I have immense joy in my heart around my time in Singapore, and because of that I have immense sadness that I am leaving Singapore. There are so many aspects to these emotions.
First off, there’s the obvious – it’s a great home base to travel around Asia. It has been simply wonderful for me to have a ‘home’ during this year of constant motion, a place to unpack my smelly bag, a regular bed, a fridge to open up and eat out of, a place to store my toothbrush, a place to store all of the items I’ve bought, a place to run a ‘regular’ running route, a place to basically have some semblance of routine and normal life again. I’ve also been able to make new friends such as Mylen, Mary, Brenda, and Gretchen. I’ve been able to see what life as an ex-pat is like – the ups, the downs, and I can appreciate the struggle that the families go through making a big adjustment in their lives.
Second, it has been wonderful to spend this much dedicated time with my nieces. This is quite a treat for me as I’ve always lived a 4+ hour flight away from them. I would go visit once a year on a holiday and normally had to ‘share’ my time with them with my other family members or their other family members. I would see them during Christmas, at an unusual event that was not indicative of their normal everyday life. However – this Dec through March – I’ve had them all to myself. I honestly think that I was a bit intimidated to have them all to myself in the past. It was always easier to share the time with other family members. However, now I’ve seen them at their bad times, their moody times, their bickering times, their sick times, their silly times, their wonderful times, and their vulnerable times. I’ve seen how they carry themselves every day, how they do their homework, how they interact with their friends, what their hobbies are, I’ve read books to them and with them – I’ve been a part of their everyday life. I’ve seldom spent time with kids, so this was really a unique experience for me. I’ve never been a baby person which is probably why I never had one! Sure, they are cute, cuddly, they smell good, but for some reason it never really appealed to me. I’ve always said that I like it when kids get older – old enough to have a conversation, to joke with, to teach, to go to the bathroom themselves and sleep through the night. Being with my nieces from age 13 to 7 solidified those feelings for me. I like kids. Being around them brought back so many memories of my own childhood. Seeing them fight with each other reminded me of all of the petty bickering that my brother and I used to do (however our arguments normally ended in him beating me up and me running crying to mom). I joked with the 3 girls that they would have to take care of me in my old age (ok – so maybe that wasn’t a joke), I hopefully taught them a few things that they didn’t know before – actually I think I taught them many things (maybe some things that they shouldn’t know!) I met their teachers, went on field trips, helped with school parties, went to sporting events and plays – I felt like a mom sometimes – and that was an ok feeling. I want them to succeed, I want them to be happy, but most of all I want them to experience the world and follow their hearts – hopefully I have provided a good example of that. This time with them was precious to me. I was surprised that every time I came back to Singapore and rode a cab ‘home’ from the airport – I was so excited to see them. Every time I left Singapore, I had a wave of sadness sweep over me about leaving them – this stunned me. I love those kids, and I hope that they will never forget the 4 months I ‘lived’ with them – as I know that I will never forget it. I hope that it shapes our relationship as we all get older.
Then there’s my sister.
When you grow up with a large age difference – 10 years – it’s hard to find common interests, but you are family – so you always have some sort of bond. I can’t express enough how great this time with my sister was. I hope that she enjoyed it half as much as I did. It was reminiscent of when I lived with her in small town Wisconsin, the summer of my freshman year in college. I felt like we bonded – and this time we weren’t drinking wine coolers out of a 2 liter bottle as we did back then! This closeness I feel is a strange feeling for me since my family is used to living separate lives – we are all very independent – maybe too independent. It’s suddenly strange to be dependent on one another again, but good. You realize that you have so much in common, so many shared memories, and so much history. I realized – this is what makes a family – a strong bond – I haven’t felt that bond for a while, and it was nice to have the comfort of that back in my life. I used to marvel at other people who had such strong bonds with their family – they would talk to each other weekly, see each other often, and generally be involved in each other’s lives. Now I feel that I understand it more. I have been to 12 countries in the last 7 months and Cyndi has been to 7 of them with me – joining me for a few days at a time (and I think in every country people thought that we were twins!). I hope that she has enjoyed this opportunity to travel and hang out together as much as I have.
Finally, there’s the shear gratitude that I feel towards Frank and Cyndi for letting me live in their home on and off for the last few months and become a part of their life. I ate their food, I utilized Mylen’s time and services, I shared a room with my niece, I used their bandwidth (and lots of it!), I had them shuttle me around, they helped me with my travel plans and electronics purchases, and they simply put up with me! I would marvel at how lucky I was most days – how lucky to have this opportunity. I feel like this time with all of them has changed the course of my life a bit, it has brought me closer to all of them and that will not fade.
It scares me to think about leaving my family on this side of the world – mainly because I don’t really know when I will see them again. I’m surprised that I have the same feelings as when I left NY back in September. I’m excited for what’s to come, but so sad to be leaving people I care about behind. During my stay in Singapore Frank was promoted and they found out that they will be staying on in Singapore for 3 to 5 more years. I am so happy for them – Frank works hard and he deserves it. He has more energy for work, family, and marathon training than I ever had! They have a great opportunity to live overseas and I’m thrilled that they get to continue it. At the same time though – I am sad – for selfish reasons of course. I have formed this bond, and I want to keep it – that’s hard to do when we are so far apart. It just makes me more determined to get back to Singapore again. So hopefully this isn’t ‘goodbye’, it’s just ‘so long for now’.
Sommerfeldts – thank you so much for all the joy you brought me in this journey. All my love – Sherry