Expat Life

Life Lately + A Chijmes Photo Series

A life lately post – somebody cue the misty, on-screen fade out and the tinkling sound of wind chimes because this is officially a flashback to blogging in 2013. Ha!

When we first moved to London, I frequently wrote posts like this, both for the purpose of recapping what we’d been up to, but also so I’d have a place to chronicle our expat journey on an emotional level too. One of my fellow expat bloggers used to call this sort of post a ‘Well Expat Check-Up’, and I think that name suits perfectly. Just like healthy children need occasional check-ups, so do new expats, at least figuratively anyway. Adventures and excitement often accompany the life of an expat, but so do confusion, uncertainty, irritation, and a whole slew of other so-called negative emotions. Writing it all out, admitting what was working and what wasn’t, and sharing personal triumphs and fails alike was how I processed all those conflicting feelings in the beginning. Besides the cathartic release that was writing it all back then, I’m grateful today to have a written record to look back on and see how far I’ve come in the going on five years we’ve been living abroad.

But what about now? Why no expat updates since our move to Singapore? Well, besides the fact that personal blogging died a slow and painful death somewhere around 2015, I’ve been an expat for long enough now that I know the ropes. I’m fairly certain you could plop me down in any country in the world and I’d be able to adjust better and quicker than I did on our first move abroad. The scenery changes, but the way you maneuver through it is still the same. And as such, I no longer have very much to say in that respect anymore. I still experience unfamiliar situations and confusing cultural differences on an almost daily basis, of course, but I have the tools to handle these things with minimal psychological distress now. (Which certainly was not the case in the beginning.)

That being said, I miss the personal aspect of blogging tremendously, both as a writer and a reader of blogs, and so I’d like to start occasionally checking in with life updates again. (If only to please the very few who still diligently read each and every post I write – bless you all.)

Chijmes: One Of Singapore's Most Photogenic Spots

So where to start? I haven’t really written about our life in Singapore since the One Year In Singapore post, which also happened to be my first update since moving here. Yikes. I suppose I could just begin with what I’ve been up to lately, which is actually a whole heck of a lot.

A stipulation of my visa here in Singapore is that I am not allowed to take a job, so when we first got here, I joined everything. No really, everything. I had four different volunteer positions at Lexie’s school, worked one day every week at a riding stable for disabled children, and volunteered in two different areas for a charitable organization funding schools in Siem Reap, Cambodia. And, like a proper non-working spouse, I also joined a yoga studio. (Ha!) While I loved the organizations I was volunteering for, I was also just biding my time until our two-year contract in Singapore was over so we could return to the States and I could head to graduate school. And that was the plan until around the one year mark of our two-year contract when Cory decided to take a new position within his company, extending our contract for two additional years on top of our current contract.

With graduate school off the table (at least for the time being), I was faced with the decision of continuing to spend all of my time volunteering or finding a way to make some headway on my own personal career goals without actually getting a job. (Tricky, I know.) In the end, I dropped all of my volunteer commitments except the two associated with the Cambodian charity I’ve grown quite attached to, and I began writing again. Occasionally the two overlap. (I was recently tasked with writing an email campaign that would be sent out to all of the local schools in Singapore, and I am so proud to say the campaign has generated a lot of interest in what we’re doing in Cambodia! Yay!)

I’ve also started blogging again. And after an almost two year break, it feels SO good to be back.

Chijmes: One Of Singapore's Most Photogenic Spots

In other news, this beautiful girl entered Grade 10 a couple months ago. I must find it pretty unbelievable that I have a daughter who is a sophomore because I actually told two different people last week that Lexie was a freshman. (I think it’s my brain’s way of protecting me from the truth that we are both getting older. Denial is my safe space.)

Last year was a major adjustment for Lex. Her current school is her 6th, so she is certainly well-versed in what it’s like to have New Kid in School status, but one thing we’ve learned as expat parents is that it gets a lot harder to change schools the older your kids get. While the social aspect certainly comes into play, that’s not been the biggest hurdle, at least for us. Instead, it was going from the IB program back to an American curriculum (I guess it works both ways. This was also tough when Lex started the IB program in London.), and entering a school that was four times the size of what she was accustomed to in her last two, and suddenly being confronted with a staggering list of requirements and deadlines for college preparation. It was overwhelming for us all, but especially Lex.

Luckily, with the stress of being the new kid and having to navigate a new school while simultaneously learning a new curriculum lifted, this year has started off much easier. But it hasn’t come without its own challenges.

