I’m out with my friend, Afsan, and someone asks us how long we’ve been in Singapore.
“Six months,” I say.
She looks at me and says “No, honey. You’ve been here eight months. I’ve been here six months.”
Can that really be true? I start to do the math and sure enough, eight months.
I’m not the new kid on the block anymore. I went to my first going away party a few months ago. Anywhere else in the world eight months might still be new, but in a city where people stay either two years or twelve years, I’m becoming an old timer.
Wow, this happened rather quickly.
Despite Afsan being in Singapore for six months, her husband, Max, only just arrived. I spent a day with them and another friend, Colin, on a driving tour around town.
Colin jumps in the car and immediately hands over a copy of one of Neil Humphreys books on Singapore. I get a little too excited. “Oh my gosh I’m reading his collection! Insightful, though a bit cheesy at times.” I can’t express quick enough the pride in finding the book all on my own and the many thoughts I have about it.
It’s Max’s first time living abroad and his excitement is charming and infectious. I remember flipping through my Singapore Lonely Planet before I arrived, imagining a land of temples, tofu and adventures yet to be had.
Max has only been here two days and he has lots of questions and a little bit of jetlag. Some questions I can answer, some I leave to Colin and Afsan. I’m surprised at how much I know about this place in such a short time.
“What’s that building over there?”
“It’s an HDB. You can assume that pretty much any ugly building is an HDB,” I answer. The others look at me and I realize my bluntness is laced with cynicism – cynicism that can slay enthusiasm. Now I feel a desire to start checking myself. I want his excitement to last as long as possible.
I want the travelling new experience magic to linger. I want to see my own experience through fresh eyes, not the eyes that deal with finding work, struggling with grocery store food choices, missing my friends around the globe.
I remember what it feels like to talk to people back home about what I am up to, to see my life from their perspective. It all sounds very exotic and exciting to live all over the world. It’s one of the many things I have dreamed of.
I remember that yes, my life is exciting. I am doing the things I want to be doing. I’m living, I’m exploring, I’m learning. The daily grind is just the daily grind.
I start to recall the things about Singapore that I really appreciate. “You get to meet very interesting people,” I say to Max. And indeed, that’s the biggest most meaningful and honest complement I can give.