Aside

The kids are alright

Moving abroad is a big decision. Becoming an expat is generally a path you choose to take. As adults we give it as much thought as time allows – be it one year, five years or one month. At some point we have all had to ask ourselves the question – can I do this? Should I do this? Will I do this?

For those of us with children this question doesn’t end with an I. As the god-who-is-Billy-Bragg says:

You take the M for me and Y for you out of family and it all falls through.

So, most parents who are considering this move struggle with the bigger question. Will they (our offspring) hate us for doing this? Or, Is this the right thing to do as a family?

(I realise some also have to decide IF their children should come at all, or stay at home in boarding school, but that’s another bridge right?)

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Of course, we will never be sure if we are doing, or did, the right thing. Who knows how many hours of therapy have been spent discussing what it’s like being ripped from the friends you’ve grown up with and dumped in to a new school in a new country. How can you make up for removing your children from the bosom (be it GG or A cup) of your extended family? Can we really say the positives will outweigh the negatives in the long run?

Every parent – and grandparent, aunt, sister, uncle, god parent and ‘like an aunty to them’ – will have a different opinion. Most of us will have gone through all the what if’s in our heads so many times we don’t know what we think anymore.

Of course there are negatives for our kids – losing friendships that have taken years to build, missing family and friends, combatting sometimes crippling fears such as shyness. All of the stuff we, as adults, have to deal with, but with half the tools us grown ups should have (I say should because some of us haven’t quite worked it all out yet either).

But there are positives – come on, I’m a (double D) cup half full type of girl!

Great life experience, learning to be part of a new culture, learning how to adapt to new situations, to make new friends. Hopefully better education options if you’ve moved to somewhere like Singapore (be it in local or private school). The opportunity to travel the bigger world, as opposed to the one we all get used to at ‘home’ (see, I can’t just write home anymore). These are just some of the positives we came up with.

With a 16, 14  and nine year old we had a lot to think about when we moved over. Our eldest was just leaving secondary school and was all set to start a great college. Our middle Son was happily pottering along at his school (no mean feat when you’re not your average lad) and was happy with his family and friends close by, and our youngest had the best, bestest friends in the whole wide world and was very happy in her little world.

I remember the day we told her in particular.

(We decided against the ‘let’s make her part of the decision’ option. She’s nine for chrissake)

She cried. In fact, she howled. For hours. She begged us not to make her go. She said she would only go if she could come back in a month if she didn’t like it (and I may have quietly pretended to agree just to stop the gut wrenching sobs). At nine, she had no choice but watching your daughter say goodbye to her gorgeous friends was possibly the hardest thing I had to do (I could cry now thinking about it) Add to that the reality of our younger Son’s friends not understanding what we were doing or why and myself and his friends mum both fighting back the tears when they hugged and said ‘see ya’.

But do it we did.

That was over six months ago and it feels like another life.

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Don’t ask me how they’re doing please.

That’s a daily thing – for the first few months especially – particularly for my youngest who has definitely found it harder. Our middle Son seems ok with it all, taking it in his stride and seems pretty settled. Luckily their grandparents have been over already and that has helped them I’m sure. Our eldest – well, as a teenager that’s a tough nut to crack. He says he’s doing ok, he’s enjoying himself, he’s made friends. But really? We all wonder what goes on in those teenage heads don’t we?

So, I asked if he’d write about it for me. Amazingly he said yes.

So ladies and gentleman, from the horse’s mouth as they say. Be warned, some of it isn’t easy reading (Drinking? At 16?!) But he is honest which is what I asked for. A little insight in to how it really felt from a teenagers point of view.

Walking The Walk
by SPJ

When do jokes stop becoming jokes? When does “ah let’s just move here eh? It’s so lovely!” become reality…

The beginning of 2014 for us; for me.

Mum and Dad asked if I could spare five minutes to have a chat – a million and one things rushed through my mind as to what I’d done wrong in the past few days or, how I’d finished my homework and that I’d have to tell them once more how eight hours of Xbox is just what teenagers do – but, not once did I think we would be discussing the genuine odds of moving to Singapore. I mean, who would have?

I had always waved away the previous times mum would ask (on our trips to Singapore when Dad had to go there for work) about why we didn’t just move ‘here’ with the reply; ’Why? Why would leave friends and family? It wouldn’t be the same living here anyway, we’d be at school and work, not chilling by the pool?’ 

