“It was the coldest I have ever experienced, I almost didn’t have enough clothes for it! It was 15°C (59°F).”
The traffic jam
Singapore is known for its all-year-round tropical rainforest-type of weather, one of the popular tropical destinations in SEA. Tourists flock the place when it’s freezing cold in their country to enjoy the warmth and sweat.
Four years ago on my way to the best airport in the world after a long layover, I was stuck in traffic with my taxi driver. He was a slightly chubby man in his 50s with two young kids and a loving wife, loud and always with a huge smile. We started talking. Impressed by how many countries I had been at 19, he wanted to hear all the stories. Been a taxi driver his whole life, he had heard all the stories there were and was still keen on hearing more.
He asked me what would be a dream country for me.
“A country with all four seasons.”
“So definitely not Singapore.”
I just smiled and shook my head. Going to the beaches is fun and all, but I could never picture myself living in a place without winter and snow forever. I started showing him pictures of snow of places I had been.
The coldest day of his life
“What was the coldest temperature you’ve ever experienced?”
“-40°C (-40°F), right where Celsius meets Fahrenheit.”
Shook by my answer, he kept asking me how did it feel to see snow and my trips. Intrigued by his story as well, I asked him what was the coldest he had ever experienced.
“I’m 53 and I have never left Singapore. The coldest day of my life was the coldest day in Singapore, it was 15°C.”
Never left Singapore? I heard people never leaving their country their whole life but it sounded crazier to hear it from someone from the third-smallest country in Asia. Usually this type of stories were from people living in big countries like the USA, Australia…
Having picked up tourists everywhere and listening to their stories, he wanted to be just like them. When he was younger he had his parents to care for, paying for their medical bills. Now he had his family to care for, paying off expenses for his three princesses at home and saving up for their future.
His whole life he had others to put before him, that even a vacation to Malaysia was a concern for him. Every time he heard stories about snow and winter, he would get excited and want to hear more.
Experiencing snow might be an unrealistic goal for him as he put it. He had a family to bring everywhere and in order to see snow, he’d have to fly far. Adding up all the expenses was an equation he couldn’t bare to calculate.
One wish he had was to save up for college for both of his girls so they could travel the world like me and come back to tell him how nice it is to touch the snow. He passionately envisioned how it felt to see the snow falls. A huge smile surfaced, he was happy with his own imagination.
I will build many snowmen for you
Moved by his story, I wished there was a way to help him. How nice would it be if I was a millionaire that could give out free tickets to people I liked. Well, I wasn’t, still am not, and there was nothing I could do to help his dream come true!
The only thing I could do was to tell him, “I hope your dream come true one day.”
Cliché. We had arrived at the destination before we knew it. There was a rock in my heart that sank my mood. I knew in every country, mine or others, there would be stories like this.
I couldn’t help but to hug him as he took out my luggage for me, hoping it’s not too awkward to give your taxi driver a hug. He smiled, put his hand on my the shoulder and said,
“Kid, go explore the world! Live in a country with all four seasons and build as many snowmen as you can every year. I’d be happy to know someone is doing it for me!”
I will! Funny enough, since then, I have been spending all winters in places that snow. Occasionally when I build a snowman, I think about the one hour spent in the Singaporean traffic with the man that would happily chuckle knowing someone is living out his dream.