Chijmes: One Of Singapore's Most Photogenic Spots

I should preface this by saying, I think Singapore might be trying to kill Lex.

(That’s a terrible preface. Prefaces are best when they make something easier understood, not more ambiguous. Sorry.)

Let me rephrase. I believe, with our move to Singapore, that we may have inadvertently just placed our perfectly healthy daughter into a giant Petri dish full of just the right germs to keep her perpetually ill. Not ill enough to need medical attention (most of the time), but ill enough that we have all grown so accustomed to Lex having a nagging sore throat or a headache that it took us way longer than it should have to realize, on her first day of school no less, that there was something much more malevolent going on.

Because the morning on the first day of school is always a rush, when Lex got home at the end of the day we went down to our condo’s garden to take her first day of school photos. (Yes, I still make her do this, even in Grade 10.) While we were taking photos, she started complaining about not being able to feel her hands, which is also about the time I noticed something the size of a golf ball growing off the side of her neck. We immediately stopped taking photos and were headed back to the elevator when I realized…I didn’t have my elevator key. Or my house key. Or my phone, which was, inconveniently, in the same place as all of our keys. Lex laid down on a lounger by the pool because it hurt to even stand up straight, and needless to say I was FREAKING OUT over that, plus the fact I couldn’t get us back into the apartment, so I did the only logical thing and ran out into the street yelling like a crazy person. I practically accosted a stranger for their phone only to realize I didn’t know my husband’s number. It was like full-on disaster movie. Nothing was going right and we were all going to die. I was in the middle of typing an email to Cory from this poor stranger’s phone when Lex remembered she had her house key in her backpack which I’d made her bring down for pictures. I almost passed out from relief.

We took her to the hospital that evening where she was admitted for a pretty serious bacterial infection. Multiple rounds of IV antibiotics and almost a month of oral antibiotics later, she is doing much better. I’ve got to hand it to her – most people wouldn’t still attend auditions for the school play less than 24 hours after being released from the hospital, but she did…and got a call-back!

Chijmes: One Of Singapore's Most Photogenic Spots Chijmes: One Of Singapore's Most Photogenic Spots

After all of that, we’ve been trying to make life as easy as possible for Lex as she continues to heal. We’ve been traveling a little less and helping her remember to rest on weekends and not push so hard in school. And, because I’m an awesome mom, I did something she wanted that I really, really didn’t want to do. I dyed her hair. Groundbreaking, I know.

Lex is now our little red-haired mermaid, and even I’ll admit the new color suits her, but I had agreed to color her hair on one condition – that she, willingly and happily, allow me to take as many photos as I wanted before we chemically altered her appearance. And so we headed to Chijmes, probably my favorite place in all of Singapore to take portraits. (All of the photos in this post were picked from two different photo shoots at Chijmes.)

Chijmes: One Of Singapore's Most Photogenic Spots

CHIJMES

Once a Catholic convent and girls’ school, these days Chijmes is more a haven for the city’s selfie-takers than it is a place of worship. With courtyards featuring giant white columns, beautifully tiled outdoor passageways, and spiraling staircases it’s not hard to see why Chijmes attracts both tourists and locals looking to take that one perfect Instagram shot. (Check out the acrobat girl in the photo above. I must be doing Instagram all wrong!)

Many of the old buildings related to the convent are still standing, most notably the gothic-style chapel and Caldwell House, which used to be the nuns’ place of residence. These buildings both serve different purposes now, one a multi-purpose hall and the other an art gallery, but I’ve never been in either because, outside of coming to Chijmes to take photos, we only come to this area for one reason and one reason only – to eat.

Chijmes: One Of Singapore's Most Photogenic Spots

Chijmes: One Of Singapore's Most Photogenic Spots Chijmes: One Of Singapore's Most Photogenic Spots

EATING AT CHIJMES

There is certainly no lack of good places to eat in Singapore. If anything, our overabundance of excellent choices creates the opposite problem – choosing where to go becomes darn near impossible when everything looks good. But on Saturday for brunch (and sometimes lunch), I always know where I want to go – Chijmes.

With over 20 restaurants within the Chijmes complex, there are still far too many choices for an indecisive person like me, but luckily they aren’t all open for brunch. My favorite spot to enjoy this beloved breakfast-lunch hybrid meal is Privรฉ, where I can get a healthy dose of American-style pancakes with maple syrup – my fave! Privรฉ also has a covered outdoor patio which makes brunching outside, even in the rain, a possibility. Many of the restaurants within Chijmes have outdoor eating areas overlooking the chapel and the grassy open areas where more and more people settle as the day goes on, so it’s an excellent spot for people-watching.

