I don’t do winter in Europe (a bit too cold for my liking, especially the forecast for winter 2013/14), so I booked my usual November ticket back to Penang, Malaysia and headed home.
The middle seat in rear economy on an A380 is actually a pretty comfortable ride and comes with a full catalogue of movies to watch on the in seat TV as well as power supply to recharge my two laptops and my Kindle, so I was tired, but not crippled 12½-hours later when I disembarked at Singapore’s Changi airport.
Now a lot of people have some funny ideas about Singapore, some viewing it as a capitalist paradise on earth, others as an autocratic totalitarian state, the truth (as usual) is somewhere in the middle and changing. Certainly the congestion caused by the never-ending construction of the Singapore MRT is a sign of purpose, but also very frustrating for those who drive there.
Regardless of this, I had an interesting experience when I visited on Thursday morning, which says something about the character of the place.
I was sat in the T1 departures area abusing their free wifi, when I noticed a crocodile of kids go past (probably 5-7 year olds), led by their teacher. A few minutes later another gaggle of high school kids (around 12 year old) each of them being shown around the airport, about how it worked and about how it was very important to Singapore as the gateway to Asia.
Finally, I was very politely accosted by a group of giggling school kids (around 15-16) who were doing a survey of non-Singaporeans to see what people liked and didn’t like about Singapore and Changi airport in particular. Afterwards they asked me to pose in a photo, so somewhere on some school wall this week there is probably a picture of John Galt looking bemused and surrounded by smiling teenagers. Let’s hope the Daily Mail doesn’t find out.
What the experienced demonstrated to me was that it doesn’t matter about who you are or where you come from, if you can manage to instil a certain amount of pride and optimism in your children, even about something as mundane as a visit to an airport, then you’re doing well.
Compared to the negativity of their peers in the UK, the difference was palpable.