For someone who is more of an “inch into the water” than a “jump into the deep end” sort of expat, it’s easy to ennumerate all the things I think I’ve done/continue to do “wrong.” However, in the past 11 months, it hasn’t all been missteps and sidesteps and hiding under my covers.
Exploration has been my strong suit
Granted, I’ve stuck largely to kid-friendly and fairly touristy sorts of destinations, but I have explored Singapore. I have built a fairly solid map of my part of Singapore in my head. I’ve begun to learn a few bus routes (okay, the one to IKEA and the one that goes to VivoCity, but it’s a start!). I have not stayed inside watching American tv I downloanded from iTunes (all the time…I will admit to season passes of Glee and The Amazing Race).
My goal for the coming year is to do a bit more “off the beaten path” exploration. Less touristy neighborhoods, local markets, and (once my foot is fully healed) the Nature Preserve and the Reservoir.
Being a trailing spouse has allowed for new personal growth opportunities I wouldn’t have had back home
Perhaps it should be more accurately said that being a trailing spouse AND having a helper have allowed for new opportunities.
- I have been able to write more than I had managed since Elanor’s birth (not just this blog, but fiction and non-fiction as well)
- I took a photography class and began to explore my passion for photography more seriously than just being a vacation shutterbug
- I’m pursuing some online education to move towards my new career
In the US, my life was more taken up with daily nonsense like dishes and laundry, I had the ability to jump in the car and go wherever (*cough*Target*cough*) whenever I needed to kill times. And, quite honestly, I had more friends to hang out with…so I had a more active social life (as did Elanor). Elanor also had weekly early intervention and physical therapy every other week…which shaped our time. Here, between Ravi’s extra-long days, and the luxury of help, I have time to do things that were never more than “someday” aspirations.
I see my country in a new light
Perspective is one of the many gifts of an expat life. As an American I take my duty to be aware of and comment upon my government’s actions seriously. Living so far away, in a country that has far fewer freedoms, I have new perspective on the US. This is not to say I have been taken over by some manic form of patriotism…life in Singapore has clarified many of my criticisms of the US even as I appreciate other aspects far greater than I ever did when a resident.
Life in a “new” (to me) part of the world has raised my interest and education about this part of the world
When I first watched Aaron Sorkin’s tv show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, I thought they had made up Macau for the purposes of the show. I was more than a little embarrassed to learn it’s off the coast of Hong Kong and indeed has many casinos.
As I noted in my review of the book “Unbroken,” I find my interest in reading about this part of the world piqued because instead of trying to imagine what Singapore and Hong Kong and Bombay are like…I have memories of them. The feel of the sweat on my skin as I walked under the broiling Singapore sun. The smell of the Goldfish Market in Hong Kong. The woman selling vegetables on the side of the road while conversing on her cellphone in Bombay.
Living here has brought about positive new understandings of geography, food, lifestyle and experiences in Asia. Ones I hope to expand upon during our time here.
Knowledge is never a bad thing.
I have made awesome friends
Finding friends online doesn’t strike me as odd. I met my first local friend because I did some internet research and she was the contact for the AWA (American Women’s Association) Children’s Activities. She invited Ellie and I to a playgroup, where I got to talk to real, live, American Expats living in Singapore about life with a young child in Singapore, which was invaluable in making our decision to move here. Another friend and I met at a meet-up.com get together and have been good friends since. I’ve met other bloggers (expat and local), who have inspired me to continue exploring Singapore and given me new perspectives on things that have puzzled me. I have only one friend who I met in a more “traditional” manner, when we were introduced by a mutual acquaintance at the 4th of July BBQ and fireworks.
These friends come from very different walks of life than my friends back home. While my friends back home do come from a variety of locales (and countries), many of these friendships date back to when Ravi and I were in college ourselves, or working in the professional world…so there is a disproportionate number of teachers and software people amongst our circle. Here, the attributes I share with my friends tend to be motherhood or writing.
My friends here are all far more experienced at this whole “expat” thing than I. They are great resources when I need to understand why something works the way it does, or how to get an X. They also understand what it’s like to be going through the experience of Expat life in Singapore.
It’s next to impossible to not grow from your experiences as an expat.
In many ways, I feel like a very different person from the woman who was planning her move this time last year. The changes are, I believe, positive ones.
I look forward to continuing my time as an Expat here in Singapore, and sharing those experiences with you. If I start down the road to “bad expat-dom” please remind me of all the things I’ve come to love about my new home…and in recent months, that includes a lack of shoveling my car out from massive snowstorms.