Go big or go home…

Posts Tagged ‘home

One of my ver’ good friends from the UK is married to an Australian. They lived together in the England for a while, and now live in Oz.

She said a while back, “The problem with truly managing to make a new place your home is that from then on, wherever you live you’ll always miss somewhere else.“

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Daily life

Posted on: June 7, 2009

And just like that, a quarter of a year turned into a third.

Month three was the worst so far in terms of being homesick; the fourth has certainly felt easier. I am more settled into daily life now, although my sister has pointed out that she doesn’t have much idea of what that means.

Here are the three questions she thought most pertinent:

1. Do I wear socks?
2. Do I eat chicken?
3. Do I own slippers?

These probably tell you more about her than they ever could about me, but for your delectation and delight:

1. Yes, I wear socks sometimes. When I first arrived I couldn’t imagine ever wearing anything except flip-flops and strappy summer dresses but now I wear jeans and everything, complete with shoes and socks. Only when it’s cloudy though.

(A point about the heat and weather – the air con in our living room cools the room DOWN to 26 C, which feels quite chilly when I first arrive home.)

2. I eat chicken but I hardly ever cook it. Lunch is now my main meal, eaten at one of the food centres near work, so I’m never really hungry when I get home and just eat salads or cheese and biscuits.

Favourite lunchtime chicken dishes include chicken rice and dosa. However, my sluggish European metabolism is struggling with all the carbs and the lack of veg so I’m trying to eat more packed lunches.

3. No I don’t own slippers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given I didn’t in the UK either.

It’s customary here (as with much of Asia) to take your shoes off before going into someone’s house. I’m not sure of the exact reason (internetz has suggested respect or fung shui), but J and I have adopted the habit at our flat. Our reason is that the floors are tiled and quickly get gritty if you stomp around in outdoor shoes.

A positive aspect of this habit is that you can wear beautiful but uncomfortable shoes to house parties, safe in the knowledge that you won’t be crippled by them for too long. The downside is that it’s embarrassing if your feet smell.

So, what else do ya want to know?

Singapore life is good. It’s sunny, the food is great, my new job promises to be interesting. I can take taxis everywhere and go to the beach at weekends. But is it all soy milk and honey? Not quite.

The first month I was here I was too busy to be homesick. It was only when I started work that it hit me – the routine threw into relief the differences between life here and in the UK.

It hasn’t been awful. I’ve had no sense that I’ve made a mistake, no panic. The best way to describe it is fleeting claustrophobia. I think about someone from the UK, imagine the journey from my London flat to theirs, and suddenly I’m thinking about 12 hour flights and feeling trapped.

An existential (Daoist) version of this: even if I went back to London now, it wouldn’t be the same city I left. Life is flux; we change in step with our environment and don’t notice the process. Once we leave we fall out of step, diverge.

So the London that I remember is already gone. Thinking in those terms feels sad and final, but the flip side is that the same would be true if I’d stayed. Perhaps I would have had a kid, moved to the suburbs, who knows? But the life I was living was changing, day-by-day, imperceptibly.

When I think of it that way, it makes me glad that I took charge, insofar as I can, and left on a high.

I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying that looking backwards can make me feel trapped because I can’t return to the things I remember. But looking forwards puts that into perspective.

Next time: kittens and pink things! Promise.

Today is our one month anniversary. We’re in our new flat but not online, so I’ve gone all the way to an internet café to mark the occasion (who knew internet cafés still existed! I thought poor people and backpackers would all have iPhones by now).

We haven’t seen much of the city yet – our time has been taken up with admin and housekeeping. On that front, our little home is making me very happy, even though there are no sockets for shavers and all the cupboards are too high or too low.

My favourite house things:

• The view, and how it changes through the day.

After dark it’s a mess of twinkling lights. Early in the morning there’s just haze, crystallising into city as the sun sharpens.

(Right now it’s raining, and the top of the CBD is lost in the clouds.)

• The big telly!

The TV itself (all 42 inches of it) is neither here nor there. J and I decided we weren’t going to get one, not realising they’re standard in furnished Singapore flats. So we’ve done the only sensible thing, and hooked the PC up to it. And *that*, as the kids say, is made of win.