But the seriousness bubbled and the teasing vanished in early 2014 when I tried to digest what they were saying. What moving to Singapore really meant and how the foreseeable future would unfold.

The conversation was not brief, certainly lasting more than five minutes. I think we discussed everything from why, to what would we do with the dog. It was tough for me to fight the overwhelming word ‘no’ but I could see that it meant a lot to my parents, not just me, and yeah, actually, it really could offer great things.

I didn’t think about it much over the next couple days funnily enough. I didn’t really want to. I didn’t know how to view the broader picture in a filter that had just the right clarification for me to tell people positively. I had/have a fantastical group of friends in our infamous Essex, who I’d really got close to over the previous few years. To try to imagine how it would be to not to see them every day was hard. The security of knowing that I had one friend who only lived a minute away, another who would say yes to any proposal of what to do and one would already be lacing his boots when I wanted to play football was to be no more. And It was overwhelming. It was scary.

I clearly remember telling them.

No one would believe me the first five times I said it, but once they did, they had more questions than I had answers for. When? How long for? How often will you come back? Where will you go to school? Will you come back speaking Mandarin? (which was the only one I could answer with certainty) and, Will you be sure to stay in touch?

The thing was, I was also scared about new friends. How on earth could any of them compare!? See, it had taken me five years to gain such a tight circle of friends and now I was moving far, far away to a place where, at most, I would be staying for three years. The numbers didn’t add up.

However, the people here don’t bite. They don’t lurk under my bed and they don’t sit in their room studying for 15 hours a day, like me and my stereotyping friends were imagining. The guys and girls at school were very warm and welcoming. After the first week of starting school I had been invited to go clubbing. To go to a C L U B!
I’m 16? It’s weird!  

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But to go back to friends, I’ve managed to settle very well and have a very ‘ladsy’ group I hang around with every day. I still talk to my friends back home (yeah, I still find it hard to call this place home but not out of spite, more habit) near enough every day and dearly miss them.

Time has flown by though and we’re nearly six months in, meaning it’s also only six months till I can visit home and see them. So it really isn’t so bad at all. Just got to crack down and get through school. School was the one things I knew would be better in Singapore. It’s a lot tougher, don’t get me wrong, but the facilities and quality of teaching is so much better. Plus, the environment of ‘achievers’ pushes me, (maybe too hard at times?) and encourages me to do better in the hope of being on par. The international private school education is certainly not comparable to the state school education in Thurrock!

But what has it actually meant for me? Well, the move has certainly not hindered my contact with old friends, which was my biggest concern. ‘Fitting in’ was actually pretty easy looking back at it, plus the schooling has opened up many more opportunities than I had back home. (I played basketball in Thailand last week FGS!) It’s actually been ok. Of course not every day is a dream and everybody in the family has moments of homesickness, but collectively I think we’ve done very well and hit the road like Forest Gump (running!)

Bear Grylls so neatly ties the knot and manages to convey exactly how I feel and felt upon leaving:

“Adventure should be 80 percent ‘I think this is manageable,’ but it’s good to have that last 20 percent where you’re right outside your comfort zone. Still safe, but outside your comfort zone.”

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And it’s an adventure not yet finished.

And, as the great Dr Seuss so poetically puts it:

“ You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose”

So currently, we are sculpting our home in Singapore in to the place we want it to be. Somewhere comfortable. Somewhere we fit 🙂 

I read this with some nerves I have to say. I’m grateful beyond words for his honesty – and the fact he can string a sentence together. That Thurrock education didn’t do him too bad after all eh?

I’d love your feedback about how it is/was for you and your kids.

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Things you might like to know…

imagesWhen you land on the wonderful little red dot it’s very exciting. The sights, sounds, smells are all new and for most people the start of a new life here is quite a buzz. But, in all honestly, it doesn’t take very long before you can become completely overwhelmed by it all.

Suddenly the most mundane things become a huge deal. Going to the supermarket can feel like an expedition to the North Pole (actually, much more like the Sahara desert). Finding a doctor is like choosing Godparents for your child, and knowing what eggs to buy – well, that’s just completely baffling.

Nearly six months in and I’m starting to feel less overwhelmed and I got to thinking of all the little things that have helped me settle in. Those subtle nuances that stop you feeling like a prize fool.

