When I first arrived, I couldn’t believe that I was in L. I think I was not sure if I could and would survive for the rest of the trip. I don’t think it was a culture shock, but I think most of my life I embraced the fancy European streets that this was not at all like what I had seen before. The street shops reminded me somehow of some countries in the SEA region.
Fast forward to the present. I miss it already. I don’t want to romanticize how the streets are beautiful and liveable. But there is a yearning and pull to return.
L is very broken. Physically, structurally, socially. From a glance, you have seen many war-torn buildings. It looks picturesque, which sparked a new interest in me to house-hunt for empty and damaged buildings because it is mysterious and haunting. I pondered what the story behind this house is. Who were the people who inhabited this place? But I am also reminded that they were damaged from the years of war. Left to sit along the streets in the bustling neighbourhood. I wonder what a local would comment about it. It also makes me wonder if it the same thing will happen for S when the war ends – it is devastating and chilling.
Indeed you see the conflicting designs of buildings all over the capital. Like how the Downtown of B was reconstructed “according to international standards” (Wikipedia). There were parts of this city where I walked and felt like I was back on the familiar European streets. Other days, I was thinking to myself, am I at Keppel Bay? No wait, Saudi Arabia! Well, I’ve never been there before. It was confusing. And physically, this is what I mean by a broken place.
Needless to say and obvious to notice the government is not the best in looking after its land and people. Structurally, it is helpless. Access to water and electricity are limited. Otherwise shorthanded. Impossible.
People are separated into different factions of the country’s region, land, area, street, building. Divided equally. Yours, mine, theirs. Do not touch. Do not taint. Just be careful. They are all wary of one another aren’t they. Well, to my foreigner’s eyes I cannot tell any difference. Until my friend pointed out, can you tell what is different between the street before and here? Nope. That was a C area, now it isn’t anymore. How could I tell then?
In their hearts, I think they do not trust many. Not much their neighbour nor their govt. One had offended their grandparents, another is not looking after them. It’s only disappointments after hurts. Repeat. They have learned to be broken and to accept that they will remain this way. There are too many fragments lying around the cities. Too much segmentation that paints the walls of their homes.
L is very broken up. It’s buildings are broken, it’s streets are broken, it’s people are broken.
So much repairing left to do. How much time is there left before the strayed shards of brokenness cuts deeper into the nation’s wound?