Stuck in Switzerland

Posted on 29 April 2011

With the nearest voting centre in London, students in Switzerland will not lost their virginity for the next five years at least.

By Lee Jian Xuan

Photo: TAHIR / Creative Commons

THERE’S a common consensus among university students that exchange programs are generally beneficial.

You get to do all the touristy, sight-seeing stuff, meet new people, eat cheap food and stay in crappy youth hostels while chalking up Eiffel Tower-sized debts.

What’s not to love about that?

No, really. My exchange experience in Europe this semester has definitely opened my eyes. (Bad pasta and rude Italian housemates aside.)

Actually, more like it’s grabbed me by the hair and yanked my eyelids wide open.

I don’t know what it is about being overseas. Perhaps it’s the sheer distance from home and the estrangement from friends and family. Or maybe it’s the unsettling feeling of being the minority in far-flung lands.

But Singaporeans abroad seem to work harder at staying connected to our country than those of us who live on the island.

A friend I stayed with in London reads books by Kishore Mahbubhani and Cherian George (who are the so-called “public intellectuals”). My brother and his friends at the University of Leeds descend upon Channelnewsasia.com during their daily web rounds and discuss Singaporean politics at dinner.

Inadvertently, I find myself doing the same, devouring any material I can find online: Following the General Elections buzz closely and having the sort of no-holds-barred political discussion with friends that would instantly be shushed at dinner tables back home.

Quite an amazing feat for someone who previously did not even know the names of the six Presidents of Singapore.

But life has a funny way of working things out.

Just very recently, I learnt with great disappointment that I wouldn’t be able to cast my vote while overseas as the nearest polling center to the little Swiss town of Lugano where I’m at now is more than a thousand miles away in London.

This cruel irony is further intensified when I learnt that Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, where I belong and one that traditionally succumbs to a walkover, is to be contested this year.

Sidenote/ complaint here: I’ve no clue why the Elections Department chooses not to delegate more polling centers in Europe for voting.

There’s a perfectly proper and fine consulate here in Geneva. It doesn’t get any safer than here, right? I mean, Switzerland is practically the world’s panic room!

It’ll be years before I get to cross off my first ballot, but slightly more than a fortnight before the Singaporean electorate goes to the voting stations.

So to all you maiden voters out there, I say this: Wield the power of the vote wisely and choose the right party to run our country. If not for yourselves, then on behalf of those of us who can’t.

In any case, vote or no vote, come May 7, all Singaporean eyes from Switzerland to Sweden will be fixed on our sunny island set in the sea.

I can’t wait.

I will still be a virgin.

At voting, that is.

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