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.
If your first meal in Singapore is not eaten while sitting around a plastic table surrounded by hawker stalls, you’re doing something wrong.
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.
Our old house. My current apartment is approximately 1/100th this size.
We have some pretty intense feelings for roti prata in this family.
My dad enjoys long walks on the beach and the scent of fresh durian in the morning.
I am so excited to live within a single 5-hour flight of this little monster soon!
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!