The Long Road To Singapore And Burma

In The Alchemist, a suggestion from my good friend KB, Santiago works for a crystal merchant who has always dreamed of going to Mecca, but has never gone for if he does, then what will he dream of.

For me, Singapore and Burma are my two Meccas. Singapore, Mt. Elizabeth Hospital where my father died, and Burma, Rangoon, Mandalay, where my father was more alive it seems than any other place on earth.

Ever since he died, I would talk or think about going and being there, seeing what he saw, saying good-bye. I remember talking about it with V as the 25th Anniversary of his death approached but I didn’t go, my twin Meccas remaining intact.

Now that I am on the trip that will end up there, I realize that I created an itinerary that would allow me to see everything else first, all my father’s other haunts before I saw my two Meccas. But the pull is getting stronger and even though I am in Northern Laos, where my father came in 1962, fifty years ago this month, my thoughts are increasingly of Singapore and November 13th and then Burma, his house, and his old pictures like the one above that I think is Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangoon and sunset over the lake by where my father lived.

My cousin Henry emailed me about Singapore and pointed out, in his very Henry way:

In Singapore they lived at Cairn Hill Plaza (#3301), 53 Cairnhill Rd. It’s near C.K.Tangs at Orchard and Scott. It’s on a hill just behind Mt. Elisabeth Hospital where my old man was director and where your old man died. Also with in a couple of blocks is the Goodwood Hotel where Jim would stay before my folks moved up to Singapore. The Goodwood was used by the Japanese security services during WWII, so it was a place no one wanted to go…

Google Maps is the blessing of this trip and here’s what that looks like on a map. It’s pretty amazing, the hotel is to the upper left. It looks like an amazing old hotel, if I can stand the ghosts, not of the Japanese but of my father, I will spend one night there. I guess my father, having fought in the World War II in the South Pacific and won, wasn’t scared of the ghosts he had helped vanquish in the real world.

From the hotel to my Aunt and Uncle’s old condominium, is one tenth of a mile, according to Google, and in the middle is the hospital. Barely another tenth of mile further right is the Prime Minister’s office where my father went to see Lee Kuan Yew and I will go to see his son, Lee Hsien Loong.

So really, for me, and my father, and his life, for my life and my journey, I hear a bad sports announcer booming above the crowd:

“It all comes down to this.”

On November 10th, I get into Singapore, I have a couple of days to explore, I want to see my Aunt’s orangutans at the Singapore Zoo, I want to check out the records at the Hospital.

And, I suspect, I will walk in circles around this small section of Singapore, this very small sliver of the world, looking, thinking, wondering, hoping to catch a glimpse of my father.

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