Reflections on a year abroad

And what a year it’s been! Never in our wildest imaginations could we have imagined when we said yes to moving to Singapore 18 months ago, what this experience would look like. Ryan and I like to discuss if we still would have come here if we had known how things would turn out. Most days the answer is still yes. We have all grown from our experience here. I like to think we are better because of it. You learn so much more about a country/city by living in it versus just visiting. Singapore does many things right. They’ve learned from the harshness of their nations birth and early years and you see that knowledge gained in the policy decisions made today. They still have a long way to go. That’s kind of exciting. It’s interesting to watch them make decisions in the context of what will be the implications 5,10, 20, 50 years from now. Some of their choices fail but more of them succeed. Singaporeans are super proud of their little nation and they should be. I’m proud to have called the little red dot my home for the past year.

So here’s my reflection of the good and bad of living 10,000 miles away from home in Singapore.

The good:

– Easy city living. It’s super easy to live in an urban environment here. It’s clean and safe. Public transportation is world class and car services are easy to get and relatively inexpensive. Our children have a freedom here they won’t experience again until they are young adults in the US. it’s a gift that I’m so happy they were able to have for a short time. Singapore has also made city living easy by making bike paths and green space a priority. We are walking distance to the botanic gardens and I try to use my little folding bike any chance I get. These reminders that we live in the tropics/jungle are good for the soul.

– Schools here are fantastic. The local schools are so good that they make it almost impossible for “expat riff raff” to get in. There are ~50 international schools that are all excellent. We’ve learned “the best” in terms of education is extremely subjective and dependent on where you are coming from, when you’re going home and where you want your kids to go to college. This will be the hardest thing to leave when we move home. Stamford has not only educated our kids, but has provided them with a school “family” during these crazy covid days. They feel educated AND cared for. It’s amazing. They’ve made friends from all over the world. Their lives and by extension, our lives are all the richer for it. That is worth everything.

– THE FOOD. It cannot be overstated how amazing food is here. From a $3 plate of chicken rice to a $250 Michelin starred chefs menu, the bar here for food is HIGH. I get super annoyed if I eat a bad meal, there’s no excuse. Every cuisine in the world is available here. I’m slowly learning each individual Asian culture. What we eat at home when we eat “Asian” barely resembles the food here. It’s worth a trip to Singapore for the food alone.

– The diversity of cultures. Singapore does a wonderful job embracing their cultural and religious diversity. 55 years ago when they declared their independence from Malaysia it would have been very easy for them to become “Chinese”. But the ethnically Chinese leaders of Singapore were also immigrants on Malaysian soil who remembered what it was like to be “on the bottom” of society, as their ancestors were during Singapore’s colonial history. With that in mind they set about creating a country that embraces its diversity instead of fighting it. There are 4 national languages and no recognized national religion though Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu holidays are all observed. They fight hard against discrimination in any form. Are they perfect? Nope. But their efforts are admirable and many nations could learn from them. I’ve enjoyed learning as much as I can about Singapore’s history and culture. Many people who visit here think Singapore has no culture. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It has many and that is what makes it rich.

The Bad:

It can’t all be good, right? No pictures for the bad…

– It isn’t home. You can love a place, think it’s fantastic to live and still not feel it’s home. Life is very transient here, that coupled with covid restrictions has made it very hard to make meaningful friendships. I think we all feel lonely for family and deep friendships. We never anticipated being so cutoff from home. We may not have planned to go home for a visit while here, but we NEVER anticipated not having visitors. We had 4 visits planned before we left home. As each one of those passed without visitors, our homesickness grew. This has been very hard.

– living in a surveillance state. As such, there’s not much to write, other than it’s difficult when you have not been raised in it. That said, the conditioning that comes from this absolutely led to covid success here. So this is a decidedly mixed feeling for me.

– living through covid and the general political/societal upheaval in the US from here has been strange. Our experience is radically different. Some of our world views have been changed by living here. I worry relationships at home have been permanently damaged by our being here during all of this. While most days I feel lucky to be in the “gilded cage” of Singapore for this time, on dark days, I think it might have been better if we never knew there was another way and we had just been home. We’ve opened Pandora’s box and we can’t shut it now.

Where do we go from here? Well, we are coming home for good this summer. We always knew that 18 months was probably how long our time would be, and that is what it is. While I’m incredibly happy to be coming home, I’m also incredibly angry that we were cheated by covid out of the travel opportunity of a lifetime. Yes, that’s totally first world and selfish of me, but so be it. I’m also incredibly stressed about school for our kids at home. We’ve been so very lucky here. Beyond that, Ella is literally a different person than she was a year ago. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified to bring her home. But on the positive side, our children are amazingly resilient and in the end, I know we will figure it all out. So home we will head this summer, but before then we will try to make the most of our waning time here in Singapore.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on a year abroad

  1. Hi. I feel for the newbies who arrived right before lockdown. We feel cheated out of a year of travel whilst our kids are still little but we still did a fair bit before. It’s interesting to hear you talk about going home, we decided to stay out till covid calms down. I can’t face going home and then having to home school.

    Liked by 1 person

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