The next chapter

IMG_0731 IMG_0726Today, I was lucky enough to say good bye to friends Natalie and her three boys from Singapore who visited us here in California. Lucky because they came and spent time with us – not lucky to say goodbye!  As they left, I sat down to relax and then read a blog entry for a great thinker and friend from Singapore who is also currently re-acclimating to life in the USA.  Her thoughts got my thoughts inspired me to write a bit about my thoughts  finally, on coming home.

And, here it is:  What I don’t know is how important the folks I met in Singapore will continue to be in my world. I only just got a taste of it with this visit from Natalie. I have met up with two three different girlfriends from Singapore since I’ve returned. But, I haven’t had the kids see friends from their old life until now. The past three days, we had our old neighbor and friend, Natalie Messick and her three sons stay with us. And, it was great. As Ben said, it was like no time had passed.

It’s been such a struggle, in my mind, to try to make connections here in our new town with new kids who we’re meeting in third and fourth grade. These kids all have friends which they’ve had since playdate age. We’re working our way into the world and people are very friendly but we suffer simply from not having the history. When Natalie and her boys showed up, our history walked in the door. It was so perfect. And, I am grateful that they made visiting us a stop on their agenda. It was very meaningful to us.

While they were here, the boys quickly and easily reconnected. Natalie’s middle boy – Ashton – is very outgoing and used to spend countless hours at our house. He would just ring our bell at the oddest times and proceed to blend into our family. He’s a unique kid and we love him. It was great to get to see that kid again.

And, now they are gone and I’m back to trying to forge my way into inner circles of close knit kids in our town. Slowly, slowly I know we’ll make our inroads – how can we not when I have two delightful boys who any other kid in town would be lucky to befriend. But, time must pass while people figure that out! There is, afterall, only so much I can do. Some days are lonely and some days are filled with appreciation for the friends who shared our life in Singapore. The journey continues.


Post Script – Serendipity?

In August 2008, when we first left the USA, I wrote about meeting a family as we boarded our plane to Singapore:

“As we left the Singapore Air lounge in LAX, a family started talking to us.  They asked if we were moving to SG and we said yes.  They said that they are from San Diego but have been living in SG for the last three years.  So, they we’re returning after their summer trip home.  Their kids go to the American School.  They were full of reassuring and friendly things to say to us.  It was a great thing to meet them at that point.  It was pretty scary getting on the flight knowing that we were not leaving on a vacation but we’re actually leaving our home.  This family’s friendly words helped me get on that plane.”

Once in Singapore, I didn’t think of them much after that experience.  We never ran into them either…not at the school, around the island, or on any other flights…

…until our move back to the USA on Dec. 31, 2012.

We ran into that same family again on our flight back to the USA!  I approached them and reminded them of our first meeting on that flight to Singapore so many years ago.  They had since moved back to the USA and were returning from a visit to see friends in Singapore.  Once again, they were full of reassuring words for us.  Repatriating to America has gone well for them and the kids were happy in their schools.  

It seems as if this family are our guardian angels assigned to guide us to and from Singapore!   

Singapore, The Move, Travel South East Asia

And then we came to the end…

We’re back in California now. After three weeks of being back in Los Gatos, it still hardly seems real.

So, I’m turning back to this blog to “wrap it up”.

Our final days in Singapore were wonderful, bittersweet and touching. We had numerous going away parties! We felt so loved and so lucky for the farewell from friends.

Ben's an enthusiastic party goer!  Here are some of our favorite neighbors - Brenton, Adrian, Alex, Nicholas, Pacific, Lanceton, Nicky Grigg
Ben’s an enthusiastic party goer! Here are some of our favorite neighbors – Brenton, Adrian, Alex, Nicholas, Pacific, Lanceton, Nicky Grigg

Here’s a couple of pictures of special friends:

Nicky Grigg - and Virginia - at the Ice Cream truck outside the back gate

So many afternoons and evenings and Saturdays and Sundays spent with Alex and his family.
So many afternoons and evenings and Saturdays and Sundays spent with Alex and his family.

