Glad to be home for National Day celebrations

It was the year 2000, during the dot.com era.

My husband and I flew on Singapore Airlines to Silicon Valley.

At the US immigration, as soon as I flashed my red passport, the officer threw me a chewing gum.

How was I supposed to respond?

I recovered myself quickly, smiled and signalled that I would not take the gum.

That mere five seconds expressed how I felt for my country - respect, trust and pride.

Singapore was considered a very young country then, known famously for a few things - including its ban on chewing gum.

Over the next 11 years, I learnt a lot from my host country - how to drive a car, mow the lawn and open my mouth to "ask" to get answers and get things done.

But deep inside us, we are still very Singaporean.

We cooked laksa with pasta, barbecued bak kwa in our backyard, made kaya with our pressure cooker.

For the whole month of August, I would play the year 2000 National Day Parade CD over and over again.

I felt weepy, homesick and missed watching the National Day parades.

Fast forward and, today, we are back in Singapore - back to our three-generation family and hawker food.

National Day is now celebrated with my extended family wearing red and white, saying the Pledge and singing Majulah Singapura loudly.

And whenever I hear the song, Home, I can truly appreciate its essence.

We have many people to thank for this mighty little red dot - the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, our pioneers, our leaders, our people.

The past 50 years have been great and fruitful.

For the next 50 years to be even better, I will do my part in getting my young ones to work with passion, listen with an open mind and act respectfully.

Learning starts from home.

Jess Loy Soo Hui (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2015, with the headline 'Glad to be home for National Day celebrations'. Print Edition | Subscribe