Returning Home

IMG-20141005-WA0020

our new skyline

Home is where the heart is…
Or where the passport’s from…
Or where you keep your stuff…

Interesting question come to think of it. At this point, I’ve different answers to these questions. Over the past few years, I’ve been hopping around from location to location. The latest in my long list of passport stamps has lead me home to Singapore.

It’s been a grand total of 5 years since I’ve been home. Dang, that’s weird to say out loud. If you’re Singaporean, ever been to Singapore or know anyone from there, it’s an eternity in the evolution of this tiny little island. 2015 will officially mark 50 years of independence. Things have gotten a lot more interesting since I left.

Now begs the question, why did I stay away for so long? Well, my journey started in August 2006. Enter much younger me, with a half-filled passport and teen angst (okay, maybe less angst, more acne…). My dad was the first in the family to go across the pond to the lights, dreams and drizzles of Londontown for school and I wanted the same idyllic walk-among-the-pigeons-in-Trafalgar-Square-make-your-kids-jealous kind of experience. So began the ocean of Common Application, UCAS, Canadian, Australian and Singaporean (just in case) applications demanding to know my every waking move since primary school. Moving past the dull stuff, I got accepted into the lot and it boiled down to where to now. Oddly enough, America was not my first choice. The final decision processes was who had the best scholarship offer (mum and dad’s idea) and which one would let me dick around for 2 years before picking a major (my idea). Yeah, I’m one of those you-decide-where-we-have-lunch types…

the trip: from airport to touchdown to Times Square

the trip: from airport to touchdown to Times Square

Did I know what I was getting into when I boarded a 24-hour Singapore Airlines flight halfway round the world? I like to think, so but realistically, NOPE! It would be my first time in America. Yes, half a passport filled and I couldn’t have done some scouting before hand. My first experience landing in New York City didn’t help things either. Day one in Herald Square, the lady at McDonalds yells at me to speak English. I am from Singapore. We speak English! 5 attempts to order a cheeseburger without pickles later, I had soggy fries and a bad attitude. To be fair to her, between the 12-hour time difference and the 24-hour flight I probably did sound like a bumbling idiot. To be fair to me, she was probably Bon Qui Qui in disguise. So far NYC-1, Me-0… Great…

(left) is what they show you in the brochure, (right) is reality

(left) is what they show you in the brochure, (right) is reality

The school I had chosen was Syracuse University. Syracuse, NY is about a 4 hour drive outside NYC and home to one of the best communications programmes in the country (yah alma mater!). Courtesy of being an hour shy of the Canadian border, Syracuse is also home to some of the worst snowfalls in the US. They don’t tell you that in the brochure. It definitely didn’t help my enduring soggy fries induced attitude towards the country. So check being able to tell my kids that I walked uphill in the snow to class. Making them jealous, not so much.

After the first 3 months and the gift of a $1,000 phone bill (yeah, international I-am-homesick calls get expensive), I finally got over myself and started to have fun. That led to friends that I could call in a pinch, first apartments, first job, funny you-had-to-be-there stories, summers with the crap job and everything in between. 4 years flew by and soon I was at graduation.

Collage of College: an iron pour for a sculpture class, building houses for Habitat for Humanity and bobsledding at Lake Placid

Collage of College: an iron pour for a sculpture class, building houses for Habitat for Humanity and bobsledding at Lake Placid

Post graduation, I spent a lovely summer pottering around in Syracuse working at a Dominican restaurant (read in resume as learning to speak Spanish) and drinking soy milkshakes at cafés. As the new school year crept closer, I finally got off my behind and cajoled a good friend with the offer of Krispy Kremes to help me move to the City. 6 hours later, I was officially in New York City, The Big Apple, Home of the American Dream… Well, you get the idea.

_MG_7978Why NYC? In 2010, I got talked into standing in Times Square to watch the ball drop. It was epic. We shared peach schnapps with a group from Mexico who had vodka hidden in Burger King cups, who introduced us to film students who had just made friends with tourists from Wisconsin, who had discovered they had a mutual friend they went to high school with. As the ball dropped and the fireworks went off, Jay-Z and Beyonce performed “Empire State of Mind.” Between strains of “these streets will make you feel brand new, these lights will inspire you”, I made a promise to live there. Quite the change of heart. But then again, the ball drop can be kind of epic.

Spending time in NYC had its stories, enough to fill diaries and definitely some that might have to be edited for the kids. I got to work in a little independent arts house, a stint in Times Square and then on Wall Street. On the way, I reapplied for my visa and got to stay past the year that I was expecting to. I also developed a strange paranoia about leaving the country. I know, crazy right? Like a little kid who thinks their siblings are going to take away their toys. I built my life there and had my impromptu “family” that I spent holidays with. (Ece and I spent 2 rather amusing Thanksgiving together). I definitely didn’t want to leave quite yet.

2 years later, I had an opportunity to move to Miami. I know, pretty boss, right? So round 2 of apartment hunting, making new friends and more memories created. It was fun, the independence, never having to answer to anyone and just doing my thing. Got a promotion, which was a nice plus. Then visa time rolled around again and I decided it was time to go home for a bit. It served 2 purposes, get to see everyone and get my visa stamped, which means that I could travel outside the confines of the US.

I am in Miami, Beach...

I am in Miami, Beach…

So that’s how I ended up, with an odd sense of déja-vu, evaluating life on a 30-hour flight back home. Thoughts punctuated only by the harassed United Airlines stewardess poking me for putting my feet in the aisle.

I love flights and trains. It’s limbo, where all you have are your thoughts but as the little cartoon airplane got closer to my little red dot of a destination, I started to get nervous. I will preface this by saying that I am horrible with staying in touch with people. Unless you live with me, work with me or harass me, you will probably rarely hear from me. What’s App made me a little better but still pretty horrendous (which is yet another reason to start this blog). I wasn’t sure what the reception would be. Crossed fingers, I would be okay.

Level 33, home of the skyline shot from before

Level 33, home of the skyline shot from before

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