Expat Life

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

21 years ago I became an expat for the first time when my family moved to Singapore. It was a pretty bold move on my parents’ part, both of them having lived in the same city their entire lives. Back then, in the area of the US where we lived, people just didn’t do that. I had gone to school with the same people all throughout elementary school and junior high because no one ever moved away. And if they did, they certainly didn’t move 10,000 miles away.

That was such an inconceivable notion that when I tried to explain to one of my teachers I only saw once a week that I wouldn’t be returning the following semester, she didn’t believe me. The last time I saw her was the day before Christmas break when I tried to tell her for the last time that I really was moving to Singapore, and she was still like, ‘Okay, sure, Sarah. See you in January.’

I still wish I could have seen her face the following semester when she realized I was telling the truth.

The world is a different place now, though. Cities, even the one I grew up in, are far more transient than they once were. People don’t often stay in the towns they grew up in, and even moving overseas isn’t as wild an idea as it once was. My dad asked me just the other day if I thought I would have chosen the expat life for myself and my own family if him and my mom hadn’t taken the road less traveled by all those years ago. I didn’t have a good answer for him. I’d like to think that even without my experiences as a teenager, I’d have been curious and brave enough to make this choice on my own, but who knows?

All I do know is, I am so freaking thankful my parents did. To be able to experience both life in the US and overseas as a kid was such a gift. One I’ve been so lucky to have been able to give my own daughter these past five years. We are headed “home” in just a little over two months which will mark the end of our expat journey as a family of three. (Sooo many emotions about this right now…) As a fitting farewell to this chapter of our lives, we had my parents and sister’s family fly out here at the end of March for a little Singapore family reunion before we go.

Singapore has changed a lot in the two decades since I first lived here, but having my family here made experiencing “Singapore of the past” possible. The streets I walk down every day were different while they were here. They were the streets of my youth again. The school Lexie attends was suddenly my school again, too. It was such an extraordinary feeling getting to see the city I’ve lived in the past two years in a way that wasn’t possible until my family was here with me.

In usual Sarah-fashion, I took hundreds more photos than necessary of this reunion. A collection of a few of my favorites are below, some of which are Cory’s and my dad’s, so I can’t take credit for all of them. If you’d like to see photos from our first Singapore family reunion back in 2007, blurry evidence of that can be found here.

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

If your first meal in Singapore is not eaten while sitting around a plastic table surrounded by hawker stalls, you’re doing something wrong.

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

Running laps around the school track barefoot in a dress is something my teenage self would have done. I definitely would never do that now.

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

Our old house. My current apartment is approximately 1/100th this size.

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

We have some pretty intense feelings for roti prata in this family.

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

My dad enjoys long walks on the beach and the scent of fresh durian in the morning.

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

I am so excited to live within a single 5-hour flight of this little monster soon!

Scenes From A Singapore Family Reunion

We also took a quick trip over to Cambodia while everyone was here, which I think marked my 30th new country unless I’m leaving one out. (Which is entirely possible since both my memory and my math skills are total rubbish.) You can expect photos and stories from that trip in approximately 1-2 years. Just kidding. I know it’s been slow-going, but I’m making pretty decent progress through all of our old trips. If this move doesn’t completely take over my life here in a couple months, I might just be caught up to current by the end of the year. Fingers crossed!

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Beth
    April 23, 2018 at 5:14 AM

    Nice post, I can’t imagine what it must be like to move back “home” after the expat experience. And it is good for me to get these perspectives from people who lived abroad in youth, as we are banking on some level of forgiveness from our kids since we moved them away from the US as they approached high school years! We are nearing our 3 year anniv in London this summer, with at least a few more years to go. I am really enjoying your blog and please keep posting “old” trips. Best of luck with the prep work for your move. Cheers!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      April 23, 2018 at 8:39 PM

      I moved to Singapore a year and a half before I started high school, then ended up going to three different high schools in two different countries before I graduated…and I wouldn’t change a thing! Every kid is different, but most I grew up with in Singapore ended up living in multiple countries before graduating and I don’t know a single one who hates their parents for it. :)

      When it does come time for you all to move back, read up a little on ‘third culture kids’. I’m fairly certain your kids will be able to relate and it’ll help them readjust to know what they’re feeling is normal.

  • Reply
    Ashley Urke | Domestic Fashionista
    April 23, 2018 at 1:02 PM

    I so enjoyed this post! How interesting to consider how different life experiences pave the way for where we land. What a special place Singapore is for your whole family! And I am so impressed that baby made it all the way there as well! I am also noticing that you and Lexie have the same dress…or can share clothes now? :) Either way, I love it!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      April 23, 2018 at 8:44 PM

      I don’t know if I’d call it sharing. More like, she steals anything nice in my closet and then leaves me with all the early 2000’s hand-me-downs. :)

      My nephew is definitely a trooper. It took an entire day of travel for them to reach us from Seattle, and my sister said he was wonderful the whole way. I don’t know if I’d have been brave enough to make that journey with a baby, but I’m super thankful she was!

  • Reply
    Julie
    May 3, 2018 at 3:31 PM

    What absolutely lovely photos! That’s so awesome all your family was able to come over and go back to the very roots of your connection with Singapore. And I have to say that the house you lived in as a teenager with your family is awesome looking, it looks straight out of colonial times (which maybe it was?). I really love the photo of all the women at a temple. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      May 3, 2018 at 8:11 PM

      Actually, we were the first people to ever live in that house. I think it must have been built in 1996. Still, I do love how the architects drew on Singapore’s colonial past when designing the homes in our old neighborhood. It’s a lovely neighborhood to walk through, even now 20-something years later.

  • Reply
    Jessi (Two Feet, One World)
    May 12, 2018 at 7:47 AM

    Awh such lovely photos. And that little guy is aDORable!

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