Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Longing for a cowboy and a mahogany horse

A lone cowboy on a mahogany horse gallops at full speed across a pure blue and golden-wheat colored canvas. I can feel the velvet Earth under my bare feet. The world smells of dust and an impending rain. I have been here many times before.

It is a summer morning in a South Dakota prairie town. It is a crisp fall afternoon enveloping the Wyoming grasslands in a gentle embrace. It is an endless drive home across the Nebraska pastures.

In reality, I am staring at, well who am I kidding, I am practically hypnotized by a picture in the October 2010 issue of "National Geographic" magazine taken in West Texas in 1974. I have never actually been there, yet I have many times.

In the article, entitled “Under the Big Sky” the author describes a morning in Wyoming "the first light on high mountain meadows, the wisps of clouds within my reach,” and I can see the place.

He goes on to say, “I suppose we all feel more restricted today. There seem to be gates in our lives that we never get open. But if we’re lucky, we find a special place to us. Even though it may change with time, if we love it deeply enough, there is a part of it within us to the end.” To me, this is the American Midwest.

It is probably inevitable that as my time in Asia dwindles, I begin to dream of frost covered winter mornings, proud, graceful deer hopping metronomic-ally over wind-torn fences, and oceans of brown, green, and tan that wave on seemingly endlessly into nothingness until they kiss the sky. Yet, I also like to think that when I look back on my time in Singapore, I will find that the breathtakingly powerful tropical thunderstorms, the hiss of cool oil on hot woks, the palm-tree framed balmy sunsets, and the anxious, rhythmic dance of the public transportation system have also occupied such a special place in my heart that they have become a part of me as well.

So, of course, in between marking in the last few weeks, I have set out to make the most of these now limited days.

Steph and I spent one night on a legitimate night safari (not the one at the zoo…although I wouldn’t exactly call that night safari illegitimate either considering the fire dancers) with a camera crew on a special expedition inside Bukit Timah nature reserve to spot the creatures who lurk and crawl when human activity ceases after dark. Among our finds: snakes, spiders, scorpions, and bugs I never want to see again. Our lucky, and thoroughly undeserved, participation in the tour was due to a previously mentioned 15-minutes-of-fame experience when Steph and I were photographed at another nature reserve and subsequently published in a photographer/author/dentist-by-day’s book. Through this connection, we were given the opportunity to accompany this group of photographers and nature researchers into the “wild.”

I also spent one day as the subject of a photo shoot, though not one for a nature magazine this time, when my friend Will and his faithful assistant, Stephanie, helped me to take headshots and body shots: think senior photos but with far less pressure due to the lack of the wallet-sized versions, which may come back to haunt you for the rest of your life in the form high school reunions.

I have spent some quality time bonding with my colleagues and my new roommate cum colleague, Victoria, eating out for Mexican and, as a neighbor of the cuisine’s home country, subsequently ordering for everyone; enjoying an a cappella concert inclusive of a “Grease” mix during which I could not help but picture my dad as a little boy dancing as Danny on the couch…I mean hood of a chick-magnet car…; celebrating the end of Hari Raya, which marks the end of the fasting month for my Muslim friends; and whipping up a multi-cultural salad day feast for our English-department hosted lunch at school.

In keeping with the variety-show that is my life, Sarah, Steph, Kurt, and I even went to a Sunday morning brunch at an equestrian training and horse stabling turf club which felt more like a ranch in Pennsylvania than a restaurant in tropical Singapore. And, Steph, Victoria, Yui Yun, and I rode the train, which is due to officially close in June 2011, ladies-who-lunch-style over the boarder to Malaysia for pedicures and shopping one Saturday afternoon.

Now that my marking is done, I am busying myself with a mini-musical on which I have been working with one of my classes this semester as well as trying not to think about having to say goodbye to them. This ordeal is made all the more challenging when they throw me a “surprise” (not overly uncharacteristically, one of them accidently told me) goodbye party complete with a Barbie-doll pink cake, a frosting fight, and a rousing rendition of “We Love You Miss Rachel.”

For now, I have resolved to live in every moment, to love even my final highs and lows, and to put away the National Geographic picture at which I have been so longingly gazing for the last couple hours.

Cheers to my last three weeks in Singapore,