Our dear friends Scott and Sarah had their new baby girl and we were so lucky to be able to visit her before we moved:
Dave and River Smiley

And in our last month at 26 Oakwood Grove, yet another stray cat took up residency. We were lucky to get Sarah (Alex’s mom) to adopt this kitty. They are the perfect family to take this cat from Ferrel to Family!

this is when Arlene and I capture the kitty to transfer him to Sarah's house.
this is when Arlene and I capture the kitty to transfer him to Sarah’s house.

And as Christmas approached, we watched our home get slowly packed away. It wasn’t too festive but we did our best:
Christmas 2012

The moving took over and we could only join in:
Ben, Alex and Davis getting packed away in our container!

In the end, it took a team of Malaysians to shut down our life:
Squeezing it all in!

And we haven’t seen our stuff since! I tried to tell my friend Sarah that “Home is where the Heart is”:
Home is where the Heart is.
She wasn’t the slightest bit touched by my sentimentality and quickly countered: “Home is where your Crap is”. Well, it’s been about 6 weeks since we’ve seen our Crap and we all agree whole heartedly now! We won’t feel at home until our crap gets here!

So, in the meantime, once our container took sail, we were lucky enough to be distracted by Ben’s baseball tournament in Bangkok. We all flew off to the 10 and Under baseball games being held at the International School of Bangkok. A more perfect distraction could not be had! The games were exciting and it was fun to experience the different cultural aspects between the teams. Ben pitched the opening game and the closing game:
Ben pitches

Getting ready to pitch

And after the tournament, we went up to Chiang Mai for one last Asian Adventure:
Ben at a waterfall in Chiang Mai

and Nicky at the waterfall

We ziplined on the world’s longest set of ziplines while in Chiang Mail:
Nicky on the ziplines.
...and Ben!

We went to some hot springs outside of Chiang Mai and discovered the local delicacy of “hot spring boiled eggs”!
the beautiful hotsprings...

buying our eggs...

boiling our eggs...

We took a wonderful bike ride out to a lake:
Chiang Mail Lake swim

They did the best they could with Christmas in Chiang Mai:
Ginger Bread house


Once we returned to Singapore for our final time, we really just had to clean house and, the hardest part of all, say good by to Arlene.

Arlene helped me clean the mold off this leather jacket before taking it home to USA.  I asked her to try the jacket on.  I don't think she's ever worn so much clothing!
Arlene helped me clean the mold off this leather jacket before taking it home to USA. I asked her to try the jacket on. I don’t think she’s ever worn so much clothing!

We were all so sad to part ways. We’re staying in touch via Facebook but it’s not the same. Arlene was so much more than just a help around the house or a companion when Dave was gone. She was a friend and a good part of our household and family. We miss her everyday.

So, this chapter of our lives has come to an end. And, it is sad. Now that we’re back in CA and the trauma of making the move is over, it’s easy to put Singapore in the rear view mirror. But, we will never forget what we gained after our almost 5 years in Singapore: a love of Asia, a desire to travel more and more, and a strong connection with our family through our summer travels. We also made – most literally – a world of friends: starting with our friends and family from the USA who traveled around the world to visit us, to the friends we made in Singapore who now span the globe. Our time in Asia may have ended for now, but our world is forever enriched as a result. We have been fortunate.


I am a New Englander

As Hurricane Sandy “bears” down on much of the East Coast, I am reminded of my roots. I am a New Englander. And, there is nothing we New Englander’s do better than prepare for a storm. We were made for this stuff. We store water, stock batteries, tape windows, batten down hatches with glee. We prepare for a storm with more fervor and skill than we prepare for most holidays. And we are frugal while we do it, if we can fashion our gas cooking stove out of decade old Coleman remnants saved in the barn, we will. And, we are efficient, if we can melt our water from snow from the yard while heating the house with the wood stove, we do it! And we are experts, we discuss fallen electrical lines with knowledge second only to the actual Light and Power crew (and sometimes that’s debatable). And, we are self reliant, if we could fix those electrical lines with duck tape, well then we would get out there and fix them.

In New England, you know what’s going to hit you long before it comes. Usually you are prepared for the most worst case scenario that never comes to fruition. Then, we New Englanders bash the weather people and the news people and anyone in between as we discuss how they over hyped again. Maybe the West Coasters know how to stock up for an earthquake but there’s not much else you can do to prepare when there’s little warning (unfortunately).

I miss New England.

