By: Patricia Bohórquez
Having been only a few days in Singapore, I had to fix an unexpected alteration for my son’s new school uniform. At that time, I did not know more than a few streets around the bend. We were staying in a hotel near Arab Street, so I took my son in his stroller and ventured into the Muslim district in search of a tailor.
After walking for a couple of hours in the suffocating afternoon heat, my son began to cry and I began to lose confidence in being able to find anyone who could resolve my problem. Looking for shelter from the scorching sun and a drink, I decided to enter an old mall along the road and to my surprise there it appeared before my eyes, like magic, the tailor that I had been looking for! I rushed over to the place as if it were an oasis in the desert, and found this humble and rundown shop operated by its sweet local owners.
The owners and tailors, a couple of Chinese Singaporeans in their eighties whose English was as limited as my Mandarin, embraced my son and sparked the laughter in him that I had not managed to accomplish during the marathon day. Immediately, they realized we were thirsty and hot, so they offered us the most refreshing tea that I’ve ever tasted. They also won my son over with delicious cookies prepared by the lovely wrinkled hands of the elderly woman and gifted us with the most splendid of smiles. While I made use of my best tricks in attempt to explain to them the alterations I needed, they held and cuddled my son. So I took a photo to capture the moment and gave the picture to them the next day when I picked up the uniform.
Three years later, I returned to the same place as a new person. I knew Singapore like the back of my hand, had my own sewing machine to make “uniform alterations,” and no longer had one child but two! I stopped by the shop to say hello and the emotion bathed my eyes in tears when I discovered, displayed on the wall, the photo that I had given them. They recognized me immediately and gave me once again that same warm and sincere smile. I will always remember fondly the dear “aunty and uncle” who taught me that dialect is no barrier when the language of love is used. It is thanks to them that I fell in love with this country from the start and knew that Singapore would hold a special place in my heart forever.