The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

The time is now…

So. It’s begun. 
What’s begun?

 
Plans for the Big Move Out. What! Really?Yep. 

After almost nine years in Singapore, having waved off countless others before me, many of them really good friends, it is now my turn to bid adieu to the Little Red Dot. And it feels weird. Very weird to think that in just a few weeks, this chapter of my life will come to an end. I guess right now it hasn’t really sunk in yet. It probably won’t for a few more months. Perhaps not even for the first year.

It is both daunting and exciting. I remember in the early days of feeling so homesick and every time we made a visit back to the UK, the wrench of leaving family and friends. But we came back because Singapore is home and we had built a life here with friends who mean a great deal to us. But always, we knew that we would leave this life behind and we wouldn’t be inclined to travel from one country to another. Although it’s definitely not something that we would rule out.

Nine years. It feels like no time at all doesn’t it? It’s already nearly four years since I spoke about how quickly the first five years had gone by. Quite easily another two years could pass and we would still be procrastinating about making a change. We’ve talked about it on and off in the past but when you leave someplace without a base, it’s quite difficult imagining where that base should be and what it ought to look like. So, it’s easier just to put it off. 

Until you realise that you want something different. A need to be elsewhere for a different purpose. To create new memories that will hold different values in years to come. You want a home that will be there even if you choose to leave it for a while. A place that #1, 2 and 3 will identify with as being a big part of their childhood. Singapore will always be important to them but it’s time for new childhood experiences. Some which Husband and I experienced ourselves and some which we never did but would like for #1, 2 and 3. 

I am under no illusion moving back will be easy even though it’s to the UK and not some far flung place. In some ways it could be harder because you’re expected to fit right in. As an Expat you’ll always find the safety of other Expats but I’m sure the kindness of new neighbours and communities will help us on our way. I’m excited to think of the opportunities for travel there will be. To places I’ve missed and places I want to go. To other countries in Europe where friends we met in Singapore now live. There are boundless  new adventures that await us and old friends to see. I can feel the excitement of planning these excursions bubbling away underneath the surface.

But before that happens, there will be the small task of settling in and transition. Finding a new home, a car, the local supermarket, childcare arrangements, GPs and Dentists. Friends. Finding out ways to dry the laundry when you no longer live in the tropics. How to entertain #1, 2 and 3 on a rainy day. There is lots to learn.

At the moment I’m just thinking of what needs doing here. The packing up of a home for not just Husband and myself like when we left the UK but for #1, 2 and 3. Although they are pretty used to moving around. We’re in our fourth apartment so far and we have lived in some lovely condos with amazing facilities just down the stairs but when you’re moving every two years, we also haven’t invested too much time (or any) in thinking about interior decor. We could have colour on our walls for the first time in nine years. And carpet.
 

Nine years though. I honestly never thought I would be away this long. Though I know people who have been away for over 20 years and I can see how very easily that can be done. At the very start of this, I never gave much thought at all about what it would be like moving to a new country I’d never been to. I think I may have looked up Singapore on a map but that’s as far as it went. I recall people who had been to Singapore telling me what a great time they had, one person had even lived here as a teenager and couldn’t have rated the experience any higher. Having experienced the privileges of living this Expat life, I can see why that would be. 

Years ago the names of food and places that were mentioned to me held no meaning but that’s all changed. I will most probably enthusiastically repeat them to others who tell me they are making a trip out this way. They too may look at me blankly and nod politely.  It’s only now that I know most people get to make a recce trip before making such a big decision to build a new life elsewhere but hey, new adventures and all. 

Much the same as right now, I have no set thoughts on how it will be becoming a Repatriate. All these labels to define us. Whilst I’m moving back to the UK, it will be to a whole new town with a whole different set of variables. Plus being a whole nine years older too. Life has changed. I have changed. As you probably have too. With that comes looking at your surroundings, your next move with a different outlook. It’s not just about how will I manage this huge transition but how will #1, 2 and 3 adapt and they of course, are our biggest concern. But you know, we probably have less to worry about there. Sure, they’ll be nervous starting a new school but that happens here too at the start of the new school year. Children are much more resilient than we think and far more kind in welcoming a new face to a group. They’re excited. They are very much looking forward to SNOW! And living in a house. To a garden. To not actually sweating playing outdoors for five minutes. To watching Netflix whilst I do the ironing.