Holidays, Travel South East Asia

Melaka Malaysia

It’s summer travel time! And as seems to be the yearly tradition, we’re starting the summer off with an Asian excursion. This summer, we were lucky to take a ROAD trip (ROAD!! when you live on a 40 x 40 sq mile island – the idea of a Road Trip is pretty nice! But, you can’t take the dog 😦 ).

In fact, here are the first key shots – the Dunkin Donuts – a highlight as soon as you drive in to Malaysia – they are everywhere (unlike in Singapore), and a HILL! Singapore is FLAT so this is a refreshing sight.

First stop!  :)  Dunkin Donuts - a rarity in SG.
First stop! 🙂 Dunkin Donuts – a rarity in SG.
A hill ahead
A hill ahead

We checked into the Renaissance hotel and felt lucky to get a room there. It seems it’s a busy time for road trips as the local Singapore schools are on holiday. We had a great view of a traditional but still very active and real Malay village. The river in the view traverses through the town adding oodles of charm at every bend. It was a lovely view to have. And, for the record, our room was quite nice – far about Malaysian standards 🙂

Our hotel: a room with a view!

Our first stop after checking in was to get some lunch. We walked out the hotel and quickly found Famousa Chicken Rice Ball. Since we had read the Melaka was famous for it’s chicken rice balls, we felt this must be the place to stop. What great food and ambience! We were by far the only Western people! Luckily those Chicken Rice Balls are not traditional Chinese Creepy and infact, quite fabulous!

Melaka is famous for it's Chicken Rice balls
Melaka is famous for it’s Chicken Rice balls
Nicky can't believe how good the rice ball tastes!
Nicky can’t believe how good the rice ball tastes!
The busy local restaurant
The busy local restaurant

After lunch we walked towards the center of town – first going through Melaka’s own Little India. Melaka is famous for being a huge trading port back in the early 1700’s. Many ships from all destinations would stop at the Melaka port to trade goods. Eventually, word got out that the town was so successful that different people came to take over the town. First the Portugese claimed Melaka. A hundred or so years later, the Dutch came a long and took it over. Then the British claimed it for their own. As a result of the successful trading destination and the many countries who ran Melaka, there are many influences in the town making it a very fascinating destination today. Little India is particularly authentic here as seen in these bulk spice shops.
Melaka's Little India

Another view of the river....
Another view of the river….
Home Life, SAS

Good Bye Words from a Friend – Karrie’s parting email

Karrie, Cara and me....on the benches at pick up.
Karrie, Cara and me….on the benches at pick up.
During my tearful goodbye to Singapore Thursday night, I thought about the time spent and realized just how different Asia can be from home in the US.
Much akin to David Lettermans top 10. Here are my 10 “Things about Singapore”……
10.  There is no such thing as a five minute trip to Fairprice. You will run into 3 neighbors, your security guard, the pest guy from your first house and the nice lady that sells the best Chicken Rice ever.  Total shopping trip 55 mins. minimum.

9. You will never live on another street with one of your children’s many teachers living in earshot. And yes, you are a screamer.

8. Whether you like it or not,taxis will invoke motion sickness despite never having suffered from it in your past, previous locale. These same taxis and their drivers will prove to be either the best conversations you will ever have, or the worst.

7. The smell of taxis.

6. Helpers.  They will iron your husbands boxers, make some of the best dishes imaginable and in some cases prove to be a luxury item, surpassing that of a luxury vehicle or a small beachside home in the south of France.

5. The children will be hard pressed to find an educational experience better than this. And where else could your child get an interim trip to a place people save half of their lives to travel to.

4. The amazing world of Bangkok.

3. Durian fruit, chicken with heads still on in the meat dept., hawker stands, a man who delivers food to your house, and being called Auntie when you think that’s reserved for the older set.

2. Changi Airport, Singapore Airlines and Silk Air – Where a 2 hour flight comes complete with a hot meal, hot towel and Ben & Jerry’s  icecream.

1.  Memories of some of the best times of my life with some of the best people I will ever meet.

I love you all and will miss you immensely.


Good bye lunch for Karrie at Cheval - Me, Cara, Jen and Karrie
Good bye lunch for Karrie at Cheval – Me, Cara, Jen and Karrie