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.)
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.
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.
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!
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.)
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.
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 Privé, where I can get a healthy dose of American-style pancakes with maple syrup – my fave! Privé 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? :)
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