Category Archives: Moving Across the world

It has been a while, Singapore

Yesterday, I presented my first presentation of graduate school and it was quite a blast. Both for me and my classmates. I had a lot of fun presenting and my classmates had a good laugh.

The project was a contemporary applications presentation, where I was supposed to find a contemporary application topic in my everyday life and relate it to the learning theories that I’ve learnt in class. I decided to do something close to my heart and presented on “Re-learning to live in NYC”, in which I talked about all the things I’ve learnt since moving here. I related learning theories to: why I made those  mistakes in the first place and had the class in stitches. I used social cultural theories, behaviorism and social cognitive theories.

After the class, I got “fist bumps” from my classmate and remarks of “You killed it.”  Which was very interesting because my peers’ reaction would be very different had I presented a similar topic in Singapore. A visiting lecturer, who was sitting in class to observe my professor, told me that I should consider writing a memoir or join UCB (Upright Citizen’s Brigade), which is some comedy training centre. I was thinking to myself, really? Was it that hilarious? I’m only reciting stories/misconceptions I had when I first moved here!

Nonetheless, I really enjoyed what I did. Now I’m thinking, I really need to find a thesis topic that’s closely related to what I did today! Because, one must try to do things, that makes the heart smile!

Happy Tuesday everyone! I hope you had as good of a start to the week as I did!

Oh why the title? I realized that I left Singapore officially in 2013, which wasn’t all that long really, but somehow my current life now seems to overshadow all that I left behind. In essence, it isn’t such a bad thing because it means I am making the most out of my time here and embracing THE NOW.

Going back to school was one of the best decisions I’ve made since coming here! I’m learning a lot not only in terms of content material but also learning a lot through observing the people around me. I am not just making friends with tech people (thru Kris)  or migrant housewives or sojourned Singaporeans. I feel like I’m finally getting to know real Americans in my own domains!

Just for good measure

*fist bumps* from my left hand to my right hand!

On a side note, we called Kris’s gramma the other day and she told me, “Oh, why do you want to go back to school?, what about making babies?, I would like to see my great grandkids, I’m not getting younger you know!.”

She’s adorable! Once you’re 90+ you can pretty much get away with saying anything!

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 1.51.43 PM

Achievement unlocked!

It has been 626 days since I moved to NYC.

But tonight I finally felt like saw a breakthrough in my “PROJECT CHARBOT CONQUERS AMERICA“!!! 

I remember when I first got to NYC and hung out with Kris’s friends/work buddies. I did not freaking understanding their humor, colloquialism and general references to the ‘American’ way. I give some credit to the field that my husband is in, people in tech have a different way of expressing themselves. No really, hang around some (cool) geeks one day and you will notice the difference. 

Anyhow.

Today I sat down for a 4.5 hour dinner/drinks shenanigan and I totally UNDERSTOOD EVERYTHING THAT WAS SAID. I laughed a lot and was able to poke fun at people. (right back-atcha!)

I came home and realized I didn’t have to ask Kristopher, what did ‘xxx’ mean when he said ‘yyy’. Statistically speaking, it was with similar variables of his ex-colleagues, therefore I feel like the analysis of my learning of “Americanisms’ has vastly improved. I probably learnt most of it prior to today’s 626 mark, but today was a proven ‘test’. After all, you must start an experiment with similar variables!

And  you know what?

It feels ABSOLUTELY GREAT!!!

Makes the OCD in me extremely pleased because I like to to be in control and know (almost) everything and anything. True I might not know a lot of things in the grand scheme of things, but mastering something new always feels AWESOME!

PS: Spring, if you do read this. I would like you to know that Matt said this at least 3 times over dinner: (and I quote), “My wife is BEAUTIFUL”.

Changing Perspectives – Adaptation

When I first moved here, I met one of Kris’s friend who never failed to ask me, “So how Charlene, isn’t New York City the greatest ever.” Back then, I didn’t feel like it was the greatest city at all. I had just moved away from my family and friends, I left a stable job, I knew zero people in this city and Kris was at work all day. I didn’t know what to do with all this free time, I felt really lonely inside, and everything felt uncomfortably foreign. I couldn’t give him the answer he wanted and I didn’t want to lie either, so I just smiled and shrugged.

