Grieving from Afar

The tears have finally stopped flowing at every little trigger.

It has been a surreal week watching the grief unfold in Singapore. The stories of kindness and dedication of Singaporeans have been immensely moving.  Being away has been extra difficult. And for the first time since coming to the US, I felt a huge yearning for home and wanting to be with family, friends and fellow countrymen.

I feel especially embarrassed that I knew so little of the man who made Singapore. And for my 36 years of life, taken so much that I have enjoyed as a Singaporean for granted. The fact that so many, even those in the international community hold him in such high regard speaks of his talents and vision as a leader. I am humbled by the way he has lived, his discipline, his passion for his beliefs and his love for his country. It has triggered a deeper sense of Singaporean-ness and a deeper love for Singapore, somehow especially so when grieving from afar in a foreign land.

Watching the funeral from half way across the world was the only way to say a proper goodbye. The pledge taking and national anthem have never been more meaningfully said and sung. The most beautiful lyrics that I never knew and understood till now.

With a more grateful, giving and open heart, I hope I can play a better part in our country’s future success and not squander away all the good that we have been blessed with. Let us always remember this time in our history.

Thank you for everything Mr. Lee.

MAJULAH SINGAPURA

ONWARD SINGAPORE

Come, fellow Singaporeans

Let us progress towards happiness together

May our noble aspiration bring Singapore success

Come, let us unite

In a new spirit

Let our voices soar as one

Onward Singapore Onward Singapore 

Surreal

So I’ve been trying to get back into the groove over here in Evanston. Feels good to be back in my own kitchen, sprawl unglamorously on my sofa and sleeping in my own bed. Have also been trying to catch time together with the husband and Rusty since my carefree days will be coming to an end soon when classes officially begin.

The Lovers, 1928 by Rene Margritte

Last weekend, we made our last trip (for now) to the Art Institute of Chicago. I say last because our 1-year membership has officially come to an end. Making sure we got our money’s worth, we headed down for our last viewing as members.

The Institute had a special exhibit going on featuring the works of Rene Magritte. Well we actually had no idea who he was going into the gallery but ended up enjoying much of his surrealistic works. The Lovers II above was one of my favorites. And if you wonder who he is also, one of his most recognizable works is that of a man in a bowler hat with an apple in front of his face. Yes, that’s by Magritte.

In a way, my year in the US has been somewhat of a fantastic and surreal journey. My heart survived flying Rusty across the globe in the belly of a plane, adapted to left-hand driving, overcame -25C temperatures in winter, learnt to love American coffee, lived a life with no salary coming in (what!?) and the list goes on. I thought I would miss home a lot, but no offense to friends and family, I didn’t really… Social media and technology has made it so much easier to keep in touch anyway, sometimes abit too much – I opened a pandora’s box when I taught my MIL Whatsapp and we get “spam” videos and photos ALL THE TIME now. And honestly, it comes as somewhat of a relief to me when I can legitimately step away from the drama, especially the work related kind. But I still love you all lah ok? 🙂

My trip home to Singapore has also helped me redefine what home is. I used to tell people that while living the States has been comfortable, I’m not sure I would ever consider it home. As cliche as it sounds, I have realized that home really is about the relationships and not the physical space. Despite the good food and good company, I just couldn’t wait to get home to Evanston in the 2 weeks that I was away. Home, Evanston, 2 words that I never thought I would clearly put together till now. Because 2 people (ok 1 person and 1 furry one) were waiting for me in Evanston and they were my real home. Don’t worry! It’s not that I won’t go back to Singapore. It’s just that I have found new perspectives about what home means, giving me confidence that I can probably survive anywhere as long as my closest kin are with me.

La Clairvoyance, 1936 by Rene Magritte

And who would have known, not even myself, that I would change my mind about attending school after wishing so hard to live a homemaker life. Clearly, it would be a struggle giving up the freedom that I have learnt to enjoy over the last year. Knowing myself, I know that it will challenge me and take a whole lot of discipline. But I also know that stepping into this future would give me new opportunities far greater than if I had done nothing at all.

I leave you with another painting by Margritte called La Clairvoyance. It isn’t a pretty work but I love the message behind it. That we often only see and accept what is presented in front of us when we can do more in creating the possibilities, potential and future. Something good to remember.

Singapore Day 10-14

I don’t have that many photos of my last few days in Singapore. Probably reflective of the fact that I tried to stay home as much as possible since the parents were back from their holiday. Wanted to be a “guai” (good) daughter and show face at home. But you know what, I was “abandoned” for half a day on Saturday, so I went out to do my own stuff alone, on my own. The solitude I had was actually very much welcomed!