Being the kind, generous person I am I thought I’d share them with you all. So, if you’re heading over to Singers or have just arrived, have a look at this list and make notes. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that can send you over the edge.

(Did I ever tell you the organic basket story??!)

Before You Arrive

  • What to bring and not to bring from your native country is such a HUGE topic I’m not going to go in to it here. What I will say is please rest assured, you can get pretty much anything you want here. Yes, some of it will be double the price of back home and you’ll kick yourself you didn’t bring a container load of it. But, you’ll also bring a whole load of stuff you don’t need, want or will ever use. For me, it was far too many clothes – and not even winter clothes, just regular stuff that never gets worn due to the heat. And stock cubes! I was led to believe you couldn’t get them here and panicked. I have a cupboard full if you want any. So, please don’t panic – and if you  are really desperate for that box of M&S chocolate shortbread, there’s always the internet.
  • If it’s at all possible visit Singapore for a week or two at least before you move. It will help you feel more comfortable with the move. If you can get to know someone who already lives here through social media or work connections, even better. Ask if they’d mind meeting you for dinner. Then bend their ear off and ask every question you’ve been storing up. Most people have been there and done that and are only to willing to answer all those questions that are keeping you up at night.

On The Road

  • If you hire (or buy if you’re stonkingly rich and flash, err, I mean if you can) a car, you will have a little device in the front window. This is called an IU device and it will be your best friend. It will get you in and out of car parks and around the roads of Singapore. However, it does need a ‘cash card’ in it and this needs ‘topping up’ regularly. IMG_2155To do this is easy – once you know how and where. You can do it at most ATM machines – just pop your bank card in and follow the instructions. A lot of shopping centres have ‘Top Up machines’ usually situated by the walkway or lifts. They can be pretty hard to spot but look like this:
    You can also top up in 7/11 stores and some petrol stations. You will also get charged when you use certain roads – you’ll notice gantry’s across roads that have details of the prices charged. Usually only a couple of dollars. Always make sure you’ve got at least $20 on your card as it can be easy to go through it in a day, especially if you’re parking in the CBD (Central Business District). However, once you know where you’re going you’ll find the money on it lasts much longer.  Keep your cash card topped up and you’ll be fine, if not, you’ll be fined (do you see what I did there?).
  • However, don’t think just because you’ve got one of these you can park anywhere. Oh no! If you go in to a car park without a barrier, or want to park in a road (check you can first!), it’s likely you’ll need ‘coupons’ to park. These coupons can be bought at 7/11 and garages and cost 50c or $1 each and are bought in books of ten or so. Check the colour of the parking bays and read the back of the coupon book to see how many coupons you should display. Pop out the little round tags for time and date and you’re good to go. Always worth keeping a book of them in the glove compartment.
  • Satnavs don’t always recognise flyovers. I have nothing more to say on this. Just be aware. SAT NAVS DO NOT ALWAYS RECOGNISE FLYOVERS. Nuff said.
  • Oh, and roundabouts don’t really exist.
  • Pedestrians like to wear headphones and listen to music/watch tv whilst walking along. Don’t assume they can hear you coming in your noisy car or hear the bell on your bike. They can’t.

Time To Shop

Shopping in the supermarket can be fun. It can also be a nightmare as the choice can be baffling, the layout a bit odd and payment for things not straightforward.

  • If you buy loose fruit and veg, more often than not there’s a set of scales/weighing machine you are supposed to take the loose – but bagged items – to to be weighed and priced. These may or may not be manned. I love the diy ones as I get to play shops for a bit.
  • There may also be a bakery section within in the supermarket – that’s separate to the supermarket (even though it’s inside the shop) Usually you’ll need to pay for things from there separately. Always check before you pop something in your trolley and wander off.
  • Tissues are big here. They are used to reserve seats at hawker centres and it’s quite common to see a solitary pack of tissues sitting in the middle of a table – which basically means someone has bagged that table and are off getting their grub. Cab drivers like to give them away – no idea why! You will find them being sold outside MRT stations or in busy shopping areas, often by disabled people. As far as I understand it, this is the only way some people get to earn any money. A couple of bucks can go a long way. And who doesn’t need tissues right? Some may say they are unlicensed hawkers. Personally, I think it’s someone who’s trying to get by.
  • When shopping for clothes get ready for ‘Free Size’ This is the sizing many of the local stores use in their clothes and they will convince you that it’ll fit just fine – the size is free and meant for all. Err… no. Unless you’re size 10, possibly 12 at a push, 5ft 9 and with perfectly honed arms and cheek bones don’t bother. It won’t fit. However, don’t be put off by all the talk of being sent away from shops head hanging low after being told ‘you’re too fat for our clothes’. There are plenty of good clothes shops that stock normal size clothes in Singapore. You’ve just got to go and look. Often they look like tiny girls sizes from the outside, but inside there’s an array to choose from.

