Reality has begun to set in

When I first started this blog, it was with the intention of keeping those back home know what our new life in Singapore was like. It was, in effect, a way of keeping hold of Boston while exploring Singapore.

I think I’ve hesitated writing about the move because that will make it real. By not writing, I could be in denial and think that perhaps we would go back to Singapore or move on to HOME (aka Boston) rather than this alien coast. By not writing, I could hold onto Singapore.

But the truth is that I can’t hold onto Singapore any more than I can hold onto Boston. Both will forever be “home” but the likelihood of us ever moving back there is almost nil. I have to stop living in denial and accept that this is our new home, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Denial is probably the best way to summarize the past six months. Denial that we actually live here, a strong sense of homesickness for Singapore. In Singapore when I became depressed or agitated, I wanted to flee Singapore for the familiarity of Boston. Now, when I’m depressed or frustrated, it’s Singapore I want to return to.

Last night I heard Elanor singing “Home” (the Singapore NDP version) and we talked about how she missed her old school and her friend. She told me she watches a lot of the NDP videos when she’s sad. Elanor finds the beginning of Home a bit sad, and it resonates for her.

Rhiannon isn’t quite as articulate or self-aware as Elanor, and can only express how much she misses her old Kindergarten, her teacher, and the playspaces she liked to visit. She wants to move back to Singapore as an adult.

Ravi has had the easiest adjustment. He wasn’t that attached to Singapore in the way the girls and I were, and for him feeling happy at work is what centers him. He is enjoying his new work environment and the new skills he’s learning.

It took several years for Singapore to feel like home, and I fear it will be the same on this side.

This is not to say I’m miserable–I can shop at Target again, after all. But I definitely have gone through a lot of depression myself. It’s so difficult to adjust to a new country. While I am an American, the subculture of the West Coast is as alien to me in many ways as Singapore was in 2010, as well as the reverse culture shock after being away for seven years.

I’ve been asked what the big difference is between the move to Singapore and the move back to the US and what might contribute to my feeling trapped here (which I do). Partially the answer is that when I moved to Singapore Elanor was my only child and she was a toddler not yet in school. I didn’t have anything but time to explore. Here I have two kids in school, each with their own schedules. I don’t have the luxury of saying “Oh, today we’ll go see the Children’s Museum in San Jose,” or “I’m going to drive on the 1 and see the coastline.” I can’t realistically do that and get back in time for school pickup–or it feels like it. Unfortunately by the time the kids are out of school the highways are already jammed—yes, at 3pm–which means going any distance is easily twice what it would be otherwise.

We live in a house, and we all miss the convenience of living in a condo. We live in a quiet residential area, and we miss the city noise. We have lemon and orange trees in our backyard, and roses–which I am deeply grateful I am not responsible for keeping alive. There is almost no rain, and I miss the drama of the thundershowers. We have a cleaner, but I miss the regular support of my helper. I miss so many things it could be a thousand posts long.

I don’t miss the haze. I don’t miss my old rental car when I compare it to my new minivan. I don’t miss how much I used to spend on groceries. I don’t miss “cannot.” I don’t miss the lack of a return policy most stores in Singapore have. I don’t miss having to shop internationally for clothing that fits my body, instead of going to the multiple stores in a mall that I can shop in. I don’t miss the humidity (although I do miss the heat).

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2 Responses to Reality has begun to set in

  1. Adeline says:

    Oh wow, what a big change for all of you! Singapore is probably the only place that your girls remember as home, and it will definitely take a while for them to get used to being in a new “home”. Our family relocated to Jakarta late last year, and I bought a children’s book called ‘Augustine’, which helped my 4-year-old to understand the process and emotions involved. Perhaps it will help your girls too?
    All the best in your new home!

  2. When we moved from Florida to Maryland, Charlotte was 5. It took her years to get used to Maryland, she missed the beach, her friends, the warm weather. I just kept listing out all the reasons why we are here and after a few years she stopped mentioning it. I think of you often when I travel to CA. I hope things get more comfortable for you and the girls.

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