One thing I really hate seeing in Singapore is the scene of domestic helpers walking their employers’ dogs. I don’t know why people have pets when they throw them to their helpers to look after. The poor dogs are often used as an excuse for the helpers to head out of the house to make their phone calls on the sly. These furry cuties don’t get to explore, play and walk much. Many of them end up sitting on the pavement, sometimes in the scorching sun.

I don’t really blame these helpers because they too need their private time away from their employers and this is usually the best opportunity. I blame the employers, the pet owners who don’t look out for the welfare of their dogs.

Love this photo of Elsa and the mouse. I had forgotten that I had given my ex-boss the mouse as well, so it was a surprise when she posted this photo of my gift of Elsa to her. Am glad they both went to someone who really appreciates them, and to a boss that I appreciate for all her help and generosity to me.

When I did actually hang out with the parents, it was always about the food. I am definitely my father’s daughter as we both live to eat! My dad really travels for good food, even bringing us to JB when we were young. We had the most decadent of dishes, this cold crab with abundant roe was one of them, and the simplest of fish ball noodles. Although for the latter, I had to wake up at 6.30am to go beat the queue with mom and dad!

Suggested that they go try out FIX today, a new cafe in the Balestier area. The donuts with 流沙 sauce were da bomb. Made hot and fresh with a wonderful sweet/salty egg custard dipping sauce. Dad said it was better than eating the bun version from dim sum restaurants as you can control the amount of sauce you want. Mom was seen mopping up the sauce when all the donuts were gone. Looks like they enjoyed this place that I introduced them to.

On my day alone, I decided to head downtown to run some errands and pick up some yummies to bring back to the husband. He had a short list of requests and I made sure to fulfill them. 🙂 Popped by one of our favorite sushi places for a one person lunch. This place is by far one of the cheapest conveyer belt sushi joints around. Quality is clearly not the best but I don’t mind it much since it is so cheap. And if you stalk the belt long enough, the aburi salmon sushi is really quite yummy. But terribly illusive to eat since you cannot order it off a menu at all!

Missed the husband very much this day. We used to eat here fairly often and it was always fun to just sit there and hunt down our favorite sushi plates together. Even the aburi sushi didn’t taste so good without him around you know? Missing him terribly and so glad I am heading home to Evanston soon!

Singapore Day 7-9

I am getting to the end of my social tether in terms of my appointments in Singapore. Some people might find this hard to believe, but I am actually an introvert at heart, or at least slowly and surely becoming more of one when I get older. Feeling that I just want to stay at home and chill for the next few days! And also counting down the days to heading back to quiet Evanston where I feel less harried and rushed. It’s not that I don’t enjoy meeting up with my friends and all but after being away from them for so long and suddenly condensing all engagements in one week is pretty overwhelming!

Woke up bright and early on Sunday to head out for breakfast with the brother. We ended up at this prata place that we’ve been eating at since we were young. We’ve not had many opportunities to spend time alone together so this breakfast was quite special to me. I don’t think I have ever had him queue and buy food for me before, so it was a pretty sweet feeling.

I was introduced to Coin Prata, a new invention of sorts in the prata world. Essentially just miniature sized versions of this yummy fried Indian pancake. They were extra crispy on the outside and nice and doughy on the inside. I think I prefer them to the normal ones. Each set had 6 pieces and it was easily polished off.

Did my envoy duties and trooped down to the in-laws for dinner. As expected, I had a feast waiting for me when I arrived. And mind you, this was only for 4 persons including the helper. My in-laws eat really simply on normal days, like a bowl of oats, porridge or just some boiled sweet potatoes. But they always become OTT when the husband and I head over. He wasn’t with me this time but the quality and quantity of food was no less! While I really wished they didn’t go through all that trouble, I do feel terribly loved by them. And that is such a blessing when it comes to relationships with in-laws, I know not everyone has that!