• The ice tray.

Yup, really. The freezer has a built in ice tray; once the cubes are solid you twist a lever and they drop into a drawer below. Estimated ice cube capacity: 150 – all neatly stored in the pull-out bucket. This kind of organisation is going to take my martini mixing to dizzy new heights.

Food porn

Things I’ve tried:

• Carrot cake (ibid)

Takoyaki – octopus balls. For want of a better explanation, mini seafood toad-in-the-holes. Really good.

Rou gan – dried pork slices, a bit like biltong. Also really good.

Things I’ve not tried:

• Hotdog prata – wtf!

Pig organ soup. Ummm…

Other experiences

Medical exams; mandatory in order to secure gainful employ. I had mine today, and rocked up at the hospital with the tocsin of civil liberty sounding faintly but distinctly.

Neither my employer nor the hospital volunteered any information about what I would be tested for, but I asked a nurse and she said HIV, diabetes and kidney disease. Which doesn’t explain the chest x-ray, and begs the question, “What happens if anything comes up positive?”

The rest of the exam was basic: height, weight, b.p., except that the nurse giggled when she weighed me. And earlier today, the receptionist at my new agency said, “You’ll soon find the hot weather will melt all that fat off you,” while smiling benignly, as if she’d just told me she liked my shoes.

Fortunately I’m reasonably immune to stuff like that, although I had better get used to feeling Amazonian; a lot of SE Asian girls are teeny-tiny and very body-conscious.

Yours, hen pang Elle
xx

(57.2 kg in case you’re wondering. I think that’s bang on 9 st.)

Yesterday was slightly stressful, but by tea-time J and I had secured ourselves a place to live.

The process was rather portentous though. It all started to go wrong when I turned up at the bank to get a cashier’s order for the landlady (in lieu of a chequebook). I’d allowed half an hour for this task, surmising that few people could have urgent banking needs at 11am on a weekday.

How wrong I was! The queue moved torturously slowly, and I was 20 minutes late meeting my agent. She was good natured about it, but I did see her jaw set into a slightly harder line when I informed her that I’d also forgotten the letter of intent.

This document – meticulously filled out by J and I that morning, and still sitting neatly on our coffee table – was the crux of the whole meeting. It is signed by everyone involved, and means no one can back out without paying at least some damages.

“It’s ok,” the agent reassured me. “I have copies. You and the landlord can sign now, J can sign again later.” So we went up, met the landlady, lied cheerfully to her: Do you have pets? Nope. Do you smoke? Definitely not! Then the moment came to hand over the cash.

“Um, this should be a ‘G’, not a ‘Q’,” the landlady said.

Aaaarrrggghhh!

My agent drove me back to the bank, and deposited me in another hour-long queue. By the time I’d got the right cheque, with the right name on it, the simple task of meeting someone to exchange pieces of paper had occupied me for four hours.

It’s done though, the flat is ours! And the cheery optimist in me thinks that if things go wrong at the beginning they’ll only get better as we progress.

The flat is lovely – two bedrooms, two bathrooms, amazing views, little maid’s balcony. I don’t have pics yet, but here’s the project from the outside:

City Square Residences

City Square Residences

And here are some photos of the surrounding area.

Dear Flat,

I didn’t like you when I met you. You were empty at the viewing; a big white cube. I thought you were soulless. I didn’t realise that character comes from people, not woodwork.

Fortunately J had more vision, and a checklist. You ticked everything except “Bath” so we bought you. We moved in before the furniture and ate fish & chips on the floor.

That was three and a half years ago, and those years have been some of my best. You’ve been part of that; a corner of the world that’s mine. The first roots I’ve put down since mum & dad’s.

You’ve been part of my relationship with J as well. A mortgage is as much a commitment as a marriage. The lack of doors means I’ve learned to slam them less.

You made me house proud. You made me a housewife. You’ve been the backdrop to countless dinners and parties. You’ve only locked me out twice, and managed not to burn to the ground.

I don’t know if I will ever live in you again, but I will try and get you good tenants – ones who see the beauty in a big white cube.

Yours always,

elle