Sarah McArthur’s recent article about missing her younger sister’s 21st birthday was reminiscent of the days when we lived outside of Singapore for an extended period. While Suan was not living with Mel in Shanghai (though she commuted), we were together far away from family and friends for 3+ years while living in Holland.
True we had visitors such as our respective parents and family, but those visits were sparse and did not last long (a couple of weeks at most). Most folks have their own busy lives, enough to take them away from their own families and home, let alone make the trip halfway around the world to visit.
And who finances those trips?
For parents, it was an easy one, we did! As children with Asian upbringing heritage, it seemed normal to pay the way for your parents. I guess we must be a dying breed. Don’t hear much of that happening now these days even in the prudish Singapore context.
It is very true that we have grown very far apart from our childhood and school friends. We have missed weddings (Mel did), celebration of children’s birth etc. We have lost the confide of our friends. And certainly missed the times we could have spent hanging out late…sigh…
On the other hand we have made new friends, formed “clubs” of acquaintances and kept in touch even as we moved around the world. Or as they moved around the world. We’ve kept busy building new social lives and networks wherever we have been. So it is about adaptability and the ability to let go. Perhaps some things are harder to do.
Living abroad for work/career is really like what some call real traveling as opposed to vacations. You fly into a foreign country, apply for your bank accounts (to get paid), try to figure out how they tax your income, rent a place to stay and make transport arrangements (such as leasing a car or finding the nearest tram stop). You apply for residence permits, which is needed if you want to get the cable, mobile and broadband hooked up. You spend an inordinate amount of time compared with home to get the same things done, all while try to gesticulate and articulate your way with folks whose first language is not English (though they may speak it well).
However once you are done with that, its off to the races!
The content of much of the travel stories we are sharing slowly in this blog may be old, but they are the true experiences of doing what some dreamt or imagined. Social media was not very much in vogue 20 years ago.
How times change!