  • At the till you will be asked “Nets or Visa?” I still am not sure what the difference is between the two apart from you use a pin number for Nets and sign your signautre for Visa. I believe some stores offer discounts/promotions sometimes if you choose one over the other. At the petrol station recently, for example, I got 10% off for using Visa rather than Nets. Check you don’t get charged if it’s Visa though. Really I think it’s comes down to your personal preference. Can you remember your pin number or not? Bear in mind you need a 6-digit pin number here, so make it one you can remember.
  • If you are planning on buying big items when you arrive, or during your time in Singapore – and you are fairly well organised enough not to get in to debt – it’s worth opening a credit card here. There are lots of credit cards that give great cash back, air miles, discount options. Choose well and you’re first flight to Bali could be courtesy of your monthly food shop. Obviously look around and be sensible, there’s no point sticking everything on credit if you don’t have the money to pay it off each month.

Out & About

  • Tipping – no one tips. Well, almost no one. There is a sign at the airport apparently that says Singapore is a non tipping country. Certainly in restaurants, hotels and so on, it’s not expected that you tip as a service charge is always added. However, some people do give a couple of bucks to the petrol station attendent who fills your car up and cleans the windscreen (yep, you only have to swan out of the car, say how much and what petrol you want put in, then pay at the till – no smelly petrol hands here). But, it’s not the norm.
  • At the hawker centres, don’t be embarrassed to ask what’s what. They can be intimidating places but do offer great, cheap food. Have a wahawkers_1820293bnder round, decide what you think you may like and go for it. As it’s so cheap it really doesn’t hurt if you get it wrong. Oh, and once you’ve got your food, take a seat and a lovely Uncle will come over and ask what drink you want and bring it to you. I’m still learning when it comes to what is good, but here’s a link to a great article I read which helps explain some of the dishes. http://www.yoursingapore.com/editorials/top-ten-things-to-eat-in-singapore-hawker-edition.html
  • If someone refers to an ‘Uncle’ they don’t actually mean a blood relative – or any kind of relative. In Singapore, Uncle is a term of respect for elderly gentlemen. And Aunty is the female equivalent. I guess a bit like the British use of ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’. Although do be offended if you’re under 40 as I believe it is really meant for the elderly. For us ‘younger’ women, we’re called ‘Sis’ however, I’m not sure what the male younger person is called as it’s not ‘bro’. Anyone help me with this one?
  • If you are going to be getting cabs, download one of the many Apps that are available to help you book a cab. Eg. there’s Grab Taxi, Comfort Cabs, Uber etc.  You can’t just stand anywhere and stick your hand out as there are certain rules the cab drivers have to adhere to. So stick to cab ranks if you can. There are plenty around – outside shopping centres, busy areas, hotels, even large condos. Don’t panic if the line seems ridiculously long, there are A LOT of cabs in Singapore and lines tend to move quickly.
  • Don’t assume the cab driver will know the way to your destination. It’s always a good idea to have an idea of what way you want to go. I can’t work out if this is because the driver doesn’t want to be accused of taking you the ‘long’ way round or they simply do not know. (Any London cab drivers reading this?!) Google map it if you have to.
  • If a cab stops, don’t assume you’ll get a ride. This is a bit of a bug beaLook out for the green one!r of people living here and a can of worms I’m leaving be for now. If a cab is on a ‘shift change’ they’ll only take you if you are going their way.  It may helpfully say on the top of the cab where it’s heading. If it’s pouring with rain be prepared to wait a while for a cab and if you see one coming with the haloed green light – stick your hand out and wave like your life depends on it. You might get lucky…

