Monday, 5 March 2018

Settling into life in Singapore. D-Day plus three months

      We have been in Singapore for exactly three months now and have spent the last two in our new home.

Our new home, a rented bungalow on the former RAF Camp at Seletar

       We took possession half an hour before the container turned up from the docks.

Last time I saw this, it was on Shoreham Beach

       I had mixed feelings when it rolled up and remembered the day it drew into our drive at home. I'd spent most of the previous night packing but the study was still untouched when the removal men arrived. My great friend Mandy and I spent the morning frantically sorting it out whilst the Sante Fe team packed up around us. The Singapore team were in a similar hurry at this end.

Moving in day plus one

     I could understand their haste because we'd learned that from 9.30am onwards the heat gets uncomfortable and just keeps rising until it hits 32-33 degrees. The humidity can reach over 90% so not ideal working conditions. We experienced how exhausting that could be from 29th December to 5th January when we shuttled between our new home and our serviced apartment. Our intention was to unpack and complete all DIY jobs before we moved in on the 5th but intention was no match for the tropical heat and dehydration, no matter how hard we tried.
     In fact, adapting to the weather has been one of the most challenging things we've had to do. 

My new shiny informal look.

     You quickly learn to embrace the discomfort of sweat soaked clothing but if you don't talc your feet blisters can appear within 20 steps. You understand why showers don't come with water heaters. Unlike Richard and Tom, I love the momentary chill when stepping under a cold shower. You yearn for the coolness between 4am - 7am for the moment the sun comes up at 7.15am the heat starts to build. We've started to study the locals and take our cue from them. For instance, we've learned to stand in the shade when waiting for the green man at road crossings. We don't pack cold drinks anymore because condensation forms quickly and soaks everything. We constantly carry an umbrella to protect ourselves from the sun and rain. 
Within minutes tropical rain floods our back garden.

     It never rains gently. It comes hard and fast and usually with a heavenly accompaniment of ear splitting thunderclaps and lightening overhead. Our electricity was knocked out by lightening during the storm photographed above. 
       Another thing that we've had to adapt to is our size.  We are like Gulliver in Lilliput and in an island crammed with 5.6 million people our bulk occupies far more than our fair share. 

We're often at least a foot taller than everyone else.

     In some shops the aisle is almost too narrow to turn around, leaving me with the choice of walking backwards or to the end of the aisle and turning around. Forget about sucking in your stomach, some eight-year old girls back home are bigger than women out here. You just have to get used to feeling big and awkward and accept that most shops sell neither shoes nor clothes that fit. To be honest, that is understandable because we are in the minority. 74% of the population are chinese, 13% Malay, 9% Indian and 4% others. That's us, an international hotchpodge of skilled ex-pats and their dependants. 
     Despite being in the minority, the Singaporeans could not be more inclusive, welcoming and generous. They bend over backwards to help and whenever we are asked where we come from, (we're generally thought to be Australian, unfathomable), the response is always, "welcome to Singapore." 
     Our Singaporean neighbours have become close friends and they are trying to educate us in Singaporean culture and language. Food is usually involved because there are two things that this nation loves, food and shopping. 
Richard and I studying the module on Singaporean food.

       The ex-pat community is equally welcoming both here on the camp and in town. There is no waiting period for people to assess you, you are invited simply because you are here and you automatically belong. So far I have joined the yoga and pilates groups here on the camp and attend a weekly museum lecture with ex-pat friends in town. There are lots of one off events like last Sunday, when we went to see an ex-pat friend, Jassy Husk, perform in Gardens by the Bay. She is Australian and I don't sound anything like her. 

Jassy Husk performing in the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay.

       Majong, tennis, coffee mornings, volunteering, book and film clubs, night outs are all laid on by the British Association and you chose when you want to join in. 
     There is so much to do, mainly because a fair number of 'trailing spouses' are highly educated, cultured career women who cannot get work permits in Singapore and need something to do. I am one of the lucky ones. I am employed by our company in the UK so can continue to work as a writer wherever I am. In fact, I recently unveiled Blood and Bandages at Tom's school fete and have joined the feature writer's team for the British Association's magazine. Being here frees me up to write much more and I have already started looking for ideas for my next book. 
     Talking of writing, I will also be producing a fortnightly blog from now on so look out for the next post on 19th March when I'll be sharing some more of life as an ex-pat in Asia. 
       Thanks for dropping by and I'll see you on the 19th March. Stay warm.