Islands

Dear Nam Jin,
It’s hard to believe it has been a year since we were visiting you and exploring your tiny island. This year, I am exploring a larger island and discovering more similarities between the two than I first thought.

It has taken us four weeks of driving to go from the bottom of Australia, to the top. The journey has reminded me of the bike ride we took with you from Punggol, reaching the centre of Singapore by lunchtime! As we travel, I have been reading Tim Winton’s ‘Island Home‘. It is a series of thoughts on Australia, our culture and the place. Moving through the centre of my country reminds me of just how big and open it is. Two adjectives that would be hard to use in describing Singapore!

I have been up North for the last few weeks, exploring the centre – the place and the people. I find it difficult to comprehend both the expanse of the place and the timeframe of the culture of the Aboriginal people. I really feel like an interloper. Not in the way that I am not welcome – everyone I have spoken to is very welcoming. More in the sense that I do not belong. The question then becomes, ‘What does it mean to belong?’

In seeing much of the destruction of the Aboriginal culture caused by us whitefellas, I have also been contemplating how we might begin to develop a shared culture into the future. Singapore is grappling with this a little, also, I think? I remember you taking us to, and talking about the last ‘real’ kampong. Singapore is such a young country, having been decimated during the war, and sort to be ‘taken’ by so many other nations. Australia isn’t really that much older, in its current form, anyway. How do countries develop, while maintaining a sense of connection with the place and the people? Perhaps we need to remember big things can grow…

I have come across some very passionate folks over the last few weeks. Many of them would not have a clue about Australia’s rich pre-european history. Some actively ignoring it. I am searching for the stories that may help them make the connections. To understand. I really think storytelling is the way ahead. It really does help us to make sense of things. Perhaps we need to begin by changing the current stories we keep telling ourselves.

There is some great stuff happening in pockets of our country, but I feel it is localised. It has to be more complex in somewhere like Singapore when there are so many different cultures.

In the end, perhaps we can return to a song I have re-discovered this week.

“It doesn’t matter, what your colour, as long as you, are true fella” Black Fella/White Fella, Warumpi Band.

It has been amazing to explore this place I live. Floating in the swimming hole at the bottom of Jim Jim Falls, I looked up and was reminded of many of the Singapore buildings with gardens growing on them. That’s the image up the top of the page. Amazing!

I really admire Singapore and its desire to encourage the connection to the natural place, as well as culture. I hope we can do the same down here.

From one islander to another,
g.