Long before I stumbled upon my love for traveling, and much longer before I packed my bags and moved halfway across the globe from Singapore to Argentina, the airport and I had already become good friends.
Some of my earliest childhood memories involve being at Changi Airport, not because I was flying anywhere, but simply because my grandparents loved bringing us to the airport when we were little. We’d take a bus to the airport and upon arriving, we’d ride the escalator up to the viewing gallery on the second or third floor, where we could watch the planes taking off and landing.
I remember leaning with my palms on the glass window, my chubby face pressed against it and my warm breath condensing on the window pane, as I watched these huge flying machines disappear only to re-appear not long after. It was a cheap but fun way to spend the afternoons as a kid, and those afternoons spent watching planes at the airport’s viewing gallery are etched into my memory.
Whenever my dad would travel overseas for work (he often flew to Amsterdam because the company he used to work for had its headquarters in the Netherlands), my mum would drive us to the airport on his return date and we’d wait impatiently at the arrival hall, peering through the glass pane that separated us from those inside, our eyes anxiously searching for him.
When my dad finally appeared and walked out with his luggage, we’d jump up and down like Energizer bunnies, delighted to see him and even happier to receive the presents he’d brought home for us.
Later on, when budget airlines saturated the Asian aviation market, and flying had become cheap enough for students to afford, I’d fly to nearby destinations in Asia such as Hong Kong, Bali, or Kuala Lumpur.
Each time I headed to the airport with my passport in hand, I’d experience a bubbling of excitement inside of me. The airport had now become my gateway to the world; and each journey was a new adventure that I looked forward to tremendously.
My first big trip without my family was during my university exchange to Mannheim, Germany. It was a four-month exchange program with my friends from Singapore Management University (SMU), and I was thrilled to the bones.
That day in mid-August 2007, after our Thai Airways flight to Frankfurt took off, I looked out of the plane window back at the airport that I’d already become so familiar with, and whispered goodbye.
In Mannheim, the student town an hour south of Frankfurt, I met Juan, an Argentine law student from the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA), with whom I shared the student apartment (along with 8 other students).
Juan (whose name I didn’t know how to pronounce for the first month) had clear blue eyes and wavy light brown hair, and he was on the exchange program together with his best friend Fernando. To be honest, I didn’t know anything about Argentina, only that it sounded ridiculously far away and foreign, and that the people spoke Spanish.
During chats at our shared kitchen, as my roommate Faye and I cooked rice and other Chinese dishes, and Juan and Fernando baked lemon chicken in the oven, Juan and I started falling in love.
Eventually, after two years of a long-distance relationship, we mutually decided that it was best for me to re-locate to Buenos Aires in 2010. By then, the airport became a place of extreme happiness and also extreme sadness.
During each of my annual trips back home, I would arrive at Changi Airport overwhelmed with emotion and happiness to be back in Singapore, in the arms of my dear family and friends. At the end of each visit, I’d hug my family tightly, choking back tears because it would be so much longer before I’d see them again.
Mostly, I only go to the airport when I’m flying off, but yesterday, I went to the airport to receive my friend Ally who was returning to Buenos Aires after her trip home to Melbourne.
While waiting for her to arrive, I watched so many emotion-filled reunions, a mother running to greet her teenage son; a toddler falling into his mother’s embrace after presenting her with a bouquet of flowers; a young boy running in his light-up sneakers to hug his grandfather. As I witnessed the immense and unadulterated joy that sealed those reunions after a time apart, I almost teared.
You see, the airport is a place that’s intensely special to me, for all the reasons above. And now, having lived overseas for a significant amount of time, it’s become even dearer because it is my gateway home.
Recalling these memories and feeling the wave of nostalgia pour over me calls for something warm, hearty and comforting.
Something in the form of an easy chickpea curry that’s both filling and tasty yet doesn’t weigh you down. I ate this chickpea curry three days in a row, because it was that good and comforting.
This super simple chickpea curry, which is also gluten-free and vegan, can be made in just 45 minutes from start to finish.
Start off by heating some coconut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and sauté the diced onions until they turn translucent, before adding in the garlic and frying it until it is fragrant. Now throw in the diced tomatoes and stir for the next couple of minutes.
Add in the red curry paste and 1/4 cup of water until the curry is dissolved, before adding in the drained chickpeas and another 3/4 cup of water and bringing it to a boil, allowing the chickpeas to cook for the next five minutes. Squeeze in a bit of fresh lime juice and then allow the curry to simmer for another couple of minutes.
When the chickpea curry is done, divide it evenly into two bowls, garnish it with chopped fresh cilantro and serve it with freshly cooked white rice.
This is comfort food for the soul.
- 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ cup red curry paste
- Salt to taste
- 4 cups cooked long-grain white rice, for serving
- Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and sauté diced onions until translucent (about 10 minutes). Add in the garlic and stir fry until it is fragrant, then add in the diced tomatoes and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
- Add in the red curry paste and ¼ cup of water until curry is dissolved.
- Add in the drained chickpeas and another ¾ cup of water and bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
- Finally, add in lime juice and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Serve chickpea curry with white rice garnished with cilantro.