Monday, November 23, 2015

first impressions, a small pictorial

People are asking me how I'm settling in.  I gotta tell ya, like a duck to water, baby, a duck to water.  Most of you reading this probably remember the way my face would screw up and my voice would crack when you asked how I liked Switzerland in the early days.  I felt isolated and unable to communicate, even with some of the other English speakers.  At this point I haven't felt even remotely that way in Singapore.  I know there will be transitions, but right here, right now, life here feels incredibly normal.

The most immediate thing I've had to learn here is to make sure I look the correct way crossing the street and walk on the correct side of the sidewalk.  I am anxious to learn more of the local customs, but it is hard to know where to start when the local customs cover Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Malay and lots of others.  The great thing? I can ask and read about them IN ENGLISH!

While people aren't randomly hugging me, there is plenty of small talk. I've been asked about Auggie numerous times, asked for directions and best yet, an elderly Chinese woman asked me to reach for cookies on the highest shelf in the grocery store. Another kind woman taught me how to use the fully-automated dry-cleaning closet.

The British influence is still very strong here.  It can be seen in the restaurants (fish & chips), the street names (Clarke Street) and even the shops (Hello Marks & Spencers and Topshop!) When you see another expat they are typically British with the Aussies not far behind. 

The thing that has surprised me most is how beautiful I find the island.  I've never been a city girl, but the skyline at night is impressive. 

I had never thought I would find man-made stuff particularly cool, but the originality is stunning.

Marina Bay Sands by day
The Marina Bay Sands infinity pool by night

Gardens by the Bay

Of course there are still traditional buildings...

and natural beauty...

 and even a mix of both man-made and God-made.

Oh, another adjustment for me to make.  See those mosquito sculptures? Those are life size replicas when pest control has not been maintained.  

The heat has not bothered either of us, though Auggie is suffering.  The coolest it has been is around 78 the middle of the night. We try to walk early, a very quick mid-day outing and another walk around the block at night.  The air-conditioning is left on mainly for her.  That might change once we are paying for our utilities. None of my sources hyperbolized the humidity.  It hovers around 90% while sometimes dipping down to 80%.  Locals have told us we arrived during the "cool" season. I'll keep you posted on the "hot" season. 

I've already applied for a few jobs, one out of my reach because I do not speak Mandarin, but the majority of positions I've seen do not have language requirements. 

So that's where we are our second week arrival anniversary.  Mr. Shoe is settling in nicely with work and we've found an apartment we like and have made a move on it.  Until then, I have learned when to be gone so that Housekeeping can clean our serviced apartment.  

Things wrapped up well in Swissyland, things are going well in Singapore. We know we didn't do it on our own, we know we are incredibly blessed. I know that I have to avoid falling back into routines that can spiral down quickly.  Showering, writing and taking photos are good steps in making sure I take care of myself. Letting myself enjoy an easier life as an expat is also important. Finding a doctor is the most important step in remaining healthy and this isn't my first rodeo.  I'm not spending these first months planning my escape.  It's time to make Singapore another one of my homes.  

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to head to the pool on a Monday that feels like a Saturday.   Me and the Dowager Countess of Grantham do have this in common.  Weekends?! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

We Have Arrived

The Singapore years have started.  It is a new dawn for this blog. First, we shall start with food.  (I always start with food.)

It has been 35 days since I've cooked dinner. Eleven days in Switzerland with good-bye dinners and no kitchen equipment.  Fifteen days in the States, eating out with different friends and family.  Two days in a Zurich hotel. And seven glorious days in Singapore, exploring my new host country.  It has been a delicious 35 days.

We landed on Tuesday, November 10 at 6:00 a.m.  As we drove from the airport to our temporary place, I spotted Chili's, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Popeye's Chicken, Starbucks and 7-11.  (By the way, there are a kazillion 7-11s.  Not only is there one on every corner, there are two or three on the way to the corner.)  It was at this point that mr. shoe and I agreed to a month-long moratorium on going to American restaurants.

We checked into our serviced apartment and went down for the free breakfast - mostly fruit aside from a salad bar (?).  After unpacking and exploring and napping, we had a welcome reception for the conference mr. shoe would be attending.  It was here that I started trying not to ask what I was eating, but simply trying whatever was offered.  I would love to tell you what I had, but unfortunately not asking what you are eating means you never really know.  I can tell you the first appetizer looked like tiny tarts with some sort of fish in them.  Wait, there were also crispy fried prawns.  I might have stalked that waiter. 

Blind eating is hard for me.  I might have mentioned my distaste for vegetables, fungi and, well, anything that wasn't served in Joetown, Missouri. My first "American" Chinese food was in college.  My first sushi was well into my thirties.  This week alone has broadened my horizons farther than I ever imagined. 

The first couple of days were easy enough.  Satays (meat skewers) are popular here.  Bacon wrapped salmon with wasabi, bacon wrapped pork with jalapeno sauce and chicken skewers in peanut sauce made up my first meals until Wednesday night's dinner, a catered event.  Nothing really stood out until dessert.  Double boiled white fungus, ginko and papaya soup was the star of the table.  That was too much for me.  If only I had avoided the menu card, I might have had a chance.  I'm embarrassed to say I stuck with the dragon fruit and mini pastries.

