God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Kurt Vonnegut
Pandemic era in-flight selfie on a KLM flight from Berlin to Singapore, transiting through Amsterdam.
In late 2019, my wife, dog, and I packed four pieces of luggage and took a one-way flight to Berlin. We’ve lived here for the last one and a half years and this weekend we are returning to Singapore for the first time to visit.
First, we’ll be quarantined for two weeks in a hotel room. That cell is going to be the first taste of home we will be getting.
I choose to see this positively: this will be the longest we’ll stay in a hotel room. A first! Of course, the bad side of this is that we’ll be footing the SGD$ 2,600 bill ourselves since the Singapore government removed subsidies at the end of 2020. Knowing that stings a little, but I believe what comes after quarantine will be sweet.
I’ll be taking three weeks of leave from work after we’re released from our cell to explore Singapore. This is the fun part.
One and a half years is the longest either of us have been away from Singapore, and having three weeks to explore our city like we’re tourists is priceless. I’ve always wanted to do that.
We’ve been out of the fishbowl long enough to recognise Singapore for what it has been for us all our lives. This time, we can evaluate with clarity whether living in Singapore is for us or not.
The distance has given us perspective but we’re back to do the last step of a good evaluation: to feel what it’s like to live in Singapore again.
Later this year we will welcome a child into our lives and I know we’ll be discussing frequently education, politics, weather, society, language ease/barriers, career prospects, culture, environment, childhood, attitudes and this and that. All that, in relation to being a family of three.
I am lucky. I grew up in Singapore, a third world country turned first by the time I was born here. I grew up in the stability and prosperity that that environment afforded all Singaporeans. I know people from Europe and the US who moved to Singapore and love it there.
I am even luckier to have had the opportunity to live abroad. Sure, I worked hard for it, but I was also very lucky to have stumbled upon a great company to work for that decided I was worth relocating to Berlin when I asked for it.
Now I have lived 29 years in Singapore and 1.5 years in Berlin, Germany, and I have the privilege to choose where I want to live in the long term. It’s like being given the choice between a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz - they’re both fantastic choices.
What will it be? I don’t know yet, but I’m relatively certain that I will know better by the end of this trip…
At home in Berlin, days before our first trip to Singapore, wondering how I would feel being back.
UPDATE: On our fourth day of quarantine in the Regent Hotel in Singapore, the government tightened the Stay Home Notice (SHN) requirements from 14 to 21 days of quarantine for travellers from high-risk areas. Germany is unfortunately for us a high-risk area at the time of writing. So we’ll be quarantined for three weeks instead of two. I’m trying hard to keep my sense of humour.
UPDATE 2: My wife was interviewed by Channel News Asia and mentioned in the article that was published in response to the sudden lengthening of our SHN. I found it funny that she was interviewed while in quarantine. Makes me think about journalism as a cool alternative career that will survive even the greatest and most prolonged disasters.