 

Circa Summer 2014 and now Manhattan feels like home. Our apartment – a sanctuary that we both have built together with love and the growing bonds of our marriage. I felt this very strongly during a recent visit to Singapore, the past couple of times I left the country (Singapore) I would be sad and felt this deep sinking feeling in my heart and throat. This time, I found myself excited to go back to NYC, excited to start school and excited to be home. A home — where I have been painstakingly caring for, rearranging, decorating and filling with little stuff that meant something to us, a welcoming respite from the urban jungle in which we lived in. Don’t get me wrong, I still miss family, friends and truly enjoyed spending time in Singapore but I also feel that now I have a family/home in New York. I have found my way in this seemingly unfriendly and cut throat city, carved out a space that belonged to me and rekindled a ‘relationship’ with myself. Emotionally I am so much stronger and happier now; far more comfortable than I have been in a long time. I feel confident of my abilities to be alone, to thrive in a new city. I like making new friends, but I’m also very happy to be eating, reading, exercising or even partaking in any activity that traditionally involved more people -by myself and truly enjoying the solitude. The comfort of my new found independence is truly liberating.

 

I’m hoping that the new direction (grad school) I’m taking in my life will challenge me enough to grow into a better person. More importantly, I hope to find a vocation that allows me a deeper sense of purpose, something that allows me to make my surroundings and the people I interact with happier. My goal is to make education an accessible privilege to all and for it to better bridge socio-economic divides. I’m not sure what or how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to try to get there.

 

In short, I am proud to say that I have *ahem” crossed over that uneasy (and necessary, if I may) transitional bridge of international migration and look forward to more exciting adventures here and everywhere my our heart desires.  (I have a partner in crime now, so I can’t leave him behind :P)

Valentine’s Day and all Hulaboo

A lot of Valentine’s Day is above love, chocolates, expensive dinner and gifts. There is nothing wrong with that, different people experience/give love in different ways.

To me, Valentine’s Day is about remembering that you’re very blessed to find your one true love.

An occasion where you remember to appreciate your partner, for tolerating your nonsense, for loving you despite your sometimes lack of lovability.

To my honey bunny, (who has taken to calling me Funny Bunny, hence the cloying sweet new nickname bestowed upon him)

happy bunny dream

Thank you for loving your very strange FUNNY BUNNY! For accepting her silly-ness, embracing her dramatic-ness and enjoying her cute-ness.

You are my sweetie, my dear. My hugs and my kisses!

A pair of sweetie bunnies to call it a truce!

lovely bunnies

Project Grateful 194: Travel plans and perspectives of moving to a new country

If you remember in this post, I mentioned that I was going to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). America is huge and I feel like the need to learn to drive. To put things in context, NYC (Manhattan and the 4 boroughs) is 781 km2 large and Singapore is 721 kmlarge in terms of land space alone. I never really felt the need to drive in Singapore, but if I ever want to get out of NYC, I think driving is absolutely necessary especially in the suburbs. The entire land area of the United States is 9,826,675 km2.in case you were wondering.

Any how, I arrived at the DMV and was given;

this book

DMV book

 

However, unlike Singapore I don’t have to register for a test date. I just need to read the book and show up anytime, pass the written test and get a temporary learner’s permit, hop into the car of a 25-year-old and practice on the roads, become relatively competent and go take the actual driving test. All sounds really simple? Except we don’t have a car, so of course being the Queen of Procrastination, I went ahead and started reading

this

IMG_5407

and this instead!!

IMG_5409

 

Because! WE’RE GOING TO PARIS AND LONDON FOR OUR HONEYMOON!!!!!!! WOOT WOOT!!!!

I did go for my ‘honeymoon’ in the US Virgin Islands, but technically we picked that because

A) It was down south near where Kris was supposed to go for his business trip

B) 4 days is hardly a real honeymoon 😛

C) I couldn’t leave US territory while waiting for Advance Parole (AP), which is something I need before I can leave the country, while I’m waiting for the green card. Our dream honeymoon place was somewhere in Europe, I wanted Paris because its supposed to be the MOST ROMANTIC city in the world!!! (Well done tourism board of France!) and Kris wanted London because its one of the rare European cities he hasn’t visited. So because of the long wait to get my green card, I’m grateful to have 2 honeymoons. YAY!!!!!!!!

Turns out that being not able to leave the country for 6 months was a blessing in disguise.  (Let me clarify that, I can leave of course; I mean USCIS cannot detain me for leaving America. Which trust me, I was tempted to, many times in sheer frustration, because of all the difficulties we had faced with this immigration process. I told Kris plenty of times, to move to Singapore instead because it only takes 3 months (in contrast to the 24 months of more that I have to wait to get a green card) for him to get a PR in Singapore!!

However WE”RE NOT QUITTERS! Plus, it means that the past 18 months I’ve waited towards getting the Green card would have been in vain because the moment I leave the country without the AP, I would have to restart the entire Green Card application process again. You heard me right, start it from SCRATCH. i.e. circa back to Feb 2012.

More importantly his family is American and as his wife, I need to be able to enter and exit the country because he will always want to come back here, or rather we would always want the option to enter the US when we want to visit family for extended periods of time.