In case you think I'm making this up.

A couple of days later we upped the ante with fried squid, razor clams with wasabi, fried soft shell crab and an amazingly huge chili crab.  Our host insisted I take a claw that was the size of my face which actually made since because I ended up with crab meat all over my face.

On Friday we met our real estate agent and the local foods got real.  A native Singaporean, she started making a list of things we must try.  First up was a dish I had read about in my move preparation - laksa.  

Frau's first laksa

According to Wiki, laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup in the Peranakan cuisine, which is a combination of Chinese and Malay cuisine. Laksa consists of rice noodles or rice vermicelli with chicken, prawn or fish, served in spicy soup; either based on rich and spicy curry coconut milk, or based on sour asam tamarind. It can be found in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Southern Thailand.  According to me, it is good if you ignore the bean curd (tofu) and egg (just weird). 

On Sunday we were in for a treat.  After the last of our home viewings, Joon took us to a local market that had lines out the door.  Inside were local, multi-generational families, enjoying their time together and their food.  The focus of their eating and of the restaurant was chicken rice.  It is exactly as it sounds, simplistic but delicious.

come to mama
Here it is served with prawn dumplings and lime juice. I ate everything you see here.  All of it.  

I'm looking forward to continuing not to cook and more eating adventures. 

Those adventures will of course involve THESE!!!! Viva la Singapore!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Corrections has an awesome feature.  It's called "Corrections: What Slate Got Wrong." When you click on it there is a literal list of all of the mistakes, misspellings of names, wrong citations and incorrect bylines.  It's like saying "Here you go.  We screwed up." I have kinda been feeling like that lately. This is my correction or, better yet, my explanation to anyone else who has the depression. I don't want you to feel alone, like I got it figured out and left you in the dust. I do want to get healthier and I know you do too. But man, we have to be patient and kind to ourselves.  That is what I am learning right now.

You might remember my previous post and if you don't, click on that link.  I'll wait right here. Good.  You might remember my previous post that you just read...I was gung-ho, wasn't I? I was a burst of sunshine and optimism. And the fact is, I was...that day. 

There is an author that I read and follow on FB, her name is Glennon Melton.  I'm not going to link to her because I would just be spoiling you at this point.  Look her up on your time, not mine. ;)

So, Glennon also has the depression from time to time. One day she talked about a tip for those of us who see professional help.  She said to write down how you feel on your bad days so that if you are having a good day when you see your doctor, you can tell her what your bad days are like and do that work together.  A couple of weeks later she reminded herself to do the opposite too - list how awesome things can be on your good days so that you can read it on your bad days.

My previous post was just that.  A note to myself (and you) about how I feel on my good days. There was no exaggeration there or lying.  But for some reason I find myself not there right now.  Everything and I mean EVERYTHING is falling into place pretty goodly and exactly as I had it in my head.  Yet I am wracked with anxiety. I cannot settle into a comfortable place this week. Last night I dreamt that I missed all of my appointments today because, even though I was aware that I was no longer working, I went back to one of my old companies to see a former co-worker who was foaming at the mouth and had a mysterious disease.  (C'mon Brain, it had to be rabies.)  I kid you not, in the midst of my dream I thought, "I hope this is a dream because I cannot afford to miss my psychiatrist appointment today."  How is that for self-awareness?

That is just how my scattered I am right now.  There is no focus to be found.  Mr. Shoe asked me to run upstairs and grab something on Saturday.  I ran upstairs and immediately started doing something completely different. He came up after a few minutes to find me working on the computer.  We laughed, but it starts to get scary when you can't retain something from one minute to the next.  (Do I need to tell you that I can't remember what he asked me to get?) I immediately wrote myself a mental note to talk to my doctor about it.  

Today: Went to the doctor.  Talked about my head that won't shut off at night.  Talked about how I truly am excited about Singapore, not just pretending.  Talked about my anxiety and how to confront it.  Talked about saying good-byes and those emotions.  With about 15 minutes left, I was hit by a bolt of lightning.  


We ate up another 5 minutes laughing hard. 

Her answer? Sleep, even if it takes a prescription.  Do something kind for myself once a day. Realize that if my body isn't healthy, my head isn't going to be.  Make lists of what is left.  Go one by one and mark them off.  Make lists of what I am worried about and what I'm doing to solve it or how it has already been solved...and mark it off. Spend time with Mr. Shoe that isn't focused on tasks.  Eat delicious food and pet my dog. Write to myself.  (Sorry, roped you in to it too, dear Reader.)

Most of all, enjoy the good morning kisses from Mr. Shoe. Focus on the trees changing colors, the first sip of coffee, quiet time with God, and Auggie curled up at my feet. Think about my upcoming time at home with family and friends.  Remember that control is an illusion, perfection the enemy of good. Remembering all of that might seem hard right now, but these things are what will get me through this season of change.

I hope you will remember what makes your good days "good" and be kind to yourselves. If you are struggling or see someone else struggling and aren't sure how to help them, hit me up.  We can make a list to remind each other. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Moving On

Have you ever stood in the middle of the road and looked ahead, not able to see the end, not able to see where it leads?  Have you ever been excited about that?

