Peace and Tranquility?

Peacocks are beautiful.  Sure.  But, did you know that they sound like a dying cat at sunrise? Don’t let their beauty fool you!  I never knew they made such noise. Nor did I care, actually, until they woke me up three bright-and-early mornings in a row on my recent staycation on Sentosa, a small Singaporean resort island 20 minutes from our house.   The word Sentosa is a Malay word that translated means “peace and tranquility.” Not if the morning peacocks had anything to say about it.

My daughter had Spring Break this past week, and most of her friends left town.  Jeff was on a work trip to the US.  Because of my own work, I had to stay close, but I promised her we would do “something.”  So, off to Sentosa we went for a three-night staycation at Amara Sanctuary and Resort.

Beside the morning alarm qualities of the peacock, I discovered a couple of other new things while there.  I learned that I indeed can endure a day at a water park and actually enjoy it.   And, more importantly, that it was great bonding time with my daughter.   I discovered that we could swim with sharks at the aquarium in a safe environment, and that it was pretty damn cool.  And, I learned that my 16-year-old has mastered the teenage art of sleeping in until noon, despite the peacocks.

Wide awake early, I would head to the restaurant for breakfast with my laptop and work.  That became a whole new education in itself.  The breakfast area was filled with people from all different cultures, but mainly Asian and Middle Eastern.  I loved being the only caucasian in the room….much different than mainland Singapore where the expat community, including many from the U.S. and Europe, make up almost half of the population.  As I have posted on many occasions before, witnessing and learning about cultures different than my own, is energizing for me.  I’ve been in this situation many times, but usually have my own family or work colleagues with me.  This was different.  I was by myself, and watching the different families from all over the world in the simple routine of having breakfast on their holiday get-away was intriguing.  What they chose to eat for breakfast.  How they ate their breakfast. How they interacted with their children. How they communicated with their spouse or significant other.

But one particular image and subsequent thoughts stay in my mind, and I cannot seem to shake them.  It has made me question some of my own personal philosophies and ideas, that I espouse in this very blog.  On the first morning of our stay, a young family sat down for breakfast three tables away from me.  It was a husband, wife and young child….much like many of the other families in the restaurant that morning.  The difference was that the wife was covered head to toe in black, with only her beautiful made-up eyes showing through a slit in the burka. Honestly, I’m not even sure how she ate her breakfast.  I didn’t want to stare to find out.   I’ve seen women in burkas before, but for some reason, it struck me differently on this morning.  I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness, mixed with a bit of anger.

Anger is not an emotion that comes to me easily.  After all, I am the one who is constantly promoting the idea of peace through trying to see “The Other Side Of” the story.  This whole blog is called TOSO for that very reason!   I tout the idea that if we only just spent a little more time to seek and understand before passing judgment, the world would be a much better place.  And, I still believe that to my core.   But, here I was, watching this family having breakfast and judging and getting angrier and angrier.  Why was this woman subjected to the discomfort of covering every inch of her body because a belief system deemed that she should? And, how can she potentially have bought into that belief system?  Who was it that was “worthy enough” to determine that she was less than worthy to be her full self?  All of it angered me.

I am certain that it will take bit of time to truly reconcile this anger with my own values related to peace.  And, I also recognize that I don’t have all the facts about this particular belief system or that specific family and its dynamics.  But, what I do know, is that I believe strongly in EQUALITY for all…that every human that was put on this earth is equal.  And, that no one has the right to put another person down or treat them differently because of who they are.  This is actually the core of TOSO after all.  But, more than that, I am accepting and embracing for myself that it’s ok to be angry or, dare I say, a little judgmental even.  It can be the fuel for real and positive change.  That doesn’t mean that I think that I am better than others.  It simply means I don’t agree with the means to the end, and that it needs to change.  Peace and tranquility are ideals for which to strive.  But every once in a while, it takes disagreement and perhaps even making a bit of noise to get there.  Just not the Sentosa peacock squeals please.

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