Passes & Cards

  • If you’re going to be using the public transport system it’s worth getting an EZ Link card. These are available at most MRT stations (MRT is the local rail network – it’s brilliant), 7/11 stores and other places. Initially you have to pay about $12 and some of this is kept as the card payment, the rest is then credit to use on trains, buses, some cabs and even food and drink and leisure outlets. Very handy piece of plastic to have if you run out of cash (so long as it’s been topped up of course!)
  • Get a Passion card. It’s kind of like a Tesco club card (a UK reference, sorry for those non British) and you’ll be asked if you’re a Passion card member in a number of places. Look on the local community centre website and sign up. Costs around $12 but means you’ll get money off, coupons etc at shops and be able to access local classes at community centres.

!TOP TIP COMING UP!

  • FrazzledMake an effort for your DP pass photo. Now I’m not that vain a person, but this is one tip I wish someone had shared with me. It’s likely that you’ll rock up at the Ministry of Manpower (or the MOM as you will soon know it) probably having just arrived in Singapore. Feeling a bit low, probably a bit frazzled and definitely a bit confused. All of those feelings will show on your tired, haggard, unwashed face. Take my word for it, brush your hair, slap on a bit of makeup and look confident. That pass is going to be the one thing you see almost every day whilst living in Singapore. Which leads me to my next tip…
  • Take your dependents pass/employment pass EVERYWHERE. It’s not just the obvious things like opening a bank account or getting a TV package you’ll need it for. When buying any kind of ticket, entering a play centre or visiting the doctors you will be asked for it. You need it more often than not so keep it with you. It’ll save you a lot of hassle.

Locals

  • Can Lah or Can Can – mean yep, I’ll do that for you. You will find yourself saying it without realising. There are hundreds of other phrases and words you will hear in ‘Singlish’ – which is the local dialect/language. There are some great books to help you if you want to learn more. Or, just google Singlish and away you go.
  • There are lot of people employed here which means there is lots of help. From the petrol pump guy who will fill your car up to the many shop assistants. Don’t be surprised by the fact you can get someone to bring dog food to your house, someone else who is responsible for the garden, another person who sorts out the pest control and another guy who delivers everything from water to chips. This is the country that  ‘can lah.’  Don’t be embarrassed, this is the culture of Singapore.*

*ahem, I don’t want to start a war here, but some say that customer service is different here. Don’t take things personally if it isn’t what you’d usually expect.

Home Sick?

It’s tough leaving everyone and everything you know behind. No matter how excited you are about the move and how much you think you’re ready for it, you will have days when you wonder what the hell you’ve done. Read my piece on here about how I felt – “Home is where the heart is”. But here are some other tips for helping survive those first few months of home sickness.

  • Say yes to every suggestion of meeting up, coffee morning, play date you can. You may not like everyone you meet – you don’t have to – that’s not the point. The point is, get out there. Often, it’s not the person you’ve met, but someone you meet through them that ends up being your turn-to buddy. It’s scary to start again but it’s a necessary part of relocating. So, try not to be shy. You won’t be the only one feeling like an idiot sat at home on their own sobbing because they haven’t had a chin wag for days. It takes time, so the sooner you get going the sooner you’ll have a friend or two. I hesitated far too much and so missed out on some great meet ups I’m sure. Now I try to be much more open and say yes more.
  • Remind yourself where you are every now and then. The fact you are living in this amazing city with so many stunning places on your doorstep waiting for you to explore. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a look at the weather, news, or local FB page of your home town. That often helps pick me up  😉
  • Pick up a tablet (the electronic kind, not the packet!), phone or get on the computer and FaceTime, Skype, email someone back home. Tell them how you’re feeling. My sister sent me a lovely bunch of flowers when she knew I was down and a card with such kind words it made my day. Also, remind your friends that there is nothing quite like a hand written letter through the post. But make sure you reciprocate and write to them too.
  • Talk to someone here about how you’re feeling. Without a doubt someone else will be feeling the same, or have been through it.
  • If you need help don’t be shy and ask for it. Where to find the best meat? What to do about child care? Should you worry if you’ve upset the neighbours dog? What does a red letter gift mean?  Whatever it is, someone else has probably asked it before. There a quite a few Facebook sites now – just put in Singapore expat and a whole load will come up. Singapore Expat Wives and The Real Singapore Expat Wives are two of the most popular. They can become addictive though – be warned!
  • In a similar way accept help too. You’ll be amazed how quickly people – locals and expats alike – will offer to help, especially if they know you’re stuck or struggling. Whilst you may only ever have left your child with their Nanna at home, here you’ll have to get used to asking friends to help out now you’re here (again, reciprocation is the key). Need someone to feed the cat whilst you’re away? Then get to know your neighbours. It can be weird as you barely know these people who offer their help, but saying yes and thanking them is the best way forward, believe me.
  • And finally, when all is said and done remember…

