Welcome to Night Singapore

Singapore lights up at night, sort of like Disneyland: strategically placed lights in neon colors illuminate every well-designed nook and cranny of the city. In a way, that makes the city at night feel more futuristic and less realistic than the city during the day.

The ArtScience museum to the left and downtown & the central business district to the right.
One of my first views of Singapore, as I arrived in the evening – a street close to where I’m staying.
There are lots of cute bars and shops close to my hostel. This area mostly consists of 2- or 3-story shophouses with terracotta roofs.

Singapore is very much a transition point for me between India and Japan, which are my two biggest Watson countries in both size and importance. By devoting 3 full months to each, the plan has always been to make India and Japan the “cornerstones” of my Watson year. Singapore thus serves as a stepping-stone between these countries, not just geographically but emotionally and culturally as well.

Maybe for that reason, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be in the second half of the Watson year. I’ve gotten very accustomed to Watson life, which is a bit sad; part of me misses the way I felt when I first arrived in Sweden, the mess of emotions that included how I felt about my college graduation, profound wonder at the nature of solo travel and my sudden freedom, and nervousness and excitement at the full year ahead, with zero expectations. Well, now I’m in my fourth country (and Singapore is certainly an easy one to be in), and I know how this goes. I suppose this is the kind of thing that you never want to get used to, and that’s why it’s so important to keep packing up your bags and moving on – but that also serves as an indicator that time is passing, and maybe I don’t want the time to pass so quickly, either.

The Sultan mosque in my neighborhood at night.
Street art at Haji Lane at night.

Even the challenges of being by myself and setting up project meetings have quieted, either because I know what to expect now or because it’s gotten easier as my network grows (probably both). Friends I make in one country connect me to their friends in the next, and companies I’ve worked hard to meet in one country might have an office in a future country on my list and set up the contact. Since I’ve been more social as the year has progressed, I’ve spent less sustained time by myself – I feel like I’ve spent less time reflecting, arriving at fewer and fewer “grown-up” realizations. I don’t know if this means that I’m not growing as much on the Watson as I did at the beginning; I hope not, though the Watson definitely gets easier as it goes along. Maybe (hopefully) I’m simply growing in less obvious, immediately-out-of-college ways, learning things more subtle and nuanced as opposed to grand and profound.

These “Supertrees” are tree structures in the “Supertree Grove” of Singapore’s famous “Gardens by the Bay,” an artificial park and garden. I wandered over there one evening for their nightly light show.
The light show is a 15-minute spectacle of all the LEDs on the trees set to music. The music changes, but this time it was a mash-up of different classic Asian styles. Each tree has a circular bench around its base, and all the people in the Supertree Grove picked a spot on a bench, laid back, and looked up for the show (so this is a view from the bench).

Now that we’re in 2017, I can’t help but wonder where I’ll end up by the end of this year. I don’t want to think about post-Watson life yet, but it’s certainly on the horizon, and I have no idea what’s next. While that’s been true since I started the Watson in 2016, it’s merely been an exciting thing to think about – the future, that is – but once I start planning for it, which I should do within the next few months, I’ll be acknowledging the approaching end of the Watson. At this point halfway through the Watson, it’s difficult to disentangle myself from it and objectively assess what I’ve done so far, but I really hope that by the end of it all, I’m happy with all I’ve done and seen, with no regrets.

I couldn’t get enough of these “trees”! There was no way to fully capture the experience on photo or even video, though, as they are simply so huge. 
You can see the Marina Bay Sands building (also lit up at night) from the Supertree Grove. See all these people at the bottom of the shot, taking a bunch of pictures like me?

Anyway, there’s still a lot left to do, and I think Japan will certainly bring its set of new challenges. While I wish I could still say that I have no idea what to expect, and isn’t that thrilling (though quite honestly, that was something that terrified me just before starting the Watson), I do know what to expect now, and I’m looking forward to it.

Gardens by the Bay has two large encased domes, one of which you see on the left. One is the “Cloud Forest” where apparently they generate real clouds inside the dome at specific times, and the other is the “Flower Dome.”
The Helix Bridge and even the trees next to it light up at night.
And of course, the classic view of Singapore at night: the Helix Bridge, the Marina Bay Sands, and the ArtScience museum.

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