October 10 will be my 5 year Swiss-iversary. Exactly one month after that, me, Mr. Shoe and Auggie doggy will be moving to Singapore for our next adventure.

If you scroll back to the beginning of this blog, you'll find yourself reading about some of my darker days.  I always tried to give them an uplifting spin to keep my parents from worrying, but after a year or so, I knew I wasn't fooling them.

I can honestly say that moving here is one of the toughest things I've ever done in my life. It is also one of the things of which I am most proud.  These last 5 years have taught me lessons I needed to learn and lessons I had no intention of ever learning. It has stripped away everything I thought made me “me”, but what is left is authentic and hard-earned.

Before we moved here, I identified myself through my career.  I worked for a respected firm with attorneys who were recognized as the best in their field.  I worked all hours of the day and night.  I thought I was kinda a big deal.

I was married, but I was also independent.  I thought I needed to be self-sufficient and not "bother" my husband.  I wanted to be a perfect wife, perfect paralegal, perfect daughter, perfect Christian and perfect friend.  I wanted our home to be cozy, our lawn to look like our neighbors' and our driveway to have shiny, clean cars in it.  Essentially, I wanted my life to look perfect, if not be perfect.  Sometimes you can keep that facade up when you know your environment, know the temperament of the people around you and know how to say the right things at the right time, even if they are a total lie.  Anyone who has read this blog or knows me knows that I am not perfect. I tried for a long time and sucked at it.

Moving to Switzerland under the impression I could fake it here too was a total disaster.  I found myself in the darkest place I had ever been and I stayed there.  For way too freaking long I stayed there.  If I found English-speakers I just used the time to complain, to see how they dealt with the Swiss people and the Swiss culture.  I have written about this before; in a time when I needed to be making friends in the worst way, I was draining everyone I met with my negativity.  I couldn’t pretend things were perfect, I couldn’t even pretend things were acceptable.  My independence vanished, locked up by my insecurities. It was a lonely time made more so by the disconnect I had created between myself and mr. shoe.

But in that loneliness, the facade of perfection was stripped away slowly and painfully, each new lesson revealing to me something I needed to learn or give up or decide to change. Each situation showing me that the only one who had believed the fake version of myself was me.  The reminders continue to this day.  Even now I have re-read this post 4 times to be sure I’m not faking anything, not pretending there is growth that hasn’t happened, but conceding that growth doesn't stop when you feel like it should be done.  It continues, a result of being stretched and surviving.

There were many times that I contemplated going home, being done with the lessons, declaring that I had given it my best effort and all that but I never felt "released".  I felt like God had/has me in this place where His was/is one of the few voices I understood. But man, He didn't/does not make it easy.

After about 3 years of living like this, I slowly began to see things I loved about Switzerland.  Things that had been hard were less hard. The Swiss culture that left me feeling so hurt became something I could see past and shrug off easier. The silences became restful and not oppressive.  Ironically this new perspective came at about the same time that I started dealing with a crushing bout of clinical depression.  I had finally found peace in Switzerland when I learned that the brokenness was rooted in me, not the country I lived in.

It was in the midst of this that we found out we would be moving to Singapore.  I admit that my initial response was "um, WHAT?"....or maybe that was Brigit yelling in my ear since I found out while we were in London, but she was only echoing my original thought.  After a few days to soak it in (and to read Wikipedia and to take my meds) I started seeing the good things this move could bring.

We would be moving to a land where English is one of the national languages.  I would have a broader field of jobs to choose from. There would be no more winters to suffer through.  DAYLIGHT SAVINGS DOES NOT EXIST IN SINGAPORE. But you know what does exist in Singapore? Krispy Kreme.

Everything seems easier this time.  I know I don't, can't even, pack up a single item myself.  I know that we will be living in a serviced apartment when we arrive, meaning we get to pick out our home after actually having seen it. (Also meaning I know we will have daily house-keeping for the first month.) I know that sticker shock will be more tolerable. (HELLO, cheaper Starbucks.)  I know that it will suck saying good-bye to my family and friends in the States again and it will suck saying good-bye to the friends I have here.

And I know that it won’t be perfect. There will be culture shock.  I will need to make new friends. Things will get messed up in the move.  I will get short-tempered with mr. shoe and he with me. But knowing that all of these things can’t be controlled brings me peace. It means that there is no way I can expect perfection, nor is it expected of me.

That’s how I know this move is different. I’m not panicked anymore, I’m excited.  Discussions with mr. shoe haven’t been based in apprehension, but in anticipation.  Together we get to pick a new home and start anew in a new place.  I get to be a more positive, confident “dependent” wife - that’s what attached spouses are called and I’ve stopped being annoyed by the title. See, baby steps to positivity.

So let the “last times” begin.  Let the sentimentality of leaving beautiful Switzerland remind me that, while at times it felt like this place broke me, it only bent me.  I broke me. And I get to choose what pieces to keep and what pieces to toss out.

I get to leave the baggage behind. There isn't going to be any room for it in the new place.


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