When your daily activities are in concert with your highest priorities, you have a credible claim to inner peace. – Hyrum Smith


12/9/15

Making Singapore Home

Attention grandparents: Don't have a heart attack when you read the title of this blog post!  I'm not talking about residing here indefinitely.  I'm talking about really living here now.

It's taken me a long while to allow myself to live here.  Though a counselor who came to talk to our MOPS group strongly encouraged us to "make Singapore your home" about a year ago, I sat in my chair, tears steaming, shaking my head.  It certainly didn't feel like home last Christmas.  "Home" didn't fit, and I wasn't convinced it ever would.

Having lived here for nearly a year and a half, I am content to call it home.  Home is where my family sleeps.  It is where we get ready for school in the morning.  It is where our stinky van sits, unwashed, in the shade of the tree.  Home is where toys are spilled across the floor and milk across the table.  It is where we read books in the big green chair and build pillow forts in the living room.  It is where we eat, and pray, and live together.  

The external changes that were so hard to swallow in the beginning, have slowly become our new normal.  For one, we walk more than ever [I am a Fitbit queen!].  The weather is gorgeous  - 80 and sunny nearly every day - so why not?  Public transportation is incredibly efficient here, so my child is more comfortable on a subway at age 2 than I was at 20.  We share a car.  So, Aaron enjoys walking and riding the bus to work.  Often, the little boys and I will drive him, so we can get a morning coffee together on the way (and so he's not sweating out of his suit by the time he arrives!).

When we do drive, it's not nearly as stressful as it was in the beginning.  I have gotten used to driving on the wrong side of the road (sorry to offend my British and Singaporean friends, but it will always be the "wrong side" to me).  There are not a lot of two way streets, so if you got lost, it's not a simple matter of turning around.  Google Maps has become my best friend.  I can also find parking now (lots are few and far between, but giant carparks are in nearly every building if you can find the entrance).  When I do need to park on the street, I have mastered the arcane ticket system which must be displayed on the dash and have a huge stash of them in my glove box.  I don't even mind the fact that the spaces are so tiny that everyone (even a child) has turn sideways to exit the car in order to get out.  We just do it now.

We can access our money now.  Banking was one of our biggest challenges when we arrived.  For some reason, though the funds were in the account, we could not find an ATM (you have to use the ones specific to your bank), and when we could, we couldn't get money out.  Because Aaron was the primary account holder, I would have to meet him at a branch during inconvenient banking hours in order to get any cash (and many places only accept cash - like the PTA office at school where you have to buy the uniforms).  Now that we can use ATMs and actually know where to find them,  we're golden.

We have learned to expect a certain amount of bureaucracy in any given situation.  Getting a driving license takes 3 separate trips to the licensing office?  No surprise.  The management office has to inspect our leaky roof, then send three separate contractors on different days to put in bids, and then a committee has to approve the repairs?  Okay.  The saying here is: "TIA" (this is Asia).  I often wonder what foreigners in the U.S. think of our systems there.  What seems so simple and straightforward to a native, can confound the uninitiated.

I wish I could adequately describe what it's like to live in Singapore.  Imagine trying to explain to someone from another country what it's like living in your country.  It's challenging, right?  It's so complex, and depending on where you live, your job situation, your family situation, etc., there could be a million different answers.

Living internationally has been a huge rollercoaster ride for me.  I love it, love it, love it.  Then, I don't.  I soak in the Botanic Garden (less than a mile from our home - filled with shady, winding paths, ponds, waterfalls, and flowers), then I gripe about wilting in the heat and humidity (which is unrelenting).  I bemoan the fact the kids have to ride the bus 45 minutes to school one way, then I go visit their international fair day and am blown away by the awesome education they are receiving.  Every Monday I drag the two little boys, kicking and screaming, to the wholesale center at the docks where we dodge forklifts and semitrailers to save money on our produce, but I come home with a bounty of the freshest (and cheapest) fruits and vegetables we've ever eaten.  I cry and complain that Aaron travels more than he ever has, but because of that (and my own fears we could have some type of emergency) we have an amazing, live-in helper.  I struggle to adjust to having another adult living in our home, but I have more dates (after the kids have been put to bed) with Aaron than we have had in our 15 years of marriage.

I find that I tend to talk to communicate more with friends and family back home when things are at their worst.  When I have had it with the unfamiliar.  I forget that just because things are different, it doesn't mean they are worse.  I tell the kids all the time, "It's not better.  It's not worse.  It's just different."

Am I homesick?  Absolutely!  Am I looking forward to going home this Christmas?  Heck yeah!  I can't wait to wear sweaters and boots and park in a big ole spot right in front of Target - oh who am I kidding? -  the Dollar Tree, and stand in those aisles that are wide enough for a standard sized shopping cart, and buy cheap stuff.  I want to wear clothes that aren't labelled XL, and eat food whose ingredients I recognize, and hear some southern accents.  I want to hug my family.  I miss it.  All of it.

Am I sorry we moved here?  No way!  This has been one of the most transformational experiences I have ever had in my life.  This move has stretched me in ways I didn't even realize were possible.  It has challenged and strengthened my faith, forced me to confront prejudices in myself I didn't know I carried, caused me to be more assertive than I ever have been, and provided me with absolutely beautiful friendships.  It's allowed our family to see parts of the world we would have never in a million years been able to visit together.  It has deepened my appreciation for Aaron and the sacrifices he makes for our family.  It has made me appreciate family bonds - near and far.

I don't know how long God will keep us here, but while we are here, I hope and pray we choose to really live here every day and embrace our new home.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.                                                                                                                                                  Philippians 4:8

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