Tag Archives: America

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



and this instead!!




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.



Project Grateful 365: Day 32: The learning of new ‘languages’; teaching

So yesterday, I was englightened to the fact that:

1) do***e-bag

2) sm**k

are very very bad words, I feel very *ashamed now* because I heard people using them and I thought it meant just like – you’re an ass/idiot.

I was told in very explicit terms what they really are, and I was like YIKES!!!!! I didn’t mean it that way!

Sorry if I offended anyone. Mental note to self, not every thing you hear on the streets can be repeated. My favourite thing I learnt on the streets is: COOL BEANS! Its so cute, I love it.

We speak the same language in Singapore and the US, but somehow its so similar yet so different. I find learning social nuances and ways of describing things very interesting and almost everyday I learn something new. I am proud to announce that I can actually listen in to conversations on the streets very clearly now. When I first visited this year, I was having a bit of difficulty listening to conversations that go-back-and-forth very quickly because I was just not used to the accent, but right now I can actually get it. Wooo Hooo!

Humor though, its a whole new ball game. I think I am very funny in my own way, but americans don’t get my humor, its very sad, only Kris will laugh. (My No.1 fan. YAYYY!) Some nice people will give me a polite half smile, but some just look at me like I’m some weirdo Asian from who-knows-where in the world. Some Americans who don’t travel, have no clue where Singapore is, but they are usually too polite to indicate otherwise. So I have been educating many about my awesome country! #patriotic

So today I am grateful that I get to learn about a new culture was in-depth-ly as I am right now. The opportunity to go to a new place and experience something (almost entirely) different from what I am used too. 

It has been a great city so far, there is no lack of activities for me to do and I’ve been meeting some nice Americans as well as people who are new immigrants like me and it has been a very culturally enriching experience. 🙂

I like the feeling of being free in this country. Nobody to watch over me like a hawk, I can do pretty much whatever I want. Its a very liberating feeling, I feel like I was born to be free. People have commented that I’m a banana, Asian on the outside Westernized on the inside. I think that existed way before I met Kris though, even though I feel that it is now being concretized by him, most definitely. I’ve always been opinionated, liberal and willing to challenge authority for the things I’ve believed in. That unfortunately did not sit very well with the Confucian ethics of Singapore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud of my country, but that doesn’t mean I agree or like every aspect of it. I’m sure in time to come I will be annoyed with something in the US, actually I already am, the high taxes! The rough tax increase on the amount I make in Singapore in NYC, will be like a 15% jump up and I feel that teachers in Singapore don’t make that much comparative to the other professions and we work really hard! Or so I thought, then I realized that teachers in NYC public schools actually make a lot less after taxes!. So teachers in Singapore are actually paid pretty darn well comparatively to NYC.

But its okay, if you teach because of the money, you’re probably in the wrong profession. Someday teachers will have more leverage when the world sees how important they are. I feel like I can say that now, because I’m not a teacher currently and I would not be blowing my own trumpet. I feel that teaching is a very noble profession; because a good teacher requires a lot of heart, you need to discipline and sometimes its a very thankless job, because children who need to be disciplined do not see that and you will get so much crap from them, when you try to do the right thing. But soldier on comrades *hee hee*! for a cause you believe in! The best teachers I had are those that listened, told me things I didn’t want to hear at that time and yet always encouraged me to be the best that I can be. I hope to be one of those people.

Despite the ‘relatively low pay’, I want to go back to teaching because I feel like it is something that is meaningful, regardless of the financial renumeration. I firmly believe that money cannot buy happiness. I feel that if I was in the correct organisation which allows me to be who I am, I would be an excellent educator. Maybe I should be my own boss. Have my own mission statements and my own vision!  Which would probably be idealistic to a fault, but I’m going to make it work. Some day!

I spent many months thinking about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and I wanted to try other professions but I feel like this is what I am called to do. I finally have gotten rid of the nagging/buzzing feeling in my heart/head when I was considering options like going to law school, doing my MBA, doing a 2nd degree in educational psychology. So I think this is it, my final decision! Its a huge weight lifted off my chest.

*PS: M**, I know you think that being a lawyer is more prestigious, but the question is, do you want prestige? Or do you want me to be happy? At the end of the road, it doesn’t matter what society think of me, what matters is what I think of myself and whether I am proud of my own achievements.

**PPS: Although! Some people say that ……



America and the Death of Cuteness

When I first arrived in America, it dawned on me that there wasn’t anything cute here!

Cupcakes are pretty

Flowers are beautiful

Babies are adorable and sometimes, only sometimes cute.

But in general, nothing is cutesy here!

Kris explained to me that cute in American culture means childish and most adults chose to avoid that label like plague. I mean in American most people leave their homes at like 17 to go to college and hence you have a culture of fiercely independent adults.

Asians by contrast stay with their parents till they can afford their own homes and in Singapore there is no way you can afford any home on a single income, unless you spend every single cent of your pay check on housing and live on fresh air and love! I mean the median income of a Singaporean now is $3070. And the average rental costs of a common room  in Singapore is $800 (HDB), a master bed room (HDB) costs 1000 and a condo common room costs $1500 for a decent place. Do the math and you’ll quickly realise that it is because of practical reasons that most young adults choose/have to stay with their parents if they intend to have savings of any sort.

I digress, my post was about the death of cuteness and I have spent too much time on finances!

Anyhow as I was saying with this fiercely American and adult culture they have here, Kris has disallowed me to make this apartment cutesy in any shape or form. He has dictated that this is a ‘adult apartment’ and hence nothing cutesy can ‘survive’ in here. This goes against the very essence of my soul. I love cute things! I disagree that having cute things make you childish! I think having cute things makes you an appreciator of child-like things and therefore  makes you youthful and happier!

Hence I rebelled and went all ‘Occupy 20 exchange’ with my

1) Hello kitty bed sheets (courtesy of mummy)

2) Scott Cars Bathroom tissues (apparently they don’t call them toilet paper, too crude!)

3) Wise Owl bathroom mat!

**If Kris disapproves of these things, he can 1) Sleep on the adult couch, 2) Not wipe his adult butt and 3) have an adult shower in the sink** (I think I am so funny!)

However Kris is a wonderful man and besides, since 90% of the house is adult! 10% of cutesy things in the house should be A-OKAY! I argue vehemently that eradicating all cute things in my home is a lost of my rights as a human person! Hee hee *inserts melodramatic face*