Ravi left Boston for Singapore to start work on March 27th, 2010. Elanor and I left Boston on April 17th (Ravi came back around the 10th to help with last minute transition-y stuff). Which means we are approaching our two year anniversary in Singapore.
It’s hard to miss this anniversary. Employment and Dependent passes are being renewed. Our apartment lease is ending. Our cell phone contracts are ending. Thus it is also a time where reflection is inevitable.
I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the woman I was two years ago and what I was worried about. What I was scouring the internet for…trying to figure out what to bring to Singapore. What to purchase because I couldn’t get it here. What I’d need for Ellie (and the baby we kind of wanted to have at some point in the future–aka Rhiannon). I read list after list about what people thought I should bring, what they regretted not bringing, and so forth.
You know what I never saw? A list of things people regretted bringing. So in the spirit of being different, I bring you my top 10 things I shouldn’t have bothered hauling halfway around the world. While this is meant to be tongue in cheek, I am planning on giving a few pieces of good advice to any incoming expats who might read this.
The Top 10 Things I Wish I Hadn’t Brought to Singapore
#10–Exercise Equipment I didn’t use in the US
I think it probably bears saying that if you never used your (in my case) Yoga Ball, Tennis Racquets, or Ice Skates in the US (or only used them extremely rarely) that you’re not going to use them in your new home country. Same you, different location.
Yes, it’s hotter here…and you wear fewer clothes, so being more in shape might be nice. But really, what’s the likelihood? If you *do* turn a new leaf, there are plenty of places to buy equipment
you won’t use here (or in any country you move to, most likely).
#9-Books that MIGHT be useful should X/Y/Z happen
Because who wouldn’t love to read about Middle School Math?
To be fair, there was logic behind this mistake; books are heavy and they are expensive to ship, thus I should ship all my books over in the shipment that I am not paying for. In 2010, Ravi and I had barely purchased our first Kindles, and e-books were not our habit at that point. So we brought a LOT of books to Singapore, not fully understanding how little space we would have, especially once we had to convert our office/library into baby #2’s room.
I especially regret the library of history non-fiction books I’ve been dragging around since I quit my MA/PhD program in 2003 and haven’t opened since then either, and the library of math-related books that I haven’t touched since I last taught Math in early 2008.
I have begun the tedious process of weeding out books that have NO usefulness to us and donating them, and taking the books we would like a copy of, but just not in Singapore, back to the US (as my suitcases are mostly empty on my way to the US). There are many trips worth of books left to go. Having almost fully converted to Kindle by now I am frustrated that we brought books for anyone but Elanor (apart from favorites).
#8-The Nintendo Wii and its accompanying “stuff”
I had not played my Wii very much since I had Elanor. Moving to Singapore and having another baby didn’t actually help.
The logic was that Wii’s are region-encoded and the system is pricey here, so if I *did* want to play, it was best to bring it from home. I played it exactly once or twice when we first moved, and that’s it.
I finally packed ours away recently and will need to get around to putting it on craigslist soon.
#7-My Gorgeous Vase
I have young children. Exactly when did I think I was going to be able to display this?
To be fair, when we moved, Ellie was walking and such, but I still had pretty things displayed in our home in the US. But I just don’t have a child-proof space here for it. So I keep it hidden in the office, fake lilies still taped together (something the movers did) feeling more rejected than Miss Havisham.
#6-My Crystal Bowl
Young children, nowhere to put it, and the added bonus of being able to give a concussion. It gets moved around from place to place in the house, but ultimately is another thing that is impractical to have and impractical to send back.
#5-Too many magnets
Ravi and I have an unfortunate habit. We each collected magnets prior to meeting, and then added magnets from every location traveled to, and every show seen. After a while, the collection was ridiculous.
I finally thinned the collection out before the last trip home. This is the super small fraction I kept, and luckily for me, magnets are at least easy to pack and take back to the US.
#4–My Cupcake Stand
Overall, I made smart choices about what kitchen stuff to leave behind and what to bring. I think the issue was that I hadn’t yet used the cupcake stand in the US, and I just had to justify buying the damn thing (we’ll use it at parties! I’ll make Ellie cupcakes!) by bringing it here…where it has gathered dust for two years.
Yes, every baby is different. However, I hated the fit and the design of the Maya Wrap the first time around…putting a different baby in it doesn’t mean it will feel more comfortable on my body. Logic #FAIL (this can also be applied to assorted other baby crap I didn’t use/didn’t like the first time…now TWO babies haven’t worn/used/sat in/played with X).
#2-My Wedding China
Yes, I am sentimental and like to serve dinner on our wedding china on our anniversary (we picked a pattern as close to the china used at our wedding as we could fine), and occasionally major holidays. However…see previous remarks about small children. Let us also discuss the logic #FAIL in dishes I’m going to use, at most, once a year.
See previous comments about too difficult to take back in a suitcase/too expensive to ship. So they sit above my cabinets, not getting used.
#1-My Wedding Veil
I only just stumbled across this. I can only guess that the veil was a victim of the “oh, just fuck it all” attitude that came over me after sorting 95% of an apartment into Mom’s House/ In-law’s House/ Donate or Sell/ Toss/ Singapore. At some point I decided I didn’t care anymore and let the packers just box it up and send it to Singapore. Including this, apparently. At least it will be easy to toss into a suitcase and take back next time.
Honorable mention-Various knicknacks from home
This isn’t so much a regret as it is just my acquisitive nature creating a bit of a hoard (much like our magnet issue). I brought a lot of our cute knick knacks and souvenirs from our travels to decorate the home here in Singapore. The logic was sound–to make it feel more like home. However, I did not take into account that I would be buying more stuff as I traveled in Asia. So now my shelves are a bit crowded.
In the end, my mistakes generally fall into a few categories (Do I say, kids, not as I do)
#1-Stuff I didn’t use/ use frequently back home–if it’s not something you use frequently, it’s not worth bringing
#2-Stuff with emotional, rather than practical value, and too much of it–it’s not that I don’t think you should bring sentimental items, but perhaps limit them, as you’ll be creating new memories here. If it would break your heart if it broke…maybe it should stay “home.” Limit it.
#3-My wedding veil–I have no idea, either.
In the end, it’s hard when you have a move like ours; it’s indefinite so it’s hard to say whether you’ll “need” something or not. The fear is always that if you leave it behind, it’s behind forever. Of course, this is NOT TRUE. It just might cost you some money down the line to ship it to wherever you are.
Even when a company is generous enough to ship the stuff for you, free of charge, do yourself a favor and lose the excess “stuff.”
At least I had the common sense to leave the marble chess board with pietra dura work that we bought in India back in Boston…