I am Swee Lim*, one of the few men among the ladies in the nursing home and assisted living facility. You see, ladies generally outlive men. It almost becomes true for me because about 5 years ago, I had a sudden terrible headache when I was at work in the office and I almost passed out. When I was rushed to the hospital, the A&E doctor diagnosed that I had a brain bleed and I underwent an urgent operation. When I recovered, I wasn’t walking normally and I couldn’t find the words I wanted to say. I was just 51 then.
Anyway, here I am in Good Shepherd Loft. I think I am the youngest among the residents.
The daily routine is rather predictable in the Loft which is why I am very excited about today’s visit to Changi Sailing Club. I have heard many songs about sailing the seas but this might be the first time in my life I am going to get up close to a yacht. The chief nurse told me I am going to get to swim in the club pool and she packed my swimming trunks for me.
Early at 6.30am, we begin to go for our shower, one by one. Then we had breakfast in the dinning room and we are ready! I heard from the nurses’ conversation that for the outing there are 11 people on wheelchairs and 10 who can walk on their own and I am one of them; I walk with a walking stick.
Yay! The bus is here. There is a rule in the Loft: those on wheelchairs will board first. The male nurses carried the seniors off their wheelchairs and put them on the bus one at a time. When all 11 are on the bus, the sweaty nurses come over and declare that we can board the bus. Hurray! The rest of us get on with help and soon we are on our way. It is a long way from Newton to Changi. Maikal our social worker leads us through the songs and hymns and we arrive in the blink of an eye.
Look! Turning into the car park, I can see the yachts bobbing in the turquoise blue sea. With the sunny sky and coconut trees swaying, it feels a bit like paradise. I have not been to the beach for a while, let alone seen so many yachts at one go. We are really at Changi Sailing Club!
We disembark as fast as we can with the help of the nurses and the club staff. The ones on wheelchairs go first. “Don’t forget the rules,” I remind myself despite my enthusiasm. The friendly club staff are there to welcome us and help us down the bus.
I am trying to take in the view all at once. Hmm…A well sited club house is right by the beach with the pool in the centre and surrounded by Changi Hall (a large hall), Tekong Cove (the restaurant), the board walk, the beach BBQ pit. Just a few steps from the pool is the jetty on which visitors can walk straight out to sea where the tenders are.
With all facilities in such proximity, I challenge myself to enjoy all of them within the next hour. The male nurse, Melvin seems to have second guessed my thoughts and he guides me to the “Heads” (nautical term for toilet) to change and then into the pool I go. Relaxing in the cool pool water as I gaze out at the sea is the best thing to do on this hot and humid morning! I am surprised to meet another resident, an old auntie in the pool in her purple short sleeved swimsuit. She looks trendy despite her age. I said to her, “Auntie Joy, how old are you? I didn’t know you swim.” Her cheeky reply was,” I am 96 and when I could swim you were not born yet, adik…” (Malay word for “younger brother?)
After I have had enough of the pool, Melvin helps me dress up and I am off to the board walk. Again I run into Joy doing the same walk. She is spritely and together with Melvin, we take a short walk and enjoy the sea breeze. A pair of mata putih birds followed us inquisitively and chirping merrily. They are enjoying the laidback lifestyle and welcoming us.
On the return leg of the walk, Melvin takes us out to the jetty. It is really rustic with a tall attap hut at the far end of it. It is quite a clever design with two separate gangways which leads down to the more than 4 boats that are tied up against the pontoons.
Joy and I put on our life vests and get on the tender for a ride to nowhere. The pontoon is wobbly to step on and I feel excitement as well as a fear of dropping into the sea. Melvin is always there for us so I feel safe. Soon, the friendly boatman Hairul takes us out to sea. To tell you the truth, it is not that scary because the boat is really smooth and the engine quiet. Hairul gives a running commentary as we go along. The famous Pulau Ubin is not far across the Straits with many fish farms nestled off her shore. As we sail past the numerous yachts moored off the club, he shows us the Fairy Beacon which is a huge boulder at sea with a large luminous red beacon built on it.
Hairul takes us by the longer way back to the jetty knowing that we do not want the boat ride to end so soon. We are very grateful! He is so kind.
When we reach back on land it is time for lunch. We walk straight into Tekong Cove where we are treated like VIPs. There is a sumptuous spread of sambal skate, BBQ squid, hot plate deer meat, garlic fried chicken with ice cold fruit punch waiting for us. We enjoyed the hearty meal with gusto.
Now that I recall that beautiful day, when all of us came in from the scourging sun, there was a gust of cool wind and the rain started. The Heavens were watching over us!
This is the best outing I have had in years. Here is a big THANKS to Changi Sailing Club for making it all happen for my friends and me from Good Shepherd Loft and St Bernadette Lifestyle Village.