Category Archives: Singapore

For Good

At times of goodbye, the song “For Good” from the musical Wicked plays on a loop in my head. When I was in high school, the seven senior girls in my choir sang, recorded, and performed a really beautiful SSA rendition that I’m listening to as I write this. Those words were as true in 2008 as they are in 2016.

Today was a hard day.

Today I said goodbye to my school and to so many wonderful, inspiring educators and friends. They said some nice things. I said some nice things. Except for losing the ability to speak (and breathe) during a goodbye “speech” that I had to give about a particularly close friend, I held myself together okay.

I have done so much growing this year, thanks to all of them.

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you

Thank you to those who taught me MYP, DP, ATLs, LOs, and SOIs; how to grade out of 7; who to go to for help about this, that, or the other; how map units in Atlas; when to speak up and when to sit and listen; how to avoid crossing the field in the rain; what to do in case of chaos, disaster, or mosquito bites on camp.

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart

Thank you to those who I looked forward to seeing on the mat every Tuesday; who were always excited for the hawker on Friday; who came to lunch with a story, a quip, and a comment for everything; who seriously answered and encouraged even the most naïve questions; who challenged and supported; who laughed at me sometimes and with me always.

Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

Thank you to those who have touched my life this year.

I am a better person, educator, and friend for having known you. Thank you for the part you have played in this adventure.

The world itself is a big place and I am lucky enough to have friends in a lot of those places. None of us is a stranger to distance, choices, messaging apps, or long plane rides. I’ll see you again, in your country (wherever that is) or mine (wherever I end up).

Until then, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I’m so glad to have met you.

Because I knew you
I have been changed for good

Wishing you all the best in your lives and your journeys, now and always.

Where did the time go?

The following Beatles lyrics keep floating unbidden to mind:

Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

I’ve been feeling a lot like poor ol’ Eleanor Rigby recently. It’s a lot of preparing to go out, being happy with friends, coming home, looking frantically for distraction. More podcasts and playlists than usual lately. The silence when I’m alone leaves me with my thoughts, and my thoughts are spinning.

Our last day with kids was Friday and we have two days of “wrapping up” to do this week and then one more school year is in the books. It is all happening shockingly quickly. My friends and colleagues begin flying out Tuesday night, which means that this whole leaving thing is now very, very real. I don’t actually head out for another two weeks but I’ll be in Laos next weekend and the following weekend means losing my apartment and beginning a very long plane ride. This was my last real weekend here in Singapore, which took me by surprise when I realized it Saturday night.

However, thanks (as usual!) to Lauren and Jamie, it was a really good one.

The weekend started with a department end-of-year celebration at Hombre Cantina, a Mexican restaurant in Boat Quay where I had surprisingly spicy margaritas and a veggie quesadilla. Very fun evening with some truly wonderful people.

The delicious food theme continued on Saturday when Jamie, Lauren, and I went to the first annual Singapore Coffee Festival to sample brews and foods from Singapore’s best coffee shops.

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This was actually a guest cafe from Japan and the coffee was delicious!

The event lasted for four days and included the three-storey exhibition of coffee, food, and independent “lifestyle” boutiques; live music; lab demonstrations from brewers; and open chats about coffee, brewing, and local coffee culture. The price of admission also included a nifty tote bag and a couple cool mugs! The festival organizers actually stopped door sales of tickets while we were there on Saturday because the F1 Pit Building that housed the festival was very crowded. If you want to go next year, which I really encourage, I highly recommend purchasing tickets in advance! They’re discounted during the pre-sale, too!

A going away party for another friend Saturday night gave me one more look at Marina Bays Sands all lit up. The Singapore Flyer is over on the left.

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My bucket list item for today was a visit to East Coast Park. I’d initially been planning to rent bikes to go exploring, but we decided a walk would suit our needs (and other plans for the day) just fine. It’s so funny seeing the shipping lanes right off the beach, though. I still can’t get used to that.

