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Once Upon a Singaporean Time

by Sheila Ann Manuel <sam2write@icqmail.com>

My stomach quivered as I looked at the solitaire diamond ring on my finger. It usually quivered whenever I'm having a nightmare. Well, not that getting married to a dashing British young man felt like a nightmare. Au contraire. More like a fairy tale dream coming true, in fact. But in my dream, I imagine being swept off my feet and riding into the sunset in a horse - *not* an aeroplane.

It's just that if one adds a husband-prince who's based in a country other than one's own (or his' for that matter), it adds another twist to the marriage plot. But it comes with the package that's marked with a lot of uncertainties, I suppose.

So the first thing Jeremy, my fiancÚ, suggested was for me to visit our future kingdom (er, "home country"). So with three chaperones and a hope, I went to see Singapore. And when I rode my first "travelator" (a moving floor like an escalator, only it doesn't escalate) at Changi Airport and my first London Cab, I thought I won't be as amazed with many other things.

Our first stop was dinner at Lau Pa Sat, a fast food restaurant with a British-colonial style architecture. It was then that I relinquished my spice-loving identity. If I once thought I loved chili food, I realized I never tasted chili food until then.

And I remember what my mother used to say: "Marriage is not something you can put in your mouth and spit when it gets too hot and spicy." I just nodded and brushed it off thinking `I like my food hot and spicy anyway'. But after tasting real Indian curry, I began to wonder.

There were other places to see and things to do while in Singapore. Well, other than finding out if I'd be happy in this place or not, that is.

So we went to Boat Quay and watched the colorful sights and people who flocked to this popular night spot. We marvelled at the beauty of the Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo as we watched animals up close and afar. We also passed by Little India, Orchard Road's gigantic shoppers' paradise, and yes, who could forget Sentosa Island?

But before we could watch the Magic Fountain, the Merlion statue, Underwater World, and other perks in Sentosa, we had to ride a cable car. At the time, I wasn't too sure if my adventurous nature was up for it.

The creaking wires of the cable car made me feel a bit queasy about travelling on air in this fashion. I have never ridden one before, and I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to start right then. What if the wires break? What if the cable car operators decide they don't want to do what they're doing anymore and just walk out? Perhaps, much like the way people give up on each other and break up when they feel they can't live up to expectations and commitment. What if...

"Don't be silly. Of course it's going to be alright," Jeremy said as he squeezed my hand. Was he talking about the cable car, moving to Singapore, or our upcoming marriage? Maybe I couldn't tell for sure because I really don't know where this move will take me as I make my final commitment to marriage and leave my country.

How do I know if I'd be happy in Singapore?

Is it enough to learn "Singlish" (Singapore English) and adapt to their way of life? Is it enough to get used to strange, hot and spicy food? Or perhaps, it is enough to know that it is one of the safest countries in the entire world. Maybe.

How do I know if marriage will be a fairy tale dream come true - and not my worst nightmare?

Is it enough to vouch on love, promises, and good companionship? Will learning how to cook the right dish be alright? Or perhaps, I can just let him watch all the football and other sports he wants - and never argue about which television programs to watch. Hmmm....

But then-

Yes, there are no assurances, no guarantees. Cultures, relationships... Life generally doesn't come with a warranty. We just have to take one step at a time. Plan, prepare, and work as necessary.

Then we trust. Trust that when we ride a plane, a cab, or a cable car - it won't break or crash. Trust that the strange food that we eat will not be hazardous to our health. Trust that the wedding, the marriage, the new life will be just fine.

And yes, trust that the new country we would move into will be a place we'd happily call "home". That is, even if we move again and "live happily ever after" someplace else. Just as long as we - my husband-to-be and I - will be together.


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