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This is by no means an exhaustive list. Any newbie Expats reading this, please add your tips to the comments section below. Any old hands – come on, pass on yours. Anyone a soon-to-be expat? What kind of tips are you looking for?

For more useful advice and tips, take a look at ‘more things you might like to know’ here! I wrote this after the overwhelming response I got to part 1. Hope you like it.

Are we there yet?

Before I left the UK, a friend asked when I thought I would feel ‘settled’. When I would look around me and say, yep, this is the life.

question-mark-22537418I wondered too. In fact I’m still wondering.

When you move to a new country there is so much to get used to. New people, new roads, new house, new school, new friends, new ways of doing things (remind me to tell you about the pavements, and don’t even get me started on the driving).

Don’t get me wrong, I know Singapore is one of the easiest places to move to –  the people here speak the same language as me, eat food I’m happy to eat, live in homes I’m happy to live in (not with them!). It’s a good gig really. But there is still so much to get used to. The whole way of being here is different. Not bad different. But different.

There have been a few eureka moments already.

The first time I got to the school and back without getting lost – I gave myself a huge pat on the back for that. When I was shopping at the supermarket and knew to take my fruit and veg to be bagged and weighed before heading to the cash till. Also, again at the supermarket when I didn’t stand and gawp at the chicken feet (no idea what they taste like as haven’t gone there yet) with my mouth wide open.  Another time was when making an appointment and heard myself saying, ‘oh no, I’m seeing a friend that day.’

All of these little baby steps are leading me down the right path, I hope.images

Then, of course, just when I start to feel like I’ve got a grip on things and can start to relax something comes along to bite me on the bum. Just last week I took the wrong turn to a place I’ve gone to a dozen times and ending up going completely in the wrong direction. In the end I gave up and came home.

Each day seems busier which I guess is a good sign. I still laugh at myself a lot as it can take me all day to get one thing done. I’m very easily distracted you see. But, each day there is something else that reminds me that I do really live here, and actually it is feeling more like home. For example, I’m not wearing my hair up every single minute of every single day; I seem to be adjusting to the heat. The aircon isn’t on quite as much and when the radio announcer said “it’s chilly at 26 degrees today” I get what he meant.  When I get in a cab and tell the driver where I’m going when they ask me how to get there, I don’t panic. (Yep, it seems to be a cab driver here you don’t actually have to know your way around. No ‘knowledge’ needed. London black cab drivers take note!)

But, as for feeling like we’ve settled. I’m still wondering – are we there yet?

Down sizing/de-cluttering?

Whatever you like to call it, when moving to the other side of the world there’s a lot of both that needs to happen – and then some!

relocatingI began being quite excited by the idea of getting rid of the junk. Removing all the clutter and ridding ourselves of some of the detritus that seemed to forever take over the house. I think the first room I started was the spare room. After all, that was going to be one of the easier ones to do right?

To call it a spare room for a start is a laugh. Ironing lived in there in humongous piles. Clothes the children had grown out of fought for squatting rights in there too; waiting on the day I’d finally find them a new home. Toys that were no longer given the time of day, bits of furniture that didn’t ‘work’ elsewhere. Oh, and not forgetting the boxes of old crockery, unwanted gifts, old soft toys and all sorts of other bits and pieces I’d acquired and was storing for the school fair.

It all lived in the room meant for guests. Good job we did have very many guests.

Sorry, I digress. So, months before we were due to leave I began the big clear our. My enthusiasm lasted about err, two hours. After that I lost the will to live. That first day really was an exercise in moving unwanted staff from one place to another. By the back door went things destined for the charity shop. The dining table was piled high with bags of things to give to friends. The bin was full of rubbish. Oh, hang on, of course it was. But, this was type of rubbish it takes a move to the other side of the world for me to see was actually rubbish.