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My primary objective overall was to spend as much time with my friends as possible, which we certainly accomplished. We made time for aloo gobi and garlic naan from Tekka Centre in Little India, too! That was a major highlight. Love me some Indian food, especially in this part of the world.

What I enjoyed most was spending this weekend in so many diverse environments. A mere 48 hours managed to cover Mexican food, hipster coffee culture, fancy bars, the beach, and the crush of people and delicious foods that represent Sunday in Little India.

I’m going to miss this place. A whole hell of a lot.

If you need me, I’ll be in a corner with my eyes closed and hands wrapped around my knees. And tomorrow morning, I’ll take that face out of the jar by the door and head back to school for the second to last time.

How to Feel

Are you all packed?
Nope.

When do you leave?
Too soon.

More and more of my recent conversations have started like this.

Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to has expressed excitement for me, which I truly do appreciate. I have a handful of friends also leaving Singapore, all of whom have been here longer than I have; everyone is full of similarly mixed emotions. There’s nostalgia, uncertainty, anticipation, relief, excitement, a spirit of adventure. Some have concrete plans about what’s coming while others are still figuring that out. Everyone has made the choice to leave, but the reactions to leaving differ. This has me reflecting on how I make and respond to my own choices.

For as long as I’ve been consciously aware of decision-making, I’ve made choices that take others into consideration before thinking of myself. I believe this started when I was about 11 years old and my parents separated. While I wasn’t technically supposed to have a choice about spending every Tuesday night and every other weekend at my dad’s apartment, sometimes I did have the option to stay with my mum. That was on particularly bad days with a lot of tears, for some reason or another. I remember flicking through a collection of colorful hair elastics that I kept together on a ring chanting, “I go, I don’t go” in a perverse version of daisy petals and “he loves me, he loves me not”.

The last elastic rarely made the decision for me, but it did tell me how I felt about the choice I’d made.

I knew that a sense of relief on the last flick meant that there was congruence between the elastic’s answer and the real decision, while a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach told me I was secretly hoping for the opposite outcome. Sometimes I felt nothing, which was even worse.

The difficulty arose when my feelings were discordant with what I imagined my dad was feeling when I raged and stormed over whether or not to spend time with him. It was a battle between choosing to make him happy (though I usually let my fury make itself very obvious, which likely had exactly the opposite result) or to make myself happy (though I often dissolved in tears anyway because I knew that I was hurting my dad, so I really wasn’t helping myself at all).

I knew that I had a lot of emotions, but I didn’t know how to balance them. I didn’t know how to handle so many conflicting emotions at once.

My discomfort with cognitive dissonance led me to avoid acknowledging my feelings. For much of middle and high school, I stopped making decisions based on my own whims so as to avoid rejection, disappointment, or fear if my choices didn’t align with others’ wishes. It was easier to consider “What will make them happy?” than “What do I want?”. I felt safer avoiding desires and expectations than admitting what I was really feeling, often because I didn’t know what that was.

Though my strongest desire is still for others to be happy, the biggest (and healthiest!) change has been considering myself at all. I am allowed to want, hope, and seek out. I am allowed to say no, change course, and propose alternatives. Considering myself has also meant embracing the conflicting emotions that I’ve recently been experiencing on a very regular basis.

I have given myself permission to admit that I am very sad to leave Singapore and both excited and nervous about returning to the US. I am excited for the next chapter, adventure, and experience. I look forward to the unknowns that lie ahead. At the same time, I have misgivings and feel apprehension and frustration. I dream about teaching internationally again.

At 11, I didn’t know that there isn’t one “right” emotion for everyone involved. There isn’t one way to feel. At 26, I have come to accept that it’s about finding a balance. The scale might tip depending on the day or even the hour, but that’s okay.

Of everything I’ve learned during my year in Singapore, how to be open and honest with myself, and by extension with those around me, might just be the most important.