There is a whole new world to explore. Right on your doorstep. And I think I’m ready. So be ready to welcome us home with open arms and a pint of beer. It’s happening in just three weeks! I best get on with the packing, the farewells and the bucket list of things we need to do in Singapore. 


 

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When two become five – How it all began

On the one hand I wonder how quickly it seems we are marking our fifth year in Singapore but on the other hand, I’ve cumulatively spent nearly two out of the five years incubating our three children. So that hasn’t really given us a lot of time to wake up from sleep deprived nights and properly take in what’s all around us.

It all started at the beginning of 2008 when Husband’s department was rumoured to be shutting shop and the murmurings of an impending economic crash started circulating. We had not long been married and our thoughts were turning towards starting a family. The furthest we were planning on moving to was just a few miles away in Winchmore Hill, London; somewhere slightly more affordable for a bigger space, close to good friends and also not far from the A1/M1 access routes back up north to see our respective families. With the threat of redundancy looming even greater, Husband decided to widen his search area. Globally. The opportunities didn’t appear overnight, more like a couple of months and still it wasn’t a real possibility. Interviews in the financial sector can stretch to five even six rounds and still nothing comes of it. But suddenly, a change in tempo indicated that something would occur. It came down to this offer in Singapore or one with Lehman Brothers in Hong Kong. You can imagine which one we are thankful for taking now.

The week after Husband accepted the offer, I found out #1 was on the way. Hugely exciting of course to be expecting your first child and full of naivety too about how utterly life changing it would be. Did we reconsider? A little but then what would be the alternative? The redundancy happened and nothing in London looked promising. We decided to take the chance because we figured it would only be for a couple of years and we would come back home. Famous last words.

Back then we had a comfortable, steady life going on like most people. Newly married with an exciting future to plan for, an established network of friends with a busy social calendar that was full weeks in advance and I was working for Cancer Research UK in a role I had been wanting to break into for some time. But the terrain was going to change no matter what we ourselves chose to do. One of our Best Men went through a separation which we never saw coming and so that changed our regular Sunday lunch gatherings. Children are not the only casualties of divorce and I miss her still. Then he too moved across the globe.

Husband moved out to Singapore three months before I did when I was 10 weeks preggers. I had a three month notice period to work through and I also wanted to use this time to get used to the idea and catch up with family and friends before the Big Move. It was a bit strange living on my own for the first time in nine years and doing everything for myself but actually you get used to it pretty quickly. There’s no one else to think of at mealtimes, less laundry, less mess and you get to watch anything you like. Of course I knew it was only temporary but I was glad I enjoyed my own company as that was something I would endure more of over the next few months.

I didn’t think too much about being on my own preggers either, I was nearing the end of the first trimester and I had a whole group of friends on hand for anything I needed. I was well looked after and my sister in law lived only a short walk away too. Mrs Steamer came with me for the twelve week scan and it was a bit sad that Husband missed out on this very first time but the reassurance that all was going well was most important. He made it to the next one though and we’ve had many more since.

I’m really glad I took the time to go and visit friends I hadn’t seen for a while. Friends who had moved out of London and live in Croydon, Cardiff, Chatham and Thame. It’s really good to know what you’re leaving in order to make coming back something to look forward to. I will never ever forget the stories about labour that Mrs Calamari shared with me, I never understood the significance at the time but all I can say is you can eat far too many prunes to encourage that first bowel movement.

Then there’s family. I miss my Mum and Dad all the time but they are very stoical. Mr Li in particular is that very old fashioned Chinese man who, despite living in the UK for nearly 50 years, still holds some very strong Chinese principles. He really does believe I ‘belong’ to the clan of Pontefract and therefore must do Husband’s bidding. Does he know his daughter at all? I find it hard to be this far away and I feel terribly guilty that he has five grandchildren in total but has never spent their early years with them. With the help of Nephew #1, he has only in the last few months discovered the magic of Skype and the first thing he said when he saw all three was ‘Why are they not wearing any clothes, they’ll catch a cold’. Well it’s 31 degrees indoors.

So that’s how I came to be in Singapore and tomorrow I’ll tell you how it’s been.

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