There’s a calmer, more laid-back, kick-your-shoes-off-and-sit-for-awhile vibe at Chijmes that makes it stand out from a lot of other places to eat in the center of Singapore. I think that’s what keeps me coming back. Plus, if you have the chance to watch people taking numerous selfies while you eat, why would you ever pass that up? :)

Chijmes: Website
Address: 30 Victoria Street, Singapore 187996

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Chijmes: One Of Singapore's Most Photogenic Spots

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  • I’m so, so glad she’s feeling better! x

  • I loved Chijmes when we visited – we had a lovely dinner there at Lei Garden!

    Beautiful, beautiful photos of Lexie. I’m so happy to hear she’s doing better, but you must have been scared out of your mind!! Well done for handling it as well as you did … I would have been hysterical (you did NOT sound hysterical!).

    • Ha! Well, I certainly felt hysterical! I’ve now turned into one of those overprotective helicopter parents and when Lex so much as sneezes or clears her throat too loudly, I’ve already booked an appointment with the GP. :)

  • Angelique VanWaarde

    What a beautiful place! And I hope Lexie is doing much better and will get rid of being constantly not feeling a 100%! Plus I would love to see her new hair color

    • Thank you so much! She’s certainly better now than she was a few months ago! I’m sure her new hair color will be featuring on the blog very soon! :)

      • Angelique VanWaarde

        That is good to hear and I can’t wait to see!

  • I’m glad to hear that Lexie is doing better again! The last years of High School and all the uncertainty that comes with it can really take a toll on someone, so I think it’s great that you and Cory do your best to encourage her to take it easy and rest as well. I hope you will continue to enjoy living in Singapore! :)

    • Oh man, I know. She’s got a lot on her plate right now needing to consistently make good grades, plus think about where she wants to go to college AND what she wants to do with the rest of her life. It’s definitely an exciting but stressful period she’s in right now!

  • omg poor Lex! Glad you guys got it sorted out. Red was the first colour I dyed my hair when I was younger too :)

    • My first color was orange. It wasn’t intentional, it’s just what happens when you put Sun-In on dark hair. ;)

  • I miss the personal aspect of blogging too! I’ve been trying to write a post about moving home from Korea for a year and a half now, but it seems too overwhelming. I will do it eventually, though. I hope you keep up the occasional personal post. :) It was fun reading about what you’re doing. That’s silly that they won’t let you get a job there! Would you ever consider doing an online graduate program? What were you planning on studying? I’m glad your daughter is feeling better!

    • Oh, I know exactly how difficult posts like that are to write. It’s so worth it, though, when you’re done. I look forward to reading it!

      Ah, yeah, it’s a weird stipulation of the particular visa I’m on. I would consider an online grad degree, except they don’t offer that for School Counseling since at least half of the program is completed in primary and secondary schools. Can’t do it here in Singapore either, so I’ll either have to wait until we eventually move back…or just choose something else if I still want to get my masters in a few years. I love living overseas, but sometimes it really screws with my other life plans. :)

  • Oh my gosh Sarah, you totally freaked me out. That sounds like a nasty infection she had. You behaved exactly as I would have in that situation. When one of my kids is sick, or something is going down to do with my kids… I lose it. Then I gain my cool… then I lose it. These are our babies!! I am so glad that your daughter is better, and I’m a teeeeeny bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see Lexie’s new hair!!! She went from a cute little girl, to this beautiful young woman. It’s not fair. My oldest is 26 now. How does that happen??? Not fair!

    • You can check out her hair in the picture at the bottom of our Halloween post!

      26, my goodness! I don’t even want to think about how grown up Lexie will be when she’s 26! I still feel like I’m 26. ;)

  • Please keep doing life lately posts! They are the thing I love most about expat blog reading :))
    Glad to hear all is well now…. what beautiful photos you took of her! &just have to say that one gal in the red t-shirt in your Chijmes photo must have some serious Instagram game – bwahaha.

    • I am definitely going to try to keep up with them a little bit more. I did so good while we were in London, but have totally dropped the ball here in Singapore. I was so prepared before we left London to write all about our adjustment to Singapore and then…nothing. Ha! I’ll be better now that I’m consistently blogging again, though! :)