The dream team is pairing up for this one:
Matt's point of view in black // Clo's point of view in pink
Photo: Clotilde Richalet Szuch
OCLHAWOL? Our Current Lifestyle, Habits And Way Of Life. This is not really about leaving Singapore, though it is happening as part of the process and in many ways signifies many of the things we'll be leaving behind.
Clo and I have been here together for nearly three years. I've been here for about 4 years, and Clo still had jetlag when I snatched her up right after she arrived. We've had amazing adventures together in that time, along with very sad and difficult experiences. Throughout all of it, there have been a few themes that have influenced us and given us a new perspective on life, our time here, and what's to come in our future.
In this entry, we'd like to share those few things and explain a bit on how they've had an impact on our upcoming plans.
At this stage in our departure planning it seems I've said this 100's of times, but it is worthwhile to say 100 times more. The vast array of interesting people from so many different walks of life, nearly all who made a similar decision to embrace the unknown and try something different.
Singapore was the first place I've been where my entire network of close friends and acquintances has been built from scratch; I came here with no work friends, no family, no "friends of friends" or anything like that.
For Clo it was somewhat different; she came here partially because of her best friend was living here, and then she inherited the friendships I had made before I met her. We also built friendships together.
I did have one of my very good friends and her husband already in Singapore when I decided to migrate to Singapore. And those 2 have been great to me.
I left France that year for a few months or more, I didn't really know what life had in the cards for me but I was ready to explore it all. It definately turned out great.
It's interesting to observe the evolution of the friendships you have at home; they take another dimension when you live with those same friends abroad. They evolved to more than friends, they become family. The distance changes the emotions a little, and to feel confortable and happy in an unknown environment, you get even more attached to all the things and people that give you a sense of "home".
On the other hand... I did find it difficult to make real friendship in SIngapore. Everything is very much done in groups, BBQ, ladies night, brunches. The leitmotiv is "the more the merrier", and it can become frustrating to not get to really know people one by one and more personally, but stay on the surface.
I have learned a lot about my own ability to enjoy small talk, jump at any chance to try something new and most importantly be constantly aware of how similar people are, no matter their culture, background or ethnicity. Some habits and traditions may cause me to giggle, snort, chuckle, chortle or gasp, but the outpouring of hospitality, friendship and warmth never wavered.
It doesn't mean that I still don't blink a few times when I notice a guy standing in the mens restroom washing his privates with the urinal water. But no one ever tried to make me do it, so it's all good.
I've had good food in many countries and cities. I've had great food in almost the same amount of places. But there is nowhere in the world where I have been able to have as many types of cuisines, as authentically and affordably, as in Singapore. The pursuit of this food, and the discussion that arises from it, is the topic of "water cooler" chat in Singapore. No one really talks about the weather (unless it's haze season), but everyone talks about food.
The interesting part of this to me is that it is one of the few things that I can discuss with anyone from (or in) Singapore and it will always be a positive experience. You will find many different restrictions, limitations, rules, regulations, etc around different cultures in many places in Singapore, but never in the Hawker Centers.
When I am looking for ways to build connections with strangers, I'm much more aware of the importance of finding a topic that is shared across the majority of a group.
It might not be the food as much as the places to eat that food that will stay printed in my mind... The "grand equart" (extreme split?) between eating dumplings at a food court for a few dollars with uncles one evening, and going to the most fancy of the hotel for a free flow champagne brunch with expat in their heels the next morning.
NB : I didn't choose any team for that matter, I happily played in both fields!!
This is not an easy topic. I also have a difficult time deciding if I should use "racism" or the term "institutionalized prejudice". Singapore has many, many positive qualities and I have a huge admiration for how the country has been led and what it has become. At the same time, it is impossible to ignore the way that so much of the day-to-day activities of many aspects of the government and daily life are driven by quotas, restrictions, limitations, etc that are tied to your country of origin.
This has made me become much more observant and critical of the actions of the country where I lived and grew up (US). Not only that, but aware of some of the prejudices and assumptions within myself. I am very appreciative of that knowledge and the way that I can use it to shape my current and future actions.
The way I felt the racism in Singapore is mostly between the people of South East Asia. Clearly Singaporeans are very aware of their history and very proud of it. And I think proud of the economic, social, financial situation of their country today. It is not always welcome to doubt a Singaporien's nationality, 'How did I dare think he was Malaysian!!' Oops, I didn't mean to offend anyone; Ask me if I am German i wouldn't be mad (am French, I only get mad if you guess am British, hihi!) . As neighbours it's interesting how each country of South East Asia is very self conscious, much more than the Europeans I think. Or at least Singapore is (very self conscious).
So all of those things are super great and interesting, but what's next? Why are we leaving and what are we going to do now?
At the end of August or beginning of September we are going to leave from Washington state and travel along the west coast of the US. We'll spend a couple of months doing this and then enter into Mexico and travel through Central and South America.
Until September, Clo has some work projects to do, we will be spending time with our families in the US and France and most of all we have a lot of preparation to do for the trip itself. We need to buy a vehicle, equip it, take a few test trips and lots and lots and lots of research and planning about our own personal projects that we will be pursuing during the trip.
We will certainly do our best to keep this travel journal updated through this time, though I suspect you will find more personal updates (in the Matt and Clo sections).
Until next time.