I cannot believe it has been 18 months + (????) more months in total that I have waited for this paperwork to be done. I think the East glorifies the West to a certain extent and my expectations of what America really is,  has been greatly (ahem) humbled. I used to think that Singapore had so much things to be improved, but coming here, I’ve realized that Singaporeans have had it pretty darn good. In terms of  (holistic) livability, I would put America and Singapore on par. Because of kinship and friendships, and my job as a teacher, I would honestly think that Singapore would be more ideal for me if I was single. But now that I’m married to an America, I guess that greatly changes the equation. However, I’m glad of this new perspective, and I know that if shit hits the fence, I can always go home. But for now, this is where I have chosen to be and I just have to make the best out of it. Realistically my life here is not harder, easier, happier or unhappier as compared to Singapore, it’s just different and humans have a tendency to always want to venture into familiar territories.

The US is unfortunately not what I thought it would be, but perhaps its due more to unrealistic/imagined expectations of what I thought it would be for me as a person and my career. I’ve read up extensively about immigrants and according to many research studies, apparently I’m not alone in feeling this way about moving to a new place. I take comfort in being validated of my emotions I guess. Ironic isn’t it? Coming to a country that champions freedom and individualism but yet still take comfort in sharing the herd mentality.

*I am SHEEP!. Bahhhh Bahhhh Baahhhh*

In all seriousness, I think moving to a new country is challenging but rewarding in many ways; most because you get to ‘start afresh’ and it forces you out of your comfort zone and my preconceived notions of the world.

I have met so many people from so many different cultures and learn so many things about them. I have forced myself to move out of my whats innately comfortable to me and to immerse/adapt myself to social situations that are unfamiliar and sometimes even frightening. I feel like (imagined or otherwise) that I now have more nuanced perspectives of what the world seems to be. I am introspective by nature and this move has made me question a lot about my life in Singapore and my role in this global world. I feel like I am now no longer just a citizen of Singapore but a citizen of the world. The world is becoming so mobile and I’m lucky enough to be able to go almost wherever I want to go (not with its associated sacrifices that come along with it), but I think the opportunity I have to be just given the choice in itself, makes me very very lucky and very very blessed. So today I am grateful for being given this opportunity to move to America, despite it not being the utopia that I thought it would be. 🙂

PS: My last statement was only said with half a pinch of salt.

 

 

The immigrant housewife speaks

When people back home call me a tai-tai, I always scoff and say I’m a pseudo tai-tai or a glorified housewife more than anything. After all when you have half your face buried while scrubbing the toilet bowl, furiously rubbing soap scum of the bathroom tiles or mopping and sweeping my life away, thats hardly the life of a tai-tai. But then after a while, I take a stab back and realize that its just my negative thoughts speaking.

I do live in one of the most eclectic places in the world and I got a pretty shiny apartment. My apartment has a glorious view of the Hudson river and I get to stay at home while the rest of the world slaves away and I get to have ‘tai-tai’ lunches with my fellow housewives and I get to buy whatever I need without worrying about the cost too much. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I need to look and focus more on the positive aspects of my life. I may not have everything perfect all the time but I have everything (and a lot of extras) that I need to make me happy right here and now. And its the here and now that matters.

Sometimes I get a little down because I focus on my supposed career regression, my seemingly blind quest towards finding my purpose in life, difficulty of adjusting to American culture and coping with being so far away from my family and friends. All these negative emotions make me lose sight of why I’m here in the first place.

I’m here because I met a man that I’m willing to trade all the things I have in Singapore for. He treats me very well and I know that he’ll love me for all of our collective lives together but more importantly, I left Singapore with the thirst of wanting to find out whats out there and to fulfill my dream of wanting to live overseas. Except that I’ve always thought that I was going to live overseas for a few years and not leave indefinitely. But who knows what’s going to happen in future, maybe we’ll have enough to straddle two homes in opposite ends of the globe!

I left Singapore wanting to explore the rest of the world, to venture out of my comfort zone, to acquire new adventures! but yet sometimes I let homesickness and fear of change eat into my soul. But you know what, I’m not going to beat myself over that. Its normal for people to fear change and its normal for people to resist change. Instead of worrying about my imperfections of adjusting, I’m going to applaud myself for taking a bold step towards building a better life for the both of us. Its normal to feel homesick and its normal to fear change. I must remember that different is not always bad, different lends an opportunity for one to contemplate about what was and why the present is such.

Moving on….

After a few months of marriage, the exhilaration of new love and the palpitation and excitement of the nuptials has worn away. Instead it’s being eroded with the quiet comfort of knowing there’s someone at home waiting for you; the definitive comfort of knowing that when you have a bad day there will always be someone at home waiting to give you a big bear hug; best of all you know that no matter what happens, no matter what silly arguments you might have had, you take comfort in the fact that he/she will always be walking beside you for the rest of eternity.