I did have to sit through a few hours of non stop talking though. The MIL was evidently very excited that I was back. Perhaps she hasn’t had many people to talk to for some time, so I sat through a really long spiel. I told the husband that I wished he was around then. He’s really the best person to help control the situation. 😀

I made time to meet a special bunch of people this trip, a group of women bloggers I was introduced to online several months back. It’s been a community that I have really appreciated being part of. Everyone is just so nice and we share fun/funny conversations as well as issues relating to our blogs and real lives. All of them have awesome blogs, some award winning no less. So I feel fortunate to be included into their fold just because I happen to keep a humble blog that is an embarressing mish mash record of my life. Even though I have never met them in real life before this, our lunch together was not at all awkward and seemed like a gathering of old friends. If ever I need to cite an example of a successful online community, this is one group that I will definitely talk about. haha 职业病

Took time to make everyone little brooches since I had been sharing photos of my craft works with them. Loved how the brooches turned out with all the different color permutations I made. Thankfully there were enough pieces to go around in the end as the attendance for our gathering really ballooned! Am so grateful that so many made time to meet during my short trip home. Thank you!

To be quite honest, I don’t really miss living in Singapore a whole lot. But after meeting an old neighbor for morning coffee and walking around my old hood, it felt kind of sad that I wasn’t living in my old apartment any more. I miss my neighbors especially, the best kind anyone can ask for in HDB style living. In modern apartments where closed doors are the norm, interacting with your neighbors, sometimes even knowing their names is a rarity!

I hear that the kids no longer play at the lift lobby outside my home as the new tenants on the floor (including mine) are not so friendly and find them noisy. That’s sad because it’s the funnest experience I find living there, to hear kids play, laugh and enjoy each other’s company in the communal space. I have great memories of Rusty sitting by the door and watching the kids play, longing to join them as well. And me handing treats and berries to the kids so that they could command Rusty to do his repertoire of tricks. Amazing memories.

Where I can, I have been trying to catch up with the husband over FaceTime. Of course I try to talk to my darling Rusty too. But it has been difficult. Dogs don’t seem to get video chatting much. lol 😀 And the computer must distort my voice quite a bit as Rusty doesn’t hear or acknowledge that I am there even. Can’t wait to give him hugs and kisses (which he absolutely hates) when I am home. In the meantime, I’ll just live with hearing stories about him from the husband and staring sillily at old photos on my phone.

Singapore Day 4-6

I basically devoted Day 4 to heading back to the old office to meet with the colleagues. Even went down to the nearby hawker centre to say hi to the drinks stall Auntie & Uncle. Glad that they still recognized me! 😀 Of course their Teh Si Siu Dai is still the best around! Also caught up with my old team mates over a yummy Ipoh Hor Fun lunch.

It’s funny how 1 year can make a lot of difference to a place yet have some things stay completely the same. The office looked more run down somehow but people were still as warm and friendly as I remember. Unfortunately I was wilting from the heat and jet lag still and couldn’t stay long enough to be able to chat at length with everyone. Had to even resort to standing outside the Board Room to catch people who were heading in for the monthly management meeting. lol Had no more energy to ply all 6 floors of the building to hunt for people. Even then, I had to “sacrifice” some meetings.

Resorted to Melatonin and Counter Pain to help me sleep better this night. These were such a godsend! Switching to a bigger and less springy bed (my parents’!) also helped immensely. My nights have become less miserable from henceforth.

One thing I was afraid of coming back home to Singapore was the weight I would pile on again after eating all the yummy food! I mean, I can’t really reject people when they offer to treat me too right? Thankfully, the jet lag has helped me to temper my appetite. So I eat enough to be satisfied as opposed to enthusiastically stuffing my face. Also conclude that I don’t miss local food as much as I thought. Everything has been good and yummy but not earth-shatteringly so. I’d be happy eating salads again soon.

Found time to chop of my locks. Was getting pretty annoyed with longer hair, especially since I seem to be having an oiler scalp and more hair loss due to the change in climate. Haven’t been brave enough to venture into a hair salon in Evanston to cut my hair the past year. I still trust my local hairdresser more. I always love what she does for me.

Dinner was with my mala buddy. We definitely over ordered this night but it brought back such great memories of our Shanghai trip many moons ago. Thanks to Amazon, I actually get to eat mala pretty much anytime I want back in Evanston. But it cannot beat the heart to heart talks and catch up on our lives over a hot pot dinner together.

Crazy appointment filled Saturday that started bright and early at 8.45am queueing up for this Michelin Star restaurant. The legendary Char Siew Baos were indeed to die for! The husband would have loved the gooey, sauce drenched and ingredient ladened Lor Mai Kai. The rest of the items were ok only. I don’t know how Michelin decides on its star system….

Checked myself into a spa for 2 hours to get my knots tackled. Returned to our go to place before we left Singapore. The staff still remember me! And sent regards to the husband. How sweet. Shows how regular we were as patrons previously huh? Had a glorious rub down and a good nap. Finally finding long lasting comfort after 6 days in Singapore!