Written by 3:29 am Everyday Life

Singapura and the day I return

“The frog trapped in a well will never understand the sea” might best describe my first trip to Singapore when I turned 20. That trip was my 20th birthday gift from my mother. I still remember that it cost her around 10 million at that time, also she gave me $300 extra to spend on that trip. My mother is such a great mother, she has been dedicating her life to giving her children all the best she can. Back to my story, my future began immediately after the 16-year-ago trip to Singapore.

Episode 1 | An incredible Wake-Up Call

Booking a tour for me was the best choice that my mother thought at that time. She had never traveled to another country and she didn’t know much about the outside world. She wanted her son to experience something new and she had to ensure 100% of his safety.  And that was the reason why I was given a 6-day-5-night trip to Singapore and Malaysia of FIDITOUR.

I was super excited on the departure day, I was so sure that I was 110% ready and well-prepared for the trip. I even brought an electronic dictionary with me. On the departure day, I couldn’t wait to head toward Tan Son Nhat International Airport after I woke up and my trip began then. Also, I never forgot when the plane took off, I ridiculously laughed like a stupid guy doing something nonsense for everyone, but it made sense to me. Derek and his first overseas trip started!

There were so many first times for me during my stay in Singapore and Malaysia:

  • The first time I traveled by plane
  • The first time I went alone
  • The first time I had to use English most of the time
  • The first time I became mute and deaf in other countries
  • The first time I learned that I was so stupid and so behind to catch up with what was going on with the big world out there.

Why did I say that I was so stupid? Let me tell you the hidden story that I have been keeping as a secret for years.

There were around 20 or 25 participants on that trip. And most of them were families and couples. I was the only one who traveled alone in the group of tourists. Everything seemed going on very smoothly. I had no problems communicating with people in Singapore, even in shopping malls because I had a very super powerful tool which was my electronic dictionary. If I couldn’t express my opinions, it would be a great help. I didn’t realize that Real Communication and Brief Dialogues at shopping stores were two separate things. One night, when I came down to the hotel lobby and met my Singaporean tour guide, he asked me to deliver his message to the other tourists on the tour with me that he had to go to the dinner restaurant first and waited for me and the others there. I quickly said yes and started listening to his instructions. OMG! What the hell was he talking about? I already used my 300% attention to listen to his words, but I hopelessly caught his messages. Anyway, because of my stupid pride, I switched to the guessing mode and started interpreting what he meant. And then I passed on what I caught to the other tourists. They and I then followed my instructions to find the restaurant. Thank god! Finally, we arrived at the right place for dinner. I was for sure that it was not thanks to my translated message, it was thanks to one of the young ladies in the group who was working for Unilever at that time; she heard the message from a distance and showed us the way to the restaurant. She was so nice that she didn’t unveil my stupidity in front of others. She just smiled at me and said it was OK. Everybody sometimes misunderstands or doesn’t catch the messages properly because of the language barrier.

The dinner was ready on the table, but I lost my appetite. I started thinking about my English… It sucked!

One more time, my mother had to spend more money on my English courses after that trip. And Derek had the only choice of being good at English as much as possible.

Episode 2 | A broken Heart Slouching around Singapura

My heart knew how to dance for the first time when I was 27. He was the first person who penetrated my cold heart and knew how to warm it like the Sun. And he was also the one who broke it badly into pieces. With a broken heart, I found a way to cut myself off from the outside world. In the beginning, I didn’t know what to do or where to go to heal my bleeding heart. And Sharon gave me the key to open the door to a peaceful and tranquil place and get my wound partially healed.

Sharon was my coach in a program I had taken a few months before. Throughout the program,  she shared lots of her experiences with me, especially her life experience. When she knew that I needed somewhere to go, she immediately offered me 6 nights of staying at her house during my second trip to Singapore. Also, she asked one of her friends to be with me one day around Singapore and managed an evening to have dinner out as well as a day to hang out with me and her buddies at River Safari. I never forget her prompt help and support as well as her generous and warm hospitality at that time – the darkest moment of my heart.

Besides the moments of being with her and her buddies, I wandered around Singapore from one place to another one without any specific plans. I just took the MRT, Skytrain, and Monorail to go anywhere I could. Watching people passing by, being together, and sharing their sweetest moments in front of me, the loneliness and pain deep inside my heart spontaneously arose and I had no way to control them. I didn’t remember how many selfies and videos I captured along my paths. Anyway, until I caught the picture above which described the illusion of romantic affection, I realized that romantic relationships would never last forever and a happy ending in a fairy tale might not exist in the reality. People come and go as they are destined to do. I could cry, feel the pain gradually swallowing me, and be envious of others when I caught their happy moments; those trivial things led me to nowhere. Maintaining a positive attitude toward daily bad and good occurrences should be the key to calming me and react better. One more time, Singapore gave a precious life lesson just with a picture!

Derek came to his real life with a stronger heart after a series of mushy moments in Singapura!

Episode 3 | A new Derek loving himself & living for his beloved ones

Singapore has witnessed many feelings and emotions of mine as well as has been my true-meaning lifesaver. I woke up at the right time to practice my English skills, I also woke up at the right time to stop torturing myself because of non-sense stuff and trivial things, and I one more time woke up to learn how to look after the ones I love. Yes, that important person is my mother. She has been sacrificing so many for me and my family. There has been no single moment she stops and thinks for herself. She has been spending her whole life saving every single penny to afford the daily necessities for my family, the education for me and my siblings. Moreover, she puts her dream, passion, and interests aside and invests all that she’s got in this family. She deserves more than what I can be doing at the moment for her. She is going to be 74 next year, and our time budget seems less and less. Therefore, I decided to take her to Singapore and let her see what the outside world is like. I knew that my financial condition is quite limited at the moment but if I hadn’t done it, I would have regretted it then. Procrastination can kill the good moments we deserve!

My eldest sister and I planned the trip for my mother after her homecoming back in July. We wanted my mother to be ready to travel overseas so that my sister will take her to the USA for travel soon. And I have a mission to set up everything for her to be ready for her upcoming further and further trips. I booked the flights, and the hotel room, and planned all activities on the journey. Everything seemed happening in the way I expected. My mother did enjoy it and might be ready for the upcoming ones. Anyway, what I want to share with you is some reminders if you want to take your mother to travel with you one day.

#Rule 1: Be a tour guide, instead of a tourist. She needs explanations and has the right to stop your explaining anytime she likes. She might underestimate your choices of attractions. Be patient, she will be surprised when seeing them. Trust me! a BIG WHOA was what I received from my mother every time she witnessed new things.


#Rule 2: Be “cruel” first and nice then. My mother couldn’t adapt herself immediately to the local food, she lost her appetite when tasting something new. I gave her no choices first to see how well she could adapt and then I learned her limitation. The next day, I prepared and gave her what she needed. Your mother needs to see the differences between her home country and a foreign country. Also, she needs to try first and deny it later.


 # R u l e 3: Be flexible toward her adaptation. I didn’t book a tour because I didn’t want the tour guide to push her to run from one place to another place. I wanted her to truly enjoy the trip. I wanted her to live, and enjoy every moment she breathed in and out while walking around a new place. If possible, adjust your plan to bring real joy to her instead of “torture”.


# GOLDEN RULE: Remember that your mother doesn’t care much about whether or not she can travel abroad. What she needs is to spend time with her children as much as she can.

Derek didn’t actually learn anything until he understood what “LOOK AFTER YOUR MOTHER” definitely means to him!

What about you – my friends?

(Diary of Derek in Singapura – November 2022)

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