Monday, November 15, 2010

I'll miss you, Singapore



THE EX-PAT FILES

By Victoria Vaughan

The date is set, notice nearly served, packing boxes delivered and the one-way flight booked.
I am leaving Singapore - once again playing the role of 'trailing spouse', a hideous phrase.
This time I am trailing back to London.

As I spread the word, the list of people to say farewell to seems to grow, and with it my waistline - for to say farewell without food is just not done in Singapore.

The question most have posed is: 'What will you miss most about Singapore?'

And while I start the list, of friends, food, sunshine... I realise the answer is my life here, for there is no doubt that much will change when I land jobless and homeless on the frosty shores of England, or less romantically, at the drab reception that is Heathrow Terminal 3.

I will miss being able to go outdoors all year round without freezing, eating out most nights, and leaving a cold office for the balmy evening air.

I will miss thinking that rain is fun and cooling, and relishing thunderstorms of biblical proportions.

I will miss the food. The dizzying choice at hawker centres. Chilli crab, laksa mai hum, bee hoon soup, yong tau foo, nasi lemak and fresh-fruit stands.

I will miss the dragon fruit (I had never seen or even heard of one before coming to Singapore), aloe and lime juice from the News Centre canteen and the auntie who prepares it, and 'afternoon tea' with colleagues.

I will miss cuisine from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and India. British versions, where they exist, while more suitable for my chilli-shy tastes, pale in comparison.

I will miss my home. Moving to Singapore was a huge leap in quality of life. We went from a one-bedroom shoebox to a three-bedroom condo with pool and gym - for the same rent as said shoebox. I know I'll find it harder to nestle back into shoebox living.

For one thing I have more shoes, which brings me to another thing I will miss - Charles and Keith. I would have learnt nothing in Singapore if I hadn't at least taken a few brands to my heart. Gentlemen, please open a store in London!

The huge rain trees lining the roads, smelly cannon ball trees, and mysterious banyan trees, all still impossibly exotic to me.

Strange nature, from jumbo-sized crickets to the nightly frog chorus and squawking hornbills. But I am happy to leave the big bees behind.

The speedy commute in the super-clean MRT.

The safe journey home in the wee hours, and leaving handbags on bar stools with little regard.

I will miss surprising people with my Singlish. Saying farewell to my lahs, my lehs, and my personal faves of aiyoh and alamak, will be a sad affair.
I will miss my constant tan as I say hello to pasty white legs again.
Farewell to taxi uncles - well those who are not grumpy about taking Nets - with their doses of wisdom on politics and religion and their professional advice.

That hour just before sunrise and sunset when the light is blue and the leaves are still and strange birds slice the stillness with their calls.

The friends I have made here who I never seem to have enough time to see.

But there are things I will not miss.

I will not miss ridiculous half-hours spent saying, 'No I can't hear you, can you hear me?', as Skype is too busy when I am trying to phone home.

I will not miss 32 deg C heat on Christmas Day, because no matter how pretty Orchard Road is, it just ain't Christmas without the big chill.

I won't miss having to take a flight to see some countryside.

I won't miss wrapping up in thermals to head to the cinema.

I won't miss saying 'two' and it being heard as 'three'... or is that just me?

What I definitely will not miss is family, and their weddings, christenings and birthdays any more, as I will be a drive away instead of a long-haul flight.

I am nervous that the things I've missed from England don't outweigh what I will miss from Singapore and that I won't feel at home in my home country.

But life is a big adventure and the Little Red Dot is just one pinpoint on the map.

When I go I will leave a piece of myself here, and on the coldest of days, eating a limp sandwich in some dreary setting, dipped in the sarcasm and irony of England, I will remember my sunny days in Singapore.

Thanks for having me.




[I often wish Singaporeans appreciated what they have here. And it often takes an outsider to tell us how unique or amazing our country is. When I was overseas, it rained a lot but it was slow, light, drizzly rain that lasts for days, instead of the dramatic thunderstorms we have here. I really love a good thunderstorm.]



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