Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Walking Away

I am writing this from my in-laws office in Michigan (and I actually started it a full four days before I'm finishing!). That means that we actually, finally left Singapore. Though I have been ready to leave for a few years, it was indeed sad to finally walk away.

Leaving our apartment where we brought home our two children, where we had endless important discussions, where we hosted holiday and shabbat dinners with dear friends, played many games of Settlers of Catan, cooked so many meals, lived with our helper for 2+ years, was on bed rest, worked from home two days a week, while I worked at Standard Chartered...lots of significant memories to walk away from.

The weekend was full of organizing - what do we need for the airplane? For two days in a hotel? For three months in Michigan? What do we not need until we move to our new home - ie. what will go on the ship? What do we not need at all? And which of that can we give to someone who would use it? Which should we donate? Which should we throw? ...All of that makes for a lot of piles and a lot of organizing.

Monday morning we woke up almost as if everything would be normal. Sam got to facetime with grandparents. We had our normal breakfasts. We got her dressed for school and took her there...and then the craziness began. At exactly 9:30, the buzzer rang and Venon showed up, went through our apartment with us to make sure he knew what to pack and what not to and then his guys came up and so it began. Everything we were shipping got wrapped and put into boxes. In addition, a mover came in the morning to take the couch and bed, leaving ZERO furniture in the apartment, other than what we were bringing with us (both baby beds and a bookshelf). It was HECTIC. There were loads of people. It was sad.

We brought Sam back for lunch on the floor and then tried to give the kids naps in Mariana's apartment upstairs. Elie napped, but Samara never fell asleep. At least I got a chance to SIT and relax and talk to Mariana, which I always enjoy. By Monday afternoon nearly everything was out of the apartment.

Monday night in the hotel was awful. Sam was a wreck and was a challenge, and the kids didn't fall asleep until late. I couldn't fall asleep until 2am (bad pillows, hot room, plus just a few things running through my mind). At 3-5 Elie was up and freaking out. At 7 Sam and I got dressed and went to get some breakfast at the mall before taking her to her last day of school.

Tuesday our amazing cleaner came and cleaned the WHOLE apartment - top to bottom. While this happened, Sam was at school and Elie and Matt were napping in the hotel, I got one last coffee with Susie, who has been my closest friend in Singapore for the last few years - a friend who has helped me navigate through parenthood (for the first and second time), being a working mom, big decisions, bed rest, etc. Sitting at my favorite coffee shop and processing life with her was critical to my state of mind. After she left, I ran a few errands, we handed over the apartment, said goodbye to all the ladies and kids in the condo - kids I have watched grow for the last 3.5 years - and walked away. No more City Square. No more Farrer Park MRT. That whole part of our identity is now in the past...

Elie in mine and Matt's empty bedroom

(Handover of an apartment without keys is less dramatic, I have to say. After we handed over, we could still get in and finish things, as the door has a code...and we knew we could go back until we actually left Singapore...so maybe that makes it all less painful!?).

Saying goodbye to Samara's school on Tuesday afternoon was super sad for me. Sam attended this school since she was 18 months, with our helper Rose. Then she went three days per week until I was on bed rest, when we upped it to five days per week. She has LOVED it there, and it has been such a source of support and love for her. The teachers, head of school, administrators...everyone...are amazing. Samara has learned soooooo much, and I have so appreciated the community feel and support they have given (and their flexibility) during the last 1.5 years, which have been very hard for me. I cried saying goodbye to her school.

The flight home was surprisingly easy. Sam slept three hours of the first eight hour plane ride and quietly watched movies for the rest. Elie slept a few hours of that plane ride and at least half of the second. Neither freaked out at all. They were amazing. I tried to hold it together as best as I could. I was like 80% - maybe more. Not bad.

Sam doing nail stickers (thank you, Shana!)

Elie sleeping on the plane. And Matt and I are even happy!

Since we have been home, we have been surviving and that's all. Living on about two hours of sleep each night for the first four days was super rough. Now Samara is adjusted and Elie is up from about 1 or 2 am, but at least we can split that part, so we're doing a bit better (ok - just last night was a bit better). We have only up to go with this sleeping thing!

Now Singapore is behind us. It's all about making decisions about our future. First up: holiday with Matt's parents to western Michigan and Jeremy to northern Michigan and probably buying a car.

That's our orange container that is currently on a ship called the Berlin, heading for New York, then it will hop on a truck and end up in Michigan in the beginning of October

Sam, Lucas, Thomas and Oscar played in creative ways with the boxes in Sam's old room

Hanging in the living room

Peeking Samara in her room

And this is how it began...check out the rocking horse box


Saying goodbye to Teacher Winnie at LeapSchoolhouse

Saying goodbye to Teacher Zeela and LeapSchoolhouse

Right before we got on the plane...at 5:15am or something obscene like that. LAST PHOTO IN SINGAPORE!!! This is what our family looked like when we left...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Curious Kitty

I got Samara Curious George on my last work trip to New York. I tried to get her a book on each work trip, as books are a great thing to accumulate, and it's fun to have reminders of specific places. I hadn't read it since I was a child. It happened that the book was printed in Singapore too, which made it a kinda funny gift. When I got home I read it to her, and boy was it awful.

