A sentence I read with much more regularity these days on the Social Network, as the final few days in Portland were thick with moments. This morning, the Child of Zuckerberg reminded me of a Saturday morning, as I took Mini to the dog park, had breakfast at Grand Central1now that I think of it, that place does resemble what’s become my new office. Maybe I just love expensive bakeries., and went to the house, cleaning out the last little odds and ends laying around. At one point, ghosts of the previous six and a half years overwhelmed me, the air thickening with emotion and maybe a sob or two that escaped me.
I crumbled. I sat down against the wall, where our couch used to be, looking out on our backyard, the evergreens swaying in the cool winter breeze, and I cried.
It was too much, I thought, too much to process. Too much to let go of, the moments that built a life from a move away from what I had always known. We knew nothing of Oregon when we moved to Portland and it took some time to really settle in, to really feel like we had a new home. We didn’t get there until well over a year of living there, perhaps more. Maybe not until after the second winter, when we found that the world wouldn’t end because some snow sometimes fell and we learned to love the seasons. Not until we ran our first 5K together, or hiked the Gorge, looked out on its splendor, took it all in and realized that we loved this beautiful land. Maybe not even until we had made Blazer games a regular part of the cold months – either bundled on the couch or there at the Rose Garden, screaming on our team.
Or was it the friendship? Full days of football on the television with friends and good food, barbecues on the back deck, fireworks in the distance on the Fourth, the hot days of summer only unpleasant in the full light of the sun.
Whatever it was, it took more than a year to get to the point where I never wanted to leave.
March 27th – this year, Easter Sunday – will mark the anniversary of our arrival on this little red dot. In a year, we’ve seen much of the world, places we would likely not have seen had we never left Portland. We’d talked of trips, but always to Europe. Never to South East Asia, though I sorely, secretly perhaps, wished I would have the chance to see Angkor Wat. We’ve seen glory and heartbreak, shed our preconceptions, learned that food is always better at the source and that Bangkok really is a shithole.
In a year, we’ve adapted to a new home, though the fire for our hometown has never faded. We make our way around the island as if we belong here, knowing its byways and backroads. In a year, we’ve made new friends, some that will with a bit of grace, last a lifetime; those relationships have been the foundation that have marked my time here.
Saturday night was a microcosm of the above paragraph – a birthday party for one of my dear friends2Hi, Magali! in Clarke Quay. Emma3lol pseudonyms and I planned on sharing a cab, so I hired one via one of the many handy apps for taxis, and arranged for the driver to swing by and pick up my favorite Canadian. Here’s the thing about scheduling a pick up with various cab companies. For some reason, they will always show up fifteen minutes early. I’ve learned this the hard way, being rushed out of the house expecting uncle to show up around the scheduled time, and then arriving way too early for something. This time, I was strategic about it, scheduling the cab for the time I wanted to arrive at my destination. Worked like a charm.
Along the way, the driver – not ‘uncle’, he seemed younger than me – decided to take the long way to Emma’s apartment through Dempsey Hill, a long, winding route that’s plenty pretty but not exactly the major route. I asked if he could go a bit more direct route, down Tanglin, one of the major roads in the area.
His response? “Oh, so you know Singapore routes?”
Well, yeah, buddy, I’ve lived in this neighborhood for a year now. I’ve learned a few things.
But I don’t think he was being condescending, rather just talkative. It’s not every day ang mo knows the best route around town, I guess. The other oddity – at least with the Delgro app – is that you have no control over what sort of cab comes and picks you up. I would always rather a standard cab, but sometimes you end up with the Mercedes, the “limo cab” which costs about a hundred percent more. Saturday I was picking Emma up in style, rolling in my Benz.
You know how I do.
I would imagine most of this driver’s fares are folks with a bit more money than I, folks that actually specify a limo cab. I can’t fathom any other reason for their existence. So, maybe those folks don’t have a car themselves, don’t bother to drive, don’t bother to learn the ways around where they live. Even without a car, I couldn’t see myself ignoring geography, learning my around. So, I told the driver that I had been here for a year. That I often carpool with Emma4doesn’t that sound like I actually work for a living? and that I’ve gone the long way before, it’s sort of an eerie drive at night. The cabbie laughed and we chatted for a bit before we rolled up in style.
It’s interactions like that that make this town what it is.
The party was karaoke, and before you ask, no there is no video. Seriously. None. Uh, we all turned our phones off. Like a compact. Thou that should violate this sacred pact shalt feel the displeasure of Cthulhu, lord of the deeps, or something like that. Listen, the point here is that I’m terrible and I might have had just enough to drink that I was no longer concerned with being terrible, which, yes, did result in an angry phone call from Jean-Luc the following morning. But it also resulted in us writers arms around shoulders, drunk and shouting the words to… something, I don’t remember, but its hardly the point. The point is, in that moment, it all felt right, it all came together, a year in, and yes, gods-be-damned, I live here. This is, for the time being, my home, and I’m going to live like I belong here.
Or until the Ministry of Manpower revokes my pass.
Julie, our wonderful expat consultant back in Portland had told us all about the the roller coaster expats go on – the highs, the lows and then the rolling baseline, one year in, when everything just starts to become normal. Apparently the same thing happens upon repatriation, which should make a fun two and a half year period of feeling always a bit off.
It has been a concern though – now that we feel a bit more accustomed to our life here in the Lion City, in six short months we’re due to do the process in reverse, the hotels, the transport of the First Class Pooch, the shipment of our stuff back towards a half-empty house. As we start to get closer to the mark, my thoughts return to the house we left behind, and the opportunity to make all the remodels we’ve dreamt of, but didn’t want to disrupt the day-to-day for. Still, even with the projects and the stress of re-entering the workforce, it’s going to be a challenge to repatriate.
But it is also going to be a challenge to leave Singapore. I’ve come to love this little red dot, despite the terrible weather. I love the food, I love how easy it is to get around, I love the travel opportunities, but most of all, I love the friends and the life I’ve made here. It will be torture tearing myself away from the amazing people I’ve met here – and while I imagine we’ll always be in touch, it is inevitable that time and distance will insert themselves.
It’s heartbreaking, really. But, it’s life as an expat. You can’t stop to consider the what may comes. You have to live in the moment, take it all in, live like you belong here. Carpe churro, carpe churro, carpe churro.
This will be my final entry for a few weeks as Bev and I are set to go on holiday for two weeks down under. We’re actually leaving on Easter Sunday, on our anniversary of being here. So we’re celebrating by leaving.
Seriously, though, Australia and New Zealand have been on our radar for a considerable time now, and we will never get a better chance to visit either of them. Sydney has been a city I’ve wanted to visit for years now, decades, even. And after hearing my father gush about the south island, I’m excited to satisfy my curiosity of New Zealand. We’ll be in Sydney, then the south island, and then back up to Oz to beach bum it up for a few days in Surfer’s Paradise. All told, not a bad way to spend two weeks.