The kitchen had mini piles of things I thought family would use. From that day forward it became a standing joke amongst my mum and sisters that they could no longer leave the house empty-handed. I prayed on their insecurities and their weaknesses.

“What if? You might need it for…”  “it’ll definitely come in handy at Xmas.”

My poor family now have houses full of things they neither wanted, needed or will use. Sorry guys!

After that fateful day of moving things around – and I did get the room cleared – I made lists instead. Ooh I LOVE a list. I made a list of what room needed what sorting out. Then a list for when I would do said room. A list of what I might need to do in each room once it had been sorted. Procrastinate became my middle name.

In the mean time, the once proudly clear spare room was beginning to fill up again. This time with boxes of stuff I was slowly sorting out. But it was slow going and time was ticking by.

After a bit of a meltdown one day my family rallied round and offered to help me organise/de-clutter. Apprehensively I agreed to a day the following week when we’d all get stuck in. First though, I needed a list for that. Who was sorting what to where?

The day arrived – we’ll call it the Essex Kitchen Nightmares day shall we?

When mum arrived I explained there were three ways to sort. Ship, Air or Pack.

If it didn’t fit in to one of those three groups, it was going. No questions asked. Right?

Ah, but  I wasn’t counting on dad coming too was I? Now, my dad isn’t a hoarder as such, but he does hate waste. To this day, I’m sure mum has no idea of what is stashed in their garage.

And then my emotions started to get involved.

“But I can’t NOT take Nan’s rose bowl can I?”

Questions arose over my favourite tea mug. Could I live without it for the next eight weeks? Would it make it if I tried to pack it? What about the new tea set my friends had bought for me. Should that go by ship, air or what? And should I just by all new cutlery or take some?

But, despite all my procrastinating, we did make progress. Little sis came to help too. She was on the list to sort towels and bedding. Again, same way of how to sort – ship, air, pack. Now, unlike mum – who either got it straight away, or much like the whole us moving away thing, she refused to think about it too much – little sis needed some explanation of what this meant. I thought it was straightforward really.

Ship meant anything we definitely wanted to take, but could wait eight weeks for and didn’t need in the next few weeks. You see, the ship set sail three weeks before us and arrived four weeks after.

Air meant anything we wanted to take and needed as soon as we got there, but that we could live without for a few weeks. Anything going by air left our house three weeks before we did, but arrived the same day.

Pack was anything we definitely wanted to take, but couldn’t live without, not for one day (think tea mug). So this stuff I was going to pack in our suitcases and was part of our luggage allowance, so nothing too heavy!

Oh, and silly me, there was also another category. The ‘staying but not taking’ sub group. Clearly, this was anything that we didn’t want to take, but maybe needed until the day we left. After that we would dump it. (Ahem, embarrassed cough. Actually, we just ended up taking most of this stuff to my mums on our last day, or leaving it for her to clear from outside the house. Best laid plans and all that. I’m guessing it got dumped??)

A-storage-locker-as-a-noetic-structureOh, and there was the other, sub, sub group. Storage. In this box – which turned in to a whole bloody storage lock up – were the things we didn’t want to take, but couldn’t bear to give or throw away.

So a good plan of action, lists to follow and jobs allocated. Simples!

Again, much like spare room day, Essex Kitchen Nightmares day meant piles of things everywhere. Again there was a lot of moving things around from one place to another. But, at the end of the day there were boxes boxed up to ship (Gulp!). Boxes of bedding to go by air so that we’d have something to sleep on when we arrived. Post it notes on every cupboard and drawer shouting “Don’t touch, to be packed!” and “Can use, don’t pack!” And simply “Ship!”. It all made perfect sense to us.

And so it continued like this over the coming months. Slowly but surely each room in the house got ‘organised’ – things were sorted, organised in to their group and labelled accordingly. It was Toy Story 3 on a grand scale.

Post it notes became my best friends. I knew where I stood with those lurid yellow notelets.

post-it-note-with-a-pinEvery single thing we owned was labelled – it was either going the long way round, going the short way or staying with us for the duration. Oh, and sub group ‘being dumped (at mums house) and the sub, sub group, going into storage.

And so, after what felt like the longest build up, the packers arrived on that fateful day in July.

I had every confidence in my well organised and finely tuned system. Ship. Air. Pack. (Dump {storage}). Simples!