They capture a poor little monkey in Africa (in a BAG!!!), take him on a ship to an unknown place to try to put him in a zoo (nevermind the JAIL on the way...). I skipped parts of it for a while. I really ended up hating the story. It's not cute. It's not funny. It's like pre-colonialism awfulness to monkeys.

I read it to Sam and Elie over lunch today. (We're big on books at meals to distract from the awful eating situation with Samara). I was again thinking how awful it was how they took this poor monkey away from his home...explaining why it's so sad to Samara...when I realized something.

We are doing the same, almost, to KITTY!!!

This poor kitty was living a life in Casafina condo in Singapore. Yeah - she was tiny and yeah, her family was all killed, so she was alone and had no food and a pretty poor prospect for life...but STILL! She was a little Singaporean cat. She came to live with us. She was happy. We were happy.

Then we moved to a 3rd floor apartment. So we brought her. She had no idea what she was getting herself into. No out now. She was stuck. And onto our 7th floor apartment...and now AMERICA!

Poor cat is going in her bag (cage) on her ship (airplane) to a farrrr away land where Bubbie and Zaydie are going to have to pick her up from the Lufthansa cargo situation at Detroit Metro. She will feel cold like she NEVER dreamed of in our balmy 27 degree C air con bedroom. She will learn about STAIRS! She may explore the outdoors again, but boy will it be different than the condo in Singapore.

Poor little Curious Kitty - getting taken halfway around the world, all on a whim of a few random white people. Better go find my big yellow hat.

Video from March.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Last week of Normal

This is the last week of Normal before we approach the Great Unknown.

This is Matt's last week of work until mid-November at the earliest.
This is Sam's last week of school, at the school she has attended since she was 18 months.
This is my last week of routine:
Wake up, breakfast for both kids, take Sam to school, back home for Elie's nap, run an errand or two, pick up Sam, both kids nap, crazy clean and cook, play dates / downstairs in the condo in the afternoon, dinner, bath and bed for the kids.
This is our last week of Matt coming home around 6:45, just as Sam is ready to finish a bath, or a story, and him getting her into bed.

Though I worked officially until November 2013 and unofficially until Jan 2013, and we had Rose and Alma helping at home, this current routine is the routine that will stick with me when we leave. It has been all about the kids, and overall, I have loved it. It has been precious time with the kids, getting to know them both, shopping and cooking for my family and lots of playing and fun. I most likely won't be working for the next few months, so I will likely continue to spend loads of time with the kids, but who knows after that...

In our life here I know where to go to get the sweetest pineapple, a few sprigs of dill, light bulbs, sunglasses...everything! I know whom to call when I need something fixed. I have a support network whom I can (and have!) rely on for help when I need it. Wherever we are next I will develop all of this, but it took years to develop here, and it will take years to develop wherever we end up. This is why after November feels like the Great Unknown. All will be different, new, and I don't know what it will look like for me, my kids, Matt...

As I mentioned in my previous post, we are not moving back because life will be easier. Life in America sounds way harder than life here, especially if we're not in a place with our parents (where we are unlikely to end up), so this week is our last week of our super easy, convenient life...really the only life I/we know as a family.

In the meantime, I will enjoy it! Music class with Elie, playdates, fix-it people coming, loose ends tying, people picking up the last of the items we're selling, even a friend we love coming from out of town.

And this past weekend was our last real weekend in Singapore (we will be here next weekend, but we'll then be moving the next day, so I don't think we'll be relaxing...). Friday night Indian food and Settlers of Catan with some of our closest friends, Susie and Matt, Saturday lots of errands, last yoga class with Prakash, my favorite teacher (probably) and National Day fireworks with other good friends Alon and his daughter Libbey (sad that Tali was sick!), Sunday super fun last hoorah at Tanjong Beach Club with Christian and Lee Fong and their kids and last pizza dinner at "Our Restaurant" (as Sam calls it - the one "we always go to with Eric") with Jen and Ben and their beautiful baby. Last this. Last that...It's gettin' kinda sad!

Elie and Matt at the beach - Adam and Christian's leg in the background :)

Headbutting is way too much fun

Elie at Music Together. STARING at the teacher

Shake it shake it!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Leaving Singapore!

This is it. We are finally leaving. Seven years (plus...) in Singapore. Four years in this apartment. We came here in our twenties, we're leaving in our late thirties...with two kids...and a cat...

No more amazing Thai and Indian food whenever I want it (most likely).
Small chance that there will be at least six temples within a five minute walk from my house.
No more swimming year-round (most likely).
No more weekend galavants to Bali, Lombok or Thai beaches.

But on the other hand...
No more sweating through my clothes EVERY SINGLE DAY.
No more awful hair days. EVERY DAY.
No more 24-30 hour flight with little kids (ok - one more, but that's IT!).
No more $8 for a small block of cheese or $8 for a tiny container of cottage cheese.
No more missing major family simchas.

