i met Jackson from Malawi while in transit at doha airport. he was working as crowd control/transit enquiries, and i was hiding in some quiet corner when he came to check whether i knew where to go. i had many hours to spare, so we struck up a conversation ranging from ferguson to comparing the colonial experience between our two countries.
i told him quite honestly that i know next to nothing about the African continent, that i speak for many people when i associate Africa with abject poverty, starvation and war, what with the news coming from south sudan, mali and uganda. he added in, half-jokingly, ‘and now there’s ebola!’, making us both laugh.
for the uninformed like myself, malawi shares borders with tanzania (famous for mt kilimanjaro), mozambique and south africa. ‘my grandparents and i have lived all our lives without hearing the sound of a bomb or gunshot’, beautifully expressing how malawi has been at peace for many years.
at this point, he introduced me to his ‘sisters and brothers’ – fellow malawians working at doha, and i asked them whether they missed home. of course they do. but they continued sharing about how doha is generally a good place to be, with job opportunities, decent pay that is low but better than what they’d get back home, and yet, they still look forward to moving home.
i then shared how the opposite happens in singapore, where people who get the chance to relocate to other developed countries do so, and this surprised them greatly. ‘but singapore is good! we’ve heard about singapore even before we started working at an airport!’
like them, i have difficulty understanding why we are still unhappy with our country, even though we have so much going for us. meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a song –
stella seah’s 够Local has been playing on tv lately, acknowledging the dissatisfaction that singaporeans have of singapore while also pointing out what there is to celebrate. nice of the lyricist to allude to the uproarious curry incident and the void deck wedding controversy.