Mmmm….

So, why oh why, when we arrived in Singapore and, in a house empty of everything except the five of us (jet lagged) and an oh so happy to be out of the crate dog, did we end up sharing three sheets, two towels and with no pants???

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Just some of the boxes destined for our new home.

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Moving to a little red dot

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Having visited Singapore for years on family holidays and with my husband on business trips, the idea of moving here had always been appealing.

I would always recount how wonderful the place is. The smell of Singapore always gets to me (in a good way, it doesn’t stink!). It’s climate – which doesn’t change much – is one I feel comfortable in. The culture is fascinating due to its diversity. The rules and regulations that have many scratching their heads, seem to make sense to me (for the moment at least). The fact that it is a gateway to so many other amazing places is just fantastic. All of these things and more make Singapore one of my favourite places to be in the world. But living here?

Like many people we were living our lives quite happily following the 9 to 5, with good friends and family close by, in a lovely house that we’d spent years doing up. Our kids were settled in their various schools and in their friendship groups. But, for me at least, there was always that yearning for adventure. To travel. To see the world. To broaden my, and my families, horizons. To show the kids that there is more to life. To give them opportunities to grow in new ways, to stretch themselves, to build stronger characters.

So when we were given the opportunity to go on such an adventure, the question we kept asking ourselves was why would we say no?

Well, there’s the screaming nine-year old who’s having an emotional melt down about leaving her Nanna and cousins. The 16-year old who will have to start college in a new country with no friends to fall back on – at a time when friends mean more than anything. And a 13-year old who struggles with the expectations of the small world he lives in now, let alone asking him to adjust to a bigger world. Not forgetting those we leave behind and the impact that so clearly has. Our family who have to learn to live without us round the corner, who won’t see the children’s milestones and achievements first hand. Friends who can no longer pop by for a cuppa and a chat, even work colleagues who rely on us.

Oh, and then there are the practicalities of moving  your whole life to another country. Do we really need 5 bath towels each? Should I take a few blankets ‘just in case’? Can you get Tetley t-bags out there or should I take enough to last three years? Add to the mix trying to decide what furniture you’ll need in a yet-to-be-seen house and what do you do with the things you are not taking? It all becomes slightly more of an exercise in stress management.

So many things to think about it that it can – and does – become overwhelming.

But, we did it. And this blog is about our experience getting here – and the fun we are sure to have (well we better had!) whilst we are here.

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Shall we?

It was just before Christmas 2013 when my husband came home from work and said those immortal words: “They want me to move to Singapore.”

They being his company.

Me being all of us.

Having covered that part of the world for years it had always been a possibility – and one that I’d been secretly hoping for. We, as a family, had visited Singapore many times. Either accompanying my husband on a work trip and tagging a holiday on the end or as a stopover to Thailand or Oz.

We all loved the place.

Loved the smell of it, the feel of it, the amazing skyline. I even liked the ‘big brotherness’ of it. I’d often joked to my eldest Son that we’d move there some day.

But actually doing it… Now that was different.

My immediate reaction was yes, let’s do it. I’m a firm believer in you never regret the things you do, only the things you don’t. But then we got to thinking, and talking, and thinking some more.

What about our Son who was just doing his last year at senior school and was applying for college? What about our younger son, who by way of having an extra chromosome, meant things that upset his routine can be harder on him. And our daughter, who was happily settled at school with friends who lived close by? Could we really turn their world upside down? Then there were our families to think about.

Just the thought of telling my parents – who lived just around the corner and we see most days – made me break out in a cold sweat and fight back an avalanche of tears. My sisters? Would they be cross that I was leaving them or happy for me? And the dog. Oh My God the dog. I immediately welled up at the thought of leaving him. But, he’s a big dog. Could we take him? Would we be able to find a house to rent if we had a dog?

All of these questions and a whole load more were spinning around my head constantly for days.

Some of them – well, most of them – still are. Some we have answered, some we haven’t. But, deep down, we knew.

It was time for our new adventure…   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Let’s move to Singapore we said.
 
Let’s say goodbye to everyone and everything we know and love and move our whole lives across to the other side of the world we said.
 
It’ll be an adventure we said.
 
It’ll be fun we said.
 
Let’s give it a go we said.
 
What have we got to lose we said?
 
Mmm…