Cross Cultural Exchange

The week spent in the jungle was enlightening. While Singapore purports to be a homogeneous society, it is important that we recognise the unique characteristics that mark the differences of the major races. It would be a mistake to blind ourselves and pretend we were all brought up the same way or that all of us view life with a capitalistic self-serving worldview. That we should seek the betterment of our country only because it is in our self-interest.
Over the course of the last week, cut off from the comforts of daily living, I've come to realise how reliant we've become to the "the finer things in life". Especially so for the Chinese Singaporeans. Right this moment, four of my Malay friends are asleep on their beds, having chosen to stay in the bunks overnight despite having been given last night off. In contrast, all the Chinese guys I know flew out of camp the first possible minute, many heading to shopping malls.I admire the ability of the Malays to make the best of any situation. Many who looked like they wouldn't have lasted the week in the field chose to go. Conversely, many Chinese guys who looked perfectly capable chose to report sick, opting to spend the week in the bunks.
There is much to learn from the different responses. I had initially frowned at the lack of sobriety displayed by some of the Malays, who always seemed to joke loudly about things I approached with the seriousness of a withered corpse. They monkeyed around while performing guard duty, screaming "halt!" and then pulling drivers out of their vehicles for a quick frisk. Then I noticed the smiles on the drivers' faces, some of them quite senior-ranking even. I realised that they had brought fun into duties they were meant to perform, and the resulting mirth was shared and enjoyed by all those less-anal than I. Which was pretty much everyone else. I had a sense of humour equivalent to an XHTML validator. See what I mean.
I, typical of many Chinese guys, seek to escape undesirable situations. When forced, we accept it stoically, dig down and wait for it to pass. It is no wonder many chose to wait it out in the more comfortable confines of the army barracks than the mosquito-filled jungle.
We need to learn to have fun even in the things we do not like. We need a little more rhythm and music. We could stand to learn so much from our Malay brethren who bring candour to everything they do. There is a fluidity in their step. It is worth noting that Malays have won both Singapore Idol contests so far. It is probably because it is in their nature and culture to sway to the beat. It is high time the rest of us learned to relax our constipated countenances and tapped our feet.

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