia with major political and economic power Singapore feels more international as a city. Singapore receives 12 million visitors per year. That’s a lot for a city of 5 million. It’s also 2 million more than all visitors to Japan. The city is also easy to get around using multiple modes of transportation. Buses are faster here than in other cities I’ve been to, and the subway system is convenient and clean. I find the trains are spacious with ample seating, but not as convenient as trains in Tokyo. A few improvements to the information and communication displays, and the addition of more frequent arrivals would make the train more convenient. I haven’t driven here but I have taken taxis and Uber and I can say that the service and price of both are reasonable.
When I imagine living here there are a few other small details that make Singapore attractive as a livable city.
- Location in Asia: Places like Phuket, Bangkok Kuala Lumpur and other cities in Asia are a quick and affordable flight away. The country is small and if you want to get out and explore it’s pretty easy to hop on a plane for international flights. There are several budget airlines that have low rates to SE Asia cities. Also, Singapore Airlines provides one of the best flight experiences in the business. If I lived here I would rack up the KrysFlyer miles on longer haul flights out of Singapore.
- Good food at great prices: There are thousands of “uncles” and “aunties” here who work hard to make some of the best food I’ve had in any country I’ve been to. A lot of Singaporeans don’t cook much at home never it’s much easier to go the hawker centre close to your house and get a quick meal. The food here is still homemade and wholesome instead of the processed pre-cooked stuff that dominates much of the food in other industrialized countries. There’s also an abundance of tropical fruit at low prices, something I missed while living in Tokyo.
- Good Weather: I’m a weather buff who enjoys perfect to near perfect weather. It’s one reason I loved living in Los Angeles. You can’t beat that Mediterranean weather. It’s been dry here in Singapore so far. I’ve read that it rains often but doesn’t always last all day long. And the temperature and (high) humidity stay pretty even throughout the year. As uncomfortable as the humidity may get I’ll take it over freezing winter weather.
At this point in my life I don’t have a place that I can say for sure is my real home. I identify with California the most in terms of lifestyle and outlook on life. I enjoy an easygoing life near the ocean with diverse people while being connected to the earth and the Milky Way Galaxy. I spent most of my life living in New Orleans where my family is from. I’ve outgrown NOLA, it’s not big enough or international enough. I prefer global cities. One reason I love Tokyo, also there’s a gazillion things to discover and it’s always changing. Being the largest city in the world makes it a bit too much at times. You give up a lot in terms of personal space when you live in Tokyo. What you get in return is a high degree of safety, convenience and a level of societal politeness only experienced in Japan.
I want to experience all the benefits that the world has to offer. I’ll continue my “long wave” form of travel and take this show to Europe for a few years. Even when I’m based out of California I’ll have to travel often to keep life fresh.
Check out a few photos of Singapore below. And subscribe to MikeFree27.com for more stories from Asia, Europe and wherever the wind takes me.