Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Singapore, Part I

So, we went to Singapore.

Wonderful and exhausting in all kinds of ways.
I will say that it gets easier with time. Returning to one's home country and acting like a tourist, I mean. I used to be all introspective about cultural conflict and the many different roles I play in the worlds in which I now live, and how time steamrolls on when my back is turned. For instance: all those new malls! All the new ministers in Parliament! Our President (well, that happened last year, but still)! The most recent crazy educational policy! The rerouted buses and MRT (that's our subway) lines! And - worst of all - my favorite hawker food vendors who'd retired since our last visit (without consulting me! Most inconsiderate).   

Now that I've done this consistently over the past five years, it feels more like I'm merely popping in to visit the folks and catch up with old friends. Never mind that the "popping in" involves exorbitantly-priced travel over too many hours through bizarre time zones. Does my heart still break when I leave to come home (different kind of home) to Minnesota? Do I still feel neurotic about my mouth instinctively speaking several varieties of English? Am I secretly relieved to see my own laundry room and kitchen, even if they symbolize a return to the Repetitive Chores Of Death from which I was only too happy to hop on a plane to escape, just a fortnight earlier?


Funny. I always feel like I need a vacation after returning from a trip to Singapore. I never feel like that after any other holiday away from home (the "Repetitive Chores of Death" home, I mean). If I were to give words to what a trip to Singapore means, I'd have to say, "something only someone else with feet in two home worlds will understand". Lots to process. Being comfortable (or at least used to) living with parallel juxtaposed experiences. Surreptitiously and increasingly choosing the foreign but relevant over the familiar but distant. Redefining "foreign" and "familiar". Experiencing different meanings of contentment and fullness. Simultaneously embracing and mourning those choices, experiences and redefinitions. Feeling like I'm missing out on important stuff happening with precious people whose lives go on without me in them. Rejoicing in the knowledge that they, too, have redefined contentment. 

And knowing that, one day, my children will experience these same things when they are old enough to feel them. And, inexplicably, feeling both deeply sad and richly blessed that they will. 

The world, after all, is a smaller (and much more exciting) place than we think. 

But I am here now, in my own house.
And my to-do list of creative projects is growing even as I write this. 
That's another thing that I found funny about being in two worlds - I have to-do lists in both! And this is how I tell which country is home: the one whose to-do list is more ridiculous, more overachieving and more likely to be procrastinated upon. Hahahaha!

So yes, some interesting projects coming up. 
But before that, shall we linger somewhere beautiful for a little while more?

This is Singapore -
East Coast Beach, shore
East Coast Beach, water
Gardens by the Bay, by day
Gardens by the Bay, at twilight
The Botanic Gardens

- and some of its flora

Walking through a banana (mini) plantation

and some of its food
Fish and chips
Drinking coconut juice
The Twelve (and then some) Cupcakes

Roti Tisu (paper-thin paratha, with butter and sugar)
Indian curries on Racecourse Road

and some of its architecture -

that we took in on our walks around town,

although we spent most of our of time beside bodies of water,

especially this pool, where I did (slow and laborious) laps as a teenager.

Then there was the best part of all - the Hanging-Out-Withs:

Mum and Dad!

Jenna feeding the giraffes at the Zoo ("They eat potatoes and carrots, Mum!")

Riding the crazy family bike along the beach.

The clan.

Meeting my new first cousin, twice removed, for the first time (I gave him bibs. Of course.).

Kate's surprise birthday party.
Catching up with Jen and her daughter.

Discussing education, motherhood, sleeve cap ease, curved darts, and other life issues.

Saying goodbye at the bus interchange, like we did when we were in elementary school.

And then there's the shopping.

But we'll need an entire post just for that, 

so we'll leave that for another day.

See you back soon!


  1. It certainly is breathtaking and beautiful! Glad you enjoyed your trip and the girls look like they did too.

  2. Gorgeous - your delight in your trip was beautifully captured.

  3. What beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Singapore looks like an amazing place to visit (even if you weren't from there), but it must e especially hard to leave all your relatives every time.
    Thanks for sharing the lovely images with us!

  5. What a great article and lovely photos. I totally understand how you feel about being from one county and living in another...I have been doing this for 18 years now and it is all a mixed bag of emotions...The fabric shop looks fantastic! Please write the whole post about it. :)

  6. Lovely photos of beautiful Singapore. Can't wait for the shopping post!

  7. what a lovely country. I totally understand your feelings

  8. I recognise those BBQ pits! My grandparents live in that same condo and we have visited them there every sunday for the past 20 years.

  9. This post really spoke to me. It's now been seven years since I've lived back in Australia, and each time I visit it seems more distant and foreign. I also really enjoyed the pictures. It is looking increasingly likely we'll be moving back to Singapore this summer, and it was so nice to the pictures of some of my favourite places - especially East Coast Park.

  10. I so understand you! Came back to Spain from my trip to Uruguay in January feeling so happy and so sad, and so out of touch and yet so present. It's just plain weird to be from two places and calling two places home. My parents are here in Spain too, though, but I do feel the heartache and the happiness of speaking two different Spanish variations. Beautiful, beautiful post.

  11. Ooooh I am going to singapore soon, would love to know where that fabric shop is please? It looks fantastic

  12. What great memories for your daughters, and what a lovely place to go back "home" too.

  13. Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful pictures and a small part of your trip "home".

  14. I love your post. It is so true ! I just came back from a visit to my other home in France, and everything you say is true, I feel it the same way. Including the sadness and joy at the same time to know that my kids have this richness, to have 2 homes. Welcome back ! At least the snow is melting.

  15. Repetitive Chores of Death! You nailed it with that description. That's exactly how I feel. My new power phrase!

    Lovely pics of Singapore. Those gardens are gorgeous!

  16. Wow! Thanks for sharing your pictures. So beautiful.

  17. Rosemary B here:
    WOW Thank you so much for sharing these wonnnnnderful photos. So lovely and very very special. I know this was a great visit. Family is everything!
    Thank you so much for sharing really really <3

  18. Your paragraph about living in two worlds made me cry. YES!! and YES!! And I only live 3000 miles from my "home." Can't their lives just stop and wait for me to come there and live a dual life?
    Singapore has lots of beautiful things that you miss. That is clear.

  19. Lovely pics of Singapore. I grew up on ECP and your pics brought back some great memories. Really enjoy reading your blog as well. Everything you say is so very true!

  20. As an Australian who came to America for 2 years 23 years ago, I am one of those people who understands you completely. My eldest has now been at university in Sydney for 2 years and is finding the reverse experience. You want your children to be people of the world but you also want them to have a sense of "home". I think what we will have to content ourselves with is that they will feel at home in many places.


  21. Oh, thank you for sharing your trip with us! I loved all the photos - the plants (especially that tree), the colorful buildings, and the colorful shopping!

  22. This sounds just like my family's trips to India :) my dad grew up there, so we go every other year to visit my grandparents. Food, family, memories, shopping, exhaustion, jet lag, fun, shopping, food, and shopping. Did I mention food? And shopping? Sounds about right.
    ~Maya :):

  23. Thank you, LiEr, for sharing your honest emotions and reflections of your journey and the mixed blessings of such travel and your home, the old and the new, the former and the current. You write so eloquently and we appreciate it. I'd love to have a few of the plants and flowers identified. I have the orchids figured out but there were so many interesting others. (In your spare time, right?)
    And then there is the concept of the vacation you have to recover from...but are happy to be able to still do. Thank you for sharing your photos, your family and your feelings with your many fans and friends!

  24. And I want to go there just now, this instant! Your photographs just decided our next vacation. Who wouldn't want to feed the giraffes?


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