Rabbie Serumula


Singapore - It must be the humidity. It intensifies gravity to push down their souls so hard that their eyes squint.

Not their mouths - their mouths refuse to concave downwards.

The locals smile as though the Singapore ground tickles their feet. They smile like every day is the best day of their lives, or perhaps as if they were happy to see me.

After all, for about four days I was the only black person I saw in the island city when I visited recently.

But with that same humidity, it took my lungs a few hours to shake off the feeling that I was suffocating. I adjusted and allowed the sun to kiss my skin like a lover who had longed for the embrace of their significant other for 29 years.

About 12 hours before the romance between my melanin pigmentation and the Singapore sun began, I was sitting at OR Tambo International, waiting to board a new Singapore Airlines Airbus A350. Joburg has become the second long-haul destination in Singapore Airlines’ route network to be served by its Airbus A350-900 fleet.

Now, I am more of a geek than my persona and clothing style seem to suggest. So the Singapore Airlines on-board entertainment system, KrisWorld, was my cup of tea. As I sat in the South African Airways Baobab Lounge, I downloaded the Singapore Air mobile app. This was not because I hoard apps; I was taking the KrisWorld for a test run.

After downloading the app, I created a playlist of movies and music on it. When I got into the plane, all I had to do was sync my playlist with the on-board KrisWorld and I didn’t have to touch the interface for the entire 10 hours of the flight. Unless I had to pause, using my phone as a remote, because the pretty air hostess kept asking me questions and suggesting places I should visit when I landed. She wrote the places down - one I remember was Clark Quay (pronounced Key) - and signed the note with a cell number.

Her name was Jasmine; she was not shy to say she was keen to show me around since she would be off work for the weekend of my trip.

If I hadn’t been married, my visit to Singapore would have been amazing, on a different level.

I sat comfortably in business class surrounded by leather and luxury. A stylish combination of enhanced seat comfort and intuitive space. I felt inspired. Since I am a poet, I never take inspiration for granted. As I basked in the convenience and Asian hospitality, I became rejuvenated and recalled the last words I had with my father when I told him I was going overseas for the first time.

I spoke to him on the Sunday before I left. The flight was on a Thursday afternoon. I told my dad I was going to Singapore, and when I left his house all he said was: “Drive safe”.

Now, my dad isn’t ignorant. He just speaks in paradoxes. What I took from his words was that I must drive safe to my house - as for Singapore, all will be well and I needn’t worry about a thing.

Poets need sleep too. That is what I did for a few hours in the flight. We landed on the island and excitement overwhelmed me. There’s a difference between a kid in a candy store and a kid in a candy store with enough money to buy all the candy he wanted. I felt like the latter.

This was when my lungs were adjusting, and shortly before that melanin-Singapore sun romance.

I stayed at a new hotel called M-Social. It had an awe-inducing, striking view of the island from its rooftop with a swimming pool.

The three days there were euphoric. I got the chance to get on the best ride in the world, the Transformers ride at Universal Studios in 6D, not 3D. It’s like watching a movie you’re starring in.

In the “movie” I was a Transformer fighting off another evil one. Up the building I climbed, jumped off rooftops, shot fireballs and took some damage too. I was a hero on that Friday.

Remember Jasmine? She wasn’t the only Singapore lady who thought I was not bad to look at. I think I had an exotic factor favouring me. I had never been asked by so many beautiful ladies to take pictures with them in such a short period, most of them at the Singapore Merlion Park, landmark and major tourist attraction. There were others at the Singapore flower dome, too.

On Saturday, along with other journos, I was invited to do more sightseeing.

It was on this day that I met the “cutest girl in Korea”. I was taking a selfie-video and saw her walking in a risque strut behind me from the screen of my tablet. She wore a brown dress and dark shades covered her eyes. I told her my name and she pronounced it so well.

“My name is Estella, cutest girl in Korea,” she said. Her smile was captivating. But once more I remembered that I was married. I never saw her again.

On my last night there, as Jasmine had suggested, I went to Clark Quay and relaxed to live music and a Premier League football match and a cold beer.

As I neared M-Social, an old man with wonder in his eyes was approaching. We communicated through eye contact and both of us nodded. No word. Until he was closer and in a rough accent, he said “Welcome to Singapore”.

I smiled as he walked away. He reminded me of my father with his paradoxical statement.

Monday morning came. I took the 2am Singapore Airways flight back to Joburg on the same Airbus A350, but this time in premium economy. I missed the leather and space in business class. The HD screens were two inches smaller. I again used my Smartphone to select a playlist on KrisWorld and pressed “play”.

The Airbus took off. The dark sky attempted to swallow the stars, as did the clouds. I closed my eyes and took a mental picture.

My lungs started longing for that suffocating humidity.

Independent Traveller