While I have been fairly vocal (to friends and family, not necessarily on this blog) on wanting to leave for the last few years, I still feel very ambivalent about the decision. We are fully leaving because I/we want to be closer to family and close friends. Once Sam was born, and I understood how hard it was to help her build a relationship with the people who need to matter in her life, Singapore got SO MUCH farther away. 

We have had amazing professional opportunities here - both of us. Matt has been in the same job that moved us out here, and he has absolutely loved it. He has learned so much, met amazing people, done some incredibly unique travel and overall just had a very very good experience. I was lucky enough to have done a top MBA program and join a huge and growing institution where I learned so much, and it was a job that I probably wouldn't have gotten in the US, as there probably would have been someone with more relevant experience. We are not necessarily moving home for better professional opportunities (but we may find them!).

We have built an incredible community here. We met people through loads of different ways - connected through friends in the US, through the Jewish community, through work, through our kids, our condo...and these friends have become our family here (and also they WERE our family and then left...which is another reason I didn't want to stay anymore! It's so hard to watch good friends leave every year). As ex-pats, we were looking for community. We needed friends to do holidays with, to celebrate birthdays with, to hangout with on the weekends to call when we were struggling with something or needed to know the best place to find some random thing. I have put a lot into my relationships with people here, and I have gotten a lot back. It will be very hard to leave some of the key people in my life here in Singapore. I/we have never felt lonely here.

On the other hand, we will now be able to go to Michigan for the big Jewish holidays, Thanksgiving, big birthdays and simchas, Michigania...we will be able to take road trips and visit our best friends and watch our kids play together. We will find a new home, plant some roots and live an American life. There are plenty of parts of an American life that scare me (expensive and confusing health care, guns, liability crap...), but when we dreamed of a life for our family, it included extended family on a regular basis, the outdoors (more than what is possible with the heat here), volunteering, a Jewish community that we feel comfortable in (not that we didn't feel comfortable in the one here, but Jewishly it was never what we were looking for), a garden...I'm open to a life that isn't like this - I have been living it for the last few years - but I at least want to TRY what it's like in America.

We have had a really good experience here in Singapore. We have traveled to incredible places. Seen amazing things. Eaten the tastiest food. Had fun times both here and on our trips. We will always look back on this experience as a positive one. Samara and Elie will always be (made and) "born in Singapore." It will be woven into our identities in a way that we don't yet know - as a family, as professionals, in many ways.

What do I do with this blog? I started it in May, 2007, when Matt had moved to Singapore and I hadn't yet come. (Matt just said, "remember when it was going to be OUR blog?"). I had never blogged before, but I wanted to document our experience and also have a way for people to read about our life without me spamming them with emails. I have loved having this blog. It has helped me sort through many experiences and issues in the last seven years, and indeed it is a fantastic documentation of what we have done and how it has worked for us. I have been extremely honest. I definitely was funnier at the beginning (life got heavier? who knows!)...but overall it has given me a reason to look critically at many parts of Singapore and our life here. I suppose I could keep up blogging to help with the transition back to the US - I'm guessing there will be some really challenging parts. I suppose that is also part of the Asia experience. Who knows. Maybe once I'll be there I won't need it or see it relevant anymore (when I was just in the US for three months I had a hard time thinking of subjects...). This is also yet to be determined.

Logistics: we are moving out of our apartment on 18 August. (The apartment where we brought home our two children...). We are most likely flying out on the 20th. We have to sort out getting our cat out. We want to travel, but we're not going to do it here (Asia) or now (August). Too much going on. We are moving to Michigan for the time being. We will stay with our parents. We are enrolling Sam in school there. Most likely we will not stay in Michigan, but we will see where life takes us!

In other news...

Samara is finally better, though she still has a bad cough. She's finishing her antibiotics tomorrow, and she is fully functional again. Phew - a week off school is BRUTAL on me!!

Elie has been super sick. He has had a fever since Tuesday, and he is SO congested. He can barely breastfeed, his nose is running constantly, he has an awful cough, doctor said his ears are full of fluid. Oy. Poor guy. He is on his second day of antibiotics and he's also using a nebulizer. If he follows Sam then tomorrow he should be better. His naps were better today and he slept through the night last night, so hopefully he's on the upswing.

Being home and with the two kids this week was a wee bit rough for me. I have been selling much of our furniture (anyone looking for a beautiful dark wood TV console? 32"TV? Big white rug? Changing table/dresser?) and coordinating a bunch of things in addition to regular daily cleaning, cooking and shopping...so having everyone at home and needy was hard on me (I know...boo hoo mom...poor you...), but I was also sick. Today is my first day in three weeks and one day with no sore throat! Yippee, though, it's gone.

Movers came to get our big white chair, dining table and day bed this week.

The big white chair is the chair in which I breastfed Sam and in which we have read countless books to her.

The dining table is where we hosted tons of shabbat dinners, holiday dinners and had many important conversations.

The day bed is where our parents and all guests slept when they came to visit in the past four years, and it is a beautiful piece of furniture.

I was super sad to lose them all (but it didn't make sense to bring any of them back).

Yeah - it will be a nostalgic end. It's been a long time! And overall, it's really been great.